Sassy Go Go: Episode 1
Sassy Go Go starts off with a high kick as we’re introduced to the students of Sevit High, and all the problems that come along with attending a school that prizes grades above all else. The show has all the cuteness and charm it promised, plus a lot of heart and depth that come as an unexpected, but welcome, surprise. There’s a lot more to this than a group of misfits teaming up to be cheerleaders, and if I was excited before, I’m positively bouncing in my chair to see more now!
EPISODE 1 RECAP
A young girl walks onto a high school campus early in the morning, the building lighting up as if to greet her, and in voiceover she says that school has an air of youthful romance. The scene shifts to show her in study hall, laughing at the notice that academically, she’s one hundred ninety-sixth out of two hundred students. She thinks to herself, “Crazy bitch,” as her smile turns to tears.
This is our heroine KANG YEON-DOO (Jung Eun-ji), who studies hard but just can’t manage to do any better than bottom of her class. She wasn’t born brilliant like the high-achievers, who are also rich, good-looking, and have great personalities, and muses that life isn’t fair.
Yeon-doo enters a darkened storeroom where several other students sit, and they all check their rankings together with an air of utter seriousness. They all did badly, some even worse than Yeon-doo, but they bolster each other’s spirits. These kids are the dance club, the one place where they excel.
One year later, Yeon-doo’s second year of high school. In the middle of practice the dance club’s sound system goes silent — the students trying to study in the next room have unplugged it where it was snuck through the wall and into their room. HAHA, the dance club resorts to charging their tiny generator with a bicycle.
These kids all go to Sevit High School, which is proud of its track record in sending students on to top-rated colleges. The faculty and parents hold a meeting in which they discuss their plans to send at least fifty percent of this year’s graduating class to one of the top-three Korean universities.
The parents wonder if they’ll continue to allow clubs, which take away from crucial study time — particularly one club whose noise disturbs other students. Principal Choi stands to state that they plan to abolish any clubs that cause a disturbance.
Meanwhile the dance club blasts their music as they practice, and the study club cranks up their classical music to counter the pop coming through the walls. It spurs them to crank their music louder, and so does the study club — this goes on until the dance club’s generator sparks and burns.
They decide to handle this in person, and the two groups of students face off. One of the girls in the study group, KWON SOO-AH (Chae Soo-bin) gets a text from her mother, who’s at the school for the meeting, and she grimaces.
Yeon-doo takes the offensive as the leader of her little club, but she flounders a bit when the student vice-president and first in his class KIM YEOL (Lee Won-geun) gets in her face and says they should spend more time studying. She counters that her club is restricted from the things that make studying so easy — you know, like electricity and air-conditioning.
She admits they didn’t do well on the placement exam, which Yeol spits is what happens when you’re stupid. Them’s fightin’ words, and the dance club is ready to rumble, but Yeon-doo asks if they can’t just use their electricity.
We’re introduced to the two groups: Yeol’s group is Baek Ho (White Tiger), the cheerleading club, but in name only. All of them are in the top five percent of their class, the school’s cream-of-the-crop. Yeon-doo’s group is Real King, the street dance club, bottom five percent of the class and shame of the school.
Yeol goes too far and tells the dance club to grovel if they want electricity, and that’s all Yeon-doo can take. The two clubs fight, but it’s hilariously nerdy on both sides. Yeon-doo’s big move of head-butting Yeol ends in her trying to untangle her hair from his name tag while he stands with his hands in the air. HAHA.
Just as she breaks free and makes as if to punch Yeol for real, Teacher YANG TAE-BUM (Kim Ji-suk) breaks up the “fight” and sends everyone back to class. And just in time, because the parents and faculty parade down the hall about two seconds later.
Another teacher, TEACHER IM, figures something is up and he just about cries when he sees that the dance club has broken the generator. He assigns demerits and declares that if this sort of thing happens again, their club will be disbanded. The principal is just itching for a reason to dissolve their club.
Soo-ah meets her mother outside, and she doesn’t even ask about anything other than her studies. She’s angry that Soo-ah ranked second in the class, and makes it clear that kind of failure won’t be tolerated again. Damn.
Though Yeon-doo and Soo-ah are technically club rivals, they’re also roommates who seem friendly when alone. Yeon-doo complains about the imbalance in the way the school treats the clubs, so Soo-ah suggests the two captains just talk it out. Awww, that’s adorably naïve. Anyway, Yeon-doo doesn’t think Yeol will ever give an inch.
Soo-ah heads to a student meeting, and the Baek Ho students find their study room completely destroyed. Someone set off a fire extinguisher, and the assumption is that Real King is responsible. But Real King also finds their practice room vandalized, with “Real King OUT!” painted in red on the floor and their equipment tampered with.
So Yeon-doo sits down with Yeol to discuss a peace treaty. She offers him a cola and gives it a good shake before handing it over, and she starts by mentioning how unfairly her club is treated. Yeol just grins that life is unfair, get used to it, which infuriates Yeon-doo.
She kicks the stool out from under his feet right as he pops the cola and flails away from the spray. Her own vehemence knocks her legs out from under her, and she falls on top of him, faces uncomfortably close.
Yeol doesn’t seem one bit nervous, and offers for her to get off… or they could just go for it. He actually tilts his head to kiss Yeon-doo, but they near a noise and see someone’s smartphone taking a picture. We don’t see who took the picture other than that it’s a female student, and she sends the photo to the school to report Yeon-doo and Yeol for immoral behavior.
Teacher Yang just laughs when he gets the text, then rolls his eyes when Teacher Im catches sight of the picture, knowing that Teacher Im will tattle to the principal. Soon enough a notice is posted that Real King faces disbandment over this issue.
Yeon-doo marches to the principal’s office, where Yeol happens to be smirking over the “unfairness” of his club getting off scot-free. He actually comments that it’s too bad Yeon-doo’s family doesn’t have money and power like his, but the principal isn’t as accommodating as he thinks — she does plan a little punishment for him.
Teacher Im bars Yeon-doo from the office, so she asks him to at least tell her who took the picture. Whoever they are, they know that she and Yeol weren’t really kissing. She’s further incensed when she realizes that Yeol got in to talk to the principal and not her, but Yeol just says that their statuses are different. Gah, you’re such a jerk.
Yeon-doo grabs Yeol’s shirt, but the principal comes out so Yeol cozily bustles Yeon-doo away to talk. On the roof, she asks why he didn’t just tell the principal that they never kissed, but he says they wouldn’t believe that anyway. The principal only cares about getting rid of Real King.
They wonder who could have turned them in, and Yeol has some theories about someone holding a grudge. He’s not interested in telling the truth about the non-kiss, though — one, because it wouldn’t benefit him. Two, because it won’t do any good. And three… and here he leans in uncomfortably close… because the two of them aren’t close enough to deal with hardship together.
Yeon-doo heads back to class, whining and stomping over Yeol’s refusal to just tell the truth. She sees some guys playing basketball in the gym and goes in to talk to her friend, HA DONG-JAE (N). He’s awfully popular, with a gaggle of girls screaming his name on the sidelines, though he turns out to be a bit of a heodang.
His teammates gripe when he lets the other team get a point and win the game, and Yeon-doo steps in to get his back. Dong-jae points out that he’s made half the points in this game, but he just doesn’t like getting hit, and then he uses Yeon-doo as a shield when the guys go after him. Okay, I already love this guy.
Later Yeon-doo keeps Dong-jae company while he shoots baskets, wondering why he plays when he hates physical contact and his teammates hate him. She whines about Real King being disbanded and Dong-jae just grins at her cuteness. They share a strawberry milk and Yeon-doo ignores a call from her mother, sure that she’s heard about her getting demerits.
Mom is currently working in her cafe and having a meal with Yeol’s father, and the two seem to be old friends. He teases her for having no pride, and she preens cutely and says she doesn’t show her pride to him — okay, she’s precious. She wishes her daughter could meet a man like him.
Yeon-doo fixates on Yeol’s refusal to tell the truth, now complaining to Soo-ah about him. She runs off when she gets a message thet Real King’s room is being emptied, and Soo-ah takes out her phone to delete the picture. Ooooh… she set them up by suggesting the meeting, then caught them in a compromised position. Not so friendly after all.
Yeon-doo arrives at the club’s room to find the school removing all of their equipment, while the Baek Ho kids stand and sneer. Yeon-doo sadly remembers when the graduating students passed down the care of Real King to her, and she’d promised to keep it alive.
The ruckus brings Principal Choi, and Yeon-doo swears to her tearfully that she won’t cause any more trouble if only she lets them keep their club. Even Yeol seems taken aback by her heartfelt plea that this club is their life and breath, but the principal just says that if the school strangles her so much, she can transfer.
The other Real King members are beaten, ready to give up and just focus on studying like everyone else. Yeon-doo pretends to be okay for their sake and agrees, though they seem disappointed that she didn’t even try to rally their spirits.
Yeon-doo goes up to the roof to sit with Real King’s evicted equipment, and she turns on some music and slowly begins to dance (the song is “Fly Like An Eagle” by Tiger JK feat. Yoon Mi-rae). It becomes clear why she loves this so much — she completely transforms when she’s dancing.
Yeol helps his roommate and fellow Baek Ho member SEO HA-JOON (Ji-soo) apply some pain patches to his bruised back, asking if it was his father’s handiwork. Again. Ha-joon just says he didn’t do well on an exam, and waves away Yeol’s concern. Yeol is understandably unwilling to take He won’t beat me to death as an excuse.
Yeon-doo sits on the roof until after dark, cursing Yeol, the snitch, the school and the entire world. She surprised by Yeol, who came to the roof to cool off, and she admits that the unfairness of this whole thing is driving her nuts. Yeol goes inside without comment, but when Yeon-doo heads in herself, there’s a note on the door telling her to make a poster if it’s that unfair.
She takes his advice, enlisting Dong-jae’s help as they sneakily hide out in the laundry room. They’re surprised by Soo-ah (HAHA, did they really think that just hiding their faces would make them invisible?) who worries that it won’t be effective just coming from Yeon-doo, and suggests she ask Yeol for help.
Yeon-doo declines which makes Soo-ah unhappy, and Dong-jae muses out loud that the number two would be happy if number one got demerits and slipped down in ranking. Maybe not as dingy as he seems, this one. Or maybe he is, as he deadpans, “Who is Soo-ah?”
We get a flashback as Soo-ah is briefed by an adviser on Yeol as her primary rival. He’s too smart for her to beat him academically, so she’ll have to find another way, like demerits on his report card. She’s advised to make friends with the other Baek Ho kids, because there’s one thing she lacks — impact. She only ever studies, and has no extras that colleges look for.
On her way out, Soo-ah’s told to avoid Yeon-doo, as she has nothing to offer. Soo-ah disagrees — Yeon-doo will do anything for a little kindness. She could prove useful.
The students gather around the next morning to see Yeon-doo putting up her poster, but she’s caught by Teacher Yang. HA, he just tells her she should do this stuff before dawn. When Teacher Im comes close, he buys her time to finish putting the poster up. Okay, we officially like him.
Yeon-doo puts up posters all over the school, followed closely by Teacher Im who tears them all down. But someone (Teacher Yang?) takes a photo of one of the posters and sends in a report of unfair dissolution of a club to the Ministry of Education.
Yeon-doo resorts to standing outside the school hollering about injustice, while Dong-jae loyally stands with her holding her strawberry milk. Principal Choi comes out to confront her, but she loses her composure when someone approaches.
Ah, it’s someone from the Ministry of Education, having come to investigate the report. Apparently Yeon-doo has gotten famous online, and the Ministry isn’t happy about Sevit’s suppression of club activities.
And with that, Yeon-doo is of the hook. But there’s backlash, as all the students are now required to turn in their cell phones at the start of class every morning, and a two-week ban on leaving the grounds is instituted.
At lunch Yeon-doo’s tray is knocked out of her hands by some kids who are angry about the new school restrictions. They know the school will be going through their phones looking for that photo to find the whistleblower, and they all have things on their phones that could get them in big trouble. Surprisingly, it’s Yeol who tells the students to back off.
Yeon-doo appeals to Teacher Yang about the restrictions, but he claims they’re just to encourage the students to study more. She wheedles for him to just tell her who tattled on her, and he only orders her to class.
But when he leaves, Yeon-doo is tempted by the cell phone that he left on his desk. She sneakily pulls up his texts, and sees that the report and photo came from her supposed friend, Soo-ah.
She confronts Soo-ah right away, who completely changes once she realizes she’s caught. Shiver, her eyes just go dead. She laughs when Yeon-do asks if she’s even her friend, saying that nobody in this school would be her friend.
But they still have to sit through music class, and when it’s Yeon-doo’s turn to perform, Soo-ah doesn’t join her as they’d practiced. Yeon-doo sings alone, and it’s painfully obvious that not one classmate is paying attention, which seems to hammer home Soo-ah’s words.
Emotional, Yeon-doo’s voice cracks on the high note, and she stops. She walks right up to Soo-ah and barks, “You look down on people, right?” She tells Soo-ah that she may seem to have everything, but not to misunderstand — everyone knows about her (her home situation, I’m guessing), and feels sorry for her.
On a roll, Yeon-doo turns on Yeol next: “Did we kiss or not?” He just laughs and she asks if he likes everyone thinking they kissed. And as long as everyone thinks it, they may as well make it for real. She leans over his desk and invites him to kiss her, right now, but he just smiles nervously.
She moves on to the lunchroom bullies, and tells them it wasn’t her who’s responsible for the restrictions, but the principal. Why are they taking it out on her? To the rest of the class, she says they’re all the same — they’re so obsessed with grades, they’ll ignore a friend who needs them.
The teacher finally stops Yeon-doo, but Soo-ah has something to say now. She asks if Yeon-doo is so different from them, and Yeon-doo admits that this whole situation has enlightened her. She’s played into the “grades are everything” mindset of the school, and has been laying low because of her poor grades. So, she’s quitting. She packs and goes, though she’s already wondering if she went too far.
Back at school, Dong-jae dumps one of his strawberry milks over Soo-ah’s head, innocently wide-eyed as he admits that he did it on purpose. And now he’s won me over completely. He calls Soo-ah by name and says that from now on, he’ll remember exactly who she is.
Soo-ah’s mother and advisor confront Principal Choi about the Ministry of Education complaint and Soo-ah’s school performance, and is that a bribe they’re counting out? Mom says she’s also sent her a new office refrigerator, and inside, Principal Choi finds boxes full of (I assume) cash.
Yeon-doo goes home, where her mother expresses incredulity that the ban against students leaving the school early was lifted. Yeon-doo looks shifty-eyed, and Mom’s no fool — she knows Yeon-doo left without permission. Yeon-doo just wails that the food is salty, and bursts into loud tears.
Yeon-doo spends the night in her room, doodling notes to herself (“I’m not happy” “I want to be happy”). She looks around the room at her own uplifting, self-supportive notes, and wonders where it all went wrong. She thinks that she never used to give up — but if she doesn’t give up, it won’t end.
There’s a sound at her window, and it’s Dong-jae, from his bedroom next door. HA, they live so close he can poke her window with a pole. He says he has bad news, and even worse news… bad news first, she lost a lot of points for leaving school.
We don’t hear the “even worse,” but it has Yeon-doo charging back to school the next morning looking ready to kick ass and take names. She steels herself and barges into the Baek Ho club room, and announces herself: “Starting today, I’m taking over Baek Ho.” What?
I like it! Quite a lot, in fact. I’m a bit disappointed that we haven’t gotten to the cheerleading stuff yet, because I have a feeling that’s where all the fun will be. But I get that this episode had a lot of ground to cover in order to introduce us to the vast cast of characters and educate us on how the school operates. And really, if that’s my only complaint, then it just proves that this show is so good so far that I can’t wait to see more. Overall, my first impression is very positive, and I’m eager to see where this all takes us.
A lot happened in this first episode, but it didn’t feel rushed, and I felt like we got an adequate introduction to all of the key student players and teachers. There’s a sense that there’s a lot more to all of them than what we’ve seen on the surface, so I’m anticipating peeling back the layers and getting to knowing everyone better. I have a feeling there will be quite a few surprises during the course of the show, particularly in the areas of what make these kids really tick and why they do what they do. There were a lot of interesting things teased, such as Yeon-doo’s mother and Yeol’s father knowing each other, Ha-joon’s father who apparently beats him for not getting perfect grades, not to mention why Soo-ah’s mother insists on her being first or she’s an utter failure. It makes me excited for all of the character growth we can expect, from all directions.
Speaking of which, I love how committed the Real King kids are — it’s just a little dance club, but in a school where they’re the bottom of the barrel, it’s all they have that makes them happy. When there’s only one thing you’re good at, you cling to it at all costs. And Yeon-doo in particular isn’t a quitter, so whatever the “worse news” was, I’m excited that she grabbed it by the horns and took full advantage to get back to school. She may not be the best student, but dammit, she can be the very best one hundred ninety-sixth there ever was.
One of my favorite things about Sassy Go Go is the casting, it just seems pitch-perfect all around. Jung Eun-ji’s Yeon-doo is adorably spunky, yet vulnerable and innocent, and I love her complete loyalty to her club. Eun-ji is just perfect for this role, because she acts with a lot of maturity for her age — she makes me forget she’s just barely twenty-two. I’ve seen all of her dramas and she’s yet to do less than utterly impress me, and I feel that this drama will be no exception. Lee Won-gun as Yeol is so snooty you just want to punch him, yet he manages to be the cutest thing ever, all at the same time. I’m less familiar with his work, and in this first episode he mostly just got to sneer, but even so, I sense that he’s got a lot to offer. I’m looking forward to seeing more as Yeol is revealed to us. The rest of the cast seems every bit as capable and endearing, particularly Kim Ji-suk as Teacher Yang and N as Dong-jae — and of course Ji Soo as Ha-joon, who I’m positive will make me sob and ache for him as much as he did in Angry Mom. Everyone is off to a great start, and it makes it exciting to be at the beginning and still have the entire run of the drama ahead of us.
At first, I’ll admit I was firmly in the “why isn’t Ji Soo the lead?” camp along with many of you, but now that I’ve seen Jung Eun-ji and Lee Won-gun together, I completely understand why Lee is the lead. Even though they only had a couple of scenes together, they have crackling chemistry, and their matching snarky grins add a dose of mischief to their interactions. Casting isn’t always about who is the “best” actor, but about how the ensemble works together — and it would have been a shame not to take advantage of the fireworks that go off whenever Yeon-doo and Yeol are in the same space.
All in all, I think we’re off to a great start. I wasn’t expecting to care so much about these kids so quickly, and it only bodes well for the show as we go forward. Once we mix in some dance and cheering into these students struggling to find their place in the world, things can only go up from there!
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- Ji-soo, Lee Won-geun up to play high schoolers in Sassy, Go Go
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- Kim Yoo-jung considers high school drama Cheer Up