Black Dog: Episode 8
Trouble brews for the Korean Department and they must collectively make an important decision that will affect the students one way or another. There are many things to consider when making this decision, so our teachers will have to weigh their options and see what matters most before taking action.
EPISODE 8 RECAP
All Korean language teachers are summoned for a meeting to discuss the midterm question. As they gather, Haneul narrates that this is the beginning of “The Banana Incident” that would be talked about for years to come.
Teacher Moon fills Principal Byun in on the situation, which needs to be resolved ASAP because grades have to be submitted soon. As it’s the second midterm-related issue they’re facing, the principal wonders if something’s going on in the Korean Department.
Yi-boon leads the meeting, introducing the question: the phrase “Sung-soon bought two bananas and watermelons” can have multiple interpretations in regards to the number of fruits being referred to. (Sung-soon, nonchalantly: “Why’d they use my name?” Heh.)
The students were to identify two different fruit combinations that make sense within this context (for example: 2 bananas + 2 watermelons, 1 banana + 1 watermelon). However, points were not rewarded for answering that there are 2 “bananas-and-watermelons.”
The complaint comes from the argument that “bananas-and-watermelons” could be a fruit bowl consisting of both fruits. This baffles the teachers, who think they should laugh it off and not waste time. Teacher Han, who’d popped into the meeting to check on the situation, leaves in bewilderment.
It’s revealed that the kids approached Hae-won with the issue, prompting a more senior teacher to give him an earful about being a pushover for accepting the complaint. He dismisses it as a small problem and many teachers rise to leave, until Sung-soon speaks up.
She reminds them that this concerns the Icarus kids, and there’s also the Physics Department fiasco that recently turned the school upside down. The others begin to realize that they’re facing a pretty serious dilemma.
Sung-soon drives in her final point: if the kids approach their prep schools with the midterm and it’s determined that there’s an error in the question, can they handle the consequences?
Jae-hyun and Yoo-ra continue to butt heads while carrying out their punishment for fighting. They get put into their place by Teacher Song, who scolds them for acting out on Teachers’ Day. Teacher Han shows up then, and can only laugh in exasperation while thinking about The Banana Incident.
The outspoken senior teacher is firmly against marking the answer correct, believing that the students simply forgot the answer and made up a creative excuse. He barks that marking it correct would affect the authority that the school and teachers hold.
Another teacher calmly points out that only 3% of the senior class answered with the “banana-and-watermelon” combo, so it isn’t a rational answer. Sung-soon argues that it can’t be written off as a wrong answer just because of that – it’s not a “majority rules” type of situation.
The senior teacher bellows that they should be strict with grading, lest students complain about future exams.
Haneul hesitantly suggests referencing the study material that was taught in class to see how similar questions were handled before making the decision. Her idea’s about to be shut down because she’s a rookie, but the objections are silenced by Sung-soon backing her up.
When Yoo-ra heads home, she notices a banner congratulating students on early admissions into college. She recalls that earlier that day, upon discovering that six Icarus students (including Yoo-ra) answered incorrectly, Teacher Song took their side and instructed her to notify him if the grading decision doesn’t go their way.
Now at dinner, Teacher Song explains to Teacher Han that he was only trying to cheer them on in their battle against the teachers. They’re the only ones who stand a chance at being accepted into SKY (the top universities in Korea), so he can’t stand by and watch them bomb their Korean levels.
Their failure to be accepted affects the school as well. Teacher Han figures that the kids could be wrong, but Teacher Song isn’t worried – they’re smart and would’ve thought it out carefully before making the complaint.
The next day, Haneul hesitates before entering her classroom. The air’s filled with tension as she announces that credit will not be given to the “bananas-and-watermelons” answer. Though there are grumbles of disappointment, nobody reacts as poorly to this news as Yoo-ra does. Jae-hyun watches as she crumples up her test papers in frustration.
Haneul explains that the test question was a variation of one from their textbook. The teachers decided to only accept answers that are in line with what was taught in class. A student brings up the concept of collective nouns, but it was not covered in their lessons and thus, deemed irrelevant to their midterms.
Yoo-ra argues that it was explained in their CSAT prep books, so it can’t be wrong even if they didn’t discuss it in class. It’s a sound argument that her peers agree with, but since the decision has already been made, Haneul has to be firm and shuts down all objections authoritatively.
After class, Haneul lingers outside her classroom looking troubled. Sung-soon walks by and shares that based on experience, the kids are usually right if they’re fighting this hard for something – that’s why it feels wrong to shut them down.
Haneul references some CSAT prep books and finds that collective nouns really are mentioned. When she receives an e-mail from Yi-boon announcing that the grades are going to be submitted, Haneul calls and tells her they can’t be finalized yet.
She runs off towards Yi-boon’s office, alarming the other advisors. She finds the senior teacher there, who says that collective nouns appearing in the CSAT material isn’t a good enough reason to adjust the grades.
Having witnessed what had happened, Yeon-woo follows a dejected Haneul outside and notes that she needed to be more definitive and logical with her approach. Now that grades are finalized, they’ll need to admit fault and apologize if they’re to make any adjustments.
In the office, a teacher from the Physics Department laments that he’s lost credibility in the classroom after the incident, and is struggling to teach. The consequences of that one problematic question highlights what Yeon-woo had advised Haneul of: grade adjustments are a huge deal, so avoid it unless she’s certain.
Yoo-ra and a classmate approach Teacher Ha to show that collective nouns appeared in his after-school class textbook. He’d taught the concept to the Icarus kids and stressed that it was important. Hae-won overhears this and observes as Teacher Ha loses his composure.
Teacher Song updates Haneul on the fight between her students, warning her to keep an eye on them before the mood of the club is ruined. She searches for Yoo-ra in the study room, but doesn’t find her. However, evidence of how much effort Yoo-ra put into her studies can be seen all over her desk.
Some Icarus kids discuss the banana question and figure that there must be a problem with it if even Yoo-ra answered incorrectly. All students who answered using the collective noun concept study extremely hard.
As Haneul processes this information, she learns that Yoo-ra was just in the office asking about med school. Exam marks are extremely important for college admissions – the banana question drops her down a level in Korean, which will hinder her chances. It pains Haneul to realize the effect this will have on the students.
Hae-won comes looking for Haneul, handing her one of Teacher Ha’s textbooks. It’s evident that the Icarus kids answered the way they did after noting down the importance of collective nouns in his class.
Though Hae-won agrees with preparing well for another meeting, he asks that they don’t expose Teacher Ha and put him in a bad position. Aww, he’s such a good guy.
Haneul asks Sung-soon about holding another Korean Department meeting. With the principal coming closer, Sung-soon changes the subject, making up a lie about Myung-soo which spirals out of hand. “You had a blind date with a married woman?!” Haha!
Suddenly, Haneul’s students flood into the office and all the teachers smile as the class breaks into a Teacher’s Day song for Haneul. They shower her with love, roses, and letters before moving on to Sung-soon. Hah, they sing her the same song, but change the lyrics to expose her for yelling at them to wake up before she kills them.
Yoo-ra leaves Haneul with a board filled with messages from the club. Haneul’s heart is full from all the love she’s receiving, until one of the notes gives her pause. “Teacher Go Haneul shines brighter than our futures.” She runs out to chase after Yoo-ra, but she’s long gone.
Yeon-woo and Haneul chat outside, where he shares a little insight on Yoo-ra as her former homeroom teacher. She’s tenacious due to lack of support from her family, and doesn’t have many friends.
Even Yeon-woo thinks the Icarus kids must be right this time, considering that Yoo-ra was one of the students who answered it that way. He’s surprised to learn that the other teacher who wants to request the meeting is Hae-won.
After school, the trio head to a restaurant where Yeon-woo’s broadcasting producer introduces them to the author of their textbook. With a few drinks in their systems, Yeon-woo is called out for teaching boring classes and for being the least popular lecturer on EBC.
Haneul and Hae-won are irritated to see their colleague being treated this way but Yeon-woo stops them from leaving, gathering his pride to ask the author to review their midterm question.
When they head home, Yeon-woo drunkenly belts out an unknown tune and Hae-won has to drag him to a washroom to prevent him from throwing up in public.
Finally alone, Haneul mulls over the author’s opinion that their question was too vague and conditions that excluded the “bananas-and-watermelon” combination should have been set. He’d concluded that it’s the teachers’ mistake and credit should be given for the answer.
Haneul spots an EBC ad that prompts her to write a 5-star review for Yeon-woo on their website: “Your class is the best! You always look so neat.” Hah, she takes back that last part when she spots Yeon-woo as a drunken mess.
With another meeting set, Teacher Ha worries that his after-school lesson on collective nouns will be discovered. He overhears Hae-won talking on the phone in detail about the materials he prepared for the meeting.
Teacher Ha finds the senior teacher (who’s already unhappy about the meeting) and purposely fuels the fire by revealing that an outsider reviewed their test question. He then targets Hae-won and warns that a grade adjustment will put everything on the line: the department’s pride and the teachers’ authority.
The senior teacher storms into the meeting angrily, guaranteeing that a grade adjustment will result in complaints. He lists the consequences and calls them ignorant for disrespecting their fellow teachers by showing the question to an outsider.
Teacher Ha announces that Hae-won can’t make it to the meeting and Haneul’s calls can’t get through to him. Just when it seems like all hope is lost, Hae-won shows up with Principal Byun in tow. Yay!!
As a Korean major, the principal has decided to join the meeting and Yi-boon presents the materials that Hae-won prepared. A call to the Exam Supervisory Department reveals that the teachers ultimately decided to adjust the grades.
Unable to accept outcome, Teacher Ha refuses to explain the circumstances to the students. (The way he acts just baffles me, especially since this was his fault.)
Haneul reflects on the events that transpired, narrating that she didn’t realize that teachers could be wrong until she became one. However, the simple admission that “You were right. I was wrong,” is so hard to say.
She hesitates to enter her classroom once again, and Yeon-woo says that she shouldn’t feel humiliated. “What’s truly humiliating is to ignore it and do nothing when you know you were wrong.” However, that’s not why she’s hesitating – she’s scared to face them.
Yeon-woo watches fondly as she bows in front of the class with a sincere apology. Her students tell her that it’s okay, and start joking around to make her laugh. Even Yoo-ra finally cracks a smile.
Teacher Ha submits a proposal to the principal and is told to be careful so that they’re not accused of favoring the Icarus kids. Principal Byun had overheard students complaining that the banana question was taught in the after-school class.
During lunch is when Myung-soo shares that they’ve dubbed this “The Banana Incident.” Apparently, the senior Korean teacher (named Teacher Park) sent a mass e-mail recounting the situation and ensuring that everyone knows that he’s against marking the answer correct.
Haneul voices over that it’s difficult to communicate with people who have such stubborn convictions.
Yoo-ra is very happy since she’s now at a level 1 in Korean. Her happiness is short-lived though, because her mom is too busy to attend any of the college admissions events at school. Yoo-ra breaks down, frustrated by how different her and Jae-hyun’s circumstances are.
Principal Byun worries about the upcoming college admission informational session, but is placated to hear that Sung-soon has a plan. He joyfully compliments her for being dependable in front of everyone, which is how Haneul learns that they’ve invited an admissions officer from Hankuk University for a special lecture at their info session.
During their department meeting later, Sung-soon reveals that it’s Professor Jang, who felt bad that he didn’t meet with them last time. The other advisors deflate to hear the name, recalling some less-than-pleasant memories.
Sung-soon insists that he’ll be here this time – he’s even flying from Jeju specifically for their informational and has already reviewed their students’ files.
Haneul runs back and forth between her two departments for the next few days, as they each work on planning their respective events. On one rainy night, Sung-soon receives a call from Professor Jang.
It’s bad news – due to a typhoon, planes are grounded for the next few days and Professor Jang is unable to fly back for the informational. All the advisors are disheartened by this news until Sung-soon learns that Professor Jang has a back-up planned. Oh, I have a bad feeling about this…
Relieved, Sung-soon takes down the back-up’s number and gives them a call. They don’t pick up so she plans to send a text through KakaoTalk first. The thing with KakaoTalk is that you can see the person’s profile picture once you have their number. The entire team is speechless when they see who it is.
A woman arrives at the school just then and sure enough, it’s the admissions officer that gave them a difficult time before.
Our poor College Advisory Department really can’t catch a break, can they? It’s one problem after another. There’s no doubt that this admissions officer is going to be difficult to work with, but with the way Haneul’s been able to bring “enemies” to her side and transform them into allies, I think we’re going to be in for another big transformation. The admissions officer has such a big bone to pick with the school, perhaps it will serve as a wake-up call for how they treat their short-term teachers going forward. (Ahem, Teacher Ha.)
But let’s focus on Haneul, Yeon-woo, and Hae-won, who all have demonstrated immense growth during The Banana Incident. Haneul (with the help of Yeon-woo’s advice) started to think more rationally about what she could actionably do to make change happen. She no longer keeps her concerns to herself as much, and consults others for their opinions. Something I really love about Haneul is her ability to discern what’s most important at a given time. This time, it’s her students that needed to be protected and fought for. The concept of “face” is really important in East Asian culture, and Korea is no exception. It’s all about preserving your sense of dignity, and “losing face” is seen as shameful. That, combined with how teachers are above students in the societal hierarchy, makes Haneul’s sincere apology (complete with a bow!) all the more significant. Students are probably used to being brushed aside and not being heard, but here they have a teacher not only apologizing, but doing it in such a sincere way that lets them know that they’re valued too. It’s great to see that the relationship between Haneul and her students is a two-way street. Her students care for her as much as she cares for them, and that’s hands down the most rewarding feeling for a teacher!
Yeon-woo is a solid favorite of mine, and I find myself liking him more and more with each passing week. His stoic personality made him seem uptight and hard to approach, but he’s actually a very caring and attentive guy filled with one-liner jokes. He cares a lot about his students and sees them as individuals, exemplified by how much he knows about Yoo-ra. I love that although he’s usually against disrupting the system, he’s increasingly taking notice of what Haneul’s up to and is actively doing things outside his comfort zone to help out when he can.
Then there’s Hae-won, whom I was a little worried would back down for a second there, but he pulled through and even brought the top gun along with him (Principal Byun). It’s been difficult watching Hae-won being belittled and mistreated by Teacher Ha, which is a huge contrast to how his time seemed to be in the College Advisory Department. From telling Haneul to “know her place” to becoming a key player in adjusting the students’ grades, he’s really shown a shift in mindset that can only help him become an even better teacher. Also, how awesome was he for trying not to expose Teacher Ha? He wasn’t petty enough to stoop to his level, and that’s a big win in my books. The unlikely trio were the star of this episode and I can only hope to see more of Hae-won’s interactions with the College Advisory Department.
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