Angry Mom: Episode 3

Angry Mom: Episode 3

onto Angry Mom

Well, nobody ever said being a thirtysomething posing as a high schooler wouldn’t be exasperating—especially when you’ve got a wide-eyed authority figure determined to save you from yourself, and you can’t convince him that you don’t need saving, thank you very much. Our angry mom makes good headway into her investigation, but the trick is in navigating the false reality she’s constructed—to maintain the facade, she’s got to act the part, even though it’s the fact that she isn’t what she pretends to be that makes her so effective. It’s a tricky balance to strike, but Kang-ja has to learn a little patience if she wants to stick around long enough to get what she’s after.

SONG OF THE DAY
ALi – “사랑한다 미안해” from the Angry Mom OST [ Download ]
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 EPISODE 3 RECAP

Bullying victim Yi-kyung runs in fear on a dark rooftop, a shadowy figure in pursuit. He’s classmate Bok-dong, the scary teenager who’s working for shady gangster types.
Bok-dong later sits with gang boss Ahn Dong-chil, who says the law is quite lenient on minors. If they commit murder, for instance, they can get off on a lighter sentence than adults. Well, that’s a sinister operation you’re working there.
Then Yi-kyung screams as she falls. Pushed? Bok-dong looks stunned as he leans over the railing to see her on the ground in a pool of blood. Eek.
The screen rewinds.

We return to the classroom, on angry mom Kang-ja’s first day as undercover student “Bang-wool.” Bok-dong interrupts her encounter with the mean girls, and then Teacher Noah tries to step in, but she easily subdues both.
Kang-ja is fixated on Bok-dong’s voice, which she recognizes. Sure that he’s the one who threatened her and Ah-ran, she decks him soundly in the face. Noah darts in to break up the fight, which just means he gets decked too.
Kang-ja flies at Bok-dong again while the other teachers are alerted, and it’s stern-faced Teacher Jung-woo who arrives to call for order. Everyone freezes… and Kang-ja takes that chance to punch Bok-dong in the face again. Man, she’s kind of awesome.

Teacher Jung-woo pulls aside the main participants: Kang-ja, Noah, Bok-dong, and mean girl Jung-hee. He doesn’t buy the weak explanation that Kang-ja flipped out because of a dirty desk, but the students won’t talk. And when Jung-woo scolds Noah for letting a student assault others on his watch, Kang-ja says sarcastically that it must be okay if she does it where nobody can see, then. The school will just turn a blind eye and send the victim away, won’t they?
The newly installed Vice Principal Oh assures Gong-joo (aka Princess Han) that her “daughter” is settling in nicely. He sucks up to her since Gong-joo greased some wheels to get Kang-ja admitted to school, to the tune of 20 million won. That is a good friend. That also means the VP is eager to sweep this under the rug, and Noah, who’d prefer to talk out a resolution than jump to punishment, is happy to side with him.

Jung-woo argues that they can’t ignore something this serious, and that they must follow school rules and punish Kang-ja. Noah protests, but another teacher advises him to stay out of this: Jung-woo and VP Oh are engaged in a power struggle. VP Oh outranks Jung-woo here at school, but Jung-woo actually has more backing with the foundation, so he’s got leverage. Looks like they’re about to duke it out.
Kang-ja pulls Jung-hee aside, and now the former bully is timid and respectful, recognizing a force stronger than herself. Kang-ja believes Jung-hee’s word about not being the one terrorizing her daughter (at least, not the primary source of the harassment), and wants to know who’s really number one at the school.

As Jung-hee explains, we see the hierarchy demonstrated in a literal pissing match, where, the pecking order determines who gets to pee first. If you’re going on who has the most strength, Bok-dong rules. But there’s actually another number one, and that’s Sang-tae, the son of the school board chairman—even Bok-dong defers to him. If you get on Sang-tae’s bad side, Bok-dong will do the dirty work.
Jung-hee leans in to share top-secret information: Sang-tae liked Ah-ran, but she ignored him (and supposedly had a taboo relationship with her best friend Yi-kyung) and ticked him off. That’s why Sang-tae let the others harass her. But regardless of whether Bok-dong was the culprit, Jung-hee warns that it’s a good idea to stay away from him, because he has actual mobster ties.

Jung-woo mulls over the offer to take the planning chief position at the school foundation. Chairman Hong had couched it as a promotion, but his real reason is that he needs a trusted crony to handle the “laundering” inside the school. Sounds like there’s a lot of dirty money passing through that requires cleaning up.
Noah tries again to persuade Jung-woo to be lenient on Kang-ja this once, and again, Jung-woo remains firm on the importance of abiding by the rules. Kang-ja happens by to overhear Noah arguing that jumping too quickly to punish robs youngsters of the chance to learn why rules are important. Jung-woo points out that the lesson learned could be that a perpetrator of school violence won’t get punished, or that a victim can turn around and inflict similar injuries on another victim.

Jung-woo adds that a victim has two options: “Either you grow your strength and return what was done to you, or you find a protector stronger than yourself. School is that protector.” And a teacher’s job is to allow students to believe that they are safe here. That’s a solid answer, and now I’m confused as to why someone like Jung-woo is aligned with the corrupt chairman and foundation. Kang-ja approves of his stance as well, looking impressed at his answer.
Kang-ja tails Bok-dong out of school, waiting for the right time to make her move. Before she can reach him, she’s held back by Noah, which frustrates her at losing her chance. She lets out a string of swears before reluctantly going along with Noah, who proposes talking out possible ways to resolve her situation.

Noah prods her to explain her reasons for acting up, wanting to understand so he can better help her. Kang-ja cuts him off and says that kids who break rules should be punished, so why is he trying to let her off the hook? She can’t ask someone weaker than herself to protect her, and that’s why she’s fighting: “Because nobody protects. If the protector can’t protect, kids can’t help but fight on their own.”
Her words strike him, leaving him at a loss for words. On the bus ride home, she jots down notes about various people of interest at school: Jung-woo is a “good teacher,” while Noah is just a “pushover.” And right now, Bok-dong seems the key to unraveling the mystery.
She doesn’t see, though, that somebody’s watching from behind.

That night, Jung-woo arrives at the home of the minister of education, who is not pleased to see him. Ah, Jung-woo is his illegitimate son, and although he understands that his father wants nothing to do with him, he makes a cryptic prediction (threat?) that Dad will come looking for him soon.
In a flashback to ten years ago, we see a devastated Jung-woo at his mother’s funeral. All his father had left was a wad of money, wanting to cut their connection for good.
Kang-ja shares her findings with Gong-joo over drinks at her restaurant, and Gong-joo does the best-friend thing of first urging her to stay safe, then vowing to do everything to help when she can see Kang-ja won’t back down.

And from outside her restaurant, Kang-ja’s stalker keeps watching.
At home, Noah tells his father of the day’s events, wondering if he should have taken a more forceful stance. Judge Park offers up some wisdom, saying that sometimes a lack of love can prevent someone from growing into a decent person, but a lack of being hit (in punishment) doesn’t ever do the same.
“If my work is to clear out bad branches, then yours is to be sunlight and water,” Judge Park says. “Does the sun get angry because a tree doesn’t grow up right? Do clouds refuse to give rain?” Once again, Dad assures Noah that he’s the kind of teacher who is good for kids, who’ll help them grow. Noah lights up with renewed hope.

Kang-ja sends Gong-joo off and closes for the night, giving her stalker a chance to make its way inside. But Kang-ja’s on the ball and grabs the lurker—who turns out to be Yi-kyung.
Yi-kyung tamps down her own fear to ask who Kang-ja is and where Ah-ran is. Her concern is so evident that Kang-ja relents and takes her to the hospital, where Ah-ran is as unresponsive as ever. She just stares blankly while Yi-kyung sobs in her lap.
Yi-kyung guesses that “that person” sent Bok-dong after her, and frets that she should’ve done as Ah-ran suggested and told what she know. Yi-kyung says with determination, “There’s nothing to be afraid of anymore. I’ll do it. I’ll say everything. Now I’ll protect you.”

But then, Ah-ran grabs her hand, aware after all. She shakes her head and says, “Don’t say anything. Don’t do anything. He said that you and my mom would die.”
So when Kang-ja asks if Ah-ran was responsive, Yi-kyung honors the request and keeps her mouth shut. Kang-ja just asks her to keep her identity quit at school, and promises to catch whoever did this to Ah-ran.
Kang-ja joins Ah-ran in her room and envelops her in a hug, thinking, “I’ll do it—I’ll punish him. Trust Mom, Ah-ran.”

Bok-dong’s connection to the gangster boss Dong-chil seems centered around his brother, who’s still in prison for doing something that the boss insinuates was because of Bok-dong. Then we get a flashback of Dong-chil’s own backstory, when he’d had a kid brother of his own.
Dong-chil had returned home fresh out of prison and was upset to find that little bro Bum had a girlfriend—Kang-ja. He’d feared that Bum would ruin his future by running around with a rough crowd and warned Kang-ja’s friends to tell her to stay away.
But then, we see a bloody Kang-ja brandishing a knife at Dong-chil, and Bum rushes in to stop the conflict. She’s his only friend, the only person who ever treated him nicely, he begs.

Infuriated, Dong-chil starts beating up his brother, and it turns into a violent three-way struggle. It’s Bum who ends up with the knife in his belly, to the others’ horror.
Jung-woo accepts the planning chief position, and Chairman Hong instructs him to keep his office (aka the “washing machine”) inside the school, where it’ll be safest. He tells his secretary Ae-yeon (who is also his secret girlfriend and Kang-ja’s high school classmate) to help, which chagrins both Ae-yeon and Jung-woo. It’s apparent that they dislike each other, but it’s unclear why. They also seem to dislike the sleazy chairman, though they curry favor with him for obvious reasons.

It’s a rushed morning for Kang-ja, who makes it to school just in time. Noah holds the gate a few extra seconds for her, and when she trips on the corner, he lurches forward to catch her. Of course, she just somersaults gracefully over him and lands on her feet while he’s the one who topples over.
He insists on treating her scraped hand, and Kang-ja asks suspiciously why he’s being friendly to her. What does he want? He says they’ve met before, and it’s only now that she realizes he’s the guy she cursed at and grabbed by the throat.

Noah adds that he knows she’s a good kid, even if she went astray at some point, and that he was affected by her comment about kids fighting to protect themselves. He tells her not to fight anymore, promising to protect her from now on, because he’s not as weak as she thinks. Then she moves a little and he reflexively throws up his hands to protect himself, haha.
News of Jung-woo’s promotion spreads through school, which is bad news for Kang-ja. Now that Jung-woo outranks VP Oh, he’ll push for her punishment again—and that’ll likely mean expulsion.
Noah is dismayed, but Kang-ja is hardly even fazed when Jung-hee rushes to warn her. She’s so preoccupied observing Bok-dong that she just mutters that she didn’t come to this school to graduate, which makes Jung-hee marvel at how cool Kang-ja is.

Now the tables are turned with the administrators, and Jung-woo’s promotion has VP Oh sweating a little. Their meeting is interrupted by Sang-tae, who walks right in like he owns the place (which, to be fair, he kinda does).
And wouldn’t you know, one word from Sang-tae is all it takes to make Jung-woo backtrack and agree to go easy on Kang-ja this time. Noah is relieved to hear Jung-woo changed his mind, thinking he’s a great teacher for being so open-minded in reconsidering.
Kang-ja follows Bok-dong down the hallway, and Sang-tae notices with interest. She walks right into the men’s room as Bok-dong is at the urinal (where she eyes his junk with a deflating smirk), and he warns her to cool it since he has a rule not to hit girls. She challenges, “Then why did you hit Oh Ah-ran?”

She lunges for him, but before she can throw a punch, Sang-tae strolls in and tells them to cut it out. He asks Kang-ja how she knows Ah-ran, and Kang-ja mutters, “Loser bastard. You call yourself a man?” Bok-dong braces for Sang-tae’s reaction to her insolence, but contrary to expectation, Sang-tae finds her amusing and says, “This is interesting. We’ll have to reorder the rankings.”
He instructs the two to tear each other apart in a fight to decide who’s higher, and that hilariously brings out Kang-ja’s exasperated ajumma side. She tut-tuts like a disapproving mother and snaps at the little boy for picking up bad habits, and all but dismisses him as she follows Bok-dong out. Sang-tae is momentarily speechless, but decides he likes her.

Noah intercepts Kang-ja, and she snaps at him impatiently. Noah puts on his most authoritative voice and says that he has a teacher’s duty to watch over her, and that he shares joint responsibility in any trouble she gets herself into. Tired of his interference, she ask-yells at him to butt out of her business.
Secretary-mistress Ae-yeon arrives at Myeongseong High School under the chairman’s orders to be his eyes and ears here. She is to spy on Jung-woo to ensure that he’s keeping in line, and this is her one chance to earn the chairman’s trust—if she doesn’t, she and Jung-woo are both out.

Ae-yeon and Jung-woo meet in a secluded corner of the library. They don’t notice that Yi-kyung is observing as they reach a hidden sliding door leading to an inner chamber, which is full of locked boxes. Ae-yeon takes the documents she’d brought with her and enters them into one of the boxes, explaining that this room contains things that would cause injury to a lot of people if they were to be exposed to the world.
Ae-yeon is unnerved when Jung-woo comes way too close for comfort and hints suggestively; she retains her professional facade and tells him to ask if he needs her help. But he pulls off her scarf and notes the bruises on her throat, and eyes her with something like sympathy as he offers her the same: “I think we can help each other.”
Ae-yeon looks at him as though she’s tempted to take up that offer. I’m just not sure if he means well or otherwise.

As soon as he leaves the hidden vault, Yi-kyung steps up to Jung-woo with resolve and asks what he’s doing here. He’s a bit nervous to be caught here, but says warningly that her undoing is being curious about things she doesn’t need to know. He likes her when she’s obedient and nice—but not when she’s nosy and demanding.
Yi-kyung stops him short by saying, “Ah-ran—I know that was your doing. I did something wrong so you can do what you want to me, but if you hurt Ah-ran and other people, I won’t just stay still.” She threatens him with the hidden vault as well as “the other thing people can’t find out”—she’ll spill everything.

She adds, “I can’t become your woman, but I can be your Achilles heel.” Ack, I was afraid of that—so they were having an affair. Those are words she heard him utter to his own father (“I can’t be your son, but I can be your Achilles heel”) during one of their trysts, and he recognizes the echo.
Jung-woo says darkly, “I taught too much to that young thing.” He calls Ahn Dong-chil right away and meets him at a bar that night, asking why Dong-chil is taking so long to carry out his orders. Dong-chil replies that he’s currently working on getting her out of the school, but Jung-woo says he doesn’t want to see her anymore—not just at school, but anywhere else.

Dong-chil understands the implication and calls Bok-dong. Kang-ja starts to follow, but Yi-kyung pulls her back, asking her not to mess with him. Kang-ja assures her she’ll be fine and hurries off, following Bok-dong to a nightclub. She whips off her school uniform, then makes her way through the club looking for the right room.
Ha, this also happens to be the club where Noah is dragged by a friend, his protests ignored.
In a private room, Bok-dong sits before a drunk Dong-chil, who slurs that he could get his brother out of prison. Ah, so this is his deal with the devil: If Bok-dong does this thing and gets off easy as a minor, Dong-chil will repay him with his hyung’s freedom.

Kang-ja finds the room just then… and recognizes Dong-chil. A flashback informs us what happened after Bum was accidentally stabbed and Kang-ja stood trial for his death. Judge Park was the one presiding, and because of her minor status, he’d given a lighter sentence—the same grounds Dong-chil is now citing to Bok-dong.
After the sentence was pronounced, Dong-chil had rushed at her in a rage, blaming her for killing Bum. “Die!” he’d screamed at her, trying to throttle her.
In the present, drunk Dong-chil turns his head and sees Kang-ja peering in through the cracked doorway. They lock eyes.

 COMMENTS
We’re just chock-full of complex and intriguing characters, not all of whom are out to commit nefarious deeds but who nonetheless pose an impediment to our heroine—that’s what you get when you populate your world with fully formed characters who all have their own agendas and partial views of the truth. Even the baddies aren’t clear-cut baddies to me, in that I’m not even sure where some of our characters fall on that line between good and evil.
Aside from Chairman Hong and Dong-chil, for instance, I’m unclear as to the motivations driving characters like Jung-woo and Ae-yeon. The seem shady, mostly from the sinister way the drama is framing their scenes, but Ae-yeon hasn’t don’t anything evil, and Jung-woo (until the reveal about his relationship with Yi-kyung) actually seemed rather principled. He had solid, sound arguments about the reasons for observing rules and why letting a violent student go would send the wrong message.
Even Dong-chil, who’s shady up the wazoo, has a backstory that gives him depth. That isn’t to justify any of his behavior, which is certainly criminal and possibly murderous, but at least I could understand his hatred of Kang-ja, even if everything he did out of that hate was unjustifiable. I find him creepy and fully deserving of hate, but I can at least appreciate that his villainy is rooted in human emotions and not just one-dimensional plot necessity.

Bok-dong is fascinating in a similar way, though I hope he’s not so far gone that it’s too late to have hope for him. More than anything I’m drawn in to the way he doesn’t appear to enjoy any of his bullying behavior (compared to, say, the small-time bullies who get off on the power trip), but seems to regard it as a means to an end. His brother apparently went to prison for something related to Bok-dong (I’m guessing a sacrifice of some sort), and now Bok-dong is poised to return that favor/debt by doing the same. I find him dark and intense and very, very interesting.
Even Noah, despite being the complete opposite, is interestingly drawn for the way he tries so hard to do the right thing and believes in the best in people. I simultaneously want him to open his eyes to the ways of the world, but I also admire that his sunniness comes from a place of hope and not, say, just stupidity or foolishness. I liked seeing him try to argue with Jung-woo, who had the more pragmatic and persuasive argument, because I want to see how the drama takes his naivety and weakness and turns them around.
I’m glad to see Ah-ran come out of her shell-shocked silence, because as fantastic as Kang-ja is on her own, that wouldn’t be nearly as moving without the daughter driving her. Can’t wait for both ladies to return to school together and the hijinks to unfold. ‘Cause while I love the emotion and darkness, I could use some hijinks.

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Tags: Angry Mom, Baro, featured, Ji Hyun-woo, Kim Hee-sun, Kim Yoo-jung