Eighteen Again: Episode 16 (Final)
It’s time for our story to end, but I’m not ready to let go of these people, or the beautiful ways they love each other. They’ve learned some powerful lessons through their unusual experiences, and those lessons will carry them into the future with faith that if you cherish those you love, you will always have happiness.
EPISODE 16: “Life continues”
When Da-jung learns that Dae-young has another chance to get scouted for basketball by a prestigious college, she breaks things off for his own good. He begs her to let him stay, but Da-jung says that he already gave up his dream once for her and the kids, and this time she wants him to have a chance at a better future.
Dae-young spends the whole night at the gym, throwing baskets and wishing for his life back. But nothing works, and he’s left in his new body, screaming with anger and grief.
On the day of the finals game, Da-jung arrives at the school, but the thought of watching Dae-young play is too much so she turns to leave. She’s halfway across the bridge when Dae-young catches up to her, and Da-jung wails that he’ll regret this decision again. She thinks it’s her fault his life will be ruined again, and she wishes she’d never told him she knew who he was.
But Dae-young tells her, “It’s not your fault… it’s because of you.” He says that he used to think of giving up basketball as a sacrifice, but then he realized that those special moments with his family made him happier than basketball ever did.
As he tells Da-jung this, she hears his voice change, and when she looks up, Dae-young is back in his older body. He continues that he didn’t realize how precious those moments were and would wish to go back eighteen years: “But Da-jung, you didn’t ruin my life. You gave me a chance. And my decision back then is the best decision I’ve ever made. I won’t miss out on that chance (again). You are my first love and my last. You are my life. I love you.”
Crying, Da-jung touches Dae-young’s face and sobs that she’s missed him. On the same bridge where they once vowed to spend their lives together, they kiss and make that promise again.
Dae-young and Da-jung make their way back to Shi-woo’s game, where Serim High is trailing by ten points with only a few minutes left in the game. Shi-woo and his teammates are obviously struggling, so Dae-young calls his son’s name. He gives Shi-woo a solemn nod, and Shi-woo is filled with renewed determination.
Shi-woo tells his teammates that he plays basketball because of his dad, who came to see him play for the first time ever. He says that he wants to win, so Ja-sung leads a cheer. Suddenly the Serim team is on fire, sinking baskets until they’re two points behind their opponent. Just as the buzzer sounds, Shi-woo makes a three-point shot and wins the game.
Shi-woo runs to his father but stops short, feeling awkward after not having seen him for so long. But Dae-young smiles, and Shi-woo falls into his arms, both of them crying a little as Dae-young says proudly, “You did well, my son.”
Later, Shi-ah is leaving her makeup class when she’s approached by the girl who recently insulted her in the street. The bully demands an apology, but Shi-ah refuses, and when the bully rushes at her, Shi-ah knocks her off-balance and she falls.
The bully’s father shows up and yells at Shi-ah, ordering her to apologize. Again Shi-ah refuses, since she did nothing wrong. Suddenly, Dae-young shows up and tells Shi-ah that she was wrong… for assuming that the other dad is too dumb to clearly see what really happened. He adds that Shi-ah can’t just lose her temper every time some jerk attacks her, because she could easily hurt a girl that’s so fragile. LOL!
Dae-young has perfectly painted the other dad into a situation where he can’t blame Shi-ah without admitting he made the wrong call, especially since the crowd agrees that Shi-ah was only defending herself. The other dad makes his bully daughter apologize, and when he balks at Dae-young’s demand that he apologize to Shi-ah, Dae-young points out that his daughter is just as precious to him.
Shi-ah asks Dae-young how he came at just the right time, but he says he just came because he’s missed her. Shi-ah cries and hugs him, and he apologizes for making her wait so long.
The whole family goes out to dinner, where Dae-young apologizes to the kids for disappearing on them. Dae-young and Da-jung ask the twins how they feel about letting Dae-young move back in and being a family again, and they both say through tears that it would make them happy.
Somewhere, someone posts a video of Da-jung on the internet. It’s shown everywhere, and people are shocked to see her latest scandal. Da-jung is mystified to find over sixty messages on her phone, just as Shi-ah runs in to show her the video.
It’s the CCTV footage from the day Da-jung saved Yu-mi from the creep taking an upskirt video of her. The video makes Da-jung out as a hero, and every desk at JBC is swamped with calls asking about her. Woong-ki figures out that Yu-mi herself posted the video, and although she vehemently denies it, even Director Moon admits that it’s the best thing she’s done since working there.
That night, Dae-young gets a look at Da-jung’s day planner, which is chock-full of appointments to discuss job offers. He decides that she needs a manager — him — and he takes his job seriously as he safely escorts Da-jung through a crowd of reporters outside the JBC building. She’s accepts an offer to MC a show about athletes teaching kids, and Dae-young lets her leave so that he can work out the details.
She runs into Yu-mi, who confirms that she posted the video online. Da-jung asks why, since it could have harmed Yu-mi, too. Yu-mi says that she was always mean to Da-jung and even got her fired, so she did what she would have done if it were her sister in Da-jung’s place.
Afterward, Dae-young stops and smiles when he finds Da-jung waiting for him outside the building. He says that he’s happy he no longer has to worry if she’ll see him, or make an excuse to talk to her, and that he’s happy she’s waiting for him. It makes Da-jung shy, but Dae-young jokes that a smart anchorwoman once said that some things should still be said, even in marriages.
Later Dae-young goes to the school to talk to Teacher Ok about Shi-ah’s career plans. He confesses to Teacher Ok that at first he was disappointed that Shi-ah doesn’t want to go to college, but that he wants to support her dream. As he leaves her office, Teacher Ok mutters that he seems awfully familiar, hee.
That night, as he plays basketball alone, Shi-woo thinks about the last time he talked to “Woo-young.” Shi-woo had been excited at the possibility of going to college together, but Dae-young had said he was returning to the U.S. soon.
Shi-woo had asked if he would regret not going to Hankuk University. Dae-young had said that there are things he cherishes more than basketball, and that what he regrets most is not realizing it sooner. He’d told Shi-woo to live a full life and never forget his loved ones, and to remember this time as good memories instead of regrets.
Shi-woo hears his friend call his name, but when he turns around, it’s his father standing behind him. At Shi-woo’s surprise, Dae-young says he’s pretty good at basketball, reminding Shi-woo that Woo-young said the exact same thing once. They make a bet, first one to score ten points gets a drink bought for them, and Dae-young loses cheerfully due to his older body.
Shi-woo tells Dae-young that playing with him is like playing with Woo-young, who he describes as “a friend who was always with me when I needed him.” Dae-young asks if he can take Woo-young’s spot as Shi-woo’s friend, and be there when he needs him, and Shi-woo grins like that’s the best idea ever.
That evening, Dae-young and Da-jung sit on their staircase and reminisce about when the twins were babies. Dae-young says that treating that time as a regret is the biggest mistake of his life, but that he’s learned that if you think of such things as lessons learned instead of regrets, it brings new beginnings.
When they go inside, they find a letter from Ji-hoon with VIP tickets to his next game, asking them to attend as a token of Ji-hoon’s gratitude. Da-jung arrives first and says hello to Ji-hoon, who notices that she’s wearing the bracelet he secretly bought her. She says it was from a fan, and that it seems to bring her good luck.
Dae-young shows up later and finds Da-jung in the skybox with Seo-yeon, Ji-hoon’s niece. She doesn’t recognize him, but he remembers her from her accident and says it’s good to see her again. Ji-hoon’s famously been in a slump, but he’s wearing the mitt that Da-jung autographed for him, and he plays fiercely.
After the game he’s interviewed by Yu-mi, and he tells her that his win is due to someone special. Yu-mi asks him to give them a shout-out, so Ji-hoon looks into the camera and yells, “Seo-yeon-ah! Your uncle won!” Later he runs into Dae-young, who says he’s a big fan, and Ji-hoon returns the sentiment as they shake hands.
Putting on his game face, Duk-jin dresses in a very realistic-looking Iron Man costume and heads to a cosplay party. The suit actually flies him above the crowds, where he’s able to pinpoint Teacher Ok across the room, dressed as Pepper Potts (naturally). Teacher Ok tells Duk-jin that she spoke to Woo-young, who told her that Duk-jin isn’t his real father, just a very good friend who helped him when he needed it.
Now that she knows Duk-jin isn’t a parent of her student, Teacher Ok is out of reasons to reject Duk-jin’s feelings. She tells him that she wants to be there for him from now on, and that his Iron Man costume is perfect. They try to kiss but have trouble getting around Duk-jin’s helmet, so Teacher Ok grabs his head and yanks it to the side to plant one on him.
Two years later.
Shi-ah and her friends arrive at a restaurant for their first high school reunion. There’s another Serim High reunion banner for her parents’ class, but the only one at the table is the nasty woman who tried to ruin Da-jung’s career. She learns through a chat room that her class sent her to the wrong place on purpose, sick and tired of her hateful attitude. HA.
At Shi-ah’s reunion, she’s flanked by Ji-ho, who she’s still dating, and Ja-sung, who’s still carrying a torch for her. Ji-ho is in medical school, and as an apology to Shi-ah for always being busy, he presents her with a huge bouquet of flowers. Ja-sung sneers that Shi-ah hates those kinds of things, but HAHA, apparently it’s different when it’s your longterm boyfriend. Depressed, Ja-sung takes one sip of beer and passes out cold.
Shi-woo isn’t at the reunion because he and So-mi, now his girlfriend, are having yet another fight. So-mi is jealous because Shi-woo smiles at his basketball fangirls, but Shi-woo tells her indulgently that he learned from his father never to let go of the woman who’s there for him during difficult times. Awww, smart boy.
The friends talk about Woo-young, who they still remember as a good basketball player and an even better friend. Ji-ho just smiles, knowing exactly where “Woo-young” is now and why nobody has heard from him, and he tells them that he’s doing just fine.
And he is — Dae-young is living the dream, teaching little kids to play basketball in his very own sports school. Da-jung has a television show, “Jung Da-jung’s Sports Fan Meet,” and she still keeps in touch with the three former JBC interns. Director Moon has moved on, and Woong-ki has been promoted to director in his place.
After filming her show, Da-jung heads outside to see Dae-young waiting for her. Damn, he looks good in a suit. He gives her a big public hug, and when Da-jung worries that they’ll be seen, Dae-young says that they should do what they want because they only live once.
He takes Da-jung to their old school gym and asks her to grant him a wish if he makes a basket from the center line. As he throws the ball, he says, “Da-jung-ah, will you marry me again?” He easily sinks the shot, then he tells Da-jung that he finally wants to have a real wedding, and to see her in a wedding dress. He even slips an engagement ring on her finger, saying that he may not be able to give her expensive things, but that he’ll always give her the best he can.
To celebrate her engagement, Ae-rin takes Da-jung parasailing. Da-jung has the time of her life, and sends Dae-young pictures of her flight. HAHA, Duk-jin’s wedding present to Dae-young and Da-jung (on Teacher Ok’s advice) is a life-sized replica of Deadpool.
Dae-young and Da-jung’s wedding day finally comes, and it’s lovely. Da-jung’s mom and Dae-young’s dad wish them well, making everyone cry. After the ceremony, Dae-young spots the old grandfather who offered him the chance to change his life, but the enigmatic man just gives him the “zipped lips” gesture before going on his way.
Dae-young narrates that if their story stopped there, his life would be a happy ending. But time continues moving, and sometimes he and Da-jung fight. They even have days where they hate each other, but the difference is that now, those days help them understand and love each other better, and they’re happier for it.
Once, when they were young, Dae-young and Da-jung had seen an elderly couple in the park and had promised to grow old together. They renew that promise now, and we see them and other couples — Shi-ah and Ji-ho, Shi-woo and So-mi, Duk-jin and Teacher Ok — walking into their futures together. Last we see Da-jung and Dae-young, old and grey but still deeply in love.
Dae-young: Thinking back, endless happiness was always in our lives. It’s a common luxury all of us can have. For that happiness, we decided to love our decisions. We chose people based on love, and we are grateful for our decisions. As for my loved ones and myself… I would like to cheer them on to the end of time.
Da-jung: In life, even if you miss out on happiness, as long as you have that one person who will look for happiness with you, your life will be worth living.
Dae-young: Don’t forget that you love each other.
Da-jung: Be disappointed that you cannot cherish each other better.
Dae-young: And promise for a better tomorrow.
Da-jung: Like that, our lives will continue.
Okay, give me a minute, I’m crying. What a beautiful ending! Such a simple message — just love each other as much as you can. That’s the secret to happiness. So easy to forget when we get caught up in our problems, but so important to remember, especially when it’s hard to do.
Turns out, I was a bit prophetic last week when I said I wanted to see Dae-young faced with the same decision he had to make eighteen years ago — his dream, or his family? What I didn’t expect was that not only would he get to make that decision again, but that his decision would be the thing that determined whether he returned to his old self, or continues with his new life. I do think the old man intended to give him a true second chance if he wanted it, and that if Dae-young had chosen to play in the game and accept the scout’s offer, he would have stayed as he was and gotten to live his basketball dream. This experience didn’t happen because he needed to learn a lesson about gratitude, but a genuine chance to make another choice and live another life.
Of course, we always knew Dae-young would choose his family again. He knew, almost as soon as he changed, that he wanted to go back to the way things were. And in a way, he still got a second chance — to be the amazing father and husband he has the potential to be, now that he understands how precious his family is to him. He’s always done his best for them, but somewhere along the way, he forgot how to listen and respect them, and that’s what he knows he needs to do from now on.
I loved that ending, with everyone walking off into the sunset together, hand-in-hand. In other times I’d find this ending a bit too perfect, but this is a fantasy, and sometimes you just want to see everyone get their happy ending. But even better was seeing Dae-young take the first steps of being his children’s supporter and friend, now that they’re almost grown, and how happy that made all three of them. I love parent/child relationship growth, and Eighteen Again gave me one of my favorite stories of a father and his children learning how to appreciate each other in all the right ways.
My only complaint about this finale, and I think we can all agree, is that there wasn’t enough Lee Do-hyun. He’s still a rookie, and I was glad to see more Yoon Sang-hyun, but Lee Do-hyun carried nearly the entire drama and held his own admirably against the incredible Kim Haneul. He was the heart and soul of Eighteen Again, giving one of the most honest and mature performances of the year as the father who seemed to get the chance of a lifetime, and whose love for his family won out in the end. The entire cast was fantastic, and elevated what would have been a good drama into a great one, but it’s Lee Do-hyun who made it truly special. I can’t wait to see what the future brings for him.
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