Eighteen Again: Episode 9
It’s really beginning to hit home to our wayward dad just how much he’s missed of his family’s life, and how much he’s missing now when he can’t be there as a husband and father. He’s doing the best he can, but there’s only so much a teenager can accomplish in an adult’s world. He’s still trying to make the best of the situation, but the depth of his loss is getting to him.
EPISODE 9: “Things you notice only after you have lost them”
Da-jung makes it to Dae-young and Shi-woo’s basketball game, and as she watches them play, she can’t take her eyes off Dae-young. Afterward, he approaches her and kneels to tie her shoe, which takes her back to the boy from her past. He walks away, and the name “Go Woo-young” on his jersey reminds her that he’s not who she thinks he is (or so she believes).
Da-jung runs into Il-kwon, who sneers that it’s good she got to see Shi-woo’s last basketball game, since he won’t be playing him again due to Da-jung’s refusal to “show gratitude” (A.K.A. give a bribe). He says she has one more chance before the next game, and leaves her gaping at his brazenness.
At work, Da-jung talks to the lone male intern, Ki-tae, who anchors a show that covers sensational news. She asks if he’d be interested in a college admission bribery case, and he says yes, as long as there’s evidence and witnesses.
Duk-jin returns to Il-kwon’s bar and asks to see the owner, calling him by name. The bartender says he’s not there, confirming her suspicion that Il-kwon does indeed own the place. Meanwhile, Il-kwon has drinks with his college coach friends and mentions that he’ll be one of them soon. They break the news that someone else got that position, and Il-kwon can’t hide his disappointment.
They’re joined by Mr. Bang, the father of one of the basketball team members, but the coaches all decide to leave and do this another time. Outside, Dae-young sees Il-kwon talking to them about securing him a college position. He calls Il-kwon to say that he heard what he’s doing, distorting the sport he loves to make money off kids.
Il-kwon growls that he spent all of high school and college giving money to his coaches and being worried he’d get kicked out. Dae-young retorts that that’s all the more reason not to do what he’s doing, but Il-kwon snaps that he’s still living better than Dae-young then hangs up.
After trying unsuccessfully to talk to Mr. Bang, Da-jung gets a text that appears to be from Duk-jin (but is really from Dae-young and Ae-rin who swiped Duk-jin’s phone, hee), asking if she wants to meet with the other team parents, and when she expresses worry that the other parents won’t show, he says there’s always a way.
Dae-young and Ae-rin send a group text inviting the team parents to a group meeting to discuss Il-kwon’s corruption. They say that anyone who chooses not to attend will be regarded as an accomplice and will have a lawsuit filed against them. HA! I knew having Ae-rin in on the secret would make things interesting.
They drag Duk-jin to the meeting kicking and screaming (with promises that this will make him look like a hero to Teacher Ok) in the school gym, and all the parents are there, even Ja-sung’s dad. Duk-jin says that he was also a member of the Serim basketball team when he was a kid, and that he taught his son everything he knows — ha, Dae-young and Teacher Ok are watching, and Dae-young tells Teacher Ok that it’s true with the most pained grin.
Duk-jin continues that the coach back then demanded money, but that his parents refused to pay because they believed in him. He says that Il-kwon wasn’t always a bad guy, and we flash back to see young Il-kwon, eighteen years ago. He had witnessed his father paying the coach to put him in the starting lineup, then had turned to see Duk-jin watching.
Il-kwon had threatened Duk-jin if he told anyone what he witnessed, and had begun taking money from him and bullying him, which continues to this day. Duk-jin asks if these parents want to raise their kids to be like Il-kwon, and most of them grumble collectively that he’s right.
Ja-sung’s dad and Mr. Bang argue that they and their kids will suffer if they testify, which scares the other parents. Da-jung asks if any of them are proud to tell their kid that they’ve been paying for their spot on the team. She asks how their kids would feel if they knew, which reminds Ja-sung’s dad of his son yelling that he’s ashamed of him.
The parents are still understandably worried about the timing of sparking a scandal right at the beginning of playoffs. Da-jung says that she’ll report him to a current affairs program and see if they’ll expedite the investigation.
She collects information about how much the parents have paid Il-kwon and the college coaches, and gives it to Ki-tae. Ki-tae confronts the Hankuk coach on camera about taking bribes, and he denies it. He calls Il-kwon whining about JBC coming to his campus.
By now Il-kwon knows that Da-jung is behind this, so when she sends him a text to come to the school, he’s angry enough to go. Da-jung is waiting alone in the gym, and she doesn’t object when Il-kwon grabs her purse and dumps it out to make sure she’s not recording anything.
She informs him that he’ll be exposed for taking bribes from parents and paying college coaches, and she tells him to turn himself in. Il-kwon laughs and says that he never actually promised anyone that their kids would play during important games or go to certain colleges, and he claims that the parents came to him with money because they didn’t trust their kids’ talent.
He says that if he goes down, he’ll say that Da-jung paid him, too, in ways not involving money. Gross. Da-jung tells him that he squandered his last chance, and he raises a hand to strike her.
But suddenly, in comes Duk-jin, looking ready to throw down. He asks Il-kwon when he’s going to grow up, and Il-kwon hits Duk-jin hard enough to knock him to the ground. When Da-jung tries to stop him, he shoves her down too and starts beating Duk-jin viciously.
A voice roars at Il-kwon to stop — it’s Ja-sung’s dad! He tells Il-kwon that he plans to testify against him, and when Il-kwon tries to blame everything on Da-jung and Duk-jin, the other parents pour out from where they’ve been observing to stand together in solidarity.
We see that the parents still weren’t convinced even after everything Da-jung and Duk-jin told them, so Da-jung arranged to show them what kind of man Il-kwon really is. Il-kwon keeps desperately throwing out justifications and threats, and he vows to sue them all for defamation of character and make sure their sons never play basketball again.
Da-jung snaps at Il-kwon to come to his senses and admit his crimes, but it pushes him to the edge and he advances, pulling back a fist to punch her. She grabs his wrist in a flash, flips him over, and kneels on his back. Ae-rin leads in the cops, and Il-kwon looks hopeful since he’s the one on the ground. But Duk-jin yelps that Da-jung was defending him, and all the parents agree that they witnessed it.
The cops lead Il-kwon out, and in the lobby he makes eye contact with Dae-young. He remembers bullying Duk-jin in high school, and how Dae-young would always come to Duk-jin’s defense. One day he’d seen the coach trying to make Dae-young’s father pay up, and for a moment he’d felt satisfaction that Dae-young also had to pay in order to play. But then Dae-young’s father had refused, and had threatened to tell the school if Dae-young wasn’t played because of it.
Ki-tae runs the story of Il-kwon’s corruption and assault of a parent, and the fact that he and the college coaches were sentenced to jail. The parents are still in trouble for paying bribes, but out of respect for their testimony, they only get probation.
Il-kwon’s father visits him in jail and says that he was always a disappointment. Il-kwon asks if he ever believed in him, and his father yells that he would have if Il-kwon had ever made him proud. Il-kwon spits that his father is the reason that he ended up where he is, but his father just growls, “you’re a failure.”
The school principal gathers the parents together and sincerely apologizes for what happened. He introduces a new coach and a parent representative who will help change things for the better, and awww, Duk-jin is the representative! He gives the new coach a petition signed by the parents that says they won’t pay him any money whatsoever, ha, but the new coach looks like a good guy.
After the meeting, Ja-sung asks his father if he’s okay after being questioned by the police. His father says that he’s fine and his company won’t suffer from this. He adds that Ja-sung is on his own now, but he says it with a smile.
Teacher Ok finds Duk-jin and tells him that she saw everything, and that he was very cool today. She thanks him for what he’s done and says that she’ll see him around, which gives him the confidence to ask her to coffee, and she accepts. Success!
In the biggest surprise of all, Ja-sung apologizes to Shi-woo for bullying him. He admits that it stung his pride when Shi-woo saw his dad hit him, so he unfairly took his anger out on Shi-woo. Awww, he really is a good kid.
Da-jung heads to a cafe and runs into Jin-chul, Dae-young’s friend from his appliance repair job. They spend a few minutes catching up, and eventually Jin-chul asks how Dae-young is doing after not getting the promotion, then hitting the boss and being fired. Naturally this is news to Da-jung, who still thinks that Dae-young is on a work trip to Busan.
Dae-young has dinner with his dad, who still treats him like a kid, so Dae-young gently reminds him that despite his looks, he’s all grown up now. They overhear a mother complain that she’s raising two kids when her husband spills food on his shirt. Dad says that Dae-young’s mother used to say that all the time, and Dae-young admits that Da-jung also used to make the same complaint.
Dad sighs that he feels sorry for Da-jung, taking care of the kids and the house and also him, until recently. Later Dae-young shadows Da-jung from across the street as she walks home from the bus stop, seeing her in a new light yet again. Distracted, Da-jung crosses the street and nearly walks into Dae-young, so he accompanies her the rest of the way.
Shi-ah joins them, and Dae-young gives his usual excuse of coming to see Shi-woo. Shi-ah complains about an upcoming school festival but both Dae-young and Da-jung tell her it will be a good memory later. Shi-ah asks if Da-jung has a good memory of her school festival, and Da-jung says it wasn’t that memorable, which makes Dae-young look sad.
The next day, Shi-ah and Bo-bae volunteer for the festival’s photo exhibit, and Ji-ho also volunteers so that he can do it with Shi-ah. Ja-sung starts to raise his hand but his friend stops him, giving time for Dae-young to chime in and losing Ja-sung the spot.
While going through old photos, Shi-ah drops a heavy box on her face and Dae-young tries to get a closer look, but Ji-ho grabs his hand and growls, “Don’t touch her.” After Shi-ah and Bo-bae leave the room, Dae-young asks Ji-ho if he likes Shi-ah. All Ji-ho says is that it’s none of Dae-young’s business, but it’s enough confirmation for a dad.
He chuckles to himself that Ji-ho is all grown up and that his crush is adorable, then yells that no man can touch his Shi-ah. He’s still grumbling when Ja-sung joins him, salty that Dae-young “stole” his spot on the photo team. Ja-sung asks Dae-young if he likes Shi-ah as a woman, making Dae-young yelp that that’s disgusting. Ja-sung admits that he does like her that way and warns Dae-young off: “Shi-ah is mine.”
Feeling all protective, Dae-young imagines aiming a gun at Ja-sung. But HAHA, all he’s doing is pointing a finger, and an unimpressed Ja-sung tells him not to let the other kids know. But after he’s gone, Dae-young vows to protect his daughter.
After school, Ji-ho shows up at Shi-ah’s job looking nervous. He seems about to confess, but Ja-sung pops up to flash the cutest shy smile at Shi-ah behind his back. Ja-sung buys two drinks and looks extremely happy when Shi-ah asks about the new coach, then he leaves one of the drinks for Shi-ah. Smooooth. But LOL, Ji-ho grabs it and drinks it instead.
Here comes Dae-young right on time to glare at his daughter’s suitors. He says he’s walking Shi-ah home, and the three stand around shooting eye-daggers at each other until Shi-ah comes outside. This poor girl is so confused! Dae-young wins by claiming her father sent him, leaving Ji-ho and Ja-sung to curse at him in tandem.
As they walk, Dae-young asks Shi-ah what she thinks of those guys. She thinks he’s crazy — she’s been friends with Ji-ho forever, and she’s still mad at Ja-sung for bullying Shi-woo. Dae-young stops Shi-ah from taking a dangerous shortcut, and he gives her an alarm to carry, saying that it’s from her dad.
Da-jung runs into them just outside their house and Dae-young watches as the two go inside. Not far away, someone takes photos of Dae-young as he turns to leave. They add the photos to their wall and write up another report, detailing Dae-young’s movements and concluding that they’re “carrying out the plan” tomorrow.
Ki-tae calls the other interns into a conference room to tell them that only three of them will be hired once their probationary period is over. Yu-mi pretends that she didn’t already know, but when the others decide to approach HR to say this isn’t fair, she argues that they won’t be able to change anything.
She refuses to present a united front with them and storms out. Ki-tae says that it’s because she sees them as competition. They realize that Da-jung is the only one without a regular program, but later, things look up when Da-jung is approached to MC a pilot variety program. But Da-jung wilts when she sees the name of the show, Couples in Crisis.
Duk-jin meets with Ji-hoon about some of his company’s events, and says that someone is bringing some information from his house. When Dae-young arrives, he and Ji-hoon recognize each other, and Ji-hoon is nonplussed to learn that this is the “son” who apparently hates him now.
As he’s leaving, Ji-hoon is thrilled to see Da-jung in the lobby with Ae-rin, but neither of them looks happy so he sits nearby to wait. Ae-rin is offended on Da-jung’s behalf about the divorce show offer, but Da-jung explains that if she doesn’t take it, she could be the one cut after her probationary period. She asks Ae-rin to help her if she does take the show.
Ji-hoon catches up to Da-jung outside, and he says that he came just to see her. Having heard her tell Ae-rin that she hasn’t eaten today, he invites her to dinner, making a big dramatic show out of being soooo weak and hungry until she smiles and caves. He takes her to a restaurant he frequents, and the owner delightedly recognizes Da-jung, making her smile again.
He orders their food extra spicy, having also overheard that Da-jung likes spicy food when she’s stressed. The poor guy can’t handle spicy food himself, but he does his best to pretend his cries of pain are just exclamations over how good the food is, and he convinces Da-jung to share some. Awww, he looks so happy!
Before they leave, the owner asks for Da-jung’s autograph, the first she’s ever given. Ji-hoon grabs his game glove from his car and asks her to sign it first so that her number one fan can have her first autograph, so she does, looking greatly cheered.
Ae-rin tells Dae-young about Da-jung’s offer to host a show about divorce, and how she believes it’s her last chance to be an anchor. Dae-young says she should do it regardless of the impact it could have on their family, because he trusts her to take that into consideration.
As he walks home, fireworks begin to explode over Dae-young’s head. It reminds him of when the twins were little, and the family had watched a firework show together. Da-jung had been sad that the kids would eventually grow up and not want to do this anymore, but Dae-young had said they’d have each other.
Da-jung had told him that she failed another anchor job interview, but that she was happy just to be at a TV station for a little bit. She’d been determined to keep trying, and show their children how she keeps challenging herself until she makes her dream come true.
Da-jung is standing on their building’s roof to watch the fireworks, but Shi-ah and Shi-woo, and even her mom, all text that they have plans tonight. She looks up to see Dae-young, who brought her the photos he found of her from the festival when she was in school. He nearly gives himself away by saying wistfully how pretty she was back then.
He changes the subject and shows her pictures of Shi-ah on his phone, then a video of Shi-woo playing basketball. Da-jung laments that she should have gone to more of his games, but Dae-young defends that she’s a working mom. Da-jung notes that he sounds older than he looks, and he jokes that he has an old soul. HA, literally.
He tells Da-jung that when he sees her on TV, she looks cool and never makes mistakes, and that Shi-ah and Shi-woo are rooting for her, too. He says she should continue showing that side of herself on TV, then the fireworks show starts and breaks the spell.
As Da-jung sighs at the gorgeous lights, Dae-young watches her and thinks: Da-jung-ah, you are doing a great job. So don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll do a great job again. He reaches up a hand to touch her hair, but he lets it hover for a moment before dropping it again.
He tells himself that there are some things you only notice after you’ve lost them, like the smile of a loved one, or time spent with your family… When I had them, I didn’t know how precious they were.
He’s still lost in thought as he walks home. He stops at a crosswalk next to a little girl, whose mother is standing across the street. The girl runs to her mother, and she doesn’t see the van coming until it’s only a few feet away.
As the mother screams, Dae-young races to the little girl and shields her with his body. He’s rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, and as he’s taken inside on a gurney, we see him lying unconscious… and wearing his older face.
When the kids were small, Da-jung once found Dae-young playing in the children’s area at the mall with them. They’d watched the twins for a while, and Dae-young had bristled when a little boy had led Shi-ah away by the hand to play. They’d heard the boy’s mother call his name, and awww, it was little Ja-sung!
Da-jung had predicted that Dae-young would throw a fit when Shi-ah brings home her future husband. Dae-young had grumbled that he’ll break his leg, then if he’s a good man he’ll fix it, but if he’s a bad man he’ll break the other leg, HAHA.
First things first — Show, you’d better not seriously be taking Lee Do-hyun away so soon! He’s most of the reason this drama is so magical, with his perfect depiction of Dae-young and his amazing ajusshi impression of Yoon Sang-hyun. Surely Dae-young can’t be back in his older body already, as he still has so much to learn and accomplish. I want Dae-young to get his happily ever after and eventually return to his real self, but not yet! We still need more Lee Do-hyun!
One of my favorite things about Eighteen Again is the ongoing theme of redemption, especially Dae-young’s redemption. We’ve seen him go from that guy who thinks he’s the best dad ever but that’s terribly wronged by his family, to a man who understands that he was only giving what he wanted to give, and not what his family needed him to give. It’s beautiful to watch, and his journey is only half over, but he’s not the only one learning about himself and changing for the better. Ja-sung the bully is also making efforts to be better, with Shi-ah’s influence and Dae-young’s compassion — he’s dealing with the issues with his father and even making tentative friendly overtures towards Shi-woo. Even his father has realized that he’s been wrong, and helping Da-jung to stop Il-kwon’s corruption is a good start to repairing his relationship with his son.
But I also see changes in Da-jung, who admittedly has less to change, as she was pretty amazing to begin with. But in every broken relationship, nobody is completely blameless, and Da-jung made her own mistakes in her marriage to Dae-young. They didn’t communicate well, and Da-jung didn’t really try very hard to find out what was wrong when Dae-young started drinking and avoiding the family. I don’t blame her, those things would make any spouse bitter and angry. But she seems to be coming to realize that she just assumed the worst of Dae-young and reacted in anger, instead of doing the work to find out what was wrong.
Seeing Il-kwon get his comeuppance was so satisfying! Watching Da-jung kick his ass, in heels and looking fabulous no less, was so amazing that I watched that scene several times. It happened much earlier than I expected, and with any other drama, that would make me worry that the show would flounder without an important goal to accomplish. But with a drama like Eighteen Again, it only gets me excited when one chapter is (seemingly) closed, because I have faith that this storyline was wrapped up because there’s an even better story yet to tell. To be fair, at this point I would watch these characters do nothing but sit and eat egg sandwiches and almost-but-not-quite reveal Dae-young’s secret for seven more episodes and be happy to do it, but we know this show is better than that. There are so many more small but important things to cover, such as the baby love triangle, Duk-jin’s burning passion for Teacher Ok, Ae-rin just being a badass in general, and Dae-young learning even more about how to be what his loved ones need.
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