The artists express admiration for Hong-do’s catching skills, and making a stupid, smirky face (Park Shin Yang seems to think he’s still acting in War of Money…), he drops Yoon-bok like a hot potato, and walks off, commanding her to follow. She does, her tail between her legs.
Hong-do arrives in the classroom, making a commanding, tense first impression. He’s obviously playing with the students’ fear and respect for him, like any good teacher does. (Ha!)
Yoon-bok brings the screen up to the front for him, and sits down. Hyo-won takes this chance to kiss some ass, and welcomes Hong-do, introducing himself as the class leader, and ordering the other students to greet him. Teacher’s pet wannabe.
Interspersed with these scenes of the first lesson are scenes of Jeong-jo and Jeong-soon playing Chinese chess. It’s a tense match, and clearly transcends the game to a less visible battle of wits and force. With every move they make on the board, they make their own points on whether Hong-do will or won’t do a good job, with Jeong-jo on Hong-do’s side, and Jeong-soon opposite him. The game metaphor has been done countless times in other dramas, but, if done well, it never fails to excite me. As it does here.
Jeong-jo comments that he’s doing well in the game only because Jeong-soon is so lenient with him. And she replies, with a wonderful look of strength and charisma, “Is that so?”, and pretty much proceeds to kick his ass. Jeong-jo praises her, and she says, “We’ll have to take this game to the very end, won’t we?” Dude, did I just get goosebumps?
Meanwhile, Hong-do orders the students to copy a painting exactly the way it is…except upside down. He instructs them to paint what they see, not what they think they see. It’s an important difference.
As the students are working on their paintings, Hong-do asks them, “What is painting?” The students all reach for their textbooks for the answer, but he stops them, instructing them to tell him their personal thoughts on what, exactly painting is. Ha. Reminds me of the time my high school drama teacher asked the class what art is, and wouldn’t let us leave until we’d answered to his satisfaction. Ah, memories.
Ahem. Anyway. The students answer one by one, making commonplace, obvious answers, such as “Painting is placing what you see onto the page with your brush”. Hyo-won makes a decent shot at it, saying “Drawing is grasping everything that will eventually disappear, and recording them down.” Hong-do allows him some applause, then asks him his name. Hyo-won makes a long, convoluted answer, making sure to tell him who his father is, etc, and Hong-do cuts him down a few pegs, pretty much saying that he talks too much, and that he should shut up. Ha!
Hong-do gets angry, yelling at them for not even thinking once about what painting is, when they’re studying at the Dohwaseo. What kind of students are they?
Then he notices that Yoon-bok is still drawing by herself, oblivious to what’s going on around her. He calls on her, and orders her to tell him what she thinks painting is. And Yoon-bok makes a surprising answer: “Painting is longing.”
Hong-do’s intrigued, especially since she’s using a play on words here – “painting” and “longing” are very similar in Korean. He asks her to elaborate, so she says “Longing turns into paintings, and paintings become longing as well.”
Yoon-bok: “If you’re longing for someone, then because they keep coming to mind, you end up painting them. Thus, longing becomes a painting.”
Hong-do: “The person you long for becomes a painting? And then?”
Yoon-bok: “Also, even after you’ve forgotten, every time you look at the painting, you long for that person once more. Thus, wouldn’t that be the same as the painting becoming longing?”
Hong-do: “So looking at a painting causes you to feel longing.”
Yoon-bok: “Yes. So…so…Isn’t painting the same as expressing longing?”
Hong-do’s impressed, and the students are shocked and wowed.
Sometime later, Hong-do gives the students a piece of homework: The classic nine dots set out in three rows. They are instructed to find a way to connect all the dots together with only four straight lines, without lifting the brush from the page.
Tee hee. I remember trying to figure that out in elementary school…Guess they did it in the Joseon era, too? Heh.
Upon learning that Hong-do is instructing the students to copy a painting upside down, Byeok-soo (aka Hyo-won’s dad) visits a freaky old man (Heo Shim, an elder painter) and asks him what it means. Heo Shim tells him that he’s doing it in order to see the students’ abilities at painting with their eyes, and not with their minds. That way, he can pinpoint their differences. Heo Shim asks Byeok-soo who did such a thing, and Byeok-soo tells him it was Danwon (Hong-do). Heo Shim laughs in his freaky way, saying the Dohwaseo has suddenly become a much more interesting place.
The guy in charge of the investigation tells Byeok-soo that it’s been decided that, if they don’t find the culprit, then not only Danwon’s, but their hands could get crushed, too. That wouldn’t be very pleasant, eh?
Outside, Hyo-won and his friend are eavesdropping on the conversation. They haven’t heard much, though, only the words “crushing the hand” and “Danwon”, and they make the assumption that if they don’t solve the puzzle, Hong-do will get their hands crushed, and run off to tell the other students.
The students all frantically work at solving the puzzle, but no one is able to make any headway. Yoon-bok seems to be the only one who isn’t stressing out about it.
The Evil Jo-nyon visits a shop that he’s in charge of. The “manager” shows him a painting that he bought from a young student painter – they’ve been having a pretty steady business relationship, and the painter is supposed to drop by later with a new work. The painting is “Spring Mood Covers All Places” by Shin Yoon-bok. Jo-nyon notices the signature seal on one of the paintings, “Il Wol San In”, and keeps repeating it to himself.
And, of course, it’s revealed that Yoon-bok is the one making and selling these paintings.
Hong-do shows his friend, Yin-moon, who’s a fellow painter, the upside-down paintings that the students made. They’re all rather mediocre, and unlike the original painting at all. And then Hong-do shows him the painting that Yoon-bok made, which is exactly like the original. Yin-moon tries to look at the name on the painting, and Hong-do stops him, telling him that the time isn’t right yet.
The students all get together and have a little night feast (with food brought by the 35-year-old student’s wife), and try to solve the puzzle together. Yoon-bok suggests that, by breaking out outside of the dots, the puzzle could be solved. But Hyo-won calls him an idiot, saying that they’re supposed to solve it by keeping the lines inside the dots. Yoon-bok wonders why that is. Great subtle way of showing the difference in Yoon-bok’s thinking, and how her genius comes in part from the fact that she thinks outside of conventions.
The next day, Hong-do shows them the answer: They did, indeed, have to start outside of the dots in order to solve the puzzle. As they’re being punished, Yoon-bok suggests that, then, there would be a way of connecting all the dots with just three lines as well. Hong-do dismisses her, saying there isn’t a way. But Yoon-bok presses the issue, saying “There is a way. We just haven’t found it yet.”
Hong-do tells her to demonstrate, so she gets up and does so – by drawing a big “Z”, Zorro style. (Chil Woo flashbacks, anyone?) But Hong-do says that it’s not foolproof, since the middle line doesn’t go through the middle row of dots in a perfectly straight line. But Yoon-bok insists that it’s right – giving a mini geometry lesson, she talks about angles, and how, the smaller they get, the straighter the lines get. Thus, if the “Z” is stretched horizontally to infinite amounts, then eventually, one should be able to make a straight line through the middle row of dots.
Hong-do envisions what she’s saying, and he’s pretty much placed in a position in which he can a) acknowledge that she’s right, and he was wrong, and thus lose face in front of the class, or b) not acknowledge it, and be a jerk. After a pause, he says that what she’s saying is nonsense, since an answer should be able to be seen by everyone in order to be relevant. He asks her if it’s possible for her to show them what she means. She says yes, but she needs as much paper and ink as she wants. Hong-do tries to step on her some more, saying “So if you don’t have an infinite amount of paper or ink, you can’t show us what you mean?”. Yoon-bok, not one to lose, says “It also means that, if I do have an infinite amount of paper and ink, I can show you.” Buuuuuuurn!
Hong-do manages to slip out of the situation by saying, “Until the day that this puzzle can be solved, we should keep it in our hearts. End of class.” Dude. What a loser. But what an excellent scene at the same time! The two of them may be teacher and student, but they’re also rivals, in a very interesting way. And I like how Hong-do is placed in a difficult situation, and comes out the lesser (hu)man. Plus, the visuals are just really awesomely done here.
The boys all go off to a kisaeng house for a night of entertainment (it’s Hyo-won’s birthday, and he’s even hired a famous kisaeng to play the gayageum – an ancient Korean string instrument – for them).
Meanwhile, Yoon-bok isn’t with the other boys, but seems to be preparing to leave anyway. She even puts on a fake moustache. Hong-do, coming to talk to her, sees her leaving quite by chance, and decides to follow her.
Yoon-bok eventually notices that someone’s following her, and hides amongst a group of diners, managing to shake him off her trail. Satisfied, she goes to see a vendor, to whom she sells an erotic painting – “A Young Boy Plucking an Azalea”. He gives her five nyang, obviously ripping her off, the old fart. She leaves, and another group of customers come in, to whom he immediately shows the painting he just bought. They discuss it, talking about the sly expression on the woman’s face, the way she’s jutting out her hips, the way the man is grabbing her arm, etc. They call the painter a genius, and the vendor demands 50 nyang. Yoon-bok eavesdrops on all this, flattered, and really not very annoyed that she got so little money.
Unfortunately, Hong-do is right behind her, and although she pretends that she doesn’t know who he is, without any delay, he rips off her moustache, revealing her. I don’t know why this scene is in slow-motion, with such dramatic music. Maybe as a way of highlighting the crossdressing theme?
The two of them go for drinks, and Hong-do demands why she’s been selling these paintings. Turns out she wasn’t doing it for the money, but just because she enjoyed the fact that people seemed to like them so much. He looks at the painting (how did he get a copy?), and asks how she came to draw this. She replies, simply, “I just painted what I saw.”
Then, nonchalantly, and quite suddenly, Hong-do asks, “Why did you draw that woman’s back? The woman holding the straw hat?” He’s clearly talking about the painting over which all the hoohaha is erupting, and Yoon-bok is taken aback. Somewhat changing the subject, but acknowleding that it was her work at the same time, she says, “It wasn’t a straw hat. It was a buddhist nun’s hat.” Hong-do isn’t having any of that, however.
Hong-do: “Why did you draw her back?”
Yoon-bok: “That is…That woman’s back…There was something different there. It felt like something heartbreaking.”
The conversation escalates, with Yoon-bok getting more and more excited as she describes the feeling she got as, without even thinking, she grabbed her paintbrush and started drawing. The world around her disappeared, and all that she could see was her painting. Hong-do eggs her on, saying, “You achieved the state of absolute altruism!”, and Yoon-bok’s awed and excited.
And then, as he’s wont to do, he switches tack at the speed of light, and becomes sombre. Yoon-bok asks, ‘What’s wrong?”. That’s when Hong-do decides to tell her that the one who made that painting will be punished by having his hand crushed under a falling stone. Nice timing, buddy.
Hong-do: “Why did you create such a painting? What use is your talent now? You won’t even be able to hold a brush anymore!”
Yoon-bok: “What do you mean, I won’t be able to hold a brush?”
Hong-do: “Don’t you understand what I’m saying? Tomorrow, at the Dohwaseo, they’ll take the culprit who made that painting, and crush his hand under the stone! You won’t be able to do anything anymore!”
Yoon-bok: “My hand will be crushed, teacher? Is that painting so immoral? What did I do that was so wrong? You said it was the state of absolute altruism! It’s just a painting! How can one painting…It doesn’t make any sense. No. How can one painting…”
Absolutely overcome with shock and distress, Yoon-bok gets up and leaves, ignoring Hong-do’s calls for her to sit down. Yeah, you really handled that one nicely, Hong-do. Bravo.
Yoon-bok walks, dazed and with tears in her eyes, through the market, remembering her memories as a child, when her father (NOT her current adoptive father) taught her how to paint by creating shadows with his hands on the walls, and having her paint the butterfly that he was shaping. Interestingly, she also remembers the scene in the market when she and Hong-do first met, when Hong-do was trying to give her tips on how to recreate his painting. The two important teachers in her life? Also, Moon Geun Young is just awesome in this scene.
Somehow, she winds up in front of the kisaeng house, and one of the kisaeng notices her and takes her inside, to where her fellow students are still celebrating.
Once she arrives, Hyo-won, ever the bully, tells her to take a very, very large shot of alcohol. They jeer at her, calling her “girly” and saying she could never do it. Miserable and feeling reckless, she takes the drink and downs it in one go. One quip I have here: No prominent Adam’s Apple! Does no one else notice? Yeesh.
Predictably, it turns out that the Lesbian Kisaeng from before (who, yes, actually has a name – it’s Jeong-hyang) is the one providing the entertainment with her gayageum. The boys fawn over her, and, like an ass, Hyo-won tells her to forget her instrument, and to come sit on his lap. Jeong-hyang is all, “Ha! In your dreams, bitch.” Okay, so she doesn’t say that. But she’d might as well.
A drunk Yoon-bok speaks up. Let the flirting recommence!
Yoon-bok: “You’re as thorny as ever.”
Jeong-hyang: “The more thorns the flower has, the more beautiful it is.”
Yoon-bok: “This is the first time I’ve seen a flower call itself beautiful.”
Jeong-hyang: “A flower doesn’t stop being beautiful just because it calls itself beautiful.”
Yoon-bok: “What does it matter if a flower’s beautiful, if no one notices it?”
Jeong-hyang: “The flower simply exists. Whether it is beautiful or not is simply the passing figure of measurement.”
One of the drunken students chooses this moment to throw a cup at Jeong-hyang, causing a string on her gayageum to break. The other students chastise him, and Hyo-won once again grabs the chance to tell her that, since her instrument is broken, she’d might as well come and drink with them instead. Being her regular Sassy Sally self, without a word, Jeong-hyang simply states the name of the song, and without further ado, begins playing.
She starts off with a fast, rousing number, and then switches to a slow, melancholic one. Of all the students, Yoon-bok is the only one who appears to be really touched by the music – and Jeong-hyang notices. In an absolutely breathtaking scene, she and Jeong-hyang are transported to a green mountainside, in which Yoon-bok watches, tears in her eyes, as her younger self and her parents walk, half-dancing, down the mountain, a picture of happy family life. (Random note: Squee! Hottie Extraordinaire Han Jung Soo plays her dad!! )
Yoon-bok and Jeong-hyang’s eyes meet, that connection between them reinforced. The moment is broken as the students start applauding, and Yoon-bok gets up to leave. Before she does, however, she quietly tells Jeong-hyang, “It was the very best performance.”
Hong-do, who incidentally is staying with that friend of his, Yin-moon, is showing him that erotic painting of Yoon-bok’s, and is lamenting the fact that such talent will be going to waste. Yin-moon warns him that Hong-do’s hand could be the one that winds up crushed. But Hong-do is still looking for a way to save Yoon-bok’s hand.
Outside, his friend’s sister, Jung-sook, is waiting with refreshments. She has a huge crush on Hong-do, and seems to have liked him since she was a little girl. Hong-do, of course, is oblivious.
The Evil League of Evil – er, I mean the Evil Counsel(?), aka Jeong-soon’s uncle, brother, Byeok-soo, and Jo-nyeon – are discussing, who else? Hong-do. And their worry over what they see as his imminent attempts to bring to light what happened ten years ago – whatever that is. Jo-nyeon tells them not to worry too much. If the culprit is someone who possesses talent that Hong-do himself acknowledges, then Hong-do will make sure that that talent doesn’t go to waste. But if he tries to save the student, only one of two things can happen to him: His hand will be the one that’s crushed, or he’ll leave once again.
Jeong-hyang leaves the students, and Yoon-bok confronts her, asking her to play the gayageum for her again. She offers to pay the money that she earned for her painting earlier. Jeong-hyang tells her that she’s worth much more than that, but Yoon-bok insists that it’s all the money she has. Jeong-hyang tries to leave, but in an interesting twist on the traditional K-drama trope, Yoon-bok grabs her arm as she passes by. Ha! Bet Moon Geun Young’s always wanted to try that. I know I have.
“This hand will be no more once tomorrow comes. These five nyang are the money I earned from selling the last painting I made with this hand. I want to spend the final night using this sale. With the music from that gayageum.”