Time for a perky teen drama, or so I thought when I decided to check out this series. Turns out this series has some meat on the bones and isn’t just a cotton candy show.
Cheer Up! Episodes 1 & 2 Recap
This is a classic setup. Six less than stellar scholastic kids have a dance club, Real Kings. Six top 5% scholastic kids have a study club. The study club is disturbed by the music that Real Kings practice to. In the study club is the #1 student, Kim Yeol (Lee Won Geun), is good looking, rich, and the best student in school. The #2 student, Chae Soo Bin (Kwon Soo A), has a single goal, which is funded by her rich mother, get into an ivy league school. She’s willing to use and abuse to get that #1 student spot because it will enhance her chances of getting into Harvard. Soo Bin’s college consultant, Director Lee (Kil Hae Yeon), pushes Soo Bin hard to become more than the best student. The Real Kings leader is Kang Yeon Doo (Jung Eun Ji) who is 196 out of 200 students and rooms with Soo Bin.
To bring scandal to Kim Yeol, Soo Bin snaps a picture of Yeon Doo in Kim Yeol’s arms and it looks compromising. What’s interesting is there is a spark between Kim Yeol and Yeon Doo. He relishes Yeon Doo’s ability to freely express herself and enjoy life. The picture is sent to the math teacher Yang Tae Bum (Kim Ji Suk) who must take it to the Principal, Choi Gyung Ran (Park Hae Mi). Only Yeon Doo is punished and the Real Kings are disbanded.
In a surprise plot point, Soo Bin reveals to Yeon Doo she betrayed her. Livid, upset, and unable to tolerate the injustice, Yeon Doo leaves high school heading home to her mother, Park Sun Young (Kim Yeo Jin). At the end of episode 1, Yeon Doo returns to high school and tells the study club she is joining their ranks. According to the study club rules, you don’t have to be in the top 5%.
Episode 2 focuses on Yeon Doo’s attempts to join the study club which are repeatedly denied. Soo Bin and her 2 minions turn into the classic mean girls towards Yeon Doo. Another student in the study club is Seo Ha Joon (Ji Soo). He’s father beats him and he has anger issues himself. He and Kim Yeol are best friends. Yeon Doo is good friends with Dong Jae (Cha Hak Yeon), a good basketball player who is a bit quirky. Yeon Doo’s Real Kings members end up joining her struggle and offering her support. They have friendship and fun which the study clubs kids do not have. To facilitate Soo Bon’s entrance to college and increase her extracurricular activities, Director Lee asks Principal Choi to facilitate. Principal Choi gets the Real Kings and the Study Club together. She surprises them by announcing she wants them to join forces, forms a cheer leading club, and win regional. The students are astonished, they don’t know anything about cheer leading. Principal Choi says the Real Kings can handle the dance moves and everyone can learn cheer leading. There are only 3 schools in the region with cheer leading clubs, so they have a 33% probability of winning. Principal Doo tells the Real King members she will allow their group to reform and restore the practice room if they agree. Yeon Doo and the Real Kings are tempted. Kim Yeol quickly realizes that this is all a ploy to increase Soo Bin’s status. He even calls Director Lee who admits while on speaker phone, the cheer leading club would help him get into an Ivy league school. Everyone refuses to cooperate at that point and Principal Choi’s plan is thwarted. Soo Bin calls Director Lee and chews her out for the dumb plan screaming she must get into Harvard and if Director Lee can’t accomplish that, she’s fired. Dong Jae happens to overhear the conversation. There is an awkward moment between them as Soo Bin realizes Dong Jae overhead. You also see the potential for something between them.
Ha Joon tries to commit suicide and Dong Jae finds him. Kim Yeol gets involved and takes Ha Joon to the hospital. The Real Kings enter a dance contest and Yeon Doo twists her ankle. After the contest two of the Real King members quit saying their school obligations don’t allow enough time for dance. Yeon Doo goes to the hospital to get her ankle examined. As she walks down the hall, she sees Kim Yeol who refuses to tell her why he’s at the hospital. He warns her not to say anything to anyone at school. Ha Joon then walks up and adds his threats to Yeon Doo to keep her mouth shut. Yeon Doo doesn’t understand the circumstances but promises to keep silent. As they walk down the hallway Yeon Doo sees Math Teacher Yang in billing. They manage to escape without Teacher Yang seeing them. There is a cute moment where Kim Yeol and Yeon Doo hide in a corner and staring into her eyes, Kim Yeol tells her she really isn’t that bad…when she’s quiet.
Principal Choi finds out that Ha Joon tried to hurt himself. She blackmails Kim Yeol into agreeing to the cheer leading club, or she’ll tell Ha Joon’s father. Kim Yeol knows that means a severe beating from Ha Joon’s father and cannot put his friend in that position. Meanwhile Yeon Doo sees the two departed Real Kings members working with Soo Bin on cheer leading. Betrayed again, Yeon Doo tells Ha Joon what she learned. He is supportive and tells her to keep going.
At the end of the episode, Kim Yeol goes to Yeon Doo and asks her to agree to the cheer leading club. That way Yeon Doo’s club, the Real Kings will be reborn and sanctioned. Yeon Doo can’t believe that Kim Yeol has changed his mind. Wasn’t he the one that pointed out the cheer leading club was a ruse to advance Soo Bin’s college entrance chances into Harvard. Mimicking Kim Yeol’s 3 point rebuttal methodology, Yeon Doo refuses. Kim Yeol and Yeon Doo glare at each other.
Episode 1 set the stage for the more interesting Episode 2. I thought this show was going to be a cotton candy show about a high school cheer leading squad. Not so, not so. I like the premise, to amp up Soo Bin’s college chances her rich mother, college consultant Director Lee, persuade Principal Choi to create a cheer leading club by forcing the talented dancers in Real Kings to be the mentors to the Study Club while they all learn about cheer leading to compete in regional. It sounds ludicrous when I write it, but there it is.
What were the pluses these first two episodes?
* Yeon Doo – she’s got spunk and she’s not the brightest bulb, but she goes for what she wants with zest. She’s loyal while finding others (Soo Bin, the Principal, two Real King members) are willing to use and betray her to further their own agendas.
* Kim Yeol – he’s smart but longs for what Yeon Doo has – the ability to live with relish and have real friends. He’s drawn to Yeon Doo. I loved his 3 points to Yeon Doo when she fell on him in episode 1. I loved how he repeated that when she fell on him again and she scrambled off him after point 1 because she knew point 3 meant a potential kiss. He is a true friend to the burdened and beaten Ha Joon.
* Ha Joon – I’m a sucker for Ji Soo and his character has complexities. They showed the bruises on his body from his father’s beating. He has attempted suicide in the past. He’s quick to anger but listens to Kim Yeol and they are friends.
* Dong Jae – Quirky and interesting. I really liked this character. Yeon Doo is more interesting having him as her friend. Their scenes together were highlights.
* Director Lee – I love her calm scheming ways. Her job is simple, secure a Harvard slot for Soo Bin. Whatever it takes, along with Soo Bin’s rich mother influence and money, she’s willing to do.
* Mother Park (Yeon Doo’s mother) had a spark and a bit of sass. Looks like she’s sweet on Dong Jae’s father.
* Morphing into cartoon images. Strategic morphs into cartoon images during each episode. Highlights characters well.
* Flashback in black and white inserted into color scene. When Kim Yeol sat in the hospital hallway recalling the first time he rushed Ha Joon to the hospital for attempted suicide it was a split screen, the flashback was in black and white and present day in color.
I watched this drama for two actors – Jung Eun Ji (Yeon Doo), who I liked in Trot Lover, a cliche driven series, and Ji Soo (Ha Joon) who I fell in love with for his portrayal of the tough but tender Bok Dong in Angry Mom. The series has several adults actors I like as well – Yeo Jin (Park Sun Young) who I adored as the mother in Angel Eyes and Hae Yeon (Director Lee), who was fabulous as executive secretary in Heard it Through the Grapevine.