I can’t remember the last time I’ve wanted two characters’ happily ever after more than I do for these two friends. It’s as gripping as any love story and just as sweet… well, if you get past the part where they’re always calling each other terrible names. Boys. We’re onto you, you crazy bastards!

 
EPISODE 11 RECAP

After the crying I-missed-you confession that broke me, Nam-soon continues to trudge along behind Heung-soo on his way home.

Nam-soon finally admits that he did go back to try and find him three years ago, but Heung-soo had moved, so he spent a year haunting all the places where he used to be, where he might show up again.

But it’s not news to Heung-soo, who heard about it from their mutual friends. He pauses, and then looks up, “Let’s just shake it off here—that incident—and then let’s each go our separate ways.”

What? No. Why? *whimper*

Heung-soo: “It’s already gone wrong… you and I… being friends again.” He says every time Nam-soon sees him, he’ll feel sorry. And seeing Nam-soon that way will just make things harder for him.

Urg, you can’t argue with that logic because it’s true, but shouldn’t the fact that you guys just miss each other override that business?

Nam-soon’s face falls, and he can’t say a thing as he watches Heung-soo walk away.

At the same time, Uhmforce tells Se-chan and In-jae to figure it out among themselves which of the boys will have to transfer. And the sooner the better. In-jae asks if it’s really necessary, but Se-chan says there’s no way to cover it up—once the school knows that Nam-soon attacked Heung-soo in junior high, it’s against all the rules to let them attend the same school.

She wonders if maybe the rules are right and the boys are better off being apart. But Se-chan surprises her: “You have to see each other constantly to make amends.”

He calls them lucky, in fact, “because they have the chance to apologize, and can invent excuses to forgive.” Aw, poor Se-chan. They agree to try and think of alternatives in the morning.

The next day the students are starting to show the signs of all the academic pressure. Nam-soon just walks in and notes Heung-soo’s empty seat with a sigh.

Kang-joo calls Ha-kyung out to give her a chance to apologize, which you can imagine goes over as well as getting a porcupine to cuddle a balloon. Ha-kyung lashes out at her friend all over again, wondering if she’s supposed to beg for a spot in the debate competition, when Kang-joo was the one who said she’d lack the skills anyway.

Heung-soo walks up to catch the tail end of Ha-kyung’s rant, but doesn’t say a word.

Teacher Jo sits In-jae down to encourage her, knowing she feels let down by her students in the teaching evaluation. She sighs that she understands what they’re saying, but is hurt because they don’t seem to see her true intentions.

Teacher Jo asks ever so wisely: “Do you see the kids’ true intentions?” Suddenly she realizes she’s only thought about it from her own perspective. He tells her that kids hardly know their own hearts, and they sure as hell don’t know how to express how they truly feel.

“If you turn around every time you hit a wall, you can’t be a teacher.” He advises her to shake the truth out from them, and that repeating that over and over is the work of a teacher.

In-jae asks Se-chan what they’re going to do about Nam-soon and Heung-soo, and Se-chan says they’ll just avoid Uhmforce. Uh, that’s the entirety of your plan? Avoid the enforcer till they graduate? He figures they’ll buy as much time as they can before alerting the boys to the situation, but doesn’t seem to know what comes next.

A little later in the morning, Jung-ho’s friend Yi-kyung storms into class and grabs Ji-hoon by the collar, demanding to know what he did to Jung-ho. The disruption causes backlash with Kyung-min, the girl who’s nasty to Ha-kyung and In-jae and well, everybody.

Yi-kyung gets up in her face about standing up to him, and she says outright that she may have been afraid of Jung-ho, but she’s not afraid of his lackeys. Yeesh, I’m scared he’s going to do something crazy.

She remains defiant, so Yi-kyung reaches behind him and picks up a desk. Whoa. What the hell?

Both Heung-soo and Nam-soon look up… but thankfully the teachers walk in just in time. In-jae orders him to put the desk down and takes Kyung-min out for a chat.

She asks her to be honest about what she wants, and Kyung-min is as bristly as ever, saying that what she wants is for In-jae to do nothing and to stop wasting her time in class. She doesn’t want In-jae to bring Jung-ho back either, or to take anyone’s side.

It’s hard for In-jae to take, but she swallows it and sympathizes with Kyung-min for how much pressure she’s under. And it’s only then that she opens up a little, about how she doesn’t have a mom like Min-ki (listen, that’s a blessing you don’t even know about) or resources like Ha-kyung. She has to do this all on her own.

In-jae thanks her for being honest and says she’ll try to figure out some ways to take less of her studying time away, but what’s most important is that she gives her an open invitation to come and talk.

Kang-joo and Min-ki both agree to the debate competition, but neither is excited about it (Min-ki is naturally bullied into it by Mom). But then the principal tells the teachers that they should send students who will go to Seoul U, who will put the award to better, or more prestigious use.

Both In-jae and Se-chan dislike the idea, not least of which because Kang-joo and Min-ki have already been told they’re competing. Principal Im tells Se-chan they recruited him here because he’s a lecturer, but he snarks right back that his contracted position is technically “teacher.” That gets a smile from In-jae.

Ha-kyung wakes Nam-soon up to yell at him and ask if he isn’t sorry (for sticking her with all the president duties). He answers right away, “I am,” which hilariously deflates the whole conversation.

She huffs, “That’s it? Do you even know how long it’s been since you’ve sat in class like normal?!” Nam-soon: “A long time. And I’m sorry. So I’ll collect the assignment.” Hee, it’s awesomely one-sided (her concern obviously outweighs his), and even Heung-soo breaks into a smile.

Before the teachers even have a chance to tell Kang-joo about the debate competition, she sees a notice posted for an internal competition where the winners will then be chosen to go compete. I don’t see why they didn’t do this in the first place.

Kang-joo pretends to be fine, but cries alone in the bathroom. Aw.

In-jae and Se-chan are so busy that they forget to avoid Uhmforce, and he walks right into the office. They hilariously try to sneak out anyway, even though he’s standing RIGHT THERE.

He stops them mid-tip-toe like a pair of wayward teenagers. It’s just plain awesome. But guys, couldn’t you have done a better job avoiding?

Nam-soon finds Kang-joo on her way out of the bathroom with teary eyes, and adorably tousles her hair like a little kid. He gets a jab to the ribs for his trouble. They’re so cute.

Uhmforce tells the teachers that he understands why they’re stalling, but it’s not something they can change. Either Nam-soon or Heung-soo has to transfer. Oh no, why are you looking towards the door?

Ack, Nam-soon is standing in the doorway, having brought the assignments to turn in. He looks over at In-jae and Se-chan with a stricken face.

Kang-joo tells Ha-kyung she must be happy about the debate competition, calling it rigged, and the other students all agree that it’s disappointing that In-jae would agree to such an obvious switcheroo.

But what they don’t realize is that it’s terrifying news for Min-ki, who is expected to win a spot through the competition but can’t… not if he cheated all this time.

Back to the office, where Nam-soon gets brought up to speed. He offers to transfer, and asks that they not tell Heung-soo about it. But Kang-joo overhears the whole conversation from the hall.

He sits alone up on the roof, letting out a long sigh as he takes in the view. And then he heads down to the cafeteria, where he plops his tray down across from Heung-soo’s.

Heung-soo immediately gets up, asking what he’s doing. Nam-soon just says quietly that it’s just this once, and asks him to sit. Heung-soo complies in his surly way, and Nam-soon just shovels food into his mouth, barely holding back the river of tears.

Arg, Go Nam-soon, why does everything you do break my heaaaaaaart?

Heung-soo can sense something’s wrong, but doesn’t ask, and I swear, it feels like if Nam-soon shovels in one more mouthful, his tears will explode out. But he holds it together through lunch.

Uhmforce tells him that it’ll take about a week for him to be transferred. He just asks to be sent anywhere—he doesn’t care where.

Se-chan calls the boys out of class to go over their test results. He gapes that Nam-soon actually did worse when he was trying than when he’d randomly just fill out his answer sheet. LOL. How is that even possible?

Heung-soo does better—still terribly, but well enough that he could pass tests if he tried a little harder. That makes Nam-soon smile. He asks if Heung-soo could go to college, and Se-chan bursts that bubble right away. Their goal is graduation, not much else.

He throws down an entire ream of paper and tells them their punishment is to fill a sheet front and back for every single question they got wrong. For Nam-soon that’s 142 pages (good lord) and 112 for Heung-soo.

They’re to flip to any page in their textbook and copy it word for word, and adds that if any of the writing is bigger than In-jae’s pinky finger, it doesn’t count. Their twin looks of exasperation have become my favorite thing. Nam-soon asks if they can’t just move desks instead.

Se-chan lets them suffer for about half a page, and then asks if they want an alternative way to fill their punishment. They look up with crazy eyes of gimmeyespleaseohmygod.

He takes them to the gym and twirls a basketball in front of them to embarrassing results. His offer is to count each point as a page, and the boys look at each other like they just won the lotto.

But it’s Se-chan who’s the genius of course, since it gets them playing basketball with each other, and smiling and laughing.

They collapse on the gym floor after a while, and Se-chan tsk-tsks that if they studied half as hard as this, they wouldn’t be in this position. “Park Heung-soo, what’ll you do when Go Nam-soon transfers?” Oh you sneaky.

Se-chan says Heung-soo will have to fill all of Nam-soon’s remaining sheets as well once he’s gone, and then leaves them alone to talk it out.

He finally gets Yi-kyung into the office to set him straight about how pathetic he’s being. Yi-kyung argues that people are being unfair to Jung-ho because they don’t know what his life is like. He says through tears that Jung-ho is a good guy.

Se-chan doesn’t argue, but does make it clear that the reasons don’t much matter because they don’t justify violence. Yi-kyung says he understands, but it leaves Se-chan feeling unsettled about Jung-ho.

Heung-soo finally opens his mouth, but it’s to lash out angrily, “At least you’ll be comfortable if you go. You happy?”

But Nam-soon doesn’t take the bait and answers truthfully that no, he’s not happy, and he’s angry about it too. He stalks off.

Kang-joo catches him on the way out, and asks if he isn’t hungry. He says he doesn’t have money to eat out, so she says she’ll pay, and drags him out backwards by the backpack. Aw.

He gapes at the amount of food, and she says it’s in honor of his transfer. She says Heung-soo should be the one to go, knowing it’s a hollow suggestion, and Nam-soon chides her for even thinking it.

They laugh and eat good-naturedly, when Ha-kyung walks in, perhaps wanting to make amends with Kang-joo. But she takes one look at them together and turns around. Nam-soon makes eye contact with her, but doesn’t say anything.

In-jae and Se-chan make one last-ditch effort to go find Jung-ho at home, but he’s not there. In-jae plants herself on the front stoop, clearly set on sticking it out this time.

Yi-kyung and Ji-hoon have better luck, and find Jung-ho back at the pool hall, and about to get on the motorcycle that caused so much trouble. They ask what he did to get back in their good graces, and for the bike. He says it’s not what he’s done, but what he’s promised to do. Oh no.

They plead with him to stop, otherwise he’ll end up nothing but a gangster. He argues that there’s not much else he’ll be, and pushes them away. Yi-kyung refuses to give in, and grabs Jung-ho by the arm. Ji-hoon grabs the other arm.

Jung-ho growls that he doesn’t much feel like beating them up tonight, and Yi-kyung just pushes right back, “No, tonight we’re going to have to hit you.” I know it’s not exactly warm and fuzzy, but the fact that they’re willing to beat their friend up to keep him from throwing his life away is actually rather sweet.

But Jung-ho does what he does best, and stomps all over their loyal gesture, lashing out at them. He tells them not to think they’re any different, and that they’ll never amount to anything either.

You can tell Jung-ho immediately regrets pushing them too far, but it’s too late, and Yi-kyung and Ji-hoon give up on him and walk away. Aw Jung-ho. Why ya always gotta hurt the ones you love, huh?

Se-chan asks In-jae what she hopes Jung-ho will do, and she answers honestly that she’s split 50-50, in wanting him to come back, but also wanting him to stay away. She notes that Se-chan seems to know a lot about kids like Jung-ho, despite having been a teacher for only a short while.

He says that he did try once, to chase after the kids like Jung-ho, who stayed out of trouble for about a minute, and then he’d chase them down again and again. She asks what happens when you do that.

Se-chan: “You fall, of course.” In-jae: “And what happens after that?”

Se-chan: “I just didn’t get up. That’s why I gave up being a teacher.” She asks what it feels like to give up, but he doesn’t have a chance to answer before Jung-ho’s father erupts in a violent rage.

They’re scared that Jung-ho is inside with him, and Se-chan grabs the nearest brick, ready to break the door down. But Jung-ho walks up, wondering what they’re doing. He grabs the key to go inside, but In-jae blocks the door and pleads with him not to go inside just yet.

Jung-ho sighs that if he just lets Dad hit him a few times, it’ll pass. Oof. And now it’s In-jae’s turn to grab Jung-ho’s wrist, but for her it’s an attempt to hold onto him. She says right now his choices are to go in there and be beaten, or to stand out here in the cold. But if he comes back to school, he might have another choice in life.

He won’t listen to reason, so Se-chan lays his circumstances out baldly—did his siblings run away? Did his mother run too? Jung-ho grabs his collar and raises his fist.

Se-chan stares him right in the eye and tells him to go ahead and hit him. He promises not to do anything about it, and eggs him on.

But Jung-ho, despite all his anger, can’t do it. Se-chan: “You can’t, can you? That’s the evidence that you want to go to school. If I were just a passing neighborhood ajusshi, you’d have hit me. But I’m your teacher, so you can’t hit me.”

He says tomorrow is the last chance he has, or he’ll be expelled. Jung-ho storms off.

At home, In-jae goes down a list of things she wants to accomplish. I hope this isn’t a teacher-quitting bucket list. Among the things still left unfinished are Jung-ho and Nam-soon.

The next morning, Min-ki finally tells his mom that he didn’t apply for the debate competition… and that he told In-jae all about the cheating.

Mom gets this scary look in her eye and sends Min-ki off to school without her, and his brother reaches out a hand from his room to grab a bowl of rice sitting in the hall.

The class gets their test results, and the whole class groans about their English test that Jung-ho screwed up. Uhmforce interrupts their morning to call Nam-soon out of class. Oh no, already?

Heung-soo stands outside the teachers’ office, not knowing what to do. Se-chan finds him there and notes that he must really not want to do the rest of his punishment alone. He adds casually, “But Heung-soo, have you ever seen an assailant and a victim playing basketball together?”

Inside, Uhmforce gives Nam-soon the transfer papers. He gets ready to sign, and write down the reason why. Heung-soo walks in…

Uhmforce tells him to come back later, but he says there’s no reason why Nam-soon has to transfer. “I’m not a victim. And Go Nam-soon isn’t an assailant. We’re just… friends.”

Eeee, he said they’re fwiends! Heung-soo continues: “[friends] who were just unlucky… and now, we’re in the middle of working it out.” A tear rolls down Nam-soon’s cheek. How can you only cry the one tear? I’m a blubbering mess.

Uhmforce turns to Nam-soon to ask if that’s true, and he just wipes his tears. Uhmforce gets the story straight for the record that there are no attackers or victims here, and then smiles broadly. Aw.

Nam-soon comes out of the office and thanks Heung-soo. He counters that he didn’t do it for free, and says it comes with a price. Oh no. If you say the price is to stay away from you, I’ll cry. Again.

Nam-soon tenses up, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Heung-soo: “You do ALL of them. The front-to-back sheets.” Hahaha. Oh phew. Nam-soon breaks into a smile behind Heung-soo’s back.

And then they walk down the hall, each of them smiling a tiny smile that the other can’t see.

Min-ki’s mom comes to school to railroad In-jae, insisting that Min-ki was mistaken and that he will be competing after all. Dude, this mom scares the crap out of me.

In-jae says it concerns her more that Min-ki doesn’t want to compete, let alone the cheating, and says that she’ll discuss it with Min-ki. His mom barges into the principal’s office to say that Ha-kyung’s mom is on her way in, and that with the midterm scores the way they are, something must be done. Oy. I don’t like the sound of that.

The class is still reeling over their test grades, and the kids argue among themselves that In-jae can’t let Jung-ho back in class now, and that her bringing him back to school is basically the same as throwing the rest of them away. Way to be dramatic.

Yi-kyung is the only one upset about it, but it’s all moot anyway if Jung-ho doesn’t come back. And then two seconds later… Jung-ho walks in.

At the same time, the teachers are gathered for an announcement: Grade 2 Class 2 will no longer have two homeroom teachers. Se-chan will take the class solo, and In-jae will teach her subjects, but no longer be in charge of a class.

Se-chan is ordered to announce it to the kids right away, and he bristles, “What if there’s an objection?” He gets the VP to reconsider if the kids object. Maybe on any other day, but today, I’m not so sure…

Min-ki gathers up the courage to confront Mom on her way out, about wanting to go to a different school. He wants to study broadcasting and journalism, and become a PD, but talking to her is completely useless. She just nods and says he can do that after becoming a judge. Dude. LISTEN.

I’m terrified that Min-ki’s going to do something drastic.

Se-chan and In-jae walk into class, and In-jae smiles to see Jung-ho sitting in his seat. The other students aren’t as happy, of course, and Kyung-min calls them out for it, “Why is Oh Jung-ho back?”

He speaks up himself and says Teach came to his house and told him to come back. Naturally, the kids jump to the conclusion that it was In-jae alone, which the two teachers and Jung-ho don’t realize.

Se-chan then announces that In-jae won’t be their homeroom teacher anymore, but quickly adds that their opinions matter most and the outcome can change. He asks for anyone who objects to speak up.

But no one does. It catches Se-chan by surprise more than anyone, and In-jae swallows back tears as she says she hears them loud and clear.

She turns to go, when Nam-soon raises his hand, “I object.” Young-woo raises his hand, and then Heung-soo, and Ji-hoon. Aw. She thanks them, but they’re just a few, and not enough to change the verdict.

Se-chan runs out after her, and finds her clearing out her desk. He says the kids are just being like this because of Jung-ho, and asks her to give them more time. But In-jae says resignedly, “A teacher rejected by her students doesn’t have the right to be a teacher.”

She walks out, and Se-chan chases her down, yanking her back to face him. He argues that it’s not the kids, but a messed up system she’s fighting against. In-jae: “Whether it’s the kids or the system, I can’t do it anymore. No, I don’t want to.”

He grabs a hold of her wrist and refuses to let go, and she finally bursts out, “Why are you holding on like this?! You’re a hundred times, a thousand times more competent than I am!”

Se-chan: “Because… you’re the teacher I wished I could be. You… are the teacher I tried so hard to be but couldn’t become… you are that teacher.”

 
COMMENTS

This show—one friendship on the mend and one hoodlum off the streets, just in time to throw my heart right back in the wringer. It hurts, but it hurts so good. I suppose it’s a good thing for the drama that we don’t get one moment’s peace, but right now I’d give anything for half an episode where no one is on the verge of being expelled/fired/transferred. Just to give the heart a rest.

I think they did a really good job of building towards this moment with In-jae, because it doesn’t feel like she’s giving up for no reason or that she’s just reacting in anger or hurt. She’s been struggling against this problem for as long as we’ve known her, and we’ve watched her optimism get chipped away bit by bit. It’s heartbreaking to see her give up, but it feels honest—she has nothing else to fight for if the kids don’t want her there. It’s the last blow for someone who held on with nothing but her sincerity and her love for the kids. Being told her teaching methods are bad is something she can swallow, but being rejected as their mother hen—that leaves her with nothing.

But the great parallel development to In-jae’s trajectory downward (ie. when the idealist has to face reality), is Se-chan’s trajectory upward. She’s brought out the best in him, and we’ve watched him go from the guy who couldn’t be paid to care about anyone but himself, to someone who goes out of his way to herd in the lost strays and mend broken bromances. I love his bad cop routine with Nam-soon and Heung-soo. It’s the perfect thing to get them to side with each other, by giving them a common foe. Also I think he enjoys driving them crazy.

His two confessions in this episode were the most honest that we’ve ever gotten from him—that he did try once, and never got back up, and that In-jae is about to repeat his mistakes, even though she’s already the kind of teacher he could only dream of being. For one, I love that someone finally acknowledges that she’s an amazing teacher. Her doggedness and her capacity for empathy might seem extreme, but for kids like Jung-ho and Nam-soon, it’s the difference between a lost life or a hopeful future. I just hope that Se-chan can convince her that she makes a difference, or better yet, that the kids can do so themselves. I’m worried, but they’ll come through, right?

I’ll just spend the wait until next week’s episodes riding on the high from Heung-soo’s friend declaration, which for me is up there with any big declaration of love in dramas. I know they won’t be skipping down the street hand-in-hand anytime soon (or okay, ever) but it’s the first massive step out of the go-our-separate-ways plan. I hate that plan. It’s stupid. And now that Nam-soon has his first shot at really mending that relationship beyond just righting wrongs, I can actually imagine them being happy someday, just like regular kids who smile and laugh and fight over girls and basketball and other non-life-and-death things. Someday.

 
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