As old conflicts are put to rest, new ones crop up, and the cheerleading team may be in danger of missing regionals altogether. It’s not easy to balance school, friends, and home life, as all of our kids are beginning to realize. And what do you do when choosing your own happiness means taking away someone else’s dreams?
EPISODE 11 RECAP
With the entire cheerleading club bombarding her with adorable videos and sweet requests to come back and make up for what she’s done, Soo-ah cries with happiness. She spends some time thinking about what to do.
But the team wonders if she’s even gotten their videos — is she ignoring them? Aside from being their friend, they don’t have a flyer without Soo-ah, which could keep them from regionals.
Director Lee and Soo-ah’s mom come to collect her to send her overseas, and Mom repeats her sick mantra that nothing happened, and she can start a new life (which is dissonant on its own — if nothing happened, why does she need to start a new life?). But this time Soo-ah responds that something DID happen, and she chooses to go back to Sevit High and face her punishment.
Of course Mom is furious, because the appearance of perfection is more important than being a good person. But Soo-ah wants forgiveness from her teachers and fellow students, even if it takes time. Mom tries a different tactic, saying that she knows how she feels but this is a mistake that she’ll regret making later.
Soo-ah says that following her mother’s “road map” is what got her here, and she’s done following someone else’s plan. Now she’s going to do what she believes is right, and do what she wants to do. She’s not going to study overseas, and she’ll get into an Ivy League school through her own abilities.
When Yeon-doo sees Soo-ah back at school, she smiles, but puts on a stern face. She’s all Well, aren’t you coming? as she leads Soo-ah into the practice room. Soo-ah looks terrified, but she finally goes in, and the whole room goes silent.
The kids wait expectantly, because their desire for Soo-ah to come back wasn’t unconditional — she still has some atoning to do. Tentative and humbled, Soo-ah says that she was scared and didn’t know if she should come back. She says their videos gave her courage, and she thanks them, and says she’s sorry.
She particularly apologizes to Yeol and Dong-ha for hurting them, and says she’s sorry for dragging them all into her scheme to get into the Ivy Leagues. She can’t even look Yeon-doo in the face, but she apologies to her too, and Yeon-doo stops her.
She says that hurting someone else to save her own hide was terrible. Soo-ah knows that “sorry” isn’t enough, and the kids all pout at her for scaring them so badly that night she nearly killed herself. Yeon-doo admits that forgiving her won’t be easy, and as club captain, sentences Soo-ah to clean the practice room by herself for a month.
At such a normal punishment, the kids all snicker, and Soo-ah even cracks a smile to feel like part of the team again. Yeol adds that she should also provide all the snacks, and with that, the ice is broken. Now that their flyer is back, it’s time for serious practice!
Soo-ah receives punishment from the school itself, though the other students whine that volunteer work is too light a sentence. Soo-ah accepts it pragmatically, and it’s cute how Yeon-doo is all Yep, you totally deserve it. Soo-ah uses her old “I’m Kwan Soo-ah, this won’t break me” mantra in a new way, feeling good about taking her medicine.
She sincerely thanks Yeon-doo for not giving up on her, and Yeon-doo complains that she feels soooo wronged still, and wants to hit Soo-ah to get her back, hee. She gives her a good thump on the forehead, promising that Soo-ah has a lot more of those to look forward to before Yeon-doo feels like they’re even. So cute.
Later her roommates watch Soo-ah sleep, smiling that she looks relaxed for the first time in — well, ever. Yeon-doo tucks her in, and Soo-ah smiles in her sleep, feeling their acceptance.
During study hall, Yeon-doo gets bored and makes pouty faces at Yeol, trying to get his attention. He completely ignores her, so she grumpily sticks a note on his forehead and stomps off. The note quotes Yeol’s note asking her to see a movie after exams are over, and whines that exams were over a million years ago!
She gets no answer, and does the age-old phone dance of checking it every three seconds to make sure it’s still working. She bows up when she sees Yeol walking with Hyo-shik, figuring that he’s ignoring her.
She tracks down Ha-joon to ask him about a problem her “friend” is having with a guy. He asked her to a movie, but then a lot of things happened, so she gave him her answer late. HAHA, Ha-joon says, “You did?” and Yeon-doo is all, “Yeah I did. I mean MY FRIEND did!” Riiiight.
She asks if it looks obsessive for the girl to pursue the guy, and Ha-joon shyly says that he would like it, actually. Awww puppy, I can’t believe no girl has ever shown interest in that adorable face!
Yeol enlists Ha-joon’s help for a “secret project,” promising to explain the purpose to him later. All he’ll say is that he’s fulfilling a promise to Yeon-doo, which piques Ha-joon’s interest.
Yeol says that he wants his best friend to be the first to know, and nervously tells him that he and Yeon-doo are officially dating. It’s a struggle, but Ha-joon wishes them luck. Yeol can tell that something isn’t quite right, especially when Ha-joon quickly retreats from the room.
Yeon-doo lurks in the school common area, pretending nonchalance when Yeol and Ha-joon wander through. Yeol gives her greeting very little reaction, but he can’t tease her for long. He runs back with a mischievous grin (in other words, his normal grin) to stick yet another note to her forehead, which instructs her to come to the club room later.
When she gets there, she sees Yeol’s surprise: a projection screen playing a movie, and a cozy little loveseat with movie snacks at the ready. They’re adorably shy, but they snuggle up pretty quickly, and Yeol takes Yeon-doo’s hand while she nestles her head on his shoulder.
They’re blissfully happy, but Ha-joon sits downstairs alone. He starts to delete the picture of himself and Yeon-doo taking their punishment, but in the end, he keeps the photo.
The boys pack up to go home for break, noting that Ha-joon isn’t packing, which he says is because his family chauffeur is coming to do it for them. Dong-jae wants to go for burgers with Yeon-doo on their way home, which makes jealous Yeol bark at him. He pouts at all the skinship between the friends, now that Dong-jae’s touch-aversion is cured, and tags along after them.
When the three stop to eat, Yeol is still grumping about Dong-jae and Yeon-doo’s friendship. Yeol asks if Yeon-doo plans to keep hanging out with Dong-jae (and Dong-jae’s innocent-puppy expression kills me dead), and she just pats her poor jealous boy indulgingly.
Dong-jae catches on to Yeol’s jealousy, and offers to leave the two of them alone. He invites himself to dinner at Yeon-doo’s later because his own mom can’t cook, and Yeol adorably objects, since he hasn’t even eaten at her place yet. Yeon-doo just laughs at them both.
Ha-joon is still at school that night, alone, and he frowns at his report card — it must be bad. He remembers his father berating him for doing unimportant things like cheerleading and having friends. He gets a call from home, but doesn’t answer.
Yeol is back in fine boyfriend form as the three walk home together, holding an umbrella over Yeon-doo’s head and trying to secretly hold hands. HAHA, Dong-jae is on her other side, also holding an umbrella over her. She tells Dong-jae he can’t come for dinner tonight, but Yeol is still grumpy about not getting any alone time with Yeon-doo as they walk.
From the other direction, Yeon-doo’s mom and Yeol’s dad also walk home, and Mom invites Dad to take some food home from her place to feed his son. They discuss the plans to tell their kids about their relationship, intending to get it done this weekend.
Yeol grins ear-to-ear when they finally drop Dong-jae off at his house, and wants to know how long Yeon-doo intends to keep hanging out with him. He grabs her hand, complaining that he’s been wanting to do this so bad, and they walk all of five steps to Yeon-doo’s house.
Still holding hands, they run smack into their parents, who also look mighty cozy. Everyone drops hands in shock as they realize the situation, and the men are sent home so that Mom and Yeon-doo can talk.
Yeon-doo is, of course, freaking completely out that her mother is not only dating, but dating her boyfriend’s father. Mom tries to downplay her relationship, but Yeon-doo saw them holding hands and peppers her mother with questions. Mom finally collapses under pressure and admits that yes, she’s been dating Yeol’s father.
Yeol and his father have a much more tense version of the same conversation, and Yeol is pretty angry. Dad promises that he wasn’t going to make any big decisions without talking to Yeol first, but Yeol counters that he doesn’t have any reason to believe that, since Dad got divorced without asking how he felt. So why does he care now?
Dad says that she’s a good person, and he wouldn’t date her if she wasn’t someone who would be good to his child. Yeol scoffs, and asks what Dad would do if he says No… would he break up with her? Dad just sighs, and Yeol asks him to leave. Before he goes, Dad asks what relationship Yeol has with Yeon-doo, but we don’t hear Yeol’s answer.
Yeon-doo can’t even sleep for her frustration, and she has horrifying visions of having to live with Yeol as her oppa with all the romantic chemistry between them, and being unable to act on it. She and Yeol decide to go back to school without telling their parents, and both parents and children complain about the situation. This is why you don’t keep secrets about important stuff like who you’ve been dating for two years.
Both couples discuss what they know at this point, and Yeon-doo is saddened to hear that her mother lied to her by saying her relationship with Yeol’s dad isn’t serious. Both couples decide that they need to come up with some sort of plan.
Ha-joon is surprised to see Yeol back, but Yeol just says that neither of their homes was ever comfortable. He tells Ha-joon that his dad is dating Yeon-doo’s mom, and that it seems serious (in Korean society, dating is forbidden for stepsiblings — so if their parents get married, it effectively ends any future they may have together). As upset about this news as he is, he figures that must mean he really like Yeon-doo, and looks on the verge of tears just thinking about it.
Ha-joon finds Yeon-doo downstairs, and she invites him to sit — her “friend” has another problem. She tells him about the situation, unaware that he already knows, and he asks why she keeps telling him this stuff. Yeon-doo guesses that she just feels comfortable with him.
He advises that her “friend” should do what her heart wants the most… what will give her peace. Yeon-doo likes that, thanks him for the sympathetic ear, and leaves calling Yeol to meet. After she’s gone, Ha-joon calls himself an idiot for not being able to follow his own advice.
The kids both call their respective parents to meet and talk, which makes the parents nervous and puts them on their guard. But they’re shocked to realize the real plan — Yeol goes to talk to Mom (with flowers in hand, sweet boy) while Yeon-doo approaches Dad. Smart kids.
Yeol is adorably nervous, but he wastes no time identifying himself as her daughter’s boyfriend. Yeon-doo also tells Dad straight out that she and Yeol are dating, and that in fact he was hospitalized that time because he was saving her from injury.
Dad is surprised to hear that, since in his experience, Yeol only thinks of himself. But Yeon-doo tells him that actually, Yeol is very nice and thoughtful of others. She says that she was actually the selfish one, until she met his son.
Mom wants to know why Yeol likes her daughter, and he says that at first, it was because she’s fun. But now he’s grateful and happy that she believes in him, which gives him the courage to believe in others. Mom can’t help but smile, and says that her daughter has found a good boyfriend. It’s the crinkles — gets ’em every time.
Yeon-doo and Yeol compare notes back at school, and Yeol in particular is confident that their parents will decide not to get married. Yeon-doo doesn’t seem as happy about this as he is, feeling badly for attempting to take away her mother’s happiness.
The parents also feel badly, knowing that either they have to give each other up, or their kids do. Yeol’s dad seems a bit jealous of Yeon-doo, who got his son to open up when he never could, and Mom brags that she’s good at relationships like her mother. They wonder what to do, but neither has an answer.
Ha-joon’s father meets with the chairman of the Education Office, and asks if Sevit High is still under investigation for spec-building. The chairman tells him not to worry, but he does mention Ha-joon being on the cheerleading squad, and warns him that the club will be the focus of the investigation. Ha-joon’s father seems worried about a development fund, but the chairman just says obliquely that he might want to think of getting his son out of cheerleading.
Ha-joon’s dad surprises him at school, and immediately lights into him for his falling grades. He orders Ha-joon to quit the cheerleading team, but Ha-joon musters the courage to ask to wait until after regionals in two weeks. This insubordination earns him a bloody lip and a vicious beating with a wooden rod.
Yeol can guess what’s happening when Ha-joon doesn’t show up for cheerleading practice, and he tells Yeon-doo that he can’t sit back and let his friend’s abuse go on anymore. He runs to Ha-joon’s house, but he’s not there, nor is he answering his phone.
Yeon-doo sees him back at school, looking dejected and alone. He brushes her hand away when she reaches for his split lip, and get even angrier when she tries to help him walk. Yeon-doo insists that he needs treatment, but Ha-joon says he only fell, and she pretends to believe him in hopes that he’ll listen. But he’s embarrassed and angry, and begs her to pretend she didn’t see him.
She agrees if he’ll get treated, but his hopeless expression and silence finally convince her to stop fussing over him. But Yeon-doo can’t help but worry for Ha-joon, and doesn’t want to see him in pain. She turns to leave, but her last statement gets to him, and he folds her in a tight backhug.
“Don’t go,” he whispers, with tears rolling down his face. “Stay with me for a little bit. This is too painful.” Oh, honey.
Yeon-doo takes Ha-joon to the infirmary but can’t find any medicine, so he asks her to just sit with him. She offers to call Yeol since he’s so worried about Ha-joon, but he doesn’t want his friend seeing him this way. But Yeol finds them there anyway, and gets the medicine to treat Ha-joon’s injuries.
Clearly Yeol is bothered to see Ha-joon and Yeon-doo together, but he holds it in and only mentions that Yeon-doo’s eyes are red. He pretends it’s from lack of sleep and sends her away, ostensibly to get some rest, while he stays with Ha-joon.
Once she’s gone, Yeol softens to see his friend’s obvious embarrassment, and doctors his friend as he’s done probably a thousand times before. He asks if it’s because of his report card, but Ha-joon just apologizes, “For everything.”
On her way back to her dorm Yeon-doo thinks about that backhug, and explains it away as just Ha-joon being emotional about getting beaten. Yeol sits alone on the stairs, and we see now that he saw Ha-joon hugging Yeon-doo and asking her not to leave him.
The next time he sees Yeon-doo, it takes an extra moment for his crinkles to show up. But he manages to smile and flirt, and offers to tutor her again and help her ranking go up one more point, though he still wants food as payment. What, not kisses? He’s not thinking big enough.
At cheerleading practice, Instructor Nam notices that Ha-joon is very stiff and sore, warning him to be careful — as a base, if he falters, someone could get hurt. But before they can start, Teacher Im calls him to Principal Choi’s office, where he’s informed that his father is forcibly pulling from the cheerleading team.
She says that if he refuses, his father intends to use his influence with the school board chairman to make sure that both Teacher Yang and Instructor Kim lose their jobs. Geez, this couldn’t have waited a measly two weeks? Principal Choi is no fool, and mentions to Teacher Im that she thinks this is connected to the upcoming inspection.
Ha-joon watches his friends practice, and recalls his father saying that he could make sure the cheerleading team is dissolved completely. In order to let his friends continue cheering, and to save his teachers’ jobs, he decides to quit the team. Instructor Nam wants to know why, this close to regionals, but Ha-joon just says he doesn’t want to do it anymore.
Instructor Nam tells the rest of the kids that they’ll have to change a few positions, because Ha-joon is leaving the team. Everyone is upset, but nobody more than Yeol, who goes looking for Ha-joon and finds him alone in the gym.
He confronts Ha-joon, who tries to play it like he wants to focus on his studies. Yeol doesn’t believe that for one second, and furiously demands to know if it’s because of Yeon-doo. Ha-joon is surprised, and Yeol screams in his face, “I’m asking if it’s because of Kang Yeon-doo!”
Alright Yeol, that was NOT okay, even if Ha-joon had wanted to leave the team which he didn’t. He knows Ha-joon’s father showed up and that he ended up with a fat lip and worse, and yet he still attacks him and accuses him? He can’t help if he likes Yeon-doo, but he’s never not once made a move on her. And I don’t think Ha-joon ever would, as long as he knows his best friend liked her. The backhug, to me, wasn’t really so much a request for her to return his romantic feelings, but a desperate plea for his friend not to leave him alone in that moment. It’s unfair on multiple levels for Yeol to behave that way, and it’s the first time in this whole drama that I’ve been angry with him.
Ha-joon himself is STILL killing me. I love that, now that he has friends and support and has managed to shake off his frequent impotent rage, he’s turning out to be quite the sweet little kitten. It’s wonderful to see his real personality shine though now that he doesn’t feel the need to lash out at the slightest sudden movement, and I love how mellow and gentle he truly is. It makes his earlier self-harm (possibly suicide attempts) a lot more understandable, that being so tender-hearted, he would turn his anger and frustration inward towards himself rather than out towards others. But it makes me worry for him even more, and we only have one more episode to help him find a different, happier way to be. But if this show can redeem Soo-ah, I have faith that it can save Ha-joon.
To go back to the beginning of the episode, it’s true that I haven’t been inclined to cut Soo-ah any slack for some time, and doubted that any kind of redemption for her would be satisfying enough to make me give her another chance. But I have to admit, as Saya said, that seeing Soo-ah saved instead of redeemed makes a lot of difference. She didn’t do anything to deserve forgiveness, and truly, there’s nothing she could do to deserve it. But for the other kids to decide to save and forgive her anyway — now that’s a horse of a different color. That says more about the other cheerleading club members than Soo-ah herself, but for Soo-ah to genuinely want to take the hand they reached out to her, and gather the courage to do so, is what made me change my mind and decide she deserves another shot. She’s not saying, “Look, I did some random good thing so I deserve to be forgiven.” She knows she doesn’t deserve it, and goes to them with a humble heart and a willing spirit. That’s much harder than making some grand gesture, and proves that she’s truly sorry and that she won’t fall back to her old ways.
Aside from being upset with his behavior int he last few minutes of the episode, I adore how completely out of his element Yeol is when it comes to dating. It’s doubly cute since he’s got such a reputation for being a ladies’ man. He’s so jealous of any contact Yeon-doo has with other guys, though it’s not the possessive, angry kind of jealousy, more like he just wants her to choose to hang out with him first. But good for her, for not ditching her existing friends just because she got a boyfriend, and for letting that boyfriend know that she has every intention of treating her old friends exactly as she has always done. He clearly has NO idea how to do this “you’re my girl but you have your own life too” thing, and thank goodness Yeon-doo’s reaction is just to laugh at how cute he is and not give his jealousy any weight. She has her head on straight and keeps her loyalties, and knows that it’s Yeol’s attitude that has to change and not her own friendships, which is super healthy of her.
But… that jealousy (cute as it is, for now) coupled with Yeol’s behavior when he found out his father is dating, is pretty problematic. Yeol’s one drawback is that he’s still very immature, as he demonstrated by insisting his father not date Yeon-doo’s mom. Maybe it comes down to a difference in culture, but I don’t think a parent has an obligation to consult his child (especially an almost-grown child) on who he can or cannot date. Ask their opinion, yes, but the child has no right to veto a parent’s choice just because they don’t like the idea of their parent dating. For Yeol to demand that his father break up with Yeon-doo’s mom, just because he didn’t talk to him first, is pretty selfish and not well done of him. He’s got a long way to go to understand how dating works, for himself AND for others.
But considering that one of the couples will have to give up their relationship in order for the other to survive, it’s definitely not an easy situation for any of them. I have no idea how they can solve this without one of the couples getting hurt, and I’m nervous that there’s only one episode left in which to do it. But this show has led us into situations that seem to have no good solution before and managed to get everyone out the other side safely, so I’m choosing to trust the show one last time. Don’t let me down!