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The Midnight Romance in Hagwon: Episodes 11-12

It’s a week of arguments as our leads blow their tops all over town. But it’s also a week of alliances as new friendships form and enemies convene over shared goals. Everyone is showing their true colors now — but not all colors are flattering for all characters.

 
EPISODES 11-12

The events this week revolve around character dispositions, with some making a total turnaround and others coming back into their own. To dive in, let’s start with a backstabbing. I haven’t yet introduced the Vice Director of Daechi Chase, WOO SEUNG-HEE (Kim Jung-young), but her part in the story just got too big to ignore anymore.

For a while now, we’ve seen that Seung-hee is at odds with her boss, Hyun-tak, but it wasn’t clear why. This week we learn that as director of Daechi Chase, Hyun-tak took over Seung-hee’s hagwon about eight years ago and she’s been working for him ever since. But, she’s been quietly plotting her revenge, and now she sees an opportunity to carry it out. Her ultimate goal is to take down Hyun-tak, but to make sure the business won’t get back up and running right away, she wants to remove his big moneymaker: Hye-jin.

To that end, she sets up a private meeting with the Gray Witch (who also has it out for Hye-jin) and tries to cut a deal. She hands the Gray Witch a flash drive that contains all of Hye-jin’s teaching materials from the past ten years (lectures, textbooks, everything). Now that Sang-seob will be working at Choisun, Seung-hee wants to give all this material to him so he can sabotage Hye-jin and take her students.

The Gray Witch is totally on board with this plan, but as it turns out, Sang-seob has a heck of a conscience. He wants to teach in his own way, based on his own ethics. And so, not only does he refuse to show up for the meeting to get the drive, he contacts Hye-jin to grab a drink together — and tells her about the plot against her.

Now, this is a total 180 from last week when Sang-seob and Hye-jin were sitting on opposite sides of a table and he was shooting daggers. Here, they’re facing each other again, and becoming allies. Sang-seob has had a change of heart because of one of his students — the same student that Hye-jin stood up for in Episode 1, causing Sang-seob so much humiliation. This student took his supplementary class at Chanyeong and actually did the work, reading extra novels and writing book reports. He’s moved by this, and feels ashamed that he turned on his students in order to try to hurt Hye-jin.

This change in his character is really the highlight of the episodes. And the convivial dynamic that forms between him and Hye-jin is so pleasant to watch. Neither holds a grudge. Both embrace their love of teaching. And it’s nice to see these competitors putting their heads together to do what’s right. Plus, they’re both so much happier now that they can put last week’s tumult behind them. (And I’m happy to see Hye-jin back to herself again.)

So, we’ve got one character revealing herself as a double-crosser and another showing his true good-guy colors, but what about our leads? Our OTP does not get as much screen time together this week as usual but when they do, man, is it explosive. And this has nothing to do with that bedroom scene we saw last time. Nope. Our leads have an argument to end all arguments — blowing their lids at the hagwon until the whole staff is standing around watching in dismay.

First, let’s talk about Jun-ho. He’s argumentative this week in just about every situation he finds himself. When we ended last time, Hye-jin was in the closet hiding from Jun-ho’s mom. She manages to sneak out while Mom’s in the bathroom (trucking home in her heeled boots and sweatpants, poor thing), leaving Jun-ho to get in a heated disagreement about his career.

We’ve known for some time that Jun-ho’s parents aren’t happy with his change in careers. But Mom is there to offer what she thinks is an olive branch, since Jun-ho’s dad has set up a meeting for him with a high-paying online school. Jun-ho’s not interested, but Mom keeps pushing until he’s frustrated and mouthing off about how they need to stop controlling his life. She finally backs down, and later he feels bad about how he acted.

So, that somewhat bratty blowup is how we start the show this week, and Jun-ho’s antics only escalate from there. We learn that the entire time he and Chung-mi have been working at Daechi Chase, they’ve been developing their own textbooks to use in their classes. Well, the big day is upon them and the textbook proofs arrive. And Jun-ho promptly puts his through the shredder and deletes the original files.

After Hye-jin’s confrontation with the Gray Witch last week, Jun-ho has decided that they need a paradigm shift in the way they teach. He’s going to start over from scratch, and this time, his idea is to teach the students in the way that Hye-jin once taught him (the same way she taught Shi-woo at the free lecture). He’ll teach the students how to think on their own, not just memorize passages from Korean literature. It’s bigger than test taking because they’ll have the skills to read any passage and understand it instinctively.

Now, all that might be well and good to discuss with his bosses at some point — but he’s just destroyed his teaching materials. And Hye-jin flips out. She begins by telling him there’s no time to make new ones — does he think teaching students is a joke? He’s being irresponsible. They start to argue in earnest, with Jun-ho countering that they need a new curriculum. Hye-jin’s voice keeps going up as she tells him to forget about life-long benefits for the students. They need to show results to the parents quickly, and they need to use a proven model.

She’s yelling and being sarcastic in her digs and Jun-ho whispers, “Don’t belittle me.” By now, the entire office has heard their screaming and come to see what’s going on. They go round for round, each defending their positions staunchly — hers very business minded and his focused on long-term student learning. Jun-ho says he’s a success because Hye-jin used this method with him, but she is not trying to hear it. The scene goes on and on, their faces contorted as they yell and gesticulate.

Finally, she tries to walk out since they’re getting nowhere. He grabs her arm but she throws him off: “Don’t follow me.” And she leaves the office to get some air and walk it off, while Jun-ho goes to wash his face and try to calm down. The scene is really well written and acted, and while both passionately defend their side, neither lets it get quite personal, which is impressive.

It’s in this moment, while Hye-jin is walking in the rain and ignoring Jun-ho’s calls, that she receives the call from Sang-seob that leads to their reconciliation. And in it’s in the moments following that reconciliation that Jun-ho’s argumentativeness really starts to grate on me.

Their colleague at the hagwon tells Jun-ho that Hye-jin wants to be alone right now (i.e., lay off, dude). But Jun-ho keeps calling and then goes out to track her down. He finds her at the restaurant with Sang-seob, walks in, sits down at the table, and starts talking shit to Sang-seob. Hye-jin keeps telling him to leave and wait for her elsewhere but he ignores her, until finally she informs him of the plot against her.

Jun-ho then uses this information as ammo to get back to his point. Who cares about ten years of teaching materials when they can just start over with a new paradigm? They then re-start the exact same argument we just saw, right in front of Sang-seob. Hye-jin tries to quell it multiple times but Jun-ho will not give up. Sang-seob looks incredibly uncomfortable but also, he agrees with Jun-ho’s model. He says it’s every teacher’s dream to teach that way, and it’s what he intended for his supplementary class.

When the discussions are over, Jun-ho apologizes to Sang-seob for being so rude — but tells Hye-jin he will not apologize to her. Instead, he drives her to the seaside on a whim, where they arrive in the morning and walk along the water, and Hye-jin changes her mind, telling Jun-ho to do what he wants.

Back at Choisun, Sang-seob gives a free lecture to entice students and it’s riveting from start to finish. Hye-jin sits in the back to observe (while the Gray Witch sits up front making snarly faces) and Sang-seob really comes into his own. He’s decided to teach the ways he wants — the same way Jun-ho wants — and the kids (and Hye-jin) are excited for the class. At the end of the lecture, Hye-jin approaches him and says she learned a lot (aww). And so, by the time she’s sitting through Jun-ho’s new practice lecture later on, she admits that he won — and they smile brightly at each other.

This brings us full circle to the backstabber, where we see yet again that Hye-jin can hold her own in every situation. Essentially, since Sang-seob wouldn’t go along with sabotaging Hye-jin, Seung-hee needs a new strategy. The plan is to blackmail Hye-jin into leaving Daechi Chase by presenting her with the drive that has all her materials on it. If Hye-jin doesn’t leave on her own — and join Seung-hee at a new hagwon — Seung-hee will give the drive to someone else.

Hye-jin plays it off like she’s seriously considering it, but she’s really plotting her own payback. At their next meeting, she invites the Gray Witch (surprising both women) and hands back the drive with her materials. They can do whatever they want with it because she doesn’t value it anymore. Then she smiles sweetly at Seung-hee and the credits roll.

This was a really distinct pair of episodes that I started out not liking (because our leads were not on screen being lovey-dovey) and ended up finding really heartwarming. I’m shocked at how the show was able to turn around Sang-seob’s character from this cranky, dorky guy that I hated to watch, to someone whose lecture I was actually fascinated listening to. Really, that ten minutes of real-time Korean Lit class had me mesmerized. He’s endearing as a teacher. And the nerdy niceness that pours out when he stands up for his ethics and allies with Hye-jin is completely believable. It’s clear that he’s a good guy who just got caught up in some obsessive thinking after being humiliated at work.

On turnarounds that I didn’t love, what is up with Jun-ho? While the argument scenes between him and Hye-jin were exceptionally well done — and I’m totally for his side of the debate — I really hated how he treated his girlfriend. It’s impressive to me how he and Hye-jin are equals within the context of their fights. Neither holds back on their aggression or seems worried that the other is too fragile to take it. That’s a nice thing to witness. But outside of that, I find him overbearing and needy in a way that I’m surprised Hye-jin is putting up with. He follows her when she needs time alone, barges into her meeting and takes over the conversation, and then ignores her when she tells him to leave. I know he has to prove he’s an equal since he’s younger and also a former student, but I feel like he’s trying to position himself above her — and I’m getting over my like for him.

The one thing I wish we saw more of is the adorableness that is Chung-mi and Seung-kyu. I could watch these two all day (sorry leads, they’re my new favorite couple). They’re both so humbly confident, and I squeed at Seung-kyu’s low-key confession at the cafeteria (that is, he likes someone and is trying to get closer by taking her to eat at the cafeteria). So cute. Both have tons of work to do at all times, but they squeeze in dates when they can — and I’m living for those mini-date moments.

 
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Pyo Sang Seob's arc has been FANTASTIC. I loved all the parts he was in. His watching and being entertained by our OTP's fight was chef's kiss. I also loved his class. It was so delightful.

Also, one of my favorite things about a well-written drama is a well choreographed argument, and that was really well done. I loved every bit of both arguments. Jun Ho been a cheeky little bugger in that second fight and causing everyone to choke was hilarious. SIR!!!!!

So many great moments in this drama.

Also, Chung Mi playing with Seung Kyu is delicious fun. I haven't loved a 2FL this much in a long time. She is so great and Seung Kyu has it so bad, but in the most adorable way possible. I need this to happen before the end of this drama. Please, please, please.

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These were a fascinating pair of episodes because i loved that the couple fights were ideological. I also really enjoyed that the supposed antagonist Sang Seob became an ally in a completely believable way and i really enjoyed seeing his class and his and Hye Jin's new camaraderie. I also liked that while Jun Ho did have a better idealistic point, it wasn't that the idealistic man got one up on the materialistic woman (which is a gripe i have in a lot of media), he was arguing for something that he had literally learnt from her and used as his touchstone because of how she changed his life. Hye Jin wasn't being taught something new, she was figuring out how to get back to what she'd already valued before, and ultimately using that to successfully let go of the power that flash drive of content would have otherwise had on her.

I will say, i did not appreciate Jun Ho not leaving her alone when he found her at the restaurant and i wish that approach had been done differently, because it was too clingy and annoying. The scene did work for me in the end because we got more insight into what they both were trying to get across and because it ended with humor, Sang Seob and HJ's friends faces when JH blurted out the line about their future were priceless. Hye Jin was being condescending to Jun Ho, and Jun Ho was being overbearing in his desire to prove himself and not giving her space to get there on her own. However, I think that despite the iffy wobble in approach, overall, I enjoyed the disagreement and resolution because it felt very realistic. The beach sunrise trip was quiet and sweet.

Looks like next week will be the reveals and outside drama. I wonder if Hyun Tak will be firmly placed as the antagonist now, director Choi wants Hye Jin more than she wants her to go down, is the feeling I got, so would that affect what the fallout is from the discovery of the couple?

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Him following her drove me nuts, honestly, but also felt honest within the framework this drama has offered to us. Story time: my first fight with my husband led to me leaving the room and locking myself in another room (I need space to calm down and think so I can speak concisely and helpfully rather than just unleashing). He maintains equilibrium so much better than I do, so he didn't understand why I was just walking out of a conversation that was still ongoing. He followed me and wouldn't let up - but that was years ago. Now, he lets me go, trusting that I'll come back to finish the conversation when I've had time to think and get perspective. Early in a relationship, especially with that first major argument, most couples argue not just about the issue, but also about *how* they argue. So while Junho following Hyejin was really annoying, I didn't think it was portrayed as aspirational. It was just very true to his personality. And he'll learn.

Seriously, I love this drama so much. It's really well written and acted.

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"Early in a relationship, especially with that first major argument, most couples argue not just about the issue, but also about *how* they argue."
Yes, very well put.
And I agree, its well written. The arguments are a bit messy, and they don't just fall back on ' we are only having an argument because I withheld essential information' which is what most k-drama arguments are

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Yes, I agree. I have my gripes with some of the way kdrama mls are written, where overstepping and worse, continuous hand/wrist grabbing is seen as ok and romantic, but this one didn't really strike me like that.

I did not like that he followed her or that he stepped in, but it also wasn't an ordinary situation. They had just had a loud blowout fight and she'd stepped out in the rain without her things, Sang Seob's presence and how she'd been the last time he came to talk to her was clearly a factor in him coming up to them. I didn't think it was a good decision, but it was also not a pattern of callous disregard or disrespect for her, it seemed more like a misstep born of an unusual situation and part of relationship growing pains.

Hye Jin also fully settled her thoughts on it after Sang Seob's lecture, Jun Ho's demo for her and thinking over the flashdrive situation, she didn't just give in to appease him and let him have his own way. Small things can make a big difference and the small realistic nuances this drama has makes me feel very satisfied.

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I just realized that I've replied to your comments quite often! I'm not stalking you, promise. Your comments make me think. So thanks for that!

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Lmao, thank you, I always enjoy interacting with replies on long form forums! Given how many replies i leave on every midnight romance post, I totally understand what you mean, and it's always fun seeing what other people think too.

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I don't know understand the hate for Pyo Sang-seob. I think he was reasonnable and I always understood his side. They were both wrong at the beginning, not only him. I just want to give him a hug because he looks so lonely. So it was so nice to see him happy and enjoying our leads fight 😂 This scene was epic!

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I ended up being sympathetic to him over time, but initially he made a very bad impression even though I could understand his point of view. Specifically, I continue to dislike the way everyone--including Pyo Sang-seob--refers to Hye-jin as "humiliating" him that day she went to talk to him about the error in the test. First, IIRC, she wanted to meet and talk somewhere more private or on the phone, but he insisted she come to the school and that they have the conversation in that public office space where everyone could hear. During their talk, I thought she was calm, respectful, and correct, but in return, he was condescending, overly defensive, and rude. At the end, he grabbed her arm quite violently, too. In short, he behaved badly from start to finish and should have had the grace and maturity to state his point of view (and admit his error) without being so aggressive and dismissive. Additionally, I had to wonder if he and others would continue to frame that whole conversation as her supposedly humiliating him were she a man.

At any rate, because the writing has been so good in developing him as a multi-faceted human being who truly loves teaching, I am able to put this initial reaction aside and enjoy the character. But if people continue to hate him, I understand why.

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I think the issue is that as a teacher in an academy, it wasn't her place to talk to him in the first place.

It was the student's duty or their parent and when they didn't like his answer, they sent Hye-Jin when they should have made an official complaint.

He didn't have to talk to her on the phone. She came in the school and I think in a private espace when you don't know the person, having witnesses it's better.

He handled the conversation very badly and shouldn't have been violent. No doubt about it.

But for me, Hye-jin had a part of responsability too.

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I found their back and forth in episode 1 interesting and a learning experience until the wrist grab. The writer/show lost all objectivity at that point. It used violence to veer the reaction of viewers to one side and that was very cheap.

By the time the two sides are going back and forth, at the end of the day, the trump card that decided the majority opinion would be the wrist grab. And every micro expressions will be viewed from that lens.

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Same. I never liked him (too condescending and passive aggressive), but I always liked his arc. Now that he finally apologized sincerely, I love both, him and his story.

I think the show has done a great job with his development.

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I never got the humiliation either. I thought they had a good debate about the question. I thought it ended with more of an agree to disagree.

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I never disliked his views. It was when he grabbed her enough to bruise. That was assault and I didn't like it. If he had never touched her, I would have been on his side 100%.

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I think it was partly because he was made deliberate opaque at the start with his motivations i.e. is he actually invested in teaching and looking out for students or is he just trying to win against someone he considers his inferior, coupled with his kind of freaky physical manhandling of Hye Jin and subsequent heaping of all guilt on her that had me iffy about him. Both Hye Jin and him made some initial missteps, but he was at first fully mired in his feelings of being wronged and not seeing his part in it, but he got through all of that and came out better.

I did think he always had a point even when he was presented with less insight and I do consider hagwons/extra school tutorials to be an unnecessary burden on children, but the more the show showed how he really felt about teaching and his inner thoughts, the easier it became to see him as a full person than a somewhat opaque antagonist-lite figure. It was fun to see him so much lighter, laughing at the leads fight and doing his really quite entertaining lecture.

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I hated how the drama made him grab her arm bcs thats was the only moment I was not with him. everything else, from his doubts, words to his final decision were understandable and I was there with him.

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I wonder if that one line from Jun Ho was ad-libbed because it was so unexpected and the other actors' reaction to it was priceless.

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Jun-ho is very idealistic, while Hye-jin feels very realistic. That is interesting and all, and it really shows in the fight they had, but that is where I start having problems with it. The fight itself was very well done, however my problem lies in the aftermath of it.

I think the fight was interesting because both sides were understandable, and I don't think either of them were necessarily in the right, but they also weren't wrong. The problem is that afterwards, the show chooses a clear side in the argument, being "Jun-ho is right". While he may technically be right, I don't think the way he went over it (or the way he acted after the fight) was right, and I also think that there are serious questions that his idea raises. Is it even feasible? Isn't it too idealistic? But the show seems to mostly ignore all of this, simply to prove the point that "Jun-ho is right". A lot of this show has felt very realistic, but now it feels like the show is ignoring said realism, because technically Jun-ho is right. It feels too black-and-white, as in "Jun-ho is right & Hye-jin was wrong", while a lot of this show so far has actually felt very grey. Maybe they'll address this stuff later, but so far? I'm not convinced.

However, on the opposite side, you have Sang-Seob. He's not a black-and-white character, and the show doesn't necessarily frame him as being in the right or in the wrong. And it works, as I always thought he was a rather interesting character, and I found myself actively liking him this week.

Also, I'm loving everything about Chung-mi and Seong-kyu. They might not have that much screentime, but they never fail to put a smile on my face.

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I totally agree about how the drama handled the afterwards of their debate. it would be more interesting if the drama made them not reach a who's right and wrong, but worked together to find a middle ground where both of their strong points could be used to make the teaching more interesting. both of them have the same idea, hyejin said that herself, but she also brought relevant issues about how the real world of hagwon works and how junho approach was too new. showing them working together to create a new way that its a combination of both worlds would be more interesting to watch in my opinion.

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Exactly. I feel like they had an interesting source of conflict there. He's the idealist, she's the realist, it's a combination that works, but instead the drama just resolves the conflict immediately by pushing Jun-ho's idea as the right one. It feels like they were setting up for an interesting debate of "Jun-ho's idea is good, but it might be too idealistic", and both leads would have to adapt to this and work together to create the best of both worlds. There are 4 episodes left, so I hope we still get into this, because it'd be really disappointing otherwise.

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I think the show proved that Joon Ho is right through Hye Jin and Pyo Sang Seob.

After the fight Hye Jin told him that she will let him be, but that she'll keep doing her thing. But then after she went to Pyo ssaem's lecture, she finally understand what Joon Ho meant.

And, imo, it's good that they made the right/wrong difference in this case. Because the show is ultimately about Hye Jin going back to her roots. The show is trying to criticize the "reality" we live, by making her connect with the real meaning of learning, and redirecting her values as a teacher.
And Joon Ho is the one that represents all that. He can say that he's right, that his method works because it already worked. Hye Jin made it work.

Instead of seeing it like Joon Ho's right. I'm seeing it more like Joon Ho is telling her that her past self was right. He's reminding her of that.

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The problem isn't that Jun-ho is right, because technically he is, the problem is that I don't like the way the show goes over it. What Jun-ho is trying to achieve is good, but it's also very much an ideal, Sang-seob literally said this as well, and Hye-jin also brought up relevant issues in the argument they had. But then the show ignores all of this, including the way Jun-ho acted, simply to prove that he's right. In a show full of complicated and grey situations, why is this suddenly so simple-minded and black-and-white?

I like that Hye-jin realizes that his idea is good, but shouldn't the same also apply to Jun-ho, who might have to realize that while his plan is good, it's also very idealistic? It worked on Jun-ho, but he's only one person, how does this work on a wider scale? Is it even feasible? If you want to criticize the reality we live in, I don't think you can just suddenly ignore that reality, rather shouldn't you try to find a way to work around it? To do that, shouldn't both develop past their initial thoughts, and then try to find the perfect middle ground?

What I think was so good about their argument, is that it was complicated, and nobody was really portayed as being right or wrong. But then, what's the point if the show immediately picks a clear side after this? I think that goes against what made the argument so good in the first place.

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It worked on Jun-ho, but he's only one person

this reminded me of another thing that bothered me about this justification. hyejin was basically a private tutor to junho. the drama says she also taught junho's friend but it also showed a lot of 1x1 classes, they would even go out. and I think the fact junho had a crush on her also influenced a lot in his earnest to study that hard lol his successful story has "specificities" that I don't understand how it can be used as an example in the debate to be honest

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But we also heard Si Woo's experience and saw Pyo ssaem's POV.
Joon Ho is going work with a small group (4/5 students) to start, too.

And we know that inside their context he sounds crazy or wtv, but we also know that what he does works. In many places that's how people normally learn (seeing students answering literature questions using memorization gave me a cultural shock instead LOL, how does it even works?).

So Joon Ho isn't really a one in a million student, and his methods don't come from a weird utopian world. I would say he's just going back to the basics of education. Which is the whole point.
Saying it worked for him because of his crush in his teacher is kinda harsh on Hye Jin and the overall message of the show, imo.
I think Joon Ho fell for Hye Jin because she made him feel in love with learning, not that he started studying because he liked her.

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I think I wrote that a little confusing, sorry. What I meant is that the show has been leading us to this conclusion since the beginning. So it wasn't that he was "right" for whatever argument he gave, but that everyone knew he was right because of everything that has happened so far.

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Dramaddictally, thanks for the recap !

The 10 Years of Files USB caper . That struck me as criminal and unethical. Vice Director seriously misread Mr. Pyo’s character, I am disappointed that Grey Witch permitted it, doesn’t do much for her reputation.

The cafeteria confession was cute.
Didn’t care too much for the OTP this week.
The Vice Director needs to be fired.
Mr Pyo is a ok guy, ( when he isn’t physically assaulting teachers.) 😵‍💫

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The USB caper should at least be exposed. It was not just harm against Hye-jin it was harm against the entire business. The director should have the option to take action even if Hye-jin does not think it would be worth it for her.

I am also at a loss as to why the Grey Witch would entertain trusting the deputy director without thinking it will be only a matter of some slight or time before she portrays her.

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The deputy director needs to be held accountable for her attempted extortion.

Those are some nice files you have there, it would be a shame if something were to happen to them.

Pure gangsterism !

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I got the sense that Dir Choi did not trust her, but it was mutual blackmail of sorts. The deputy director met her at her secret tuition location, which meant they both would have something to hide and Choi was going along with it both because the Woo had something on her and it might work to her benefit if Sang Seob had taken it up.

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The Grey Queen didn't actually sight the file contents herself; noone saw that the meeting occurred; She retains deniability.

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"but Mom keeps pushing until he’s frustrated and mouthing off about how they need to stop controlling his life. She finally backs down, and later he feels bad about how he acted."

I don't think he was mouthing off at all, but instead, he stood up for himself and did not act as a doormat for his parents' desires. I was glad to see him do this. It's always frustrating to me to watch overbearing parents thinking their adult children can't make their own decisions about their lives.

It's understandable that he didn't want to have to go there and hurt his parents' feelings. But they brought his acting out on themselves, if he let this continue they would not be happy with or stop at what job he should have. They act as though they have the God-given right to dictate his life.

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Teacher Pyo Sang-seob. Wow. I've gone from disliking him initially, then intrigued by his inflexibility, later concerned for his mental health, to this week being amazed by his lecture and chat with Hye-jin. Who would've thought this character would turn out to be this interesting? Also, kudos to the actor playing him because he's doing a fantastic job.

My one complaint regarding Pyo Sang-seob is the fact that he has not apologized to Hye-jin for his physical aggression towards her a while back. I hope he does before this is over.

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What a fantastic turnaround. I was dreading the fight against her new nemesis, but instead he became an ally!

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Jun-ho to me was trying to get Hye-jin to remember her ideals. She didn't start as just a cog in the system, instead, the system turned her into an outstanding one. This may have made her a star and money maker but also made her too predictable, and has set her up and made her vulnerable to eventual sabotage.

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Yes, I agree. That's why I thought their fights and the resolution to it was good. Hye Jin wasn't being lectured about something she didn't know or couldn't comprehend, she was being reminded of something she did that worked perfectly for Jun Ho and therefore was proven to be successful, but that stopped being her approach somewhere along the line.

She herself was shown as starting to feel jaded by something she used to love, and in this process, she's rediscovering that joy for teaching too. I loved how she used the realization to then turn the tables on both Choi and Woo and render their attempts at manipulation moot.

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and we finally got a proper class being shown in this class.
as expected, it was my favorite moment of this week and I wished we had more of that, from different characters, maybe even showing their different approaches to teaching korean. it could illustrate the debates and discussions some of the characters have about how to teach

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This drama is so well written. I appreciate how the characters are written with their flaws and all.

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My eyes were glazing over with all the scheming and machinations and bad guys being bad guys. But then it all came together nicely at the end.
This drama makes me cry. I teared up when I realized they had each other's backs (the teacher telling Hye Jin what's going on). I teared up with the lecture. Nicely done.
I love that they said "money doesn't come from doing the right thing" (or something like that). How they talked about being machines under capitalism or systems driven by profit. I love that the teacher reiterated that "it's fun" (to do what's right or what feeds your soul).

The argument had me riveted (like all the bystanders there). But I wasn't a fan of the yelling from both of them. I don't like when men yell in an argument- red flag there. They could've gotten their points across without the yelling. Just a quibble of mine there.
I did burst out laughing when Jun Ho said "so we can have a long life together." Where did that line come from??
Can I see more Si Woo though? I also enjoyed the development with the high school student. I'm going to make my own decisions (and not just follow what mom and dad want me to do). Nice touch there.
I still don't "get" Jun Ho as a character. He's like a blank slate. There are complaints about his pushiness this episode. I get that.

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1. Wow. Pyo ssaem story and character development was perfect. He was my favorite this week.

All I can say is "WOW." This is how you write a character.

2. Joon Ho just kept fighting with people this week.
His mom, Hye Jin, and he even tried to fight Pyo ssaem LOL.

His fight with his mom was funny. He's like me. When you know they won't listen to you no matter what you say, the only thing left to do is shut up and put distance before you get pissed off.

But I'm glad his parents are going to give him a change to live his life. 😆
...Can we please stop treating Joon Ho like a 12 years old (I know that he's kind of childish but still)?

The funny thing is that the parents aren't the biggest problem here. Hye Jin literally saying "okay. Joon Ho, your teacher is going to explain everything to you slowly" was insane. 😂😂

I love Hye Jin, but I would've broken up with her right there. That was so patronizing.
She said he was disrespecting her career, but did she not notice that she kept disrespecting him too?

Are these two going to keep fighting like this?

3. Did the assistant director really think that Hye Jin would go work with her after what she did? That's unrealistic.

I think her revenge plan would've had a chance if she had treated Hye Jin better. Trying to steal her is smarter than trying to destroy her. She's a phenix.

Hye Jin feeding her enemies like the boss she is. 😎 This why I love her.

4. Our secondary couple is adorable.

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"Okay. Joon Ho, your teacher is going to explain everything to you slowly" was insane. 😂😂 I love Hye Jin, but I would've broken up with her right there. That was so patronizing.

Oh this. I couldn't actually believe that. And I think this is why, although I am often indifferent about Jun-ho's character, I cannot fully empathise with Hye-jin's character and retain sympathy for Jun-ho. Every now and then, she is portrayed as an arrogant woman who is so absolutely sure she is the best hagwon teacher ever, has nothing to learn from anybody, and everyone should be grateful to her for educating them. I appreciate the drama is showing her as a character who is as equally flawed as the others, but I really dislike this.

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That moment was wild.
Especially since Joon Ho already had told her to not make fun of him (during their first fight).

And later at the beach, she was like "where you going to rebel." 😂 Technically, their fight had no point because Joon Ho should be allowed to do whatever he wants as a teacher. Last time I check he doesn't have to ask for her permission about anything.

But like you said, the drama is snowing that she needs to change, and even Hye Jin knows that. That's why the Gray Queen said what she said and HJ couldn't argue about it.

I think it also helps if people draw the line for her. She was about to act like a teacher with Pyo ssaem too. But he told her he was going to handle his business. And then she remembered what the Gray Queen said: "it was HIS decision."

I just wish she remembers how she treated the student Yoon Ah (telling her that she can think for herself), next time she tries to educate someone else. 😆
Baby steps, Hye Jin, baby steps.

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I loved that 10 minute extract from Sangseob’s lecture. It was a revelation. I hope it is entirely accurate so that I can rely on it and know that I have learnt something profound and accurate about the deconstruction of a seminal work of modern Korean Lit.

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Wasn’t that fantastic? I will add that learning to Hye Jin’s lecture at the outset of the show. It struck me that neither the hagwon nor the school had been ideal environments for either of them to teach literature as they truly wanted to.

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As much as I appreciate the character arc why did people drop their violence is never the answer stance when what Sang-seob did was assault back then? That was crossing a line.

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I agree. I should have noted that in my comment. I haven't forgotten that and it shouldn’t be swept under the carpet as there is too much systemic violence directed at women and perpetrated by men everywhere in RL and including in KDs.

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Joon Ho wasn't wrong though she is the one who used the free lecture to teach in a way she hadn't been teaching for a long time and that's what made the kid change academies but she was still so used to teaching the way she has been for years after. Its not really that idealistic maybe it's cause it's an academy rather than school but I was literally taught when I took my teaching degree that students being able to understand the text and read on their own and being able to apply that to other subjects was literally the goal so i a bit confused.

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Throughout the whole thing with Joon Ho and his mom i was thinking he literally has a good job that he wants to do like lady let him live how he wants. It's not like he's wasting his life or anything just because it doesn't come with prestige right off.

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Finished. That was actually good felt inspired by both Hye Jin and Sang Seob's lectures. This two episodes felt like the show picked up pace and now we are going to get a bit of drama next week.

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P.S. The shoulder grab: he did apologize to HJ for it in person (at the Japanese restaurant I believe) in a much earlier episode almost immediately after it happened

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These two eps were simply riveting for me... the best 2 so far. Those two showdowns were incredibly done. I forgot that they were players doing a job, because the writing, depiction, direction, and acting were just so natural, it felt I was there with their unwilling colleagues eavesdropping.

I have never seen a more realistic depiction of a couple having an argument- they each went low in their own different ways, poking at the other's soft spots, being petty and patronising, saying unbelievably rude stuff that had me gasping. They nailed how people react by yelling in the face of obstinacy, the MCPish-ness that men show, the highs and lows in a fight where people are trying to collect their thoughts or just blurting out the first thing at hand. The acknowledgement of Mr. Pyo's or Ms. Nam's presence via awkward nods or embarrassed can you believe it looks, but just going on tooth and nail regardless- just wow.
It all had me on the edge of my seat, breathless, and almost crying, because warring couples are my trigger, and I still couldn't look away.
The only other example of this I can think of is the visceral argument scene from Marriage Story, because, well... reasons.

Anyway... on to hagwon matters.
I actually feel the Grey Teacher looks at the Asst Dir lady with great revulsion... something in the way she was asking provoking questions, smiling, it all felt like she was wanting to know how low the other woman would go. She isn't all above-board herself, but it's to do with teaching, and not petty revenge and ugly language like cutting the snake's head off. That was horrid to hear.

I now really do hope that our band of 3 lovely teachers,(looking at you, Mr Pyo- I love your awkwardly nerdy, yet committed vibe- I'm so glad you redeemed yourself after the 1st few eps!). Maybe with Ms. Nam as well, they can start their own academy under his friend's mom who anyway wants to start one of her own. Each is (re)discovering their passion for their profession, and I hope they succeed together, not for money, but for the students who want to do more than just get 100% marks in 1 exam.

I feel that's what the show's leading up to anyway. Looking forward to see a timeskip with our leads teaching small classes of motivated kids, or maybe taking them on field trips to the beach to see how big the world really is. Fighting!

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Agree. The argument was truly riveting because it felt so real. Would have hated to be in it, but absolutely believed it was unfolding like that. Brilliant writing, directing and acting.

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I dreaded the promised tension of these episodes and only just completed them. 😅

What great perspectives Beanies have already shared. I don’t have much else to add except I wished more of Junho’s arc. He’s gone too quickly from a money-seeking, lovesick puppy to an idealistic and explosive character. Those elements were there but I wish more deeply, gradually developed over the previous 10 episodes.

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Also, while I have no issues with Junho’s ideals either. I struggled with how he went about it. He impulsively shredded the textbooks that weren’t his alone. He argued publicly with his team leader. He barged into her personal meeting with his assumptions. Etc. He’s a bit of a live-wire.

I also have to wonder if this behavior would have been tolerated if the genders were swapped. Having said that, she certainly gave as good as she got. So I understand those who critique her. Quite an explosive coupling.

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My impression of Jun Ho's turn from money loving to idealistic is honestly that the money loving thing was never anything but empty words to tell his parents and Hye Jin at the start to make them be ok with his drastic career change decision. I feel like it wasn't made explicit but that's the impression i got throughout.

He's obviously ambitious in his desires, but nothing about his actual decisions have been strictly material minded. The switch itself is a financial risk, he wanted to share the spotlight with Hye Jin (love and the director and HJ's previous decisions apart), he keeps talking about how he discovered his love for learning through Hye Jin's methods and wanted to keep on with the almost failure of a lecture just for one student just to teach him, he seemed ecstatic about Siwoo's passion for literature, and he passed up the opportunity to get a higher paying job through his father.

All these really gave me the impression that the I'll make lots of money really quickly thing was just something to say to people who were alarmed by him moving from a good, sure corporate job to a much more shaky teaching job. That's why i felt like Jun Ho's character development in that aspect at least was fine since I always went with that impression.

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As you say, it isn’t made explicit. But you could read between the lines while I just failed!

For example, I took the drama at face value that his job switch was a gamble but for higher financial returns and also for Hye jin, not educational ideals as no hint was given of that. Tho sure his memory of her was tied up with her teaching method.

Or that he passed up the job offer in his desire to succeed on his own (admirable) or stay close to Hye jin. He may well have been brewing up his revolutionary plan by then, but just last episodes he’d been telling Hye jin to keep fighting, not revolutionize.

Anyway, I guess the drama could have made his character motivations more clear and his development arc more smooth for viewers like me. Or maybe it’s back to the classroom for me to learn to read subtext. 😊

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I had the same reading as you about junho.

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You made such an astute point! This drama is self-referential and performs its own point. (c.f. JH's first confession of love to HJ: "You could read between the lines right?"

The other observation along the same lines you made:
I just finished watching the 2 eps and what dawned on me during their shouting match and the clash of ideologies was how HJ's pedagogy (teaching JH how to read, think critically and fall in love with the language, instead of rote memorization and spotting questions) is in truth, one long allegory of his decade-long torch & love for her.

He shouted at her that: "When you taught me to read, it wasn't just my Korean that improved, all the rest of my subject grades improved. What you taught me; it stayed with me for life!" (and HOW she taught him is WHY she stayed with him for life as well; like an indelible mark on his beating heart)

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Or rather than between the lines, I think Hye-jin should have read Jun-ho mind! It's wonderful he had a epiphany, but why couldn't he discuss it with her first? Why announce it with the dramatic destruction of class materials just before class is starting?

Of course, she's shocked. She's the team leader responsible for the classes. Yes, she's been having been having doubts but until Ep 10 he's been urging her to fight and win against Choisun. It's wonderful he too now believes in a more noble pedagogy, but how about at least trying to have a direct conversation with her first rather than a flamboyant public gesture that leaves her floundering?

It's a good thing he's the golden boy because I can't imagine a woman, say Chung-mi, either behaving in such a manner or facing no consequences for it. His beating heart might be in the right place, but his behavior (then, and then when he followed her to the restaurant) needs maturing.

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I totally agree with you about his approach not being great. I do think it wasn't fully one-sided steamrolling, she was definitely being a bit condescending in assuming it was all naivete on his end when he brought it up before, but he's definitely been shown as impulsive in some (sometimes lovely, sometimes immature) ways throughout and that impulsiveness came out pretty thoughtlessly in his approach to trying to get his point across, and he should have done better. He also shouldn't have approached her at the restaurant, and I really hope we see less of that kind of one-sided overstepping.

That said though, I found that I wasn't really picking sides between them because the story resolved it without making someone specifically at fault as such. His current convictions were born specifically through how he learnt/valued his own learning from Hye Jin's approach before, and Hye Jin's increasing jaded feeling about how she saw herself (an academy cog vs a teacher) started to fade away because of his enthusiasm and the corresponding response from Sang Seob as well (with their lecture with Si Woo and Sang Seob's first academy class). It also helped her turn the tables on the scheming with her past material and freed her up to not care about it anymore.

Jun Ho got away with it partly because he has a privileged position (in her heart and as the golden first success story of the academy), but also because the story itself isn't really positioning itself as one of them winning against the other. In my opinion, it's ultimately about Hye Jin rediscovering her joy of teaching the way she used to, and Jun Ho's idealistic enthusiasm is the conduit for it and Sang Seob's arc is part of illustrating that too as a common goal for all three of them.

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@relisher Fair enough. And that does indeed seem to be the direction the drama is going—all three converging on the same approach. Perhaps at that new academy being hinted at? Ms Kim, get going. We’re dying here.

However, do you really think the story resolved it without picking a side? I also prefer the idealistic approach but I think @kay4265 had interesting questions about how such idealism would work in the real world. Hopefully, the next episodes will address some of that complexity.

Hye jin was quite hotheaded herself in that argument. I only thought she was caught flat-footed when he surprised her by ripping up the curriculum. (Jun ho can’t teach however he wants; as is shown later, he needs to get approval for his approach.) Of course, if they communicated well, it wouldn’t be a drama. 😉

I think they need to learn to communicate as well as fight fairly—and a lot more besides. If this was real life, I wouldn’t be sure of their success. Thank god it’s a kdrama tho. 😅

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I don't get Jun Ho either. But hasn't he still been talking about money recently? Like "I'm going to teach this way and STILL make money." Or maybe that's where I feel like the drama is going? "You can still make money this way!" I don't know. I do wonder how it'll end. Teaching for test scores vs. teaching for the sake of learning. They already have some interested students. Maybe they'll be financially successful. Or not.

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I think they might present some version of what you say. We can teach for learning. We can still improve scores. And we can make a good living—tho I truly hope they moderate that last a bit.

Is that really realistic or sustainable, I don’t know. But a HFN ending, even in the career track, is fine with me.

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Last week, there were enjoyable scenes like the couple ones. But the introduction of the Sang Seob issue and Hye Jin's reaction left me disinterested.

So I dragged my feet to this set of episodes, but I actually liked them a lot. I couldn't take my eyes off the screen during Jun Ho and Hye Jin's intense argument.

The passion Sang Seob has for teaching was so evident. It was heartwarming that his after school class did leave a positive impression on a student. I like the direction of his character story. I'm also shocked at how my feelings for him have changed compared to the weeks before.

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Behind them all: Hye Jin's decision to stay at her academy and not take the Gray Witch's offer, Jun-ho's decision to scrap his teaching textbook, following on from his first experience teaching (remember when he said he'd get the stars out of the sky for his student), to Pyo Sang Seob's decisions about how he'd teach, in all three situations, the response from their individual students has been most persuasive. They melt before an enthusiastic response from their students. They'll throw out a political advantage every time, in exchange for a student saying, "you've made me excited about learning".

I just love, love, love this drama. It gets it!! These are teachers who thrive on passion for teaching, and once they realise they've been waylaid or somehow distracted, it pulls them up and they reorient themselves.

It's all very timely too in SK. The unbearable pressure teachers are put under, especially by ambitious parents has lead to suicides. Initially the teachers' union was horrified at PSS's portrayal and demanded an apology. I wonder what they think now. I also wonder if their demands influenced his sunsequent more positive portrayal.

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I believe the drama was already 100% done when it started airing so I dont think they changed PSS's character bcs of the initial reaction from the union. but I am also curious to know if they changed their minds

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I'm pleased if they didn't change his character. That means they were always going to write about teaching as a passion. I'm enjoying the debates about their job and their purpose as teachers, especially as either high school teachers or academy teachers. It was a great move then to make him seem uptight and old fashioned only to have him deliver that wonderful lecture. Whoever wrote the lessons has done a wonderful and creative job.

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I might be reading too much into it, but I feel the writer of the recaps is showing a clear gender bias. In episode 2, Hye Jin does many things, even going as far as telling Ji Seok to reject Jun Ho outright. However, the writer didn't emphasize the fact that Ji Seok being good at the lecture was incorrect. In contrast, when Jun Ho does something equally wrong, the writer clearly emphasizes it by writing 'lay off, dude.'

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