Thursday, April 26, 2012

K-Drama Review: Dream High, Episodes 9-10

Read Episode reviews for:

Dream High--Episodes 1-2
Dream High--Episodes 3-4
Dream High--Episodes 5-6
Dream High--Episodes 7-8
Dream High--Episodes 11-12
Dream High--Episodes 13-14
Dream High--Episodes 15-16

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 9-10

Even after six months in the lower class, Hyemi, Samdong, and Pilsook are not being granted the opportunity to join the performing arts class. But they aren't the only ones with school woes--the students in the idol group "K" have been absent too often and the principal will only let them pass if they participate in the Dance of the Year competition. Um. Okey-dokey, Mr. Principal, sir. It's not like they should be made to attend summer school or write essays or anything crazy like that. Dance-offs it is! The lower class kids will be competing to gain enough points to get into the upper class next year--all they have to do is win third place, but of course Hyemi wants to aim for first if she can get it.

Jinguk is now back at his old house where he used to live with Teacher Oh-hyuk and the other lower-class students. Jinguk asks, "Do Samdong and Hyemi always come back this late?" and Oh-hyuk replies that he shouldn't worry about them--they always work long hours and practice this hard. I'm pretty sure that their level of dedication to their craft was not what Jinguk was asking about. A crowd of Jinguk's new fans catch Hyemi outside her own house and forbid her to go in, so it's Samdong to the rescue! Our little fella Samdong is so tough when he needs to be, and he tells the rabid girls to go away while he's still just asking nicely.

Can Be Ferocious When Provoked.

At the Dance of the Year competition, the entrants are sorted into teams of four members each. Hyemi is a team captain and for her first pick she takes Jason, then gets Samdong and Pilsook. Hyemi's team must do a "bird" themed dance, and they get some help from JYP as choreographer. But then the dance team starts studying videos of birds for inspiration--videos of SEAGULLS, specifically. Awkward, awkward, duck-n-flap seagulls. Please tell me you're not going to imitate these? But nope, they end up going with more of a swan theme.

Baekhee's dance team does a wicked-awesome "snake" themed dance that looks cooler than their Swan Lake counterparts and lands them a 1st place trophy. Hyemi's goal for her bird team was 3rd place and they achieved it, yay! But Baekhee doesn't understand why Hyemi is not jealous of her win.

Confused, Hurt, and Robbed of the Chance to Gloat.

Next, all the kids go on a sort of field trip to Japan. The Japan scenes are not too interesting, despite Hyemi and Samdong singing at a Yakuza mob wedding and being chased down the streets. Hyemi and Samdong have to perform on the street to earn money for lunch, and we see just what good entertainers they've become when they spontaneously get a crowd pumped up. They start getting bullied by some breakdancers, but then Jinguk and Jason make the most epic b-boy entrance ever and have a dance-off with the Japanese guys.

Other Kirin kids arrive and dance, and Baekhee and Hyemi even high-five when the battle is over! Oh, yes, we're leaning toward a renewal of friendship. Baekhee is all set to make up with Hyemi when she overhears her own band manager plotting to replace her with Hyemi. Gah!

Jinguk finally gets a moment alone with Hyemi and begs her to understand why he left. Jinguk looks so happy when Hyemi accepts his invitation out and wraps him up in her own scarf, but  Samdong is stricken when he hears that they're out together. Now we're in the somebody's-gonna-get-hurt phase of the love triangle. The feelings are too serious all around for this to have a non-painful outcome.

Samdong sees Jinguk and Hyemi kiss, and it shocks him badly enough that he has a headache and his hearing loss comes back for a visit. He passes out, still holding Hyemi's heart-shaped cellphone charm.

Why End Here, Episode?

Things I Loved:

1. Jason/Pilsook. Ahhhh, I heart these two. When Jason finally gets back to Kirin, he and Pilsook are awkward to the bajillionth degree although they had been friends before. But I'm glad that Jason isn't all over Pilsook right after she lost her weight, since his holding back makes him seem like a decent person. He's got plenty of flaws related to pride and laziness, but he's not especially superficial.

When he hears that Pilsook's in the hospital, Jason runs over to check on her condition. Then he stupidly tells Pilsook not to read anything into his obsessive arrival at the hospital--he only came because he had some free time to kill. Sure, honey. Whatever you say.

Cutest Secondary Couple Ever?

2. Guys Talking About Their Feelings. Or really, talking around their feelings but still making it evident that they have them. When Jinguk gets home, he and Samdong have a passive-aggressive talk about Hyemi, complete with a long staredown. Samdong is all kinds of serious about Hyemi, and our precious snowflake is basically telling our white knight to get out. Samdong says he'll never give up on Hyemi and that his feelings won't change, which implies that Jinguk's feelings have been known to flip-flop. Well, he's got you there, Jinguk.

The Inevitable Staredown. Samdong Wins.

3. Jimjilbang dance practice. It doesn't get any better than this. When the lower class loses access to their dance practice space, they have to rehearse in a sauna where everyone is issued these cute gender-separate scrubs.

I Want to Know How to Fold a Towel-Hat Like JYP's.

4. Samdong/Hyemi. Hyemi quotes Samdong's words to Baekhee after the big onstage "dance of gliterry swans," and he overhears and is proud that Hyemi remembered what he said. Cue the adorable cheek-kiss.

Her Expression Says it All, but I Still Love This Moment.


1. Villain Attire. Check out this lovely piece of wardrobe:

Are School Principals Allowed to Wear Pimp Coats?

2. Sad Decline of the Breakdance Battle. In episode 10, the totally amazing streetdance battle descends into Kirin kids posing on the street. No Ria, flipping your hair is not as awesome as handstands and backflips. No, random guy with a backpack, strutting in your backpack is not as awesome anything not involving a backpack, really.

3. The Kiss. The moment I've long awaited feels a little hollow. *sigh* Jinguk and Hyemi's first kiss is not a good one. It's one of those K-drama slo-mo things that looks less like a kiss and more like a supremely awkward pose. I don't fault the actors for these not-so-great moments, though I do wonder why K-drama kisses have all this formal posing.

Makes You Want to Wrap Up in a Comforter and Brood Sadly.


Effort is Important: In Dream High, effort is rewarded as much as talent, and often more so. Samdong doesn't get a dance solo, but he practices on his own at night anyway. He gets so good that when there's a vacancy, Jason's dance solo is given to Samdong because he stuck around and worked while the more gifted Jason flitted about and skipped practice.

Why Would You Skip the Chance to Dress Like a Swan?

Effort, and the lack thereof, is also a major part of the new Pilsook/Jason dynamic. Pilsook tells Jason he has no dreams, goals, or ambition and she feels sorry for him. Jason prods her to confess her love for him again, but she says that she went through torture to lose her weight, and now she feels her efforts were wasted on a guy with no goals.

Cutie-Pie Pilsook Knows What She Wants.

Cultural Observances:

Fan chants: Jinguk's fans sing a practiced ra-ra rhyming cheer outside his window, to show their support for him. I guess we maybe have fan chants in the States, but I've never heard anyone doing this. Maybe Justin Bieber fans have something special they chant at his concerts? I tend to think of this as a K-pop phenomenon, though.

New words: "Dugobwa" is "just watch"--sorta like, "You wait and see!".  "Gachi-ga" is "Let's go together". "Charari" is "instead" or "I'd rather". "Eodi-ga nogoshipeunde?" seems to be "Where do you want to go?"  "Eottoke tengoya?" is "What happened?" "Bingeul bingeul" is "around and around" or "spinning".

Watch Dream High on DramaFever

Episode Evaluations:  The low spots in Japan are evened out by the dance competition, so everything's still very interesting. Baekhee's conflicted turn away from villainy is compelling, the love triangle is heart-pounding and angsty, but only for the viewer and not for the main girl, so that's kind of new. Dream High's still great and I'm really worried for poor Samdong's fate right now.

Question: Anyone else but me have issues with some of these K-drama kisses? No one wants to insult the actors involved, but I've seen many, many different K-dramas where big romantic moments became really cold and awkward like this.


  1. I remember the animal themed dance routine very well, it was a highlight of the whole series. Both choreographies were great in their own way and catered to different styles so that put together they become even more enjoyable than as solo pieces.

    I actually liked the Japan part. For one thing they go to Nagoya and not Tokyo as one would expect, I love Nagoya (it's pretty hectic but not as much as Tokyo and there is so much more space and wide avenues) and it is a delight to see Koreans and Japanese really meshing, considering the bad blood that still exists between the two countries.
    At the time I remember thinking that perhaps it made more sense to go to a more radically different country so as to drive home the message about music uniting people but I now think it was the right choice.
    The yakuza bit made me laugh, it parodied the craziness through clichés but that only made it funnier. That the wedding guests were carrying so many guns made me chuckle.

    So yeah, if you ever visit Japan drop by Nagoya if you get a chance. It's not always included in the tourist circuit but it's well worth a visit.

    1. Thanks for the heads-up! Nagoya sounds like a lovely place.

      I did like that whole music-uniting-people thing when Samdong made friends with the guy from the Japanese band and they all cooked up that music club performance of "Dream High". I also thought it was neat how often the Japanese and Korean characters were speaking English to each other, as if it was an intermediary language or something like that.

  2. I saw your review at work and so badly wanted to answer but was to chicken too.

    I liked both these episodes and how they meshed together so well. When I first watched the Dance Competition, I really thought the Swans were going to win so found it incredibly refreshing to see the Snake win. I guess to many years of drama had given me the expectation that the good guys will win. Though in this case, Jinguk is not a bad guy and even Baekhee isn't a bad person, just making the wrong choices.

    Baekhee also says one of my favorite lines from the whole show, it went along the lines of "I tried with all my might to pull the rope only to find out my oponent has dropped the other end" and then saw how she started to mend fences with Hyemi in episode 10, this made me all the more sad when she pulled back. I really wanted them to be friends again. They obviously care for each other. You should see the amount of MV's on youtube on this Beakhee x Hyemi couple.

    After the tension of episode 9 and how episode 10 started, I thought they were leaving us with a breather episode were we would skirt around and not do much, until the final scene with Sam Dong. I was so glad I had watited to the show finished, if I was watching week by week, I would have died.

    I was very impress they didn't go to Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto but chose Nagoya. I think the majority of films I've seen when someone goes to Japan they go to one of the three.

    I'm superficial enough to say that the main thing I liked about the Japanese arch was Suzy's beautiful pink jacket. I so want one.

    1. Good point about the breather episode! If they piled too many big climactic battles and dance-offs too close together, we'd have no time to think or to process everything that's happened.

      I was /thrilled/ that the Snakes won the dance competition. Because, like you say, the good guys in most shows will always win every single competition, and it gets repetitive. Our people don't have to be number one all the time--they just have to give it their best and do well. It's strangely satisfying to see Hyemi content and proud with her 3rd-place trophy.

      I love Suzy's outfits in this show! I've experienced some coat-coveting myself, while watching.

  3. I love HyeMi's outfits in this show too, lol. Almost every episode me and my friend would first gush over something cute she wore, then discuss the show. ;P Anyway, I agree with you on the K-drama romance. There are maybe 2 shows out of all the k-dramas I've seen where a kiss looks believable instead of posed and awkward. I wonder if it's a Korean T.V. regulation thing or something like that.

    I loved the dance competition, and I was glad the 'snakes' won; they were awesome. Also loved their unorthodox practice sessions, that just rocked for me!

    I've loved the Jason/Pilsook coupling from the beginning, they are just too cute! And I love how altho Pilsook is a cutie-pie, she's not weak by any means. I always thought she was a good example of how a female character can be really sweet, girly, AND strong. She's a secondary character I've always remembered b/c of that.

    I agree w/ Nocturnal about the Japan trip. The whole crazy wedding thing was funny. I thought the street dance-battle was neat, and liked the whole 'music unites'
    lesson and their performance.

    The end part w/ SamDong made me so sad and worried for him! :( He just breaks your heart. I was also glad I waited until the whole show was out to watch it, or it would've made me crazy, waiting to see if he was ok.

    1. I'm beginning to think that the kissing problem is a Korean TV thing, too. Kiss-posing is more decent and proper, maybe?

      Good point about Pilsook. She's this petite little angel, but once she gains confidence, she never lets anyone treat her badly. IU does this role perfectly!

      I would have flipped out early on if I were watching Dream High week-to-week. I can handle waiting on Rooftop Prince (my current show)cliffhangers, but when beloved characters are put into situations like this--well, it would be seriously painful to be in suspense until the next week. :-)