Basketball: Episode 4
The plot moves along briskly this hour, introducing us to our core conflict (for now, hopefully not forever) while weaving in the historical conflict which impacts each of our characters’ lives so deeply. In the hands of someone like Chi-ho, basketball is a way to prove his identity, while in the hands of someone like San basketball becomes a way out of a miserable, predetermined life.
But in the hands of our Resident Bad Daddy, this gentleman’s sport becomes little more than just another cog in the ever-growing war (what is it good for?) machine, only this grapple for power includes—and this is how you know you’re in a drama—wedding bells. Because nothing says “I love you” like war bonds and daddy’s greed.
SONG OF THE DAY
Cold Cherry – “Growing Pains (성장통)” [ Download ]
EPISODE 4 RECAP
San kisses Shin-young, causing Chi-ho to leave the scene while Shin-young follows drama law by going stiff as a board with eyes wide open.
After a few moments have passed, she pushes San off and slaps him. “I didn’t know you were this kind of person,” she says, all but grasping her pearls.
Once she’s in her house though, she smiles as she remembers the kiss. Mixed signals much?
Daddy Choi finds her on the fainting couch and gives her a hard slap for the article she wrote, threatening her from ever doing something like that again. In the meantime, she’s grounded.
He then meets with Councilman Yoon to pay him a bribe for getting him in with the inspector general, but Yoon quickly catches onto the fact that Dad’s trying to cover up for his daughter’s scathing article by offering to buy Japanese war bonds.
And as for his wayward daughter, both men agree that the marrying her off as soon as possible will fix her independent and undesirable job-seeking spirit.
San waits outside Shin-young’s office to catch her before work, but she’s uncomfortable from last night’s events and dismisses any talk for later. Chi-ho arrives in the meantime to track her down and scoffs that she and San are together again, debating for a moment whether he has any reason to avoid her.
With his hyung/sidekick’s help, he works up the courage to go to her office. He passes San on the way, and the two lock eyes—San just stares at his fallen idol, while Chi-ho sizes up his romantic rival.
Shin-young finds her office in shambles now that the censors have suspended the magazine, and while her editor wants her to lie low (after asking if she really thought nothing would happen when she called Chi-ho a henchman of the Japanese), Shin-young refuses because she’s a reporter, damn it. And she’s going to give the censors a piece of her free mind and fight the good fight against injustice.
But Chi-ho catches her on her march out: “You don’t think that what you’ve done is an injustice? Do you think you can call whatever you manage to scribble on paper good journalism?”
When she pulls out the flyer with his face as all the proof she needs, he rolls his eyes—isn’t fact checking part of her job? He tries telling her the truth, that he had no idea his image was being used to advocate forced labor, but it goes into one of Shin-young’s ears and out the other.
Even if she heard him, she doesn’t believe him, and still blames him for the pain Byeo-ri is going through. He feels responsible for it as well and declares that he’ll take responsibility for Byeo-ri, and there’s a hint of desperation in his voice when he adds, “I’ll just take responsibility for the kid, and it’ll all be okay.”
San’s mom feels bad for how they parted last time, and tries to convince San to live together with her. He cheers her up by promising that he won’t do anything to upset her again, because he’ll try living properly from now on.
Mom’s advice on how to be a decent person? Keep your head down and act according to your class, because you’ll be rewarded for it some day. It’s kind of uplifting, but mostly just depressing.
Councilman Yoon escorts the aging Governor-General(?) to his seat for the official name-changing promulgation ceremony, and I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw that it was Jo Hee-bong under all that makeup. It’s fun to play Where’s Waldo? with this show.
In attendance are Japanese officials by the multitude and Jungchuwon, the pro-unification government advisory board made up of Korean citizens. Among them is Daddy Choi (not yet a member) and a somber-looking MIN TAE-SHIN (Ahn Suk-hwan), whose son Dad was looking to set Shin-young up with.
It’s worth noting (or is it?) that Min Tae-shin is the only one in attendance wearing traditional hanbok, while everyone else is in modern suits or Japanese uniforms. The inspector general has called the assembly to ask Jungchuwon to help nudge the people toward changing to Japanese names, but his speech is interrupted when the ailing Jo Hee-bong/Governor-General passes out. Ha.
Daddy Choi approaches Min Tae-shin about a marriage proposition, but it’s clear that Mr. Min is a much more principled man than he, and he doesn’t believe in arranging their children’s marriages just to benefit their businesses (they’re both factory owners).
Meanwhile, the daughter Dad was just trying to talk up has arrived to voice her concerns over her magazine’s suspension to the chief of national security, causing quite a scene in the process. Mr. Min sees all this, and when he introduces himself, Shin-young realizes that he’s Chi-ho’s father. Ruh-roh.
That doesn’t stop her from immediately showing his son’s flyer to him: “Were you aware that your son did such a thing?” she asks, right in front of her scary dad. But Mr. Min actually seems impressed by her guts as he tells Daddy Choi that he raised his daughter well.
Chi-ho and his hyung are drawn by the sound of street basketball, but are sidetracked when Chi-ho saves Byeo-ri from some neighborhood thugs. He tries to hold her back before she can run away, which only enrages her to the point where she has to head-butt him to get him away from her.
“Stop touching me!” she screams. She yells at him for just doing whatever he wants with her, even going so far as to kidnap her, and says that she’s tired of being treated like that by everyone. He’s the worst offender.
“I’m sorry,” Chi-ho calls after her, and she at least stops to listen. “I wasn’t thinking. I won’t do it again.” Aww, and he means it. He really is sorry for what he’s inadvertently done to her.
San plays a two-on-two street basketball game this time, only he’s playing to win. This isn’t part of Bookie Gong’s plans considering that rigged the game so San could lose, but San is determined to do right by himself, even though he has to literally fight his way across the court.
He channels his inner angst over his mom and Shin-young into the game as he makes basket after basket. Suddenly he spots Chi-ho standing front and center in a crowd that’s all but thundering his name, but the split-second loss in concentration gets San knocked over.
San finds even more resolve to win when Chi-ho gives him a judgmental holier-than-thou look, which gives San the strength to launch himself past all his opponents to sink the basket. He wins the game.
Chi-ho approaches him afterward and chides him for playing street basketball as a university student (he saw him wearing uniform earlier), because “Basketball is a gentleman’s sport.”
San notes that Chi-ho talks big for a colonial puppet, which raises Chi-ho’s hackles: “I don’t know what you heard from that woman-…”
“She’s not ‘that woman,'” San fires back. “Her name is Choi Shin-young. Say it properly.” Yay, the first sparks of the show. I knew these two wouldn’t disappoint.
However, they both overhear Bookie Gong and his men practically yelling about the money he secretly schemed from Shin-young, which San had no idea about. He bursts into the room to grab Gong by the lapels: “Are you even human? How can you call yourself human?!”
Bookie Gong is unimpressed by San’s rage and physical force: “Aren’t you and I the same? You think I don’t know that you’re just trying to seduce a rich girl just so you can start living a better life?”
Oooh, now that’s interesting. I had wondered whether they were toying with this idea last episode (that San took the lackey’s words about a rich girl like her being his ticket out), and that he was influenced by that hope when he sprung the kiss on her. I’m sure that his love is deeper than that, but it’s a neat concept for them to bring up.
He either doesn’t hit Bookie Gong again because his words have a ring of truth to them, or because he belatedly remembers that Chi-ho is right behind him, watching everything.
Daddy Choi is finally happy with his daughter now that she’s somehow impressed Mr. Min, but he has to first deal with paying off all the war bonds he bought. He decides to up the ticket prices for the next basketball game his company hosts by fifteen percent to make up for his spending, sure that he’ll be invited to join Jungchuwon (the unification advisory board) soon.
Chi-ho is still chafing over the fact that Shin-young chose a thug like San, and it’s only made worse when his hyung adds fuel to the fire by noting that San was pretty darn good at basketball. “That wasn’t basketball!” Chi-ho blusters.
At Chi-ho’s house, his hyung’s father calls Chi-ho “young master,” which makes me think that he’s a kind of servant to Mr. Min (which would explain why the man’s son acts as Chi-ho’s shadow and hyung).
Chi-ho has to face his dad (aka Mr. Min) over the article written about him. Dad firmly takes Shin-young’s side when Chi-ho blames her for this whole mess, telling his son that he met her and saw her as a woman with a righteous personality who tried to fight against the injustice of Japanese oppression… which is more than he can say of Chi-ho.
Though Chi-ho tells the truth in that he didn’t know and would never have condoned his image being used for something so heinous, his dad doesn’t listen. He thinks basketball is a waste of Chi-ho’s time when he’s at the age to be married and gives him an ultimatum—either he starts going on arranged dates to look for a bride, or he joins dad’s company.
His first arranged date is with Shin-young, and both dads are included on the date. Before she arrives, Daddy Choi asks Chi-ho if his team would like to play a practice game against his company’s team (Chi-ho’s involvement would mean he’d get to charge the exorbitant prices he wants), but Chi-ho defers on the decision until he can talk to his teammates.
Chi-ho has no idea Shin-young is his date until she shows up.
Meanwhile, San thinks back to his mother’s words about living honestly and decently as he approaches the Government-General Building… to report an illegal basketball gambling ring.
Shin-young and Chi-ho have tea by themselves, even though Chi-ho is a little weirded out by her dad’s secretary watching their every move. She’s clear from the start that she has no intention of marrying him, and Chi-ho is all, Y…yeah, well… me either! Suuure.
She asks him about Byeo-ri since he promised to take responsibility for her, but when he tells the truth (that he’s giving her the power to decide where they go from here), she thinks he’s backing out on his word. That’s when he asks why she doesn’t just take Byeo-ri in herself—after all, she paid for that university student’s tuition, didn’t she?
He falls into the pit of saying “It’s not my business, but…” before proceeding to tell her that San is a no-good thug. “Do you know what he does to earn money?” Shin-young doesn’t care, since she believes San is honest and working hard to care for his sick mother. Not only that, she actually gets after Chi-ho for daring to speak badly of San, leaving Chi-ho completely flustered.
During the car ride home, Shin-young reads some shocking news—all major Korean news publications, including her magazine, are being shut down by the government. (Historically this happened in a big way in 1940, when the colonial government shut down the two major Korean newspapers as part of their assimilation process. Along with the name-change law, these harsh methods served to suppress the Korean national identity in order to further the idea of “Japan and Korea as One Body.”)
Because of San’s tip to the police, there’s a raid on Bookie Gong’s basketball game. San is there to stop Gong from escaping with his secret stash of money, holding onto him by any means necessary so that the police can catch him.
“It’s over between you and I now,” San says. Even as Bookie Gong is dragged off, he swears to San that he won’t let him get away with this. He will get revenge once he’s out of jail.
“I’m different from you,” San calls after him, though it’s more for himself than anyone. “I’m different from you!”
San finds Shin-young outside the barred doors of her office, finally confronting her without his school uniform. She doesn’t seem to notice through her tears, causing San to twitch nervously as he tries to figure out the best way to comfort her. (He knows that touching her is probably a no-go.)
Meanwhile, Chi-ho bugs his hyung with his incessant chatter regarding Shin-young, trying to act like he totally doesn’t like her when he totally does.
But his hyung is a good wingman, since he reminds Chi-ho that her father suggested the practice game—and if Chi-ho plays, she’ll have to be there, right? Chi-ho’s face lights up: “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Shin-young and San escape from her dad’s secretary to the rooftop, where San uses the quiet time to apologize for kissing her and to promise he’ll pay back what she lent Bookie Gong.
“As you can see, this is my situation when I’m not in uniform,” he says, referring to his threadbare outfit. “It’s very different from the world you live in. That’s what I came to tell you… and I hope that you’ll meet a nice man.”
He’s ready to leave it at that, but Shin-young accuses him of only thinking of himself—just like he did when he kissed her. She doesn’t care about his clothes because she thinks he’s a poor student having to work to earn a living, and there’s nothing wrong with that. (It’s almost the truth. Almost.)
Then she shoots down the idea that they can’t date because he has nothing to his name, since nothing she owns is truly hers anyway. She doesn’t even have the freedom to do what she wants, but she explains that liking him was something she could do with her own free will—so their breaking up has nothing to do with him being poor, “It’s because you’re a fool.”
Her heartfelt words are enough to get to San, and he pulls her into an apology embrace. “I’m not as good a person as you think. You may end up being disappointed in me. But I want to live my life the right way. For you, I want to live my life the right way.”
Jo Hee-bong plays the announcer for the upcoming basketball game between Chi-ho’s college team and Daddy Choi’s personal team, with the kid who got picked over San convincing everyone to buy the high-priced tickets—because if they put their money into war bonds now, they’ll earn interest when Japan wins the war. (About that…)
Byeo-ri watches all the fuss, reminded of her last meeting with Chi-ho and the tail-end of the conversation we missed: After promising her that he wouldn’t treat her so poorly again, Chi-ho dropped to his knees in front of her to sincerely ask her for the chance to show her whether or not he’s truly a Japanese puppet.
Back in the present, she considers giving him that chance.
The game sells out thanks to Chi-ho’s involvement, and Daddy Choi receives all the money with glee. All that’s left now is to make sure Shin-young attends the game, since her future husband is the star player.
Meanwhile, Shin-young pulls dad’s secretary aside to ask him for a special favor—she knows a great basketball player who’s about to graduate…
Secretary Kim just stares at her adoringly while they wait for San to show up to their impromptu meeting, and now we know why he just can’t say no to her. Aww, nothing like a hopelessly one-sided crush to garner instant character empathy.
While Daddy Choi and Councilman Yoon tell the inspector general that they’ve not only bought all the Japanese war bonds but sold them all to Korean citizens, Chi-ho leaves for the game dressed in his Sunday best.
I love that when his hyung is all, “You’re going dressed like that?” Chi-ho’s cool facade totally crumbles, and his insecurity shows as he asks if he looks weird in the way a girl would ask if she looks big. Ha, I love these two.
When one of the players from Daddy Choi’s team doesn’t show up for the game, Secretary Kim suspiciously comes prepared with San as a suitable replacement. The only problem is that the team’s coach is the very one who accepted a bribe to reject San, and the one who’d told him point-blank to quit basketball.
San may be dressed as a university student, but he sweats that the coach might recognize him as the poor kid he was. And while I think the coach does, he decides that it isn’t worth causing an issue and accepts San just as a benchwarmer.
Chi-ho’s team is greeted like celebrities when they arrive, and Takeshi is once again passed over when it comes to his better looking (and less awful) teammate. Chi-ho sees his picture for a giant poster advocating war bonds, and asks his hyung if his name is being sold again for propaganda purposes.
As San stares at the team uniform he’s about to put on, he thinks of the promise he made to his mom about how he’ll start living life honestly. Now he’s (more or less) keeping that promise.
Before the game starts, he gives Shin-young a pencil hand-wrapped with flower stems in the hopes that she’ll keep writing even though her magazine has been shut down.
He’s so awkwardly adorable even as he adds, “Even though this is all I amount to right now, I promise that one day I’ll become Joseon’s best basketball player. And, to be more deserving of you, I’ll become the best man in Joseon.” Stick a fork in me, I’m done.
San has no idea he’s playing against Chi-ho’s team until they show up on the court while his coach, who did recognize San after all, doesn’t help matters by being all, “The universe must really hate you if you’re playing against Chi-ho. Sucks for you!” (I’m paraphrasing. Kind of.)
Chi-ho doesn’t notice San until he follows Shin-young’s line of sight straight to him, and he immediately confronts him over coming to play real basketball after San assures him that he’ll only be playing basketball by the rules now, and that those days are behind him. Shin-young is just glad that San is getting so much attention from people curious to know his ties with Chi-ho.
Daddy Choi uses the formal pre-game announcement to announce his daughter’s marriage by calling Chi-ho his future son-in-law.
This comes as a surprise to everyone, but no one more than San, who just found out that the girl of his dreams is engaged… to someone else.
Yiiiiikes. You would end it there, wouldn’t you?
I’m glad we made some progress this episode toward setting up the main source of dramatic conflict for this story, even if that conflict seems to be centered around a love triangle that still feels a little forced. Even if I can understand why San is so taken with Shin-young (and I do now), the show hasn’t done as good a job at setting up the basis for Chi-ho’s case of love at first sight, because as of now it kind of just seems like Shin-young might be the only available girl in all of Korea.
That’s not to say that watching Chi-ho dance around his love/hate/but-mostly-love relationship with Shin-young isn’t fun, because it is. I’m really enjoying the boyish side of his character because it feels so genuine, unlike the projected image of himself he tries to convey that everyone else buys as real. What I love most about him is he’s not that guy at all. He’s just a normal, insecure guy who’s good at basketball but is, above all things, honest.
Instantly, that creates a delineation between him and San—even if Chi-ho’s more outspoken nature tends to get him in trouble (because he doesn’t always understand that good intent doesn’t cancel out bad actions, i.e. kidnapping), the one thing he clearly doesn’t want to be is misunderstood.
His relationship with Byeo-ri makes this show something special, because not only is she like a mirror to Chi-ho as the lone voice of dissent in a sea of adoring fans, she’s also a huge catalyst for his personal growth. His initial goal of changing her mind about him wasn’t misguided, but his methods were immature and too self-centered. So when Byeo-ri pointed all this out to him with regard to his manhandling, Chi-ho really floored me by being mature enough to not only take her criticism, but to realize his wrongs and try to make up for them.
When he got on his knees to quietly beg her for the chance to just change her mind about him, I was as good as gone. I’m sure that guilt plays a huge part in why he feels responsible for Byeo-ri, but I’d like to think that he wants to help her in letting go of the resentment she’s kept over the years, because it’s important to him that she, out of all people, judges him for who he really is. And only when he revealed his most vulnerable self did Byeo-ri listen to him, because he did the same for her.
On the other hand, San is constantly misunderstood and is even still lying about his identity to Shin-young—and the fact that he cleared up just some of the truth (but not all of it) somehow makes it even worse. I completely get why he’s lying, I really do, but when he got to the point of revealing everything but the fact that he’s not a student, I just wanted to shake him. So she knows that he’s poor and is fine with it, but it’s only fine as long as he stays a poor student? It makes sense, kind of, but it makes life a lot tougher for San.
I do think Shin-young would’ve been more open to the complete truth had he chosen to come clean on the rooftop, but now she’ll only feel that much more betrayed when she inevitably finds out later at the worst possible moment. Ain’t that always the truth.
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