Black Dog: Episode 7
Managing clubs, writing exam questions, and answering students’ questions all seem like mundane tasks teachers must do, but our beginning teacher soon learns that behind these simple activities is a power struggle between teachers that complicate matters. Though not everything is straightforward, sometimes the answers are still simple, and slowly but surely, our main protagonist becomes a better teacher than she was before.
EPISODE 7 RECAP
Hae-won overhears Haneul and Yeon-woo arguing about him taking the fall, so he asks them what they mean. As Yeon-woo leaves frustrated, Haneul mentions Teacher Ha’s test questions to Hae-won, but to her shock, he dismisses her concerns. When Haneul calls him again, he replies, “Know your place, Teacher.”
Once the school day ends, Teacher Moon drives home and remembers Hae-won’s past, including his time as a student. He then recalls the argument he witnessed between Haneul and Yeon-woo, and suddenly, he suddenly turns his car around.
Meanwhile, Haneul walks home, still conflicted over what to do, and starts writing a text to Hae-won. However, in the end, she doesn’t send it. Right then, a call from Mom arrives and sends Haneul running back home where she finds Teacher Moon having dinner with her parents.
Haneul sits there awkwardly while her parents ask about her work-life, so she excuses herself from the table to go buy more drinks. Once Haneul gets up, Mom asks her brother about the new permanent position opening up this year, but he tells them that a sixth-year short-term teacher is also up for the position.
As Haneul returns home with the drinks, she spots Teacher Moon waiting for her outside. Offering her some advice, Teacher Moon tells Haneul that to become a permanent teacher, private schools look for a specific quality besides the regular credentials.
Hae-won leaves the office last, and on his way out, he runs into Yeon-woo at the elevators. They stand awkwardly next to each other until Yeon-woo breaks the silence, asking Hae-won about his earlier conversation with Haneul. Hae-won merely says that it went well in an attempt to end the chit-chat, but Yeon-woo continues talking.
He asks Hae-won why he’s always anxious and treating his colleagues as competitors, but Yeon-woo doesn’t expect an answer as he exits the elevator. To his surprise, Hae-won answers his questions and admits to being “lame.” However, he asks if Yeon-woo was any different, and we see that four years ago, Hae-won was there, too, when Yeon-woo got promoted over the more experienced short-term teacher.
Haneul takes a detour and thinks about Teacher Moon’s advice: private schools want to hire people who’ll blend in with the organization. He told her that people see zealous new recruits as “nuisances” and asked if she wanted to risk her neck for something like this. He then said that the forum poster was no different: “It’s a lack of patience. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”
She asked if he knew who wrote the post, and Teacher Moon shared his speculations about Hae-won. As Haneul mulls over this news, she thinks to herself that the law of 2-6-2 dictate that in a group of ten, two people will like her, six will feel indifferent, and last two will dislike her.
At school, Haneul shreds Teacher Ha’s exam questions, ultimately deciding not to tell Hae-won about the issue. She can’t find it in her heart to help someone who hates her, and in voiceover, she calls herself inadequately kind.
In the Icarus study hall, Yoo-ra diligently works while her friend leaves early since it’s Saturday. Before she goes, Yoo-ra asks her friend to take an extra outside class with her since she needs to get good grades to compensate for her lacking student record, but her friend declines the offer since she already has a new tutor.
Jae-hyun’s friends in the Icarus Club talk about his recent volunteer work as an interpreter at a hospital, and Yoo-ra sighs over the contrast between them. As she returns to her seat, she notices his exam prep booklet from his cram school, and after everyone goes home, she sneaks back into the room.
Yoo-ra sits at Jae-hyun’s desk and flips through the exam booklet which contains detailed information about their teachers’ preferences for test questions. She’s both thoroughly impressed and a bit disheartened, but this only fuels her further to snap pictures of the guide. Later that evening, Jae-hyun returns to his desk and notices something off.
With midterms coming up, the school is bustling with exam preparations as barricades are placed in the offices to keep students out. Myung-soo complains about the biology questions since he has to draw all the pictures for the test, but Yeon-woo counters with the fact that Korean teachers have to submit ten pages worth of questions.
Sung-soon steps out of the office to meet another teacher and sees the vice principal meeting with Teachers Moon, Song, and Ha. She watches them so intently that she doesn’t even notice Hae-won walk up to her and say hi.
They enter the office together and ask the female Third Years teacher what’s happening. She tells them about the corruption rumor someone posted online and voices her disdain towards the poster. Sung-soon listens silently, but her eyes are glued on Hae-won who’s so lost in his own thoughts that he fails to hear Teacher Ha call him.
Haneul receives a text from Jae-hyun’s father when Yi-boon drops by the College Advisory Department to pick her up for their meeting. She asks how the issue with Teacher Ha’s questions went, and Haneul tells her that she plans on leaving it alone. Yi-boon praises her decision while Yeon-woo listens to their conversation from his desk, looking as if he wants to say something to Haneul.
The third-years’ Korean teachers meet to discuss the upcoming exam, and Sung-soon joins them to help review their questions. She offers to submit a few questions as well, but the others refuse since she mostly teaches first-years. They divide up the rest of the work, and based off seniority, they put Haneul in charge of editing the exam. Seems backwards to me, but whatever.
Teacher Ha asks the group how his questions are since he submitted them early, but Yi-boon just clears her throat and avoids making eye-contact. Sung-soon catches on to the odd behavior and pulls Yi-boon aside after the meeting to ask if something is wrong with the exam questions. Yi-boon denies it and scurries away before Sung-soon pries too deeply.
Hae-won coughs at his desk while looking over Teacher Ha’s questions, but try as he might to ignore them, Haneul’s words keep bothering him. He approaches Teacher Ha to ask him directly, but Teacher Ha changes the subject and tasks Hae-won with inputting his student evaluations. Hae-won tries again to talk about the exam questions, but Teacher Song interrupts and takes Teacher Ha away.
Sung-soon confides with her usual group of teachers over the third-years’ exam questions, asking if it would be considered overboard if she supervised them. Teacher Sohn immediately calls it overboard, and both he and Teacher Cha think that she’ll be cursed if she intervenes. Clearly not the response she wanted, Sung-soon leaves with a scowl on her face. Heh.
Looking pale, Hae-won drops by Academic Affairs to ask for a day off tomorrow to visit a doctor, but Teacher Shim responds unfavorably to his request. If he must leave, she suggests that he take a half-day during the afternoon to avoid the other teachers noticing.
Returning to his desk, Hae-won runs into the principal and vice principal in the hallways right outside of Haneul’s classroom. They overhear Haneul interacting jovially with her class, and the administrators admire Haneul’s improvement. Hae-won’s already glum face darkens after hearing their compliments.
In class, Haneul tells her students that she hopes the future will be fairer for them, but under her breath, Yoo-ra whispers, “hypocrite.” No one seems to notice except for Jae-hyun who turns to stare at her.
Haneul offers to answer exam questions after class, but Yoo-ra chases after Yeon-woo in the hall to ask him instead. When Haneul enters the office with a few students, she finds Yoo-ra there with Yeon-woo, which instantly sours the mood.
Sung-soon asks Yoo-ra why she didn’t go to Haneul for help and lightly reprimands her for being rude to her teacher. All the students leave the office, feeling the tension in the air, and once they’re gone, Sung-soon asks if Haneul did something to upset Yoo-ra. She advises Haneul to maintain control over her class or it’ll be difficult for her to teach.
A teacher drops off a form to Haneul from a student, and she sees Jae-hyun walk by the office. Before she can fully process the information, Myung-soo invites everyone to go eat lunch. Aw, they’re eating later for Haneul now; that’s so sweet!
In the cafeteria, Teacher Han complains to Teacher Song about a self-student record, which the advisory team overhears. Yeon-woo explains to Haneul that it’s a student record written by prep schools that teachers are asked to copy verbatim.
Teacher Yoon asks who would be so impolite to do such a thing, and Haneul tells her that it’s Jae-hyun. By now, all the teachers know that Jae-hyun’s father was the one who caused the ruckus over the exam problem, and Myung-soo laments Haneul’s predicament since she’s saddled with two troublesome students.
Hae-won passes by Teacher Ha’s evening class, and with a determined look, he waits outside for his curriculum partner to finally have their talk. Meanwhile, the vice principal leads the exam training meeting for the new teachers, but Haneul can only think back to Sung-soon’s advice about keeping her class in check.
In their office, Teacher Ha wonders if Hae-won found an error with his exam questions, but Hae-won says that it’s something else. He cautiously points out the possibility of a different kind of problem, to which Teacher Ha asks for clarification.
On her way home, Haneul stumbles across Yeon-woo eating at a food stall, and though she tries to sneak away without him noticing, he calls her out for ignoring him. She swivels around and plasters on a smile, but as she turns to leave, Yeon-woo invites her to join him.
Haneul asks why he’s buying her food, and Yeon-woo apologizes for earlier since he forgot Yoo-ra was in her class. He also explains how he wasn’t trying to belittle her concerning the exam situation, but before he can finish, Haneul orders more food.
Yeon-woo tells Haneul that it’ll be difficult for Hae-won to bring up the matter with Teacher Ha, especially since Teacher Ha is the type to be prideful about his exam questions. Since this is not just about the exam but a power struggle, Yeon-woo says that Hae-won is at a disadvantage because of his lower status. In between his explanation, Yeon-woo notices that Haneul ordered two extra dishes. Heh.
As Yeon-woo predicted, Hae-won’s confrontation with Teacher Ha ends badly. Teacher Ha takes offense to Hae-won’s suggestion to change his questions and barks at him to present valid evidence before making unreasonable demands.
In a petty display of power, Teacher Ha orders Hae-won to organize his files before going home. While Haneul edits the midterm, she worries about what Yeon-woo told her, and at school, Hae-won works late into the night despite his illness.
With midterms approaching quickly, teachers and students alike work hard towards their goals–though the pressure seems to be taking its toll on some, like Yoo-ra. Haneul worries about the lack of feedback she’s received from Yi-boon about her questions, and only grows more anxious when Yeon-woo and Myung-soo tell her that Yi-boon doesn’t review other people’s work.
Haneul seriously asks what will happen to her future if there’s a problem in one of her questions, and Yeon-woo exchanges high-fives with Myung-soo before bursting out in laughter. They assure Haneul that they were only teasing since Sung-soon will help her review her questions.
As if on cue, Sung-soon enters the office and immediately fires off a list of suggestions for Haneul to improve the readability and flow of her questions. Myung-soo teases them, claiming that Sung-soon is preparing Haneul to become her successor, but Sung-soon doesn’t even look up to tell “biology” to be quiet.
In the Third Years Department, a teacher comes by looking for some misplaced printouts, so another teacher helps him look through the cabinets. The only information they have is to look for a red piece of paper, so the teacher grabs the first envelope with red he sees. On his way out, he runs into Haneul, and she greets him cheerily.
The third-years’ Korean teachers meet together for a run through of the exam, and Teacher Ha tells Haneul and Yi-boon that his side has to make some revisions. He scolds Hae-won for some minor issues with his questions, and Yi-boon quietly tells Haneul that Teacher Ha is merely nitpicking. His screams can be heard from outside the meeting room, and he even yells at Hae-won for coughing too much.
A student drops by the office to ask Teacher Ha about her evaluation, but when he goes to look for them, they’re gone. The whole Third Years Department is in an uproar as they search for the missing evaluations, and the commotion even brings the College Advisory Team down to their office.
Knowing the stakes of losing the evaluations, Hae-won frantically searches the cabinets to no avail. Sung-soon stops him and tells him to calm down, but she looks fuzzy in Hae-won’s eyes as his cold worsens. Suddenly, he collapses to the floor and is taken out of the school for the rest of the day.
Since he still has a class left to teach, Haneul offers to submit his leave of absence as well as sub for his class. Before heading out, Haneul remembers the teacher see saw in the office and tells the others about it.
While subbing for Hae-won’s class, Haneul looks through his cabinet and finds binders full of material for student records–he even wrote specific comments about the students. She notices a board filled with pictures and post-it notes from his homeroom class, and she learns from one of the students that Hae-won updates the records daily.
In the hospital, Hae-won muffles his cries in bed when he gets a call from Teacher Yoon. She tells him that they found the evaluations so he should rest easy. She explains how Haneul found them and even subbed for him. Hae-won thanks her for the call and then sits limply on the hospital bed.
Hae-won leaves the hospital after resting for a bit and stops by Young-sook’s restaurant. Haneul also happens to be there helping, and the two of them sit at different tables to eat their noodles. Young-sook is surprised that her regular works at the same school as Haneul, but when she asks if they are friendly, neither can muster up a lie.
Young-sook blames it on Haneul’s nasty temper, which earns her a glare, but she goes on to say that Haneul is resilient and too dumb to be conniving. She even tells Hae-won that Haneul initially thought she lost the job since there was a rumor about nepotism at their school. She assures Hae-won that it’s safe to be friends with Haneul, and from the side, Haneul silently pleads at her to stop.
After dinner, the two of them walk to the bus stop, and Hae-won shares an analogy with Haneul: like a line for a bus, people have to stay in life for opportunities in life. She disagrees with his argument, saying that people grab opportunities based on skill and luck. Regardless of their different viewpoints, Hae-won thanks Haneul for today, and despite her previous decision, Haneul decides to tell him about the test.
The next day, Haneul and Hae-won bring the issue of Teacher Ha’s questions to Sung-soon who then brings up the matter to Teacher Moon. Hearing their concerns of favoritism towards the Icarus students, Teacher Moon agrees to revisions, and the ready-to-print test is scrapped.
Haneul’s team gets scolded for their decision and they have to pull an all-nighter to make more questions, but in the end, they finish. Haneul yips with joy once the exams are printed, but the College Advisory Department gives her a lackluster applause. Unbeknownst to Haneul, her work is yet to be done since they have to count and organize the tests by hand, and unluckily, Teacher Ha left early because he was “sick.”
Midterms arrive, and the Korean exam goes off without a hitch. Haneul’s first exam and experience proctoring end uneventfully, and she enjoys a well-deserved day’s off for Teacher’s Day. Though the exam is over, studying continues for the third-years as Teacher Han supervises the Icarus study hall.
Yoo-ra goes to Jae-hyun’s desk to look through his booklet, and he catches her red-handed. He calls her a thief which strikes a nerve, and Yoo-ra screams at Jae-hyun to apologize while chucking books at him. Teacher Han bursts into the study hall after hearing them yell and breaks up their fight. The two students are brought to the office where Teacher Song threatens to write this incident in their student record, and Teacher Han complains about Haneul’s management of the club.
Haneul continues lounging on the couch until Dad hands Haneul her cellphone. She missed ten calls and two messages from Yi-boon: There’s been a complaint about their exam question. Yi-boon texts Haneul that it’s a serious issue, as well as an original complaint.
As Haneul rushes to the school, she narrates, “The biggest problem lays low all the time like a snake and slithers in through a crack the moment I put my guard down.”
By the time she arrives, the others are already there discussing the issue. They tell her that it was the Icarus students who lodged the complaint, and though it’s a rather ridiculous point of debate, they still have to take it seriously.
Consequently, all the Korean teachers have to meet and discuss the problem, and Haneul watches silently from the back as teachers from every grade gather to fix this one mistake. Haneul tells the audience, “This marked the beginning of the famous Korean Department Banana Incident.”
I really enjoy the way the show uses humor. It’s subtly placed into scenes and makes me chuckle despite the gravity of a situation. In fact, I think the little quirky moments make me laugh because of the contrast between moods. An example of this happens during the food stall scene with Haneul and Yeon-woo. It’s a serious moment where we learn of the power struggles between teachers and Hae-won’s unfortunate circumstances, but there’s a brief moment where Yeon-woo sees that Haneul ordered tteokbokki and just sighs. In addition, the last scene made me very worried for Haneul’s future career, but I also suppressed a laugh when Haneul (very seriously) declared this the beginning of the banana incident. Even with the ominous tone of the scene as if the teachers were marching into battle, the show highlights the ridiculousness of the situation through the name of the incident, which also injects some fun. Despite its rather silly name, I’m sure that the events that will unfold because of this “banana” will be grave, but the show reminds us through these small details that the world won’t end because of these problems. Life goes on, and even when things feel frustrating and hopeless, we should learn to laugh and enjoy the little things in life as well the big.
With every passing episode, I love the characters more, warts and all. The main protagonists aren’t made out to be saints, but neither is the “bad” side always unredeemable. As with Yi-boon, Haneul seems to have worked her magic and made Hae-won more of an ally, and I love it. There’s a reason why Sung-soon goes out of her way to guide Hae-won and it’s because of his sense of duty towards his students. He works hard, even if it sometimes comes across as pandering to the higher-ups, and he clearly has his heart in the right place, though his bitterness can be misguided at times. I’m glad that he finally saw Haneul for her worth at the same time that she saw him for his. While the situation between them is unfortunate since it ultimately pits them against each other, I don’t think their competition should cause them to feel resentment towards each other because neither should be blamed for the outcome. While I want both teachers to end up in happy places at the end, at this point, I wouldn’t mind if either of them gets the job, though it pains me to think of Haneul without the College Advisory team there to tease her.
As for the College Advisory team, Yeon-woo is a sweetheart, but he’s definitely not the perfect colleague. He can be stubborn at times, and some of his actions come across as callous. His questions for Hae-won in the elevator were uncalled for, particularly the phrasing of them, but I don’t think his intent was malicious. He was genuinely trying to point out a flaw he saw in Hae-won’s approach to Haneul, but his words seemed to only hurt rather than help Hae-won. In the end, I think Yeon-woo also realized this when Hae-won asked if he was any different, which also made him reflect on his actions with Haneul. Yeon-woo’s the quietest out of the team (the other two are very vocal) which can make him feel standoffish, but he actually seems to be a very caring and contemplative teacher. Just like the others, there’s more to Yeon-woo than meets the eye, and the show is doing a great job fleshing out its characters to feel like real humans with flaws rather than stock cut-outs simply there to support the main protagonist.
While I adore Yeon-woo and Myung-soo (how could I not love the ever-whiny “biology” and his playful teasing), Sung-soon is hands down my favorite college advisor. Again and again, she proves herself to be the reliable and capable department head unafraid of being cursed if it means fighting for the students’ interests. She’s always there to help Haneul but doesn’t step in to fix her problems. She gives Haneul both the space and time to grow because she wants her to find her own solutions rather than become another “Sung-soon.” She respects Haneul’s decisions and her personhood, showing that she isn’t simply a bulldozing personality who always assumes her way is the best. Furthermore, Sung-soon doesn’t necessarily play favoritism and shows patience with Hae-won as well. When no one else really stood next to Hae-won, she went to his side to keep him steady, and on multiple occasions, she offered him praise or words of advice. Sung-soon’s job is hard, and there are plenty of easier options available for her to take. However, she refuses to compromise her ideals about what it means to be a teacher, and for every Teacher Song or Teacher Ha out there in the world, I hope there are many more Sung-soon’s as well. While the writing is great, I think Sung-soon’s charm is amplified by the wonderful performance of Ra Mi-ran. She imbues the character with a fiery strength and an indomitable sass that makes me love Sung-soon even more.
Since I’m already listing all the things I love about the show, I’ll share another one: the abundance of women in the cast. Not only is the main protagonist an interesting female lead (Haneul continues to show her ability to empathize and win people over with her tenacity), but the story is filled with female characters, each a bit varied like their male counterparts. There are some not so nice female characters like the new short-term teacher or Teacher Han as well as some kind ones like Haneul and Teacher Yoon (another character I love”¦maybe I should just list the ones I don’t like). These characters also span a wide age-range and aren’t just someone’s grandma or mom. Korean dramas have become better at writing good female-centric shows, but I’m always happy to see another one where both women and men coexist equally in the show’s world (in terms of general numbers, not power since men occupy higher status positions in schools like administrative roles more often than women). Whether male or female, the characters are treated as humans first and foremost, and I love it when a show has a thoughtful portrayal of a world and takes its time to develop the side characters as well as the main.
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