Yaaaay, it’s so good. I love it when high school shows are done well, with substance and heart. The characters are layered, the circumstances realistic, and the story has so much potential to be interesting without the conventional drama pitfalls. And Lee Jong-seok’s angsty Go Nam-soon? Gah. I LUFF HIM SO. He tugs at my heart in that perfectly perfect way, and I’m toast.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
The teachers run in to find Nam-soon standing there by the window post-chair-grenade incident in shock, looking totally guilty (and slightly like he’s afraid of his own strength, which is frightening).
Uhmforce demands to know what happened—was it a fight? They ask with whom, but Nam-soon remains characteristically tight-lipped.
Principal Im sends away a disapproving gaggle of mothers and to her credit, the first thing she asks is if anyone was hurt. But she takes the opposite approach from what they’d expect, and tells the teachers to cover it up. They don’t need a violent incident on their record, not now.
Nam-soon sits in the teacher’s office nervously, looking down at his hands like he’s scared of them. In-jae comes in to tell him that he’s off the hook in an official capacity, but she still wants to know what happened, and sends him back to class.
The VP tells all the teachers that it was just an accident, which doesn’t sit well with In-jae and Uhmforce. The others assume it was troublemaker Jung-ho who fought with Nam-soon, but he never made it to roll call today, so is assumed to be absent.
The rest of the class comes back from the assembly to find Nam-soon sitting alone in class. They wonder about their boarded-up window, but there’s no one else around to tell the tale.
It’s only when Nam-soon has a moment alone that we see him wince in pain. His ribs are covered in bruises, and we flash back to the fight, where Jung-ho knocks him to the ground and then kicks the living crap out of him. Oof.
Star teacher Se-chan gets introduced to the staff, and smirks to see In-jae get reprimanded by the principal for her bad students. He passes by Nam-soon on his way out, and recognizes him as the cake delivery boy.
Nam-soon just tells him to mind his own business, and Se-chan coolly replies that it’s just what he intends to do. He walks away, sincerely not giving a damn.
In-jae finally catches a break in the case when she sees the nerdy victim Young-woo being ousted from the teachers’ bathroom. She guesses correctly that he spent the whole assembly hiding in there, and asks if he saw who threw the chair.
Young-woo: “I did.” Huh? Flashback to the fight: Jung-ho kicks Nam-soon, who finally has enough and grabs the chair. He raises it above his head…
…when Young-woo runs in, grabs a different chair, and throws it clear through the window. Everybody freezes.
Nam-soon runs to the window to see what damage it might’ve caused down below, making eye contact with In-jae. Jung-ho is long gone already, and Nam-soon tells the scared little Young-woo to hurry and run away. Aw.
Young-woo (who’s clearly got some sort of developmental disability) stammers frightfully if he’ll be transferred to another school, but In-jae tells him it’s okay. Once alone, she lets out this long sigh that just says it all.
She heads back to her desk to find Jung-ho sitting in her chair like a little punk, demanding his phone. She starts to ask why he’s like this, but he snaps at her to either hit him or be done with it, and snatches the phone out of her hand.
She finds PE Teacher Jo and asks if she should really cover up the chair incident—is that really what’s best? The problem being, of course, that the ones who’d end up getting punished are the ones who got hit, and not the other way around.
Teacher Jo is in agreement, but adds wisely that you always forget the punishments you received for the things you did do, but you never forget the ones for the stuff you didn’t do.
Nam-soon trudges home and gingerly lies down in his bed, clutching his ribs. He says aloud softly, like a familiar chant, “It’s okay. It’s okay… It’s okay.” A tear falls. Gah, somebody hug this boy.
He goes to school the next morning and finds his name plastered on a disciplinary rap sheet for the chair incident. Young-woo arrives behind him and looks up guiltily. But Nam-soon just shushes him and smiles. Awwwww.
His classmates bombard him with questions, which of course he doesn’t answer. They start a bet about who really threw the chair (Jung-ho vs. Nam-soon), when Jung-ho and his lackeys arrive. He makes a crack at ex-president Min-ki, whose mom is here again.
She’s clearly one of those moms, and even Min-ki seems embarrassed. She’s here to kick up a fuss about the chair thing, and given that Nam-soon took the class president job from her precious son, she’s probably going to make sure he suffers.
Nam-soon gets called to the principal’s office, and Jung-ho makes a point of getting in his way, but Nam-soon shoves past him. Ha-kyung stops him in the hall to ask if he really threw the chair, wanting him to tell the truth and get rid of the problem.
He looks at her in surprise—is she worried? About him? Ha-kyung: “No. I just don’t want to be stuck with all your work.” Pfft. He pretends to think about it, and answers, “Nah, I’d rather make you suffer.”
In-jae talks to Nam-soon alone, and asks why he won’t tell her what happened. Nam-soon: “Because I don’t want to tattle.” He says he’d rather just take the punishment and be done with it.
She surprises him by saying that she knows Young-woo was the one responsible, and tells him to go back to class. He looks at her hesitantly, but she assures him, “I don’t tattle either.” She sends him off with a smile.
So then she bravely faces the principal and Angry Mothers Club alone, which doesn’t go over well. They demand Nam-soon come and take responsibility for the chair-throwing, but In-jae holds her ground and says he isn’t the one who threw it.
They still demand his presence then, because someone has to pay, but In-jae says it won’t do any good: “Kids, they call that tattling.” She says he’ll take the blame and punishment over being the one to tell on his classmate.
PE Teacher Jo backs her up, explaining that they teach kids not to tattle in school. But Min-ki’s mom isn’t so easily thwarted, and Principal Im says covering up someone else’s wrongs is punishable too. In the end, Nam-soon gets stuck with a week of community service.
Ha-kyung stops Se-chan in the hallway, and he recognizes her immediately from his tutoring class. She asks him (more like commands him) to act like he doesn’t know her. He calls her back… but only to correct her grammar. Ha.
The principal rips into In-jae, who continues to argue that if they’re going to cover it up, they should cover it up fully, or just investigate the matter openly for what it really was—school violence. But Principal Im says it’ll reflect on In-jae (since they’re all her students), and says that sometimes they just need to turn a blind eye for everyone’s good. “That’s what school is.”
Min-ki’s mom casually shows her dissatisfaction with In-jae being her son’s homeroom teacher, and suggests that it’d be awfully nice to have Se-chan take that job.
Principal Im bristles, but Min-ki’s mom passive-aggressively says she’ll make sure the other moms don’t misunderstand this chair incident as school violence, and tells her to think on it. Dude, PTA moms. They’re like the mafia, just better dressed.
Se-chan saunters into class and tells them to throw out everything they’ve been taught up until now. If their goal is to get into college, all they need to do is study for the college entrance exam. So he’s basically got a test-prep mentality, in that you only need to study the test to beat it, and who gives a flying crap about learning the subjects.
Nam-soon puts his head down for a nap, which Se-chan calls him out for. “Am I boring you?” Nam-soon says no, it’s just that this doesn’t really apply to him since he’s not going to college.
Se-chan doesn’t take offense in the least, and offers up that anyone who doesn’t intend to go to college needn’t show up to his class ever. Now’s the chance to step out, or forever hold your peace.
He barely gets the sentence out before Jung-ho and his lackeys spring up and walk out. Nam-soon gets up too, and so does Young-woo. That surprises Se-chan (since he looks like a bookish nerd), but the other kids say Young-woo’s actually last place in their class.
He trails out after Nam-soon sheepishly. “You’d be bored all by yourself.” Aw, are they buddies now? He says thanks for the chair thing, and Nam-soon smiles, “If you hadn’t thrown it, I would have… so thank you.”
He asks why Young-woo threw it, and he stammers, “You threw it for me… that comic book.” Why does that statement make it sound like it was the first time anyone’s been nice to him, ever?
In-jae comes back to her class to find that Nam-soon was kicked out and that they were told not to read their literature homework if they want to get into college. Yeah, I’d have that look on my face too.
She confronts Se-chan (How hilarious is it that she purposely stands two stairs up to be eye-level with him?) and says he can’t just kick students out of class—this isn’t an after school tutoring business, but a school, where they teach everything, including life lessons.
He scoffs that they sure are doing a fine job of that, what with chair-throwing cover-ups, where “one kid throws, another hits, and yet another takes the blame.” Urg, he’s aggravatingly right about that.
She wonders how he knows so well though, and it turns out that he witnessed the whole thing. Flashback to him hearing the fight from the bathroom, after which he peers into the classroom to see it all. Ah, so Nam-soon saw him there, which explains the earlier mind-your-beeswax comment.
She can’t believe he didn’t stop the fight, but he says he hadn’t actually signed the contract to start teaching here yet… so not really his purview. Ass much?
He asks what Young-woo’s deal is, having since learned that he’s the last-place student. He points out that if In-jae didn’t know it was him, it makes her incapable, and that if she did know and covered it up, it makes her a coward. So which is it?
He leaves her gaping in disbelief, but she’s got an even bigger problem on her hands: Principal Im overheard their conversation, and stops her to ask who Young-woo is. Crap.
Up on the roof, Young-woo wonders if this is okay because it’s his first time ditching class. Nam-soon laughs that he’s kind of a goody-goody (yunno, for being last place and all).
He asks if Young-woo likes school since he’s never late and never absent. Young-woo: “I like my school uniform. When I put it on, I feel just like everyone else… normal.” Well that’s just heartbreaking.
The bell rings so they head to the stairwell, but it’s at the worst possible moment: all Nam-soon hears is the tail end of In-jae’s conversation with Principal Im, where she’s explaining that Young-woo (whom the principal only knows as “that slightly slow kid”) had a reason for throwing the chair.
Aw crap. Now she looks like a big ol’ tattletale lying liar. Nam-soon quickly covers up Young-woo’s ears so that he can’t hear what’s going on (So. Cute.) and glares down at In-jae. She doesn’t see them up there.
But the principal is on a warpath, and in no time Young-woo’s mom is called and he’s about to be transferred. We learn that he was admitted under a signed contract that he’d have to return to a special school for the developmental disabled if he caused any trouble.
His mom asks In-jae if something can’t be done about it because Young-woo likes this school so much, and Nam-soon walks by shooting laser beams out of his eyes, though In-jae doesn’t see him.
The kids wonder who tattled on him, and guess that it must’ve been Nam-soon. What, now he’s gotta take the fall for this too??
In-jae asks Uhmforce if there’s a way around the transfer, but the other teachers try to stop her, arguing that it’s for the best and that In-jae oughtn’t stick her neck out when she’s not yet a permanent hire.
She sticks to her guns anyway with the principal, but gets handed a petition for a homeroom teacher swap (submitted by Min-ki’s mom). Lordy, among the things on the list of complaints: “Weak” and “Young female.” WTF? Principal Im makes it clear that she’s on thin ice—she can’t handle Young-woo, Jung-ho, and Nam-soon all in one class, and one more incident puts her job on the line.
She hides out in the nurse’s office and notes that it’s particularly empty today. The nurse says kids only come here to avoid class, and In-jae wonders why kids hate the classroom so much, and the nurse says teachers hate it too.
In-jae muses that they picked the wrong profession then. Nurse: “Then what about you? Why do you teach?” In-jae: “I guess I still like it… school.”
The next morning she comes in to find her class half-empty, and when she asks Nam-soon if he’s doing his job and collecting tardy fines, he gives her the silent treatment.
It’s saying a lot that you can tell when a taciturn kid is just being his usual quiet self, and when he’s giving you attitude, but he makes it clear. One of the other kids calls him a traitor for ratting out Young-woo, which she notes.
She calls him to her office to ask if the kids are giving him a hard time, but he shrugs it off. She can tell he’s mad at her about Young-woo, and tries to explain that she didn’t have a choice in the matter.
Nam-soon: You didn’t have a choice, so you ignore your promises. You didn’t have a choice, so the guy who hit gets away with it. You hide the stuff that’ll cause problems and slip out of it unscathed. You ask for money at every turn and threaten when we don’t pay. How is Teacher… no, school… any different from Oh Jung-ho?
Wow, that’s appallingly astute. Se-chan walks in on them and has the same reaction, wondering how a kid that smart is failing academically.
In-jae leaves school that night with heavy shoulders, after having been compared to the bully who makes her life a living hell.
The next morning she lines up the tardy students and asks the class why they don’t pay their tardy fines, and they confess that it kind of feels like they’re being ripped off, adding that last semester Min-ki paid it all out of his own pocket to keep the peace.
In-jae says it’s a conditional agreement, but the class clown says being held up for lunch money by the bully is a conditional agreement too—you pay, I don’t beat you up. Ha.
She relents, and tells them that from tomorrow on, they won’t collect tardy fines in this class, but they’ll have to memorize a poem each day they’re late instead. They groan, but the general mood is a happy one. Nam-soon’s face softens a bit, but when she looks over at him, he’s just staring out the window as usual.
The sign-up list for Se-chan’s special class fills up in no time, and he still intends to only choose ten students from the list. PE Teacher Jo (who was a teacher here when Se-chan was a student) asks why he quit teaching so quickly, saying it’s too bad he doesn’t have any students. He uses the word for “disciple,” by which he means, he doesn’t have any lasting relationships with students.
Se-chan says that tutoring is teaching too, and that he’s probably had more students than even Teacher Jo has had over the years. But Teacher Jo means it differently, “Those are customers. Love or hate, you have to be tossed and fried together to have disciples.”
Se-chan says he doesn’t much care to keep any of those. Teacher Jo says fine, but he shouldn’t kick students out of class anymore. “If a teacher kicks a student out of a classroom, where do they have to go?”
So then after his next class (through which Nam-soon stands outside), Se-chan tells him to come back in starting tomorrow—who knows, he might change his mind next year about wanting to go to college.
He says that you need strength in this world to get anywhere, and if Nam-soon had more strength, he wouldn’t have taken the fall for something he didn’t do. “Just look at Young-woo.” That raises red flags and Nam-soon realizes that it was Se-chan who ratted Young-woo out. Well thank goodness. I was so upset that he was mad at In-jae when she totally kept her word.
He flares up at Se-chan and asks him directly, and Se-chan scoffs at things like loyalty and honor, “You try and take your measly high school diploma out into the real world. Loyalty? There’s no such thing.” Hey, Dark Cloud of Jaded Drudgery, what is your deal?
Nam-soon says he couldn’t attend before because he was kicked out, but from now on he’s choosing not to go. “I don’t care for lectures from a tutor.”
The next morning, In-jae collects her tardy poems. The class clown makes a show of reciting a song dedicated to Ha-kyung which just annoys her, and though In-jae laughs, she makes him memorize a new poem for tomorrow.
She asks Nam-soon to recite his, and he doesn’t answer her. She asks haltingly if he’s really not going to do it, and tells him to spend the rest of class standing at the back wall. He complies without a word.
Suddenly Principal Im interrupts class with Young-woo and Mom in tow, saying that he wanted to say goodbye to his class before going. In-jae tries to stop it, wanting to talk his mom into stopping the transfer, but the principal makes it clear this isn’t a negotiation.
Young-woo stands in front and thanks them, “I really liked this class,” and turns to go.
Suddenly, from the back of the room, still facing the wall, Nam-soon begins to recite his poem (“Flower” by Na Tae-joo):
Nam-soon: You have to look closely
To see that it is pretty
You have to look long
To see that it is lovable
You are the same
Augh, this kid. Why is he so awesome?
In-jae smiles, her eyes filled with tears. Young-woo smiles sheepishly too, as Nam-soon walks out of class first.
Young-woo bows to Teach and heads out, and In-jae stands there for a long moment… and then bolts out of class. She stops Young-woo in the hall. The entire class spills out into the hallway to watch the showdown.
She turns to Young-woo’s mom, and even as Principal Im tries to talk over her, In-jae blurts out that she can oppose Young-woo’s transfer, which makes it void. The whole class cheers, and Young-woo is welcomed back to school. Yay!
Everyone files back in, leaving In-jae alone with the principal to deal with the aftermath. She says she can fire her if she wants, but the principal doesn’t seem interested in firing her for something like this, and lets it go.
Only she turns right around and asks Se-chan to take over that class. He flatly refuses, but Principal Im says he’s not really in a position to say no, since he lied about his real reason for coming to this school. Whoops.
In-jae has earned some points with her kids now, and they eagerly volunteer to join her after-school class (rather than Se-chan’s)… only then they don’t show up. Nam-soon is the only one to walk in, and even apologizes for the other day.
She beams and then they get to work calling the other kids.
But Principal Im walks in and gapes at the empty classroom, pointing out In-jae’s lack of ability to even fill a class. She says it’s time to step down as homeroom teacher… and in walks Se-chan.
“I’ll be taking over as homeroom teacher.”
Oh man, what a good conflict, just when In-jae was turning that sinking ship around. She juuust managed to curry some favor with the kids and even got Nam-soon to come back around, and now they’re going to take them away from her? And Nam-soon can barely be bothered to care even now… but with Se-chan as his teacher, he’s just going to shut down in every way. It’s going to get much, much worse before it gets better, isn’t it?
Se-chan is a really interesting character because I totally hate his guts when he says such horribly jaded things (especially to the kids), but he’s clearly hiding a lot of insecurity—he’s got a chip on his shoulder AND a massive ego, but he’s sharp and (often infuriatingly) right about a lot of things. I like the setup of him being the direct opposition to both In-jae and Nam-soon because he’ll challenge them even if he drives them crazy, and more importantly, they’ll change him. I look forward to his arc of becoming a real teacher.
In-jae is fantastic and her story is very Biscuit Teacher-esque, which makes me love her for trying to make a difference in these kids’ lives. You really get the sense that she’s just trying to make it through the day, and that one crack in one kid’s armor is a victory for her. I love her warmth and her idealism, and the fact that she’s not some angel with all the right answers. She just seems like every young teacher out in the real world, asking herself all the right questions about what on earth her job really is.
There’s something so sweet about her wanting Nam-soon’s respect, and I love the running bit where he says something to her and she turns around and uses his words to fix a problem. Like he’s smarter than her, but powerless, while she’s in a position to do something, but lacks the know-how. They’re both sort of stumbling around, but they make the cutest pair (not romantically—I just mean they’re on the same bus, so to speak), and watching them both change and grow as a result of their interaction is a really nice and immediate payoff.
The emphasis on Nam-soon’s loneliness is the thing that really tugs at my heart. It’s not a hit-you-over-the-head kind of thing, but everything about him feels lonely in a subdued way, like he’s just accepted that he’s alone. His house is empty, the classroom is empty, he’s always looking away—he feels like an island, in that perfectly adolescent nobody-gets-me way.
He’s so young but already he has an over-developed protective instinct, always running around saving Teach and Young-woo and everyone but himself. His reaction to the chair incident was so interesting—because we don’t know how far he was about to go before Young-woo stepped in—and it makes me wonder if he’s been beaten by Dad maybe, given the giant pendulum between choosing to be beaten up rather than hit back, and then anger snapping into violent rage. It could just be him getting fed up with Jung-ho’s bullying, though I’m sure that’s going to be a long-term problem for his character that we’ll see fleshed out. It’s one of the many things I like about the show—it takes its time and reveals characters layer by layer through each new conflict, and has me chomping at the bit for more.
- School 2013: Episode 1
- Stills and behind-the-scenes shots from School 2013
- School 2013’s teasers and posters
- Touring the set of School 2013
- All dressed up and ready for School
- Character lineup for School’s student cast
- School finalizes its female student lineup
- Daniel Choi, Kim Woo-bin confirmed for School
- Lee Jong-seok joins KBS’s School
- Jang Nara joins KBS remake of School
- Nineties drama School gets a revival