Black Dog: Episode 16 (Final)
More obstacles await our College Advisory crew, and our leader does her best to protect them before she leaves. As always, our team works hard for the students, fighting for their vision until the very end.
EPISODE 16 RECAP
One Sunday morning, Haneul wakes up feeling nervous and unsettled. She shatters a glass cup and gets an ominous feeling when she receives a message. It’s Young-sook, who texts Haneul (saved as “My Daughter”) from a rest stop to explain that she’s leaving and didn’t say anything earlier so that Haneul couldn’t stop her from going.
Haneul runs to the restaurant, and reality sets in as she takes in the emptiness of the shop. The rest of Young-sook’s message was, “You don’t have to feel guilty anymore. You did all you could for 13 years,” telling Haneul to take care of herself and promising to get in touch with her soon.
Sung-soon’s husband calls when she’s busy, so they make plans to talk later that night. She proposes the idea of the fusion after-school class to Teacher Sohn – the class will be offered to the lower level students and will use texts from CSAT practice tests specifically about life science topics.
First, Haneul will teach a critical reading class using this material. Myung-soo will then explain the scientific concepts covered by the texts and finally, Sung-soon will hold a discussion class. Once students have taken all three classes, it’ll be added to their student records.
Sung-soon explains during a department head meeting that with the combined curriculum, she believes the proposed fusion class will be beneficial to the students’ college admissions. Although most teachers are convinced, Teacher Han objects.
She argues that even if the curriculum is now combined, most universities still separate the arts and sciences. Plus, a parent had just complained about Yeon-woo’s experimental fusion class, unhappy that the teachers are trying new tactics on the third years when they should be focusing on CSAT preparations.
Teacher Han claims that the kids don’t like these kinds of innovative classes and they don’t help the students get into the college. Sung-soon civilly retorts that they won’t know if they don’t give it a try. The two ladies continue arguing their sides, getting louder and louder until Sung-soon explodes and yells that despite the unknowns, she’d still like to try it.
She raises her voice at Principal Lee to ask for permission and it looks like she won the battle, with Teacher Han muttering that nobody can beat Sung-soon’s temper.
Teacher Han speaks to Yeon-woo and gives him a stack of class evaluations completed by his students. She fills him in on the complaint made about his class, and reminds him that she’d once told him he’s mistaken if he thinks all kids love him.
Haneul answers a call from an unknown number thinking it’s Young-sook, disappointed that it’s just a telemarketer. Yeon-woo returns from meeting with Teacher Han, keeping his tone casual when he shares that a parent complained about his class. He’s distracted while reading the evaluations and walks off in a foul mood.
Myung-soo flips through the papers which are filled with negative comments from the students who seem to prefer regular classes. Myung-soo sighs and confides in Haneul that Yeon-woo has been having a hard time since the bonus announcement. Teachers typically fall into a slump during their 3rd, 6th, and 9th years of teaching. Yeon-woo’s been trying to get out of his rut by trying new methods.
Sung-soon meets her husband at a café to talk things out. He wants to take on an assignment in Vietnam, saying that it’d be nice for Ha-rang to study English there. She sees through the excuse so he drops the pretenses and admits that he wants to use this opportunity to get a promotion – most of his other friends have already been promoted and he doesn’t want to be left behind
She says she’ll consider it, and he asks her to take a leave of absence after winter break. She calls him selfish and he calls her out for her drinking, venting that he doesn’t go home right away every day because he wants to – implying that he sacrificed a lot for her sake. She storms off, but seems to consider what he said and looks at a family photo on her phone.
As Haneul and Myung-soo head home, they come across Yeon-woo staring forlornly at a bus ad of top lecturers at an academy. They take him out for dinner and drinks. Once Yeon-woo has a few drinks in his system, Myung-soo and Haneul decide telepathically that it’s the perfect time to ask him to join them in teaching their joint class.
Yeon-woo flat out rejects them, saying that they should just do the bare minimum and coast by with their paycheck. He drunkenly slurs that having convictions and following through with them will only create enemies.
Yeon-woo urges them not to do the fusion class either, because “if it doesn’t directly help the students get into college, then it’s useless. The parents and kids will hate it, and even other teachers will criticize you,” clearly speaking from experience. He advises Haneul to use her time wisely and study for her certification exam instead.
They hail a taxi for an inebriated Yeon-woo (who’s singing again, haha) and Myung-soo tells Haneul not to mind his drunken words of advice. Sung-soon gets home and sees her husband passed out on the sofa. It’s clear that he’d been busy taking care of Ha-rang and doing the housework. The sight reminds her of how supportive of her career he’s been.
Haneul prepares for her class and recalls Yeon-woo’s advice to use her time studying for the exam instead. She receives a text from Bo-tong, updating her about his new webtoon series. She lights up at the text and is newly motivated to continue preparing her lessons and focusing on the lower level kids.
By the time Sung-soon’s husband wakes up, she’s completed the rest of the chores and tells him that they can leave once her semester ends. He’s so thrilled that he attacks her with hugs and showers her with affection and gratitude.
At school, Myung-soo and Haneul discuss their fusion class. He commends her for taking the road less travelled by creating a class that doesn’t cater to the high achievers, who would’ve been easier to teach. She worries that they should be focusing on the CSAT instead, but he reassures her that the class will be meaningful.
Teacher Han calls them to her office to talk them out of going through with their fusion class because she doesn’t want to have to deal with any more complaints. Sung-soon had rushed over to the office after learning that her department was summoned, but seeing that Myung-soo is standing his ground, Sung-soon walks away and doesn’t interfere.
With Teacher Byun retiring this winter and Sung-soon going on leave, the college advisors are bound to face difficulties ahead. Teacher Han has it out for their department because she hates Yeon-woo and knows that nobody’s backing Myung-soo.
Sung-soon later smiles as she fondly watches the three other advisors working hard and joking around. She recalls Teacher Sohn’s concern: even if Myung-soo becomes the head of the department, the principal and Teacher Han could go against the department because he’s not supported by any higher ups.
She meets with Vice Principal Moon and Teacher Byun to let them know of her plans to go abroad. She suggests merging the College Advisory department with another group so that they can’t be easily bossed around. She asks Vice Principal Moon to take care of it, reminding him that he owes her a favor.
Teachers Han and Ha gossip about Myung-soo and Haneul wasting their time. Yi-boon hears this and walks past the duo, targeting them with an insult of her own, hah! Love her. She sweetly drops by Haneul’s desk with a drink and shares the news about Sung-soon taking a leave in December, to Myung-soo and Haneul’s surprise.
Before heading home, Vice Principal Moon thinks about the conversation with Sung-soon earlier that day. She’d suggested combining the College Advisory department with the Innovation Group (they come up with new ideas for classes). If their fusion class is a hit, then they’d have to expand the Innovation Group, since there’s only one member at the moment.
Increasing the size of that group and merging them with College Advisory, would make it much harder for anyone to mess with the advisors. It’d also help the kids because with a new curriculum, the school should also evolve and develop new classes that cater to all students.
Vice Principal Moon calls out to Sung-soon in the parking lot and encourages her to try her best with this fusion class. If there’s a good response, he promises to work hard to push for it.
The next day when they meet up to discuss the after-school class, Haneul’s thoughts are filled with the news that Sung-soon’s leaving the school. Knowingly, Myung-soo mouths that “it’s okay,” and says aloud that if the students don’t like the class, they can always stop and come up with different ideas.
Sung-soon is adamant that the students have to love this class, but doesn’t tell them why. She later speaks to Yeon-woo and asks him to join them. He declines, because getting criticized for his first attempt was tough. Sung-soon reveals to him that she’ll be leaving and wants to expand their group and help the students before she goes.
So, the next time there’s a meeting to discuss the fusion class, Yeon-woo joins with a laptop full of ideas. The classes take place without a hitch, and all teachers review footage of the three lessons taught by the college advisors. The classes receive great reviews, though some students would still rather focus on CSAT-related materials.
Teacher Han’s still against the idea at their next department head meeting. Other teachers speak up for Sung-soon, and Vice Principal Moon suggests the expansion of the Innovation Group and merging it with College Advisory. Sung-soon explains that the development of classes should be adjusted to the college admissions system, so combining the departments would be most efficient.
Seeing that Principal Lee is having a tough time with the decision, Teacher Byun speaks up and reflects that as the former principal, he didn’t have time to think about changing their ways but now realizes that they should be trying new things to improve their school. Convinced, Principal Lee asks if Sung-soon will lead the group next year. She announces her leave of absence and recommends someone else for the role.
That night, Yeon-woo offers to treat everyone to dinner. Myung-soo wonders when Sung-soon plans to tell them that she’s leaving, but Haneul thinks they should feign ignorance until Sung-soon’s ready to tell them. Sung-soon loses to Yeon-woo when fighting over the bill, so she suggests going for a round 2.
They end up at her house and continue drinking there. Haneul argues with Yeon-woo about who should help Sung-soon grab snacks. She claims she should do it as the youngest member of the team. Skeptical, Myung-soo checks their IDs to get to the bottom of the true hierarchy. Turns out, Yeon-woo and Haneul are the same age so Myung-soo encourages them to speak informally to one another. Hah, Haneul cringes so hard at the thought of calling Yeon-woo by his name, it’s hilarious!
Sung-soon cuts in and officially announces that she’s taking a leave of absence in December, and Haneul pretends to be shocked. Sung-soon tells Myung-soo that he’ll have to be the head advisor while she’s gone.
And so, the days go by and it’s finally the end of the semester. Sung-soon bids Teacher Byun farewell, and is sent off by the other advisors. As the quartet make their way to Sung-soon’s car with her box of belongings, she catches Myung-soo tearing up (“It’s just condensation!”). Her plan is to leave for a year so they tell her to return quickly. Myung-soo jokingly threatens to quit being the head if she doesn’t come back and the other two promise to stop him, which reassures Sung-soon.
Yeon-woo and Myung-soo head back inside, leaving Haneul alone with Sung-soon. She wishes her luck on the certification exam this year, and Haneul promises to do her best. Sung-soon gifts Haneul with some printed photos that she took of her on her phone– it’s a bunch of candid shots of Haneul teaching. Sung-soon smiles that by looking at these photos, there’s no doubt that Haneul’s a teacher. Haneul holds back tears as she promises to write to Sung-soon.
Eventually, Teacher Byun also packs up his belongings and spots Principal Lee lingering outside. When he leaves his office, he’s met by teachers gathered around to give him a standing ovation. He happily announces that he’s going to be free and call up Teacher Yoon to have fun now. He dabs at his eyes and heads out, laughing his signature hearty laugh.
Haneul applies for the teacher’s certification once again, and while she writes the exam, we see that she has a picture of herself, Sung-soon, and Class Five hanging on her bag. Aww! That night, Haneul receives a call from Young-sook and tears up at the sound of her voice. Young-sook’s living with her mom and now that things are settled down, she invites Haneul to visit.
At school, the sight of Sung-soon’s empty desk brings back a flood of memories for Haneul, ranging from a gruff Sung-soon greeting her on her first official day, to the two women jumping in excitement at winning the stuffed bear.
Haneul checks the results of the certification exam, but we don’t get to see how she did. She writes a postcard addressed to Sung-soon to update her on life at Daechi High. Myung-soo is now the head of the College Advisory and Innovation Department, supported closely by Yeon-woo.
With the amount of work involved in running a bigger department, Myung-soo jokingly wonders when he’ll have time to get married. Yeon-woo, Yi-boon and Teacher Cha (who are part of this new department now) all make it a point to call Myung-soo “sir,” which he isn’t used to and gets shy about. Hee! Even Teacher Sohn joins their team!
Haneul continues writing that the level-specific after-school classes are doing great and although the response to the creative fusion classes were positive, they’re only being offered to the freshmen now so that the seniors can focus on CSAT preparations. She signs off with “I miss you,” but replaces it with “Come back soon!”
A year and a half later: we’re back at the café where Haneul has been catching up with her friend and recounting her time at Daechi High. Sung-soon still hasn’t returned. Her friend asks what happened after Haneul retook the exam for Daechi High that year, but their meeting is cut short when a student texts her.
When they part ways, Haneul recalls walking down the hallway of a different school and being introduced to a brand new staff team. To her surprise, a familiar face had shone through the crowd – it was Ji-sun! They smiled to see each other again and Haneul narrates, “Even a relationship that I thought had ended has started over again.”
Haneul meets up with Myung-soo and Yeon-woo at a park one day. They congratulate her for passing her exam, and it looks like Haneul had done so well that she got accepted to the public school that was listed as her first choice (Daechi High is a private school and could only be listed second).
Myung-soo hands out wedding invites and Yeon-woo comments that he succeeded in both his career and love life. Myung-soo laughs in agreement and tells Yeon-woo and Haneul to just date each other. He says that since Yeon-woo’s almost the top EBC lecturer now, he should start dating, and Yeon-woo bashfully shoves him.
Myung-soo casually asks Yeon-woo why Sung-soon isn’t back yet. Yeon-woo hesitates to answer and sends Haneul on a coffee run to talk to Myung-soo privately. When Haneul grabs her order, a familiar voice calls out, “I’d like one too!” It’s Sung-soon!
Haneul’s overcome with emotions and sniffles as she asks Sung-soon where she has been. The two women are happy to see each other, and Sung-soon is proud to hear that Haneul’s working at a school. Haneul wonders to herself, “How could she do so much for me?”
The original College Advisory group are reunited, sharing coffees, great views, and laughter. The other three had planned this surprise event for Haneul and Sung-soon compliments the boys on their acting. Hah!
We flash back to Haneul walking determinedly down the familiar halls of Daechi High on her first day. She now stands tall at the front of another class, at a different school. She’s the same as always, and has clearly built a great relationship with this new set of students. Haneul wonders again how Sung-soon could do so much for her and continues to narrate, “I’m still searching for that answer with a joyful heart.”
Very much in tune with the whole theme of this show, Black Dog ends in a hopeful and understated way. It doesn’t feel like the end to a story – we know that Haneul will continue to face challenges but will work hard to overcome them no matter where she ends up. I’m happy with where all our characters ended up, but especially proud of Myung-soo. He has mentioned throughout the course of the show that Sung-soon’s job is too difficult, and that Haneul is the one that is being trained to take over. Others also thought he would be too much of a pushover to lead a whole department, but he proved them wrong by successfully managing an even bigger and more efficient group. It makes me happy to know that in addition to Yeon-woo, he has great teachers like Teacher Sohn, Teacher Cha, and Yi-boon working with him. You already know that Yi-boon won’t let anyone bully their department, and that Teachers Sohn and Cha will give their never-ending support!
I believe Sung-soon had a really tough choice to make. She’d always prioritized her career, and has been wanting to step back to focus on her family but felt obligated to stay and protect her work family. Sung-soon’s husband has made sacrifices in order for her to develop her career, and it was beautiful that she did the same when it came time for him to want to move up in his career as well. Relationships are about compromise, and these two are definitely trying their best to help their partner succeed. I’m definitely curious what Sung-soon was up to during her time abroad, but am okay not knowing. I’m just happy that she finally got to spend time focusing on Ha-rang and her husband like she’d wanted. I hope that now that she’s returned, she can continue to work towards her goal of running Daechi High, creating a space that’s as free from politics as it possibly can be.
Haneul has shown significant growth throughout her journey so far as a teacher. She started out in this profession purely because she wanted to find out why Young-ha was willing to sacrifice himself for her. She quickly developed a passion for teaching, and created everlasting bonds that gave her an answer to her original question. Her new question is: How could Sung-soon do so much for her? I’m sure that in her quest to answer this particular question, she’ll eventually find herself mentoring a new teacher similar to how Sung-soon mentored her. I’m left feeling happy and hopeful for everyone’s future, and am so glad that Ji-sun made a short appearance and seems to be doing well! Like Haneul mentioned, relationships that have ended can somehow start again. Perhaps sometime in the future, our four college advisors will meet again professionally and continue to do great things together.
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