Sassy Go Go: Episode 3
Yeon-doo has an important decision to make, and Yeol is determined to convince her to join the cheerleading team to protect his friend. But it won’t be so simple, as his skills of persuasion don’t seem to work on her. Meanwhile, the pressure for Soo-ah to succeed builds, and she proves that she’s not afraid to do whatever it takes to get ahead, even if it means stepping on others to do it.
EPISODE 3 RECAP
Yeon-doo uses Yeol’s counting trick to refuse his request to join the cheerleading squad with him: One, she doesn’t associate with people who go back on their word. Two, she won’t have anything to do with Kwon Soo-ah. Three (and by now she’s stepped right under his nose), she’ll never do cheerleading with him!
She tries to step past him, but Yeol slings her back by the wrist (argh) and yells that she has to do it. Yeon-doo threatens him with painful death until he lets her go.
Principal Choi makes a point to ask Ha-joon if everything is okay with him, since his father seemed worried during the last committee meeting. Ha-joon is subdued, but Yeol looks angry at the way President Choi makes it clear that he’s responsible for Ha-joon. And of course, part of their agreement for her not to tell Ha-joon’s father about his self-harm, is to make sure Yeon-doo and Real King join the cheerleading team. But when Ha-joon asks Yeol what’s going on between him and Principal Choi, Yeol just waves it off as nothing. He’s a good friend.
Yeol and Ha-joon witness a tense confrontation between Yeon-doo with Hyo-shik and Da-mi, and Soo-ah flanked by the Real King deserters Seung-woo and Kyung-eun. Soo-ah is all too happy to rub their switched allegiance in Yeon-doo’s face, inviting Hyo-shik and Da-mi to do the same and making it sound like Yeon-doo is holding them back on purpose. Hyo-shik basically tells Soo-ah to shove it, and Yeol smiles as they file past him.
Yeol approaches Soo-ah to ask her one thing — how did she bribe those Real King kids to join her side? She tells him that she didn’t have to, that they joined Baek Ho to avoid being kicked out of the dorms.
Yeol tries to talk to Yeon-doo again, but she’s in no mood and refuses. He gets a great idea, and accepts all the demerits he’s been getting out of (by virtue of being top of the class), then blatantly breaks rules for more demerits, just so he can get cleaning duty with Yeon-doo. Ha, his saucy little wink at her incredulous face is adorable.
Yeol makes it obvious he did this to get a chance to talk to Yeon-doo, but she still isn’t interested in listening. He swears he’ll change her mind in two hours, but Yeon-doo tells him that if he really wants to change her mind, to put real effort into their task (crushing empty milk cartons for recycling). That gives Yeol pause.
An hour into their punishment, Yeol isn’t any closer to convincing Yeon-doo as he’s nearly stomping on her hands and they’re moving at a snail’s pace. She shows him a way to crush the cartons faster, and they add a little song to it, eventually even having a bit of fun. Yeon-doo has to remind herself not to have too much fun, but Yeol grins that she’s softening up.
Hyo-shik joins them — oh no, he’s carrying his suitcase. He and Da-mi have both been kicked out of the dorms. Yeon-doo apologizes for not being able to help them, but sweet, loyal Hyo-shik puts on a brave face.
Yeol is surprised that Yeon-doo is just going to let her friends go like that, and she cries, “What do you want me to do?!” She knows that saying yes to the cheerleading would solve everything, but she would rather die than be used so blatantly. She bursts into wailing sobs.
Nearly an hour later she’s still crying, and awww, Yeol hasn’t left her side. Ha-joon calls to remind him that the dorms are being locked in five minutes, and he’s all, How about crying while you run? Hee.
They miss curfew and are locked out, but this is clearly not Yeol’s first time, as he whistles to Ha-joon to lower a rope. Yeon-doo calls a friend to let her in, but Soo-ah sees the call first and just lets it ring. Yeol offers to help her, but she’s too proud to ask for his help.
So he offers her three choices: One, get caught and be kicked out. Two, spend the night out here. Or three, accept his help. At first Yeon-doo declines again, but she has no real choice… “Oh, whatever!”
They climb the rope together as Dong-jae nervously waits in the hall, wondering why Ha-joon hasn’t come out for inspection. They do inspection after midnight?? Anyway, he finally sees Yeon-doo climbing in the window and does his best to stall the teacher.
The teacher pushes his way in, and asks where Yeol is, and Ha-joon says he’s sick in bed. He IS in bed, under the covers with Yeon-doo — so when the teacher starts to pull back the covers, he whines that he’s feverish and cold as Yeon-doo clings to the sheets for dear life.
Luckily it works and the teacher leaves, but while they’re still under the covers, Yeol mutters a soft apology. He’s sorry for using Yeon-doo’s friends to try to convince her. He starts to go on but Ha-joon yanks the covers off them — Yeol watches Yeon-doo run out, looking like he still had something important to say.
Yeon-doo makes it back to her dorm in time, only to get a text asking her to meet Yeol in the laundry room. He says that this time he’s going to try telling a lie that sounds sincere. He says that if he can’t convince her, one of his friends will be done for — he has to do this cheerleading thing to protect his friend.
For Yeon-doo, her pride is her priority. But for Yeol, his priority is his friend. He understands how she feels, so he’s just letting her know… the decision is entirely up to her.
Yeon-doo tosses and turns all night, staring at her picture of herself with Real King. Yeol does the same, watching over a sleeping Ha-joon. He thinks of Yeon-doo crying that this is the last bit of pride that she has left, and that she’d rather die than be used, and it’s obvious that asking her to do this isn’t easy for him.
Yeon-doo calls Real King out in the middle of the night — even Joon-soo, the first to leave. She asks them all seriously: Can they live without Real King? She could live without dancing, but she can’t live without her friends. She asks them to reclaim Real King with her, which means joining the cheerleading team. Cheerleading or dancing, it doesn’t matter — what matters is doing it together.
The next day, all six of them march into the principal’s office to confront her about kicking some of them out of the dorms. Of course she denies it, citing a reason for each Real King member. Evidently, she caught them in violations then offered them a choice — leave the dorms, or join Baek Ho.
Yeon-doo tells Principal Choi that they choose to join Baek Ho, on the condition that she restores Real King if they win the regionals. Principal Choi agrees, and Yeon-doo whips out her phone — she’s got that on record, so she plans to hold her to it. Good girl.
Prinicipal Choi demands apology letters from each of them for barging into her office and misconduct, which they hilariously anticipated, and they lay their written-in-advance letters on her desk. HAHA, I love them.
Yeol catches Yeon-doo shouting encouragement to herself from the roof, though he teases that he’s seen her crying with snot and everything, so shouting is nothing. He thanks her for changing her mind, but when she asks if he can protect his friend, he reminds her that that was a lie.
An ominous thunderclap heralds the entrance of the Baek Ho students’ moms, as they arrive on campus to confront Principal Choi for using their children to help one student get ahead. Choi argues that this will help their kids’ college applications too, but the mothers won’t be mollified. They know this is all for Soo-ah, and plan to expose the principal.
None of them see someone taking a photo through the office window, and the photo is sent to the Education Office Civil Complaint Board, reporting about the school’s antics to give its students better specs.
Yeol’s dad takes Yeon-doo’s mom out for a fancy meal, although he claims there’s no special reason (so what’s the box in your pocket all about, sir?). He gives the waiter a nod to bring out a cake and starts to pull out the box, but the Baek Ho moms all come in just then and he nixes everything. He tells Yeon-doo’s mom to follow him and sneaks out, which she’s more than happy to do when she sees The Moms.
The moms are all here on invitation from Soo-ah’s mother and Director Lee, but they want to know how they plan to explain themselves for using their children. The truth is, the moms want their kids to benefit from this, as well, and Soo-ah’s mom warns that it could get serious if they get caught collaborating. On her drive home, one mom calls her to warn her about Principal Choi, who’s trying to dig up something on her — they should find something on the principal first.
But Soo-ah’s mom knows the other moms would betray her in a heartbeat, and has Director Kim call the cheerleading instructor to discuss a change of plans. It’s not just Soo-ah who’s to be in the spotlight, but all the Baek Ho members.
Said cheerleading instructor is currently sashaying her way across campus, followed by several salivating teenage boys. Teacher Yang approaches her, looking equally wolfish, until he sees her face. He points her to the principal’s office, looking shell-shocked (she’s not THAT bad, sheesh).
The first thing she does is identify the Baek Ho kids, then tells them all that they will be winning the regional championships in two months. Being the dancers, Real King will be in charge of the fancy footwork, while Baek Ho will shake their… pompoms.
Yeon-doo naturally protests getting stuck with all the hard work while Baek Ho gets the credit. But Instructor Nam makes it clear that this is what she’s being paid to do, so this is what will happen. After the meeting Yeon-doo tells Soo-ah that they aren’t here just to make her look good, but Soo-ah snipes that it’s not up to them.
Ha-joon asks Yeol what’s up with him and Yeon-doo, but Yeol plays it innocently, as if he just keeps running into Yeon-doo. He does admit that he owes her something, but he leaves poor Ha-joon confused about the details.
Soo-ah does worse than usual on the test, so to ease her anxiety, she finds her secret stash of cigarettes under a paving brick. But before she can light up she senses someone behind her, and turns to see Dong-jae.
She quickly flicks the cigarette into the hole left by the brick and tries to casually walk away, but earnest little Dong-jae just retrieves it and silently follows her. She rounds on him, and he just hands her the cigarette, insisting that it’s hers and looking hurt when she smacks it out of his hand. Awww, he’s so cute.
Dong-jae picks up the cigarette again, but Yeol asks if he can return it to its owner. He says he owes Yeon-doo a favor, and would like to repay her. So when he takes the cigarette to Soo-ah, she knows he wants something from her, and he asks if they can’t all work together on the cheerleading thing.
Yeon-doo sees them talking, and witnesses Yeol putting the cigarette into Soo-ah’s purse. Soo-ah storms off, but Yeol promises Yeon-doo that he’ll make sure that everyone works hard at cheerleading.
In class, Yeol claims his wallet is missing, so Teacher Yang orders everyone’s bags searched. Soo-ah remembers the cigarettes are still in her purse and shoots a glare at Yeol, who grins. Soo-ah freezes, seeming unable to make a decision, but just before the teacher gets to her desk Yeon-doo calls out that Yeol found his wallet. Yeol looks surprised, but Yeon-doo says she saw him put it in his pocket. He wants to keep up his power play but she begs him silently, so he agrees that he has it. Soo-ah looks white as a sheet, and sends Yeol a look of betrayal.
After class Yeol tells Yeon-doo that he was trying to help her by forcing Soo-ah to do cheerleading, and asks why she stopped him. She says she doesn’t like Soo-ah but she doesn’t want to handle things that way. Soo-ah overhears everything, and angrily rounds the corner to slap Yeon-doo.
Yeol tells her it was all his idea and Yeon-doo had nothing to do with it. Soo-ah congratulates Yeon-doo on getting everyone on her side, but threatens to start fighting dirty if they don’t stop provoking her.
When Soo-ah is alone, she remembers when she and Yeon-doo got along and Yeon-doo had taken her cigarettes away, and she’d told Yeon-doo that a friend of hers, who was first in her class, had committed suicide. It had made the national news, and her mother had told her that people only cared because the girl had been first in her class. If she’d been second, nobody would have noticed. Okay, that’s sick.
Yeon-doo had said that it doesn’t matter if people remember them, and all moms nag about grades. Of course, her own mom had heard that and given her a good-natured smack, then a thorough nagging for coming in nearly last-place in the school rankings.
Back in the present, Soo-ah crushes the box of cigarettes, and goes to meet with her mother.
Her mother tells Soo-ah that she’s gotten the coach, now it’s her job not to let her mother down. She berates Soo-ah for missing two questions on a test, and Soo-ah watches longingly while the Real King kids play rock-paper-scissors nearby.
Her mother just snarls at them — they may be having fun now, but someday they won’t even dare to look at Soo-ah. She forbids her daughter to associate with them, and to focus on studying.
Instructor Nam starts the kids off on physical fitness, and Soo-ah again looks on wistfully as the Real King kids clown around. The Baek Ho kids call their mommies to whine about the mean teacher, but the Real King team bounce back, already physically fit.
Soo-ah takes the opportunity to ask Yeon-doo why she stopped Yeol in class, and Yeon-doo says she knew the cigarettes were a bad memory for Soo-ah. When Soo-ah bristles, asking if Yeon-doo is pitying her, Yeon-do just sighs that Soo-ah is twisted.
Soo-ah says it would be nice if they didn’t care — then nobody would get angry or hurt. Yeon-doo only reminds her that she’s of a higher class, wondering why she feels so sorry for her. Soo-ah snarls that Yeon-doo can’t hurt her, but she’ll strike Yeon-doo where it hurts the most.
Later Soo-ah hands out some practice tests to Dong-jae’s basketball teammates, which Yeol overhears. He goes to Dong-jae’s next practice and sees Yeon-doo there as usual, cheering her friend on. But when a player grabs Dong-jae by the arm he reacts angrily, twisting away hard and momentarily freezing up.
He gets back in the game, and soon the other player tries to body-slam him, but this time Dong-jae moves away in time. Even their teammates notice they’re blocking Dong-jae too hard, and Soo-ah wanders near Yeon-doo and says she’s wondered why he was so averse to physical contact. Ah, she must have given the practice tests as payment to get the players to do this.
One of the players grabs Dong-jae and hold on tight, and Dong-jae’s world starts to spin. He passes out, which seems to shock even Soo-ah, and Yeol confronts her that this was her doing.
Soo-ah claims that Yeon-doo started it, twisting things and saying that Yeon-doo told Yeol to threaten her with the cigarette, but Yeol calls her on it. He says she’s picked the wrong person to hurt — she should be attacking him.
Dong-jae recovers quickly with a trip to the infirmary and a strawberry milk, and Yeon-doo breaks down crying. She apologizes, feeling responsible, but he reassures her that he’s perfectly fine now.
Soo-ah finds a quiet place and pulls up the article about her friend on her phone, asking her friend’s photo if she’s happy now. She says that she’s not happy, but she can’t stop now.
She sees Yeon-doo walking with Dong-jae, and stalks past them without a word. At her limit, Yeon-doo grabs Dong-jae’s basketball, whips around, and slams Soo-ah in the back of the head. She gets right in Soo-ah’s face, blocks a slap, and yells at her to take her on if she hates her so much.
She calls Soo-ah the worst kind of person, the kind who uses others’ pain against them. Despitre her earlier regret, Soo-ah just says that she warned Yeon-doo that she would strike where it hurts. She doesn’t care about others’ pain, but if Yeon-doo comes after the thing she cares about, she’ll die. Yeon-doo moves in very close to whisper that she doesn’t care if Soo-ah is a bitch, but she should at least act like a human being.
One of the Baek Ho girls hurts her wrist during a physical test, snapping at the instructor, and Soo-ah refuses to do this anymore. Instructor Nam offers her the door then, and the rest of Baek Ho (sans Ha-joon and Yeol) leave with her. So, back come the moms. They demand to know what happened, threatening to fire the instructor, but she’s furious and says she’ll just quit.
The Education Office gets the tip that the parents and the school are working together to build the kids’ specs, and send the representative to investigate. He walks right into the pressure cooker of mothers, students, and cheerleading instructor, and Principal Choi gulps nervously.
I’ll admit, I don’t understand why it’s a bad thing for the school and parents to collaborate to help kids round out their college specs. Seems like that’s what parents and schools are for, unless there’s illegal activity like bribery (which we know there is, but that wasn’t the complaint). But for the sake of the story, I’ll just go with it — collaboration is a Bad Thing.
One thing I really appreciate about Sassy Go Go, is that it didn’t take the easy road of just being about a band of plucky teenagers trying to win a cheerleading competition. It’s all about the kids, their struggles and challenges. They all feel like fully realized characters, even the peripheral Baek Ho and Real King members that we haven’t gotten to know yet. Small things like Joon-woo’s tantrum and leaving Real King, Hyo-shik’s loyalty, and other small moments give the impression that these kids all have full lives outside of what we’re seeing onscreen. There are no flat two-dimensional characters, and the competition could be anything from cheerleading to theatre to debate and the basic premise would still work. At heart, it’s a drama about the hardships and pressures of high school, and that’s something everyone can relate to.
Speaking of interesting characters — I love Yeol so much, I just have to say it. He may have seemed like a jerk at first but he’s really not, and now that he’s actively and openly helping Yeon-doo, I just adore him. He’s got the clout at school that she doesn’t have, to make things happen and to convince/coerce the Baek Ho kids to actually put effort into this cheerleading thing instead of just phoning it in. With Yeon-doo’s enthusiasm and intense sense of justice, once these two partner up for real, they’re going to make a pretty unstoppable team.
But Yeol has some secrets, and I’m so curious to discover what makes him really tick. He’s such a contradiction — he’s brutally honest as long as he doesn’t care what happens. Until it matters, and then he seems more than willing to lie in order to get what he wants, or at least be thought of as lying. He told Yeon-doo that his friend would be finished if he didn’t get her help, but he claimed that was a lie. Why can’t he just tell her the truth? And what’s between him and Ha-joon that makes it so important that they graduate together? I’m very much looking forward to learning more about Ha-joon, and his and Yeol’s friendship.
But I mostly loved Yeol’ss moment when he asked her to please reconsider her decision not to join the cheerleading team because of his friend. It was obviously not easy for him to ask her to give up her last shred of pride for the sake of a person she may not even know. I appreciated that Yeol isn’t the kind of guy to take such a request lightly, asking someone to sacrifice their principles to help him. It weighed on him, to take from her in order to save his friend. That right there tells me he’s a good man — he did what he had to do, but he understood the gravity of the thing he was asking.
Even Soo-ah, while the clear antagonist in the story at this point, isn’t a completely unsympathetic figure. She’s got pressure and worries guiding her actions, not the least of which is her unrelenting mother. With the pressure of being first no matter what, coupled with having a friend who achieved the thing Soo-ah is trying to achieve and couldn’t live with it, and you have a girl in serious trouble. She’s not just in danger of melting down — I’m worried about her survival, literally. She seems to have genuine moments of regret and remorse, such as when Dong-jae collapsed after her little prank, and in flashbacks she seemed to like Yeon-doo. She may be a nasty piece of work right now, but it feels as if it’s due more to outside pressures than her own innate nature.
This is total speculation at this point, but I’m beginning to strongly suspect that Dong-jae is on the autism spectrum, or has a similar challenge. His lack of much facial expression or emotion (and I don’t think it’s N being an inexperienced actor, I think it’s the character), his tendency to repetitive actions, and especially his violent aversion to physical contact all seem to point to some spectrum disorder. I’m no expert but it would explain a lot about him — all the signs add up if you look at them as a whole. It’s either that, or he’s experienced some sort of traumatic abuse or event in his childhood. Or both.
Because of all these complicated, troubled characters, it’s almost a relief that the center of this dramaverse, Yeon-doo, is mostly free of any negative issues. She’s got her own teenage angst, and none of it is unimportant, but she’s not worrisome in the same way that Soo-ah, Ha-joon (whom we haven’t even really delved into yet), and Dong-jae are. She’s refreshingly honest, unfailingly loyal, and has an unwavering moral compass that will get her through anything she needs to face. Out of all these kids, she’s the one who already has the tools she needs to make it through life relatively unscathed. She’s the mirror against whom the other characters are reflected, highlighting their weaknesses and flaws, and showing them that life can be happier if you want it badly enough. She’s a bright light, and I hope that by the end of the show, they all know how lucky they are to know her.