Record of Youth: Episode 1
High expectations would be an understatement for Record of Youth, and I’m delighted to report that the premiere promises a heartwarming show about the turbulences of youth and the determination to make most of this fleeting time. The top tier cast and production is apparent in this strong first episode, as we learn about our aspiring actor and the relentless doubts he faces in pursuit of his dreams. In addition to battling the doubts, he’s racing against time, and the reality of his situation weigh heavier on him with every passing moment.
A production team watches an audition submission from a young man who acts with intensity, delivering a desperate plea to immediately deploy a rescue team for the victims of a collapsed bridge. The producer seems intrigued by this unfamiliar newbie actor, SA HYE-JOON (Park Bo-gum) and asks his team for his name.
Our aspiring actor stands guard backstage for a famous actor at an awards show, and make-up artist Lee Bo-ra (cameo by Kim Hye-yoon) tries to get past Hye-joon. She insists that she needs to settle her break-up, and though Hye-joon received specific orders to not let her in, he barely puts up a fight and decides to let her “forcefully” enter.
As soon as Bo-ra enters the room, she slaps her ex and gives him a mouthful about his insulting behavior after their break-up. When he talks back, she slaps him again and runs off. Hye-joon looks surprised by the escalation and claims that he did his best to guard the door. The actor doesn’t believe him and slaps him hard.
Hye-joon slowly reaches for the cut on his face and gets fired up when he sees blood. The actor belittles Hye-joon for taking a lowly guard job when he’s actually a model, but Hye-joon doesn’t find anything wrong with his current situation. He drops the formalities because they’re the same age, and that provokes the actor to throw another punch.
As Hye-joon blocks the punch and suffers a kick, he narrates, “My dream is this person in front of me. Even this [trash] person was able to make it, and I don’t have much time left.” Hye-joon puts a bandage on his cut and fixes his disheveled look in the bathroom.
It’s 2018, and while Hye-joon gets punched at work, another model/actor WON HAE-HYO (Byun Woo-seok) finishes up a photoshoot and teases his friend and intern photographer KIM JIN-WOO (Kwon Soo-hyun) for struggling with the reflector panel. Hae-hyo advises him to exercise, but Jin-woo refuses to join the friends for their evening jogs.
Hae-hyo checks the notification on his phone, and Jin-woo bets that it’s Hye-joon’s social media post. Jin-woo guessed correctly, after investigating the photo, he wonders if Hye-joon got beat up at his job. Hae-hyo doubts this, but Jin-woo shakes his head that a silver spoon like him can’t understand the struggles of his humble friends.
Jin-woo asks about the upcoming movie casting and wonders what will happen if Hye-joon doesn’t get the role. Hae-hyo remains optimistic and says that he’ll take care of Hye-joon, and Jin-woo clings onto him asking for his generosity as well. Their banter is interrupted by Jin-woo’s photographer boss scolding him, and Hae-hyo picks up a call from his mom.
Mom KIM YI-YOUNG (Shin Ae-ra) asks Hye-hyo why he’s not coming to her salon and complains that she doesn’t like his hair. Amused by Mom’s complaint, Hye-hyo insists his hair his fine and hangs up. Mom Yi-young gets impatient waiting for the main designer and asks the assistant AHN JUNG-HA (Park So-dam) to do her make-up instead.
Jung-ha hesitates to overstep her role, but Yi-young cheerfully says that she doesn’t like to be kept waiting and trusts Jung-ha’s skills. Yi-young approves of Jung-ha’s detailed client care — from sanitizing her hands to complimenting Yi-young’s beauty. When the late designer Jin Joo arrives, Yi-young insists that Jung-ha finish her look.
Yi-young thanks Jung-ha as she heads off to her meeting, and designer Jin Joo makes a snobbish comment that Jung-ha, who quit her corporate job, thinks she’s everything because she’s the director’s favorite. Jin Joo reminds Jung-ha that she is a ten-year veteran and warns Jung-ha to stay in her lane.
Salon colleague Choi Soo-bin follows Jung-ha into the break room and tells Jung-ha that the designer has an inferiority complex because Jung-ha is so good. Jung-ha thanks her for the encouragement, and when Soo-bin asks if Jung-ha likes her more than Sa Hye-joon, Jung-ha draws the line: No one beats Sa Hye-joon.
Soo-bin thinks that Hye-joon will fade away because he’s not that great of an actor as he was a model, and Jung-ha takes offense to this. As a dedicated Hye-joon fan, Jung-ha disagrees and emphasizes how hard he works for his achievements. Soo-bin gets called back into work, and Jung-ha takes a moment to recharge by looking up photos of Hye-joon.
On the bus, Hye-joon scrolls through his model friend Hye-hyo’s social media feed. He narrates, “For my friend, ‘dream’ means preserving himself, but for me, ‘dream’ is expensive homework.” He checks his bank account and sighs at his measly balance.
At his company, Hye-joon demands to be paid for his runway and guard jobs, but model agency director LEE TAE-SOO (Lee Chang-hoon) retorts that he barely blocked the haughty actor from suing Hye-joon. Standing tall, Hye-joon claims that he has nothing to lose in lawsuit and gets back to the issue of his payments. Everyone left the agency when they didn’t get paid, but Hye-joon stuck around because he trusted Tae-soo.
Tae-soo tries to whip up an excuse, but a model agency employee LEE MIN-JAE (Shin Dong-mi) intervenes and tells Tae-soo to pay Hye-joon. Having just quit the agency, Min-jae was packing up her desk but couldn’t stand watching Tae-soo take advantage of Hye-joon. She commits to this act of kindness on her way out and threatens to send photos of Tae-soo’s infidelity to his wife if Tae-soo doesn’t provide proper compensation.
Hye-joon watches Min-jae with admiration and follows her out to request that she be his manager. He needs someone like her, but Min-jae isn’t keen on continuing to help naïve Hye-joon not get conned. Hye-joon tries to convince her, but Min-jae rolls down her car window and concludes that she was only briefly excited by his proposal.
Hye-joon returns to the office to finish his contract termination with Tae-soo, who agrees to a written contract termination agreement but says that he can’t pay the outstanding labor costs. Hye-joon considers this a fine compromise to be freed from Tae-soo.
Tae-soo claims all the credit for Hye-joon’s successful modeling years and doubts that Hye-joon can transition into acting. Insulted Hye-joon pushes Tae-soo against the wall in anger, and Tae-soo asks, “Do you really think you can be like Hae-hyo?” He knows that Hye-joon is anxious about their disparate paths, and Hye-joon tears up in acknowledgement. Their different career paths couldn’t be more drastic, as we see Hae-hyo attending his private pilates class. Being the bigger person, Hye-joon lets go of Tae-soo and says that he isn’t trying to be like his friend.
They finally sign the termination papers, and on his way out, Hye-joon clarifies that he didn’t even try to get his money because he knew he would need to play even dirtier to get his well-earned compensation. “I don’t have time for that,” he says and walks out as petty Tae-soo continues to belittle him.
As Hye-joon leaves the company, he receives an encouraging message from his grandpa SA MIN-KI (Han Jin-hee), who’s out dancing. Hye-joon receives a call from Gramps and takes a deep breath to collect his emotions before answering. Gramps dotes on Hye-joon, saying he’s the most talented person and assuring his grandson that his time will come. Hye-joon looks grateful for the encouragement. Gramps hangs up to head back to the dancefloor and Hye-joon runs off to his shift at PPL Subway, where a crowd of his fans wait to order from him.
Yi-young lounges on the couch browsing through a catalog while the housekeeper (and Hye-joon’s mother) HAN AE-SOOK (Ha Hee-ra) brings the arranged flowers to the dining table. Noticing a taller flower in the arrangement, Yi-young tells Ae-sook to cut it shorter, and Ae-sook obliges, though she silently disagrees. Yi-young then asks Ae-sook to handwash some laundry, but Ae-sook mentions that she already changed into her nicer outfit to leave for the day.
Ae-sook shares that she has to go home early today to celebrate her older son’s new job, and on the surface, the two women have a normal conversation about the son’s new job and prestigious school connections. But in their minds, they’re squabbling about bragging rights, who’s better connected, and the laundry. Haha, I love this duality.
As Ae-sook hand washes the laundry, she notes about how there are people in the world who get everything they want. She accepts that she got the short end of the stick in this life and decides not to complain about it. In the family group chat, her husband reminds everyone about their dinner, and Hye-joon responds that he’s going to be late. Ae-sook shakes her head that the two constantly clash, even when she tries bridge their differences.
Dad SA YOUNG-NAM (Park Soo-young) tells his carpenter co-worker to share any requests for their celebratory dinner, and carpenter friend (also aspiring photographer Jin-woo’s father) KIM JANG-MAN (Jung Min-sung) is jealous that Young-nam only has Hye-joon to worry about now. Though Young-nam initially saw hope in Hye-joon’s career as a model, he’s disgruntled that Hye-joon won’t let go of his acting dreams after 7 years and wishes he would pick up carpentry.
Young-nam cringes in pain when he tries to lift a piece of wood, and Jang-man offers to do the heavy lifting. Jang-man notes that carpentry isn’t a desirable trade to pass down, given Young-nam’s injury and hardship with working to pay off his father’s debts. Young-nam worries about supporting Hye-joon financially, even with him and his wife both working.
Ae-sook announces her departure, and Yi-young catches her to give her a bonus for staying late to do laundry. Ae-sook politely declines and runs into Hae-hyo at the door. Hae-hyo sweetly greets Ae-sook as “mother,” and they comfortably chat about his friendship with Hye-joon. When Hae-hyo mentions that he shares secrets with Hye-joon that his mother doesn’t know, Yi-young interjects and insists on knowing these secrets.
After Ae-sook takes off, Yi-young suggests that Hae-hyo address Ae-sook as “ajumma” instead of “mother,” and Hae-hyo shakes his head at his mother’s immaturity. She pries about the secrets that she doesn’t know and finally lets it go when he calls her a stalker. Then, she asks if she should prepare salad for dinner, since Hae-hyo has a fashion show tomorrow, and Hae-hyo begs his mom to let him be.
Yi-young scoffs that he hasn’t come this far on his own, and Hae-hyo’s expression hardens at that comment. She brushes it off, and Hae-hyo asks her to respect his commitment to power his own success. Mom agrees to respect his boundaries and thinks back to her meeting earlier — the one she got her make-up done for. She met up with a producer and essentially bribed him to push for Hae-hyo to be casted.
Ae-sook comes home with a load of groceries and picks up the mail on her way inside. From the envelope, she can tell it’s Hye-joon’s enlistment letter. Friend (and Jin-woo’s mother) Lee Kyung-mi stops by to help her cook and asks if the lady (Yi-young) has acted up lately. Apparently, Ae-sook had quit her job, but Yi-young had requested that she come back. The friend notices the enlistment letter, and Ae-sook sighs in anticipation of chaos.
As the salon wraps up for the day, the director asks Jung-ha if she can support Jin Joo at the fashion show the next day. It’s Jung-ha’s day off, but she excitedly accepts the opportunity. After the director leaves, she celebrates with Soo-bin and gleefully anticipates her meeting with Hye-joon.
While Hye-joon works at a barbeque restaurant, Ae-sook and Kyung-mi prepare a feast to celebrate SA KYUNG-JOON (Lee Jae-won). Gramps waits inside his room, trying to determine when to go outside. He puts his ear to the door, and then KIM JIN-RI (Jin-woo’s younger sister) opens the door to retrieve Gramps for dinner, and Gramps gets knocked on the head as he jumps back to pretend he wasn’t listening.
Gramps claims that he was just stretching, but Jin-ri says that she doesn’t need to know since she respects his privacy. Gramps sighs that everyone in the neighborhood knows that he lives in deference to his family.
The barbeque restaurant owner stops by the locker room to offer Hye-joon a manager position. He has Hye-joon’s best interests in mind and even offers to hand over the restaurant to him, but Hye-joon declines the offer. The owner advises Hye-joon to listen to adults, but Hye-joon has learned that humans only have their own interests in mind. He assures the generous owner that he’s talking in general terms — not about the owner — and reluctantly agrees to reconsider the offer.
Hye-joon meets Jin-woo outside and says that he’s got a lot on his mind. He wonders what he should do to clear his mind and silently turns to Jin-woo with a mischievous look. Jin-woo knows exactly what Hye-joon is up to and begs him not to do this, but Hye-joon has already started running.
Hae-hyo joins them at an intersection, and Jin-woo asks him to stop Hye-joon. Instead of stopping Hye-joon, Hae-hyo joins him on the jog and the two friends run together in their neighborhood with Jin-woo lagging behind.
As the families celebrate Kyung-joon over dinner, Dad Young-nam and Gramps create some awkward moments with their tense interactions. When Gramps tries to advise Kyung-joon to not grant any personal favors with work, Young-nam says that Kyung-joon can take care of himself. Friend Jang-nam tries to relieve the tension by proposing that Young-nam lead a toast, and when Young-nam has nothing to say, Gramps says that he would be bragging far and wide if he had a successful son.
Jin-ri observes that Gramps just dissed Young-nam, and Young-nam acknowledges the diss — that if he had been more successful, Gramps would have proudly bragged about him. Young-nam isn’t affected by this truth and raises a glass to Jin-ri’s honesty and his son’s success. Gramps looks sheepish and apologetic.
At the neighborhood playground, Jin-woo eats ice cream and surmises that models were sinners in a past life and therefore can’t eat everything they want. Hye-joon says that food isn’t everything in life, and looking to Jin-woo, Hae-hyo playfully adds that food is everything for some people. Hae-hyo says that they don’t tease those people, and Hye-joon completes the thought by saying that they respect their differences. The two models fist bump to completing each other’s sentences.
A fancy car drives by, and Jin-woo yells at the driver to catch their attention. The driver, WON HAE-NA (Jo Yoo-jung) reverses and rolls down the window to greet her oppas. She tells them to get in because she’s bored, and Jin-woo eagerly jumps into the passenger seat while the other two linger at the playground.
Hye-joon expresses awe that Hae-hyo’s younger sister has grown up so fast, and he says that only time is fair. He thought he was the only one getting older, but seeing Hae-na proved that everyone is affected by time. Noticing his friend’s dampened mood, Hae-hyo asks if something is up, and Hye-joon responds, “I keep getting attacked by reality.”
Hae-na parks her car and tells Jin-woo to get out. But before he leaves, she stops him from leaving and leans in for a peck (oh cute, they’re together!). Jin-woo asks that they go elsewhere, but when Hae-na says that she doesn’t want to, Jin-woo agrees to do whatever she wants. Pleased with Jin-woo’s response, she offers a reward by driving elsewhere.
Hae-hyo asks what happened to Hye-joon that day, and Hye-joon says that he doesn’t want to relive his bad day. Hae-hyo respects his friend’s feelings and offers to wait until Hye-joon is ready to share. They ask each other about the movie audition and both confirm that they haven’t heard back. Whoever gets the part, they agree to cheer each other on.
Hye-joon shares his plan to enlist if he doesn’t get this role, and Hae-hyo reminds him that they agreed to enlist together. Hye-joon repeats a common saying that your friends change as you get older and as your situations change. Hae-hyo argues that the saying doesn’t apply to them because their situations have been different from the start, and Hye-joon says that if their friendship changes, it will be because they’ve lost their innocence.
Unnerved by Hae-hyo’s earnest look, Hye-joon gets defensive just in time for Hae-hyo to confess, “I love you.” Hae-hyo chases his friend with puckered lips and vows to give him a kiss one day. Hye-joon runs off, and the friends part ways for the night.
Jung-ha walks home with Soo-bin and films a beauty tip video on how to touch up your make-up. At home, Jung-ha cooks samgyupsal, and Soo-bin excitedly eats a perfect first bite. Soo-bin admits that she though Jung-ha was super cheap at first because she never joined them to go out for dinner, and then she learned that Jung-ha bought a house on a 30-year loan.
Having experienced the instability, Jung-ha values the security of having a home and claims that she values stability. Soo-bin suggests that Jung-ha get married if she likes stability, but Jung-ha doesn’t want to get married, even if it’s with Sa Hye-joon. She explains that she wants the happy feeling associated with love, but she doesn’t want to be in love.
Soo-bin asks for alcohol, but Jung-ha says that she doesn’t drink the day before a job. Soo-bin pouts that Jung-ha is self-centered, and Jung-ha advises her to be more self-centered. Jung-ha shares that she vowed to be more self-centered when she quit her job, and she adds that she thinks their society is too family-centered.
When Hye-joon arrives at home, he finds his dad making a new door for his older brother. Dad asks where he’s been, and Hye-joon curtly responds that he was working. Inside, Hye-joon looks at his brother’s door and looks deflated when he compares it to his even older door.
Mom pulls Hye-joon aside to give him the enlistment letter and quietly advises that he enlist this time. Hye-joon says that he plans on it but adds that he wants to wait until he hears back on an audition. Older brother Kyung-joon overhears the conversation and bluntly tells Hye-joon that everyone in the family thinks that he’s a burden.
Offended by the judgement, Hye-joon insults his brother for having a bad personality and not contributing to the family despite his book smarts. Dad enters the conversation to come to Kyung-joon’s defense, and Mom rushes Hye-joon to his room to avoid further confrontation with Dad.
Hye-joon goes into his room, where Gramps pretends that he didn’t overhear the conversation and asks about his day. Then, Dad storms into the room and orders Hye-joon to go to army immediately instead of wasting his youth. He asks Dad if he also thinks of him as a burden and says that he needs to know if his family is judging him just like the rest of the world.
Dad claims that he’s looking out for Hye-joon because he’s seeing Hye-joon’s modeling career decline. He compares Hye-joon to Gramps, who got caught up in the praise of his handsome looks and pursued aimless career paths in entertainment.
Gramps comes to Hye-joon’s defense and says that his grandson is different, but Dad disagrees. Dad says that the family would have been better off if Gramps hadn’t gotten scammed with his savings, and Gramps acknowledges his past mistakes. He claims that he’s the burden, and Hye-joon holds his hand in gratitude.
Enraged by Gramps’ protectiveness, Dad starts another round of arguments, but Mom rushes in to drag him out. She forces Dad and Kyung-joon into the bathroom so that they don’t make any more hurtful comments in earshot, and she tells them not to aggravate Hye-joon’s challenges. She reminds Kyung-joon that they waited for him to make his own choices and demands that they respect Hye-joon’s time and decisions.
That night, Gramps watches Hye-joon sleep and lovingly strokes his grandson’s hair. Another admirer, Jung-ha takes a break editing her video to watch old runway videos of Hye-joon. She plans out what she’s going to say when she meets him and posts dinner photos on her social media with hashtags expressing her excitement.
At the rehearsal for the show, the fashion designer critiques the models’ expression as they walk down the runway. Then, Hye-joon does his walk, and the designer’s expression changes. Instead of yelling critiques into the mic, he shares his approval when Hye-joon gets close. Huh, curious.
Hae-hyo and Hye-joon go backstage to get their make-up done, and Jung-ha fixates on Hye-joon as he walks toward her. Make-up designer Jin Joo calls Hae-hyo to her seat, but Jung-ha silently stares at Hye-joon. He looks confused and asks why she isn’t calling him to her seat. Jung-ha bashfully invites him to take a seat and prepares to do his make-up.
As Jung-ha takes off her rings, she accidentally knocks over a product, and Hye-joon catches it. She thanks him and starts cleansing his face with a cotton pad. Hye-joon looks over at Hae-hyo with a face mask and asks why he isn’t getting a mask too. Jung-ha responds that he doesn’t need a mask because of his good skin, and Hye-joon smiles slightly in satisfaction.
In the chaos backstage, Jung-ha does Hye-joon’s make-up with intense focus and the quiet intensity makes the session seem more intimate. When Jung-ha finishes the make-up, Hye-joon starts to head off, but Hae-hyo asks him to wait until he’s done. Hye-joon asks Jung-ha for permission to stay in his seat, and Jung-ha nods.
Curious about Jung-ha’s silence, Hye-joon asks if she’s always this quiet with clients, and Jung-ha shyly respond that she isn’t. Hae-hyo receives a call from his mom, who brought something for him, and he asks Jung-ha if she can finish his make-up while Jin Joo is tending to other matters. Jung-ha declines the request and says that she shouldn’t take some else’s client.
Hye-joon wonders why they’re territorial with clients, and Hae-hyo asks if they two don’t get along. Jung-ha instinctively answers truthfully, and Hae-hyo follows up by asking if Jin Joo has a bad personality. Attempting to minimize misunderstandings, Jung-ha offers to finish up Hae-hyo’s make-up and explains that some people accuse her of making others feel uncomfortable.
Hye-joon shares that he’s the opposite, and Hae-hyo teases that even neighborhood dogs feel comfortable with him. Their fun conversation is interrupted by Jin Joo, who accuses Jung-ha for habitually stealing her clients. Hye-joon tries to intervene, but Jin Joo doesn’t let him. Jung-ha apologizes, and Jin Joo mortifies her in front of the two models, calling her sinister. Embarrassed by the scolding, Jung-ha walks out.
Jung-ha cries in disappointment and tries to cheer herself up by counting her blessings. She tries to remind herself of her good fortune but then calls bullshit. Even in her mortification, Jung-ha admires her phone wallpaper of Hye-joon and says, “Living kindly and happily doesn’t matter. Ultimately in life, inconsiderate people with bad tempers are the winners.”
Grateful for his attempt to help her, Jung-ha looks at Hye-joon’s photo and says that she’s glad to be his fan. Hye-joon overhears her and appears from behind. He asks if she likes him, and Jung-ha stands up in alarm, caught red-handed in her adoration.
I think I like this show, but it veered from my expectations. With this all-star cast, I was expecting something a bit shinier, but I appreciate the more muted tone of the show. I really enjoyed the emphasis on family in this first episode, and I particularly adored the relationship between Gramps and Hye-joon. They’re both the black sheep of the family, and I find it fitting and bittersweet that they share a room in house. I love that Gramps deeply believes in Hye-joon, and that unconditional support feels even more precious because of how the rest of the family treats them. Mom was another highlight of the family, with her unassuming yet headstrong approach to her interactions with both Yi-young and her family. She’s definitely the glue of the household more out of necessity than choice, and I appreciate her level attitude. Even though this isn’t the most harmonious family, I find them quite comforting because of the imperfections.
The main friendship was delightful, and I think this is where the writing really shines. The banter and quick wit are strong suits of writer Ha Myung-hee, and I enjoyed how the banter established a sense of familiarity and ease in the friendship. I love a good bromance, but I also get suspicious about a bromance this cute and sweet. Like is it going to last? Do we need to savor this now? I hope these two models don’t lose their innocence and pucker their lips at each other forever, but I fear that all the too-good-to-be-true pieces are just foreshadowing a turn for the worse.
I wish we had a little more background on our heroine in this first episode, though the moments highlighting Jung-ha seemed promising. I like that Jung-ha embodies independence, though her independence seems rooted in loneliness. I know there’s plenty of backstory on her, after learning that she bought her own house with a huge amount of debt because she’s experienced the trauma of not having a roof above her head. This characterization reminds me of Park Shin-hye’s character from Doctors (another show penned by Ha Myung-hee), which is where I start to caution myself from raising expectations. The heroine in Doctors started out really strong and then become really mediocre at the end. I like Jung-ha and want to like her without reservations, but my self-preservation instincts tell me that I should hope for but not expect a steady run from this character.
There’s something comforting about this drama, and although I can’t quite pinpoint the reason, I’m drawn to this show. My first impression is that it’s a thoughtful show rooted in realistic and relatable struggles of the youth. It doesn’t feel too eager or dramatic like Itaewon Class, but it has the same caliber of heart. I find it kind of cheeky that life is imitating art with this show being Bogummie’s last project before enlistment, and the parallels between life and art are making me root for Hye-joon’s character with the dedication of Jung-ha. Last
project chance before enlistment — you can do it, Bogummie Hye-joon!
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