I really loved these episodes. Really really. I fully acknowledge that this drama is very focused on its visual presentation and stylising itself into these perfectly composed moments, but still the emotions of it are layered, and even if it’s not quite as messy, it’s no less complicated. Are its moments as organic as a different show? Maybe not, but Record of Youth is just being itself, and I refuse to blame it for not being something else.
Saya: I don’t know why I’m starting out defensive lol. It’s been that kind of week!
Paroma: I’ve been warned. 😄 But I already texted you earlier in the week that you’d love these episodes!
Saya: I only remembered that you told me I’d dislike Hye-joon’s dad even more, and you were right 😅
Paroma: You selective rememberer, you. But I quite loved the episodes myself. If anything, it felt very organic since the story largely focused on Hye-joon’s rise and Jung-ha’s rising disillusionment at work. Show does these things extremely well.
Saya: It’s always a challenge for a romance to somehow show you love differently, and to make you feel different about it. So I really appreciated the way that for Jung-ha, love is something that has always come hand in hand with sadness, and it was also explored why.
Paroma: There is also something different in how the relationship isn’t being idealised. It’s not following general romance-drama flow. Jung-ha and Hye-joon are distinct people who don’t constantly confide in each other and don’t expect the other one to be there when they are hurt or having a hard time. But when they turn up at the right moment, they are so grateful and relieved to have that shoulder to rest on for a moment.
Saya: I’ve really come to appreciate the weekly rewind where we backtrack from the end to go see it from the other person’s perspective. Remember how we talked about how powerful the scene of Hye-joon crying in his van was? And then to see Jung-ha on the other side, instantly realising that he was crying. I think we saw that wordless understanding that we mentioned last time really put down deep roots, as opposed to building upwards. That’s further cemented by these whole lovely sequences where they don’t say anything at all. And no music. Just silence and them.
Paroma: Yeah, that was nicely shown there. They are in tune with each other’s pain, but not necessarily the cure. So, quiet support is the order of the day.
Saya: Going to complain about Netflix subs again. “I know how it feels to get your heart broken”? Really? Talk about robbing the line of emotional impact. She says something more to the tune of knowing well the tears that flow from the heart. If I could re-write those subs…!
Paroma: Netflix clearly thinks the international audience is too dumb for metaphor.
Saya: I wish they would allow the language to be a little unusual, even awkward, for English. I do understand that translation choices are complicated, but I so wish we didn’t have to lose the character of their dialogue.
But back to the scene at hand: how her kind words to him in that moment is what makes him cry again. That got me right in the heart. There’s a special kind of breaking that only a parent can do.
Paroma: My favourite moment from this week was definitely when Hye-joon’s dad learned about his casting in a drama on the family chat room and instantly wished that it falls through so Hye-joon “learns his lesson”.
Priceless dad moment.
Saya: So cold. It’s more disturbing when you see how much of a habit it is for him to put Hye-joon down, and simultaneously hold big bro Kyung-joon up. I’m really glad that Ae-sook doesn’t mince her words to Dad about his differential treatment (even if it has no effect on him). But it’s so interesting how when she sits Hye-joon down to tell him not to take Dad’s cruelty to heart, and says it’s because he doesn’t know how to show love, Hye-joon calls her out on it—clearly he does know how to show love, because Kyung-joon.
And that there is a perfect vignette of family gaslighting, whose wrongness is skewered with a few short lines. That’s my Ha Myung-hee magic. She’s put some really deep things into throwaway lines.
Paroma: Mom can’t really badmouth Dad to their kids, cause that’s how family units roll. I understand Ae-sook. I also know that confronting her husband a million times over his discrimination wouldn’t have changed him. Not when there was no real threat of either Ae-sook or Hye-joon leaving him.
Which brings me to the current situation. Where the favourite son has made the dreaded mistake of falling for a scam and the black sheep is earning renown. I can’t wait for next week’s rewind. I’m sure there’s some story left to tell between the one fan asking for his autograph in the lobby and Hye-joon being mobbed by fans!
Saya: I do kind of wish I could nom up this show in one go! I’m actually super pleased with where we’re going with Kyung-joon—I told you he was redeemable! He’s such a fun character, and even though he’s a pretty bad bro, the fact that he doesn’t have this vitriolic resentment towards Hye-joon the way Dad does makes him instantly more palatable. I see him as more roguish and a little hapless.
Paroma: I love the scenes in his bank. He’s so determined to keep things by the book in a work culture that’s all about doing favours and overtimes without protest. 😄
Saya: Is it bad that I relate to that? 😂 And I’m glad his (female) boss didn’t turn out to be another Jin-joo—just someone at the end of her tether with his annoying personality LOL. But it’s hilarious how he keeps talking about the burden of being the elder son like he does something, and even better when he blatantly acknowledges that yeah, actually, he doesn’t, but it’s the thought that counts. And one day he will, promise!
Paroma: hahahaha. That was perfect. I like that we’re seeing more of the brothers’ interactions outside the house. I didn’t think they could stand each other but turns out that’s not true at all!
Saya: I initially thought he was a throwaway character, but there’s so much to explore there. Can we be a little bit smug that we already speculated about how hard it must have been for him to grow up next to beautiful, beloved-to-all, Hye-joon?
Paroma: You speculated. I had no such sympathies. But I did like that he got his moment on the soap box.
Saya: It’s really real, you know. That people you don’t particularly like or forgive have reasons that make you sympathetic to them, so that even if you can’t excuse them, you can understand them. But also to get the flipside of that narrative…we have Jin-joo (Jung-ha’s colleague/senior). Where’s the vomit emoji.
Paroma: Dear lord that woman is insufferable! Jung-ha isn’t giving jealousy enough credit, you know? There absolutely is a reason why Jin-joo hates her so much. But I wonder what she meant when she said she’ll be leaving. Is show going to tell me Jung-ha will earn so much from sponsorship she’ll give up working for the salon? That’s… not how YouTube works.
Saya: LOL! 😂 But that’s a great point about Jung-ha not giving jealousy enough credit. “I hate you because everyone likes you” is SUCH a theme in this show. For Hye-joon it’s his face, for Jung-ha, it’s her hands, and for both of them, it’s the apparent ease with which they gain other people’s affections. And also that there’s a loneliness in that.
Paroma: Yeah. It was interesting to see Jung-ha’s family this week. I can see why her mom would cause her trauma to be around, but it felt like she idolised her dad too much.
Saya: Yeah, I feel like we need a little more there. While I liked seeing Jung-ha break for narrative reasons, I don’t fully understand it. There’s definitely more to that relationship we haven’t seen. At least, I hope so, because what we’ve seen doesn’t adequately explain their reactions. But it was good to see that Ahn Jung-ha isn’t always “anjeong” (stable).
Paroma: The dad felt like an author insert. Fie on those who get tired of waiting for artistic people to get a stable job to support their kids. One day they might become rich, while you become dirt poor!
But back to Hye-joon. Are you scared of his sudden change in fortune as much as I am? It’s much deserved but we have half the show left! I fear the future episodes!
Saya: No…should I be? 😱 I’m more scared of Yi-young turning to the dark…darker side to get Hae-hyo on top. Because of course, equal success isn’t allowed. Hae-hyo has to WIN and he has to BEAT HIS POOR FRIEND.
I’m also scared of Hye-joon’s ex. In fact, I am the MOST scared of her.
Paroma: She seemed tiresomely manipulative. Like making people uncomfortable is a fun litmus test to see how much power she holds over them. 🙄
Saya: And she’s come back to mess with Hye-joon. And because he’s on the up now, there’s some temptingly high stakes for her to play with. She absolutely seems like she enjoys doing cruel things just for the hell of it. I don’t know why Hae-hyo came on so weakly with her, either. Come on, dude, be a better friend!
Paroma: I was happy to see him be a decent friend and call Jung-ha Hye-joon’s girlfriend and all that. I need to peek into his brain at some point.
Saya: He’s torn between the two? Hae-hyo is frustratingly passive at times. He knows (?) of his mom’s machinations but opposes only weakly, he is Hye-joon’s best friend but also takes his side kind of weakly. He’s been rejected by Jung-ha and backs off but also can’t back off entirely… Is it that he can’t pick his ship?
Paroma: Now that Hye-joon’s drama has aired, I’m afraid to look. Will Hae-hyo stop his mom from messing with his friend’s career? Or will he pretend he doesn’t know what’s going on? Mom isn’t exactly subtle about her interference.
Saya: On his mom, I have been hoping all this time that her outward warmth had at least equal reality with her darker words—like there’s a balance of good and evil?—but I’m not sure anymore. That smug, passive-aggressive-but-more-aggressive-actually talk-down she has to Ae-sook…that was genuinely hostile, even if still cloaked in her gigawatt smiles. She complain-brags about being soooo busy with her kids who need her soooo much that she can’t see herself being free this side of eternity! Unnecessarily unkind. And petty. To have every possible advantage in life and still not have that be enough.
Paroma: If she’s so insecure ‘cause her housekeeper’s son got a good drama, while two of her son’s shows flopped, I can’t see much hope for better sense to prevail.
Saya: Well they keep chasing rising loser Park Do-ha, so…! Maybe that’s the downside of relying so heavily on your connections and ability to buy your way in. The path you then follow sort of determines itself. Which is an interesting contrast to Hye-joon’s very self-directed approach. Might not be great for him commercially, but I think it ultimately ends in having a longer, more fulfilled career as an Actual Actor, not a flavour-of-the-month Top Star.
Which reminds me: how funny is it that Jung-ha calls him “Cheetah” as a play on “star” (“chi-tah”/“seu-tah”)! And how fitting that his gateway drama is called…Gateway. 😂
Paroma: I didn’t realise that was what the whole Cheetah thing was! Man, I’m missing out a lot by never finishing that Duolingo Korean course. 🙈
Saya: OH CAN WE TALK ABOUT TOP STAR LEE HYUN-SOO!!!1!!!! I am not gonna lie, the moment I realised Lee Hyun-soo (Seo Hyun-jin) was Lee Hyun-soo I died of squee! In this universe, though, she’s a star actress, not the scriptwriter she was in Temperature of Love.
Paroma: I screamed. I actually screamed when they first showed Hye-joon shooting a scene with her. And later, when she told him not be lame and torture himself, I gah-ed and collapsed. She fires up all my fangirling hormones. 😄
Saya: I love all these nods and winks, man! And the meta-stuff was really well done this week. I had this huge sudden realisation about Hae-hyo which I am DYING to talk about. So: I am sure now that the show WANTS to draw your attention to the ridiculousness of Hae-hyo and how he acts by juxtaposing that back-hug scene he shoots—is there anything more typically K-drama?—with him acting in his real life like a guy in a drama. So you have actor Byun Woo-seok playing Hae-hyo playing Back-hug Boy, and the layers of that is so narratively INTERESTING as all his parts add up to something bigger than simply “Won Hae-hyo”.
He’s running for a girl he’ll never catch. Falling for a girl who loves his friend. Saying “goodbye” instead of “I like you”. He’s a comment on second-leadness itself. Is he a real character, or is he a plot device? Are we really meant to feel for him?
Paroma: He’s definitely a plot device. Mostly there to provide frustration and mild tension.
Saya: And then the subs ruin it by saying “end the day”. NO, he’s saying an intentionally ambiguous, intransitive, “I wanted to end [it] properly”. End what? That’s the whole point of what he says: we don’t know—maybe he doesn’t know—what exactly he wants to end. It could be anything, it could be everything, he hasn’t specified. That’s the complexity of the moment.
Paroma: You see complexity, I see an underwritten second lead. *Ducks* Don’t kill me! Writer-nim is perfection, but she seems bored with Hae-hyo. Like she had to make him the lovelorn second lead cause the genre demands it, but she had actually just wanted a friend of the hero who was more privileged and successful to emphasise Hye-joon’s struggles better.
Saya: That’s exactly my point, I think—the moment is complex, thanks to the meta-commentary, while the character very much isn’t! Not only is my enjoyment enhanced by unpeeling the thing, it also flattens my stress level right down if I can relegate Hae-hyo to NPC level. 😅 You cannot squeeze the squee from my sails!
Paroma: Overall, I was delighted by the last two episodes and can’t wait to catch the next ones. Hopefully we’ll have the review for that one out in the same week too! Miracles do happen. 😄