Okay, Dream High just became awesome.
Maybe I’m just in a good mood today, or maybe it’s because this episode is all sorts of feel-good fun. Either way, Episode 5 had me loving every single minute.
SONG OF THE DAY
IU – “이게 아닌데” (This Isn’t Right) [ Download ]
EPISODE 5 RECAP
In the outcast class (which has been graffiti’d with slurs against Hye-mi), Oh-hyuk sighs at Hye-mi’s rash challenge that she’ll beat Baek-hee in the upcoming evaluations. Stubbornly, Hye-mi insists she’ll succeed… then mumbles a quick “So please help me.”
Sam-dong makes a request for help, too, sharing an old saying his mother used to tell him: “If a wall appears, you can knock it on its side and it’ll become a bridge. If the three of us push with all our strength, can’t we turn that little wall into a bridge?” Aw, you and your boyish idealism are adorable.
And so this motley group has its first goal: To make sure Hye-mi beats Baek-hee, and to get this trio out of this class and back into the idol-training sessions.
Er, make that quartet: The door opens and Pil-sook shyly joins them, having been knocked down to the loser class as well. The others gape to see that while she’s still chubby, she’s noticeably lost some weight — her beautification process has begun.
In the regular class, Madam Ends-Justify-The-Means motivates her class with threats to drop them into the misfit class, and dangles the carrot that a strong performance at the midterm evaluations could put them on the idol fast-track.
In-sung offers to treat Baek-hee in honor of her finding her pendant, and she makes the excuse to invite Jin-gook, because he helped her get it back. Ah, yet another love triangle brews. You’ve got the misfit class triangle (the boys and Hye-mi), the catfight triangle (the girls and Jin-gook), and now the b-boy triangle (the boys and Baek-hee). Where’s the Sam-dong love? With all these raging hormones flying around, you’d think it wouldn’t be so hard to get ONE set of feelings successfully reciprocated, but the K-drama laws of Fate scoff at the natural laws of physics.
While Hye-mi naps in class, Sam-dong hovers tentatively with a band-aid, about to apply it to the cut on her forehead. Adorably, he falls back nervously the moment she opens her eyes and stammers an excuse.
Hye-mi takes the band-aid and thanks him. Sam-dong works up his nerve, and tells her that he’ll protect her better next time.
Later that day, Oh-hyuk calls his students back to school; they aren’t allowed in the dance or music studios, so they have to sneak here after hours. The evaluations will be based on each student’s ability to convey emotion in their singing, and the Misfits need to practice.
Oh-hyuk has spied on Teacher Gong’s lessons with the regular class (…the Holograms?), stealing ideas for his own lessons. In this instance, they participate in exercises in acting and expressiveness: The instructor tells his class to imagine marrying the one you love (In-sung does this facing Baek-hee), only to have that person killed on your wedding night in a car accident. At the funeral, you discover your lover had another lover… your younger sibling. Until you wake up and realize it was just a dream. Are we sure we’re not in Makjang Drama Writing 101 instead?
Oh-hyuk leads his kids in the same lesson and praises Pil-sook for her emotional accessibility, then asks why Hye-mi didn’t participate. She replies, “I did.” Bwahaha — her blank face as plot point, I love it.
The lesson is cut short by Director Shi, who reminds them that they’re not allowed in the studios. Without anywhere else to go, Jin-gook leads them to his icy basement, and they clean the place up. But a more pressing hurdle remains: They need a real vocal teacher, not just phonecams of Teacher Gong.
Oh-hyuk has one idea, but it’s a long shot, since English teacher Jin-man hates his guts. Oh-hyuk presses, showing him the Dream High notes he’d written for a middle school homework assignment years ago, which President Jung had held onto all these years. Furthermore, he’d indicated Jin-man as the best coach.
Oh-hyuk makes a last-ditch plea to Jin-man, saying that he can’t let his kids turn out like him — Jin-man faltered because he trusted a fool like Oh-hyuk, and what if Oh-hyuk causes the kids to lose their opportunity as well? It makes a perverse kind of logic, but it also rubs at old wounds, and Jin-man belts him in the gut for that reminder. And then reluctantly agrees to do it for a raise.
Operation Terrorize Hye-mi continues, the latest graffiti mural depicting her as a grotesque demon and labeled as traitor and backstabber. Hye-mi asks Baek-hee if she did it, who turns up her nose at her rival. That snooty posture disappears the instant Baek-hee spies Jin-gook approaching; immediately adopting a wounded victim pose, she makes it seem like she’s being bullied.
She’s gratified when Jin-gook tells Hye-mi to cut it out, although he’s not doing it to defend Baek-hee; rather, he knows who the real culprit is.
He finds his buddy In-sung preparing to launch a raw egg at Hye-mi from afar, and says he recognized his handwriting. In-sung argues that Jin-gook had also found Hye-mi insufferable, and should thank him for giving her what she deserves.
Jin-gook hurls the egg at In-sung’s head (well, the wall by his head) and delivers a stern warning: “If you mess with Hye-mi again, you’re dead.” And… watching from around the corner is a displeased Baek-hee.
Jin-man begins his first lesson on the keyboard, but Sam-dong marvels at the nifty gadget and presses the keys, surprising Jin-man into asking, “You know chords?” Sam-dong asks, “What are chords?” and then produces another one, his fingers naturally finding the keys. Like a little boy discovering a grand new toy, he smiles, “If I push the keys, the sounds just come out pretty.”
Meta hilarity: The tune Jin-man starts to tap out is Park Jin-young’s own pop hit from the ’90s, “날 떠나지마” (Don’t Leave Me). [ Download ] Oh god, I love the meta.
Upon seeing Oh-hyuk, Jin-man stiffens; I love how obvious it is that these man-children just wanna be best friends again, even though Jin-man is trying to cling to his old hate. Aw. I can’t wait for them to kiss and make up already. YOU KNOW YOU WANNA.
As Jin-man leaves, Sam-dong picks up the melody from Jin-man’s very brief demonstration and starts singing along, “Don’t leave me…”
Kyung-jin impresses upon her class the importance of picking the right song in order to convey its emotion properly. Ah-jung whines that this task is too difficult, so Kyung-jin calls Oh-hyuk over and starts to flirt with him in front of the students. He takes it at face value and stammers that he likes another woman, and Kyung-jin flips her flirt mode off as quickly as she switched it on, having demonstrated the value of artful acting. She gives her class the assignment to act out song lyrics to get into the proper mood.
That gives Oh-hyuk another assignment to copy. Jin-man shows up at the rehearsal to scoff at Oh-hyuk’s pilfering of other teachers’ lessons, but the more important point is that he’s here to help. Ya big softie.
Jin-man instructs his students to act as though they’re really saying the words when they’re singing, and Kyung-jin’s students do the same. Both classes undergo acting exercises where they deliver song lyrics as monologues, with as much emotion as they can muster.
Jason picks a song begging a lover not to leave him, and I’m sure it’s no accident that Pil-sook’s lyrics form the other half of that conversation.
They, along with Baek-hee, have a pretty good grasp of emoting through song (Baek-hee’s impassioned monologue comes from “I will survive”).
On the other hand: Hye-mi doesn’t do so well. Her recitation is absurdly, hilariously flat — they’re the lyrics of her audition song (“Goose’s Dream”) — and she intones robotically, “I have a dream. I trust that dream. Ho-hum.” That last part may have been implied.
Jin-man urges her to draw out more emotion, but all Hye-mi succeeds in doing is repeating her monotone more loudly, so that she sounds like a whiny robot.
Hye-mi doesn’t even understand what’s wrong, nor does she know why she’d failed the audition. Oh-hyuk asks her what the “empty dream” in the song is, and she runs through the lyrics trying to remember, although Pil-sook can answer right away. Point made: She sang the song all this time not even being conscious of its meaning. He tells her that she’s much more musically talented than the others, but has not a fraction of their sensibility.
Hye-mi can pick up from watching Pil-sook that despite her own superior vocals, Pil-sook beats her in the emotion department. Hye-mi asks what Pil-sook thinks about as she sings, and gets back a simple answer: romance.
Pil-sook takes her to spy on Jason, explaining that while that they’re not dating, they’re in the process of getting to know each other. She giggles as she says that he opens doors for her, that he treats her particularly nicely, and that the song lyrics are like he’s singing to her. (Hye-mi retorts that this emotion is all a delusion.)
When Jason holds the door open for her with a smile, though, Hye-mi asks if he likes her. He explains that he’s friendly to everybody; it’s that thing you call good manners. Now, normally he’d have a very good point against the emotionally stunted Hye-mi Bot, but in this case she also has a point. His American idea of friendship is giving Korean girls the wrong idea, and she warns him that if he doesn’t want to be a jerk, he’d better watch it and not give nice girls false hopes. Beep beep boop.
Aw, Hye-mi’s actually looking out for Pil-sook. That’s sweet.
Jin-gook swipes Hye-mi’s yogurt drink that night, trying to prod her memory of their childhood memory, then asks if she wants help with this whole singing-with-emotion business. She perks up at the offer, and he says he’ll tell her if she remembers what he’s referring to with the yogurt.
A call brings Jin-gook to the police station, with news of an attempted suicide. The hyung he’d previously lived with has failed the bar yet again and jumped off a rooftop, only to escape with minor injuries.
The hyung assures Jin-gook that he won’t be stupid enough to attempt suicide again, but explains why he’d tried: While living in that teeny rented room had been cramped and uncomfortable, he hadn’t realized until he’d moved back to his hometown that he’d felt alive there. At least he was pursuing a dream.
Lesson of the day learned: don’t fall into the same path. Spurred into action, Jin-gook admits that there’s a song he wants to learn… SNSD’s “Genie.” Hee.
Oh-hyuk tells rest of the Misfit Mafia that they’ll all be learning the SNSD song together, which they balk at — they hardly have the time for their own song. Jin-gook offers to learn it on his own, but Oh-hyuk argues that they’re actually doing it for Hye-mi, who is still failing.
The class takes a field trip, arriving outside the chicken shop where Jin-gook’s hyung works. And what ensues… is pure awesome as the four kids perform “Genie” out in the street.
I cannot even tell you how incongruous it is to see serious actor Kim Soo-hyun busting out with the idol thrusting, but I can’t say I don’t like it. And for once, Hye-mi looks to be genuinely having fun. They’re dancing with sheer joy, and that’s a joy to witness.
But making this even better is how this exuberant street performance moves the hyung, now confronted with a living, breathing dream that hasn’t yet given up, and the poignancy of that brings him to tears. And, let’s be honest, me too.
Jin-gook urges his hyung not to give up his dream of becoming a lawyer, and as they share a hug, Sam-dong asks if they’re blood brothers, which makes both guys protest that the comparison to the other is unflattering.
Jin-gook is all, But I’m so pretty, while hyung protests that Jin-gook looks way old for his age. The others agree that Jin-gook does look a little old, which makes me giggle since I recall that being another complaint when Taecyeon was first cast in a high school drama. Hee.
And then, on the bus ride home, we get THIS:
Hye-mi is embarrassed to get caught looking at Jin-gook, her mind mulling over a comment that she’d heard earlier. Curious to know if it’s true, she writes in the glass, “Do you really not know your birthday?”
He says it’s true, though he does know his “fake birthday.” Writing on his own window, his reply reads: “Christmas Eve.”
That makes Hye-mi think back to the little boy she’d met as a child, who’d also admitted to not knowing his own birthday. Feeling sorry for the boy who’d never had a true birthday, she had lit a birthday candle for him in a stack of chocopies, and sang him a special birthday song that her mother used to sing her.
Evaluation day arrives, and the students find out that their evaluations will be based on karaoke scoring. The details of the process are a mystery, because it’s not a straightfoward best-karoke-score-wins system. Last year’s first-place student actually scored a low 72 on the karaoke test, and she can’t even explain why she won.
However, the students are sure the scores aren’t random — even though the winner wasn’t the best singer, the students agree that her performance made them feel something. But the secret code remains uncracked.
Oh-hyuk gives his class a final pep talk to remember how they felt when they sang in the street, because that’s when they were most effective. They weren’t acting or putting on a front, but understood the “true taste of singing” in that moment — it’s what you feel when you sing for someone else, when you consider what the other person is hearing more than what you’re singing.
Hye-mi makes her way up the stairs, and finds a lovely surprise: The awful spray-painted slurs have been amended, the devilish face painted over into a pretty one, and the former words “Get lost” and “retard” have been transformed into “I’ll protect you” and “You’re the best.”
The kids file into the testing room, and one by one they perform. While Jason sings a 2AM song (“Can’t Let You Go”), Jin-man, watching the proceedings, predicts his score correctly (a 90) and cracks the mystery — Teacher Gong is actually basing his scores on the reactions of the students.
That means those who can captivate the other students get higher scores than those who don’t. During Baek-hee’s performance, for instance, three students aren’t paying attention, which means her score is an 85.
Hye-mi takes the mic for her turn, and with Oh-hyuk’s last words ringing in her ears, she asks for a different song at the last moment. The others are confused by the sudden change, but Jin-gook is the first to catch on — it’s the special birthday song she’d sung him on that snowy Christmas Eve, perhaps the last time she’d sung a song entirely for someone else rather than herself. Agh, this is so sweet. This is totally wreaking havoc on my Sam-dong love. Curse you, effective love triangles!
Even the teachers are stunned at the genuine expression on her face, and she has tears in her eyes at song’s end. Teacher Gong awards her a perfect score.
Kyung-jin reports to her father that all the kids in the misfit class performed strongly — if things continue this way, they may even make it to the upcoming showcase. Director Shi declares that that will NOT do. He wants a conference with Teacher Maeng, who’s in charge of showcase preparations. Cue evil machinations.
After the evaluation, Baek-hee storms off. Hye-mi catches up to her, saying she won’t ask for the pendant back — it was always hers: “You won in the audition. I realize that now. I’m sorry for forcing the issue.”
Far from appeased, Baek-hee is offended, thinking Hye-mi is being condescending now that she’s first place. Hye-mi concedes that forcing the issue is a tactic used by people who lack talent, and she knows from experience that it just makes one look foolish. “So let’s not do that with each other from now on.”
Jin-gook finds a crowd gathered around Hye-mi’s vandalized locker, which has been smeared with a blood-like substance. The students find this excessive — they recognize that Hye-mi won fair and square — and wonder who did it.
Jin-gook knows, and he storms into dance rehearsal to pop In-sung in the face, reminding him that he’d warned him to leave Hye-mi alone. Only, this time In-sung has an alibi and insists he’s not the guilty party.
Something’s not right, so Jin-gook calls to warn Hye-mi that she’s in danger. She’s currently outside taking out the trash, so he alerts Pil-sook and Sam-dong, then races outside just in time to see a girl holding potted plant, poised to drop it on Hye-mi’s head. (I WONDER WHO THAT IS.)
The girl hesitates and pulls back (Baek-hee’s classic maneuver, we might recall), and then musters the nerve. She lets go.
Just as the ceramic pot is about to land on Hye-mi’s head, Sam-dong dashes in to pull her out of harm’s way. They land on the ground and Hye-mi sees the shattered pot around them as she registers what happened.
Worried, Sam-dong confirms that she’s fine, just startled. Sighing in relief, he murmurs, “Thank goodness”… and then keels over, losing consciousness.
Hye-mi calls his name and cradles his head in her hands — which she finds covered in his blood.
Aw, that’s what I’m talkin’ about. Solid, solid episode, and I wasn’t exaggerating when I said it had me in its grip all the way through. I mean, yeah, the story’s a little obvious, the conflicts are very clear, and I don’t think this drama does anything terribly NEW. But it does tap into everything I love about youth dramas, and hits the underdog point in just the right place.
I could do with a little less of Baek-hee’s evilness, but I suppose that’s the thing about attending a school where some students are already stars: The school now doubles as a battlefield. Each learning experience translates literally into career opportunities, and anyone who can’t keep up gets left in the dust. So she’s being groomed (by that Machiavellian teacher, no less) to take no prisoners and if she has to cut some throats on the way to the top, by god don’t let your neck get in the way of her knife.
I freaking love that this episode takes the main criticism of the lead actress and turns it into a central plot point that her character must overcome. It’s not only laugh-out-loud funny (well, I laughed out loud), but it also creates the clever effect of making us root for Hye-mi’s fatal flaw, conflating it with Suzy’s fatal flaw, and thereby getting us to somehow subconsciously root for Suzy to pull through just as much as Hye-mi. I mean, that’s ballsy, right? (Note: I have no idea if this was intentional or merely a case of happy serendipity. Either way, I think it works.)