Sassy Go Go: Episode 4
Things are changing in the cheerleading clubroom. Thanks to Instructor Nam’s hilarious and underhanded disciplinary methods, walls start coming down as the groups are forced to mix. We slow down to take a deeper look into our main characters, as the spotlight is thrown on each of them. They’ve all got demons of their own, but the real question is whether they have a friend by their side to help face them.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Instructor Nam laughs at the Baek Ho moms firing her — that ain’t happening, because she quits. But everyone else panics when Education Office reps march into the chaotic scene. He explains that they were tipped off about the school faking specs for their students, and asks what the parents are doing there. Principal Choi scrabbles for an explanation. Eyes lighting on a poster, she blurts that it’s because of the club’s performance in an athletics competition.
Soo-ah’s mom quickly supports the story, and the officer suggests it’d be fun to see it on TV. He introduces the reporter he brought with him, who’s doing a story about spec-generating schools, and wants Sevit to now feature as a model school for doing extra-curriculars right.
Principal Choi scrapes and grovels a bit more for good measure, which (unfortunately for her) results in the officer adamantly promising the Education Minister’s attendance. Haha.
Instructor Nam loudly pushes by. All the moms now hold onto her, fawning, and Principal Choi chortles that the whole firing this is a good joke. Nam takes advantage of her position and says she has one condition.
Principal Choi has another fit of shrieking and throwing things, panting at Nam’s audacity, while poor Teacher Im does his best to duck. It turns out that she asked for the authority to dole out penalty points — which the principal refused until Nam blithely shared that she’ll be off to give that reporter the interview he asked for about the school.
Meanwhile, the Baek Ho moms (don’t) enjoy a group mani-pedi where they try to plumb their connections for a way out. Soo-ah’s mom says one wrong move on their side could mess up every achievement their kids have amassed so far, so it’s best to stick to their word.
Principal Choi fumes at the presence of the reporter at school, speaking to the kids. She instructs Teacher Im to find out who sent the tip-off. She also says they’ll need a teacher to oversee the cheerleading club activities…
Instructor Nam lounges on the windowsill of the Baek Ho room, hooting with laughter at her manhwa. The Baek Ho kids ignore her to study, but the Real King kids watch her with curious disbelief. The period is nearly up, when Yeon-doo finally asks if they’re not going to practice at all. Nam’s just pleased it’s nearly time for her to finish, and gives the groups homework to find out more about each other, before twirling out.
Teacher Yang finds out he’s been appointed to oversee the cheerleading club. Smiling threat, the Principal reminds him that his contract is up for renewal soon. Ugh. Yang immediately asserts that he really likes cheerleading SO MUCH— She cuts him off to say that he’s only looking out for the Baek Ho kids, and he’d better not let Real King mess with them.
Yeon-doo curses and commiserates about Dong-jae being kicked out of basketball, even though he’s the team ace. She’s upset that it happened because of her, and he sweetly reassures her it’s fine and he’s okay.
Walking a short distance behind the pair, Ha-joon asks Yeol if he’s really interested in Yeon-doo. He grins that the more they cross paths, the more she piques his interest. Ha-joon points at them and wonders if it doesn’t then bother him that she’s so chummy with another guy.
In the school building, Hyo-shik and Seung-woo mock-fight with mops, when one smashes through the window. Outside, the four look up at the sound, and the missile heads directly for Yeon-doo. Dong-jae sees the danger, but Yeol shields her first, getting sprayed by a shower of broken glass.
Yeol’s cuts are treated in hospital, and Yeon-doo and Teacher Yang hover worriedly. They’re not serious, though, and Yeol excuses himself for the bathroom. Yeon-doo follows.
Huddled in a corner of his dorm room, sweat beads Dong-jae’s face. He replays the accident, distressed. He can’t get through to her on the phone, either.
Flashback. A little girl shimmies up a climbing frame, where little Dong-jae perches. She clutches his arm and cajoles him to play. Angry at her repeated entreaties, he pushes her away. To his horror, she falls right off. Later, he watches the girl lie unconscious in hospital, tears rolling.
Yeon-doo catches up to Yeol in the hospital lobby, and he asks if she’s cutting school, too. Surprised, she says came to thank him. At that, he’s in her face, grinning ear to ear — she’s so grateful that she wants to repay him, right? Yeon-doo: “I’m grateful, but not that much.”
Cut to: Yeol stuffing his face (and boy is that a spread!) while Yeon-doo sorrowfully parts with her cash, gaping at his expensive taste. He’s not remotely apologetic, and she shakes her head at his ability to turn everything she says into a compliment to himself. But she’s alarmed when Teacher Yang rings. Yeol rejects the call for her — the basics for skipping school, he grins, strolling out.
They explore an indoor market, side by side. Yeon-doo stops at a snack stall and his eyes widen at the array of food. She pouts that she only paid for the food earlier. But looking queasy, he hauls her away. Lol.
They join a crowd watching an ahjumma dance-off, and the MC offers up a stereo to the winners. Yeon-doo immediately volunteers — she needs it for Real King! Yeol winces and tries to take her away again, but she’s already called onto the stage.
Yeol’s mortification slowly turns to enjoyment as he watches her solo dancing, and his cheeky grin creeps back. The MC says there’s something missing and calls on Yeol. He promises to give them the stereo right away if they do a couple-dance.
Now Yeol makes a break for it, but the force of nature that is Yeon-doo drags him up, and the ahjummas cheer. Yeol’s pained bobbing eventually loosens up, and you can see him think, aw, what the heck, as he throws away his blazer and dances with heart, in sync with Yeon-doo.
They catch a late bus, and wha…she won a giant rice-cooker? What mischief is this? Where is the stereo they were promised? Yeol is back to pretending he doesn’t know her and takes the last available seat, smirking. Glaring, she deposits her prize on his lap while she stands. The other passengers give him sidelong looks (at his unchivalry? Or at the rice-cooker?), and he shifts uncomfortably.
She refuses to join him when the seat next to him frees up. She quickly changes her mind however, when he pettishly slides the cooker at her — third prize, apparently. They squabble about who holds it, pushing it back and forth. Oh, you two. Hee.
They fall asleep, Yeon-doo’s head resting on Yeol’s shoulder, her head cushioning his cheek, with the rice cooker between them. Yeol wakes up first, and crinkly-smiles at sleeping Yeon-doo. He gently takes the cooker, and settles back in. Aww you marshmallow!! Being all contrary to bug her and then being sweet when she’s unconscious! I lovehate you!
They’re met at the school gates by Teacher Yang, who admonishes them for cutting without telling him (he could have cut, too!). He briefs them on their story, that they’ve just come back from the hospital. But he’s mystified by the rice cooker in Yeol’s hands.
Dong-jae runs to meet Yeon-doo. Aw, he must have spent all day thinking the worst. She assures him that she’s fine, and proudly shows off her prize. He spots the plaster on her hand, and reaches out. Although he tries, he can’t quite touch her.
Yeon-doo tends to her grazed hand in bed. She hugs the rice cooker, bubbling with giddy laughter at the memory Yeol’s rescue and her day with him, annoying her roommates.
Yeol is no less giddy, and keeps bursting into little giggles. Ha-joon chuckles, too, and looks happy when he says it’s the first time he’s seen Yeol laugh like that.
Instructor Nam moonwalks into the gym the next day, impressing the kids. Dong-jae shows up to join the club, and she welcomes him — a basketball player should be useful. Yeon-doo thinks he’s mad, but he replies that it’s good, since he can be by her side to protect her.
Instructor Nam is disappointed that they still haven’t done their get-to-know-each-other homework. We rejoin her settling in for a relaxing afternoon in the sun while the kids are set to jumping jacks for punishment. She assures anxious Teacher Yang that it’s all voluntary. Out of getting a load of penalty points, or paying with sweat, they insisted on the latter, she says. Yang looks a little impressed despite himself.
The kids finally do their assignment. Each side poses civilized questions to the other, and Da-mi asks Yeol if he’s dating anyone right now. He looks straight at Yeon-doo, face breaking into a cheeky smile as he says there’s someone he wants to kiss.
Dong-jae innocently tells Yeon-doo she should go to the nurse’s office — her face is on fire. She deliberately misunderstands, and Yeol grins to himself.
Instructor Nam demonstrates a move she’ll be teaching them, and instructs them to pair up for practice with the person in front of them. Yeol and Yeon-doo end up partnered (of course), as do Soo-ah and Dong-jae. The group complain loudly, and Nam offers them a choice again: demerits or punishment! That gets them in line fast, clambering onto each other’s shoulders. Dong-jae, though, doesn’t move.
That night, Dong-jae stares at a doll, and pushes himself to touch it. Sweating with effort, he still doesn’t manage.
Next day, Principal Choi comes across CCTV footage of a Baek Ho—Real King hall-fight. She flails about the reporters finding it and orders Teacher Im to delete all incriminating material.
Im goes for a coffee break when he’s done, but the screen he leaves up is the moment where Soo-ah finds the bloody towel from the day of Ha-joon’s injury. Oh good.
At the same time, Yeol and Yeon-doo are dropped off to the staffroom to write a report. While Yeon-doo’s in the bathroom, Yeol wanders around until he reaches Teacher Im’s computer. Recognizing Soo-ah, he plays the video to see her pick up the towel and head inside.
All the pieces fall into place. Devastated and furious, he goes straight for her. She sneers that Ha-joon’s self-harm isn’t much of a secret. Yeol warns her to keep her mouth shut if she doesn’t want to die. She throws the warning back at him: If he messes with her, she’ll tell Ha-joon about this, just to see him go crazy.
As soon as he’s gone, Ha-joon himself appears and it’s clear he’s heard most of it. Teeth gritted, he demands she tell what life-threatening thing it is that he musn’t know. After the fourth time, she scowls that he’ll regret finding out.
Ha-joon sits alone on the rooftop as night falls. In the dorms, Yeol panics as the nightly roll call gets underway and Ha-joon is missing. He quickly texts Teacher Yang asking him to cover for Ha-joon’s absence, and then runs through the school looking for him.
Baek Ho’s lit room raises his hopes, but they’re dashed when it’s Yeon-doo who exits. He desperately asks if she’s seen Ha-joon. Her negative sends him running, struck by a new fear. But when he reaches the rooftop, the door’s locked.
Ha-joon takes a running jump across the roof, but he stops short of going over the edge. He looks down below, cracking with emotion.
Yeon-doo finds a stricken Yeol at the foot of some stairs. Sitting beside him, she tells him Ha-joon will definitely come back, because that “lie” he told her was the truth. Eyes sympathetic, she touches his shoulder and tells him not to stay out too late.
Ha-joon shoulders through the busy morning corridors, face dangerous. Yeol overhears Hyo-shik and Seung-woo talking about him, and finds out he’s headed for the principal’s office. He runs.
Ha-joon bursts into Principal Choi’s office and rampages. The teachers try to hold him back, but it’s Yeol who has any effect on him. He clasps him around the middle, swearing at him to stop. Ha-joon breaks out of his hold, too, and with a last hard look at his friend, storms away. Choi looks dispassionately on, because she’s a lizard.
Yeol chases Ha-joon through the grounds, through a sudden downpour. Ha-joon turns on him and asks why he did that to him, when he already wants to die. “You want to die?” Yeol asks, seizing him by the lapels. “Then die, jerk!” But when Ha-joon replies that he really will, it’s more inevitable fact than threat.
Ha-joon turns his anger on the Baek Ho clubroom, and tells them he’s quitting. But he’s just spoiling for a fight, so when Seung-woo calls him rude, he throws a flying punch at him and the room descends into chaos.
Oh my lols, Instructor Nam hangs about outside the door, ignoring the shouts from within. She stops Teacher Yang from entering — the kids need to work out their aggression, she says. He’s shocked that she’s overlooking it, but that’s not it at all. Fighting in the hallowed halls of school? She’s got it all on film. Hahaha, I love her methods.
Their punishment commences in the pouring rain, and every last one of them is on the ground, rolling in mud. Principal Choi sprays her tea when she spies them from her window, but quickly tells herself she didn’t see anything. I love that Instructor Nam drives her to incoherence.
The drill finishes with the rain, and the soaked kids head inside. Ha-joon and Yeol remain behind. “I was afraid that I would lose you again,” Yeol says without looking up. The method sucks, he agrees, that’s why — and he doesn’t let Ha-joon talk over him — that’s why they should just keep their heads down against the adults, quiet as the dead. It’s a desperate echo of Joon-soo’s words to Real King.
Voice thick with emotion, Ha-joon says that’s why he’s struggling to endure: “Because of you…because of you.”
The kids sit knee-to-knee around a table, slurping ramyun in their muddy clothes, to the amusement of the other students. A quick flashback shows us that this, too, is part of Instructor Nam’s exercise. Yeon-doo’s infectious giggles at the sorry sight of them all have the whole group descending into laughter before long, and for the first time, the walls that divide them seem a little less indomitable. Passing, Teacher Yang is surprised at the sight of their apparent camaraderie.
Yeol and Ha-joon head into the shower, and mischievous Yeol is back, spraying Ha-joon before he gets a chance to undress. An adorable waterfight ensues, and the boys are all smiles as their world is right again.
The next morning finds the two boys paying Principal Choi a visit. Yeol kneels in apology for yesterday’s incident, and Ha-joon reluctantly follows suit, head lowered. They ask for forgiveness, and Choi’s smug satisfaction makes me want to punch her. In acknowledgement, she submits that bringing it up with his father all of a sudden wouldn’t be helpful. I’m not sure if it’s a threat when she says she’ll give thought to when a good time might be.
At Yeon-doo’s mom’s cafe (hello, favorite song!), Yeol’s dad keeps taking dirty dishes from her. She sits him down and tells him to spit it out, whatever it is. He hedges for a second, then sets a box in front of her, open to reveal a ring. He tells her to have it, and have him, too. The proposal takes her by surprise, and she thanks him, but says she can’t accept it. Weird scene.
Instructor Nam shows the kids a map to her house. It’s entirely up to them whether they come, but she offers them her customary choice of penalty points or punishment if not. They groan.
They arrive that evening to a huge party spread left for them, and tuck in with excitement. Even Soo-ah is in a good mood. Da-mi runs to the fridge for a drink, and the kids chorus for juice. The unmarked bottle she brings is giving me strong “black currant cordial” vibes (à la Anne of Green Gables).
Oh yeah. Hyo-shik knows right away, and innocent Da-mi pours everyone “grape juice.” Yeol and Ha-joon take sips and exchange grins. By silent consensus, they all enjoy what must be Instructor Nam’s homemade wine. Hyo-shik raids the fridge for the rest of it, and eventually, Dong-jae is the only one to remain sober.
Soo-ah stops Ha-joon on his way upstairs. A sad drunk, she asks why they’re all out to get her. She cries out that she’ll kill them all, and repeats the words in a litany. He crouches by her and delivers a light poke to her forehead. She cries in earnest, asking why they all blame her when she’s struggling so hard, too. “It’s like my head is eating up my heart,” she sobs, clutching her heart, “It really feels like I’m dying.”
Ha-joon doesn’t say a word, but there’s understanding in his eyes. Tossing a handkerchief at her, he goes on his way. She clutches it and continues to cry.
Yeol finds Yeon-doo sitting on the veranda. Eyes closed and smiling, she tells him she’s glad his friend came back; he’d been so worried. The drink-fuelled dizziness makes her lay her head on the table. Giggling, she invites him to do the same, and they’re eye to eye, inches apart. She lights up, recognizing the situation. “One! I get up! Right?” she asks, and they both sit up.
Smiling, Yeol offers an alternative, “One: I do it.” He slips a hand around her neck and leans in to kiss her.
But they don’t actually kiss, because this show is as much a tease as Yeol, ha! But isn’t this great? The development of their relationship is fast, but in every way believable. They sync to each other so quickly, and not just in their motions. I loved, this week, seeing her really get him on an emotional level. They both see each other at their most vulnerable — this time, she sees him cry. Their emergent friendship makes no demands, and it’s sweet to see how Yeon-doo offers Yeol support, but doesn’t take up his space. The equality and mirroring in their relationship is so gratifying, and Yeol’s readiness to flirt at a moment’s notice is hilarious. He’s like a boy scout — always prepared! There’s just so much adorable, I love it. I love that it’s fluffy and light-hearted but at the same time, not lightweight, despite its exaggerated characters and unlikely situations. Like some of you noted last week, its bright exterior veils a darker center, and I think this is one of the show’s great strengths (leads’ chemistry notwithstanding!), because it keeps it anchored to its emotional heart.
I didn’t care enough last week to waste words on Soo-ah, but she’s turning out to be much more complex and divided than your average cardboard-cutout overachieving backstabber. But it’s also a little bit scary to think about what it’s like in her head: Every time I think we’ll finally see a glimmer of human sympathy in her, it doesn’t happen. In her face-offs with both Yeol and Ha-joon earlier in the episode, I realized I was unconsciously looking for signs of empathy. You can see her trying to understand the boys’ relationship, but she doesn’t get anywhere — the language of their mutual friendship is entirely beyond her comprehension.
It’s a fascinating and disturbing kind of deficit; she’s no psychopath. Heartsick inside, her feelings are pushed so far down that she appears devoid of emotion. Every time she warns people not to mess with her (surprisingly often), it now sounds to me like she’s saying it out of desperation rather than threat. But when she’s pushed past her limit, she lashes out like a wounded animal, and blames everyone but herself. Trapped in the emotional state of a child and saddled with the intellect of an adult, she has no resources for managing those emotions.
She and Ha-joon are both products of abuse, but they’re opposites. Beaten and used, Ha-joon, too, doesn’t know how to deal with his feelings, but the difference is that he has a friend. It’s clear that he sees enough of himself in her to feel for her in that moment — so pitiful despite her hatefulness. And her hatefulness is really a problem, because that’s why she has no real friends. As we see with Ha-joon, it’s that One Friend who makes all the difference — even between living and dying.
At the same time, it’s hard to blame her entirely for being as she was made, given the intense depersonalization she suffers at the hands of her overbearing mom. She’s driven so hard that she’s even deprived of a normal, healthy emotional development. However, though stunted and damaged, she still struggles to do emotions, heart against head. But with no other point of reference, she can only experience other people’s actions through the filter of her own. I was surprised she didn’t use Ha-joon against Yeol longer — that was her best weapon in undoing him and gaining his number one spot. It’s more proof, really, of the child-like state she’s locked in, that she can’t calculate such a plan for the long term.
I love the way this show constructs all these characters in careful counterpoint to each other. The Soo-ah/Ha-joon encounter is one, but the Soo-ah/Dong-jae pairing is also deliberate, and these characters are all mirrors of each other in some way. Dong-jae is boiling towards a crisis — that’s the second time he’s failed to help when it mattered, and it’s definitely hurting him. I’m glad we got to see where it came from, but I’m not sure I find it more compelling than the result. It’s a shame we cut away from the cheerleading practice before we got to see how things went down. And did you guys notice how Yeol takes the Real King side of the room at the very beginning of the episode? Definitely not accidental. We already saw him not quite fitting into Baek Ho, but again, it’s so gratifying to go one step further and see him identify with the Real King kids. It’s as good as declaring outsider status.
It’s hard watching Yeol and Ha-joon try to navigate their friendship around the desperate brokenness of Ha-joon’s life, and his self-hate at being used as leverage against his friend. Yeol’s anguished helplessness is what drives him to endure, in recognition of their powerlessness as kids. His answer is to amass what weapons they can in the form of specs, for the bigger and better freedoms they must grant. I don’t know if it’s a false hope, but it sustains him. (Sidenote: Look at how that nasty principal lights up at the boys’ necessary submission. She seems to thrive on dominance and coercion. Ugh.)
We haven’t had any cheerleading yet, but I really like how the show is taking the time to lay the groundwork of bringing these two very disparate groups together in a way that feels so true to life. Last week, it was about earning their commitment (by any means necessary), but this week, it was all about practical teamwork and breaking down walls. So next week, we should finally be ready to go! (Go go!)