Angry Mom: Episode 13
What a supremely satisfying episode. It’s still early enough that things aren’t yet wrapped up and there’s still lots of fight left in store for us, but this episode is chock-full of important developments and major character progressions. I love the way this drama finds human touches in (almost) everybody, so that even when a character isn’t unequivocally good, we’re still able to derive a ton of gratification in their arcs. Well done.
EPISODE 13 RECAP
Kang-ja’s plan is thwarted by that two-faced backstabber Ae-yeon, crushing the Scooby Gang’s attempt to take down the trio of baddies. Coolly, she informs Kang-ja that she’ll be sued for defamation.
Kang-ja insists that they switched the recording, but she’s the only one getting worked up and it only makes her sound hysterical. Jung-woo smirks like she’s a raving loony, but Kang-ja is too upset to hold in her reaction. She asks the reporters to find out the truth, which is their job.
Sinking to the ground in tears, Kang-ja wails, “Why won’t anybody believe my words? Why won’t anyone listen?”
Everyone looks discomfited at her distress, including Sang-tae and Ae-yeon—not that her conflicted expression mitigates the damage she inflicted, since that was clearly her choice.
The trifecta of evil puts up a show for the reporters, keeping their inner strife under wraps until they’re in private. Minister Kang is angry at Jung-woo for letting things get so out of hand with Kang-ja, but now he’s got to see the charade through and keep up the devoted father routine in public. He once again orders Jung-woo to take care of Kang-ja.
Kang-ja is taken to the hospital for psychiatric evaluation, and Ae-yeon visits her with an uncomfortable expression and red-rimmed eyes. Still don’t feel sorry for you, but I suppose it’s the least bit gratifying to see you upset too. A very tiny bit.
Ae-yeon does that thing she always does, of assuming the bad guy pose and saying this is just who she is, despite having obvious pangs of conscience. Kang-ja’s (overgenerous) faith finally meets its end and she says, “Let’s never see each other again.”
Ae-yeon is shaken by that, but tells Jung-woo it’s fine, and that friends aren’t forever. She’s eager to leave Chairman Hong’s house, and looks distressed when Jung-woo says she can’t leave just yet—they need one more thing in order to put away the minister and the chairman for good.
Kang-ja’s high school exploits make the news, and she’s depicted as mentally unsound. Students interview about how wild she was at school, and Sang-tae calls her delusional. On the other hand, Bok-dong, bless his heart, can’t think of a single thing to say on camera, fidgeting uncomfortably.
Kang-ja’s doctor doesn’t believe her claims either, just writing it off as stress and delusion. Meanwhile, Minister Kang and Jung-woo play up their fabricated reunion for the public, winning sympathy with his supposed willingness to embrace his son despite possibly losing the election.
As threatened, Kang-ja faces charges of defamation and impersonation, and the police are unmoved by her exclamations that she only posed as a student because the police wouldn’t do their job. Things aren’t looking good for Team Princess, and Gong-joo’s affiliation doesn’t help, since she’s dismissed as a gangster and criminal. (The princess minions argue that they only run a club and have a higher marriage rate than professional matchmakers, haha.)
That’s when Noah steps in citing law code in their defense—and his father is with him. Kang-ja hangs her head abashedly and apologizes when the judge scolds her for her rash actions, but argues that she had to do it. Noah takes responsibility as well, saying that he bears fault for not protecting his students.
With the judge vouching personally for the group, they’re allowed to leave the station. He doesn’t exactly approve of their behavior, but when Kang-ja, Noah, and Gong-joo plead with him to help block the construction project, he relents and offers some advice. He pinpoints the minister’s slush fund as the way to take down the trifecta, and identifies a crucial source: the ex-vice principal of the high school, who used to work for Chairman Hong before he was ousted and replaced by the current vice principal. We saw him being violently beaten in the first episode, and there are rumors that the man has since become homeless, and they’ll have to track him down.
Bok-dong very cutely offers to walk Kang-ja home, making up an excuse about dropping off a book for Ah-ran, and then thrusts a block of tofu at her—the traditional offering to released prisoners (as a symbol of staying on the straight path to ward off future prison encounters). She takes a bite, and offers him some tofu as well, to symbolize him not returning to Dong-chil’s fold. They smile adorably at each other.
The family has to hole up at home because of the reporters stationed outside their building, and grandma’s full of loud complaints. They only grow louder when Kang-ja states her intention to keep going to school—if not as a student, than as a mother. She’ll do anything necessary to protect Ah-ran.
To that end, Kang-ja sets up a one-woman protest outside the school gates, with signs demanding a stop to the construction, which is based on the illegal funneling of school funds. And despite the initial wave of public opinion that declared Kang-ja a crazy person, the teachers and other students look at her in admiration for being so gutsy.
On the other hand, Bok-dong takes in the protest with exasperation, warning that Kang-ja’s going to get herself carted off to jail again. She just quips that he can buy her tofu a second time.
Jin-sang is mortified to see his wife causing a scene and barks at her to leave. Bok-dong grabs his arm, but before that potentially awesome scenario can unfold, Dong-chil calls them both aside.
First, he orders Jin-sang to get a divorce, or at least wield the threat of one in order to stop her. Jin-sang meekly agrees. Next, Bok-dong stands up to Dong-chil to say he’s not afraid of him anymore, and he’s not going to do his bidding either. But rather than raging at him threateningly, Dong-chil just warns that Bok-dong’s actions could endanger Kang-ja, and leaves him with that food for thought.
Ah-ran is back to being the target of bullying and ridicule, and a couple of the class’s uppity girls graffiti her locker with taunts about her mother. A raw egg splatters right next to her just as Sang-tae enters the room, and he steps up angrily to challenge the thrower.
The girls huff that Ah-ran’s mother is making a mockery of the school, which will look bad if it lets any yahoo in (literally, “dogs and cows”). Sang-tae snaps that it’s true. “Dog,” he directs to one girl, then indicates the other. “Cow.” Okay, I’ll give him that as a pretty satisfying smackdown, and Ah-ran looks at him in a slightly new light.
The leader mutters about dealing with Kang-ja, and this time Bok-dong blocks her way to tell her to give it a rest. And Sang-tae gives Ah-ran a small smile.
Jung-woo and the vice principal confront Kang-ja at the gates, simultaneously sneering at her fool’s errand while looking uneasy at her tenacity. She snaps that they labeled her a crazy woman, and yet are pretty scared of her being here. When Jung-woo tries to argue that her protest is illegal, Noah arrives to contradict him, armed with legal code that states that it’s not, actually. Ah, I love smart Noah one-upping Jung-woo. Go on, cite more law at me.
A reporter approaches Kang-ja and asks for an interview, which she readily agrees to. It makes Jung-woo and the vice principal look nervous, but sadly for us, it needn’t, because it turns out that the only story the reporters are interested in Kang-ja’s beauty secrets for looking young enough to pass for a high schooler.
Kang-ja pushes past her disappointment to try to talk about the corruption, but the writers say airily that their readers aren’t interested in such seriousness. Sad but true, that. Kang-ja may be the hot story of the day, but even so it’s tough getting anyone to listen.
Jin-sang does as bidden and drops the threat of divorce on Kang-ja again, and while this was Dong-chil’s order, I do believe this is how he feels, too. Kang-ja refuses that out of hand, but he bursts out that he can’t protect her because he doesn’t have any power, and wants her to do as everyone else does—let it slide and focus on living your life.
Kang-ja argues that quitting is tantamount to abandoning Ah-ran and her friends to danger, and Jin-sang yells, “That damned, ‘Ah-ran, Ah-ran!’ Do you only see Ah-ran, and not me?” He says that he knew that Ah-ran wasn’t her dead sister’s child, but he pretended to believe it because he loves Kang-ja. Can’t can’t she do the same out of love for her family?
Public opinion starts to swing back on Kang-ja’s side, though, with parents voicing their support of her actions, saying that they’d have done the same thing to protect their children. Minister Kang is disgruntled to read the comments and needs now more than ever to locate that ex-vice president. Ack, but who will get to him first?
Our Scooby Gang focus their attention on that secret slush fund, and brainstorm ways to prove its existence. They decide that the likely place to keep that information is in a private safe, and Kang-ja recalls the one hidden by the lion statue at the chairman’s house. To her surprise, Noah says he might find a way to get into it—all he needs is the passcode.
So Noah heads over under the guise of a parent-teacher meeting, explaining that he wanted to see Sang-tae’s home conditions. He notes the lion in the room and supposes that it represents the chairman’s absolute power as father, and the chairman chuckles at the correct assessment.
Noah casually asks for the chairman’s birthdate, saying he’d like to examine his and Sang-tae’s fate readings, and the chairman offers the numbers. Then when he steps aside to take a call, Noah hurries over to the safe and starts trying the numbers. Ack! Out in the open like that? And then to make things hairier, Ae-yeon happens by and sees Noah crouched in front of the safe.
Chairman Hong’s call is with the minister, who orders him to take care of Kang-ja personally. Hong supposes that the minister wants to keep his son’s hands clean, but agrees to do it—he considers this yet another of the minister’s Achilles’ heels that he can make use of later.
Noah is so absorbed in trying passcodes that he’s taken by surprise when Sang-tae catches him and hisses at him for being so blatant. But he guesses that Noah’s working with Kang-ja (“Are you on Team Jo Bang-wool?”), and when Chairman Hong returns to the room, Sang-tae fakes an excuse to deflect Dad’s attention away from the safe, pretending they were catching a cockroack.
The chairman accepts the excuse, but casts a suspicious eye at his safe. Uh-oh.
Sang-tae and Noah talk in private in his room, and Noah echoes Sang-tae’s question: “Are you Team Jo Bang-wool too?”
Sang-tae says that he isn’t, since he hates people who take the “throw eggs against a boulder” approach, though Noah seems to see through Sang-tae’s unconvincing denial. He takes note of the motorcycle parked in the middle of the bedroom and asks about it going unused. Sang-tae blusters that he totally could drive it if he wanted, though the place he most wants to go isn’t reachable by bike: San Francisco.
Noah asks him why, though he connects the dots himself, recalling that Sang-tae’s mother lives there. Sang-tae snaps that they’re not friends, and Noah takes his face in his hands and squishes it, agreeing—he’s his disobedient pupil.
Public opinion takes another turn the next day (sigh, she’s so fickle, that public opinion) as a crowd of mothers descend upon Kang-ja’s solo protest, throwing eggs at her and accusing her of being a killer. Looks like the trifecta has been busy disseminating information about Kang-ja’s criminal past, and the mothers have dug up the old story.
Ah-ran hotly defends her mother, and even Dong-chil looks dismayed as he watches the confrontation. A mom winds up to throw another egg, and this time Bok-dong leaps in front to take the hit, and has to be held back from engaging with the mom mob.
The moms recognize him as Yi-kyung’s so-called killer and sneers that they’re all the same, and when Kang-ja steps in on his behalf, a mom gets shoved back and loudly exaggerates the fall. She calls for police, accusing Kang-ja of assaulting her.
Ah-ran sees Dong-chil nearby and confronts him for letting her mother take the fall for his actions. He can’t hold her gaze, while Ah-ran has to choke back her tears as she says, “The fact that you… are my biological father… it shames me to death.”
But Dong-chil turns back at that, pats her shoulder, and says mere, “It’s not me.” Well, thank goodness that question is finally settled.
Kang-ja spends another day in jail, despite Noah arguing in her defense that the police are basing everything on one accusation. He demands a medical report from the victim at the very least.
Meanwhile, Bok-dong spends all day sitting outside the station, waiting for Kang-ja.
That night at school, Ah-ran is approached for an interview by a reporter, and she eagerly goes with him to talk about her mother’s case. Sang-tae overhears this but doesn’t think much of it until he goes home and hears his father talking about Ah-ran and the reporter. He puts two and two together, and this time he stands up to his father and pleads with him not to do anything to Ah-ran. Dad sneers at his use of the word friend, but Sang-tae doesn’t back down an inch: “Even if I get backstabbed, I can’t live without any friends. If you do something to Oh Ah-ran, I won’t just do nothing.”
So Chairman Hong shoves Sang-tae into his room and locks him inside. Okay, how creepy is it that there’s already a padlock installed on that door?
Ae-yeon sees the chairman out, and then it’s time for her to start her own secret task. If she can find what they need, they can take down the minister and the chairman, and then the foundation will be all hers and Jung-woo’s.
Sang-tae tries calling for help from his room, but Kang-ja’s stuck in jail and Bok-dong doesn’t answer his calls. Without many options, Sang-tae scans the room for a solution… and sees his bike. Omo. Are you gonna be a hero?
So Sang-tae gets on his bike, revs the engine, and literally bursts through his doors. Okay, that’s cool. You earned your hero points today.
Bok-dong is still waiting outside the police station when he gets Sang-tae’s text. It just gives him an address and tells him that Ah-ran is there, but it’s enough to get Bok-dong hurrying there immediately. Run faster!
Dong-chil is also alerted to Ah-ran’s whereabouts by the henchman he had watching her. The question is: For good, or for evil?
Ah-ran tells the reporter her side of the story, and it dawns on her that the reporter isn’t paying attention. The reason becomes clear when he says that it’s only important that she be here, and then steps aside to let Chairman Hong in.
Chairman Hong asks Ah-ran whom she loves most in the world, angling for the answer “Mom.” Ah-ran turns the question on him and asks if Sang-tae’s the one he loves most, and why he stole his mother away from him when Sang-tae misses her so much. But the chairman presses doggedly until she gives him the answer he wants, and suggests that if she wants to save her mother, she shut up and leave quietly.
That’s when Sang-tae barges into the room and challenges his father, asking him to stop. He refuses to step aside, saying that he may have been too young to do anything for his mother, but he’s not anymore.
Chairman Hong punches him in the face, and steps closer with raised hand. But now it’s Dong-chil who intervenes, grabbing his arm. He captures the chairman’s interest by promising “an even bigger gift,” and that’s enough to allow the kids their exit.
Sang-tae and Ah-ran leave the scene just as Bok-dong arrives, and he heads inside to catch the conversation between the chairman and Bok-dong. Omo omo, the “gift” turns out to be a video—it’s Yi-kyung’s cell phone, with which she filmed her dying moments. Ooooh. This is gonna be good.
The chairman cackles in glee to see Jung-woo in that video, since this is exactly what he needs to safeguard himself in this unholy alliance. Dong-chil offers the video to the chairman, in exchange for letting Ah-ran and Kang-ja be sent quietly abroad. Look at that, everybody’s finding their soul tonight.
Ah-ran apologizes for tonight, but Sang-tae replies that she shouldn’t be sorry since he wanted to do that. She asks if he means ride his bike, and he says,
“No, standing up to my father.”
He explains how he couldn’t stand up for his mother, and while he wanted to hate her for leaving him, he couldn’t because it felt like it was his fault. Ah-ran apologizes for misunderstanding him, and reaches over to take his hand. He adjusts his grip to hold on tighter.
Noah manages to get Kang-ja out of jail again by vouching for her, and then Gong-joo has good news: They’ve tracked down the ex-vice principal. And whoa, does he have a ton of information for them.
The ex-VP explains the ledger that’ll incriminate the minister and the chairman, into which he recorded all names and monetary amounts for the past decade. The book is labeled as a diary, and it’s probably in Hong’s lion safe.
Grateful for his help, Noah vows to get that ledger and to repay the ex-VP’s wrong too. But to their surprise, the man warns the team not to, citing himself as an example of what fate might befall them: ruined, cast out, homeless. He says that the law and people aren’t to be trusted, because humans are only out for themselves.
Well, that’s dire. But when Noah asks if Kang-ja wants to give up now, she declines, and says that she’s trusting in somebody.
She means Sang-tae, and gives him a call. And lookit that, he totally comes through and provides the passcode to his father’s safe.
Gong-joo worries about another backstabbing, still rattled from Ae-yeon’s betrayal, but both Noah and Kang-ja feel secure in trusting Sang-tae. She insists on going in alone, and heads over to break in. (Again. How many times is this now?)
She’s not the only one after that ledger, and arrives to catch Ae-yeon in the middle of attempting to break in herself. Ae-yeon looks extra-frantic tonight (she’s been looking progressively more panicked recently), and is seriously spooked at Kang-ja’s arrival.
Kang-ja takes over, and in one shot opens the safe. She locates the diary-ledger and checks inside to confirm its contents. Yup. This is the stuff.
But then a knife appears at her throat—Ae-yeon holds it up with shaking hands, ordering Kang-ja to hand it over: “My life depends on that.”
Kang-ja, super-steely badass that she is, doesn’t even flinch. Instead she turns to face Ae-yeon and takes a step toward her.
In one quick motion, she grabs Ae-yeon’s wrist and sends the knife clanging down. Then she smacks Ae-yeon across the face with the ledger—not gonna lie, that’s satisfying, and seems poetically fitting to boot.
“This?” she indicates. “Your life doesn’t depend on it. Our children’s lives depend on it.”
So many rewarding developments! I’m thoroughly pleased with this episode, which fulfilled a few narrative points in ways that were expected, and threw in a few twists on top of that.
I honestly wasn’t sure I could be brought around to caring about Sang-tae for, oh, the first ten episodes, so I was surprised to warm up to him so much here. It’s not the turnaround that’s surprising, but the fact the show managed it in such a short span of time; I do wish they’d given him a bit more time to grow into himself, the way they did for Bok-dong, but at least the growth was effective. I know there have been hints for a while that he’d be heading this way, but I didn’t feel moved by them for a good long while because outwardly he was still stuck in his default asshole mode.
But that does have the effect of giving his transformation a little extra oomph, because it requires a lot of effort and strength on his part to break from his mold. And while I was so not buying it when he was in that wishy-washy middle state, of wanting to be nicer but still being a jerkwad, once his actions caught up to his heart, I could get onboard and root for him to push forward and cling to that newfound spine.
The show even does a great job with its morally corrupt characters, with both Dong-chil and Ae-yeon letting more of their true colors show through. Dong-chil’s softening has been a gradual progression, and while he’s been too reprehensible to redeem completely, I’m intrigued with the glimmers of a better person underneath his darker layers. (Admittedly, there are A LOT of layers.)
It’s a similar case for Ae-yeon, and while I’m not really too invested in justifying or softening Ae-yeon’s betrayal, I’ll acknowledge that it makes sense in a character context, and heck, also a human context—she’s a longtime battered woman nearing the end of her rope, and we could see her desperation breaking through in the aftermath of her latest beating. I find her all the more interesting for the way that I actually feel like she wants to be a good person, and has the moral compass of someone who could be a better person, yet almost seems to convince herself to do the bad thing. Like she has to trick herself into accepting that there’s no hope for her black heart, and that’s the only way she can live with herself. It’s tricky and complicated, but feels real.
Most of all I love the growing bonds of our core group, and the way that it’s not just a single person who draws them all together (say, Kang-ja), but a web of relationships where each one matters. Noah, Ah-ran, Gong-joo—they’re as important as Kang-ja in reaching out, growing bonds, and showing care for each other, and that’s something to warm the heart.