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The Midnight Romance in Hagwon: Episodes 5-6

The strategizing never stops in the dog-eat-dog world of the hagwon. But this time it’s in our heroine’s favor when she receives an offer that’s tough to turn down. And just as her work life takes a topsy-turvy turn, her love life follows suit — with a second irresistible offer.

 
EPISODES 5-6

This drama is building in an incremental way that’s simple but so effective. Rather than throwing curveballs, it just climbs and unfolds. It’s got moments that feel almost stagnant, followed by tense scenes that hit hard precisely because of the dragging moments that got us there. I’m more and more invested with each episode.

This week, after the “failure” of their free lecture, Hye-jin and Jun-ho are called into the director’s office where they think they’ll be reprimanded. Instead, the director gives them a nonsensical spiel about how he wants to start a new branch of Daechi Chase in another district — and Hye-jin should spearhead the venture.

That might sound fine and dandy to the uninitiated, but Hye-jin is as savvy as they come. She understands immediately that they’re trying to sack her. Basically, she’s become too popular and poses a threat to Daechi Chase if she ever decides to move to another academy or break out on her own. In the background, the directors divide up her Chanyeong students and give them to Jun-ho and Chung-mi so that if Hye-jin leaves, the students aren’t likely to follow her.

Meanwhile, the lone student who attended the class last week, LEE SHI-WOO (rookie Cha Kang-yoon), is being interrogated by the Gray Witch. She’s gotten ahold of his notes and seems very unnerved by his response to the class. She’s unrelenting in her questions, but Shi-woo remains polite and reserved as he walks her through what he liked about Hye-jin’s class — namely that she made him curious about a subject that he normally doesn’t like or understand (and we see callbacks to how Jun-ho felt when Hye-jin taught him all those years ago).

When Shi-woo is done talking, the Gray Witch insults him by reminding him he’s a scholarship student (even though we’ve just seen how articulate and intelligent he is), and Shi-woo tells her flat out that he’s going to switch academies — not as a rebuttal, but just because he’s honest. Then he leaves with his head down because even though he’s brave, she’s totally scary. (Cha Kang-yoon really caught my attention here. Yes, it’s nicely written dialogue, but something about his humility makes this scene so affecting.)

Once it’s clear she’s losing students, the Gray Witch calls Hye-jin over to her office for a chat. Like a villain in an action movie, she paces in front of our heroine while detailing her own backstory and quest for power. Finally, she gets to the point: she’s offering Hye-jin the role of Vice Director at her hagwon. She’s willing to let Hye-jin fill in the numbers on the contract, and there’s some pretty tempting benefits to boot.

But again, Hye-jin has been playing this game a long time. As soon as she hears the offer, she understands that Shi-woo must be switching academies and bringing his classmates with him. Hye-jin begins to decline, but then says she needs to think it over. I mean, it couldn’t have come at a better time, since her own academy is demoting her.

She tells Jun-ho about the offer and starts doing some real soul searching. The deal sounds great, but still, she’s reluctant to leave Daechi Chase. At first, Jun-ho actively tries to convince her to stay. He wants to work with her, at least for a year. However, he changes his mind after Shi-woo signs up to be his first student (in another scene where Shi-woo captivated my attention. The rapport between him and Jun-ho is amazing and had me smiling from ear to ear).

Now that Jun-ho feels what it’s like to want to go all in for a student, he tells Hye-jin she should do whatever she wants. She shouldn’t make any decisions for him or his benefit just because he was her prize student. Suddenly, he’s as serious as she usually is — and Hye-jin notices the change. She says that he’s being thoughtful now that he has his first student — she has nothing left to teach him.

Jun-ho snaps back, telling her not to act like the only adult. Hye-jin says, “that hurts” — and Jun-ho looks genuinely surprised. She explains that she liked that he needed her, but telling her to go feels like he doesn’t need her anymore. (Wow, the honesty in this scene. They both seem to be talking through a lump in the throat.)

Back at the office, Director Kim is eating his words now that Shi-woo switched to their hagwon and they have enough students to fill a new class. He takes Hye-jin to lunch and breezes over an apology while offering to give her back her Chanyeong students. But the more he brushes it off, the more Hye-jin is irked.

She tells him it’s not a proper apology considering he shattered the trust between them. She was loyal to Daechi Chase, with no thought of leaving (even though she gets multiple offers per year to go elsewhere), but they didn’t trust her back. She’s offended and upset, but he keeps trying to tone down everything she says. By the end, she’s yelling, “Can’t you just be honest!” And he yells back, “It’s not a lie! I was scared!” Finally, she says she’s always hoped they’d part ways on good terms, but… she picks up her coat and bag and heads for the door.

Afterward, she goes back to work. And it’s a good thing because the convo she has with Jun-ho is one I wouldn’t want to miss. After admitting that Jun-ho was always her favorite student, Hye-jin says she’ll help him in any way she can. To which our hero responds, “You have no idea how much I’m holding back. I’m worried you’ll get sick of me if I show how greedy I am. So, leave me when you can.” She looks shocked, gets up, and tries to exit the classroom, but he stops her at the door. “I take it you can read between the lines,” he says, before she goes past him anyway. Oof. That was a confession and a half.

Later that night, Director Kim is beyond drunk after worrying himself into a frenzy that Hye-jin is leaving the hagwon. He calls her to come meet him (at a waterfront, for some reason), where he kneels, begs her not to abandon him or the academy, and says he’s sincerely apologizing.

Jun-ho has tagged along (because it’s inappropriate in his book for a male boss to call a female employee out at night alone), and so he’s there to help her try to get the director off the ground and onto his feet. But as he does, both men tumble into the water, leaving them soaked and freezing. The two employees dump their boss into the back of a taxi and then head to the office, so Jun-ho can try to dry off.

When they arrive, Hye-jin keeps trying to cover him with her coat, a blanket, towels — whatever she can find — and he keeps rejecting them, worried they’ll get ruined if they get wet. He’s sitting at a desk in the darkened office, and she’s scrambling around to find more things to warm him. As she does, he tugs her arm, trying to stop her, and there’s this push/pull dynamic that’s like, “just let me do this for you” and “I don’t want to inconvenience you.” But, the scene isn’t structured as typical politeness. Instead, it captures their closeness in an impressive way.

When she finally sits down beside him, she takes both his hands in hers to warm them up as they chat — and neither of them seems uncomfortable with this. She starts talking about how things have been so unpredictable since Jun-ho came to work there. She doesn’t like unpredictability — not in exams, or life, or relationships (and it sounds to me like she’s replying to that earlier confession).

But Jun-ho puts on a brave face and tells her that when he saw the director go so far as to kneel in front of her, he realized that you need to do whatever it takes to get what you want. He asks, “Do you want to go back to how it was before? When everything was predictable?” She says that’s her plan, but he’s not asking about her plans, he wants to know about her feelings. And then, in response to her earlier comment, he says that he needs her — and he’s not talking about the job. But if she wants things to go back to how they were before he arrived, then he’ll try to hold himself back.

Hye-jin starts, “If you’re not asking about my plan…” but she can hardly finish her sentence, the moment is so filled with feelings. “I don’t want to go back” she concludes. Jun-ho relaxes and says, “You knew, didn’t you? How you really feel. And how I felt.” He admits that she was his first love, and adds, “I’m struggling to control my feelings for you as they get bigger.” He leans forward and kisses her. But she’s super hesitant in her response. She’s not pulling away, but she’s not totally reciprocating either. As he takes hold of her to pull her in, she’s starts to do the same, and then leaves her hands in her lap. And we have to wait until next week to see how that plays out.

Holy moly this thing just took a turn. The pace of that conversation was excellent. The scene stretched out in a way that made me feel like I was about to snap from the tension. It wasn’t constructed for heart flutters so much as release. All the pent up emotions and energy in this show are just an undercurrent throughout these really intense scenes. And then they dip below the surface again so they’re almost imperceptible. But here, they’re finally bleeding through. And yet, it’s not a total release either because they’re both so nervous. The whole thing seems so authentic.

Beyond that, I like how we’re seeing each of them move toward the other in little ways. Hye-jin is joking around more and Jun-ho is taking things more seriously. And he’s fighting hard to prove he’s an equal, which — typical of noona romance — he’ll likely need to convince Hye-jin of before he can fully win her over. But whatever happens next, I’m all in on this one to the end.

 
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1. As always, I'm here to fangirl over my girl Hye Jin.

I want to be as chill and confident as her. Her reactions to getting stabbed in the back, or getting a great job offer are all the same: "I saw it coming and I didn't care".

The way she just accepts everything that life throws to her, and thinks about what she can do with it instead of just getting upset about it... role model.

And she probably had the biggest heart ever, because even tho I could try to understand where the director is coming from, I wouldn't be able to trust him again. Maybe accept the apology but that's it.

I was thinking her best option was to go with the manager that wants to start her own academy.

I did like her discussion with the director, tho. They're more than boss and employee, that seemed like she was betrayed by a family member or something. Which makes it way worse in my eyes, because you don't stab your family on the back.

PS. Joon Ho saying he never took the director seriously is so freaking relatable. 😂

2. The high school teacher arc is hilarious.
No one said anything when he was ignoring the students or when he pushed Hye Jin, but now they're ganging up on him because he wants to write the exam for HIS class? I don't if I should laugh or cry about that.

He's probably realizing hagwons are a consequence of the real issue, and not the real enemy. Just like what's happening to him right now.

It's not that hagwons are brainwashing students into thinking that they have to study for a grade, that IS their reality according to the standards of the system they live in. They go to hagwons because they're already brainwashed, dude. And your colleges at school know the world isn't going to change out of nowhere so they're trying to protect themselves by laying low. Mad world, am I right?

But even tho reality is cruel, and many people just go with the flow, he still has the right to do his own thing. I hope things don't get out of hand at school and he figures out what he really can do for his students.

I kinda want to root for him, even tho I dislike him. LOL

3. Joon Ho seems like he's going to be a great teacher for Si Woo and I'm happy about that.
But I already can see Si Woo be like "I want to become a writer" and his parents sue the hagwon and Joon Ho. 😂

4. The romance is here!
Joon Ho throwing little hints here and there was very fun to watch. But Hye Jin's reactions to them are even better.
Like she said, she always seems to have everything under control except when it comes to him.

The kiss was kinda funny because Hye Jin seemed so lost. 🤣 But the "confessions" really made my heart flutter.

Joon Ho asking her if she already knew was insane. And when she was going to leave the classroom and he stopped her to ask "you got the meaning behind that, right?" DAMN.

Those little scenes are the real deal to me.

5. The Gray Queen (like uri beanie Peach Mochi rightfully calls her), and...

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5. The Gray Queen (like uri beanie Peach Mochi rightfully calls her), and her assistant are too much. They're so creepy. 😂
I was scared for my life when she was talking to Si Woo.

I find it difficult to believe anyone in Hye Jin position would like to work with her. The Gray Queen would probably dump Hye Jin way faster and way harder than the director, if she becomes a thread to her.

She seems to have zero limits.

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I was scared for Si Woo's life actually. A scholarship student living alone? Who might take the class with him? Off With His Head! (To Quote the grey Queen's relative, the Red Queen)

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I think that's a little common there. Students living alone or even going to another countries on their own to study. 🤔

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It seems Hye Jin has had next to no dating experience due to her work habits, so this is probably all fairly new territory for her, and she may even be the less experienced one in this area.

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Yes, definitely. I wouldn't be surprised if she hasn't date one single soul in her 16h-of-work life.

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Teacher Pyo Sang Sub is definitely one to watch. He's obviously dedicated to his craft and principles, and I wasn't impressed by the stance of the other teachers who just wanted to keep their jobs and the status quo.

But his initial dismissive attitude towards the students and his physical aggression towards Hye Jin REALLY grated on me. If he truly values being respected as a teacher and as a coworker, he needs some HUGE character development.

At any rate, I hold higher hopes for him than the Gray Witch's hopeless spineless assistant.

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The hopeless spineless assistant is the real villain of the show. His scenes just get worse every time.
No way I would leave my kid (or anything else) in his hands.

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Yes, his attitude towards Si Woo was the absolute bottom of the barrel! I wouldn't be surprised if he was a school bully in the past. Even if he wasn't, he's totally the type to assert his superiority by putting others down and who lives for paying back all his petty grudges at every little opportunity.

The Gray Witch's methods are mistaken, but I think she was genuinely disgusted by the scummy depths to which her assistant sank in his treatment of Si Woo, and she honestly wanted to apologise to Si Woo. In her message, she showed a lot of humility and sincerity in signing herself off simply as "Choi Hyung Sun", not "Director Choi" (unfortunately, after their previous encounter, her well-intentioned message does nothing but send chills down Si Woo's spine! 😅)

She correctly values Hye Jin's talents and is a tad envious of HJ's relatability and ability to connect with her students.

While it may be going a bit too far to say her heart is in the right place (right now, I'm not quite sure she *has* a heart under that Wizard of Oz / Tin Man grey haired armour 😂), I hope she and Hye Jin can learn from each other and develop a solid camaraderie (especially if Hye Jin ends up being the director of a rival hagwon)! And I hope Director Choi finds herself a better assistant in future!!

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We can't really talk about yesterday's episode here. But I do agree with you.

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@tabong yikes!!

I got ahead of myself there, sorry my fellow beanies!! 🙏

And on top of that, there doesn't seem to be a spoiler tag (was there one before, or was it just my imagination? I've been on hiatus so ...😅)

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It's okay!
I think the tag hasn't been there for a while. I've been in the site for like 3-4 years and I don't remember seeing one.

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What an episode.

1. A big big shoutout to the actor who plays Shi Woo. That scene was so well done and whoever wrote the dialogue, cheers. Everything he said about the class was enticing him to maybe fall in love with Korean was so beautiful. I was a English lit major, and I am a particular fan of the English language, so I genuinely loved that for him.

2. A really need drunken antics to die. It is embarrassing, it is unprofessional, and it is creepy.

3. As for our romance. Wie Ha Joon is so swoony to me in this role. I also love when it clicked to Hye Jin, he is a grown up now and clearly has grown up feelings for you. That was a grown up kiss tto😜😍.

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Yes! The actor playing Si Woo is doing a great job.

"he is a grown up now and clearly has grown up feelings for you." Yes!
I can't wait for the grown up midnight romance to start!

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Correct me if I’m wrong, but were you one of the Beanies like me concerned how the student-teacher relationship would be portrayed, past and present? There have been a few moments in the lightest of gray, but I have been so relieved they depicted it rather well. I’m all for their relationship.

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No chingu, you are correct, I was very worried, lol. Thankfully, it did not live up to my worse fears. I too am all in.

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I like dramas that give the time to each character to think to their options and let the public how they ended to make a certain choice. I like to see the process, their doubts, their fears, what will help to make a choice.

Hye-Jin looks like she was numb until Jun-Ho came back in her life. She did everything she wanted to do but it was safe and no exciting anymore.

Jun-Ho fell for Hye-Jin but above all I loved watch him falling for his first student and his new job as a teacher/mentor. He came for financial freedom but he will stay for this kind of relationship. He gives his 100% when he made a choice.

I was sad to watch the teacher. He seemed so lonely. I didn't really understand what was the issue with the exam and the textbook.

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If the teacher only teaches the textbook, almost every student in the class will get 100%. There will not be any way to differentiate or rank students. As one of the other teachers says " We will be marking based on someone missing some punctuation" . They have to include other things/more difficult things so that they can tell the difference between smart/well prepared students and the other students.

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It's what I understood but it doesn't make sense. The textbook is done by who? By the school? Or the Korean education system? And how do you add something more in the program that will be faire for everybody too?

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I don't Know the answer, so I am guessing. Textbooks usually cover the course requirements- So there is probably a list of acceptable textbooks, and the teacher picks one.
And the whole question of adding things/fairness is what I think the teacher/Hagwon argument is about. It's not really fair to have some students get extra teaching- but they do.
I think the college entrance test is its own thing- Its not just based on what the schools teach. So teaching for school is different to teaching for the exam, and that has come up a bit in the conversations.
But the schools are the ones who supply transcripts/recommendations, so you can't have a bad school record either.

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Their system is too complicated for me 😅

Thank you for taking the time to explain it to me!

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When it comes to school grades it's not fair to test kids on things from outside the curriculum. In an ideal world, the written curriculum, what's being taught and what's being assessed should form a Venn diagram with three almost identical circles, although realistically you probably won't be able to teach the whole curriculum and won't be able to assess everything you've taught. However, the main point is that if you're testing students on things you didn't teach, you're really judging them on their prior knowledge, what they've paid for in tutoring, language skills from overseas trips, etc, i.e it'll typically favor kids of higher socioeconomic backgrounds.

On the other hand, if all the kids spend most of their time studying, I can see how it might be hard to make a test that will allow you to distinguish between students, and it may be tempting to make 'gotcha' questions that will trip students up. Makes me wonder about the nature of the assessment, e.g. if it's multiple choice or something. It ought to be possible by asking them to demonstrate understanding and higher-order thinking, e.g. comparative analysis, ability to structure and present your thinking, etc.

As Neolttwigi said, standardised tests such as a college entrance exam are a different beast. They're meant to test both broad and deep knowledge, and are probably not limited to a specific book or curriculum.

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This show has the best dialogue; it's both efficient and thoughtful. The fact that some scenes are shot in one long take is even more impressive. When Hye-Jin and the Grey Witch I'm going to continue to refer to her as such because it feels like the character owns this name rather than vice versa) were going back and forth over possibly working together, I was on the edge of my seat, both admiring and weary of both women. Their mutual intelligence, respect, and skepticism of each other made for a riveting exchange.

I also really liked the scene between Junho and Hye-jin in the cafe. I appreciated Junho apologizing for earlier begging her to stay for one year (although I don't think he necessarily needed to apologize for that) but the shift to Hye-jin noting her own disappointment that he no longer was saying he needed her was what resonated for me. It was so honest and somehow emblematic of both her strength and vulnerability. No wonder Junho basically said he had no reply--it was a real mic drop moment for Hye-jin, lol.

I love Si Woo, and already feel very protective of him. When GW ignored and subtly berated him for saying that he wasn't sure he wanted to be a doctor, I wanted to hug him. He's representative of so many of the students in this show we won't get to know, but who, in an effort to please their parents, teachers, and society as a whole, will ignore their own intellectual and other passions, thus stifling their individuality in the process. The show does a great job of showing this reality sympathetically, while also indicating its systemic nature (so it's not easy to fix) without leaving the viewer feeling hopeless or exhausted. That's no mean feat.

Director Kim irked me with the way he vacillated from slavish fanboy to oily boss and then back to slavish fanboy. At first, I wasn't sure why he would be so quick to turn on Hye-jin after one understandable failure that was due to an outsider exerting her influence rather than Hye-jin or Junho doing anything wrong. But when Hye-jin explained to Junho that her bosses have wanted to push her out for a long time because they fear her leaving and taking students with her, I felt the impossibility of her situation. She doesn't do well, she's out. She does too well, she's also out.

Finally, the romance is picking up believably and gently, which makes it feel realistic. I like the sense that this makes sense for them, but is not inevitable. They need to make the choice to want to be together. It'll be interesting to see them get there.

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I agree! I really like the pace of the drama and the dialogue works with it so well. The premise isn't anything super exciting, but the writing makes it engrossing and I care about the characters even though I find out of school tuitions ridiculous and awful for students as a concept. I went to one too in high school and it was annoying, but it was what so many students did, so there I was. And yet, I'm totally invested in any successful outcomes for Hyejin and Junho.

Junho has been so confident and driven in his pursuit of his career and Hyejin that him getting a bit shaken was fun to see, because it felt very real. And Hyejin sending him for a spin by saying she felt hurt because she didn't feel needed was hilarious. The build up to the kiss was excellent, Junho had been much more overt but there were signs of Hyejin starting to think of him that way, and I agree that romance got its notable moment in a very believable, grown-up way.

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I read the comments on Grey Witch vs Queen. I think it can be true that she owns the Grey Witch moniker while it remains ageist and sexist term. Similar to how marginalized communities may claim ownership of derogatory names while I would be hesitant to use them. But it’s a slippery thing.

In any case, I was reminded of strong female politicians with that poof of hair. Thatcher. Indira Gandhi. Etc. Fearsome indeed.

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I love this show so far, I was hoping I would from the day it was announced and it's really stayed strong. I love that the dialogues feel real and not overwrought, love the main couple, and love that the secondary characters all feel real. I've seen some complaints about the romance not being front and center, but I think it is, in a very real feeling way where the people feel like they have their own lives and are moving into something else together now. Now if someone can just ban Ahn pan Seok from choosing random weird english songs to keep playing over scenes in his dramas, everything would be perfect.

I love well done slow burns, and even though it's not a slow burn on Jun Ho's end lol, I really liked how it came up for Hye Jin and how excellent that kiss and lead up to it was. Their dynamic is great, they talk things out and her matter of fact cleverness and expertise and his slightly cocky drive and self-confidence that comes out in a charming way so that it's not offputting, works so well together. I like that both leads and support systems outside of work and their own relationship and that the romance doesn't feel like it doesn't belong there.

I thought there might be something ott melodramatic coming up in both conversations between Hye Jin and Dir Kim, but they did it much better than I was afraid of. The first one felt heartfelt and hurt and angry from Hye Jin, and like Dir Kim was both regretful and kind of cowardly but in a real human way, not a drama villain way. And the second one was hilarious even with Hyun Tak clearly being regretful, there was nothing skeevy about a night time drunk call, it was just genuinely hilarious and the falls were really funny.

I loved that Cheong Mi is not an antagonist, she's just someone trying her best to compete with what she saw as an unfair advantage Jun Ho got, but she had empathy for what seemed to be a huge failure from them, and did not want to participate in stabbing Hye Jin in the back in the aftermath.

Shi Woo is a very real feeling character and I hope he gets more scenes. The school teacher is interesting because I have sympathy for the educational circumstances, but he's so weaselly that it's hard. He's making it difficult for everyone, including himself now.

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"I've seen some complaints about the romance not being front and center, but I think it is, in a very real feeling way where the people feel like they have their own lives and are moving into something else together now."

You said it perfectly. I love this about the show. The characters do not exist for the sake of the romance. The romance exists for them.

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"...Dir Kim was both regretful and kind of cowardly but in a real human way, not a drama villain way."

I've gotta disagree here. I've been on the receiving end of conversations like that and my mental alarm was "Woop-woop-woop"ing at increasing levels of urgency. The way he brought up helping out her brother? Trying to up the nostalgia by talking about where they started, ordering her "regular" (I LOVED her clapback: "Is there such a thing?") to get her to stop being offended? I don't see cowardly here at all: it's straight up manipulation. I get that they have a mutually beneficial history. But he's using it as a weapon against her to engineer a specific emotional outcome. Dir Kim may not be a conscious villain - I think this is probably both an ingrained way of thinking and maybe a cultural way of acting toward subordinates that he may not even see clearly - but he's representative of the subtle-but-terrible ways power can work. I'm thankful that she's not only not helpless in front of it, she actually calls it straight out. And I'm looking forward to watching their character arcs where this workplace relationship is concerned.

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And - AND! - his blurting out, "I was scared!" on the heels of all that... Maybe true. Maybe an accurate assessment. But in that context, it just felt like more manipulation. "If the nostalgia won't work, let's try pity." The drunken kneeling repentance was...something (alcohol only reveals what's below the surface, doesn't create new things). But still.

Okay, I'll slink back to my Introvert's Corner of Silent Observation now. 😂

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I hear you, and i get what you mean. For me, because the writing has Hye Jin so grounded and self possessed, Dir Kim's behavior in contrast to her just registered as spineless and cowardly, rather than calculated villainy. And the appeal to emotions is part of his cowardliness because he realized he made a big mistake and wants to try anything to have her not leave now.

He did hurt her, and while he does have power over her, she is also not helpless financially or professionally, so the dynamic to me read more as him being pathetic and her being hurt and then nonplussed with the drunk shenanigans. If she had been a newer teacher with less professional achievements and acclaim, the dynamic would definitely have felt more menacing manipulation than a pathetic wishy washy man throwing away a previously good working relationship because he got scared of her power. Just a slightly different way of seeing it i think.

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I totally agree about the dynamic between them - he's ultimately pathetic in the face of her inner strength and self-worth. And as you said, his behavior is not "calculated villainy" (what a great phrase!). I put it down to culturally ingrained misogyny and/or a negative application of social hierarchy. I think what I was trying to get at is the difference between what his behavior is / where it comes from and its impact on the person it's directed toward. He's not trying to be a villain, but that doesn't mean he isn't one, even though it doesn't look like it in a typical kdrama villain kinda way.

That's why I'm interested to see how they write his character arc in the upcoming episodes. In my perfect dramaworld, the best resolution isn't that she stays strong (or leaves the company or gets more power within it, although I'd welcome either of those outcomes), but that he literally stops trying to manipulate her emotions for his own benefit and respects her for the whole person she is, rather than a puppet on his (imagined) strings.

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I'm loving the complex realness of Dir Kim's character! (even though he'd be an utter headache to deal with in real life 😅).

He manages to be both a drunk kindergartener and a shameless crafty fox at the same time. Even though he's 100% sincerely apologetic and utterly dejected at the prospect of losing Hye Jin, I think a corner of his mind is (subconsciously? reflexively?) manipulating the situation to his benefit and taking advantage of Hye Jin's good nature. He just can't help himself.

Part of him truly does appreciate her loyalty and talent, but his instinct for self-preservation and self aggrandizement tends to take over (encouraged by the sinister VP Woo)

It shows us why Hye Jin will eventually need to leave Daechi Chase at some point. Sure, they go back a long way and they built something great together. They're like the Daechi-dong version of Microsoft, Apple, etc. But ultimately they have different visions that will lead each other down differing paths. I just hope things don't get too makjang messy along the way, and that they can remain good allies.

Am I hoping for too much?

Side note: for some reason, I just find his chuckling laughter delightfully innocent ☺ It reminds me of Baek Jong Won

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Yes! I enjoy that he's kind of weaselly, but not in a horrible irredeemable way, like, he's kind of pathetic but real feeling where i can feel sympathy even while i roll my eyes at him.

Unless things sour between Hye Jin and Hyo Im, I feel like the little side note of her being interested in opening up an academy of her own that Ji Eun mentioned will play a big role in Hye Jin moving on from Daechi Chase. It's complicated since she's Jun Ho's friend's mom so the Hye Jin/Jun Ho love line will get her involved in more than just a workplace thing, but I don't want to think her ambition was just mentioned as a throwaway thing and getting Hye Jin would be her biggest achievement at a new academy.

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Nam Cheong Mi is fast becoming my favourite!

She has confidence in her abilities (which she's worked hard to build), calls out perceived preferential treatment, doesn't back down from higher authority figures (even if it's the legendary Seo Hye Jin) but she's also quick to give recognition and appreciation (acknowledging the quality of Hye Jin x Junho's free lecture and being grateful that HJ sent the PC tablet her way).

She's such a refreshing character - ultra pragmatic, self-reliant and savvy. I can see her becoming a reliable ally for Hye Jin and Jun Ho - and maybe even becoming Dir Kim's new right-hand woman!

* Taxis are so expensive! Why would I waste money on that, when I'm saving to buy my own apartment?!
* [to VP Woo] I'm neutral. I'm not particularly close to any of the teachers. And *especially* not Seo Hye Jin [translation: I'm staying out of your political machinations, since I know you think she's a rival and a ticking time bomb]
* [to Junho] In the interests of world peace, do you really want to try explaining how you knew Hye Jin was sick? Don't you think it's better to leave that to me?

Sure, she probably saw an opportunity and volunteered to take over Hye Jin's morning classes as a calculated career move, but she still puts the kids first and makes sure they have fun in her classes.

Whereas it was sickening to see Teacher Kim Chae Yoon trying to assert her "seniority" over Cheong Mi with cloyingly sweet overtures, and mooning over Jun Ho and 'cutely' demanding he buy her a meal.

As for the weaselly Gray Witch's assistant, I have 0.5% sympathy for him right now. Aggressively scribbling that unsigned memo, throwing it in Si Woo's face, and demanding Si Woo provide a written warranty not to leak the academy's material?! It was the height of pettiness and abuse of authority, considering that once Si Woo graduates in a couple of years, you'll both just be adult members of society and two human beings. Between Gen Z Si Woo and Assistant Teacher Park, I know who was the adult in that encounter!

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Oopsie!
Meant to write "Gray Witch's weaselly assistant"!

Whatever epithets may be applied, 'weaselly' would be the last word I'd use to describe the haughty and regal Director Choi!

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I like this show just fine, but I find I have two personal responses to it that I doubt are shared. The first is laughing at the way some educational issues are being dramatized in the style of a political suspense/corporate intrigue drama. Especially in the scenes involving the grey witch, when she argued to the school-switching student that he should forget humanities and just focus on medical subjects, and there was menacing music playing behind the scene. If only I had a similar soundtrack when I was arguing to students that its impossible to be a good doctor or businessperson withOUT an understanding of humanities, and so students should continue to take humanities courses!

I also had to laugh when the Grey Witch said she left regular school teaching because of her drive for power and authority. Yes! Dictorial power and control! The evil teachers dream!! Bwahahaha!

But then there's another reaction, equally personal to me, and that is, I find moments of this show really slow moving. The whole director lunch and then apology thing was way too long, and it just wasn't that interesting, like watching a employee conference. He made a strategic mistake, he's trying to win her back. Okay. The drunk scene, of course it was just a setup for the romantic moment, but still, otherwise, pretty tedious.

Speaking of that big romantic climax of that episode, I personally found a bit premature--I mean as a logical part of their relationship. I didn't sense the FL's attitude shifting at all. In fact, throughout these two episodes, she still treating him as a student. Based on their previous interactions, I think it would have been more appropriate, to have her jerk away when he made a move. Also, what is this veiled threat of sexual assault, which I always hate when its said by kdrama MLs "I'm holding back, but at a certain point I'm not going to hold back any more." Is that supposed to be romantic? What about, I'm hoping your feelings will change, but if not I'll wait for you forever" which seems to be the common attitude of 2ML's in romances?

Anyway, now that the FL has rediscovered the joy of teaching and the she and the ML have exchanged the first smooch, I trust the couple can dethrone the Grey Witch and start their Hagwon revolution together, teaching Korean youth and their short-sighted driven Moms (always those Moms...) that its love of learning and pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, and not wealth and social status that make for a happy life!

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One more thing I'm really hoping we might get more brightly lit scenes now that the main couple has started dating. The dark offices and classrooms lit only by florescent lights are at times a little too much.
I get it that the world of Hagwons is a world of darkness, in many ways--the callousness, the greed, the using of students, the back stabbing--its educational hell, really--but couldn't our main couple, the angels of light, turn on all the office lights sometimes, rather than just have one desk lamp lit? Is it an energy conservation measure?

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This reminds me Hacja of the Time of Great Conflict over a testing schedule change during my brief sojourn at a school. Battle lines were drawn. Moves and counter moves made. Alliances formed and betrayed. And after all was done and dusted and a victor emerged, a staffer transferred rather than face others in defeat.

It’s all a bit funny not only in retrospect but also from outside as I would recount the day’s events like a newsreel of yore. But while they were in the thick of it, it were WWW III.

The sturm und drang in the show is a bit overdone at times. But it also took me right back, unfortunately.

PS You were a great teacher. I wish you’d been mine. Like many Asians, I was heavily pushed into the sciences (not that I listened).

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@indyfan I want to be clear, even though I am making fun of this show for highlighting them, I was involved in many sch battles. Some were totally trivial, and showed the old truism, the smaller the stakes, the more vicious the struggle. Others were inconsequential to people not involved in it--for example changing general education requirements--but involved eliminating classes that meant instructors were laid off. But none of these struggles were really worthy of full kdrama treatment. That's why its funny to watch them.

Also, thanks for the unearned compliment, but I was not a great teacher. I was enthusiastic about the subject I was teaching and liked most of the students I came in contact with, I think those are two prerequisites for enjoying the job. But as you know--you were probably teaching well yourself--teaching is very hard, and takes not just subject mastery, but creative presentation, and true empathy to involve students effectively. I had some colleagues who were great teachers, but alas, not me!

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Imagine if we’d had the same menacing music playing in the background during epic committee meetings. We’d have so much more fun!

You’re too modest. Somewhere out there is a doctor who appreciates how you broadened their horizons.

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That doodley-doo song would make me drop the show except for Viki kindly subbing it so that it can be put on mute in the (interminable) scenes of them mooning around by themselves. But the rest of the music often makes me laugh, I guffawed with you at the menacing movie music in the background for Grey Witch 😂

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Have you tried singing along with that song? It really does make it not only easier to take, its actually pretty funny, especially if you are watching the show with someone.

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Oh dear, but the lyrics are so bad! It is an ear worm, though - if I hear it, it really sticks 😵‍💫👂🏼

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Director Choi's world domination stance was totally cartoonish which makes me feel disappointed for the character, I really want her to be three dimensional not a cookie-cutter villain. Show has feet firmly placed in real world (well as much as dramaland allows) so let's hope this was just a blip.

I'm glad you brought up humanities vs sciences, it's sad that humanities are still relegated to the kids table at the academic banquet.

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I don't know if I want Hye-jin to stay in that school or potentially take the offer, or something else. Part of me really wants her to stay, but a lot of the people there clearly don't appreciate her and just want her out. On the other hand, I also don't think her place is in the Gray Witch's school. Neither is really ideal at this point, so I'm not sure what would be the best for her.

The kiss was good, even if Hye-jin didn't really know what to do there. They chemistry in that scene was insane though. That being said, I also wouldn't have minded if they waited a bit longer before really jumping into the romance. Kinda ruins the great romantic slow-burn they had going on, and since there are 10 episodes left, I do have to admit that I'm worried as to whether or not they have enough story for that. Or maybe I'm still traumatized by SITR, that's also possible.

And yeah, there was certainly some ominous foreshadowing with the story of those 2 instructors falling in love...

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I noticed the inclusion of those two instructors falling in love too, I was like, let's be different show, lol

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That was very heavy foreshadowing indeed. If it isn’t a misdirect, then I wonder if unlike the PD’s other shows, the main obstacles in the relationship won’t come from family but perhaps the workplace.

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They will. I’m sure we are in for all kinds of mess about having to hide the relationship/can’t be at the same school and all that.

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Yes! I loved the kiss/confession scene but I also wish the tension had been drawn out longer. There’s a reason why dramas wait till the 8th episode (or is it later)? It was also meltingly real like OSN rather than the crack of SITR.

One reason it may have come this early, this PD seems less interested in the will-they-won’t-they. Rather, after a couple gets together, how they navigate the challenges of a relationship facing societal opprobrium. I expect a lot of discomfort ahead along with the swoons.

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Can I just say your use of the word opprobrium made me swoon.😍

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😊 Except now I want to line edit that clunker of a sentence. 😅

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Lol, it is okay, opprobrium is the STAR.

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Actually, the bit I cheered the most for was JH following HJ on that 'Night time meeting with a drunk boss? That doesn't happen in a normal company' That sort of thing happens with small companies all the time- people know each other so well that they think 'No, my boss won't assault me/cross the line'- And then there you are, alone with a drunk man who is in a position of power. I know JH was using it as an excuse to go with HJ, but it was such a good excuse that it did not need to be an excuse. He was correct, the right thing to do was to go with someone else as a witness. ( And I loved that the drama called it out as well, though the teachers back at the restaurant did not take it onboard, speculating that the boss was giving her a fancy meal)
Changing the subject, I get that its an Art Direction decision, but HJ walks through the company picking up blankets and towels, turning lights on wherever she goes- except at the end? When she is alone in a room with a male employee? If we are talking about proper behaviour with colleagues, whether or not you/they have a crush on each other, that was not it!

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I had sky high expectations of this show, but so far, it's been sadly 5, maybe 6/10? Mostly, I'm just playing supporting character bingo, comparing all the actors' roles from the ones they've played previously. Everything else is just a smidge too tedious and over-thought.

I'm okay with the couple taking off so early on, because Jun Ho's always had heart eyes for her, but really, I didn't feel any awareness or chemistry shift on the FL's part over time. So for her to just accept that (admittedly swoony and screen melting) confession and kiss in the last episode just felt a bit meh to me. As it is, there was that particularly cringey scene from ep 3/4 where she's giggling over their texts which had me rolling eyes at the borderline inappropriateness of it.

I've liked Jung Ryo Won in her other roles, but this one isn't clicking for me somehow, though I appreciate how they're showing her character's journey, both personally and professionally.
Wi Ha Jun is cute and his character has shown some growth from man-boy to adult, and may I take a moment's appreciation for his arms in the last scene Lol. Man's worked hard for them, so it's due.

Also, the Curse of the AhnPan Seok OST... I didn't go past Something in the Rain ep 3 so was spared, I get through rewatches of Spring Night by muting, and I'll have to do it again with this... Why this obsession for weird CSNY/Paul Young mashups over and over again, coupled with StarWars-y ominous music while eating PPL Subway?

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I'd also like to send a coffee truck to Kdrama writers who take seemingly banal professions like teaching, or accounting, and soon, auditing, to such nail-biting, save-the-world-through-Excel sheets, heights!

I also want to write them a petition to set one drama in the super exciting world of design and/or architecture. After all, what could be more thrilling than the fight between design idea Ver19.pdf, FinalVer19.pdf, and AbsolutelyF*ingFinalVer19.pdf?

Maybe one intrepid design studio fighting against an evil AI machine that makes intelligent houses or websites that insidiously control humanity, and bringing down the evil chaebol client that wants to take over the world one badly-designed product at a time.

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Personally, I'm totally enjoying this show, but had to stop by to upvote your idea for drama-fying all kinds of 'mundane' jobs!

I'm all in for an epic gritted-teeth life & death struggle between Team Ver19 vs FinalVer19 vs AbsolutelyF*ingFinalVer19!! 🤣🤣

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As expected of PD-nim Ahn Pan Seok's dramas, this one is thought-provoking and filled with deep-felt emotions. There is also something so warm seeping through the scenes that reaches me through the screen. I have to admit to being surprised at the confession we got from Joon-ho. I thought it would take him a little bit longer esp. given how Hye-jin's walls are difficult to climb through. Still, we saw her leaning on him and being her true self only around him. So, I won't be surprised if she had a crush on him all along.
While Gray Witch is truly scary like fellow beanies described her, remaining in her hagwon isn't a good decision either. Actually, I hope Hye-jin would think about setting up her own academy as she is competent enough to do so. Either way, I am rooting for her to choose what makes her happy.

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I am literally not interested in the romance itself so I have nothing to say about it. It's the other stuff going on that has captured my attention.

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Wie Ha Joon is nicknamed as a guy who never gets a girl in my book (mostly because he was playing SML). So, I am happy that he is getting the girl this time.
I am also happy that there is not a screaming hysterical character. And the dialogs are really enjoyable. Everybody is smart and trying to survive in a cut throat business. No-one is going around just to mess with the others
Si Woo is so precious. A young man who would not be pushed into an adult-made mold.

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The fun of this drama lies in the smallest details. The microexpressions from the side characters, the naturalism of the workplace clutter, the fact that Hye-jin's home is almost indistinguishable from her workplace. I got an inordinate amount of joy from Hye-jin hunting for towels in the office and using the 'sniff test' to make sure they weren't too funky.

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I'm loving it.
I was becoming wary of all the office politics, but I'm seeing it all come together now. I can see myself in the protagonist, in Hye Jin. I can relate to the fighting-with-authority-figures-at work dynamic. I also like that she's savvy and stands up for herself and others.

I wasn't a fan of the romance angle at first. But their interactions in that respect? Their dialogue? Them dancing around each other? It's been great. That confession (well, multiple confessions but especially the first one) was great. Kudos for asking for consent too. I too was surprised that she consented to the kiss. I thought she was going to reject him... but then again, the boundaries have been off/on with them.

Si Woo! I hope to see more of Si Woo. He's my favorite too. And I can relate to him as well. I hope he becomes a writer or whatever makes his heart sparkle. I hope the adults don't take that spark from him.

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I wanted to note this, since I haven't seen anyone else mention it. My favourite scene in these two episodes was the quick conversation between Hye Jin and her friend while they reviewed the contracts. Her friend asking her how does she want to be supported was so good. It told us so much about their friendship and its health and it was all so freaking GOOD!

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I also love the portrayal of this friendship! Also her friend’s husband who is always so welcoming and does everything to accommodate her (and whoever she’s with), when she comes to the restaurant. Good to know she has such a great support system (and was able to maintain it - even if her work hours must be crazy).

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Same. I wanted to note that down when I saw it. I'm sure it's been in dramaland before (am I?) but it was the first time I've seen a friend explicitly ask, how can I support you best. Great friendship modeling.

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"The scene...wasn’t constructed for heart flutters so much as release." Yes. This. At the end of ep 2, and then ep 4, I wasn't convinced I wanted to come back to this drama world, but something kept drawing me back in, "just to give it one more try," I'd say to myself. This sentence of Dramaddictally's clarifies why. It was what I'd been seeing, but not clearly enough to put into words.

The undercurrents are strong in this one. While others haven't seen her feelings shift, I definitely noticed a few things:

1) She's clearly maintained boundaries (or at least oblivion) for a long time. She's been so single-minded in her career that I could see his feelings not even occurring to her. But his challenge, "You already knew, didn't you," indicates that she did probably know and therefore for YEARS, she did maintain boundaries. (Am I wrong in thinking that he showed up at least annually for Teacher's Day or whatever? I thought that was established in ep 1, but maybe I'm just making things up.) I mean, she had him in her phone, with a nickname no less, so I feel like ep 1 wasn't the first time their paths crossed since he graduated.

2.) Changing his name in her phone was a small way she could either indicate or even internalize a shift in how she thought about who he is to her. I've done stuff like that - consciously using a specific descriptor when I've noticed someone was different than I'd originally thought.

3.) There've been a lot of small (perhaps even tiny) arrows pointing to her own feelings toward him either shifting from one type to another or moving from the periphery in her mind to front-and-center. The texting-giggles was a little over the top, but also pretty honest, I thought, in portraying how humans really do respond to growing feelings, or growing awareness of feelings.

4.) In that same vein, her awkward response at the end of ep 6 also felt so very true to life. I mean, she clearly has little to no dating experience as an adult. She may not know *how* to respond, especially to someone being so direct in talking about their emotions. She also clearly has been comfortable with her same-same / "I know exactly what to expect" life. Some of us are like that - give me a box to climb in and I'll not only do it, I'll pull the top on over my head and thank you all the while. It's just more comfortable. Shifting out of that while your internal voice is weakly resisting is a lot of work and oh my goodness, I just realized why that confession scene resonated so strongly with me - the dialogue was different, and there was no kiss to finish it off because we were in a coffee shop, but that was exactly how my husband got me to open up to him.

Ahem. Anyway. Finding my chill again...

I'm fully on board with their relationship as it's currently progressing and I'm clearly learning a lot about myself and my own responses to this show. Just in this discussion alone, I've moved from hesitant "I *think*...

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Speculation time! Listening to the lyrics of the opening theme song: "one last year till we graduate", I think the signs are pointing towards Hyejin and Junho 'graduating' from Daechi Chase and moving into the next chapter/level of their relationship and partnership as educators, based on mutual respect and affection.

Hye Jin, inspired by her first love Junho and her outstanding student Si Woo, will gradually find/rediscover her unique teaching style and establish her own academy.

If Hyejin and Junho succeed in establishing their own independent academy, I hope Siwoo goes with them - Hyejin's greatest student + Junho's 1st student!!

Cinematically, I still find some scenes a tad too underlit, but I like how it intensifies the mood of the scene. I mean, you can't even see their full faces in some key scenes, but conversely, it makes you hyperfocus on the layers of non-visual cues going on, the dialogue, the body language, the breathing in their silences, pauses and hesitation, and it just pulls you right in.

Like that scene where drunken Hye Jin pulls Junho closer to whisper her door passcode in his ear! His adorable reaction when he stiffens up and draws deep breaths to regroup before inputting her password and opening her door!

It's also a nice metaphor for Hye Jin emotionally opening up and letting him in, and awkwardly learning how to reciprocate his earnest advances.

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