Who Are You–School 2015: Episode 2
What a strong opening week for School 2015, which has wasted no time establishing a compelling and satisfying world, albeit one full of dark corners and mysterious undercurrents. After the tragedy of last episode, it may seem like Eun-bi has it made—she’s lost her memory, sure, but in its place she’s found a mother who would face an army for her and friends willing to stick by her side. Nothing in life is simple, however, and even the most innocent of blessings has a price. If Eun-bi wants to continue filling Eun-byul’s shoes, she may have to pay that price—whether she realizes it or not.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Eun-byul’s mother speaks directly towards the camera, saying that it has been ten days since Eun-byul disappeared. She won’t go back to her house, because she can’t face her daughter’s empty room. Mom swears that she will find Eun-byul and take her home.
We see Eun-bi standing on a bridge in the moments before she jumped, thinking about the children’s story she once read to little Ra-jin at the orphanage. The girl in the story, Sara, was never sad or lonely, because she knew someone was always thinking about her. As Eun-bi sinks slowly beneath the water, a hand grabs her wrist and starts to drag her towards the surface.
Mom walks back and forth in the streets of Tongyeong, handing out fliers with Eun-byul’s face. Some people stop a moment and offer their sympathy, but most simply walk on, too busy with their own routines to worry about a missing child. One businessman callously throws away the poster without even putting down his phone.
Back at her hotel room, Mom sinks down next to piles and piles of Missing Person posters. It’s heartbreaking how she addresses the picture of her daughter, scolding her for smiling at a time like this.
Mom breaks down into heaving sobs, asking Eun-byul to come back. Just then a phone call comes in, and it spurs Mom to rush out once more.
Mom arrives at the hospital room where she thinks Eun-byul is recovering (it’s actually Eun-bi, in case you were confused). She walks hesitantly to where the curtain blocks Eun-bi from sight, as if afraid of what she will see.
Eun-bi is covered in bruises and has a nasty gash on her face, but she is alive. Mom sinks to her knees, clutching Eun-bi’s hands in her own, and thanks God that her daughter is alive.
When Eun-bi opens her eyes, Mom reassures her that she is alright. “Mom is here,” she says—but Eun-bi doesn’t recognize her. The doctor gives Mom the diagnosis: Eun-bi has trauma-induced amnesia, and it’s impossible to tell when she will recover from it, if ever. Mom assures her that it doesn’t matter, as long as she is well. After hearing the word “Mom,” Eun-bi’s lips curve into a hesitant smile.
The bully So-young comes to see Eun-bi in the hospital, finding her just when Mom has stepped away for a moment. When Eun-bi fails to recognize her, So-young offers to “help her remember” and grabs a handful of her hair.
Mom returns to find a stranger messing with (the girl she thinks is) her daughter, and immediately steps in to defend Eun-bi. At first So-young acts snotty, telling this ahjumma to stay out of other people’s business.
But when Mom identifies Eun-bi as her daughter and starts to call the police, So-young backs down right away. She apologizes and says she must have mistaken Eun-bi for someone else, so Mom leads Eun-bi out of the hospital. So-young watches them go, eyes narrowed in confusion. Mom leaves Tongyeong with Eun-bi, ecstatic to be reunited with her daughter. Eun-bi watches the world pass by with her head out the window, a sunny smile on her face. Mom offers to play some music, and Eun-bi quickly assents.
Elsewhere, Yi-an is also listening to music, but his thoughts are troubled by the memory of what happened ten days ago. A flashback shows us that he ditched his swim meet to talk with Eun-byul (which means the man Shi-jin saw Eun-byul fight with was actually Yi-an).
Eun-byul is as prickly to Yi-an as she was to her friends, though he takes it with a smile at first, knowing her personality. Yi-an hides his gold medal behind his back, and asks if she can guess why he came to visit. He gives her a hint: It has to do with the promise he made seven years ago. Eun-byul informs him coldly that she doesn’t remember, nor does she want to remember. Yi-an sees that she’s angry and lowers his head, offering to let her hit him until she feels better—that is almost too cute.
But Eun-byul is not swayed by the cuteness; she backs away from Yi-an and says they have grown to be different people over the course of seven years. There is nothing more he can do for her.
In the present, Yi-an puts his headphones back on, brooding over what Eun-byul said to him before she disappeared. Another boy comes along and jostles Yi-an rudely to get his attention. It’s his sunbae on the swimming team, who looks like he has a bone to pick with Yi-an.
The other boy chides Yi-an for not greeting his sunbae properly, but it seems what he’s really upset about is Yi-an’s gold medal and new record. To make things worse, Yi-an failed to compete in the 100-meter event (which was just after he’d heard about Eun-byul, remember), and a reporter wrote an article that made the team look bad.
Yi-an tries to contain his anger, but the other boy is looking for a fight. He pushes Yi-an repeatedly, and when he throws the first punch Yi-an ducks and tosses him to the ground. The coach appears before the fight can escalate, and he makes them all run as punishment.
When Yi-an doesn’t immediately run with the others, the coach upgrades his punishment to a few hefty strikes with a wicked-looking wooden stave. Coach snorts that he can’t abide kids with bad attitudes who skate by (or swim by?!) on talent alone.
A boy in a hospital gown scales down the side of the hospital building, suspended in a makeshift sling. A nurse leans over the edge and shouts down at him, near hysterics, but the boy only smiles and says she should have given him leave when he asked for it. This is GONG TAE-GWANG (Yook Sung-jae), and why he is in the hospital we don’t yet know.
On his perilous journey to the ground, he pauses outside of Eun-bi’s room. He recognizes her (as Eun-byul) and waves cheerily. When she doesn’t respond (probably shocked to see a random stranger scaling the exterior of the hospital like a cliff), he snorts that she’s always been rude.
Then his rope slips, and he passes out of sight. Eun-bi races to the window, only to see that he made it safely to the ground.
Tae-gwang meets with Eun-byul’s best friend Song-joo, with whom he seems quite chummy. He scarfs down a burger like there’s no tomorrow, reflecting that he should eat at least three since he went to all that trouble to escape.
A bit embarrassed by the looks Tae-gwang is receiving from the other customers, Song-joo gets up to leave. Tae-gwang then remembers that Eun-byul is also a patient in the hospital, and Song-joo yells at him for not telling her earlier. She calls Yi-an immediately.
Song-joo waits for Yi-an in front of the hospital. She greets him with a big smile, but he’s in such a hurry he doesn’t even see her. Yi-an accidentally runs into an older man as he barrels into the hospital. Song-joo scowls and calls him an idiot, though she seems to care for him more than her words suggest.
Yi-an sees Eun-bi in the lobby. She drops her wallet, and he rushes to pick it up for her. His jaw drops when she merely thanks him politely and goes on her way, giving no sign that she recognizes him.
He follows her into the elevator, where his marked attention makes Eun-bi nervous. She edges away from him, and puts a little spring in her step when she exits at her floor. Yi-an follows her again, calling out her name.
As he walks towards her, Yi-an remembers what Eun-byul said to him about growing apart. “If your heart takes a step back,” he says in voiceover, “mine will take a step forward.” He doesn’t care if things have changed; he still cares for her, and he is happy that she is safe. He pulls Eun-bi into a relieved embrace.
Of course Eun-bi is a little taken aback—to put it mildly—and tries to pull away. She demands an explanation, and Yi-an is even more surprised by the fact that she speaks to him in jondae. He pulls her into a playful arm-lock, while Eun-bi struggles to free herself from this overly friendly stranger.
Thankfully Song-joo comes along, putting a halt to the scuffling long enough for Eun-bi to explain about her amnesia. “We must have been really good friends,” she gushes, scooting forward in her hospital bed and smiling. Hilariously, both Song-joo and Yi-an flinch back and chorus “No!”, unnerved at seeing the normally prickly Eun-byul so sunny and cheerful.
Yi-an turns back after Song-joo leaves, and asks Eun-bi to find him when she gets her memory back. “Tell me then,” he says. “Whether we are friends or not.”
Eun-bi moves back into her home, where she acquaints herself with everything she thinks she’s forgotten. Her room is full of crafts and awards, furnished with loving care. She finds Eun-byul’s notebook—which contains a picture of the Love’s House orphanage—but Mom calls before she gets a good look.
Mom goes over a picture scrapbook with Eun-bi, hoping to trigger her memories. There are no pictures of Eun-byul as a baby, and Mom admits that she was adopted. Eun-bi says that she must have been very happy, since she had a mother who loved her so much—Mom looks a bit sad at that, although she quickly agrees.
Eun-bi goes off to her room, but a second later she returns and asks to spend the night with Mom. Mom is surprised, since Eun-byul always locked the door and told her to stay out, but she is obviously pleased. They laugh together like best friends, and Eun-bi hugs Mom close.
Tae-gwang arrives at school the next morning, apparently released from the hospital. A trio of boys grumble about him being back. It seems like there’s a bit of bad blood there, although the leader conspicuously decides to have a smoke rather than confront Tae-gwang. As Tae-gwang walks up to school, he almost runs into Eun-bi.
They shuffle back and forth, each trying to move out of the other’s way, until Tae-gwang growls at her to stop. She apologizes and bows in greeting, and it takes a second for Tae-gwang to process the idea that Eun-byul was just polite to him.
Song-joo and Shi-jin mob Eun-bi, overjoyed to have their friend back at school. Song-joo tries to get an arm around Tae-gwang, but he ducks swiftly and runs off.
Eun-bi arrives at her classroom, where the other students are shocked by her new polite, hesitant behavior. Song-joo breaks the news about her memory loss, and the boys ooh and aah like she’s something from the zoo.
One girl in particular looks shocked to hear that Eun-byul lost her memory, while another wonders if she isn’t just pretending, perhaps to cover up a secret. But Eun-bi isn’t even in the right seat, which seems to convince the skeptical of her amnesia.
Tae-gwang pokes his head in through the classroom window and tosses his backpack towards his seat. Unfortunately, the strap lands neatly around the neck of the boy we saw earlier (his name is CHOI DOO-SHIK), who seemed to have an antagonistic relationship with Tae-gwang.
Out in the hallway, Doo-shik shoves Tae-gwang to the ground and raises his fist to punch him. Tae-gwang only raises his jaw, as if daring him to do it, but at the last second Doo-shik stands up. He claims he’s trying to live on the straight and narrow, but that Tae-gwang shouldn’t provoke him; as for Tae-gwang, he mutters that he wishes the punch had landed so he could go back and rest at the clinic.
Tae-gwang stands up, looking awfully calm for someone who almost got punched. He pauses and meets Eun-bi’s eyes, then walks back into the classroom without a word. Eun-bi recognizes his face, finally figuring out that this is the boy she saw rappelling outside her window at the hospital.
Teacher Kim tries to give a gift he bought during the school trip to a female coworker, but she doesn’t accept it. He says it doesn’t mean anything special, but she informs him that no gift, no matter how small, means nothing in this day and age. She makes her exit, leaving him completely at a loss for words.
The class president brings Eun-bi to see Teacher Kim, and he is glad to see her looking so cheerful. He even comments that it might be a good thing she lost some of her memories, because there are some things best left untouched. When she asks him what he means, he replies awkwardly that he’d heard from the other kids that she had been upset.
After the kids leave for class, the vice principal approaches Teacher Kim and warns him to keep a close eye on Class Three, specifically mentioning Tae-gwang and Eun-byul. He says if Teacher Kim can’t keep them in line, he should at least keep them from talking—in-teresting. What happened before, I wonder?
As Eun-bi walks through the hallway, students whisper and point and gossip about her amnesia. The experience triggers a hazy flashback, as Eun-bi recalls a different school, where she was also the focus of negative attention. She freezes up for a moment, until the class president calls her name.
A meeting of the parents is taking place, to evaluate if Eun-byul will be able to stay in the elite study group, considering her amnesia. Shi-jin’s mom seems to sense an opportunity for her daughter, and hints that keeping Eun-byul in the group will make difficulties for everyone involved.
Later, she cozies up to the Boss Mom, offering her a gift that her husband brought back from a trip to Paris. Of course it’s not a bribe, she says.
Eun-byul’s mother confronts the others in the middle of their totally-not-a-bribe. She seems more resigned than upset, saying that they’ll wait for the results of the next exam to determine whether Eun-byul leaves the study group or not.
But when Teacher Kim announces the results, Eun-bi is first place! The entire class applauds, and Teacher Kim urges her to continue studying like this even after she regains her memory.
Teacher Kim warns the class that the police are cracking down on underage students trying to enter bars and clubs. He tells them to focus on studying instead—yeah, like that’s going to convince high school students to behave.
Sure enough, no sooner does Teacher Kim leave than one girl, HAE-NA, muses that she always feels compelled to do the opposite of what the teacher says (kids these days, am I right?). Doo-shik, who seems to be Hae-na’s boyfriend, decides to organize a night of underage merriment, and invites Eun-bi and her friends.
On their way out, Song-joo exclaims that she forgot her wallet. Eun-bi innocently offers to help her look, but Song-joo was actually referring to another classmate: SEO YEONG-EUN (played by Kim Bo-ra). Oh, dear—it seems that Eun-byul and her friends were the bullies, rather than the bullied…
Tae-gwang sees Yi-an on the school grounds and rushes over to him, looking almost too excited about the chance to take a selfie with a swimming champion. Yi-an has to remind him that they’re actually in the same class, although he has to be absent frequently for his swimming meets.
A car pulls up to the curb and a man steps out. This is GONG JAE-HO, the school board director (and Tae-gwang’s father, though we don’t technically know that yet). Jae-ho congratulates Yi-an on his gold medal and invites him to a meal.
Tae-gwang asks pointedly if it would be okay for him to join, introducing himself and placing extra emphasis on his father’s title. His dad replies coldly that it would be difficult to include him, and leaves without another word. Wow—that’s harsh.
Yi-an cooks dinner at home, and we learn that he lives alone with his father. Yi-an teases Dad for only eating ramen whenever Yi-an is away, and father and son sit down for a peaceful meal together.
It’s a very different scene at Tae-gwang’s house, where he eats a meal prepared by the cook. He sees an article in which his father is quoted, saying that he doesn’t care if the students at his school don’t study well, as long as they’re happy. Tae-gwang laughs uproariously, though we get the feeling he doesn’t think it’s very funny.
Tae-gwang’s dad comes home, and Tae-gwang confronts him about the article. He wants to know if Dad really said that the school wanted to be supportive of children with learning disabilities. “Wouldn’t you send them to a mental hospital?” he asks. “Isn’t that more your style, Dad?”
Eun-bi and the other kids are singing and having a grand old time at a noraebang—all except for Yeong-eun, who tries to pay only to find out that her credit card has been suspended. She calls her mother and asks to have the card reactivated, saying she can only live as long as her credit card lives too. From the doorway, Eun-bi overhears the whole conversation.
Next thing we know, the entire crew is at the police station, where the noraebang owner reported the boys for trying to blackmail him instead of paying. Teacher Kim has to do some fast talking to get the owner to agree to drop the charges. He offers to pay the bill and the fine, although just the sight of the amount on the receipt makes him go weak at the knees.
Teacher Kim sends the kids home. One boy asks that he not tell their parents, but one look at the teacher’s strained expression and the students cut and run. Eun-bi is the last to go, bowing apologetically on the way. Teacher Kim waits until he’s alone before whimpering about his lost money.
Eun-bi finds herself next to Yeong-eun at the bus stop. She casually brings up the money that Yeong-eun had to spend, and offers to pay for her the next day at school. Yeong-eun rebuffs her attempt to link arms, and asks sharply if she really has amnesia. Eun-bi says sadly that they must not have been very good friends.
“Your mind must be at ease,” Yeong-eun says, voice tinged with bitterness. She rises when the bus arrives, but tells Eun-bi that she wants to ride separately.
Eun-bi’s mother goes outside to wait for Eun-bi, and sees a police car taking someone away from the house next door. This is where Yeong-eun lives, and her mother has reported the maid for stealing jewelry a little at a time.
Yeong-eun arrives and goes inside with her mother. A little later Eun-bi comes home, and accepts her mother’s gentle scolding with a wide smile.
The next morning, Eun-bi wakes up long before her alarm, as though her body is accustomed to waking up early (which we know it is, from her days at the orphanage). She takes her bike and goes outside, where she runs into Yi-an on a jog through the neighborhood.
They walk together, talking about what Eun-bi was like before the accident and speculating about why she disappeared. Yi-an admits that he visited Tongyeong for one night to see someone, but he doesn’t tell her who it was.
At school, Eun-bi tries various locker combinations to her own locker, but none work. She’s curious about what she might have left inside, although Song-joo thinks she was probably just hoarding food. Eun-bi asks about Yeong-eun, who hasn’t come to school, but Song-joo doesn’t really care where Yeong-eun is when she isn’t needed to be their wallet.
It turns out that Yeong-eun is actually being interrogated about the jewelry—she was caught on camera selling some valuable pieces to a pawn shop. The police officer asks what happened to the rest of the jewelry she stole.
The dean of students marches into Eun-bi’s classroom and demands that she open her locker. When she admits that she doesn’t know the combination, Tae-gwang drags his chair over and shatters the lock with one well-aimed blow. He smirks at Eun-bi on the way back to his seat.
With everyone looking on, Eun-bi takes out the only item in her locker: an intricate piece of jewelry that Yeong-eun identifies as belonging to her mother. Whispers ignite around the room, as students wonder if Eun-bi stole the necklace.
Teacher Kim starts to address Eun-bi, but Yi-an swoops in and takes her by the wrist. He leads her out of the classroom and into the hall, ignoring the stern call of the teacher behind him.
I am so incredibly excited to be a part of the School 2015 team, for a whole lot of reasons. First of all, in a few months I’m going to be teaching English in a Korean high school! In light of that, I was really happy to get the chance to recap a show in the School franchise, which has historically done a pretty good job of portraying real issues relevant to Korean students’ lives. I’m excited to experience the difference between dramas and real life, although I’ll be disappointed if I don’t encounter at least a few secret twins, detective societies or bad-ass knife-wielding ahjummas in disguise.
But back to the show—and what a great show it’s gearing up to be! School built on its strong start in the first episode, combining concise but effective character introductions with deft plotting to create a wonderful air of suspense from the very beginning.
I think Tae-gwang offers a nice contrast to Yi-an, and I look forward to seeing how their relationships with Eun-bi develop. I was particularly intrigued by Tae-gwang’s smirk at the very end, just after he broke the lock on Eun-bi’s locker—it suggests that he may have some particular grudge against Eun-byul, and it should be fun to see him revising his image of her once he sees how she has changed.
I’m already feeling conflicted (in a good way) about Eun-bi’s gradual process of acclimation to her school and supposed friends. Even with amnesia, it’s clear how much Eun-bi responds to the kindness of others, a kindness she has never been able to experience (except from the girls at the orphanage, which is different because Eun-bi was always the one who had to protect them).
But now she’s starting to learn that her “old self” wasn’t such a nice girl after all (ah, this sounds familiar), which leaves Eun-bi with a difficult choice: Does she stand up for her principles, even if it means risking the friends she’s only recently discovered?
It may not seem a difficult choice to us, the viewers, but remember that the amount of pressure that can be exerted by friends or peers is immense—and with Eun-bi lacking her memories, she is even more vulnerable to such pressure. Not only that, but if Eun-bi does regain her memories of the time when she was nothing but a victim, would she speak out to protect people like her… or would she reinvent herself to become more like Eun-byul, to make sure she never has to be a victim again? I see a lot of challenges ahead, and I absolutely can’t wait to see what happens.
With a heroine I’m already rooting for, a juicy central mystery and a brisk pace that keeps us moving without feeling at all hurried, School 2015 just might turn out to have everything I hope for in a drama. I hope you’re all excited—it’s time to go back to school!
- Who Are You–School 2015: Episode 1
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- Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the first day of School
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- Script reads for new KBS spring dramas Producer and School 2015
- News bites: April 5, 2015
- School 2015 still without leading man, courts Yook Sung-jae to star
- Nam Joo-hyuk up for first starring role in School 2015
- School 2015: Lee Yubi out, Kim So-hyun in?
- School 2015 in the works at KBS