Review: Twenty-Five, Twenty-One

THE SHORT VERDICT:

Nostalgic, fresh, and so full of feels, Twenty-Five, Twenty-One is the show that I didn’t know I needed, in my life.

The writing is thoughtful and tender, and combined with great casting and excellent delivery, our characters pop with so much life and heart, their relationships feel so raw and real, and their journeys feel so familiar and relatable, that I couldn’t get enough of it all.

To top it all off, the music is pitch perfect and excellently applied, making the already great feels land with extra oomph and amplification.

Some lens adjustments are necessary (and so important!) – which I’ll talk more about shortly.

THE LONG VERDICT:

I love this show right away, and I loved it all the way through to the end, through all the ups and downs that Show introduces for our characters.

One of my favorite things about this show, is how fresh it feels.

Many dramas feel like they’re rehashing similar storylines and working to make them feel fresh. This doesn’t feel anything like that at all; this just feels fresh, all on its own. I love that.

The feels are so real, with this one.

I found that I approached each episode with a mix of glee and dread; glee because I knew I was going to love it, and dread because.. I felt like the first experience of watching this show, was almost too precious to use up.

But I watched it anyway, and loved it anyway.

It’s fantastic. ❤️

OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE

I really enjoyed the OST; the music has such a spot-on ’90s feel to it, and the music really served to immerse me in this drama world, so much so that I felt like I was right there with our characters.

I really like Track 1, Starlight, and I also really, really enjoy Track 4, Your Existence. They both give me breezy yet heartfelt vibes, and they both feel perfectly suited to our story of growing up, along with all of its joys and foibles.

Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to to it, while you read the review.

As an alternative, here’s a soothing piano cover of the OST. I personally really like it. ❤️

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS

Here are a few things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:

1. Think “coming-of-age” rather than “romance”

I feel like this could be the single most important piece of advice I could give you, around adjusting your viewing lens.

While there is romance in our story, Show is quick to give us multiple hints and indications that its main focus is our characters’ coming-of-age journeys, rather than their love lives per se.

I think some viewers studiously chose to ignore Show’s hints and indications (which, to be fair, are served up quickly, starting from its early episodes), and ended up feeling very disappointed.

On the other hand, with the right lens on, and an understanding that there’s no guarantee that our characters will do well, or that they’ll be soulmates for life, I found the bright-eyed hopefulness of youth to be so pure, and so bright, that it just filled this drama world, and it made me smile, just to bear witness to it.

2. You don’t need to know anything about fencing, to enjoy this show

Neither do you need to have an active interest in sports, or sports dramas, either.

I don’t have a specific interest in sports dramas (although that might be evolving, since I’ve very much enjoyed the last few sports-related shows I watched very well), and I knew nothing about fencing coming into this show, and yet, Show had me fully invested and on the edge of my seat, around all the fencing stuff.

Really well done.

3. Show is honest, for better or for worse.

I think knowing to expect this, helps.

This show feels so honest, from the happy times to the sad times, and it’s one of my favorite things about it.

There’s no holding back on the joyful glee, and that’s also no sugarcoating the heartache. I felt like I was right there with our characters, feeling what they feel. I loved that.

STUFF I LIKED

It’s nostalgia magic for me

This show turned out to be lightning in a bottle, for me.

The way this show brings the magic of youth to three-dimensional, popping, throbbing life, is so, so precious, that it basically made me amenable to roll with Show, regardless of how this story turned out.

I’ve never really thought of myself as being overly sentimental about my growing up years, but this show makes me feel like I’m reliving those years, and feeling the magic of it all, even though my growing up years weren’t exactly like those of our characters.

Yet, watching each episode felt kinda-sorta like revisiting my teenage years, and re-feeling all the feelings that come with being young, innocent and on the cusp of growing up.

That’s quite magical, to me, and I think that’s the reason I love this show so much.

General handling and execution

Overall, I feel that the handling and execution that we get with this show, is really excellent.

Sometimes, I didn’t immediately see the wisdom or value in the execution decisions made for our story, but inevitably, I would come around by the end of the arc or the episode, to see why stuff is presented the way it is.

Here’s the quickish spotlight on a few things that I thought Show did very well.

If you’re wary of spoilers, just skimming the headings in this section should give you a flavor for what I’m talking about.

[SPOILER ALERT]

The way Show works the IMF crisis into our story

I’d been curious to see how Show would work with using the IMF crsis as a backdrop, without it feeling too suffocatingly like a history lesson, and Show does beautifully, on that front.

I like how Show keeps its IMF focus mainly on our characters’ personal experiences, thus making it all that much more relatable, while giving us little nuggets of history here and there, like how the public had donated their personal gold belongings, to help the nation through the crisis.

Like how Hee Do (Kim Tae Ri) couldn’t care less about the IMF, until it impacted her fencing dreams. And how Yi Jin’s (Nam Joo Hyuk) entire life has turned upside down, because his family’s gone bankrupt.

This keeps it relatable, and prevents it from overtaking the story.

The way Show works with two timelines

I really like the premise, where our entire story is basically viewed in the mind’s eye of the protagonist’s daughter, as she goes through her mom’s diary, while going through a ballet slump herself.

To my eyes, the present day portion is important enough, that I don’t begrudge it its screen time – even though it’s the past timeline that had my heart.

Not only does it show us that Hee Do’s understanding of her mother continues to evolve in the present, ie, it’s an ongoing, incomplete journey, it also creates this mirror effect, where Min Chae (Choi Myung Bin) in the present, goes through a similar grappling of her own, in the midst of a Big Event of the times, like Hee Do herself had done, in the past.

That mirror effect made this story all the more thought-provoking, I felt.

The way Show works with context

Going into episode 7, I’d been impatient to see how the Asian Games panned out, and had been all ready to watch that finals match from beginning to end.

However, Show had other ideas, and, even though I’d been slightly disappointed at first, that we only see snippets of the finals match, I do think that it works out well, overall.

In choosing not to focus 100% on the finals match itself, Show chooses to give us more backstory on Hee Do and Dad (Baek Suk Kwang), and how she’d started fencing, and well, I just can’t seem to ever say no to context, heh.

I loved that additional context that we got, and I do think that it helped to enrich my understanding of Hee Do’s frame of mind, during the competition, right up to the point where she was neck and neck with Yu Rim (Bona), and then upon her victory as well.

And, even though there are times when I kind of wish that we’d stay in the 1990s instead of dipping back into the pandemic present, I stand by my belief that context is supreme, and therefore, I appreciate – in principle – the way Show takes us back to Min Chae and Present Day Hee Do.

I like the way Show interweaves the lesson that Hee Do had learned from Dad, and draws it out now, so that Hee Do imparts that same wisdom to Min Chae. Even when I’m impatient to see my 1990s characters, I do like these threads that emphasize that Min Chae’s experience is more connected and similar to her mom’s than she realizes.

I also appreciate the fact that, thanks to the diaries, Min Chae is now at a place where she feels able to express to her mom, why she wants to quit ballet.

Compared to where we’d started, where Min Chae had wanted nothing more than to get far away from Mom, this is excellent progress.

And – it’s all because she understands Mom’s context better now.

I do really like the idea that the wisdom that Dad had passed to Hee Do, is now being passed to Min Chae. Dad seems like such a good, decent and nice man; I’m glad that his legacy is being honored, in this organic, earthy, from-the-lips-of-elders-to-the-hearts-of-children sort of way.

The bookending in episode 14

I think it’s clever of Show to bookend episode 14 with that TV interview that Yi Jin does with Hee Do.

Given the context of the episode, it makes sense that Hee Do would have been too busy and preoccupied, to have written any diary entries, during this time.

To have Min Chae search for news on Yi Jin and Hee Do online, and discover that TV interview, which then segues us into the events of the episode, works really well.

And then to have the events of the episode eventually segue back to the end of the TV interview, lends such a depth of poignance to everything we know about the relationship between Yi Jin and Hee Do.

It’s excellently framed and executed.

The preparation for heartache

Show’s does a solid enough job, of getting me to see this as a coming-of-age journey for our characters, that I felt relatively prepared to deal with the heartache.

Plus, there’s Min Chae, whose very existence – and her lack of familiarity with Yi Jin – is enough to warn us ahead of time, that there’s heartache built into Yi Jin and Hee Do’s love story.

In that sense, I feel like I’d been reasonably well prepared, for the turn that episode 14 takes, at least in terms of the love story between Yi Jin and Hee Do.

In a similar sort of way, Show prepares us, a little bit, for the separation to come, between Hee Do and Yu Rim, which is one of the relationships that matters most to me, in this drama world.

Hee Do mentioning in the TV interview, that her most challenging time, had been when she’d won gold in Madrid, which had been her match against Yu Rim.

That already prepares me, somewhat, for what happens with Yu Rim, this episode, which is helpful.

Knowing that these events are coming for our characters, makes the scenes in February 2000 land with an extra layer of poignance. Seeing them laugh and play together, while knowing that this is the beginning of the end of an era, is a rather heart-pinching experience.

I found myself trying to savor the camaraderie extra, because I knew that it would have to come to an end, before very long.

And yet, through it all, I felt that knowing it was coming, was better than not knowing at all.

[END SPOILER]

Kim Tae Ri as Hee Do

Even though I have varying levels of affection for several of our other key actors in this show, like Nam Joo Hyuk, for example, I have to confess that it’s Kim Tae Ri who has my heart, in this show.

This is literally my favorite role of Kim Tae Ri’s that I’ve seen, to date. She is flat-out WONDERFUL, as Hee Do. I just LUFF her, so much.

I know reactions are mixed about how convincing Kim Tae Ri is, as an 18-year-old high schooler, but I personally think she nails it. I am completely convinced that Hee Do is an unpolished, gawky teenager, who’s all limbs, and all heart.

I love what an irrepressible bundle of flaily, gangly, chaotic energy she is, and how her feelings are as large as I would expect of any wide-eyed, innocent teenager who’s unacquainted with the worries, or the scary things, in the world.

Hee Do strikes me as someone that you just can’t keep down for too long, and I just love Hee Do’s energy and spirit.

Her bright-eyed, hopeful, passionate approach to the world is wonderful and infectious. She’s so full of passion and enthusiasm, and her dreams are so big, and so pure.

And I love how she’s instinctively empathetic as well. She’s all heart and hope, and I love that about her, so much.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. For a start, I love how simple Hee Do’s joys are.

Getting to see her fencing idol on a Saturday, even if it’s from a distance, and getting to read her favorite comic book are enough to bring a gigantic smile to her face, and more than a simple bounce to her step, and I find that very innocent and endearing.

Hee Do’s shortsighted plans for a forced transfer also strike me as very teenagery. It amuses me that it doesn’t ever occur to her, that getting arrested in and of itself, could get in the way of her having a career in sports.

Her outrageous plans were fun to watch, though, and in particular, I enjoyed that whole umbrella-fencing sequence, where she singlehandedly commands the attention of both petty gangs, and everyone stops fighting, just to see how she thwacks that one boy into submission.

I found that very amusing, and also, I found it rather thrilling, to see her fencing skills and instincts at play.

Even though Hee Do is supposed to be in a slump, it seems like there’s no problem whatsoever with her fencing performance, when she isn’t actively thinking about it, like during the umbrella-fencing thing, and also, when Coach Yang throws that apple into the air, and Hee Do pierces it right through, with her foil.

She does have a knack for fencing, it looks like, and I’m glad that she’s passionate enough about it, to pursue it this actively, despite being in a slump and not performing up to expectation.

I love-love-LOVE that scene, where Hee Do floats that umbrella down to her idol Yu Rim, and then hugs herself in glee, at the thought that her idol is using the umbrella that she’s provided.

It’s so very pure, and so very cute. I love it.

E2. I love how frank and unfiltered Hee Do is, not only with her own feelings, but also, when she talks with others. There is absolutely no guile about her, and when she attempts to be polite and hide her feelings a little bit, it’s not hard to see right through her, to her true heart.

I love how nonchalant and devil-may-care Hee Do is, in terms of her transfer to her new school.

She’s happily curious about things, and will ask if she wants to know something, but she’s also not at all intimidated by her new surroundings and the new people around her.

She literally only cares about fencing and about being near her idol Yu Rim, and her joy at these two things, is so, so pure.

Also, the way she goofy-spazzes about Yu Rim, like she’s her total girl-crush, is very cute.

E3. I love Hee Do’s passion for fencing, and her desire to do well. The fact that she’s the only one who asks Coach Yang (Kim Hye Eun) for help, says a lot about Hee Do and her ability to think differently from the average student athlete.

I don’t know what it is, but I got a lot of vicarious satisfaction from watching Hee Do train hard, for the national team qualifier, under Coach Yang’s guidance.

Her unquestioning obedience, even when she doesn’t understand the rationale behind something like learning the choreography for a pop song (heh), is very endearing.

E4. I just love the can’t-get-me-down quality that just exudes out of Hee Do.

She might be peeved at Yi Jin, and she might be disillusioned with Yu Rim, but she’s still so effervescent, and so full of vim. I love her.

I found myself really enjoying her partnership with Ji Woong (Choi Hyun Wook), as sudden as it was.

I kinda love how Hee Do throws herself at the chance to learn dance from Ji Woong, and isn’t deterred, even though, at first, he looks like he wants nothing to do with her.

I love that she manages to get his attention with the promise of a mutually beneficial deal, and I love how that eventually grows their connection, such that by the time Hee Do actually masters the choreography that Ji Woong teaches her, they feel like actual friends.

Also, I do love the detail, that Hee Do’s basically gained access to Ji Woong’s and Seung Wan’s (Lee Joo Myoung) secret hideout, which technically means that she’s more than just a regular friend now, right?

I love how matter-of-fact Hee Do is about the whole thing, while still being openly appreciative of the space that Seung Wan’s made of the rooftop shed.

I find it really endearing, that all episode long, we see Hee Do determinedly keeping up with all of Coach Yang’s instructions, even when she doesn’t understand why some of these instructions have been given.

That wholehearted dedication and unquestioning trust is very endearing to me.

And when Coach Yang drums it into Hee Do that she’s lacking in strategic thinking, I have to love how Hee Do chooses to tackle the problem with Snooty Sunbae (Bang Eun Jung), who refuses to let her juniors train at night.

It’s freaking brilliant, the way Hee Do approaches Sunbae with such enthusiasm, to apologize, and to advocate for the entire team to train together in the evenings.

With everyone watching, Sunbae can’t bully Hee Do for it, and Hee Do basically gets a public go-ahead to train at night, whether Sunbae joins her or not. I love that.

And the way Coach Yang has to stop herself from chuckling over this, as she overhears the whole thing, just makes it all even better. 😁

E5. I loved watching Hee Do at the tryouts; her every win felt so vicariously thrilling to me.

I also love her shrieks of jubilation at every positive milestone. I love this wild abandon about her. She doesn’t care whether anyone thinks her shrieks are appropriate or not, or well-mannered and ladylike or not.

She just expresses herself to the degree which she needs to, and I love that.

It’s really exciting to see her come up against traditionally better ranked competitors, and come out victorious.

In particular, I thought it was very savvy and strategic of her, to cede 5 points to Kim Jeong Hyeon, right off the bat, in order to analyze her fencing style.

I love that in the end, Coach Yang’s faith in Hee Do, is the missing piece that helps to anchor Hee Do’s own faith in herself.

It’s true that she hasn’t built up enough faith in her own abilities, so it’s just really cool to see her grab onto Coach Yang’s faith in her as a stand-in, and ride that to victory. YESS.

E5. On a different note, I like that Hee Do also remains steady and undisturbed, in the face of the coach’s very apparent bias in Yu Rim’s favor.

Yu Rim is the gold medalist, after all, and it feels like after Hee Do’s worked so hard to get into the team, she’s basically treated almost like some kind of second-class citizen, particularly when in context with Yu Rim the gold medalist.

I like that Hee Do doesn’t allow that to get to her too much.

In fact, I really like that she always just looks for a way to cope and make herself happy, even when things don’t happen the way she’d like.

Like when Yu Rim turns out to be the snorer between them, Hee Do doesn’t waste time angsting over it. Instead, she takes out one of Yi Jin’s broadcast recordings, and comforts herself by listening to that. I really like that about her.

E7. It feels so significant, that the thing that propels Hee Do to victory, in this all-important match, is the reminder that Dad had imparted to her; that she fences for the joy of it, and not for anything else.

That truly is the thing that allows Hee Do to transcend the pressure of the moment – pressure which ultimately gets to Yu Rim – and win that milestone match. HUZZAH! 🤩

I truly had my heart in my throat for Hee Do, not just out of wanting her to win, but from feeling vicariously, all the emotions of the moment, because I felt so invested in her journey.

[END SPOILER]

Nam Joo Hyuk as Yi Jin

I really enjoyed Nam Joo Hyuk as Yi Jin. It feels to me, like this role fits him like a glove.

He totally looks the part of a young man, who, up till recently, had grown up with all the comforts he could have ever wanted, and is now acquainting himself with the harsh reality of working multiple jobs in order to make rent.

What he gives us, in Yi Jin, reminds me of his work in The Light in Your Eyes, and even The School Nurse Files.

Both of those were roles where I was genuinely impressed by his delivery, and felt that he was proving himself to be a more serious actor than one might first assume, if only looking at his fluffier, relatively easier roles like Start-Up, Weightlifting Kim Bok Joo, and School 2015.

I really enjoyed Yi Jin as a character, and I really like the way Show helps us to get to know him, by showing us different facets to him, one at a time, until we get a fuller sense of him as a person.

The further we get into our story, the clearer it becomes, the kind of underlying angst that lies in Yi Jin’s story, and I really liked the way Nam Joo Hyuk delivers it all.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. I really like Yi Jin’s temperament, so far.

He doesn’t get riled up easily, like when the neighbor on his paper route makes a fuss about receiving his paper late, or when Hee Do tries to repair that copy of Full House, and fails so miserably.

He could have gotten upset both times, but instead, he remains calm as he apologizes to the neighbor and assures him that it’s just coz it’s his first day on the job, and that his paper would be on time going forward, and he chuckles over Hee Do’s desperate drawings, which she’s used to replace the ruined ones.

Plus, there’s how he works to protect Hee Do at the nightclub, even though they are barely acquainted.

I kinda love how he tells his so-called friend that the one good thing about his family going bankrupt, is how he gets to see people at their worst; that that so-called friend should have treated him this way from the start, so that he wouldn’t have been mistaken that they were friends.

YES. I love how matter-of-fact that takedown is, and I love how Yi Jin doesn’t stoop to his friend’s way of doing things, just because he’s down and out.

I love that earthy steeliness about him.

E2. The flashbacks to Yi Jin’s happier, more carefree days, land so poignantly, in contrast to his current situation.

What a rude shock it must be for him, to one day have the perfect life, and the next, to have that perfect life give way to his worst nightmare, pretty much.

That scene, where his father’s ex-associates are badgering him for information his father’s whereabouts, is so painful to watch.

Yi Jin looks so deeply pained, and so sad and so helpless, all at the same time.

I felt so sorry for him, when he eked out that promise, to never be happy again, as a way to make up for the misery that these men are now in, because of his father.

Oof. That hurt to watch, seriously.

Poor Yi Jin. He should never have been place in such a situation, because, honestly, what can he do?

He can’t give them back the money they lost, because he barely has any money himself, and he can’t tell them his father’s whereabouts, because he doesn’t actually know where his father is.

Nam Joo Hyuk does such a fantastic job of this scene. He made my heart break for Yi Jin, and he made Yi Jin’s dilemma feel so painfully, profoundly wretched. 💔

E3. I have to love how quietly droll Yi Jin is, when Seung Wan suddenly changes her attitude towards him, and is all eager-to-please hoobae, her snooty landlady’s daughter persona completely forgotten.

It’s so in character for Yi Jin to be gently sardonic about it, without actually being nasty, and it’s so like him, to not take advantage of Seung Wan’s sudden desire to please, and still promise to keep to the shower timings that she’d requested earlier.

In fact, the way Yi Jin later threatens those boys who’ve been bullying his brother Yi Hyun (Choi Min Young), is pretty low-key as well.

He definitely makes his presence felt, and he does straight-up threaten to kill them, but his manner, as he does this, strikes me as quite tamped-down, and almost.. reasonable. I like that about him.

Also, it’s poignant and so very endearing, that when Little Bro asks Yi Jin not to get involved anymore, Yi Jin actually apologizes and says that he was wrong.

I just love the idea of Yi Jin being a Big Brother who’ll listen to his little brother’s opinions, and give in to his little brother. 😍

E3. I really love the conversation that Yi Jin has with Yu Rim after the Full House debacle (which was so great in itself); he’s just so reasonable about it all.

When Yu Rim tells him not to get too close to Hee Do coz she doesn’t like Hee Do, I like how Yi Jin straight-up tells Yu Rim that she’s being childish.

He just has this way of being honest and matter-of-fact about things, without actually sounding offensive. It’s one of my favorite things about him.

I love how he gently points out to Yu Rim that she’d liked him for his fancy sports car, and not for himself, and then deftly lifts her spirits, by reframing everything, so that her sense of annoyance at herself, gives way to a sense of anticipation of actually meeting her actual first love.

That’s so masterful, really, and I love how Yi Jin manages to navigate this delicate conversation so well, and without even looking like he has to think or try very hard, to do it.

E3. The arc with Yi Jin’s father (Park Yoon Hee) had me with my heart in my throat, honestly.

On the one hand, Hee Do means well, in her enthusiastic, blustery sort of way, and I actually like the detail, that Yi Jin hides when she tells him to, without even thinking to question her judgment.

On the other hand, how heartbreaking, that the man that Yi Jin hides from, turns out to be his father, who’s on a rare trip to Seoul, to see his sons.

I’m SO glad that Yi Jin manages to meet Dad after all, and have those few precious minutes with him.

With him feeling so burdened and alone in the world, I feel that it’s extra precious, that Yi Jin gets to feel, at least for a moment, that he’s the child, and not the adult.

Their short meeting lands so poignantly, to my eyes.

The way Yi Jin tries his best to be strong, but his sadness kind of leaking out anyway; the sheen of tears in his eyes; the crack in his voice.

The way Yi Jin seems to be trying to soak up every last second of Dad’s presence; the way Yi Jin brushes his tears away, and makes that promise to Dad, to reunite their family; it’s all so, so heart-achey and full of pathos.

Aw. I’m glad Yi Jin gets to hug Dad, and my heart can’t help but go out to Yi Jin, as he wipes away tears, even as he leans into Dad’s shoulder. Sweet, dear, strong, earnest boy. 😭❤️

E5. It’s so poignant to see Yi Jin’s semblance of normalcy come crashing down on him.

I feel for him, so much, that he feels the need to ditch everything and run away, with his brother Yi Hyun.

I really do feel for how he’s having to grow up so fast. Where before, he could’ve been a carefree college kid who had only to worry about his exams, now he’s literally worrying for his entire family’s wellbeing.

I like how Yi Jin throws himself into working at the fish market, even though he’s never done such work before. I like that he doesn’t have any qualms about working this type of laborious job, even though he’d lived the cushy life of a chaebol prince up till not that long ago.

That incident where Yi Hyun pretends not to know him at the fish market, though, is heartbreaking. It’s even sadder, when it’s contrasted with how proud Yi Hyun had been of his hyung, not that long ago.

I credit Yi Jin for being so calm when confronting Yi Hyun about it, because I’m sure that anyone else in his place, would have been more than a little hurt and upset, and would have likely shown that.

Instead, Yi Jin is restrained, even as he talks to Yi Hyun about it, and then, when Yi Hyun makes to storm away, Yi Jin stops him, saying that it’s cold, and leaves instead.

Oof. Yi Jin really is doing his best to be a good hyung.

Perhaps because of this, it hurts even more, to hear Yi Jin admit to Uncle (Park Jung Pyo), that he thinks Yi Hyun is right; that he had wanted to run away himself, and had used Yi Hyun as an excuse.

I really appreciate this about Yi Jin. He isn’t quick to point fingers or shift blame; in fact, he’s quick to examine himself and reflect on the true state of his heart.

That must be so hard to do, given how much Yi Jin has suffered lately, with all the creditors coming after him, through no fault of his own.

E6. I’m glad to see Yi Jin make the decision to go back to Seoul. And I very much like his reason for choosing to go back: because he’s done running away. This feels mature and brave, and I’m glad that he has his family’s blessings, as he leaves Pohang.

I’m also glad that Yi Hyun listens to Seung Wan’s radio DJ advice, and makes up with Yi Jin, as Yi Jin leaves for Seoul.

The way he puts that apology note, along with some music and a player, and what looks like nicotine gum, in Yi Jin’s things, feels quite perfect.

It’s matter-of-fact yet affectionate, and it not only communicates Yi Hyun’s apology, it also reminds Yi Jin not to neglect himself and the things that he loves, and to quit smoking. I like that.

E9. I really appreciate the way Yi Jin works to protect both Hee Do and Yu Rim, in the course of making the documentary.

The fact that he says no to that sunbae (Yoon Joo Man) so firmly, even though it would be considered ill-mannered of him, to talk back to someone more senior, says a lot about how serious he is, in wanting to do his best by both Hee Do and Yu Rim.

It’s too bad that Sunbae is so adamant on creating some sense of Drama, in their documentary, that he ignores Yi Jin’s decision to NOT feature the simultaneous touch, and forces Yu Rim and Hee Do to execute it repeatedly, until Hee Do falls and twists her ankle. Gah. How awful.

I hated Sunbae for taking things into his own hand, and even more, for treating both athletes with such condescension, just because they didn’t know any better but to follow his instructions.

I’m so glad that Yi Jin comes running, and confronts Sunbae about it.

That comeback that he throws as Sunbae is so perfect, when Sunbae taunts him, asking if he’ll take responsibility for poor ratings.

“I’ll take responsibility. But what if the athletes get injured? Will you take responsibility? How will you do that? They have competitions lined up starting next year. How will you take responsibility?”

YES. Perfectly said, Yi Jin.

E10. I find my heart going out to Yi Jin, as he is forced to navigate the politics of what it means to work in a corporate environment.

The fact that he’s expected to apologize for the comfort of the general population of colleagues, never mind whether he was right or wrong; the fact that he’s ribbed about his lack of a college degree; the fact that there’s pressure on him to do well, because he’s the first high school graduate whom the station has hired.

It’s a lot to carry on his shoulders, particularly on top of the family burdens that he holds, and it makes my heart pinch, to watch Yi Jin gather his fortitude, to do the necessary.

I do really appreciate that beat when Dad calls, and they have a bit of a heart to heart conversation.

I really like how Dad picks up quite quickly, on the fact that Yi Jin’s struggling, but working hard to take everything in his stride.

It means even more, I feel, that Dad picks up on this, even though Yi Jin doesn’t actively tell Dad anything about what he’s going through.

I appreciate that even though Dad can’t make Yi Jin’s troubles go away, and neither can Dad really offer any solutions, the fact that Dad is understanding, and shares his own struggles, gives Yi Jin a sense of perspective.

That feels really important, given how confronting the struggles can be sometimes.

And, it makes me glad that Dad is in touch with Yi Jin, even though they aren’t living together at the moment.

[END SPOILER]

Hee Do and Yi Jin together

I know some viewers struggled with the idea of Yi Jin and Hee Do becoming close, with him being 22, and Hee Do, still a high-schooler, at 18.

However, I have to say that Show does such a great job of demonstrating the bond between them, from the time they meet, to how organically it grows into something bigger, stronger and deeper than they’d imagined, that I had zero difficulties with their age-gap connection.

In fact, one of the things I loved the most about the bond between Yi Jin and Hee Do, is how it defies definition and boundaries, pretty much all the way through.

Just because it’s unusual for an 18-year-old to be close to a 22-year-old, doesn’t stop them from reaching out to each other, and understanding and supporting each other, in real and tangible, and very precious ways.

It’s so wholesome and pure, and I love it, so much.

Sure, things turn romantic between them eventually, but I just wanted to state for the record, that this relationship was wonderful and precious, long before it turned romantic.

Watching these two people bond over the big and small things, gave me a lot of joy, and here are all of my resulting thoughts, in this next spoiler section.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. I love how different Hee Do and Yi Jin are, and how it shows up in their interactions.

She’s all bursts of pure, unfiltered emotional energy, like when she yells at him for breaking the peeing boy statue in her garden, and he’s all matter-of-fact groundedness.

I love the way he seems to be consistently unruffled by her outbursts, and just homes in on the logical things, like checking her returned comics for snot, and telling her that her plan for transferring school sucks.

Plus, I do love that he is so amused by her attempt to repair the comic book. He’s so good-natured. And, it does warm my heart, to think that he’s grown a little bit fond of the noisy, chaotic girl who’s inexplicably invaded his life from the most unexpected corners.

I love that closing scene, where Hee Do yells after him with so much unadulterated joy, to tell him that she’s going to transfer schools after all, and keep fencing, and that she’d used the special right that only comes with her age, that he’d reminded her of.

I love how delighted Hee Do looks, in this moment, and I also really like Yi Jin’s quietly muttered “congratulations,” as he cycles away.

That feels pitch perfect, because he’s happy for her, but at the same time, we’re reminded that his life isn’t rosy at all right now, and he’s got to keep working, to keep making ends meet.

I’m really looking forward to watching how this unexpected connection between Hee Do and Yi Jin continues to grow.

E2. I love-love-LOVE the interactions between Hee Do and Yi Jin. It all feels so natural and easy, almost as if it were all unscripted – even though I know it is.

I really like how Yi Jin continues to be friendly with Hee Do, even though he’s in a really tough personal situation, and it would be easy to just withdraw into himself and just not talk to people. I actually really appreciate that detail about him.

Even at his lowest, with all this responsibility bearing down on him, for being his family’s son, he makes it a point to visit Yu Rim, to make sure she’s ok, and when he runs into Hee Do, he makes it a point to connect with her, even though she makes it a point to avoid him, at least a little bit, for the fact that he knows Yu Rim.

I love that Hee Do’s petty effort to distance herself from Yi Jin doesn’t last long at all, and that the moment he lets on that he’d heard her happy news about her transfer, in the morning, she completely opens up, with her cheeky-mischievous nature firmly back in place.

I love that little detail, where he extends his hand to congratulate her, and she smacks it away, with a naughty grin, saying that she hadn’t heard him.

This feels so artless, carefree and innocent; I love it so much.

I found the scene on the bus very cute, with her giving up the seat to him as a way to respect the elderly, then him saving her from a fall by grabbing her by the backpack – and then giving up the seat to her, as athlete protection.

Tee hee. They just this really good rhythm with each other, with the way they rib each other, without missing a beat.

E2. I’d kind of thought that Hee Do being privy to this very private pain of Yi Jin’s, might put a damper on their relationship, but in true Hee Do fashion, she doesn’t allow this to get in the way of bonding with Yi Jin, and in true Yi Jin fashion, he doesn’t allow his personal situation to get in the way of being friends with Hee Do.

The way Hee Do navigates the conversation with Yi Jin, following this incident, feels so pitch perfect.

She remains unfiltered, and doesn’t shy away from talking about it, but the way she talks about it is – for her, anyway – quite gentle and tentative.

Plus, I think it helps that Hee Doo naturally goes off on regular tangents, which inadvertently work to take the focus off Yi Jin’s situation, somewhat.

I think, together, this has the effect of taking away the shame of the moment, for Yi Jin. Like, it’s ok to talk about it, because it’s nothing that shameful.

I love that when Yi Jin says that he would like to turn back time, Hee Do thinks of the one thing that brings her pure, unadulterated joy, and takes Yi Jin to experience it.

The upside-down faucet fountain is such a simple thing, and it brings her so much joy; I love it. I love how it really doesn’t take much, to bring a smile to Hee Do’s face.

I also love how Yi Jin keeps an open mind to this serving of happiness that Hee Do is offering him.

Instead of snubbing the small happiness it represents, he gamely thinks of a way to take it to the next level, by turning on all the faucets, to make a medley of faucet fountains.

Hee Do’s wonder at Yi Jin’s ability to think big, and her accompanying cackle of happiness is so perfect. Hee.

It’s so great, to see them playing happily in the water like that. In that moment, it feels like all of Yi Jin’s troubles have melted away, and that’s precious.

In a similar sort of vein, I love Hee Do’s assertive proposal to Yi Jin, at the close of our episode.

After they’re all wet and out of breath from running away from the security guard, Hee Do, eyes shining, grins breathlessly to Yi Jin, “Let’s do fun things together from time to time.”

“Remember what you said to those men earlier today? You said you’ll never be happy again.”

“I’m against that. The times took everything from you. You can’t give up on happiness. But you already gave your word to them.

How about this? From now on, when you hang out with me, you can be happy and keep it a secret. When it’s just us two, let’s be happy when we’re together, albeit temporarily. So this can be our little secret.”

What a wonderful, perfect proposal, honestly. It’s so wonderfully earnest, and so innocently pure.

I love that it brings a genuine smile of comfort, to Yi Jin’s face, and I can’t wait to see these two hanging out together, and spending happy times together, just like Hee Do promises. ❤️

E3. Honestly, I am lapping up any little hint, that Yi Jin and Hee Do are growing closer. At this point, I’m not even looking for a romantic connection, really.

I just love the idea of them being there for each other, and I actually really like the idea of their relationship not actually having a definition.

Like that moment when Seung Wan asks Hee Do what kind of relationship she has with Yi Jin, I actually kinda love that Hee Do is stumped for a bit, because she and Yi Jin haven’t ever really stopped to define their relationship.

They’ve just.. bonded, in the moment, without the need for definitions, and that gives me an inordinate amount of satisfaction.

I love the detail, that Yi Jin notices that the math quiz on the washroom door has changed, and makes it a point to solve it, and take note of the new answer, for Hee Do.

It’s the little things, y’all!

The fact that he thinks of Hee Do, in even this small thing, because he knows how this piece of information will make her life easier and smoother, gives me a case of the goofy grins.

E3. It’s just like Hee Do, to run for hours, trying to find Yi Jin’s dad, the moment she realizes that the man she’d told Yi Jin to hide from, had been none other than his own father.

Even on a regular day, it feels like Hee Do’s feelings are maybe too big to be housed in her heart, and therefore need to kind of burst out, a little bit.

Even more so, in this moment, when she is terrified at the thought that she might have robbed Yi Jin of the rare, precious chance to see his father.

Despite it being a difficult moment for Hee Do, I can’t help but kinda love how much she cares, and how consumed she is, by the need to help Yi Jin locate his father, even though she has no idea where or how to find him.

I love that when Yi Jin spots her from the bus, he immediately knows what’s up, and why she’s running around like that.

I love that when he gets off the bus and races to her, his first thought is for her wellbeing, because she’s been running around like a mad woman, without any proper shoes on.

All he can think about, is that she could have hurt herself. And all she can think about, is how she’d lost Yi Jin’s dad for him.

Ahhh. The mutual care and concern just fills my heart so. 🥰

I have to love how, the moment Yi Jin tells Hee Do that she doesn’t have to feel sorry, because he did manage to meet his dad, she cries in relief, and then becomes quietly rueful, before swinging into this amazingly buoyant mood, because all is right in the world again.

I love that about her. She feels everything in the moment, without holding back, and that’s why she’s able to move forward so completely.

The way Yi Jin rigs that three-legged set-up for them, so that he can get Hee Do home, is so cute.

Tee hee hee. I couldn’t help giggling at the sight of them stopping to bicker, with Hee Do grumbling that she feels like her shoulder’s about to pop from having her arm up around Yi Jin’s shoulder, and then three-legged hobbling home together.

Ahahaha. I luff these two together, so much. 😍😍

E3. In that moment, when Hee Do tearfully tells Yi Jin, that she hasn’t managed to control the distance well between her and her opponent, and has expected too much from him and Yu Rim, I feel sorry for them both, because I feel for them both.

Yi Jin isn’t wrong, for not wanting to say that Yu Rim’s unequivocally in the wrong, and Hee Do isn’t wrong either, for not wanting to bow to unreasonable demands.

Gah. I hope that this doesn’t drive a wedge between them, because I love it when they get along. They’re supposed to be happy when they’re together, as Yi Jin says.

E4. This episode, I’m struck by what a contrast we see, between Hee Do’s life, and Yi Jin’s life.

While Hee Do has the freedom to throw herself into training with wild abandon, Yi Jin’s sober answer about gravity, during his job interview – which he fails, poor guy – really does give me pause.

Even though Yi Jin is only 22 years old, he definitely looks and sounds rather jaded with life, particularly with his answer about how gravity is the only thing that he feels is unchanging.

It really speaks of how everything else in his life that has changed, and it also indicates to us, without really spelling it all out, just how hard all these changes have hit him, for him to get to a place where he seriously concludes that gravity is the only thing that doesn’t change, in this world.

It makes my heart go out to him, for all the things and people that he’s lost, during this upheaval in his life.

I can understand why Yi Jin would drink himself tipsy, after failing the interview, and feeling patronized by his friend, on top of it.

What I love about this situation is, that Yi Jin is still so amused by Hee Do while he’s drunk, and Hee Do, for all of her peevishness towards Yi Jin, doesn’t allow that to get in the way of her sitting down with him, and talking with him, and then later, coming back to cover him with a blanket (and that handwritten sign!), while he sleeps sitting out there on the street.

It’s all so wholesome.

I love that Yi Jin tells Hee Do that she makes him smile, and I love that when Yi Jin tells her that he failed the interview, she immediately says that the company had made a mistake.

Aww. The loyalty!

And, I have to love Hee Do’s entire attitude, about turning tragedies into comedies. Of everything that Hee Do’s ever said to Yi Jin, this is probably one of the most needful nuggets of wisdom.

The whole thing of Hee Do running away from the boy whom she’d umbrella’d into submission, and then getting picked up by Yi Jin in his fancy sports car, is so much fun.

I love that Hee Do is so thrilled to discover that she’s so much faster, without the weights that she’s been wearing to and from school.

And I love how she literally leaps into the car, when Yi Jin refuses to unlock it for her without an apology.

I love even more, that in the end, Yi Jin admits that her sign, even though embarrassing, had succeeded in making him laugh – which means that ultimately, no apology is needed from Hee Do after all.

ALSO. I just love how delighted Hee Do is, at the rain, and how that is so contagious, that it puts Yi Jin in a good mood too, even though he’s literally getting his open-top car soaked in the rain.

Hee Do really is the sunshine in Yi Jin’s life, and I can see why he tells her, later in the episode, that she gives him hope.

E4. I feel like this episode, we’re also starting to see the beginnings of hyperawareness between Yi Jin and Hee Do, though I’m not entirely sure if this translates into romantic feelings just yet.

We see a glimpse of it when Yi Jin drunkenly tells Hee Do that he’s happy to watch her up close (versus seeing their lives from a distance), but it’s much more apparent at the end of the episode.

I think it’s super adorable, how Yi Jin shows up with banana milk for Hee Do, because he guesses that she’s doing night training, and wants to surprise her.

And, I also think it’s cute how Hee Do invites him into the gym, and he starts asking all sort of questions about fencing – which spurs Hee Do to let him try on fencing gear.

The whole way Yi Jin watches Hee Do in such a studied manner, as she helps him with the finishing touches of his fencing gear, does look a lot like romantic hyperawareness, although we can’t be 100% sure of it just yet, at this point in our story.

For now, I can believe that Yi Jin himself isn’t sure what it is.

And then there’s that beat, where Yi Jin manages to win by distracting Hee Do with that Full House bluff, and Hee Do seems to have a moment of hyperawareness of him, with her seeing him in a small bit of slo-mo glory.

I personally think it’s too soon to say whether Hee Do is starting to feel stirrings of romantic interest in Yi Jin. Like with Yi Jin, I can believe that Hee Do herself doesn’t really know what this moment means either.

I do, however, very much appreciate the honesty in their final conversation, this episode.

Hee Do: “See, I don’t get disappointed when my dreams don’t come true. I’m used to losing and failing.”

Yi Jin: “That’s called having mental fortitude. Everyone wants to be as strong-minded like you. They don’t want to be scared of losing and failing. Sometimes I wish I could take it from you. I think that explains why I miss you when I feel mentally weak.”

On that note, I just wanted to pause to say that while my subs say “I miss you,” the actual dialogue literally means “I want to see you.” So.. while the phrase 보고 싶어 (bogo sip-eo) is often translated as “I miss you” the literal meaning can be applied here as well, I think.

It makes sense to me, that when Yi Jin feels mentally weak or down, that he’d want to see Hee Do, because seeing her, in all her blithe can’t-get-me-down glory, is just the sort of thing to spur you on, isn’t it?

Yi Jin: “You are by far the most experienced fencer when it comes to losing. Those losses were blocks to build yourself stairs leading up. Think about it. Now you’ve got the highest staircase. Take your time to climb it and take whatever you want.”

Hee Do: “Why do you root for me? Even my mom doesn’t.”

Yi Jin: “Because you give me hope. And I want more for you.”

If I understand the dialogue correctly, I would translate Yi Jin’s last sentence as, “You make me hopeful. And that keeps making me greedy.”

Also, even though the whole lights-out vibe of the scene, with their conversation only lit by the dim light of the hit detector, leans atmospheric, it’s their earnest, wholesome attitudes towards each other, that really get me in the heart.

I love that Yi Jin roots for Hee Do so earnestly, and I love that that gets to her. And I love that the act of rooting for her, gives him hope for himself too.

I just love this idea that they are just two souls, spurring each other on to bigger, better and brighter things. It’s so pure. 🥰

E5. I love that this episode, we revisit the conversation between Yi Jin and Hee Do at the gym, in the dark. I really like the added context.

In the last episode, I’d said that Yi Jin had said, “You make me hopeful. And that keeps making me greedy.”

This episode, we see that he goes on to add, “..the greed to want to do well too, myself.”

I freaking love this idea, that seeing Hee Do work hard, makes Yi Jin want to work hard too, and seeing her accomplish something, makes him want to accomplish something too.

Not only do I love this idea of them propelling each other forward towards bigger and brighter things, I also love this idea that Hee Do is the kind of person who naturally gets other people to do well.

This theme, of Yi Jin and Hee Do standing in solidarity with each other, runs through the entire episode, through all the various circumstances that we see them in, and I love it, so much.

The fact that Hee Do is spontaneously moved to present Yi Jin with the sword that he’d used earlier, says a lot about how much their bond means to her.

E5. It moves me so much, that even though Yi Jin leaves so quickly that he doesn’t actually have time to pack everything properly, he still makes time to paint the inside of the sword handle blue, and label the handle, as a gift to Hee Do.

Augh. Even during his own personal crisis, when his life is literally falling apart and changing before his eyes, he makes sure to congratulate Hee Do, and let her know that he knows she’s made it, and that he’s rooting for her.

Oof. My heart.

E5. I find it so, so poignant, that through everything that they face, Hee Do and Yi Jin keep their focus on each other, to keep their spirits up and keep on keeping on.

The reveal, that Hee Do’s left a voice message for Yi Jin on his pager, and that he calls from a payphone, and regularly uses up all his change, so that he can listen to her encouraging words on repeat, is so heart-achey.

My heart goes out to him so much. It’s so clear that he’s suffering, and it’s also so clear, that Hee Do’s message to him is the only thing that’s making his days a little more bearable.

I love that Yi Jin gets to see Hee Do’s face, because she places third in the competition and appears on TV. And I love that because of that, Yi Jin leaves a voice message for Hee Do too, on her pager.

That little scene of them both making a faucet sprinkler each, as they think about each other, is sweet, and it’s rather nice to see them share the screen, even if it’s clearly just a fantasy.

Honestly, though, it’s the sight of Hee Do listening to Yi Jin’s message to her, and shedding a few tears, and then listening to his message on repeat, just like how he listens to her message on repeat, that really gets me in the heart.

This idea, that their words to each other mean so much; that their messages of encouragement are literally like a life-force of sorts, for the recipient, is something that I find really touching.

And it’s such sweet relief, both to Hee Do and to me as well, to hear Yi Jin say that he’ll appear before her again, by the time Full House volume 15 comes out.

That promise is given in such a pure manner, and it’s received in, likewise, such a pure manner, that I’m just flailing about, at the idea of them reuniting soon.

Yes please, I’d like to see them actually together again, and soon.

I don’t care about whether things turn romantic between them; I just dig their soul connection so much, that I just want them to be there for each other, through all the good times and the bad, to uphold and support each other, through it all. 🥲❤️

E6. I’m so pleased the Yi Jin and Hee Do meet again this episode, and the drama of them managing to find each other in a crowd of protestors, is so great. I love it.

I love the idea that when she sees Full House Volume 15, she knows to look around for him. I love that she spots him in the crowd, and I love that through all the shouts and chants, Yi Jin hears her voice, in the crowd.

It’s utterly moving and romantic – without it actually being romantic, if you know what I mean.

Hee Do and her relationship with her new boyfriend (cameo by Choi Tae Joon) is cringey and hilarious all at once, and I appreciate that Yi jin adapts himself to the situation so quickly.

What I mean is, I do detect a note of disappointment in his face, when he realizes that Hee Do is seeing someone, but it doesn’t appear to get in the way of his connection with Hee Do.

It feels to me like he might have had some inclinations towards romance with Hee Do, but is not that fussed about shrugging them off, if that’s not something that’s possible.

I like that this doesn’t seem to dilute his connection with Hee Do in the least, even though Protective Boyfriend does give Yi Jin a warning.

The moment Yi Jin appears with his red sports car, I had an inkling that there would be a narrative reason for it, and I honestly couldn’t love more, the reason that it turns out to be.

On a side note, I can’t help but notice how different Yu Rim’s reaction is, to seeing Yi Jin again, compared to Hee Do’s reaction. Hee Do was just happy and filled with wonder at seeing Yi Jin again, and in their conversations, there was no blame, only support and understanding.

In contrast, Yu Rim’s reaction is full of blame and anger, at how Yi Jin could have done that to her.

That’s a stark contrast, and I can’t help thinking that this is why Yi Jin’s bond with Hee Do is so strong, and this is why Yi Jin had missed Hee Do, and reached out to Hee Do, instead of Yu Rim.

I love that when Yi Jin realizes that Hee Do’s stuck on the train and might miss the finals as a result, he rushes out there to get her, and make sure that she gets her chance at the finals.

Even though, when Hee Do asks him who he’ll be rooting for, he tells her that he’ll root for Yu Rim, it’s so clear, from where we’re sitting, that the person he’s rooting for, is Hee Do.

Also, I love that this gives us a throwback to Hee Do’s first ride in Yi Jin’s car; it gives me all these warm feels, remembering all the meaningful bonding moments they’d spent together, before Yi Jin had moved away.

I love that just like before, Yi Jin’s steadiness and ability to just home in on the important things, comes into play, and he’s able to take Hee Do from a state of anxious almost-panic, to being relaxed and at ease, in the moment.

I like that, so much.

I also love that they’re able to have some thoughtful, reflective conversation, even as Yi Jin rushes Hee Do to the finals.

I like Yi Jin’s conviction, that even if he and Hee Do hadn’t known each other from before, that he’d have ended up driving her from the train station to the finals anyway. This earthy version of destiny feels nicely appealing, I have to say.

It’s so cool to me, that from their conversation in the car, where Yi Jin fake-interviews Hee Do, he’s able to provide such a perfect blurb of a report on camera, later,

“Rather than planning to defeat Ko Yu Rim, she had a strong ambition to fence her way and promised to give her very best in the finals.”

That’s really exactly what Hee Do is about, even though she didn’t say it in exactly those words. The fact that Yi Jin understands her this well, gives me a great deal of gratification.

E7. I find it so significant, that in her moment of victory, Hee Do’s gaze goes to Yi Jin, and not anyone else. I thought she might have looked to Coach Yang, perhaps, since Coach Yang was pivotal in getting Hee Do into the national team.

But no, Hee Do instinctively looks towards Yi Jin, and I do love that.

I know that things aren’t romantic between them right now, so I’m not actually talking about that, specifically.

I just love their bond so much, as label-free as it is.

She knows that he’s rooting for her, and that he’s deeply invested in her journey, and he knows that she knows, and there’s just something very moving to me, about that.

The silent, small smiles that they exchange, across that hall, while tears sheen in their eyes, feels so momentous to me. 🤩

E8. This episode, we see Hee Do’s growing hyperawareness of Yi Jin, and for me, it’s quite thrilling, yet at the same time, sometimes a bit secondhand mortifying as well, heh. It’s those vicarious awkward teenage feels coming into play, y’know?

We see Hee Do’s hyperawareness of Yi Jin growing in degrees.

From the way she can’t stop fixating on the voice recording between Yi Jin and Da Eun, to the way she gets all peeved at the couple stickers of Yi Jin and Min Young, to the way she goes out of her way to try to find out what each of them looks like, to the way she starts to feel self-conscious around Yi Jin, to the way she can’t help but say snarky things around Yi Jin, because she feels jealous, but doesn’t quite realize it.

It all feels so real and relatable, seriously.

At this point, with Yi Jin getting started in his career, and Hee Do still in high school, the distance between them does seem to be growing, even though they are only 4 years apart.

It’s hard for Hee Do to understand or empathize with Yi Jin’s work experiences, and I can also see why Hee Do would start to think that her interests are now childish, in comparison to what Yi Jin’s involved in now, being a reporter and all.

So far, it seems that it’s mainly Hee Do who’s starting to see Yi Jin in a different light.

On Yi Jin’s side of things, I think he still does see Hee Do the same way.

As in, I don’t think that this shift in his circumstances has caused him to look at Hee Do any differently. To him, she’s still a great friend and companion; someone who roots for him and is easy to get along with; someone who inspires him, just by being herself.

Based on the experiences that he and Hee Do have shared, I can see why Yi Jin would feel comfortable enough with Hee Do, to engage in some level of skinship.

Like the way he grabs her around the shoulders, when he wants ice cream, or the way he grabs her wrist, when he thinks they need to run, or the way he picks her up and carries her away from the sea of broken glass (squee, tho!).

Or the way he leans in to clean ice cream off her face with his handkerchief, or the way he notices that she can’t reach the sweet and sour pork, and pushes the dish towards her, so that she can reach it.

I completely see why this would discombobulate Hee Do and cause her to feel even more hyperaware of Yi Jin.

At the same time, I can see this being just a natural expression of Yi Jin’s affection for Hee Do. I do think that she’s special to him, though I don’t think Yi Jin actually has romance on his mind at the moment.

Plus, with his family situation still heavy on his mind, I don’t think Yi Jin’s really in the space where he’s thinking about dating anyone, really.

I did appreciate that beat, where we see Yi Jin visit a creditor, in an attempt to pay of at least part of his father’s debt.

I’m so glad that the creditor ahjusshi speaks kindly to him, expresses regret at his past actions, and tells Yi Jin to be happy, instead of trying to keep that tragic promise from before.

I hope that this will give Yi Jin a bit more peace of mind, so that he will feel less burdened, and more carefree.

I also love the fact that Yi Jin moves back to his old room, because that places him in his old neighborhood, where Hee Do – and the rest of the gang, too, of course – is within easy reach. I like the idea of him having friends around him, rather than being alone in an apartment.

E9. This episode, the primary source of secondhand mortification comes from Hee Do, cringing at the way she declares that she has to have Yi Jin – only to be told that he really isn’t Injeolmi.

Ack. How truly mortifying. 😝

I can see why Hee Do would run away like that, after thrusting the rose him (though that was really funny, I have to admit), and I can also see why Hee Do would avoid him so studiously after.

E9. Even though Show does call out Yi Jin later in the episode, for not keeping a proper distance between himself and his subject (which would be Hee Do), I really enjoyed the arc of him working on the documentary about her and Yu Rim.

For one thing, it creates a situation where Hee Do can’t avoid him the way she’s been doing, so studiously.

No matter how chagrined she is, at the thought of what she’s said to him, or how she feels about him, she has no choice but to face him, and that’s pretty great.

I love that scene where Yi Jin confronts her in the gym, and asks her point-blank what’s going on, and why she’s avoiding him, and Hee Do blurts it all out in a bluster that grows more and more high-pitched, the more worked up she gets.

Hee Do: “I was humiliated, that was why.”

Yi Jin: “About what? What you said that day? You only said that because you mistook me for Injeolmi, who I am not. So what’s the problem? It wasn’t about me anyway.”

Hee Do: “Yes, it was. It was half about you. If Injeolmi had been someone else, I wouldn’t have said something that idiotic. It was because it was you that I said that. That’s why it was half about you.”

Yi Jin: “So? What was your plan? Were you planning to avoid me forever? Hoping we’d drift apart like this? What do you think of our relationship?”

Hee Do: “What do you think it is? Because of you, I’m so confused. I’m jealous of you. No. I like you. But I have an inferiority complex toward you. What does that sound like to you? You don’t know, do you? I don’t either.

But I ended up saying I had to have you. I must have lost my freaking mind. I want to crawl into a hole and die. My mind’s completely blank!

I like being sure about things, but everything is unclear when I think about you. That’s why right now, I really hate you.”

Tee hee. It’s so adorably honest and confused and bemused, all at the same time, and I can’t help but feel even more fond of Hee Do, for being so endearingly genuine and vulnerable, even though the angst is killing her.

I completely understand Yi Jin’s amused I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-you face, in response to Hee Do’s confused babble of honest feelings.

At this point, it gives me a bit of a thrill, just to know that Hee Do inspires this kind of affectionate amused response in Yi Jin.

I love that the thing that dissolves the awkwardness between them, is when Hee Do sees that Yi Jin needs a phone in a hurry to make his report, and acts quickly to offer him her house phone.

In this moment, all the awkwardness is gone, and all we see is the ease that’s typified their relationship for so long, and a genuine desire on Hee Do’s side, to be of help to Yi Jin.

I do love that it’s a desire to help Yi Jin, that breaks down Hee Do’s self-consciousness.

I also love how this seems to give Hee Do the courage she needs, to speak to the situation between them, and pronounce that there really isn’t an existing term that she can use, to describe their relationship.

It’s cute how she concludes that they can just come up with their own label, like cloud, rainbow or scissors. Haha. It kinda makes no sense, even though I get what she means.

It’s at about this point, where I feel like Yi Jin actually starts to put words to how he feels about his relationship with Hee Do.

Yi Jin: “Don’t avoid me like that again. I won’t forgive you.”

Hee Do: “I guess you hated it.”

Yi Jin: “The word “hate” doesn’t begin to describe it. You helped me get back on my feet numerous times. You should take on the responsibility.”

And, just when I think Yi Jin’s going to say something more – Mom arrives back home, and tilts Yi Jin’s entire world, because he’d never realized that his boss at work, is actually Hee Do’s mom.

HA. This is another case of secondhand mortification, though I have to admit, I’m more amused than actually mortified.

Although Mom is mostly suspicious and businesslike, I do take Mom’s point, that Yi Jin being too close to Hee Do could prove troublesome, particularly if he worked in Sports.

I was thinking about this, and I conclude that it really is true. It would actually be better in the long run, if Yi Jin worked in another area of news.

After all, he can apply the same principles and learnings in areas other than sports, whereas Hee Do can’t actually move out of fencing, just to make things more palatable.

I do think that if Yi Jin wants to protect his relationship with Hee Do in the long run, he ought to avoid working in Sports news.

E9. I’m heartened to see Yi Jin pick Hee Do up in that princess carry when she hurts her ankle, to take her to see a doctor.

Not only do I feel better about her getting her ankle looked at, I’m also glad for the alone time that she and Yi Jin get, while they’re in the car together.

Their conversation feels like a period of realization for Yi Jin, as we lead up to his final declaration at the end of the episode.

That he would’ve killed that sunbae, if Hee Do had really gotten hurt; that he feels sorry; that he should’ve been there with her.

That Hee Do always leads him to do what’s right, and leads him to a good place; that he’d done the right thing by interviewing the referee, because it had been for Hee Do – even though he should have done it for any other athlete.

I love the innocent, pure, forthright tone of their conversation.

Hee Do: “That’s my definition of our relationship. Also known as a rainbow. Wait. You said it wasn’t a rainbow. You still haven’t said what it was if not a rainbow.”

Yi Jin: “Love. It’s love. I love you, Hee Do. I don’t need a rainbow.”

I love that right there, in front of that rainbow – which kinda represents their relationship – he appears to come to the realization, right as he says it, that he loves Hee Do. Awww!

That is so sweet.

I might be off on this, but right now, I don’t get an actively romantic vibe coming from Yi Jin, which some viewers might take issue with, but which I actually love.

I love the idea that Yi Jin’s love for Hee Do doesn’t have to necessarily be romantic, in order to qualify as love. It’s bigger than that, and embraces all other types of love as well: platonic, familial, and the love between soulmates.

I love the idea that, in this moment in time, he doesn’t need to know what kind of love it is, to conclude with certainty, that he loves Hee Do.

Because it’s true. Whatever form that love takes, he does love her, for sure. And I LOVE that. 🥰

E10. I love that Hee Do’s response to Yi Jin’s statement, that he loves her, is full of wonder, and yet, also matter-of-fact, at the same time.

She’s full of wonder that someone is actually telling her that he loves her, and she’s matter of fact in the way that she answers.

I love how clear-eyed and guileless she comes across, as she tells Yi Jin that her feelings for him aren’t that big. Guh. The combination of honesty and innocence is just so endearing, to me.

I love that she doesn’t feel pressured to have similar feelings for Yi Jin, as I think many people might, in her shoes, particularly since she’s so new to the concept of love, that she’s still trying to figure out what it means.

I love how, instead, she chooses to simply be honest. She’s honest about the wonder that she feels at his declaration, and she’s honest about her feelings for him not quite being the same as his feelings for her.

And how absolutely wonderful, is Yi Jin’s response, that his feelings for her, have nothing to do with her feelings for him, and that he just likes her for who she is, and he’s content that him telling her how he feels about her, makes her a little happier.

Gah. That is the sweetest thing evar, and my heart is flailing in a heap, at just how sweet Yi Jin is.

That moment after, as they both smile contentedly side by side on the bridge, each soaking in their own feels, feels so precious and pure. Guh. I love it, so much. ❤️

E10. From about the point where Hee Do joins Yi Jin on the beach, it feels like Hee Do’s suddenly growing very hyperaware of Yi Jin, in a way that she finds sudden and surprising.

The way Show has Yi Jin and Hee Do whispering to each other, out of necessity, because Yi Jin’s recording, is very clever and effective. I love how organic this situation of hyper-proximity comes about; it doesn’t feel manufactured at all.

And, it makes a lot of sense to me, that being in such close proximity to Yi Jin, would make Hee Do experience the first tingles of hyper-awareness of him.

What I appreciate about this scene, is that Yi Jin still gives off that matter-of-fact vibe, even when leaning in close to whisper in Hee Do’s ear.

To my eyes, it doesn’t feel at all like Yi Jin’s trying to take the opportunity to get closer to Hee Do, and I really like that.

If anything, it feels like Hee Do’s the one who’s feeling more in this situation than Yi Jin, and I really like how subtly this is brought across to us. It’s in Hee Do’s gaze, and the slight pause she takes to catch her breath, after Yi Jin whispers in her ear, that they should go get a drink.

And it’s in her muttered remark in response, “Suddenly..?” (My subs say “My goodness,” but I feel that “suddenly” is a more accurate translation.) It’s subtle, but it’s there, and I like it.

E11. I like that we see Hee Do talking so openly and matter-of-factly with Yi Jin, about her father, and her memories of him, as they play a stacking game with those shells. It makes even the delicate topic of her father’s death feel so down-to-earth.

I really like the idea that talking about such things is, all in all, pretty normal for them; normal enough, that they’d be able to play a shell-stacking game, and flick each other’s foreheads, while talking about it. That makes me feel the strength of their bond.

I also love the detail, that looking at the photos on the wall, makes Hee Do smile so much.

Yi Jin’s really brought her a lot of joy, and many memories, in organizing this trip. It’s so telling, that Hee Do would want that solo photo of Yi Jin, along with the group ones.

And, I love the mirror effect that we get, at the end of the episode, when we see Yi Jin smiling at the same wall of photos, and then putting down his name for Hee Do’s solo photo, which she hadn’t even picked for herself.

Ahhh. That’s so reciprocal, and so sweet. I love it.

E11. I have to love how Yi Jin is immediately concerned, the moment he sees Hee Do in tears, looking for the chairs that she thinks Mom has thrown out.

I also love that beat, where Yi Jin is sobered by the realization that while Mom’s success has inspired him to do better, that success actually is tied up with Hee Do’s wounds.

And in response, Hee Do doesn’t get upset, but is simply surprised, and considers with a bit of wonder, that the thing that had caused her emotional wounds, have actually managed to inspire Yi Jin.

I LOVE how she says, with her eyes still puffy from crying, that that in itself is kinda nice. Aw. She’s so pure. I love her.

The thing is, though, I find myself feeling a niggling sense of foreboding, almost, as I watch Yi Jin and Hee Do spend time together, this episode.

It’s basically from the point at which he tells Hee Do that he’s now officially a Sports reporter, and is introducing himself to a promising fencing athlete.

I know he says this in jest, and I know it doesn’t yet affect their relationship, but I can’t help but think that it will become a factor between them, and not too far in the future, either.

That thought makes all their present interactions, which are so carefree, pure and guileless, feel extra precious, because.. I can’t help thinking that something’s going to happen soon, that will soon make their interactions more guarded and careful. Sobs. 😩

Gah. I’m already wishing that Yi Jin had applied to be a reporter with some other department other than Sports. Hee Do’s mom had made a great point, when she’d told Yi Jin to stay away from Sports reporting. I wish he’d listened to her, and acted accordingly.

E11. A big highlight for me, this episode, is how Yi Jin steals Hee Do and Yu Rim away, and takes them to Ji Woong’s concert. How great, that Yu Rim gets to attend the concert after all.

And how awesome, that Yi Jin gets roped in to play guitar, during the encore. Gosh, I think I liked this more than watching Ji Woong’s performance.

It really is like Yi Jin’s reclaiming his high school innocence, a little bit, as he plays in the band, and then does that reading for Hee Do, in the broadcasting room.

I totally get what Hee Do means, when she introduces herself to Yi Jin, and asks him to play with her. For once, it feels like she’s meeting the unburdened, youthful Yi Jin, at the point when he’s yet untainted by the grown-up worries of the world.

E12. I did love the moment, though, when Yi Jin first hears Hee Do speak in French, and is stunned speechless. SHO CUTE! 🤩

I love how Hee Do treats it like it’s no big deal, and just skips off, telling Yi Jin that she’s starving. Ahaha. I love how she’s got her priorities so firmly in place.

The attachment between Yi Jin and Hee Do is growing on both sides, which makes my earlier concern feel more relevant than ever.

Hee Do’s wistfulness at saying goodbye for Yi Jin, for the night, and her excuse that she needs to buy milk for Yu Rim, tells us how attached she’s getting, to Yi Jin.

And Yi Jin’s fiery response to Hee Do’s ex-boyfriend, when Ex tests the waters, and tells Yi Jin that he can’t forget about Hee Do, tells us a lot about how strong Yi Jin’s feelings are, for Hee Do.

This is the moment where my heart can’t decide where to squee at how unbridled Yi Jin’s protectiveness is, around Hee Do, or worry that Yi Jin’s expressed feelings are going to become a stumbling block, both to his career, and to their relationship. 🙈

Now that Hee Do’s heard it, though, I can see how her feelings for Yi Jin would be stirred even further.

Which is why it feels completely organic to me, that she would kiss Yi Jin, in our closing scene.

With the question of whether the world would end, once the year 2000 came around, and with just moments before that might occur, I completely understand why Hee Do would want to take her chances, and use her possible last moments, to kiss Yi Jin.

The kiss is sweet and innocent, and if I weren’t so concerned about how this would affect the future of their relationship, given the obvious conflict of interest on the professional side of things, I’d be melting a lot more, over this kiss.

E13. One of the things that strikes me, this episode, is how openly Hee Do wears her heart on her sleeve, around Yi Jin. She’s so disarmingly frank, each time her feelings for him come up.

Like, in the immediate aftermath of the kiss, when Yi Jin’s just staring at her, coz he’s so taken off-guard.

She doesn’t pretend that it didn’t happen, or that it had been a crazy mistake brought on by being on the cusp of the potential end of the world.

There’s none of that. Instead, she looks him right in the eye, and even with her gaze and her voice wavering just a touch, likely due to uncertainty, she tells him that it wasn’t a mistake.

Guh. I love that she’s so honest, and doesn’t choose to make excuses, even when it would be easy and convenient to do so. How can I not love her? 😍

Plus, the way she fixates on Yi Jin, and gets so distracted by thoughts of him, after the kiss, is so relatable. Ahhh. It really brings back the feels of what it’s like to be young and falling in love for the first time, and getting distracted by a boy for the first time. 😅

E13. Augh. This episode was made up of so much angst – but it’s the type of angst that’s tortured, and full of heartfelt tension, and that’s underscored with notes of sweetness and longing. It was hard to watch, and yet I couldn’t get enough, if that makes sense.

That beat, where Hee Do gets cornered into calling Yi Jin, then crumples in chagrin, when the conversation turns out to be awkward, feels so real.

And the barely-there tears in Hee Do’s eyes, make her feelings pop, all the more.

She doesn’t have to say anything, for me to know that her heart and mind are overcrowded with thoughts of Yi Jin, and that she feels it all, very acutely.

Over on Yi Jin’s side of things, I can appreciate how stuck he feels, between his feelings for Hee Do, and his professional obligation, to keep an appropriate distance from her.

Coach Yang telling Yi Jin all about what had happened between her and Hee Do’s mom, really colors it in so vividly, both for Yi Jin, and for us as viewers.

For one thing, it finally becomes clear why there is so much hurt and emotional baggage between Coach Yang and Mom.

There had been a very genuine friendship between them, before Mom’s professional obligations kicked in at a particularly unfortunate time for Coach Yang, who had been clueless about the inappropriateness of her conduct.

Gosh, no wonder there’s so much hurt hanging in the air between them, even now.

And, how vividly poignant, that we – and most importantly Yi Jin! – can now easily imagine what might happen between Yi Jin and Hee Do, going forward.

This would have been true, even without the romantic element, since Yi Jin and Hee Do have been close for so long, and have loved each other, in their own ways, and been involved in each other’s lives, for so long.

It’s just now extra complicated, because they’ve developed romantic feelings for each other.

At the same time, it’s not like Yi Jin can easily get himself out of the sports desk, or get himself a different job, in the difficult economic climate of our story. He needs this paycheck, and can’t afford to lose it.

But he also loves Hee Do, and doesn’t want to lose her.

Poor Yi Jin. I can totally see why he gets into such a depressed funk this episode, getting drunk every night, and generally looking like he hasn’t slept in years, with the way the dark circles under his eyes look like they’re multiplying into their second and third generations.

What a conundrum we have, between our would-be lovebirds.

Yi Jin, so torn between his head and his heart, confronted so regularly by Hee Do, waiting outside his door, with her heart on her sleeve. Oh, what’s a boy to do?

I didn’t know whether to laugh to cry, at that moment when Yi Jin instinctively stuffs those buns in his mouth, when he thinks Hee Do’s leaning in to kiss him again.

Ahaha. So much awkward. So much cringe. Eep. 🙈😅

It’s easy for me to say that Yi Jin should just come out and tell Hee Do what’s going on with him, but I suppose Yi Jin isn’t so sure yet, what to do about the situation, and whether it would ever be ok for him to love Hee Do openly.

After all, he IS very young, and still very much a rookie at work. He has no idea whether he’ll be stuck at the sports desk forever, or if he’ll ever have another option, work-wise.

I can see why he’d feel like he needed to back away from the situation, before he made things worse.

That wrong number drunken call that Yi Jin makes, which ends up going to Ji Woong, where he says that his heart is wavering, and that he wants his heart to waver, is so poignant.

Ahh. Finally, he’s saying how he feels, out loud, and even though he’s saying that he and Hee Do can’t have that kind of relationship, it still feels precious, that he articulates how he feels about her.

E13. One of my favorite scenes this episode, is when Yi Jin observes Hee Do in the rest area outside the stadium, as she just goes about doing her thing.

Hee Do really is lovely, from the way she responds to that snarky athlete with good cheer and kindness, to the way she earnestly reflects on her matches for the day, and the way she is just generally so genial to everyone.

I can totally see why Yi Jin wears that gentle, affectionate, smitten gaze, as he looks upon her loveliness. I can feel his heart swelling with appreciation, affection and pride, in that moment.

Of course, the way Yi Jin gets all up in twist over Hee Do addressing someone else as “Oppa” when he’s just “Baek Yi Jin” is very amusing.

The way his attempt at a petty vengeful note has him sprawling on the stairs trying to hide from Hee Do, is just hilarious. 😂

I can feel Yi Jin’s conflict wearing him down this entire episode, and so, by the end of the episode, when he tells Hee Do that they should try putting some distance between them, I can feel like he’s exhausted.

But it’s precisely because he’s exhausted, that I can totally see why he’d give in to his heart, and just go out there, and grab Hee Do for a kiss.

The way I see it, he’s been fighting himself for so long, that he’s worn out. And now, when he’s too tired to fight anymore, his heart – which still beats for Hee Do – is the one with more strength, to drive his decision.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next, for Yi Jin and Hee Do, but dang, I really do feel a sense of vicarious release, with Yi Jin finally giving in to his heart like this.

The way he takes that cap off her and grabs her face in one fluid motion, and plants his lips on hers; the way he basically drinks her in and inhales her presence; the way he looks at her and tells her, raggedly,

“You drive me crazy (Could also be translated as “This is crazy”). Fine. Let’s try this kind of love, Na Hee Do. I’m going to do everything I can with you. So prepare yourself.”

It’s all very heady and swoony, and I can’t help but want to sink into the romance of it all, while shooing away the cautionary thoughts coming from the more rational corner of my brain, that says that this, between a sports reporter and the athlete he covers, is highly inappropriate.

We’ll worry about that.. later. 🙈

[END SPOILER]

Bona as Yu Rim

I’d last seen Bona in Girls’ Generation 1979, and liked her there, and I feel that she’s very well cast, as Yu Rim.

There’s a refined elegance about Bona, that’s threaded through with touches of fragility, and I feel like that works so well, for Yu Rim as a character.

I actually liked Yu Rim right away, from the moment she’s introduced to us in episode 1.

I liked that she’s focused and disciplined, and beyond that, I was intrigued by and drawn to the lashings of vulnerability and loneliness, which peek through her otherwise earnestly stoic surface.

Even though Yu Rim says and does some rather unpleasant things at various points in our story, I never found her hateful, which, I feel, is credit to both the writing, and Bona’s delivery.

Overall, I’d say it was very gratifying to witness Yu Rim’s journey of growth over the course of our story.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E2. For the record, I don’t dislike Yu Rim, even though she says some mean things this episode.

I think Show does a solid job of showing us clues, that help us identify what’s going on with Yu Rim, underneath that prickly surface.

Like that way she hesitates at the sight of her own shabby shoes, when Coach Yang casually mentions that the shoes she’d gotten off Hee Do, are branded.

It’s not hard to see that Yu Rim’s acting out of insecurity, and her default way of doing that, appears to be pushing away the source of that insecurity; in this case, Hee Do.

Additionally, Yu Rim’s under a great deal of pressure, as a gold medalist, who’s in the spotlight, and under the eye of the entire nation.

There’s a great deal that Yu Rim must feel she needs to live up to, and I’m sure she doesn’t feel like she’s quite the living legend that everyone thinks she is. So that pressure to live up to an image must also be weighing on her.

On top of that is the fact that, with Yu Jin’s family going bankrupt, she’s lost her key sponsor, and therefore has financial worries, on top of everything else.

E8. Aw, I feel really bad for Yu Rim and her family situation, this episode.

Poor Mom (Hur Ji Na). She must feel so lost.

She didn’t just get cheated of a chunk of money, since it sounds like the people who ran off, had been in charge of some savings collective for the neighbors. It sounds like she’s also now inherited their debt, since she’d signed surety for them, when they’d bought new machinery.

Gosh, that’s terrible. I can see why Yu Rim would feel so lost, too. She can’t do anything to help Mom, and she herself has fencing and school expenses that her stipend doesn’t quite cover.

It’s so poignant to realize that Yu Rim actually has a habit of crying alone at the indoor pool, where she dives in so that her tears are disguised by the pool water. Aw.

I’m actually kind of glad that Hee Do sees this, because I’d really like things to become more cordial between Hee Do and Yu Rim, and an awareness of each other’s contexts, is the best place to start.

E9. I’m really glad that Yu Rim’s conversation with Hee Do leads her to see her mom’s gift of a mobile phone, in a whole new light.

I mean, Yu Rim’s not wrong to say that they’re tight for money, and therefore it would be wiser to return the phone, so that they don’t incur unnecessary expenses.

But, it’s also great that Yu Rim comes to realize that emotional wellbeing is so important in life as well, and I’m glad she puts that learning to work right away, by telling Mom that she really did want a mobile phone, and that she really likes the gift Mom gave her. Aw.

The tearful joy and comfort in Mom’s eyes, as she smiles in response, is so lovely. I really like Mom, and I want her to be happy.

E10. I also appreciate the spotlight that Show shines on Yu Rim’s situation, where her parents buy her gifts that they clearly can’t afford. That’s a difficult one.

Yu Rim’s aware enough of the situation, to know how impractical these gifts are. And yet, her parents both want so earnestly to give her the best that they can give, while hoping so much, to see her smile and be happy, while receiving those gifts.

It’s a difficult position to be in, because, as Yu Rim’s found out the hard way, trying to do the practical thing, to help her parents save money, only hurts their feelings.

And yet, if she simply smiles and accepts the gifts, the weight of her family situation just bears down on her all the more.

E14. Things fall apart for Yu Rim so suddenly, that it feels as if her entire life is changed in an instant.

I mean, I’m super relieved that Dad (Kim Dong Gyun) doesn’t die – Show really had me going there, for a bit – but the relief is short-lived, because the fallout of the accident comes so swiftly.

It feels like Yu Rim’s entire world comes crumbling down in that hospital hallway, as she realizes that her family’s struggles have just amplified exponentially.

Honestly, it feels like Yu Rim makes the most practical choice for herself and her family, given the situation. There’s just so much financial and therefore mental and emotional strain on her parents, because of the accident, but also, because of their other debts.

If her changing her citizenship to play for another country could solve all of those troubles in one fell swoop, it’s hard to imagine her making a different decision, really.

I’m glad that Yu Rim reaches out to Coach Yang for help, and I’m glad that Coach Yang is there for her, every step of the way.

In a situation where the rest of the country is quick to judge, and quick to feel betrayed, it feels needful, that Yu Rim has someone like Coach Yang in her corner; ready to help in practical ways, and without judgment as well.

And that judgment proves to be so real, so quickly, this episode.

It really makes my heart go out to Yu Rim, in a big way. 😭

[END SPOILER]

Choi Hyun Wook as Ji Woong

I have to confess that it was only after finishing my watch, and writing this review, that I stumbled upon the fact that Choi Hyun Wook was also in Racket Boys, which I also very much enjoyed.

This legit blew my mind, because his character in Racket Boys, is so different from Ji Woong, that I couldn’t fathom that they were played by the same actor, even though both characters literally have the same face. 😅

Kudos to Choi Hyun Wook, for disappearing into both characters, so well!

I have more to say about Ji Woong in the next section, but for now, I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed Ji Woong as a character.

His forthright, carefree personality was very endearing to me, and I just loved that underneath his swag, he’s a sweet, sincere, loyal marshmallow. ❤️

Yu Rim and Ji Woong together

I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting a great deal to come out of Ji Woong’s crush on Yu Rim.

I just rooted for this would-be couple, purely based on my affection for Ji Woong, because I just loved how he’s so unabashed about his crush on Yu Rim, and is so quick to jump on opportunities to talk to her, or look cool in front of her.

I found it all very endearing, and couldn’t help but want him to succeed, in wooing his crush.

So color me happily surprised, to find that this little loveline turned out to be so heartfelt and sweet, in the end. ❤️

[SPOILER ALERT]

E3. That whole thing where Ji Woong throws his history book at Hee Do, so that he can be punished alongside Yu Rim, is really quite endearing.

And the way he asks the teacher to allow them to stand, because Yu Rim’s ankle injury is making it hard for her to kneel, is thoughtful and quite cute too.

E4. I like the developing mutual awareness between Ji Woong and Yu Rim.

Ji Woong’s adorably upfront about the fact that he likes Yu Rim, and he definitely manages to make Yu Rim’s heart flutter a bit, with his cheesy-yet-serious lines, like how he was joking about not liking her that much.

Pfft. Boy’s got some moves, and those moves are actually making him some headway with Yu Rim.

Plus, they also look like they had fun, dealing with the rain together, and giggling over how silly they both look.

I do think they’d make a pretty cute couple.

E7. Ji Woong is turning out to be quite the sweet and swoony suitor.

The way he gives that chocolate gold medal, and tells her not to be too down because she’s been a gold medalist since she was born, is just the most earnest, melty thing.

How could Yu Rim’s heart not wobble in the face of this earnest adoration? Even my heart’s wobbling vicariously, while watching. 😍😁

E8. I’m glad for Yu Rim, that Ji Woong’s there to offer companionship and a listening ear, when she’s down.

And of course, his heart-eyes for Yu Rim have gotta count for something. Who wouldn’t be flattered, to have Ji Woong putting them on a pedestal, and saying such cute and sweet things to them, on a regular basis?

E10. Aw. I’m glad that Yu Rim reaches out to Ji Woong, like she’d promised previously, for a listening ear.

Just like Dad with Yi Jin, Ji Woong can’t offer Yu Rim any real solutions, but again, just having someone to listen and understand, and express that understanding, along with some empathy, can really go a long way towards helping us cope.

Ji Woong asking Yu Rim for permission to confess his feelings, is so cute. I kinda love how cautious he is, to ask permission even to express how he feels about her.

I mean, sure, it could come from a place of insecurity, but I prefer to think of it as him being extra respectful of Yu Rim’s preferences.

E14. I really love Ji Woong’s response, when Yu Rim finally talks with him about her decision.

It’s a world-tilting decision for him for sure, particularly since he’s dating Yu Rim, and yet, he only tells her that it must have been a difficult decision to make, and that she’s cool and awesome, for making it.

Aw. Ji Woong’s a sweetheart.

Honestly, from a practical standpoint, Yu Rim’s request, that she and Ji Woong not make any promises to each other that they can’t keep, is a reasonable albeit upsetting one.

The way Yu Rim lays everything out, and tells Ji Woong that she doesn’t know when she’ll be able to come back to Korea, or if she’d be able to come back at all, is heartbreakingly mature.

The fact that she doesn’t want Ji Woong to live just for her, is also heartbreakingly mature.

It makes me think of all that Yu Rim’s been through, to be able to look at things with such perspective, at her young age.

At the same time, I so appreciate Ji Woong’s passion, to not just give up on their relationship without even trying.

I love the way Ji Woong rushes to the airport, when he hears from Seung Wan that Yu Rim’s leaving.

Gosh, the way he just tosses his skateboard aside and guttural-yeeellls her name, is so viscerally startling and moving, at the same time. There is so much youthful passion here, that I feel like it’s about to burst out of my screen and knock me right over.

The way Ji Woong informs Yu Rim that he’s going to be the selfish one now, and then gives her this spiel, is really so breathlessly melty:

“I will wait for you, come to visit you, and I’ll endure no matter what. I won’t go out with anyone else. I’m not even going to look at anyone. So you shouldn’t see anyone else either. Don’t even make eye contact..

Even if all you can give me is misery, I’m up for it. I’m fine as long as we’re in it together.”

Ahhh. It’s so moving, and I’m so, SO glad that Ji Woong gets to kiss his girl, before she gets on that plane.

[END SPOILER]

Lee Joo Myoung as Seung Wan

Given how Seung Wan’s introduced as something of a secondary character, I am very pleasantly surprised by how awesome she turns out to be, and how much I love her.

Lee Joo Myoung plays Seung Wan with a droll sort of sensibility that I think fits Seung Wan perfectly, as a character, and I often found her deadpan sense of humor really funny.

I loved Seung Wan not just because she’s smart; she’s passionate and opinionated, and not afraid to stand up for what she believes in.

In short, she’s a rock star. 🤩

[SPOILER ALERT]

E3. I have to admit, I got a good amount of satisfaction from Seung Wan’s horrified realization that the tenant whom she’s been highhanded and short with, is none other than the very well-known, highly regarded Baek Yi Jin sunbae. Muahaha.

That was pretty funny.

E10. This episode, I’m starting to see Seung Wan in a whole new light.

The thing that strikes me most, is how I love her extra, when she’s hosting her radio show.

The way she speaks is so full of heart and passion, and you can just tell that she’s spent a lot of time thinking about these things.

It makes me think that she’s made for greatness; that she really will end up changing the world.

E12. Seung Wan’s decision to quit school is such an epic moment, in our story.

The school violence thing is something that we’ve seen simmering in Seung Wan for quite a while, so it’s not exactly shocking, when she ends up speaking up for Ji Woong, in Abusive Teacher’s face, and even calling the police, when he dares her to.

In that moment, I was so in awe of Seung Wan, for standing up for what she believes in, without showing any fear, even though it does feel like a scary situation from where I’m sitting.

It’s horrible that the police are actually on Abusive Teacher’s side, and that they say they can’t do anything, because even though corporal punishment is prohibited in schools, it’s the school that has the authority to manage that, not the police. Dang.

I can literally feel Seung Wan’s frustration building, so when Abusive Teacher gives her that ultimatum, to either apologize publicly and promise not to broadcast anything on her radio channel ever again, or face expulsion, I’m not actually surprised that she chooses to leave school.

It’s still a huge decision, however, and I found myself catching my breath a little, at how decisive Seung Wan is about this, even though I kind of saw it coming.

She is so clear on her principles, her values, and her beliefs. And she’s willing to stand by them, even at the cost of dropping out of school.

Seung Wan’s a rock star and a legend, and I am in awe of her.

I also have every confidence that she’s going to go on to do amazing things with her life. And, even though she loses a year because she’s dropping out like this, I know she’s going to do great, at the GED and CSAT, when she gets to it.

And, the price that she’s paid, in terms of losing an academic year, will reap much more intangible value, in the area of her character, I feel.

I love that Seung Wan refuses to put a price on her character, and I have positive hope that her determination to stand by her values, will be the thing that enables her to change the world. 🤩

[END SPOILER]

Yu Rim and Hee Do together

From the get-go in episode 1, I was really curious to see how Hee Do would get on with her fencing idol, Yu Rim, now that she’s finally in the same orbit as her.

And whaddya know, this turned out to one of the most gripping relationships, in this drama world, for me.

Without giving too much away, let me just say that I loved the evolution of the connection between Hee Do and Yu Rim.

The way Show portrays all the various facets of this relationship, feels so honest and raw, that I found myself wholeheartedly invested in this relationship.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E2. The way Hee Do’s wide-eyed happy reverie, at the idea of becoming part of Yu Rim’s orbit, comes crashing down in the face of Yu Rim’s cold, distant sort of attitude, is so relatable.

I felt like I could practically hear Hee Do’s heart come crashing down to the floor, when Yu Rim first gives her that cold put-down, about her being a nobody.

E2. And, what an interesting nugget of information, that Yu Rim does know Hee Do’s name after all; that Hee Do had once beaten her at a competition, when she’d been at the height of being known as a fencing prodigy.

I’d hazard a guess that this is also playing into Yu Rim’s decision to keep Hee Do at a distance. She’s definitely got some emotional baggage around this memory.

I do love that Hee Do makes it a point to tell Yu Rim that it was an honor to spar against her, even though she knows that Yu Rim is unlikely to welcome the interaction.

And, I love that when Yu Rim questions Hee Do on why Hee Do likes her in the first place, Hee Do’s ready with a string of reasons that are clearly well thought-through conclusions of a longtime fan, rather than a bunch of things that she just plucked out of the air, in the moment.

I so love that when Yu Rim tells Hee Do that she’s wrong, Hee Do flat-out tells Yu Rim that she’s basically talking nonsense, because what does she know about Hee Do’s feelings? HA. I love that.

Also, how essentially kind of Hee Do, to point Yu Rim back to her ankle injury, and tell her to take care of herself instead. Even in the face of Yu Rim’s cold put-downs, Hee Do doesn’t resort to maliciousness.

I’ve said it about a million times already by this point, but really, I love her. 🤩

E3. I kinda love that the sight of Hee Do training so hard, indirectly spurs Yu Rim to put in more training time as well. This detail, that Hee Do is inadvertently inspiring her own fencing idol, is quite gratifying to me.

And, when Annoying Sunbae comes into the gym and starts yelling at the two of them for training extra without permission, I love Hee Do’s no holds barred, heart-on-sleeve, brutally honest response to the whole situation.

She won’t apologize for training extra, she won’t stand for Sunbae roughing up Yu Rim, and she refuses to clean the floor with Yu Rim, because she won’t acknowledge the punishment system, because she’s done nothing wrong.

I can understand Yu Rim’s statement, that she doesn’t want Hee Do to disrespect what she’s endured, but this really comes down a fundamentally different approach to looking at things.

Yu Rim believes that the best way forward, is to toe the line with her seniors, no matter how unreasonable those seniors might be, while Hee Do can’t bring herself to adopt this mindset, because her view of fairness and unfairness is so clear-cut.

What a significant turning point for Hee Do, to actually say that she’s going to loathe Yu Rim as much as she’s idolized her.

It feels like this is the point that Hee Do realizes that, beyond the skill and technique that she’s admired so much in Yu Rim, they, unfortunately, can’t seem to agree on the most important things – values.

I do agree with Hee Do, that she shouldn’t be punished for training after hours, and I also agree with her, that she shouldn’t have to endure unfair treatment from unreasonable sunbaes, just because she wants to do well.

At the same time, it also feels true, that she’s been expecting too much from Yu Rim and Yi Jin.

E3. How very ironic, that Hee Do’s online chat buddy turns out to be Yu Rim herself, and how doubly ironic, that it’s Yu Rim herself, who ends up saying the thing that Hee Do’s been yearning to hear all day, “She was in the wrong.”

E4. I found Operation Loach hilarious, and I loved the detail, that Hee Do’s suddenly finding that her reflexes are much faster, thanks to Coach Yang’s training.

That spontaneous teamwork moment between Hee Do and Yu Rim, was pretty darn great. I loved that, and would definitely like to see more of Hee Do and Yu Rim on the same side. 🤩

E5. Hee Do getting assigned to be Yu Rim’s roommate is not something I’d expected, but it works out nicely because it’s pretty entertaining to see these two girls gritting their teeth and bearing with each other’s company.

It’s so ironic that they are online chat buddies who swear that they would recognize each other on sight, heh.

I enjoy the fact that Hee Do seems to be so grounded and unruffled, even in the face of Yu Rim’s disdain. Like, even when Yu Rim interprets Hee Do’s words to be sarcastic, Hee Do just remains matter-of-fact and undisturbed by it.

I do like that moment, when Hee Do and Yu Rim meet halfway, because of Yi Jin’s disappearance.

This is the thing that finally breaks down their pride, such that Hee Do would ask Yu Rim for Yi Jin’s pager number, and Yu Rim would even request that Hee Do let her know, if she heard from Yi Jin.

I kinda wish that this understanding would extend beyond Yi Jin, but I guess I’m hoping for too much, too soon.

Plus, of course, there’s also the inconvenient detail, that they are actually rivals for Yi Jin’s friendship, even if they don’t admit it.

E6. I actually really like watching the day to day interactions between Hee Do and Yu Rim.

Generally speaking, it really feels like Yu Rim’s the one who’s more conscious of and affected by Hee Do, from the daily things, like feeling self-conscious about her worn-out schoolbag when Ji Woong admires Hee Do’s branded school bag, to more fencing-related things, like consistently losing to Hee Do when they spar.

It sucks for both Yu Rim and Hee Do, that Head Coach puts so much pressure on Yu Rim not to lose to Hee Do.

It adds so much unnecessary pressure on Yu Rim, who’s already stressed out as it is, and it shows his bias in Yu Rim’s favor, because he keeps telling Yu Rim that her reputation will be ruined if she loses to Hee Do.

It must not be fun for Hee Do, to know that her own coach, who’s supposed to root for her success, is actually worried that she’ll end up beating Yu Rim, and is working to make sure Yu Rim wins.

I don’t like this coach very much, and I can’t wait to see him swallow his words at some point, when Hee Do proves herself a worthy fencing star in her own right.

What I do notice though, is that while Yu Rim struggles to deal with the additional pressure that Coach is putting on her, Hee Do appears to take everything much more in stride. As in, she’s not exactly happy about the situation, but she doesn’t let it get her down.

So far, that does seem to be a key difference between Yu Rim and Hee Do.

With Hee Do, she’s resilient and nothing ever seems to get her down for too long.

With Yu Rim, I feel that there’s an enduring sense of fragility about her, and it feels like this fragility is part of her nature, rather than, say, caused by a specific set of circumstances.

In the confrontation that leads up to their catfight, I really feel for Hee Do, because all she’s doing is being herself, and working to be the best that she can be, and here Yu Rim is, complaining that all Coach does is go on about Hee Do and how Yu Rim needs to win the gold medal.

I think Hee Do’s exasperated retort is spot-on.

She’s worked hard to get to where she is, and she’s studied Yu Rim fanatically, out of admiration, as well as to learn. What can she do, when she can read Yu Rim like an open book?

Hee Do’s right, I feel. Yu Rim could work at beating Hee Do too; there’s nothing that’s stopping her from doing that, except Yu Rim’s own pride.

I’m also glad that Hee Do lets on that she’d been the one to give Yu Rim that umbrella, that rainy day.

It’s about time some secrets came out – though I’m still waiting for the reveal that they are each other’s online chat buddies.

I’m sure that’s not going to go down well with Yu Rim in particular, unless something changes significantly between now and then.

E9. Ahh, finally, we have Yu Rim’s mortification, at realizing that her online bestie, whom she loves dearly, is none other than Hee Do, whom she’s been really unkind and nasty to, for so long.

I can see why she’d feel so conflicted by this, and so mortified at the thought that Hee Do would be disappointed to know that Injeolmi is none other than Yu Rim.

The parallel of Hee Do and Yu Rim both flailing about while feeling the agony of humiliation and angst, even though it’s about different things, also makes them both feel so similar to my eyes.

These two really are more similar than they think.

One of the big thrills for me, this episode, is seeing Yu Rim start to adjust her behavior towards Hee Do, and feeling all awkward about it.

Like the way she moves to pass Hee Do that can of lubricant when Hee Do asks for it, when she would have ignored Hee Do in the past. Or like the way she realizes that she wouldn’t actually mind letting Hee Do read her copy of Full House Volume 16.

Context really is everything, and I’m glad that this context, that Hee Do is actually Ryder37, causes Yu Rim to see Hee Do in a whole new light.

On a different note, I love that scene where Coach Yang takes the team to Yu Rim’s family’s restaurant to eat, and Yu Rim’s Mom notes Hee Do’s silent discomfiture, and comforts her so gently and warmly.

Augh. That was beautiful to behold, and it’s clear to see that this is exactly what Hee Do needed. It feels like Mom’s words and her embrace, touch Hee Do, down to her very soul.

I also appreciate that in the moment, Yu Rim looks on silently, and seems to realize, in a whole new way, just how much the medal incident had hurt Hee Do.

A big highlight of this episode, for me, is watching Hee Do and Yu Rim actually become close, once the truth comes out, that Yu Rim is Injeolmi.

That beat, where Hee Do defends Yu Rim’s honor, by confronting those girls trash-talking her in the bathroom, is so great. I love that Yu Rim springs into action to help Hee Do, the moment she realizes that Hee Do might get hurt.

I love that Yu Rim then comes clean to Hee Do, and tearfully apologizes for all the times that she’s been mean to Hee Do.

That crying, sobbing hug that they share, is just the most wonderful thing.

I’m so glad that they both treasure their online friendship so much, that all the in-person friction gets resolved in a single hug.

It’s so cute how they then start acting like besties in real life, taking such careful care of each other, much to Yi Jin’s confusion. Tee hee. I loved this.

E10. I am rather giddy at how Hee Do and Yu Rim have become such fast friends, such that there’s no longer any awkwardness between them, when they’re interacting in the real world (vs. interacting online).

I loved the sight of them talking on the phone, after Hee Do’s trip to the hospital, and it’s just so sweet, to hear Yu Rim say that she had felt really worried for Hee Do. And, it’s so nice to see them relate so keenly, on even small things like fencing-related toenail problems.

These two really get each other, and the soulmate-flavored friendship between these two literally gives me goosebumps, every time I see evidence of it on my screen. 🥰

E11. A big highlight of this episode, for me, is the conversation between Hee Do and Yu Rim, at the bus stop.

I’ve been loving their new friendship a great deal already, but this conversation makes me love their friendship even more.

I love how honest and matter-of-fact this conversation is, despite the potentially awkward position it puts them both in.

I am so proud of Yu Rim for being upfront with Hee Do, and telling her that she’d actually known from the start, who Hee Do was, and that Hee Do had, in fact, been Yu Rim’s entire motivation to do well in fencing.

It’s so great that both Yu Rim and Hee Do are able to look back on the events that had led them up to today, and reflect on it with such candid honesty.

I love that Hee Do’s main reaction is surprise; she’s not at all puffed up at the thought that gold medalist Yu Rim had known who she was, and even been motivated by her.

And I also love that Yu Rim’s so candid, in telling Hee Do that she’s still scared of Hee Do, even now. More than that, I love how gently matter-of-fact Yu Rim is, as she says this.

It’s clear that this has no impact on their friendship whatsoever, and I love that.

E12. I do love that through everything else, we still get nuggets of friendship gold between Hee Do and Yu Rim, even though their friendship isn’t the main point of this episode.

Like how Hee Do wants to join a professional team like Yu Rim, and wants to be on the same team, if possible, and how Yu Rim looks distinctly disappointed, when she realizes that Hee Do has to at least try to get into college, because of her mom’s wishes.

The way these two actively want to be together, in the next stage of their lives, is so endearing. 🥰

Plus, they are so on the same page, when it comes to Ye Ji wanting to quit fencing.

The way they both stand up for Ye Ji (Joo Bo Young) in front of Coach Yang, the way they both sit out training sessions in support of Ye Ji, and the way they both offer to help Ye Ji train, to meet Coach Yang’s quitting requirements, is all so in sync.

I felt it was a very heartwarming sight, to see two gold medalists working hand in hand to train a junior member of the team. There’s something so giving and so uncalculated in the whole scene.

Nobody feels threatened by the idea of someone else getting better; both Hee Do and Yu Rim just give of their all, to help Ye Ji get better at fencing, and I love it, so much.

E13. I do love that little conversation between Hee Do and Yu Rim, where Hee Do lies on Yu Rim’s lap, and tells Yu Rim how she’s afraid to lose Yi Jin, even as Yu Rim straightens out Hee Do’s hair.

This feels so casually cozy, like these two have been best friends all their lives. I love that.

This particular conversation, where Hee Do muses that nothing lasts forever, and therefore, even if you gain everything by making your confession, you’ll end up losing it, and Yu Rim says that what matters is that you’ve had it at one point, feels like foreshadowing, for our story.

Hearing our characters say this, I’m beginning to see that perhaps the point of the loveline between Yi Jin and Hee Do, is that they loved each other, and had each other’s love, at one point. Oof.

I think I might need to brace myself.

On a different note, I do love the little wrist-to-wrist, scar-to-scar cheer, that Hee Do and Yu Rim come up with, this episode.

I really love their friendship and their partnership, and this episode, it feels particularly poignant, when Yi Jin announces on air, that this is the last time that they will fence together on the same team; that going forward, they will join different teams, and compete against each other.

Guh. I know that it’s inevitable, given the different paths they need to take, but it’s still a little sad to think about the fact that they won’t be able to spend time together, quite like this, anymore.

E14. I really appreciate the scene where Yu Rim tells Hee Do about her plans.

The way Hee Do’s first reaction, is to be tearfully, viscerally concerned for how Yu Rim will be judged, because she’s been through similar judgment herself, and doesn’t want Yu Rim to suffer like she did, is so pure, and so touching.

Hee Do really cares only for Yu Rim’s wellbeing; there’s nothing in her words or her general reactions, that even hints at the sense of betrayal that the general public demonstrates, later in the episode.

I love their friendship for how pure and wholesome it is, seriously. ❤️

My favorite Hee Do-Yu Rim scene this episode, is the one where Yu Rim gets trapped in the school gymnasium by nosy reporters, and calls Hee Do for help.

First of all, I love that out of everyone she could have called, Yu Rim chooses to call Hee Do. I’d thought that Yu Rim might have called Ji Woong, since he’s her boyfriend, but no, when she’s in trouble, Yu Rim thinks of Hee Do first.

Guh. These two really are besties. I love that.

I also love how Hee Do marches in there, and hugs Yu Rim, and comforts her, and then works with Yu Rim, to figure out a way to sneak Yu Rim outta there, under those reporters’ noses.

Hee Do’s idea is so out there, but it’s so crazy that it actually works, and I love the creativity and audacity of it all.

The sight of Hee Do and Yu Rim running out of there, hand in hand, is like a balm for the soul, seriously. I love their expressions of happiness and wonder, and I love the solidarity that we see between them, expressed in spades.

I’m so glad they have that opportunity to take those sticker photos together, and it feels so fitting, that they’d fix those photos to each other’s phones, as an expression of affection.

I’m also so proud of Yu Rim, for standing her ground at that restaurant, and speaking up for herself, and not allowing the restaurant owner to malign her, or deny her service. It’s so great, and it’s made even better, by the fact that Yu Rim credits this growth, to Hee Do. Aw.

E14. The goodbye scene at the airport – ack, that Yu Rim leaves so soon! – is so poignant to witness, as Yu Rim bids farewell to the people who matter most to her.

And of course, it’s Yu Rim’s goodbye with Hee Do, that hits me in the heart the most.

The way they both try not to cry through their smiles but end up crying anyway; the way they both work so hard to be cheerful and noncommittal about it; the way they joke about meeting at the finals in Madrid; it’s all so poignant, and so full of feels. 🥲❤️

[END SPOILER]

The clique of friends together

The friendship that grows among this hodge-podge group, legit turned into one of my personal highlights of the show.

Show does such a great job of drawing this group together in a way that feels organic and almost incidental, such that I started my watch thinking of them as pretty disparate, and ended my watch loving any and all scenes that they shared as a group.

Somehow, their different personalities and backgrounds don’t matter; by the end, it just felt like this bunch of people belonged together, and I loved that, so much. ❤️

[SPOILER ALERT]

E4. The way the four of them come face to face outside Seung Wan’s house is wonderfully, breathtakingly awkward, with so many suspicious looks cast about. Yu Rim’ suspicious of Yi Jin’s relationship with Hee Do, while Ji Woong is suspicious of Yu Rim’s relationship with Yi Jin.

Oh what a tangled web we weave! 😃😁

E7. Hee Do getting locked in the rooftop storage room is not something I’d expected, but Show leads up to it very organically, so that it makes perfect sense that Hee Do would be there to be locked in, in the first place. That was nicely done, I thought.

I thought it was all very cute, how Yi Jin calls Seung Wan for help, and Seung Wan ends up dragging Ji Woong along, for good measure.

And how fun, that Yi Jin turns out to be Ji Woong’s sunbae for his band too, ha. I can totally believe that Yi Jin, having been the golden boy type who had excelled at everything, would have been an active member of more than just the broadcasting club.

E10. The whole seat cushion theft attempt makes me realize that this belief, that you can gain academic success by stealing the seat cushion of someone smarter than you, is A Thing.

I’d first come across this in The School Nurse Files, and the fact that it shows up here too, must mean that this is a legit belief, in Korea, among students.

I love how our trio springs into action to stop the thieves, and it’s so great, that Yu Rim uses her fencing skills to threaten the would-be thieves, in order to protect Ji Woong.

For one thing, it reminds me of how Hee Do had used her fencing skills before, with the umbrella, to excellent effect, and it tickles me that Yu Rim and Hee Do are so similar, even in times of duress.

The other thing is, of course, is the fact that Yu Rim’s instinct is to protect Ji Woong. That is sweet and cute, and I can totally see why Ji Woong’s heart would flutter in response. Hee.

E10. My big highlight of the episode, hands down, is the trip to the beach.

It’s so great that Yi Jin thinks of a way to fulfill the common dream that Yu Rim and Hee Do have, to have a school trip, which will also make his documentary more interesting.

Big kudos to Seung Wan, for basically twisting Yi Jin around her little finger, against his will, to get him to make it possible for her and Ji Woong to go along on this trip.

The way her bribery turns into blackmail is nothing short of genius, and I am officially very impressed with Seung Wan’s survival abilities.

The unadulterated joy of the entire group, as they hightail it down to the beach in Yi Jin’s car, just makes my heart want to burst; it’s so infectious.

I do love that beat, when Yi Jin’s mom talks up Yu Rim’s gold medal, that Yu Rim makes sure to introduce Hee Do, and mention Hee Do’s gold medal as well.

Aw. What a turnaround. And how nice, that Mom rolls right into a warm welcome for Hee Do too. I love how things have changed.

The other beat that I love, is how Yi Hyun recognizes his favorite DJ Seung Wan by her voice, and doesn’t waste any time in calling out to her, and expressing his admiration.

His puppy crush is the cutest thing, and Seung Wan does seem quite taken by him, the way she says she’ll wait for him for 4 years. (That’s when he’ll turn 20, and in Korea, 20 is the age of adulthood. Which I suppose means that she’d be willing to consider dating him then, heh.)

The sight of our happy bunch playing the water is arguably my favorite bit of the whole episode, because it reminds me of a visit to the beach I’d made with friends, when I’d been around Hee Do’s age. We’d frolicked in the water too, and it had been great fun.

I’ve got some photos squirreled away somewhere, which I haven’t looked at in ages. But, seeing our group play in the water, made me kinda feel like I was reliving my own memories, a little bit. That was really cool.

Hahaha. The whole thing where the high-schoolers mess up all the things that Yi Jin instructs them to do, like wash vegetables, cook rice and start the fire for barbecue, is so relatable. I totally get why they wouldn’t have a clue as to what to do.

Hee Do and Yu Rim have been too busy fencing, and Seung Wan and Ji Woong have likely had all these things done by their mothers anyway, and therefore had no need to learn.

Poor Yi Jin, having to deal with their mess, as the token adult, even though he’s only 4 years older. 😂

The thing that really grounds these scenes, and takes it to a whole other level, is the way Ji Woong gets yelled at by his mother on speaker-phone, and the way the others respond by sharing their own pain, in gestures of solidarity.

It’s sobering, yes, but it also helps our characters learn so much more about one another. In particular, I like how both Yi Jin and Yu Rim have a better understanding of Hee Do’s family situation.

It’s a little awkward, but I feel like this will end up drawing them all closer together, and that makes it worthwhile.

That scene, where they all sit together and watch the sunset, and decide that they will “buy” summer and be masters of summer forever, is a wonderfully epic moment that feels almost magical. This is truly the stuff memories are made of.

E11. One of the things in this show that’s been on my mind, a little bit, is the age gap thing, between Yi Jin and the rest of the gang, most notably, Hee Do.

I’ve heard mixed reactions to this, with some viewers apparently finding it weird and uncomfortable, that Yi Jin would be hanging out so much with a bunch of high schoolers, and even weirder and more uncomfortable, that he would have feelings for Hee Do, who’s still in high school.

Other viewers have found it fine, however.

I tend towards the “it’s perfectly fine” camp, because, well, he’s really only 4 years older, and while he may be tasting a few things that they haven’t, like what it’s like to work in a company, he really isn’t that much more mature than they are.

In fact, in my head, I feel like Yi Jin hasn’t fully grown up yet. He’d had some of his growing up years stolen from him, when he’d been forced to grow up really quick, when his family went bankrupt, and he suddenly had to deal with his father’s creditors banging on his door.

I feel like in hanging out with the high school gang, he’s kinda-sort on a similar wavelength, while still in that Oppa/Hyung space, where he’s someone whom the kids look up to, but isn’t so far above them, that the kids feel weird hanging out with him.

I think it says a lot, that the kids’ general discomfort with Yi Jin is only a token sort of discomfort. Like Seung Wan and her complaints, when Yi Jin moves back into her family’s spare room.

And yet, that doesn’t stop her from basically arm-twisting Yi Jin into taking her and Ji Woong along for the beach trip, eh?

E11. Ji Woong’s silent confession to Yu Rim is sweet, as is Yu Rim’s silent acceptance of his feelings. More than that, though, I love the scene where our little gang stands on the rooftop together, and admire the fireworks.

Yi Jin’s words at this point, that life is long, but fireworks are short, give me a sense of wistfulness, because in my mind, these carefree youthful days, are the fireworks. Is this a foreshadowing by Show, that these carefree days will soon be over..? 😭

E13. I was really quite tickled by Ji Woong and his attempt to take the girls out on a drive adventure, only to crash and burn (figuratively!), when he runs out of nerve – and then gets stuck trying to park the car.

Also, just for the record, I thought it was pretty darn great, the way they decide to go with Hee Do’s idea, and park Ji Woong’s mom’s car, by picking it up, and carrying it. Pwahaha! Whatever it takes, eh? 😆

E14. I love the goodbye party and gifts that Ji Woong and the girls prepare for Yu Rim.

Seung Wan’s mom is a sweetheart, for understanding that a home-cooked meal is absolutely necessary for Yu Rim, who won’t have much opportunity to enjoy such homey flavors, for a long time.

I also love the gift that the gang prepares for Yu Rim.

Their gift not only shows support for Yu Rim’s decision, it also expresses all of their appreciation for Yu Rim, in loving her as she is. It’s beautiful, and cute and funny, all at the same time.

And that line about her having a boyfriend, whose name is Ji Woong, is a very sweet, endearing touch, heh.

[END SPOILER]

Special shout-out:

So Hee Jung as Seung Wan’s mom

I ended up loving Seung Wan’s mom so much more than I ever imagined I would.

Not only is she sweet and pleasant to our gang of friends, and mothers them when they come over to her house, she’s also an awesome, awesome mom to Seung Wan.

This is my favorite scene of Mom’s, hands-down.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E12. I love the conversation that Seung Wan has with her mom, about her decision to drop out of school.

I love how Mom listens, and asks questions to understand, instead of getting angry and trying to force Seung Wan to change her mind.

I love Mom for standing by Seung Wan’s decision, because she understands how important it is to Seung Wan.

And gosh, I love, love, LOVE the way Mom strides into school with so much swag, to stand by Seung Wan’s decision, and give Abusive Teacher an earful, while she’s at it.

That moment, when it dawns on Seung Wan that she takes after Mom, is truly one of the best moments in this show. LOVE. LOVELOVELOVE. 🤩🤩😍😍

[END SPOILER]

Kim Hye Eun as Coach Yang

I’m actually nicely tickled to see Kim Hye Eun play Coach Yang.

Having recently rewatched Secret Love Affair, where Kim Hye Eun plays the vain Young Woo who’s always in tight, revealing clothing and heavy makeup, it’s just a bit of a mind-bender to see her in baggy tracksuits and sneakers here, as Coach Yang, and speaking in Saturi, no less. I love it.

Coach Yang spends a good amount of screen time yelling at her athletes, but I do appreciate that underneath it all, she truly does care. Plus, she does have more wisdom that one might first expect.

In this spoiler section, I’m just highlighting one of Coach Yang’s more memorable arcs, in her role as mentor and coach.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E12. I honestly thought that Coach Yang’s approach, was to force Ye Ji to get better, and that once Ye Ji made it to the quarterfinals at the nationals to meet Coach Yang’s quitting requirement, that she’d change her mind about quitting, because she’d be out of her slump by pure virtue of all the improvements she’d have had to make, just to get this far.

But, that wasn’t the case.

I was pretty stunned to realize that, even after all that effort and improvement, Ye Ji’s first response, was to be really happy – that she could now quit fencing.

I guess that shows how serious Ye Ji is about wanting to quit fencing. This isn’t just her acting out because she’s frustrated by a slump. Even after she’s out of her slump, and able to perform well at national competition level, she’s clear that she is ready to step away.

That’s very thought-provoking, actually.

It makes me think of what Hee Do says in defense of Ye Ji, that athletes choose something when they’re so young, and then commit themselves to it, often for life. That’s harsh, and it’s sobering to think that they have to live with this decision, made at such a young age, for so long.

It’s true that Ye Ji should get to make a new choice for herself, if she’s convinced that her earlier choice isn’t the right one for her.

At the same time, I’m glad that Coach Yang gets her to work to the point where Ye Ji quits, not while in a slump, but at a time when she’s fully able to carry on, if she wants to.

That way, the decision becomes much clearer. She’s not quitting because she has to; she’s quitting because she really wants to.

That, along with what Coach Yang says to Ye Ji, that when the going gets tough, she should remember how hard-won this new beginning was, and cherish it, makes it all feel quite momentous and meaningful.

[END SPOILER]

Choi Myung Bin as Min Chae

I was happily blown away by Choi Myung Bin’s turn in The King’s Affection, and was delighted to see her here, playing Hee Do’s daughter Min Chae in our present timeline.

Even though it was the past timeline that had my heart, I did look forward to her scenes in our present timeline.

STUFF THAT WAS OK

Seo Jae Hee as Mom + Mom’s relationship with Hee Do

I’ve got Mom and her relationship with Hee Do here, because even though Show does a solid job of peeling back Mom’s layers to show us what’s going on with her, I found that I low-key resented her, probably on Hee Do’s behalf. 😅

I get that Mom is flawed, and is just someone doing her best, given the circumstances. At the same time, there are many occasions where I felt she could have done better, and should have done better, as the parent in this relationship.

Also, the peeling back of those layers, to reveal Mom’s inner workings, comes pretty late in our story, so I also kind of feel like it was a bit too little, a bit too late.

Still, in the end, I felt like I understood Mom better, and her relationship with Hee Do is improved, so.. I guess it works out to ok, then. 😁

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. That scene where Hee Do screws up her courage to talk with Mom about wanting to transfer schools and keep fencing, is so very well done, I thought.

Hee Do’s childlike innocence, earnestness and frustration is so believable, and Mom’s anger and hurt is so clear to see as well. I found Mom’s glassy eyes, as she fights back tears, especially poignant.

Again, it hits home in such a universal way.

Hee Do’s thoughts and priorities are just completely different from Mom’s. Mom’s probably been through a lot, having lost her husband, and become a single working mom, trying to do her best for her daughter.

And yet, there’s this giant gulf between mother and daughter, that, right now, seems too huge to bridge. It’s such heartachey stuff.

I’m glad Mom seeks out her old friend Coach Yang to help Hee Do transfer schools, even though it appears to be an uncomfortable situation.

E5. I do feel that Mom is too hard on Hee Do, and is too quick to assume the worst of Hee Do.

At the same time, we do see that Mom is secretly pleased and proud, when she realizes that Hee Do makes the national team and is going to be featured on the news.

I’m trying to deconstruct what’s behind Mom’s tough parenting style, and I think that part of the reason Mom is so tough on Hee Do, is because she really doesn’t understand Hee Do all that well.

The generation gap is A Thing, between these two.

Additionally, I wonder if Mom is so tough on Hee Do, because that’s how tough she is, on herself.

I’m guessing that Mom has to work extra hard to prove herself, because she’s a woman and a single mom on top of that. I know not all parents are as hard on their kids as they are on themselves, but it’s possible, I think, that Mom is that way.

Also, perhaps part of the reason for this, is because Mom works so hard at the practical stuff, to the exclusion of so much else, that she’s lost touch with the softer, emotional side of things. It can happen to people who aren’t so expressive to begin with, I think.

All that to say, I feel bad for Hee Do, to be on the receiving end of Mom’s criticisms, which sometimes really feel uncalled for. At the same time, I also feel for Mom, who’s trying her best, in the only way she knows how.

Also, I do think that Mom’s too proud of her own good.

Like, when she realizes that she’s wrong about Hee Do for something, we haven’t yet seen her actually adjust the way she talks to Hee Do.

When Hee Do tells Mom that she’s going to Hwaseong for the national team tryouts, we can see Mom reacting to it in her gaze (really nice delivery by Seo Jae Hee, by the way), and we see that Mom’s kind of stunned and regretful, for having misunderstood Hee Do.

However, after this, we still don’t see Mom act any differently towards Hee Do.

I’m thinking that this is Mom’s pride that’s at work. And also, most likely, it’s awkward to attempt any changes, because of how their relationship has been so rough for so long.

E6. I’m rather bemused by what we learn about Mom and Coach Yang’s history.

So, they’d been friends, but Mom had exposed Coach Yang’s practice of taking bribes from parents, based on a tipoff? Gah. Well, like that’s not going to ruin a friendship.

I can see why things are strained between them, and Mom coolly saying that Coach Yang ought to forget the past because it’s been 9 years, does seem rather callous.

I mean, putting aside the morality of the issue, it was clearly a huge event in Coach Yang’s life that has left damage and scars. Being all cool and stating that Coach Yang ought to forget, really does Mom appear to  be lacking in empathy.

E8. I have to confess, I kinda don’t think very well of Mom’s parenting skills.

In that early conversation between Mom (well, Grandma) and Min Chae, I thought it wasn’t fair of both of them, to blame Hee Do for not being able to empathize with Mom’s difficulties, during the time when Hee Do’s gold medal had been a topic of controversy, and Mom had read the news about it, and had used the phrase “stolen gold medal.”

I mean, it’s easy for Mom and Min Chae to say that, because they weren’t in Hee Do’s shoes.

I’d wager that if either of them had been in Hee Do’s shoes, they wouldn’t have been as empathetic as they’d like to think.

Also, between Mom and Hee Do, Mom’s the adult. It’s natural for Hee Do to be shortsighted, because she’s a teenager. She’s not equipped to see things from a larger perspective.

In such a situation, Mom should’ve been the one to explain things to Hee Do, in a manner that acknowledges Hee Do’s feelings, while not discounting the controversy.

Instead, Mom has consistently been cold and demanding of Hee Do, in almost all their interactions.

I get that Mom feels proud of Hee Do’s accomplishments, because we see her leak a few secret smiles, but gosh, does Mom expect Hee Do to magically know that Mom’s proud of her, when all Mom ever seems to do, is tell Hee Do where she’s fallen short?

Yes, it takes two to tango and all that, but Mom is the adult here, so I have more expectations of Mom.

I’d expect her to rise above her own feelings, to manage her relationship with Hee Do. Because if Mom’s not going to do it, surely you can’t expect 19 year old Hee Do to manage it for them?

I realize I’m ranting somewhat, but I suppose that’s just how invested I am in Hee Do’s journey.

And, honestly, I’ve been waiting for Mom to step out of her cold, apparently paralyzed shell, to mend her relationship with Hee Do, but that hasn’t happened yet.

In fact, it doesn’t even look like Mom’s made any progress since we’ve started our story, and that is starting to wear on me, I think.

E9. This episode, I appreciate that Mom finally says something to Hee Do about how she really feels about Hee Do’s gold medal.

It’s something that Hee Do’s needed to hear for such a long time, and while I wish that Mom had been faster to communicate this, it’s better late than never.

Also, it’s starting to come together in my head that Mom is much more socially awkward than her glamorous news anchor image would indicate.

Although it’s not an excuse for her poor parenting, I do think it’s part of the reason she does so poorly, in communicating with Hee Do.

With that in mind, I have to admit that there’s something rather endearing about the sight of Mom pushing past her inherent awkwardness, to reach out to her daughter.

It doesn’t take away the sting of all the unhelpful things she’s said to Hee Do, but it does go a long way to mollify me, to see that she’s trying.

E11. This episode, we get deeper insight into what’s really going on with Mom, and while I still think her parenting skills could be better, I do feel like I can understand her a little better.

It’s a shocking choice that Mom makes, to request to deliver the news flash, when the hospital has called to expressly tell her that her husband doesn’t have much time left, and she should hurry over.

In context, though, I can see that the reason Mom makes this choice, is because she’s suddenly faced with the prospect of being the sole breadwinner for the household, and she’s already received a warning about her performance not being up to standard.

She’s making this choice to secure her job, as best as she can, because she sees that if she loses that job, she won’t be able to provide for Hee Do.

Plus, it’s true that women have had to work harder to prove themselves in the corporate world, simply because there is an existing prejudice, that a woman won’t do as good of a job as a man would, and that her role as a mother would be a liability.

I can see why Mom would work so hard to prove herself, in a context like that, and how that would have ended up hurting Hee Do, over the years.

Of course, Mom could have done some things better, even as she fought to prove herself. For example, this episode, she could’ve called Hee Do, to let Hee Do know that she couldn’t come home as promised, because of an emergency news flash.

Sure, Hee Do would have been upset, but that would have been better than not calling with an update at all. But Mom doesn’t call, and then gets upset when Hee Do gets upset.

That’s one of my least favorite things about Mom; her regular omissions when it comes to communication.

I’m glad though, that we get some bursts of honesty between Mom and Hee Do, this episode.

First, we have Hee Do blurting out that she’s still 13 years old, and still hurting over the fact that Mom hadn’t come to Dad’s funeral. And Mom responds by saying that she’s filled with resentment towards Dad – which is something that Hee Do would’ve never guessed on her own.

I can see why Mom would have those feelings of resentment, though.

When Dad had passed away, Mom had had to shoulder the parenting burden alone, in every sense of the word, and it had been really hard. And Mom’s been struggling to cope, even though she doesn’t show it.

I’m glad that later in the episode, we get another burst of honesty when Mom and Hee Do visit Dad’s grave, and Mom breaks down in tears, and admits that she misses Dad a great deal.

Aww. It’s so heartbreaking and poignant at the same time, to see Hee Do cradling Mom in her arms, as Mom sobs her heart out. It’s hard, but it’s cathartic and needful, and it feels like a momentous milestone in their relationship.

I really appreciate that in the epilogue, we see that in the present, Hee Do and Mom have a much closer relationship than they’ve let on.

Their caring words to each other, while still groggy from the colonoscopy procedure, are so warm and tender.

There’s so much grace and forgiveness here, as Mom is apologetic for leaving Hee Do alone so much when she was young, and Hee Do tells Mom that it’s fine, and to just live a long time, by her side. That’s sweet.

[END SPOILER]

Kim Young Sun as Yi Jin’s Mom [MINOR SPOILERS]

I have to admit to feeling quite flummoxed by Mom, when we meet her in episode 5.

I mean, I can buy that she’d be obsessed with her husband to the exclusion of everything else, when things were fine and they were financially secure.

But.. with Yi Jin having to grow up so fast in the face of his dad’s bankruptcy, debt and criminal charges, I’m kind of shocked that Mom hasn’t likewise grown up at least a little.

Instead, she’s wailing about missing her husband, when her sons show up in Pohang. This struck me as more than a little bizarre, I have to admit.

However, the longer Show drags out this running gag of Mom being completely smitten with Dad, and desperately missing him, the more I begin to see the comedy of it.

That beat in episode 6, where Yi Jin has to awkwardly type out all of her sobbed sweet nothings to Dad, is what makes the scene for me.

Yep, I feel about as awkward watching Mom moon over Dad, as Yi Jin, heh. 😅

STUFF I LIKED LESS

Kim So Hyun as Adult Hee Do

I have to confess that, try as I might, I felt a disconnect between Past Hee Do, and Present Hee Do. They just don’t strike me as being the same person. 😅

Over many episodes, I tried to rationalize that a lot has changed over time, and people can be very different in their adulthood versus their teenhood, but.. I just couldn’t quite buy what I was trying to sell myself.

So I just kinda closed my eyes and rolled with it, but it would have been nice, to have been able to feel like Hee Do in both timelines, essentially felt like the same person.

THEMES / IDEAS [MINOR SPOILERS]

There’s a fair bit to mine from this show in terms of themes and ideas, but I just wanted to highlight the one that stood out the most, to me, and that is:

How universal our experiences are

How poignantly universal is it, to have mother and daughter actually have so much in common, including the teen angst of feeling like Mom doesn’t understand, and therefore it’s impossible to talk with Mom.

That angst shows itself across generations, in this drama world, and makes me think of my own teenaged years, when I, too, had felt like it was just too difficult to talk with my mom, because I was convinced that she wouldn’t understand.

Ah, don’t we all go through this, after all.

We really are more alike than we think, and Min Chae being enthralled by Hee Do’s story of her teenaged years, very likely because she identifies with it so much, brings out that theme very nicely.

SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]

To be honest, I’d worried somewhat, that I wouldn’t like this episode, because I’d heard various rumbles of viewer discontent about Show’s last two episodes.

I needn’t have worried, because Show handles this episode and its accompanying emotions, with the same sensitivity and realism that it’s always shown, and I find myself being effortless brought along, for the ride.

For a start, I’m happy to realize that I had been wrong about Yi Jin and what had gone down, between him and Yu Rim, when he’d broken her story.

It makes me feel heaps better, really, that he and Yu Rim had talked it through, and Yu Rim had not only given him her blessings, but had even made a specific request of him, to not mention her parents.

It had been hard to watch the public turn against Yu Rim like that, and I have to admit, I’d wished that Yu Rim would have been vindicated of the accusation that she’d done it for the money, but I can also understand her desire to protect her parents at all costs.

Given how vicious the court of public opinion can be, I can imagine that if the truth had come out, that Yu Rim had needed the money to bail out her parents from debt, that the public would have turned on them without mercy, for causing them to lose a gold medalist darling.

I am also heartened to see that Hee Do and Yi Jin make up, putting this rift behind them. It feels so precious, that Hee Do recognizes and understands, that Yi Jin is just doing his job.

I was glad to see Yi Jin request for a transfer away from the Sports desk, in order to remove any conflict of interest, because that feels like the right way forward, if he wants to be with Hee Do. However, I guess I hadn’t bargained for how that transfer would end up affecting both their relationship, and Yi Jin himself.

I’ll talk more about that later; for now, I wanted to focus for a bit, on the thing between Yu Rim and Hee Do.

I thought the passage of time was nicely handled, the way it was framed in the context of Yu Rim’s and Hee Do’s emails to each other.

I loved the idea that they continued to stay in touch in such a close manner, despite being so many miles apart, and it warmed my heart, to see Hee Do’s face light up like that, at the sight of an email from Yu Rim in her inbox.

I also really liked being able to get a glimpse of how Yu Rim was doing in Russia, and it was really sweet to see Ji Woong actually manage to visit her in Russia, just like he’d promised.

I suppose it was my instinctive denial, that prevented me from predicting what happened next, with the emails that used to be exchanged so easily and regularly, between Hee Do and Yu Rim.

Given that they are now rivals, aiming to meet on the world stage, it makes sense that there are now certain things that they would be wise not to mention to each other, like injuries and training program shifts.

At the same time, I can see how deeply this must affect them both, since they had been so close, and shared everything so openly with each other, before Yu Rim had left for Russia.

I can see why Yu Rim – who had less “other people” news to share than Hee Do – would be the first to find it awkward, because there was literally nothing much she could say to Hee Do, without it being a professional conflict of interest.

The fact that reporters, always looking for a juicy angle, took Yu Rim’s words out of context, and splashed all over the Sports headlines, made everything feel so much worse, because there’s no clarification forthcoming from Yu Rim, to Hee Do.

On this point, I have to say that I love how steady of a rock Hee Do turns out to be.

The way she responds, when reporters try to bait her into saying something nasty back to Yu Rim, on record, is so fantastic.

The way she seems to know, instinctively, that reporters had likely twisted Yu Rim’s words, is great.

It’s even greater, that she then looks for a way to ensure that her own words don’t get twisted by reporters – so that Yu Rim would get to actually hear her true words, when reading the news. I love her.

I’d been a little bit disappointed, when Hee Do had declined to meet Yu Rim before the match, but I can understand her decision, on a professional level.

I don’t believe that Hee Do was trying to mess with Yu Rim’s emotions, by declining to see her just then. I think that Hee Do was working to keep their friendship and emotions out of the equation, by focusing solely on the match at hand.

The match itself, between Hee Do and Yu Rim, turned out to be heart-in-my-throat tense to watch, even though Show’s already told us by this point, that Hee Do wins this match. That’s skillz, and I’m suitably impressed with Show.

There is so much burgeoning emotion on both sides, as Hee Do and Yu Rim face off with each other.

They’d made this promise to each other, to meet in the finals, and here they are, finally, both living up to that promise.

Even though it’s hard for them to keep their emotions out of this, it’s clear that they present their best sportsmanship to each other, as they give of their best in the finals.

And gosh, when Hee Do and Yu Rim finally face each other, after the match is over, the tears running down both their faces, and their instinctive hug, so long and heartfelt, is truly beautiful and bittersweet to see.

There is still so much love between them, even though there are so many things standing in the way of them relating to each other the way they’d used to.

It feels so precious, that I want them to have that bubble, suspended in time, forever, to love each other and be best friends and soulmates, always. 🥲❤️

As for the relationship between Hee Do and Yi Jin.. I think Show does a really great job of 1, showing us what makes their relationship so strong and special, and also, 2, how even the strongest relationship and the best intentions can be defeated, not by a single big blow, but through a process of slow erosion.

There is so much that I love about their relationship, and yet, by the time I reach the end of the episode, I can see how things turned out the way they did. In a way, it had felt almost.. inevitable, that Hee Do and Yi Jin would drift apart.

I love how much faith they have in each other, even when the going is tough. I love how unwavering their support is, for each other, through all the difficult times.

And I love how they love each other enough, to jump through hoops to spend time together, and then smile in the face of disappointments, because they understand that their hearts are in the right place.

Most of all, I love how happy they are, when they do get to see each other.

Like the way Hee Do had gone to meet Yi Jin where he was on location for the New Year’s Eve report, and then they’d run off to a nearby hilltop, for a private countdown of their own.

Augh. They looks so blissful, just being together like this, that it breaks my heart extra, to know that this relationship is going to face some serious challenges, and that they will not end up going the distance, despite their best intentions. 😭

To my eyes, there’s so much pathos in the fact that one of the key roots to the slow breakdown of their relationship, is Yi Jin’s passion and sincerity to be a good reporter.

As he determines not to grow numb to the pain of the people whose stories he covers, that pain slowly eats into him, until there is eventually barely any life left, in the young man who had once been so full of zest and verve.

The events of 9/11 only serve to amplify everything that’s already impacting the relationship between Yi Jin and Hee Do, I feel.

They are physically separated in a much bigger way than before, with Yi Jin going to New York, to deliver reports from the ground.

And, the magnitude of the pain, suffering and death there, is so great, that as Yi Jin approaches it all with that same open heart, it literally starts to kill him, as it sucks the life out of him.

On that note, I must say that Nam Joo Hyuk does a great job of showing us that Yi Jin literally becomes a shadow of himself, as he continues to give whatever he can of himself, to the task at hand, to not only cover the stories, but to share the people’s pain.

It’s very sad, but it makes sense to me, that he’d find himself getting sucked into this black hole of sorts, where he gets disconnected from everyone, including Hee Do.

That moment, when Hee Do realizes that her support isn’t reaching Yi Jin any longer, is such a sad one. I feel that that’s a decisive moment, for their relationship.

In the past, even when they’d been apart, and even when Yi Jin had been going through difficult times, Hee Do’s presence, via her words and her voice, had always been a lifeline for him.

But now, in this time, he’s reached a place where Hee Do’s words no longer are a lifeline for him. The fact that he gets to a point where he thinks that Hee Do fundamentally doesn’t understand, is, I think, a sign of the beginning of the end.

If Yi Jin doesn’t back away from this moment, and come back to himself, and Hee Do, I don’t see them making it through this at all.

And the thing is, Yi Jin doesn’t back away from it, and instead, leans into it, by applying for the opening in New York.

Sadly, I believe this means that Yi Jin’s trip to New York has changed him so deeply, that he can’t see himself going back to the person whom he used to be. And, in his desire to make a difference, I think he’s decided to stay in New York, if possible, to be a voice for the people.

Although we don’t get specific insight into this, my take is that to Yi Jin, this is also an act of sacrifice.

Meaning, I believe that he still loves Hee Do and doesn’t want to disappoint her. But I also think that he’s absorbed enough of this pain and suffering in New York, that he feels compelled to give of himself, to make a difference.

It is as Hee Do had said, in that beautiful, whispered, tipsy conversation that we see, earlier this episode. Yi Jin is the type of person who will lead the world to a better place; it’s just who he is.

And when he sees so much pain and suffering, he cannot help but want to make a positive difference, with all that he has.

Even though Hee Do wrestles, this episode, with the difficulties that come with being continually let down by Yi Jin’s career demands, and comes out of it still committed to loving Yi Jin, it really does take two, in the end.

And, it does seem that at this key point in their lives, Yi Jin and Hee Do are growing in different directions, with finality.

It’s so very poignant, to see them in such a different place, on this New Year’s Eve, compared to the last.

Where before, they’d been gleefully happy together, and had pledged to be together always, this year, Yi Jin is in New York, with a seeming determination to stay, and Hee Do’s on that hilltop, alone with her memories.

Augh. The angsty feeels, seriously. 😭

Everything’s so bittersweet, but I also wanted to say, it makes the sparkling moments of joy, no less beautiful. 🥲💔

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

Augh. This finale made me feel so many things. My heart feels so full, even through the ache that it’s experiencing so acutely, in this last episode. I am..verklempt, is what I am.

A good chunk of the heartache, for me, is just the fact that it’s time for me to say goodbye to these characters. They’ve become so real to me, that I feel like I’m preparing to say farewell to real people, who have become real friends.

And of course, part of the heartache, comes from witnessing the separation between Hee Do and Yi Jin.

Through most of our story, we’ve witnessed how their lives became entwined, and the more entwined their lives became, the stronger their feelings became, for each other.

Therefore, it’s with a deep sense of wistfulness, that I witness their lives now separating, as they start to disentangle themselves from each other’s lives.

At the same time, as Leslie mentioned on Patreon, Show makes it such that it’s not hard to appreciate why Hee Do and Yi Jin make the decisions that they do.

For Yi Jin, he feels compelled to a greater purpose, to lend his voice to the voiceless and the helpless, even though it sucks the life out of him. I can understand why he would want to protect Hee Do from having the life sucked out of her, via his experience.

At the same time, I do think that it’s not exactly a conscious decision on his part, to keep Hee Do barricaded from this part of his life like this.

My guess is that this experience, of getting sucked into the darkness, overwhelmed him to the point of paralysis. I tend to think that it’s not that Yi Jin couldn’t share it with Hee Do; rather, I tend to think that he couldn’t.

For Hee Do, given her context of growing up always feeling like she was Mom’s last priority, I can see why a vision of a similar future with Yi Jin, would not resonate with her.

Coupled with the demands of her own career, and how it just felt like she couldn’t reach Yi Jin with her support, no matter how hard she tried, I can understand why she’d eventually feel like the best decision, would be to break up with Yi Jin.

It’s so true that the best decision for us, may be the hardest decision.

To me, that perfectly describes the breakup between Hee Do and Yi Jin.

They still love each other, but they’re being pulled in two different directions. And in Yi Jin’s case, he has something that he feels compelled to do, and it’s not something where he feels he can take Hee Do along.

If Hee Do hadn’t been a national athlete, or if Yi Jin hadn’t been a reporter, things between them might have worked out differently, I do think.

But, with both of them having such demanding careers, it makes it that much more challenging, for them to be there for each other.

I’m just really glad that Show works it out such that Yi Jin and Hee Do part ways in such a poignant, heartfely, mutually appreciative manner.

It’s true that a lot has changed between them, but it’s also true that they’ve been hugely precious parts of each other’s lives. I’m so glad that they get to acknowledge that, and appreciate each other, even as they say goodbye.

And, it feels so perfectly poetic, that Yi Jin would receive Hee Do’s lost diary in the mail (because his extra resident registration card is stuck inside, with his address), and thus get to really hear and feel Hee Do’s thoughts, through the entire last stretch of their relationship.

The way he weeps as he reads, just breaks my heart, because there is so much sadness and regret there. At the same time, I’m so glad, that he gets this opportunity to truly know her thoughts about him, and about their relationship.

That last hug that they share, at the bus stop, made me cry; it’s just so deeply poignant, that these two people, who’ve meant the world to each other, have now reached a point where they are parting ways.

It’s wistful and comforting at once, to see them echo familiar words of affection to each other, and say their goodbyes. Ack. My heart. 💔 I just.. don’t want these two to have to part. 😭😭

It hurts to see them part, because without these challenges bearing down on them, they are so perfect together.

But then again, context is everything, and we cannot exist out of context. And their contexts have come to be at odds with each other, and this is the time that they need to choose themselves first, over each other.

It’s what they need to do and I respect that. It’s just.. it’s so sad. 💔

But that’s how life works, sometimes, and it’s partly because Show is faithful to depict life as it is, without shying away from the bittersweet bits, that it’s so effective in presenting the wonder and magic of the carefree years of youth, in a way that feels real and raw, yet idyllic and enchanting, all at the same time.

I’m glad that we get that time skip, so that we get to see how everyone’s doing.

It’s comforting to see that Yi Jin’s managed to buy an apartment, and reunite his family. That was his single most pressing goal, since his family got torn apart, and it’s gratifying to see that his efforts have paid off, and they’re all together again.

Also, how cute that Yi Hyun’s now all grown up and still waiting for Seung Wan with hearts in his eyes, hee. I’m suitably amused that Seung Wan’s very charmed by all grown up Yi Hyun, and is ready to start dating him, like, immediately.

I am also so glad to see Ji Woong and Yu Rim go the distance.

With all that they’ve been through, with Yu Rim going off to Russia for such a long period of time, it’s extra gratifying to see that they’ve overcome their obstacles, and are now getting married. Ahhh. I love it, so much. 😍

The way Ji Woong sneaks that proposal on Yu Rim is pretty cute too, what with him pretending to be her student and all. Pfft. It’s just so Ji Woong, is all I can say. 😁

I’m so glad that we get to see that TV interview between Yi Jin and Hee Do, in full this time, complete with their individual thoughts and reactions.

It’s so sweetly poignant, to see that highlight reel, of all their shared moments over the years, interspliced with the interview. It provides this rich sense of backstory and context, of their relationship, and it really brings out, all over again, just how special their bond has been.

Even though they don’t say very much during the interview, it feels like there is so much burgeoning emotion on both sides, through the entire thing.

It feels precious, and fitting.

I also love how Yu Rim shows up at Hee Do’s retirement press conference, and presents Hee Do with flowers.

Their hug is so reminiscent of the hug they’d shared at Madrid, after their match, except this time, I feel assured that they will have lots of time to spend together, after the hug, instead of being separated again, like after Madrid.

If there’s one thing I would have liked Show to have included, it would’ve been a glimpse of Yu Rim and Hee Do working together, because, why not, right?

Yu Rim’s fencing school is oversubscribed, and the two of them have proven that they work really well together. I would have loved to have them turn that fencing school into a shared project, and just work on that together, as besties, for a long, long time. 🤩🤩

It’s cool to see that lost diary be found again, in the present timeline, and it’s pretty great to see that Min Chae’s found her own desire to write her own story, instead of just being content to live vicariously through Mom’s stories.

I also thought it was a very nice touch, for Present Hee Do, to take that diary, and return to the tunnel where she and Yi Jin had broken up, to gain closure.

It’s so perfect, that Yi Jin had left a return message for her in the diary, in response to the true words that she’d wanted to say to him.

The way Show presents this, like a final, heartfelt correction, where Hee Do and Yi Jin can finally part ways, not on the tail of angry words, but comforted and buoyed by words of kindness, appreciation and love, is really quite beautiful.

Show gives us a comforting sense of closure, even as it reminds us that the magic of that youthful, hopeful, extraordinary summer still holds true, and always will.

Augh. It’s altogether so heartfelt, and so wonderful, even amidst the bittersweet.

Thank you, Show, for the wonderful feels and the amazing memories. ❤️

THE FINAL VERDICT:

A heartfelt tribute to the sparkling days of youth, that is as beautiful as it is bittersweet.

FINAL GRADE: A

TEASER:

MV:

PATREON UPDATE!

The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Twenty Five, Twenty One, is Love All Play. I’ve taken an initial look, and I’m happy to say that I really like what I see, so far! 🤩 My E1 notes on Love All Play can be found here.

Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!

Foundation Tier (US$1): k-ent tidbits + E1 notes of all shows covered on Patreon

Early Access (US$5): Our Blues

Early Access Plus (US$10): +A Business Proposal

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VVIP (US$20): +My Liberation Notes

Ultimate (US$25): +Love All Play

If you’d like to join me on the journey, you can find my Patreon page here. You can also read more about all the whats, whys, and hows of helping this blog here. Thanks for all of your support, it really means a lot to me. ❤️

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Male_Romantic
Male_Romantic
28 days ago

A late contribution to this review but I just finished watching 25 21 on Netflix.  And I was happy to stumble on this review because I was looking for a way to share my feelings on the show.  I was deeply moved by the story of the relation between Na Hee Do and Back Yi Jin. After I watched the show ending I found myself watching the season finale immediately once more. Then I watched randomly parts of other episodes  to relive the feeling and get all the nuances
straight.  I could not say goodbye to the story.

I greatly enjoyed discovering your review as it is so comprehensive and offered a great opportunity to relive my emotions when I watched the show.  Although it broke my heart that Na Hee Do and
Back Yi Jin broke up I also in a way appreciated this story line. It is just a bit more delicate then the standard living happily together ever after. But to come to terms with the show’s ending I had to revisit the season finale once more to appreciate and understand the exchanges between Na Hee Do and Back Yi Jin to the full extend. 

I was  moved to tears at their parting at the bus station, happy that they embraced and made amends in a way after their harsh exchange of words earlier. I realized that at that moment Back Yi Jin already
took notice of Na Hee Do diary and learned what she actually had wanted to say to him and the depth of her love. But despite this their special bond is still there being manifested  in the TV interview
where anchor Back Yi Jin interviews gold medal winner Na Hee Do. In my view their love bursts from the TV screen and flows from Seoul to San Francisco and back. 

What I regret is that Na Hee Do only learned Back Ji Yin reply in her diary so many  years later. I wished her that she could have that insight much earlier. I also wondered as they still lived/worked in each other’s neighborhood and that Na Hee Do’s mother surely still had some attachment to her former employer, that they never run into each other. And even worse also apparently did not make the effort. That last thing makes me sad. 

But everything considered a great show. Which I cannot put behind me as I find myself already rewatching episode 1. Added the Wonstein song Your Existence including the instrumental to my Spotify favorites.

OtakuQueen
OtakuQueen
1 month ago

Honestly this K-Drama turned out to be much better than expected. I got really sucked in and could feel the development of the character.
Some people critiziced the age gap between Hee Do and Yi Jin, but its not that big if you take a closer look:
With 18 she would be basically an adult in a lot of western countrys and his situation is described really well too. He was just at his second year of college when the crisis struck his family and then he went to military service and shortly afterwards was forced to stand on his own two feet. He was out of highschool for like 2 years? thats not that far away…and since he lost his ability to finish college he was stuck on high school diploma. I can completely relate to his desire of being a highschool kid again…after all it was the last time his life was going well….later in college time his life fell apart.
Aside from that he didnt approach Hee Do in a romantic way at all, they just spend time together because they needed each others support. It felt really natural and he acted mature whenever it was needed. When I was at her age I had platonic relationships to 1-2 older men (like 4-5 years older) as well. Sometimes you need those relationships, especially if you dont have anyone to support or advice you in your family. And thats exactly the case with Hee Do. I would even go so far as to say, that he was in the beginning at times a replacement for her dead father, who protected her and supported her in fencing as well.
And him hanging out with those highschool kids is okay, he ended up doing so, because he got involved with Hee Do so much and in the beginning we saw, that his same age friends turned out to be assholes and he just realized it, after losing everything. He simply had no one else left. And Hee Do and the others were sort of innocent and started to get close to him. You could see them searching for advice several times. They still respected him beging older and more mature and he tried to help them and be considerate.

But yes I was sad after the end…I had kind of hoped that after all these years they meet again…the way it ended was more logic, than you think….In the moment he aspired to be a reporter their relationship was already doomed. We already knew about Hee Do and her Mother suffering due to Hee Dos career. But Yi Jin had no choice in order to bring his family back and lead a better life again. He was left without a college diploma and the economic crisis was harsh. We saw how painfully he applied for jobs again and again without success….So getting a job like this was the best thing, that could happen to him. And him being in the sports department in the beginning was his way of getting close to Hee Do again after their first separation. He simply didn´t know who Hee Dos mother was until much later and how she suffered because of her work. After exposing Yurim like that he realized, that he could hurt Hee Do like this as well and changed department in order to save their relationship. And we saw him already asking about the possibilites of changing way before. Of course that led to his life going into the direction of Hee Dos mother. And You could see how depressed he became and how Hee Do tried again and again to support him and understand his situation….but as time passed she realized more and more, that it would be her whole life suffering….of course 9/11 was overkill and in my opinion not a necessary topic in this Drama, but okay…Yes she could have gotten him to make a therapy and get over his depression….but the fact would remain, that he was stuck in this job and that he would continue to dissappoint her. I believe that even after 3 years of work as a reporter it would have been hard for him to change jobs because of his missing diploma. And in order to open up his own business he would have need to work for a lot more years to save up enough money. We saw later on that it took him 11 years to reunite his family and the house is still not paid off. As sad as it is, Hee Dos decision to break up was really the best for them and I could not see any other proper solution. Since we know, that Hee Do probably didn´t earn enough money to support him in that term…otherwise Yurim would not have needed to go to Russia.

Despite everything I would have loved if they meet and get together later after her daughter finishes high school and he retires of that job. Honestly I doubt that he was able to have a decent relationship later on with someone else with such a demanding career. It would be a deserved ending and her daughter would probably support her. Since they are obviously the big love in eachs life and unable to forget each other. But thats probably my wishful thinking and desire for a happy end in this harsh reality, where love can´t survive.

Anyways I am left devastated and hopless…really didn´t expect such an impact from this Drama.

reaper
reaper
2 months ago

Waited 3 months for this…. just to drop it after the first episode.

merij1
2 months ago
Reply to  reaper

I am curious, why were you looking forward to it, relative to what you saw in the first episode?

reaper
reaper
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1

Show had a big hype. One of the highest viewer counts in drama history. Praise from left and right. So I thought it had to be good. Maybe my expectations were too high.
Kim Tae Ris acting got so much praise for being outstanding. I just can’t see it. At least in the first ep it was mediocre at most. Also that she played a 18 year old was quite unbelievable. To me it felt like a middle aged woman tried too hard to be young. When the 18 year old FL looks at least 5 years older than the 22 year old ML, something is off.
And who am I supposed to like in this drama? Side characters are all unlikable and trashy. ML is depressing. FL is rude, stubborn and selfish.
For my taste show is way over the top and quirky – not in the fun way.
And the connection between FL and ML feels a bit forced by making them meet again and again in random places.
But thats just me. Maybe in a dropping mood.
Also dropped recently: Alchemy of Souls, Yumis Cells (ep 10), Cafe Minamdang, Todays Webtoon, Sell your haunted house, Our Blues (ep 17), Bulgasal (ep 8), Youth of May, Why her? (ep 7). A dream of Splendor (ep 20)

merij1
1 month ago
Reply to  reaper

We watch many fewer shows and don’t drop them as often once we start, but we dropped Yumi’s Cells because Yumi herself didn’t do much for us.

reaper
reaper
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1

I definitely agree on Yumi.

Antonio
1 month ago
Reply to  reaper

Youth of May was really bad and boring!!

Why did you leave Webtoon? I love FL very much and can’t wait to start it. It’s not funny?

reaper
reaper
1 month ago
Reply to  Antonio

Yeah Youth of May was bad.

Webtoon is one of the worst shows of this year. Bad acting all over. Boring Athlete background story and FL is just unlikeable. Assaulting people never hit my funny nerve. And Kim Sejeong is just bad. IRL her character would already be in jail.

Antonio
1 month ago
Reply to  reaper

Just like me. Unpleasant actress and inadequate for age issues in interpreting a minor. Usual Netflix plot with feminism that is nothing but misandry. Now for me Krdama on Netflix is ​​a guarantee of abandonment after an episode.

Real strong and interesting women can be found in classic Kdrama like Heaven’s Garden or in Cdrama.

reaper
reaper
1 month ago
Reply to  Antonio

I already gave up hope. Netflix will never produce actual good dramas. And viki is turning bad these days too.

Never really seen an actual strong woman in a drama. They always misinterpret the word “strong”.

Antonio
1 month ago
Reply to  reaper

The standard Netflix storyline is “woman acting like a stupid and bully man” and “stupid and useless men being dumb and weak (as long as they are straight and white)”. This is why I recently turned to Cdrama, where there are still interesting stories, classic narrative arcs, men and women with flaws and personalities, feminine women and masculine men, zero woke stuff.

Paulina
Paulina
2 months ago

Yes, it was a beautiful show and thank you KFG for your insightful notes. I think for me the source of ache was the show’s tender portrayal of the evanescence of life and the fleeting quality of everything that’s flawlessly beautiful, like the perfect love between Hee Do and Yi Jin. It’s a life paradox that beautiful things are beautiful exactly because they cannot last. 

merij1
3 months ago

Well we finished it. Despite one of the resolutions being sad, it was a beautiful ending. However, thanks @kfangurl for the lens adjustment suggestion to view it as a coming-of-age story instead of a conventional romance. That was very helpful. 

I have to admit that around episode 13 we began to experience a touch of Something In The Rain (SitR) PTSD. Luckily it ended up not being like that at all.

TBH, we would’ve been very happy not to have watched 90% of episode 13. Most of 14 for that matter. Yet those annoying plot developments were exactly the set-up that was crucially missing in SitR. 

Possibly spoilerish observation about Life
Sometimes things just don’t work out. But that needn’t take away from the value they had and continue to hold in your memory and heart. 

Really, really great show. More of these, please, dear K-drama gods-nim!

Last edited 3 months ago by merij1
merij1
3 months ago
Reply to  merij1

As for other worthy sports-drama shows, the movie As One starring Bae Doona and Ha Ji Won is very good. Like this show, it features a well done enemies-turn-into-friends theme, with the added feature that the rivals represented North vs. South Korea in a real life sports drama that occurred back in 1991.

Here’s kfangurl’s A- review: https://thefangirlverdict.com/2021/11/09/flash-review-as-one-movie/

Last edited 3 months ago by merij1
Jehanzeb
Jehanzeb
3 months ago

Spoiler
Is there any chance that Baek YiJin is the husband of NaHeeDo and father of Kim MinChae? Will there be a season 2, since the writer has left many questions unanswered.🥺

Last edited 3 months ago by kfangurl
merij1
3 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

We’re only on Episode 12, but

Spoiler
in a much earlier episode (which takes place during the current period/2021 timeline) someone asks Hee Do’s mom if she’s spoken to Yi Jin lately, and she replies simply that she ran into him a month prior.

Hee Do was standing right there and looked surprised or wistful, so the interaction clearly signaled that they do not end up together as a couple. In later episodes we discover that he got a job at the TV station Hee Do’s mom works at, hence the question going to her and not to Hee Do.

Have to say, it makes me sad to know that. But I suppose I’d be even sadder to discover it at the very end of the show.

Last edited 3 months ago by kfangurl
merij1
3 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Yes, we love it!

Jehanzeb Saleem
Jehanzeb Saleem
3 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

The last scene clearly indicates that something is happening that we are unaware of. 🥺🥹

Spoiler
Maybe their wedding was not made public, just like no one knows about NaHeeDo’s mother.

Last edited 3 months ago by kfangurl
merij1
3 months ago

We’re only on the 3rd episode, but, wow, this show rocks! The casting and acting in particular, but also the lack of tropes.

There were a couple moments when we “knew” the trope that was surely about to unfold. But then it didn’t! Yay. Gotta love when that (doesn’t) happen.

The actress (Kim Tae Ri) who plays Hee Do is exceptional. But, honestly, every actor in the show is pretty great, with subtle and surprising touches appearing consistently from even the least prominent side-characters.

I’ll come back to comment more when we’re done, but for now, I just wanted to say thanks for the recommendation, @kfangurl.

Kay
Kay
4 months ago

I’m happy you enjoyed this drama so much 🙂 I’ve heard soooo many positive things about it. It is on my watch list, though it will probably be awhile. I think the bittersweet nostalgia may be too much for my heart despite how much I’m sure I’ll like it, hehe 😅

Manish
Manish
4 months ago

I also loved the series but there are not together that is hurting me thats it and everything else is super

j3ffc
j3ffc
4 months ago

There was a lot to digest here, both from kfangurl’s commentary and the numerous comments on the show by folks here. As the saying goes, reasonable people can disagree, but by and large I ended the show with my drama glass half full, although I agree with and understand many of the objections made by our community here. (Thanks to all for your thoughtful posts.)

With respect to the good, I found myself engaged, entertained, and emotionally invested throughout most of the run. I have dear friends from back in high school with whom I am still in touch, over 45 years later, and while I don’t reminisce about specific occurrences all that much, that aspect of the story ticked a big box for me. I enjoyed the framing story with present-day Hee Do, her mom, and Min Chae, especially as it showed a satisfying evolution from the earlier time frame (I agree that the depiction of the mom’s dedication to duty was a little OTT). And I loved Kim Tae-ri’s performance. I was not familiar with her from anything else and was blown away when I found out that she’s quite an accomplished veteran. (Park Bo-young pulled off a similar chameleon stunt in On Your Wedding Day.)  I liked the ensemble also, and was particularly fond of Seung Wan and her performance by Lee Joo Myung.

Other little things that enriched my watch included the spot-on 1990’s opening credit sequence (oh so very Delightful Girl Choon-Hyang) and Kim Hye Eun as Coach Yang. 

Others have made insightful comments about Ye Jin’s character, who seemed to turn from icky to a-little-too-quick-to-fall-in-love to a-little-too-quick-to-fall-out-of-love at the turn of a dime, but I guess I ran with it from the perspective that the people that we fall for when we’re young very often are flawed partners that somehow get glossed over in the moment. But I felt that the failure of this relationship was both made so very clear from episode 1 and felt earned to me (more earned than 90% of the happily-ever-after couples we get in so many dramas). I bought into the bittersweetness of the ending and agreed with kfangurl that the little revelation with the found diary, while maybe a little too convenient from a plot perspective, provided some satisfying closure. 

Diatribe and Spoilers for Hotel del Luna and (modestly) Reply 1988
If I could eliminate any single trope from K-dramaland, I’d go nuclear and get rid of the OTP. It’s not as though I don’t like seeing people living Happily Ever After (I do! I promise), but I get much more satisfaction from real romantic tension. I thought was done really well in Reply 1988, where we got to see both the thrill of victor and the agony of defeat). And I hate the whole “they were supposed to be together from childhood” thing, especially in the absence of mysterious cosmic forces (yes, I am alone in accepting that in Hotel del Luna and in thinking that the fact that the OTP didn’t get to get together, at least in their current reincarnations, was tragic and compelling). 

In terms of the reasons for the breakup, I agree that the 911 connection as a bookend to the IMF crisis was a overwrought and unrealistic. (I mean, how did Ye Jin even get to NYC when the flights were all cancelled for a week? I know because I was on a plane when that happened, and it took me forever to get home. That being said, the vibe in the NY scenes in the weeks after the event registered true to my experiences at the time.) In my case, I put on a pair of thick drama lenses and simplified the situation to these two individuals prioritizing their careers over their relationships, which is another theme that I find compelling. At least both got what they wanted professionally, although Hee Do obviously suffered even more in the part of the story that writer-nim left untold (either through death or estrangement). 

So, not a perfect drama for me, but satisfying and enjoyable due to the journey of the five friends together and in capturing the glow of an imperfect but affecting relationship from the vantage point of adulthood.

And I am going to write my high school friends right now, just to say thanks.

Gloglo
Gloglo
4 months ago
Reply to  j3ffc

True, the unhappy ending was signposted plot wise, and you could argue that even thematically, (with a running song that apparently spelt things out in its lyrics) but emotionally it felt dissonant. The romance tropes were there played straight, cheating our subconscious and creating uncertainty, a hopeful doubt about the main lead having an ever after, instead of concentrating their efforts in delivering a solid narrative with honesty and with purpose, as the drama appeared to have as its definite goal. 

It would have been better offering important personality clues of why these two people were not going to make the distance… There was none, just plot eater eggs. That’s not good writing. The male lead’s depression and new found ambition was never hinted at before as being an undeniable threat. For a story delving into the nostalgia and mistakes of youth, there was very little analysis of why people fail and how relationships collapse. If you blame it all on an economic crisis or a historical tragedy, we are at risk of finding individual human actions in a story pointless, as well as feeling disconnected from its characters and their growth. Unhappy endings are much more than just letting terrible things happen in your story. They need preparation and pay off too.

Gloglo
Gloglo
5 months ago

This is that type of drama that, although nicely produced, well acted and with a general good vibe about them, I just don’t enjoy enough. The thing is, if a drama is set to tell a coming of age story with a doomed romance, do not spend so much time on said love story or use romantic tropes that belong to a “happy ending” genre to dress it up…   Because of this misguided storytelling crutch the doomed ending felt unsatisfactory and unearned to me. It just came out of nowhere in the form of a sudden depression caused by the 9/11 tragedy no less… making the failure of the relationship feel rather whimsical, as its outcome added practically nothing to the coming of age story.   The closure with the lost diary would have felt more impactful, had love ended in an inevitable rather than in an aleatory way. My opinion. This is the problem I find with some slice-of-life dramas: they use romcom tropes, and then decide to throw a bucketful of sobering harsh reality on the audience in an attempt, it seems, to add realism, but instead creating a tonally dissonant and unsatisfactory outcome…
If they wanted this drama to be about growing up, they should have made the relationship between the male and female leads lean on the friendship more than on the romance… or make the romance more cautionary or relevant to the main plot and/or theme.  Both the mother/daughter relationships suffered because this lack of narrative purpose. The friendship between the girls story suffered to because of it. This drama wanted to do too many thing, I think, and in the end, it didn’t do any of them well enough. If it had stuck to exploring female friendship and rivalry in sports, as the first episodes kinda of promised, I’m sure I would have enjoyed it much more.

Elaine
Elaine
4 months ago
Reply to  Gloglo

EXACTLY my feelings! I feel Ike their bond as portrayed during the show was so strong, that it felt wrong of them to give it up at the end. If Hee Do could see Yi Jin was so depressed it would have been more in character for her to drag him to therapy and make sure he gets healing, rather than break up with him and just say bye. Also, it was hinted he would be like her mom as a reporter but he consistently found ways to be a more ethical reporter than her mum. Right until the end when he chose to stay in New York. Gah.

Eric Lancaster
Eric Lancaster
4 months ago
Reply to  Gloglo

Very well said. The friendship/rivalry/competition aspect of this story was so very good. (Count me also with everyone else at being amazed by the acting of our FL). The conclusion of that part was satisfying – this is the best reason to participate in a sport or art – life long friendships, pushing your limits, picking yourself up from failures, sharing triumphs with your friends. And that her rival became someone she loved like a sister – so nice. This was the perfect message for Min Chae from her mom at that time in her life. The way romance was inserted – they sold us one story, then switched it up at the last minute and left us with … nothing.

David
David
5 months ago

The build of this show had me drooling in a good way. 2521 writer did WWW Search, this director did Mr. Sunshine and of course two leading actors, though after watching the show, KTR was going to be the only star of the show. I am in complete agreement with those who say 1. 9/11 reference was too “out in left” for this show, was unnecessary and detracted from the main the story line. 2. BYJ’s character had too many flaws, and wavering back and forth after he said he loved NHD. It was NHD who was always trying to make “their” relationship work. Even during the “middle” of their breakup, BYJ was so clueless it was already happening. It seemed writer nim purposefully made BYJ’s character to be a jerk and/or clueless. Even in the final breakup scene, he blames NHD for thinking of breaking up from her side – is he really that dense? There were several other flaws in the writing and/or production – but that happens in lots of kdramas.

There are so many great memories to the build of NHD and BYJ, before and sometimes during their dating. Replaying the scenes in my mind, I think there clues they would eventually break-up. And I think writer nim had the breakup as a final event.

After Ep. 15 misstep, the last 10 minutes of Ep. 16 saved this from being an “B” rated show to a potential “A” rating. Where HND and BYJ get to relive the moment of their breakup, to me, was the major highlight of the show. Through all hardships, good and bad, to end their relationship as they had – on really bad terms but now knowing how each felt through the diary was surreal. If you ever went through a bad breakup like this, this gave you some solace that you remembered the better times and forgave while maybe being forgiven. For me, some comfort “she” saw this and remembered how we should have ended it.

Don’t know how all your high school days were, but some of my friends had it tough – but no matter, when we hung out, we had a great time. Little did we all know how simple life was then. 

BE
BE
5 months ago

PS On the ending, which was obviously foreshortened. The real problem was how Yi Jin’s character was written and/or directed. Going back to what I said below–so much seemed unnatural about him–why he only has high school students to hang with, why he seemingly ditches his family in the middle of the show, how, in fact, this rather ordinary television reporter rises to fame, or why 9/11 seemed to hold so much fascination for him, or how he connects 9/11 to his ambitions that he ghosts both his family and Hee Do makes no sense. There would have been a thousand ways to rectify all this, and I am sure all of us can imagine some. And I suppose if one accepted the artificiality of show’s world, difficult for me because show’s attempted verisimilitude eclipsed that option, on its own limited terms, but in that case show really ought to have its otp Hee Do and Yu Rim, show be their story, and Yi Jin a far more secondary character–Hee Do’s husband present and vital, and Yi Jin treated like a first love in which the two outgrew one another. Yes the lens of bilungsroman was the lens through which to see show, but the writers insisted we think that there should be more to Hee Do and Yi Jin than that for every episode but the last one.

CarpControl
CarpControl
5 months ago
Reply to  BE

Glad I’m not the only one who felt like Yi-Jin was always meant to be the ‘first puppy-love‘ everybody grows out of, but was written and directed in a way, where he became… *more*. Sigh.

The real shame though, is, because of his increased screen-time, (and thereby reduced screen-time of Yu-Rim X Hee-Do), the writers do not even show us Yu-Rim (& Ji-Woong) as a part of her current life; which in my head-canon, they very much are! It’s SO jarring to think that along with Yi-Jin, the entire Taehyang Gang would disappear completely from Hee-Do’s life (and memory), despite living in the SAME city. Hee-Do not opening up a coaching-school intentionally, to avoid being professional rivals (yet again) with Yu-Rim makes sense, hence her woodwork shop. But here’s the thing with high-school friends (if you’re still one of the few lucky ones to be in touch with them): you do not *need* to move in similar professional circles to make time for each other!
But then, what do I know? We are a bunch of young, kid-less, 30-year olds, with lots of time, heh! xD

Elaine
Elaine
5 months ago
Reply to  CarpControl

Very much agree. The relationship between Yi Jin and Hee Do was so vital and important – him believing in her helped spur her to victory in the national team tryouts, as well as the Asian Games. Also, Hee Do has been shown throughout show to be extremely, fiercely loyal and persistent, not giving up on fencing despite her father’s death, despite her 5 year slump. Doing whatever it takes to succeed. Why would she have given up on Yi Jin after a few months? I feel like she would have flown to New York, forcibly gotten him into therapy. I feel like if they had gotten relationship advice from better mentors than her mother and his reporter senior, they could have made it work. Heck, I thought Coach Yang gave consistently wise advice, why didn’t Hee Do ask her what to do about Yi Jin? For such a bright shining flame as Hee Do, I was surprised how she gave up on Yi Jin and got so passive aggressive, even leaving his suitcase at the airport rather than calling him about it. Hee Do as a character has always been up front, honest and aggressive rather than passive in any way. In other words, I can accept this ending if the characters were normal human beings, but not for Hee Do who is almost superhuman in her grit, fire and determination. If she really ended up as an adult who nags her daughter and gave up on seeing her high school besties that would be like the writers telling us-don’t bother shooting for the stars, life will become normal, boring and sucky anyway.

Elaine
Elaine
5 months ago
Reply to  CarpControl

@Carp Control, I have young kids and not much free time but I make time to catch up with my closest high school friends. Even though some live overseas when we get together we can just connect cos we know each other so well. It is extremely rare and valuable to have friends who have seen you grow up and know you from the inside out. I think I could have lived with the ending if the friends had at least stayed in touch more (maybe Yi Jin excommunicated cos he gave up on Hee Do) and Seung Wan had done something different and more meaningful than being a bored, jaded variety show producer. I thought sh emigbt have gone into politics, NGO work, or even reporting like Yi Jin.

j3ffc
j3ffc
4 months ago
Reply to  Elaine

I agree that Seung Wan was shown to have underachieved, and that disappointed me because she was my favorite of the secondary characters. But I thought it made sense in the drama world because the whole dropping out of high school thing probably had a much bigger effect on her than she would have admitted and there were definite hints that she might have tendencies toward substance abuse. In real life, I have found that it is not always the high school stars that excel in life, so I thought that that part rang true. We can always hope that she cleans up her act and ultimately realizes her potential (and I certainly hope to see Lee Joo-myung in future dramas).