School 2017: Episode 5
Gosh, what an emotional ride. Now that the setup is finally squared away, School 2017 really starts to sink its teeth into its character ties, revealing a whole new dimension of development. Though I think it had a bit of a rocky start, it’s shaping up to be a much fuller show than I gave it credit for, and I was surprised by how moved I was by this episode. Hopefully, we’ll continue this emotional run… though I don’t know if I’ll survive another scene of Dae-hwi in tears.
EPISODE 5 RECAP
As Tae-woon removes his hood, Eun-ho stares at him in disbelief. This time, it’s Eun-ho’s turn to lean in reaaal close and make Tae-woon nervous… until she snorts: “You’re another impostor, aren’t you?”
Realizing that Eun-ho thinks he’s another false X, Tae-woon drags her to the warehouse to prove his identity, grumbling all the way at her accusation of being a fake. Eun-ho still refuses to believe him even as she sees the warehouse, until she sees the Principal Yang dummy-drone, and a photograph of Tae-woon, Dae-hwi, and Joon-ki.
Reluctant to accept that Tae-woon is the admirable (and handsome) hero she’s been imagining, Eun-ho asks why it had to be him, and Tae-woon argues that he totally fits the profile. She points out that he doesn’t have the wound in his side from escaping through the shattered window. Tae-woon agrees: “Because the wound isn’t on my side, it’s lower down.” When Eun-ho cranes her neck to see, Tae-woon calls her a pervert, offering to pull down his pants for her to check for herself, LOL.
Faced with such undeniable evidence, Eun-ho is filled with dread as she realizes that he’s telling the truth after all. Eun-ho shoves him, demanding to know why he did it. Tae-woon just shrugs and says: “I was annoyed and bored.”
Tae-woon starts to tease her again before realizing that Eun-ho isn’t joking anymore—she’s truly upset. She asks whether it was fun to watch her run around trying to catch the culprit: “It might have been fun for you, but I was suffering,” she says, close to tears. She tells him to leave her out of his childish pranks, and Tae-woon stares at her, perturbed by her words.
Suddenly, they’re interrupted by a loud knock on the door—it’s Officer Han and Teacher Shim! Eun-ho notes that it doesn’t matter if he gets caught and even starts to call out to them, but Tae-woon quickly reminds her that if they’re caught now, they’ll be accomplices.
Officer Han is certain that this is X’s hideout, but Teacher Shim does his best to persuade her otherwise. He insists that the warehouse is just a place to store junk, but Officer Han isn’t convinced, and hurries off to find something to break down the door with.
Eun-ho storms out as soon as they’re gone, and Tae-woon chases her out, yelling at her to report him if she wants. She snaps back that she will, noting that he must not be afraid since he’s the director’s son and the students are just his toys. Ouch.
Tae-woon tells her to watch her mouth if she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She shoots back a sarcastic apology for running her mouth, and he snaps that he’s glad she’s finally learned her place. They part ways, disappointed and furious at each other.
That night, Principal Yang visits Director Hyun at home. The director notes that the media is starting to call their school policies abusive, and orders the principal to find X and hold him legally responsible for the mess he’s caused.
Tae-woon returns home at that moment, overhearing their conversation before silently retreating to his room. Alone, he gazes at the picture of him with Dae-hwi and Joon-ki before picking up a chicken coupon for Eun-ho’s restaurant. Recalling his argument with Eun-ho, he sighs in annoyance that she doesn’t know anything.
In her own room, Eun-ho does the same, drawing a picture of an evil-looking X in her sketchbook. She sighs, shoving the drawing away in frustration.
The next morning, Dae-hwi reads a book on the bus to school when he sees Nam-joo get on. He quickly gives up his seat for her before turning back to his book, much to her annoyance—but this time, Dae-hwi notices. He sits down beside her, explaining that he needs to read a lot to get his student evaluation on par with the other kids.
Noting that it must be nice to have a consultant take care of everything for her, Dae-hwi starts to ask all sorts of questions about her own student record, noting that she probably volunteers at her father’s company. Strangely, Nam-joo looks uncomfortable at that remark.
At school, Teacher Shim hands back the students’ freshman year evaluations, telling them to fill in their records with whatever awards, certificates, and personal goals they’ve achieved in the past year. To their annoyance, he reminds them that he’s not allowed to show them their current student evaluations, but tells them to do their best to create a strong representation of themselves.
Tae-woon is totally uninterested in the whole exercise, but the kid in front of Tae-woon looks over it for him, noting that he’s been evaluated as “straightforward and honest.” The kid notes that it’s a perfect description, but Tae-woon just snorts that it’s totally inaccurate.
Officer Han finds Teacher Shim at school, asking him to explain student evaluations to her. Teacher Shim explains them as life records that college admissions officers look at, and that admissions depend on the quality of their evaluations.
At that moment, Eun-ho runs up to Teacher Shim, wailing that her evaluation needs critical help. Cut to: an unconscious Eun-ho in a hospital, being wheeled into the emergency room. Doctor-Teacher Shim yells that her student evaluation is in critical condition, while Eun-ho’s family begs Doctor-Principal Yang to save her. Lol.
Doctor Yang straps on his surgical gloves before going to treat Eun-ho. He looks over her charts, noting grimly that she’s in tier six and has a low chance of getting into college. Worse, her student evaluation is devoid of awards, volunteering, or reading. (Hilariously, the definitions for words like “student evaluation” and “experience” appear at the bottom of the screen as if they’re complex terms in a medical drama, and the monitors show numbers for her demerits and class rank, HA.)
The other doctor-teachers sigh that she’s hopeless, and Doctor Yang snaps that they should never have admitted such trash, since good student records are only for rich students. Yikes.
Back in reality, Officer Han points out that it should be a good thing that college admission doesn’t just depend on grades. Eun-ho and Teacher Shim explain, however, that having activities to put on their evaluations is actually all based on how much a student’s family can afford to pay for them. Officer Han realizes that this means you need to have money to go to college, and sighs that grades-based admissions is probably better after all.
Eun-ho meets with Teacher Shim to go over her student evaluations, and he admits that her evaluation is a mess. Still, he insists that she still has time and tells her not to give up. Eun-ho asks whether the school has any art competitions, and Teacher Shim promises to check before suggesting that Eun-ho try asking any sunbaes she knows for advice.
Cut to: Tae-woon looking miserable as Eun-ho calls Jong-geun sunbae, voice dripping with honey. Eun-ho asks if he has time to meet to talk about her student evaluations, only to hear that he’s out on a backpacking trip… with his girlfriend. Tae-woon suddenly looks less pouty, and Eun-ho quickly ends the call.
Tae-woon declares that he knew Jong-geun had the face of a traitor, and Eun-ho stalks up to him, calling him a hypocrite. She notes that if he weren’t in the teachers’ office that day, she wouldn’t have been framed for being X and she could definitely have gone to Hanguk University.
He snaps back that he was going to end it all that day anyway, but was forced to continue because of her: “I’d be fine if I got kicked out of school, but you… have friends and that tacky dream!” Aw. That seems to move Eun-ho a little, and she warns him that she’ll be keeping an eye on him for the rest of his life, which only makes Tae-woon grin, hee.
He asks where she’s going now, offering to go with her to make it easier for her to keep an eye on him, LOL. Eun-ho stares at him, asking if he thinks the world revolves around him. Tae-woon: “…Yes.” So cute.
So Tae-woon follows Eun-ho to the comic book store, complaining the whole time but refusing to leave. Eun-ho picks up a Batman comic, telling him that if he wants to be a hero in a mask, he should have a sense of justice or be willing to sacrifice himself. She demands to know why he did it, but Tae-woon brushes off the question again, blaming his frustration at school and his boredom.
Eun-ho sighs, throwing a comic book at him. He complains that reading comics is too childish for him, but when he starts enjoying the book way too much, Eun-ho tells him that he needs to pay for his enjoyment with labor.
So Eun-ho forces Tae-woon to help her with her part-time job handing out flyers. When he complains about the heat, Eun-ho threatens to rat him out. They start to bicker again, but soon he can’t stop staring at her with a goofy, lovestruck grin on his face.
Dae-hwi and Hee-chan arrive together for tutoring. Dae-hwi greets Eun-ho warmly, but when Tae-woon eyes him with Hee-chan, he snorts that Dae-hwi is still living “like this.” Dae-hwi glares at him before hurrying off.
Dae-hwi and Hee-chan wait for an elevator to meet a consultant. Hee-chan tells Dae-hwi that his mom is already waiting for them, before asking whether he finished his assessments. Omg, is Dae-hwi doing his homework for him? Hee-chan thanks him, but Dae-hwi just shrugs it off, noting that he’s not doing it for free.
Upstairs, an admissions consultant looks over Hee-chan’s student records while Dae-hwi stands outside, taking notes as he listens to her comments and advice. Oh gosh, is this what he meant by not doing it for free?
At the end of the session, Hee-chan’s mother hands the consultant her payment before telling her that she’s slipped in a little extra, asking for ten more minutes. She looks pointedly out at Dae-hwi, and he hurries inside for his ten minutes of consultation.
To his dismay (and Hee-chan’s hidden glee), the consultant tells him that it’ll be hard to get into Seoyul University because there’s nothing unique about him—he needs to link his awards to his personal statement, or else his application will lack impact. Before Dae-hwi can ask any questions, the ten minutes are up.
As Dae-hwi steps out, Hee-chan’s mother gives the consultant an expensive designer bag as a gift. Dae-hwi listens as the consultant assures Hee-chan’s mother that Hee-chan will get into Seoyul University since his student evaluations are so outstanding. Through the glass, Dae-hwi glowers in envy.
Principal Yang meets with some student mothers for dinner, including Hee-chan’s mom. He promises to hold some competitions before the students’ final examinations, giving them a chance to fill up their evaluations before they get too busy with studying.
The next day, Hee-chan leaves school with his grade report, dismayed to see that he’s ranked second in every subject. As they drive home, Hee-chan’s mother pressures him to beat Dae-hwi at least once, but Hee-chan snaps back that it doesn’t matter since Dae-hwi can’t get into Seoyul University anyway. Damn. Still, he agrees to study hard for the upcoming math competition.
Meanwhile, the teachers hold a conference, discussing which students to tell about the upcoming competitions. Teacher Shim insists that every student should have an equal chance to enter, but the other teachers insist that student evaluations are about selection and focus—only the best students should have the chance to improve their evaluations. Even if the lower-performing kids are given opportunities, they can’t go to college anyway. Teacher Shim listens in dismay.
Bullied student Bo-ra nervously tells the rebellious Young-gun to see Teacher Shim to discuss her student evaluations. Young-gun and her minions snap at her for being a teacher’s pet before stalking off, shoving her as they leave.
Young-gun goes to see Teacher Shim, who insists that as long as she shows improvement from student violence, she can still get into college. Young-gun hardly believes him, however, citing her poor student record and demerits. When she storms out, another teacher tells Teacher Shim to give up on her, since it’s true that she has no chance of admission.
Dae-hwi and Eun-ho sit in the library, looking up ways online to fill in their student evaluations. Dae-hwi suggests that Eun-ho turn her webtoon into a series—if it gets popular, it might help her chances of admission.
Dae-hwi, Tae-woon, and Eun-ho report to the teachers’ office to continue their cleaning punishment, when Eun-ho overhears a teacher talk with Bit-na about an art competition. Shocked, Eun-ho confronts the teacher, asking why she wasn’t notified about the competition.
When he tells her that winning competitions is only helpful if her rank is high enough for it to matter, an infuriated Eun-ho insists that every student should have equal opportunity: “Every student here desperately values their lives. The top student isn’t the only one that matters.” She storms out, and even Teacher Gu looks impressed by her words.
As Dae-hwi and Tae-woon leave the office, a teacher asks if they came to find out about the math competition. Dae-hwi is surprised by the news, but further annoyed when the teacher mentions that his father will probably tell Tae-woon soon.
When Dae-hwi bites that it must be nice to get such special treatment, Tae-woon retorts that Dae-hwi is practically Hee-chan’s servant: “Are you hoping he’ll throw some scraps your way if you hang around him?” Ouch.
Sure enough, Director Hyun enters Tae-woon’s room that evening to drop off the answers to the math competition problems. Tae-woon refuses to enter, however, calling it degrading to get the answers like this. He tells Dad to get off his case, assuring him that he won’t be causing any trouble. And even if he does, he snaps, Dad will cover it up anyway.
Telling him that he won’t let Tae-woon live as he pleases, Dad throws the answer packet on Tae-woon’s desk before storming out, knocking over the picture of Joon-ki in the process.
Furious, Tae-woon throws the packet on the floor, looking at Joon-ki’s photo as he flashes back to the accident. His father had called media outlets and newspaper reporters, naming Joon-ki a delinquent who died due to his own recklessness—he’d practically written the headlines, leaving Tae-woon clear of guilt.
Meanwhile, a traumatized Tae-woon had lain numbly in his hospital bed, seemingly trapped there. When a nurse forgot to close and lock the door behind her, however, he’d quickly snuck out to visit Joon-ki’s funeral.
Dae-hwi, meanwhile, had sat with Joon-ki’s grandmother at his lonely funeral, watching while a man delivered a money envelope to her as compensation for her grandson’s death, from Director Hyun. Oof.
Joon-ki’s grandmother had told Dae-hwi that Joon-ki bragged about him and Tae-woon at every moment, and would have quit school had he not met them. Joon-ki’s grandmother had pulled Dae-hwi close, lamenting her poor grandson, and Dae-hwi had begun to weep in sorrow. Oh my gosh.
Tae-woon, meanwhile, had hurried to Joon-ki’s funeral to find Dae-hwi and Grandma weeping together. Before he could approach, however, he’d spotted the compensation envelope on the floor beside her, horrified to realize what his father had done.
Later at school, Joon-ki’s grandmother had brought Joon-ki’s cremated remains to the school, begging the guards to let her take him around the school just once. The guards had refused, however, and poor Joon-ki’s grandmother had looked up and spotted Tae-woon in the crowd.
Powerless on his own, however, Tae-woon had barged into his father’s office, dropping to his knees and begging him to let Joon-ki go around the school, just once. But Dad had ignored his cries and his promises to be good from now on, leaving Tae-woon to wail in fury.
Back in the present, Tae-woon talks to Joon-ki’s photo and wonders why past or present, he’s still the same mess he always was.
Tae-woon then picks up the chicken coupon and orders delivery to his lookout spot. Eun-ho is the one to deliver the chicken, fatigued and annoyed, and guesses that the chicken is just an excuse to bother her. Hee. Noting his uncharacteristically mellow mood, Eun-ho sits down with him.
When Tae-woon notes that Eun-ho always works hard, she explains that she’s living in place of someone else, and so has to live twice as hard for his sake as well. She tells Tae-woon to do the same and stop rebelling so much: “You must think about him even more than I do.” Oh, these two.
Dae-hwi notes a bulletin for the math competition the next day at school, and immediately gets to work studying after class. Hee-chan asks whether Dae-hwi really plans to enter the competition, noting that it’ll be hard to win unless he’s specifically prepared for it. Dae-hwi just shrugs it off, saying he’s confident in math, and Hee-chan agrees.
Dae-hwi goes to the bookstore after school, picking out math workbooks and copying down the sample questions to the point that his nose begins to bleed. He just plugs up his nose and keeps working.
Hee-chan and Dae-hwi continue studying at the library the next day when a classmate comes by, asking Hee-chan whether he’s solved the competition questions yet. Shocked, Dae-hwi demands to know what they’re talking about, and the classmate takes pity on him so he doesn’t waste any more time. He explains that they have both the questions and the answers, but it doesn’t matter since first place will go to Tae-woon anyway.
Infuriated, Dae-hwi confronts Hee-chan outside. Hee-chan just notes that competitions are meant to improve certain students’ specs anyway, and tells Dae-hwi that there isn’t room for him in this situation.
Dae-hwi storms off, holding back tears in his anger, when Tae-woon passes by. Dae-hwi snorts that having a rich father makes him smart as well, storming off before Tae-woon can argue.
Tae-woon asks Hee-chan what Dae-hwi’s deal is, and Hee-chan explains that he’s mad because he studied so hard for the math competition without knowing that the winner was predetermined.
When Hee-chan smirks that Dae-hwi doesn’t know his place, Tae-woon retorts that he’s a consistent asshole. Poor Dae-hwi, meanwhile, rips up his math workbooks, tossing the pages into the trash.
Dae-hwi goes home that night to find his mother setting up a credit card account. She tells him that she needs him to be her guarantor—even though he’s young, he just needs to agree to be jointly responsible for the purchases later on.
Dae-hwi isn’t in the mood to put up with his mother’s antics today, however, and rips up the contract. When she demands to know his problem, Dae-hwi begins to weep, screaming at her to please stop acting like this. Agh.
The next morning, Teacher Shim calls Dae-hwi into his office to congratulate him: He’s won first place in the Hanguk University essay contest! Dae-hwi, however, informs him that his family can’t afford the tuition there, and he absolutely must get into Seoyul.
Teacher Shim guesses that he’s worried about his student evaluation, and tells him that he should try to win as many competitions as possible. He suggests that he try to win the upcoming math competition, clearly oblivious to the truth of the situation.
Dae-hwi can’t bring himself to say anything and starts to leave, when he notes a teacher organizing some papers in a cabinet labeled “school math competition.” Uh-oh. That night, Dae-hwi recalls Hee-chan’s words, realizing that he needs to do whatever he can to get into Seoyul. He pulls out the school’s master key and makes a decision.
Meanwhile, Eun-ho shows Tae-woon her latest comic at the school warehouse. He tells her that she hasn’t shown the hero’s psyche enough, urging her to try to empathize with the hero more and illustrate the feelings behind his actions, like why he happened to give her lemonade in this scene. Heh, that sounds familiar.
Eun-ho leans in close, wondering how to empathize, and shocks him with her proximity. “What is he feeling?” she asks innocently, while Tae-woon just wonders when she got so close to him. She tries her best to empathize, but gives up and decides to take a walk outside. As she wanders the school grounds, however, she notes a figure in a black hoodie run past her, and immediately gives chase.
The figure hurries to the teachers’ office, heading straight to the cabinet. He takes an envelope labeled “math competition questions and answers” before looking up and spotting Eun-ho.
The figure sprints out, Eun-ho hot on his trail. Tae-woon wanders outside at that moment, seeing the figure run past, before seeing Eun-ho right behind him.
Noting the direction he was heading in, Eun-ho takes a shortcut that leads her right into the hooded figure’s path, surprising him. As the envelope falls to the ground, Eun-ho gapes as the light reveals the face underneath the hood: Song Dae-hwi.
Oh no, Dae-hwi! Dae-hwi continues to be my favorite character in this show, and though we haven’t yet explored his backstory—we’ve mostly been focusing on Tae-woon’s side of the story so far—I’m pleased to see that the show gave us a strong enough foundation for his character to help us understand his motives in this episode. After being Hee-chan’s servant, picking up the crumbs of the rich despite all of his hard work, and dealing with his own mother’s constant irresponsibility, all Dae-hwi wants is to get into a good college and improve his life. Dae-hwi broke my heart more than a few times this episode, and it’s frustrating to see his innate good personality get walked all over by people like Hee-chan and his mother, but I’m also impressed with how well the show managed to balance the mystery and likability of his character. I can only hope that he’ll be able to hold onto the kindness and selflessness we’ve seen in these past few episodes, although a descent into the dark side will be interesting to explore for a while, too.
I particularly like that the characters in this drama feel so youthful and forgiving of each other. The School franchise has always been great at letting its characters make mistakes and learn from them, and I think this series is doing a great job at continuing that theme. I really loved Eun-ho’s line in the last episode, when she said that you can be friends with anyone at age eighteen, because it shows that not only are these kids young and full of opportunity, but always capable of forgiving each other. The adorable dynamic between Eun-ho and Tae-woon seems to show this especially well; their relationship isn’t portrayed as a clear-cut relationship that’s only loving or hating each other; they’re dynamic friends with flexible emotions. They don’t hide their feelings from themselves or from each other, and as a result, their interactions feel genuine. They’re cheeky at times, misinformed at others, and constantly navigating their understanding of each other—and as a result, it truly feels like watching two people becoming friends rather than following a script.
Certainly, I think this can be widely attributed to Eun-ho’s positive, ungrudging personality, and I found myself particularly grateful for her character when her argument with Tae-woon didn’t end up in an hour of angsty hatred. I hope this refreshing dynamic of forgiveness will appear in other characters as well.
Though it might be unwise to make this judgment so soon, this episode gave me a lot more assurance in the future trajectory of the show. By largely centering the plot on the relationships between the kids and their parents, this episode seemed to demonstrate a focused exploration of the characters, giving us a particularly touching and interesting way to frame the episode. Tae-woon’s father protects Tae-woon from anything that could stunt his chances later in life, and doesn’t seem to recognize that his attempts only hurt his son more. Hee-chan’s mother pushes Hee-chan into a pit of pressure, making me wonder if he would mean less to her if he couldn’t get into Seoyul. Dae-hwi’s mother doesn’t seem to even try to understand him, though I’d love to know if that’s because he doesn’t communicate his feelings to her or because his attempts have failed in the past. At the same time, however, they all love their children, though in different—and differently flawed—ways.
School 2017 didn’t do a seamless job in setting up its subplots early on, and seemed to me to tack them on rather than weave them together, especially in the beginning. But if the end result is a story full of heart and emotion the way this episode was, I’ll gladly withdraw that initial complaint.
- 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