Eighteen Again: Episode 10
The longer he’s away from his family (that they know of), the more lonely and weak our young-again dad is becoming. An event at school reminds him of his love when it was new, and he’s sorely tempted to tell his ex-wife everything and risk what closeness he’s been able to reconstruct.
EPISODE 10: “If I love again”
When they were in high school, Dae-young used to wait for Da-jung every day, even though she was always late and it meant he had to run punishment laps with her. He would carry her schoolbag, promising that he would always take care of her, starting with making sure she’s not late anymore.
He’d called Da-jung the next morning to wake her up, only for her to sleepily request he sing her a song. He’d obliged, badly, which got him laughed at by passing students and made him grumpy. But his horrible singing had given Da-jung the wild giggles, which had worked to get her up.
On the day when Da-jung had defended Ae-rin by tossing her backpack at the bullies, Dae-young had watched, amused. After Da-jung and Ae-rin ran off, he’d saved Da-jung’s backpack from the bullies rifling through her things.
At the school festival, Dae-young had kneeled to tie Da-jung’s shoelaces, saying that untied laces mean that your soul mate would appear. He’d asked her to come to the gym, where he’d returned her backpack then had asked her to grant him a wish if he made a difficult basket. He’d yelled, “Jung Da-jung, be my girlfriend!” and had sunk the ball, but Da-jung had refused to grant his wish.
After dark, a former alum (Do Won-kyung as herself) had performed a love song for the students. While she sang, Da-jung had joined Dae-young and told him that a confession should be sincere, but she’d felt that his trick shot wasn’t a sincere confession. “I’m sorry, “ Dae-young had said. “I was so sincere that I guess I wasn’t being honest. But I’ve never been insincere to you, and I will always treat you with sincerity. I like you, Da-jung-ah.”
As the music swelled, Da-jung had quietly taken Dae-young’s hand. She’d told him that this song, If I Love Again, was her favorite.
In the present, Dae-young is walking home when a little girl runs into the middle of the street, into the path of a speeding van. He protects her with his body and is taken to the hospital, where he wakes up, dazed and wearing his old face. Da-jung runs into the ER and throws herself into Dae-young’s arms, followed by their children, and Dae-young apologizes for scaring them.
He’s back in his hospital bed when a nurse knocks the calendar off the table, and when Shi-ah picks it up, we see that it’s December 2017. Awww, Dae-young is dreaming this, isn’t he? Da-jung asks Dae-young what happened, but he can’t seem to remember. The nurse calls to him, over and over, and when he wakes up for real, he’s still in his eighteen-year-old body.
The mother and the girl Dae-young saved are by Dae-young’s bedside, and thankfully, the girl is fine and Dae-young only has a mild concussion. Dae-young is depressed to realize that he’s alone, with nobody to worry for him or take care of him, unlike in his dream. He lets himself cry for a moment, then dries his tears and leaves the hospital.
He goes to the convenience store where Shi-ah works in the hopes of walking her home, but she’s already off work. She decides to take the dark alley shortcut, despite Dae-young’s warnings, and a guy with a creepy grin cuts her off. Shi-ah runs, but the stalker quickly grabs her.
He gets more than he bargained for when Shi-ah handily kicks his ass. It’s no wonder Shi-ah and her mother can both handle attackers so well — they took a self-defense course together recently, and Shi-ah was so good that even the instructor (cameo by UFC fighter Kim Dong-hyun) was a little afraid of her, ha.
For some reason, though, Shi-ah decides to stand there and discuss her fighting skills with the stalker instead of getting herself to safety. He stands and pulls a knife, and Shi-ah takes her instructor’s advice on how to handle an attacker with a weapon… run away.
She pulls the alarm that Dae-young attached to her bag and legs it, and as they exit the alley, someone flies out of nowhere at the stalker. It’s Dae-young, who only belatedly realizes that the stalker’s intended victim was his own daughter.
They all end up at the police station, and when Da-jung arrives, she’s more upset than Shi-ah. Shi-ah points out the stalker, who’s smirking at Dae-young as he repeatedly tries to attack him while the police hold him back. The stalker threatens to sue Dae-young, but Da-jung goes after him, and soon her mom shows up and joins her daughter in beating the crap out of the stalker.
The police pull up the stalker’s records and realize that he’s on probation for attempted sexual assault. He had a bunch of photos of Shi-ah and her family in his bag — ooooh, this is the guy! He hasn’t been following Dae-young as we thought, he’s been following Shi-ah, planning to kidnap and assault her. The cops calmly watch Shi-ah’s entire family attacking the stalker and decide there’s no hurry in stopping them.
Eventually everyone calms down and leaves the station. Da-jung’s mom thanks Dae-young for helping Shi-ah, and he forgets himself and addresses her like a mother-in-law. Thankfully, she just assumes he likes Shi-ah. As he trots away, Da-jung and her mom marvel at his resemblance to Dae-young, and Mom adds that his looks aren’t the only similarity.
Over breakfast, Da-jung mentions the fact that Shi-ah is getting home late quite often. She wants to know why, and when Shi-ah freezes up, Shi-woo jumps in with a cover story that she’s being kept late after school as punishment for being late every morning.
Mom asks when Da-jung is going to be on TV again, so Da-jung tells them about the offer for the show on divorce. At first, Mom looks disappointed, but Da-jung says that she’s going to do it. Mom says supportively that of course she is, and the twins both chime in that they think it’s a good idea. This family — they’re killing me.
After school, Ji-hoon waits at the bus stop for his niece, Seo-yeon, since her nanny is busy today. He grins and holds his arms out wide, but Seo-yeon gives him the cold shoulder, ouch. She won’t hold his hand at the crosswalk, either, crossing all by herself like the tiny little independent woman she is, hee.
Ji-hoon has an interview at JBC, so he leaves Seo-yeon with her coloring books while he gets his makeup done. She gets distracted by someone dressed as her favorite cartoon character and wanders off without Ji-hoon noticing. Thankfully, she runs into Da-jung, who doesn’t know who she is but takes care of her.
As soon as Ji-hoon’s makeup is finished, he sees that Seo-yeon is gone and he panics. He runs through the station and eventually finds her with Da-jung, who’s surprised to learn that the little girl is the niece he’s always talking about. Ji-hoon tells Seo-yeon to wait in the green room while he’s in his interview, but she pouts that it’s boring, so Da-jung offers to take her for ice cream instead.
During music class, Shi-ah’s friends wonder how many new couples there will be after this year’s school festival, but she doesn’t think dating gossip is very interesting. She does admit that she likes guys who are forward, and it’s so cute how Ji-ho and Ja-sung both perk up. But it’s Dae-young who sits next to Shi-ah, and oh noooo… please Show, don’t take it to the icky place!
Teacher Ok announces that duet performances are due soon, and since Dae-young chirps that Shi-ah is his best friend in class, he gets added to her and Bo-bae’s team to become a trio. Shi-ah asks if he can play any instruments, so he picks up a guitar and starts to play. Shi-ah recognizes it as If I Love Again, the song that her father used to play and sing for her when she was younger (Awww, hearing Yoon Sang-hyun sing is giving me all the Oska feels).
When Yu-mi interviews Ji-hoon, she thinks about a warning from Woong-ki that popularity will be a factor when deciding which interns to hire full-time. She goes off-script and asks Ji-hoon about Seo-yeon, a subject that was supposed to be off-limits. She asks what kind of woman Ji-hoon looks for when planning for the future, and he looks irritated.
After the interview, Ji-hoon returns to find Seo-yeon engrossed in a book that Da-jung is reading to her. He’d previously read her the same book and was deemed “no fun,” but Da-jung’s interesting voices clearly make a huge difference to the little girl. Ji-hoon offers to buy Seo-yeon more ice cream but she says coldly that she’ll get it herself.
Ji-hoon laments that he can’t braid Seo-yeon’s hair like Da-jung did and thanks her. He congratulates her on her new show (he overheard Yu-mi and some friends talking nastily about Da-jung taking the show), and she admits that she agreed to it because her kids like seeing her on TV, though she heard it from someone else.
Duk-jin cashes in on Teacher Ok’s agreement to have coffee with him, but when she arrives at the park where they’ve arranged to meet, she finds a huge “Will You Date Me” sign with balloons and streamers. She asks Duk-jin if he did it, and seeing her distaste, he says of course he didn’t (then frantically tells his people to take it down, hee).
They sit with their coffee, and Teacher Ok nearly chokes on her drink when Duk-jin thanks her for the date. She says that this isn’t a date, and that she only agreed to it because of what he did as a father, not a love interest. She tells Duk-jin clearly to stop with the inappropriate behavior, so he asks if she’s disinterested because he’s a parent. Teacher Ok tells him that it’s because he’s an anime fan… aww, why is she lying, she loves anime!
Wandering back to his office building, Duk-jin runs into Ae-rin in the lobby and offers her the flowers that Teacher Ok wouldn’t accept. Ae-rin is mad that they weren’t really for her and smacks Duk-jin with them, yelling that this is why he can’t get a girl. Duk-jin’s assistants think he’s been rejected, especially when they hear Ae-rin on the phone complaining about some clingy guy she used to date.
While Da-jung is crossing the street, she stops to help an elderly gentleman whose cart of groceries spilled. She gets him and his groceries off the road and offers to walk with him to his destination. He graciously declines but says that he wishes he could repay her. Da-jung says there’s no need and goes on her way, unaware that this same man helped Dae-young with a personal problem quite recently.
It’s the day of the school festival, and it brings back a lot of memories for Dae-young. HAHA, Ji-ho and Ja-sung keep finding themselves in the same place enjoying the same things, and they keep snarling at each other like mortal enemies.
They’re both transfixed when they spot Shi-ah in her old-fashioned costume for the photography booth. Dae-young steps in to take pictures of Shi-ah and her friends, and Ji-ho and Ja-sung growl in unison again, this time at “that jerk.” Later, Dae-young finds some privacy to send pictures of Shi-ah and Shi-woo to Da-jung as “Woo-young.”
Seo-yeon is in bed when Ji-hoon decides to give this story-reading thing another shot. He does silly voices like Da-jung, making Seo-yeon laugh, so he texts Da-jung to tell her of his victory. He asks if she’s off work yet, but she says she has to work late tonight.
After dark, Do Won-Kyung returns to the school’s stage to sing like she did when Dae-young was a student (the first time). None of the other students know who she is, but Dae-young is struck by the coincidence, particularly when she starts singing the same song, If I Love Again. He imagines himself and Da-jung holding hands again, then realizes that he’s all alone.
He leaves and sees that Da-jung has texted “Dae-young” back the pictures of the kids. Feeling vulnerable, he texts Da-jung again, asking if he can go to the station and see her right now. She says yes, so he runs as fast as he can… oof, is he planning to tell her his secret?
When he arrives, Dae-young sees Ji-hoon’s interview from today being aired on the jumbotron. Yu-mi asks what kind of woman he’s asking for, and Ji-hoon answers, “I want someone with a beautiful smile. I want someone so brave and cheerful that just watching her uplifts my mood. She can be clumsy at times, but she rocks at work. I want someone who can surprise me, and I want a warmhearted and mature woman.”
Da-jung has come outside and she also sees Ji-hoon’s answer. She mutters that such a perfect woman doesn’t exist, but to Dae-young, it’s obvious that Ji-hoon is describing Da-jung. As Dae-young watches, Ji-hoon shows up unexpectedly, and Dae-young sees how happy Da-jung is to see Ji-hoon.
The day after the big basketball game, Shi-ah’s friend So-mi gave Shi-woo a drink and shyly congratulated him on his win. Shi-woo had asked Dae-young if he’d ever dated a girl, though he’d denied being interested in anyone himself. Dae-young had described his girl as having a beautiful smile, as brave and cheerful, and said how he enjoyed watching her make her dream come true and that she made him a better man.
It was exactly how Ji-hoon describes Da-jung. Shi-woo had said that such a perfect girl doesn’t exist, but Dae-young had insisted that she does. In the present, although it looks like the hardest thing he’s ever done, Dae-young turns his back on Da-jung and Ji-hoon and walks away.
Dae-young continues to both impress me and break my heart as he slowly but bravely lets go of his past. For all he knows, he’s stuck in his younger body forever, so despite his momentary weakness — I’m convinced he was about to tell Da-jung that he’s Dae-young — he knows that it’s best to back off and let Da-jung move on. I’m not sure that Dae-young would have been able to do it if he wasn’t going through this transformation (physical and emotional), but he’s learned enough by now to know that Da-jung deserves to choose her own future, even (especially!) if it’s with someone who isn’t him. And she’s strong enough and smart enough to make a good choice for herself. Ji-hoon is a good man who adores her, and he would make a wonderful partner and husband.
In fact, it’s another hallmark of how great this drama is that I wouldn’t even be upset if Da-jung does end up with Ji-hoon — it’s a Korean drama so that’s very unlikely, but it’s been known to happen — because the characters are so well-fleshed-out. If I remember correctly, the movie was mostly about the slacking husband’s emotional journey, but the drama has taken this opportunity of having a lot more time to depict how everyone has been affected by Dae-young’s absence as a father, and how his (unknown to them) new role in their lives is changing things. He’s affecting them in different ways as Woo-young, in many ways better than he ever did as their emotionally distant and physically absent father and husband. But Dae-young doesn’t know if he’ll ever get to be himself again, and an important part of his journey is the understanding that this may be it… he may never get to go back.
The stalker sub-plot was scary, and I’m glad it didn’t take up too much time. It was a good way to show Dae-young taking care of his family and hopefully hammer home to Shi-ah that she needs to take safety more seriously, and not be so stubbornly independent. It’s good that she can defend herself, but there’s no shame in relying on others for help. Having said that, though, I love that Shi-ah isn’t boy-crazy and has her own goal that she’s willing to work towards, even if we don’t yet know what that goal is. She’s pretty awesome, like her mom, so something tells me it will be a worthy goal, and probably heart-tugging as well.
Speaking of heart-tugging, Duk-jin and his unrequited crush on Teacher Ok is killing me! I respect her decision not to date him if she’s not interested, I just wish we knew what her real reason is. If it’s because he’s (she believes) a parent, that makes total sense, because that’s a professional line you just don’t cross. That would be the easy answer, but Teacher Ok claims that it’s because she doesn’t like anime fans. Except that she’s an anime fan herself, so I feel like that’s not true — or if it’s true, there’s a lot more to it, like that she had an anime-loving boyfriend and it ended badly. If they showed us her gamer-chick side more, I might like her more, but aside from that one scene she’s been nothing but standoffish. I don’t even necessarily want them together, because frankly I find Teacher Ok cold and unapproachable. I just want her to tell Duk-jin the true, honest reason she’s rejecting him so that he can move on!
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