The Chair Season 1 Episode 1 Recap – Brilliant Mistake
Published 7 months ago
The newly elected English Department Chair of Pembroke University, Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim, arrives in her new office. She sees a gift with a note that reads, “Congratulations. Love, Bill”.
Ji-Yoon holds her first department meeting. Before she can even begin with the first order of business, Elliot, a senior member of the department, points out that Bill is not yet there. Bill is the former department chair; he stepped down when his wife died. He tells Ji-Yoon that they should wait for Bill and consider the gravity of what just happened to him. Ji-Yoon tells them that Bill is currently sending off his daughter to college and that he will be there soon.
Bill hugs his daughter goodbye at the airport. His daughter tells him that he should get his act together because what happened is already in the past, and he should move on. Instead of going home or to work, Bill gets a few drinks, pisses on the parking lot, and rides a golf cart to locate where he parked his car. He drives the golf cart until he crashes.
Ji-Yoon tells the other faculty members they are in crisis – their budget is being gutted because their enrollment is at an all-time low. Joan, another professor, barges into the room and announces her office to the basement under the gym. This causes an uproar among the other people in the meeting, and it gets even worse because another member says that he heard a rumor that the school is forcing anyone over 55 to retire. Ji-Yoon stands, tells everyone not to panic, and promises that she will not allow their department to be ransacked.
The dean, Paul Larson, hands Ji-Yoon a list of faculty members highlighting John, Elliot, and Joan as professors with the highest salaries but the lowest enrollments. Ji-Yoon quickly returns the list to him and tells him that no one from her department’s dispensable. He says he would like to see her use her persuasion skills as chair and convince them to retire. Instead of agreeing with this, Ji-Yoon tells him she has ideas on increasing enrollments. She says that Yazmin McKay is up for tenure and wants to offer her the Distinguished Lectureship. He tells her they can’t talk about that because enrollment is at an all-time low. He insists that she give him three names, three people to put up for retirement.
Elliot watches as lots of students exit Yazmin’s class. They have the same schedule, and his class has only three students.
Ji-Yoon calls Yazmin to her office and suggests that they combine Elliot’s class and hers. She says that she wants him to see Yazmin in action. Yazmin tells her that she has already set her syllabus, but Ji-Yoon insists that doing so will help with Yaz’s tenure.
Lila, a Ph.D. student, working closely with him throughout her dissertation, sends multiple messages to Bill. He is running late for class, getting up, and getting ready for work. He does not see his car anywhere, so he runs until he finds a scooter and steals it. He trips and lands into a bush just as Dafna, one of his students, drives by. She gives him a ride and asks him to sign a book he authored. She says that he is a household god in their family and that he is the reason why she chose Pembroke.
Yazmin is giving a lecture when Elliot cuts in and treats her like it was her idea to join him in his class. Meanwhile, Joan gives yet another boring lecture where no student ever participates in the discussion.
Joan shows Ji-Yoon her new office, and she sees how terrible her working conditions are. She says that she will file a report because what they did to Joan is a Title IX lawsuit waiting to happen. She also asks Joan to check her student evals because they need to retain students, or they would be gutted. Joan asks her if she is asking everyone. She tells her that she will indeed ask everyone, even when it is hard for her to ask Bill. She says that things are still weird between them.
Bill arrives at his classroom and prepares his things so he can begin his lesson. Lila approaches him and gives him everything he needs. He projects his laptop to the big screen, and footage of Sharon, his deceased wife, plays. In the footage, Sharon is not wearing anything except pajamas, so her breasts and her pregnant belly are exposed, and she tells Bill that she thinks the baby is coming. Watching this makes Bill, who is still grieving, smile and forget that the whole class is watching the footage too. Lila comes forward and brings him back to his senses. He apologizes to the students and begins his lesson.
Yazmin shares with Elliot that one of the activities she asks the students to do is tweet their favorite line from Moby-Dick. This does not appeal to Elliot because he says that he wants the students to become absorbed in the story and not just look for the flashiest soundbite. Yazmin tells him that it’s a way of connecting with the students, and she finds that it mobilizes the skills of close reading.
Ji-Yoon goes to her office and finds Bill inside. He still has the keys to his former office, so Ji-Yoon tries to get them from him. He makes her chase him until they end up on the couch, and it looks like they are being naughty. A staff member comes into the office and sees them in an unsightly position, so she immediately returns. Ji-Yoon stands and tells Bill that he is making her look unprofessional. She tells him that she wants to give the Distinguished Lectureship to Yazmin, so he asks if the dean approves. Ji-Yoon says that he does not and that what he wants is for her to talk John, Joan, and Elliot to retirement. She reminds him that he should not take any more rides from female students because he took a ride from the daughter of one of the Board of Trustees.
Ji-Yoon comes to his father’s house to fetch her adoptive daughter, Ju Ju. Her father tells her that Ju Ju’s teacher said to him that they need to bring Ju Ju to a psychiatrist because she drew an alarming picture – a picture of her killing Ji-Yoon. That night, Ju Ju asks Ji-Yoon who will take care of her if she dies, and she tells her that she does not need to worry about that.
Joan waits for Ji-Yoon at the Title IX office. Ji-Yoon texts her and tells her she will be there in 2 minutes. However, while walking toward the Title IX office, Ji-Yoon gets stopped y Lila, who tells her that she cannot find Bill. Ji-Yoon looks for Bill and finds him sleeping on the couch in her office. She wakes him up and tells him he’s late to class again.
Joan tells the Title IX office staff that they should begin and not wait for Ji-Yoon anymore. A few minutes into their meeting, the staff tells Joan that she will still evaluate if what Joan came for qualifies as a Title IX violation. Joan tells her that her butt is sticking out of her shorts, and while she might want to be positive, a Title IX intake office should not be the place for that.
Ji-Yoon tells Bill that he should get his act together and start showing up because his reputation is the only reason his enrolment is high. Bill goes to class, and during his discussion, he unconsciously makes a Nazi salute while pointing to something on the board. This gets recorder by students, and the video starts to circulate.
I am excited about how the issues of sexism and racism are going into play here. An Asian woman as that English Department Chair? This is just so refreshing! Also excited about the love story between Bill and Ji-Yoon, although it is still unclear why they have a past when Bill’s wife just passed away. Did they have an affair? Anyway, Bill’s Nazi salute looks like something that might blow up, which will not be good for everyone in their department.