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12

Black Dog: Episode 13

With all ends come new beginnings as the teachers of Daechi High prepare for another school term. Our protagonist has some experience under her belt, but as the year comes to a close, new challenges wait for her just around the corner. Whether of not she can handle these changes, time waits for no one.

 
EPISODE 13 RECAP

Winter vacation is here, which means a new batch of short-term teachers at Daechi High. One of the new hires recognizes Haneul from the job interview, and she gossips about Haneul being the only short-term teacher from the previous year whose contract was renewed. With Hae-won gone, Haneul looks over at his empty desk with a heavy heart.

Despite the school on break, work continues for the college advisors. Yeon-woo texts Hae-won (they’re buddies now!), and Myung-soo complains about the school not hiring any Korean teachers, especially since Sung-soon supported Hae-won over Haneul.

Grabbing her student reports, Haneul leaves the office, but outside, Myung-soo’s comment about Sung-soon bothers her. She shakes her head to clear her mind, and receives a text from Hae-won. A different private school hired him as a permanent teacher, and he invites her department and Teacher Yoon to dinner one day. Barely containing her joy, Haneul thanks him for contacting her.

Returning from her family vacation to Jeju Island, Sung-soon stays home to attend her son’s middle school orientation. Out of the blue, a student’s mother sends her passive-aggressive texts, suggesting that Sung-soon shouldn’t be going on trips when students are still waiting for college admissions results. In typical Sung-soon fashion, she replies, “Am I one going to college? ^^”

While distracted by the text, Sung-soon leaves some eggs on the stove, and her husband runs into the kitchen after smelling them burn. They both scramble to flip the eggs, but in the end, they drop one. While her husband cleans it up, he brings up the topic of Sung-soon transferring to a different department since the role of head college advisor requires so much of her time.

Myung-soo and Yeon-woo eat out with Teacher Cha, and they discuss department placement preferences. While Myung-soo and Yeon-woo have to stay in the College Advisory Department, a major shakeup within the school looms in the horizon: Teacher Moon is getting promoted to vice principal this year.

While Teacher Moon packs up his desk, Principal Byun comes by and asks for a word outside. He seeks out Teacher Moon’s opinion for his next replacement since two teachers have already shown interest in the position: Teachers Song and Han. Since they both have the credentials, Principal Byun asks Teacher Moon who should be the new head of School Administration.

Haneul helps Young-sook with her groceries and notices her still in pain from the motorcycle crash from before. She urges Young-sook to seek compensation, but Young-sook refuses to do so, which Haneul finds uncharacteristic of her.

Suddenly, Young-sook pretends her foot hurts, but Haneul catches her signaling someone to leave. Ignoring Young-sook’s protests, Haneul marches outside and finds the person who caused the accident. She confronts the young man who’s only a third year in high school, but Young-sook chases after Haneul and screams at her to stop.

Principal Byun finds Teachers Song and Han at school even though it’s break, and they quickly explain how much work they have to do as department heads. Neither teacher believes the other’s claim as they bicker over who has more responsibilities.

Back in their office, Myung-soo wonders if Sung-soon also heard about what happened to Principal Byun, and gives her a call. However, Sung-soon is too busy taking her son to school and hangs up on Myung-soo. With a bit of spit, she tidies her son’s hair and guides him to his classroom… where she’s the only parent to arrive.

Apparently, parents no longer attend middle school orientations, so even her son’s homeroom teacher is surprised to see Sung-soon. They share a quick chat in the faculty office where Sung-soon asks about her son, and for the first time, she hears that he placed 23rd in the class—out of 25 students.

Maintaining her composure, Sung-soon asks for the homeroom teacher’s number, and the teacher awkwardly informs her of their school policy against personal contact with parents. Sung-soon leaves the meeting in low-spirits, clearly stunned over the news of her son’s struggles in school. Then adding salt to the wound, another student’s mother texts her to stop posting pictures of her trip.

Sung-soon screams at her phone (“Forget Jeju Island, I’ll go to the US, then!”) and shoves it back in her pocket when it rings again. She angrily pulls it out, expecting another unreasonable text from a parent, but it’s from Teacher Moon.

Young-sook confesses to Haneul about knowing the motorcyclist and explains how the student’s circumstances aren’t ideal. Haneul thinks the student’s parents should at least be informed of the incident and goes outside to talk to him.

Sitting on the curb, the student scratches his palm, and when Haneul asks what he’s doing, he explains that he’s erasing his lifeline. He calls his life a fad, and seems sure his fate will turn out like his name, Hwang Bo-tong (aka, Hwang “Normal”).

Haneul scoffs at his brooding assessment of life and orders him to go back home. He doesn’t listen since he plans on eating dinner here, and much to Haneul’s exasperation, Young-sook invites him to her restaurant.

Haneul scowls as Young-sook cooks Bo-tong ramyun with two eggs, and undeterred, she resumes her quest to contact his parents. Bo-tong ignores her questions and correctly guesses that Haneul is a teacher because she talks like an old person just like the others at his school (a cheeky one, eh).

Young-sook asks Bo-tong about his school, and coincidentally, he attends Daechi High. However, he doesn’t recognize Haneul’s name, so she rattles off the other college advisors, hoping for some connection.

Bo-tong only knows Sung-soon since she was his homeroom teacher during his first year, and Haneul immediately gushes about how great she is. Contrary to Haneul’s praises, Bo-tong feels the opposite and calls Sung-soon a fake.

Sung-soon drops by the office where Myung-soo and Teacher Cha are chatting. Teacher Cha asks if she heard about what happened to the principal, but Sung-soon stops him since she’s actually on her way to see Principal Byun now.

Back in the restaurant, Haneul demands Bo-tong to take back his statement, but he refuses. In a firm voice, she rebukes him for judging teachers based off a quarter of their life at school. However, her words have no effect on him, and he tells Haneul that something happened between him and Sung-soon.

Sung-soon meets with Principal Byun and Teacher Moon, and they ask her if she would consider switching departments. Thinking back to her son and how he needs more parental attention, Sung-soon admits that she wants to move to an easier department. Principal Byun reminds Sung-soon that she’s their school center, but she tells him that she wants to be the center of her family, too.

No longer beating around the bush, Principal Byun tells Sung-soon that Teacher Moon is being promoted to vice principal so they want her to be the next head of School Administration. Sung-soon turns down their offer since that would mean even more responsibilities, and Principal Byun yells at her for refusing.

Haneul stares into the night sky and mulls over Bo-tong’s story. Back when he was a first year, he was stuck in the police station and called Sung-soon for help. Though she said she would be there, she never showed up. Seeing Haneul’s inner conflict, Young-sook reminds her that it’s only one side of the story, and Haneul agrees: “What does he know about Teacher Park.”

Over drinks, Principal Byun asks Sung-soon why she won’t accept the job, and she recounts her morning to him. She was the only parent at the orientation, and to make matters worse, her son is doing poorly at school. Even so, Principal Byun begs Sung-soon to take the job and work her way up to principal. He says that this will be his last chance to help her, and Sung-soon asks him what he means.

The next morning, Myung-soo and Teacher Cha discuss the recent events concerning Principal Byun when Haneul arrives at the office. While she gets drinks for everyone, she overhears Myung-soo ask Teacher Cha why Principal Byun can’t continue leading the school even though college acceptance rates went up.

He tells the younger teacher that the top percent of students may have improved but at the cost of the rest of the student body. However, the main reason is because of the permanent-teacher exam. Despite claiming to want teacher input, the chairman was upset that the principal took the teachers’ side and asked to change the exam. As a result, the school essentially demoted Principal Byun to “distinguished” teacher and is pushing him into Teacher Yoon’s old office.

Teacher Cha muses that Principal Byun’s last act as leader will be to make Sung-soon the next head of School Administration, and Yeon-woo suddenly chimes in, “Then that means the head advisor position will be empty.”

The news shocks the other advisors, so Teacher Cha downplays his comment since Sung-soon might not move. Right then, another teacher drops by to collect department requests and asks Myung-soo to let Sung-soon know that they need her form.

Sung-soon runs into Principal Byun in the hallway, and he silently glares at her before walking away. Flashing back to their conversation last night, Principal Byun recalled the time Sung-soon barged into his office and told him to run a better school. All these years, he acted as her shield, but now, his time is up.

He told Sung-soon about Teachers Song and Han vying for the position, but rather than them, even Teacher Moon thinks Sung-soon would be a better fit. In the present, Sung-soon watches Teacher Song and Teacher Han awkwardly greet each other in the hall, and she sighs to herself about the big mission Principal Byun gave her.

Over the intercom, the school announces the first day for teachers as well as the deadline for department requests. Reminded of the possibility of Sung-soon leaving, Myung-soo plans on convincing their head to stay, but the others are less confident about what they want.

In the middle of Myung-soo’s brainstorming, Sung-soon enters the office, and for her first task, she fills out the department request form. Once she finishes, Sung-soon heads out, but Myung-soo calls her and suggests having dinner as a department. Sung-soon agrees to a “last” meal, and her word choice causes a mini panic amongst the college advisors.

Bo-tong returns from his deliveries and makes a bowl of instant ramyun before settling down in front of his computer. This is clearly a typical meal as seen by the garbage strewn across his desk, but as he gets ready to play some games, he remembers Haneul. He opens the school website to check for her name, but the page is currently being updated.

At school, the vice principal yells at the administrators for uploading the wrong file of their short-term teachers. Instead of just their numbers, they posted their names, as well. Administrator Yoo argues that no one could have seen it, but unfortunately, Bo-tong did. Though one of the characters is redacted, it’s easy to find Haneul’s name if you look for it. Putting the clues together, Bo-tong snaps a shot of the screen with his phone.

Teacher Han stumbles across Sung-soon with Principal Byun and quickly realizes that she has competition for Teacher Moon’s old position. A glint appears in her eyes, and armed with snacks, she heads over to Teacher Shim’s desk. She asks Teacher Shim if anyone wrote the College Advisory Department as their first choice, and the other teachers laugh at her ridiculous question.

No one willingly goes to that department, and Teacher Shim remembers when Myung-soo was first assigned there. He acted like a bumbling mess and begged Teacher Shim to transfer him to any other department. Pfft, I wouldn’t have expected anything less from our affable and whiny college advisor.

Before the teachers head out, Teacher Han asks to change her department request form and writes down the College Advisory Department as her first choice. The others stare at her in shock, including me.

As the College Advisory team pack up for the day, Haneul receives a call from Young-sook and has to cancel dinner plans with the others. Quick on his feet, Myung-soo changes their plan, and the whole group follows Haneul to Young-sook’s restaurant for their dinner.

As they eat, Myung-soo brags about his connection to Haneul, and then asks how Haneul and Young-sook know each other. Haneul struggles for an explanation until Young-sook steps in and says that Haneul was her husband’s student.

During their meal, Myung-soo gets a call from Teacher Ji who informs him about Teacher Han’s department request. At the same time, Principal Byun looks over the forms and sighs over the predicament. While Teacher Han requested to be the head of the College Advisory Department, Sung-soon didn’t write down any preferences.

Yeon-woo wonders why Teacher Han would do such a thing, but Myung-soo clearly sees through her scheme. While he explains the situation to the younger college advisors, Sung-soon steps out to answer a call from Principal Byun who updates her on the same thing: Teacher Han plans on turning the College Advisory Department upside down if she doesn’t become the head of School Administration.

After finishing her call with Principal Byun, Sung-soon overhears some customers talk about Haneul. They mention how Young-ha saved Haneul before dying, but because he was contract-based, Young-sook couldn’t collect any life insurance.

The college advisors walk together, but Sung-soon stays a step behind the group and watches them fondly. She thinks over the new information she learned about Haneul as well as the principal’s advice concerning Myung-soo and Yeon-woo.

At home, she stares at her sleeping son, and her husband is surprised to find her home so early. Sung-soon tells him that she asked the principal for a transfer, and her husband is glad to here it. However, she turns to face him and asks if she could be the head advisor for just one more year.

Still in his office, Principal Byun deliberates over the decision for the next head of School Administration when the vice principal knocks on his door. As he hands the principal more forms, he cautiously mentions Teacher Song’s name for the position as well. Once he steps out, Teacher Song runs up to the vice principal and asks if he’ll get the position. The vice principal tells him that Teacher Han also applied, but reassures Teacher Song that he’ll support him.

The fateful day arrives, and with all the teachers gathered, the vice principal announces the next head of school administration: Teacher Han. In the end, Sung-soon remains as the head college advisor, convincing her husband to let her stay because it was for her group and not promotions.

Once announcements are over, the teachers gather with their departments, and Yi-boon ecstatically tells Haneul that they’re teaching the same grade again. Unfortunately for Yi-boon, she transferred to the Third Years Department and has to sit next to Teacher Song. Heh.

The rest of the third years Korean teachers arrive, and Haneul’s partner is Sung-soon. Haneul lights up at the news, much to Yi-boon’s disappointment, so Yeon-woo deadpans to Yi-boon, “But you have me as your lesson partner.” Hahaha!

All the college advisors were assigned third years, and as Haneul checks over her classroom list, she finds a familiar name: Hwang Bo-tong. She immediately recalls Bo-tong’s story about Sung-soon, but dismisses the thought when Sung-soon asks her out for coffee. Coming over to Haneul’s desk, Sung-soon notices her class picture with Young-ha and seems to make the connection.

Haneul goes to the restroom before heading out with Sung-soon, and happens across a first-year teacher struggling over the phone. Remembering her first day, Haneul stops and helps her, and the new teacher stares up at Haneul starstruck. She even tells the other short-term teacher who knew Haneul from the job interview that she seems like a good person. No one is immune to Haneul’s charms!

As Haneul and Sung-soon leave the school together, Haneul’s old class drops by for a surprise visit. Instead of coffee, they all go out for dinner and chat about their future. Yoo-ra shares with the group that she got into a different medical school, and genuinely seems okay with the outcome, even joking that it’s punishment for peaking at Jae-hyun’s book. They talk about silly things, such as Yoo-ra setting up Jae-hyun on a blind date, and the rest of the dinner goes by filled with laughter.

After parting with the students, Haneul sits at a bus stop with Sung-soon and thinks back to the memories she made with her department head over the last year. She asks why Sung-soon didn’t accept the position for head of School Administration, especially when they supported Haneul to pursue a better position. Sung-soon simply replies, “It’s not a better position.”

Bo-tong looks over his classroom assignment and sees Haneul listed as his homeroom teacher. He takes out his phone and looks at the picture he took of the list of short-term teachers.

On the bus, Sung-soon thinks back to Haneul’s first days at the school, now recalling them with a better understanding of her backstory. When a seat opens up near Haneul, Sung-soon sits next to her and asks if she heard about Hae-won. With a smile, Sung-soon tells Haneul, “You’re almost there, too. Hang in there for just one more year. I’ll hang in the College Advisory Department for you.”

 
COMMENTS

What a lovely moment to end the episode. Of all the great endings between Sung-soon and Haneul, this one is my favorite. Their relationship has come a long way since last year, and this ending really captured that growth. Both of them reminisce about their time together, but the flashbacks weren’t just there to fill time. They each recall different memories, which also reflect how they think of their relationship. Haneul remembers the moments where Sung-soon and the department cheer her on, even if it wasn’t always to their benefit, while Sung-soon remembers Haneul in her beginning days and when she sided with Hae-won during the hiring process. Through these flashbacks, we see how the past has shaped these characters, and without the use of words, the audience understands how Haneul and Sung-soon come to their respective conclusions. Haneul wants Sung-soon to move on to better places even if she desperately wants to hold her back, and Sung-soon decides to stay in the College Advisory Department as her way to support Haneul this time around. Again, I’m amazed at the show for creating such nuanced characters whose actions matter and actively shape their future.

The biggest plot point of this episode was finding Teacher Moon’s replacement, and I have to hand it to Teacher Han, that was a strategic move that proved to be effective. While I agree with Sung-soon that teachers should be more concerned about their classroom than with politics, I was impressed with Teacher Han’s political maneuvering. She’s clearly clever enough to climb the ranks even if a past mistake made her the head of a “lower tier” department, but because of this manipulation, I’m even more disappointed to see her become the new head of School Administration (among other reasons). At least at Daechi High, the head of School Administration is the third most powerful figure at school (not including the chairman and his line), and it doesn’t look good for the school’s future when such an important role gets filled through politics. However, as it was hinted in the episode, I think the show plans on addressing some of these issues.

While last week’s episode was a wonderful end to one of the longest arcs in the show (the hiring of a permanent Korean teacher), this episode assured me that Black Dog still has more story to tell. While Daechi High might be improving, there’s still a lot of problems that are being ignored by the teachers and administrators. With the introduction of Bo-tong, the show opens up the world a bit more, and we start to see the other students in the school—not just the top. In some ways, the “solutions” of last year are finally showing cracks, and the teachers have to face the consequences this year. While students move on, teachers must stay, revealing once again that the role of the teacher can’t be captured in a snapshot. One major issue is the fact that the creation of the Icarus club has hurt a lot of middling and low students. Though the school achieved a remarkable feat by sending their first student to Hankuk University’s medical program, it came at a steep cost, including Principal Byun.

In all honesty, I’m surprised by how much I’ve grown to like Principal Byun. He won’t win any “#1 Principal” awards, but neither will I remember him as a terrible person. I believe that he really does want the best for the school, and I’m starting to understand why Sung-soon is on his side. From the moment last episode when Teacher Yoon talked about Principal Byun keeping his door open for others to visit him, I realized that he wasn’t someone who wielded power to show it off. Though he can be demanding and loud, his earnest efforts to support Sung-soon came from a genuine desire to help the school. His comment to Sung-soon (“I can’t be your shield anymore”) was one of my favorite lines this episode because it embodied what a true leader should look like but was tinged with melancholy since he could no longer fulfill that role. As his last act, Principal Byun tries to leave the school in capable hands, and I find it admirable that he still cares so much for Sung-soon’s and the school’s future. He could have acted more bitter about the situation and blamed Sung-soon for indirectly causing his demotion, but he never does. All the more reasons why I’m disappointed and sad to hear about Principal Byun’s fate. Even worse is that the principal will move to Teacher Yoon’s office because now it seems like the school is pushing the older teachers to that section, and it almost seems to tarnish the corner Teacher Yoon left behind. Not that I’m saying Principal Byun’s presence will tarnish it, but the fact that the school designated that area for the “distinguished” teacher doesn’t seem to be a choice the writer made without implying something else.

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Thank you for recap. I am glad we get the update on Hae Won and that he finally got a new job as a permanent teacher!

Sadly, it seems like no matter what line of work we're in, there's always office politics. And if we're lucky, we'll meet superior like Principal Byeon and Sung Soon who can be our shield.

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When you want a promotion in a job, it's mainly about politics. You can get it because you're good at your work, but if you want to keep it and you want to grow a professional career it's always about politics and being nice to bosses and looking for connections. Sad but true.

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Any other Stove League fans recognize that PPL restaurant? Hahahaha, it's trying to usurp Subw*y's reign.

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I was so happy for Hae Won, he deserved it. I hope he goes on all the blind dates now. I was also really rooting for Yoo Ra to get into Hankuk, but she seemed happy enough with her next choice so it is cool. I look forward to the final arc.

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Yoo Ra's outcome made me happy. With all her hard work it would have been disappointing if she didn't get into a medical school.

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A little late in the day, but I've just registered properly that the school lost out twice in the fallout of the recruitment process. No full time Korean teacher and the loss of a very capable Hae Won. I'm pleased he was able to find a well deserved position elsewhere.

And poor Principal Byun: his shining moment also marked his downfall. This show juxtaposes its themes so well.

Like you @lovepark, I'm glad we have another few episodes. It feels like we're just a little way from reaching full circle in the tragic circumstances that started Haneul on her journey to be a teacher.

Thanks for the lovely read.

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The role of Principal is pretty lonely and Teacher Yoon knew it. Principal Byun was fair with all his employees and neutral but he knows who is really good or not. I liked how he warned Teacher Ha after the Banana Gate. The Vice-Principal Lee already showed how he can bully people against his decisions... I think his future decisions will be very frustrating!

At least, Moon Soo-Ho will be a good Vice-Principal.

Teacher Park is needed so much everywhere and she can't do everything, it must be hard to make choices : her family? The college advisory team? The head of administration? At the opposite, Teacher Han is a snake, she's bad at everything but wants more authority...

I'm happy that Hae Won found a job! I think it was the best for him to leave this school. He wasn't happy there.

I'm very excited to see Ha Neul to experience another side of the teacher job.

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I liked the way the story continues. I mean, I wasn't really sure how these four last episodes would add something more to the story as I was content with the drama ending in episode 12, so it was really nice to watch this episode.

Knowing that HaeWon had made it to a permanent position made me as happy as knowing YooRa had made it to medical school. It's nice to know life is treating these two nicely.

I just want to say that, as much as I LOVE Haenul, I was a bit disappointed by her reaction to BoTong when he said he didn't like Teacher Park. I mean, I understand how much HaeNul loves and admires SungSoon, but she has to listen to a student who's telling her that he doesn't trust another teacher because he feels she failed him. The way HaeNul reacted "take away those words" didn't seem right to me. Surely there was a reason for Teacher Park to behave in such a way, but we don't know and there's a non-adult who feels disappointed by her. I feel like HaeNul's reaction shouldn't have been to take part inmediately, but to listen to BoTong.

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I agree with you about her reaction to BoTong. She could just ask why he felt like this. But I think she judged him very fast. I mean it was pretty obvious when she was talking about calling his parents, the parents in question didn't seem to be very present in his life... She had Yoo Ra who already didn't have supportive parents, so it's not like it was her first time to handle with difficult situation. For Yoo Ra, I think it was the best for her she went to another college because the competition would have been worse in Hankuk University than Daechi High School and she could have been discouraged very fast.

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I wonder if Haneul's predisposition to Bo-Tong stemmed from their initial meeting. He is a stranger to her, and he effectively 'got away' with mowing down her second mum. He wasn't exactly as remorseful as she might have wanted him to be, either.

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That could be a point, but then her second mum cares about BoTong and BoTong cares about him: he went to visit her to the hospital and visits her regularly in the restaurant.
But even so, she’s the adult here, so she has to act as an adult and not take visceral reactions in front of a non-adult.
I was really shocked to see her reaction, it didn’t feel like her at all.

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I'm so glad I read this recap because a lot of the nuance of this episode was literally lost in translation for me, which did diminish my enjoyment of it somewhat. I'm really sorry to see Haewon go. I'll miss his energy.

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