This one’s a tearjerker, but there’s also a lot of light to balance the doom and gloom. That’s one thing this show usually manages to do well—if one storyline is going down, another’s going up, and for every broken relationship, there’s usually another back on the mend. It’s an episode about facing reality, and for some, it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever had to do.
EPISODE 13 RECAP
Down in the library, the essay competition comes to a screeching halt as Se-chan is told that his question has been leaked. Upstairs, the boys trip the alarm on their way out of the teachers’ office.
Way to look really guilty while trying to prevent a crime, boys. They panic, but so does Jung-ho, who runs back toward the office at the sound of the alarm.
Heung-soo screams his name and Jung-ho freezes. This could really go badly for him, but thankfully grabs the bag of cell phones and shoves it back in the cabinet.
He looks like he might tear Jung-ho a new one, but then he turns and tells him to run. Aw, they totally saved his undeserving ass just now. Tomorrow you get all the lunchmeat.
The three of them take off running, and Nam-soon is quick enough to get out, but the other two get cut off by the security guard. They turn around and run the other way… straight into Se-chan who’s holding the bag of cell phones. Busted.
Jung-ho does the guiltiest thing ever and takes one look at the bag and runs the other way. Heung-soo looks up at Teach warily.
While all this is going on, In-jae proctors the exam, and starts worrying about Min-ki. Yes, please, go with your gut on this. She does, and starts searching the school.
And then up on the roof, Min-ki uses a chair to step up onto the ledge. He takes a deep breath and inches forward, clutching his backpack till his knuckles turn white. Ohgodohgodohgod. I can’t watch.
His toes inch forward to the very edge, and he looks down…
Nam-soon runs out, grumbling at the idiots who ran further into the school. And then a thud. Nooooo.
Nam-soon turns around… and finds Min-ki’s backpack on the ground. Oh phew. He sees the name on the notebook and doesn’t think much of it, except that it’s odd.
But then In-jae comes running out behind him and asks if he’s seen Min-ki. He shows her the backpack, and then she instinctively looks up with panic in her eyes.
They both freeze as they look up, and then they run up the stairs. In-jae reaches the doorway and takes a breath… and there’s Min-ki, sitting down next to the chair, hunched over. Oh thank you.
She approaches cautiously, saying just once, “Min-ki-ya…” When she gets close, he finally looks up, tears swirling.
She just wraps him in a hug. They both start breathing again as they cry, and Min-ki just says what he always does: “I’m sorry. Teacher, I’m sorry.” She pats his back saying, “No, it’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay. It’s okay.”
Nam-soon stands back the whole time, and seeing that it’s okay, he just quietly leaves Min-ki’s backpack in the doorway and leaves.
In-jae takes Min-ki down to the office to warm his hands on a cup of tea, and asks carefully why he threw his backpack down. Min-ki: “It was too heavy.” She asks how it felt to throw it down, and he says it was scary. “I thought it would land right away, but it took a long time to hit the ground. Longer than I thought.”
And then he finally looks up at her and says as if he’s just now realizing this: “I… must’ve really gone up there to die, the roof…”
He says again that he’s sorry. In-jae does a really good job of holding it together, forcing her tears to stay in. She says, “Everybody at one time or another wants to die. It’s not wrong to have those thoughts. But when you want to die, enduring that and surviving—that’s really commendable.”
Min-ki starts to cry as she tells him sincerely that he’s crossed a really tall mountain today, “and I’m just really really grateful for you, because you’re strong.” *TEARS*
Min-ki says he’s thought of it just now: “You said that there are no flowers that bloom without being shaken.” Aww.
He asks if he’s just being shaken right now, and she nods. And then he asks if she’s just being shaken too. That’s your way of asking her not to go, isn’t it? She nods again, barely holding back the tears. He says it’s a relief that she’s here.
Nam-soon finds Heung-soo cleaning the windows as his punishment, and they jokingly call the other a traitor and a slowpoke. But it’s bad timing to be standing there, since Se-chan arrives, sizes up the situation, and decides that Nam-soon was in on it along with Jung-ho. He instructs Nam-soon to grab a rag and start polishing, and Heung-soo just smiles. You two.
In-jae stops by the office where she and Se-chan catch up in a cute I’ll-tell-about-my-crap-day-later moment, and say goodnight for now.
And then Se-chan calls out to her, saying the same thing that Min-ki said: “On a night like tonight, it’s a relief that you’re here.” You don’t even know the half of it, mister. He sits in the office a while longer, wondering how his essay prompt got leaked.
Nam-soon asks how Heung-soo knew that Jung-ho was going to do something stupid. Heung-soo brags at his quick sleuthing, and then admits he knows Jung-ho borrowed some money from those gangsters.
Se-chan comes by, so they jump up to go through the motions of cleaning. I’m pretty sure Heung-soo’s been polishing that one window for hours, and it looks worse than before.
Se-chan’s pretty damn quick on the uptake himself, because he asks why Jung-ho took the phones and put them back. Nam-soon says he brought them back of his own accord, so Se-chan wonders why these two knuckleheads got mixed up in it.
Nam-soon quotes Heung-soo’s sleuthy skills as the culprit. (I love that he calls him “our Heung-soo.”) Se-chan tells them their homework is to bring Jung-ho to school tomorrow, and threatens that they’ll take the fall if they don’t get him here.
In-jae takes Min-ki home and wants to tell his mother everything, but he doesn’t let her come inside, promising to tell Mom himself. Yeah, I don’t think that’s gonna go the way you think. In-jae finally relents and asks to speak to Mom on the phone later.
Nam-soon and Heung-soo walk home, and reach the split in their paths. Nam-soon offers to pick up Jung-ho on his own tomorrow, which Heung-soo doesn’t even pretend to decline.
Nam-soon calls out to Heung-soo again, but stops short with a “Never mind.” As he watches Heung-soo leave, Nam-soon grumbles to himself, “Doesn’t the bastard ever get hungry? I want ramyun.”
Min-ki goes home and tells Mom he didn’t do the essay competition, but doesn’t say anything more than that. In-jae arrives home and realizes that there’s no way Min-ki could tell his mom about his suicide attempt on his own, so she picks up the phone.
Mom trembles as she hears the terrifying news, and promises to go see In-jae tomorrow. Min-ki gets up and walks down the hall, still haunted by the feeling of standing up on that ledge and letting go of his backpack.
He stops at his brother’s door and calls out to him in a tiny voice. Mom hears him through her door. He confesses to his brother that he went up to the roof tonight, and the though occurred to him that hyung might’ve done the same at some point.
He admits that he blames his hyung for how stifling his life is, and how trapped he feels. “But even still, I miss you.” Mom muffles her cries from her room. Min-ki: “Hyung, come out now. Mom and I… are so lonely.”
In the morning, Nam-soon screeeeeeams Jung-ho’s name from his gate, ready to break down the door if he has to. Jung-ho finally comes out, but refuses to go to school.
Nam-soon just yanks him back by his backpack and points out he’s wearing his uniform, and asks why he ever came back with the phones, if he was really never going to come back to school.
His point made, he pats Jung-ho on the butt like his dog and tells him to come to school. I do enjoy this new dynamic where Jung-ho can’t do much other than act like he’s putting up a fight and stew in the injustice of bowing to the kid he used to beat up for lunch money.
Min-ki’s mom wrings her hands nervously, not knowing how to face him in the morning. She lets him go to school on his own, and just grabs him in a hug without saying a word.
Se-chan informs the principal about the test leak, saying it’s her problem to deal with since he’s not the source. She warns that he could take the blame in all this, and he says snidely that the worst they could do is fire him, since they seem to like doing that around here.
Uhmforce asks him about the alarm last night, and Se-chan lies that he tripped it by accident. In-jae is told her replacement has been found, and she’ll be out in a week. Se-chan seems to be more upset by the news than anyone.
Min-ki arrives in class to find that he’s the topic of everyone’s conversation for cheating. Kang-joo tries to defend him, but Min-ki just walks out of class.
Nam-soon follows him out (after noting Jung-ho’s entrance with a smile) and Min-ki thanks him for last night. Nam-soon asks what for, pretending that they don’t know and yesterday was just like any other day.
In-jae takes Min-ki aside to tell him that cheating was wrong, no matter who put the answers in his hand. She adds that she called his mom last night and told her everything, and he looks up, surprised and probably really grateful.
She tells him that his mom loves him very much. “Everything passes. It seems big now, but it’ll pass too. Enduring that time—that’s strength.”
Se-chan tells the class that they’ll have a do-over competition and the school will investigate the first one. He pulls Jung-ho out of class, and they’re nearly in the clear… until Uhmforce stops them in the hall.
He asks about the broken cabinet door, threatening to watch the security tapes when Se-chan pretends not to know about it. Se-chan finally says that someone took the phones for just a minute and put them right back, and Uhmforce looks right at Jung-ho and takes him away.
He’s surprisingly lenient, mostly because Jung-ho brought them back. He adds more time to his already long term on cleaning duty, and then asks why he did return. Was it because he didn’t want to be expelled?
Jung-ho: “No, it’s not because of that. It was because of Teacher Jung. I didn’t want her to really get fired ’cause of me.” WHAT. Well that’s a twist I didn’t see coming.
In-jae meets with Min-ki’s mom, who looks a wreck, but stiffens at the suggestion that she try family therapy. She does thank In-jae sincerely, for holding onto Min-ki last night.
He walks her out to the car, and Mom asks if he’d rather transfer to avoid the cheating rumors, but he says he’d rather stay with his friends and endure. She agrees to his choice without a fight, and then adds that he can major in whatever he likes in college.
He lights up in this way we’ve never seen before: “Really?” She says he still has to go to Seoul U though, and he immediately whines. She asks him for some time for her to give up on her dreams too, and they share their first real moment of understanding and compromise. Thank goodness.
Se-chan is told that the essay leak must’ve come from a tutoring academy, and he asks which one because he wants to work his contacts. Hm, the VP looks suspiciously nervous at that suggestion.
Sure enough, he finds Se-chan alone and confesses that he may have sort of talked about the prompt to his buddy who runs an academy, and swears up and down he never knew that Min-ki went there. Uh-huh. He begs Se-chan to let it go, which of course he doesn’t do.
In-jae asks Se-chan to meet her after school tonight, and he seems excited about it until she says it’s to catch him up on the last few days and also pass along everything he needs to run the class without her.
He fakes having an appointment he forgot about (hee, such an avoidy child when he wants to be), and she says, “I think this is reality—that many teachers can’t be the kind of teacher they initially wanted to be.” She says she just can’t see the next part—what she’s supposed to do after realizing that.
She heads to class and after hearing the rumors about the essay and Min-ki, decides to address them directly. She tells them that another un-named teacher, not Se-chan, made a mistake and talked about the essay prompt. She also reminds them that while Min-ki did do something wrong by bringing the answer with him that night, he also gave up the competition because he didn’t want to win by cheating. She asks that they remember that, and that they should ask themselves if they could’ve done the same.
Later with the remedial class, she asks the boys if there’s anything in particular they want to learn. Young-woo raises his hand and says he wants to learn how to write poems, and Jung-ho gripes passive-aggressively: “What’s the point? You’re just leaving anyway.” She says starting is always most important, and tells them to think about things they’ve experienced, and write down just one sentence about anything they’re feeling right now. Ji-hoon: “Studying is really hard.” Young-woo: “I like poems.”
Nam-soon: “I want to eat ramyun.” In-jae has to force Heung-soo’s hand away from his page so she can read what he wrote: “I want to eat ramyun.” HA. It’s his embarrassment that cracks me up, coupled with Nam-soon’s goofy smile.
She asks Jung-ho what he wrote, and he says he doesn’t feel like it, so she tells him he’s stuck here until he writes something down, and dismisses everyone else. It’s cute that when he tries to get up, his buddies force him back down in his seat.
She tells him to just write one line, and he takes out his phone instead. Aw man, we’re back to this? But then he gets up and says he sent it to her, and she gets a text as he walks out. We don’t see what it is but it makes her smile.
Nam-soon and Heung-soo go out to eat ramyun together, but they’re acting pretty damn surly about it. Ah, it’s because In-jae forced them to do it because of their jinxy one-liners, and they both complain that the other wrote the same thing.
She ordered them to send her a photo as proof (Best homework ever.) so Nam-soon snuggles up to Heung-soo… who holds up his ramyun and smiles so adorably it blows my mind.
Once the photo is sent, Heung-soo shoves Nam-soon away like he has cooties. They don’t even get to take a bite before Heung-soo gets a call, and all he shouts is, “So why’d you call me?”
He tells Nam-soon that Jung-ho got hauled off by the gangsters and owes them upwards of 300,000 won. Heung-soo gets up to go save him (aw) and Nam-soon lets him go alone. What?
Yi-kyung must’ve been the one to call, and he’s surprised that both Heung-soo and Ji-hoon show up. They don’t know what to do, but Heung-soo says they have to get Jung-ho out of there first, and deal with the debt problem after the fact.
Nam-soon goes to school and opens up his locker. He takes out a piggybank, which seems odd for him. Oh, written on the side is: “Tardy fees. Don’t touch!” Ruh-roh.
Jung-ho is getting the crap beat out of him when the three boys charge in. He looks grateful, especially when Heung-soo stands up to the leader and prepares to take a beating for the “interest” on the loan.
But then Nam-soon arrives screaming, “OH JUNG-HO!” He slams the piggy down and coins spill out everywhere.
The gangster laughs, thinking it an insult, but Nam-soon corrects him—there’s over 300,000 won in that pig, so they can take it and stay the hell away. Ha. Seriously? That’s one fat tardy pig.
I do enjoy how much Jung-ho hates it every time Nam-soon does something nice. It’s extra savory.
The boys file out one by one, and Nam-soon gives the three boys three days to refill the class pig before anyone notices. Jung-ho snarls that he’ll do it himself and trudges off. Punk. Yi-kyung and Ji-hoon are far more grateful, and smile and say thanks before running after Jung-ho.
Heung-soo sneers at Nam-soon for overdoing it, and Nam-soon just smirks, “I learned it from you.” So. Much. Cuteness.
In-jae gives Se-chan her notes on the class, and says with a smile that Jung-ho wrote a poem today. She shows him her phone, and it says: “If you write one line of poetry, what does it change?”
How ironic. It’s rather poetic. She beams and Se-chan says wryly that it’s a work of art.
The next morning is In-jae’s last day, and she pauses just inside the school gates. Nam-soon walks up next to her and asks if other teachers can teach you how to write poems, and she says yes.
Nam-soon: “Can another teacher get Oh Jung-ho to write a poem?” Nice one. He adds with a bit of sauce that an adult being swayed by capricious teenagers is rather silly, and walks inside.
He stands outside the door not knowing how to proceed, and it’s Heung-soo who reminds him that he’s the class president, so isn’t he going to DO something?
Nam-soon walks in and tries to address the class, but nobody can hear him above the din. Heung-soo shouts at everyone to shut up, which does the trick, and he asks everyone if they feel differently about Teacher Jung leaving.
Ha-kyung has to whisper to him to put it to a vote, and he’s like, Oh yeah, vote! I like that he’s believably bad at this stuff. They vote, and this time almost all hands go up. Even mean girl Kyung-min’s?
In-jae finishes up her last day without knowing any of this, and starts packing up to go home early. She can’t help herself and goes to look in on Class 2.
She starts to cry as she looks at each of them, and then she locks eyes with Se-chan who sees her through the window.
At the end of class, Nam-soon gives Se-chan the petition for In-jae to stay, and so he takes it to the principal. She argues that it’s too late for that, and he’s armed with the VP to back him up. Oh ha, are you using his guilt to bolster support?
Se-chan tries to stall In-jae from leaving since the principal is still considering the matter, but she’s packing up and getting ready to walk out. One of the kids sees this and runs back to class to say that she’s still going anyway.
The class is bummed, but they assume she knows about their petition and is quitting anyway. They decide to at least send her off with a party, and turn to Nam-soon to collect some party fees.
The kids realize most of them don’t have cash on hand, so then Ha-kyung gets the bright idea to use the tardy pig. Oh noes. The boys dart glances back and forth. Crap crap crap.
Se-chan does everything he can think of to stave In-jae’s departure, and decides she can’t leave without saying goodbye to the kids. Yes, great idea! He yanks her stuff out of her hands and gets ready to drag her into Class 2, but then the principal walks in.
She says they took the kids’ petition under consideration but it’s too late to change anything. Se-chan tells her that the kids submitted it to try and stop her from leaving. At least she finally knows about that.
The principal says that they’ve already got a new teacher lined up to start, so what would a school do with three lit teachers anyway? And at that, Se-chan pipes up, “That’s not a problem. I’ll quit. Right now.”
What? Oh don’t you start too!
People! Didn’t we already establish that you’re better together? You were the one on the crusade to make her stay! Gah. That outburst had better be followed up with a different solution, because I was fine with this plot trajectory for In-jae, but if it gets recycled for Se-chan, I’ll be really annoyed.
I’m a little disappointed in In-jae for not deciding to stick it out, though admittedly I don’t understand how someone can be both fired and quitting while still teaching (this school’s administration confuses the hell out of me). I guess she was fired but not fighting it…which I sort of forgot, given the resignation and all. I do understand her reasons for giving up, and I really like the fact that her character is going through that disillusionment phase. She’s right that no one stays the teacher they set out to be, but at this point it matters more that she figures out what kind of teacher she can be now. I trust the story will take us there eventually, no thanks to the world’s worst principal. I just would rather In-jae really quit and face not teaching, and own up to her choices to learn the lesson the hard way, than to have Se-chan try and be her white knight. It might save her job (logic be damned), but it won’t solve her existential crisis. She has to figure that out on her own.
And thank goodness Min-ki didn’t jump. I thought that it was best portrayed this way—that In-jae doesn’t save him or have some miracle cure, but that she’s there to catch him at his lowest moment, to hug him and say it’ll be okay, and to listen. What impressed me about that storyline wasn’t that they were willing to tackle suicide, but that his character was so well motivated that we felt it coming, worried for him, and understood exactly what drove him to the edge. His story feels universal that way and that’s the point, really.
He’s another character that the show has done a good job with, in peeling back his layers slowly and building his mountain of weight. He was always in the background, quietly depressed, always saying sorry, slowly suffocating under the pressure. I thought the fallout with Mom was handled in a nicely understated way too. She didn’t change overnight and become a different person, and their problems didn’t magically go away. She just saw how big the problem was, maybe for the first time ever. It certainly shouldn’t be the case that it takes something so drastic to snap her out of her denial, but I felt such relief when he smiled. It shocked me, actually, and I realized that we’ve never really seen Min-ki smile, ever.
I do admittedly miss the tension between Nam-soon and Heung-soo, and it’s a bit of a shame that the story blew its wad with the most dramatically tense stuff earlier on in the series. But I can forgive a lot when it’s followed up with some adorable bromance-mending moments. I hope Heung-soo never stops being surly about it either, because even if we know deep down he wants his bestie back, I rather enjoy how hard Nam-soon has to work for it. Dance, bro-monkey, dance!
Their new dynamic with Jung-ho helps to bring a different kind of tension into the mix, though it’s clear we’re well on the path to Jung-ho becoming a better kid, eventually. It certainly doesn’t forgive his past, but it’s kind of adorable to watch him being schooled by Nam-soon of all people, which you KNOW drives him absolutely crazy. I love it. It was the biggest surprise of all that Jung-ho cares about In-jae, and when he started acting out because he was angry she’d be leaving, it really showed his squishy underbelly. Now if we could just get you to be NICE and squishy, I’d have no other wishes. Okay, that’s a lie, but we’ve gotta start somewhere.