Review: 18 Again

THE SHORT VERDICT:

Don’t let this show’s silly, farcical trappings fool you; this one has so much heart that it simply never runs out of feels. Fatherly love, familial love, romantic love and even platonic love; they all get their day in the sun in this drama world, and the result is a deeply heartwarming watch that I never wanted to end. This show made my heart so, so full, and I happily drowned in all of the feels.

Our cast is very strong, but I do sincerely think that this would’ve been a different show without Lee Do Hyun. He delivers such a heartfelt performance, with such a distinct sense of gravitas, that I am completely blown away. The heart-eyes that I’ve grown for Lee Do Hyun are completely involuntary, and likely permanent. 😍

Unreservedly recommend.

THE LONG VERDICT:

They say that what you do is less important than how you do it, and that is so true, of this show. When it comes down to it, there really isn’t anything particularly groundbreaking about our story (it’s an adaptation, after all), and yet, it honestly doesn’t matter, because everything is so heartfelt that Show has me by the heart anyway. I guess what’s surprising, is just how much I like this show.

The other thing that’s surprising, is how quickly I started to like this one. As early as episode 1, I already felt engaged and invested. That’s no small deal, since most dramas need a few episodes to get settled, and into a groove.

I think one of show’s strengths, is how relatable it is. I’m guessing that many of us have regrets in life, and wonder what we would do differently, if we had the chance (I know I do). And here, Dae Young has that chance. We don’t understand the magic of it, exactly, but it’s so easy to be invested in Dae Young’s second go-around in high school, because in a tangential sort of way, it feels like a vicarious second chance for us too.

To my eyes, Show’s true magic is how it has a way of making me laugh, and making me cry, and making my heart swell to the point of bursting, in the best way possible. And, it has a rather extraordinary way of making heartache feel sweet, in the midst of the poignance, too. So. Good.

Thank you, Show, for existing. ❤️

OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE

Here’s the OST album in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.

I personally really enjoyed the OST and felt it was excellently applied to lift the watch experience. The song that really got under my skin, though, is Track 2, Hello. Somehow, that grabbed my heart in a big way. To my ears, it felt like the cry of Dae Young’s heart, as he stands before his beloved Da Jung, but can’t tell her who he is. I imagine him wanting so much, to say to her, as himself, “Hello, I’m here.” 💔😭

LENS & EXPECTATION MANAGEMENT

I feel that there are two main things to keep in mind, while adjusting your viewing lens for this show.

1. Show’s tone is a touch farcical

This means that sometimes, things can get a little surreal and ridiculous, [MINOR EPISODE 1 SPOILER] like in episode 1, when it comes to Deok Jin (Kim Kang Hyun) and his toy mansion, and how he basically has a shoot-out with Dae Young (Lee Do Hyun), when he thinks newly young Dae Young is an intruder. [END SPOILER]

It’s all in good fun, though, and I found it rather amusing, once I got used to it.

2. Certain common sense rules don’t apply

What I mean is, as various characters come to know Dae Young’s secret, they tend to accept it without a lot of fuss, whereas in a normal world, this would be a really bizarre thing that would require a lot more convincing.

This is a bit weird, to be sure, but while I do wish this was treated with a bit more realism, this is, after all, a fantasy story, and if glossing over characters’ reactions to Dae Young being 18 again gives us more screen time for heartwarming things [MINOR VAGUE SPOILER] like Dae Young doing heart-melty things just lovin’ on his family in his stoic anonymous way, [END SPOILER] I can absolutely live with that.

STUFF I LIKED

For the record, I liked a lot of things about this show, so much so that I find it impossible to talk about them all. There are some characters that I liked, like Shi Woo, who don’t get their own section in this category. That doesn’t mean I don’t like them; I just need to draw the line somewhere. 😅

Lee Do Hyun as Dae Young

This is the drama that I didn’t know I wanted, for Lee Do Hyun. Boy is SO GOOD in this. I mean, I’d been impressed with him in Hotel Del Luna, but I’d kept in mind that he only debuted in 2017, and so might need more time to gain more acting experience and work his way up to a meaty lead role. But here he is, blowing my socks off, from beginning to end, with acting skill and range that I didn’t know he had. 🤩

To be honest, when I’d first seen the casting news of this show, I’d had doubts, because in my head, Lee Do Hyun is nothing like Yoon Sang Hyun. And yet, Lee Do Hyun channels Yoon Sang Hyun’s interpretation of Dae Young is every way. From the way he walks, to the cadence of his speech, to the tone of his voice, to the slightly wild, slightly shifty look in his eyes, to his body language, he just morphs into Dae Young for me. I am so impressed.

I just love-love-love Lee Do Hyun as newly young Dae Young. He’s fantastic at channeling adult Dae Young, and I can totally believe that it’s Yoon Sang Hyun in his body, controlling his body language and speech patterns. Also, there is a difference between young Dae Young, and go-around-for-a-second-youth Dae Young. Newly young Dae Young feels like an adult at heart, whereas original young Dae Young feels like a teenager. That’s really well done, and even though I’ve seen Lee Do Hyun do very nicely in Hotel Del Luna, I’m still blown away.

As a shallow fangirl aside, can I just say how GOOD Lee Do Hyun looks? He looks so strong and athletic, not in a “I pumped iron at the gym” way, but in a way that demonstrates strength, functionality and agility. I can’t help but spazz, at least a little bit. Cough. 😍🤩😍

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. I love how fiercely Dae Young cares for his kids. I was completely sucked into his fatherly outburst at the convenience store, when he realized that his daughter Shi Ah (Noh Jung Ui) was working part-time without permission, but more than that, my heart surged with emotion, when he firmly stepped in and stood up for his son, who’s being bullied at school.

Dae Young – or should I say Woo Young? – is new at school, and hasn’t even fully remembered what it’s like to be a student, and he’s still making mistakes, but nothing stops him from standing up for his son, and – MY GOODNESS – I loves it. There’s a fierceness (and a deep sense of badassery!) in the way he catches the hard-tossed basketball so effortlessly with just one hand, and yet, at the same time, there’s a steady groundedness about him, that speaks of adult maturity, rather than youthful impulsiveness. I’m finding this quite a heady combination, and I am looking forward to more measured fierceness from Woo Young, very soon.

E2. What strikes me most about young Dae Young, is that he’s most concerned for his kids. He has a chance to relive his life and make new choices and pursue his basketball dreams, and yet, the thing that is of utmost importance to him, is being there for his kids, whom he realizes he doesn’t know very well at all. Augh. His father’s heart really gets to me, in the best way.

E3. The thing that strikes me most this episode, is how Dae Young gives his all, to protect those that matter to him. Sometimes, it’s at his own expense, where protecting them means not protecting himself, and sometimes, he isn’t truly able to protect them, but whatever the case is, he does it wholeheartedly, and this all-in demonstration of love and care for his loved ones, just gets me right in the heart.

E3. Gosh, I love the basketball showdown between Dae Young and Ja Sung (Hwang In Yeop). First of all, I can’t help but squee at the fact that Lee Do Hyun clearly is quick and nimble on his feet. He moves with such agility, so effortlessly, that I am convinced of his athletic prowess. Second of all, I love – like super love – that he doesn’t win by taking over and making it a one man show. He wins through enabling and empowering Shi Woo (Ryeo Un) to shine. And then, when everyone rallies around Shi Woo to congratulate him, Dae Young looks on with pride, murmuring that Shi Woo really is his son. I mean, seriously. This is such a Heart. Burst. moment for me. LOVE. 😍

E7. Every time Dae Young does his anonymous dad or husband thing, by being there for his kids and for Da Jung, and helping them and supporting them, it fills my heart so, to see him look at them with such quiet satisfaction. He doesn’t need them to know that he is who he is; he gets joy and fulfillment just from being there for them, even if it’s anonymously, and that is so pure. I love.

E8. The way Dae Young comforts Ja Sung is so empathetic and kind. It’s clear that he means it when he says he just doesn’t want Ja Sung to do something he’ll regret. More importantly, he also offers Ja Sung something that Ja Sung craves and needs – affirmation that he is a skilled player, and doesn’t need his father to pay for him to play. And, it’s clear that Dae Young’s words carry weight with Ja Sung, because Ja Sung knows how good Dae Young is. Aw. That was really more than enough, for me. But Show goes one further, and has Dae Young carry a passed out Ja Sung home on his back, and tuck him into bed. The heartwarming feels! 🥰

E9. I am growing more and more smitten with Lee Do Hyun as Dae Young, this episode. Dae Young seems to have found a place where he’s content; he’s not actively trying to get Da Jung (Kim Ha Neul) back, he’s just doing everything he can, to care for Da Jung and the kids, from where he is, as Woo Young. There’s no hint that he’s trying to get back into their lives. In this way, it kind of feels like he’s accepting this consequence as his penance for not being the kind of husband and father that he’d actually wanted to be. That quiet acceptance gives Dae Young an extra layer of gravitas, I feel like. That weightiness about him, combined with his youthful good looks, is quite a heady combination, I have to admit.

E9. That opening scene, where Dae Young focuses drawing Da Jung’s attention to how well Shi Woo played, is so melty. There’s no guile about him, at all. He just wants Da Jung to feel proud of Shi Woo, and I swoon. And then there’s how he kneels down to tie Da Jung’s shoelace for her. Again, there is no calculatedness in his behavior. When he looks up at her, his eyes are so clear and pure, and his slight smile, so kind. Flail. Puddle.

E10. One of the things that really gets me in the heart, about Dae Young, is how singleminded he is, in loving Da Jung, even though they’re now divorced, and he’s stuck in a younger body. He doesn’t take the opportunity to leave his past behind and start a new life because he now inexplicably has a second chance at living his youth. He just keeps loving on Da Jung and his kids, and it melts me into a big puddle. Dae Young looks legitimately disappointed when he realizes that he’s still in his young body, and the dream, where he’d been older, but surrounded by his family, isn’t real. He looks so wistful and disappointed, honestly.

[END SPOILER]

Yoon Sang Hyun as Dae Young

To be honest, Yoon Sang Hyun gets a lot less screen time than Lee Do Hyun in this show, but he deserves just as much credit, for helping to make Dae Young pop, as a character.

Word on the street is that he and Lee Do Hyun worked closely to ensure as seamless a delivery of Dae Young as a character as possible. This means that he may not have been on our screen as much of the time as Lee Do Hyun, but he deserves a good chunk of the credit too, for the wonderful iteration of Dae Young that we got.

When Yoon Sang Hyun does appear on our screens, a lot of the time, he doesn’t get to say a lot, so most of his emotions are conveyed through his gaze. Major shout-out to his very expressive eye acting, because even when he barely says a word, his feelings are so clear to see.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E6. I love that flashback to when Da Jung had practiced at home, while Dae Young had looked on. The look on his face, of proud, supportive affection, as he watches Da Jung, is so melty and heartwarming.

E6. That final scene in the epilogue, where he watches (well, imagines, I suppose) Da Jung eating the snacks that he brought, is so quietly emotional. I can feel his heart surge with all kinds of complicated feelings; wistfulness; love and care; a measure of sad satisfaction; regret; it’s all there, in his eyes. Augh.

[END SPOILER]

Kim Ha Neul as Da Jung

I really enjoyed Da Jung as a character, and Kim Ha Neul’s delivery of her.

Considering that I’ve only ever seen Kim Ha Neul in 2012’s A Gentleman’s Dignity, where I found her performance pretty meh, I have to say I’m very pleasantly surprised. I guess the fault really was more with the writing than the acting, in AGD. I’d found Kim Ha Neul rather bland in AGD, but I can honestly say that I really, really enjoyed her in this show.

I loved Da Jung as a character. I loved how caring, sensible and capable she is. She doesn’t have it easy in life, but she always strives to keep her chin up, and she always strives to be empathetic and kind, even when dealing with people who don’t deserve it. I also love that she’s brave. She doesn’t always feel brave, but she consistently steels herself to be her strongest self, for the sake of her kids, and I always felt so proud of her, for that.

Da Jung wears many hats in our story; she’s wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, co-worker, professional and friend, and I rooted for her to find success and happiness, in each and every one of those roles, because she deserves all of it. She’s just that awesome. ❤️

[SPOILER ALERT]

E2. I enjoy the fact that Da Jung is good at her job, and wows the interviewers with what looks like an effortless screen test. She’s quick on her feet and unruffled in the face of unexpected developments. She’s great; I’d have given her the job too.

E3. The ending of the previous episode was a fake-out, ha. I actually appreciate that Da Jung doesn’t land on the conclusion that Woo Young is Dae Young, because that is really not a logical conclusion. I think her conclusion, that Woo Young must be Dae Young’s hidden son, is a logical one, and even though Dae Young’s insulted by the assumption, I like it because it shows that Da Jung’s a rational thinker.

E3. It sucks that Da Jung’s facing discrimination at work because of her age and because she’s a mom; that’s supremely unfair. I hate that Director Moon (Ahn Nae Sang) even gives an explicit order that Manager Heo (Jang Hyuk Jin) make sure she quits by the end of her probation period. BUT. OMIGOSH I’m so happy for Da Jung, that she gets a chance to prove how awesome she is, when she does the live interview at the last minute. She’s poised, quick on her feet, witty and personable, and it’s no wonder everyone loves her. It’s such a bummer that someone posts nasty comments about her being a teen mom, and the viral positivity quickly turns to viral negativity. Urgh. I really hope things turn around for Da Jung again, coz she’s awesome.

I do very much love, though, that seeing how awesome his mom is on TV, gives Shi Woo the courage to go after his dreams too. That’s so great.

E4. I love Da Jung’s independent, resilient streak. She’s not growing hearts in her eyes for Ji Hoon (like I am); instead, she tells him that she’ll take care of herself, thankyouverymuch, and then she does just that. I am impressed with how she refuses to let the jibes and discrimination get her down. Instead, she gets in there and rescues her younger colleagues from the tipsy wolves, and then proceeds to entertain the wolves with her drinking tricks and skills, keeping them happy and distracted.

Plus, there’s the way she’s able to shut down the advances of the insistent drunks. Dae Young steps in to rescue her, it’s true, but it’s her sharp analysis of how the drunks are at a disadvantage, that makes them go away. Da Jung’s pretty darn great, and I can totally see that this is where Shi Ah gets it from.

E5. I am pleased that Da Jung is so level-headed about Il Kwon’s (Lee Ki Woo) advances. Even though he pulls out the stops and lays it on thick, with his words, his actions and his money, she won’t give him even an inch, and is quick to set him straight when he does things that make her uncomfortable. Bonus points for speaking up for her estranged husband too, when Il Kwon tries to put him down in front of her. She’s a queen, and it’s charming that she doesn’t even seem to know this.

E7. I am pleased that Da Jung doesn’t take Il Kwon’s threats lying down and basically shuts it down and walks out. I did think her effort to record evidence was very ill thought-out. Why would she place her mobile on the table, if she’s doing a stealth recording? I really thought Da Jung would be savvier than that.

E11. Da Jung kills the live broadcast, just like I knew she would, and I feel extra gratified, that the naysayers around her – in particular, Director Moon – are so impressed with her. What really hits me in the heart and strikes me as extra poignant, though, is how Da Jung’s success in this live broadcast comes from the fact that her past hurts are laid bare for all to see. She reacts with unflinching open-heartedness when her own divorce is dragged into the picture, which is what wins the audience over, and while I’m very proud of her, I also feel my heart pinch for her. In a manner of speaking, it’s a success that feels born of pain, so to my eyes, it feels hard-won, at a painful price.

I am very proud of Da Jung for having the courage to be honest in her feelings about her divorce, admitting that she does have regrets. It’s clear that after all this time, she’s had time to think about things from Dae Young’s perspective, and understand him a little better.

E13. Da Jung’s consistently so level-headed (despite her confusion around Woo Young). I appreciate the way she seeks out Deok Jin to apologize for what’s happened between her and his “son.” That’s such a responsibly adult thing to do.

E13. I love how badass Da Jung is, in taking down the PD who’s taking upskirt videos of Yu Mi (Kim Yoon Hye). The moment she’s sure of what he’s doing, she doesn’t hesitate. She’s not afraid of making a scene, and even when she’s told that he’s the PD who grades all the anchors, she doesn’t back down. That’s so principled of her, and I am touched by her explanation, that she thought of her own daughter, when she moved to take down the PD. Truly a mother rises above so many fears, for the sake of her children.

E13. It sucks that Da Jung gets replaced as her show’s MC, when the show becomes a regular program. That’s so unfair. I’m mollified, though, that Manager Heo is now firmly and openly on her side. I also admire Da Jung for speaking up firmly and graciously to the PD, not about being replaced, because that can always happen, but about the lack of communication.

E13. I continue to appreciate Da Jung; the way she defends Shi Ah against the store manager who insists that Shi Ah had taken money from the cash register is so grounded and reasonable, while still demonstrating belief and trust in Shi Ah. Also, for a mom who’s been blindsided by her daughter’s secret part-time job, I’d say that Da Jung handles it reasonably well. She does lose her cool for a bit, but it really isn’t long before she’s having a conciliatory conversation with Shi Ah, telling Shi Ah that she’s not a burden, and that she trusts her and will support her desire to be a makeup artist. That girl-talk session initiated by Gran (Kim Mi Kyung) is just the best icing on this cake. Aw.

[END SPOILER]

Dae Young & his kids

The fatherly love is so strong in this show, that I felt it deserved its own section.

More often than not, Dae Young’s love for his kids grabbed my heart harder, and made me choke up, even more than the main loveline. I truly loved watching Dae Young love on his kids, whether it’s in the flashbacks when they were little munchkins, or in the present, when he’s loving them incognito as their schoolmate Woo Young. It’s all such heartwarming, wrap-me-up-in-a-blanket goodness, and I loved every minute of it. ❤️

[SPOILER ALERT]

E3. Augh. Dae Young running to the convenience store in the rain so that he can buy umbrellas for his kids, just make my heart squeeze. That’s such a loving, fatherly thing to do, to give the umbrellas to his kids, while going without himself – with a satisfied smile, too. That is so, so sweet. I LUFF HIM. ❤️

E3. The epilogue flashback to how Dae Young had taken care of his kids as a young father, is so great. I love how happy the twins are, even after Dae Young had drawn the wrong whiskers on them. And I am hit in the heart all over again, when I see Dae Young using his umbrella to shelter his kids, while he himself walks in the rain. This man may not have a lot, but he loves his kids with all that he has, and I flail with hearts in my eyes. 😍

E4. I still love how protective Dae Young is of his kids. The way he puts Shi Ah on his back and just runs to the nearest hospital without a second thought, fills my heart so. He does all these fatherly things for Shi Ah, like buying her food, and asking if she’s in any kind of trouble, it’s such a pity that she has no idea that he’s her dad. It’s really heartbreaking that while Dae Young is doing all these things to take care of Shi Ah, both Da Jung and Shi Ah lament his absence and reiterate that he was never there when he needed them. That’s sad and frustrating.

E8. The flashback to how Dae Young’s mom (Jo Ryun) had hidden her illness from him is heartbreaking. She and Dad (Lee Byung Joon) had wanted to protect Dae Young, but those good intentions had eventually hurt him instead. Still, that doesn’t dilute the sacrificial love that drove that decision. Dae Young’s despair at the morgue, as he sees Mom’s body, is completely heartrending; I feel so sorry for him, that he never got to say goodbye. And as it turns out, Dad feels sorry too, and proceeds to delay his visit to Mom’s grave on each of her death anniversaries, so that Dae Young can have the space to see her first. This is such a poignant picture of a parent’s love; it’s full of regret of all the decisions that didn’t work out, but also, still full of consideration for the child for which that love flows.

It’s so poignant that Dae Young now realizes that all this time that he’d wanted to be different from his father, he’d actually been walking in his father’s exact footsteps. It’s only with hindsight and experience, that Dae Young finally understands his father better, and his silent wistfulness, as he spends a bit of time with his father now, as Woo Young, is full of growing pathos.

I love how this galvanizes Dae Young to be there extra for Shi Woo, even though he has to do so as Woo Young. Dae Young’s love for Shi Woo is so clear to see. When Shi Woo’s name had first been called as part of the line-up, Dae Young’s proud side-eye is so beautiful to see. And then, when they win the game and Shi Woo hugs him – omigosh – his feels just overflow. The flashbacks that we see, in his mind’s eye, of Shi Woo hugging him as a little kid, are so poignant, and Dae Young’s tears, full of wistfulness, wonderment and gratitude, move my heart so. 😭❤️

E10. I love how fierce Dae Young is, when he comes to Shi Ah’s rescue, and I’m amused at the brawl that everyone gets into at the police station, because they’re so protective of Shi Ah, and so offended that anyone would dare stalk and attack her. My favorite moment was when Mom showed up and joined in the fray. Kim Mi Kyung rocks. And how awkward-funny, that Dae Young slips, addressing her as “mother-in-law,” thus creating the impression that Woo Young likes Shi Ah. 😂 Oops.

E10. What I appreciate about Show’s handling of this, is how Show always brings it back to the father-daughter dynamic. In the scene where Dae Young plays the guitar, and we see Shi Ah gazing at him with rising emotion in her eyes, I half wondered whether Show would toy with her having a crush on Woo Young. But no. Show stays true to its path, and makes it about Shi Ah’s memories of her and Dad Dae Young, singing to her as he played the guitar. This definitely earned Show extra brownie points with me.

E12. I also want to say, I really appreciate how Lee Do Hyun plays the way Dae Young takes care of the kids in his class. Even when we see scenes of him being nice to Bo Bae (Oh So Hyun), there’s a distinct lack of guile about him, to the extent that when Bo Bae decides that he must like her, I immediately conclude that it must all be in her head, because Dae Young clearly hadn’t said anything special or looked at her in any special way, and had maintained quite a distinctly fatherly manner when he’d been nice to her. I really like Show’s approach to this.

On a similar note, I really like that during the times when Dae Young is being nice to Shi Ah and the other kids all assume he must like her romantically, the only thing that his actions stir up in Shi Ah, is memories of her Dad. I find this very touching, really. And it goes back to this episode’s theme, that just because she can’t see him, doesn’t mean Dad’s not there.

E12. I do love that Dae Young is so happy at the fact that Shi Ah’s ready to be good friends with him. Aw. That’s such a father’s heart, right there. 🥰

E13. Gosh, I really do love that arc of Dae Young learning that Shi Ah doesn’t want to go to college, and wants to be a makeup artist instead. He’s clearly a little dismayed at first, but his time as Woo Young, being around Shi Ah, has taught him to trust her and listen to her, which results in that lovely conversation that they have. His gentle, non-judgmental approach to her is wonderfully open and patient; something that he wouldn’t have been able to achieve, if he’d never become Woo Young. Also, there’s a loving sense of appreciation about him as he looks upon her, which I love. ❤️

E13. Augh. One of the most touching scenes this episode, is when Shi Ah finally sees the remarks that Dae Young had put in each of his bank book entries for Shi Ah’s savings account. If Shi Ah had had any doubts about how precious she is to her father, this definitely clears them all away. The remarks are so detailed, so tender and so loving. I love that she later calls Dae Young to tell him that she misses him. Her tears and Dae Young’s tears in return, made me legit want to cry. Gurgle. 😭❤️

[END SPOILER]

Young Dae Young & Da Jung together

Even though we spend most of our story with Dae Young and Da Jung in the present, I wanted to give our young high school couple a section of their own, because I found their arc very poignant, and also because I felt that these flashback scenes provide a lot of important context for our present-day characters.

Teenage Dae Young and Da Jung (Han So Eun) find themselves in a very difficult situation at such a young age, and it’s heartbreaking but also comforting, to see how brave they are to make the choices they make, and how hard they try to make things work, for each other’s sakes. They may be young, but their love and resilience is quite profound.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. The way Da Jung, 1, tries to be considerate to Dae Young about his big game, when she first found out she was pregnant, and 2, fought so hard to keep her babies, really won me over. She is more concerned for his future than for her own, and that makes me feel like Dae Young makes the right choice, giving up his basketball dreams, in order to be with her and their babies.

E2. The sad wistfulness of young Dae Young and Da Jung, as they struggle to make ends meet as young parents, is so palpable. And it’s so very poignant to hear the scenes voiced over by adult Dae Young, who shares Da Jung’s favorite quote, “No matter how hard life gets, never regret anything that made you smile.” Gah. That pretty much sums up their entire lives, doesn’t it? They’ve both given up so much for the sake of their kids, and yet, because their romance and their children have made them smile, they resolve not to regret anything. That’s so moving, and so sad at the same time, because where we start our story, their lives are anything but easy.

E3. In the opening flashback, Dae Young calls out to Da Jung, who’s being offered the pick of any boy and his umbrella, and she happily goes with him – but he has no umbrella, and they walk together happily, sheltered by his jacket, which he holds over their heads. It occurs to me that this is a pretty apt metaphor for their young marriage. Dae Young doesn’t really have the proper means to provide for and protect Da Jung, but she goes with him happily anyway, and they journey together, both imperfectly protected from the elements. This is quite a poignant thought to me; it feels like this imperfect protection, which exposes them to the elements, eventually contributes to their weariness, and the breakdown of their relationship. 💔

[END SPOILER]

Dae Young & Da Jung together

Beyond the theme of fatherly love, I really enjoyed the theme of seeing your loved one in a new light, and this main loveline brought that out really beautifully.

I loved the idea of Dae Young and Da Jung getting to know each other all over again, and appreciating and falling for each other, all over again, and I eagerly lapped up each and every nugget of realization, healing and growth that Show serves up.

I did come across some viewer sentiment on Twitter, that some viewers were uncomfortable seeing this kind of romantic tension between an adult woman and a high school boy, and I just wanted to state for the record that context really is everything. In our story, Dae Young isn’t an actual high school boy; he’s an adult man who just happens to look like his high school self. His mind and heart are that of a mature man who longs for his (ex-)wife, and to me, that’s more than enough to neutralize the potential discomfort.

I loved this loveline, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E2. That conversation where Da Jung advises young Dae Young not to drink or smoke if he wants to pursue his dreams, clearly hits Dae Young with a lot of feels. Their marriage has been so strained for so long, that it feels refreshing and welcome, to have her express concern for him, even if she thinks she’s being naggy.

E3. Ahaha. I love how spontaneously enthusiastic Dae Young is, at overhearing that Da Jung got her dream job as a newscaster. The way he jumps in on the hug that she’s sharing with Shi Woo, is so cute. Da Jung had wondered whether he’d have been happy for her if he knew about her job; little does she know that he’s so happy for her that he just can’t contain it. How does Show manage to be so cute and so poignant, in the very same moment?

E4. I love that Dae Young’s advice to Shi Woo – to call Da Jung and ask if she’s doing ok – hits home so well. Even though Shi Woo laughs it off as being cringey, it really does comfort Da Jung a great deal. And I’m just so heartened on Dae Young’s behalf, because it shows that he really does understand Da Jung, after all.

E4. Aw. Dae Young is a real sweetheart. I love that he basically goes to see Da Jung, to tell her not to let the gossip get her down, and to just focus on work, because he’ll look out for Shi Ah and Shi Woo in school. “I think you’re amazing, for being a mom who takes responsibility.” Ahh. Such encouraging words. I’m sure they are a balm to Da Jung’s heart.

E5. I do appreciate the way Show demonstrates the sincerity between Da Jung and Dae Young. They sincerely did their best for their kids and for each other, and they’d sacrificed so much of their own dreams and their own selves, in order to take care of their kids; it’s understandable that they’d both feel the weariness and other people’s judgy-ness weigh on them over time. I appreciate that Dae Young is cognizant of the fact that he didn’t actually regret having met Da Jung, but that it was true that he’d blamed her for how his life had turned out.

E5. I don’t wish divorce on anyone, least of all a couple that clearly cares about each other, but I appreciate the manner in which Dae Young handles the divorce, once he understands how he’s hurt Da Jung. The “letter” that he “read” to her in the courthouse is so caring and full of wistful regret and contemplative appreciation; he is clear that he doesn’t want to let her go, but he also acknowledges that perhaps letting her go is the best thing that he can do for her. I choked up at his well wishes to her, because of the selfless, caring, empathetic spirit in which they’re given.

And I feel sorry for them both, because as we see in the aftermath, it’s not easy for either of them. Dae Young’s dispirited and Da Jung is scared, and I want to hug them both and tell them it’s going to be ok.

E6. A lot of the poignance comes from Dae Young finally seeing Da Jung and her struggles so clearly now that he’s in her orbit as her son’s friend, and ironically, being unable to do much for her because he’s no longer her husband, and she only sees him as a kid.

Despite his limited options, Dae Young goes out of his way to help Da Jung in ways that he can. There’s the way he gets her shoes fixed, and how he thoughtfully buys slippers for her, even though he doesn’t give them to her because Ji Hoon’s already given her sneakers. And then there’s how he brings Da Jung’s favorite snack with him when he goes to the house with Shi Woo, and then does the dishes so that Da Jung won’t have to. Plus, there’s how he changes the light in the landing because he notices it flickering. All his little gestures of care and concern are so sweet because of how sincere they are, and at the same time, they are so poignant because Da Jung has no idea that he’s doing these things for her, or that he does them out of love.

Dae Young thanking Da Jung for always caring about him, is so poignant, again, because he means so much more than what she thinks he means. Augh.

E7. I do enjoy the moment that Da Jung and Dae Young share on the open staircase. He manages to encourage her, telling her things like, “It’s okay,” and “You did well,” without overstepping his boundaries as Shi Woo’s friend, AND while drawing on his understanding of Da Jung, as her husband. It’s because of this, that Da Jung feels Dae Young’s presence, even in his absence, like she describes in her closing voiceover.

E7. The thing that I’m looking forward to the most, I think, is Da Jung bonding with Woo Young, without knowing that he’s Dae Young. In my mind, I think of it as them having another chance to enjoy each other’s company again, with the past hurts and misunderstandings taken out of the picture. Without the past coloring the way she sees him, I think Da Jung will find herself appreciating Dae Young much more, all over again. And I just like the idea of that.

E9. I really like how understanding Dae Young’s become, of Da Jung. I think at the beginning of our story, Dae Young would have struggled to understand Da Jung considering the offer to host the program about divorce. But now, after all that he’s learned about Da Jung – and after all that he’s remembered, too – he understands immediately that she wouldn’t consider it if she didn’t honestly think it was her last chance, and he also knows that if she made the decision to do it, it wouldn’t only be for her own sake, but for the sake of the kids too. Even Ae Rin (Lee Mi Do), who’s Da Jung’s best friend, fails to see this, and yet, Dae Young sees it immediately. This demonstrates so clearly just how far Dae Young has come, in understanding and supporting Da Jung.

E9. How nice, that Dae Young gets to watch the fireworks with Da Jung. He just wants to see her, but he doesn’t know that she’d really wanted to have company that night, and it’s just really nice that he’s there for her. And how perfect, that he gives her the photos taken during her high school festival, and then shows her pictures of Shi Ah and Shi Woo on his phone. It feels like a very precious couple’s moment – except for the fact that Da Jung doesn’t realize that it’s Dae Young in front of her. But still. It’s sweet.

And from what he says, Dae Young hasn’t only gained understanding of Da Jung, he knows his kids better now too. Last but not least, I love how he encourages her, telling her that she’s a great mom who’s doing a great job of raising her kids, and that she’s inspiring to him and to her kids, when they see her on TV. It really is what Da Jung needs to hear, and my heart swells with pride for Dae Young, because he’s so good at loving his family, whether they know it or not.

E10. How touching, too, that Da Jung forwards the photos that she receives from Woo Young, to Dae Young, saying that she thought he’d like to see the kids. Aw. Da Jung is so sweet and thoughtful. If only she knew that it was Dae Young who’d sent her those pictures in the first place, and that he’s been closer to her and the kids, than she could’ve imagined.

E11. I found the exchange between Da Jung and Dae Young on the phone very true to life. The distance Da Jung’s had to think about things from Dae Young’s point-of-view, and the proximity that’s afforded Dae Young the same opportunity with regard to Da Jung, has softened them enough for both of them to want to reach out and connect. But the reality is that there’s still a lot of baggage between them that hasn’t been resolved, so Dae Young not showing up when he’d said he would, is enough of a trigger to make Da Jung hang up curtly. I feel bad for both of them, but I’m sure that given a bit more time, they’ll feel kindly enough to want to connect again.

E11. Talking about her divorce on live TV, combined with the post-broadcast gathering, creates the perfect set-up for a tipsy Da Jung to be overtly missing Dae Young, while she sits in her secret place, which is where Dae Young finds her. There’s so much emotion on both sides, fresh from the contents of the live broadcast. I totally believe Da Jung’s desire to see Dae Young, and I fully understand Dae Young’s urge to kiss her. Augh. Such sweet, gentle, tender kisses. I melt. ❤️

On a fangirl tangent, I am decidedly transfixed by Lee Do Hyun’s very lovely jawline, in this scene. Spazz. 😍

E12. I really do like the first kiss, on the stairwell. It’s so full of emotion, on both sides. Da Jung’s feelings of missing Dae Young, hitherto tamped down and kept under control, all come spilling out via her tears, as she looks at Woo Young before her, and sees her husband. And Dae Young’s feelings of missing Da Jung, all come rushing to the surface too, and his gaze is full, as he looks at her and drinks in the realization that in this moment, she sees him. Augh. The kiss itself is so gentle and tender, even though it is also tentative. It’s no wonder that Da Jung is haunted by the kiss the next day, which she tries to shake off as a dream.

E12. I can’t help but swoon a little, when Dae Young catches a falling Da Jung in the bus. The way his arm just wraps around her back so instinctively, while looking all strong and lean, kinda takes my breath away. Puddle.

E12. It’s sweet and thoughtful of Dae Young to remember Da Jung’s desire to have dinner at the fancy restaurant, and work a way out, for him to have dinner with her there. I am admittedly melted into a puddle, at the way he gazes at Da Jung.

There’s so much wistfulness and emotion in his gaze, and so much poignance in the fact that he can’t express himself plainly to Da Jung, even though she’s right there in front of him. The way he looks right at her and says, “How beautiful,” is so poignant and melty. It’s a pity that he has to cover it up by saying that he’s was talking about the view.

Guh. And then there’s how Dae Young leaves his umbrella behind on purpose, so that he has a reason to walk Da Jung home, while they share an umbrella. Dae Young really is going to great lengths just so that the can have a few extra moments with Da Jung, and all the while, she has no idea who he is, or what he feels for her. There’s something so plaintive about that. 😭💔

E12. On the swoony-tropey side of things, Dae Young whisks Da Jung out of the way of road splash, and again, I spazz at how his arm just instinctively wraps around her, so fully and so protectively. Like I said, this is totally tropey, but.. Meltz.

E12. I laughed AND spazzed, while Da Jung scuttled away at the sight of Dae Young standing shirtless in her living room. Tee hee. I get a big kick out of Dae Young having such an effect on Da Jung, after all that he’s  been through with the divorce.

E12. I love that Da Jung expresses that she doesn’t hate Dae Young, and in fact feels thankful to him, and hopes that he’s doing well. Her sad wistfulness as she says that, while looking upon the half moon, must mean so much to Dae Young. I can’t blame him for leaning in to take Da Jung by the hand, and kiss her.

It’s too bad that Da Jung pushes him away and slaps him, in shock. Eep. I guess I can’t blame her, though.

E13. I appreciate how Dae Young’s desire to tell Da Jung the truth has been percolating for a while now.. He doesn’t have to say it; I feel like I can tell, from how the angst in his eyes has been building, that he really wishes he could tell her who he really is. So it makes sense to me that after Da Jung slaps him and leaves in a mortified flurry, that he’d want to go after her, with the sole aim of telling her the truth.

It’s too bad that Ji Hoon shows up to put a stop to Dae Young’s confession. It’s certainly ironic that Ji Hoon is upset at Dae Young for being rude to Da Jung and tells him not to cross the line with Da Jung, when Dae Young’s really Da Jung’s husband – ok, ex-husband – and has more reason to tell Ji Hoon not to get involved. But, I understand why Ji Hoon would act this way, given that to his eyes, Dae Young’s just a teenager with a crush that’s getting out of hand.

E13. I still do enjoy the moments of hyper-proximity between Da Jung and Dae Young. That moment in the elevator, where the crowd of people conveniently squeeze Da Jung and Dae Young into a corner, where he shields her with his body without ever taking his eyes off her, was quite swoony to me.

Also, while it does feel a little tropey that Dae Young would run into so many roadblocks in his efforts to tell Da Jung the truth, I do appreciate that most of the time, he doesn’t get to finish what he wants to say, because he’s waiting for Da Jung to finish speaking. I mean, the fact that he listens without interrupting her, earns him a brownie point, yes?

Last but not least, I do love that flashback that we see, where Dae Young hugs Da Jung in that little nook in the rain, telling her that she hasn’t changed a bit, and he thinks she’s the most beautiful woman in the world. It’s no wonder Da Jung’s heart still does flutter for Dae Young from time to time, even though she tells Ae Rin that this kind of thing all stops after the wedding. Hee.

[END SPOILERS]

Dae Young’s reconciliation with Dad

Dae Young’s arc with his dad is one of my favorite things in this show; it literally is an arc that I loved, but didn’t know I needed.

I love that Show doesn’t only focus on the fatherly love that Dae Young has for his kids, but also takes time to flesh out and heal Dae Young’s own relationship with his father.

This arc made me ugly-cry and I love Show so much, for treating this arc with such tenderness and giving it such poignance and beauty.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E6. Dae Young’s estranged relationship with his father is really hits me in the heart. To think that they’ve been estranged for so many years, while Da Jung has, on her own, made amends with Dad.

I find it touching that Da Jung and Dad have gotten along so warmly all this time, with Dad bringing Da Jung seaweed soup, and giving her money for expenses, and Da Jung getting Dad birthday gifts. At the same time, I find it sad that Dae Young’s missed out on all these for so long, because he and Dad had fallen out when he’d refused to give up on Da Jung and the babies.

So to see Dae Young now take Dad’s bus, and defend Dad from the unreasonable passenger’s attacks, and then have dinner with Dad, is so poignant. Dae Young’s finally getting some time with his father – but Dad doesn’t even know that he’s eating with his son. Sniffle.

E8. I love, so much, that Dae Young takes the lesson he learns in father-son love, and applies it right away, with his own dad. I love that he throws caution to the wind, walks right into Dad’s line of sight, and speaks to him in a way that makes him instantly recognizable – through the sign language that Mom used to teach.

Augh. That moment, as dawning realization comes together in Dad’s mind, is so touching. And what Dae Young signs to Dad, with tears burgeoning in his eyes, is beautiful.

“Dad, you said you were the happiest when you watch me play. I wanted to show you again. I’m sorry that it took me so long. I’m sorry, Dad.”

What a wonderful, tearful reunion, as father and son embrace, while Dad tells Dae Young that he’s sorry too.

Augh. My heart. It’s so full that I want to cry. I LOVE. 😭❤️

E9. Aw. I like how Dae Young and Dad are spending time together, and getting to know each other again, bit by bit. I found it quite poignant that they’d talk about the foods they like, because it reminds me that they’ve literally lost touch for decades.

Also, it’s very meaningful that Dae Young learns from Dad, how much Da Jung’s done to care for Dad all this time. Dae Young’s sad, wistful gaze as he watches Da Jung from across the road, makes my heart squeeze in sympathy. He must feel like she’s so near, and yet so far, and he must have so much that he wants to say to her, now that he knows how much she’s done for his dad.

E11. I love the scene of Dae Young sitting with Dad, as Dad eats the dumplings Dae Young brought him, and father and son chat. It’s a simple thing that seems mundane, but is just the kind of small conversation that this father and son pair missed out on, all the years that they were estranged. It warms my heart a great deal, to see them bonding now, even though it’s a bit weird that Dad doesn’t ask how Dae Young became young again. But this is such a heartwarming arc that I’ll just roll with it.

[END SPOILER]

Wi Ha Joon as Ji Hoon

I have to confess that I was a little apprehensive when Show introduced Ji Hoon into our story. Would he end up being a jerk who breaks Da Jung’s heart, I wondered. After all, Show introduces him as quite the player among the ladies.

And yet, I couldn’t help myself; I kept growing heart eyes for Wi Ha Joon, especially when Ji Hoon looks at Da Jung appreciatively and leaks smiles around her. I couldn’t help being quite charmed. 😅 (I need Wi Ha Joon to star in his own rom-com already, I think he’d be great.)

I needn’t have worried, because Ji Hoon turns out to be such a decent, good, loyal kinda guy, that I would’ve totally shipped him with Da Jung, if Da Jung weren’t still in love with Dae Young.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E5. Because Ji Hoon is kind to Da Jung and wishes her well on her new start, with her divorce, I am tempted to think well of him. But I do remember that we were first introduced to him as a player with multiple women problems, and therefore I’m wary. But for now, he seems believably pleased to see Da Jung, and I’m curious to see how this unfolds. Dae Young’s indignant protectiveness is rather amusing, since Da Jung and Ji Hoon pretty much just see him as a kid.

E7. I didn’t expect Ji Hoon’s story to be such a heart-tugging one, to be honest. I’d thought that his daughter must’ve been the result of one of his past relationships, especially with him being introduced as a character with a playboy sort of image. So when Show reveals that this is his brother’s daughter, whom he’s adopted in honor of his hyung’s (Im Ji Kyu) memory, I found it quite affecting.

I mean, first, Hyung’s given up so much in order to take care of Ji Hoon, and he’s never whispered a word of complaint about it, even when his longtime girlfriend (Song Yoo Hyun) left him. And then, Hyung welcomes being a single dad with such grateful joy, while he continues to support Ji Hoon’s career aspirations so wholeheartedly. But, Hyung dies in a car crash while leaving a warm holiday greeting message on Ji Hoon’s mobile? Augh. That’s the stuff of classic Hallyu melos; it’s all so heartbreaking. But it does grab me by the heart, and I can totally understand Ji Hoon’s decision to adopt Hyung’s daughter as his own, to honor Hyung, and carry on in Hyung’s selfless, loving footsteps.

With this new context painted in, I feel more empathetic towards Ji Hoon than ever, and I’m also really glad that he has a friend in Da Jung, who’s not only able to empathize with him as a fellow single parent, but is also able to give him parenting tips on how to engage with and bond with his new daughter (Yoon Byul Ha).

At first, I wondered at Ji Hoon contemplating retirement over the news of his daughter, since everything could be easily cleared up with a press conference, but his consideration for her privacy put things into perspective for me. He doesn’t have to, but he’s actually thinking of giving up his career – something that he’s worked for practically all his life – so that he can protect his daughter, and that’s so selfless and sacrificial. Truly, you don’t need biological ties in order to be a parent. I’m glad, though, that Da Jung gives him an alternative point-of-view, and effectively puts the brakes on his intention to retire.

E8. I’m growing fond of Ji Hoon. I like the way he carries himself at the press conference. He’s honest and down-to-earth, and is respectful and protective of his daughter, even as he tells everyone the truth. I’m glad he’s taking Da Jung’s advice to heart and choosing to carry on instead of retire.

So handsome. 😍

I actually really like how Ji Hoon is, in the way he approaches Da Jung. He isn’t pushy, but he does push the envelope ever so gently, when he thinks Da Jung would be ok with it. And when Da Jung resists, he always backs off like a gentleman, while showing shades of good-natured disappointment. If I didn’t feel convinced that Da Jung still loves Dae Young, I’d be so on board with her dating Ji Hoon.

E9. Ji Hoon sitting down at the restaurant in order to listen in on Da Jung’s conversation with Ae Rin, so that he can figure out why she looks so despondent, is technically rather stalkery. However, because of the very benign way that he uses the information that he gains, I’m willing to look past it. The way he pops up in front of Da Jung, saying that he was hoping to run into her, persuades her to go with him to dinner, and then orders a super spicy dish that he can barely stomach, just to help her feel better, is pretty dorky-sweet, I have to admit. Also, how perfect, that he asks Da Jung for her first autograph, saying that he’s her number one fan. It’s just the kind of thing to boost Da Jung’s flagging spirits. He’s a good egg.

E10. We see more of Ji Hoon’s struggle to connect with his new daughter, and I feel rather sorry for him, because he’s trying really hard, but consistently hitting a wall every time he tries to be her dad. I’m glad he finds help, support and solidarity with Da Jung. Da Jung really is great with Seo Yeon; her experience with her own kids really shows. I can totally see how this would make Ji Hoon fall for Da Jung even more.

E12. Ji Hoon is still smiling and patient with Dae Young, but it’s clear that his patience is wearing a little thin, especially in that twin shirtless scene – Wowza, Wi Ha Joon is in excellent shape; I mean, look at his back and shoulders, ahemm – where Ji Hoon tells Dae Young that he should stop pursuing Da Jung.

[END SPOILER]

Treatment of the love triangle

Show serves up a love triangle that is quite possibly the healthiest one I’ve seen yet, in Dramaland.

There’s much more patience, grace and respect in this love triangle than I’d imagined possible, and I really like how Show does this – by showing us that nobody’s a villain in this, but each person is sincere, within their own context.

I really appreciated Show’s approach with this love triangle. It feels so.. grown up.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E6. That moment when Da Jung falls down and strains her ankle, and she declines Dae Young’s offer of help, only to accept the same offer from Ye Ji Hoon just a few moments later, really hits it home for Dae Young, I think.

The expression on his face, as he takes in the scene of Ji Hoon helping Da Jung up, feels complicated. I feel like he feels jealousy and indignation, but there’s also helplessness, and at the same time, a measure of grudging respect for Ji Hoon, who’s able to help Da Jung, when he himself cannot.

The friendship between Ji Hoon and Da Jung feels sincere and genuine, which I’m slightly surprised by. I suppose it’s because when we were first introduced to Ji Hoon, Show indicated that he had a reputation as a player. But so far, in his interactions with Da Jung, even though he shows interest in her, that interest feels genuine. It doesn’t feel like he’s flirting with her; it feels like he sincerely wants to get to know her better.

That scene at the end of the episode where he gets her to hit the ball he pitches, and then encourages her to apply the same “keep trying” principle in life, is pretty nice. His advice feels friendly and kind, and the high that Da Jung gets from successfully hitting the ball, is just what she needs.

And then with this episode’s reveal, that he’s a single father too, he and Da Jung have more in common than they’d thought. Especially since the public isn’t taking well to the news. That is definitely a point on which they share empathy and solidarity, and I can’t say I’m mad about that.

E10. It’s so poignant that we see in the epilogue, that the description Dae Young had given Shi Woo about Da Jung, pretty much echoes what we hear Ji Hoon say in the interview, when he’s asked about his ideal woman. That look in Dae Young’s eyes, as he looks at Ji Hoon and Da Jung standing together, tells me that he feels sad and wistful, but he’s also cognizant and respectful of the fact that Ji Hoon sees Da Jung accurately, for all the lovely qualities that she possesses. Given how Dae Young’s learning to love Da Jung and care for her in a selfless manner, I wouldn’t be surprised if he felt that Da Jung deserved to meet a good man, and Ji Hoon could well be that man.

E11. Feelings can be very complicated things, so I still stand by my observation that Dae Young showed traces of grudging respect for Ji Hoon last episode, for being able to see Da Jung’s lovely qualities so accurately, even though his reaction to Ji Hoon this episode skews jealous, competitive and petty.

I do appreciate how pleasant Ji Hoon is about it, because he thinks of Dae Young as a kid, and not as real competition. I’m pretty sure not every man would be as gracious, Dae Young presenting as a teenager notwithstanding, so Ji Hoon does get brownie points from me for that.

Also, Dae Young may be acting petty jealous, but from the way he asks Ji Hoon if he treats all the women the same way, it also seems like he’s cognizant of the fact that Da Jung has the freedom to like Ji Hoon. It seems to me that at the very minimum, Dae Young wants to make sure that Ji Hoon isn’t a player, and is being sincere with Da Jung.

E13. I feel bad for Ji Hoon for being rejected by Da Jung; he really is a very good, decent, loyal person who would make a great boyfriend. For that reason, I feel bad for him, because his feelings for Da Jung have always been sincere, and he’s always been so supportive and appreciative of her. I think the way Da Jung turns him down is the most gentle and appreciative manner possible, but it must still be so disappointing for Ji Hoon.

[END SPOILER]

Special shout-outs:

Ae Rin and Da Jung’s friendship

I really like the fact that Da Jung and Ae Rin have been besties for so long. Even thought their lives have turned out very differently, it doesn’t prevent them from continuing to be best friends, who make time for each other, and confide in each other, and defend, comfort or scold each other, as the need arises.

[SPOILER] It’s quite funny how Ae Rin and Da Jung become best friends, in episode 4, because Ae Rin had started out bullying Da Jung because Dae Young liked Da Jung. First of all, it’s cool how Da Jung had held her own so well that Ae Rin and her friends had come out of it worse for wear, and second of all, it’s even cooler that they became friends because Da Jung had then saved Ae Rin from a group of girls who’d been bullying her. Ha. The irony. [END SPOILER]

Kim Mi Kyung as Da Jung’s mom

I love Kim Mi Kyung, and I love Kim Mi Kyung as Da Jung’s mom.

On a shallow note, I love that Kim Mi Kyung has her hair in a nice full blowout, in this role. I mean, it’s a small detail, but she mostly has a more practical, plain, almost dowdy appearance in most of her roles, so it gives me a bit of a thrill to see her with her hair nicely full and styled, and wearing makeup, for no reason at all. She’s Da Jung’s mom, but that doesn’t mean that she has to look plain, and I love that. 🤩

Mom provides the perfect amount of warmth and grounding that Da Jung and Dae Young need, and even though we don’t get a whole lot of screen time with Mom, Show makes every scene count.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E6. I love the hug that Mom and Da Jung share; Da Jung’s been having a hard time, and I just feel my heart get full on her behalf, as she receives Mom’s warmth.

E8. I love how Mom reinforces that Da Jung will always be her daughter, and that she’ll always be on Da Jung’s side. It’s a short scene, but it’s truly so pure and loving, and it’s exactly what Da Jung needs to hear from her mom. ❤️

[END SPOILER]

Noh Jung Ui as Shi Ah

To be honest, I found Noh Jung Ui’s delivery of Shi Ah a little patchy, ie, some scenes were better than others, but I just wanted to give Shi Ah a shout-out because I think she’s a pretty awesome character.

I realize that I really like how self-possessed and mature she can be, even though she’s only 18.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E4. I like how fierce Shi Ah can be. With the way she faces off with Ja Sung, she’s completely confident and self possessed, and even a little badass. I can totally see Ja Sung falling for her – which I’m sure he is. Also, there’s how she is quick to protect her boundaries, when she wakes up in the hospital to Dae Young stroking her hair. I like that she’s so capable of defending herself.

E11. How considerate of Shi Ah, to think of Ja Sung’s reputation, when she decided not to turn him down publicly. Shi Ah may appear a touch rebellious and stubborn, but she’s more mature than I’d originally given her credit for.

[END SPOILER]

Hwang In Yeop as Ja Sung

For a character who’s introduced to us as a bully, I’m pleasantly surprised by how Show manages to endear Ja Sung to us, by the end of our story.

I found myself growing sympathetic towards Ja Sung in degrees, which is something I hadn’t expected. Nicely played, Show.

I also thought Hwang In Yeop delivered Ja Sung with a nice amount of nuance.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E5. I’m pleasantly surprised that Ja Sung demonstrates empathy for Shi Ah. Even though I still don’t like that he bullied Shi Woo, this new, encouraging side of him is a positive development. Importantly, even though I suspect that he’s nursing a romantic interest in Shi Ah, it doesn’t feel like his encouraging words are spoken in order to make her like him. To my ears, it does sound like a sincere attempt to help her feel better and stronger.

E9. It’s good to see Ja Sung apologize officially to Shi Woo, and explain that he’d been embarrassed because Shi Woo had seen him being beaten by his dad. Not all kids would apologize in such a mature way – or at all, really – so this earns Ja Sung some extra brownie points with me.

E11. The entire fiasco at school is quite silly, but it does amuse me that so much chaos could ensue just from Ja Sung’s decision to make a big love confession to Shi Ah. On that note, I actually wondered whether Hwang In Yeop is an idol, coz the song sounds like it’s in his voice, and it’s a very solid performance. It doesn’t look like he is one, though, so color me impressed; he’s more versatile than I’d thought.

[END SPOILER]

The Funny

For the record, I actually found a lot of funny to enjoy in this show. Sure, some of the jokes fell a little flat for me, like how these two employees of Deok Jin’s keep stumbling on situations involving our characters, and jumping to the wrong conclusions.

By and large, though, I found that I laughed quite a lot during my watch, which is Quite Something, since k-humor so often doesn’t work that well, for me.

Here are some of the things that tickled my funny bone, over the course of our story.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E4. I’m tickled that teenaged Ae Rin is also played by Lee Mi Do, and I’m even more tickled that Dae Young had been her first (one-sided) love. That puts quite the spin on how adult Ae Rin’s been treating adult Dae Young, since she’s appeared to be so repulsed in his presence. Because I feel bad for Dae Young, whom she’s been so annoyed and repelled by, it gives me some satisfaction that she’s falling for Dae Young all over again, now that he’s young and handsome again – and it’s still a futile one-sided love.

E4. On the other hand, I am suitably amused that Dae Young’s efforts to take care of his daughter are received by Ji Ho as romantic competition. I can already see Ji Ho’s defense radar go into overdrive, as he observes Dae Young doing things for Shi Ah.

E6. Ae Rin’s crush on Dae Young getting further triggered by him catching her mid-fall (to an iconic song from Secret Garden, while time freezes for her, ha) and him gifting her slippers when hers had broken, is very entertaining.

E8. Muahaha. The random scene with Ae Rin and her clingy ex-boyfriend (cameo by Heo Jeong Min), culminating in a classic Hallyu tropey scene, where Deok Jin saves her by claiming to be her boyfriend. All this, scored by the Lovers in Paris OST too. HA. It’s so silly, but I find it hilarious.

E9. It’s rather amusing that Ji Ho and Ja Sung are so intent on wooing Shi Ah, and they both see Dae Young as romantic competition, when all Dae Young wants to do, is keep any and all boys away from his baby girl, always, heh.

E12. I was suitably tickled by how jumpy and paranoid Da Jung and Shi Ah become, as they individually obsess over the idea that Woo Young might like them. Hahaha. It’s silly and obviously scripted since mother and daughter behave with such unison, but I am amused anyway.

[END SPOILER]

STUFF THAT WAS OK

Deok Jin’s loveline

Essentially, I liked Deok Jin’s loveline more in concept than in execution. I felt that there was a lot of potential for cuteness, with him falling in love with Teacher Ok (Kim Yoo Ri) at first sight, but being hampered by his identity as Dae Young’s “father.”

[SPOILER ALERT]

I was suitably amused at the reveal, that Teacher Ok is actually a gaming nerd, and already acquainted with Deok Jin online. I was anticipating hijinks and possibly a crush reversal, since Deok Jin is well respected online, but Deok Jin’s attempts to court Teacher Ok are sadly met with dead-ends multiple times.

Sometimes, I found Deok Jin and his ardent but repeatedly failed attempts to court Teacher Ok quite funny, but mostly, I was a little disappointed that this arc was angsty where I’d expected it to be fun.

For the record, I do like Deok Jin’s big declaration to Teacher Ok in episode 11, telling her that she deserves to be true to herself. It’s sweet, and I do really like the final thing he tells her, that all cool people are abnormal. Love that. I need to remember that one.

[END SPOILER]

The office politics

I understand that the office environment is written to be tough on purpose, so that Da Jung has obstacles to face and overcome, but they weren’t my favorite thing to watch, because it involved people making things difficult for Da Jung.

I didn’t like the fact that Director Moon is determined to force Da Jung to leave, and I also didn’t like how Da Jung’s colleague Yu Mi keeps scheming to put Da Jung down either.

Still, it was gratifying to witness Da Jung dealing with everything with grace, poise and compassion, so I can’t complain too much.

STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH

Lee Ki Woo as Il Kwon

When Il Kwon is first introduced to us, as Da Jung and Dae Young’s ex-schoolmate, who happens to think of Da Jung as his first love, he seems pleasant and harmless, with some potential for first love hijinks, but oh was I wrong about him.

Il Kwon turns out to be a total manipulative player jerk. Ugh.

[SPOILER ALERT]

I am grossed out that he and his friends take actual bets on his ability to woo women. I also hate his manipulative behavior with his female targets. I’d thought all this was bad enough, but he’s even worse than I thought. The way that he brings Da Jung to the nightclub in episode 7, and expects her not only to bribe him and other basketball coaches to pave the way for Shi Woo’s basketball career, but to also pour drinks for the men as well? BLECH. It’s demeaning and immoral and just all-around horrible and distasteful. I wanted him to be served his comeuppance so bad.

On the upside, Il Kwon gets his just desserts in episode 9 and doesn’t come back. I’m grateful for this, since many other dramas tend to bring back their villains, just for the heck of it.

Show makes an attempt to explain Il Kwon’s behavior, implying that he became this way because of the behavior that he’d witnessed from his his ex-coach and his dad. And yes, I’ll buy that that did have an influence on how he turned out. But, he needs to bear responsibility for his own decisions too. Not everyone who’s witnessed bad behavior or suffered insults becomes a jerk who’s intent on meting out to others just as much as he’s received.

Also on the upside, I’m happy to see how everyone rallies around to help Da Jung – even if some, like Deok Jin, practically have to be coerced AND bribed into it. Still, I love the warm community feels, from seeing the parents band together to stand up to their Big Bad, and refuse to allow his threats to change their minds. It’s a touch drama-cheesy, but I don’t care. And it’s great that Dae Young plays such a key role in helping Da Jung achieve her goal. Deok Jin managing to get Teacher Ok to agree to a cup of coffee with him, is a cute bonus.

[END SPOILER]

Show’s fake-out habit

It’s rare that I ever feel this way, but I like this show so much, that I don’t even mind when it toys with me sometimes, with the not-so-occasional fake-out. To Show’s credit, the fairly regular fake-outs don’t feel manipulative; instead, they feel like good-natured teasing. And Show fills my heart in so many other ways, that I can’t even be a little bit mad about it.

Still, I concede that Show went a little ham with this at times, and at those times, I did wish that Show could’ve shown some restraint.

Here’s a list of Show’s fake-outs and ribbing, just coz.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E2. The closing scene, where Da Jung seems to conclude that Woo Young is really Dae Young.

E4. Dae Young showing up at the courthouse and identifying himself as Da Jung’s husband.

E5. Show repeatedly teasing us with the cliffhanger from our previous episode.

E5. The stalker spying on Dae Young.

E7. Ae Rin telling Da Jung Dae Young’s secret.

E9. Dae Young apparently back in his older body, at the hospital.

[END SPOILER]

THEMES / IDEAS

E2. That detail, that teenagers don’t tend to tell their parents anything, rings true for me. I don’t recall telling my parents much when I was a teenager either. And it’s so poignant to see it from Dae Young’s point of view now, as he realizes that his kids haven’t been telling him their truths, all this time. His disappointment and wistfulness is so raw, I really feel for him.

E3. What a sobering reminder, of how easily people are influenced by appearances, when we see young Dae Young getting a completely different reaction from Ae Rin compared to adult Dae Young, when he asks to share her umbrella. With young Dae Young, Ae Rin’s completely transfixed by his youthful handsomeness, but with adult Dae Young, she’s aggravated by his adjusshi-ness. Sigh. It’s an unfair world.

E4. Shi Ah and Shi Woo telling Da Jung that everything is ok with them even though it’s not, is the consideration that they give to her situation. It’s quite poignant to think that these teenagers, who, as a generation, have the reputation of being self-absorbed, are actually stressed about their parents and concerned for their mom.

E5. It’s hard to see that Shi Woo and Shi Ah are in pain too, over the divorce, but I do think it’s a fitting spotlight, since divorce isn’t just a couple thing, it’s a family matter. I like the detail that Shi Woo is looking out for his sister to make sure she’s ok, and it also warms my heart to see that Dae Young is doing what he can, to be there for his kids, even though they don’t know it.

E6. Umbrellas really are turning out to be a symbol of love and care, in this show. This episode, Da Jung offers her umbrella to Dae Young, saying that she can go without, and Dae Young insists on walking her home with it, before he takes it. It’s a simple thing, but it really does communicate how you feel about the other person, or at least, how much you want to protect the other person.

E8. Oftentimes, a change in perspective can help you see things more clearly, or differently, and I feel like this is what’s happening with Dae Young. Before, when he’d been in the thick of trying to live as his 38 year old self, he’d been so overwhelmed by the stresses of life, that he’d failed to see his family, and their needs, or even himself, in the midst of it all. But now, because he’s in a different position, he’s able to see things more clearly, and understands everything better because of it.

Da Jung is seeing Dae Young differently too, but in a different way. She doesn’t know that Woo Young is Dae Young, but as she learns things about Dae Young (like what Il Kwon tells her about Dae Young’s decision to give up the chance to train with the team, because he needed to earn money for Shi Woo’s medical bills), and as Woo Young’s actions remind her of Dae Young, she’s able to see Dae Young in a new light all over again, in his supposed absence.

E12. I really like the symbolism of the half moon this episode, where, just because you can’t see the other half, doesn’t mean it’s not there. It’s perfect to describe Dae Young’s situation. Just because his family can’t see him right now, doesn’t mean he’s not there.

SPOTLIGHT ON EPISODE 14 [SPOILERS]

Augh. The feels. I love how this show brings all of the feels, and never seems to run out. I’m not ready to say goodbye to these characters, though, so I’m really quite sad that I only have 2 episodes left.

I was all ready for Da Jung to be convinced that Woo Young is really Dae Young, with how he shows her that it’s him talking on phone with her, but Da Jung’s denial is strong, heh. In a drama world where everyone else who is in on the secret has accepted it without much fuss, Da Jung stands out because she refuses to believe it for almost a whole episode.

Of course, this begs the question why, and I think it comes down to two things. 1, In our opening flashback, we see how differently Dae Young had behaved, in the time leading up to the divorce. Gone were the sweet nothings of yesteryear, to the point that it gets awkward if either of them wants to say, “I miss you.” Of course Da Jung would find it hard to believe that Woo Young, who’s been sweet, thoughtful and considerate, is the same person that she remembered being married to. 2, I think it’s also partly because Da Jung’s embarrassed about how her heart’s fluttered for a young Woo Young, and she’s mortified by the idea that Dae Young’s possibly aware of it.

I’m glad that Dae Young reacts in a very respectful manner, when Da Jung refuses to believe him. He tries to explain himself and he tries to get her to listen, but he never forces the issue, and by the later stretch of the episode, it seems that he’s ready to accept that she just doesn’t believe him, and wants him out of her life, as sad as that makes him. That’s so.. gentle, of him. I can’t help but appreciate him, so much, even while my heart aches for him.

I love Dae Young’s arc with Da Jung’s mom this episode. I’m disappointed that Mom’s leaving, because she’s such a grounded, earthy presence, and I always love Kim Mi Kyung on my screen, but her departure arc is so poignant and brings so many feels that I’m almost ok with her going back to Gangneung. Almost.

I love getting a sense of how close Mom and Dae Young had gotten, and I love how she thinks of him as her son, and he, his mother. The way he remembers all the little things about her, like her weak wrists, and her favorite snack to have on the bus, and the way she remembers all the little things about him, like the way he eats, how he loves stewed ribs, and how he always tells her to take a taxi from the bus terminal, is so heartwarming. I love it. The wistfulness on both sides is so palpable, as they think about each other, and now I just want these two to be together forever as mother and son. ❤️

Ae Rin’s a loyal friend. I kinda love how she stormed out of that class reunion, after putting people in their places for talking smack about Da Jung.

I honestly didn’t expect Shi Ah and Ji Ho to start dating, because Shi Ah hadn’t actually seemed romantically interested in Ji Ho, but I’ll take it; it cute. And I like that Ja Sung demonstrates his loyalty by standing up to protect her – and new boyfriend Ji Ho – against the bullies from the other school. I’m liking Ja Sung more and more; he’s a good kid.

Boo. I’m bummed that Da Jung loses her job because of unfair voting, that’s so wrong. I am mollified that Director Moon is upset about it though, because he’d been the most vocal before, about getting rid of Da Jung. I’m just confused about why he doesn’t do anything to change things, since he’s aware that the results are a case of unfair voting.

I seriously love how everything comes together in Da Jung’s head, with regard to Woo Young and Dae Young. Writer-nim has clearly planned ahead, planting all these parallel statements and soundbites in scenes featuring older and younger Dae Young, so that it all lines up perfectly. I love it. It builds a picture of consistency too, showing us that Dae Young’s heart is in the same place, whether he’s in his older or younger body.

Omona, that kiss at the end basically melted me into a flailing, hyperventilating puddle. There’s so much gentleness and tenderness and sensuality in how Dae Young looks at Da Jung, his gaze never leaving her face, and the way he holds her, cradling her head with his hand, as he kisses her, pulling her closer with every breath. Augh. Melt. Swoon. Faint.

SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]

What a rollercoaster of an episode this was. I feel winded, from feeling too many emotions than my brain is ready to process. I literally need to just sit, and breathe, and feel all of the feelings, before I can figure out what I think of it all. Oof.

I love that Da Jung and Dae Young kiss and make up, and I love how wonderfully emotional their reunion scene is. Even on a second viewing (ok, third, I couldn’t help myself), I feel so affected by the way Dae Young gazes at Da Jung. There’s so much unspoken emotion there; guilt, tenderness, regret, uncertainty, growing realization, and it all culminates in him pulling Da Jung to himself, in an embrace that he’s clearly been longing for, all this time that he’s been appearing in front of her as Woo Young. Augh.

And then the kisses.. tentative at first, but only growing deeper, more tender and more passionate, as all of the emotion that’s been pent up, finally finds release. AUGH. The unhurried, tender kisses, so full of longing, hunger and wonder, all wrapped up in sweet familiarity and affection. There’s something so unrushed and yet so hungry about this scene, like he literally cannot get close enough to her, or get enough of her, and needs to breathe her in. My heart is imploding from the feelss. Puddle.

Omona. He has such beautiful hands.. ❤️❤️

I love just as much, the healthy conversation that Da Jung and Dae Young have. He apologizes for misunderstanding her and assuming she was having an affair; she doesn’t take it to heart, saying that she’s learned that communication is key even between longtime married couples; she tells him that there’s nothing going on between her and Ji Hoon; he apologizes that she’d had to lie to him, because he’d lied to her; she thanks him for taking care of her and their kids, even when they hadn’t known it. It’s all so necessary, beyond the kisses, and I am so glad that they’ve wasted no time in saying what is needful.

Da Jung and Dae Young are so cute, going on dates together, staying up all night while out on said date, and chatting often on the phone. They really strike me as a young campus couple, except that they’re not.

I laughed out loud at Da Jung’s prank on Deok Jin and Ae Rin, where she pretends to have fallen for Woo Young; it’s childish, petty, and the perfect harmless way to get back at Deok Jin and Ae Rin for keeping the truth from her.

I actually really like that Da Jung and Dae Young are literally blind to the fact that he looks a lot younger than her right now, until the people around them start drawing their attention to it, at the sandwich shop. I’m a little bummed that the assumptions and remarks do end up getting to them, but I appreciate that they need to think of Da Jung’s reputation as a public figure.

It’s cute that Ji Ho gets all nervous around Dae Young, even before he realizes that Woo Young really is Shi Ah’s dad. I wasn’t expecting Ji Ho to actually catch on to Dae Young’s identity, but I find it endearing that Ji Ho now starts addressing Dae Young as “ahjusshi” and being all polite and respectful, even though Dae Young still looks all of 18. It’s also sweet that even when Ji Ho apologizes for having been rude to Dae Young, Dae Young demurs and says that Ji Ho was never rude to him, and offers to give Ji Ho pocket money for keeping his secret. The fatherly energy in this scene is pretty strong, and I really enjoy it.

I can practically feel Dae Young’s desire to return to his older body, it’s so palpable, especially after Ji Ho tells him that Shi Ah’s waiting for him, and even more after Shi Woo calls and asks him to attend his basketball match, and he has to make an excuse and decline. I can feel his longing for his children intensifying, to the point where being able to take care of them as Woo Young, is no longer enough.

I appreciate the friendly conversation between Ji Hoon and Da Jung. He tells her about his troubles with Seo Yeon, (Ugh. Seo Yeon’s mother is awful and cruel, and I hope she lives to regret how she treats her own daughter), and Da Jung gives him some great advice, about allowing Seo Yeon to see him as her uncle rather than her adoptive father.

Also, PHEW, that all those hints about Dae Young being somehow involved in the accident that killed Ji Hoon’s brother, were misdirects. I just knew that if our good-hearted Dae Young were to have been involved in any way, it would’ve been in the capacity of helping, and not hurting, those involved.

Ji Hoon tells Da Jung that if it were to a man lesser than Dae Young, that he wouldn’t concede defeat and give up on pursuing her, and wishes Da Jung and Dae Young a lifetime of happiness. I appreciate that Ji Hoon is essentially acknowledging Dae Young as an awesome human being, without ever actually seeing him (that he knows of). There’s something very pure about that that I like.

The flashbacks that we see of how much Da Jung and Dae Young had struggled as young parents, really does bring a tear to my eye. They were so young, and they both suffered so much, and yet worked so hard to be strong for each other; it’s such a touching portrayal of selfless love. And in the context of that, along with that selfless approach to love, I can understand why Da Jung feels it’s better to cut Dae Young loose; she wants to let him pursue the dreams that he gave up, for her and the kids, and she knows that given a choice, he would choose them again, and put himself last.

At the same time, I feel so bad for Dae Young, who wants nothing more than to be near his wife and kids, but is being told that he’s being cut off, for his own good. His tears say so much; there’s disbelief, consternation, fear, and desperation. Augh. Lee Do Hyun nails this scene, and I am blown away by all of the raw emotion reaching out of my screen to hit me in the gut. Oof.

The scene afterwards, where we see Dae Young at the basketball court, doggedly shooting hoops while trying to reverse his wish, is so full of desperation and pathos. Tear.

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

I feel like I’m being a little ungrateful, feeling underwhelmed by Show’s finale, after Show’s served up such a wonderful plethora of feels through the rest of its run, but it’s the bare naked truth: I wanted better and more, from this final episode. To be clear, the finale we do get isn’t terrible by any means; there’re lots of solidly good moments. I just thought it could’ve been better.

Before I get into what I wanted from Show, let’s revisit what Show did serve up.

This finale runs like an extended epilogue, and we get to see how life goes on, after Dae Young returns to his older body. Dae Young has tearful individual reunions with Da Jung, Shi Woo and Shi Ah, and I thought it was a nice touch, that Dae Young, echoed by Da Jung, would apologize to Shi Woo and Shi Ah for all that they’ve had to go through, and ask permission to live together as a family again. I really liked this scene, and felt it was all-around respectful, sweet and touching.

Yu Mi uploads the video footage of Da Jung singlehandedly taking down Pervert PD, which blows up in a really good way, and Da Jung’s suddenly inundated with work offers. I thought this was a nice way to give Yu Mi a turnaround, without giving her a whole new personality. I also thought it was sweet that Dae Young volunteered to help Da Jung sort through all the job offers, as her manager.

With his new resolve to let Seo Yeon treat him as her uncle rather than her father, Ji Hoon successfully leaves his slump behind, and enjoys a fresh happy bond with Seo Yeon. He also meets Dae Young face to face for the first time, and they shake hands with mutual respect and gratitude. I liked this too.

Deok Jin finally wins Teacher Ok’s heart, with a little help from his new Iron Man suit, and from young Dae Young, who’d told Teacher Ok that Deok Jin’s not his real dad, before his departure from school. In quite the turnaround, Teacher Ok even grabs Deok Jin for a kiss, after his dramatic Iron Man confession. I’m mildly amused by this arc, and I’m just happy for Deok Jin that he finally gets his girl.

Two year time-skip later, we see that everyone’s happy – except for Spiteful Ex-classmate, who gets left out of the class reunion. Ji Ho and Shi Ah are still dating, and celebrate their 800th day together; Shi Woo has a girlfriend now, whom he assures he will never let go of; Dae Young now coaches kiddie basketball and is really happy about it; Da Jung continues to do well at work. Dae Young asks Da Jung to marry him again, in pretty much the same way he’d once asked Da Jung to date him, by asking her to grant him a wish if he successfully makes a basket, which of course he does.

Ae Rin takes Da Jung paragliding as a wedding gift, and we witness the sweet wedding that Dae Young and Da Jung finally have, after having foregone it before, because they couldn’t afford it. Mysterious Grandpa, whose magic had given Dae Young the chance to be young again, shows up at the wedding, and he signals Dae Young to keep the magic a secret. We then see Dae Young and Da Jung’s life together after the wedding; not everything’s sweet and rosy, but through the bickering and frustrations of daily life, love and understanding prevail.

All warm and positive things, to be sure. So, why is it that I feel underwhelmed by this finale? It wasn’t the lack of Lee Do Hyun on my screen, though I assure you, I did feel his absence quite acutely, despite Show’s efforts to sprinkle in his presence through various scenes. 😭💔 Lee Do Hyun really embodied so much of this show’s heart and soul. ❤️

Essentially, I feel like Show robbed me of payoff, after all the emotional investment that it’d convinced me to make. After all of the angst that Dae Young experiences leading up to this finale, and his anguish at not being able to get back to his older body, Show makes a decidedly odd choice, to completely gloss over the very thing that Dae Young’s been angsting over.

The moment Dae Young switches from his younger body to his older one, is when he chooses his family all over again, and this time, without fear of regret. I appreciate the significance of this, and I also note that Da Jung’s expression as she looks at him, indicates that this change is for real, and isn’t one of those transitions in the past, where the change had been purely for our benefit as viewers.

The thing is, though, why are we not given a look at how Dae Young reacts to this change that he’s been longing for, for so long? It’s not like Show didn’t have time for it, since this entire finale is basically spent in epilogue-esque fanservice. Why couldn’t we have given Dae Young screen time and space to react to this, because surely he would have a lot of feelings about this? I feel cheated by this lack of payoff, after all the tears and anguish of our penultimate episode.

I don’t get it. It really feels like Show spent a whole lot of time, laboriously building up to a punchline – only to forget that it had a punchline. Because of this, all of the epilogue-flavored events of this finale tasted a little hollow to me. What’s the use of all the toppings, if you neglect to serve up the meat of the main dish? 😑

Another thing that I also found a little odd this hour, is Yoon Sang Hyun’s delivery of Dae Young. I don’t know if my eyes are playing tricks on me, but it seems to me that Yoon Sang Hyun’s gaze this entire finale, leans sad and wistful. I don’t understand this choice? I’d imagine that Dae Young would be more happy than sad, to finally get to be with his family again, but all I’m getting from Yoon Sang Hyun’s eyes, is a sense of mournful wistfulness. I found this rather distracting, to be honest.

That said, I feel like I can’t quibble with Show too much, because it had stolen my heart so completely, through its first 15 episodes.

I do genuinely like the note on which we leave our characters. We see young Dae Young and Da Jung agree to always walk together, hand in hand, and then we see Dae Young and Da Jung in the present, agreeing to do the same, all over again. And as we hear them in voiceover, we see all our other characters do the same, as if they are becoming direct beneficiaries of Dae Young and Da Jung’s gained wisdom:

Dae Young: Thinking back, endless happiness was always in our lives. It’s a common luxury all of us can have. For that happiness, we decided to love our decisions. We chose people based on love, and we are grateful for our decisions. As for my loved ones and myself… I would like to cheer them on to the end of time.

Da Jung: In life, even if you miss out on happiness, as long as you have that one person who will look for happiness with you, your life will be worth living.

Dae Young: Don’t forget that you love each other.

Da Jung: Be disappointed that you cannot cherish each other better.

Dae Young: And promise for a better tomorrow.

Da Jung: Like that, our lives will continue.

An inspiring and affirming benediction indeed. 🥰❤️

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Heartfelt, moving and so full of feels. ❤️

FINAL GRADE: A

TEASER:

MV:

PATREON UPDATE!

The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of 18 Again, is Mr. Queen. I can’t deny that I’m intrigued by the high ratings! I’ve taken an initial peek, and I’m cautiously optimistic. 😄

If you’d like to join me on the journey, you can find my Patreon page here. You can also read more about all the whats, whys, and hows of helping this blog here. Thanks for all of your support, it really means a lot to me. ❤️

25 thoughts on “Review: 18 Again

  1. Pingback: Dear kfangurl: Can you talk about the shows that you didn’t review? | The Fangirl Verdict

  2. Natalia

    You can’t stream it in dr@m@c**l in the US? It works in Europe.

    *edited to stay on the safe side of DMCA bots.
    ~kfangurl

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      Hi Natalia, DC works but is not a legal streaming site, which is why I avoid mentioning it on the site, as much as possible. DMCA bots can be very aggressive in flagging and taking down content when doing their internet trawls, and a number of drama blogs & websites have been victims in the past. 😝

      Reply
        1. kfangurl Post author

          No worries, Natalia! Many of our friends here on the blog refer to it tongue-in-cheek as “the site that shall not be named” – and now you know why! 😆

          Reply
  3. Kay

    This sounds like such a lovely show! I’ve been hearing so many good things about it. It’s on my watch list. The only thing holding me back is preferring to watch shows on my TV and that requiring several hoops to jump through to make that happen with this one. I know, I’m greedy when it comes to my drama watching 😂

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      😆😆 I’m slightly stunned at your strict requirements for your drama watching, Kay! Do consider making an exception for this one? It’s so lovely, I’m sure you won’t regret it! ❤️

      Reply
      1. Kay

        Hahaha! I think it’s more lazy than strict though 😂 It’s just the most comfortable and easy combined with liking to see my dramas on the big screen. I do occasionally make an exception and put in the extra “work” for dramas though, so maybe this one, hehe 😄

        Reply
  4. phl1rxd

    Hi Fangurkl – I loved this as well! Lee Do Hyun has so much potential at his age – that is pretty amazing. He can express a wide range of emotions and he is able to do this naturally. Great review of a great drama and I thoroughly enjoyed the Patreon posts on this one.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      Yes, isn’t Lee Do Hyun such a breakout star?? I’m suitably impressed at how well he’s doing, and so happy that he’s getting opportunities to showcase the talent that I didn’t know he had! 😃 Thank you so much for enjoying this show on Patreon with me!! ❤️😘

      Reply
  5. CarpControl

    Hey KFG!~
    Whatta review! Something tells me the details & word-count on this one is directly proportional to the love you have for this show, and it’s not a surprise because it’s so full of heart, and wholesome, and you love shows that bring all the feels! ❤ Thank you for your reviews; it really is the BEST way to revisit the shows that you love, on a time-crunch!

    -Reading your review reinforced a fact in my subconscious: – this show has done something for me, that no-other drama has before. And that’s perhaps why it holds such a special place in my heart. Usually, k-dramas have me swoon over MLs doing ‘cool-dude’ stuff, and badass-FLs in all their ‘courageous, Wonder Woman’ mode end up being stuff of inspiration! While, we got ‘swoony’ LDH by the heapful, doing super cool ML-stuff (the single-handed basketball grab, catching the FL from falling multiple times, etc) he left me with serious heart-eyes😍 when he was just being a ‘dad’. Something about his reassuring presence around his kids, when they were babies, then toddlers, pre-teens, then high-school adolescents, heck even with his unborn twin-fetuses, got me incredibly…. Affected!😭 Infact, he’s so naturally ‘a dad’ that he ends up parenting even other kids, like Ji-Ho, Ja-Sung and the entire bunch of Si-Ah’s girlfriends, and I believe our primal instinct as women makes us see him as a ‘reliable and responsible’ partner. This was surprisingly such a turn-on (more than his shirtless scenes, although he sports a stunning physique!).💯 Similarly, while Da-Jung was being the fourth ‘PowerPuff Girl’, looking all business and gorgeous (anytime in work-related setting, or being an awesome mom, daughter-in law, etc) it was surprisingly when she finally confessed on the bridge to always having felt guilty and wishes she never told him about the pregnancy, all these years later, and how grateful she is for his choice, and loves him even more so because of it… that was her standout moment for me, and she became a total girl-crush then. Dae-Young being ‘best-dad ever’ and Da-Jung being ‘wife-of-the-year’ is something I didn’t know I needed so bad 💕🥰

    -When Da-Jung went paragliding, I half kept expecting for her to crash into North Korea 🙈 Oh, and about Hwang In Yeop being an idol, he surely has the looks, built & talent to be one. (I melt everytime I watch his ‘How Do you do?’ Clip- True Beauty- in the Noraebang, he sang it so beautifully!) Funnily, watching the BTS, he definitely feels more like a Basketball player, atleast one that played regularly upto HS or even college.

    -While Il-Kwon supremely annoyed me on my first watch, but knowing in hindsight he’d get served justice eventually (on my 2nd watch)…. I appreciated the parallel that they set up with the character to contrast his fate with Ja-Sung’s, and how CLOSE Ja-Sung was, to end up being like this hateful guy, had Dae-Young’s reassurance and comfort not come at that crucial point. The writing continues to impress me….😁

    -Speaking of parallels, I really enjoyed how Si-Woo and Si-Ah are setup to be mini-me versions of their parents, and it’s adorable to watch the similarities.🥰 I also tremendously enjoyed the parallels b/w Dae-Young and Dad, & Da-Jung and Mom, because everybody goes through phases of swearing to themselves ‘I’ll not become like my Mom/ Dad, I’ll be a better parent’…. And life funnily transform you into their shadows!!👌 This show felt so relatable, and they gave viewers from every age-group characters, they can identify with! 💯

    -Hmm, I see your point on the finale, about Dae-Young not being shown to live his life with greater fervor, excitement and appreciation. I think that however for me, was overshadowed by the disappointment over 2 defining scenes from the original movie that weren’t adapted to this version. 😭 Having watched 17Again more than 10 years back, I distinctly remember these two scenes, and the impact they had on me. The first, was the courtroom scene, which ‘couldn’t’ be adapted, or else the story would have ended by ep7- Scarlett (Da-Jung) picking up the scrap piece of paper being read aloud by Mark (Woo-Young), and her realizing the kid was always her husband….. was SO EPIC! 😍 Then they disappointed me again on the finale-transformation scene. The original had Mark (Woo-Young) toss out the basketball, and chase after a teary-eyed Scarlett (Da-Jung), who chose to leave quietly, in order to give him his second chance at life, and despite him knowing he’d be screwing his chances of getting to Uni ONCE AGAIN, decides nonetheless to walk out from the match in a similar fashion to the opening scenes (of both the movie and the drama), thereby choosing his wife and the kids, all-over again and in good faith, without knowing that retracing his steps was the way to get him back to his 38-year old body. The scene was SO beautifully done, and I kept hoping fervently they didn’t change it. I had good hopes, because they set up the remaining parallels in situations and characters so well! 😭😭

    [Here is the transformation scene, from the movie]

    -I am beyond elated we got to see ‘Teen’ Dae-Young and Da-Jung for one last time, with their narration of the newly-found wisdom on love and togetherness. Their version of the couple had the least screentime, but thinking back about the struggles the faced because of the choices they made and had the conviction to stick through, which ultimately made them the Dae-Young and Da-Jung we see today…. Just pulls at my heartstrings for reasons I can’t identify. Maybe it’s because their version has made my ugly-cry the most… 😀 Si-Ah walking along with Ji-Ho on their date, and she looks SO much like her mom, my heart swells with pride seeing her grow up, as if I had some role in parenting her 🙈😭

    -While I am thankful to the entire production team and the cast for this gem of a drama, I am secretly so grateful for LDH having picked up this role, and executed all of it perfectly. I recognize k-dramaland is an incredibly image-conscious place, where actors refuse to settle down because it would undo their ‘image’ among fans. 🙄 And yet, this 25 year old decided to play a young teen-dad at not just one, but two points of the character’s life… a role, let’s face it, most of his more-popular contemporaries would have (and perhaps, did) declined. And it’s precisely his fresh-faced inexperience (a reason why other actors would have declined this role)… that makes the character’s struggle seem even more real (because even a teen-dad IS a first-time, inexperienced dad, after all),🤯 and that made his portrayal of the character, even more profoundly poignant, and we couldn’t help but have our hearts go out to him! I also realized that aside from this guy being crazy-talented, and someone who takes his craft very seriously, is also not at all camera/ angle conscious. If his character requires ugly-crying, he WILL do it, and that makes me respect him and his passion towards the profession even more. His humble and slightly sad backstory coupled with his goofy yet good-natured BTS-persona has endeared him even more (seriously, how’s that possible?). Plus, did I mention, he’s adorable with kids?! Ah, I apologize for turning this into an LDH-simp section!💕❤💖👏💯👌😘

    -After CLOY and some 20 dramas later, I had a cathartic-cry to this one. No complaints though, because I while hate tearjerk-y melos, I also love stuff that isn’t written out as angst-y tragedies, but makes you laugh, then tear-up and then laugh even more heartily, without missing a beat. And 18 Again was just that! I-LUFFED-THIS. (probably evident from this essay/ gush-post) 😜
    Definitely with staggering number of hits, and a few inconsequential misses here and there… I’m looking forward to watching GBC now, considering how much you love that too, and it’s by the same director!… Also, Kim Mi Kyung is LOVE! 💕

    Thanks KFG, for this…. It feels a lot like an ODE to this beautifully heartfelt story! Hope Netflix picks this one up soon (rumors!!) because heaven knows, it deserves it! 🤞🤞🤞Looking forward to your Mr. Queen post (even if it fails later, no regrets because SHS is killing it!!)🤣😂😁

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      Thanks so much for enjoying this review, CarpControl!!! SO glad you loved this show too! ❤️ And you are right, when I have strong feelings for a show (positive or otherwise), that’s when the word count starts to go up! 😆

      YES, Dae Young is SUCH a great dad, and Lee Do Hyun is SO good at bringing that out, I totally swooned like you did, when he was doing his anonymous dad thing. Well, and the anonymous husband thing as well. That selfless, “I don’t need you to know it was me” kind of attitude just got me flailing, so much. 😭😍

      That’s a good point about Il Kwon, that he represents the potential future that Ja Sung avoided! Nice catch! 😃

      Thanks for sharing the scene from the movie, I see what you mean about a missed opportunity in the drama. In the movie he is shown making the same choice all over again, and there’s a lot of dramatic impact in that. I would’ve enjoyed having that in the drama too, I think! Of course, this does mean that the other things that Dae Young did, as he prepared to leave, like talking to Teacher Ok about Deok Jin, would have had to be cut out. Maybe that’s why they opted not to mirror the movie?

      As for my dissatisfaction with the ending, it’s less to do with wanting to see Dae Young live life with more excitement, and more to do with the fact that we don’t see ANY reaction at all on Dae Young’s part, when he changed back to his older body. After all the tears and anguish in E15, this felt like a letdown. 😞 If we’re going to see how torn up he was over not being able to change back, shouldn’t we also get to see how elated he is, at actually changing back? That’s why I felt cheated. The mournful gaze for the rest of E16 was a secondary thing. I could’ve lived with that if they’d given me more on Dae Young’s pivotal moment of actually getting his heart’s desire. (I found it interesting that they also seem to gloss over this, in the movie. Why is that, I wonder?)

      Ahaha, no complaints at all, at gushing over Lee Do Hyun!! I already had a soft spot for him after Hotel Del Luna, but he dang stole my heart in this, and is refusing to give it back! 😍😍 He’s SO GOOD in this, and manages to give Dae Young both a youthfulness and a gravitas, which is a combination that was WONDERFUL and PERFECT for the role! 🤩

      YES, do check out Go Back Couple, it’s very good. And Familiar Wife is very good too! Both are do-over dramas too, but they are different in concept and execution, and I’d say I enjoyed them both equally! ❤️

      Reply
  6. snow

    Your review has certainly made me add this show to my list. I was hearing good things about it but the story somehow didn’t interest me much.
    But I guess, I will watch it! 🙂

    I have always liked Yoon Sang Hyun and have seen Lee Do Hyun in a supporting role in Thirty But Seventeen. His performance here is receiving so many good reviews that I’m curious to see his acting 🙂

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      Yes, do give this one a try, snow!!! 😃 It’s super heartwarming, and Lee Do Hyun is very impressive in this! 🤩 Definitely worth a look! ❤️

      Reply
  7. Pingback: Year In Review: 2020 | The Fangirl Verdict

  8. Trent

    I did not expect to get interested in this, but your abundant enthusiasm is infectious, so onto “the list” it goes. I’ve seen Lee Do-hyun in Hotel del Luna and Sweet Home, two very different roles, and it sounds like this one is more different still.

    I am definitely enjoying Mr Queen through 5 episodes–Shin Hye-sun is, as they say, killing it–so I’ll be curious to see what you think.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      Yes, do check this out, Trent! This gave Lee Do Hyun so much room to explore his acting range – and he knocks it out of the park, so well! 🤩 More than that, this is SUCH a heartfelt story. 🥰❤️

      From what I’ve seen, Shin Hye Sun is indeed killing it in Mr. Queen! 🤩

      Reply
  9. Snow Flower

    I want to watch this so much, but can’t find it streaming in the US. Let’s hope that the drama stars will align in the future and the drama will be available.

    Reply
    1. merij1

      Me neither. I guess a VPN could fool Viki into thinking I’m not in the US, but I’m not there yet in terms of resorting to that kind of thing. I used a very good VPN for a year or two several years back so I could DL music or Hollywood movies without recourse, but then decided to stay on the straight and narrow where possible.

      Edit: I replied before I saw KFG’s response. Opera has its own VPN?

      Reply
      1. kfangurl Post author

        Hi MeriJ, back when Jeff asked the question on my Where To Watch post, I did a search and it seems that using a VPN to watch stuff off legal streaming sites is fine and not illegal. You can check out this article here. The iQIYI link I gave Snow Flower is legit; iQIYI is a legal streaming source that mainly serves the Asian market. I hope that helps! 🙂

        Reply
        1. merij1

          Interesting. But you do need to pay for a VPN service, right? It’s not just a matter of tweaking VPN setting on Opera?

          Reply
          1. kfangurl Post author

            Opera has free, built-in, unlimited VPN. 🙂 There’s a tutorial link in my Where To Watch post, if you’d like to check it out. 🙂

            Reply

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