A Moment at Eighteen: Episode 15
We’ve come full circle in our last week, as our distant transfer student is now the one thriving, and our former class president is the one tucking his tail and running. It may be exhausting, but our sweet couple give it their all as they work towards their dreams and support one another all the way. As for Hwi-young, not all the blame can be placed as his parents’ feet, and he must finally answer for his own bad behavior.
EPISODE 15: “Ways to Embrace Your Scar”
On the steps of Joon-woo’s place, Joon-woo leans in to kiss Soo-bin. They stroll to the street hand-in-hand, and when Soo-bin pulls away to walk home alone, Joon-woo holds tight and walks her to her gate. He apologizes for snapping at her before their kiss, and she says that she understands that he just wanted to keep his promise to her mom. Soo-bin grins when Joon-woo says that he’s had the best birthday of his life.
Soo-bin’s mom is home early, and Soo-bin gathers her courage and confesses the truth about her trip to Joon-woo’s house. Mom seems subdued; she doesn’t fight, reports that she’s let Soo-bin’s handler go, and even returns Soo-bin’s phone to her. Soo-bin accepts a math level test from her mom without argument and promises to do whatever her mom demands.
Once Soo-bin retreats to her room, we flashback to her mother’s earlier phone call with Joon-woo’s mom. His mother was in town for his birthday, and Soo-bin’s mom gets a hunch that proves correct when she spies her daughter at Joon-woo’s with their friends. Now in the present, she call’s Joon-woo’s mom and asks to meet.
Joon-woo goes straight to meet the art teacher Mr. Oh recommended for him, and the teacher is impressed with Joon-woo’s work, especially when he learns that Joon-woo hasn’t had any formal training. The teacher warns Joon-woo that he’ll have to work extra hard to catch up, and Joon-woo nods, soon working at an easel.
Soo-bin and Joon-woo’s moms meet, and Song-hee begs Yeon-woo to transfer Joon-woo to another school. Song-hee grows desperate, quick to apologize for selfishness and yet unwilling to withdraw her request. She tells Yeon-woo that she’ll do anything when it comes to her daughter. She knows Joon-woo is a good kid, but she can’t allow Soo-bin any distractions.
Tears trickle down Yeon-woo’s cheeks as she realizes that Song-hee said something directly to Joon-woo as well. And then she stands up and reminds Song-hee that she is also a mother willing to do anything for her kid, and Soo-bin is not the only child who needs to be protected. And for Yeon-woo, respecting Joon-woo’s feelings are the most important thing that she can do. She leaves Song-hee with her head in her hands.
Joon-woo ducks out of art class early to get to work, but he finds a moment on the bus to call Mr. Oh to thank him. Mr. Oh’s eyes well with pride as Joon-woo thanks him, and Mr. Oh still has Joon-woo’s drawing of a ladybug on his apology form, a reminder of how he got Joon-woo started on this path.
While Joon-woo’s day is busy, Hwi-young returns home to an empty house full of nothing but newspapers with negative headlines about his family.
When Joon-woo finally gets home, he opens Soo-bin’s present. She’s assembled art supplies for him, including a work apron with his name and peas embroidered in. Included is a note which Soo-bin labored over the perfect words while her friends helped wrap the presents. She apologizes if she’s picked all the wrong supplies, and Joon-woo thinks to himself that it could never be wrong if it’s from her. Her card continues, and she thanks Joon-woo for being in the world.
Mom arrives to deliver birthday food at last, and she listens to Joon-woo talk happily about his new art class and all of those at school who have supported him, like Mr. Oh and Soo-bin. Mom thinks about her conversation with Soo-bin’s mom, while Joon-woo also holds back his confrontation with his father.
Soo-bin and Joon-woo spend the nights at their respective desks. Soo-bin wonders how Joon-woo liked her presents, while Joon-woo stays up late drawing and smiling at her card.
Joon-woo wakes up the next morning at his desk still, and he barely manages a groggy hello to Soo-bin when she spots him on the way to school. Chan-yeol and Da-hwin both reassure one another that they’re over their crushes, and Oh-je can even join the group as a friend of Da-hwin’s now.
Soo-bin and Joon-woo take a spot on their bench. They catch up on their yesterdays, including Joon-woo’s art class and Soo-bin’s new tutoring academy. Soo-bin relays that she told her mother the truth, and that things seemed to have gone well.
Joon-woo sits down with Mr. Oh, and they discuss the upcoming investigation into Hwi-young’s grades, as well as the other issues at school he’s been involved in. Mr. Oh asks Joon-woo to prepare to answer any questions related to the issue with the stolen watch.
When Hwi-young opens his locker, garbage spills out all over the floor. Joon-woo can’t help but pick it up for him, though he tells Hwi-young he’s not doing it for him. Sang-hoon lingers behind them both, looking like he wants to say something.
Joon-woo’s got to dart out of class quickly to get to his art class, and he spends the day apologizing for being late at every new stop in his day, from class to academy to work. As the days pass, Joon-woo finds himself falling asleep on Oh-je’s shoulder in class. Oh-je is kind enough to treat his friend to some food at the family restaurant before Joon-woo has to rush off again.
Joon-woo’s struggling a little by now though, and he misses his bus stop on the way to work. Luckily, Mr. Oh is there is his place, and his teacher pretends that Joon-woo asked him to cover for him. When Joon-woo gets a break, Mr. Oh asks if Joon-woo can find a job closer to the art academy. Joon-woo says that he’s promised to work at the convenience store until the end of the month.
It’s dark when Joon-woo bikes by Soo-bin’s window that evening. She surprises him when she’s not upstairs sleeping but awake still and out for a walk. Joon-woo tries to convince her that he’s still full of energy, but his nosebleed betrays him.
Mr. Oh finds Ji-min at one of her part-time jobs. He comes bearing study books, and also mentions that he’s opened an online English study group if she’d like to swing by. Ji-min gapes at Mr. Oh, and he promises that regardless of their relationship, he respects whatever she decides.
Poor Joon-woo’s nosebleed finally dries up, and he rests his head on Soo-bin’s shoulder. He asks if he’s doing a good job, and Soo-bin tells him she’s very proud of him. She also repeats what all the adults tell her, that things may be rough now but always get better.
Test scores are announced at school the next day, and Hwi-young drops down to 36th place, ouch. But Soo-bin and Joon-woo have done well, and even Pil-sang moved up to 200th place. He’s eager to collect his date with Ro-mi, but Ro-mi is in a bad mood from her less than stellar grade. Mr. Oh drops by their table and reminds them to look at the sky, relax, and just try again next time. Chan-yeol can’t help but sigh over Mr. Oh as he leaves, and Da-hwin and Oh-je happily show off their good scores to one another.
Joon-woo eagerly shows off his improvement to Soo-bin, though he does regret breaking his promise and seeing her outside of school. Soo-bin says they should relax when they can, and the two retreat to the stairs. Joon-woo shows her an art contest he hopes to enter, and if he wins he can be considered for early acceptance to the school under a special talent category.
Soo-bin’s gaze turns distant though, and she sighs that she hopes to find her own path soon. Joon-woo pats her head to comfort her, and promises that she’ll find her way soon.
Sang-hoon’s friends congratulate him for finally taking the top spot, and do their best to rub it in Hwi-young’s face. Sang-hoon dismisses them and once alone with Hwi-young, tries to apologize to Hwi-young. He tells him that his father was the one responsible for leaking the truth. When Hwi-young responds coldly to his apology, Sang-hoon tries to return to their usual competitive repartee but Hwi-young doesn’t respond to that either.
The investigators arrive to question the teachers and students regarding Hwi-young’s case. Mr. Oh sits for their questions, and the students watch as others, like Ki-tae and Joon-woo, are called out. Ki-tae confesses to everything, and So-ye is there to reassure him once it’s over. Prior to the interviews, we see that Mr. Oh warned Hwi-young that he had to answer everything truthfully.
So-ye tells her friends at last what’s been going on, and Soo-bin now understands the full extent of Hwi-young’s behavior. She finds Joon-woo just as he leaves the office, and Soo-bin dissolves into tears as she apologizes and blames herself for not realizing what was going on. Joon-woo explains that he didn’t tell her because he knew how close she was with Hwi-young, and that he understands why she might have been blinded to the truth.
It’s Hwi-young’s turn to answer questions, and he confirms to the investigators that everything is true. He assumes that Joon-woo has told them everything, and the investigator mentions that Joon-woo delayed answering them for now.
At the end of the day, Mr. Oh offers Joon-woo a ride to the art academy. On the way, Joon-woo confesses that he still resents Hwi-young, but for some reason he couldn’t tell the investigators any of it. Mr. Oh points out that it’s because Joon-woo hates to hurt anyone with his words, even when it’s the truth. Once Joon-woo is alone in the studio, he finally breaks into tears of his own.
Soo-bin finds Hwi-young after school to confront him about his behavior. She’s disappointed in him, but also confesses that she’s upset at herself for letting him turn into this person all while she was at his side.
Soo-bin heads home after attending her tutoring academy, and her mom pauses before finally asking if the rumors about Hwi-young are true. Soo-bin doesn’t have an answer for her. She follows her mother into her office, where she points out that Joon-woo obviously isn’t a bad kid.
She asks if her mom can trust her now, and Mom calmly tells her that she trusts her, but that things can be unpredictable and Soo-bin needs to just trust her mother to take care of her right now. Soo-bin stands firm though, and tells her mother to just trust her for now before retreating to her room.
The next morning, Soo-bin picks Joon-woo up at his door. He’s surprised, but she promises him it’s alright. By the time Joon-woo arrives at school, he’s decided not to add any testimony to the case against Hwi-young and tells the investigators so. He means to tell Soo-bin, but she tells him that no matter what he did, he did the right thing.
Meanwhile, Hwi-young drops an application to drop out of school on Mr. Oh’s desk. Mr. Oh does his best to convince Hwi-young to stay, but Hwi-young doesn’t budge.
Hwi-young crosses Joon-woo’s path on the field as he leaves. He tells Joon-woo he should have answered the investigators questions, while Joon-woo tells him he doesn’t have to explain his decision. Hwi-young then declares that he’s dropping out, and that’s when Joon-woo unleashes his fury at last by delivering a punch to Hwi-young’s jaw.
Joon-woo calls Hwi-young a coward, and tells him that he can’t leave until he actually genuinely apologizes. Joon-woo tells him that it’s his pride that has him running, not any actual regret for his own actions. Tears fill Hwi-young’s eyes as he calls out to Joon-woo. “I’m sorry,” he says, as he drops to his knees.
What is a suitable punishment for Hwi-young? The drama has done a good job of putting distance between those first horrible acts committed by Hwi-young in order to build sympathy for a young student under a lot of pressure. I think that’s why I appreciate that this episode pulled it back to the front, reminded us how much Joon-woo lost because of Hwi-young’s actions, and how that has left a lingering resentment. The case of the doctored grades is not his fault, and I don’t want to see him punished for that. But the bullying of Joon-woo and Jung-hoo, that is on him.
Joon-woo approaches his feelings to this situation in his own way. He isn’t interested in using his words to punish Hwi-young, and would rather see Hwi-young atone, in person, by staying in school and toughing it out. He’s seen how getting to take down Hwi-young has not worked out for Sang-hoon. But I do feel like the episode doesn’t overly emphasize Joon-woo’s restraint as the only right path forward. If Joon-woo had confessed all of Hwi-young’s misdeeds to the investigators, that would have been okay. If Joon-woo never forgives Hwi-young, that’s okay too. As the one who was targeted by Hwi-young, he gets to decide how he personally works through it.
There’s this tough edge that the show is approaching, where it’s trying to find a suitable punishment for a kid like Hwi-young. Because on the one hand, the mantra of the show has been all about how they’re all just eighteen, with a whole world waiting for them as they move on to adulthood. On the other hand, the idea of a young man’s life being ruined is a poor excuse for not having to face consequences. The show is trying to find an appropriate punishment for Hwi-young, while also giving him the space to grow.
I worry about Soo-bin. With only an episode left, she still needs to work through things with her mother, find a healthy relationship balance with Joon-woo, and decide what her own dream of the future is going to be? In the beginning, all Soo-bin wanted was freedom from her mother to make her own choices, and she’s not quite there yet but man is she pushing for it. A choice that I find appealing is to allow herself to not have a major professional dream yet and instead to just experience life and take her time. But she seems so adrift right now, watching Joon-woo work so hard to grab hold of his future.
Soo-bin’s mom seems to somehow still think that she’s acting in her daughter’s best interests. I cheered at the screen when Yeon-woo finally expressed to Song-hee what she needs to understand. Soo-bin is not the only young person out there. Her needs are not more important than others. No kid should be trampled on in order to lift up another one. Yeon-woo embodies the entire theme of this show to the end, and man I just hope Song-hee gets it before the credits roll.
- 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