The bad news is that next week’s episode 12 is preempted for a Lunar New Year special of In A Good Way, but the good news is that episode 11 didn’t end on an angsty cliffhanger moment. Episode 11 was shorter in length clearly to draw out the protest conflict and save the great cameo-laden campus concert for the next episode. I didn’t mind at all and enjoyed an episode that was primarily dialogue driven with lots of interpersonal conflicts in both principles and expectations. I appreciate the drama exploring the differing points out view when it comes to whether Xiao Wei should protest her own personal injustice. To say she should stand with her protesting friends is wrong because she gets to decide what she wants to do just like Jia En can continue the protest with or without her. It’s the rape victim context and we should never ever blame the rape victim for refusing to report the crime or testify in the court. It’s an intensely personal choice and the ideal would be if the perp can be collared independently of requiring the victim to participate. In this case it’s a relief that Xiao Wei’s friends accept her inability to stand and fight back but then have the heart and determination to fight on her behalf.
It’s once again Tracy who speaks a lot of blunt truths but also comes across as the most pragmatic one of the bunch. Most of the kids protesting can afford to fight back more than Xiao Wei and that’s the luxury of choosing principles over bread when one has never gone hungry before. At the same time I think Xiao Wei needs to toughen up because her problems in life won’t stop here and having the personality of being a push over is only going to make it harder for her to stand up for herself in other situations. I enjoy the campus protest story line also for the fact that we see the core group of friends working together for a common cause aside from just having fun and playing treasure hunting games. Liu Chuan has always been so serious and he is clearly a born leader, but in this case Jia En more than proves that she’s his equally feisty female counterpart. The romance was very low key in this episode with two stand out moments coming when Liu Chuan rubbed Jia En’s head and got some friendly ribbing from his best buddies on his “inspection” and later when he shared a chocolate bar with her. Not every episode of IAGW is chock full of heady scenes but it remains consistently satisfying in its narrative as we follow a group of college students exploring their era of freedom.
Episode 11 recap:
Liu Chuan holds up the protest placard while Jia En tries to talk to passing students to ask them to join the protest. One student gives her an umbrella but doesn’t join since she has class. It’s still just Liu Chuan and Jia En when she spots Xiao Wei peering at them but Xiao Wei runs away when Jia En tries to talk to her. Others student comes by and asks what is going on? They hear the news and suggest just not taking the class and if its a mandatory class then its an even worse idea to piss off that professor. Liu Chuan sticks by his principles and the two students think he’s got guts but isn’t interested in joining. Jia En friends come and encourage her to stop now before other professors won’t let her take their class in the future thinking she’s a disruptive influence. They reveal that Professor Chang is the next Dept. Chair and definitely is not one to rile up. Those two students walk off talking about Jia En being so stubborn and run into Xiao Wei. They ask her if she’s joining since Jia En is protesting on her behalf but Xiao Wei just shakes her head and runs off. She bumps into Ri Qi who offers her a ride back to her dorm but she declines and leaves. Ri Qi asks a passing student if he’s seen Liu Chuan and is pointed in the direction of the two-person protest.
Tracy returns to her room and cheerily greets Xiao Wei who is hiding in bed and totally despondent. Tracy is worried about her but Xiao Wei brushes off her concerns. Tracy’s department friend comes in and is surprised to see Xiao Wei here since Jia En and Liu Chuan are currently protesting on her behalf. Both Tracy and the friend tell Xiao Wei to go encourage Jia En to stop because they can’t change anything and will only cause more problems. Xiao Wei pulls the covers over her head and hides in bed. Ah Qing is on the BBS portal and shares with Ri Qi that Liu Chuan and Jia En are protesting outside the Foreign Languages department right now on behalf of victim Ding Xiao Wei. Both guys decide to go support Liu Chuan because he’s their bro. They run into Jacky and Ah Di outside as those two doofus are here to borrow clothes to go meet their online pals. Ri Qi and Ah Qing say that is not important and they need to go join the protest. Neither Jacky nor Ah Di are interested in protesting as part of their college education. Ah Qing and Ri Qi run off while Jacky and Ah Di try to sneak into their room to pilfer some clothes but find the door locked. Heh.
Tracy runs to find Jia En to stop her. She believes Xiao Wei needs to be helped but it’s not through protest. Ri Qi and Ah Qing arrive and immediately flank Liu Chuan who thinks they need to find more people to join. Ri Qi asks if Xiao Wei has been by and Tracy says Xiao Wei is hiding because she doesn’t want this to get bigger. Liu Chuan says there has been no protests since school inception and just because students don’t speak up doesn’t mean they will keep accepting injustice. If they don’t protest now then it’s a waste of them being born into an era of freedom. The four of them are all in but Tracy cannot join. All their principles are great but if Xiao Wei doesn’t want to do it and gives up then why should Tracy help her?
Jia En goes back to the dorm with Liu Chuan, Qi Ri, and Ah Ding. She immediately makes a beeline for Momo and picks him up. As the guys busy making placards and cloth protest banners Jia En explains to Momo that they are preparing for a protest. Jia En watches Liu Chuan write and remarks that he’s got such pretty writing. Momo gets excited and nibbles on her fingers and she tries to calm him down. She decides he wants to participate and puts a protest T-shirt on him and think he’d be great to get the attention of other students. Too bad there is only one Momo because if they can send 100 Momos around campus then all the kids would know what they were standing up for. That gives Liu Chuan and idea and he types up a flyer explaining the protest to print copies and pass out.
The guys wonder how it’s getting escalated so fast but Liu Chuan supports Jia En all the way because she’s not doing this for herself but for her friend. The guys share the history about the Nazi persecution which started small and those not involved chose not to speak up until it spread until everyone was affected and no one was left to speak up anymore. Ri Qi and Ah Qing head out to make flyers leaving Liu Chuan and Jia En alone in the room. She thanks him again for supporting her and its not something she could do alone. Liu Chuan and Jia En get back to work and unfurl a banner so he can start writing more. As Jia En is unfurling her banner she trips over Momo underfoot and falls backward and hits her head hard on the bunk bed.
Liu Chuan immediately flies over to check on her and confirms she’s got a bruise but no bleeding. He wants to get her an ice pack but she refuses since its Winter and she doesn’t want anything cold. He chides her for being so stubborn but then gets to work massaging her bruise. Ri Qi and Ah Qing come back and see this scene and Liu Chuan and Jia En immediately break apart explaining she hit her head and he was inspecting it. Both guys are like “ohhhhhhhhh, inspecting yeah”. Ah Qing asks what the conclusion of the inspection was and gets silence. Ri Qi offers to leave so they can resume “inspecting”. LOL forever! Liu Chuan tells them to knock if off and the boys report they got extra copies since the owner thought Ah Qing was cute. With 3500 copies hopefully they can get the results they want. Jia En thinks of someone who can help them even more.
The next day Liu Chuan, Jia En, Ri Qi, and Ah Qing are out passing by flyers to students. Professor Chang happens to pick up a flyer and read it. A lot of students just ignore the flyers being passed out and are uninterested. Xiao Wei is with Tracy and they pick up a flyer. Tracy tells Xiao Wei that her name is not mention in the flyer so she can keep on ignoring it. As Ri Qi and Ah Qing head back to rejoin Liu Chuan and Jia En they notice their flyers are already stuffed into trash cans. They return to the Foreign Languages department and see Liu Chuan and Jia En are hard at work passing out flyers but there aren’t a lot of student around.
Suddenly Ren Wei arrives with Jacky and Ah Di and the Men of Steel have formed a band to play music and attract attention. They are singing a song called “Crazy for Justice” and its adorable! Their singing attracts students to crowd around and Liu Chuan grabs a loudspeaker to address the crowd and asks them to have the courage to support justice because it can happen to them as well. Finally one student speaks up and that starts the trickle down effect.
Bai Xue arrives at the protest and is about to join when she sees Liu Chuan and Jia En give each other high fives and look very close. She dejectedly walks away. Professor Chang is finishing class and says that he will take attendance from now on and if a student misses three classes he will fail that student. Behind Xiao Wei is Jia En’s empty seat because she is out protesting. After all the students have left Professor Chang makes Xiao Wei stay behind and hands her the protest flyer. He asks if she’s seen it and if she’s involved? Xiao Wei says she’s not involved. Professor Chang is upset because he’s a fair person and is so hurt that Lin Jia En is outside besmirching his name. If Jia En does this then the school might write her up. If the school wants to do it then there is nothing Professor Chang can do. So he’s thought of a solution and it needs Xiao Wei’s help, it can help her and also help Jia En. Xiao Wei asks to hear what she can do to help.
Jia En is home when her mom brings her chicken soup. Jia En asks her mom what she would do if she’s expelled from school? Mom wants to know what is going on and Jia En explains the protest reason. Jia En asks if her mom would help Xiao Wei if she were in Jia En’s shoes? Mom likely would but she’s never experienced a protest around her before and only seen it on TV. But she trusts Jia En and tells her to drink the soup because she needs to keep her energy up to protest.
Bai Xue is moping at school and the students walking by are all discussing the protest. She takes out the protest flyer and reads it again. Back outside the Foreign Languages department the protest has gotten bigger with Ren Wei leading the chanting and singing and everyone getting involved to bring more student in to sign a protest list. Tracy arrives but refuses to participate and that upsets Ah Qing. Ting Ting arrives and Ah Qing wants her to participate but she turns him down as well. Tracy and Ting Ting walk off in the same direction and Ting Ting reveals that she will do what Tracy wants to do. She appreciates what Tracy said to her and she’s using Tracy as a role model now so will do what Tracy does.
The protesters are loudly chanting outside when Professor Chang walks out. Liu Chuan turns around and Professor Chang is standing right behind him and the entire group falls silent. I love Liu Chuan’s glare. Professor Chang asks them who the victim is that they are protesting for? Is it Lin Jia En? If not her then where is the victim? The other students murmur about where Xiao Wei is? Liu Chuan says they don’t need a victim they just need to review the test exam to know if he was right or wrong. Professor Chang says there is no victim and he’s not going to let this continue any longer. He calls Xiao Wei out and puts her on the stand and asks if she is the victim here? Xiao Wei says this has nothing to do with her. Professor Chang asks if he graded her incorrectly and Xiao Wei says no. All her friends jaws drop. Professor Chang asks if Jia En has anything else to add? She is doing this just to get attention and disrupt the school. He walks around and suggests that he could sue Jia En for libel but he’s being kind and will let her apologize in three days and he’ll let it go. He tells all the students to disperse and he’ll let it go.
After Professor Chang walks back inside Ri Qi runs up to Xiao Wei and asks why she is doing this and if she’s scared of something? Xiao Wei runs off and Jia En takes off after her but the protest disperses after that leaving only the core group of friends. Liu Chuan gets a page and goes to return the call. Jia En catches up to Xiao Wei and demands to know if Professor Chang is threatening her? Xiao Wei says no and she’s been opposed to Jia En escalating this from the very beginning. Jia En understands that which is why she never forced Xiao Wei to participate. Xiao Wei doesn’t want her little matter to be made big and impact other students once the school gets involved. Jia En refuses to let Professor Chang get away with hurting others but Xiao Wei reminds her that she is the victim and gets to decide what to do. Jia En is happy that Xiao Wei admits she is the victim and wants to know what she wants them to do?
Xiao Wei wants this to end immediately but Jia En won’t let it end in a way that is admitting defeat. Xiao Wei begs Jia En to stop now but Jia En yells at Xiao Wei to stop being a coward and hiding her head in the sand. Everyone has worked so hard and sacrificed so much for her! Xiao Wei yells back that she’s also sacrificed so why is everyone berating her now! Xiao Wei leaves in tears while Jia En slowly walks back to rejoin the group. She finds everyone has dispersed and the few friends left are cleaning up. Ri Qi asks Jia En what Xiao Wei wants and hears that she wants it to end immediately. Ri Qi knows Xiao Wei is very scared and afraid Professor Chang will hurt others which is why she did what she did. They were all too busy protesting they didn’t think about how Xiao Wei was feeling. Jia En walks off while the guys discuss what to do next. Ri Qi knows that finding Xiao Wei to talk about it now is not a good idea since it’ll just make her feel pressured.
Ren Wei runs over to Jia En and asks if she’s crying and comforts her to not cry because she’s worked so hard. Jia En isn’t crying and won’t cry over such a small set back. Compared to the difficulties Xiao Wei has endured this is nothing. Jia En knows what she has to do which is to continue even if she’s the only one remaining. She will stand strong until Professor Chang agrees to review the test and give Xiao Wei back the grade she earned. Jia En asks if everyone is willing to help her and they all agree. Ren Wei stares at Jia En and says she’s really changed. Jia En asks how she’s changed and Ren Wei can’t put his finger on it but he’ll stick by her side until the end. Jia En smiles and says they can fight for justice on Xiao Wei’s behalf.
Bai Xue arrives and throws her lot in with them as well. Liu Chuan calls his dad back and of course daddy wants to talk about the recent protests. He downplays it as Liu Chuan playing around and says to stop before it gets out of hand. Liu Chuan takes it seriously and dad is fine with him being young and hot blooded but he needs to understand that he has a bigger world to deal with in the future and he can’t waste it hanging around with student protesters and risk getting a blemish on his record. Liu Chuan says the blemish on his life would be if he stood back and watched a bully who isn’t stopped.
Liu Chuan grabs some snacks and heads back to the protest site. Everyone has hunkered down under the banner and protest placards and wondering where Liu Chuan is and why his call took so long? Stomachs are growling and everyone laughs. Bai Xue offers to buy food when Liu Chuan comes back bearing snacks for the gang. Bai Xue sees Liu Chuan and is a bit awkward but he hands her a snack with a smile. She accepts it and Ren Wei runs over to interject seeing that Bai Xue is a bit awkward around Liu Chuan. Jia En thanks Liu Chuan for bringing the food and he encourages her to eat but she’s too pumped to feel hungry. Liu Chuan takes out a special chocolate bar he bought just one of and put in his pocket and hands it to Jia En. She takes it with a smile and splits it in half to share with him. They eat it with a smile and both Ren Wei and Bai Xue notice. It’s starts to rain and everyone puts on their ponchos and vow not to let a little rain cool down their fighting spirit.
Xiao Wei stares at the rain outside and Tracy tells her to go to sleep. She wonders if they are still protesting and Xiao Wei thinks they arre left after she told them to stop. Tracy thinks its silly and stupid for them to protest and risk getting in trouble when it’s just Xiao Wei’s problem that she got a low grade. Xiao Wei feels people have different points of view is all. She asks Tracy for her opinion and Tracy will neither help Xiao Wei nor join the protest. If Xiao Wei won’t stand up for herself when why should Tracy help her? Xiao Wei stands there with her head down after hearing this.
The protest gang sit and endure the rain all night long and it’s so heartwarming. Jia En remembers the fun they had on New Year’s Eve together and looking at the stars. She looks up and wonders if this coming year end they can spend together to celebrate? Liu Chuan is certain of it and it’ll be a blast again. Bai Xue adds that not a single person will be missing. Ren Wei tilts Jia En’s face down and wipes the rain off and laughs at her for viewing the rain since there are no stars out tonight and who the heck views the rain. They all smile and link arms and it’s on like Donkey Kong with Professor Douchebag.
The clock shows 7 am but Xiao Wei is wide awake already and clearly spent the night awake. She gets out of bed and goes to her desk when she suddenly notices The Anthology of Western Classics book on her desk. She asks Tracy where the book came from and hears Jia En wanted to lend it to Xiao Wei. She opens the book and finds a note from Jia En and reading the note makes her cry. Jia En worries about how tired Xiao Wei is these days working and studying so hard. She reminds Xiao Wei that she is there for her anytime. Xiao Wei flips through the book and cries because she finds notes that Jia En made just for her. Xiao Wei calls her mom after transferring NT2000 back home so her younger brother can go on a school trip. Mom thanks her for working so hard to help the family but Xiao Wei doesn’t think anything of it since they are family. Mom is still so proud that Xiao Wei is the first person in their family to go to college.
The protest gang packs up in the morning and decide to take turns standing outside to gather more signatures. Jia En tells everyone to go back and she’ll stay. Liu Chuan wants her to go rest since she is the most tired. Ren Wei offers to take over and Jia En can go rest. Ah Qing discovers that the rain caused their signature book to get wet and all the signatures are now blurry. Bai Xue suggests they all go home and regroup before anyone gets sick. Suddenly Xiao Wei walks up holding her own protest placard that identifies herself as the victim and asking for a re-grade and justice. Everyone surrounds her and is happy to welcome her now that she’s changed her mind. Xiao Wei knows she’s very weak but for the first time she wants to try and be a change agent in her own life. Jia En says Xiao Wei isn’t weak and is a very strong person. Xiao Wei thanks everyone and Liu Chuan says her willingness to participate is thanks enough. Ri Qi says this isn’t just for her, their right to an education can’t be impeded by a bullying educator. They discuss how to get an event to gather enough people to get brand new signatures. Liu Chuan has an idea and everyone huddles as he explains it. It’s an unanimous vote for the event Liu Chuan has in mind which he suggests the name of “My Era of Freedom” which gets a resounding thumbs up from everyone as well. It’s set and off they go.
Thoughts of Mine:
I think having the protest around gives everyone a good reason to stop over-thinking the romance aspects of their student lives. There is so much going on other than who likes whom and I don’t want that to maudlin up the plot by focusing on it too much at this stage. Bai Xue needs more time to fully move on from her years long crush on Liu Chuan and she really is trying even if it’s not as easy as flipping a switch on and off. Ren Wei is clearly seeing Jia En in a brand new light and I’m still treading warily on where that is headed. Liu Chuan and Jia En are at a really good place, able to spend time with each other doing something both believe in without having any awkwardness about what that means. He can rub her head, she can share chocolate with him, and they can continue just being in their own little happy bubble. I actually think if Liu Chuan and Jia En lived in their own two-person world they could continue being like this for a long time. It’s not friends with benefits, but more like friends with tacit understanding. Much as I am dying for those two to confess and make out, part of the Jia En-Liu Chuan appeal is this soothing electric current that vibrates between them and I can watch go on and on.
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