Watch your backs Running Men – someone’s hot on your trail. It’s the Hunter vs. the Hunted and the cast is picked off one by one. Who is this mysterious hunter and what does he want with the Running Men? Who will be the victor of this epic battle of agility, speed, and wit?

[Note: It turns out that this week's episode is the 1 year anniversary episode. Oh well. I was misinformed. In any case, it doesn't take away any of the AWESOME that was this episode.]

Episode 52. Broadcast July 17, 2011

We’re back with a traditional opening with the entire cast at Seoul Station. They reminisce about their recent trip to Thailand, still awed by their massive popularity overseas. Kwang-soo mentions the fan who donned his signature mustache, and Gary has a new haircut to match his newly found Hallyu fame.

It’s time to hear about today’s mission: Race to Kyungjoo and find the 7 gold crowns. Find the most and you win! Hold up there Mr. PD, isn’t there a catch? Of course there is. The cast will roll a die at every station and its outcome determines whether they’ll keep going to Kwangjoo with everyone else or find their own way.

The cast relies on rock-paper-scissors to determine who rolls first. Sometimes, you just can’t make this stuff up when you classically see one member fall so short. And that unfortunate member is Ji Suk-jin. He loses out on rock-paper-scissors and rolls a “fail,” which forces him to find alternative transportation.

The other members joke that it would be hilarious (and awkward) if their top star, Jong-kook and their worst, Suk-jin, were eliminated together. It’s as if the variety gods heard their cries and what do you know… Jong-kook loses on another round of rock-paper-scissors and the die. Man can’t catch a break from last week huh?

Everyone else is off to Kyungjoo by train and Jae-suk suggests a game to pass the time. They previously picked up a box of sweets, and their roll order depends on which one they pick. It’s enough to set off some anxiety as some members reveal their number and others’ sweets are blank. Finally, it’s between Jae-suk and Ji-hyo and when they pick, it’s Jae-suk who must roll first. Aww, it’s always the person who suggests the game!

They’ve got no time to dilly dally at the next stop and Jae-suk reminds the others that no matter who is eliminated, the remaining members will pile back into train without any qualms. Jae-suk throws the die into the air…and the others zoom back into the train car faster than you can say “fail.” LOL. Jae-suk is eliminated third, sulking along the Sandglass soundtrack, and a sweet in his hand.

Haha suggests that they choose the next order by voting on who they’d like to see eliminated. With these four, you’re bound to get some irregular answers: “Haha. Because it’s Haha,” “Gary. Because he’s ugly,” and finally (the best, I think), “A bad personality, scolds (me) all the time, and a sharp stare…Chun Sung-im (Ji-hyo’s real name).” You can guess whose is whose.

The eliminated think of ways to get to Kyungjoo. Jong-kook and Suk-jin decide to arrive in style by plane and Jae-suk opts for a later train. Slick, slick Running Men.

Back to the remaining four, Ji-hyo rolls safe from elimination and in pure glee Kwang-soo rolls…a “fail.” Just like before, the others zip back towards the train without looking back. His elimination is like the shot heard ’round the world. Poor puppy. It only gets worse when someone recognizes Jae-suk, asks to take a picture with him, and hands the phone to Kwang-soo. Get this boy a teddy bear!

Everyone is racing to Kyungjoo and it’s Ji-hyo’s turn to spin again. But of course Gary slips in before she rolls, “(Haha) get lost if Ji-hyo’s safe (from elimination).” Ji-hyo rolls safely and jumps into Gary’s arms. Long live the Monday Couple! Alas, Haha is eliminated fifth and the corresponding number is placed on his back. Hmm, something’s afoot, methinks.

Who makes it to the Kyungjoo amusement park first? It’s Jong-kook and Suk-jin who traveled by plane. The other members follow in after them: it’s time to look for the crowns! The Monday Couple look mighty happy to be searching for the crowns together. Gary attempts to scare Ji-hyo to poke a little fun, but he spots the crown before he gets the chance, much to Ji-hyo’s chagrin.

But there’s something, or rather someone, lurking in the amusement park, carefully tracking their every move. Leave it to the Capable One Jong-kook to notice that the scenery is eerie, as if people will disappear one by one. Well now that you mention it…

It’s Sukjin who’s afraid of roaming alone and calls Jong-kook but doesn’t notice the lingering shadow behind him. It’s the hunter! Suk-jin is no match for the hunter aka guest, actor Choi Min-soo (Warrior Baek Dong Soo, Father’s House). Choi Min-soo says: “You were the first…” and we flash back to the very beginning, when Sukjin rolled his fate and when Choi Min-soo received his mission: take the members out in order. Now the pieces are starting to come together…

How is it this man is so nimble and agile? Choi Min-soo is just climbing over gates and traverses through tall grass as if they were annoying little obstacles in his path. He’s a man on a mission and his next target is Jong-kook. The captions play up their potentially epic battle: It’s Hunter versus Spartakooks and Min-soo’s voiceover narrates that between beasts, there exists a different language…

Which is why I love Jong-kook’s transformation from a manly man from one second, to an obedient puppy the next. Jong-kook catches on fairly quickly and sans an epic battle, is taken away by men in black. Thus is the swift and quick end to Jong-kook.

This man must have keen hunter instincts or something because he spots Ji-hyo dragging two scaredy cats, Haha and Kwang-soo, to an amusement park ride in the distance. Min-soo: “The scared stick together.” True that, brother. Then suddenly, insight. Haha figures out that Min-soo must eliminate them in accordance to the order on their t-shirts. He doesn’t worry since Jong-kook is tough to catch. Oh, how little you know, Haroro!

It takes a dangerous close call for everyone to refocus on the mission at hand: Find the seven gold crowns. Come on, time’s a-tickin’! Jae-suk gets to work but he walks right up to where Min-soo is hiding. Yooruce Willis is an easy catch for Min-soo. A terrified Jae-suk asks to confirm if his mission is to hunt down the Running Men. Min-soo: “What number are you?” Jae-suk: “3.” Min-soo. “Then you’re right…”

In jail, Choi Min-soo takes a breather with the eliminated, educating them about all things Hunter. He chastises Jae-suk that he talks too much, calling him “5 mm deep,” as in, shallow. Oof. Min-soo mentions that fish that swim in shallow water move rather carelessly whereas deep-sea fish move in swift, calculated movements. When Suk-jin mentions, “Doesn’t it differ on the species of fish?” he’s met with a sharp smack to his thigh. HA.

It’s Jong-kook’s uncomfortable and awkward sitting position in this entire conversation that has me in a fit of giggles. Never has a man so dominating look so timid.

Haha did you really think a snailing train ride would save you from the Hunter’s grasp? It’s easy pickings for Min-soo to hop across the wall and capture Haha – for fun. Oh my god, dear man, you’re giving ME a heart attack! Evidently, they’re neighbors and it looks like Min-soo harbored some resent towards Haha for not greeting him properly. To remedy this social sin, Min-soo employs Haha to bring him Kwang-soo instead.

Kwang-soo is hiding in a corner, hoping to remain alive. He heads towards the carousel, and just when he turns the corner, something scares the living daylights out of him. It’s Min-soo, who has been patiently waiting inside the booth. Min-soo even offers that they “ride the carousel for a minute,” even breaking out into a smile before he rips off Kwang-soo’s nametag. I can’t tell if you’re being cute or scary anymore Choi Min-soo…

Okay, this man is not someone to be trifled with. Haha comes back, confident that he’ll take his elimination like a man, and Min-soo offers him a last chance to run for it. The offer shakes up his confidence and Min-soo taunts, “If I chase you…who do you think will win?”

That’s enough for Haha to run away and after some time, a noise in the darkness jostles him and he screams, “Just take my nametag!” Min-soo hunts him down a second time just as easily as the first. Two Running Men left and just one crown…

Gary realizes that they haven’t checked inside anywhere. Hand-in-hand, Gary and Ji-hyo enter the haunted house. Slowly they make their way through and BAM! Min-soo jumps out in front of them, capturing Gary, and Ji-hyo evades the attack. Some creepy lines later, a smiling Min-soo says that he’s fond of the Monday Couple. Heh, cute.

It’s now Ji-hyo versus Min-soo in a last stand and Ji-hyo’s heart is racing – and points to her belly. Oh Ji-hyo. Keke. She continues to search all over the park for the remaining crown, all the while, we hear Min-soo’s booming voice calling out her name.

Aha! Now this is Ace Ji-hyo as she removes the last crown from its hiding place. Now it’s a matter of just setting it down with the others…

Ace Ji-hyo darts across the park, slinking her way through openings, setting a false trail for Min-soo. Will she get there first? Will she be caught by Min-soo? We see her running as fast as she can and sets down the last crown, sealing the victory for the Running Men! Yes, Ace Ji-hyo! This is why we love you!



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