The high school versions of these characters are much more endearing than their adult counterparts, but I guess that’s the point—to really highlight how much they’ve changed, and to make us wonder what on earth happened to them in the intervening years to make our present-day characters so prickly. Love? Loss? Lobotomies? Or just good old-fashioned loss of innocence, with a side of parental baggage? Ah, growing up.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
In 2006, a young Noh Eul runs to school in the winter and stops when she sees the neighborhood granny pulling a cart up a hill. She gives the granny her mittens, scarf, and hat, and offers to take the cart the rest of the way.
Eul is apparently this kind to everyone in the neighborhood, much to the ire of her father, who’s been laid off and now runs a street food stand. When Eul tells a little boy to eat to his heart’s content and not bother paying, Dad sarcastically calls her Jesus and cries that he’s not made of money.
Eul’s classmate runs up to announce that another friend is about to get beaten up by the school bully, and Eul goes running to save her. Dad calls after her that she’s not the police and she should mind her own business, but she willfully ignores him. Dad mutters under his breath that she should slip and fall on a patch of ice, and immediately she skids and falls.
At the same time, Joon-young and his friends walk up to a bulletin posted in the hallway, announcing his impending transfer as punishment for school violence. (Some things never change.) Joon-young’s mom bursts into the principal’s office with a girl in tow, insisting that Joon-young saved this girl from being attacked by some other boys, and they’re the ones who should be punished.
But the girl hangs her head and doesn’t say a thing in Joon-young’s defense, and Mom is horrified to learn that the girl testified against Joon-young, lying that he started a fight without provocation. Mom asks the girl if her parents taught her to side with the rich boys instead of the poor one, and slaps the girl across the face angrily.
Mom comes to her senses and gets on her knees to beg the principal for another chance. She cries that Joon-young is going to be a prosecutor someday, and he can’t have something like this on his record.
Joon-young only makes matters worse by seeking out the rich kids, who are feeling pretty superior right about now. Joon-young points out how lame it is to get transferred for roughing them up a little, and suggests that he might as well beat one of them to a pulp and just go for an expulsion.
Next thing we know, Joon-young is being berated by a cop at the police station, sporting fresh bruises on his face. The cop says he took pity on Joon-young because he was raised by a single mom, but that just stokes Joon-young’s anger and he mouths off.
Thankfully, Ajusshi shows up to defend him (the restaurant ajusshi that Mom kept calling oppa). Ajusshi warns the cop to back off because if he brought Joon-young’s father here, no one would be able to say a word against him. Joon-young asks Ajusshi to stop it with the Dad talk, and finally erupts in a scream: “Stop it!”
Joon-young looks pained as he stammers, “How can a dead person come here?” Does he mean that, or is he just saying it because he knows Dad won’t come?
In case we hadn’t picked up on the clues, we cut straight to Assemblyman Choi, who in 2006 is Prosecutor Choi. Joon-young and Ajusshi watch him on television, giving a press statement on a murder case, and Ajusshi asks what Joon-young will do if Prosecutor Choi really is his father.
Joon-young scoffs at the notion, but when Ajusshi presses, he answers, “I’ll kill him. He threw me and Mom away, and eats well and lives well all by himself.” Ajusshi argues that his father was never told about Joon-young’s existence because Mom cut and ran while she was pregnant…
This is news to Joon-young, who asks what on earth Ajusshi is talking about. Whoops. Ajusshi realizes what he just let slip, and has to stop Joon-young from running out of there to interrogate Mom about it, for fear of her wrath.
Ajusshi tells him that his parents met while Dad was working a part-time job as a waiter in a bar, while hiding the fact that he was in law school. Mom was working in the kitchen of that bar, and they fell for each other. But one day Dad’s older brother showed up and told Mom that his brother was destined to be a prosecutor, and that someone like her wasn’t fit to be with him.
Joon-young trudges home with all this weighing on him, remembering Ajusshi’s plea not to let Mom know he told Joon-young about his father, insisting that Mom was really soft-hearted and fragile underneath her gruff exterior. Ajusshi said she probably would’ve died for his father if he’d asked her to.
Joon-young finds Mom sitting outside on their front stoop when he gets home, and he smiles sweetly for her benefit. She scowls in return, and wonders why the cops let a criminal go so easily. Joon-young jokes that the jail was too crowded, and he was told to cause some more trouble and come back next time.
Mom isn’t amused and refuses to feed him, so Joon-young just carries on in his casual way, eating out of her bowl and declaring that he’s not going to go to tutoring anymore. He doesn’t see the point of living in a basement apartment just to pay for an expensive tutor.
They tussle over the rice bowl and Mom hits him a few times ineffectually, frustrated that he stepped in to save a girl, when that’s not really in his character to do. He doesn’t disagree that he’s normally the type to walk past a dying person, but he says he must’ve just gone crazy that day, since he found out that Mom is serving drinks at a bar in order to pay for his tutor. Oh.
He tells Mom to give up on her dream, because he takes after her and is too dumb to become a prosecutor. Mom yells at him to live however he wants then, because she’s done caring whether he goes to jail or not.
Mom cries herself to sleep that night, but Joon-young rolls up his sleeves and cracks his books, determined to make Mom’s dream come true on his own. He stays up all night studying (or many days?) and reads flash cards on the bus to school, when a talent agent sidles up to him and hands him a card. Joon-young just crumples it up and goes back to his flash cards.
Everywhere he goes, girls fall over themselves to get a better view or pass him notes, but he ignores all the attention and buries his head in books day and night. One night at the library, Eul stops him on his way out of the bathroom and asks why he’s ignored all seven of the notes she’s passed him.
He looks her over and says she’s not his type, and she shouts that he’s not her type either—she’s here because her friend is lovesick, literally in a hospital bed and not eating, wanting to die because Joon-young dumped her.
Joon-young says she can just die then, so Eul threatens to kill him if her friend dies because of him. He wonders if she’s getting paid for this and suddenly walks up to her and puts his hand on her forehead. Eul is startled but shakes him away, and he declares that Eul isn’t in her right mind.
Eul goes to visit her friend in the hospital, armed with tissues and snacks. But her friend refuses to eat, no matter how much Eul tries to console her and remind her that Joon-young isn’t the only boy in the world. Her friend cries that Eul is lucky that Joon-young isn’t her type, though judging by the look on Eul’s face, that might not be the whole truth.
As Eul walks home that night, a girl bumps into her as she runs past. The girl looks back at Eul, and it turns out to be her past self in a flashback, running to the hair salon in a big hurry, excited about finally confessing her feelings to her crush.
Eul looks into the salon window, seeing herself in flashback, giddy about looking her best for the big day, and calling her best friend to borrow a dress. She’d walked to her friend’s house while practicing her big speech:
“Shin Joon-young, I’m Noh Eul, and I’ve liked you for a long time. I know you’re totally popular, but your fate is me. You can’t… get away from me…? You’re not going to confess this way, are you, Eul?” Yeah you might want to rethink your strategy there.
She laughs at herself and rounds the corner, where she comes upon Joon-young pulling her best friend into a hug. Aw, no. Present-day (er, 2006-present) Eul watches her past self with a wistful smile, and continues on her way.
Eul calls Dad and cutely calls him by name, and he wonders if she’s been drinking. He’s suspicious of her aegyo and guesses that she needs money to save yet another friend of hers, and Eul mouths along to Dad’s song and dance about how they’re not chaebols, and have nothing but debt.
Eul asks Dad to buy her a drink, and he calls her crazy and hangs up. But when she heads down to meet Dad on his way home, he’s holding a bag with two bottles of soju, having caved to his daughter, like always.
Eul sees that and happily tells her little brother over the phone not to wait up, since she’s going on a date with Dad. While she’s turned around to tell her brother this, a car comes careening down the street, and then there’s a loud crash. Gack.
When Eul turns around, she sees Dad lying in the road, his food cart overturned, and a red sports car stopped up ahead. A young woman gets out of the car, horrified at what she’s done, but when she sees blood spilling out of Dad’s head, she panics and gets back in her car.
What the driver doesn’t realize is that Eul has seen everything, and when she hears Eul screaming, “Dad!” the driver peels away from the scene. Eul races after her on foot, screaming at the car to stop. It’s useless, of course, and Eul is left standing in the street, watching the hit-and-run driver just get away.
In the middle of the night, Prosecutor Choi gets a call from someone he addresses as Assemblyman Yoon, who says that his daughter got into an accident and he needs Prosecutor Choi’s help.
Joon-young stays in the library till closing and packs up his things at the end of the night, pausing to stare at the magazine article featuring his father.
Eul’s father is in critical condition and she runs out of the hospital as soon as she gets a call from the police. They say that the hit-and-run driver has confessed, but when Eul goes to confront the driver at the police station, it’s a man, not the young woman she saw last night.
She says that they’ve got the wrong culprit—that the driver was a woman, which she saw with her own two eyes—but the man just cries and begs forgiveness, insisting that he was the driver.
Prosecutor Choi heads to work one morning and pauses at the subway exit when it starts to rain. He’s about to step out and just get wet, when suddenly someone steps up behind him and holds an umbrella overhead.
It’s Joon-young, who acts like he recognizes Prosecutor Choi from TV. As he walks his father to work, Joon-young says that his dream is to become a prosecutor too, and he’s planning to go to the same university that Prosecutor Choi attended.
Thinking that Joon-young is just a nice random kid, Prosecutor Choi muses that he’s unlike other kids these days, who have no ambition and motivation. He calls Joon-young smart and driven, and says that he’s envious of Joon-young’s parents.
Joon-young tries to keep his emotions under wraps, but he can’t help but smile at that comment. Prosecutor Choi thanks him for the walk to work, and holds his hand out for a shake as he says he looks forward to seeing Joon-young in the prosecutor’s office someday.
Joon-young shakes his father’s hand with a tentative smile, and then Prosecutor Choi turns back to ask Joon-young to wait here ten minutes, because he wants to repay the favor.
But Prosecutor Choi gets waylaid when Eul shows up at the courthouse parking lot to throw a rock at his car. She gets taken in by security, and when Prosecutor Choi comes in to ask what his car ever did to her, she says she’s tried to see him twenty times, but he’s avoided every attempt, so she’s resorted to this.
Eul says that according to a detective on her father’s hit-and-run case, ever since Prosecutor Choi got involved, everything started to change, from culprit, to witness testimonies, to the prosecutor assigned to the case. The detective told her that this wasn’t a fight she could win, and suggested she just agree to their terms.
Prosecutor Choi calls her theory pure fiction and says she came all this way for nothing, though Eul picks up on the fact that she never told him who she was or where she was from, but he seems to know already. She guesses he’s been avoiding her all this time, and that makes him drop the nice act, and he coldly tells her he’s run out of patience.
Eul is surprised to see Joon-young standing outside in the hallway when she comes out, and she’s annoyed that he seems so happy when her friend is still in the hospital because of him. She picks another fight, muttering that she doesn’t know what her friend sees in him, and that if that’d been her daughter, she’d have broken her legs. Joon-young sticks his foot out to trip her in retalitation.
She points out the absurdity of Joon-young dumping her friend because it interferes with his studying, when he’s not even in 200th place at school. She says that someone with rocks for brains like him wanting to become a prosecutor is what’s wrong with this country, not realizing that Prosecutor Choi has overheard, mortifying Joon-young in the process.
Eul has no idea and just continues, telling Joon-young not to ever date or marry, and surely by age eighty he ought to pass the prosecutor’s exam. Prosecutor Choi pretends not to have heard and offers to sign a book for Joon-young and asks his name. Feeling sheepish, Joon-young says he’ll pass the exam and come claim the book then.
Eul limps onto the bus with her bloodied knee, and she cringes when Joon-young catches the same bus just before it takes off. He walks right up to her and asks the girl sitting next to her to move so he can sit with his friend, and despite Eul’s protests that they aren’t friends, the girl gives up her seat and Joon-young climbs in.
Every time Eul tries to get up and move he yanks her back down, and he challenges her to seduce him then. He points out how ridiculous it is for a guy to dump a girl he’s madly in love with and would die for, just to study—it’s only because he wasn’t crazy in love with Eul’s friend that he dumped her, he explains.
Joon-young: “So you try and seduce me. So that I’m so crazy about you that I can’t study. So that I can’t even dream of becoming a prosecutor. If you can’t seduce me, I’m going to seduce you.” Understandably, Eul tries to move away from him like he’s a crazy person. He doesn’t let her though, and keeps yanking her back to the seat beside him.
After that day, Eul spends every night handing out flyers asking for witnesses to come forward regarding her father’s hit-and-run. She tapes the flyers to lampposts and store windows every single night, and shows up at school exhausted in the mornings.
She’s thinking of picking up a part-time job on top of it all, because her dad’s hospital bills are stacking up. Her friend asks why Eul doesn’t just agree to let the hit-and-run driver off the hook for a payout, but Eul doesn’t want to let them get away with swapping drivers on her.
Her whole school is aflutter that morning, and Eul sees why when she spots Joon-young standing by the gate holding a giant teddy bear. They assume he’s here to get his ex back, but as Eul walks by him, he sticks his arm out and grabs her, startling everyone in the process.
He gives her a cheeky look and says he skipped class in honor of their 100th day (of dating), and Eul doesn’t have a chance to process what on earth he’s talking about before he shoves the teddy bear at her and says, “Happy 100th day. I love you, Eul-ah!” Pwahahaha. He’s nuts.
Eul looks around her, horrified, because right now it looks like she’s been sneaking around with Joon-young behind her best friend’s back, and everyone at her school is witnessing it. To add insult to injury, Joon-young waits until Eul’s lovesick best friend shows up, and he pets Eul on the head playfully as he says that he can’t study because he can’t stop thinking about her.
He slings his arm around her and says they shouldn’t hide anymore, because he’s the bad guy and she’s not to blame. You ass. Eul calls him a crazy bastard, but before she can argue with him, he clamps a hand over her mouth and smiles, making them look awfully chummy and effectively ridding himself of the clingy ex, all in one go.
Afterwards, Joon-young cackles to himself like a madman, thoroughly amused by the stunt he pulled. Ajusshi wonders what’s come over him, and Joon-young gasps in between laughs, “Ajusshi, why am I such an awful human being?” He practically falls over laughing.
Eul complains about Joon-young being a son of a bitch to her comatose father, and little brother Jik chides her for swearing. Eul asks Dad to wake up and get revenge for her besmirched honor, while precocious little Jik calls her need for revenge childish.
They’re busy arguing when Dad flatlines and his monitor starts ringing an alarm. Eul and her brother stand by helplessly as nurses and doctors rush in. They can’t revive Dad, and Jik breaks down in wailing sobs, demanding that they bring his dad back. Eul just quietly sheds a tear and whispers that she’s sorry.
At school, Joon-young overhears other boys talking about Eul’s father, and how he died after his hit-and-run accident. They say that Eul and her brother couldn’t even stick around for Dad’s funeral, because he left them in mountains of debt from Mom’s old hospital bills, and loan sharks came to collect. They ran away in the middle of the night, and the boys wonder why Joon-young doesn’t know any of this when he’s dating her.
Joon-young goes straight to the funeral, where he witnesses a stand-off between Eul’s neighbors and the loan sharks. The neighbors are trying to protect Eul and Jik, but the loan sharks say that the kids ran off with their money, and they ought to sell their bodies to pay it back if they have to. Joon-young quietly pays his respects to Eul’s father.
Prosecutor Choi dines with Assemblyman Yoon, who is pleased to hear that his daughter’s accident has been taken care of. He says he sent his daughter, YOON JUNG-EUN (Im Joo-eun), abroad shortly after the incident, because the poor thing was shaken up. Assemblyman Yoon calls it “a small mistake” that shouldn’t get in the way of them becoming in-laws, and Prosecutor Choi agrees.
Joon-young finds one of Eul’s flyers in the street and tries calling the number to get a hold of her, but there’s no answer. Winter passes and spring arrives, and Joon-young manages to jump up a hundred places in his class ranking with his latest test.
Joon-young’s mom and Ajusshi are hard at work hauling a bunch of food somewhere, and Ajusshi berates his son Gook-young for being a lazy bum, and Gook-young’s sister Man-ok doesn’t seem to think very highly of him either. (In the present-day timeline, Gook-young is Joon-young’s manager and Man-ok is his stylist.)
It turns out that the food is for the teachers at Joon-young’s school, and Mom makes a big embarrassing to-do about Joon-young’s recent jump in class rank, and thanks the principal profusely.
Joon-young, meanwhile, re-posts Eul’s signs asking for witnesses of her father’s hit-and-run. He tries her phone again and gets hopeful when a girl answers, but she’s not Eul and she gets annoyed that this guy keeps calling and asking for Noh Eul.
He decides to cross out Eul’s old phone number from the sign and starts to write his number down, but then he stops and asks why he should be getting so involved. He tears the sign down and is about to walk away, when suddenly he gets a call from Eul. She says she heard about Joon-young carrying her father’s picture in the funeral procession (which would’ve been her duty), and thanks him sincerely.
Then we fast-forward to the snowy road in the present day, with Eul trying to convince Joon-young to do the documentary. Joon-young cuts the crap and shouts, “Noh Eul. Don’t you know me?!” She answers, “I know you, you son of a bitch. If I say I know you, will you shoot the documentary? You won’t. If I say I know you, you’ll be even ruder and meaner, like you were back then.”
She thanks him for the money he threw at her feet and walks past him with a formal bow. He turns around and watches her hobble down the road, and as she winces in pain and collapses, he thinks to himself, “There’s no way that is Eul-ie. That can’t be Eul-ie. There’s no way that that’s my Eul-ie.”
He starts marching over to her, and breaks into a run.
Well so far at the end of every episode I’m dying to know what went on in the years that these two characters have been apart, so they’ve done a good job of making me curious about where their relationship (heck, all of Joon-young’s relationships) went awry, and invested in the story and its characters. I prefer the high school versions at this point, but that’s probably a given, since it’s before they’re both jaded and hardened.
Noh Eul is the one who changes the most drastically, given how cheery and giving she was when her father was alive, and it struck a chord when Joon-young was so insistent that this couldn’t be the girl he remembered from his youth. I’m expecting more of the past timeline to shed some light on their connection, because so far their only real interaction they’ve had amounts to a few unfortunate run-ins and a punking, which made for an amusing beginning to their relationship, but doesn’t really explain the depth of his disappointment in present-day Eul.
The backstory did provide insight into Joon-young’s character, especially in relation to his parents, which was sorely needed after that introduction to his strained relationship with Mom. I’m glad we’re not dragging out his birth secret when they were dropping anvils about his father’s identity from the start, though I’m assuming that he’ll continue to keep his identity a secret from Dad. It’s an obvious setup, to be sure, but I couldn’t help but feel for teenage Joon-young when he looked so hopeful about walking in his father’s footsteps, like he somehow had to earn the right to be his son.
I do wish the past timeline had been a little easier to follow, because we were left to infer a lot—like whether Joon-young actually transferred schools (he didn’t), or how many days or weeks pass between run-ins with Eul (who even knows). Are they purposely trying to be oblique, or is that giving the show too much credit? Right now there’s mystery built into the way the story is told, but I wonder if it’ll start to drive me crazy.
In any case, I appreciate that Eul’s feelings were made clear from the start, even though I would’ve preferred it if she hated Joon-young off the bat, to be honest. But I was left wondering about Joon-young’s feelings—did he start caring about her only after he heard about her father’s accident and debt? Or was he actually interested in her before, and his idea of pulling a girl’s pigtails is to ruin her reputation and her friendships? Because that’s some serious asshattery right here.
It makes me wish for a big reversal in the present day, except I know that won’t be the case—he’s gone from neighborhood celebrity to global star, and we’ve already seen adult Eul cave on her principles for money. But maybe if he chases her and she keeps rejecting him, I’ll gain some satisfaction from it, especially if he’s the one who’s been pining for her all these years. Yes, I think that’ll do it.