Record of Youth: Episode 4
Our aspiring actor aims for his dream one more time, and even if this decision leads to regrets down the road, he won’t know unless he tries. Though the world tells him that he was born with a dirt spoon, he won’t be content staying that way, and strives for more. While he may only have a few supporters on his side right now, that’s more than enough motivation for him to succeed.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Hye-joon announces his new movie role, and Young-nam chucks his bag of meat at him. Ae-sook holds back her husband, but when he yells at her to let go, she actually does. Grabbing everyone’s attention, she tells Young-nam that she’ll do what she wants, too.
Avoiding the crossfire, Hye-joon slinks away at his mom’s command, and his parents fight over his future. Young-nam reinforces the notion that Hye-joon needs a real job while Ae-sook wants her son to follow his dream. In the end, he relents to her wishes but warns her not to resent him for this decision.
Yi-young wears earrings to bed, and her husband Tae-kyung scoffs at her behavior. He asks about Hae-na’s acceptance into law school, and she tells him that she got in, though the results aren’t out yet. She reminds her lax husband that you need more than good grades nowadays, and he dryly humors her.
She complains about his condescending tone, but it only leads to more bickering. She sighs at his lack of acknowledgement of their marital problems and blames him for her obsession over their children. He thinks time will heal all, but for now, Yi-young steps out to take care of her kids.
Ae-sook finds Hye-joon going over his script at the dining table, and when he sees her, he thanks her. She doesn’t think she deserves his gratitude since she’s just being selfish, but Hye-joon disagrees. He hugs her, grinning from ear to ear, but Ae-sook’s face is etched with worry.
Jung-ha gets ready to leave in the morning, but stops to ask Hye-joon’s umbrella why its owner is keeping quiet. She debates whether or not to call him, but ultimately, decides against it. However, as soon as she puts her phone away, Hye-joon calls, and she scrambles to answer. He asks what she’s doing and wonders if they can meet today.
As Hye-joon leaves his house to meet Min-jae, Gramps congratulates him on his movie role, convinced that his grandson will outshine the lead. As a gift for the compliments, Hye-joon hands him a new ID card for the senior modeling academy, but instead of being happy, Gramps urges him to get a refund. Hye-joon correctly guesses Gramp’s fear of failure and tells him to refund it himself.
Min-jae waits for the elevators while taking out the trash, and her jaw drops when she sees Hye-joon. Breaking the awkward silence between them, Min-jae asks if he’s going to act, and he says that he is. She’s ecstatic to hear his renewed commitment and confesses that she actually quit after he left. But now that he’s back, she’s happy as can be and frolics out the door with her garbage in tow.
In her office/apartment, Min-jae offers Hye-joon 70% of the cut for seven years, which is mostly favorable for him. However, Hye-joon wants to split it 50-50 for one year, and Min-jae can’t say “no” to his puppy dog eyes. She comments on how Hye-joon won’t be dating anyways, but he tells her not to jump to conclusions. Surprised by his answer, she asks if he still isn’t hung-up on his ex-girlfriend.
Flashing back, Hye-joon walked to the library to pick up his girlfriend (cameo by Seol In-ah) but stopped in his tracks when he saw her greeting another man. When she picked up his call, she lied about studying late, and Hye-joon asked if she wasn’t curious about where he was.
He called her out for putting on a show, seeing through her clever ruse to break up with him. Contrary to her expectations, though, he wasn’t going to go quietly since he wasn’t dumb enough to be fooled twice. With that, they broke up.
Hae-hyo accompanies Yi-young to the salon and is disappointed to hear that Jung-ha is out. Jin Joo smirks, asking if he prefers comfort over competence, but with one word from Yi-young, the designer bites her tongue.
Sitting aside for tea time, Yi-young asks her son why he only wants Jung-ha since his insistence is creating misunderstandings. He suggests moving salons then, but she tells him that quitting is the easy way out. He asks if she knows why he doesn’t like being in her boundaries, and Yi-young replies, “Because it’s safe. You’re at an age where you like danger.”
Since she can’t take her anger out on the clients, Jin Joo calls Jung-ha while she’s busking and orders her to come in during her day off for staff training. Jung-ha is frustrated about the last-minute notice, and refuses to attend because she has plans.
At Hae-hyo’s photoshoot, Jin-woo tapes down wires while his boss, Yang Moo-jin, gives him more tasks. As he gets up to fetch an iron, he trips over a wire and destroys a light. Moo-jin berates him in front of the entire staff, and hearing everyone’s snickers, Jin-woo quits.
While Jin-woo packs up his bags, Hae-hyo drops by to tell him that quitting is the easy way out, but his friend yells at him for thinking light of his situation. Their fight puts Hae-hyo in a sour mood, and he tells Moo-jin to wrap up the shoot in thirty minutes.
Needing Jin-woo to stay, Moo-jin plays off his rude behavior as jokes, but Jin-woo has heard enough of his excuses. Moo-jin changes tactics to garner sympathy points, begging him to help out a sunbae, but Jin-woo is sick and tired of old alumni, vowing to punch the next sunbae he sees.
Gramps goes to the modeling academy, and the employee tells him that his class starts next week. Another grandpa overhears their conversation and introduces himself since they’ll be classmates. Hearing the stranger speak informally, Gramps gets peeved and asks the proverbial question: How old are you?
Hye-joon receives a text from Min-jae containing highlights of soccer matches, and recalls their earlier conversation where she told him to be more ambitious. He was firmly against the idea of trampling on others to succeed, but she saw his declaration as more of a fear of losing rather than a disdain for competition.
Jung-ha finds him watching the clips, and when he explains their purpose, she tells him that she prefers unambitious men. Now that her secret is out, Jung-ha openly gushes about Hye-joon being a good person and praises her judge of character.
They decide to grab some food, but since she doesn’t like eating out, he suggests going to her place. She wonders why it has to be her home, so he asks if she wants to go to his… which means they’re eating out.
At the restaurant, Jung-ha goofs around, treating Hye-joon like a king, and expresses how relieved she feels after telling him the truth. While she eats, she chokes on the food, and Hye-joon pats her on the back. He looks at her with concern, but she tells him that he’s staring too deeply at her.
He comments on her happy mood, and she explains that it’s a side-effect of hiding her fangirl side for so long. Though she has many things to tell him, she can’t say everything while she’s sober, but that can be easily solved.
Moving to a different location, Jung-ha is already tipsy and giggly as she mixes drinks for herself. She wonders why Hye-joon isn’t drinking, and he tells her that at least one of them needs to stay vigilant. To his embarrassment, tipsy Jung-ha unabashedly fangirls over him and mentions how rare his last name is.
Turning somber, Jung-ha makes a pun with his name and tells him that his sins are forgiven. She explains how people pretend to be happy when they’re actually having a hard time, and he points out that she’s talking about herself. Downing a glass, she agrees, and then thanks him.
During her university years, Jung-ha stayed up late studying, and on those lonely nights, she had no one else to turn to besides Hye-joon. Though her mom texted, it was only about her younger brother’s birthday, so Jung-ha watched clips of Hye-joon to cheer up.
At first, she liked him for his looks but then grew to empathize with him as a person. Hye-joon chuckles at her description since it doesn’t sound like him, and Jung-ha concurs since this was her fantasy. Despite that, he thanks her, too—happy to hear that he helped someone.
Unfortunately, Jung-ha decides that it’s time she stopped being his fan since they’re real-life friends now. Her philosophy is that a fan and star shouldn’t have a relationship, and he pouts at her announcement because he doesn’t have a lot of true fans.
While he acknowledges his popularity for his looks, Hye-joon knows that there’s a limit, and even admits to not liking his good looks in the past. Thinking back to his high school days, Hye-joon was using Kyung-joon’s computer when his brother walked in with some new shoes.
Instead of feeling guilty for his show of favoritism, Young-nam nagged Hye-joon to find a parttime job. Hye-joon told him that he was looking for modeling gigs, and Young-nam scolded him for doing “easy” work.
Hearing his story, Jung-ha asks if Young-nam is handsome, and he describes his dad as short and cute. Interpreting the situation differently, Jung-ha argues that Young-nam knows the value of a handsome face but purposefully ignores it because he doesn’t have it. As Jung-ha rambles, she apologizes for being a talkative drunk, and reassures him that it only lasts thirty minutes.
As they walk home, Jung-ha berates herself for following her dreams when dreams are for sleeping, and ignores Jin Joo’s incoming call. She vents her frustration over the unjust treatment, and teeters dangerously on the sidewalk until she finally plops to the ground.
Hye-joon watches over her and pauses when he notices her tears. Despite her angry rant just seconds before, Jung-ha blames herself for Jin Joo’s hostility and wonders what she did wrong. He stares at her silently and then repeats what she joked about with him: your sins are forgiven.
She smiles up at him, and then lightens the mood by asking if he’s embarrassed of her. Playing along, he says that he is and runs away with Jung-ha chasing after him.
By the river, Hae-na and Jin-woo enjoy their car date. He asks if they can bump up their rating to “19” since they’re adults, and she seems open to the idea.
Gramps comes home and overhears the family happily eating snacks without him or Hye-joon, who Young-nam and Kyung-joon label as the two “troublemakers.” When Gramps enters, he tells them that he’s starting something, and the response is immediate and harsh.
To Gramps’ disappointment, even Ae-sook is against the idea, and though her tone is nicer, the message is essentially the same: Gramps should take care of his health and not do anything. Looking dejected at the betrayal, Gramps asks about Hye-joon, and Ae-sook sighs, conflicted over her son’s future. Gramps tells her that their family undervalues good looks, and is more than certain of Hye-joon’s success.
While walking Jung-ha home, it suddenly rains, and the two friends run with smiles plastered on their face. They shield themselves from the rain under an awning, and Hye-joon informs Jung-ha of Gramps’ enrollment into a modeling academy. Thanks to her words, he reflected on his attitude, and Jung-ha happily tells him that she likes people who reflect.
She lists off her likes and dislikes, which prompts Hye-joon to ask what she’ll do if someone has all those traits—the good and the bad. Without hesitation, she says that she’ll still dislike the person. When asked about his preferences, he describes it as situational, though he ends up liking everything about the person he loves. She thinks that person would be happy, but then shakes her head, assuring him that she meant nothing by her comment.
She tells him that she has very high standards, but he doesn’t believe her since her list of traits sounded basic. She admits the truth—she’s difficult, not picky—but to her, being a fan with drunk habits means only one thing: sadness. She confesses to having never loved someone, and Hye-joon stares at her intently as the camera pans out, revealing the name of the convenience store, “I Like You.”
Hae-hyo wakes up to an emergency text from Jin-woo, saying that he’s in trouble. With Hye-joon in tow, Hae-hyo drives them to an OB-GYN clinic, but it was a false alarm. As punishment, the friends pummel Jin-woo and ask why he called them.
Rewinding back to last night, Hae-na had a condition for getting more intimate: he needs to get a HPV vaccine. Thus, Jin-woo roped his friends in with him.
Hae-hyo tells him to break up since his girlfriend sounds manipulating, and Hye-joon asks if it’s someone they know. Hae-hyo wonders if it’s Hae-na but laughs since Jin-woo isn’t crazy enough to date family. Their interrogation is interrupted by a nurse who calls for Hye-joon, and Jin-woo tells him that he’s their leader which means he gets the first shot. Heh.
After they get vaccinated, the three of them commemorate the occasion with photos. While the others suggest grabbing lunch, Hye-joon is meeting with Min-jae, and Hae-hyo is surprised to hear that she’s his new manager.
He tells him to join his company instead, but Hye-joon declines the offer since Hae-hyo’s company already rejected him once. As the two friends watch Hye-joon leave, Hae-hyo expresses his worries about Min-jae and Hye-joon’s latest behavior, but Jin-woo thinks everything will be fine.
Jung-ha shows Jin Joo their latest color, but Jin Joo waves aside her suggestions. Using this moment, Jung-ha apologizes for not answering her call last night, but Jin Joo scoffs at her apology. She mocks her for relying on male customers and then has the audacity to act like the bigger person. Yuck.
Soo-bin enters to inform them of Yi-young’s appointment, but instead of Jin Joo, she wants Jung-ha. Before the jealous designer can blow up, Yi-young arrives early and sets Jin Joo aside for a chat. She tells the designer not to feel hurt by the change since she’s only checking Jung-ha’s skills. After all, Jin Joo was the one who said her son seemed to favor comfort over competence.
Min-jae informs Hye-joon of his busy schedule which includes a trip to the salon, an interview, and two auditions. Hye-joon mentions wanting to play poor characters for his drama roles since his movie role is a rich businessman, and she tells him not to worry because only the leads are rich in dramas.
After hearing the day’s plans, he compliments her managing skills, but asks why he’s sitting in the back. She tells him to get used to acting like a star, but her overly thoughtful actions make him uncomfortable. After switching to the front seat, the two quarrel over their future direction with Hye-joon wanting to be a humble star and Min-jae emphasizing the reality of the situation.
When push comes to shove, he wants her to follow his values, and with just one look into Hye-joon’s eyes, Min-jae is a goner. She relents to his wishes but adds a condition: he has to respect her decisions when it comes to business.
After Jung-ha finishes Yi-young’s makeup, she explains how once is an exemption but twice isn’t. She tells Yi-young to choose her over Jin Joo after she’s improved in skills, and Yi-young likes her objective self-assessment.
At the bank, Kyung-joon deals with a noncompliant client and insists on being in the right. As the client grows angry, the manager comes over and apologizes instead. She pulls Kyung-joon aside and chews him out for being inflexible despite working for three months and complains about him out loud.
Rather than turn the other cheek, Kyung-joon calls her out for badmouthing him when he’s right there. He keeps smiling through his never-ending explanation until the manager tells him to leave.
At the salon, a customer asks Jin Joo why she looks angry, and she glances at Jung-ha while explaining how she gets trampled on a lot because of her honest personality. When she finally leaves, Hye-joon and Min-jae let out a sigh, clearly not buying the “woe is me” act.
Hye-joon asks if she’s in trouble, and she tells him that she was in the wrong for ignoring her call. To that, he tells her that he likes people who reflect, and asks if he can help. She smiles at his comment but tells him that this is her battle.
Hae-hyo arrives at the salon and runs into Jin Joo. He asks if Jung-ha can work off-site, and she awkwardly laughs at his question.
After his makeup is finished, Hye-joon asks if Jung-ha likes it since he likes everything she does. She wonders why he’s being so generous today, and he gets up to face her. He tells her to only drink with him because she’s too cute, and Jung-ha cheekily replies that she’s heard that one a lot. He says her name like a parent scolding a child, and she takes back her lie, “I hear that I’m pretty more often.” Heh.
Hae-hyo joins them and asks Jung-ha to do his makeup for his movie role. Hye-joon is glad to hear she might be on set, and she offers to do his makeup as well. He points out that she’s there for Hae-hyo, but his friend puts his arm around him and says that he hired her for the both of them.
Looking around, Hae-hyo wonders where his manager went, and lo and behold, he’s with Yi-young. He set up a meeting with some reporters on her behalf, and Yi-young nonchalantly tells them about Hae-hyo’s latest casting. To celebrate the occasion, she offers to buy them an expensive meal.
Jung-ha finds Jin Joo putting away stuff in the backroom and helps her with the task. She doesn’t know where things started getting tangled between them, but Jin Joo suggests that they just cut it off, then. Reaching the peak of petty, Jin Joo drops a basket full of equipment and leaves Jung-ha to clean up her mess.
As Hye-joon works his part-time job, he explains a class theory about gold and dirt spoons. According to this dichotomy, he falls until the dirt category. After finishing up his shift, the owner asks if he considered his proposal, and Hye-joon tells him that he’s filming a movie. The owner understands his decision since being young means being stubborn.
With Min-jae by his side, Hye-joon walks to the script reading and narrates how he doesn’t like the idea of gold and dirt spoons because it ignores the values his parents have imparted to him: his emotional stability, honesty, sincerity, and motivation to succeed.
As they wait for the elevators, actor Park Do-ha (the jerk from episode one) and Tae-soo (Hye-joon’s ex-agent and now executive director of Do-ha’s management company) join them since the former is the lead actor of the movie. During their ride up, Tae-soo mocks Hye-joon for leaving his company, but Min-jae stands up for her star.
While the two managers walk in front and argue about Hye-joon’s lack of fans, Do-ha scoffs at Hye-joon since he probably got cast as a nobody. Hye-joon stands tall next to the mean star and smirks at him, “At first when I saw you, I flinched, but when I think about my role, I get happy.”
Wearing a sharp suit, Hye-joon steps out of a limousine to a crowd of men who bow to him. He struts into a warehouse and stares at Do-ha who’s beaten and tied up. When Do-ha curses him, Hye-joon scowls and throws a stick past his head. He asks if he looks like a thug who beats people with sticks, and Do-ha breaks character, asking why Hye-joon is going off script.
The director comes over, and to Do-ha’s surprise, he approves Hye-joon’s ad-lib. He asks what he was going to do next, and Hye-joon explains his plan to beat up Do-ha with his fists to make his character more sinister.
As they prepare for this script change, Hye-joon stares at Do-ha and thinks to himself that the man in front of him used to be his dream. However, Hye-joon isn’t the same person he used to be, and he practices his punch. Watching Do-ha cower before him, he narrates, “Today, I realized why I so desperately wanted to be an actor. To an actor, a spoon is just a utensil used for eating.”
The term “dirt spoon” may still be relatively new in South Korea, but the ideas behind it are certainly not. Class has always been a strong social marker in Korea, and though the caste system has changed over time, one thing seems to remain the same: your lot in life is determined by your family. In essence, the idea of the spoon class theory is one of social reproduction with very little social mobility. If you’re born with a gold spoon, then you die with a gold spoon, passing it on to the next generation and the next—the same phenomenon inadvertently happening to a dirt spoon as well. We see this theory play out with Yi-young who fights diligently to pass on her gold spoon to her children. It’s not enough for them to have the best resources and environment to flourish, she has to make sure they succeed because they need to inherit her socioeconomic status. In her mind, she has done nothing wrong which is why she displays such a lack of remorse for her actions. She’s fueled by her desire for social reproduction, making sure those beneath her don’t rise up the rungs, and the terrible thing about all this is that she feels justified. She’s doing this for her kids, and what parent wouldn’t want the best for their child? In the end, those with power and resources have an unfair advantage, and whether or not the show is doing it on purpose, it’s highlighting how broken society currently is. Ideas of meritocracy and “pulling oneself by the bootstraps” sound ludicrous, and the show tells us why: it’s a pipe dream.
One look at Kyung-joon tells the audience a grim picture of reality. Even though he studied hard and graduated from the top school in Korea, he works at a bank and gets chewed out by his manager. That’s not to say his occupation is lowly, far from it, but the emphasis the show puts on Kyung-joon’s success compared to Hye-joon’s adds another layer of complexity to this idea of dirt spoons. The pride and joy of the Sa family is Kyung-joon, but his success pales in comparison to what true “gold spoon” individuals like Yi-young have. No matter how great Kyung-joon thinks he is, in the end, he’s just another “dirt spoon” like his parents. Maybe he’ll move up socioeconomically, but he’ll never reach the upper echelons because those spots are predetermined by birth. He’s just another salaryman grinding away at his desk job, and though Young-nam and Ae-sook seem to look down on manual labor, being a white-collar worker isn’t all it’s cut out to be.
This leads to the other interesting characterization about the Sa family. Both Young-nam and Ae-sook look down on manual labor even though it’s their job because society has conditioned us to undervalue certain skills. Being a homemaker requires skills as does carpentry, but society tends to look down on blue-collar jobs as undesirable. These arbitrary measurements of achievement sometimes lead blue-collar workers to feel a crisis of self-respect, and you can see this especially in Young-nam. On one hand he looks down on his work and clearly supports Kyung-joon’s endeavors in education, but on the other, he takes pride in the difficulty of his work and looks down on Hye-joon for doing “easy” jobs. It’s this inner conflict that manifests itself into anxiety which can sometimes lead to a rejection of society. Granted, the writer might not be thinking about all these intersecting institutions, identities, and theories while writing the show, and maybe Young-nam’s disdain for Hye-joon’s line of work merely stems from jealousy as Jung-ha pointed out. However, even if it was accidental, I think the show has the potential to draw out these nuances in its characters and circumstances.
The show seems to depict the entertainment business as an avenue for Hye-joon to overturn the deterministic view of gold and dirt spoons, but by doing so, it also calls attention to the pervasive idea of this theory. In every other aspect of society, there seems to be very little hope for social mobility, but entertainment… that’s the goldmine. However, the show has already shown its viewers that this isn’t the case. Sponsors exist—both in this fictional world as well as the real one—and people like Yi-young manipulate the game to give others more chances of success. Despite the harsh reality, Hye-joon holds onto his ideals of being a humble star, and while I want him to succeed (Min-jae is right, how can you say “no” to his puppy dog eyes), I wonder if it’s even possible. There are so many people who want to become famous, and unfortunately, skills alone aren’t often enough to determine success. Fortunately, Hye-joon seems to at least have the talent needed to become a star, so all he needs is his lucky break. In the end, I’m still Team Gramps over Young-nam: Hye-joon will succeed sooner or later.
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