I watched this episode 4 times while writing this and not because I needed to. The first time I was supposed to be screencapping, but I got distracted by watching. And then when I was recapping I got distracted by watching. I have feeling this whole drama is going to be like that for me. It’s just THAT good. And how wicked awesome does Kim Young-kwang look in that picture above?
“Debaser” – the Pixies (from the White Christmas OST)
(Episode 2: Repent, even if it’s too late.)
episode 2 recap
Park Moo-yul narrates over images of the school. A school as ranks just like society and those ranks are judged by grades, a strong fist and a pretty face. Although other girls were pretty, only Yoon Eun-sung had been able to make others feel warm and so she was at the top of the ranks. She was loved and loved to be loved. But she changed entirely, as though her personality was reformatted.
Second day 12-25 05:08 PM. (We see that Eun-sung is injured, but alive.)
The teacher, Yoon Jong-il, reviews Eun-sung’s student chart. She’d been sociable, positive and active, until the beginning of 2nd year when she became aggressive and lost her drive; she didn’t socialize. Jong-il suspects that Moo-yul may have something to do with it even though Moo-yul says that he didn’t know why, but she changed just before they broke up.
Jong-il begins to pace, musing that it’s strange that while last year only two students stayed behind, this year there were seven. Perhaps he suspects Moo-yul?
While Yang Kang-mo and Lee Jae-kyu review the pictures that Kang-mo took of Eun-sung under the clock tower, Jo Young-jae recalls the line in the letter that says,
”Under the clock tower, you will see someone dead.”
He wonders if receiving the letter means you die. Kang-mo, true to his sardonic nature, scoffs at the idea that one person could kill them all. Besides, Eun-sung killed herself – unless the letter sent a telepathic message to her. Then, they’re all dead.
Young-jae doesn’t much appreciate his sarcasm.
Young-jae: There must be a trick. Let’s say I suddenly want to die.
Kang-mo: (In English with hands in praying position.) Please.
Young-jae: What method would I use? I would hang myself in my room or jump off the roof.
Kang-mo: (In English with hands in praying position.) Hallelujah!
(Pause for my laughter. Kang-mo is so morbidly funny. BWAHAHAHA!)
Young Jae’s methods are simple and fail-proof. Why did Eun-sung choose the clock tower?
After his meeting with Jong-il, Moo-yul storms by the trio discussing Eun-sung’s suicide and ignores Young-jae’s questions. He slams the door shut and punches it furiously. This extremely controlled, rule-abiding student most definitely still cares for his ex.
As Jong-il watches the security footage of the moments just before Eun-sung’s suicide, Moo-yul goes to Kang-mo with a favor. Our cheeky camera man wants to know what the genius of the exclusive Susin High could want from him. Help with math?
But Moo-yul wants the tape from last year’s school trip to see if anyone has a blue face. Like Avatar? Kang-mo wonders.
He returns to his room and his hearing aid battery runs out so he takes it off before perusing the video where kids are having fun and singing.
Jae-kyu is watching the same footage in the multimedia room when Jong-il walks in and smiles regretfully. Instead of entering the karaoke contest, he had to take care of someone who’d passed out. Yoon-su? Jae-kyu wonders; Jong-il nods distractedly. He’s thinking about how he would’ve blown everyone away with his singing and dancing.
When Jong-il leaves, Jae-kyu is left to his thoughts and he turns back to the video, which is used as a transition to show that Kang-mo, too, is watching the same footage.
An uneasy Young-jae watches Eun-sung sleep as the stranger, Kim Yo-han, watches his him. He then tries to comfort Young-jae by telling him not to worry because the wounds were surface level. With a smirk, Young-jae denies that he was worried, which makes Yo-han note that this is an “interesting place.”
“It’s famous. Susin High. Seclusion High. Prison High,” Young-jae replies, but that wasn’t what Yo-han meant. The psychologist in him is interested in the students and the differences in the faces that they show in private and public.
Again, Young-jae smirks confidently and walks away. But once he’s alone, the dark begins to creep him out and he hurries to his room, with a security camera observing him with one slowly-blinking red eye.
When in his room, Young-jae locks it and pushes furniture against the door. He sighs with relief and sits in his chair, only to find it won’t move.
Suddenly fearful again, he turns slowly, sees a pink piece of gum on the corner of his desk and comes face-to-face with the red-haired guy. Redhead cracks his jaw and greets, “Hey Plague.”
Young-jae scrambles to the door in absolute panic while redhead follows with a smirk.
No one can hear Young-jae’s cries as he’s beaten: Kang-mo has his hearing aid out; Angel Yoon-su is listening to headphones; Choi Chi-hoon is sleeping with some gizmo over his eyes.
In the East Hall, which is the Men’s dormitory, Jae-kyu tells Moo-yul he didnt find a blue face. But he did discover that Yoon Su passed out during the school trip and was found by the teacher.
Suddenly, they are interrupted by Young-jae’s cries. They struggle to get into the room as the violent redhead picks up a pipe. Finally, they bust into the room and gape with surprise at the grinning redhead.
“Mad Mi-reu?” Jae-kyu exclaims softly.
Young-jae clumsily bolts from the room, hurrying towards the fire alarm. Moo-yul has to repeatedly stop Mad Mi-reu, revealed to be, Kang Mi-reu, from following Young-jae. Moo-yul, the upholder of the law and everything good, warns Mi-reu that he’ll get a week in the detention room if the teacher comes and discovers that Mi-reu stayed in school without permission and used violence.
But Mi-reu doesn’t care. He’s already expelled. Before he goes, he wants to clear his good name that he thinks Young-jae sullied. Mi-reu was expelled for blowing up a statue, but he insists he didn’t do it – Young-jae did. Of course, Young-jae vehemently denies it and calls Mi-reu crazy.
Two boxes of firecrackers were taken from the school storeroom and Mi-reu points the finger at Young-jae. He approaches menacingly but Moo-yul stops him again. If Mi-reu is really innocent, Moo-yul will help to prove it and ensure he isn’t expelled. But if he gets caught at school, it won’t matter if he blew up the statue or not.
Mi-reu thinks Young-jae will tell, but Moo-yul knows he won’t. How is he sure? Moo-yul shows him the letter and Mi-reu beams with glee as he realizes that perfect student Park Moo-yul isn’t as innocent as he looks; he’s kept the letter secret from the teacher just as everyone else has.
Jae-kyu says that Young-jae didn’t blow up the statue and Moo-yul agrees because Young-jae could not make the manual bomb and timer.
Mi-reu could though.
This confuses Jae-kyu because Young-jae has better grades. Mi-reu was scouted for the school and given a three-year scholarship. He even beat Chi-hoon out for best score once. This is news to Jae-kyu because he only entered school in the spring. In any case, Moo-yul doesn’t think that Mi-reu sent the letter.
Mad Mi-reu scares Moo-yul awake and teases him for sleeping instead of trying to figure out the letter, about which he knows nothing. Moo-yul glares and icily replies that the same can be said of Mi-reu: Someone hates him so much that he stole fireworks, made a bomb and timed it to go off when Mi-reu walked outside. But Mi-reu has no idea who.
“If you really hate someone,” Mi-reu replies. “You don’t make it obvious. It’s done in secret so not even the one hated knows.”
He glances out the window and sees Chi-hoon walking across the snow.
Moo-yul wonders if it’s safe for Mi-reu to walks around as he pleases, but Mi-reu says he has second sight. With those words in mind, Moo-yul goes to the security office and is discovered by Jong-il who reminds him that it’s forbidden to students. Moo-yul asks if there was someone else at school and Jong-il scoffs. There are 184 security cameras, including one in each dorm. Kids study 18 hours a day. If studying was labor, this place would be sued. Is Moo-yul still worried? Nope!
In the nurse’s ward, Moo-yul carefully peeks in on Eun-sung and tenderly cleans the blood from her hand. However, he discovers old cut marks on her arm and clenches her arm. The pain wakes her but he is in shock and her protests barely register. What is this? Why did she do this?
Eun-sung yanks her wrist away and snaps that it’s because of him. She glares.
Eun-sung: It has nothing to do with you. Whether I stab myself or inject myself with alcohol, just be polite and pretend that you don’t see.
He picks up a pencil. How can he pretend not to know her?
Then, he should’ve acknowledged her when she was really lost. He was burdened by a girlfriend that he wasn’t allowed to have, who changed suddenly, just before exams. She bets that he was relieved when she asked him to break up. Even his father had found out about their relationship. Stop being curious about her situation, it’s too late.
He can’t ignore her, though, because there’s something strange about her. But what is normal? she counters. No one at Susin is normal. The guilt Moo-yul feels is abnormal.
Eun-sung: If you slit your wrists, everyone would understand. ‘Ah, the child who lived in place of his mom.’ He killed himself. That’s what people would say.
Moo-yul angrily snaps the pencil and turns to leave, but is stopped by a smirking Chi-hoon who calls Eun-sung on her act. He tells her not to whine if she doesn’t want to be noticed. If she wants to die, do it quietly. Moo-yul is incensed but she agrees not to suicide in school.
Yo-han quietly watches as Moo-yul’s gaze follows Chi-hoon.
In the Susin High broadcasting room, Kang-mo found footage from the second day of their school trip of the Plague (Young-jae) holding a water balloon that was used for one of the games.
Young-jae sneaks into Yoon-su’s room and Mad Mi-reu observes him through his hacked security feed. After Young-jae leaves, Mi-reu discovers that Young-jae returned Yoon-su’s watch.
In his search for Yoon-su, Young-jae stumbles across Moo-yul, Jae-kyu and Kang-mo. Moo-yul shows Young-jae the picture from the school trip in which he is holding a blue water balloon. Who did he throw it at? Young-jae denies it and Kang-mo snarks that when one commits so many sins, it’s difficult to remember just one.
But Moo-yul has discovered which line of the poem belongs to Young-jae:
“You tainted me, made me pitiful.”
Young-jae threw a balloon with blue paint at someone’s face. That person went into Yoon-su’s room where Yoon-su tricked himself into believing that the person was the monster in the corner.
Angry, Young-jae tells them to stop trying to link him to the letter. Paint doesn’t make a monster and although Yoon-su is weird, he would not make a mistake like that.
In the auditorium, a vindictive Mad Mi-reu puts Young-jae, who is searching for Yoon-su, into a choke hold and asks about the watch.
Yoon-su is sitting pensively in the rafters again.
In the East Hall (Men’s Dormitory), Moo-yul pieces together that the letter is in chronological order. Before they can get started, Young-jae hollers that Kang Mi-reu is going to kill Angel.
Outside in the courtyard, Yoon-su is watching a deer and both are transfixed. The deer bounds away when Mi-reu storm over and slaps Yoon-su around. “Was it you?” the furious madman intones.
Moo-yul the valiant runs over to save the day and tackles Mi-reu. As Young-jae watches, Yoon-su rises and leaves while Moo-yul tries to fight Mi-reu into submission.
“Whose fighting? Should I referee?” Jong-il calls from a balcony. Mi-reu quickly covers his head. Moo-yul assures the teacher that it’s nothing and Jong-il let’s it be.
Yo-han is surprised and wonders if it’s okay to leave them. Because they’re not ganging up on one kid, Jong-il thinks it’s better to leave them to themselves. Besides, Moo-yul is there – he’ll take care of it. That thought gives the shrink more food for thought. I suppose if you’re a shrink, the best place to wind up is in a place full of case studies.
The five boys, Young-jae, Jae-kyu, Mi-reu, Yoon-su and Moo-yul gather in Moo-yul’s room to allow Mi-reu to investigate statue incident. Mi-reu has deduced that Young-jae stole the fireworks and “sold” them to Yoon-su. Although, Young-jae tries to hush the discussion, Mi-reu shuts him up and Yoon-su, seething, explains that he gathered the black powder and “bang”. It wasn’t explosive so it wasn’t very effective.
Why did he do it? To trap Mad Mi-reu, of course.
This doesn’t clarify anything for anyone so Yoon-su continues.
“You ruined my efforts, determination and future; my only chance to get out of this Alcatraz.”
As they talk, Kang-mo finds a tape of Kang Mi-reu bungee jumping from the school roof on the day that Yoon-su was to perform a concert and watches it with Yo-han.
The auditorium was packed, Yoon-su had worked extremely hard to convince the principal, find a rehearsal space and find two students to play with him even though they’d rather study. He put everything on the line for that performance.
But all the seats were empty by the end of the first song – all the students had gone to see Mi-reu bungee jump off the roof. He earned his moniker that day.
Is Mi-reu happy that he got everyone’s attention and ruined his performance. With a shrug, Mad Mi-reu replies that now he’ll be known as the first kid expelled from Susin. He’s sorry, but isn’t sure why Yoon-su is upset over a little performance.
That sets Yoon-su off. His parents came and said that if he was good they would get him out of this hell where they all call him “Angel”. He scoffs at the words, “a little performance.”
Kang-mo explains to Yo-han that Mad Mi-reu’s legend began then. Yo-han wonders why Kang-mo didn’t stop him if he knew about the stunt. It was dangerous. Kang-mo grins. It was a huge project with three cameras. Besides, he is just the camera. It would be cheating if he stopped or provoked news.
Another juicy tidbit is stored away by our shrink.
After the discussion, Kang Mi-reu looks guilty as sin. He apologizes sincerely and leaves, deep in thought.
Moo-yul wants to know what Yoon-su is going to do, but he brushes Moo-yul off and leaves. Young-jae is royally pissed off. He wouldn’t have stolen the fireworks had he known this would happen. In fact, Yoon-su should take full responsibility because there is no way a benefactor of the school will be punished. Young-jae also thinks that Yoon-su sent the letters because he’s so desperate to get out that he has the motive to destroy the school with a huge issue. Look who received letters – students who are all high in status at the school.
Jae-kyu wonders why he got a letter – he’s nothing special. “Maybe they delivered it to the wrong person,” Young-jae suggests and Jae-kyu deflates. Ouchies. In any case, Moo-yul feels the letter was written with a specific goal in mind and the guy who stalked Eun-sung is for real.
In the nurse’s office, Yo-han informs Moo-yul that Eun-sung is stronger but stubborn. But at least she’s showing emotion. Moo-yul is troubled by the cutting, which Yo-han explains at her need to feel alive; it differs from suicide. The sudden attempt at suicide is not in her nature, Moo-yul says, confused by the suicide attempt.
He finds her eating in the cafeteria and she sneers, “Is it strange to see me eat when I wanted to die yesterday?” Why DID she want to die? Why under the clock tower.
She doesn’t know. It was like it wasn’t her; like she was in a dream; or like she was on drugs. It was her first time so maybe she’ll realize what it was after she tries a few times. She glances at Moo-yul for a reaction.
Angel has just popped a little white pill into his mouth when Moo-yul finds him. Moo-yul quickly disposes of the last one.
Chi-hoon, in his second appearance of the episode, comes for dinner and Eun-sung leaves petulantly – he doesn’t notice. She passes Young-jae and Jae-kyu going to eat dinner.
Young-jae thinks Angel wrote the letter because the shrink said a crazy person wrote it and Angel is beyond crazy – he must be lying about the corner monster. Jae-kyu points out that Young-jae threw the paint-filled water balloon, but Young-jae says it’s impossible to confuse with a birthmark.
“It is possible,” Moo-yul counters, coming down the stairs. If he was on drugs. He’s totally blitzed now. Go see. Chi-hoon rises to leave, having heard it all but looking rather apathetic.
A trippin’ Yoon-su is playing guitar in a tattered grey t-shirt when Young-jae appears with his left eye and cheek painted blue. Yoon-su panics and Young-jae grins in wry amusement. The child with the birthmark appears in the corner and Yoon-su’s terror is magnified one hundred fold.
Tell me who I am, Young-jae goads. Or I’ll eat you up. Yoon-su begs for his mother to save him and finally picks up his guitar and swings it at the adult corner monster. Then he collapses, leaving Young-jae to stare at him in shock.
Moo-yul rushes in and takes Yoon-su in his arms. He is shaking and calling out for imo (maternal aunt) Seon-hee. Then he passes out and Young-jae lamely says he was just playing a joke. Jae-kyu looks like he’s a in over his head.
A silently furious Jong-il gathers the three boys to question them about Yoon-su. Young-jae says he passed out to which Jong-il snaps, “do you think I’m stupid?”
Moo-yul makes an executive decision and tells Jong-il that Yoon-su is on drugs. Then, he hands the teacher the black letter. “Why are you only telling me now?” Jong-il wants to know.
Meanwhile, Kang Mi-reu is watching the meeting over his hacked security footage. He also sees Yo-han caring for Yoon-su – he set up an I.V. and is monitoring his vitals. After the meeting, Moo-yul goes to see Mi-reu. He told the teacher about the black letter, but not about Mi-reu’s presence.
However, as Moo-yul is the model student, he warns Mi-reu to just turn himself in because he will get caught. He definitely sounds like a cop. In any case, Mi-reu says he’s going home in the morning.
Mi-reu asks Moo-yul what Young-jae did to Angel. When Moo-yul doesn’t answer, Mi-reu puffs up and declares, “I’m Kang Mi-reu” to assuage his pride.
After spending a few days with him, however, Moo-yul doesn’t think Mi-reu is much of anything, which makes Mi-reu smile.
But, how did Mi-reu know that Yoon-su fainted. Mi-reu also walks around without being caught. Mi-reu knows Moo-yul is onto him so he shows Moo-yul the hacked security feed. Moo-yul is shocked and the first thing out of his mouth is, predictably, “You could get expelled!”
Using the security feed, Mi-reu waits until it’s clear and goes to scrounge for some dinner in the school’s kitchen. On his way back, he crawls through air ducts like a spy! He spots Jong-il looking at student files in the staffroom and goes to take a look when the teacher walks away.
Suddenly, Jong-il grabs Mi-reu and flips him over his shoulder.
Mi-reu wakes up in the school’s detention facility. He inspects the room while rolling out the pain in his shoulder. When he sees Jong-il, he tries to play the pity card, but Jong-il brushes it aside. Why was he in the staffroom earlier? Mi-reu looks guilty and replies that it was an accident.
Tired of Mi-reu’s games, Jong-il turns to leave and Mi-reu calls after him. He can’t reflect upon his actions without the principal’s signature. This detainment is illegal. Jong-il is sure that the principal will forgive him because Mi-reu is already in the midst of being punished.
Jong-il heads to the security room and deletes the footage of him violently throwing Mi-reu over his shoulder. Then, he heads over to the gym and practices the motions throwing people over his shoulder with an exercise band.
He looks pretty darn sexy all sweaty.
Yo-han ambles in and remarks that he wanted to say hello, but Jong-il looked too scary. Jong-il replies with words he thinks are inspiring. Every competition has a particular moment when the winner is decided. The first and second place competitors of similar skill know when it comes. He was always second in judo, but he knows that this is his decisive moment.
In the staffroom, Jong-il reports to the principal that all is well. Then, he picks up a student profile. Kim Jin-soo. Born 1993 April 9th. Died January 29 2010.
We see Kim Jin-soo walking up stairs as Jong-il narrates. The camera is filming in black-and-white and in stop-motion. Jin-soo is at the festival and Young-jae, holding a blue balloon, flings it at him. Jong-il tells us that Jin-soo is allergic to strawberries and dreams to be a doctor.
Jin-soo runs down the hallway with his blue, paint-splattered hands over his face. He stumbles into Yoon-su’s room, causing Yoon-su to panic and then gets yelled at by Jong-il.
”There are so many possible excuses and few valid reasons. If it’s a crime, it’s heavy as straw. But the camel’s back broke at some point. At some point [the boy] died.”
In class, Jin-soo is isolated. At some point, he sees Moo-yul’s article and furiously rips it apart. Chi-hoon walks by without noticing Jin-soo. The lonely teen walks through a crowded hallway, dejected.
Jong-il sits deep in thought, staring at Moo-yul’s letter. Then, he opens a drawer. Inside is his own black letter.
Tons of stuff in one hour long episode! Magic!
So Jong-il didn’t just get the short stick out of all the teachers. He chose to stay because of the letter. Now we have eight people for eight lines. We knew who belongs to a few.
You tainted me, made me pitiful. (Young-jae)
You made me a monster in the corner. (Yoon-su)
You silenced me. (???)
You ridiculed my false hopes. (Eun-sung)
You took the only thing I had and put it around your neck. (Moo-yul)
I held out my hand and you let go. (???)
You deleted me from your eyes. (Chi-hoon)
Finally, you overtook me. (???)
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.
After eight days, walk up the path by the Zelkova tree.
Under the clock tower you will see someone dead.
The night that Jesus was born, I curse you.
This episode really brought out the character molds that the writer is working with by using Yo-han the psychologist as a true observer.
Moo-yul: is our good boy who strives to please, abide by the rules and live by the straight and narrow. He is tightly wound with his need to be perfect.
Kang-mo: is the sarcastic observer. He uses his biting tongue as a wall, to protect against and keep out people, and his camera as his distant connection to the world.
Young-jae: is the resident, insecure bully, full of false bravado. He is quick to point fingers and quick to defend himself. He’d rather push people away first than have a true fault discovered.
Mi-reu: enjoys his cloak of mystery. He is the crazy, unpredictable student who uses his public persona to keep himself on a pedestal and manipulate people.
Angel: is our depressed teen who is reliant on music and drugs. Each blow brings him lower and he is unable to rise against it without help. But he is alone. An Angel against mortal men.
Jae-kyu: is protected by his silence and anonymity. He blends into any conversation so people speak without reservation before him.
Eun-sung: uses nastiness to keep the world at bay. She lashes out at the world like a wounded animal and bites the hand that feeds.
Chi-hoon: is the king of cold logic and apathy. No one ever knows what he’s thinking and most think he’s without emotion.
Jong-il: uses his authority as a cloak. He will use it to become the protector and prosecutor of the students and keep his insecurities and rule-breaking at bay.
As for camera work and direction, the use of reflections and mirrors is one of the main storytelling devises. The reflective surfaces show the true faces and emotions of the characters.
Also, how cool was that black-and-white stop-motion stuff with the dead student Jin-soo’s past? Such a potent use of cinematography.
We now have the voice behind the letter. A wronged, lonely student for whom nothing seemed to go right.
Okay people, click that comment button and tell me your thoughts. I want to hear them. This is my favorite drama ever. Who do you think belongs to the unknown lines of the poem? What do you think will happen? Also, please write ***spoiler*** before any spoiler-y comments!
Episodes 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8