Twenty Again: Episode 2
I really love Lee Sang-yoon and Choi Ji-woo’s brand of petty bickering in this. It’s an entire drama about adults who don’t know how to act like adults, but because all of the characters are like this, it evens the playing field. Everyone is a little bit hapless but really endearing, none more than Choi Ji-woo, who’s so cute that you totally don’t think it’s weird that someone would be hung up on her for twenty years. Of course, there are probably more mature ways to get a girl’s attention after all that time spent pining, but what would be the fun in that?
SONG OF THE DAY
Standing Egg – “She Is Back” [ Download ]
EPISODE 2 RECAP
It’s a rough first day at school for college freshman Nora, who gets called ajumoni and told to leave the class by her theater professor. That professor also happens to be her high school classmate Hyun-seok, who seems to be enjoying this a little too much.
Nora finally ekes out an answer that she’s a student here, so then he tells her to get up and introduce herself to the class. With that, Hyun-seok moves on to describing his course, which he basically says is difficult but worth it because they get to hang out with a famous director like him.
The students all clap, thoroughly impressed, while Nora flashes back to high school. (Yes! Please be dorky… please be dorky…)
By then, Nora is best friends with Ballet Bitch Yoon-young, and they practice together outside the school. An awkward boy with glasses comes out from behind a tree and scares the girls. It’s Hyun-seok, and he quickly tries to explain that he’s not a weirdo.
Yoon-young says that everyone knows he’s whack job, and scoffs when he compliments their dance. She says they’re practicing two separate routines (she’s ballet and Nora is modern), but Hyun-seok says it looked like one dance to him, and shares the song he was listening to on his Walkman. It’s Kim Gun-mo’s “Bad Meeting,” which we saw the whole troupe dancing to in a previous flashback.
He trips in fear when Yoon-young raises a fist at him and turns around to go, all slumped shoulders and bruised ego. Nora can barely hide her laugh, but she calls out to him (reading his nametag) and asks to hear that song again. He breaks into a grin and plays it for her. Aw.
Back in the present, Hyun-seok tells the class that any story needs a twist to make it interesting, and announces that there will be four group projects this term. One student raises his hand to complain, and Hyun-seok shocks him by replying with his name, NA SOON-NAM. The guy next to Soon-nam says that Hyun-seok is famous for memorizing his students’ names, no matter how many there are.
Hyun-seok expects that many of them will be dropping the course, so groups will be assigned next time. He gives Nora a pointed look and walks out with a satisfied grin. Nora hangs her head quietly, but then darts up to go after him, shouting, “Hey, Cha Hyun-seok!”
She speaks comfortably to him in banmal now, and asks why he was so mean to her in class when he knew who she was all along. He points out that she IS an ajumma, so there’s nothing wrong with calling her one, and reminds her that she has plenty of time to drop his class.
She calls out to him again when he starts to walk away, and he shouts back at her to call him Professor from now on. He doesn’t think they’ll ever see each other again, but insists that she address him respectfully.
His assistant Sang-ye overhears their conversation and runs up to Hyun-seok, and his attitude is totally different with her—he’s nice, even. She reminds him that he has an appointment tonight, and he agrees that if he’s being given support for a big project like this, he should show his gratitude. Nora watches and notes huffily that his smile is still the same.
Nora runs over to Yoon-young’s dance studio to ask if she’s ever run into Hyun-seok at any of the high school reunions over the years, but she hasn’t. Yoon-young is about to say something about Grandma, but then decides against it. She gapes to hear what he did to embarrass Nora on her first day, and calls him crazy.
Yoon-young assumes that the massive success went to his head. Nora wonders if she ever wronged Hyun-seok back in the day, but Yoon-young says there wasn’t time for that—they were all together for such a short time before Nora vanished like the wind.
Nora doesn’t see how such a nice kid got so mean, while Yoon-young tells her to worry about herself. She gives her a spare phone to use and makes sure that she’s made an appointment to go to the hospital, and asks what her plan is to postpone her divorce. Nora doesn’t have an answer for that.
Hyun-seok goes to the board dinner for his new trauma healing theater project, where he’s introduced to the psychology professor he’ll be working with. Of course it’s Nora’s husband Woo-chul, whose research is in trauma patients with PTSD.
Woo-chul’s name seems to ring a bell, and Hyun-seok looks over the project proposal again. He remembers hearing from his friend who runs Grandma’s ddukbokki place that Nora’s husband was a psychology professor at Youngju University.
He flashes back to 1995, to moments after he’s just found out that Nora disappeared—that she got pregnant, married, and ran off to Germany with her new husband. Hyun-seok is beside himself and asks Yoon-young how something like this could happen, and whether Nora had a boyfriend all this time.
Yoon-young says no, Woo-chul oppa wasn’t her boyfriend, and she’s just as shocked by Nora’s sudden decision to get married and go abroad. Hyun-seok is clearly heartbroken. He gets no other explanation, and only has that one name to latch onto: Kim Woo-chul.
And there’s Kim Woo-chul sitting right across the table from him now. Hyun-seok glares lasers at him, while the board members heap on the praise for Woo-chul’s work and talk about how fortunate it is that a spot opened up on their faculty because of the bribery incident. So that clears that up—he’s at Woocheon University now, but no one in his family knows about it yet. And their colleague KIM YI-JIN (Park Hyo-joo) seems especially keen to have Woo-chul on their faculty.
Hyun-seok gets up abruptly when dinner is ordered, making an empty excuse about another appointment. Yi-jin tries to get him to stay, but Hyun-seok says curtly that he simply came to make introductions, and walks out. He stomps out muttering, “Crazy. Did you follow your husband to college? He doesn’t even seem that impressive!”
Nora returns to an empty house and stares at her reflection in the window, remembering her embarrassment in class, and decides that Hyun-seok is a jerk.
Husband Woo-chul stops to give professor Yi-jin a ride… and she sidles up to him with a smile to say that he did a good job today. Oh, are they together? It doesn’t seem like a new relationship, but I guess he is divorced in practice?
Nora tries to open up Woo-chul’s computer to look up some of her textbooks, but can’t get past the login screen. He jumps out of his skin when he comes home and finds her in his office, and asks to discuss their divorce papers.
She knows the deadline is here to file them, but asks for three months to prepare herself for a new life. He argues that she’s the one who frittered away time studying to get into college instead, and doesn’t see why he should give her more time.
Nora says that she knows he can sue her, which he told her. And that he’d win, which he also told her. Nora: “But I know that would also take three months. You didn’t have to tell me that. I saw it on TV.” Hahahaha. She says all of this in the same calm, adorable tone, which just makes it funnier.
She cries alone in the bathroom, since to her, three months later is when she’ll tell her family that she’s dying of cancer. Woo-chul tries to get her to come out so they can talk about it, but she only comes out when son Min-soo comes home, then goes right back into the bathroom to cry some more.
The next day, Nora loses her phone again, this time on the subway. She offers to hold a big basket of flowers for a girl, and flower girl finds her phone after Nora’s already gotten off the train.
Woo-chul rides his bike to campus and sees Nora digging through her bag on the corner, looking for her phone. He watches curiously as Woo-chul drives right by her, and finds it odd that neither of them acknowledges the other.
She turns around and does see Hyun-seok across the street, and he’s too far away to hear her words, but can tell that she’s visibly scoffing at him in contempt. He scoffs right back, and it mirrors a face-off they had in high school.
Hyun-seok wonders why she didn’t come to school with her husband, and guesses they’re into student-teacher role-playing. Pfft. And then he wonders if it’s another “secret mission like that time with Grandma.”
Meanwhile, Nora stares from across the street and decides, “He must be crazy. He’s not a genius, he’s crazy!” He wonders what she’s saying, and right at that moment, she calls him a wacko, and he can read her lips clear as day.
It’s what the kids used to call him back in high school, and he gets so worked up that he races past her on his bike and flips her cap off. LOL. You are so. Freaking. Petty. She shouts that he’s crazy, and he rides off with a huge grin on his face.
Nora is surprised when the flower girl from the subway enters her literature class and returns her phone before sitting down. The professor gives them a long reading list and warns them not to give any excuses about not being able to get the books, so Nora maps out her course to the library.
As soon as class ends, she makes a mad dash for the library, zipping through students and taking flying leaps over motorcyclists, like a comic book hero on a mission. Hyun-seok is amused to see her running by.
The speed pays off when Nora manages to find all the books she needs. But when she gets to the counter to check them out, the librarian tells her they’ve all been reserved. Flower girl Park Seung-hyun walks right up and claims the books, since she put them all on hold through her library app.
It’s a whole new world to Nora, who has to go to the student center to ask how you get apps and whether or not you can let your group project partners meet without you. The clerk there waves her off to go ask the aliens, which just confuses her more. So then she’s forced to stop random students to ask for their help, and she happens to ask her son’s girlfriend Hye-mi. They don’t know each other, and Hye-mi just makes an excuse and rushes off, not wanting to bother.
Another student is a little shocked that she’s a peer but kindly calls her “hoobae-nim,” and tells her about the aliens, which is a site for their university’s students. She still can’t find the site itself, and ends up asking Hye-mi and her friends where to log in.
Hye-mi looks put out by the request, and her friend ends up telling Nora where to find the site. Nora rattles off other questions, about group projects and where to find readings, and Hye-mi happily answers a call from Min-soo as an excuse to get up. Her friends scurry away too, and the other tables empty out immediately, as if sensing that she’ll come ask them next.
Hye-mi brings Min-soo a lunch that she packed herself, and he eats it happily even though it clearly tastes bad. They’re cute together, though she’s clearly always wanting more time together. He’s very strict about his study schedule and she pouts about having to go to a movie alone, but she’s back to smiling when he walks her to class.
It happens to be a class she shares with Nora, who just misses seeing the couple holding hands outside the door. Professor Yi-jin walks in and introduces this class, which is about marriage and family, and understanding your partner. She singles out Nora and asks if she’s married, and Nora shyly answers that she’d rather not talk about her personal life.
Yi-jin says that the class is capped at ten men and ten women because they’ll be paired off, and tells the women to put their heads down while the guys are asked to hand over a personal item. Hye-mi makes sure to keep her eyes open to get the best partner.
Everyone chooses, then the guys turn around to meet their partners, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief to see that they’re not paired with the ajumma. All except Soon-nam, the kid from Nora’s theater class.
Hyun-seok happens to see Nora chase after Soon-nam in the halls, and stops when he hears her apologizing. Nora says she’s sorry because she didn’t know it would be this kind of class, and Soon-nam coldly tells her she has time to drop it.
Nora says she plans to stick with it anyway, and Soon-nam counters, “Do you have anything left to learn from this class, ajumma?” Ouuuuch. He says that this conversation will count as their homework assignment being done and walks off, leaving her alone and fighting tears.
Hyun-seok sighs and wonders why she’d take a class like that and face more embarrassment, but then he seeks Yi-jin out on campus. Yi-jin complains about the “old maid” in her class, and Hyun-seok is curious to hear that Nora didn’t say she was married.
He listens to Yi-jin complain, then points out that the class isn’t meant for matchmaking—why should it matter if someone is older, single, or married, when everyone spends a lifetime making mistakes in personal relationships? Aw, I like you so much better when you’re defending her.
He’s so consumed with thoughts of Nora that he misses calls from his assistant Sang-ye about a meeting with a television producer. Sang-ye says it’s so unlike him not to just ask Nora the things he’s curious about—he’s someone who can’t stand not knowing something, and she doesn’t understand what’s so different about Nora.
So then he finally goes and asks all the questions that are driving him crazy: Why is she going to college, when she’s being ridiculed by the students and by him, and made an outcast? Why didn’t she say anything about her husband being a professor? Why aren’t they coming to school together in the morning? “And why didn’t you tell your husband about me ridiculing you in class?”
Cut to: an empty sidewalk. Hyun-seok: “Right? Right? RIGHT? Why didn’t I ask her these things? Why can’t I ask her?” Because you’re a big spaz? Of course Woo-chul picks that moment to call and ask him to lunch the next day.
Hye-mi storms out of the movie theater, and Min-soo chases after her to ask what was so wrong about him dozing off for a few minutes. He argues that he skipped a tutoring session to come to the movie because she wanted him to, but totally misses the point that she doesn’t care about the movie.
She cries that they barely see each other as it is, but on the one rare date they could manage, he fell asleep because he finds her so boring. He finally understands and grabs her in a hug, and she cries as if her world is crumbling, which is kind of adorable.
Woo-chul tells his girlfriend Yi-jin that his wife asked for three more months until they finalize the divorce, and Yi-jin says she can wait. She does worry that in three months the wife will ask for even more time, and suggests that Woo-chul get her to sign a contract.
He finds Nora passed out in bed by the time he gets home, and becomes curious about what she’s up to lately. He reaches into her bag and almost pulls out a syllabus, but thinks better of it at the last second.
Nora has taken to covering herself up head to toe, with hat, sunglasses, and trench coat. She contemplates dropping out of school, then comes upon a row of student organizations welcoming freshman members. We see Soon-nam tell his hoobaes in his dance club to do well before walking off.
Nora puts her head down and tries to walk past unnoticed, but one of the dancers comes out and takes her by the hand as an invitation to dance. She resists at first, but it’s that old Kim Gun-mo song and the steps are easy, so she timidly starts to join in.
She starts to get into it and busts out some of her old moves, and the crowd cheers. Some of them even record the performance on their phones. She remembers herself and makes a quick escape, though the smile on her face is undeniable. And she’s still smiling when she gets to class. Ugh, why does that tug at my heartstrings so?
Hye-mi sits down and sees Nora at the desk next to her, and quickly moves over a row to avoid her.
Hyun-seok sits down to lunch with Woo-chul, and coldly rebuffs all of Woo-chul’s overtures to help him with his project. Woo-chul thinks it obvious that he’d want a psychologist to consult on a play that aims to actually heal people’s traumas, but Hyun-seok repeatedly shuts him down and gets the last word.
He’s confused all over again when he steps outside and sees Nora eating a sad triangle kimbap on a bench, and asks why a professor’s wife isn’t eating in the faculty cafeteria, choosing to sit on the smelly bench where drunk students sometimes pee. She just continues eating and notes that that explains the funny smell.
She tells him to mind his own beeswax and carry on, which of course just makes him even more curious and even more stubborn about it. So she shovels the rest in her mouth and waves him off, but then turns the corner and sees her husband coming out.
She gasps and runs back to hide on the bench, which thoroughly confuses Hyun-seok. He looks back and forth between husband and wife, wondering how to make sense of this, but she ignores his questions about hiding from her husband.
He asks if she didn’t follow her husband to this school, and that gets her attention. She doesn’t seem to know what he means, and when she starts to walk away, he pulls her close to stop her. He stares intently into her eyes, as if trying to figure her out right then and there, but she averts his gaze and pulls away. Hyun-seok is left standing there in a daze, wondering, “What is it? What is it? What is it?”
Nora calls the psychology department at Woo-chul’s last school, and they tell her that he’s now at Woocheon. She now has a new problem, as she remembers her psychology class taught by Kim Woo-chul, which she had assumed was another person with the same name.
She runs to the computer lab to ask if anyone wants to trade psych classes, and one student is eager to get into Woo-chul’s class. The problem is, he doesn’t have the other class that she wants to trade for, but he and his friend are assy enough to set up the trade knowing that she’ll be left without a class.
She drops Woo-chul’s class and decides to drop Hyun-seok’s class too, then waits and waits, and totally gets screwed in the deal. Hyun-seok’s assistant Sang-ye happens to witness it, and tells Nora that it’s important to do trade like that face to face. Sang-ye tells Hyun-seok about it later, and he suddenly seems to care when she says it was the ajumma.
Woo-chul yelps in fear when he comes home to Nora standing in their entryway in the dark, like a creepy robot. She asks why he didn’t tell her about moving schools, and lies that she heard through Yoon-young.
He says that they’re technically divorced, so he doesn’t see why he’d tell her anything. They’re strangers now, and have nothing to do with each other. She takes that in with a pained expression, but agrees: “You’re right… but I think it’s a little bit petty.” He flips out at that, but she says calmly that it was just rude of him not to tell her, and that he was the one who said everyone has a right to an opinion. In her opinion, he’s being petty.
The next day, Woo-chul teaches his first class, and Hyun-seok looks out over the campus as he ponders Sang-ye’s questions about why he doesn’t just ask Nora the things he’s curious about. He sees her sitting alone on a bench in the distance.
Nora grows angrier and angrier the more she thinks about Woo-chul’s answer that they’re strangers now. She takes out a photo of Grandma and says she’s really sad right now and misses her a lot. She cries as she tells Grandma to wait just a little longer, and they’ll be together again.
Hyun-seok walks up and sees her crying. He jumps straight to the point and asks if she wants to take the other psych class that she needs, and he offers to get her into the class. She wipes her tears and asks if he really can, and he says he will, if she just answers one question: “Why did you hide from your husband?”
He supposes that she hid because her husband doesn’t know she’s going to college, so his question is really why is she secretly going to college without telling her husband. She doesn’t see why that’s the trade, and asks why he can’t just get her into the class because they’re old friends.
Hyun-seok refuses, and his only answer for why is, “Because I don’t want to.”
She calls it quits and starts to walk away, which of course just makes him exponentially more curious as to why she won’t answer the simple question.
He grabs her again and demands an answer, and this time she lashes out with Woo-chul’s words: “What are you that you’re asking me that, you jerk? Why do I have to answer? What are you to me?”
She pounds his chest and finally lets out some of her anger, even if misdirected: “What did I do that was so wrong? Cha Hyun-seok, why are you being such an ass?!” He crosses his arms and actually echoes her question, wondering why he’s so fixated on her. Ooh, I know!
But he persists in wanting to know, and offers one last counter, “Shall I ask your husband?”
I don’t even find Hyun-seok infuriating because he’s so bad at getting what he wants. It cracks me up that he can’t just ask the things he wants to know (because his pride couldn’t take the blow, I gather), and concocts elaborate deals just to get her to answer one simple question. It’s hilariously ineffectual, and just makes Nora more stubborn about not telling him what he’s dying to know. I really like that the curiosity drives him crazy, because that’s part of why he suffered when she disappeared—he was left to wonder about her with no definitive answers.
What I like most about Hyun-seok’s characterization is that he’s always got a melodrama playing in his head (which fits with his artistic side), even though in practice, he’s really kind of a big dork who overthinks every move and usually says the wrong thing. We don’t know yet how Nora felt about him as a teenager, but it seems likely that she didn’t give him much thought, and that his dramatic first love was nothing more than a high school friendship to her. And even though his assumptions about Nora in the present are totally convoluted and wrong, I don’t blame him for wanting to appear completely aloof and over her, to the point of excess. (Okay, public classroom mockery was not okay, but I think he knows that.) It’s obvious that he’s still obsessed with her, but it’s nice to see it coming out in softer ways, like when he shows concern despite himself, or comes to her defense with Yi-jin.
I know that Nora has to experience some harsh things in order for her growth to really mean something, whether it’s with her family, with Hyun-seok, or her classmates. But it’s been a rough first week for her, and I was ready to hit the next person who made her feel like an outcast. People were so mean to her that I got all verklempt when she fit in with the dance students for half a minute there, and got to experience the joy of doing what she loves so much. I was glad to get a glimpse of that hopefulness and excitement, because I think I needed that to keep my hope alive that her college experience would actually make her happy.
Despite the fact that I don’t think real students and faculty would so outwardly belittle an ajumma for going to school, I do like all the relatable fish-out-of-water conflicts for Nora. You don’t have to be twenty years older than your classmates to feel like you’re the only one who doesn’t know how to do things, to wonder when everyone else was given secret tips for how to get ahead when you’re always rushing to catch up. I really felt her pain when she had to stop random classmates for help, or when Soon-nam was so clearly disappointed to have her as a partner. They’re so going to become best friends and dance partners, right? That’s going to be so cute. I can’t wait to see Nora come out of her shell and be proud of who she is, and earn the respect of her peers for wanting to learn and grow as an adult. And I can’t wait to see Hyun-seok bring out the real Nora—the one who talks back and refuses to back down in an argument, and doesn’t silently endure all things. I really like her when she’s fighting with Hyun-seok, which bodes really well for the romance to come.
- Twenty Again: Episode 1
- First love trauma gets reawakened in Twenty Again
- First love and husband reunions in Twenty Again
- Frowns and frolicking for Twenty Again
- Laughter and dimples at Twenty Again’s script read
- Choi Ji-woo goes back to school for Twenty Again
- Choi Won-young to play Choi Ji-woo’s husband in Twenty Again
- Twenty Again casts Choi Ji-woo’s son and classmate
- Lee Sang-yoon courted for tvN rom-com Twenty Again
- Choi Ji-woo turns Twenty Again for tvN rom-com