What a refreshing new drama.
Although only two episodes aired on July 24, approximately 30 minutes each, tvN′s new drama Reply 1997 was jam-packed with strong characters, a hilarious storyline, and complete nostalgia that takes us back to our elementary school days.
Especially in the days when H.O.T. and Sechs Kies reigned, Reply 1997 showed us a glimpse of how much more serious fandoms used to be in the past compared to today.
It also reminded us of all the things that used to be and how much we take them for granted, like internet-streaming and even cellphones.
So let’s take a ride back to the past and be a 90’s teenager again.
The drama starts off in a karaoke room, where Sung Si Won (Jung Eun Ji) and her parents are singing. With only one minute left on the machine, Si Won blatantly cancels her father’s song to input her own.
Her father, a bit annoyed at being interrupted when he was in the mood, barks at Si Won to not choose anything with English or else he’ll kill her.
He mutters that old school songs are so much better, and Si Won agrees and quickly inputs H.O.T.’s Candy, which is considered old since it came out 15 years ago in 1997. (Oh man…)
We soon find out that Si Won has been a broadcast writer for more than 10 years, but her job requires more sucking up to people than writing, which rarely happens.
“It’s not that I hate this life. I’m just annoyed with it at times,” narrates Si Won, “At times like this, little things make it durable, like just a song. Age 33. It’s an age filled with nostalgia, but our lives in the 90s were way too brilliant to be sad about it. Even if our bodies can’t leave, at least our souls can. I am now returning back to the 90s.”
Si Won enters a restaurant where her Busan high school reunion is taking place.
There, she reunites with Jang Dan Ji, who was a well-known Moon Hee Jun fanatic in Busan. While Dan Ji followed Moon Hee Jun, Si Won reveals that she went on around calling herself An Seung boo-in or An Seung Ho (H.O.T.’s Tony)’s wife.
Si Won is later joined by her best friend Mo Yoo Jung (Shin So Yul), whose nickname is ship-sa-ppa, one who falls in love easily, referring to her constantly changing obsessions, as shown through her recent crush on Infinite. A several weeks before it was Park Yoo Chun, and a month ago, it was Kim Soo Hyun.
A few moments later, the rest of Si Won’s high school entourage comes strolling in. The delicate Kang Jun Hee (Hoya), the talkative Bang Sung Jae (Lee Si Eon), the charismatic Do Hak Chan (Eun Ji Won) and the prickly Yoon Yoon Jae (Seo In Guk), the four boys of Si Won’s adolescent life.
True to his nickname, Bang Sung Jae talks up a storm as soon as he sits down, already annoying some of his former classmates. Getting distracted by himself, he asks Dan Ji to take a picture of the group before they get any older.
As the camera clicks, Si Won narrates that a couple within this group will later make a surprise wedding announcement at the reunion.
And the recognizable sounds of dial-up internet is heard as the old-school computer signals a flash back into the past.
The computer soon turns into a television, where the boys are playing Dance Dance Revolution to the oh-so-familiar song of Butterfly.
But the game is soon interrupted as Si Won blatantly turns it off because she needs to watch her H.O.T. oppas on Star Documentary. As the show starts, Si Won asks Dan Ji if the show is being recorded on tape. Dan Ji confirms, pointing at the red REC button.
MC Kim Gook Jin takes a tour into the H.O.T apartment, where Si Won’s bias, Tony, is the guide. He shows the MC all of the presents that his fans gave, especially a teddy bear that lies on his bed.
Si Won’s eyes light up at the teddy bear, as it is the same one that she has gifted the megastar. Si Won and Yoo Jung scream in glee, just thinking about how Tony had hugged and kissed her teddy bear every night before going to sleep.
As they squeal, Si Won’s father enters the room and blurts out his disgust that his daughter is chasing after monkeys, who should get their heads shaven and immediately be sent to the army to become real men.
Si Won immediately throws a fit at her oppas being called monkeys and her father ignores it, making it seem like this is a daily occurrence.
The day passes and Yoon Yoon Jae, getting ready for school, lights up at a wrapped birthday present on top of a table. He opens it like a kid on Christmas and reveals a Guess t-shirt, but he looks at it suspiciously. Past memories show that he’s received other presents like Adidos and Westpak, all faked luxury items of that time.
But he immediately becomes relieved when Si Won confirms that the Guess shirt is the real thing, especially because she also has the same thing.
It turns out that it is Yoon Jae and Si Won’s father’s birthday, but as always, her father is grumbling about his birthday dish and raises his voice. Unfortunately for him, Si Won’s mother is just as loud and is enough to pacify the argument.
When her mother yells for Si Won to come to the breakfast table, Si Won yells back that she doesn’t want to eat with someone she hates. Her father intervenes, to which Si Won shouts, “Ajusshi, who are you?”
Yoon Jae explains to Si Won’s mother about the monkey comment that Si Won’s father made and her mother says that he was too much, snice their daughter doesn’t look like a monkey. When Yoon Jae corrects her and says it’s about Tony, her mother perks up, saying, “You mean the one that looks like a monkey?”
Si Won finally comes to the table, handing Yoon Jae some birthday coupons. While Yoon Jae complains about receiving the same present every year, Si Won says no one else has used them as well as he does, showing past times when Yoon Jae used his coupons to make him laugh when his parents passed away, to borrow Si Won’s parents for graduation (while Si Won stood alone at her own), and to even poop for him for the poop examination envelope.
Yoon Jae notices that the coupons this year are a bit different as Si Won promises to do things no matter what, whether it’s to apologize for something or grant him a wish.
At school, Si Won brags about how Tony cherishes her teddy bear and how she has everything recorded on tape. As she continues her bragging, outside on the field, Yoo Jung and Yoon Jae are having a deep conversation.
The scene moves onto lunch time, where Si Won asks Yoon Jae to record the last episode of MBC’s Star in My Heart Since she has to go to a H.O.T. performance in Daegu.
Yoo Jung then shares her dilemma in wanting to see both Kangta from H.O.T. and Ahn Jae Wook in the drama.
Even Jun Hee remarks that he’s watching the drama as well, but only because Choi Jin Sil is so cute.
When asked how she’s going to avoid the after school study period, Si Won says she has something up her sleeves.
To tell a male teacher that she has her period and he doesn’t understand how painful it is because he’s never had to experience it. “It feels like something is scratching up my uterus.”
It’s study period and the uncomfortable teacher charismatically scolds a class of male students, who are chattering away instead of studying.
Sung Jae complains about how the teacher is prejudice against male students and knows that he’s good looking. The students then rag on the teacher, talking about rumors that he was super smart in school but due to some reason, ended up just being a high school teacher.
Meanwhile, Si Won and Yoo Jung are in Daegu in full H.O.T. fan raincoats, ready to cheer on their oppas.
Back at the study period, Sung Jae and Yoon Jae get in a small scuffle, where Yoon Jae’s new Guess shirt gets exposed. All the students’ ears perk up at the name and ask if it’s real.
Then Sung Jae starts laughing, saying the Guess logo has a question mark and not an exclamation mark, like the one on Yoon Jae’s shirt.
As Yoon Jae is dying of embarrassment, the teacher comes back into the classroom and scolds the students saying they broke the last straw.
He calls for the class president, who turns out to be Yoon Jae. Yoon Jae says he wasn’t talking, but the teacher calls him out anyways and asks how many hits he wants. Yoon Jae says 10 and he receives all 10 hits.
Back in Daegu, H.O.T. has started performing, and instead of cheering, Si Won walks down the aisle, appearing possessed.
But as soon as H.O.T begins singing, Si Won breaks into dance, passionately singing along with her H.O.T oppas.
Like the rest of the fans in white raincoats, Si Won is overwhelmed with emotion and begins tearing up while continuing her dance.
Yoon Jae is at Si Won’s home, ready to record Star in My Heart. Si Won’s mom asks if he’s only here to record the drama and he replies in a regretful tone, “Aren’t I Si Won’s errand boy?”
The drama airs and finishes with Si Won’s mother Singing loudly – and off key, to Ahn Jae Wook’s Forever.
At the H.O.T. concert, a quiz session is happening and with each question that’s asked, Si Won screams out all the correct answers, from what disease Tony had or when he broke up with his first girlfriend.
But when the most important question where Tony’s sweaty T-shirt is on the line, Si Won fumbles and loses her chance to get the prize. Luckily, Yoo Jung answers the question correctly and receives the coveted prize.
On their way back to Busan, Yoo Jung gives the sweaty T-shirt to Si Won, saying that Si Won can pay her back when she gets Kangta’s sweaty T-shirt later on. Si Won tries to act cool and pretend that it’s okay, but quickly loses face, as she sniffs into the glory of Tony’s sweat and promises to never wash the shirt.
Yoo Jung then tells Si Won that she confessed to Yoon Jae earlier that day, but has yet to receive an answer. She asks Si Won if it’s okay for her to date Si Won’s childhood friend.
Yoo Jung states that she’s now going to like someone who’s smart, athletic, and handsome as Yoon Jae, characteristics that Si Won says she hasn’t noticed.
As Si Won walks to her home, she meets Yoon Jae on his way out.
After confirming that he’s recorded the last episode, Yoon Jae announces that he received a confession from Yoo Jung and asks what he should do.
He asks Si Won if he shouldn’t date her. Si Won asks why he’s asking her. Yoon Jae asks again if he shouldn’t date her, but Si Won doesn’t answer.
Finally, he rips off the ‘Grant Any Wish’ coupon from his birthday present and hands it to her. Si Won asks for the wish, and Yoon Jae says, “Tell me not to date her.” Ooh La La~
Her answer goes unspoken as the next scene is of Si Won and her mother watching Star in My Heart and eating an abnormal amount of Korean pancakes.
Yoon Jae arrives back home…and to our surprise, it’s the teacher who hit him.
Tae Woong tries to apologize for earlier, but Yoon Jae storms into his room, ignoring the birthday cake set up for him in the living room.
Yoon Jae bursts out of his room again and shouts at his brother that it’s a question mark, and not an exclamation mark. Yoon Jae slams his door closed as his older brother ponders at the difference.
Back in Si Won’s house, Si Won and her mother are once again chanting along the drama’s theme song. Si Won’s father walks into the house and quickly walks past, as if this is completely normal.
The mother and daughter compliment on the great ending to the series. When all of the sudden, the ending of Star in My Heart gets fused together to the sound of Kim Gook Jin’s voice.
The tape fizzes to an episode of Star Documentary. As Si Won realizes that her only proof that Tony sleeps with her teddy bear has been recorded over, she begins to scream bloody murder.
Meanwhile, Tae Woong is at Yoon Jae’s door, trying to apologize as Yoon Jae cries under his blankets, mourning about his terrible birthday. At the same time, his pager is vibrating endlessly, flashing the number ‘18’ and ‘4.’ It turns out it is Si Won, cursing at Yoon Jae and telling him to go die.
Yoo Jung also calls Yoon Jae’s pager repeatedly, but just to hear his recorded voice.
“His rear end hit by his older brother for the first time
A torn-apart heart like a cut up videocassette.
“Feeling like you can love just about anyone, an age where you can let go of your life for the smallest things. Age 18. Adults say that our age is a time when we can laugh at even a tumbling leaf, but at that time, we were as serious, as intense, and as tested as any adult. 1997. Our age 18 started out just like that.”
In the morning, Si Won wakes up to find her mom doing the laundry…and spots her sweaty Tony shirt on the hanger. She screams and beats the ground about losing her oppa’s precious sweaty smell as the exclamation mark on her Guess shirt is highlighted.
Stay tuned for Episode 2′s Recap!
Meanwhile, watch the video that started it all, H.O.T.′s A Warrior′s Descendant, the song Si Won danced to during the H.O.T. performance!
Reporter : Grace Danbi Hong (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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