I know you guys love to see our chipmunk couple up here (so do I), but let’s show Soo-ah some love for coming this far and finding ways and reasons to smile. Because everyone ought to be loved, at least by one person — and if not loved, then at least saved. And no one needs saving more than Soo-ah.
EPISODE 10 RECAP
Soo-ah storms up to Yeon-doo and slaps her hard across the face. She thinks Yeon-doo is putting on the innocent act, and gets increasingly worked up. Yeol and Ha-joon arrive to see them at the head of the stairs. Soo-ah seizes Yeon-doo by the collar, screaming that she’ll kill her, and throws her down the stairs.
Yeol catches her but goes down, and the two of them roll all the way to the bottom, where Yeol now lies and unconscious and bleeding. Ha-joon and Soo-ah both look on, stricken. With mounting panic, Yeon-doo tries to rouse him.
He’s taken away by ambulance, Yeon-doo and Teacher Yang going with him. The remaining team curse Soo-ah, and only Dong-jae looks back to see her watching from the shadows. We see her eaten up by anxiety.
Principal Choi views the uploaded video of Soo-ah, and she’s horrified by Yeol’s accident — how will she explain it to his dad? Huh. Soo-ah’s mom is no better — when she finds out Soo-ah stole the midterm and hurt another student, she yells Director Lee for mismanaging her charge. Ah, priorities.
Yeol’s dad asks Yeon-doo’s mom if she’s told her about them yet, but she wants to wait until they meet this weekend, since marrying her classmate’s father is no small beans. Dad perks up at the idea that Yeol would be Yeon-doo’s oppa (lul, not in the way you’re thinking, Dad…). Mom tells him not to get ahead of himself — they need permission from the kids first. Thank God.
Just then, Dad gets a call from Teacher Yang about Yeol’s accident, and straightens in shock.
At the hospital, Yang wants to call Yeon-doo’s mom as well, but she stops him since she doesn’t want to worry Mom over a sprained wrist. He tells her to cheer up since the doctors said Yeol will be fine — he’s only unconscious because of medication.
Sitting by Yeol’s bed, she tearfully tells him how scared she was for him, and urges him to wake up or else. Eyes still closed, Yeol smiles at that, and asks just how she’s going to get him back. Delighted he’s awake, she makes to get Teacher Yang, but he catches her arm.
Meanwhile, Ha-joon tears into the hospital looking for Yeol.
Yeol sits up, noting that she’s pretty good at not answering questions. How is she going to get him back? After a moment, she leans in and drops a little kiss on his jaw. “Like this,” she whispers, edging away.
Taking her wrist, he spins her back and does it properly. Ha-joon arrives just in time to witness the kiss. Oh nooo, his poor puppy heart! He turns away, pained, and now sees his memories of Yeon-doo and Yeol together in a different light. Oh Ha-joonie, I thought you knew!
Yeon-doo’s mom comes as far as the hospital with Yeol’s dad but leaves him there, because she doesn’t feel right meeting Yeol like this.
Dad’s agitated arrival surprises Yeol, and Yeon-doo smoothes over the awkward by introducing herself as Yeol’s classmate. She puffs up when he says she’s a good friend, and Yeol has to laugh a little at that.
Yeon-doo leaves them to it, and outside the hospital room, we see Mom came all the way up. But when Dad phones, she pretends she’s on the way home, and mother and daughter narrowly miss each other. Yeon-doo is lost in a world of squee as she relives the kiss over and over, so when Dong-jae calls, she wails that she’s not okay at all — her heart is bursting.
Father and son, meanwhile, are at a loss for how to be with each other. Dad keeps offering to do stuff for Yeol, which is so weird for them that Yeol eventually tells him to just ignore him like normal. Dad remembers what Yeon-doo’s mom said, about saying sorry, thank you, and I love you to your kids, and thanks Yeol for being okay.
Soo-ah huddles in her hidey spot, where Dong-jae finds her. He tells her to apologize to Yeon-doo; she wasn’t the one who uploaded the video. And to Yeol, who got hurt because of her. She knows it was because of her, she tells him, and walks away like a broken doll.
She arrives at her mom’s office, where Mom is all business. She tells Soo-ah that there’s no purpose in her remaining at Sevit, so they’re making preparations for her to study abroad.
Soo-ah, broken-voiced, tells Mom how she hurt someone. She didn’t mean to— Mom cuts her off: It’s taken care of. That’s not it — Soo-ah is desperate to make her mom understand all the wrong things she did, like abandoning Yeon-doo, framing Yeol, cheating. But Mom cuts her off again, “Those things are nothing.”
“They’re…nothing?” Soo-asks in a lost voice. Mom tells her to keep her eyes on the Ivy League prize and not let trivialities distract her — she’ll protect her specs, she promises, eyes burning with fanaticism. Her words close in on Soo-ah, and she gets more and more upset. She asks if there’s even any end to this road. Oblivious to her daughter’s distress, Mom extols that there lies future they long for. But getting there is so hard, says Soo-ah, tears falling freely.
Soo-ah can’t bring herself to enter the hospital, and calls to find out Yeol’s condition. When she hears he’s okay, she breaks down in tears of gratitude.
Poor Ha-joon sits out in the hospital foyer, when he spots Yeon-doo coming down. He watches her go.
Ha-joon lets himself into Yeol’s room, where Yeol scolds him for coming so late. But he can’t keep the smile off his face when he tells his friend that Yeon-doo was keeping him company. At the sight of his bandages, Ha-joon gets mad about Soo-ah, but Yeol warns him not to make any trouble while he’s away.
Eager to change subject, he reminds Ha-joon of a childhood promise to tell each other first if they had a girl they liked. “I think I have one…a girl I really like,” he confides. But Ha-joon stops him from saying more, and says he’ll hear it another day, when he’s better.
Yeon-doo catches Ha-joon arriving back at the dorms. Seeing her only reminds him of the kiss and he tries to bolt, but she blocks him. She wonders why he didn’t turn up at the hospital and he grumps that he was busy. But his marshmallow nature doesn’t let him leave without checking that she’s okay. She teases him, pleased that he worried about her.
She joins Dong-jae in the common room, and he tells her unhappily that everyone’s been criticizing Soo-ah, while she’s without a single friend in support. But Yeon-doo finds it hard to disagree, with Yeol hurt like that. She’s tired of giving Soo-ah chances.
Soo-ah’s phone buzzes with messages about her in the class chatroom — that she’s a monster, she should just die, and so on. She imagines them surrounding her with their censure and accusing words, and screams. She doesn’t dare to enter the school building.
Instead, she wanders the streets. Stopping at her reflection in a window (under the words “I am”), she thinks back on her wrongdoings.
By and by, she visits the ashes of So-young, her middle school friend who committed suicide. She remembers her mom’s derision at the Sevit kids’ happy tomfoolery when they first arrived, and sobbing, she asks So-young if it’s really not okay for them to be happy now.
Yeon-doo lies awake in her dorm, troubled by Soo-ah’s empty corner.
The next day, Teacher Yang is also anxious about Soo-ah’s absence, and can’t reach her when she calls. He spots Yeon-doo sneaking out and is about to stop her when he catches himself. Instead, he texts her that she’s rumbled, but lets her off as long as she’s back before lunch ends.
Yeon-doo surprises Yeol with a smuggled-in lunch (replete with twin banana milks), and he’s adorably thrilled but also worried they might get into trouble. She teases that she told EVERYONE she was coming here.
Yeol starts snapping zillions of pictures of her, and falls back in satisfaction. He was dying to see her, and now he can see her all the time, he sighs. But not one to waste the moment, he sits up again, eager to use his time with Real Yeon-doo. His adoration makes her equal parts bashful and squeeful.
Soo-ah makes it as far as the door of Yeol’s hospital room this time. He’s surrounded by the club members — his friends — and she watches them for a moment, sad. She tucks an envelope into the doorframe and leaves.
She crosses paths with Dong-jae again. She confirms that she came to see Yeol, and owed Yeon-doo an apology, too. Finally looking at peace, she walks on. But she calls back to Dong-jae, and asks him for a favor.
Soo-ah and Dong-jae play games in an arcade, carefree and laughing. She says she’s going to do everything she wants today, and eagerly asks what other fun stuff there is. Dong-jae wonders if she won’t get in trouble with her mom, and she says her mom won’t be scolding her anymore. But the quiet despair lying beneath her smile is the saddest thing in the world. Oh no, Soo-ah.
Yeon-doo tries unsuccessfully to get hold of Dong-jae, while he and Soo-ah ride bikes along the river. He smiles to see her so happy, and they settle on a bench with ice creams. Dong-jae says she was always too busy with studying to do fun stuff, and she regrets never coming here with Yeon-doo. He says she can start now, doing fun things.
She apologizes for hurting him by using his handicap against him before. He’s surprised — she doesn’t usually say sorry. She can only agree, and adds that it wasn’t so hard after all. “I’m sorry, Ha Dong-jae,” she says again.
Yeon-doo pops out of the boisterous sickroom for water, and Soo-ah’s envelope drops at her feet. It’s addressed to her, and she finds a letter inside. Eyes widening, she turns back to her friends — there’s something off with Soo-ah, she says, showing them the letter. They read it, and look up at her in shock.
It’s dark now, and Soo-ah and Dong-jae amble together. She thanks him for helping her make good memories to take with her. He’s surprised she’s not heading back to the dorms, but she tells him she has to stop by somewhere else first. She leaves him with the wish that he overcomes his phobia for physical contact. Thanking him with a heartfelt smile, she leaves first.
Close to tears, Yeon-doo finally gets hold of Dong-jae, who tells her he was just with Soo-ah this whole time and she seemed fine. She frantically asks where he is, and Dong-jae sets off at a run to look for Soo-ah.
Principal Choi informs Soo-ah’s mom that she can’t erase Soo-ah’s cheating or Yeol’s accident, when the evidence is clear. Mom argues that that’s why she received so many gifts — to make the impossible possible. Deep in denial, she entrusts Choi with giving Soo-ah a clean record even if she leaves Sevit. But Choi finally grows a spine and is firm this time: Soo-ah will forfeit the midterm and be penalized with community service, “Both you and Soo-ah crossed the line. It’s too late for me to protect you.”
Just then, Mom gets a call telling her Soo-ah disappeared after leaving a suicide note. Both women are startled.
The whole team, Yeol included, crowd the pavement outside the hospital frantically trying to catch a taxi. Yeon-doo clutches the letter in her injured hand, crying, and Yeol lays a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
In voiceover, we hear Soo-ah’s words to Yeon-doo: “I’m sorry. Why were these words so hard to say all this time?” She walks along the street alone, remembering the times Yeon-doo helped her. Her letter continues, “How to say thank you, how to say sorry, how to reach out when I’m lonely…for me, everything was too hard.” She thought if she just studied like crazy, she’d definitely become happy:
“Even if I was miserable today, I thought I would definitely become happy tomorrow. But Yeon-doo-ya, why is it that I became more unhappy? Why did breathing get more and more difficult? Why did I turn into a monster? I despise myself so much that I don’t have the confidence to keep going. Don’t believe in adults’ lies of sacrificing today’s happiness for the sake of tomorrow’s. Don’t forget the truth that you have to be happy today, in order to be happy tomorrow.”
In closing, she apologizes again — to Yeon-doo, to Yeol, to Teacher Yang and all her friends — with the hope that she won’t cause them any more hardship. She comes to a halt now, in the street, and switches on her phone.
Soo-ah’s mom paces her office waiting for news when she gets a text from Soo-ah. In it, Soo-ah apologizes for falling short as a daughter, but is glad that she was able to gain first place and grant Mom’s wish at least once, even if not by her own merit.
The kids comb the streets for Soo-ah, calling out her name. They regroup, and Da-mi wails that it was her fault. They all feel responsible, and Ha-joon remembers her tearful confession about her head eating up her heart. He urges everyone to search again.
Yeon-doo is particularly smitten by her role, sure that her threat to expose her was the last straw for Soo-ah. She cries in helplessness, and Yeol, too, regrets how harsh he was.
By himself, Dong-jae runs up and down in search of her. Soo-ah steps out onto a busy road, eyes unfocused. He spots her at the same time as Yeon-doo and Yeol, at opposite sides of the crossing. Yeon-doo screams her name.
A car barrels towards Soo-ah, horn blaring (don’t your brakes work?), and she waits for it. At the last moment, a hand grabs hers — Dong-jae pulls her into an embrace, phobia be damned. He breathes in relief, and across the street, so do Yeon-doo and Yeol. A tear slips down Soo-ah’s cheek, and she clutches him tighter as she cries in earnest.
The team are back at school, but their spirits are low as no one’s been able to see Soo-ah yet. They’re disappointed when Yeon-doo returns from another fruitless attempt.
Sharing strawberry milks with Dong-jae, Yeon-doo tests him with tentative little pokes, not yet used to his new touchability. She thinks it’s bizarre that he conquered his disability like this, and he admits that he doesn’t really remember what was going through his mind then. She wonders sadly when they’ll get to see Soo-ah again.
Soo-ah’s mom is back in control, and making arrangements for Soo-ah to study abroad. She tells Soo-ah not to worry — this is all nothing, and when she goes abroad, everything will be as good as new. Mom, you’re not helping. Soo-ah lies limp and unresponsive.
At school, a trio of students gossip that Soo-ah’s mentally ill, and are pleased that her absence means their rank goes up. The cheerleaders burst in and surround them. Da-mi yells at them, and elbows Tae-pyung, who also yells at them.
One by one, the team criticize the group for their malice towards their fellow student, when they could be saying words of support and encouragement, like, “you’ll be okay” or “anyone can make a mistake,” or “if you’re having a hard time, we’ll help you.”
One of the boys acknowledges it was wrong to badmouth her, but ask who they are to get involved in someone else’s business. They all bristle at the suggestion that Soo-ah’s “someone else” and Hyo-shik asks if they haven’t seen them cheerleading together. “We’re one team, and we’re friends,” he tells them, threatening to really give it to them if he catches them at it again.
Director Lee thanks Principal Choi for helping Soo-ah’s transfer. Left alone with Teacher Im, Choi eagerly plans dismantling the cheerleading club now that Soo-ah’s gone. But Im reminds her that they definitely can’t, since the Ministry has their eye on them. Aw, Teacher Im providing covert support.
The team miss Soo-ah at practice. She’s still not allowed visitors, Yeon-doo says sadly. Teacher Yang comes bearing the news that Soo-ah’s going to study abroad. The whole team is crestfallen.
In her hospital room, Director Lee puts Soo-ah’s phone into her hand, saying the message looks important. It’s a video from Jae-young and Na-yeon, and Soo-ah can’t help cracking a smile.
For what must be the first time, she’s out of bed and energized, running to her phone every time it pings, her smiles blossoming into laughs. Dong-jae’s video shows him successfully accomplishing a thigh stand with Jae-young, and he tells her it’s thanks to her that he can do it now. Even gruff Ha-joon says a whole three words, until Hyo-shik forces him to show a little more love. With a pained smile, he says that everyone goes through hard times, “Let’s endure them together.”
She’s dressed to leave, bags packed, when she gets one last message, from Yeon-doo. It’s a homemade “slideshow” of their times together (the Teletubbies one, omg, dying). The last page shows the two of them and asks, “Friends…real?”
The camera pans out to show everyone gathered in the background. Yeon-doo says she couldn’t hate her completely, because of these memories, and tells Soo-ah she’s not alone, “You have friends who would do anything with you, and you have teachers who’ll take your side no matter what.” Everyone crowds into the picture.
They’ll show her how to ask for help, Yeon-doo promises — so she has to hurry back. Plus, Yeon-doo wails, she’s the one who made the cheerleading club! Soo-ah’s eyes well with tears.
I know some of you guys (and LollyPip!) were done with Soo-ah weeks ago, but if it helps, I don’t see this as redemption: Soo-ah got saved (and boy, did she need it).
I’ve found her a sympathetic (and desperately pitiable) antagonist all along, and you’ve got to appreciate how she wasn’t written off with a perfunctory, plot-serving, magical turnaround. Her friends rallying to save her doesn’t mean she’s forgiven — it means she has to come back and earn it. I’m glad that she was allowed to grow as a character, and it underlines again what I think is the primary message of the show: friends forever. It’s a long way for the team to have come, too. Soo-ah is the last through the door, really, because person for person, it’s been a while since Real King and Baek Ho have been divided. I think Soo-ah is the final stitch that knits them together inseparably, for better or for worse.
Soo-ah and the kids need to be together to fix things — they can’t fix them by being apart, and certaintly not if someone is gone. It’s a special thing about their friendships, and their youth, that the answer to their problems is closeness, not distance. They’re not adults, they’re not seeking closure or trying to move on. They’re kids seeking friendship, approval, trust, acceptance from each other. The kids’ repeated message to her is “come back”. But they both need it — she needs their forgiveness and they need her to be okay; nobody wants to drive someone to kill themselves.
I don’t think it’s necessarily their “fault” that Soo-ah chose to try to kill herself (more factors went into it than that), but it’s a terrible burden to be left knowing your actions pushed someone over the edge. But in the midst of the moment where she’s so hateful, so wrong, so irredeemable, pushing her to do the right thing seems like an obvious given. That it can go wrong all too easily is a lesson on responsibility for the rest of the kids — one they internalize well, as they close ranks to defend Soo-ah against the gossips. And it makes me all warm and fuzzy every time the gang unites.
And! Dong-jae, the boy who can’t touch people, finally overcomes his block, with the one person who needed it the most. It is a little pat, but it’s significant that it comes as a moment of mutual saving, a direct reverse of the time his touch caused harm (and gave rise to his phobia), to his touch saving a life.
I’m in two minds about whether she really meant to die. Watching Soo-ah walk around like someone with all her strings cut, there’s no doubt that her mom plays the most instrumental role in breaking her. Mom has her emotionally enslaved in a way that feels much more insidious than, say, Ha-joon’s relationship with his dad, because Soo-ah becomes victim to her programming. Trapped inside Mom’s vision for her, she necessarily loses herself, even though her heart still struggles to do the right thing. In crisis and desperate for correction, she visits her mother, but the dissonance of her response (“it’s nothing”) proves intolerable, shattering their illusory world. (And the worst part? Even after she tries to die, Mom doesn’t change one bit.)
So now, Soo-ah finally sees herself properly for the first time, and though full of regret, she’s hopeful — until the kids’ chatroom messages make her believe she’s unforgivable. She’s vulnerable enough that losing hope of her friends’ forgiveness makes her lose hope of forgiving herself. That’s what makes the team’s intervention all the more moving, because it’s not pity they’re giving her, but a chance — to atone, to earn her place, to be a worthy friend.
I admit, I didn’t see Ha-joon’s devotion to Yeon-doo as a crush until last episode. (Will Ji-soo never have an attainable love? For the love of puppies and marshmallows, let him have his honey in his next show, dramaland! Or else!). But I wonder in part if it’s just a matter of timing, with Yeol’s edge being that he caught her heart first. After all, both boys respect her, look out for her, bring her umbrellas, adore her, and most of all, are changed by knowing her. In a lesser (and more aggravating) show, we might even have seen her vacillating between the two, while they ruined their lifelong friendship fighting over her and we tore our hair out. What do you guys think?
Still, it’s not all timing. They constantly uncover deeper things in common, and we watch them fall so naturally into sync with each other — this episode is peppered with small moments when Yeol drops quiet reassuring touches that are so unaffected and real. Perhaps most importantly, they stimulate each other in ways that cause them to grow. We’ve seen them challenge each other’s prejudices and preconceptions, and we’ve seen each stand by the other during hardship and private sadnesses. Their dynamic is profound in its simplicity — there’s no power-play, no posturing, no pretending. They remain frank and communicative, and you never forget that they’re friends first.
I hope it doesn’t throw a spanner in the works for my favorite sunnymallow friendship, though. I’ll take it as a good sign, that Ha-joonie’s feelings for Yeol remain unmarred by his feelings for Yeon-doo. I love that he can’t even hate Yeol because he loves him! I’m half-worried by what this does to the three’s easy camaraderie, but the other half of me firmly believes in Sassy, come hell or high school. Or finale week. Sob.