A Moment at Eighteen: Episode 2
Our trio of high school students couldn’t be more different but there’s one area where they are similar: they all have parent problems. Huge ones. The class president can’t afford a misstep and this fear drives him to target a lonely transfer student who he considers dispensable. But the lowly transfer student doesn’t want to fall just because the class president can get away with it and in the process, he appreciates the example of his strong mother. But there’s another strong mother who’s determined to see her daughter rise as high as she possibly can, leaving little room for the young girl’s own aspirations.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Hwi-young calls Joon-woo trash but is told that the label suits him better. Joon-woo just wants to know why Hwi-young would blame Joon-woo for his actions. Hwi-young backs away and vigorously scratches his arm before urging Joon-woo, “You can be honest with me. Actually, I knew.”
In a flashback, we see that Sang-hoon planned to take Mr. Sohn’s watch as a prank but it wasn’t on the tutor’s desk. Sang-hoon accused the delivery boy of stealing it since his transfer was blamed on theft. Hwi-young promised to deal with Joon-woo and that’s when he found him tying up the bag.
Hwi-young explains that while he wanted to “help” Joon-woo, Sang-hoon shared his suspicions with the teachers. When Hwi-young pats Joon-woo sympathetically, Ki-tae watches from a distance. Joon-woo confesses that he saw the watch and that Hwi-young is the one who’s in trouble.
The boys are interrupted when Mr. Oh shouts that Joon-woo still needs to turn in his letter of apology. Hwi-young asks if Joon-woo plans to tell Mr. Oh but he’s not sure. Hwi-young goes to a table near the track to treat his rash but ends up throwing his supplies on the ground. A concerned Ki-tae picks them up and returns them to his friend.
Mr. Oh checks Joon-woo’s letter and while impressed with his sketch, as an assistant teacher he can’t afford any missteps and he needs that letter. Mr. Oh worries that Joon-woo’s transfer will reflect badly on him as well and he asks Joon-woo to reconsider. When Mr. Oh is distracted by a text, Joon-woo disappears and as he sprints away, Hwi-young recalls the day that Tutor Sohn’s watch disappeared.
On the way back to math class, Hwi-young overheard the tutor warn Sang-hoon that he’d become stupid if he avoided studying. Sang-hoon bragged, “I’ll still beat Hwi-young in math even if that happens,” and Hwi-young slipped Tutor Sohn’s watch into his pocket. When Hwi-young sighs, Ki-tae asks if he’s all right.
While Soo-bin and her friends try on make-up after school, Soo-bin admits that Hwi-young was right, they should have helped Joon-woo. Ro-mi appears jealous when the other girls rave over how pretty Soo-bin looks after Da-hwin applied her make-up.
Soo-bin has to run off when her mother texts that she’d better not be late for her appointment with a tutor near the school. Ro-mi has to leave too — to join her mother at the spa.
Soo-bin argues with her mother over the phone and is threatened with Hwi-young’s class if she doesn’t cooperate. After hanging up, Soo-bin’s mother texts that all of the tutor’s students have been admitted to Seoul National University.
With just minutes to get back to school, Soo-bin runs…right into Joon-woo, who’s on his bike. Soo-bin learns that Joon-woo works nearby and grabs his bike in spite of his protests. Soo-bin promises to return it and as she rides away, Joon-woo sighs, “I live really far from here.”
The tutor goes over the goals that Soo-bin’s mother has for her daughter. Soo-bin argues that she’s not smart enough to get into Seoul National University and hints that she’s bound to hurt the tutor’s reputation. After the meeting, Soo-bin keeps her promise to return Joon-woo’s bike.
When she reaches the convenience store, Soo-bin peers through the window and is startled when Joon-woo appears at her side and does the same thing. Joon-woo can’t hide his joy when Soo-bin points to his bike. After he checks it thoroughly, even ringing the bell, Joon-woo thanks Soo-bin and tells her, “Bye.”
Joon-woo is surprised when Soo-bin follows him inside and tells him to redo his assignment by the next day. When Joon-woo reminds Soo-bin that he won’t be at school, she argues, “Shouldn’t you do your duty before you leave? Just like I came here to return your bike.”
When Soo-bin slips, Joon-woo reaches out to steady her. Joon-woo notices something and points to his eye but Soo-bin doesn’t understand what he’s trying to tell her. Joon-woo hands Soo-bin a package of wipes and soon she’s busy wiping away her smudged eye make-up.
Soo-bin confesses that she has a question for Joon-woo, “Did you really steal that academy teacher’s watch?” When he doesn’t answer, Soo-bin decides, “I guess not,” and Joon-woo wants to know why she came to that conclusion.
At home, Hwi-young looks at the stolen watch but when he hears his parents approaching, he shoves it in his backpack and nervously waits to greet his father. Hwi-young’s father demands his son’s mock exam results but they’re not out yet. Dad warns Hwi-young about the son of one of his employees, Cho Sang-hoon, “Kids who have nothing but their good brains. They’re the scariest.”
Dad knows this because he had to rely on his brain as he struggled to succeed. Dad walks out after reminding Hwi-young that he expects him to do as well as his brother. After a sympathetic glance at her son, Hwi-young’s mom follows him, leaving Hwi-young to scratch at his arm aggressively.
When Soo-bin gets home, she runs to her room but she can’t avoid her angry mother. Mom reminds Soo-bin how difficult the world is for women and shouts, “That’s why, from your family, parents, wealth, and education to looks, everything counts as your weapons and assets.”
Soo-bin’s mother makes it crystal clear that for the next two years, Soo-bin is to study to get into Seoul National University and then she can do whatever she wants. When Mom shrieks, “We have to work a hundred times harder,” Soo-bin promises to do just that.
Soo-bin asks about her father but Mom barks that he’ll be home when his seminar is over. Soo-bin collapses on her bed as her mother shouts, “I’ll be checking on you at 1 a.m.” In the living room, Soo-bin’s mother glares at the family portraits.
Soo-bin sits at her desk and when she sees her make-up in a mirror, she thinks of Joon-woo. Soo-bin recalls how happy Joon-woo was when she returned his bike and calls it a piece of junk.
Joon-woo happily rings the bell on that “piece of junk” before heading upstairs to his place. When Joon-woo pulls out his assignment and sees Soo-bin’s notes, he tells himself, “She has nice handwriting.” He’s thinks back to Soo-bin’s arguments in favor of his innocence — Joon-woo is too slow and stealing is bothersome. Joon-woo and Soo-bin couldn’t help but laugh at her feeble explanation.
Joon-woo pulls out his uniform and finds the label where Soo-bin wrote his name. Joon-woo sticks the label to a dresser and as he hangs up his uniform, he protests, “I really, really don’t want to go.”
It’s morning when the alarm wakes Joon-woo from his dream of running with his childhood friend. Soon, Joon-woo is dressed in his uniform and riding through the neighborhood on his bike.
Surprised to see Joon-woo at school so early, Hwi-young laughs when Joon-woo explains that he needs to finish his performance assessment. Hwi-young stops when Joon-woo hints that he may not transfer after all and he thinks to himself, “This punk is toying with me.”
When Hwi-young walks away, Joon-woo assures him, “Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone.” Hwi-young walks back to Joon-woo but before he can say anything, Mr. Oh joins them. In spite of his best efforts to ignore his teacher, Joon-woo is dragged away but manages another escape. Hwi-young makes a call to Ki-tae, who promises to hurry to school.
Joon-woo is busy looking up references in the library when Mr. Oh waves the apology form at him from the other side of the bookcase. Mr. Oh leaves it behind and Joon-woo smiles at the teacher’s persistence.
During a brief break, Soo-bin leaves the classroom to search for Joon-woo but he’s nowhere to be found. Soo-bin sees Joon-woo on her way back to class and they smile at each other. Joon-woo hands in his assignment with a note that includes a cute sketch.
Joon-woo and Soo-bin turn to the lockers when someone utters Joon-woo’s name. Ki-tae kneels in front of Joon-woo’s open locker and a crowd forms to look at what’s inside — Tutor Sohn’s missing watch. When Joon-woo and Soo-bin approach, Pil-sang calls him a “dirty thief” and Joon-woo glances at Soo-bin uneasily.
Hwi-young finally makes an appearance and Ki-tae explains that he opened the locker because he thought that Joon-woo wasn’t coming back. Ki-tae removes the watch from the locker just as Sang-hoon walks by.
Joon-woo wonders why Ki-tae didn’t expect him because Soo-bin was the only person who knew his plans and she confirms that she told no one. Ki-tae glances nervously at Hwi-young.
The crowd disperses, including Soo-bin, when Mr. Oh, the vice-principal and the coach arrive on the scene. Soon, Joon-woo is seated with them in the office but since he’s already transferring, the challenge is to keep things quiet.
Hwi-young walks in to announce that Tutor Sohn will drop the matter as long as the watch is returned. When Hwi-young tells Joon-woo, “It’s all sorted out now, so don’t worry,” the teachers heap praise on him.
Joon-woo wants to know, “What’s been sorted out? We haven’t even figured out who put it in my locker.” When the vice-principal reminds Joon-woo that Tutor Sohn agreed to forgive him, he protests, “I’ve done nothing to be forgiven for.”
On the way back to class, Joon-woo asks Hwi-young, “Did you really have to do this?” Hwi-young calls Joon-woo out of line, especially after everything he’s done. Hwi-young scoffs, “Right, punks like you… What do I even expect?”
When Hwi-young returns to class, he locks the door. Unable to get into the classroom, Joon-woo sees Sang-hoon’s empty room and finds him in the middle of a relay on the athletic field. Joon-woo runs after Sang-hoon and asks, “Did you really see…me stealing the watch?”
Pil-sang’s friend, Dong, sees the race on the field and drags Pil-sang to the window. Sang-hoon has a reputation as one of the fastest runners at the school but Joon-woo is easily keeping pace with him.
Mr. Oh glances out the window and smiles when he sees Joon-woo. When Sang-hoon has to stop, Joon-woo tries again “Did you see me doing it,” and is asked, “Is that what Hwi-young told you?” When Joon-woo leaves the field, Sang-hoon remembers that he returned to the academy classroom and saw Hwi-young push the tutor’s watch into the bag of recyclables.
When Hwi-young walks outside, he sees Sang-hoon and Joon-woo together. Sang-hoon confirms that Hwi-young told Joon-woo that Sang-hoon witnessed his theft. When Joon-woo joins them, Sang-hoon watches Hwi-young’s reaction and then admits, “I saw it too. Are you happy now, newbie?” After Joon-woo walks away, Sang-hoon whispers to Hwi-young, “Didn’t I do a good job?”
Mr. Oh jumps onto the walkway as Joon-woo leaves and asks why he ran on the field. Joon-woo admits, “I was curious why they did that. Saying they saw something they didn’t. Saying they didn’t do something they did.” As Joon-woo walks away, Mr. Oh yells, “Curious, my foot. You were angry. You squirmed because you were trampled,” and he accuses Joon-woo of running away.
Soo-bin sees Joon-woo on her way to meet her mother at the school gate. Soon, mother and daughter are at Hwi-young’s house to visit Ms. Park, bearing gifts.
Hwi-young’s mother greets her guests warmly and after they dispense with the niceties, she gets to the point, “So Soo-bin wants to be in Mr. Sohn’s class?” Soo-bin’s mother confesses that she can’t find anyone better than Tutor Sohn, but they need Ms. Park’s permission to join his class.
Soo-bin’s mother acts overjoyed when Ms. Park agrees to speak with Tutor Sohn. When Hwi-young arrives home from school, Soo-bin can hardly look at him when he greets his mother’s guests.
Once they’re back in the car, Soo-bin’s mother complains that Ms. Park would be nothing without her husband and sons. When Soo-bin is silent, her mother assures her, “Hey, humiliation doesn’t last long.” She’s surprised when Soo-bin apologizes, “I’m sorry I’m not a top student like Hwi-young. I made you beg to that lady.”
That evening, Joon-woo is waiting for Hwi-young at the academy. They move to the roof where Joon-woo asks Hwi-young, “‘Punks like you.’ What did you mean by that?” Hwi-young asks what school Joon-woo is transferring to and when he hears that it’s in the countryside, he answers, “Punks like you are nothing special.”
Hwi-young defines “punks” as people without hope who just exist, even if no one welcomed them, because they don’t have the guts to disappear. Hwi-young concludes with a laugh, “I pity punks like you.”
Joon-woo asks Hwi-young, “Don’t you pity yourself,” but Hwi-young doesn’t see why he should, he’s different. Hwi-young is about to walk away but stops to answer an earlier question of Joon-woo’s, “…why did I have to do that to you?” Hwi-young tells Joon-woo, “You were making a big thing out of nothing instead of disappearing quietly.” Hwi-young pokes Joon-woo as he adds, ” As if you could do that to me.”
Later that night, Joon-woo gets a call from his mother as he’s about to leave work. She urges her son to focus on his studies at his new school so that he can go to a good university and present himself to his father as a success.
Joon-woo asks his mother if she’s kept in touch with his father and even though she claims that she has, he knows better. Joon-woo quickly hangs up and then rides his bike until he reaches his destination, thinking to himself, “I know. Where his house is.”
As Joon-woo climbs the stairs to his father’s home, we hear his thoughts, “Now that I’m thinking of leaving, maybe I feel more courage…to see him once before leaving. The man who brought me into this world without any blessing. Choi Myung-joon.”
When Joon-woo rings the doorbell, a young boy with sauce around his mouth explains that they’re not done eating their noodles and he tells Joon-woo to come back in thirty minutes. Joon-woo steps aside when his father approaches the door and he pauses to inquire, “Can I help you?” Joon-woo manages to ask, “Don’t you know me,” but he’s told that he must be at the wrong house. Joon-woo’s father opens his door and is greeted by happy shouts of, “Daddy!”
On his ride back to his place, Joon-woo recalls that as a boy, he asked many men if they were named Choi Myung-joon. Joon-woo always wondered what he’d say if he ever met his father.
It’s late when Joon-woo’s mother calls to make sure that he arrived home safely. Joon-woo promises to try harder but his mother argues that he needn’t try so hard, she just wants him with her. She tells Joon-woo about the people who want to meet him but he interrupts, “I’m sorry, Mom…For getting in trouble again. I wanted to do better this time.”
Tearfully, Joon-woo’s mother insists that her son’s troubles aren’t his fault. When Joon-woo asks his mother if she’s crying, she denies it because it would mean that she’s lost. Joon-woo’s mother advises him not to think that he’s running away but when she wishes him, “Good night,” tears spill from Joon-woo’s eyes.
Joon-woo gazes at the city skyline from his rooftop and when he remembers Mr. Oh’s accusation, he wonders if he runs away because he doesn’t care how his life turns out. Joon-woo hears Hwi-young’s voice in his head, “I pity punks like you,” and he sighs, “Punks like me?”
Joon-woo’s mother sobs alone in her restaurant but she laughs at the cute cartoon cat that accompanies Joon-woo’s text message urging her not to cry. When she lies that she’s already in bed, Joon-woo narrates that his mother may be young and immature, but she didn’t run away from him.
In the morning, Oh-je is back in his seat next to Ki-tae when Mr. Oh announces the results of the mock exams — Hwi-young placed in the first tier in every subject. Hwi-young shares some words of encouragement with the class but everyone’s attention turns to the door when Joon-woo enters the classroom.
How can such young students have so many crushing problems? Their timelines are so short that they don’t have the experience and confidence needed to stand up to their demanding parents. With the exception of Joon-woo, who got lucky with his loving, supportive, although absentee, mother. But it in no way makes up for the absence of a father and that first time face-to-face meeting was devastatingly heartbreaking. As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, Hwi-young basically describes Joo-woo as the lowest of the low, who practically begs to be tossed away.
Joon-woo is so close to sinking into the hole that Hwi-young leads him to, but it’s the thought of his mother’s courage and strength that pulls Joon-woo back from the brink. The young, single mother who raised him and loved him, who was brave enough to face a difficult future. How can Joon-woo run away when his mother did her best for his sake? He can’t and he’s decided that he won’t.
That means trouble for Hwi-young and Joon-woo isn’t the only one he has to worry about. Sang-hoon knows the truth and as we learned, he’s Hwi-young’s strongest competitor. I wasn’t surprised that Sang-hoon backed up Hwi-young’s false narrative about the stolen watch because Joon-woo is set to leave the school plus Sang-hoon’s father works for Hwi-young’s father. But Sang-hoon is not only smart, he’s clever, as evidenced by the way that he planted the idea that the watch was stolen by Joon-woo, even though he saw Hwi-young throw it away. Is he toying with Hwi-young just for the fun of it or does he have something else in mind? I’m keeping my eye on that one.
Hwi-young also had to take Ki-tae into his confidence to plant the watch in Joon-woo’s locker. That means that three people know the truth – Joon-woo, Ki-tae and Sang-hoon. It looks like Ki-tae and So-ye are a couple so it’s only a matter of time before she figures out the truth and then it’s bound to get to Soo-bin.
As much as I pity Hwi-young after seeing his father, it’s no excuse for the way that he treats Joon-woo. Hwi-young is cruel and what’s worse, he enjoys destroying Joon-woo. Hwi-young is a master at manipulating the adoring teachers and staff and even though he acts as if he’s kind and helpful, he’s really just a self-serving punk. And that’s exactly what Joon-woo sees and it partly explains why he’s not willing to go quietly into the night.
While the boys are entangled in a figurative fight to the death, Soo-bin is about to be swallowed up by her mother’s ambitions for her daughter. It’s Seoul National University or nothing. That’s a lot to ask of a young girl who wants to explore make-up with her friends and maybe get noticed by a cute boy. Something is driving Soo-bin’s mother’s rabid pursuit of excellence for her daughter and I’m guessing that there’s something amiss in her marriage.
As the kids navigate their trials, Mr. Oh makes a surprising appeal to Joon-woo, who already has one foot out the door. While I can’t tolerate his sickening praise of Hwi-young, I do appreciate his willingness to extend a helping hand to Joon-woo. Based on the look that Hwi-young shot at Joon-woo when he unexpectedly returned to school, Mr. Oh is going to have his hands full managing his class.
- Premiere Watch: A Moment at Eighteen
- Shin Seung-ho plays the piano for A Moment at Eighteen
- Throwing away the old and bringing in the new in A Moment at Eighteen
- A warm encounter begins a first love story in A Moment at Eighteen
- New posters from youth drama A Moment at Eighteen
- Kim Hyang-gi, Ong Sung-woo, and more attend A Moment at Eighteen script read
- Kang Ki-young, Moon Bin join Kim Hyang-gi, Ong Sung-woo in JTBC youth drama