Angry Mom: Episode 14
I… I… I’m still a little emotionally traumatized by this episode. I hope I can get it together to write some comments, because I feel gutted and wrecked. In a good way, I swear, though this one really is a doozy. Every victory that was won yesterday causes a series of blowbacks that take their toll on Team Princess, and one by one Kang-ja starts to get stripped of her support system. You think it’s hard enough on the gang when they’ve got each other to lean on; when our heroine is all alone, she starts to wonder if the fight is worth it at all.
SONG OF THE DAY
Nell – “청춘연가” (Love Song to Youth) [ Download ]
EPISODE 14 RECAP
Kang-ja steals the slush fund ledger right out from under Ae-yeon’s nose, and gets in a good slap while she’s at it. Ae-yeon begs for Kang-ja to save her, but after the last betrayal (in a lifetime of betrayals, let’s be real), she shrugs Ae-yeon’s grip on her leg and walks off.
The bad news is that this entire exchange is being watched in real time by Chairman Hong, who’s doubly disappointed because Ae-yeon is a weakling who couldn’t fight for the ledger, and because Kang-ja turned out to be a bigger thorn in his side than he ever imagined.
He orders Dong-chil to take care of this right away, because if he ever lays eyes on Kang-ja, he’ll do away with her himself.
When Kang-ja comes running to Noah with the ledger in hand, she finds him eerily slumped on the ground. Ack! Not Saem! She rushes over to him, and ohthankgoodness, he responds and lifts his head.
He’s bloodied up and bruised though, and Dong-chil steps out now that his message has been made clear. Kang-ja asks why he can’t think of someone else but himself for once in his life, like the kids who stand in harm’s way.
But Dong-chil asks why she can’t see that saving those kids puts her own child in harm’s way, and practically pleads with her to get on that plane. He pries the ledger out of Kang-ja’s hand without resistance, and pauses for a silent moment as he passes Bok-dong at the front door.
Dong-chil goes straight to Chairman Hong’s house with the ledger, where Ae-yeon is packed and ready to run. She has nowhere to go now, since that ledger was her only ticket into Jung-woo’s good graces, but to her utter shock, Dong-chil hands it over to her.
He tells her to go to Jung-woo, clearly hating the idea but willing to let her have what she wants, and she cries in gratitude. She calls out, “Oppa, our time together wasn’t all bad.” She thanks him for everything that he did for her, and she wonders if they hadn’t done what they did to Kang-ja all those years ago, they might’ve led very different lives.
Dong-chil looks pained, but keeps his back to her and walks out without a word. As soon as she has the ledger in her grasp, she takes it over to Jung-woo and tells him that she has nowhere else to go now, and that she’s going to trust him. Mistaaaaaaake!
Kang-ja sits by Noah’s bedside in the hospital and apologizes that this is all her fault. Judge Dad comes running in overcome with worry, and he mutters over and over how something like this could happen to his son.
Kang-ja hangs her head in guilt, and Gong-joo leads her out into the hall, where she tells Kang-ja to go abroad as Dong-chil asked. Oh no, not you too, Gong-joo! She argues that they’ve done everything they could, but this wasn’t an opponent they were well-suited to fight.
Gong-joo hears Kang-ja’s protests about the other children, but offers up the same argument as Dong-chil: What about her child? Kang-ja, bless her heart, refuses to see it their way, and asks who will defend and protect the other kids if she runs to save herself. Gong-joo figures that their parents will, but Kang-ja cries, “And what about Bok-dongie? What about kids like him with no parents?!” YES, WHAT ABOUT BOK-DONGIE?
A call sends Gong-joo racing back to her club, where her princess minions are all crying and cowering amidst overturned furniture. They’re literally quaking in their tiaras, and Gong-joo rushes into her office to find cops boxing up evidence. Uh-oh.
She’s been charged with running illegal activity through her club, and Gong-joo cries that they run a legit business and pay all their taxes. But the detective says that they have an informant and will be investigating thoroughly, and Kang-ja arrives to see them hauling Gong-joo off to the station.
Dong-chil calls to ask if Kang-ja received his second gift, and she screams at him to come after her instead of her friends. But he knows that this is the best way to get through to her, evil genius that he is, and tells her to hurry up and get on that plane before someone else gets hurt because of her: “Who will be next?”
Kang-ja’s eyes widen in fear, and she runs… to Bok-dongie. Aw. I love so much that she thought of him. She gasps to catch her breath and sighs in relief that he’s okay. But she takes another look and realizes that he’s got bags packed like he’s going somewhere.
Bok-dong says that he’s going back to his house, and lies that it’s because Noah can’t protect him, so he’s simply going to the guardian who’s stronger. She doesn’t believe him and asks if something’s going on with him—he promised her over tofu that he would never go back to Dong-chil.
But he’s determined to be a Baby Noble Idiot to protect her, and puts on his most menacing sneer: “That tofu? How long has it been since it already became poop?” He tacks on a “Be well, Cherry Tomato,” before walking out.
Noooooooo. The Scooby Gang is splintered! Goddammit, Ahn Dong-chil!
Bok-dong broods on the bus as he leaves Noah and Kang-ja behind, and then the real motive behind his move becomes clear as he mulls over the incriminating video (of Yi-kyung’s murder) that he saw Dong-chil give to Chairman Hong.
He decides that there must be an original somewhere, and calls Dong-chil to be let back into the fold. You’re too young to be a double agent! Also, that’s badass.
Now stripped of her allies, Kang-ja remembers with a heavy heart the warning that the ex-vice principal told her, about not starting this fight if they don’t want to end up alone and ruined like him.
The guilt finally breaks her, and Kang-ja asks with tears in her eyes if Ah-ran wants to go live in another country. Ah-ran hugs Mom tightly and agrees to go anywhere with her, and Kang-ja says that they’ll go live somewhere else, not a scary country like this one.
At school, Jung-woo insists on speeding up the annex construction, even though Jin-sang warns that they can’t manage it properly. Jung-woo doesn’t care, obviously, and makes sure to threaten Jin-sang passive-aggressively to make it work. Jung-woo confirms that his family is going abroad soon, and Jin-sang hems and haws about what to do with his mother.
The girls in class ask Ah-ran if she’s really moving abroad, and when she confirms it, both Sang-tae and Bok-dong take note with grim faces. Sang-tae wrist-grabs her out of the classroom and asks how she could do this to him, and then asks with hurt puppy eyes, “Weren’t we… dating?” Well, if you have to ask…
Ah-ran sighs and asks how he can think of that at a time like this, when Teach and the rest of Mom’s friends have been attacked. But Sang-tae continues to make this about him, and asks how she can leave him when he just took his first steps to stand up to his father.
She reminds him that she doesn’t want to go either, but this is all happening because of his father. Sang-tae accuses her of being just like mom, and yells at her to go and live a happy life without him. I guess I’ve really warmed to Sang-tae if I find this argument more cutely petulant than annoying.
And at home, Kang-ja meets more resistance from Mom-in-law, who puts her foot down and refuses to move to another country. She tells them to get a divorce rather than try to split their family over two continents, and finally Kang-ja just tells them that she’ll agree to whatever Jin-sang wants, but she and Ah-ran are leaving next week.
Noah calls and she goes to meet him for coffee, where he says sincerely that he understands how difficult it was for her to come to this decision, but he doesn’t think she should run. Kang-ja noticeably can’t meet his eyes while talking to him, and says in a flat tone that she can’t live in constant fear that something will happen to her daughter.
He tells her that she won’t have to fight anymore because he will—he’s going to fight using the law, no matter how long it takes. He wants her to stay in the country and offers to find a school for Ah-ran to transfer to.
Noah: “When you fight a monster, all you see are monsters. But there are more than monsters in the world. You can’t see them, and they can’t raise their voices, but somewhere there are people who are watching, listening, and thinking.”
Kang-ja sounds so defeated as she says that Noah must be stronger than her: “I’m just a mother. A mother who only knows to protect her child, and has no strength. I can’t lose my child like I lost her father. I can’t let the people I love get hurt because of me.” She offers a weak apology and leaves him deflated.
Bok-dong rifles through Dong-chil’s calendar and sees a date circled, remembering that he commemorates his brother’s memorial every year. He tries that date on the safe and unlocks it, but two seconds later Dong-chil arrives home and catches him red-handed.
Thankfully, Dong-chil accuses him of coming back because he needed money, and Bok-dong doesn’t disabuse him of that idea. He scurries out before Dong-chil blows his lid and sighs in relief that his real motive wasn’t discovered. At least he knows that the video isn’t in the home safe, and he wonders if it’s in the office, fretting over the lack of time he has.
In no time the annex construction is complete and the Troika of Evil pose in front of the press for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. They’re all eyeing each other warily, ready to throw the blame for the shoddy construction onto the other guy, and Jung-woo lines up a press conference to get a head start.
Ae-yeon is rattled when he mentions that Dong-chil will also take the fall, though we’ve seen her ignore her pricked conscience more than once before. Jung-woo begins the press conference with a promotional video about the school’s new facilities, and to his surprise, Chairman Hong escorts his father right back in to join them.
Chairman Hong takes a moment to confront Jung-woo about his attempt to throw him under the bus, and they have a pissing contest over which of them is more indispensible to Minister Kang. Erm, have you met the guy? I’m pretty sure he’d throw you both under the bus given the first chance.
Jung-woo waves the slush fund ledger in Chairman Hong’s face, only to be laughed at. Chairman Hong says that it’s a fake, and Ae-yeon looks positively horrified. I guess the only thing worse than a double-crosser is an ineffective double-crosser.
And then the real kicker: Chairman Hong busts out his phone and calls Jung-woo a murderer. He plays the video of Yi-kyung’s last moments, and Ae-yeon finally sees for herself what a monster he really is.
Dong-chil escorts Minister Kang into the room, and that’s when Ae-yeon puts it together that Dong-chil fed her the fake ledger on purpose. In flashback we see that Chairman Hong had made it a condition of the arrangement, to throw Ae-yeon out with Jung-woo.
Father and son are left alone in the room, and Minister Kang slaps Jung-woo across the face, sneering, “Murder? Murder, and you left evidence?!” Really, this is the thing that angers you?
Minister Kang screams at him to stop holding him back, and orders Jung-woo to either go die or take the fall for the shoddy construction. Jung-woo is stricken at the rejection and calls out, “Father,” but Minister Kang just spits back for him to stop calling him that: “You should never have been born! I should’ve had you erased! Murderer! My son is a murderer!”
Chairman Hong drags Ae-yeon away and starts beating the crap out of her for betraying him, and Dong-chil stands just on the other side of the wall, looking pained but doing nothing to stop them.
Meanwhile, the promotional video plays for the room full of reporters, who have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes. Jung-woo transfers another sum to his father’s bank account as ordered, and contemplates his next move.
Kang-ja finishes packing up and Ah-ran heads to school on her last day, just to say goodbye to her friends. Jin-sang tells Kang-ja that he left the papers in the bedroom and heads out looking defeated. She sighs and goes in to sign the divorce papers, but is surprised to find them ripped up.
In their place is a note and a bank book, telling Kang-ja to go on ahead and wait for him, and he’ll spend three years earning enough money to take his mother and meet her. Aw, turns out the wimp is a good dad after all.
Ah-ran arrives at school, where classes are already being held in the new building. Her friends ask if she’s really leaving today, and when she confirms that she’ll be on a plane this afternoon, Sang-tae huffs his displeasure.
Bok-dong plays hooky and sneaks into Dong-chil’s office, where the same code doesn’t work on this safe. He digs around in the desk and locates a flash drive though, but Dong-chil arrives before he can check it.
Bok-dong scrambles under the desk to hide, and tries to hold his breath as Dong-chil sits on the desk just on the other side.
Trouble is already evident in the school’s new building, where windows won’t open, fallen pens roll because the floors aren’t level, and the cafeteria springs a giant leak through the ceiling. Jin-sang rushes to the scene and goes to report it to the bosses, while Noah worries that the students will be in danger.
Jin-sang runs to tell Jung-woo about it and recommends that they evacuate the students now, but Chairman Hong is there and tells them to remain hushed about it and fix it tonight.
Dong-chil is inches away from discovering Bok-dong under his desk, when he gets the call from the school to hurry back and deal with this crisis, phew. Bok-dong plugs the flash drive into his phone to check it, and lands the jackpot: Yi-kyung’s video.
Jin-sang scrambles to try and fix the leak on his own, even though his foreman tells him that it’s too dangerous to try and fix right now and the structure might even collapse. But Jin-sang exclaims that his daughter is a student here and she’s in this building right now, and he has to do something. The foreman runs away, content to save himself.
Upstairs, Sang-tae takes out a ring and practices things to say to Ah-ran in the mirror, like a big dork. They range from, “I’ll wait for you,” to a cool goodbye, to my favorite: “Hey, I was totally planning to study abroad too! What a coincidence!” Too cute.
He’s interrupted by a call from his father, the weasel, who totally warns HIS son to get out of the annex building while letting the rest of the students just sit there. Sang-tae immediately runs for Ah-ran, but Noah reaches the classroom first and tells everyone to hurry and evacuate.
Ah-ran sees that Sang-tae isn’t around and goes looking for him, aaaack, and they just miss each other and keep running in circles instead of leaving the building.
And then to make matters even worse, Bok-dong goes running into the building to look for Ah-ran. He finds her first and says excitedly that she doesn’t have to move anymore, but before he can explain, Sang-tae runs up and drags her out.
Ah-ran tells him to run too, and Bok-dong looks around in the chaos and notices something falling from the ceiling. He stoops down to find drywall and looks up to see the ceiling cracking right above him.
He gets knocked down by other students on their way out, and Bok-dong is frozen in place in shock. OH. MY. GOD. Somebody save Bok-dong!
Kang-ja is driving to the school to pick Ah-ran up, when the news of the school’s collapse hits the radio. She pulls over, too stunned to react at first.
As the news sinks in, we fade to the aftermath, which is admittedly a difficult sight: children’s bodies lie limp among the rubble of the school, as rescue workers struggle to dig out the students that they discover. Kang-ja runs through the crowd, screaming desperately for Ah-ran, stopping to check every girl she sees.
She isn’t the only one, either—a crowd of mothers is begging and pleading with police officers for their children to be found, crying that they’ve received texts from their kids still trapped inside. Oof, that hits home.
Kang-ja scrambles through the rubble herself, stopping to help another child, and then breaks down when she finds Ah-ran’s shoe. She clutches it and wails, and gets on her hands and knees to claw furiously at the cement blocks around her.
Dong-chil arrives on the scene as well, and he races through the crowd doing the same thing—blindly looking for Ah-ran. He grabs a list of survivors’ names to look for her, and thank goodness, Ah-ran finds him first.
Tears fall from her eyes as she asks, “Are you looking for me?” Relief washes over him, and she argues, “See, you are my biological father.” He doesn’t answer, and walks away once he knows that she’s okay.
Kang-ja finds her moments later, and mom and daughter cling to each other awash in tears. Kang-ja cries, “Thank you, thank you” over and over, and then someone calls out her name…
And then we cut to a bloody hand… that belongs to Bok-dong, who’s unconscious and still trapped inside. Oh holy hell. NO. I’m not having this.
We cut to three days later, where the news reports tell us that the rescue effort is wrapping up, and there are six dead and eighteen injured. Public outcry against Jung-woo and the foundation makes me feel a little vindicated, though it’s hard to count that as a victory now.
A mass funeral is set up in the school’s auditorium, where among the victims are the bullied boy with glasses and one of Jung-hee’s trio… and Jin-sang, which must be why Kang-ja’s name was called at the scene.
Ah-ran and Kang-ja mourn his loss, and Kang-ja cries that she didn’t even get to thank him: “I have to say thank you. I need to thank you. How can you go like this before I can even say it?”
Noah cries silently as he stands behind her, and Ah-ran holds her mother as she collapses in tears. And? Hello? What about Bok-dongie? An update would help some of us breathe, yunno.
Noah’s attention is caught when Jung-woo enters the funeral, though he can’t really go more than two steps inside before he’s attacked by grieving mothers for letting this happen. Ae-yeon worries that they’re going to take the blame for this, and Jung-woo says he’s working on a way to gain some leverage against Chairman Hong.
Reporters swarm to get an interview with Chairman Hong but just get turned away with the excuse that the chairman is in bad health. Among them is Yi-kyung’s mother (we haven’t seen her since the start of the show, but were told that she was a reporter), and now she looks determined not to let Jung-woo get away with this.
Chairman Hong is holed up in a hospital with Sang-tae under aliases, and Sang-tae is horrified to overhear his father say flippantly that the incident will blow over because “not that many students died.” WTF. Sang-tae storms out of the room as Jung-woo arrives, and we see that Yi-kyung’s mom has sneaked into the ward disguised as a hospital worker.
Jung-woo fights against having to take sole responsibility for the building when they have the perfect scapegoat—Jin-sang—and counters that Chairman Hong made the decision to ignore Jin-sang’s recommendation and then pulled his own son out of school. Well, he got ya there.
Ohthankyou, Bok-dong is at the hospital, though he’s in bad shape—unconscious, and sporting some kind of head injury. Kang-ja runs over to him and tries to get him to wake up, to no avail. Ah-ran says that he ran to tell her that they didn’t have to move anymore, and that’s the last thing he said. Noah assures them that it won’t be the last thing he ever says. You’d better be right, or you’ll have a mutiny on your hands.
Kang-ja sits and holds his hand, and then an orderly arrives with a tray of food. She takes off her cap and mask, and Noah is shocked to recognize Yi-kyung’s mother. She turns to Kang-ja and apologizes for taking so long to get to this point: “But I’m going to be a real reporter now. And a real mom.”
And then she shows them the video recording she got of Jung-woo and Chairman Hong’s conversation minutes earlier. Yessss, it’s so damn incriminating, I love it. She asks if it’s enough to fight them, and Noah thanks her profusely. He asks Kang-ja to fight this with him in court, and Ah-ran encourages Mom to win this time, on Dad’s behalf too. Kang-ja answers resolutely, “Let’s go to court. Let’s fight one more time.” Woohoo!
I’m so glad to see the fight back in Kang-ja. It was tough to spend an entire episode with her so defeated, when we’ve gone through the whole series with her leading the charge without a shadow of a doubt that the fight was necessary, just, and worth risking everything for. I know that it was an important test of strength to take all her allies away, to test the hero’s mettle at rock bottom, if you will—but it was so difficult to see Kang-ja caving to threats and manipulation. Of course it says everything about her character that she feels responsible for all of the blowback that Noah, Gong-joo, and Bok-dong take on because of her, but when she went from being their fearless leader to the insecure mother who felt powerless to do anything but run, it felt like everything would be lost.
The one gratifying result of the retaliation is that Chairman Hong and Jung-woo turned against each other so definitively. In splitting up the good guys, the bad guys splintered their own group from within, and this time no one had to lift a finger and they tore each other apart of their own accord. Okay, so maybe Dong-chil lifted a finger or two, and has somewhat grown a heart in the meantime, at least where Ah-ran is concerned. When he ran through the school’s wreckage to find her, it was actually touching. His character growth, incremental as it is, has been surprisingly satisfying.
As was hubby Jin-sang’s moment of growth, which came at the one time it really counted for something. I didn’t expect for him and Kang-ja to salvage their marriage and work through their problems, but found that I was happy with his turnaround when it came, mostly for her sake. She needed to feel like someone was on her side, and at a time when she thought she was all alone in the world, Jin-sang didn’t give up on their family. And then of course he topped it with actual heroism to try and save the children and his daughter’s life. He had one brave moment in a lifetime of being a coward, but he just might’ve bought Ah-ran a chance to escape with her life. It’s at least important that he stayed because he wanted to protect her, because up until today it wasn’t clear that he ever thought of her as his daughter in a real way.
Once the school building collapsed, it was hard not to see it as an echo of the Sewol Ferry tragedy, even if it was just a tiny fraction of the real-life devastation and loss. It just felt like a purposeful thread to see how children could become the direct victims of mercenary men in power. And in this drama where the greed and corruption extends to the root of the school itself, it’s a perfect illustration of how parents entrust their children to the school to protect them, at least within their walls, to tragic consequences. It’s not a subtle metaphor—those walls actually come tumbling down because the foundation is so rotted to begin with—but pointed and poignant all the same.
And though Ah-ran survived (she had to, otherwise this drama would end with a catatonic mom and no hope to speak of), it was crucial to lose some students and feel the weight of the horrors committed by people who were simply negligent, or greedy, or self-serving in a long string of tiny decisions that accumulated and led to devastating loss. Just… you can’t take Bok-dong, okay? I draw the line at Bok-dongie! He is my line in the sand and if he doesn’t survive, I will never forgive you, Show!