Record of Youth: Episode 16 (Final)
As our protagonists’ twenties come to a close, it’s time to say goodbye to these final pages of youth. While some days were filled with heartbreaks, tears, and longing, this period of tribulations was also marked by unbridled enthusiasm, beautiful memories, and lifelong lessons. Though the future may still be uncertain, our youthful leads gladly face what lies ahead and march towards their dreams.
EPISODE 16 RECAP
Hye-joon and Jin-woo pout at the park—each suffering from their own love problems—when Hae-hyo appears. Still sour from his encounter with Yi-young, Jin-woo disappears after he sees his friend, which makes Hae-hyo worried about his relationship with Hae-na.
However, Jin-woo isn’t the only one on his mind as Hae-hyo turns to Hye-joon and asks about his breakup. Hye-joon tells him that it hasn’t really sunk in yet, but then he remembers Jung-ha’s last expression. Hae-hyo consoles his friend, reasoning that Jung-ha chose to break up for his sake, but Hye-joon expresses doubt. He wonders how he can offer comfort to his fans when he could not even protect his loved one.
Flashing back to the night Hye-joon told Jung-ha that he didn’t want to break up, he drove her in his car, and the ex-couple sat in silence during the entire ride. Recalling the moment, Jung-ha tells the audience that she remembers everything from that day.
Parked in a secluded area, Hye-joon broke the silence, asking if she’s been well, and Jung-ha tried her best to maintain the idle chatter. When he didn’t respond in kind, she stepped out of the car for some air, and he joined her outside.
Hye-joon asked why she didn’t even give him a foreshadowing of their breakup or a chance to fix things. He thought she fired him because of his protectiveness, but Jung-ha actually thanked him for feeling protective. However, it made her want to lean on him, and that sense of dependency reminded her too much of her mom.
As she shared with him in the beginning of their relationship, Jung-ha had a firm sense of what she liked and disliked, but as time went on, she realized that things weren’t so black and white. After meeting him, she started changing and becoming more complex until, eventually, she liked her new self.
Hye-joon argued that he grew as well because of her, but Jung-ha pointed out their crucial difference: he achieved his dream while she just started. She believed their timing was off, and if they forced themselves to be together, then it would only drive them further apart.
Unable to accept their end, Hye-joon said that he would try harder, but his earnest doggedness only made her want to protect him more. With his eyes glistening with tears, Hye-joon told her, “I love you,” and after a pause, Jung-ha shakily replied, “I know.”
Hye-joon wanted to know why he couldn’t be by her side while she worked towards her dream, but Jung-ha told him that she learned a lot from his love and those lessons were enough for her. She asked him to remember their time together as beautiful, and Hye-joon wordlessly turned away.
Gramps poses for photos at the studio Jin-woo works for, and Young-nam dutifully monitors his star as a doting manager. Jin-woo’s soon-to-be ex-boss Moo-jin ignores Young-nam’s suggestions at first, but when he hears that he’s Hye-joon’s dad, his tune changes immediately. Though Moo-jin practically grovels for a chance to work with Hye-joon, Young-nam pushes for his dad, instead. Heh.
Overhearing their conversation, Gramps vows to only go to Jin-woo once he opens up his own studio, and Young-nam agrees to bring Hye-joon, too. Jin-woo thanks them for their support and quickly intervenes when Moo-jin tries to step in between them.
Min-jae meets with Kyung-joon about the lawsuit for one last time and gifts him chocolates. The good mood is short lived, though, when Kyung-joon mentions changing the agency name, and Min-jae barely reigns back her rage.
Moving on, she tells him that the charges will be dropped, but instead of celebrating, he wonders why people get mad at the truth. She calls him peculiar, and after considering it for a second, he takes it as a compliment. He invites her out to lunch and happily shares that these are the first chocolates he’s ever received.
Hye-joon packs up Jung-ha’s things, including the matching shoes he decorated. In the midst of cleaning, he finds the unsigned contract with Min-jae and contemplates his next move when Ae-sook comes in with food. She wants to reschedule the dinner with Jung-ha, but when he doesn’t answer, she wonders if they fought. Hye-joon tells her that she won’t respond even if he wants to fight. She asks if they broke up, and Hye-joon eats so he doesn’t have to answer.
In his office, Tae-soo looks over the article of Hye-joon’s successful drama, and still delusional, he wonders how to win him over. However, now’s not the time to be dreaming since Do-ha barges in with another emergency: he’s being blackmailed. Right on cue, the women from the bar walk in and wave.
Stepping out for a private word, Do-ha tells Tae-soo that they want 500 million won. Tae-soo wheezes at the hefty sum and then sighs when Do-ha blames him for introducing him to the place. Entering crisis management mode, Tae-soo meets one-on-one with the leader of the other side, and immediately grabs the upper hand when he correctly guesses that she’s recording them.
After getting her to turn over her phone, he threatens to report her to the police, but she doesn’t believe his bluff. He laughs and presents his pen which also happens to be a recorder—he now has proof that she tried to blackmail them. He admits that this story would hurt Do-ha’s image, but loving a bar hostess isn’t a crime. He mouths at the girl to scram, and she leaves in a huff.
Before Hye-joon steps out, Ae-sook tells him to come home early since she might not see him tomorrow because of work. Sitting down, Hye-joon tells her to stop working since he’ll support her. When she refuses, he explains that he earns money so that she can live more comfortably, and takes her hand in his, asking her to reconsider his proposal if she loves him.
In her salon, Jung-ha records her last video for her channel and thanks her fans. Among them is Hae-hyo, and he looks at the coupon he won from her live broadcast. He uses it as an excuse to go see her even though he isn’t filming, but she tells him to save it for when he actually needs it. She asks about his next project, so Hae-hyo informs her of his plans to enlist.
Hye-joon texts the group for a round of basketball, so later that night, they all meet up to play. Afterwards, they drink some beer, and Jin-woo wonders if the two stars aren’t busy. Hae-hyo points out that only Hye-joon is the star, and when Hye-joon doesn’t deny it, Jin-woo teases him and asks what he’s doing next.
Hye-joon tells them that he’s thinking of enlisting, but Jin-woo calls it crazy. Hae-hyo doesn’t think it’s that farfetched since he’s thinking about it, too, but Jin-woo argues that their cases are different. He keeps urging Hye-joon to push back his enlistment date, and even Hae-hyo says that Hye-joon should think about it. Since he has an early schedule tomorrow, Hye-joon leaves first, and Hae-hyo takes Jin-woo away for a chat.
On his way home, Hye-joon stops by the roof to look out into the city. He thinks to himself that he’s achieved his dream. However, he still has one assignment left, and the faster he gets it over with the better he’ll feel.
Ae-sook turns to Young-nam for advice about what to do with her job, but without even a sliver of doubt, he fully supports Hye-joon’s wishes. He tells her to listen since he paid off their debt and even bought their house. Hye-joon drops by their room and asks them to set up a family meeting.
Over drinks, Hae-hyo tells Jin-woo not to hate his mom, and Jin-woo says that he doesn’t because Yi-young is also Hae-na’s mom. Though he’s upset to be moved beneath his sister, Hae-hyo gives his support for whatever Jin-woo decides. Dropping the civility, Hae-hyo complains to Jin-woo about his earlier behavior, and Jin-woo apologizes while teasing his friend for acting like a child.
When Hae-hyo comes home reeking of alcohol, Yi-young voices her frustrations at her son. She scolds him for not feeling angry when he sees Hye-joon, but Hae-hyo admits that he is mad. He doesn’t understand why he hasn’t succeeded yet, and it hurts to notice how all the attention is now on his friend rather than him.
However, Hae-hyo likes himself because he realized that he’s not a bad person. He was genuinely happy for Hye-joon’s success because even now, he still believes that he’ll succeed as well. He assures Yi-young that she didn’t fail and raised a good son. His words hit her hard, and Yi-young returns to her room in a good mood—already making plans for Hae-hyo’s future and setting up her own agency.
Hae-hyo finds Hae-na watching TV in his room and tells her that he’s taking a neutral stance in regards to her relationship. She argues that he can’t be neutral since he’s under their mom’s influence, but Hae-hyo asks if she isn’t. Hae-na deflates, admitting that she’s even worse than him, and confesses that she misses how things used to be.
Jin-woo picks up Hae-na for their date, and during the car ride, she asks how she can help with his studio. He tells her to study harder because then she’ll be too busy to meet him. As his words sink in, he gently urges her to return to her old life since neither of them is strong enough to ignore their family. Though clearly upset, Hae-na doesn’t object and wipes away her tears.
Hye-joon attends a ceremony to accept the title of honorary ambassador for social welfare and does an interview afterwards. The reporter asks about his next project, and Hye-joon tells his fans that he doesn’t have anything planned at the moment.
While Kyung-mi drops off food at Hae-hyo’s house, her schedule overlaps with Ae-sook, so she tells her friend first that she’s quitting. She explains that Jin-woo doesn’t like her working here, and Ae-sook sighs since she’s having the same problem.
Kyung-mi finds Yi-young to inform her of her resignation, and Yi-young lets her go without a fuss, assuming that she heard everything from Jin-woo. She tells her not to be upset, but Kyung-mi misunderstands, thinking that Yi-young is talking about Jin-woo’s complaints. Though their responses sound odd to each other, they don’t think much of it as they part ways.
After some hesitation, Ae-sook tells Yi-young that she’s quitting. Unlike with Kyung-mi, Yi-young is much more adamant about holding onto her, but is at a loss for words when Ae-sook mentions Hye-joon. Since money won’t work on Ae-sook, Yi-young tries to appeal to her emotions, asking if their relationship meant nothing to her. Ae-sook wonders to herself why she’s acting liked a spurned lover as Yi-young continues clinging onto her. Heh.
In evening, Young-nam waits for Jang-man in the streets to give him some drinks that Gramps is sponsoring. Kyung-joon meets them on his way back from work, and the father-son head home since there’s a family meeting tonight.
Before dinner, Kyung-joon drops by Hye-joon’s room to ask if they’re meeting about Gramps’ new car, but Hye-joon sees through his tricks and knows Kyung-joon is talking about himself. Talking in circles, Kyung-joon gives Hye-joon financial advice and then asks if he can continue his studies. Hye-joon orders him to get to the point, and Kyung-joon asks his younger brother to adopt him. Ha!
During the meeting, Hye-joon tells his family that he’s enlisting. Everyone but Gramps is against the idea, but their arguments are pointless since the topic isn’t open for debate. Ae-sook says that he resembles Young-nam, but both father and son deny it. Young-nam gets up and says that his kids should resemble Ae-sook instead.
Ae-sook follows her husband into their room, and Young-nam tells her that he really meant it: Hye-joon only succeeded because he didn’t resemble his dad. Meanwhile, Kyung-joon tries to defend their dad, but ends up admitting that the favoritism was good for him either. He says that Hye-joon had more freedom, and though Hye-joon agrees, he points out that it also made him more distant with their dad.
In his room, Hye-joon looks over the new contract with Min-jae and texts her to meet next week to discuss their renewal. Agonizing over the text, Min-jae jumps in shock when Chi-young returns to the office to pick up his cake.
Seeing him spurs an idea, and she asks if he really isn’t interested in acting again. After thinking about it for a second, Chi-young passes on the offer since he doesn’t want to give up eating and hates memorizing lines. She reminds him to pick up Hye-joon tomorrow, but he says that Hye-joon is driving himself. On his way out, he warns her to be careful since their only star might leave.
A client comes early to the salon, and after Jung-ha does her makeup, she asks how the client was introduced to her. The client heard from Seo-woo (Hye-joon’s recent costar) that she was Hye-joon’s girlfriend, but Jung-ha denies it.
In the Jjamppong office, Min-jae hides her disappointment over the unsigned contract and wishes him luck. He suddenly says that he’s enlisting and asks her to wrap up his affairs. Despite her warnings, he tells her that he isn’t afraid of a two-year hiatus.
Then, for the first time, Hye-joon admits that jjamppong is better than jjajang, and agrees to sign a three-year contract. Suppressing her smile, Min-jae offers a three to seven split, and Hye-joon accepts as long as the company covers all the expenses. She takes the offer, and they smile at each other. Hurrah!
Now that Reporter Kim has a new target, she’s causing hell for Tae-soo by targeting Do-ha. Meeting in person, Tae-soo tells her that she picked the wrong person since he doesn’t care about Do-ha, but unlike him, she still has a conscious. He advises her to stop or else she’ll turn into him.
Jung-ha rides the bus to the library where she promised to meet Hae-hyo. Once she arrives, the familiar setting reminds her of happier times with Hye-joon, and the memories are so strong that she can’t stay there for much longer. Hae-hyo follows her out and tells her that he’s enlisting, though he leaves out the fact that he’s going tomorrow.
Hae-hyo packs up his things while keeping his enlistment a secret from his family. Before he leaves, he hugs Yi-young and tells her that he loves her. The next morning, he texts his friends that he’s joining the marines today, and at the same time, Yi-young finds a letter on his bed. Addressed to her, he wrote that he’s finally learned to accept his parents’ background as a strength, and decided to enlist solely on his own. As the words sink in, Yi-young clutches the letter to her chest and cries.
Jin-woo pops into Hye-joon’s room where his friend gives him some clothes and an envelope of cash to help with his new studio. Upstairs, the two families (minus Kyung-mi) share a meal together before Hye-joon’s enlistment. Jin-woo asks about Young-nam’s shoulder, and though he tries to hide it, everyone knows about it—except Kyung-joon, heh. After the meal, Hye-joon uploads an announcement on his Instagram account that he’s holding a live broadcast.
Do-ha also considers enlisting or at least separating from Tae-soo, but Tae-soo appeases the star by explaining how the reporter is attacking him because she’s jealous. He keeps feeding Do-ha’s ego and assures him that everything will be fine once Hye-joon enlists.
Hye-joon stops by the library, and just like Jung-ha, the place reminds him of her. Holding back his tears, he decides to leave, but an older janitorial worker cautiously asks him for an autograph for his grandchild. Hye-joon happily signs and then takes one more look around.
That night, he holds his live in his room, and as the viewers come pouring in, he tells his fans that he’s thankful for their love. He promises to return after serving his duties, and the chat explodes.
Two years pass, and Jung-ha drives her own sports car and manages her busy schedule with the help of her friend (and now employee) Soo-bin. On her way from a drama shoot, Jung-ha gets another request for an off-site filming and accepts.
After completing his service, Hye-joon goes to a meeting for his post-army project with Min-jae at his side. Afterwards, he makes it in time for Gramps’ award ceremony where he wins the achievement award.
Gramps tells the audience that he wasted his life, but out of luck, he had his son. He jokes that he wanted to give him money after winning the lottery but still hasn’t won. He wants to pay back his son for all the hardships he put him through and dedicates the award to him.
In his room, Young-nam weeps, and after composing himself, he goes down to see Hye-joon. He apologizes to his son and tells him that he regrets not supporting him when he needed it. Most of all, he regrets hitting him that one time, and explains how his insecurities made him hate himself. He makes sure Hye-joon knows that it was never his fault because he’s also been an amazing person.
Hye-joon apologizes for resenting him, too, but Young-nam says that he deserves it. Hearing Young-nam’s apology finally brings Hye-joon peace since he has always wanted his approval. Young-nam suggests a hug to end the moment, but Hye-joon quickly jumps away and rejects the idea. Hahaha!
As one parent-child relationship mends, another seems to be healing as well as Hae-hyo and Yi-young joke about how strong the boys’ friendship is. Hye-joon narrates that twenties are about detaching yourself from your parents’ influence, and now that his thirties are starting, he’s entered the stage where you can’t blame anyone else.
At the park, Jin-woo acts extra-polite to Hye-joon so he’ll do his photoshoot at his studio, and Hye-joon readily agrees. Hae-hyo joins them and agrees to it, too, and Jin-woo calls them crazy since they’re super expensive. They joke around like old times, and Hae-hyo shows off the abs he made during his action school training while the others run away in mock horror.
On set for his new drama, Hye-joon reads over the script as he gets ready, and not to far away, Jung-ha and Soo-bin arrive for a different shoot. As Jung-ha and Soo-bin go to check out the location, they cross paths with Hye-joon, and the former lovers stop in their tracks and lock eyes.
They separate from the others to enjoy a private walk, and he points out that she’s wearing his shoes. She tells him that this isn’t a sign of regret or longing, and he says that she thinks a lot in a short time. She wonders if he hates it, and he tells her that he doesn’t.
Their conversation mirrors their earlier one when they were just getting to know each other, but unlike then, they tease each other comfortably as they talk about how they’ve been and laugh.
Welp, we’ve made it to the end, and it’s… underwhelming? Disappointing? Everything you hoped for? Take your pick. In the end, Jung-ha and Hye-joon break up, and their ending is left open enough for the viewers to make their own conclusions. It’s quite possible that the couple will rekindle their relationship, but for me, it really feels like these two are meant to be friends. Even after two years of separation, there’s an instant familiarity and comfort between the two characters that doesn’t necessarily come across as love but fondness. It’s not to say that they can’t be together, but maybe what becomes of the couple was never the message the show intended. Instead of a youthful romance, I get the impression that Record of Youth wanted to live up to its title, and in some ways, it was the writer’s attempt to pen an ode to youth. To capture the brilliance and beauty of one’s twenties while also acknowledging the fear and uncertainty of this period. Thus, it’s not about Jung-ha and Hye-joon finding love or conquering their problems together, but a humbler life lesson that it’s okay if things fail. Not everything is worth keeping, but just because things ended, it doesn’t make the entire journey pointless. Hye-joon and Jung-ha were given a choice in how to remember their relationship, and rather than dwell on the broken parts, they chose to cherish the beautiful moments even if it hurts.
Despite the message, I can’t help but see the show’s own faults and feel a little bitter. Overall, the ending felt lackluster because too many plotlines and characters were never resolved. Everything related to Yi-young sort of dissipated, and she wasn’t given a satisfying conclusion to any of her relationship (not with her children, husband, or even the other mothers). The show tells us that Hae-hyo and Yi-young are reconciling because he now accepts his parents’ influence, but that doesn’t explain what happens to any of the other toxic behavior Yi-young displays. Her relationship with Ae-sook was also odd, and basically was the same plot recycled over and over again. Unfortunately, the show had too many subplots and characters clogging up screen time, and consequently, it scrambled to tie up all its loose ends and failed. Tae-soo is still a jerk who never got his comeuppance, and Reporter Kim is merely a two-dimensional antagonist that solely exists to stir up trouble. Jin-woo is just the third-wheel in the friend group, and his relationship with Hae-na felt tacked on to the story. Jin-woo’s family was also a weird addition that ended up taking too much screen time for very little payoff. Whether the show should have focused more on Hye-joon or developed its entire cast more evenly is up for debate, but either way, the show clearly bit off more than it could chew.
Though the overwhelming majority of the final episode was disappointing, there was one character who I thought the show gave a wonderful farewell: Young-nam. (I know, who would have guessed?) Unlike many redemption stories involving abusive and/or problematic parents, the show doesn’t sweep Young-nam’s misdeeds under the rug, nor does it force Hye-joon to accept his apology out of guilt. Instead, Young-nam was given time to reflect on his past actions, and he genuinely apologizes to Hye-joon without looking for his forgiveness. The apology wasn’t for Young-nam to simply relieve himself of his burden but to give Hye-joon peace. What I loved about his apology was that he didn’t give an excuse for his behavior. He explained to Hye-joon why he wasn’t a great dad and absolves Hye-joon of any guilt he may have carried about their failed relationship. He tells Hye-joon that he’s always been an amazing son, and it’s his fault for not recognizing his own shortcomings and fears as a father. Even when Hye-joon takes some blame for resenting Young-nam, he doesn’t let his son give him an easy way out. All this time, Hye-joon was the one who was pushed to be understanding and patient, but Young-nam flips this all on its head. He should have been the one with compassion and empathy, so even if Hye-joon hated him, he accepts his emotions as valid and reasonable. Young-nam’s end, though, wasn’t just a sudden change in character this episode but a gradual shift that happened with Gramps first. It’s really thanks to Gramps’ endless love for his eldest son that Young-nam was able to face Hye-joon and apologize at the end. Even if everything else fell through, the show did a good job giving the closure Hye-joon needed with his dad, and I’m glad at least one major conflict was handled with care.
Record of Youth tried to be a lot of things, but ultimately, it was a tale of an aspiring star rising to fame and growing with his family. He lived, loved, and learned many things in this decade of life, and has a bright future ahead of him to continue doing the things he loves with the people he loves. While the show was disappointing on many fronts, hopefully fans will find some solace in this finale, and like our main (ex)couple, they’ll be able to cherish the beautiful moments the show had to offer. As for me, Record of Youth will just be another addition to my growing list of finished dramas, neither beloved nor vastly hated.
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