An assignment begins to blur the lines between Baek Ho and Real King, but things really start to fall apart when a school scandal threatens to go public. It creates the first real rift between Yeol and Yeon-doo, as they find themselves on opposite sides of an important question: When do you stay quiet to protect yourself, and when do you speak up to protect others?
EPISODE 5 RECAP
Drunk on homemade wine, Yeon-doo lays her head on the table and invites Yeol to join her. Suddenly she bolts up, knowing he’s about to start his counting trick again and thinking she’s gotten ahead of him. But he surprises her by saying, “One… I’m going to do it.” He puts his hand on her neck and pulls her in for a kiss, and Yeon-doo closes her eyes…
Instructor Nam finally arrives home later to find both Baek Ho and Real King drunk as lords on the wine they found in her fridge (notably, Yeol and Yeon-doo are back downstairs by now). She records a video as proof, and wonders what she’s going to do with them — she can’t send them home like this. She calls a friend to borrow a van, and bundles all the kids in.
Yeon-doo falls asleep on Yeol’s shoulder again, making him smile, while Dong-jae notes how miserable Soo-ah seems to be. The van breaks down and Instructor Nam has to call a tow truck, and the kids escape to find a bathroom, or a place to barf, or both.
Back on the road, Yeon-doo’s head starts to wobble again, and Yeol watches her, amused. On her other side, Ha-joon nudges her every time her head tilts his way, and he and Yeol laugh good-naturedly at her.
Suddenly Dong-jae realizes that Soo-ah isn’t in the van. She’s wandering alone in some vegetation, but she left her bag and her phone in the car. They all go look for her, and Ha-joon remembers her crying that she feels like she’s going to die, and he seems to realize something and runs off purposefully.
Instructor Nam calls Teacher Yang for help, who initially refuses to have anything to do with this (and he seems to be sleeping at the bedside of a sick woman — his mother maybe?). But he finally jumps up and heads to their location, where now Soo-ah and Ha-joon are missing.
The kids are worried about getting in trouble for coming in late, and they don’t feel it’s fair for them all to receive demerits because of Soo-ah. They want to call the police, willing to let the teachers get in trouble just so they don’t have to do any punishment. Sheesh.
Yeon-doo is the one who objects, calling them terrible people with no friends. The other two Baek Ho girls and the bespectacled boy want to call a cab, but the others decide to stay and look for Soo-ah. Yeon-doo asks Yeol if he plans to help or go back, but he says he’s going to stay in the van and rest. But when Yeon-doo leaves to search, he follows her, saying it seems like more fun.
Soo-ah walks near a body of water, seeming to be unaware of her surroundings. Ha-joon finds her first and wilts in relief, then stands next to her silently as she contemplates the still water. “Do you think it’s cold?” she asks him, though she thinks it’s not as cold as she is. Soo-ah starts to walk into the water, but before she gets far, Ha-joon calls to her to stop.
As they search, Yeol asks why Yeon-doo is trying so hard to find Soo-ah. She seems to re-twist her ankle, and tells Yeol it’s a chronic thing — so twisting it onstage wasn’t the first time? Yeol offers her a piggyback.
Still standing in the water, Soo-ah says that she needed time to think. She slowly walks back towards Ha-joon, and he gives her his jacket for the walk back to the van. Yeon-doo and Yeol also rejoin the group, and give each other a cute little partners-in-crime type smile.
By the time they get back to the school, classes are about to start, and it’s so cute how Teacher Yang looks as guilty and scared as the kids when they all sneak back on campus, hee. Teacher Nam creates a distraction by performing a spur-of-the-moment choreography routine for Principal Choi, and the kids all run behind her and into the building.
Last to go, Yeon-doo rolls her ankle again and lets out a little cry of pain, so Instructor Nam steps up her antics while Yeol goes back for Yeon-doo and takes her hand. Teacher Yang and Instructor Nam collapse from the stress, and the kids all thank them for their help. So cute.
As Teacher Yang and Instructor Nam fistbump to their success, a voice asks about the kids staying out all night and Instructor Nam, thinking it’s Teacher Yang, agrees that that was close — wait, who’s talking? It’s the “60 Minutes at Global News” producer, with his camera right in her face, and he asks them about the spec-stacking that a whistleblower keeps reporting. He offers a deal — an interview, in exchange for the incriminating footage he just got.
Yeon-doo can’t concentrate in class as she relives Yeol pulling her in for a kiss, unable to stop staring at his lips. Can you blame the girl? After class she calls him out for a talk, but she’s too nervous to look him in the eye.
Of course he can’t help but tease her, and tells her to look all she wants… did he actually just bat his eyelashes at her?? She finally asks about last night, and he confirms they were alone. But what she wants to know is whether they kissed – she doesn’t remember! That’s so embarrassing.
Yeol jokes that of course, she wishes they had kissed, and saunters off leaving Yeon-doo to wonder if that means they did, or didn’t. She tries hard to remember, running through the events of the previous night one by one, but none of her possible scenarios add up. It all depends on whether Yeol was drunk or not — if he was, he would have kissed her, but he’d never have done it sober.
The producer films the cheerleading team’s next meeting, where Instructor Nam proposes they elect a president. Yeon-doo is nominated as president of Real King, but as the Baek Ho leader, Yeol declines to run. Yeon-doo can’t even concentrate for Yeol’s crinkling at her from across the room, hee.
The other girls nominate Soo-ah to run on Baek Ho’s side, and Instructor Nam announces that there’s a mission – they have to choreograph a cheer for the competition, and the winner will be president. Soo-ah says she’ll consult cheerleading experts for inspiration, but Yeon-doo (who isn’t even paying attention, because she’s busy searching for information on kissing on her phone) just mutters that she’ll use Real King choreography.
Then Instructor Nam throws them for a loop — each girl will work with the other team. So Yeon-doo has to choreograph with Baek-ho, and vice-versa.
Looking a little giddy, Yeol stands outside and giggles to himself, as he remembers last night with crystal clarity. He’d cupped Yeon-doo’s neck and brought her in for a kiss — and she’d fallen asleep on his shoulder. HAHA. He’d said out loud to nobody, “I was being serious.” He can’t stop smiling about it – that’s a boy in love, right there.
Teacher Yang and Instructor Nam put on their serious faces, ready to tackle their “issue.” Then they take the producer out drinking, hee. Unfortunately, he can really hold his liquor, and drinks them both under the table.
Instructor Nam tries sobbing at him, and wails that she didn’t know he was filming and that she’ll be ruined as a woman — it sounds pretty bad out of context to the rest of the restaurant. Teacher Yang eggs her on, until finally the other restaurant patrons have heard enough and threaten to call the cops on the producer.
Whoops, a few of the patrons seem to be gangsters, and they loom over the producer threateningly. He assures them it’s not that kind of tape, but Instructor Nam keeps up her whimpering and they make him hand over the tape. Then he tells her he’s saved the original on his computer. Dammit.
So Teacher Yang tries the direct route — he offers to go along with the original deal, an interview in exchange for the tape, though he claims not to know the identity of the whistleblower. The producer doesn’t seem to believe him, and tells Yang to call when he’s ready to make a better offer.
Principal Choi narrows down the list of possible teachers who could be the whistleblower, and vows to fire whoever it is the moment she finds them. But Teacher Im claims to have discovered who it is — an elderly person named Park Hyang-ja. Principal Choi barks at him to find that person, NOW.
Real King (sans Yeon-doo) get ready for their first practice with Soo-ah as leader, and they unanimously decide not to accept her authority. But when the professional cheerleading team Soo-ah’s hired to teach them literally tumble into the gym, they can’t help but ooooh and aaaah over their moves. Gotta admit, they’re mighty impressive.
Later Soo-ah talks to Dong-jae, telling him that he’s got to overcome his aversion to touching people before he can join them. She can’t afford to lose because of him. Poor Dong-jae says that he’s tried, but it just doesn’t work.
Meanwhile Yeon-doo is having no luck with Baek Ho, who would rather study than dance. They aren’t interested in helping her win this competition, though Yeol looks like he feels bad for Yeon-doo.
Teacher Im goes to find this Park Hyang-ja person, and she turns out to be very ill in the hospital. Aha, is this the woman Teacher Yang was with earlier? Teacher Im overhears some nurses talking about her guardian, a teacher at Sevit High, and the pieces start to slide into place.
Having given up on the Baek Ho kids cooperating, Yeon-doo runs into Ha-joon in the stairwell and grabs him. She’s here to beg his help, and when Yeol finds them Yeon-doo turns up the charm, attempting to enlist his help as well. But they’re interrupted when they hear Principal Choi and Teacher Im walking by, discussing firing Teacher Yang as the whistleblower.
The kids get caught eavesdropping, and the principal warns them there will be consequences if any of them talk, particularly telling Ha-joon not to let his father hear about any of this. Did… did she just use her knowledge of his abuse against him?? She’s disgusting.
Later Yeon-doo argues that they need to help Teacher Yang, but the boys don’t want to make waves. Yeol argues that if Yeon-doo speaks out she might get kicked out of school, telling her not to try to go into the adults’ world. She can’t handle it.
When Teacher Yang goes back to the hospital, he notices the gift basket that Teacher Im left, courtesy of Sevit High. When he gets back to school Yeon-do is waiting for him, and warns him that Principal Choi seems to be gearing up to fire him. He thanks her with a smile, and tells her to forget about it.
But when he’s alone, he drops the cheerful act, and makes a call to the producer. He’s ready to make a deal. He takes all of his evidence of spec-stacking and grade-tweaking, and even a list of bribes the school has accepted.
Teacher Yang asks if the producer will really delete the tapes of the kids staying out overnight, but the producer wants to interview some of the kids. Yang begs him to leave the students out of it, and offers to do an interview himself instead.
Principal Choi is proactive and bans the Baek Ho and Real King kids from giving an interview to “60 Minutes at Global News.” Yeon-doo asks why they shouldn’t give an interview, and Choi says that if they do and it goes badly, they could be expelled.
Yeon-doo isn’t intimidated, and determines to give an interview despite the threat. Principal Choi knows it, and tells Teacher Im to find something, anything, on Yeon-doo to justify expelling her. She knows that Yeon-doo is brave and a fighter, and wants to get rid of her before she can talk.
Yeon-doo witnesses Teacher Yang cleaning out his desk in anticipation of being fired, looking a lot less cheerful than he tried to make her believe. She offers an interview to the producer, but as they’re about to start, Yeol bursts in and yanks her out of there.
He yells at her to be reasonable, and that this isn’t about her getting passionate and involved. She knows, but she can’t just look the other way. When Yeol tells her not to trust adults she says that she wants to trust Teacher Yang… he was brave enough to reveal the school’s corruption.
But Yeol thinks that nothing will change, so she shouldn’t start what she can’t finish. Yeon-doo counters that she may run after starting something, but at least she’s not too afraid to even start, like him. The way she sees it, he’s not so different from the adults he claims to hate. Ouch, but she’s right.
Yeon-doo’s mom also tells her to stay quiet and stay out of it, though Yeon-doo sighs that that’s not like her mom not to fight. But Mom insists on it, more worried about her daughter than justice, and Yeon-do reluctantly agrees.
Yeol’s dad is there and he just says he’s jealous — at least she calls her mom for advice. He says that he didn’t see his son during the last school meeting, but admits it’s all his fault. He asks if Mom plans to keep ignoring his proposal, but she just says that she’s her daughter’s whole world, and she doesn’t want to hurt her.
Dad sighs that he wishes he’d thought of that sooner — being his son’s whole world. He regrets leaving him alone. Mom takes his hand and says that he was having a hard time then, too.
The producer approaches Yeon-doo again, but she remembers her promise to her mother and declines. Noticing her morose expression, Dong-jae offers her a strawberry milk, but today she doesn’t feel she deserves it.
We finally meet Ha-joon’s father, who visits with Principal Choi after a school meeting. He smiles as he reports that apparently, Ha-joon won’t be eligible for the school they chose for him, but Principal Choi looks nervous.
Of course it’s just a Cheshire cat grin, as later Yeon-doo accidentally witnesses him beating the shit out of Ha-joon in the parking garage. From around a corner she calls to Ha-joon, which makes his father stop… for now at least. Yeon-doo shows herself and Ha-joon, bleeding from the mouth, walks away without a word.
But she sees Ha-joon sitting alone in the school cafe later, and asks if he’s okay. He tries to storm off but she stops him, and presses some ointment and a bandage into his hand, “So you won’t be hurt.” Before she leaves, she says that she’s more loyal than he thinks, and she won’t say anything.
During her next meeting with the Baek Ho kids, Yeon-doo doesn’t even try to get them to practice, even when they ask her if she’s given up. Yeol looks frustrated, but it’s Ha-joon who stands up first, and asks what he has to do. About cheerleading or whatever. Awesome.
But later when he sees Yeon-doo running through the rain without an umbrella, a new expression crosses his face. Oh no, please don’t fall for your best friend’s girl.
Yeon-doo runs into Teacher Yang, and apologizes for being too cowardly to give an interview, even though it would help him. But he forbids her to give an interview, telling her to study her math if she wants to help him. He says there are two things she should find to survive in school: friends you’d do anything with, and adults who will be on your side no matter what.
Yeol watches the rain and thinks on a conversation he had with Ha-joon, where Ha-joon had said that maybe Yeon-doo is right. He’d hoped she’s different than the rest of them. It reminds Yeol how Yeon-doo had said he was like the adults he professed to hate.
As Yeon-doo practices the choreography for her mission, the rain continues. Someone drops an umbrella outside the room for her, and we see Ha-joon walking back to his dorm, umbrella-less and getting soaked, but smiling.
Yeon-doo takes a break and finds the posters she made way back when, protesting the injustice of Real King getting shut down. It reminds her of how Teacher Yang has supported her at every turn, and as she leaves, she’s too preoccupied to notice the umbrella Ha-joon left for her.
She sits to wait out the rain, and Yeol finds her, though he denies having come here to give her his umbrella. But he does sit with her, and apologizes for saying it was useless for her to get involved. She counters that he was probably right, and that she can’t help Teacher Yang after all.
She says that even though she seems happy all the time, she often feels bad for her mother, and powerless before the teachers. She doesn’t know what to do with her future, so Yeol says to do what she wants now — what her heart says, instead of her head. That cheers her up, and she rewards him with a sunny smile in spite of the rain.
Yeol offers her his umbrella but declines to use it with her — if he’s alone with her under an umbrella, he may get himself in trouble. RAWR. And this is bad, why?
The next day in class, Yeon-doo’s mind races as she remembers little bits and pieces of conversations, and it suddenly hits her — Teacher Yang is the whistleblower. Principal Choi comes to get him out of class, and he seems to know that this is it. So does Yeon-doo, and she rushes out to stop them.
She says to Teacher Yang that she already found friends she would do anything with, but she just found the second thing — an adult who would be on her side no matter what. With tears in her eyes, she bows and thanks him.
She heads outside, and finds the producer and his cameraman still on campus. She runs to them, and breathlessly says that she’ll give an interview.
Awww, I love that. There’s such a strong line of demarkation between the adults and the kids in this school, and it’s nice to see Yeon-doo find one adult who has her back. She knows that it was Teacher Yang who turned the school in for the unfair spec-stacking, and who fought behind the scenes for Real King’s reinstatement. I’m glad she knows, even if he gets fired, that he’s an adult who can be trusted to be on her side. And what I love most about Yeon-doo is that she’s not just grateful to know that he’s got her back, but she’s willing to step up and get his back, too.
I also think it’s great that Yeon-doo is making friends with Ha-joon first, of all the Baek Ho kids, when I really expected him to be the toughest nut to crack. He’s not as tough as he seems… he’s really just a wounded puppy, waiting for a gesture of kindness, ready to pledge his loyalty forever to the first person that extends a hand. We’ve already seen how bonded he and Yeol are, so I’m not surprised that Yeon-doo’s showing him that she’s trustworthy got him to latch onto her as well. Her loyalty is her greatest strength, and it’s what Ha-joon so badly needs — someone he can trust. I just hope it stops there, and he doesn’t develop a crush on her. I don’t think I could survive seeing him, who’s already damaged enough, possibly losing a girl to his best friend. Don’t break up the bromance like that, Show!
We didn’t get much Soo-ah in this episode, being as focused as it was on Ha-joon and Yeon-doo’s struggles. But we can’t ignore her near-suicide attempt, because I felt that that small scene said so much about her. I’ve touched on this before, but I find Soo-ah an interesting character, because she’s such an enigma. While she’s undoubtedly vile, self-centered, and willing to push anyone under the bus to get herself ahead, it really seems to stem more from the pressure she’s under from her mother than anything innate in her personality. Even she admitted to Ha-joon that she feels like she’s dying, trying to push her own feelings down all the time. Her almost-suicide attempt was telling, in that her actions towards her schoolmates seem to be hurting her, even if she doesn’t admit it. She’s miserable, and she feels like dying, so clearly she’s unlike the usual drama antagonists who act however they like to get ahead, and damn whoever it hurts. Soo-ah is conflicted over her choices, and she’s reaching a breaking point.
Which is why I’m glad that Ha-joon was there, both at the party when she broke down and cried, and at the pond when she walked into the water. He’s the one person who could understand how she feels, and how the pressure at home can make you feel like dying. He didn’t even need to say anything to her other than that he understood, and it was enough to coax her to come out of the water. This time. I have a feeling they both could find themselves pushed to self-harm again, and hopefully they’ll have a friend who understands them before that happens. I don’t think they even necessarily need to have a romantic interest in each other as some viewers have predicted — in fact, I think I’d be happier as a viewer if they just became friends. Soo-ah really needs one good friend, and she pushed away Yeon-doo, the one person who cared about her. And Ha-joon has Yeol in his corner, and that friendship is strong, but Yeol doesn’t really get him. He’s there to support and fight for him, but when it comes to a deep understanding of how Ha-joon feels, Yeol can’t connect on that level. Soo-ah could be that person who truly connects with Ha-joon, and vice-versa.
I’ll admit to a little disappointment that Sassy Go Go is a very different show than what I was expecting. I thought it would be a fluffy, lighthearted show about two rival school clubs being forced to enter a cheerleading competition (well, because that’s what it said it was in the teasers) and to date, we haven’t even gotten any cheerleading at all. Not even much dancing, after the first episode. So I feel a tad misled, in that sense. But on the other hand, what we’re actually being given is so good, I can’t really complain – in fact, I think I like what we’re getting better than what we expected. While I may not have known that I was in for an examination of the corruption that can happen in competitive schools, I’m enjoying the story quite a lot. The pressure the kids are under feels real and immediate, especially in this time when so many high school-aged kids are buckling under the pressure in very dangerous, and sometimes tragically public, ways. It’s an important problem that needs to be seen and discussed, and I appreciate that the show is doing so in a way that makes us really care, and giving us characters that are complex and endearing, even when we hate them. I’ll take fantastic characters any day of the week, and this show is definitely delivering in that sense.
Though, I wouldn’t mind a little cheerleading, because who doesn’t want to see Yeol and Ha-joon shaking their sassy booties? Would it be asking too much for a tiny bit of cheering in among the political maneuvering? Make it happen, Show!