Basketball: Episode 14
Our hero puts his big boy pants on and learns how to ask for help, which leads us to the first tentatively bromantic moments of the series in an episode that’s actually not so bad. Really. It’s the musicians to our Titanic; there’s no saving this sinking ship, but far be it for anyone to object to a bit of entertainment on the way down.
SONG OF THE DAY
Basketball OST – KCM – “Make It Cry (울게 하소서)” [ Download ]
EPISODE 14 RECAP
Bookie Gong breaks up the brewing fight between teammates with some honestly terrible news—Shin-young is now part of the “team,” since she’s now in charge of their public relations campaign.
Chi-ho pulls San outside for a talk in order to try and understand why San refuses to work with him or accept his help. San’s answer is that it’s soooo easy for someone like Chi-ho to offer help, because everyone will love him no matter what. But he had to actually suffer to get where he is now.
“You think you’re the only one suffering?” Chi-ho fires back. “Everyone suffers.” San isn’t the only one crumbling on the inside from his struggles, but San doesn’t see it that way and declares that they should just leave each other alone. I’m not sure if that solution works for a team sport, but okay.
Chi-ho reassures Shin-young that what happened with San had nothing to do with her, and also offers his support now that she’s independent. (Does this mean she’s left her father’s house? I doubt she’d still be alive.)
She tells him that she’ll come to him if she needs to talk things out, but Chi-ho doesn’t want her to lean on him only when she has difficulties. Chi-ho: “Whether it’s something easy or difficult, I want you to come to me for everything. I don’t want you to struggle with making decisions on your own anymore.” Aw.
In a meeting with Vice Chairman Yoon and Count Byun, Daddy Choi is given some supposedly valuable information that will make him powerful enough to where he won’t have to struggle to please his future in-law, Mr. Min. It has to do with Japan’s war mobilization effort, and would basically put Daddy Choi in charge of all factories producing cotton and fabric.
He’s suspicious about the helping hand, but is greedy enough to take the offer. If he’s able to gain as much power as the two scheming elders are offering, he wouldn’t need to become in-laws with Mr. Min, so for now he thinks there’s no need to rush Shin-young’s marriage.
Now that Bookie Gong got to reap the gambling money from Team Baekhwa’s loss, he tells his minions that they have to win the next game and eventually make it to the semifinals, even if it means going up against Chi-ho’s former (and very good) team. He’s got a way for them to win, and it’s got something to do with San.
San turns to drinking in light of the press finding out about his missing thumb, causing Mi-sook to get chased around by her mother when she offers San a lifetime of food and support if he were to marry her.
Bookie Gong tries suggesting that San ask Chi-ho for help in making his comeback, since he knows that Chi-ho cares about San deep down and only wants to help.
I can’t tell if he’s trying to use reverse psychology on San when he then redacts his suggestion, saying that San has his pride after all—and hey, if he can’t make a comeback now or ever, there’s always other things besides basketball, right?
When Chi-ho comes home, Byeo-ri offers him a paper crane she made out of yesterday’s newspaper (in order to wish for his team’s success, d’aw). But what he notices is the headline about an American basketball player, Hank Luisetti, performing basketball’s first running one-handed shot. At the time, the innovative move was considered ridiculous.
Chi-ho gets an unexpected visitor in the form of San, who’s made the big decision to swallow his pride and ask for Chi-ho’s help. I love that Chi-ho doesn’t even think twice about San’s switched stance as he shows him the picture of Hank Luisetti’s one-handed shot. That’s how he thinks San can overcome his handicap.
We see the two of them try to put this into practice on the court, and despite Shin-young’s presence on the sidelines (writing an article), this is actually a nice moment. All they have is one picture to go off of, so they’re working together to try and replicate the player’s position to see if they can sink a basket.
Hong-ki is scandalized when he sees them trying to make a one-handed shot—basketball is a gentlemen’s sport, and gentlemen shoot with two hands!
He seems to come around to the idea when Chi-ho tells him that it’s San’s only option, until practice is cut short when Chi-ho receives a letter prompting him to return home immediately. Something’s wrong.
San tries offering a bottle of juice to Shin-young, which she refuses to accept on the basis that it’s not about the juice. Their dialogue is actually a little (unintentionally?) funny, because San is trying so hard to ignore the fact that the juice is more than juice, and even goes so far as to be all, What, is it because it’s GRAPE juice? Aw.
Shin-young coldly reminds him that she’s engaged to Chi-ho, meaning that she and San are now nothing to each other, which forces him to drop the act as he asks her if she really has to go through with the marriage.
“Can you live without me?” San asks. “I can’t. Without you, I can’t-…” But Shin-young cuts him off that yes, she can live fine without him, only to cry when she’s out of his sight.
Chi-ho rushes home to find his father being arrested on suspicion of being an anti-Imperial socialist, with the police officers basing this theory on the confession of In-soo’s father.
As Chi-ho learns from his mother, the police took In-soo’s father away a few days ago for
torture questioning, and they hadn’t heard from him since. No telling what they did to the poor man to get such a lie out of him.
To no one’s surprise, Daddy Choi is the man responsible for Mr. Min’s arrest, which means that he no longer has a reason to marry Shin-young into their family. Vice Chairman Yoon claims he’s got a replacement all lined up. (It’s going to be Takeshi, isn’t it.)
Shin-young has managed to move out of her father’s house (alive), and displays a classic case of Too Much Pride when she adamantly refuses to accept any of Secretary Kim’s monetary help, even though she’s apparently moved in with Bong-soon and her family now that Bong-soon had to quit her job.
Bong-soon’s family can’t afford to keep supporting her, which means Shin-young is being a burden to them (so you’d think she’d take the money, if only for their sake). Instead, she decides to earn her keep by working at the same sewing factory where Bong-soon’s father works, with Bong-soon doing the same.
Needless to say, Shin-young isn’t good at manual labor, and is even worse at hiding the fact that she’s not like her coworkers when she takes a tumble over air and Bong-soon accidentally addresses her as “my lady.” She’s determined to blend in regardless.
Chi-ho is denied from visiting his father in confinement until Daddy Choi uses his connections to get them in… just so he can tell Mr. Min that they should postpone the wedding, at least until he can clear his name.
Outside, Chi-ho is thrown for a loop when Daddy Choi scolds him out of the blue and claims that he won’t give his daughter to him, like ever.
Now that Shin-young has lived one whole day as a poor person, she sets to writing an article about the class divide while San practices his one-handed shot in the adjacent court. After countless misses, he becomes encouraged when he’s at least able to hit the basket. He’s getting better.
When she looks up, she finds that San has left her a bottle of grape juice and a note apologizing for making things difficult for her. Like her, he’ll try his best to move on.
San is elated when he finally sinks a basket, and Shin-young is there to congratulate him (to put this in perspective, her office is less than ten feet away from the court). She thanks him for the juice, which is a big step up from her chastising him—but now they’re on more formal, removed terms.
Chi-ho’s had a bad day and probably isn’t too pleased when he sees them together, so he gets a little snippy when San wants to tell him all about the progress he’s made, much like a kid trying to make their hyung proud. San looks crestfallen afterward, which, aww. It’s so much easier to like San when he’s not being a whiny tool.
While taking Shin-young home, Chi-ho snaps (just a lil’ bit) about the grape juice in her hand—did San give her that? But at least he’s immediately sorry afterward, and explains that it’s not because he doesn’t trust her, but because things are rough right now.
That’s when he tells her that her father wants to postpone the wedding, which has him all tied up in knots.
Meanwhile, Bong-soon is held responsible when Shin-young doesn’t show up for work at the sweatshop, likely because she’s gone to confront her father over the marriage postponement. She declares that no matter what he says, she will marry Chi-ho, because she won’t allow her father to push her around anymore.
But Daddy Choi thinks differently, especially when he has the power to destroy Chi-ho’s family. So he all but dares her to marry him and see what happens.
Hong-ki disrupts practice with the breaking news that Chi-ho’s father has been arrested for plotting a communist rebellion against the Japanese Imperial Government, whose legitimacy he supposedly rejected. (It’s all lies, of course.)
Bookie Gong only has one concern: that Chi-ho won’t be able to play in their upcoming game when they need him in order to win. Sung-won acts like he heard the bat signal and dramatically takes off his shirt, as is becoming his custom. Haha, and Hong-ki has to rip off his shirt before he goes chasing after him. I’m okay with this.
Sung-won goes to Bong-soon’s house to find Shin-young, but it’s Bong-soon who sneaks behind him and covers his eyes with her hands. They play a cute game of “Guess who?” that almost results in Sung-won getting to second base. (Accidentally, of course. Or not?)
But Bong-soon’s hurt finger (from a run-in with the sewing machine) puts a slight damper on things, at least until Sung-won starts sucking on it to prevent infection. I love that Bong-soon is like, “Oh, it’s not clean yet!” just so he’ll keep doing it. Bow chicka wow wow.
Her feelings get all hurt when she finds out that Sung-won came to ask Shin-young about Chi-ho, and not because he missed her. In order to convince her otherwise, Sung-won kisses her on one cheek, then the other, and finally Bong-soon just turns around and pounces on him.
San finds Shin-young crying because of her father, and because she brings suffering and misery to those around her. She doesn’t want Chi-ho to get hurt because of her father…
…So she breaks up with Chi-ho in order to protect him, Noble Idiot-style. Chi-ho understandably doesn’t understand and thinks that she’s doing it because she loves San, and Shin-young isn’t able to convince him otherwise without telling him the truth. Cue Misunderstanding Merry-Go-Round.
It’s worth noting, I suppose, that Shin-young cries after leaving Chi-ho. Even though she did that after rejecting San’s love juice, so I don’t know how much credence to give her tears.
Team Baekhwa is up against Takeshi’s team in the final game before the league’s semifinals, but everyone’s worried when Chi-ho doesn’t show up.
He’s visiting his dad in prison and wondering if all the bad luck that’s befallen his family is because of him not reciting the pledge of allegiance and taking so long to change his name.
His dad, ever the principled one, puts his foot down and refuses to let Chi-ho blame himself for anything. A tear escapes his eye as he tells his son that “conviction” is so called because it’s something not easily shaken. Moreover, he knows what’s really going on, in that the government is targeting their family on a political level for what really amounts to monetary gain. And the Min family isn’t as weak as the government thinks it is.
When Chi-ho still doesn’t want to leave him to go to the game, his father tells him to remember the reason he fought so hard to protect his name—because Chi-ho wanted to be a beacon for their people, the people who’ve lost their country, by playing basketball. Go get ‘em, Chi-ho.
The game is set to start with or without Chi-ho, and it’s nice to see Hong-ki defend San against Takeshi’s pre-game taunts. But even Hong-ki loses his usual sense of assuredness when the audience starts whispering about him being unfit to lead in Chi-ho’s absence… but all is saved when Chi-ho finally arrives.
Now that Bookie Gong actually wants them to win, he switches Chi-ho and Hong-ki’s positions to the way they should’ve been before.
After Bong-soon has to remind Shin-young that her job requires her to watch the game (she was hesitating outside), the game starts. For some reason, it’s Chi-ho’s turn to do some ball-hogging as he refuses to pass the ball, resulting in an easy score for their opponents.
Chi-ho nabs the ball again, his mind too preoccupied with thoughts of his father and his breakup with Shin-young for him to pass the ball, until he finally shakes himself out of it and gets his head in the game.
Orrrrr not. For some reason, the thoughts haunting Chi-ho make it so that he’s able to catch and dribble but somehow not pass, causing their team to fall way behind on points.
Bookie Gong finally calls a time out so he can ask Chi-ho what dafuq is going on, considering how he taught San how to do a one-handed shoot but won’t pass him the ball so he can even attempt it.
San knows what’s going on and pulls Chi-ho aside so he can ask him if this is really about Shin-young. (It is.) Surprisingly though, San is the one to tell Chi-ho everything—that Daddy Choi is behind what’s happened to his family, that Daddy Choi sent him to the labor camp and had his finger chopped off, and that because Daddy Choi doesn’t want Chi-ho as his son-in-law anymore, Shin-young broke up with him to try and save him from her father.
“Shin-young cried,” San tells Chi-ho. “She cried, saying she doesn’t want to hurt you. The person she chose… is you. I know that now.” Now that that’s out of the way, he asks for Chi-ho’s help in the game. He wants to do his best for Shin-young one last time.
Cue a montage reel of San and Shin-young’s moments together as the game resumes, with Chi-ho once again nabbing the ball. He thinks of his father’s uplifting words as well as San’s words that Shin-young chose him, just as he spots her in the stands.
And then the spell is broken, and he finally passes the ball to San way out in the court. The only way he can make the shot is if he does the jump shot… only this time, he shoots with one hand and nails it. Nothin’ but net.
The crowd and his team rejoice, and even Chi-ho can’t help but smile for him. He locks eyes with Shin-young in the stands and smiles at her, and she stares back.
San, meanwhile, looks up at her from the court like a sad puppy.
You just couldn’t help yourself, could you, Basketball? You just couldn’t resist focusing on the love triangle for just one cliffhanger, right? Right. Of course not. What else could you possibly make the cliffhanger about? Basketball?
I’m really pleased with the huge steps San took this episode, even if they are coming pretty late in the game for a drama that only has two weeks left—though something tells me his character trajectory was likely mapped out for twenty-four episodes and is just going to be cut short at eighteen, so we’ll never know if his late blooming would’ve worked in its original context. For now I’ll take what I can get, since having San shed his bitter victimhood for some down-to-earth sensibility is a win in my book. I am not going to look that character horse in the mouth, thank you very much.
Shin-young’s true feelings for Chi-ho came as a surprise to me this episode, if only because there was no way of knowing how she really felt (is she crying or smiling?) until she cemented those feelings with actual words. Therefore, because I can only assume her words must be more factual than her face, I’m going to assume that she’s weighed her options and does, in fact, actually want to marry Chi-ho. And if so, mazel tov! I wish them the best of luck. If it means this love triangle is done and everyone’s going to be an adult about it—even San—that’s infinitely more tolerable than the limbo we’ve been subjected to for what feels like the entirety of my youth.
It still feels like the drama is spinning more plates than it really has the time or energy for, because whenever we cut to Daddy Choi’s political machinations, I can never quite figure out why any of it matters. It’d be one thing if he were just the bad guy running things from behind the scenes, but they pit him as the underdog against fellow one-dimensional characters like Yoon and Takeshi’s dad, and for what? I’m sure it’s not so that we can root for Daddy Choi to win, because everyone on his side of the fence is vile and despicable, so maybe they’re there just to provide some historical context. But then we’ve got Sung-won making bombs for the rebellion on that front, so that leaves me feeling like the political scenes are just placeholders.
However, knowing Daddy Choi’s character thus far, I would’ve really liked to have seen the moment where Shin-young actually moved out of the house. Instead she was there one minute and gone the next, leaving us to guess how her announcement might’ve gone down with Daddy Dearest. And then we’re supposed to buy that she’s struggling to live independently when she has an office, doesn’t show up for work, and still walks around draped in jewelry and nice dresses? From the moment this show began I thought it’d be good for Shin-young to experience what it was like to be one of the common folk, but she is to the plight of the poor what glamping is to camping. (If anyone is struck with the urge to defend glamping, don’t.)