School 2017: Episode 3
The mystery goes deeper with every episode, and every character shows that they have more and more layers to reveal about themselves. Though I might get concerned if the show adds any more plot to its already loaded story, I’m happier with our young, inexperienced, and tragically misunderstood characters than I was in the pilot episode, and am ready to see this mystery resolved.
EPISODE 3 RECAP
In webtoon style, we scroll through images of the mysterious, faceless X devising his earlier pranks. We then see him at work on his latest project: vandalizing Principal Yang’s car in broad daylight.
This time, however, Officer Han and Teacher Shim are ready for action. Preparing to sneak up on the culprit, they inch forward… until Teacher Shim accidentally steps on a loud branch. Oops. Catching sight of them, X makes a run for it, with Officer Han and Teacher Shim hot on his trail.
Eun-ho, meanwhile, heads home with Sa-rang when she catches sight of the chase. She immediately joins in, but X is too fast for all three of them. Just when it seems they’ve lost him, PE teacher Jung shows up and tackles X to the ground. As the others watch, Teacher Jung reaches for X’s hood to reveal…
…Classmate Duk-soo, who sheepishly confesses to Principal Yang that he isn’t actually X—he just thought X was cool and wanted to imitate him. Officer Han backs up his claims with evidence, but the explanation only angers Principal Yang further, and when Teacher Gu barges in with another X-wannabe prankster, the incensed Principal Yang hits both students with a bunch of demerits.
Principal Yang then receives a phone call from Director Hyun, who says something that stresses him out even further. He orders everyone out and summons Eun-ho to his office for a private conversation.
To Eun-ho’s annoyance, Principal Yang admits that she may not be X, but there’s still a possibility that she’s X’s accomplice, especially since X went out of his way to rescue her. Eun-ho insists on her innocence, but he’s not interested; instead, he offers to make a deal with her.
The next thing we know, Principal Yang delivers a televised public service announcement to the students. Assuring their anonymity, he encourages the students to report their fellow classmates for any misdemeanors they see, offering five merit points per report.
To incentivize them further, Principal Yang declares that the number of the students’ demerits will be publicly posted every two weeks. The ten students with the most demerits will be suspended or expelled. Um, wow.
As expected, the students are incensed by the announcement. Complaining about the principal’s irrationality, they all agree not to report each other, until the uber-competitive Hee-chan says, “How am I supposed to believe that?” Damn.
As the students file out of the classroom in heavy silence, Eun-ho whispers to her best friend Sa-rang that this might be her fault. In flashback, we see the deal that Principal Yang had offered her: capture X in exchange for reducing her demerits.
Sa-rang realizes that the demerit system is all a ploy to get the students to corner X themselves. Still, Eun-ho sighs that with her demerits, she won’t be able to make it to any college, let alone Hanguk University.
That afternoon, she meets with a Hanguk University advisor who promises that she can get into Hanguk University despite her poor grades, as long as she wins third place or higher in the webtoon competition. The only caveat, of course, is that she needs a clean student record. Oof.
That knowledge is enough to kick Eun-ho into action. Swearing to catch X and get rid of all her demerit points, Eun-ho begins to track down the witnesses of X’s appearance, starting with guitar-toting Kyung-woo.
Kyung-woo wonders why she’s so willing to catch X even though he rescued her, and Eun-ho just sighs that she has to get into college. She wonders if X was just playing with her, but Kyung-woo muses that he was probably just scared—he had likely been too overwhelmed by his own situation to think about others.
Eun-ho suspiciously notes that he sounds like he knows something, but Kyung-woo just brushes off the accusation.
Later that day, Eun-ho finds a note in her locker that reads, “Tae-woon and Dae-hwi were not in the assembly hall.” At that moment, both boys in question enter the classroom, calling her name. Eun-ho quickly hides the note behind her back, watching them with renewed suspicion.
Dae-hwi asks what the principal wanted with her, and she tells them that he’s just determined to capture the culprit. Pointedly eyeing Tae-woon, Dae-hwi notes that X must be feeling nervous—a look which doesn’t escape Eun-ho’s notice. Tae-woon just brushes off the suspicion.
Eun-ho then goes to Teacher Shim to ask where Dae-hwi and Tae-woon were on the day of the assembly. Teacher Shim has valid alibis for both, however, leaving her back at square one.
Dae-hwi, meanwhile, walks through the school and greets Kyung-woo. Kyung-woo stops him to ask a strange question: “X must have flown that drone to protect Eun-ho, right?” When Dae-hwi agrees, Kyung-woo questions his alibi during the assembly, which seems to perturb Dae-hwi.
Eun-ho sits by the school basketball courts, deep in thought, when Tae-woon comes by. They banter back and forth before Eun-ho decides to test the waters, asking whether he thinks X sent that drone to save her. Tae-woon: “You think X has nothing better to do? X probably didn’t want to be associated with a dimwit like you.” Lol.
Tae-woon runs off to the basketball court before she can retort, and Eun-ho sighs to herself: “There’s no way that guy is a hero. No way.”
Eun-ho shows Sa-rang the note from her locker, and together they begin to wonder whether the suspicion really makes sense. Dae-hwi is the model student: top of the class, student body president, and Principal Yang’s favorite, while Tae-woon is the director’s son. “Why would kids like them mess with the school?” Sa-rang wonders.
Sa-rang’s reasoning makes sense, and Eun-ho begins to second-guess the note, thinking that maybe the true culprit sent it to her to take the suspicion off of himself.
At dinner that night, Eun-ho’s whole family joins in on solving the mystery. Eun-ho’s brother guesses that it must be “the rich one,” since he clearly has enough resources to use a drone, while Mom guesses that it must be “the studious one,” who is using the pranks for stress relief.
Dad, meanwhile, just gets upset that everyone is ignoring him instead of complimenting the dinner he slaved over. At that, they quickly shower him with praises, turning their attention to the meal. LOL, adorable.
The next day, Eun-ho catches sight of Tae-woon hanging around the principal’s office with a mysterious bag in his hand. When he slips inside, Eun-ho follows—only to find it totally empty.
Confused, Eun-ho starts to search for Tae-woon, until she hears Principal Yang sneezing and heading toward the office. Panicked, Eun-ho looks around for a place to hide when Tae-woon suddenly comes out of nowhere and pulls her behind a wall, clamping a hand over her mouth and clutching her close.
By the time Principal Yang walks in, the two are nowhere to be seen. But suddenly, the principal freezes, staring at the exact place where Eun-ho and Tae-woon are hiding. It almost seems like they’ve been caught… until Principal just sneezes again and walks out. Phew.
Safely alone, Eun-ho asks what Tae-woon was doing in there. He explains that his dad asked him to drop something off to the principal, and only hid because he thought she came in to do something bad: “If you pull pranks on our school, you’ll be punished,” he tells her with a cheeky wink. Before she can retort, he leans in reaaal close before walking out.
Just as they leave the office, however, Principal Yang and Vice Principal Park turn the corner to see them. When they demand to know what they were doing, Tae-woon quickly explains that his father asked him to drop something off. As for Eun-ho? “She just keeps following me around,” Tae-woon sighs. Hee.
He notes to the principal that there’s no way Eun-ho is X’s accomplice since she’s so dimwitted. Eun-ho scowls, but it gets the adults off their case. Tae-woon tells the principal that he’ll make sure to tell his father about this before walking off.
Outside, Eun-ho starts to complain about Tae-woon’s rudeness, until he reminds her that he just saved her skin. He wonders if he should just rat her out and get the merit points for it, and Eun-ho wonders if he’s threatening her.
Meanwhile, the principal and vice principal sit in the office, trying to decode Tae-woon’s meaning. Vice Principal Park guesses that he meant that Director Hyun wants the culprit caught ASAP, and Principal Yang smiles, noting that they’ve already cast the bait.
Alone in the office that night, a miserable Teacher Shim reviews each student’s demerits. Annoyed by the irrational system, Teacher Shim gets up to act out how he wanted to confront Principal Yang, doing a hilariously spot-on impression of each of the faculty.
Just as he starts to struggle with Teacher Gu’s character, however, the real Teacher Gu suddenly stands up from a dark corner of the office. LOL. As Teacher Shim gasps in horror, Teacher Gu finishes his lines for Teacher Shim, leaving him in mortified regret.
The next morning, the school posts the students’ demerits in public. The mood sours among the students as they realize their traitorous classmates must have reported them anonymously after all.
Eun-ho gasps at her thirty-nine demerits, while Sa-rang gloats that she has none. When the students note that even star student Dae-hwi has a few, however, they wonder who could have reported him.
Hee-chan, meanwhile, is strangely silent, and we see why: In flashback, we see that Hee-chan’s mom had told him to take this opportunity to report Dae-hwi and mar his perfect student record. Wow, lady, way to be a role model.
When acerbic Bit-na sees her thirteen demerits, however, she reacts violently, shoving her classmates and demanding to know who reported her. When everyone begins to raise their cell phones to record her outburst as evidence, she hurries away, furious.
One student goes straight to Teacher Shim to complain about his demerits. When Teacher Shim shows photo evidence of him smoking a cigarette, he’s unable to argue, and returns to the classroom in a furious mood.
Teacher Shim asks Teacher Gu why they have to turn the students against each other. Teacher Gu replies: “Once they leave school, they’ll face a cold, cruel world. We’re simply teaching them that reality.”
The smoker returns to class and immediately accuses his friend of ratting him out. When his friend denies it, the argument escalates into a fistfight. Suddenly, they notice Bit-na taking pictures of the disruption, probably planning to report them and win some points for herself.
As the fight spreads across the classroom, Sa-rang notes to Eun-ho that the school is slowly going crazy. Eun-ho shows her the latest comic in her sketchbook, which depicts a parody of The Wailing: As a crowd gathers around a guy who died from “earning too many demerits,” a crazed Eun-ho tells police officer/Teacher Shim not to be fooled. “This is all the principal’s demonic plan,” she warns.
At that moment, a hooded figure removes his hood: It’s Tae-woon, who declares that he’s the culprit, X. Suddenly, she turns around to see Dae-hwi in the same hoodie, who hisses that all that matters is merit points.
Trembling, the crazed Eun-ho gasps that they were accomplices… until Sa-rang suddenly appears behind them all, snapping photos of them not wearing their uniforms. She cackles at them, saying they all took the bait. Lol.
Back in reality, Sa-rang returns Eun-ho’s sketchbook and tells her to use Issue, her favorite idol, as the protagonist next time. As Sa-rang drools over Issue’s photo in a magazine, classmate Duk-soo calls Eun-ho out to weed the school garden to cut their demerits.
As Eun-ho and Duk-soo weed the garden, Dae-hwi comes by with some cold drinks. They gratefully accept, though Eun-ho voices her suspicion for the sudden kindness: “Is this because you feel guilty about something?”
Dae-hwi starts to look nervous… until Duk-soo throws an arm around his shoulder and tells Eun-ho that he and Dae-hwi are close friends. Dae-hwi quickly agrees, though Eun-ho looks unconvinced.
In Teacher Gu’s class, the class recites the poems that they’ve written. Eun-ho’s poem, titled “This is All Because of X,” consists of a list of oppressive school policies and events that have occurred due to X’s threat. She growls that she’ll kill X when she finds him, looking pointedly at Tae-woon and Dae-hwi. The boys just smile to themselves at her antics.
At the bell, Teacher Shim comes by to give Dae-hwi the school’s master key. Surprised, Eun-ho asks why he gets to use the master key, and he explains that he has to go into a lot of rooms as school president—both he and the vice president have one.
Filled with suspicion, Eun-ho follows Dae-hwi after class, only to find him meeting up with Nam-joo for a kiss. Omo! Eun-ho ducks around the corner, trying to watch past her embarrassment, when Tae-woon suddenly appears over her shoulder, out of nowhere. He asks what she’s doing, and a flustered Eun-ho drags him away before they can get caught.
Dae-hwi and Nam-joo, meanwhile, aren’t having as romantic a time as it seemed from afar. Before Nam-joo can kiss Dae-hwi, he pushes her away, leaving her humiliated. Exasperated, she demands to know why he’s dating her, and he responds: “Because you’re pretty.” Well, that’s nice.
Nam-joo, of course, hardly likes that answer, and turns to leave. But this time, Dae-hwi stops her and kisses her gently on the forehead. He amends his answer: “I’m dating you because I like all the things that you have. Including your pretty looks.” Nam-joo wonders what he means, but we don’t get an explanation.
As they walk back together, Eun-ho asks if Tae-woon has had his first kiss yet, clearly self-conscious that she still hasn’t had hers. When Tae-woon nervously stutters that of course he’s had his first kiss (lol), Eun-ho just sighs that she should hurry up and have hers, too.
When Tae-woon (jealously?) demands to know whether she plans to kiss Jong-geun sunbae, Eun-ho retorts that it’s none of his business before stomping away. Hee.
As Eun-ho prepares for the Hanguk University art competition that night, her family adorably takes turns bringing her snacks and beverages, trying not to distract her and telling her to do her best. Even older brother comes by with some allowance money, and she laughs at their overreaction but thanks them for their sentiments.
Sa-rang watches performance videos of her idol Issue at the bus stop when Kyung-woo joins her. When he asks what she’s looking at, she shows him Issue’s performance, gushing over how talented he is—only to hear Kyung-woo give a detailed critique of his performance in return. Sa-rang scowls and moves away from him on the bench. LOL.
At school, Sa-rang tells Eun-ho that she’ll be leaving school for another civil service exam, this one a whole three days. At that moment, Teacher Shim enters to announce that they have a new transfer student.
Sa-rang’s jaw drops as she sees who it is: Issue, her favorite idol. Is this a daydream? As Issue introduces himself to the class as Kang Hyun-il, Sa-rang practically drools all over her desk.
Eun-ho prepares to go to the art competition when Tae-woon comes by, calling her a dimwit and telling her not to forget anything. She begins to complain about his immaturity, always making fun of her… until she realizes her bike chain has broken again. Tae-woon tells her to take the bus instead, but strangely, Eun-ho tells him that she can’t take the bus.
Eun-ho then turns to Tae-woon, suddenly singing praises about his kindness and maturity. Tae-woon doesn’t budge, however—not until she asks nicely and calls him “oppa.” Hee.
Eun-ho must relent offscreen, because Tae-woon gives her a ride to Hanguk University. In her nervousness and excitement, she hurries off without taking off her helmet. Tae-woon watches her run off, grinning to himself. Aw, he’s such a goner.
Bit-na goes to Teacher Shim to find out who reported her, saying that the photo evidence against her might have been faked. Teacher Shim entreats her not to start doubting her classmates, but when the other teachers in the office loudly begin to gossip and blame Eun-ho as the cause of the school’s current drama, it’s too late: Bit-na has heard enough.
Bit-na returns to the classroom to confront Eun-ho in front of the whole class. She announces that the demerit system is Eun-ho’s fault, and that she and Principal Yang conspired to get the students to catch X themselves.
The class immediately starts blaming her for their marred student records. Dae-hwi steps in to remind them that there’s no evidence, but to Eun-ho’s shock, Bit-na tells him that she heard it from Teacher Shim himself. Yikes.
That afternoon, Eun-ho sketches in her notepad outside when a trio of third-years passes by. They demand that she take responsibility for the risk she put them under for college admissions. When Eun-ho insists that it’s not her fault, they snatch away her sketchbook, holding it out of reach.
Tae-woon swings by at that moment, grabbing the sketchbook out of their hands. He tells the sunbaes to back off, reminding them that he owns this school and that his family is rich. Suddenly recognizing him as the director’s son, they scurry away before he can make good on his threats. When Tae-woon returns her sketchbook, Eun-ho takes it and leaves without a word.
That afternoon, Eun-ho opens her locker to find one of her sketchbooks sopping wet and ruined. Holding back her tears, she turns to look at the kids in the classroom, but they just coldly stare back at her.
Clutching her ruined sketchbook, Eun-ho storms to the principal’s office to tell him that she wants to accept his deal: “If I catch X, you’ll get rid of my demerits and even write me a recommendation letter.” Aw, so she never agreed in the first place. Principal Yang grins delightedly, happy that she’s come to her senses, and readily accepts.
Tae-woon waits for Eun-ho at his motorcycle that afternoon. He starts to tease her as usual, telling her to feel free to thank him for rescuing her. But to his surprise, she tells him that she’s not thankful. She glares at him: “Just wait until I catch X. I’ll kill him.”
Tae-woon stands at his usual lookout spot, staring at a watch around his wrist. In flashback, we see that Dae-hwi, Tae-woon, and another boy named Joon-ki used to be inseparable friends, and all had matching wristwatches to symbolize their friendship.
One night while riding their motorcycles together, however, Joon-ki had gotten into a fatal accident, leaving Tae-woon traumatized. Overwhelmed by emotion, Tae-woon begins to cry, walking dangerously close to the ledge.
Meanwhile, Eun-ho puts a bouquet of flowers by the road where Joon-ki died. Hm, was she close with him, too?
Dae-hwi seems to have the same thoughts as he reads an old news article about Joon-ki’s accident. Behind him, the calendar marks the day as the first anniversary of Joon-ki’s death. He pulls out his own watch and cries silently.
And we also see that in X’s mysterious hideout, a photo of the three former best friends is surrounded by candles, like a small vigil.
Director Hyun finds Tae-woon riding his motorcycle to school in the morning and angrily reminds him that he’s forbidden him to ride it. Tae-woon, however, just retorts that nothing will change the way his father acted back then and storms away.
That morning, Tae-woon comes to school to find his bag and watch fallen on the ground. He picks up the watch to find the face shattered, and infuriated, Tae-woon begins throwing chairs around the classroom, demanding to know who did it.
Annoyed, Dae-hwi yells for him to shut up—before seeing the broken watch in his hand. Recognizing the watch, a storm starts to brew between Dae-hwi and Tae-woon, and they order the other students to leave. The class files out immediately, and although Eun-ho tries to turn to talk to Tae-woon, a classmates grabs her arm and pulls her away.
Alone together, Dae-hwi asks if he feels like he’s atoning for his sins when he wears “that thing” around. Incensed by his language, Tae-woon begins to cry, and the fight erupts into blows.
As they wrestle each other across the classroom and their faces get bruised and bloody, Dae-hwi calls Tae-woon a coward. Tae-woon says he’s going to destroy it all, and Dae-hwi assures him that he’s been wondering how to destroy this “rotten school” anyway. Tae-woon retorts that the other kids would be interested to know what Dae-hwi has done, and Dae-hwi counters by calling him a murderer. Oh my gosh.
Eun-ho follows her classmates out, but is too worried to just walk away. She rushes back to the classroom, and when she opens the door, she finds Tae-woon and Dae-hwi at each other’s throats. Horrified, Eun-ho screams: “Are you guys crazy?!”
My gosh, that fight scene was brutal. While I initially thought the show’s uneven plot and direction was sloppy, I now find myself appreciating the “rawness” that stems from it—a sort of innocent naiveté felt in the inexperienced but genuine performances of its young cast, the wide yet believable emotional spectrum that varies across its many diverse characters, and, of course, scenes like Tae-woon’s and Dae-hwi’s passion-fueled fistfight. I’m not saying that the plot or characters of School 2017 are realistic by any means—but by harmonizing its inexperienced youths (both in its characters and its actors) with a breezy, heartfelt world, the show successfully and continuously creates emotional character moments that shine through each scene.
As a result of that, we are able to understand and root for our characters because they are young and inexperienced, rather than feeling annoyed by their “immature” problems—which is something that the School franchise has always excelled at. Even hateful and over-competitive Bit-na, for example, is more understandable than annoying, and the fact that all of the students are turning against each other—instead of recognizing that the principal is the true problem, as we do—feels tragic rather than stupid.
This isn’t to say that I’m ready to put my faith in the show just yet, however. While I thought that this episode redeemed many of its flaws with its best moments—Eun-ho and Tae-woon’s adorable interactions, Kyung-woo’s and Dae-hwi’s suspiciousness, PE teacher Jung starting to help Teacher Shim’s side in small gestures—many parts of the episode also felt jarring and poorly executed. For example, this episode alone very suddenly brought up a couple of new (and pretty major) storylines, like Tae-woon and Dae-hwi’s relationship with a heretofore unmentioned dead classmate or Sa-rang’s unhealthy obsession with an idol. Certainly, the show has been foreshadowing these plot points in small doses, but adding this very heavy serving to an already loaded plate felt narratively overwhelming.
Especially in this episode, it feels like School 2017 is trying to juggle too many themes at once. Perhaps the show will be able to resolve them all satisfyingly later, but I’d much prefer it if the show would focus on one or two subjects in a more complex, meaningful way. Reconciling the death of a classmate, dreaming of becoming a webtoon artist, understanding the problems of privilege and entitlement, and idol hijinks all seem like large and infinitely explorable but tenuously related themes, leaving me with whiplash whenever we suddenly move onto another subject without warning.
Still, I am enjoying School 2017 more and more, especially since we’re being led by an adorably likable heroine. Even aside from Kim Se-jung’s consistently entertaining and endearing performance, these past couple of episodes have shown a strong improvement in her character (especially without Jong-geun sunbae interfering with her dream).
In addition, I personally really dislike the enemies-to-lovers trope, which is why I’m loving Eun-ho’s personality as a bubbly, positive girl who is naturally friendly with everyone. I love that all of her interactions, not only with Tae-woon and Dae-hwi but with the rest of her classmates, are relatively friendly and undramatic outside of the demerit problem, and I can only hope it’ll stay that way despite the resentment she’s currently receiving from her class. Eun-ho truly seems like a good girl who just wants to draw and have a good time with her friends at school, embroiled in this drama that she didn’t ask for. Now that we’re past the setup, I’m rooting to see all of my students kick some authority butt and emerge victorious with their dreams.
- 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