A Moment at Eighteen: Episode 3
Our hero isn’t backing down and running away, which means he’s going to have to keep facing challenges, both the new ones in front of him and the ghosts of his past. The class president’s power can be felt everywhere, from their classmates to the teachers. He’s used to being in control, at least at school, and he’s determined to keep the status quo and expel our poor transfer student.
EPISODE 3: “It Always Rains on Sad Days”
Joon-woo returns to school after all, and even receives a warm welcome back from Mr. Oh. Hwi-young’s reaction isn’t as welcoming, while the rest of the class hesitantly clap (except Soo-bin of course, who gives a strong round of applause). Hwi-young leans in to ask why Joon-woo returned, and Joon-woo responds that it was a weak move to run away.
And so another day arrives, and Joon-woo makes his long commute to school. Soo-bin spots him from the car as her mother lectures her about the upcoming level test to get into Hwi-young’s math tutor group. Soo-bin is still embarrassed over all the groveling her mother resorted to to get Soo-bin a chance at the group, but Mom says it’s worth it for Soo-bin to get into Seoul National University.
Once Joon-woo arrives at school he checks a text that he sent to someone named Shin Jung-hoo, but he hasn’t received a response. At the lockers, Hwi-young and Joon-woo lock horns over Joon-woo’s return to school. Joon-woo tells Hwi-young that as long as he leaves him alone, Joon-woo has no intention of revealing what actually happened with the watch. Just as the exchange starts to get heated, Soo-bin arrives at her own locker and diverts both boys’ attention.
Soo-bin thanks Joon-woo for his good work on their group paper citations, and Hwi-young is not pleased to hear that Soo-bin didn’t ask him to look over her work for her before submitting it. Both Soo-bin and Hwi-young leave Joon-woo at the lockers, but Soo-bin returns to help Joon-woo slam his locker door shut.
She tells him that not running away was a good decision, and then places a real cloth name tag with his name on it on his sweater.
Meanwhile, Hwi-young checks in with his minion Ki-tae. Ki-tae relays that Joon-woo’s transfer was conditional, and that if he is caught in any other incidents, he’ll be forced to leave the school. Hwi-young gives the order for Ki-tae to arrange an incident. Ki-tae doesn’t say no, but he does ask Hwi-young why he’s after Joon-woo, since ignoring him would probably be fine. Hwi-young thinks of the moments where Joon-woo has called him out for lying and called him trash, and he tells Ki-tae that Joon-woo is annoying.
Down the hall, Joon-woo tries to call Jung-hoo, the person he’s been texting, but he just gets voicemail. He leaves a concerned message, asking why his friend isn’t answering his phone or texts. He starts to ask if Jung-hoo is still hanging out with… but his question is interrupted as he bumps into Mr. Oh and his phone falls to the ground.
After making sure the phone isn’t broken, Mr. Oh gives Joon-woo an opportunity to open up about any problems he’s having. But of course Joon-woo just nods at his homeroom teacher and darts off. Mr. Oh sighs to himself that he can barely care for himself, let alone one of his students, and then his attention is grabbed by another shopping deal on his phone.
In class, Joon-woo recalls the incident that got him kicked out of his previous school. In flashback, Joon-woo sits in a row with several other boys and solemnly confesses to stealing money, though it’s clear he’s covering for the others. The boy next to him (I’m guessing his friend Jung-hoo) gives him a sidelong glance. Joon-woo’s mom arrives just after his confession, and she tugs at his sleeve, demanding to know why he would do such a thing.
Joon-woo’s attention fades back to class, where the current lesson ends and Mr. Oh returns to start their English lesson. He tries to call everyone to attention, but no one moves until Hwi-young bangs his hands on his desk and demands quiet.
As Mr. Oh tries to start class, he can’t help but notice Pil-sang in the back antagonizing Joon-woo. So he asks Ki-tae to trade spots with Joon-woo, and this request receives the response: “Hwi-young told me to sit here.” Hwi-young adds that he will sort everything out the next time they all change seats.
Mr. Oh seems to let it go, but he pushes back and insists that Joon-woo and Ki-tae exchange seats. Ki-tae looks to Hwi-young before he moves, but Hwi-young gives a barely noticeable head nod and Ki-tae swaps with Joon-woo. Joon-woo’s new seatmate Oh-je gives him a smile.
Mr. Oh has the result he wanted, but he pretends to have a cough and ducks into the hall to collect himself. He’s frustrated, and asks himself why he’s begging his students to listen to him when he’s their homeroom teacher.
Mr. Oh returns, and Hwi-young asks about their upcoming English listening test. But Mr. Oh has a surprise for them–an unscripted speaking test instead of a listening exam. No one is happy about it, but Mr. Oh insists on trying something different, and he assigns the topic “My dream is…” Mr. Oh then tasks Soo-bin with determining how to divide the class up into speaking pairs.
After the lesson Mr. Oh returns the teacher’s office. He apologizes to another teacher for not having his class budget prepared yet, but it turns out that Hwi-young has submitted it already. Speak of the devil, Hwi-young arrives to ask Mr. Oh to reconsider the speaking test. Hwi-young is worried about the random teams, but Mr. Oh tells him that it will help those who are struggling get some help from their classmates.
As Hwi-young turns to leave, Mr. Oh calls him back to ask that he not submit the class budget in the future, since it’s the teacher’s job. Hwi-young answers that he was asked to by the head teacher, and he thought it was fine since Mr. Oh is only an assistant teacher and substitute.
When Hwi-young leaves, the other teachers tell Mr. Oh not to complicate things for himself and just take advantage of having Hwi-young in his class. Then they ask him when the teacher he’s filling in for will return, and Mr. Oh shrugs.
Cut to Hwi-young’s dad in his office, where he receives a call from a man laid up with a broken leg in the hospital. The man thanks Mr. Ma for all the help, asks after Hwi-young, and then refers to that “thing” he asked Mr. Ma to look into a little while ago… Mr. Ma assures him that he’s taking care of it.
It’s lunchtime back at school, and the girls and the guys crowd around their table together. Joon-woo sits alone, and the girls gossip about him and the likelihood that he really did steal the watch. Only Soo-bin defends him, and Hwi-young is there to take note of it.
Oh-je enters the cafeteria and the boys call him over. But after a quick glance, he sits across from Joon-woo instead, lamenting that he’s late because of basketball and there aren’t any seats left. Joon-woo asks if Oh-je likes basketball, and he says that he not only likes it, but he’s good at it.
Then Oh-je complains about the control that Hwi-young has over their class, and how all the other guys follow him around like henchmen. Joon-woo asks what Oh-je’s like in their classroom hierarchy, and Oh-je leans his face in real close to Joon-woo’s while the girls watch from the other table. Oh-je asks Joon-woo what he thinks he’s like, and Joon-woo says that he’s probably just a nice, basketball guy, and Oh-je laughs and sits back.
Their lunch is interrupted by Sang-hoon, who sweeps in with a jab at Joon-woo. Oh-je does his best to send the guy on his way, but Sang-hoon makes sure that Hwi-young is watching while he leans in to whisper in Joon-woo’s ear. Oh-je asks what Sang-hoon said, and then laughs when Joon-woo says that he told him to eat his peas. At the other table, Hwi-young lurches to his feet and his minions scramble to follow him out of the cafeteria.
Hwi-young finds Sang-hoon outside, and Sang-hoon antagonizes him, asking if he’s scared he’ll tell the truth about what happened with the watch. When Hwi-young shrugs him off, Sang-hoon says it will be more fun if Hwi-young plays dumb.
After lunch, Soo-bin has her classmates play rock, paper, scissors, guys versus girls, to determine who will get to draw their partner’s name for the speaking test. The girls win and the boys write their names down for the ladies to draw from. Ki-tae draws a rabbit on his paper to tip off his girlfriend, so she easily draws his name. Da-hwin gets her wish to be paired with Oh-je, while Ro-mi storms out when she reads Pil-sang’s name on her piece of paper (he, on the other hand, is ecstatic with his partner). It’s down to Chan-yeol and Soo-bin, and Soo-bin goes first.
Hwi-young has made a conscious effort to write his name on a very unique paper, one that he knows Soo-bin will recognize. But when Soo-bin looks at her choices, there’s another piece of paper she recognizes. A little peapod with happy-faced peas is drawn on the outside, the same peapod that Joon-woo drew on the sticky notes for their paper.
Before her choice is announced, someone calls for the class’s recycling rep and Joon-woo goes out to sort their recycling. Soo-bin finds him there though, and shows that she picked his name (yay!). She asks when he’s available, and he says he isn’t right now. Soo-bin thinks to herself that he’s playing hard-to-get, and then Joon-woo actually says aloud that he’s not playing hard-to-get (ha!), he just has to work. They agree to message each other later and Soo-bin leaves, though she lingers around the corner long enough to catch Joon-woo’s cute little victory dance. Soooo cute.
This leaves Hwi-young partnered with Chan-yeol. She wants to earnestly work together, but he tells her he’ll just write her script for her and all she has to do is memorize it. She calls out that he doesn’t know anything about her or her dream, but she punctuates the sentence with a, “thank you!”
Joon-woo’s a little late to work, and there’s a surprise waiting there for him: Mom has come to visit him. The owner has agreed to let Joon-woo step out for dinner with her, so they head to an empty pizza place. Mom says she’s there on business, but Joon-woo knows that she really stopped by because she was worried about him.
Mom also asks about Jung-hoo and if he’s kept in touch with him. Mom is glad to hear that he doesn’t call, since he’s the reason that Joon-woo had to transfer. But she also admits that she adored Jung-hoo, and is just upset about the whole incident. Mom starts to cry, but Joon-woo is in a good mood today and does his best to smile and console her. Mom makes him promise not to get involved in anything bad and just focus on studies, and they seal it with a pinkie promise.
While Joon-woo is out with his mom, Soo-bin takes the level test for the math group under the watchful gaze of her own mother. Afterwards though, she and Mom run into Joon-woo and his own mother, who is busy slicking his bangs into place for him, ha. The moms greet one another, and then Joon-woo’s mom grows uncomfortable and ducks away.
Soo-bin’s mom comments on how good-looking Joon-woo is, while Joon-woo’s mom worries that they noticed that her handbag is a fake. And indeed, Soo-bin’s mom whispers to her daughter that the handbag is a fake, but then again presses Soo-bin about the attractive boy.
The girls are all hanging out at a cafe messaging their respective speech partners. Ki-tae is apparently absent because he’s waiting for Hwi-young, while Oh-je tells Da-hwin that he’s grateful for the perfect partner. Soo-bin is relieved to escape her mom and join the other girls, but her concerns shift to Joon-woo as the others lament that he won’t be an easy speech partner.
So Soo-bin gets on text and asks Joon-woo for five sentences in English, to see how he uses English. At his job, Joon-woo starts to panic. He asks the other store clerk if she knows English, and when she hears that he needs something in writing she feigns a phone call and dashes off.
Joon-woo finds himself in the aisles, looking for something to write in English, all the while Soo-bin sends message after message to no answer. And outside the store, Hwi-young watches Joon-woo pace. Hwi-young enters the store, and stresses that a mediocre performance isn’t enough to be Soo-bin’s partner. Hwi-young offers to help Joon-woo prepare, for Soo-bin’s sake, but Joon-woo’s pride definitely won’t allow him to accept the offer, especially not when Hwi-young says that Soo-bin is his girlfriend.
Joon-woo instead asks if Hwi-young has been scratching himself lately, since there are many reasons for him to be stressed about, and as a customer enters the convenience store, Hwi-young marches out.
He meets Ki-tae, who has just spoken with Joon-woo’s former classmates and antagonists from his old school. Ki-tae gave them money in exchange for their efforts to get Joon-woo kicked out of his new school, and they’ve agreed to the deal. To reward Ki-tae, Hwi-young offers to let him into his study group, and Ki-tae is very grateful.
Hwi-young finds his dad alone drinking in the living room when he arrives home. He calls for his mother, and Dad says that she’s asleep. But Mom is crying in the bedroom, not sleeping, though Hwi-young doesn’t dare go in and check on her. Instead, he sends her a text from his room, asking if she’s okay.
Joon-woo gets off work, his mind on the incident with Hwi-young, and specifically Soo-bin’s status as Hwi-young’s girlfriend. He recalls other times when Soo-bin said she was just friends with him, and wonders who is telling the truth as he bikes home.
Soo-bin is at home waiting for a response from Joon-woo, but instead gets a message from Hwi-young. Soo-bin asks about her level test for the tutor, and then sends a funny ghost sticker to Hwi-young, which makes him smile.
When Joon-woo returns home, he decides to sew his new name tag on his sweater, making it more permanent. He finally turns back to his phone though, where Soo-bin has sent another message asking for his dream in Korean, if he’s struggling with English. So he sends back, “My dream is to sleep with the lights off.” Soo-bin is not impressed with this response.
The next day, Hwi-young and Soo-bin walk towards class together, while Joon-woo lags behind them. Soo-bin tells Hwi-young not to speak on her behalf to the math tutor. She’d rather just get by on her own merit. Pil-sang targets Joon-woo again for his teasing, and Joon-woo walks ahead of Soo-bin and Hwi-young to escape. Soo-bin gives chase, and Joon-woo whips around to face her as Pil-sang brushes past.
Soo-bin’s frustrated with his response and wants an explanation, but instead Joon-woo tells her that it’s okay for her to find a new partner who won’t ruin her academic record. He says he’s bad at English and doesn’t have a dream, so it’s fine for her to find someone else. She says that she’s partnered with him because she’s worried about him, and he tells her that she doesn’t need to feel concerned and take care of a punk like him. She asks him why he drew the peas for her to recognize then, if he didn’t want the help, but he says he just does that all the time.
In class, both Soo-bin and Joon-woo are distracted, and Soo-bin’s friends catch her doodling peas on her notebook. Joon-woo finally gives in, and stalks over to Soo-bin to hand over a piece of paper with his dream written out on it. Soo-bin smiles and heads to the recycling shed to be alone while she reads.
Joon-woo’s note elaborates on his dream. He explains that he was alone a lot as a kid and left the light on because he was afraid of ghosts and zombies. He confesses that he still keeps the lights on, though it’s not ghosts that he’s afraid of.
Soo-bin returns to class and quickly arranges a study meet-up with Joon-woo via text, and he agrees to meet her in the park after school. Hwi-young watches Soo-bin smile at her phone with a scowl. After class, Hwi-young calls his tutor for Soo-bin’s test scores, as Soo-bin skips off to meet Joon-woo.
She can see Joon-woo at his bicycle, and also sees as she gets a phone call and then runs away on foot. As he runs, he texts her frantically, canceling their study session.
The thing that came up is the boys from his old school. They’ve got Joon-woo’s friend Jung-hoo and threaten to hurt him if Joon-woo doesn’t fight them all himself. But Joon-woo remembers the promise he made to his mom, and he hesitates. The boys deliver on their promise though and begin to beat up Jung-hoo. It doesn’t take long before Joon-woo jumps in and delivers a kick, though it takes even less time for the boys to gang up on him and leave him on the ground. Jung-hoo arrives with a board to defend his friend, and the fight breaks up as the cops arrive. Joon-woo and Jung-hoo run for it together, running down the same hill they used to as kids.
The two boys sit together on the stairs, bruised and battered. Joon-woo tells Jung-hoo to go somewhere else and start fresh, but Jung-hoo tells him that life doesn’t work that way for people like them. Reiterating the same sentiment that everyone else has been pushing on Joon-woo, he tells him that they’ll always be losers no matter where they go, not even with a shiny new name tag on a new uniform.
Joon-woo retreats to clean his wounds, and he thinks about a time when he and Jung-hoo were young. Joon-woo would sleep with the lights on when a big storm came, but in this memory Jung-hoo shows up to keep him company and he’s able to turn off the lights, even as they scream together with each rumble of thunder.
Meanwhile, Soo-bin sighs as she tries to accept that Joon-woo is really just an irresponsible troublemaker. She heads home, where she finds her mother in a very good mood. It seems that Soo-bin’s test results are good enough for her to get in (hmmmm), and Mom has invited some ladies over to celebrate, including Hwi-young’s mom. Hwi-young’s mom spills her drink, and Soo-bin’s mom quickly gets on the floor to mop it up for the woman. Soo-bin can’t stand all the groveling and slams the door of her room as she stalks off.
Mom follows after her though, and demands that she come out and be grateful to all the women. Soo-bin wants to believe that she got into the group on her own merit, but Mom makes it clear that she could have only done it with the help of Hwi-young and his mom. Soo-bin heads back out of the house, as her mother makes excuses to the other women. And of course, it begins to rain.
Joon-woo rides the bus back to his bike, and also finds himself in the rain. He stops short as Soo-bin turns the corner and they meet on the sidewalk in the rain. He asks why she’s out here without an umbrella, and she asks about cuts on his face. And then he tells her that she shouldn’t be walking in the rain because it’s not good for her, and she smiles and laughs, and he returns a small smile of his own.
And then a rumble of thunder roars, and Joon-woo lunges forward to cover Soo-bin’s head from the rain with his hands. They stand together, soaked, eyes locked on each other.
Are we rushing the romance here?
Don’t get me wrong, I am so glad that Soo-bin is a naturally open person who takes her time and doesn’t jump to obvious conclusions. I would not like her nearly as much if Joon-woo had to win her over. I’m just not sure where we go from here if these two end up holding hands in the second week.
I am all aboard for their friendship though, and I am so glad that Joon-woo finally found someone who will take their time with him. And I really love how much Soo-bin seems to understand about him right away, even though they’ve just met. She sees right away that Joon-woo is a path-of-least-resistance guy, and uses it to get him involved in school again. It’s finally easier for him to go back to school than it is to let others push him out of it, and that one small kindness is all it takes for him to show his puppy’ish heart.
I love the progress to permanence Joon’woo’s name tag takes, from wearing someone else’s name, to a handwritten tag from the first person who gives him a moment, to tape fastened, and finally sewn on by his own hands. It feels like that’s the moment when he takes the baton from Soo-bin and starts to believe himself that he can invest in his own happiness.
And on the other side, how on earth has Hwi-young garnered so much power over the whole class? I see that his mother has sway in the academic community, but man, even the teachers bow down to him. I’ve got to assume it’s his father that wields that power, and I’m worried that we’ll see even more machinations from dear old dad before we reach the end. But I can’t help but wonder if its Hwi-young’s relationship with his dad that may eventually turn him to the side of good, or at least earn him some pity from everyone. Nothing makes Hwi-young’s behavior towards Joon-woo okay, but it’s clear that it’s fear and anxiety that propel Hwi-young down his dark path.
And when it comes to Joon-woo, Hwi-young doesn’t like the mirror that’s being held up for him to face. I so loved the moment when Ki-tae stated what the audience is screaming to themselves–just leave the guy alone and he will leave you alone too, Hwi-young! But he dislikes Joon-woo because he knows deep down that everything he’s said is true; Hwi-young currently is cruel garbage who thrives on lies. Hwi-young has gotten by for so long by being generally genial to everyone on the surface, and letting his anxiety and frustration fester inside. He’s not sure how to handle the possibility that there is a different reality, a different path to take.
I’m interested to learn more about Hwi-young and Soo-bin’s relationship. I think Joon-woo is a little silly to wonder whether Soo-bin is telling the truth. It’s very clear that Soo-bin and Hwi-young are not dating. But there’s something that holds these two together, even as Soo-bin can see hints of Hwi-young’s bad behavior. They both have demanding parents who expect them to excel academically, but I wonder if there’s something else there in the past that bonds those two.
But the character I find most interesting right now is Sang-hoon. He makes me nervous every time he waltzes in with his manic mannerisms. He’s been shunned by his classmates, and now he has the upperhand against their beloved class president. I’m not sure what Sang-hoon wants, but he’s definitely not going to pass up thise opportunity to try for it, whatever it may be.
I’m grateful for the superb acting we’re seeing, because otherwise there isn’t a lot that’s original or new here. I’m necessarily complaining about that; school dramas are my favorite, and it’s because the formula works when you’ve got a great cast. One teacher willing to stand up for the students, kids who overcome the expectations that society places on them, and multi-dimensional villains with their own tragedies. It’s all here, and it’s all coming together perfectly thanks to our leads. There’s something about following the journey of young people while they’re still trying to figure out who they are, and how their lives and parents have helped them or hurt them along the way, that I find so comforting.
I am particularly impressed with Ong Sung-woo. He’s got a difficult character to play. If Joon-woo were more sullen and resistant to change, I think the character would be easier (and more one-dimensional). But Joon-woo shifts from blank wall defenses to the warmest heart on a sleeve ever, and I think that’s a demanding task to set for any actor. But Ong Sung-woo is great with the subtle nuances, using mostly body language to give us so much meaning in each scene. That and those soulful eyes. I have to agree with @Teriyaki. I was particularly touched by the dinner scene with Joon-woo’s mom. You could feel the intense emotion for his mother just pouring out of his eyes in that scene. It felt so real in such a quiet moment. Joon-woo didn’t say much at all, but I felt everything.
- 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