Eighteen Again: Episode 7
As our wayward husband and father adjusts to his new normal, he’s making an effort to be there for his family however he can. He has to be more creative, but he’s finding that the situation allows him to get close to his loved ones in ways he never could before. But it’s not easy to keep his secret, and sooner or later, they’re going to learn that he’s not who he says he is.
EPISODE 7: “Someone who gives courage to me”
After the media reveals that he’s a father, baseball player Ji-hoon comes home after a long day to learn that reporters ambushed his young daughter, Seo-yeon, at her bus stop after school. Her nanny says that Seo-yeon was very shocked, and she’s worried that it will keep happening.
All the messages on Ji-hoon’s phone are from reporters, or people he knows who are making this all about them (“I feel so betrayed by you!”). Only one message, from Da-jung, expresses concern and support for him and Seo-yeon.
Meanwhile, Ae-rin overhears Duk-jin and Dae-young in a coffee shop, Duk-jin loudly calling Dae-young by his real name. Surprised and flustered, Dae-young can’t even deny his real identity. Ae-rin starts to tell Da-jung that “Woo-young” is really her ex-husband, but Ji-hoon has asked Da-jung to meet up so she says she has to go.
Dae-young and Duk-jin make a belated effort to convince Ae-rin that she heard wrong, but she’s not having it. She proves it by calling Dae-young’s number from her phone and seeing his phone ring, so the guys accept that she knows. Dae-young asks her not to tell Da-jung, but all Ae-rin can think of are all the clues that this kid really is the ajusshi she hates, and she vows to punish him.
Da-jung and Ji-hoon sit in the park, and he explains how Seo-yeon got lost looking for her mother. Da-jung asks how long he’s been raising her, and he says two years, ever since he adopted her. She’s actually his older brother’s child, and Ji-hoon settles in to tell Da-jung the whole story.
His brother (cameo by Im Ji-kyu) had raised Ji-hoon after their parents died, all while working three jobs and going to college. When Ji-hoon was in high school, Hyung’s girlfriend had gotten sick of Ji-hoon always coming first and had broken up with him. Later, on the day he was drafted to the Seum Wolves, he’d come home to find Hyung caring for a baby girl — her mother had abandoned her.
A few years later, Ji-hoon was in America for training when his brother was killed in a car accident. Ji-hoon had come home, and despite his deep grief, he had decided to be a father to Seo-yeon the same way Hyung had been a father to him. Da-jung says that’s amazing, but Ji-hoon doesn’t feel like he’s been a good father, and now the media storm is making him feel even worse.
He confesses that he’s considering retirement, but he admits that he may regret it. Da-jung asks him to imagine how Seo-yeon will feel when she’s older and learns he gave up his career because of her, as if she’s a burden. She tells Ji-hoon not to retire if he’ll regret it, because happy parents raise happy children.
She says that she’ll be his fan forever, so that he’s always got a fan no matter what others say. Ji-hoon recalls his brother saying something similar: “Don’t let people who don’t know you, get to you. To me, Ji-hoon, you’re the greatest baseball player, and no matter what, I will forever be your fan.”
Il-kwon is working at the bar, and he fusses at the bartender when he accidentally calls him “teacher,” because he doesn’t want anyone to know. Ae-rin happens to be there, and she stumbles over to slur drunkenly that she didn’t realize he owned the place.
Il-kwon denies it and notes how much she’s had to drink, and she says that it’s Hong Dae-young’s fault. She says he’s fooling people, even Il-kwon, and when Il-kwon says that he hasn’t seen Dae-young in years, Ae-rin bellows, “You saw him. Go Woo-young. Go Woo-young is Hong Dae-young. Hong Dae-young is Go Woo-young!”
Ji-hoon asks Da-jung for parenting advice, like how to play with Seo-yeon. She tells him to do something active, such as telling her she’ll get a wish if she catches a cherry blossom petal then just letting her run around chasing them. Ji-hoon reaches out and snatches a petal from the air (his expression is so cute!), and he makes a secret wish.
Some passersby recognize him and whisper assumptions that he and Da-jung are dating. Ji-hoon notices Da-jung’s discomfort so he puts his hat on her, then stands between her and the gogglers until they walk away. He’s acutely aware of their hands entwined behind his back as they wait.
The next morning, Dae-young waits for Ae-rin outside her office building to ask her again not to tell Da-jung his true identity. She asks why not, since she’s Da-jung’s friend and not his, but Dae-young says that he’s asking for Da-jung’s sake. Ae-rin snaps that he should have done better before their divorce.
Dae-young appears as his older self as he explains, “I should have, but I finally realized it. I said that I was busy all the time so that I could come home late, and was always drunk at home, with the excuse that I’m tired. I missed it all, the times my family really needed me. I’m trying to be good now. I stopped drinking, too. But if she finds out that I’m Hong Dae-young, Da-jung will feel uncomfortable.”
Ae-rin agrees to think about it, but no more than that. Duk-jin follows her into the elevator and mentions how Shi-woo isn’t confident of his basketball skills, so he told his father that he wasn’t interested. He says that Dae-young has been posing as a friend to practice with Shi-woo, and they’re even going to try out for the school team.
He asks Ae-rin to understand Dae-young’s reasons for lying, and she grumpily agrees. But in her office, she recalls how she’s been mooning over the handsome young man, unaware that he’s really Dae-young. She calls Da-jung and asks her to meet up tonight to talk.
In the morning, Shi-ah runs late to school again and gets locked out of the gate. Bully Ja-sung purposely lingers in order to run punishment laps with her (OMG his smile! Who knew he was so adorable?), and he even offers to carry her bag. She refuses, but Ji-ho swoops in and just takes it from her, and awww, look at the baby love triangle! Ja-sung cheekily tosses his bag to Ji-ho, who just throws it on the ground, ha.
Later, Shi-ah and her friends head to the snack bar during a break, and she accidentally leaves her pencil case in the music room. Ji-ho and Ja-sung have a literal tug-of-war over it until Shi-ah returns and snatches it back, wondering what’s up with those two weirdos.
It’s the day of Shi-woo and Dae-young’s basketball team tryout, which is news to Shi-ah. Dae-young goes first, and after Ae-rin’s drunken rant, Il-kwon watches him closely and sees the strong resemblance to teenage Dae-young. When it’s Shi-woo’s turn, he looks nervous at first, but then he closes his eyes… and when he opens them, they’re full of determination.
He plays like an absolute beast, and he and Dae-young both make the team. Il-kwon tells them that he’ll talk to their parents about the details. Ji-ho and Ja-sung watch Dae-young wave happily to Shi-ah, and they both take it the wrong way and look jealous.
Shi-woo is worried that when his mom comes to the school to talk to Il-kwon, the kids will recognize her and she’ll hear some of the nasty gossip. He decides to ask his grandfather instead and takes Dae-young along. Dae-young’s dad couldn’t be prouder of Shi-woo, and he brags on Dae-young’s basketball skills, then ruins it by saying that’s all they could brag about with him, ha.
When he hears about the parent-teacher meeting, Dae-young’s dad tells Shi-woo that the school wanted him to pay money for Dae-young to play. He says he refused, confident that Dae-young’s skills were enough. Dae-young never knew this, and he ducks his head. His dad tells Shi-woo that he’s sure it’s different now, and that his mother should go to the meeting.
Later, Dae-young tells Shi-woo solemnly that he should tell his mother that he’s playing basketball, because she’ll be hurt if he doesn’t. Shi-woo understands that he’s right and promises to tell her.
When Ae-rin and Da-jung get together that night, all we see is Ae-rin talking animatedly and Da-jung looking worried. They run into Shi-woo and Dae-young on their way home, and Da-jung says that she knows everything. Dae-young goes into panic mode and begs Da-jung to hear him out, but she’s talking about Shi-woo playing basketball. Shi-woo tells her that he made the team and she squeals with excitement, then takes him home to make his favorite dinner.
Hanging back, Ae-rin tells Dae-young that she was planning on telling Da-jung his secret tonight, but in the end she couldn’t do it. When she’d mentioned “Woo-young” to Da-jung, Da-jung had said that he’s a nice kid who helps her, comforts her, and cares about her children. She’d said he’s there when she needs someone, which had changed Ae-rin’s mind about revealing the truth.
Instead she’d told Da-jung how “Woo-young” has been playing basketball with Shi-woo. Now she asks Dae-young if he wants to get back together with Da-jung. He says he can’t, looking like he does — he just wants to do the things for Da-jung that he couldn’t do before. HAHA, Ae-rin complains that it’s no fair he gets to look young and not her, and he points out that she looks the same as she did in school.
Still suspicious, Il-kwon flips through his high school yearbook to Dae-young’s photo. Sure enough, he looked exactly like “Woo-young” looks now.
Il-kwon has Da-jung meet with him at his bar, where he leads her to a skeevy private room. Three men are waiting, and Il-kwon introduces them as varsity coaches. They recognize her as the “water bomb” anchorwoman and start making increasingly inappropriate comments about her body until Da-jung stands and leaves.
Il-kwon follows Da-jung out to put the pressure on her… basically, if she doesn’t pay, Shi-woo doesn’t play, and he won’t be seen by college scouts. Da-jung grows angry, but Il-kwon says that this is how it works everywhere, and that if she doesn’t send money, she’ll end Shi-woo’s basketball career.
Duk-jin arrives later in his role as Woo-young’s father, and he bristles when he sees Il-kwon with a woman, since he told Duk-jin that he’s dating Teacher Ok. Offended by Il-kwon’s behavior, he refuses to pay a penny for Dae-young to play basketball, barking that he doesn’t think of him as his kid, ha. He goes home and reports what Il-kwon is doing to Dae-young, whose first thought is of Da-jung.
He goes to her place and paces for a while, and we see him as his older self as he calls Shi-woo and finds out that Da-jung hasn’t come home yet. He finds her having a beer on the stairs behind the building, where she usually goes to think, and he joins her.
Da-jung apologizes that this is the third time he’s seen her drinking, and Dae-young tells her that he quit after she told him to. She says he’s a nice kid and accidentally says he’s also annoying, and the embarrassed look on her face makes him laugh.
Turning serious, Dae-young says to Da-jung, “I know today was rough, but it’s okay. You did well today.” Da-jung calls him a mind reader and jokes that he probably even knows why she’s upset, and he says that he doesn’t know, but that whatever she decides, she should stand by that decision like his parents did.
Da-jung says that he’s always there when she needs someone, and she sincerely thanks him. He puts a hand over hers for a moment, then lets go and says respectfully that he’s just sending her some energy. She tells him that she feels much better, and they sit for a while in comfortable silence.
The next day, Da-jung thinks about Dae-young’s advice to stand by her decision. She gives Il-kwon a call and arranges to meet him at the school that evening. Feeling cocky, Il-kwon spots Dae-young in the hallway and calls out to him with his real name. Dae-young turns slowly, and Il-kwon says that he’s confused whether he’s Go Woo-young or Hong Dae-young.
On her way to meet with Il-kwon that night, Da-jung calls Ae-rin (who is a lawyer) to make sure her plan to record their conversation can be used as evidence if she reports him as an illegal college broker. She explains what she’s doing and why to Ae-rin, worrying Ae-rin so much that she immediately calls Dae-young.
Da-jung sets up her phone then gives Il-kwon an envelope of money, and he notes that it’s not the full amount and instructs her to send the money to a bank account from now on. She asks who has access to the account, so he tells her that it’s the coaches from Hankuk University.
From the reflection in the glass table, Il-kwon can see that Da-jung’s phone is recording their conversation. His phone rings and he pretends to get confused, reaching for her phone, but she stops him. Il-kwon says that they have the same phone and asks ominously if he can see hers. He suddenly grabs it, and Da-jung looks worried.
Il-kwon asks if Da-jung is planning to blackmail him, but she says honestly that she’s planning to stop him. Dae-young takes a taxi to the school and tries to call Da-jung, but Il-kwon still has her phone. He sees who’s calling, and leans in close to whisper a secret to Da-jung about Dae-young. When Dae-young finally finds them, Da-jung looks up at him with tears streaming down her face.
One day, Dae-young had been on work calls when he came across Da-jung filming a news piece for her old job. Her boss (the one who fired her for being a mom) had berated her in front of the crew and onlookers. Dae-young had nearly gone over to knock the guy’s block off, but he’d gotten a call and had decided to walk away instead.
That night, he’d found Da-jung having a beer on her stairs behind their building, but she’d pouted that he only came as an excuse to drink. Dae-young had told her, “It’s okay. Whatever it is, it’s okay.” Da-jung had complained that he didn’t know how her day even went, but he’d said that if he asked, she would have to talk about it, and it would be hard on her all over again.
He’d wanted to just rest and enjoy the evening together, but he’d said that she comes first and she could talk to him any time. He’d told her she did well today and tucked her under his arm, and she had asked him to say it again, because she felt comforted. Dae-young had held her for a long time, murmuring, “It’s okay, you did well today… it’s okay, you did well today…”
Da-jung holds his hand as she narrates: On the days I miss him, he becomes part of my memories. Our warmth blocked the cold night wind. Having someone in my corner comforted me on a difficult day.
Time passes to the present and she sits alone, but then Woo-young joins her as she continues: I know that memories can’t go on, but it feels like my memories are continuing. It feels, not like my past memory, but the present. It’s been continuing all along.
Okay, that’s the fourth time in a row that Eighteen Again has ended with a “Will Da-jung find out” cliffhanger. I don’t hate them, and at least they’re all very different circumstances, but I want to see something else. The show is so clever and so well-written, I know that it can do better than to keep ending episodes in the same way. At the very least, let someone else come close to finding out Dae-young’s secret, maybe one of the twins or even Ji-ho — that would be interesting to watch because then he could struggle with whether to tell Shi-ah. Okay, negatives over, on to the good stuff!
It’s been so long since I had a case of Second Lead Syndrome, but here we are again, and I’ve got it two times over. Despite my first (very wrong) impressions, Ji-hoon is turning out to be a deeply decent man, and I love the way he respects Da-jung and never pushes her for more than she’s willing to give. He respects her so much, and their friendship is growing so naturally, that part of me wishes this was their love story. But then there’s Dae-young, who is changing so much that he’s practically his own second lead, and I love him to bits as well. I almost feel like he’s a completely different person now, one that truly does love Da-jung for the right reasons and wants to be there for her and their kids, not because he has to, but because he wants to. And now that I think about it, make that two and a half cases of SLS… Ja-sung, amirite?? He’s making such a sincere effort to get Shi-ah’s attention, I love him.
Dae-young is just impressing me so much, especially since, like I said before, he wasn’t a terrible person before his miraculous return to youth. He took on massive responsibility at a very young age, and he provided a decent life for his family. He was even present when he really needed to be, such as when one of the twins was sick, but even he admits that he avoided his family as much as possible. The problem, as we saw last week, was that he did the big things, but he didn’t do the small, daily things that truly make Da-jung and the kids feel important and special. DJ especially needed Dae-young to be there for her on just the regular bad days, not just during emergencies, and that’s where Dae-young let her down.
But I like how Dae-young is realizing that his current situation is finally allowing him to be that person for them, even if they don’t know it. His new identity makes it so that he can show up for his kids, or be a support for Da-jung, in a way that he couldn’t before. And it’s forcing him to do those things for the right reasons — not for “good husband points” or “good dad points,” or to feel good about himself, but just because he wants his loved ones to be happy.
I’m looking forward to the shenanigans that Dae-young and Ae-rin might get up to now that she knows his secret. I hope that they can repair some of the damage their friendship has taken over the years, now that Dae-young is treating Da-jung right, which is really all that Ae-rin ever wanted from him. It’s Il-kwon I’m concerned about now — he may not be entirely sure, but he’s pretty certain that this new kid might somehow be Hong Dae-young, and there’s no way he won’t use that information to his advantage. Luckily, Da-jung has a lot of very protective people around her, so I’m not worried for her so much as I am for Dae-young. The stakes of being revealed are pretty high for him — at least now he’s still got his family, although in a different way than before, but if they find out who he truly is, he could lose them for good.
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