Another back-to-school drama, though the tone is definitely much lighter than Angry Mum. That is not to say that everything is a bed of roses seen through tinted glasses though, there are always complications, as we well know in kdramaland.
- Choi Ji-woo (from Grandpas Over Flowers, Greece) as Ha No-ra. Pregnant at 19, she gives up her studies and potential career as a dancer to become a full-time housewife. Now at 38, her husband, Prof Kim, wants to divorce her cos he finds her “stupid”. Desperate to salvage the marriage, she decides to complete her studies and enrol successfully into the University where her soon-to-be-ex hubby teaches.
- Choi Won-young (from I Remember You) as Prof Kim Woo-chul. Husband to No-ra, and who wants a divorce cos he can’t carry on an “intelligent conversation” with this wife. Methinks the other reason is cos he has a mistress (Kim Yi-jin) in the University. He teaches Psychology in Woo-cheon Uni, where his wife has enrolled as a student, despite his vehement protests.
- Lee Sang-yoon (from Liar’s Game) as Prof Cha Hyun-suk. Previously from the same high school as No-ra, he secretly had a major crush on her. He is devastated that she “left him” for Woo-chul. When he meets her 20 years later in the same Uni as his student (he teaches Theatre), he decides that some revenge “is in order”.
- Kim Min-jae as Kim Min-soo. Woo-chul/ No-ra’s son, who also successfully enrolled in his dad’s Uni. Like his dad, he despises his mum, and shows it frequently in the way he talks to her. He is also aghast that she will be his classmate in Uni.
- Son Na-eun as Oh Hye-mi. A Theatre studies freshie, who is attracted to Min-soo and isn’t afraid to show it. Due to her sassy and bold approach in getting Min-soo’s attention, Min-soo also falls in love with her.
Dramabeans has full recaps of Twenty.
The past and present intertwine in eps1/2 of Twenty, with flashbacks weaving in and out seamlessly while we flesh out the narrative for No-ra’s decision to return to school, and what happens when she does.
Her husband, Woo-chul, intends to divorce her for real (they are divorced “theoretically”) once Min-soo settles down in Uni. No-ra and Woo-chul met during their high school days and after No-ra got knocked up by Woo-chul, she gives up her studies to become a full time housewife and mother.
The lame excuse Woo-chul provides for the divorce? That he is “affronted” by her consistent displays of “lack of intelligence”. This spurs No-ra into thinking that if she gets a little bit more book-smart, she can save her marriage. Thus, she secretly studied for the Uni entrance exams and successfully enrolled (thanks to a drop out case where a student was caught bribing a faculty member) into Woo-cheon Uni, where Woo-chul teaches. Her husband and son are not amused when she breaks the news to them though. Both insist that she cancel her registration so as not to “shame them”.
No-ra almost did cancel her registration, until a hospital record’s mix-up causes her to assume she has pancreatic cancer and only 6 months to live. Thus, she decides to bravely “live her life” — for once. In Woo-cheol Uni, she meets an old time friend, Cha Hyun-suk, who now also teaches Theatre in the Uni.
Unfortunately, Hyun-suk has some misunderstandings with No-ra. He had a crush on her in high school (and assumed she also liked him romantically), so when she left with Woo-chul to Germany and dropped out of high school, he felt that she had “betrayed” him. When Hyun-suk realises No-ra is in the class he teaches, he goes all out to make her life difficult.
What Hyun-suk does to No-ra is only the tip of the iceberg though: the students are uncomfortable with an “ahjumma” in the class. And No-ra too, finds it difficult to adapt to the constantly changing environment that is very different from the closeted space she used to live in.
While Twenty doesn’t have a big agenda (like pulling down corruption) in the background, it still manages to twist my heart. Imo, Twenty did a great job in its debut eps laying out that, yes, entering Uni at a later age is great…but it’s also not great. If No-ra had been a working career woman and not a housewife, I suppose she may have less of a culture shock in her transition to full-time undergrad life. As it is, she reminds me of my own mother-in-law, whose life revolves around a very, very small circle of family and friends, and who isn’t technologically savvy. I kinda understand why No-ra doesn’t own a mobile phone; cos if your social circle is so limited, there’s really no need for one.
No-ra’s obvious vulnerability makes me want to smack that rude husband and son of hers. He assumes that it is No-ra’s fault that she isn’t “intelligent” enough to possess a degree, blithely ignoring that he is the root cause. Not juz cos he made young No-ra pregnant and thereby cut short her future, but he is also blind to his superficiality and pretentiousness. And he has passed this undesirable trait to his son, Min-soo. (i swear, i really felt like slapping Min-soo at the way he talks to his mum…) Both guys believe that the world revolves around them, and takes for granted the sacrifices No-ra made for them.
But we do know that No-ra isn’t always this meek. The weaving in of the younger, sassier No-ra hints that beneath the subservient housewife and mother, there is a sleeping fire dragon juz waiting to be awaken. And we have seen snippets of the determined, and fiery No-ra. Her emotional slip-up at the Uni’s registrar when she starts to unintentionally offload her stress on him, when she glares at a taunting Hyun-suk during their first class, and when she later snaps at Hyun-suk’s childish behaviours…I am juz waiting for the real No-ra to surface.
Last words: I am so glad they picked Ji-woo unni to play the role of No-ra. Her background in acting the pitiful damsel character(s) in previous kdramas (most notably, her crowning piece, Winter Sonata) makes you want to protect her. But we have also seen that bright, sunny (and almost teenage-y) Ji-woo in k-varieties — exactly the girl who is young No-ra (or soon-to-be revealed No-ra). (and will we get to see Ji-woo unni dancing?)