A Moment at Eighteen: Episode 1
It’s time to meet the young cast of A Moment at Eighteen. The many new faces suit this story of high school life, a study of young people on the brink of adulthood — but not necessarily ready for everything that’s expected of them.
A transfer student upsets the balance at his new high school, pitting him against the “perfect” class president. Our transfer student doesn’t think of himself as anything special, but he seems to have a knack for reading people and he’s able to see beyond the class president’s ideal image. What he discovers is anything but perfect and it places the new student in a vulnerable position. Since he’s new, our student has no allies, but there’s a smart and popular girl who’s noticed him and it just may make all the difference in his world.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
A teenaged boy, CHOI JOON-WOO (Ong Sung-woo), rides to his new neighborhood in a moving truck and narrates that time has moved so fast and now he’s eighteen.
In the morning, Joon-woo gets a closer look at the neighborhood when he bikes to school. YOON SONG-HEE (Kim Sun-young) is driving her daughter, YOO SOO-BIN (Kim Hyang-gi), to school and she almost hits him. When Joon-woo hops off of his bike, Soo-bin urges her mother to check on him. Mom decides that Joon-woo looks fine and drives away, leaving Soo-bin unsettled. It turns out that Joon-woo is fine, he just stopped to check on a stray cat.
Soo-bin gets dropped off at the school gate and is soon joined by her friends. They immediately notice the new backpack that Soo-bin’s mother picked up on a recent business trip and tease that it must be a knockoff.
Soo-bin recognizes Joon-woo when he wheels by and she follows him to the bike rack where she yells out, “You in the checkered shirt. Are you all right?” Soo-bin explains that her mother almost hit him and after Joon-woo successfully passes her assessment, she tells him her name and asks him to find her if there are any issues.
Soo-bin’s friends can’t believe that Soo-bin gave her name to a stranger so she explains that her mother almost ran him down. Soo-bin and her friend, Da-hwin, look back at Joon-woo as he locks up his bike, repeating Soo-bin’s name.
Joon-woo finds the school office and is directed to OH HAN-GYEOL (Kang Ki-young), who gets caught coming in late. As Joon-woo’s home room teacher, Mr. Oh reviews his file and learns that Joon-woo was forced to transfer. When Joon-woo admits it out loud, Mr. Oh quiets him and warns, “You should never talk about that openly.”
Mr. Oh is in the middle of explaining where Joon-woo can get a school uniform when he gets distracted by a text informing him that he won a chance to buy a coveted pair of sneakers. So when class president MA HWI-YOUNG (Shin Seung-ho) walks in, Mr. Oh enlists him to help Joon-woo.
Hwi-young introduces himself and soon, Joon-woo is outfitted in a used uniform. Hwi-young hands him a nicer pair of pants and Joon-woo protests, “I’m fine with anything,” but Hwi-young argues that he shouldn’t have that attitude. Hwi-young is scratching at his arm when Mr. Oh texts, asking him to handle Joon-woo’s introduction to the class.
As they walk to class, Hwi-young tenses when he gets a reminder on his phone to memorize fifty English words. He shakes off the interruption and explains what Joon-woo needs to know about the school, including the student assessment groups, but when Joon-woo looks overwhelmed, Hwi-young offers, “If you have any questions, ask me anytime.”
In the classroom, the students entertain themselves while waiting for Mr. Oh. Hwi-young enters and once everyone is seated, Joon-woo walks in to introduce himself, “I’m Choi Joon-woo.” When he has nothing more to say, Hwi-young explains that he transferred because of his parents but Joon-woo immediately denies it.
Before Joon-woo can explain, Hwi-young cuts him off, “He’s new here. We should all help him out.” From the back, Yoo Pil-sang points to the empty seat next to him but Hwi-young sends tardy arrival, JUNG OH-JE (Moon Bin), to sit there. Soo-bin expects Joon-woo to recognize her when he walks by but he doesn’t even see her. Once Joon-woo is seated, Soo-bin makes eye contact but he quickly looks away.
Mr. Oh walks in and while he jokes around with the class, the student next to Joon-woo introduces himself, “I’m Lee Ki-tae.” Later, Ki-tae helps Joon-woo with his locker while Hwi-young mentions that Joon-woo got a good seat thanks to him. Joon-woo answers, “You didn’t have to do that,” and then reminds Hwi-young that he lied about his parents.
Hwi-young shrugs that he was just trying to help and when Joon-woo insists, “That doesn’t mean it’s okay to lie,” Ki-tae comes to his defense, “Our class president was just being thoughtful as always.” The tense exchange ends when Soo-bin arrives at her locker and calls out, “Hey, checkered shirt.”
Surprised that Soo-bin knows Joon-woo, Hwi-young explains that she’s the study leader and Ki-tae adds that she’s also Hwi-young’s girlfriend. Soo-bin laughs that they’re just friends and Hwi-young clarifies that they’ve known each other since kindergarten. When Ki-tae reminds Hwi-young that Joon-woo needs to join an assessment group, Soo-bin surprises everybody when she offers, “He can join my group.”
Joon-woo has a meeting with Mr. Oh, the vice-principal and the coach to discuss his transfer. The vice-principal cuts off Joon-woo to warn that if there’s any more trouble, he may be asked to drop out. Joon-woo wants to know, “Can’t I do that right now?”
After the meeting, Mr. Oh mistakenly calls Joon-woo “Tae-ho” thanks to the tag on his used uniform. He warns Joon-woo to keep quiet about the transfer and suggests, “Why don’t you make a fresh new start? Forget all your past.”
While Soo-bin and her friends hang out after school, Da-hwin searches the internet for information on Joon-woo. It’s Chan-yeol who discovers that Joon-woo was forced to transfer due to assault and theft.
The girls are panicked because Joon-woo is in their group but Soo-bin reasons, “It’s not like he’s a gangster or a criminal.” Chan-yeol finds a photo of Joon-woo’s bike, taken near a spray painted happy face, and Soo-bin confirms that it’s his.
Joon-woo parks his bike outside a convenience store and inquires about a part-time job. The clerk asks, “What are you good at?” While Joon-woo thinks of an answer, he notices a customer stuffing items into his jacket.
The clerk shrieks and the thief runs away with Joon-woo in pursuit. Joo-woo picks up the stolen items that fall out of the thief’s jacket and he doesn’t give up until he’s recovered everything that was taken.
Back at the convenience store, the clerk hands Joon-woo a basket so he can return everything to the shelves and he asks, “…does that mean I can work here?” She hands Joon-woo a vest that already has a name tag and tells him, “Park Yeong-bae. I have a little errand for you.”
Hwi-young’s math tutor reviews some basic concepts for Hwi-young, who can’t understand why he missed a problem. The tutor sits down to help him and exclaims, “I thought you’d be good at this.”
Classmate Cho Sang-hoon complains that he’s hungry and Hwi-young assures him that his mother is sending snacks. Sang-hoon notices Hwi-young’s paper and warns, “If you keep this up, I’ll come in first place.”
Sang-hoon wanders over to the tutor’s desk and waves around his watch before moving on to the chalkboard where he easily solves a problem. Hwi-young seethes when the tutor claims that Sang-hoon would be the perfect student if only he’d quit smoking. Everyone steps outside for a short break but Hwi-young stays behind, scratching at his arm, before standing up.
Joon-woo arrives with the snacks for Hwi-young’s group and the tutor asks him to take the recycling on his way out. The room is empty when Joon-woo drops off the snacks and grabs the recycling.
Hwi-young runs into Joon-woo and stares at the bag. Joon-woo explains that he was asked to take it out but Hwi-young exclaims, “Gosh, how could he make you do that?” Hwi-young reaches for the bag but lets go when Sang-hoon returns.
As he walks down some stairs, Joon-woo realizes that the bag has a hole. While he ties it closed, Joon-woo sees a watch mixed in with the recycling. That’s when Hwi-young finds him and explains, “I think I threw something away by mistake.” Hwi-young turns his back while he searches the bag and when he hands it back to Joon-woo, the watch is gone.
Later, Joon-woo sorts the recyclables at the convenience store and puzzles over the watch, his thoughts interrupted by the arrival of the night clerk.
When Hwi-young gets home, his mother is on the phone with Soo-bin’s mother so he heads up to his room. Hwi-young drops onto his couch and scratches at his arm, still upset over the tutor’s comments.
Soo-bin hears the end of her mother’s phone call and asks what Hwi-young’s mother wanted. It’s Soo-bin’s mother who wants something — she wants Soo-bin to join Hwi-young’s math class at the academy.
Soo-bin refuses but Mom reminds her daughter that Hwi-young is the top student while she’s ranked 28th. Soo-bin shuts her bedroom door to escape her mother’s nagging and checks her phone. Da-hwin texted that she sent in her work and asks what Joon-woo was assigned to do.
Soo-bin thinks of the reason for Joon-woo’s transfer and tells herself, “It didn’t seem like he could do such a thing.” She looks at the photo of Joon-woo’s bike on her phone, not sure what to think.
When Joon-woo is almost hit by a car as he bikes home, he thinks of Soo-bin and smiles. Joon-woo walks up to his rooftop apartment and when he smells his mother’s cooking, he runs inside excitedly but all he finds is a note and the food that his mother prepared. The note includes loving words of encouragement and the explanation that his mom had to get back to the restaurant.
Joon-woo’s mother is at the restaurant when Joon-woo texts her to be careful so that she doesn’t fall again. Mom texts back that she’s sorry that she couldn’t be with him during the move.
Joon-woo’s mother has to get back to work, and Joon-woo tries to remove the name tag from his school uniform but he doesn’t have any luck. Joon-woo goes to bed and does his best to get to sleep with the light on.
The next day, Hwi-young performs Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata for his music class. Pil-sang uses the opportunity to warn Joon-woo to stay away from his crush, Ro-mi, and Soo-bin, because Hwi-young likes her. The coach walks in just as Hwi-young finishes his piece.
The coach takes Joon-woo to see the vice-principal, who’s with the math tutor. Joon-woo’s absence bothers both Soo-bin and Hwi-young, who raises his hand and asks to visit the nurse. Hwi-young is distressed when he gets outside and sees his tutor’s convertible.
The tutor accuses Joon-woo of stealing his watch and Mr. Oh arrives just as he denies it, “No, I didn’t.” The vice-principal updates Mr. Oh, “Apparently, Joon-woo stole his watch.”
When Hwi-young joins the meeting, his tutor accuses Joon-woo of stealing the watch when he made the snack delivery the day before. Mr. Oh is shocked when the vice-principal shares that the watch cost $25,000. After Hwi-young insists it can’t be true, Joon-woo remembers that he threw something away by mistake that day.
Aware of the reason for Joon-woo’s transfer, the tutor decides to involve the police. Hwi-young and Mr. Oh follow the tutor out when he leaves while the coach escorts Joon-woo to an office and leaves him all alone.
During lunch, Soo-bin grills Hwi-young, “Are you sure? Did Joon-woo really steal it?” Hwi-young replies, “I hope not. But it seems so.” He reacts with surprise when Soo-bin whispers, “He doesn’t seem to be that kind of person.” Sang-hoon plops onto the table in front of Hwi-young, having just heard that their tutor, Sohn Jae-young, made a scene.
After giving Mr. Oh their report, the police officers leave just as Hwi-young returns to check on Joon-woo. Mr. Oh explains that there wasn’t enough evidence to implicate Joon-woo but the vice-principal wants him transferred to another school anyway. When he’s summoned by the vice-principal, Mr. Oh asks Hwi-young to update Joon-woo.
Hwi-young takes Joon-woo outside and hands him something to eat since he missed lunch. After explaining that there wasn’t enough evidence against Joon-woo, Hwi-young expresses confidence that everything will be fine. When asked if he thinks that Joon-woo stole the watch, Hwi-young quickly answers, “Of course not,” but he has to look away.
That night at home, Hwi-young recalls his answer and feverishly scratches his arm. His mother walks in and reminds Hwi-young that scratching aggravates his atopy (a susceptibility to allergies).
Hwi-young notices his mother’s good mood and learns that his brother is the top student in his department, again. Hwi-young’s father is even happier and his mom admits, “I wish every day was like today.” Hwi-young’s face tightens when his mother tells him how to make her happy, “Just do as well as your brother.”
At the convenience store, Joon-woo worries about the school’s request to bring in his mother but he gets an idea when the night clerk arrives for work. In the morning, the night clerk accompanies Joon-woo to school and practices what to say, “Yeong-bae would never do such a thing.” Joon-woo reminds him, “My name isn’t Park Yeong-bae,” but the man is even more confused when Joon-woo has to explain that the name on his school uniform isn’t his either.
Mr. Oh walks up and announces, “Your mother is here,” forcing the night clerk to greet Joon-woo’s mother, “Hi, honey.” Joon-woo’s “parents” meet with the vice-principal, who feigns concern that “Tae-ho” will be victimized by the rough kids at school. Joon-woo starts to say, “I didn’t…,” at the same time that his mother offers, “I’ll make him transfer.”
When Joon-woo’s mom explains that she wants Joon-woo to join her in the countryside, the vice-principal agrees because unstable kids do better with their mothers. Mr. Oh chases after Joon-woo’s mother when she leaves to argue that she needn’t take such drastic action. Joon-woo’s mom insists that Joon-woo isn’t a thief and calls the school trash for not accepting him.
Mom needs two days to find a place and asks Mr. Oh to take care of Joon-woo until then. Joon-woo’s mother hugs Joon-woo and then waves to the night clerk, “Let’s go, honey.” Mr. Oh tells Joon-woo, “Your mother is quite feisty. You don’t take after her, do you?”
In class, Chan-yeol announces that the transfer student is transferring again. When Mr. Oh returns to class, Hwi-young protests that it’s not right to send Joon-woo away. Joon-woo walks in and overhears Hwi-young tell the class, “We shouldn’t be biased against Joon-woo…We should…be on his side.”
Hwi-young promises to speak to the vice-principal and is surprised when Joon-woo announces, “I’m not leaving now.” Mr. Oh explains that Joon-woo has two more days and when he resumes studies, Joon-woo steals a look at Soo-bin but turns away when she glances at him.
After class, Soo-bin explains to Joon-woo that even though he’s leaving, he should look up references for the group assignment. Bothered by his name tag, she asks if he’s going to remove it but Joon-woo admits, “It’s hard to take off.”
Joon-woo completes his assignment in the library and surprises Soo-bin when he turns it in. She reminds Joon-woo that he could have turned it in the next day but he confesses that he won’t be back. Soo-bin scolds, “You just do as you please, don’t you?”
Soo-bin’s eyes land on the name tag and Joon-woo explains that he’ll be returning the uniform and then says good-bye. During the afternoon study session, Soo-bin gets an idea when she sees So-ye’s embroidery scissors.
Joon-woo sits at a table by the athletic field to write his letter of apology. Instead, he sketches flowers for a ladybug that landed on his paper and he doesn’t notice when Soo-bin approaches.
Soo-bin asks Joon-woo to stand up and when he flinches as she reaches for his sweater, she teases, “I won’t bite you.” Soo-bin snips off the name tag and asks Jun-woo, “You’re barely visible. Don’t you resent being a nobody?”
Soo-bin throws the old name tag away and replaces it with a paper label. Joon-woo smiles when she writes in his name and Soo-bin jokes, “So you do know how to smile.” Once she’s done, Soo-bin tells Joon-woo, “Bye, newbie. I wish you all the best. Keep being a nobody.”
On his way to turn in his letter, Joon-woo wonders, “Is it necessary to be a somebody? I’ve never cared about things like that my whole life. Why should I change now?” But when he removes Soo-bin’s label, Joon-woo smiles.
Joon-woo pauses outside of Mr. Oh’s door when he overhears Hwi-young telling the teacher that Joo-woo is guilty, “I don’t want to believe it either, but Sang-hoon…said he saw it.”
Joon-woo catches up to Hwi-young near the field and is told, “I explained everything to Mr. Oh. Let’s wait and see what happens.” Joon-woo follows Hwi-young at a distance and when Hwi-young turns around, Joon-woo announces, “It was you. You’re the one who stole it.” Joon-woo figured out that’s what Hwi-young retrieved from the trash bag.
Hwi-young starts to walk away and when Joon-woo tries to spin him around, he mutters, “You punk.” Joon-woo wants to know why Hwi-young expects him to take the blame for something that Hwi-young did.
Hwi-young looks around before calling Joon-woo, “a piece of trash,” but Joon-woo doesn’t back down, “Shouldn’t you call yourself that?”
I can’t resist a young man who loves his mother as much as Joon-woo does. I’m convinced it’s this devotion to his mother that’s behind Joon-woo’s tendency to blend into the background, because it’s obvious that Joon-woo doesn’t want to add to his mother’s burdens in any way. Joon-woo would rather settle for being invisible than for causing his mother any trouble.
Unfortunately, it’s this very trait that gets Joon-woo into a jam because he ends up becoming Hwi-young’s scapegoat. There’s no way that Hwi-young will tolerate any blemish to his image but something seems to have shifted in Joon-woo after a few days at his new high school. That final face off where the two boys literally exchange trash talk may be the first time that Joon-woo has stood up for himself, no longer willing to be ignored.
As funny as the confusion over Joon-woo’s name was in this episode, it underlined his anonymity and it bothered the popular, yet sensitive, Soo-bin. She sees Joon-woo and it not only annoys her that no one else does, but that Joon-woo doesn’t seem to care. Soo-bin reminds me of Joon-woo’s mother, there’s a feistiness to her that’s not only attractive, but a complement to someone as seemingly mild-mannered as a boy like Joon-woo. Soo-bin knows how to survive without losing her soul, something that class president Hwi-young hasn’t figured out at all.
We get an interesting triangle right off the bat between Joon-woo, Soo-bin and Hwi-young. Soo-bin isn’t used to being ignored but Joon-woo does a really good job of it, which only makes her more interested in the new student. Hwi-young takes control of Joon-woo from the start and is upset to learn that Soo-bin and Joon-woo already have a connection that he knows nothing about. Hwi-young has known Soo-bin since kindergarten, for crying out loud, and their mothers are in regular contact. Hwi-young must think that there’s nothing that he doesn’t know about Soo-bin and he’s terribly uncomfortable when he learns that’s not the case. Hwi-young’s reaction just accentuates how claustrophobic Soo-bin’s existence must be. The dynamics between these three characters gives us lots to think about.
Hwi-young’s control issues aren’t his only problem, the boy has so much stress and repressed anger and he’s barely holding himself together. Hwi-young’s constant scratching betrays his body and his theft of Tutor Sohn’s watch is proof that he’s having trouble controlling his resentments. Hwi-young can’t stand being compared to others that he can’t measure up to, his older brother and math whiz, Sang-hoon. It may have been a rare lapse to steal that watch but now Hwi-young has a huge problem. Lucky for Hwi-young, Joon-woo already has a history of assault and theft and thanks to his good rapport with the teachers and staff, Hwi-young is busy spinning a web for poor Joon-woo.
But Soo-bin has just shined a light into Joon-woo’s mediocre life. She tells Joon-woo, “Keep being a nobody,” and it’s rattled him. Joon-woo questions why he has to be somebody but I’m pretty sure that he’s finally tired of being a nobody. Nobodies get blamed for thefts that they didn’t commit and get called trash. As Joon-woo proves in the final seconds of this episode, he is so done with that.
- Premiere Watch: A Moment at Eighteen
- Shin Seung-ho plays the piano for A Moment at Eighteen
- Throwing away the old and bringing in the new in A Moment at Eighteen
- A warm encounter begins a first love story in A Moment at Eighteen
- New posters from youth drama A Moment at Eighteen
- Kim Hyang-gi, Ong Sung-woo, and more attend A Moment at Eighteen script read
- Kang Ki-young, Moon Bin join Kim Hyang-gi, Ong Sung-woo in JTBC youth drama