Age of Youth 2: Episode 11
It’s finally time for Ji-won to face her demons, and while I was eagerly anticipating this moment, nothing is more shattering than seeing her sparkle start to fade. But nothing is done alone at Belle Epoque, and like Ji-won, our other Belle Epoque ladies all confront the most daunting parts of themselves. It seems like a hot mess of tears, confessions, bruises, and unwanted realities, but somehow these ladies weave together their stories into a quintessential lesson about learning yourself.
EPISODE 11: “I betrayed myself” #fall
We see professionally chopped food and sizzling meats, which can only mean one thing: It’s Chef PARK JAE-WAN (Yoon Park), Jin-myung’s boyfriend. He sees a message from Jin-myung on his break, and it asks him to indulge her with encouragement and affirmation that she isn’t a bad person.
At Belle Epoque, the housemates are held hostage by the man who knows “Joanne,” and Jae-wan’s call to Jin-myung goes unanswered in the pile of confiscated phones. The captor holds a knife to Jin-myung’s throat demanding an explanation on how they know Joanne, pushing the knife closer to Jin-myung’s throat. A trembling Eun tells him that they tracked down Joanne as the sender of a mysterious letter.
He orders Ye-eun to retrieve the letter, and she nervously takes it from the refrigerator door and gives it to him. He hands it to Jin-myung to read aloud, and it starts: “You’re the one who ruined my life. It’s all because of you that I turned out like this.”
As she reads, Jae-wan’s encouraging words intercut with hers. He writes, “You are a good person, so don’t worry. Thank you for asking me for encouragement. I miss you.”
The letter continues: “But you became a university student. You laughed and smiled in front of me. Are you happy? I’m sure you’re happy. You’ll go on eating and living well, laughing away, not knowing there’s a person whose life you ruined. Merry Christmas, you say? You XXXX, I won’t let this go. I’ll make it so you can’t smile like that again. I’ll rip apart that smiling mouth of yours. Just like the agony I suffered, I’ll kill you.”
Jin-myung finishes reading, and the captor tells them that whoever the letter was directed to must be a bad person. He wonders which one of them it is and orders Ye-eun to handcuff everyone in zip ties. Ye-eun is frozen in fear, and when her inaction angers him, Eun-jae jumps up to tie everyone instead.
Shocked, Ye-eun retreats back to the floor, and Ji-won tries to assure her that everything will be okay. The captor orders Eun-jae to handcuff everyone tightly, and she apologizes as Eun winces. Ye-eun’s body has gone limp and they have to hold her hands together to tie them as tears roll from her glossed-over eyes.
The captor throws Jin-myung onto the floor and asks which of them ruined Joanne. He looks to Ji-won and asks if it was her, and she vehemently shakes her head. Eun-jae doesn’t know, but that angers him more and he grabs her hair hard. Jin-myung begs him to believe them, since they wouldn’t have gone looking for her had they known who she was.
He lets go of Eun-jae and shows them a picture of Joanne. None of them recognize her, so he looks down at the picture and asks, “Should I just kill them all, Hyo-jin?” At that, Ji-won looks up with recognition.
He gives them exactly eight minutes to come clean, and Ji-won reconfirms Hyo-jin’s name. Jin-myung interjects before Ji-won can react and tells him to ask Hyo-jin who the letter is for instead of threatening them. He retorts that he can’t because she committed suicide: “She’s fucking dead.”
Apparently she died in March, and he says that while she’d always been a gloomy person, she was uncharacteristically bright during her last inmate visit. He reproaches himself for not recognizing the sudden mood shift.
He asks crying Ji-won if she’s the culprit. Jin-myung and Eun-jae try to prevent her, but she nods. He asks what she did to Hyo-jin, but while Ji-won says she knows she did something, she doesn’t remember what. Enraged by her lack of remorse, he slams her head to the ground and he reviles her for not remembering what she did to Hyo-jin.
The captor grabs Ji-won again, and the housemates try to fight his grip when suddenly Ye-eun gets up and calmly walks to her room. The captor lets go of Ji-won and follows her, and she points to the childhood photo of Ji-won and Hyo-jin.
He throws Ye-eun against the shelf, and Jin-myung rushes to her side as she crumbles to the ground. Then, he grabs the photo and asks if Ji-won is pictured there, and she confirms it.
Reading the date on the back of the photo, the captor guesses that the girls were in third grade then, and Ji-won nods. He thinks back to a conversation with Hyo-jin, who’d asked when his life went wrong. He’d responded that his life was ruined from the start, and Hyo-jin revealed that her misfortune began in third grade. She asked him a favor—to kill someone for her—but didn’t reveal who, saying she’d try on her own before resorting to him.
He asks Ji-won again what she did. She still can’t remember, and he figures that he’ll grant Hyo-jin’s dying wish anyway and grabs Ji-won to take her away. Jin-myung tries to intervene, just as a crackling noise sounds—and the captor twitches and thuds to the ground, unconscious.
Ye-eun stands behind him with the taser, and she screams as she drops it. She begins to panic, and Jin-myung coaches her to breathe as she cuts the zip ties. Eun-jae runs to call the police, and Ye-eun screams again at the sight of the captor crawling back up.
He smacks Jin-myung to the ground and stops Eun-jae from calling for help by throwing her to the ground. He picks up the knife, and Ye-eun runs at him with a pair of scissors. But he pushes her against the wall and she falls to the ground.
At that, Ji-won yells at everyone to stop. She looks at her fallen housemates and says that she’ll go with the captor, since she’s the one he’s seeking. Jin-myung tries to reason that they were in third grade—just children—when this happened. He doesn’t care—young or old, if you committed a wrong, you should be punished.
Jin-myung points out another inconsistency that the letter was written in December, three months before Hyo-jin died. If she really wanted to harm Ji-won, she would have tried something in those three months. But the captor looks at the letter and thinks back to Hyo-jin telling him that she’ll request that favor later. He decides that later is now.
The captor grabs Ji-won to leave, but Eun stands in their way, shaking in fear but refusing to get out of the way. He threatens to kill all of them if she doesn’t move, and Ji-won pleads for Eun to let them go. Ye-eun begs the captor not to take Ji-won, insisting that she’s not a bad person. Regaining consciousness, Eun-jae urges Ji-won to come back to them.
Provoked by the housemates’ protectiveness for Ji-won, the captor grabs Ji-won’s neck and raises his knife, ready to stab. But as he wields the knife, some of his murderous rage ebbs away and he asks frustratedly why she was so terrible to Hyo-jin. Finally, he storms out of the house.
The captor throws the housemates’ phones into a planter on his way out, while inside, the housemates huddle together, crying. Ji-won apologizes profusely through her tears as Eun-jae cuts everyone’s zip ties. They sit on the ground, injured, in tears and in shock.
The next morning, the housemates wake up to the new day with injuries—Jin-myung with a cut on her neck, Eun-jae with a sore side, Ye-eun with a bruised cheek, and Eun with discolored wrists. Ji-won, meanwhile, remains asleep in bed.
Jin-myung heads to work with a scarf to cover her injured neck, and Eun-jae comments that it’s strange that they’re going on with their daily routines after last night’s trauma. Ye-eun agrees and says that she expected to live differently after facing death, but nothing has changed. It’s a new day, so they go to school and go to work.
Eun worries that the captor will come back to Belle Epoque if they don’t report him, and the housemates wonder why Ji-won didn’t want to report this. As Eun heads to school, she checks the painted chair, now dry.
At work, Jin-myung reflects on Eun-jae’s words about returning to their daily routines like nothing happened, and it spurs her to assertively search for Heimdal. She talks to his former groupmates, visits the comic book store where he’s a regular, and asks his friends if they know his whereabouts.
The ordeal gives Eun-jae new determination too, and she approaches Jong-yeol with a cold drink, gives it to him, and walks away. Jong-yeol’s friends tease him about getting back together with her, and while he denies it, he doesn’t seem opposed to Eun-jae’s advances.
Ye-eun runs into Kyung-ah in the bathroom and covers her bruised face, assuring her that she just hurt herself (as in, she’s not in another abusive relationship).
Kyung-ah shares that Yoo-kyung is at the hospital after being found unconscious and hasn’t spoken a word since she’s woken up. She informs Ye-eun that the doctor recommended psychiatric counseling, but Ye-eun walks away feigning disinterest.
After class, Eun approaches Ye-ji to talk. Ye-ji assumes she’s mad at her for meddling in her relationship with Jang-hoon and apologizes, promising not to do it again. But Eun comes clean and admits that she lied to Ye-ji—she and Jang-hoon were never dating.
Ye-ji asks why, then guesses that she was being too clingy again. Eun doesn’t respond, and Ye-ji takes that as confirmation. Looking stricken, Ye-ji leaves quietly.
Still in bed, Ji-won turns over and looks at her journalism award that reads: “Only obey the truth.” She shows up to the journalism office with big sunglasses, and when Sung-min sees her, he jokes that she’s probably been hit by someone (yikes).
She takes it in stride, keeping up her usual light demeanor as she hands him a pile of prep books for the journalism exam. She demands tears of gratitude, but Sung-min asks if she’s not going to take the test herself and get a job.
Ji-won says she will get a job, but not in media. “I can’t,” she says simply and leaves. Sung-min can sense something off and follows her out. He takes off her sunglasses, which reveals her bruised eye. She tries to stay light, but her smile fades as she says that she found Hyo-jin.
Over drinks, Ji-won tells Sung-min that she’s reminded of a fable about a king ordering his son to deliver a letter. The son endured numerous trials to barely deliver the letter—only to have the letter order the death of the messenger. She feels exactly like that messenger and regrets not throwing that letter away. It was better not knowing.
Sung-min tries to assure her that they don’t know what happened since Ji-won doesn’t remember, but Ji-won can infer that she did something bad. She asks Sung-min to objectively imagine an article based on the facts they’ve gathered so far, without sympathizing with her.
Words fail him, so Ji-won dictates the story for him: “During the summer of third grade, Song Ji-won became a liar. She made up unbelievable lies, and one of them was about Moon Hyo-jin. She doesn’t know why—maybe her rebellious stage came early, maybe she was jealous of Hyo-jin’s pretty shoes. But unlike other lies, the lie about Hyo-jin becomes a problem. A rumor spreads through the whole school, and Hyo-jin transfers out. After that, Hyo-jin’s life is ruined. Her mom dies, she runs away from her uncle’s house, meets a disreputable man, and becomes depressed.”
She thinks to the trip to the spa and continues: “Then, she meets me. That day, I’m laughing and smiling. She writes a hateful letter and commits suicide three months later.” She asks Sung-min if anything is wrong so far as an editor, and he says that she needs to cross-check her references. Ji-won cracks up at his serious criticism, but her laughter quickly fades.
Sung-min walks Ji-won home and asks what she’s going to do now. She says that she’ll anguish and repent for a while, and when she feels that she’s done enough, she’ll move on with her life. Sung-min advises her to take that time and not decide anything in this moment. She forces a smile and saunters back home.
While hanging laundry, Jin-myung finds Ji-won’s journalism awards in the trash. When she asks Ji-won about them, Ji-won nonchalantly says that she threw them away and goes to her room. Eun-jae realizes that she was wrong—things are not the same.
The next morning, Eun checks Jang-hoon’s unattended chair and tapes the fallen “Wet Paint” sign back on it. Eun nears her father’s store and lingers across the street, not wanting to be seen. But when she sees her half-sister walking into the street alone, Eun can’t ignore her worry and stops her to ask where she’s going and where her father is. The little girl replies that he’s been sleeping for a long time, so she’s going to the playground by herself because she’s bored.
Eun’s father is found unconscious, and Eun and her half-sister ride in his ambulance to the hospital. At the hospital, Eun calls both her mom and her stepmom, which ends up in an awkward encounter between the two mother-daughter pairs.
When the nurse arrives in search of the guardian, Eun’s mother claims the title and takes Eun along with her to check on her father, leaving the other mother-daughter pair to wait for the news. Fortunately, Eun’s father has stabilized and no surgery is necessary thanks to the early discovery of the blood clot. Eun watches her father from his bedside and looks hesitant.
Eun’s mother tells Eun to guard her father from unwanted visitors, obviously meaning the stepmom and daughter. But once her mother leaves, Eun updates her stepmom on her father’s condition. Eun agrees to watch her sleeping sister while her stepmom goes home to fetch some of Dad’s things.
Initially, Eun stands there awkwardly, but then she carefully slides her backpack under her sister’s head, waking her up in the process. Eun assures her that her mother will return and warns her not to cry. The girl complains about her undone braid, and Eun offers to fix it for her.
As Eun braids her sister’s hair, she asks if her father did her hair. Her sister nods, and Eun begins to tear up. Her sister complains about the bumpy braid, but when she sees that Eun is crying, she holds her hand to comfort her.
When Eun returns home, she notices that the chair has moved from its usual spot and gets excited that Jang-hoon is back. She walks down to his room and scolds him for not telling them that he was leaving. He asked if anything happened, and she says that something did but remains silent.
Jang-hoon fills the silence by putting words in her mouth—that she was lonely without him and missed him. But she puts those words in her own mouth and admits that she did feel lonely and did miss him. Then she climbs back up the stairs, leaving Jang-hoon dumbfounded.
Jin-myung finds Eun numbly knocking her head against the wall but doesn’t find out more because she’s called by the comic book store owner with information on Heimdal. She ends up at the police station and finds a dirtier and smellier Heimdal there—he’s spent this time homeless and wandering. She claims to be his older sister, and as he’s released from the station, he grumbles that she’s meddling in his life.
Heimdal tries to run away from Jin-myung, but he’s too hungry to run. They go to a restaurant, where Heimdal scarfs down his food as Jin-myung watches in awe. After devouring, Heimdal tries to maintain his cool by saying the food was just okay, and Jin-myung graciously lets him keep his cool.
Jin-myung then brings him home, and Jang-hoon agrees to temporarily house the smelly guest. When Heimdal comes out of the shower, Jang-hoon can’t help but notice his muscular body as he hands him the extra bedding. Heimdal requests an extra shirt, and Jang-hoon promises to get one for him.
The next morning signals a new day: Ye-eun still has a bruise on her cheek, though it’s lightened. Eun-jae texts Jong-yeol about a song that reminded her of him, and Ji-won leaves the house to start her day.
In a montage, more days pass, with Ye-eun’s bruise slowly fading and Eun-jae leaving little gifts in Jong-yeol’s locker, although he doesn’t look pleased about it. Ji-won leaves the house repeatedly but we don’t see where she’s headed, until finally one day we follow her out.
Ji-won sits outside Hyo-jin’s old apartment, and the captor spots her as he walks out. He asks incredulously what she’s doing there, and she replies that she’s thinking about Hyo-jin. He angrily tells her that he hasn’t forgiven her and warns her that he may change his mind one day and kill her after all.
Ji-won acknowledges this, and since she could be gone any day, she asks to know more about Hyo-jin. She asks, “What kind of person was Hyo-jin? Was she pretty?” The captor seems to soften up at those questions and sits down next to Ji-won as they think about Hyo-jin together.
The man complains that Hyo-jin was a gloomy person, and Ji-won asks why he liked her. Then she asks what food Hyo-jin liked. Noodles, he says. Ji-won knows that Hyo-jin liked books, and he nods in confirmation. He presumes that she probably didn’t like talking to someone like him.
Ji-won wonders why Hyo-jin died without getting her revenge. Tearing up, she wishes that Hyo-jin had gotten her revenge and lived.
Ye-eun meets Ho-chang at their usual cafe, but she notices something different about his appearance. He tells her that he bought new clothes (wow!), and Ye-eun drags him along for more of a transformation. Under the direction of Ye-eun, he gets more new clothes, a new hairstyle, and contacts.
Eun-jae walks into class and bravely sits next to Jong-yeol, to everyone’s shock. It’s clear that they’re both uncomfortable sitting next to each other, but Eun-jae holds out and silently reaches for her aching stomach. She narrates: “Inflection point: the point where the curve changes direction.”
Ye-eun happily walks and links arms with Ho-chang, who uncomfortably picks at his new clothes. Eun-jae continues, “A point in the curve has no direction, no meaning.”
Jin-myung works hard at Oh & Park, and we see that she’s almost finished her container of lollipops. “We can only know the meaning of that moment after connecting all the points in that curve.”
After class, Eun tries to approach Ye-ji, but she’s already making plans for lunch with another classmate. “In that moment, you don’t know. You can only know afterwards, after we pass that inflection point.”
Eun-jae rushes to a restaurant to meet Jong-yeol, happy that he asked her to meet. He pours her a shot when she arrives, and she comments that it’s been a while since they’ve had a drink with just the two of them. Before he can speak, she starts by sharing that she almost died, and that near-death experience made her realize what she would regret.
She confesses to Jong-yeol that she still likes him and doesn’t want to break up, smiling at him expectantly. But he deflates her hopes by saying that they’re done. Her smile drops and she asks why he won’t give them another chance, since he doesn’t not like her. But Jong-yeol works up his nerve to says that he doesn’t like her.
Eun-jae still holds onto hope with the drunk text—that he texted her because he missed her—but Jong-yeol says that it was just in that moment. In denial, Eun-jae insists that Jong-yeol still likes her and admits that she’s working to change because he didn’t like the “old” her, who was passive and hesitant.
She desperately asks Jong-yeol what she’ll have to do so that he’ll like her again. All he can do is apologize, and that opens the floodgates for Eun-jae. As realization sinks in, she begins to cry loudly in the restaurant, and Jong-yeol quickly hands her tissues.
Eun-jae narrates: “It might be like the Nazca Lines, like how seemingly meaningless lines from afar become a hummingbird or an alien.”
Jong-yeol offers to walk Eun-jae home, but she stops him. Her narration continues: “Just today. This moment. These words.” She asks to go to a motel with him, convinced that her hesitance about sex was the reason for their break-up.
That’s Jong-yeol’s tipping point, and he shakes off Eun-jae’s grip and tells her angrily that she just made both of them pitiful. As he walks away, she yells after him, blaming him for moving on without her. Eun-jae falls to the ground in tears, and it begins to rain. “Where’s my inflection point?”
We just back to one year ago, when Eun-jae and Jong-yeol were still together. When asked how long they’ve been together, Jong-yeol estimates three or four months while Eun-jae knows the exact day count. As they watch each other’s interviews, they get adorably embarrassed as he says she’s pretty (he acknowledges that she’s hesitant and passive, but says she’s pretty anyway) and she says he’s handsome.
When asked about their ideal date location, Eun-jae suggests a hike or park, while Jong-yeol doesn’t care as long as it’s somewhere far (such as an overnight trip). When asked if this is their first love, Jong-yeol says matter-of-factly that he had a breif relationship before, while Eun-jae smiles bashfully.
But when the interviewers remind her of the adage that first loves don’t come true, Eun-jae protests that it’s just a myth. Then she says it doesn’t matter because her first crush was someone lese (greasy sunbae)—which wipes the smile off Jong-yeol’s face, ha. With that, the couple leaves the interview holding hands and gushing with cuteness.
Ugh, Eun-jae noooo. I strongly disapproved of Eun-jae’s desperation in her final confession, and while I know that she needed to experience this rough heartbreak to grow, I wish she had held onto her dignity in those final moments. Neither Jong-yeol nor Eun-jae is wrong in their response to their broken relationship, but I agree more with Jong-yeol that their relationship was and has been over. There are always some strings attached in the process of growing apart, and the potential for salvaging their romantic relationship is only there if both of them are invested. Unfortunately for Eun-jae, she’s the only one playing this game, and it’s in these moments that I wish our Belle Epoque unnies would have intervened a little more, saved her from this devastating heartbreak, and guided her through this. Of course, it’s not their fault—they surely had their own baggage to deal with—but it was so difficult watching Eun-jae flail in this hardship alone. But again, it’s a game for two, and maybe this is what she needed to truly move on.
But onto our main story: Ji-won. The first portion of this episode was a straight-up thriller, and I have plenty of terrifying screencaps to prove it. It wasn’t uncharacteristic of this fundamentally eerie show, but that doesn’t make it any less cruel—even crueler after making us love our housemates so much, only to put them in harm’s way. But I understood the purpose of such a life-threatening event. Something about trauma elicits truth. It’s the experience of almost reaching death and just barely surviving that shakes up your priorities. Things that hold you back—jealousy, pettiness, hesitance—don’t matter anymore because there’s a new weight to truth. Suddenly, truth is the only thing that really matters and you don’t want to waste time veiling it.
Though that hostage situation was not fun at all, I found the fruits of that experience quite enjoyable. I liked how Jin-myung took initiative to find smelly Heimdal; I liked how Eun-jae confronted her feelings head-on (even though I wish she held back a little); I liked how Eun took baby steps toward her half-sister; and I liked how fierce Ye-eun was in her fight with the captor. That hostage situation was a huge challenge to Ye-eun, who clearly was fighting the anxiety from her previous trauma, and I wanted to acknowledge how far she’s come as a character.
I found Ji-won’s interpretation of her own story quite fascinating and her method of processing even more so. She’s the most objective out of all of the housemates, and, even though Jin-myung comes as a close second, I think Ji-won is really able to separate her feelings from her thoughts. It’s never been as evident as it is now that Ji-won is the most emotionally mysterious one out of all our housemates. She’s always been our source of comedic relief and our reliable source of happy, and I almost forgot that she was also human. But the way she talks about her past like it’s just part of the human condition concerns me. She’s trying to distance herself from her own story, and I fear that she’ll be further from the truth the more she tries to treat her life as a journalistic piece.
While I think that Ji-won is generally correct about the themes in her self-investigation, I don’t think the details are entirely true. Even the captor man seems to agree that something’s off. Ji-won is not a fundamentally bad human, and that throws him off. He’s supposed to hate Hyo-jin’s enemy, but for some reason, Ji-won doesn’t feel like the enemy. You just can’t hate someone who desperately wants to know the person you loved.
I think there’s a similar struggle that Eun has with her half-sister. She tries to make her the enemy, but for some reason, the little girl and her relationship with their father tugs at her heartstrings. Sometimes you can’t hate people you want to hate, and I really hope that we can delve more into why this is the case. Why is it so hard to hate family? Why is it so easy to make yourself your own worst enemy? (Why can’t the writers give us more Eun/Jang-hoon and Ji-won/Sung-min? Why must they make themselves my enemy? I digress…)
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