Record of Youth: Episode 14
Not a day goes by without another problem cropping up for our top star as both his professional and personal life get messy. The people he thought who would always remain at his side might no longer be there, and by the time he realizes their absence, it might be too late. Though our top star has achieved the fame he desperately craved, standing at the top is much lonelier than he imagined.
EPISODE 14 RECAP
Hye-joon wants to know why Jung-ha doesn’t come to him first when he’s always made time for her. She understands how hard he tries for them, but she’s the same, too. She constantly thinks about making things easier for him during their short visits, and it dawns on Hye-joon that she’s making sacrifices as well.
Jung-ha asks if he’s happy since he’s accomplished more than he dreamt of, but before he can answer, Chi-young calls him back to work. As Hye-joon steps out, he apologizes again, but Jung-ha tells him that he’s more accommodating. That only troubles him more since he wants her to be free and happy, but Jung-ha puts on a smile, saying that in exchange she has his love.
Young-nam brags to Ae-sook about getting money from Gramps for the first time in his life and is excited at the thought of buying new clothes. Meanwhile, at the Jjamppong office, Kyung-joon is still getting help from Min-jae and Jia, though they make very little progress. They usher him to write an apology letter, but Kyung-joon stubbornly refuses.
While Hye-joon waits for his advertisement shoot to begin, Tae-soo calls to warn him about an article getting published tomorrow. Like a broken record, he acts like Hye-joon’s last lifeline, but Hye-joon knows better than to accept his help.
Early the next morning, Yi-young prepares breakfast for Hae-hyo, but in spite of her peace offering, he can’t get over the anger he feels inside of him. His bad mood carries over into his acting, and on set, Hae-hyo messes up his simple line over and over again. The director scolds him for not coming prepared, and recognizing the panic in his friend’s face, Hye-joon asks for a quick break.
Away from the staff, Hye-joon asks Hae-hyo what’s wrong, and after some prodding, Hae-hyo admits that he feels embarrassed in front of him because of his low self-esteem. His confession reminds Hye-joon of their past when they were in middle school.
Back then, Hye-joon was the one who felt inferior to his friend, and after learning about Ae-sook’s new job, Hye-joon started avoiding Hae-hyo. However, Hae-hyo kept following Hye-joon around and cried when Hye-joon told him to leave. In the present, Hye-joon watches Hae-hyo poring over the script and asks Chi-young to gab his friend a warm glass of water.
Hae-na brings Jin-woo home, and her act of rebellion is met with quick retribution by Yi-young. Sending Hae-na to fetch snacks, Yi-young sits Jin-woo down and warns him that choosing Hae-na means losing Hae-hyo. She then takes away Hae-na’s card and orders her to break up with Jin-woo before her dad finds out.
Ae-sook dresses up for her shopping trip with Young-nam, and she helps him look for jackets. While he tries on some clothes, Ae-sook continues browsing and chooses the same item as another shopper (cameo by Choi Su-jong, real-life husband of Ha Hee-ra). They momentarily lock eyes, but Young-nam comes out and gets defensive at the strange (and beautiful) man looking at his wife. Heh.
Young-nam’s jealousy leaves Ae-sook in a good mood when they leave the store, but the moment is short-lived as they spot a news report linking Hye-joon with Designer Jung once again. At the same time, Hye-joon notices the headline, and his face stiffens.
Min-jae fields the never-ending calls by disconnecting the office phone and discusses their next course of action with Jia. When Hye-joon calls, she uses an upbeat voice to assure him that all will be fine since the allegations are fake. Bursting her bubble, Hye-joon tells her that it’s not all completely wrong—Designer Jung did text him.
At the salon, Jung-ha stylizes Soo-bin, but her friend can tell her heart isn’t into it today because of Hye-joon’s recent scandal. Soo-bin wonders what will happen to him if the rumors are true, but Jung-ha doesn’t know either because she’s too afraid to ask him directly. Soo-bin advises her to reconsider since she would want her loved ones to ask first even if it hurts.
Later that day, Jung-ha visits Min-jae at the office, but due to her early arrival, she crosses paths with Jia. Min-jae awkwardly introduces Jung-ha as Hye-joon’s girlfriend and stammers for an appropriate title for Jia. The two ladies exchange business cards, and Jia’s casual emphasis on helping Hye-joon isn’t lost on Jung-ha.
Kyung-joon answers a call from his parents at work, and they tell him to come home early for an emergency family meeting. He can’t join them, though, and tells his parents not to worry about Hye-joon since Min-jae probably has a plan.
Contrary to Kyung-joon’s confidence, Min-jae is just as lost as the rest of them and shares her worries with Jung-ha. She calms down a bit when Jung-ha tells her that she’s doing a good job, and Min-jae realizes that Jung-ha needs some assurance, too.
She explains how Hye-joon meets her whenever he can, even forgoing sleep, but her words only make Jung-ha more uncomfortable. Rather than receiving love, Jung-ha prefers giving it, which is why she wanted to stick to fangirling and not date.
On the bus, Jung-ha debates whether or not to call Hye-joon, but ultimately, decides against it. In the end, the couple ignores their festering problem and gets calls from their respective second leads, instead.
Over the phone, Jia tells Hye-joon about the article her firm published on his behalf, but Hye-joon keeps their conversation short and professional. She disappointingly notes how cold he’s treating her and hangs up.
Returning to her salon, Jung-ha finds Hae-hyo waiting outside and joins him for lunch. While they eat, he points at the sauce on her face, and she flinches at his hand. To lighten the tension, he tells her that he wasn’t going to clean it for her, and she eases a bit around him.
Jung-ha asks him about Hye-joon, but Hae-hyo wasn’t unaware of the article since he’s been too caught up in his own problems. Jung-ha treats his confession as a joke, and he frowns at her teasing. When she apologizes, he says that she isn’t at fault and tells her that he’s having issues with his family.
After work, Kyung-joon whines at Min-jae for following him to the police station, but she reminds him that she isn’t tagging along for fun. Meeting with his online nemesis, Kyung-joon tells the officer in charge that the other party defamed Hye-joon first, which is why he won’t write an apology letter.
The online troll scoffs at Kyung-joon’s sense of righteousness and argues that Hye-joon is rich thanks to folks like him. He wonders if Kyung-joon is mad because he’s Hye-joon’s brother, and Min-jae holds her breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop. To her surprise, Kyung-joon doesn’t take the bait, and instead, he screams at the troll that he’s fighting for justice.
Hye-joon drops by the office, and at Min-jae’s insistence, he shows her the text message from Designer Jung. After reading it, she wants to release it to the press, but Hye-joon is against besmirching the designer’s name. Min-jae argues that being gay is nothing to be ashamed of, but Hye-joon firmly tells her that this isn’t about business but a person.
Letting that go for now, Min-jae tells him about Kyung-joon’s predicament and then tells him that they need to talk about Jung-ha. Even after their conversation, Hye-joon mulls over his manager’s words. She warned him to be careful about his relationship since Reporter Kim had caught whiff of Jung-ha. When he asked her to keep this a secret, Min-jae told him that Jung-ha already knows.
After convincing Chi-young to drop him off at Jung-ha’s, Hye-joon waits for her nearby until she finds him. Happy to see her, he leans in for a kiss but his cap blocks him. Holding hands, they walk around the neighborhood, and he asks why she isn’t getting mad at him.
Jung-ha doesn’t want to fight like her parents did, but Hye-joon offers a counterpoint, giving his family as an example. He thinks conflict can also nurture a relationship, but Jung-ha argues that he’s only considering the good endings. Hye-joon tells her not to worry because he loves her which means they won’t have a bad ending.
She comments on his tendency to protect her, and he jokes about her ruining the mood. They say bye for tonight since she has a client in the morning, and they schedule to meet tomorrow. Before she leaves, Jung-ha asks if he knows what’s up with Hae-hyo recently, but Hye-joon doesn’t know, either.
On the bus, Hye-joon reflects on Hae-hyo’s words and leans against the window. All the while, the other passengers take pictures and stare at the star. After getting off, Hye-joon thinks to himself that he’s been down this street countless times, experiencing both despair and hope.
Flashing back, Ae-sook made gimbap for Hye-joon and told him about her work. At first, she was envious of the rich but soon learned that it wasn’t a big deal. Recalling her words to not feel small, Hye-joon looks out towards the neighborhood when Hae-hyo joins him.
Hye-joon tells his friend that you can’t see his house from Hae-hyo’s side, but from Hye-joon’s neighborhood, you can see Hae-hyo’s house perfectly. No matter how hard one tries, it’s impossible to ignore the dazzling lights of Hae-hyo’s neighborhood, and Hye-joon says that he dreamed of being rich.
He admits to feeling embarrassed about facing Hae-hyo back in middle school, but that was also the period when they became best friends. Though he might not know what Hae-hyo is feeling exactly, Hye-joon doesn’t want him to feel embarrassed in front of him, and Hae-hyo finally opens up.
Unbeknownst to him, Yi-young meddled in every aspect of his life, even his social media presence. Hye-joon shares his own problems with his dad, and Hae-hyo sighs at how parents seem to think that they’re perfect.
Hye-joon comes home to his own room, and the signs of his success are evident in every corner. Looking at a family portrait, Hye-joon starts to cry. Recalling Jung-ha’s question about his happiness, Hye-joon lies in bed and weeps. He narrates, “I’m happy. Even if I cry out loud, I have a room where no one can hear me.” Oof.
Hye-joon goes to Jung-ha’s salon and is glad to see his plant flourishing. She notices his puffy face, and their talk of mundane things makes her happy. Addressing the elephant in the room, she wonders about his lawsuit, and we see Min-jae working diligently with the lawyers about how to handle the article. Though she wants to sue the newspaper company, they advise her to attack the reporter.
The recent scandal has even the drama director worried, but before he can say much to Hye-joon, Min-jae comes to the rescue and sweeps him away. She informs Hye-joon of the recent surge of posts calling for his resignation and wonders if he’s willing to release the message now. He hasn’t changed his mind, so Min-jae moves on to ask about Kyung-joon’s problem.
After earning a free day thanks to Min-jae, the first thing Hye-joon does is text Jung-ha the good news. Having a lot planned for his one-day vacation, Hye-joon starts it off with meeting Jin-woo bright and early.
Jin-woo is having relationship problems, but Hye-joon assures him that it’ll be a growing experience. He starts to apologize about neglecting his friends recently, but Hye-joon cheekily says that he’s not sorry. He knows that they’ll always be there for him, and Jin-woo smiles since it’s the same for him as well.
He asks if Hye-joon heard the news about Young-nam’s shoulder, and when Hye-joon comes home, he sees his dad in a different light. His parents stand outside his room, unable to knock in case they wake him, so he goes up to them, instead.
Since Kyung-joon took the day off, too, Hye-joon invites him down to talk. Despite Kyung-joon’s attempt to change the topic, Hye-joon doesn’t fall for it and tells his brother to write the apology letter. He’s planning on suing the online troll a second time, but he can’t if Kyung-joon doesn’t apologize.
Hye-joon doesn’t want to see his brother pay a fine, and Kyung-joon seems moved by the show of affection. However, it’s not enough to change his mind, so Hye-joon asks why he’s mad when he belittles him all the time.
Kyung-joon denies the accusations, but when Hye-joon silently challenges him, he admits his misdeeds, explaining how he wrongfully took out his anger about their family’s poverty on Hye-joon. He orders Kyung-joon to write the apology to him, then, and Kyung-joon finally agrees. Together, the brothers brainstorm ideas and laugh as they write the letter. Aw, they’re bonding!
Reporter Kim gets a call from the police and learns about the defamation charges placed against her by Hye-joon. She looks to her manager for guidance, but he tells her to get a good lawyer and publish another article about Hye-joon.
Using her husband as a liaison, Yi-young sets up a family meal in an attempt to appear like a harmonious family. However, her plans crash and burn during lunch, thanks to Tae-kyung’s usual foot-in-mouth syndrome. At home, she chucks her jacket at his face when he suggests counseling, and she tells him that she’ll go if he goes, too.
Things are much more cordial at the Sa household, and even the complaints about Young-nam’s new favoritism feel lighthearted. Gramps shares with the family that he got a new manager and points at Young-nam who doesn’t outright reject the proposal. When Ae-sook boasts about having two celebrities in the house, Kyung-joon suggests becoming one, too, but everyone ignores him. Heh.
Reporter Kim sits in Tae-soo’s office and complains about being sued. Tae-soo thinks to himself that she had it coming, but Reporter Kim clearly sees no fault in her actions since she’s already sharpening her knives for a counterattack. Going in for round two, she publishes the article about Hye-joon and Jung-ha.
Though Min-jae warns him to stay low for today, he ignores her advice. Even when Jung-ha calls to cancel their date, Hye-joon is adamant about meeting her rather than worry about what can’t be changed.
After hanging up, Reporter Kim walks into the salon and invites her out to drinks. When Jung-ha hesitates, she asks if she’s waiting for someone. By the time Hye-joon arrives, the salon is closed, and Jung-ha texts him that she can’t meet and apologizes.
Some time in the future, Hye-joon makes his way to the Jjamppong office, and upstairs, Jung-ha is already there. She apologizes to Min-jae for using her space, but Min-jae knows the couple has nowhere else to go. As Hye-joon walks to the office, an announcer reports on Hye-joon’s fallen public image and the enormous fines he has to pay for breaching his commercial contracts.
Hye-joon smiles at Jung-ha and says that it’s hard to meet her. She apologizes for missing their date that day, and he tells her that it’s fine. He’s happy to see her and says that he’s taking her advice and resting. He wonders how he got here, and Jung-ha reminds him that he’s diligent, rational, and passionate.
He thanks her for the recognition, and she notes that he’s thankful rather than sorry today. She tells him that she loves him, but then adds, “Let’s break up.” As tears well up in Hye-joon’s eyes, Jung-ha silently narrates, “I didn’t know I would experience such an old-fashioned love.”
The framing of the final scene in this episode captures what Hye-joon’s life has become. Even though he is in the same space as Jung-ha, it appears as if he’s being seen through a glass frame—forever the star and no longer the person. The more Hye-joon succeeds, the more he feels distant from those around him. The tragedy of his situation is how gradual the change took place, and how powerless he is to stop it. At his core, Hye-joon is the still the same humble and kind person he was from the beginning, but people no longer view him that way. He can’t even ride the bus in peace, and even his girlfriend can’t see him as the Hye-joon she once knew. The loss of privacy has taken a huge toll on Hye-joon, but it seems like he’s noticed the consequences too late.
While their breakup felt inevitable, it still didn’t sit right with me, partly because of the pacing and partly because of the show’s misuse of Jung-ha as a character. Even though there’s only a week left, I still don’t really know who Jung-ha is and what she wants. Humans are complicated and sometimes hypocritical, but my befuddlement about Jung-ha isn’t because she’s complex. It’s the exact opposite problem: she seems to just exist as a plot point and an occasional PPL-machine. I don’t understand why the show keeps emphasizing that she only wanted to fangirl because if she truly wanted to love him from a distance, then she shouldn’t have wanted to meet him. At times, it seems like even the show doesn’t know what to do with Jung-ha, and she’s just here as a tangential piece of Hye-joon’s story, which is a real shame because Park So-dam can do so much more with the right character and proper guidance.
In terms of Hye-joon’s career, the show is moving quickly, and it’s almost hard to believe that Hye-joon has filmed a movie, starred in three dramas, and won a best actor award in little over a year. His rise to fame is deliberately quick to portray the whirlwind aspect of this whole experience and how he hasn’t been able to enjoy his success, but as a consequence, the couple’s relationship is pushed to the wayside and not given the depth it needed before reaching this point. Episode after episode, the show emphasized the problems between Jung-ha and Hye-joon, yet neither side really showed growth nor a willingness to fix their relationship. When Hye-joon tells Jin-woo that he grew thanks to Jung-ha, I don’t understand his perspective because, for me, he hasn’t. The audience is told rather than shown that these two individuals love each other and are sacrificing for the other. Besides a few scenes mostly in the beginning of their relationship, Jung-ha and Hye-joon have danced around their issues, so while the breakup makes sense, it comes at the cost of ruining the actual relationship. Though I feel like the show will bring them back in the last episodes, it makes me wonder if I even want them back together again at this point.
As usual, I think the show has its best introspective moments when it’s talking about human relationships in terms of jealousy and class differences. The scene with Hye-joon and Hae-hyo wasn’t just about their neighborhoods, but how the rich have the privilege to ignore the poor while the poor don’t have that luxury. The metaphor, though, also works for their current (switched) positions. Hye-joon has become the twinkling lights Hae-hyo cannot avoid comparing himself to, while Hye-joon can no longer see his friend’s situation. Thus, part of Hae-hyo’s crisis comes from the fact that he’s forced to confront his privilege for the first time, and as expected, it’s an uncomfortable and difficult experience. Luckily, Hye-joon has been in Hae-hyo’s shoes (somewhat), and understands that friendships can overcome envy and embarrassment.
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