This episode is really Teacher Yang’s. We already knew he was awesome, but he’s just so awesome. Struck by the worst possible allegations this hour, you certainly can’t blame him if he begins to wonder whether a quiet conscience is worth the price. But conscience offers its own consolations in the form of allies and friends. And where there’s a shining light like Yeon-doo, there’s a way.
Now that we’ve passed the halfway mark, I’m just worried sick that twelve episodes might not be satisfying enough. More Crinkles! More Grumptopus! More cheerleading! More everything!
EPISODE 6 RECAP
Yeon-doo catches up to the group of teachers. Looking only at Teacher Yang, she tells him that she thinks she’s just found that second thing — the adult who will be on her side no matter what. She bows in thanks, eyes full.
She runs straight to the departing PD, ready to spill. Yeol and Ha-joon observe from a distance. In the reporters’ van, she asks if her interview will really help Teacher Yang. He assures her that it will, and asks her if she’s being used to amass specs. She’s reluctant to agree with his wording — although it started that way, they’re working hard together now.
Yeol and Ha-joon approach as the men pack away, and ask if the interview with Yeon-doo went well. His confirmation makes them furious. He should have denied any knowledge of her to protect her identity, as per the law, Yeol points out. If he fails to protect her, Yeol threatens to sue him.
Ha-joon tries to walk past Yeon-doo that evening, and she calls out to him. She companionably invites him to share her enormous bag of gummy bears, and the Grumptopus tentatively takes a seat beside her. She tells him about doing the interview, and knowing he wanted to help Teacher Yang as well, she offers sympathy and specially selected bears.
Yeon-doo bursts into the staffroom looking for Teacher Yang — there’s no sign of her interview in the broadcast schedule. Teacher Im watches with smug satisfaction as Yang runs out, shocked. He calls up the PD to ask what’s going on. He gives him the brush-off: Orders came from above to nix the story, and he warns Yang to be careful, too. Around the corner, Yeon-doo overhears.
Teacher Im takes tea with the Lizard Queen, who commends him on catching Yang. Ever obsequious, Im says they should get rid of him. Principal Choi agrees, but they have to find a justification, since they can’t exactly fire him for whistle-blowing.
The Council of Horrible Moms also congratulate themselves for using their connections to stop the story, but Soo-ah’s mom declares that they can’t just let Teacher Yang go, when he nearly ruined everything.
Instructor Nam interrupts Teacher Yang’s brooding to remind him that the kids’ mission to select the team captain is today. She skips off in excitement, leaving Yang to lug heavy stuff.
Yeon-doo stays behind in the Baek Ho room, lost in blues. Ha-joon pauses, but Yeol goes over and pokes her, lit up by his trademark grin. Turning serious, he tells her that it was probably for the best that the broadcast was cut — she could have got hurt.
Ah, now some real cheerleading! The Real King kids put on an impressive performance under Soo-ah, although Dong-jae looks sad at being left out. Yeon-doo cheers the loudest, as Soo-ah is propelled upwards for an elevator. Yeon-doo’s performance with the Baek Ho kids isn’t flashy, but it’s fun and everyone’s included. Even Soo-ah breaks a half-smile and the kids give enthusiastic applause.
Instructor Nam praises both groups on their work. For the upcoming competition, she announces that they’ll combine Soo-ah’s complex moves and Yeon-doo’s creativity for their performance.
Nam tells Soo-ah that they should have found a way to involve Dong-jae despite his handicap: “Cheerleading is a sport that is complete only when everyone is together.” For that reason, she declares Yeon-doo winner and therefore team captain, much to the Real King kids’ delight.
Soo-ah throws up in the toilets, her mom’s criticism at her failure ringing in her head. She overhears one of her minions — HAN JAE-YOUNG — confide to other minion, NA-YEON, that Teacher Yang is the whistle-blower. It’s news to her, and she exits the stall to confront them.
In her session with Director Lee, Soo-ah is incensed about Teacher Yang’s meddling, which nearly destroyed her whole future. Lee reassures her that the adults are on it, so she needn’t worry.
On her way in, she sees Teacher Yang also head in, shoulders drooping. She stays out of sight to overhear him on the phone as he tries to find out why he can’t get his story on air. Even if he gets kicked out, he tells his friend, he’ll expose the school’s rotten doings.
At practice the next day, Jae-young has trouble doing a thigh-stand with Tae-pyung, and Instructor Nam asks Teacher Yang to fill in as their back-spotter. Manner-hands out, he catches Jae-young as she falls, and she screams that he touched her chest. Ugh, oh no. Noooo.
The room comes to a standstill and Teach is at a loss. He stammers an apology — he just wanted to catch her safely. I don’t like Soo-ah’s face.
Afterwards, Jae-young tells her friend Na-yeon that she isn’t so sure he meant to touch her, and it’s likely it was because of the way she fell. Soo-ah approaches, and suggests they use this to teach Yang a lesson.
The three of them have a conference with Teacher Im, who is aghast. Jae-young sobs, and all three testify to Yang’s misconduct. Soo-ah urges the strongest measures be taken against him.
The Meddling Moms descend on a stricken Teacher Yang to demand his immediate dismissal. He tries to explain the misunderstanding, but Principal Choi barks at him that there were witnesses — is he suggesting they conspired together against him?
Instructor Nam arrives, and says that it’s very likely the girls are telling the truth. He probably did touch the girl’s chest — and probably her butt and thighs, too. Teacher Yang gasps.
Coming to stand beside him, she tells them that as a flyer once herself, she, too, got touched a lot. Dropping the breezy tone, she informs them that cheerleading is a sport where such contact is essential. Had Yang not caught Jae-young then, she would have suffered serious injury.
Choi salvages her goal by telling Yang that she’ll be reporting on him to the Ministry of Education. Afterwards, she promises the mothers a thorough investigation, but Soo-ah’s mom fixes on the opportunity to get rid of him altogether.
Teacher Yang looks defeated at the sight of an article on his alleged misconduct, which has already gone up online. It spreads throughout the school, and in her dorm, Yeon-doo scrolls through the same article in shock.
Acutely aware of their judgement, Teacher Yang finds it hard to face his class the next day. The class’s virtual groupchat is full of rumors and gossip about him. Angry, Yeon-doo springs up — immediately followed by Yeol. Hand on her shoulder, he signals her to hold her peace, and heads to the front to address the class.
“Did you guys see it? Did you see our homeroom teacher do that to Han Jae-young?” he asks them.
He calls out the three girls by name and systematically deconstructs their “testimony,” accusing them of lying about being sexually harassed in order to remove the teacher who put their specs at risk.
Soo-ah snipes at him and Yeol turns on her with dark amusement. He asks if it discomfits her to be exposed like this. She keeps getting caught by him because her plots are so transparent, he says.
Yeon-doo chases Yeol after class, impressed. She wonders what made him go all out like that, when he didn’t even care whether Yang got fired or not. “Because if I didn’t do it, you would have,” he tells her. But she would disregard the consequences and end up hurt, “And I don’t want to see that.”
She doesn’t get it. His eyes crinkle into a smile and he tells her to figure it out. She watches him go.
Yeon-doo seeks out Teacher Yang the next day and tells him not to mind the class’s words — not all the kids are like that, plenty believe in him like she does. He lightly scolds her for getting involved.
Hesitating, she says that she has her friends and mom to talk to, but he doesn’t have anyone like that. He thanks her for her support, but admits that he’s a teeny bit embarrassed, too, and sends her off to class. Aww. She turns back one and cheers him one last time.
Yeon-doo stares at the notice of Teacher Yang’s dismissal from school. Yeol also sees it, and says — not without sympathy — that it was always going to turn out this way, but she tells him it’s not over yet.
At lunch, everyone treats Teacher Yang like a leper, and the tables around him empty at his arrival. But not for long: To his surprise, Yeon-doo sets her tray down opposite him, and Dong-jae takes her flank. Moments later, they’re joined by Yeol and Ha-joon. Bolstered by their silent support, the ensuing meal is warm.
Yeon-doo and Dong-jae fill out petitions protesting Teacher Yang’s dismissal. Yeol comes by and wordlessly drops a whole stack of them in front of her. But bad news — Principal Choi gets wind and blocks it. She puts Minion Im on finding out the culprits.
A few days later, Yeon-doo tries to check on her petition’s progress, but the Ministry has no record of it. Even Yeol is shocked by this outcome.
Officials from the Ministry of Education sit down to a meeting with Principal Choi and Teacher Yang, along with the Horrible Moms. The parents unite against him, and Jae-young enters, looking like she hasn’t slept for days. She looks at Teacher Yang, and he nods, mouthing that it’s okay. Aww, Saem.
The moms pressure Jae-young to accuse him. Principal Choi is disgustingly smug when Jae-young confirms it’s true that Yang touched her chest. She says she was angry and humiliated.
Teacher Yang looks at her in sorrow and apology. He says that it was his fault, as adult and teacher, that he couldn’t protect them from injury. Im seizes on his words as an admission of guilt. Yang resolves to take full responsibility for the matter and resigns, not wanting to cause his kids more pain. Standing up, he apologizes to Jae-young one more time.
Outside, he’s met by the worried quartet of Yeon-doo and the boys. He smiles sadly at them, wistful that he won’t get to see them become seniors.
In private, Jae-young tells her mom that Teacher Yang didn’t do it. She didn’t know things would blow up like this, and she wants to fix it. Shocked, Mom cuts her off: To all intents and purposes, her testimony now is the truth, and must remain so, lest they lose face and the school’s corruption be revealed. Jae-young’s arguing is futile.
Jae-young goes straight to Soo-ah and accuses her of engineering the situation deliberately to get him fired — she had misled them to think he would just get a salary reduction. Soo-ah snorts that they’re fools for thinking a charge of sexual harassment ends with anything less than dismissal. Gotta agree with her. Hard to imagine these two as intellectually gifted. She tells them to get their heads on straight — what they need are impeccable specs, not Teacher Yang.
Still, she doesn’t look happy about it, and retreats to the Baek Ho room. But Dong-jae’s arrival surprises her. He rolls out his mat, and she scoffs at him for practicing moves he can’t even take part in (because of the necessary contact). Increasingly worked up, she’s convinced he’s protesting at her since she got him kicked out of basketball and he hates her, hates her, hates her.
He just looks at her, and asks if she’s trying to say sorry. Lost for words, she denies it. “You’re not? Don’t be, then,” he says, returning to his stretches.
Ha-joon finds Yeol sitting on the steps outside, and tells him that he saw Yeon-doo crying earlier. Yeol replies that he told her she’d end up hurt if she put her trust in adults. But Ha-joon confides that even though it didn’t work out for Teacher Yang, he’s glad he did something to help. Getting up, he tells Yeol that he’s popping out for a bit.
Ha-joon steels himself for his errand — paying a visit to his father (a hospital director). His father derides his request to use his influence to reinstate Teacher Yang, even when he pleads on his knees and promises to study harder. Dad sneers that if he was going to do that, he wouldn’t have covered up the petition to the Ministry in the first place. Ohh. Dad barks at him to get back to school, while Ha-joon is distraught at the revelation of his father’s part in the fiasco.
At school, Yeon-doo’s mom calls out, “Hey, ugly girl!” and laughs when Yeon-doo turns around. She lights up to see her. They sit together to chat, and Mom worries about the anxieties weighing Yeon-doo down. Yeon-doo retorts that it’s because she’s just like Mom (Mom agrees), and that she maybe she should’ve taken her advice to do nothing. Mom snorts that she even has immediate regrets after taking a stand. Both of them commiserate with each other at the misfortune of their personalities.
But Mom sighs and adds that despite regret and suffering, she couldn’t not do what her heart told her. Although she told her to stay out of it before, it was as a mom. Now, she tells Yeon-doo, “When your heart tells you to do something, you have to do it, there’s no helping it. So! Don’t regret it.” Yeon-doo’s smile widens, and Mom tells her that if no one else, she has to pat herself on the head and tell herself she did well.
As she sees Mom off, they bump into Yeol. He mouths a question at her, and she mouths back that it’s her mom. He immediately greets her, all respectful and adorable, before going on his way. Mom is just enchanted by his cuteness. Aren’t we all. She wonders whose kid he is, and squees that Yeon-doo should date someone like him. She’s SO overwhelmed by his cute that she can’t stop talking about it.
From a distance, Yeol notices their closeness with a touch of sadness.
Even when Mom gets back to the café, she exclaims to Yeol’s dad that the kids are so good-looking these days, and he feigns jealousy. She asks if he isn’t going to see his son, since things are a bit difficult at school lately. Next time, he says.
At practice, Instructor Nam reprimands Yeon-doo for not focusing — it’s not that she’ll hurt herself, it’s that she’ll put others at risk. She calls her to the front, and asks her what she thinks cheerleading is about. It’s not about standing up in front of a crowd, Nam says, but sincerely cheering on someone whom you want to give strength. Understanding grows in Yeon-doo’s eyes.
She chases after departing Teacher Yang and gives him a card — a handmade invitation to their performance tomorrow, and makes him promise to come.
She spies Jae-young and Na-yeon lurking out of sight and figures they came to see Teach off, too. She asks them for a favor. Though they deny it, she knows they’re troubled by how things turned out. It’s not wholly their fault, she offers, since the adults wanted this outcome for their own purposes. They just have to set things to rights.
Jae-young yells that it’s already game over — he’s been sacked, and they’ll keep on coming to school, “Nothing will change.”
In frustration, Yeon-doo calls out to their backs that fine, they can let their troubled hearts torment them forever, while they live and eat well. Jae-young pauses.
The day of the competition is fine, and even the Lizard Queen shows enjoyment, as the students take part in various contests. The cheerleading team run final rehearsals in uniform, although Yeon-doo is absent.
Yeol (whose top says “stuck on u,” hee!) finds her, solitary and nervous. Perching next to her, he fishes out a banana milk from his pocket for her. He says that Dong-jae always gives her strawberry, so he has to distinguish himself with banana — which is more like him, being as how he’s all tall and light.
Her laugh elicits another crinkly smile, and he tells her that at first, he just found her amusing and fun. But now, he finds himself getting angry, worried, and scared, “Because of you, Kang Yeon-doo.” This is as good as a confession, isn’t it? Isn’t it?
Hilariously, she takes it all backwards and goes, “Uh…sorry…” and starts to inch away, but he turns her into a hug. “Be strong, Kang Yeon-doo,” he tells her (totally enjoying the contact, ha). Argh then Hyo-shik bloomin’ interrupts! NO GO AWAY. Yeol responds good-naturedly to the intrusion, but Yeon-doo runs away.
She’s thrilled that Teacher Yang made it, although he’s trying to go incognito among the audience. Yeol pops up right by her cheek (you just want to be close to her!), and the cheerleaders crowd to get a look.
Instructor Nam persuades Yang to sit next to her right at the front with silent threats, and she tells him that his seat is right here: “Once a teacher, always a teacher.”
Principal Choi, arriving with Ministry officials, is unsettled by his presence, but the show gets underway before she can do anything about it.
Yeon-doo exchanges nods with Jae-young and Na-yeon on each flank, and the music starts. Their performance is spirited, and they finish to raucous applause. They seal the display by holding up signs with cheer-messages.
And then, one by one, each bearer flips their sign over. It starts with, “We lied,” and goes on to retract the false charge and petition his reinstatement. A stir sweeps the hall, and Soo-ah is bewildered at the sudden turn.
“Teach! Please come back!” Yeon-doo calls out. The team raises a cheer, chanting his name, which is picked up by the students in a resounding beat. Stunned speechless, Teacher Yang’s eyes well.
Aww, Saem! Such a hero. Did I mention I love this show? I do. So much. This is a great culmination of the last few episodes’ team-bonding arc, as they found a cause that held meaning for them all. They’ve finally begun to understand not only how to unite, but why they must — that’s where their strength lies, especially with the odds stacked against them. And at the center of all this is the shining sun that is Yeon-doo, whose friendship proves transformative, over and over again. Throughout this episode, she’s the link at every important juncture: with Ha-joon, with Jae-young, with Yeol, with Principal Choi, and more.
Teacher Yang for holds onto his conviction despite being poised to lose everything, but the thing I love most about him is that he uncompromisingly puts the kids first, even when it means going against the authority. It’s a contrast to Minion Im, who started off endearingly comical and essentially harmless, but the more he cozies up to the principal, the more dangerous his fervor to please her becomes. Yang is a radical because he holds himself accountable to his students, not to the establishment. The episode opened with that moment between Yeon-doo and Teacher Yang which, despite being public, was a private moment of shared understanding between them — trust. Yeon-doo takes strength from him, and his steadfast bravery gives her courage. Her respect grows the more rejected and alone he becomes.
Like LollyPip mentioned (by the way, thank her for “Crinkles and Grumptopus”!), adult power versus youthful impotence is another of this show’s central motifs. That said, I think Yeol — who firmly believes he has no power against the adults — still taps a vein of influence that derives from his wealth and position, and knows how to play the system that an ordinary teen wouldn’t. If he threatens to sue you, he really can. Nevertheless, his influence among his peers is a result of his own personal qualities, which are recognizable when he steps up (being ranked first doesn’t hurt, either), he just hasn’t really ever done it until now.
It’s surprisingly self-aware of Yeol to recognize that Yeon-doo makes him change. It’s adorable that he likes her SO much (these two crinkly eye-smiling chipmunks, omg), and that initial interest that became giddy attraction changes again, to a deeper, more personal respect tempered by mutual understanding. It’s clear that he’s come to value her with his intellect as much as his heart. But! Without losing any giddiness! And there’s no smart guy/dumb girl trope-cliché to it because of how evenly matched and emotionally grounded their characters are. All episode, he’s just telling her over and over again that he likes her (albeit indirectly), but I love that he’s totally happy just to like her (and show others he likes her). Better, he’s actively going far out of his way to support her, even if he does wear his naysaying grumpyface while he does it.
The fact that she doesn’t clue into his motivation is endearing and remains true to her character. She’s so focused on taming her attraction, she doesn’t notice it’s mutual. In the short interlude with her mom, we understand so much about their relationship. Mom totally gets her– they’re so close, they almost don’t need words. Just being with her makes Yeon-doo’s worries fall away, and you don’t even realize she’s carrying a weight until that moment. I feel like she’s a person who chooses to look on the bright side — cheerful pragmatism rather than mindless optimism. She also chooses to live in the present, unlike Soo-ah, whose obsession with the future robs her of a lived life.
Just as I was warming up to Soo-ah, she killed it with her plotting against Teacher Yang, and once again, we’re reminded how cut off she is from the ebb and flow of life and feeling around her. She’s so closed off that someone like Yeon-doo has no effect on her, but as everyone’s noted, Ha-joon and Dong-jae both affect her quite viscerally, although in different ways. Dong-jae gets under her skin, while Ha-joon gets what’s in her head. Getting reactions from her — even crazed, broken ones — actually seems to me to be a vital sign. It’s proof that there’s still a person in there.
It’s so nice to see Ha-joon paying attention to Yeon-doo. He’s like the kid who’s only ever had one friend, and his allegiance once given, is given forever. I want to see this friendship so bad, and I love that it’s not mediated through Yeol — he has nothing to do with the seedling loyalty and tentative friendship that is growing between the two of them. And augh I just LOVE that. But it’s desperately saddening how much this big, soft, puppy-hearted guy is forced to his knees, to cower and plead to petty little people like his father or Principal Choi. But watching him open up to Yeon-doo is so good. She’s like the sun — she makes people do that. It’s not a single quality about her that makes her such a catalyst, but rather, she’s real in all her interactions with others, and doesn’t go through faking it.