I don’t know if it’s something in the air, or something I ate in May, but here I go again, completely charmed by a show within two minutes of its opening!
Thank you, drama gods, for a wish come true. My favorite Gong Hyo-jin role reinvented for the small screen, and with her as female lead this time! A high school setting, just like in Conduct Zero (2002). But instead of 99 minutes (the movie’s running time), I get sixteen hours of our actress at her kickass best.
No wonder I have jaw ache by the time I finish Episode 1 of Biscuit Teacher and Star Candy (2005). It’s all that grinning and giggling. Because that first episode? It’s the stuff of dreams.
The year is 2005. Eleven students huddle in a conspiratorial circle, transfixed by a tall tale that one of them is spinning, said tale growing taller by the second. Once upon a time in their high school, or in 1999 to be exact, a most momentous event did take place, one that shook the school to its foundations. A girl single-handedly caused a bunch of bullies from a neighboring school to crap their pants in fright. Who was she? None other than legendary Na Bo-ri.
One swish of her magic umbrella and Bo-ri was airborne. She could fly!
She could also kick some butts and kick them hard. The bullies fell like bowling pins, their faces kissing the mud. Holy smoke, gasps everyone in the circle as they try to imagine this mythical creature that they have never seen. Each is secretly envious and also secretly relieved. To have missed all that excitement, damn! And to have been spared all that excitement (and muddy close encounters), phew!
As punishment for her thuggish behavior, Bo-ri was given 300 lashes but still she kept mum, refusing to explain to the school what had made her ballistic.
But then the lashings and goading got too much and Bo-ri became majorly pissed.
So she summoned the spirits of the wind and rearranged in one fell swoop the furniture in the teacher’s lounge and the noses of the teachers. Well, just one nose, specifically.
And then, as the other students stared in awe at this larger-than-life figure who could command even the forces of nature, she swaggered out of the school and into notoriety.
You go, Na Bo-ri! Go far away and do not deign to step foot ever again on the grounds of a school that expelled you simply for being awesomesauce. We, your fellow students of Jung Suk High, will always remember you!
The year is still 2005. A woman on her way home from the public bathhouse spies a group of schoolboys bullying another student. So she calls them over and gives them a taste of The Na Bo-ri Special. Think tender bums (or lips) meeting not-so-tender gravel (or mud) and you get the picture. A passing policeman smiles in bemusement. Every town should have a Na Bo-ri to help keep law and order!
The boys sent packing, our heroine goes on her way. First, a stop to greet three adorable pups. Next, a hair makeover. Because today’s like no other day. Today is the day that she has waited six long years for!
As she gazes at the sky, her happiness so full she can scarcely contain it, a plane flies overhead. Little does she know that on that very plane sits a guy who will shatter her long-cherished hopes and also piece them back for her, the latter against his will.
Ah, this guy. This guy looks simultaneously five years old and twenty-five. Everything about him spells T.R.O.U.B.L.E. Thank goodness he’s too old to be in school because God have mercy on his teachers. As it is he can’t be left alone, thus explaining the presence of the guy sitting next to him.
(Not only is this shaping up to be my most favorite Gong Hyo-jin role ever, it might turn out to be my favorite Gong Yoo role as well. Just look at that impish smile!)
Recalled home (from America) on his parents’ orders, Park Tae-in knows there’s nothing like a little excitement to raise his father’s blood pressure. A simple diversion is all it takes. So, as soon as his plane touches down, our escape artist gives his guard the slip and leaps into an old flame’s waiting convertible.
Right around the same time, Bo-ri arrives at an intersection and looks up at a billboard. Wearing a borrowed dress and with her hair and face all prettied, she imagines herself up there in that advertisement. She and her groom, on their happiest of days.
But who should come careening down the road at that moment, forcing a delivery rider to swerve abruptly and sending bowls of noodles flying into the air…
…and onto Bo-ri’s borrowed dress and pretty hair?
You jerk! May every stoplight that you approach turn red and may you get a flat tire one mile from here! How am I going to go for The Interview with noodles and sauce in my hair, you stupid jerk! I slogged through university, I turned down offers from thirty-three schools, I waited six years for today! A pox on you and that bimbo beside you, you first-class jerk!
Well, she doesn’t exactly yell those words, but the expression on her face says it all. But Bo-ri being Bo-ri, and today being today, she doesn’t stay mad for long. She skips into Jung Suk High, finds some water to clean herself, and promptly meets two teachers whose shudders upon seeing their old student can be felt two school blocks away.
“You don’t remember me? I’m Na Bo-ri! The one who got expelled! Don’t you remember how you came after me with a broom? And beat me shitless because I fell asleep in class? All of us called you Crazy Teacher! Oh, I’m so happy to see you again!”
Why is she back?
For revenge, perchance?
Why not? A student in Japan who was expelled returned and killed his teacher.
Fear not, teachers. Bo-ri’s mission is not murder but torture. She’s coming back as your colleague, bwahaha!
But first there’s a slight problem. Her soiled dress. Not the best thing to wear to Most Important Job Interview. Well, nothing that Bo-ri can’t resolve in a jiffy. Sorry, fellow interviewee.
It’s Bo-ri’s turn to be interviewed. The head teacher—the one, as legend has it, whose nose got flattened from a wayward picture frame six years ago when the teacher’s lounge went suddenly berserk and all manner of things went flying—can’t believe his eyes.
She’s the one! The only student to ever assault a teacher in the history of Jung Suk High! And that teacher had to be me! I caned her and she hit me back with the frame and broke my nose! I’ve spent a fortune on three rounds of corrective surgery and my nose is still flat! I’ll never have Lee Min-ho’s aquiline features, waaahhh!
Hell hath no insecurity like a man with Lee Min-ho envy. Thus Bo-ri is thrown out, for a second time.
So what if she says she wants to return to the school as a teacher, in order to repay the one who inspired her? So what if she pleads for a second chance to prove that she’s no longer troublemaker Na Bo-ri but a reformed soul whose goal in life is to teach the young? Her words are no match for Mr. Flat Nose’s GET OUT!!
As she walks away, downcast and tearful, the flowers in the school remind her of a day of yore. An art lesson outdoors. He standing close, his voice gentle and encouraging. Should such a day call for a diary entry (and should Bo-ri be enamored of cheesy wordplay like some people), said entry might be titled thus:
Brushes and Blushes
Or maybe “The day I fell in love with my teacher” would be a more befitting title.
Because Bo-ri was half-fibbing when she claimed at the interview that she wanted to teach in order to repay a debt of inspiration. It was really more than that. For six years this was what she remembered and longed for:
His face. Her feelings. Their future.
That future now in tatters because of a jerk who drove like he owned the road! If that whole incident with him hadn’t happened, she would have gotten the job at Jung Suk High for sure. That jerk was sheer bad luck!
That jerk, incidentally, is sitting outside a departmental store’s changing room, still tousled-haired and sleepy-eyed (and also still cute as a button).
The woman who had rescued him at the airport earlier is now a live mannequin, modeling dress after dress for him. Such a sweetie, this Park Tae-in. Giving her a surprise present without it being a surprise. Allowing himself to feast on her gorgeous figure without making it too apparent that he’s feasting. What a guy!
This guy, incidentally, is about to get the shock of his life.
As Tae-in and Noh Jem-ma (Choi Yeo-jin) step out of the store, he is pounced upon by a group of black-suited men. No, this is not the shock I mentioned earlier. This is nothing in comparison, just wait and see.
Turns out the men are underlings of his dad, Dr. Park Joong-seop. Because obviously it’s just wrong that a veritable hospital chief should be repeatedly embarrassed by his son’s antics.
Outnumbered and pinned down, Tae-in is dismayed to see the dress that he bought now lying on the ground. (And I wonder: Who is that dress for? Since it’s not for Jem-ma, then who?)
At the entrance to his dad’s hospital, Tae-in is stopped by someone yelling at him: “Hey, YOU! You are going to be so dead when I’m done with you!”
“You talking to me, ajumma?”
Oh, the chemistry between these two is so crackling I’m salivating just thinking of fifteen more episodes with them. Bring it on!
Why are the two outside the hospital at the same time? Because she’s just finished receiving medical treatment from her sister (a trainee doctor) for the multiple bruises she sustained (having noodles rain upon her and being unceremoniously bundled out of her old school). He’s there to get treatment for something that isn’t quite clear yet. Maybe chronic Escapinitis.
He doesn’t remember her right away, but at the mention of “the accident this morning,” the cogs in his head click into place and his face lights up.
“Ah! The noodles! Ajumma, why do you eat noodles with your face and not your mouth?”
Uh oh, way to make a lady madder. You are so going to regret this, Park Tae-in. That smile? Hang on to it while you can because you won’t be smiling when you receive the Na Bo-ri Special repackaged just for you.
She demands that he pay her for two dresses, one which he ruined and one more for good measure because of the emotional trauma she suffered. Sensing yet another opportune moment, he tells the men to release their hold on him so that he can take out his wallet and repay her. Then, before the men can even blink, he walks toward Bo-ri and abruptly grabs her in a chokehold.
Oh boy, Tae-in. No one cuts off Bo-ri’s oxygen supply and lives to tell the tale.
She didn’t even soar that high in 1999. Which means… someone is going to be in deep shit when it’s all said and done. If you can find his remains, that is.
Take that, you jerk. You bearer of ill wind and crusher of dreams.
Provocateur and assailant are hurled off to the police station. There she learns that being taken hostage by him matters not one iota. He’s a high school student whereas she’s an adult who should know better.
What? There’s no way you’re nineteen!
Come here and give Oppa a kiss.
You really want to die, don’t you?
Oh, Show, you’re killing me with your awesomeness. Bicker some more, don’t ever stop!
Tae-in’s mother arrives. Who’s really his stepmother. Who also happens to be Principal Ji Young-he of Jung Suk High, one of the three people who interviewed Bo-ri that eventful morning.
In a swift exchange that reveals a different Tae-in from the cheeky chipmunk that we’ve seen so far, we learn that stepmom and stepson don’t exactly like each other. And that maybe she’s one of the reasons he keeps running away.
Principal Ji retrieves Tae-in and the two leave. As Bo-ri runs after the older woman and begs to be released, in walks the principal’s brother.
A stunned Ji Hyun-woo (Kim Da-hyun) stares at Bo-ri and she stares back, the usually loquacious one managing only a weak “Teacher” this time, a greeting he does not acknowledge. After a few awkward moments of silence, he walks off, leaving her still in handcuffs.
Don’t cry for him, Bo-ri! Wait till you see what he has been drawing in the quiet of his house. To think you thought he was a great teacher and artist!
I mean, I can’t draw to save my life, but even I know a bad drawing when I see one. Is that supposed to be a likeness of you, Na Bo-ri? By a long stretch, maybe. And why has he been secretly drawing you, six years after he last saw you? It’s all rather
Miles away from the lockup where Bo-ri is spending the night, an agitated Dr. Park learns that his son, who’s supposed to be confined to his hospital room, has escaped yet again.
What follows is one of the most exhilarating scenes I’ve watched in months. The fire alarm has gone off, no doubt Tae-in’s doing, activating all the ceiling sprinklers. It is pouring inside the hospital. In the midst of that confusion, one man is dancing atop a reception counter. Oh, how he dances.
That kind of joyous abandon. Let’s bottle it up and sell it, shall we? Bet you it’ll be all sold out within the hour.
Have I told you how much I love this episode? Love, LOVE.
A desperate situation calls for desperate measures.
Remembering her brother’s bread-and-charcoal analogy (Bo-ri as bread and Tae-in as charcoal, the former being the only thing that can absorb or remove dust from a charcoal drawing), Principal Ji reluctantly agrees to accept Bo-ri into Jung Suk High as a new teacher. On several conditions, however (and we’re not told in Episode 1 what these conditions might be).
And so our Bo-ri finally realizes her dream. Yippee!!
Meanwhile, Hyun-woo has persuaded his sister to let Tae-in move into his house. Make yourself comfy, says the boyish-looking uncle to his step-nephew, but don’t touch that painting over there. I’ll be back to collect it.
Must I live here?
You have two options. Live in my house and go back to school. Or no house and no school but go back to the hospital. Freedom or confinement. You choose.
To celebrate her new job, Bo-ri and her friends go out for drinks. Sufficiently inebriated and emboldened, she tells them that for years she has wanted to do something. Before the night is over, she must do this one thing. Do it, they chorused. And so the five of them stagger to Teacher Ji’s house.
Taking a deep breath, Bo-ri shouts:
Teacher! I’m also a teacher now. I can stand next to you now. I’ve really worked hard these six years so that I can stand next to you. Teacher…
The lights inside the teacher’s house come on and the front door flings open.
WHO’S CREATING SUCH A RUCKUS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT?!
Dear show, you are too good to be true. Pinch me, someone!