School 2017: Episode 4
We cover a lot of ground this hour, filling in a critical portion of our main trio’s backstory while making good headway in solving the mystery behind Suspect X. Attempting to find the school’s prankster with zero help is certainly trying work, but our winsome heroine continues to face her task with optimism and heart, making it easy for the rest of us to root for her throughout her journey.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Eun-ho catches Dae-hwi and Tae-woon in the middle of a violent fight and tries to pull them apart, but a sharp jab of Tae-woon’s elbow gets her tossed aside. She cowers in the background as the boys each grab a chair to throw—but thankfully, Teacher Gu interrupts them, ending the brawl.
Teacher Gu asks the three students to each acknowledge their crimes: For Dae-hwi and Tae-woon, it’s fighting on school grounds, while Eun-ho failed to report said fight to school administrators. Eun-ho’s flabbergasted at the charge leveled towards her, but Teacher Gu refuses to budge, even with Dae-hwi speaking up in Eun-ho’s defense.
Teacher Gu does, however, offer them an unexpected choice: They can go before the school violence commission, or receive an “unofficial” punishment.
Haha, the unofficial punishment is to run laps around the auditorium—and it’s only the beginning of what’s to come, Teacher Gu warns. Complaining that she’s being punished unfairly, Eun-ho nudges Tae-woon to say something on her behalf to Teacher Gu. Tae-woon refuses, leading Dae-hwi to make a snide comment about Tae-woon hiding behind his father, almost resulting in another fight.
Our trio starts to run, and Dae-hwi and Tae-woon childishly shove at each other every time they pass one another. After a while, Eun-ho collapses on the floor in exhaustion and observes the two boys, narrating that both Tae-woon and Dae-hwi seemed strange that day.
“They took their anger out on each other, but they also seemed to be torturing themselves, running like crazy,” she continues. “I didn’t know then that their personal circumstances would result in my suffering as well.”
Teacher Shim shares with Eun-ho the good news that she’s made it to the final screening of Hanguk University’s webtoon competition. Eun-ho’s thrilled, but her face falls when she realizes that in addition to her portfolio, she’ll need a clean student record. Telling Teacher Shim there’s a problem, she asks him for help.
The two find themselves in front of Principal Yang, who can barely keep his eyes open as Eun-ho asks him to remove the demerits from her record. But Principal Yang couldn’t care less about Eun-ho’s shot at college, telling her that the only way to change her record will be to capture Suspect X.
Outside the principal’s office, Teacher Shim optimistically tells Eun-ho that they’ll figure something out before her application is due in ten days. He asks if she has her portfolio ready, which reminds Eun-ho about her missing sketchbook, and she runs off to the teachers’ office.
To her horror, Teacher Gu tells her that the sketchbook is missing—Suspect X must have taken it when he broke into the office. Teacher Gu then reminds her to grab Dae-hwi and Tae-woon for their daily punishment in the hall.
Eun-ho grumbles to Sa-rang about the two boys getting her in trouble. But Sa-rang points out that the punishment is actually a great opportunity for Eun-ho to get to know the guys, and figure out which one is the real Suspect X.
In the assembly hall, Teacher Gu doles out the next punishment, tasking the three students with cleaning the entire school for the next ten days. He adds that they’re to report to him at the end of every day—all three of them—unless they don’t want their work to count that day.
Tae-woon asks Teacher Gu if it’s possible to just receive demerits instead (earning him a smack from Eun-ho), and Teacher Gu simply responds that Tae-woon is free to keep using his father to avoid punishment. Tae-woon looks properly chastised at that remark, while Dae-hwi smirks.
Eun-ho complains to the boys again for dragging her into their mess. When Dae-hwi apologizes to her and offers to do the cleaning himself, Eun-ho instead asks for something else—their help in finding Suspect X.
She explains that finding X is the key to her being able to attend Hanguk University, as she needs her record expunged and her notebook returned. Tae-woon and Dae-hwi each insinuate that the other must be X, but Eun-ho lays out her own theory: Suspect X must be a psychopath who kills people and hides their bodies at school. Haha, what?
Tae-woon snickers at Eun-ho’s overactive imagination, while Dae-hwi tells her more diplomatically that the suspect’s probably not a psychopath. Eun-ho looks at Dae-hwi carefully to gauge his reaction to her story, then blocks Tae-woon from escaping in order to do the same to him. When Tae-woon brushes her off, she sincerely asks him for help again, saying that she’s desperate.
In response, Tae-woon asks if she wants to date him, giving her that look of his, and then he asks if she wants to kiss him. Completely flustered, Eun-ho calls him crazy, but Tae-woon says that’s exactly how he feels about her request: speechless and at a loss for words. He snarls that he has no reason to help her, then stomps off to begin cleaning, though Eun-ho and Tae-woon just end up chasing each other with brooms.
Officer Han and Teacher Shim come across an old warehouse on the corner of campus, which raises a flag for the officer. Teacher Shim explains that it’s been empty for a while, but Officer Han asks him to find her the key to the building.
As they head toward their bikes, Tae-woon grabs Eun-ho’s arm, noticing a scratch near her elbow. He pulls out a first-aid kit from his bag and hands it to her, starting to say that a friend bought it for him because he gets injured a lot riding his motorcycle, only to stop abruptly.
Later, Sa-rang explains to Eun-ho that Tae-woon, Dae-hwi, and a third boy, Joon-ki, used to be best friends, but Tae-woon and Dae-hwi had a falling out after Joon-ki’s death. This is the first Eun-ho’s hearing of Joon-ki, so Sa-rang hesitantly tells her that he died in the same bus accident that Eun-ho was in.
She continues that the accident was rumored to be Tae-woon’s fault, but his dad intervened so that it was Joon-ki who took the blame instead. Damn.
Flashback to that day a year ago. Tae-woon sat on the ground in the aftermath of the accident, staring blankly into space as emergency workers bustled around him. He finally managed to call his dad, but he could only sob, repeating Joon-ki’s name.
Dae-hwi arrived at the scene just as Tae-woon was being led away by authorities. He called out to Tae-woon in a panic, but Tae-woon just stared back at him numbly, not saying a word.
In the present, Dae-hwi’s mom notices the photo of the three friends on Dae-hwi’s desk (though Tae-woon’s face is covered by a post-it). She comments that Joon-ki’s family must have been compensated well after the accident, given Tae-woon’s family wealth. Dae-hwi’s quick to put an end to the conversation, ordering his mother out so he can study.
Bristling at his tone, she asks Dae-hwi why he’s so prickly when he’s always coming in first. He tells her that otherwise, he’ll be stepped on, adding, “If you’re powerless, you take all the blame.”
At home, Eun-ho reads through old articles on the accident, sighing as she confirms that Tae-woon’s name is nowhere to be found in all the coverage.
The next day, Eun-ho tells Sa-rang she didn’t really think Tae-woon was a bad guy. But Sa-rang says he’s exactly that—a bad guy who uses his father’s influence to save himself and pull pranks out of boredom. Eun-ho doesn’t look convinced, as she thinks back to Tae-woon’s angry reaction in the hall, when Dae-hwi made a similar remark about his father.
Eun-ho watches Tae-woon as he cleans and tells herself that he couldn’t be Suspect X. So she sets her sights on Dae-hwi, casually mentioning to him that it would be awesome if Suspect X captured Principal Yang’s misdeeds on video and unveiled them publicly at the next demerit announcement. Dae-hwi sort of awkwardly nods along with her, like he has no idea what she’s talking about.
Later, Eun-ho tells Sa-rang that Suspect X must be Dae-hwi, since Tae-woon’s too selfish to be the culprit. But Sa-rang says Dae-hwi’s just as selfish, telling her that he’d refused to leave a test to attend Joon-ki’s funeral procession.
We see in flashback that a furious Tae-woon had punched Dae-hwi across the face afterward—the beginning of the end of their friendship. In the present, Eun-ho looks disappointed that Dae-hwi’s motivation for pulling pranks might be something other than delivering justice.
Meanwhile, our mystery group of students exchanges another round of texts, this time asking if they can trust Dae-hwi. They think they can, since he’s desperate, but another text suggests that they “close things out.”
The latest tally of merit/demerit points is posted, and ugh, Eun-ho’s hit with a whopping 55 demerits. Poor girl.
Teacher Shim sighs at the constant stream of demerit reports coming in from students. He heads back to class, where he uncharacteristically raises his voice at his students to get their attention—then asks the class to stop snitching on one another. To put some meaning behind his words, Teacher Shim pledges to run a lap around the field for every report filed, and tells the students that it’s now up to them.
Eun-ho catches Teacher Shim outside and asks if he’s serious about running laps. She says that it’ll hardly make a difference if their class doesn’t participate in the demerit system, but Teacher Shim just blames the adults for creating this situation.
He asks Eun-ho about her progress in finding Suspect X, wondering if she’d really turn him in once she found him. Looking conflicted, Eun-ho says that if she’s unable to go to college because of Suspect X, she’ll resent him forever. She asks Teacher Shim, “It’s not like I did something wrong, right?”
Back in class, Eun-ho opens her locker and is shocked to find her missing sketchbook inside.
She discusses the reappearance of her sketchbook with Sa-rang at her family restaurant, deciding that Suspect X must be either Dae-hwi or Tae-woon, since they knew she needed the notebook. Sa-rang finds both to be disappointing prospects, while Eun-ho wonders what their motive for being Suspect X might be, if not to deliver justice.
As the girls chat, Eun-ho’s brother and father bail out of nighttime deliveries to go drinking with friends, so Eun-ho volunteers to help out in their stead.
At her salon, Dae-hwi’s mom pleads with her landlady not to evict her, despite being unable to pay her rent on time. When she clings onto the landlady, Mom is pushed aside roughly and bumps into a table. Dae-hwi runs out to check on his mom, then directs his anger to the landlady, who tells him that he’s in no position to get mad.
Of course, that’s when Eun-ho walks in with their delivery order. Dae-hwi’s face goes from shock to embarrassment as he registers Eun-ho’s presence.
The two retreat outside, where Eun-ho assures Dae-hwi that what she saw wasn’t a big deal. She tells him that her family’s been through rough times too, and that he shouldn’t worry—after all, he’s a great student and a hard worker, so she says he’ll be successful.
But Dae-hwi’s not so sure, and he wonders if his hard work is enough to catch him up to the kids who started ahead of him in life. Across the street, Nam-joo steps off the bus and catches a glimpse of Dae-hwi and Eun-ho together. She turns away, looking totally annoyed.
True to his word, Teacher Shim tells his class that he’s going to run 62 laps, one for each report the class submitted. A handful of students gather outside to watch, and when it looks like Teacher Shim’s going to run every single one of those laps, more students join the watch party, looking worried for their teacher’s health.
Teacher Shim’s looking rough by the end, but he gets it done, raising his arms in victory before collapsing in exhaustion. Looking up at the sky, he smiles widely.
Back in the teachers’ office, the faculty cluck at Teacher Shim for undertaking such a foolish task. But Teacher Shim just grins, telling them that strangely, he doesn’t feel tired at all.
Eun-ho’s on her way to retrieve her bike when she stumbles upon Tae-woon’s father slapping him across the face. She quickly tucks herself into a corner and watches as Director Hyun berates his son for wanting to turn himself in. Ah, does Tae-woon want to come clean about the accident?
Tae-woon tearfully says that he’s unable to even think about his friend, thanks to the way his father handled the situation. But Director Hyun doesn’t feel any remorse about what transpired, and orders his son to fall in line. When Tae-woon sneers that all his father does is buy people off, Director Hyun raises his arm a second time.
Eun-ho can’t help but to step in at that moment, innocently calling out Tae-woon’s name and pretending that they had plans to go eat. After successfully getting his father to leave, Eun-ho asks Tae-woon if he’s okay—and he seems to be, in no small part because of her. He tells her to get on his motorcycle, offering to take her to eat like she said.
As Eun-ho eagerly scarfs down her sandwich, Tae-woon starts an argument with her about who’s paying for her food. He teases her mercilessly, offering to treat her to ice cream, then taking it back by telling her she’ll gain weight. I know I shouldn’t find this charming, but I totally do.
On their way back, Eun-ho gets Tae-woon to pull over in front of a watch store, urging him to get his watch fixed. She takes a closer look at his watch inside the store, only to pause and note that it looks familiar. An image of the watch on a bloody arm flashes before her eyes, and Eun-ho haltingly tells Tae-woon that she remembers the watch from the bus.
We flash back to the accident again, this time focusing on a badly injured Eun-ho who was crumpled on the floor of the bus. Joon-ki had found her there and made sure she was still alive.
Tae-woon and Eun-ho end up back at their lookout spot, where Tae-woon says out loud that Joon-ki must have saved Eun-ho. Cradling Tae-woon’s watch in her hand, Eun-ho echoes his words: “He saved me, and then…”
Another flashback takes us to just before the fateful accident, when Joon-ki and Tae-woon were out riding their motorcycles (pretty recklessly, I might add). As they neared a construction area, Joon-ki became distracted by a phone call from Dae-hwi and drifted into the path of an oncoming car.
He swerved to avoid a crash, then skidded out of control; just behind him, Tae-woon followed suit, falling off his own bike. A bus behind them swerved to avoid the two boys sprawled out on the road, and ended up crashing hard into the construction site.
Both boys seemed okay, but Tae-woon’s leg was pinned underneath his bike. So Joon-ki headed to the bus alone and helped the injured victims off, including Eun-ho. As Joon-ki headed back on the bus for one last victim, Tae-woon saw the bus catch on fire. Panicked and still unable to move, Tae-woon shouted at Joon-ki to get off.
But it was too late—the bus exploded into flames, killing Joon-ki. Tae-woon collapsed on the ground, wailing for his friend.
In the present, as they’re absorbing each other’s stories, Eun-ho tells Tae-woon, “It must have hurt, a lot.” Tae-woon responds that it must have hurt for her, too.
It’s a new day, and Teacher Shim’s out on the field again, running more laps. Almost all of his students are outside this time to cheer him on, and ha, Teacher Gu’s there too, lurking in the back.
As she watches Teacher Shim run, Eun-ho wonders, “Teacher Shim, no matter how bad I feel, and how sorry I feel towards him, I should still report him, right?”
That night, Sa-rang reminds Eun-ho that she has only two days left to find Suspect X. But Eun-ho’s more worried about what it might mean for Dae-hwi and Tae-woon if either turns out to be the culprit—even as she thinks back to all the awful and unfair treatment she endured because of Suspect X, she seems undecided about what she wants to do.
Principal Yang and his staff gather the students in the hall to publicly shame the students with the most demerits. On the way, PE teacher Jung notes the principal’s glee at setting a trap for X, and mutters loudly that it’s not like they’re on their way to catch Gaksital, heh. As expected, Eun-ho’s at the top of the demerit list, and she and nine other students are called up and forced to sit up front.
When the final student is called, the lights in the hall go dark, and a projector screen on stage rolls down—Suspect X is at it again! Principal Yang’s gleeful at this development, having anticipated that X would take his bait, then has the vice principal call out the security guards.
Meanwhile, a video starts to play onscreen—and ha, it’s a montage of Principal Yang breaking all kinds of school rules. Eun-ho joins the others in laughter as the video rolls, but her smile fades quickly—has she realized that this is the exact prank she suggested to Dae-hwi?
The video suddenly takes a different turn, and silence falls over the crowd as the students start seeing images of themselves onscreen, caught in the act of selling out their friends and reporting one another. Over the photos, it reads, “These are the friends you threw away for merit points.”
Just then, someone shouts out, “There he is!” A hooded figure on the second floor freezes, then starts running, making his way out of the hall. A group of guards quickly get on his tail, and Eun-ho follows.
Outside, Eun-ho breaks away from the group, instead heading toward the empty warehouse that Officer Han noticed earlier. As she scans the landscape, Suspect X rounds a corner behind her, and the two nearly collide. Face-to-face, they stand still for a moment, until they hear the adults getting closer.
The next thing we know, Eun-ho pulls open a nearby tarp that’s covering up some furniture and motions X toward it. He quickly scrambles underneath, safely hiding himself from view. When the adults come by and ask Eun-ho if she saw anything, she hesitates.
“I was torn,” Eun-ho narrates. “If I lifted this tarp, I could have cleared my name for good, and exposed who X really is. Perfect timing.” But instead, Eun-ho throws the group off in a different direction, and taking a final look back at the tarp, she runs to catch up to them.
In voiceover, Eun-ho narrates, “If you were to ask why I didn’t catch X, I’d say it’s because I ended up making friends while searching for him.” As we see Eun-ho exchange tiny smiles with Tae-woon and Dae-hwi in class, she continues, “Not a brave hero who messed with the school, but friends who are eighteen, holding on to pain and scars. Eighteen. An age when you can become friends with anyone. Will we be able to make true friends at this school?”
All that running seems to have emboldened Teacher Shim, as he decides to do something even more drastic: He rips the demerits list off the wall, while the students watch, stunned. A student guesses from Teacher Shim’s actions that the demerit system must be done for, and everyone erupts in cheers. Even Teacher Gu can’t help but smile, shaking his head at Teacher Shim’s idealism.
Soon after, a furious Principal Yang orders Teacher Shim to repost the demerits list right away. Though Teacher Shim comes close to caving, he finds his courage and tells the principal that he won’t participate in the demerit system anymore. Principal Yang can’t say much in response, only yelling at Teacher Shim to write a letter of apology.
Afterward, Teacher Shim falls apart at his desk, quivering in fear, and Teacher Gu calls him foolish.
Sa-rang berates Eun-ho for missing out on the opportunity to catch Suspect X. With another webtoon contest entry form in hand, Eun-ho tells Sa-rang she’ll be sure to win the competition this time. Wait, so she just gave up on her final screening?
When Sa-rang wonders who X might really be, Eun-ho says confidently that it’s Dae-hwi, because he did her a favor.
Suddenly, some students in the hall shout out that they’ve spotted Suspect X. Eun-ho immediately runs out to join the chase, and soon, she’s hot on the trail of… Dae-hwi? He’s not even wearing a hoodie, but Eun-ho follows him outside, still convinced that he’s X.
Dae-hwi runs up to the roof and looks around, almost as if he’s looking for someone, while Eun-ho hangs back, staring up at him. Dae-hwi starts to turn around, but just before Eun-ho gets discovered, the actual Suspect X grabs her, covers her mouth, and pulls her around the corner, shielding her from Dae-hwi’s view.
Seeing no one behind him, Dae-hwi runs off. Not too long after, Officer Han and a group of guards follow.
Eun-ho frees herself from Suspect X’s grip and faces him angrily. Without hesitation, he takes off his hood… revealing Tae-woon underneath. Eun-ho’s mouth drops open, and Tae-woon remarks, “You’re really getting on my nerves.”
Tae-woon is Suspect X! At least I think he is? Have we really solved the mystery of Suspect X already? Given how early we are in the series, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tae-woon’s actually not Suspect X (or X is an identity claimed by multiple people), or if there’s a much deeper mystery in the works, involving Dae-hwi and the group of texting students. Or, maybe I’m wrong and the Suspect X plotline wraps up about here—especially since Eun-ho’s basically given up on turning him in—and instead, we’ll start to focus on other things, like the developing friendships between Eun-ho and the two boys, along with the rest of the classmates.
The one thing that struck me about Eun-ho’s decision not to turn in Suspect X was her reason for doing so—because Suspect X helped her make friends. It got me thinking of how lonely it must be to be a student at that school, because even though Eun-ho’s got a pretty great BFF in Sa-rang, it’s clear that she’s looking for more true friends. It says a lot about Eun-ho that she chose her budding friendships over her future—it may not have been the most rational decision, but I love that she’s got such a strong sense of right and wrong when it comes to how others should be treated, and that she’s drawn to this romantic notion of justice that helps keep her on Suspect X’s side, even after all that she’s been through because of him.
So if Tae-woon really is the guy behind Suspect X’s pranks, I can see why he and Eun-ho seem to have such a natural rapport with one another (I can watch those two bicker and joke around awkwardly for hours). Despite his gruff exterior, he’s far more willing to be open and vulnerable with Eun-ho than I would have given him credit for, and he, like Eun-ho, seems to be somewhat driven by a sense of what’s right and wrong.
Contrast that to Dae-hwi, who’s driven more by a need to succeed in life, and seemingly values success over everything else. He just seems so much colder than the other members of our trio, like he wouldn’t hesitate to step over others to get what he wants—but the question is, was it the accident that made him this way, or was he always like this? While I’m not thrilled that we seem to be headed towards some sort of a love triangle between the boys and Eun-ho, I’m curious to see if Eun-ho might serve as a catalyst for Dae-hwi to let his guard down and open up a bit.
If I had one complaint about the show so far, it would be that the show hasn’t quite figured out how to pull all of the narrative threads together into a cohesive story just yet. I’m not sure if it’s the editing or the pacing or what, but some of arcs this hour felt a bit forced (e.g. Teacher Shim’s sudden rise against the establishment) while we spent way too much time flashing back to the accident. While I don’t mind that the show’s attempting to balance its light, breezy tone with heavier emotional moments, I didn’t always feel like those moments were earned.
Still, I’m really enjoying the everyday, slice-of-life moments between our students and teachers (I need more PE teacher Jung!), and I’m intrigued enough by the mystery aspects to be excited to see where we go from here. So if you need me, you’ll find me in my corner, sipping my drink and waiting to see what happens next week, Teacher Gu-style.
- Premiere Watch: School 2017, The King Loves, Man Who Dies to Live, Reunited Worlds
- Underdog student dreams of breaking into the elite ranks in School 2017
- A mystery, a suspect, and a hero for School 2017
- Riding bikes and motorcycles in School 2017’s first teaser
- Fresh faces for School 2017’s classroom
- School 2017 secures its leading bad boy, good boy
- School 2017 adds more students and a teacher to its lineup
- Kim Yoo-jung out, Gugudan idol Kim Se-jung in for School 2017
- Jealousy, Rebel’s Kim Jung-hyun up for School 2017