A Moment at Eighteen: Episode 14
Embroiled in an academic scandal, the class president’s secure future is suddenly in jeopardy. As he waits to learn just how the scandal will affect him, the class president has to face the fact that he’s more like his father than he ever wanted to be. The transfer student experiences father issues of his own which make him determined to become someone who’s dependable. That resolve threatens to torpedo his first love’s efforts to celebrate his birthday when he does his best to keep his promise not to see her.
EPISODE 14: “Happy Birthday to You”
Soo-bin jumps out of her taxi and runs to Joon-woo, asking if he’s all right. Joon-woo shakes his head at her and walks away, his dad’s rejection still ringing in his ears.
Soo-bin gets home and escapes to her room. Hwi-young’s phone rings with a call from his panicked mother, which Soo-bin ignores. She grabs her backpack and asks her escort for a ride to Chan-yeol’s place.
Joon-woo pauses near his bike once he’s gets home and then sets back out on foot. When Joon-woo reaches his destination, he instinctively catches a wayward soccer ball and comes face-to-face with his half-brother. When the boy remembers Joon-woo as the delivery man that he met once before, he explains it’s because he’s good-looking. Joon-woo tells the boy, “I hope you grow up to become a brave man,” and he’s surprised when a woman calls out, “Joon-woo,” and the young boy runs to her.
Joon-woo’s father sends his wife and son inside and once he’s alone with his firstborn son, Joon-woo demands to know why the boy has his name. Joon-woo’s father explains, “It was my way of making atonement.” His father’s betrayal makes it easier for Joon-woo to say what he couldn’t express earlier — he longed to meet his father because he grew up hearing from his mother that he was a kind person who loved him very much. Now that they’ve met, Joon-woo promises, “I will never come to see you again.”
After bowing deeply, Joon-woo tells his dad, “Stay healthy,” and he walks away. As the distance grows between them, Joon-woo remembers stopping strangers as a boy in his search for his father. Joon-woo even drew a picture on his birthday with a message for his dad, “…I miss you. Let’s make sure we meet again, whenever that may be.”
Joon-woo recalls what he wrote in the letter that he left under his father’s door, “I’ll watch you from afar only once in a while. And please remember that I’m Choi Joon-woo.” Faced with the reality that his father replaced him with another son who was given his name, Joon-woo tells himself, “The feeling of missing him. That’s all I should remember.”
When Hwi-young gets home, his father angrily accuses him of missing the test questions on purpose. Hwi-young taunts his parents with the suggestion that they can just take care of his grades like before, until he remembers that Mr. Oh doesn’t accept bribes.
Hwi-young’s father is about to strike him but Hwi-young’s mother begs him to hit her instead. Blaming his wife’s drinking for their family’s woes, he raises his hand but Hwi-young grabs it. Hwi-young’s father calls him an insolent punk and Hwi-young figures that’s because he grew up to be just like him, a monster.
When Hwi-young’s mother tries to keep her husband from hitting Hwi-young, she gets knocked to the ground. Hwi-young shoves his father away and warns, “If you hit Mom one more time, I won’t let it slide.” Hwi-young’s mother pushes her son towards the front door and tells him to run.
In Chan-yeol’s room, Soo-bin sits quietly while her friends watch Chan-yeol search online for Mr. Oh’s girlfriend. Soo-bin borrows Chan-yeol’s phone and texts Joon-woo to check the spot outside of the convenience store where he parks his bike.
While Soo-bin writes a letter, her friends choose an outfit for her to change into. When Soo-bin is ready, Chan-yeol and So-ye distract her escort while Ro-mi and Da-hwin sneak out with Soo-bin, who’s hidden under a baggy top with a hood. When Soo-bin reaches the convenience store, she shoves her letter between the light poles where Joon-woo parks his bike.
Soo-bin gets home in time to overhear her mother screaming at Soo-bin’s father over the phone, ordering him to stay away from their daughter. When she sees that Soo-bin is home, her mom brightly asks why she never mentioned that she met with her father.
Soo-bin’s mother laughs off whatever Soo-bin’s dad may have told her and insists, “Your dad and I don’t have any problems.” Soo-bin plays along but once she’s in her room, her mother looks worried.
Hwi-young wanders past some shops, stopping to stare at some roasting chicken. Oh-je runs into him and when asked why he’s in the neighborhood, Hwi-young chuckles that in spite of everything, he’s hungry.
When a numb Joon-woo reaches the convenience store, he remembers Soo-bin’s text and finds her letter. Joon-woo reads how Soo-bin used Hwi-young’s phone to call him which made it possible for her to hear Joon-woo’s meeting with his father.
As we watch Soo-bin write her letter, Joon-woo can hear her wish that it will comfort him just as he comforted her after she met with her father. Soo-bin writes, “I’m always rooting for you…So, let’s try our best to stay strong. I miss you, and I like you. A lot.”
After work, Joon-woo rides his bike to Soo-bin’s place to gaze at her dark window. He’s about to leave when Soo-bin’s light goes on and then off. Soo-bin stares at her light while under her window, Joon-woo pledges, “I’ll try harder to become someone you can depend on.”
Oh-je sits with Hwi-young by the river, some takeout food between them. Hwi-young assumes that Oh-je won’t eat with him because he’s dieting like his girlfriend, Da-hwin, and Oh-je doesn’t correct him.
In the morning, Joon-woo meets Oh-je by the bike rack and they find a place to talk. Oh-je apologizes for not confiding in him and asks, “I’m weird, right?” Joon-woo doesn’t think of his friend that way, “Not really. It’s just how you feel.” Oh-je confesses that he’s been confused and he was trying to sort out his feelings when his secret was revealed.
At school, Soo-bin returns Hwi-young’s phone and he asks if she made a call. Joon-woo overhears them and confesses that he didn’t answer Soo-bin’s call because he thought it was Hwi-young. Joon-woo smiles at Soo-bin when he tells her that he got her letter while Oh-je steals a glance at Hwi-young.
In the classroom, the students follow the online discussion about Oh-je. One of Pil-sang’s friends calls it weird and when Pil-sang asks, “Why is it weird? He just likes another person,” a tiny smile flickers across Ro-mi’s face. When Hwi-young arrives, Shim-bok shows him that he’s been named as Oh-je’s crush.
During a break from class, the girl responsible for the rumor about Oh-je is overheard sharing what she heard in the nurse’s office. Ro-mi yells at her to shut up but Da-hwin stops her. When Oh-je walks by, Da-hwin makes it look as if they’re still together when she announces, “I thought we were meeting this morning.”
Da-hwin pulls Oh-je away under the pretense that she needs his help in the gardening room, but when they’re alone, she tells him, “Stop feeling bad because of me.” When Oh-je walks away, Da-hwin realizes that he still makes her heart flutter.
Joon-woo finds Mr. Oh at his desk and when they meet in the teachers’ lounge, Joon-woo tells him about his visit to the art academy. Mr. Oh is overjoyed when he realizes that Joon-woo has decided to pursue art and shouts, “Hooray!” Joon-woo has to remind Mr. Oh that his school record could pose a challenge but he remembers an army buddy who gets students ready for art school and offers to get in touch with him.
When Joon-woo runs into Soo-bin outside, he tells her how much her letter meant to him and compliments the way that she communicated with him.
Excited about his future, Joon-woo shares with Soo-bin his plan to study art, crediting her for inspiring him to want a better life. Joon-woo suddenly remembers his promise to stay away from Soo-bin and he urges her to leave, but first she tells him, “You are a really good person.”
So-ye meets with Ki-tae, who wanted to thank her for coming to his defense in front of Sang-hoon. Ki-tae announces, “I’m trying really hard. To become a person you won’t be ashamed of,” and he asks So-ye for another chance.
Hwi-young arrives at his locker just as Oh-je leaves a potted plant behind. When Oh-je returns for it, Hwi-young tells him, “You’re free to like whomever you want, but don’t get me involved in it.” Oh-je assures Hwi-young, “Don’t worry, that won’t happen.”
A worried vice-principal finds Mr. Oh in the hallway, “People from the Ministry of Education are here.” Pil-sang walks into the classroom and announces that Hwi-young is the subject of the investigation.
Sang-hoon joins some other students outside of the teachers’ lounge to witness Hwi-young’s comeuppance. The coach sends them back to class just as Hwi-young is asked if he knew that his grades were changed the previous year. Mr. Oh tries to speak up on Hwi-young’s behalf but he’s silenced when the investigator produces a copy of Hwi-young’s altered answer sheet.
When Hwi-young admits that he just learned the truth recently, the investigator explains that everyone involved will be punished and Hwi-young might be given a zero for that subject. The meeting is over by the time Joon-woo peers into the office and sees Hwi-young sitting by himself.
When Joon-woo walks away, Sang-hoon is waiting to ask if he’s relieved. Joon-woo wonders if Sang-hoon was the informant but he swears it wasn’t him. While not happy about Hwi-young’s situation, Joon-woo tells Sang-hoon, “He should be punished for what he did.”
When Sang-hoon returns to his locker, he calls his father and he’s caught off guard by what he hears. Hwi-young eventually emerges from the teachers’ lounge, the rash on his arm raw and covering most of his forearm.
Mr. Oh approaches the vice-principal, who confesses, “I really didn’t see this coming.” While the vice-principal worries that he’ll be fired, Mr. Oh urges, “Let’s cooperate with the investigation and sort things out.”
When Mr. Oh gets back to his desk, Chan-yeol texts him asking for a consultation. Chan-yeol arranges to meet off campus and sends Mr. Oh to the restaurant where Ji-min works. When Mr. Oh sits down with Ji-min, she tells him that she doesn’t want to see him again and asks him to leave.
Mr. Oh agrees to leave once they talk and Ji-min explains that since she can’t get a full-time job, she has to work several part-time jobs to support her family. Even though she likes Mr. Oh and would like to date him, Ji-min doesn’t think that she’s good enough for him and she runs back to work before he can argue.
After their meeting, Mr. Oh texts Chan-yeol with his thanks. Chan-yeol rubs away her tears while Mr. Oh takes shelter from a sudden rainstorm and sighs, “Why does it have to be so complicated?”
At work, Joon-woo can’t forget the image of Hwi-young sitting alone in the teachers’ lounge. An uneasy Sang-hoon walks in and tells Joon-woo, “The informant. It was me.” Sang-hoon explains that it was his father who revealed the academic fraud after he quit his job.
Sang-hoon insists that he’s relieved that the truth finally came out but Joon-woo can tell that’s not true. Ki-tae interrupts them to ask if they’ve seen Hwi-young, he’s worried because Hwi-young texted him an apology and then skipped the academy.
Joon-woo tries to shrug off any worries about Hwi-young but he joins the others to look for him, including Oh-je, who was close by.
The boys find a rain-soaked Hwi-young gazing out at the river and when he lashes out at Ki-tae, Sang-hoon concludes that he’s fine. When Hwi-young shouts, “Just let a piece of trash like me be smashed to bits,” Joon-woo calls him a coward. Joon-woo urges Hwi-young to stop running away from his mistakes so that he can put things right before it’s too late.
At school the next morning, a check of Soo-bin’s calendar reminds her that it’s Joon-woo’s real birthday. Joon-woo’s had explained to Soo-bin that his official birthdate was later because his mother registered his birth late. They made plans to celebrate his real birthday together.
Before Mr. Oh arrives for class, Hwi-young announces that he’s stepping down as class president. A worried Soo-bin catches up to him outside of class and Hwi-young suggests that they should stop pretending that they’re close. Soo-bin’s eyes fall on Hwi-young’s spreading rash as he thanks her for her concern and walks away.
Later, Soo-bin’s friends urge her not to worry about Hwi-young and Da-hwin reminds her, “Focus on protecting your love.” That reminds Soo-bin that it’s Joon-woo’s birthday and she asks her friends to deliver his present but they agree that’s something she should do herself.
Soo-bin’s friends find her escort and try everything that they can think of to convince her to allow Soo-bin to see Joon-woo on his birthday, and she eventually agrees. Soon, Soo-bin is at Chan-yeol’s place where her friends work on her hair and makeup. Just as the girls wonder what happened to Ro-mi, she walks in with the perfect dress for Soo-bin.
Soo-bin’s friends decorate Joon-woo’s rooftop and Oh-je brings a cake while Soo-bin’s escort waits downstairs. Inside, Joon-woo grabs a flyer for an art school prep class just as his mother calls to wish him a happy birthday. Joon-woo promises to call her later because he needs to make a stop on his way to work.
When Joon-woo steps outside, his friends sing “Happy Birthday” and present him with the cake. Da-hwin explains that they all contributed to his gift and Joon-woo gasps in appreciation when a glowing Soo-bin joins the celebration.
Soo-bin hands Joon-woo a wrapped gift, surprised when he tells her, “You shouldn’t be here.” Their friends leave so that Joon-woo and Soo-bin can have a few minutes together and they discover that Soo-bin’s escort is gone.
Upstairs, Joon-woo thanks Soo-bin for her gift and offers to walk her home. Soo-bin wants to see him open it but Joon-woo reminds her that she promised that she wouldn’t visit his place again and he takes her unopened present inside.
Joon-woo guides a disappointed Soo-bin down the stairs until she stops to tell him that even though she’s afraid too, she still risked everything to see him on his birthday. When Joon-woo repeats that he’ll take Soo-bin home, she decides to get home on her own.
Joon-woo tries to explain his dilemma to Soo-bin, “Do you know how much I’m holding back and enduring this situation right now?” Soo-bin throws her arms around Joon-woo’s neck but when he doesn’t hug her back, she pulls away. Joon-woo tells Soo-bin, “I’m sorry,” and then he takes her face in his hands and kisses her.
Was I the only one who was nervous once Soo-bin’s escort disappeared? Even though Joon-woo was finally able to kiss Soo-bin, I was distracted, worried that her mother would make another one of her traumatic appearances. I’m sure that possibility weighed heavily on Joon-woo as well, which is why he was so anxious to get Soo-bin home. In the end, Joon-woo couldn’t resist Soo-bin’s charms, especially when her friends made sure that she looked her best for his birthday. Joon-woo will never forget his eighteenth birthday thanks to his first kiss.
Perhaps that kiss means that things will finally start to look up for Joon-woo, who’s been plagued by one heartbreaking setback after another. It wasn’t enough that his father rejected him to his face, no, he actually replaced him with another son named Joon-woo. But that fact helped Joon-woo to turn his back on his father once and for all, with no regrets. His little brother better not ever have a health crisis that requires the need of a sibling.
Faced with the consequences of his parent’s grade tampering, Hwi-young goes back to isolating himself from the only people who don’t care whether or not he’s the number one student. Joon-woo, Sang-hoon, Oh-je, Ki-tae and Soo-bin, they just want to see Hwi-young be a decent human being. But for now, Hwi-young is like an injured animal, lashing out at those who can help him. He even goes so far as to tell Soo-bin that they can stop pretending to be close. Considering the pressure that Hwi-young is under, I was surprised by his relatively calm confrontation with Oh-je. He just wanted to be clear that he doesn’t want to get mixed up in Oh-je’s issues because obviously, Hwi-young already has plenty to deal with.
Hwi-young wasn’t the only one who surprised with his reaction to the rumor about Oh-je. Pil-sang offered some unexpected support which wasn’t lost on Ro-mi. Is she actually warming up to Pil-sang? Ro-mi has certainly mellowed now that her secret is out, she’s not rich and her father doesn’t have a hospital. Not only do her friends not care, neither it seems does Pil-sang, he’s still just as crazy about her. Freed from her lies, Ro-mi practically sparkles when she’s with Soo-bin and her friends. How unexpected.
It turns out that Sang-hoon is responsible for Hwi-young’s downfall, in an indirect way. His father is the informant who brought Hwi-young’s grade fixing to light and he’s just as surprised as Joon-woo that witnessing Hwi-young’s downfall isn’t as satisfying as expected. In the case of his altered answer sheet, Hwi-young wasn’t an active participant, unlike his parents and Mr. Kim, who’s MIA again. Joon-woo in particular, just wants to see Hwi-young take responsibility for his own mistakes, like framing him for stealing Tutor Sohn’s watch.
Faced with the possibility that he’s just as ruthless as his father, Hwi-young has to decide how much of his “perfect” image he can shed. Some of it may get stripped away in the aftermath of the scandal but as Joon-woo explained, some of it Hwi-young has to willingly accept to atone for his mistakes. Like Joon-woo, Hwi-young has to find his own path, independent of his father, if he wants to avoid becoming a monster like him.
- 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