I originally wasn’t going to recap this drama and was rather just watching it for simple entertainment. However, I found that with every passing episode were beautiful and heart-warming scenes mixed in with doses of reality and tips about marriage, relationships, love, and family. ‘Matrimonial Chaos’ is truly such a charmer and I decided that I had to recap this charming drama.
‘Matrimonial Chaos’ is a remake of the original Japanese drama titled ‘Saikou no Rikon.’ The Korean adaptation stars Cha Tae-hyun as Jo Seok-moo and Bae Doo-na as Kang Hwi-roo who both portray a struggling married couple considering divorce. Seok-moo encounters his ex-girlfriend Jin Yoo-young (Lee El) and befriends her husband Lee Jang-hyun (Son Seok-koo). Together, the two couples find themselves intertwined and occupied in each other’s lives while also confronting the issues and concerns within their own respective marriages.
Matrimonial Chaos: Episode 1 Recap
The first episode begins with Jo Seok-moo (Cha Tae-hyun) talking to himself on his work break about marriage, specifically his marriage with his wife Kang Hwi-roo (Bae Doo-na). They’ve been married for three years, but they’ve never agreed on anything throughout their marriage. They’re always butting heads even over the smallest thing such as the movies. Jo Seok-moo – who works at a security company – is then interrupted by his co-worker Nam Dong-koo (Song Ji-ho) to check out an alarm at a house that has gone off.
Of course, it was just a false alarm that was accidentally activated by a young child. After work, Seok-moo and his co-workers head out to celebrate Dong-koo’s hire at the company. However, Seok-moo is more excited for something else: his nagasaki cake waiting for him at home. When Seok-moo arrives home, he finds Hwi-roo and her two friends eating his precious cake amongst themselves.
Seok-moo rants to Hwi-roo later on that evening after her friends leave. They ate his precious cake that he waited all day to eat. From topics like the cake to children, Hwi-roo and Seok-moo repeatedly argue with each other. In a fit of rage, Seok-moo yells that “it” was a mistake. Hwi-roo completes his thoughts for him and assumes he was referring to their marriage. Seok-moo must believe their marriage was a mistake.
Even the married couple struggle filing a petition for divorce. Hwi-roo messes up repeatedly and doesn’t seem to care all too much about the petition. They have to re-print the petition out so many times their printer fails to operate and breaks down. Lol. While Seok-moo works and rants to himself (and his cell phone) about his marriage, Hwi-roo has fun playing a game of curling with Grandma (Moon Sook).
That night, Hwi-roo has a talk with her sister Kang Ma-roo (Kim Hye-jun) and Ma-roo’s roommate Joo Soo-kyung (Ha Yoon-kyung) about Seok-moo. Ma-roo notes that Hwi-roo has always put others first before her and is probably doing the same with Seok-moo. Ma-roo’s never had a good first impression of Seok-moo though and doesn’t seem to approve of him all that much. Hwi-roo then switches the subject to Ma-roo and Soo-kyung. As roommates, don’t they argue sometimes? However, Ma-roo responds that they don’t. It’s not like they’re family related or anything. There’s nothing to argue and fight about.
The bickering and sighing resumes for Seok-moo. He has to clean up after a messy and exhausted Hwi-roo who barely has the energy to brush her teeth the next morning. Lol. It’s another day of work for Seok-moo while Hwi-roo prepares to welcome some guests staying over at their place which also functions as a guest house. While Seok-moo walks home, Hwi-roo heads out to find the guests.
The two customers are a happily married couple of four years. While they take a look around the room, Hwi-roo asks them questions about their marriage and relationship. She’s easily amused at how happy they still are despite having been married for four years. After answering a few questions, the wife points out the line marks on the wall in the bedroom. We learn that Hwi-roo used to measure herself up against the wall which explains for the measurement marks. Of course, that was back then when Hwi-roo and Seok-moo were barely married and much happier with each other.
Now the two are fed up with each other and exhausted with their marriage. Even a discussion about curling turns into nagging by Seok-moo. He sure is smart, but his intelligence can also sometimes be frustrating and irritating.
Hwi-roo attends her part-time job as a physical education teacher for young kids. Though she’s advised by her supervisor to get her teaching credentials so she can start working full-time, Hwi-roo confesses that there’s something else she wants to do. Meanwhile, Seok-moo is busy at work and receives tons of phone calls from different customers for a variety of reasons. His customers are demanding and tough and even goes as far as throwing hot coffee on him.
While Hwi-roo tends to the guest house customers back at home, Seok-moo heads out to check the security alarm for one of his customers: his ex-girlfriend Jin Yoo-young (Lee El). After going over with her about the security for her clothing shop, Seok-moo is handed a brand new dress shirt by Yoo-young to change into. She also helps him treat his coffee burn with ointment since he struggles to treat the burn himself.
The two ex-lovers catch up since it’s been about a decade since they’ve last seen each other. Seok-moo reveals that he no longer writes or pursues music like how he used to ten years ago. As for Yoo-young, she’s now operating a clothing shop since that’s what she enjoys the most.
Reuniting with his ex-girlfriend causes Seok-moo to be nostalgic. He digs up old photos of him and Yoo-young from ten years ago and solemnly stares at them. He quickly exits from the folder on his computer when Hwi-roo arrives home. Unlike Seok-moo, she’s excited to return home. She puts on make-up and red lipstick like how her guest house customer had advised her to do and attempts to gain Seok-moo’s attention. However, he doesn’t even glance at her and when he finally does, he calls her polished face scary.
Hwi-roo is disappointed and angry at herself for even attempting to impress Seok-moo. She sits outside on the stairs that night reflecting about her marriage. Meanwhile, Seok-moo’s reunion with Yoo-young compels him to keep in contact with her. Being a security alarm officer works well for him as he has more and more reasons to interact with her.
After a night of work, Seok-moo and Yoo-young walk home together since they live in the same neighborhood. Since Yoo-young’s new to the neighborhood, she asks Seok-moo to show her around and to take her to a good restaurant. While walking with Seok-moo, Yoo-young notices a yellow bike parked at a shop in the neighborhood.
The two ex-lovers reminisce about old memories, such as the couch in the restaurant that looks similar to the one they used to have. While the two catch up over some wine, Hwi-roo spends time with Grandma and Ma-roo at Grandma’s cafe. Hwi-roo isn’t too bothered by the fact that Seok-moo is out spending some time with a college friend. She also doesn’t seem to care whether this college friend is a female or male. Grandma invites Hwi-roo to stay for dinner, but Hwi-roo has other plans that evening. She wants to cook some curry since it’s said to be effective in erasing bad memories.
Seok-moo shares with Yoo-young some of his favorite animal videos. Nothing makes him happier than animals. It’s quite obvious the two are still familiar with each other despite the decade long separation; they clearly list each other’s familiar habits and quirks that they haven’t forgotten about. Meanwhile, Hwi-roo cooks some curry at home, but she receives an unexpected message from a guest house customer named Kevin. He wasn’t supposed to arrive until the next day.
Hwi-roo waits for Kevin outside in the cold and pouring rain. She grows alarmed and wary of the man when she finds a strand of hair sticking out from his luggage. Back at the restaurant, Seok-moo and Yoo-young converse about their respective marriages. Yoo-young seems content with her marriage to her husband, but what about Seok-moo? Is he happy with his marriage? Seok-moo shrugs it off and claims that his relationship with Hwi-roo isn’t anything special.
The two met one day when Seok-moo rushed to her house because of the security alarm. Like most cases, the alarm in Hwi-roo’s place was falsely activated. However, that was just the beginning of his interactions with Hwi-roo. Along with receiving gifts like energy drinks from her, he also adopted a cat named Yul-mae with her that now lives with the both of them. It was one day in particular that helped their relationship blossom though.
Hwi-roo had suffered an incident at her place and was suffering from severe anxiety and fear. However, thanks to Seok-moo, he supported her and helped her calm down. Before he knew it, he spent more time with her and would even clean her place for her. Things just naturally progressed and they ended up getting married not too long after. Seok-moo isn’t too certain if he married Hwi-roo because he liked her though or if it was just because they spent lots of time together. A part of him even ponders how things would be like for him if he didn’t marry Hwi-roo. Yoo-young decides to end the conversation and suggests that they both head home.
The two stop by a convenience store first to buy themselves umbrellas. There, Seok-moo witnesses a couple bidding farewell in front of a shop across the street and assumes they’re the new couple in town. Meanwhile, Hwi-roo grows petrified when she receives a knock on the door. The rainy weather certainly doesn’t help either and she pleads for Seok-moo to come home early that night. Of course, Seok-moo has to deal with some last-minute customers for work. While delivering some milk at a house, he accidentally slips and falls on some stairs. Things aren’t going so well for him either.
When Seok-moo returns home that night, he complains and nag to Hwi-roo once again over minor things such as how she left the window opened or the TV still on. He pleads for her to once consider his feelings and his thoughts. Hwi-roo lays on her bed and simply apologizes.
The next morning, Hwi-roo hints that something good will be happening soon. What this exactly is remains unknown. Seok-moo decides to be patient in the meantime and to put up with the marriage although he desperately wants to get a divorce. While walking home from work, he encounters Yoo-young and is finally introduced to her husband, Lee Jang-hyun (Son Seok-koo). The only problem is that he’s the same man Seok-moo’s witnessed with another lady a few times throughout the neighborhood.
The discovery bothers Seok-moo, but he’s distracted by something else when he gets home. Many of Hwi-roo’s shoes near the entrance of the house is gone. When he enters the apartment, he finds a few suitcases and luggages resting in the living room.
Hwi-roo enters the apartment not too long afterwards and shows Seok-moo the documents they’ll need to complete if they want to divorce. Hwi-roo adds that she wants to go through with the divorce. She realizes that she no longer needs Seok-moo in her life anymore.
Hwi-roo explains her reasoning for always being late to dates with Seok-moo such as to the movies. She reasons that it’s not that she’s late, but rather that she shows up extra early to watch Seok-moo in secret from far away. It gives her some extra time to admire him in secret and in awe.
Gaaaah, this is my second time watching this episode, but that epilogue still gets to me just as much as it did the first time around. I remember watching that epilogue the first time around and being so mind-blown at how much information it gave away pertaining to Hwi-roo and Seok-moo’s relationship. Based on what you simply saw in the first episode, you assumed Hwi-roo was a messy, disorganized, and chaotic type of girl and although this is true to some extent, she has reasons and motives for her every action. It’s not that she was late to the movies because she’s always late to everything (there are some people out there who are always generally late to everything); it’s rather that Hwi-roo was a punctual person who wanted to take some extra time to admire her husband.
This is an aspect about their marriage that the drama indirectly showed to us and I’m glad that I re-watched this first episode a second time around because it actually helped me recognize A LOT of small minor details that I missed the first time around. It also helps that I’m fully caught up with the drama right now so re-watching this episode helped me better understand the story. I’m going to try my best to not give away any spoilers in these beginning recaps since I have already seen all the episodes so far, but I’ll just point out that Yoo-young was actually aware about her cheating husband in this episode which I didn’t know about at first. She could tell if he was meeting with the other lady based on whether his bicycle was parked in front of the shop or not and she actually took notice of his bicycle a few times in this episode. Of course me being me and super naive at everything, I wasn’t aware of this until I watched this episode again.
It’s clear that Seok-moo is dissatisfied with his life and wants to start anew. He wants something different. His attempts to catch up with Yoo-young and to resume where they left off was less about his feelings for her but more about wanting to escape from the suffocating situation he was in. Though I don’t deny that Seok-moo might still have some feelings of romance and affection for Yoo-young, I think this comes more from a position of desperation to return to his old ways where he was much happier than about wanting to get back with her. Seok-moo is aware that Yoo-young is married and is content with her marriage. It’s not that he wants to get back with her or to have an affair with her.
It’s simply that Seok-moo was much happier and didn’t sigh or worry so much about his relationship when he was with Yoo-young. He wants to so desperately return to those old ways because they were much happier and better times for him – feelings and vibes that he doesn’t receive in the present with his marriage to Hwi-roo. Of course, he doesn’t think about it from anyone else’s perspective but his own and simply blames Hwi-roo for their relationship issues. How ironic is it that he pleads for Hwi-roo to just simply consider his feelings and thoughts when everything he does is simply for him.
You can tell that Hwi-roo wants to work things out with Seok-moo and wants to make the relationship work. She does things she’s never done before, she asks her guest house customers for tips and advice on their successful marriages, and she puts up with Seok-moo’s awful and toxic behaviors even if it drives her crazy. What her sister Ma-roo said about Hwi-roo always putting others first before her is true and Hwi-roo’s marriage with Seok-moo is no exception to that notion. Hwi-roo bites her tongue and closes her mouth all to keep Seok-moo happy so that hopefully he won’t want to go through with the divorce. It’s ironic that when Hwi-roo does propose to move forward with the divorce, he becomes flustered and confused as to why Hwi-roo wants it. You wanted the divorce and can finally get divorced, but you also grow hesitant when it finally happens?
Clearly, Seok-moo and Hwi-roo’s marriage is one-sided. Hwi-roo is putting forth all the effort while Seok-moo is just sitting impatiently on the side while believing that his act of staying with Hwi-roo is what’s saving their marriage from breaking apart. There is no compromise from him like how he claimed he was doing with Hwi-roo. Obviously, something must have happened to Hwi-roo for her to go from wanting to keep the drowning relationship afloat to letting it sink completely underwater. Something caused her to reach her breaking point and by then it might be too late to retreat from a divorce like Seok-moo originally thought he wanted.
Bonus: Extra screenshots 🙂