Dude, someone owes me drinks, and then MORE DRINKS. I’m on a roll. Maybe I should play the lottery or something. Vegas, anyone?

We’re here at the finale whether we like it or not, and we’re met with song and dance, laughter and tears, as we send off our dreamers to their bright and shiny futures.

SONG OF THE DAY

Suzy – “Only Hope” [ Download ]

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FINAL EPISODE RECAP

We begin with a montage on the REAL star of today’s show, The K Pendant. We see it make its journey from President Jung to Baek-hee, from Baek-hee to Hye-mi, who gives it to Sam-dong, who tosses it to Jin-gook…

And we see the moment (going back in time into Episode 15) when Jin-gook gives it to Hye-mi. He asks if she has the confidence not to regret her decision. She figures that she’ll have regrets either way, and then Jin-gook hands her the pendant, and asks her to stay and regret it then. Aw.

The Dream High group gathers with Doo-shik, who tells them that he’s running up against a giant wall when it comes to the studios: Baek-hee and Jin-gook, who they refuse to put up in front of the cameras. He tells them that it’s either split those two off and debut the rest first, or stay together and face the chance of never debuting.

Baek-hee and Jin-gook both offer to stay behind, not wanting to hold the group back because of their past. But Sam-dong tells them that it’s not an option—they’re all or nothing. He admits to not particularly liking either of them (Baek-hee for making Hye-mi suffer and Jin-gook for being stingy about his underwear, HA.) but tells them that this is what he would want from them, if the tables were turned.

He turns to Hye-mi and says that he’ll never leave this group, making her gulp down her fluttering feelings. She walks out later to get some air, and Sam-dong gets thisclose to her face…to tell her to smile. She can’t even look him in the eyes (awwwww) and just stammers a “yeah.”

At school, she takes up her usual thinking position—head-to-desk. Pil-sook immediately recognizes the signs and asks what’s on her mind. After hemming and hawing, Hye-mi finally leans in uncomfortably close to ask how you know who’s in your heart.

Pil-sook reminds her that she’s already told her—it’s the person you think of first when you’re happy or sad. Hye-mi: “Yes, but…what if it’s not the person you thought it was going to be?” Eeee!

Pil-sook looks confused, only ever having experienced the all-in, one-and-only kind of crush. As they ponder what it means, Jason bursts in from out of nowhere, getting right up in Hye-mi’s face with a devilish smile.

Enjoying the moment more than life itself, he tells Hye-mi that THIS is what you call two-timing, which he reminds her is what she said his “manners” were about. He throws her words right back in her face, loving the fact that he gets to rub her smug face in it.

I have never seen Jason this happy about anything, and it’s HILARIOUS. Seriously, if you made me choose my favorite pairing in this show, it’s this one, right here. Their mutual dislike coupled with their protectiveness over Pil-sook is just the cutest thing ever. It rivals the Jin-gook / Sam-dong Underwear Wars.

Hye-mi denies it and leaves in a huff, but she’s shaken by Jason’s words. Meanwhile he actually lets out a “Yessssss” as she leaves, totally relishing the victory. Pil-sook shakes her head, embarrassed, and he smiles at her like a guilty little chipmunk.

Hye-mi shakes her head, trying to knock the Sam-dong-feelings right out, and yells, “Sam-dong is just a friend! Stop getting confused!” Only Jin-gook happens to be standing right behind her, and he confirms what he’s noticed for some time now. Aw, well if it makes you feel any better, she’s as happy about it as you are.

Jin-man shows Hye-mi, Baek-hee, and Sam-dong a video of himself doing a dance in his apartment, and tells them that it went viral on the internet. He gets the idea that maybe they don’t have to wait for a studio to pick them up—they can do a flash mob.

All they need is people, and Hye-mi smiles. They get started on gathering as many students as they can, using everything from intimidation to fear. Pil-sook actually becomes a horror movie ghost to scare Ria into helping. Heh.

They give everyone costumes and start putting the show together, and Hye-mi takes the lead with the bullhorn, directing everyone. It’s so great to see her use that bullhorn for good, even if she’s still a little scary to some of the students. Meanwhile, a new reporter (from a fishing magazine) sees the students gathering and starts snapping away.

At home, Hye-mi’s dad just counts down the days until they can go back to the States, while Sam-dong and Jin-gook just eye him warily and do passive-aggressive things like sing and dance around him.

They both end up at school, because they can’t practice at home. Jin-gook takes the opportunity to ask Sam-dong what happened with Hye-mi, since he swore to go up against him, man to man.

Sam-dong says that he’s decided not to confess his feelings. Jin-gook looks at him, surprised.

Sam-dong: When Hye-mi said she was leaving, I knew. It doesn’t matter who she has in her heart. I like that girl. I like her if she likes you, and I like her if she hates me. She just has to be nearby.

AW. Jin-gook finds himself moved, and then shakes out of it: “You still have that talent…of turning people into chickens.” (In Korean, goosebumps = chickenbumps, hence chickens.)

At home, Hye-mi’s dad starts singing “Dream High” despite himself, and then gets into a fight with Oh-hyuk’s sister. He ends up spilling the beans about Oh-hyuk putting up their house as collateral for Hye-mi’s debt, and she ends up spilling the beans about his wife.

He cries outside, finally facing the fact that he is the worst dad ever, and admits as much to Oh-hyuk. He promises to repay the debt, deciding to go to the States alone, unable to face his daughters. Not sure that you’ve learned your lesson there, but whatever. Oh-hyuk’s a better dad anyway.

Oh-hyuk asks him to go find Hye-mi first, and he finds her, just as she’s about to perform in the middle of the street.

Oh, yeah…here we go! Jin-man walks up in the middle of a busy square, wearing a chef’s outfit and holding a takeout delivery carrier. He holds it up above his head, and it says “Dream High” on the side. The music starts, and he begins to dance, in all his JYP glory.

One by one, the kids who were dressed as random passers-by join in, until soon a giant group of Kirin students is dancing in unison. It’s totally cheesy, and TOTALLY awesome.

As they watch from the crowd, Oh-hyuk tells Hye-mi’s dad that she didn’t give up her dream—this is her dream, right here. He adds that now is his chance to step up and guard her new dream.

In the coming days, the street performance goes viral, and all sorts of people upload videos of themselves doing the dance to “Dream High.” Kyung-jin finds Oh-hyuk uploading the videos wherever he can to help them gain some traction, and they share an accidental kiss in their excitement.

They separate awkwardly, and when Kyung-jin turns back to ask Oh-hyuk to dinner, she has a pin in her hair. Hahaha. Oh-hyuk declines, and Principal Shi witnesses the whole thing, getting ragey over the fact that he kissed her and then dared to turn her down.

Doo-shik stands vigilant at his post in the studio, passing out CDs, bodily functions be damned. And finally his work pays off, when he comes upon a PD who gets a last-minute cancellation on his music program.

At home, Oh-hyuk gets the call and runs to tell the kids. Jin-gook, Sam-dong, and Hye-mi share a jumping three-way hug, until Hye-mi realizes how close she is to Sam-dong and breaks free awkwardly. Sam-dong clocks her reaction, misinterpreting it of course.

It’s the day of the performance, and everyone is a ball of nerves. Jin-gook finds Sam-dong minutes before their turn onstage with a dark look on his face. Uh-oh. He realizes that Sam-dong’s hearing is on the fritz, but Sam-dong assures him that he’ll be fine as long as he’s on cue, and not to tell the others.

Hye-mi sees him, and when she walks up, Sam-dong makes an excuse and leaves. She asks Jin-gook if his hearing is out, and tells him the same thing that Sam-dong just said—not to tell the others, and that he’ll put everything into the performance.

She turns to go after him, and Jin-gook stops her to say that the day has finally come, for them to stand up onstage together. She agrees, like it hasn’t occurred to her until just now. He says that it took longer than he thought, and smiles.

They take to the stage, and he counts down for Sam-dong, and they perform without a hitch. As they sing and dance together onstage for the first time, Jin-gook says in voiceover:

Jin-gook: There are two kinds of happiness in the world. One is a happiness that you realize after the fact. The other is a happiness that you feel in the moment. The happiness in the moment is so rare that they say you can live your whole life on the light that shines from remembering it. I think we’ll go on remembering this moment, today, like that kind of happiness…that we can remember for the rest of our lives, the moment when we shined.

Later at the house, Hye-mi continues to be awkward around Sam-dong and avoid him (or rather, her feelings) like the plague. He finally calls her on it, asking why she’s being so avoidy, and she just stammers that she’s not.

Jin-gook interrupts to ask Hye-mi to go somewhere with him, since it’s her birthday today. Sam-dong suggests they throw a party all together, but Hye-mi shuts him down cold. Aw, if you only knew why.

Jin-gook takes her out on his motorcycle, but she realizes that she’s dropped her wallet inside. He says she doesn’t need it, but she insists on running back in to get it in a panic.

And here’s why…Sam-dong finds it on the floor and opens it up to find a group picture of all of them. He goes to take it out, and here’s what’s underneath:

!!! So. Cute.

He barely has time to register what just happened, when Hye-mi runs in to retrieve it. She asks worriedly if he looked inside. He lies that he didn’t, and Jin-gook watches from the doorway.

He takes her to the river, back to where it all began. He watches her walk with heavy steps as she tries to put on a smile for him, and he finally admits that they’re both trying to force it, when he knows—and has known for some time now—who her heart really belongs to.

He says that he selfishly was hanging on even when he knew, and tells her that the heart isn’t something you can force to go where you want it to. She looks at him in the eyes for the first time in a long time, and cries, saying she’s sorry.

He puts her helmet on her head, letting her cry. I love this gesture that gets repeated in their relationship. He tells her that they can be comfortable around each other now, and go to school together, and look each other in the eye, and be friends like they were before. Aw, I always knew he’d be the good guy and send her off to Sam-dong, but I love that he’s so sweet about it.

Oh-hyuk gets called to the principal’s office on official business, since one of his students made it to the final round of the EMG contest. But Principal Shi isn’t in the mood to be congratulatory, since Oh-hyuk is out to break his daughter’s heart.

He points it out to Oh-hyuk, who of course had no idea…until now. Awkward. He grins, giddy at the news, while Principal Shi kicks himself for playing Cupid between his daughter and his least favorite person in the world.

Oh-hyuk gets ready to announce the winner, as everyone dies from the anticipation. Only Hye-mi looks unconcerned, swearing that she never expected to win anyway. He pulls the paper out of the envelope…and the winner is…Hye-mi!

She jumps, screaming, and then tries to play it cool as she sits down. Everyone congratulates her, and even Jason has to eat his own words and say he’s happy for her, through clenched teeth. Heh.

But when Oh-hyuk pulls the paper all the way out, he sees that hers isn’t the only name…all six of them have passed onto the next round. In the days that follow, they gear up for their solo auditions, fighting good-naturedly over who gets to practice in the studio first, deciding over rock-paper-scissors.

Kyung-jin watches them wistfully, noting to Oh-hyuk that she misses that time in her life, and he notes that life is fair, since they don’t have the perspective that she’s earned since. He then asks her to dinner, and she jumps to accept.

The second he walks away, she puts a pin in her hair and primps. I don’t know which is funnier—the hairpin as an indicator of her crush, or the fact that she carries it around at all times, just in case.

As they practice, Oh-hyuk tells them that he realized why they all passed the first round, despite not qualifying, according to the contest’s crazy prerequisites. He tells them that it was a test to see who would rise to the challenge. Yeah, only in a drama, people.

They wonder how they even made it past the second round when they never even interviewed. They find out on the day of the audition: it turns out that the weird fishing magazine reporter was actually an EMG scout, and he was observing them the whole time.

They stand outside, wondering what it would be like to be the best. Sam-dong thinks that it’ll probably be lonely at the top. Jin-gook asks if that means he doesn’t want to be at the top. Sam-dong: “I still want it.”

They audition, each with a flashback of where they came from, and their words about how much they want this dream. It’s a lovely sequence, and it takes us forward in time, to 2018.

Pil-sook has a slew of albums and awards to her name, displayed at her kindergarten class, where she sings the kiddies to sleep. Cute. Jason comes to escort her for the Big Night, and they get excited about seeing everyone again. He says that he’ll be going onstage as a guest, and asks if she wants to join him. She laughs and says no, she’s had enough of being in the press with him.

Baek-hee is now a teacher at Kirin, and an exact replica of Kyung-jin. She even uses the same lesson with the thumbtacks, and cracks the whip. Kyung-jin, who’s now the Art Director, observes her with a smile.

Oh-hyuk meets her outside, bowing to her as his boss…and then offering his arm as her husband (and father of her baby). Yay, cute!

Jin-gook is a huge star in Korea, and he even has a rivalry going on with K. Doo-shik is his manager, and he’s married to Oh-hyuk’s sister, with a kid of their own. He insists that his schedule be cleared tonight for the big concert, and smiles to see good news about his father.

And…it’s time for the Grammys. We catch up to the beginning of the series, and go backstage, as K puts down the picture of Dream High next to the K pendant…which is next to his…TUNING FORK! YESSSS!

Sam-dong for the win! He puts the pendant around his neck, as we flash back to the day when he found out that he won the EMG contest.

He refuses to go to New York, and Hye-mi tells him he has to go. (Man, after all that running and crying for Hye-mi not to go…now HE’s going!) He tells her that he didn’t enter this contest to go to New York—he did it to show her that he could do it, and that she needn’t worry about him anymore.

Sam-dong: I’m NOT GOING! From the beginning, you were music to me, and music was you. That’s why I came this far. If you’re not there, there is no music.

Hye-mi reminds him that he wanted to show her that she didn’t need to worry about him. But she says with tears in her eyes that she’s still worried…so he has to go, and become the best, so that she’ll consider what he means to her.

Oh, man. Who would’ve expected Hye-mi of all people to do the gallant thing, and send him off to pursue his dream, even when it breaks her heart? She smiles at him through her tears, and he shakes as he cries, telling her just like he did in the beginning, that she’s lying to him right now.

He insists that she’s lying, and that she wants to hold onto him right now. But she says no, if this were a year ago, she would’ve been upset that he won over her. But she’s happy to let him go. She says it through her tears, and he asks if that’s the face of a person who’s happy. She responds with her trademark: “This IS my happy face.”

Gah, they’re breaking my heart. They cry, and Hye-mi insists that he go, and show her. He finally puts her cell phone charm in her hand, and walks away.

Cut back to the Grammys, and Sam-dong as K gets ready to go onstage. He takes his earpiece out, ’cause he don’t need it, yo, and flies onto the stage like a bird.

Back in Korea, we get to the Big Concert, which we find out is Hye-mi’s 100th concert, as she thanks all her friends and teachers who have helped her along the way. Oh-hyuk and Jin-man watch proudly (Jin-man cries, heh), Baek-hee smiles, Pil-sook and Jason snuggle, and Jin-gook arrives backstage.

He watches with a smile, and then a girl wearing a Kirin school uniform comes up next to him and motions for him to come closer. He leans in, and she kisses him on the cheek. He looks at her curiously, and she flashes her nametag at him: it’s Hye-sung, Hye-mi’s little sister, all grown up. LOL. He really DOES end up with Hye-mi’s little sister! That Cracks. Me. Up.

Hye-mi thanks everyone and adds a thank-you to someone who couldn’t be there tonight, someone who’s walking a lonely road, and dedicates the following song to him. It’s her cover of Mandy Moore’s “Only Hope,” (posted above) which she sang to Sam-dong when they first met, that snowy night at the outhouse.

We flash back to the first time he chased her on the bus, when she lied to him that she liked him. And then as she finishes the song, we catch up to when they parted, on Sam-dong’s way to New York.

He hands her the cell phone charm and leaves, and Hye-mi cries. He gets on the bus, and then she chases after him, in another of this show’s great reversals. She catches up to him at the next stop, and he opens his window.

Without a word, she puts the K pendant around his neck. He leans out, and pulls her in for a kiss.

Aw, sweetest ending ever.

 
COMMENTS

Excuse me while I do my victory dance to Swan Lake, hip-hop style.

What a satisfying end to a satisfying drama. The funny thing about this show is that it delivers exactly what you want it to, but somehow manages to keep it fresh, despite playing by the rules. It’s a great example of what happens when you follow a classic storytelling formula, but inject it with a lot of heart and a whole lot of pop culture wit and style.

While I can’t say that any of the outcomes surprised me, it did successfully keep me on the edge of my seat the whole time. The whole ride was suspenseful and engaging from the get-go, not only because of the K question, but because we were rooted in each character’s journey toward their dream.

I’m a huge fan of this kind of ending, that gives us the satisfying resolutions to the immediate questions—that Sam-dong is K, and that he finally got Hye-mi’s bus-chase confession—while still leaving the future open-ended.

I like that everyone’s succeeded in their own way without ALL having to be pop stars and such, and that their futures are still left to be written. It’s neat, but not sealed: it speaks to fulfilling their dreams, but leaves the road ahead of them, and not behind.

I also love that this episode was as much about Hye-mi (maybe more so) than it was about Sam-dong. Her love, and her willingness to put his dream before everything else, is what makes him K. So in essence K is the both of them, because she’s the music, and he’s the dream.

It’s no secret that I wanted Sam-dong to be K and get the girl, so I’m sure this ending made me happier than those of you who backed a different horse. But I say, if you loved Dream High, you’re a winner. Cheers!

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