Black Dog: Episode 3
Our new teacher slowly adjusts to life in school, mishaps and all. At times it’s an uphill battle, but she perseveres through the hardships and continues fighting for her ideals. Though her efforts are not always appreciated, little by little she earns the respect of her colleagues and finds her own path to becoming a better teacher along the way.
EPISODE 3 RECAP
Haneul recalls an old memory of when she visited a pet shop with her grandpa. The store was filled with white puppies, but her attention went to the lone black one. Despite her interest in the puppy, Haneul chose a white one to take home since Grandpa told her that black puppies were bad luck.
Haneul wonders how the lonely black puppy must have felt, always wagging its tail to grab someone’s attention, since as a “black dog” herself, she understands its longing for acceptance. However, when Yeon-woo offers to help Haneul with her Yi-boon situation, she muses that the black dog probably would act like her if it ever received concern—with skepticism.
Yeon-woo notices her doubting expression and reads Haneul like an open book (even reciting what she’s thinking word for word). He explains that he’s returning the favor from when she offered to switch classes, so she shouldn’t be so wary of his help. He hands her a USB to use as a reference for her lesson plan, but Haneul wonders to herself how this is supposed to help her.
Sung-soon calls Principal Byun to verify the department heads meeting tomorrow, but her real purpose is to figure out his evening plans. After learning that he’s meeting the neighborhood principals for dinner, she notifies the other teachers at the bar. They all sigh over the news since Principal Byun never leaves those gatherings in a good mood which guarantees a morning lecture the next day.
Elsewhere, Yeon-woo finishes recording his EBC program, but it ends on a sour note as the director tells him to smile more. With the criticism weighing him down, Yeon-woo receives a text and picture from Myung-soo, telling him that they’re with him in spirit. Haneul sends Yeon-woo a text as well, cheering him on, and Yeon-woo starts texting back before deciding against it.
At home, Haneul looks over the PowerPoint Yeon-woo gave her, but the slides are filled with random pictures of sageuk characters. She assumes that he wasn’t trying to help, but when she opens the video recording of his lesson, it piques her interest.
During dinner, Principal Byun tries to eat a piece of meat but is continuously interrupted with people cheering or starting up conversations. Among the schools, Daechi High is known as the “black dog,” and the other principals already know of Daechi High’s diminishing student body. As for the popular schools, the principals either stay quiet when asked about their secret to success or express false-modesty.
Principal Byun mocks the other principals at the faculty meeting the next morning and fails to the notice the teachers stifle their yawns while he continues his rant. He emphasizes the school’s goal for increasing college admissions, and along that line, he shares something strange he heard last night: an admissions officer from Yeonhee University is making rounds at all the schools in their neighborhood except for theirs.
While filing out of the office, the department heads talk about the new information, and Teacher Song rubs it in Sung-soon’s face, commenting on the repercussions this could have on their school. Sung-soon flatly tells him that the school’s popularity would plummet, and when Teacher Song criticizes her for being so direct and hurting his feelings, Sung-soon corrects him, “That’s why I said it with a very sad face.” Pwahahaha!
Though Sung-soon acts that way towards Teacher Song, she looks worried when alone and makes a call to set a date for a meeting of all the head advisors in the area.
On her way to work, Haneul stares at Yeon-woo’s USB—still debating whether to use his tactic or not—when the subway train suddenly encounters a problem. Now late for work, Haneul sprints to school but gets caught at a red light. While she waits at the crosswalk, Yi-boon greets her from the back of a taxi, and Haneul wonders why she’s acting so friendly.
Yi-boon shows concern for Haneul and even moves back in her seat as if motioning for her to get inside. After weighing the pros and cons, Haneul decides to accept the ride, but as she reaches out for the door, the taxi takes off. Yi-boon cheers for Haneul who stares back at her utterly dumbfounded.
Myung-soo complains about the upcoming open class for parents as Haneul runs into the office looking haggard from the morning mishaps. Before she can even catch her breath, a mass email from Principal Byun arrives in all the faculty’s inbox, and of course, it’s written in a font that is normally used for certificates and other official documents.
He starts the email with a grand opening (using the Chinese character for “great” to describe their school) and rambles about the achievements of the other schools in their area. The teachers sigh over the principal’s vague goal setting agendas, but the emails don’t stop for Haneul as she gets another one from Yi-boon asking for her slides. Though she hesitates for a moment, Haneul ultimately sends her presentation to Yi-boon.
Teacher Moon receives a briefing on the upcoming open class which follows the same format as last year: the short-term teachers will lead while the head of the selected subject will teach one class. This year is Korean, which means Yi-boon will be the representative for the permanent teachers.
Yeon-woo spots Haneul watching Yi-boon jauntily enter her classroom, and he asks her how her lesson planning went since he was worried that his method may have offended her. Haneul understands his concerns and thanks him for his help before leaving to teach her class. Meanwhile, Yi-boon opens Haneul’s slides and writes down her own name without even checking the material.
Having seen Yeon-woo talk with Haneul, Myung-soo asks him what his secret is to go up against Yi-boon, which Sung-soon wants to know, too. She hopes to use it against Teacher Song who looks up at them as if sensing a disturbance in the air, and Sung-soon reels back in disgust. Heh.
Yeon-woo’s tactic is to create a lesson plan that’s fully your own, and Haneul explains in voiceover that unless others see the lesson with their own eyes, it’s impossible to understand the purpose of the material fully. Thus, Yi-boon flips through the slides and is baffled by the seemingly random photos of idols, while Haneul teaches class without a hitch and engages her students with relatable examples. As laughter drifts from Haneul’s classroom, Yeon-woo passes by with a smile on his face.
On their coffee break, Myung-soo marvels at Yeon-woo’s brilliant plan, and Teacher Sohn also agrees that Yi-boon might lose this time. Sung-soon disagrees with their positive outlook and points out a critical difference between the two situations: Yeon-woo and Yi-boon might be equals but Haneul is not. Unfortunately, it seems that Sung-soon may be right as Yi-boon sternly calls Haneul to her office after lunch.
Teacher Moon is still bothered by the forum post concerning nepotism at their school and decides to message the poster directly. He’s so absorbed in his task that he fails to notice Hae-won and the other teachers ask him to lunch. Teacher Moon quickly closes his laptop to hide his screen, but Hae-won already saw everything and looks troubled.
In the cafeteria, another teacher asks Hae-won what Teacher Moon was doing, and Hae-won nonchalantly tells her that he was looking at a forum for short-term teachers. Despite his apathetic response, Hae-won clearly feels conscious of Teacher Moon and sits by himself, away from the others.
Sitting behind Hae-won, the new teachers worry about their contracts which they still haven’t received, and the male teacher sighs over the delay since they might end up with unfavorable 5-month term contracts. Hae-won interjects to tell them not to worry about such things since the school usually drafts the contracts this late.
Rather than appease the new teachers’ worries, Hae-won’s comments dampen the mood, and the new teachers leave the cafeteria. They wonder who he is, and it’s Ji-sun who puts all the clues together and correctly guesses that Hae-won is the rumored sixth-year short-term teacher. After Hae-won finishes his meal, he stops momentarily to look at Haneul eating in the corner by herself, unaware of Teacher Moon watching the whole situation.
On her way over to Yi-boon’s office, Haneul overhears some students complain about Yi-boon’s class today, and for the first time, she notices her surroundings and realizes how diligently the students work. She meets Yi-boon with a heavy heart, and as Yi-boon scolds her for not properly sharing her materials, Haneul stops defending her actions and yields: from now on, she’ll share all her teaching plans.
In the back, Yeon-woo witnesses the entire exchange and leaves in frustration while Ji-sun watches Haneul with a concerned expression. When Haneul returns to her office, Yeon-woo confronts her, asking if she’s a pushover, but Haneul tells him that she’s angry, too. However, schools are organizations, and in order to succeed, she needs to know how to work well with her colleagues.
Sung-soon meets with all the head advisors in the nearby area for drinks, and though one of the advisors praises her skills to lighten the atmosphere, Sung-soon brings it down instantly: “What good is all that when our school isn’t popular at all.” The final member of the group is a well-dressed man carrying a designer bag, and unlike the others, he works for a hagwon (aka, for-profit private academy).
As the night progresses, drunk Sung-soon calls the private advisor a traitor to their cause, but he accuses her of jealousy and argues that neither of them chose this profession for some great ideal. His words infuriate Sung-soon, and she gets up from her seat, screaming at the advisor that she does her job to satisfy the needs of the students and parents.
Though it’s late, Haneul stays at school and works with Yi-boon on her upcoming open class. At the same time, Sung-soon leaves her meeting and receives a call from her husband (who’s saved as “other’s side” which is a common pun on the word husband).
He berates her for not giving their son more care, but Sung-soon ignores his questions and asks him where he bought her bag. It’s a knockoff of the private advisor’s bag, and Sung-soon wails about the tiny fourth line on the bag’s logo when there should only be three. Hahahaha.
He hangs up on her without answering, but the sight of her son on her phone’s wallpaper easily placates Sung-soon. A private academy suddenly messages Sung-soon about a job offer with good pay, and she heaves a large sigh.
Haneul burns the midnight oil in order to finish the handout for the open class, and when the day finally arrives, the school is abuzz with busy teachers. Vice Principal Lee complains to Teacher Moon about the whole event, but Teacher Moon looks on the bright side and says that they can use the parents’ evaluations when hiring one of the new teachers for a permanent position.
When Vice Principal Lee learns that Yi-boon is also holding an open class, he responds incredulously like every other teacher at the school. Yi-boon’s habit of taking advantage of others is common knowledge among the staff, and while a group of teachers talk about Yi-boon’s newest victim, Hae-won offhandedly comments on Haneul being a new teacher which earns him strange glances from Yeon-woo and Myung-soo.
As Yi-boon gets ready for her open class, her laptop doesn’t connect from the podium, so Haneul offers to flip her slides while she teaches. In the College Advisory Department, Myung-soo is left in the office as the only non-Korean teacher, so when Sung-soon’s phone chimes with new messages, he checks it for her and sees the text from the private academy.
One by one, the Korean teachers enter Yi-boon’s class, but the sight of Haneul passing out handouts bothers Sung-soon. Her behavior also upsets Yeon-woo who thinks that her pacifist approach is wrong. Haneul tells him that her first priority is the students, and though he might worry over Yi-boon disrespecting her, she’ll make sure Yi-boon doesn’t look down on her.
While Haneul’s thorough handout and captivating lesson plan clearly impress the other teachers, they still view her actions as overeager. As for the parents, they only praise Yi-boon, but fortunately for Haneul, at least Principal Byun seems to recognize her contributions and invites both teachers to his office.
Once Sung-soon and Yeon-woo return, Myung-soo asks them how the open class went, and Sung-soon begrudgingly acknowledges that the lesson was good—though Haneul was the gopher role. Yeon-woo adds on that Haneul was a total pushover, and the two go back and forth calling out Haneul for acting so submissive. Myung-soo asks if they’re actually taking Haneul’s side right now, and both of them vehemently deny it.
In his office, Principal Byun asks who prepared the class material, and all eyes fall on Haneul for an answer. She tells him that they both worked on it and gives Yi-boon credit for the core ideas of the lesson. After dismissing Haneul from the room, Principal Byun asks Yi-boon for her opinion on Haneul.
In voiceover, Haneul says that something unexpected occurred after that day, and teachers stop in their tracks at the strange sight of Yi-boon working with Haneul. Even Teacher Moon cracks a small smile seeing his niece make an ally out of Yi-boon, but his face falls when he spots Hae-won staring at the two teachers from the window.
Now a complete fan of Haneul, Yi-boon sends snacks to the College Advisory Department and comes to their office to look for her. She tells the others to not eat Haneul’s snacks when she’s gone, and to Myung-soo’s dismay, Sung-soon enjoys Yi-boon’s frequent visits since she brings them food unlike a certain someone. Teacher Sohn gets the message and promises to bring his entire refrigerator next time as he gets up in a huff (not forgetting to steal some chips on his way out, heh).
During lunch, Yi-boon sits with Haneul in the cafeteria and hands her another watermelon slice. She then glares at the new teachers for ostracizing Haneul, and they immediately avert their gaze from the scary teacher. Seeing Haneul prove him wrong, Yeon-woo lets a tiny smile spreads on his face.
Teacher Moon leaves the office late at night and sighs over the lack of response from the forum poster. However, as he pulls out of the parking lot, he receives a message from the poster. Pretending to be on the market, Teacher Moon asks for more information, but the poster refrains from revealing anything personal and simply tells him to not apply.
When the poster tells him that they’re still at school, Teacher Moon runs back and notices a single lighted room in an otherwise empty building. He messages the poster, asking if they’re in the faculty room, but his odd question is enough to alert the poster to leave. By the time Teacher Moon arrives, the poster is gone, but something else catches Teacher Moon’s attention.
Haneul bikes to Young-sook’s restaurant and sees her crouched on the ground smoking. She turns to leave, but Young-sook calls after her to come eat. She makes a bowl of noodles for Haneul, and to Haneul’s surprise, she charges her for the meal.
Bewildered, Haneul hands over the money, and Young-sook hides her smile as she takes the payment, clearly messing with her. Haneul tells Young-sook to stand and smoke if she won’t quit, but Young-sook asks if she’s spying on her since she’s always stopping by the restaurant. Handing back Haneul’s money, Young-sook tells her to wash dishes before she leaves, and Haneul smiles, knowing the true meaning behind her actions.
Sung-soon greets Teacher Yoon in the morning, and the older teacher compliments Sung-soon’s new bag (the knockoff from before). Embarrassed, Sung-soon angrily shoves the bag under her desk, but as soon as she sees the note from her class (on a sticker of Stray Kids), Sung-soon returns to her cheery mood.
Myung-soo arrives to the office next, but when he sees Sung-soon on her phone, he thinks back to the messages he saw about the job offer. When Sung-soon asks to speak with him, he assumes it’s about the private academy and begs her not to do it. He gets down on his knees, but Sung-soon pushes him away and shows him the text message about the admissions officer visiting their school today. Realizing his mistake, Myung-soo returns to his desk mortified.
During their department meeting, the advisors discuss the upcoming visit, but Haneul raises her to ask a question: she doesn’t know what an “admissions officer” is. Though she tells herself that there’s no shame in asking something you don’t know, she lowers her hand in embarrassment.
After Myung-soo explains what an admissions officer does, Sung-soon shares with the team their two goals. First, they have to win over the admissions officer and learn why their students aren’t being accepted, and second, they have to become friendly with the admissions officer and do whatever it takes to persuade them to attend their admissions information session.
Myung-soo asks how Sung-soon managed to get an admissions officer to visit this time of year, but Sung-soon avoids answering. Yeon-woo guesses that she used her social capital, and the three advisors continue their conversation while picking up snacks for the officer.
As they talk about connections, Myung-soo asks Haneul where she went to school, and she tells them that she attended her hometown schools. Coincidentally, Myung-soo went to the same district, and they find out that they graduated from the same elementary school—though decades apart. Now that Haneul is a junior alumnus, Myung-soo treats her even more amicably and answers her questions before Yeon-woo can.
In the elevator, Yeon-woo wishes for the admissions officer to be experienced this time since the last one was a short-term employee. Hearing the word “short-term” makes Haneul feel self-conscious, but Myung-soo tells her not to worry since she’s skilled.
It’s up to luck to decide whether or not the admissions officer will be helpful this time, but when Sung-soon introduces the younger officer to the team, they realize it’s another dud. The officer reads the school’s application guideline at their school and calls someone else to ask about the university’s policies.
Seeing as the officer won’t offer much help, Sung-soon quietly gathers the group and informs them that they’ll resort to that plan. Myung-soo is against the idea since the neighboring schools won’t look favorably on their actions, but Sung-soon tells them to only think of the students.
Myung-soo waits for Haneul to return from her class and pulls her aside from Yi-boon to talk. While they walk outside, Myung-soo tells her that the three of them all submitted a business trip request for next Thursday, and Haneul hangs her head at the news. Myung-soo asks if she wants to join them, and Haneul perks up instantly. Unable to contain her smile, Haneul asks what they’ll be doing, and Myung-soo says that it’s sales. Haneul stares at him confused, and Myung-soo asks again, “Do you want to come with us or not?”
It’s amazing to watch Haneul adjust to her surroundings and find her own path within the school. Her sincerity, work ethics, and overall skills as a teacher are slowly being appreciated by those around her, and unlike the first day of school, it feels like Haneul is no longer alone on the battlefield. She’s becoming a part of the College Advisory Department, and it warms my heart to see the lost puppy find a place she can call her own. I love how the other advisors are opening up to Haneul and acting more comfortably around her, and though there’s still room for growth, it’s not just a one-sided relationship anymore where Haneul chases after their attention. The final scene this episode felt like an unofficial invitation for Haneul to join their department not just in name, and the look of absolute joy on her face was adorable. It’s hard not to root for Go “Sky” (I love this nickname that some of the characters are using for her) because she really does resemble that black puppy from the opening. Try as she might to hide her feelings, Haneul can’t help but wear her heart on her sleeve, and as a result, she sometimes feels like that pup by the window, wagging its tail in anticipation for the day it finds a home.
Beside our three advisors, Haneul also turns Yi-boon into her ally, and the quick turn of events was surprising in a good way. Their relationship starts off rough, and the show makes it clear that Yi-boon is taking advantage of Haneul. Though I disliked Yi-boon and the way she mistreated Haneul (e.g., deleting Haneul’s name on the slides or always calling her to her desk), I’m glad Haneul chose not to stoop to her level in the end, even if that made her unpopular with the other teachers. Haneul’s choice to work diligently rather than fight for power wasn’t a cheap tactic to avoid confrontation. With her limited power, Haneul chose the option that would cause the least damage to her students, and it took her conscious effort to not butt heads with Yi-boon. In her own way, Haneul was fighting, and it was clear that she struggled with the choice as much as it pained Sung-soon and Yeon-woo to watch her. Thus, when the chance came for Haneul to expose Yi-boon to the principal, the audience knew that Haneul’s decision wasn’t easy. She wasn’t expecting Yi-boon to suddenly experience a change of heart and feel appreciative of what she did, but merely did what she thought was best for her students.
However, I’m so glad Yi-boon saw Haneul’s worth because fangirl Yi-boon is a delight. While her change in attitude was quick, I didn’t find it that out of character because Yi-boon has always been the “crazy” teacher—except now her energy is used for good rather than evil. She adores Haneul and is fiercely protective of her, which is something Haneul needs right now. With rumors floating around Haneul, she’s still seen unfavorably by many teachers (especially by her fellow new teachers), so Yi-boon’s blatant show of affection signals to others that Haneul is not alone. As soon as Yi-boon came to sit with Haneul in the cafeteria deliberately, I instantly loved her (I flip-flopped as quickly as Yi-boon). Haneul’s method worked in the end, producing the best results, but it also makes me wonder how Yi-boon’s previous relationships were for everyone to be surprised by her show of affection. I would guess that no one ever showed Yi-boon the level of patience Haneul gave her, which also emphasizes how rare Haneul’s actions were. She wasn’t being another pushover like everyone predicted because unlike the other teachers, Haneul’s hard work was able to change Yi-boon.
Though it’s only the third episode, I’m surprised by how much I like the characters in this show from the main to the tertiary. The relationships and interactions between characters are a hoot to watch, and I really appreciate how the creators and actors show different facets of their character depending on who they’re interacting with, while still maintaining the integrity of the character. For example, Sung-soon’s snark meter goes off the charts when she’s with Teacher Song, and the two of them go at each like cats and dogs. When she’s with Teacher Sohn and Myung-soo, Sung-soon turns much softer and throws around jokes rather than direct insults; but she’s still the same wisecracking person in both situations. It’s a credit to the writer for creating such a realistic cast of characters in a world that feels lived-in, and after a strong start, it seems that the show is only getting better.
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