Black Dog: Episode 4
Our heroine may have to come to terms with the fact that there might be a difference between short-term and permanent teachers after all. Though things don’t look to be in her favor, she now has people who will encourage and back her up. That goal of finding her place may not be too far off now.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
We meet Sung-soon as a high school senior in 1994, just as a new president was sworn into office and the CSAT was introduced for the first time. She eeny-meeny-miny-moe’d her way through her mock math exam, confused and strapped for time. Heh, her facial expressions are priceless.
Sung-soon’s teacher could only apologize and say, “Let’s rely on luck tomorrow. I love you guys,” as the class collectively sighed. She narrates that it was the hardest CSAT to date, leaving everybody in tears…except for her.
The College Advisory Department are all dressed up and arrive at a hotel. Yeon-woo and Haneul are invested in the story, guessing that Sung-soon didn’t cry because she did well…but nope, she’d bombed it.
Though her homeroom teacher had suggested some safe schools to apply to based on her grades, Sung-soon ambitiously applied for a top school – Yeonhee University. Yeon-woo and Haneul are as shocked as Sung-soon’s parents were that she actually made it in.
Prestigious schools saw a lack of applicants that year due to the low CSAT scores. While others were too afraid to apply for top-tier schools, Sung-soon was gutsy enough to send in an application despite her grades, resulting in her acceptance.
It’s something that could’ve only happened in the 90’s. As the quartet arrive at their destination (the Admissions Fair for 6 High Schools in Gangnam), Sung-soon gives Myung-soo a look and states that college admissions are all about information now.
They settle into their seats at the table and Yeon-woo guesses that Myung-soo and Sung-soon are in a spat with the way he’s acting.
Sung-soon happily greets Hae-won, who is preparing to present Daechi High to the parents of prospective students. One of the short-term teachers, Teacher Jang, notices that Haneul came with her team. She’s not the only one, because Hae-won also watches Haneul with an unreadable expression.
Haneul learns that Hae-won was with the College Advisory Department up until two years ago. Teacher Jang introduces herself to the team, and Myung-soo guesses that she and Haneul must be close since they’re both new. She goes along with it, not bothering to correct him.
Teacher Ha shares macarons with the After School Department back at the office. They learn that the College Advisory Department are at the fair, and shudder at the thought of being at “that scary place.” Ji-sun thoughtfully eyes Haneul’s empty seat before asking for an extra box of macarons. Aw.
Teacher Jang notes that Hae-won must be very capable if Sung-soon puts her trust in him. She eyes Haneul for a reaction, which Yeon-woo notices. When it’s finally Hae-won’s turn, a wave of parents get up to leave and mutter that it’s a waste of time to even listen to the Daechi High presentation.
Sung-soon matter-of-factly states that this is how unpopular their school is, directing her comment at Myung-soo who fidgets uncomfortably and avoids her gaze.
As Hae-won gets started on stage, Yeon-woo informs Haneul that their purpose for coming today is sales. She recalls Myung-soo mentioning sales when talking about visiting the college admissions offices.
Sales aren’t exactly standard procedure, so Myung-soo’s been acting out because he doesn’t want to go. “He’s surprisingly into following standard procedures even though his face doesn’t look very standard,” Yeon-woo jokes.
This earns a chuckle out of Haneul, but the smile disappears as quickly as it appeared when she notices Teacher Jang watching.
Yeon-woo explains that colleges don’t typically give advice about managing student records. The department therefore attends info sessions or invites admissions officers to visit the school to gather information about applications.
Hankuk University is quite prestigious, so they personally visit their admissions office. This is what they really mean by “sales” as a joke amongst themselves. It’s not breaking any rules, but could be considered cheating.
Understanding Myung-soo’s feelings now, Haneul starts to ask about Sung-soon but Teacher Jang interrupts in an attempt to join the conversation. Yeon-woo seems to purposely ignore her (making things awkward for everyone) and answers that Sung-soon believes the school’s responsible for their students.
Parents point out the school’s sore points during the Q&A session, such as their low acceptance rates into top schools. Hae-won loses the crowd as they murmur amongst themselves. Sung-soon directly addresses Myung-soo now, “Should we still not do sales?”
At his reluctant approval, Sung-soon puts her game face on and grabs a mic. She introduces Yeon-woo to show off that he hosts EBC lectures, which impresses the parents. Sung-soon shares that they intend to work with Hankuk University to improve student-record-based applications, which a parent pointed out as their weakness.
The crowd’s interest is piqued when Sung-soon invites the parents to the school’s conference. She announces that Hankuk University’s admissions officer will be there to share useful information, which turns the tide in their favor and finally makes Myung-soo light up.
The teachers part ways after the fair (aw, Sung-soon and Myung-soo are buddy-buddy again) and Haneul finds herself thinking about what she learned today. She’d asked Yeon-woo what he personally thought of the sales tactic, to which he answered that he considers it part of his job to send kids to college.
From outside her parents’ dry cleaners, Haneul watches as an irate customer becomes pleased when her dad uses an unconventional way to remove a stain. Haneul narrates, “If an anomaly doesn’t break the rules, doesn’t that naturally qualify for an exception?”
Her parents are adorably overjoyed to see Haneul and it’s so nice to see her smile so happily for once. Meanwhile, Ji-sun leaves the macarons on Haneul’s desk with a note before leaving for home.
Principal Byun praises Sung-soon for attending the fair and heartily agrees that she’s the star of the school. Teacher Ha notices her leaving the office, prompting Teacher Song to complain about her as per usual.
Haneul sees the macarons from Ji-sun and smiles, but Ji-sun isn’t at her desk. She’s picking up some documents when she overhears that a Teacher Park, who’s a permanent teacher, has decided to return to school early. One of the new hires will have to sign a five-month contract instead.
She shares this information with the others at lunch, who are understandably unhappy. A five-month contract doesn’t even allow them to qualify for unemployment benefits afterwards. The others agree that Haneul should get the shortened contract as the last one to be hired. Well, can’t argue with that.
Teacher Park’s unexpected return has everybody frustrated. The Chief of Administration, Teacher Yoo, speaks with Vice Principal Lee about one of the short-term hires signing a five-month contract. Out of principle, he suggests Haneul who joined them last.
Overhearing this, Teacher Moon is about to jump in, but the vice principal motions at him to stop. Sung-soon is called into the office to be updated on the situation while Vice Principal Lee takes Teacher Moon outside to talk.
Teacher Yoo laments that he always has to clean up the messes they make.
Teacher Moon complains about the unfair treatment – the job posting advertised a year-long position. Vice Principal Lee understands, but can’t do anything about it. They can’t accommodate for a short-term teacher over a permanent one. He warns Teacher Moon to butt out of Haneul’s matters to prevent the rumors from worsening.
Returning to his desk in a funk, Teacher Moon greets Hae-won and a few other teachers who are chatting on their break. He pulls up the forum again and overhears the other teachers pointing out that Hae-won speaks uniquely (he uses an uncommon word for “corrupt”).
Teacher Moon notices that Hae-won’s unusual word choice is the same “corrupt” that the poster uses on the forum, solidifying his suspicions.
Sung-soon deliberates on whether to bring Haneul on the business trip as she mulls over the contract situation. Right before Haneul returns to her desk, Yeon-woo takes a call on her behalf, learning that she didn’t submit Class 5’s attendance.
Haneul finds that strange, showing Yeon-woo her completed attendance sheet. He realizes what happened, promising the caller that Haneul will double-check. He explains that the teachers have gone digital and submit attendance through the teacher’s portal. Nobody uses the book anymore!
Frustrated, Sung-soon throws a pen and sighs that Haneul’s living in the 90’s alone. To make matters worse, Yi-boon brings a bunch of fliers that Haneul requested to print, revealing to a flustered Haneul that she’d filled out the wrong print request form. Vice Principal Lee witnesses this exchange nearby, making Sung-soon feel uneasy.
Yi-boon brings up the department’s business trip, asking why they didn’t include “my Haneul.” She bluntly asks if Haneul’s being ostracized because of the rumors with Teacher Moon, but nobody answers.
Sung-soon marches towards Haneul with purpose, throwing down folders filled with material to study prior to the college visits. They include analyses of the school’s college acceptance rates, accepted students, and their promotional brochure. Myung-soo and Yeon-woo seem unsettled, but under the vice principal’s watchful eye, Sung-soon berates Haneul for being unable to process simple paperwork.
As soon as Vice Principal Lee leaves, Sung-soon tells Haneul not to apologize and to take action. Nobody can criticize her for her connections if she can show that she’s competent.
Saved by the bell, everyone leaves Haneul alone to react to the events that just transpired. In the hallway, Hae-won overhears Myung-soo commenting that Sung-soon seems especially hard on Haneul. Yeon-woo calls it a love-hate relationship. (Myung-soo: “I get why she might not like Haneul, but how do you know she loves her?” Hah.)
Haneul looks through the documents and recalls what Sung-soon said to her today. Ji-sun sees her picking up some brochures that Sung-soon dropped on the floor, but leaves without saying bye.
She seems deep in thought as she walks home and receives a text from Teacher Jang that confirms that they decided on Haneul for the shortened contract. Oblivious to what’s awaiting her, Haneul works hard through the night, studying the material at Young-sook’s restaurant.
The After School Department are reviewing the after school programs, singling out Haneul’s teaching proposal for being too difficult. Ji-sun later takes Haneul outside for coffee, where Haneul smiles shyly and admits that she’s been wanting to teach an in-depth class like the one she proposed.
Though Ji-sun acknowledges that it’s a great class for the students, she brings Haneul back to reality: they won’t be here forever, and other teachers will have to take on the workload when Haneul leaves.
Ji-sun hesitates before advising Haneul not to work so hard. “You can just be somewhere in the middle. Don’t you think that’s enough? We’ll be leaving anyway.”
As she makes her way back to the office, Haneul narrates that she’d briefly forgotten that she’d be leaving this school. She’s entranced by the sight of students working hard in class when Teacher Yoo asks to speak to her about her contract.
Meanwhile, Teacher Sohn approaches Sung-soon to suggest that Haneul retract her proposal for the same reasons that Ji-sun cited. “Besides, I heard that she might not be here after the vacation,” which is news to Yeon-woo and Myung-soo.
Ji-sun rushes over to tell Teacher Sohn that she talked to Haneul so he apologizes and retreats, but everyone’s in a somber mood when Haneul returns.
Myung-soo and Yeon-woo listen as other teachers discuss the issue regarding the after school class during break. Teacher Sohn understands that it’s a good program for the students, but the problem persists that nobody will be willing to take over her classes when she leaves.
Yeon-woo offers to teach the course with Haneul, surprising everybody. This effectively solves the problem, so Teacher Sohn agrees and Yeon-woo heads back in with Myung-soo following behind – hee, is that a smirk on his face?
Teacher Cha from Information Systems notes that Yeon-woo doesn’t have much to gain from this arrangement. Hae-won remarks that Haneul must be amazing for him and Yi-boon to want to work with her. Teacher Sohn thinks that she must be a natural, but Hae-won seems to be bothered.
Haneul can’t help but think about Ji-sun’s advice to not work so hard, recalling her meeting with Teacher Yoo who broke the news and apologized for the situation. Sung-soon watches as Haneul brushes her hair behind her ears and recomposes herself for class.
Yeon-woo casually announces that he’ll teach Haneul’s after school program with her because he thinks it’s a good class. He’ll edit the proposal, so she doesn’t have to withdraw it anymore. Haneul doesn’t have much to say except “Thanks.”
Before entering their classrooms, Ji-sun calls out to Haneul and sincerely tells her that she’s rooting for her – an encouragement that Haneul returns.
Teacher Yoo chats with Teacher Song for a bit before remembering that he forgot to send the short-term teachers a message about signing the contracts.
Teacher Song’s idea of problem-solving is to make a public announcement during class time, asking all short-term teachers to report to the admin office as soon as possible. It’s incredibly tactless of him, and most teachers are uncomfortable with the kids finding out who the short-term teachers are.
Haneul and Ji-sun are both frozen post-announcement, unsure of what to do. A message pops up on Ji-sun’s computer with an e-mail that exposes her short-term status, which her students notice.
Vice Principal Lee takes Teacher Song outside to ask him to be more considerate to other teachers before acting. Teacher Song just argues that the kids know who’s a contract teacher even if they don’t show it.
Plus, short-terms really are different from the permanent teachers. “We’re family who will be here for life, and they’re just people passing through.” The vice principal can’t believe what he’s hearing, and leaves him with a warning to watch himself, but Teacher Song continues to mouth off and it’s clear that he resents the short-terms.
All the short-term teachers including Hae-won sign their contracts that day, but Ji-sun never showed up. Her desk is completely cleared out and nobody knows whether she left voluntarily or was forced to leave.
Tears escape as Haneul remembers all the encouragement and kindness Ji-sun had shown her despite being in the same position. With her gone, Haneul signs the one-year contract with a heavy heart.
The remaining new recruits make sure that Haneul hears them talking during lunch, insinuating that she shamelessly stole Ji-sun’s spot. They call her thick-skinned, but Haneul is clearly affected by their words.
As if being chased, Haneul literally runs away from the new recruits after lunch to escape to the elevator, where she finds her uncle. In a moment of sudden determination, she asks what she must do to become a permanent teacher but he draws a professional line between them. Hae-won finds them in the elevator, but Haneul doesn’t move until he calls out to her.
Haneul’s still pretty out of it during their department meeting, until Sung-soon asks how her studying’s going. She’s pleased to see all the notes Haneul made, but suddenly remembering Ji-sun’s words of advice to not work too hard, Haneul clams up.
Everybody waits expectantly for her to share her findings, but she lies and says that she doesn’t know because it was too difficult. She decides not to share her opinions, disappointing Sung-soon, who asks the other two to leave the room.
Teacher Jang visits the Information Systems Department where she overhears that Teacher Moon had asked for a list of the teachers’ IP addresses to investigate the corruption post, but did not get that information as it would be an invasion of privacy.
Sung-soon guesses what’s on Haneul’s mind: “I’m not one of them anyway. They won’t listen to anything I say.” She denies it, but Sung-soon probes and asks where her spirit has gone when she was filled with passion before.
Haneul makes up some excuses, and Sung-soon says that if she knew that Haneul was going to run away, she wouldn’t have included Haneul’s business trip request with theirs. Sung-soon returns to the office alone, and says that Haneul won’t be joining them on the trip today.
When Haneul saunters in a few moments later, she’s back to her senses and asks to join them. She admits that she thought about quitting because she’s not one of them and can’t stay with even if she wants to.
With emotions welling up, she promises that it was all just a fleeting thought and asks for Sung-soon’s understanding. The team observes her in her moment of raw honesty, and Sung-soon tells her to pack her things and join them. Aw, Haneul’s so happy.
Since Teacher Cha denied his request for the IP addresses, Teacher Moon takes it upon himself to search Hae-won’s laptop. He tries various passwords, but is unable to log in. This definitely makes him look more guilty than he actually is.
The team’s in good spirits but their mouths hang open to see the state that Sung-soon’s car is in. Haneul accidentally grabs a dirty sock from the backseat, which Yeon-woo immediately tosses away, LOL. Sung-soon defends herself by saying that it’s not good to wash cars too often, or it’ll get spoiled and arrogant.
Everybody steals glances at Haneul who observes her surroundings. They decide to walk around the campus, but the boys head to the restroom together, leaving the ladies behind. Sung-soon and Haneul start to speak at the same time, and it’s so awkward that Sung-soon excuses herself to go to the restroom too.
She hesitates and turns around to say the one thing Haneul needed to hear most: to the students, they’re both the same. They’re both teachers. Haneul enjoys the breeze on her face as a tear escapes and she’s finally able to smile.
Agh, our sweet Ji-sun is gone, just like that. She was so good to Haneul and has such a kind heart, it’s really upsetting that things played out like that. (Also, what kind of e-mail automatically pops up not as a notification but as an entire window?!) I know that there’s a divide with short-term and permanent status, but I really can’t imagine it being so bad that someone would quit immediately after their students find out that they’re a contract teacher. I am so curious to know what happened to Ji-sun in her previous schools that caused such a strong reaction. I wish her all the best and will hold out hope that it won’t be the last we see of her. Can she and Haneul meet up for coffee dates outside of school, pretty please?
I feel like we’ve spent the whole hour catching Hae-won, our short-term teacher, casting glances at Haneul and making eye contact with Teacher Moon. It’s almost funny how consistent this show is with the lack of subtlety when it comes to him. It’s probably on purpose, but there’s only so many ~meaningful looks~ I can handle in one episode. Of course, he may not be the poster and it could all just be one huge red herring to throw us off. If he really is the poster, then I have to say that I can’t sense any resentment resonating from him when he looks at Haneul, which is what I would’ve expected. Instead, there’s almost a tinge of sadness or longing. For example, when Yeon-woo offered to teach with Haneul, Hae-won seemed like he was surprised but perhaps also jealous that someone would do something like that for a short-term teacher? This is all speculation, but I’m thinking that Hae-won must be fighting a lonely battle himself, desperately wanting to belong in this workplace that he’s spent six years in already. The scene where Teacher Song called out the short-term teachers had him pretty shaken, and I think he’s lived the past six years toeing a fine line to keep his short-term status under wraps. I feel for him, because lack of job security really sucks. I hope he’s someone that will end up being a friend rather than a foe.
Despite Haneul’s initial insistence that contract and permanent teachers are one and the same, the fact of the matter is that they ultimately get treated differently. To the school, the short-term teachers are expendable and to some people like Teacher Song, they’re not even considered part of the family. The mindset of “us vs them” creates a toxic work environment and is likely to become a huge source of stress. Though I reckon that Daechi High is considered to be better than other schools in terms of the imbalance between the two positions (the new hires once mentioned that other schools label the teacher’s desks with their short-term or permanent status), there are still instances where the permanent teachers are seen as priority. If the school had to pick between the two (like they had to with the returning Teacher Park vs a short-term teacher they’d made a promise to), they would pick the permanent teacher. It’s actually really nice to see the higher ups try to protect the identities of the short-term teachers. Vice Principal Lee pulling Teacher Song aside was a breath of fresh air because so often, the poor treatment stems from the ones sitting in authoritative positions.
This week’s pair of episodes show off how hardworking and competent Haneul is, which was much needed after seeing her fumble her way through her first day of teaching last week. I was proud to see her impress people with her skills, showing that she’s more than just the teacher that was hired through nepotism. She seems to be naturally gifted at teaching, and is passionate about the future of her students. Her lessons look fun, engaging, and informative – exactly what students need and should get from every teacher. However, her passion is just not what the teachers can match after having taught for a while. It seems like the system does that to you – makes you want to do just enough, but never more. Nobody wants to take on more responsibility and put in extra work, which is a mindset that Haneul adopted for all of 2 minutes. The College Advisory team seems to have accepted her completely (though not all are very vocal about it). They defend and build her up, sometimes using methods that don’t seem like they’re on her side. They have their ups and downs, but ultimately always have each others’ best interests in mind. With their help, Haneul’s sure to shine even if people (including herself) want to bring her down.
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