Eighteen Again: Episode 2
If the premiere episode was good, then this second episode is masterful – it’s such a perfect balance of humor and gut-twisting emotion that I’m constantly caught off guard, yet it’s all done in such a smooth, meaningful way. And I love that, while our newly-young-again hero thinks that his biggest problem will be how to make it back onto the basketball team, he’s about to find out that he can’t get away from his family so easily.
EPISODE 2: “About the things that made you smile”
It’s the summer of 2002, and while the entire country is excited over the World Cup championships, Dae-young and Da-jung are barely keeping their heads above water as they try to take care of twins. They’re only days from eviction, Dae-young works multiple menial jobs to bring in whatever money he can, and Da-jung is so stressed that she makes herself sick.
With two babies strapped to her like anchors, Da-jung looks wistfully at a JBC hiring ad. Adult Dae-young narrates: Everyone’s dream came true that summer. At the age of twenty, we pressed pause on our dreams. There was a girl who shone radiantly. She had a bright voice and a dazzling dream. In times of hardship, I reminded myself of her favorite quote… “No matter how hard life gets, never regret anything.”
In the present, Da-jung sits in the waiting room at the JBC building, waiting her turn for the anchor position screen test. The woman beside her forgot her calming tonic, so Da-jung offers to share her herbal medicine. The woman says that this might be her last chance because she’s already thirty (gasp!), and Da-jung admits that she’s thirty-seven and even has kids.
When it’s finally her turn, she’s told that she’ll be reading from a prompter as if she’s on the air. The prompter will change to a breaking story, testing the candidates’ ability to adapt on the fly. The guy who goes first (cameo by famous TV host Jang Sung-kyu, lol) completely flubs the switch-up, then refuses to leave and has to be dragged out, ha.
Da-jung’s looks impress the evaluators, as well as her deft switch when the breaking news story is shown on the prompter. While she’s still talking, a tech spills coffee on the switchboard and the power goes out for a moment, so Da-jung smoothly apologizes to the “viewers,” earning her even more points.
One evaluator asks when Da-jung finished college — he’s trying to figure out her age, which they can’t ask since it’s a blind test. She says truthfully that she graduated in 2011, giving them the mistaken impression that she’s in her late twenties.
Meanwhile, it’s Dae-young’s first day of high school in nearly two decades, and he discovers that his son Shi-woo is being bullied. He tries to follow him out of the restroom and ends up face-to-face with his daughter, Shi-ah, who gives him major attitude and makes him come to the roof with her and her friends.
HAHA, she’s a total thug! She tells Dae-young (thinking that he’s Woo-young, the new guy, who practically attacked her the other night at her convenience store job) that she doesn’t play games but confronts people head-on. He asks if she knows Shi-woo is being bullied, and when it’s clear that she did, he yells at her for not telling her dad.
Shi-ah takes offense at him talking about her family and warns him not to show his face around her again. She stalks off, turning back just once to give him a final stank-eye, and Dae-young wonders what happened to the sweet little girl he raised. Little does he know, she’s still in there — this was all just an act to make the scary new guy stay away from her.
Later, Dae-young finds Shi-woo eating lunch alone and has a confrontation with his bully, Ja-sung. His feint with the basketball makes Ja-sung cower in front of the whole lunchroom, making him even angrier. Dae-young threatens to call Ja-sung’s father and report his bullying behavior. He sighs that kids who grow earlier than others turn into bullies because they’re bigger, but they’re still immature (PFFT, he even eyeballs Ja-sung’s pants and wonders if he’s immature there, too).
Ja-sung growls at Dae-young to say something else, so Dae-young orders him to apologize to Shi-woo. Ja-sung pulls back a fist, but Dae-young doesn’t even flinch and a teacher calls out to stop him. He walks away, and Shi-woo looks at Dae-young with newfound admiration.
Frustrated, Dae-young stomps outside and decides to have a cigarette, so he heads to the same spot where kids used to smoke when he was young. He recalls one day when he’d turned this corner and seen one of his basketball teammates bullying Duk-jin while smoking a cigarette. Dae-young had chastised the boy and offered to “settle this” right then, but the boy had backed down.
Dae-young chuckles that now, he’s the one going to that corner to smoke. But he’s not alone… Shi-ah is there, and she’s smoking an electronic cigarette. She acts tough, reminding him not to show himself to her, and when Dae-young starts to lecture her for smoking, she says he can’t talk because he’s there to smoke, too.
She runs off, and as Dae-young is yelling after her, a teacher sneaks up behind him and whacks him upside the head. He turns to see the boy who was bullying Duk-jin, CHOI IL-KWON (Lee Ki-woo), who’s all grown up and is now the school PE teacher. He takes offense to Dae-young talking to him like they know each other, and when Dae-young shows him that his box of smokes isn’t even opened, Il-kwon offers to let him off the hook if he reveals who else was smoking.
PWAHAHA, Dae-young totally rats out Shi-ah! He figures this is the best way for her to learn a lesson since she won’t listen to him, except that Il-kwon goes back on his word and makes sure Dae-young gets punished, too. Their parents are called, and when Duk-jin gets the call from Teacher Ok to come to the school, he skips out on an important meeting to go see his new crush.
In the elevator, he runs into Da-jung’s friend Ae-rin, who’s a lawyer and has an office in the same building as Duk-jin’s electronics company. She doesn’t hide her disdain for him and his flashy outfit, and she expresses pity for whatever poor kid shares his DNA, hee.
Da-jung shows up at the school first, and Dae-young does his best to hide his face from her. But when Teacher Ok asks where Shi-ah got the electronic cigarette and Shi-ah reveals that it was her mom’s, Dae-young jumps to his feet and starts yelling again. Da-jung gets to her feet and moves in close, backing Dae-young all the way to the wall, then starts squishing his face until Teacher Ok has to literally pull her off him.
Da-jung marvels that the new kid looks exactly like Shi-ah’s father, leading Shi-ah to believe that her mother has lost her damn mind. Thankfully Duk-jin arrives (lol, that hero walk) in time to claim “Woo-young” as his son, and the shock of Duk-jin being a father overrides the shock of how familiar he looks. Teacher Ok dismisses the kids, and Dae-young can’t escape fast enough.
Once their meeting is done, the adults go out to the hallway, where Il-kwon wanders by and recognizes Da-jung and Duk-jin. He seems pretty friendly now, but Duk-jin isn’t happy to see his former bully and scuttles away, making Il-kwon sigh that he was horrible to Duk-jin back in school. Da-jung is more welcoming, and it seems by Il-kwon’s shy smile that there’s more than just an old friendship in their past.
After school, Dae-young overhears Shi-ah talking about going to work and asks why she’s trying to make money. She snaps that it’s none of his business but that there’s something she wants to do. Dae-young stops her friend Ji-ho to ask if he knows why Shi-ah is working, and Ji-ho says he does, but that it’s not his information to tell.
Dae-young’s attention is diverted by Ja-sung and his lackeys, who seem to be following Shi-woo. He trails behind them, but Shi-woo eventually enters a basketball court and the bullies go on their way. Remembering that Shi-woo said he doesn’t like basketball anymore, Dae-young watches his son shooting hoops and realizes that he was lying.
He calls Shi-woo and tells him that he’ll support him if he’s still into basketball, but Shi-woo says flatly that he’s not. Dae-young says that Shi-woo can come to him if anyone ever picks on him, but Shi-woo says that nobody does, so Dae-young has to be satisfied with telling him that he’ll always be on his side.
He hangs up and approaches Shi-woo as Woo-young and impresses him with his jump shot. Awww, Shi-woo smiled! Shi-woo asks Dae-young not to tell his dad or Duk-jin about him, so Dae-young promises he won’t. Shi-woo says he plays basketball for fun, and when Dae-young says, “Then that means you’re interested in it,” Shi-woo retorts with another grin, “Who said I wasn’t?” Awww, this kid.
Da-jung waits for Shi-ah to come home that night and confronts her about the electronic cigarette. Shi-ah got it from her mother’s drawer, knowing that she didn’t use it, and she asks why Da-jung can smoke but not her. Da-jung says that Shi-ah is still a minor, but Shi-ah argues that she’s only two years from adulthood and that when she’s an adult, she won’t live her life like her mother.
Da-jung asks, “Hey, why do you think I live like this?” but Shi-ah retorts, “Did I ask you to give birth to me?!” and slams into her room. Ouch.
The truth is that the electronic cigarette isn’t Da-jung’s, either. A while back, she caught Dae-young shopping for one online, and she’d nagged that he needed to quit smoking. But she’d felt bad, so she’d bought the one he liked as a surprise gift.
When she was planning to give it to him, he’d gotten drunk and called her names, so she’d taken it home. She’d taken one puff just to try it, then decided it wasn’t for her and put it away, unaware that Shi-ah saw her.
Dae-young follows Shi-woo home, pretending that he wants his help to practice so he can join the basketball team, but Shi-woo says no. Da-jung steps outside with some recycling and awkwardly greets “Woo-young,” apologizing for what happened in the school office. He sees the electronic cigarette in her hand and assumes she came out to smoke, and he forgets who he’s supposed to be and lectures her in banmal, ha.
He ends up having drinks later with Duk-jin, wishing he’d told her that he’s her husband. Instead, he’d just muttered something about living overseas and forgetting to speak formally. Da-jung asks why he didn’t tell the truth, and we see Dae-young as his older self as he says heavily that it’s because of his kids.
He admits that he’s realized that he doesn’t know Shi-ah and Shi-woo very well, and that they’ve told a stranger in one day more than they ever told their own father. “The person my kids need right now isn’t Hong Dae-young the father, but their school friend, Go Woo-young.”
Da-jung goes to a bar to meet up with Ae-rin, and she’s surprised when Il-kwon turns up as their server. He explains that this is his brother’s bar, and he came to pitch in. Da-jung tells Ae-rin about Shi-ah’s smoking, blaming herself for being too preoccupied with the divorce and her interviews to pay attention to the kids.
Il-kwon overhears her and asks if she divorced Dae-young, then backpedals and apologizes for eavesdropping. Da-jung says it’s okay and stands to leave, so Il-kwon offers to drive her home. He trots off to get his car, and Ae-rin crows that it looks like Il-kwon still has a crush on Da-jung.
They’re distracted for a moment by a commotion in the corner — a woman slaps her date then storms out. The camera lingers on his face, which is partially obscured by his baseball cap.
While they wait outside for Il-kwon, Da-jung mopes about her boring life. Ae-rin tells her to close her eyes, imagine herself as cool and fierce, and count to ten — then when she opens her eyes, she should date the first man she sees. Da-jung decides to try it, so she closes her eyes and slowly walks forward, counting to ten.
As she takes careful steps, Da-jung thinks: I’ve been living my life all wrong. At work and in my marriage, and as a mother to my children. I’ve been living my life all wrong up to this point. Suddenly a car zooms in front of her and someone spins her away, and when she opens her eyes, she’s in Dae-young’s arms.
Dae-young makes sure she’s okay, then leans in close as if to kiss her, only to sniff and declare that she’s been drinking, ha. Da-jung backs up and someone grabs her shoulders… it’s the guy from the bar who got dumped. He also asks if she’s okay, then tells her to move out of his way. Okay, that’s was weird.
Il-kwon finally pulls up, and in a fit of jealousy, Dae-young also begs for a ride. He spends the drive glaring at the back of Il-kwon’s head while Ae-rin makes everyone uncomfortable by mentioning that Da-jung is Il-kwon’s first love. Il-kwon notes that “Woo-young” looks exactly like Dae-young did as a teenager, and Da-jung agrees, but Ae-rin declares that the new kid is way more handsome, ha.
Il-kwon jokes that kids are much taller these days, and that he and Dae-young would be benched if they tried to join the team now. Dae-young says pointedly that Dae-young was always first string, unlike some people, and when Da-jung is curious how he knows, he lies that Dae-young taught him to play.
Dae-young insists on being dropped off with Da-jung, but he refuses her offer to call him a taxi. She says that she smelled alcohol on him, but that she won’t tell him not to drink because she knows how little an adult’s opinion means to a kid his age. But she adds that he shouldn’t drink or smoke if he wants to be an athlete, and that Dae-young was a good basketball player because he took care of himself and worked hard.
She apologizes for nagging, but Dae-young says seriously that he likes it because it sounds like she cares about him. She flags down a passing taxi and puts him in it, and she tells him that she’ll quit smoking if he does. She thinks he still believes that electronic cigarette was hers, but Duk-jin had told him earlier that she’d bought it as a gift for him. Awww.
Instead of going home, Dae-young goes to the convenience store where Shi-ah works just to check on her. Meanwhile, Il-kwon meets up with some friends and tells them shyly that he ran into his first love, and that she’s still beautiful.
Dae-young wakes up early the next morning, determined to follow Da-jung’s advice and take better care of himself. He goes to the court to practice his shots, then for a run. Da-jung is also out for a jog, and they end up on opposite ends of the same bridge.
Da-jung suddenly stops, remembering how “Woo-young” saved her last night and how much he resembles Dae-young, both in looks and in his dream to play basketball. She turns and runs back the way she came, not seeing that if she’d only gone a bit further, she’d have encountered Dae-young himself.
Back home, she pulls out an old photo album and looks for a picture of Dae-young as a teenager, and sure enough, he’s a dead ringer for the new kid. She goes to Duk-jin’s house, where Dae-young has already returned, and she catches him on his way to school.
She gets right up in his face, looking furious, and she accuses, “You’re… Hong Dae-young!”
I certainly wasn’t expecting Da-jung to figure things out this early, and it’s very likely that this will turn out to be a fake-out, and that Dae-young and Duk-jin will manage to convince her that she’s lost her mind. I honestly can’t remember if the wife in the movie finds out about her husband’s supernatural transformation before the end, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the drama deviates from the movie from here on. There’s a lot of comedy to be had from Da-jung figuring it out, but I’ll be very surprised if they do it so soon, since they’ve already been able to have some unguarded moments together based on Da-jung thinking they’re strangers. I’d like to see a little more of that first before the cat’s let out of the bag.
I’m so happy that the drama has time to explore Da-jung’s side of the story, unlike the movie, which mostly focused on the husband’s problems. Da-jung is so strong and so smart, and she’s given up half her life to raise her children, and yet she feels like she’s failing at it all. She feels like she’s accomplished nothing personally and is actually failing her kids, so I don’t blame her for wanting to scrap the marriage and start over fresh, especially with the flashbacks we’ve seen of Dae-young being so mean. It’s incredibly brave and inspiring of Da-jung, in a society that sees a 37-year-old mother as used-up and worthless, to finally go for her dreams.
I really think that my favorite part of this drama is going to be the new relationships that Dae-young develops with his children. He’s always thought of himself as a good dad because he works hard to provide for his family, and that’s certainly commendable of him, but it takes more than money to be a good parent. As hard as he’s worked, Dae-young has never really stopped to get to know his kids as people, so it’s no wonder they only showed him a snapshot of their lives. Now Dae-young has figured out that his kids have been shutting him out, and he’s already taking steps to make friends with Shi-woo, which just warms my cold little heart. He’s going to be in the trenches with them, seeing things from their point of view and fighting their fights alongside them, and just thinking about all the comedy and emotional gold that can be mined from that makes me excited.
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