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Dream High: Episode 3

You know, this show may be kind of predictable, but I’m liking it so far, with the cute characters and underdog setup that you know is manufactured for you to pull for certain characters but can’t help falling for every time. At least that’s how it is for me.

And despite my gloating to girlfriday about winning our epic battle of inflated hopes, that doesn’t mean I don’t like Dream High, since I think it’s easy to watch and, from a cinematography standpoint, super pretty to look at.

SONG OF THE DAY

Dream High OST – “Maybe” by Sunye [ Download ]

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EPISODE 3 RECAP

Hapless teacher Kang Oh-hyuk is directed by President Jung to locate the three special-admission students. Kang assumes that they’re especially talented, but no: they’re the ones marred by a few problems. One is dogged by pride and prejudice (Hye-mi, natch), one is aimless and rebels (Jin-gook), and one is a rural kid with little music background.

I get that President Jung here is supposed to be some kind of idol-making whiz, but really — those are your reasons for picking students? There’s no wonder your teachers think you’re cracked. Jung adds that the three remind him of Oh-hyuk himself — despite their shortcomings, he has a feeling that they might make something of themselves.

Back at the rural singing competition, Sam-dong pulls Hye-mi up to the stage and stands there nervously while the MC prompts them to perform a duet. Hye-mi tries to back down, saying she isn’t properly dressed, to which Sam-dong produces a spare vinyl-hobo-hoodie.

Finally Hye-mi loses her temper and throws it aside, yelling at Sam-dong for embarrassing her. She curtly refuses to participate and tells him to come with her back to Seoul, because he’s been accepted to Kirin.

However, Sam-dong is insulted and refuses to go with her. Back in Seoul, Oh-hyuk wails at her failure and his sister kicks her out. In the cold street, her sister wheezes out a pitiful, “If you had just worn… that… vinyl jacket…” By now it’s apparent that Hye-mi is fantasizing this, and when she comes back to the present, Sam-dong is still holding the jacket to her with nervous hope.

Then the song begins, and Sam-dong starts to sing. And whoa is he bad — warbling, out-of-tune, laughable. The thing is, his singing isn’t consistently awful — it’s like he’s copying lots of other styles and can’t quite get there. He growls like a rock star, which actually doesn’t sound so bad… until he transitions to high falsetto… which sounds okay until his voice cracks.

Hye-mi wonders if he’s a dance prodigy instead. Until he starts to dance like a child of the early ’90s, imitating cheesy pop dances by groups like Kid ‘n Play, or maybe Kris Kross, or old-school Seo Taiji. Oh, I loved you before this, Kim Soo-hyun, but the utter seriousness with which you tackle this dance — so earnest, so sincere! — makes me adore you even more.

Hye-mi watches with WTF face, though she joins in the dance for a few beats. The bell rings, cutting the performance short, and Sam-dong says good-naturedly that he deserved the bell.

But then, the MC asks Hye-mi to give her answer — will she accept the young man’s performance? Thinking of her own future, Hye-mi replies that she will… if he grants her one wish. Accompany her to Seoul.

Shy Sam-dong is so shocked he drops his mic. Prodded for an answer, Sam-dong stutters that… um… of course he’d like to go… but his mother has a bad back…

At which point Mom calls out from the audience that he can go. Yay Mom!

At Kirin, dance instructor Shi Kyung-jin (who happens to be the daughter of the shifty director of the arts department, Shi Beom-soo) informs her class of the upcoming ceremony for entering students. She intends to include a female solo.

Kyung-jin asks for a hand-count of those who want to be considered, and asks each girl why. One girl thinks it’ll be cool. A second student, Ah-jung, says tearfully that she wants her mother in heaven to see her onstage. Baek-hee feels overshadowed and backs down, ceding to Ah-jung. The rest of the students follow her lead and voice their support for the girl with the dead mom. (Barf, I say, contingent upon my suspicion that the sob story is faked.)

Hye-mi presents Sam-dong with the Kirin brochure, which he looks at bemusedly, wondering why he ought to go to Kirin. Hye-mi mentally wonders the same thing, but since her own admission is contingent upon his, she puts on a friendly face (la pauvre, how difficult that must be!) and says that the board director called him a prodigy, flirting a little for good measure.

Sam-dong is adorably rattled by her eyelash-batting and hand-grabbing, but he’s still hesitant. Hye-mi lays it on thick, saying she really wants to go to the school with him, but to her ire, he declines the opportunity.

Oh-hyuk calls her back up to Seoul, saying he’ll take over, but Hye-mi’s not about to give up. She’s got a “battle plan”: her beauty. Dear lord.

After finding Jin-gook injured, Oh-hyuk takes him to the hospital. The doctor asks him to contact Jin-gook’s guarantor, so Oh-hyuk goes through his phone looking for Mom, Dad, or Home. The name Hyun Mu-jin strikes him as promising (he knows Jin-gook by his birth name, Hyun Shi-hyuk), and he makes the call.

A short time later, Shi-hyuk — er, Jin-gook — sits with Hyun Mu-jin, aka his businessman father, with whom his relationship is strained. Dad sternly tells him that he allowed him to leave home with the promise that Jin-gook would live quietly, but if that’s not possible, he can always send sonny boy abroad. He starts to talk about how hectic his business has been, but that makes the previously contrite Jin-gook angry; shouldn’t his father have first asked if he was okay, and try to find out who’d done this to him?

Bitterly, Jin-gook says that he would’ve liked to oblige his father’s wish and lived out of sight, but he’s grown too old for that now.

Hye-mi follows Sam-dong home by stowing a ride on his tractor contraption, and continues her persuasion. Mom and son aren’t quick to believe her explanation that she’s scouting Sam-dong for his vocal talents — Mom looks blankly at him and asks, “Can you sing?” LOL. Sam-dong reminds her that they both heard him earlier. Double LOL.

Hye-mi tells him to think it over, then rises to leave, only to hear that there are no more buses back to Seoul. Smelling possible romance for her son, Mom’s happy to offer her a bed for the night.

To her embarrassment, Hye-mi needs to use the bathroom, and is led to the outhouse. Too mortified to go about her business with Sam-dong in earshot, she asks him to sing. He balks and tells her to do it, so reluctantly she does. She picks “Only Hope” by Mandy Moore, and her voice has him transfixed.

On the way back, she tells him to go ahead and laugh, but Sam-dong didn’t find it funny; she sang well. When she stumbles, he grabs her to keep her from falling, and tentatively takes her hand to lead her back.

Jin-gook returns to his cold basement in aggravation, where Oh-hyuk finds him and worriedly asks all the questions his father didn’t — Is he okay? Did he call the police?

Jin-gook takes advantage of the moment to groan about stomach pains… of hunger. Haha. Boy knows where to score a meal, even if he considers his supplier an annoyance. Not unlike Hye-mi.

He goes through seven orders of food while Oh-hyuk tries to convince Jin-gook that his special admission is an opportunity not to be missed. Jin-gook asks if the school will make him as famous as Michael Jackson, wanting his odds of success. 50%? 30%?

Oh-hyuk answers that Michael Jackson is one-of-a-kind, a 0.00001% type of star, and Jin-gook leaves, not about to put his efforts into a 0.00001% pipe dream.

Oh-hyuk catches up to him at the elevator and makes him a challenge: Jin-gook’s destination is on the 11th floor, which means that Oh-hyuk’s chances of running up the stairs and beating him there are, say, about 0.00001%. So if he beats him, will he reconsider?

With that, he counts to three and starts the race… leaving his shoe behind in the elevator door to keep it from closing, buying himself a few extra precious seconds.

Oh-hyuk gasps his way up the stairs, but when the elevator doors open, Jin-gook sees that he’s first.

Although he’d never admit his hopes to others, he’s disappointed to have won this bet, and instead of stepping out, he lets the doors close on him. Oh-hyuk scrambles to the elevator, and a few seconds later Jin-gook exits, having arrived for a second time. Aww, the tough boy has a marshmallow heart.

Jin-gook admits that he got there first, but he deliberately waited. With a smile, he asks if Oh-hyuk has a spare room at home, and methinks a certain sister is going to be mighty peeved with another houseguest…

Sam-dong drops Hye-mi off at the bus stop the next day, where he picks up the cell phone accessory she dropped. It was one that Baek-hee picked out for them to both use, so she tells him to keep it. (Aw, sadness. She doesn’t mean anything romantic by it, but it IS in the shape of a heart and he’s already nursing a serious crush on her… Just don’t break his heart, Hye-mi, or you’ll have raging noonas to deal with!)

Hye-mi tells him again to reconsider Kirin, and again he tells her that he isn’t going. The bus starts to leave, but as it turns the bend, he has a change of heart and goes running after it. When it pulls over at the side of the road, he asks Hye-mi one question: Why did she go onstage with him?

She asks what answer will get him to agree to go to Seoul, and he replies that, for instance, she could say she likes him. She immediately says, “I like you. I went onstage because I like you, so you have to come to Seoul.”

I’m not bothered by the fact that she’s lying because it’s pretty clear that he should know she’s just saying it to get her way, even if the words cause his heart to thump-thump and he imagines tiptoeing up to kiss her…

Still, he turns away at the last minute and says he’s not going. After the bus pulls away, he assures himself that she was lying, that he’s wise to avoid being hooked by her lies. Aw. Poor heartstruck boy.

Baek-hee runs into Hye-mi’s debt collector and, thinking he’s her driver, asks him to pass on several bags of Hye-mi’s clothing; it’s her version of the break-up box. The debt collector tells her that Hye-mi’s family was bankrupted, to Baek-hee’s shock. She calls Hye-mi mean for hiding this, but her tears indicate she still has sympathy for her old friend.

At Kirin, Oh-hyuk immediately recognizes new English teacher Jin-man and speaks to him like an old buddy. With President Jung there, however, Jin-man insists he’s never seen this guy before, ignoring Oh-hyuk’s claims of knowing him from way back in the day.

It’s not until they’re alone that Jin-man drops his feigned ignorance. Grabbing Oh-hyuk by the lapels, he says he remembers everything — like how it was Oh-hyuk’s idea to sing together, and how he’d been a no-show to their first broadcast appearance, how Jin-man had to give up his apartment deposit to pay back the contract fee. He warns Oh-hyuk to keep acting like they’re strangers.

Hye-mi comes home (to Oh-hyuk’s place) and is greeted by a shocking sight: Jin-gook wearing nothing but a towel. He takes a step toward her, which sends his towel slipping to the ground and prompts both to scream in horror.

She argues with Oh-hyuk for taking him in, calling Jin-gook a gangster, fighter, and a pervert to boot. I hope she feels reaaaal bad when she finds out he got beat up trying to help her.

President Jung takes a look at the empty classroom for students studying for university entrance exams. (This is a class that has been formed, then dropped, in his absence, meant for students who haven’t lived up to their musical potential. This is so they can at least continue their education in hopes of living normal lives, but students tended to drop out of school after being transferred here.)

President Jung sees words carved into the desktop, which read, “I’m not done yet” and “I want to sing” and “Hell.”

Director Shi finds him here to inform him of media presence at the welcome ceremony — the press has expressed particular interest in President Jung’s handpicked selections. This gives Director Shi an idea — something underhanded, for sure — but his self-satisfaction dies when the president agrees readily.

The new students line up to receive their school uniforms, and Jin-gook’s b-boy friend (whose name is Jo In-sung, lol) wrings some laughs out of the crowd by holding up a large skirt, joking that it’s a blanket. Pil-sook realizes that it’s hers and runs around the corner to hide in shame, particularly since her crush Jason was standing right there.

In-sung starts to read the nametag, which is when Jason brusquely steps up and claims it as his own, sparing Pil-sook the mortification. AW, you are too sweet. I forgive you for your embarrassingly cheesy flirting in Episode 1.

Jason finds Pil-sook sniffling alone in a back room, but instead of drawing attention to her source of embarrassment, he just leaves the uniform for her. Pil-sook is touched, and even more smitten than before. Oh, I’m gonna love this pairing, aren’t I?

Hye-mi arrives at the school to everyone’s great surprise, and to save face she declares that she hadn’t failed the audition after all; she’d been picked as a special admission. Now that Baek-hee knows about her family circumstances, she’s much more sympathetic and tries to talk to her comfortingly, but if there’s something Hye-mi won’t abide, it’s pity.

Baek-hee understands that Hye-mi lied out of pride and grabs her in a hug, apologizing because she hadn’t known her situation.

But Hye-mi shakes her off, unwilling to show weakness, which makes her words that much more cutting: “You asked how it felt to be third-rate. I don’t know that feeling yet — how does it feel? I think you’d know.”

Ouch. That one stings, and Baek-hee is shaken.

Hye-mi turns to leave with her head high, but the new class has already bonded and one student trips her. The rest crowd around Baek-hee to console her.

Now Baek-hee recalls Kyung-jin’s words about the solo solidifying a strong first impression, and wants to show Hye-mi more than ever. Finding the teacher, she revises her stance: She wants a crack at it.

Kyung-jin agrees to let both girls try out, and for a moment, Baek-hee feels sorry toward Ah-jung, to whom everyone had agreed to give the solo. Seeing her indecision, Kyung-jin offers some info to make this easier: Ah-jung’s mom isn’t dead. The teacher doesn’t see the lie as a bad thing — it was driven by ambition — and gives Baek-hee one last warning, to be revealed to us at a later moment.

Baek-hee sneaks to Ah-jung’s locker, where her better nature wars with her vindictive one. Finally she opens the locker and takes a pair of shoes.

Out in the sticks, Sam-dong finds himself humming “Only Hope,” and his mother surprises him by appearing around the corner to marvel that he really CAN sing. Why did he hide it all along? (Aha! I knew there were parts in his performance that were too good to be mixed with other parts that were so bad!)

She realizes, “You knew who your father was, didn’t you?” She confirms that his father was a singer, and asks if he’d thought she’d hate him singing because of his father.

Clumsily he denies it, but a mother knows, and she assures him that she loves music — it’s because of music that she met his father, and gained her son. Heartbreakingly, he asks tearfully, “Really?” She calls him a dummy for giving up the chance to go to Seoul.

At the bus stop near school, Jin-gook notices Hye-mi standing there with a scraped knee from her fall. A pair of girls smirk and identify her as that rude brat, which she ignores. Jin-gook motions her over, and she takes the seat.

He offers her an earbud, and when she declines, he puts it in her ear anyway. She takes it out — there’s no music — and he shows her that the buds aren’t plugged into anything. He says it’s useful for pretending not to hear the nasty things people say. Or for pretending you’re friends with someone who’s not your friend, meaning themselves.

So she takes it, and they sit there, pretending to listen to music together. It’s sweet.

Also sweet: Jason finds a lollipop taped to his locker, which Pil-sook happily watches him take.

Tryouts. Both girls dance at the same time to the same song, performing their best pop diva moves while their classmates watch. But a short while into the dance, Ah-jung falls to the ground in pain — something is in her shoe.

Kyung-jin shakes out a bloody tack, which was lodged inside. It looks as though the teacher may have an inkling as to what happened, but Baek-hee feigns wide-eyed shock.

The day arrives for the welcome ceremony. The press gathers, eager to see (1) why the ceremony has been opened up to the public, (2) who the three special admission students are, and (3) who will perform the solo.

Sam-dong arrives in Seoul, but is waylaid at the bus station when he sees a lost child, and his helpful nature can’t stand by without trying to reunite her with her parents.

The other three whose fates depend upon his arrival don’t know whether he intends to come, and worry that he won’t show. Time is ticking, and if he doesn’t make it, neither will they.

Those three sit anxiously while the show begins, starting with a group dance led by Jason.

That’s followed by the female solo, and who should be standing center stage but Baek-hee, assuming her best diva pose, presumably having come to terms with her underhanded tactics. And why not, given the tutelage she is under? While she performs, a flashback reveals Kyung-jin’s last warning to Baek-hee:

Kyung-jin: “Do you know what is more important than friends in this place? A rival — one you want to knock down. Because that’s what’ll spur you to grow.”

 
COMMENTS

While I don’t like Hye-mi outright, I have to say I think there’s potential there. I actually didn’t dislike her in this episode, because I can understand her offense-as-defense-mechanism strategy, even though she frequently crosses the line with it. Previously her bitchiness far outweighed her provocation (such as at the audition), and that did not endear her to us. But now, it’s funny that the former golden princess has become the outcast, while her former sidekick is gaining confidence and has lots of friends. So the underdog has become the queen bee, and the queen bee has become the underdog… I’m practically programmed to be rooting for Hye-mi now. It’s, like, kdrama law.

To be honest, I’m actually surprised at all the criticism of Suzy, because I think she’s actually doing a pretty good job — her line deliveries are solid and it doesn’t feel like she’s straining to act or emote, unlike (sorry) Taecyeon, where sometimes you can practically hear him talking himself through a scene: Scowl now, back off, frown, pause, look up, smile. Heh, now I find myself in the unexpected position of defending the idol while commenters largely tear her apart — are we in some bizarro land here?

I don’t mean to insist she’s good. But not horrible, methinks. I think she and Eunjung are nicely matched as their characters start inching toward reversal.

Speaking of which, I like that Baek-hee’s discovery of her inner Machiavelli comes largely on her own — she’s spurred by desire to trump Hye-mi, but she finds that drive within herself. It’s not like some outside force dropped a new personality within her, since she’s finding that she has it in her to manipulate her way to the top.

But really, for me this drama is about Kim Soo-hyun and his Sam-dong character. While it’s a little over-the-top to say that his mother has never heard him sing — while others presumably had, and were cheering him on to victory in droves — I can accept it, purely because we got that wonderful heartfelt mother-son moment. (Note: Sam-dong had actually intended to perform well at the competition, until he heard that his mother had shown up despite saying she wouldn’t. So he was careful to keep up the ruse around her — and yet, everyone else seemed to know he was good.) Plus, despite the flimsiness of his reasoning — that Mom hates music because of Dad — it’s the kind of thing that a fatherless child might internalize and get hurt by, which just breaks my heart.

Go, Sam-dong! Be your awesome self! (Please be K!)

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