Basketball: Episode 12
At what feels like long last, the show gets a move on when it comes to recruiting players for that national team we were all promised once upon a time. Remember the part of the show that’s supposed to be about the sport that is basketball? I know it’s hard, what with all this colonial oppression, severed appendages, and engagements that just won’t die, but it seems like we’re finally taking a U-turn back to Basketball’s roots—in that we might see some basketball in the very near future. And if that wasn’t the reason you were sticking around, well then, gird your loins… for some slight variations on more of the same. Hey, I never said I was born to be a salesman.
SONG OF THE DAY
Nell – “Losing Heart (마음을 잃다)” [ Download ]
EPISODE 12 RECAP
Shin-young doesn’t have much time to worry over San’s hand when the police are chasing them, and their group splits up to increase their odds.
Sung-won leads Bong-soon to safety while San does the same with Shin-young, hiding just in time to avoid the officers. It’s then that San finally tells her what’s been long overdue: that he was sorry he never told her the truth.
He admits it was because he was afraid she’d be disappointed in him, and that same fear is what caused him to try and break it off with her twice before. He’s sorry for everything—but if one thing wasn’t a lie, it was his true feelings for her. “So please, don’t tell me this is the end,” he pleads. “Not even for a single moment did I ever forget you.”
Shin-young’s eyes fill with tears as she replies that it’s too late to turn back now. Even when San promises her that he’s back for good this time, her answer doesn’t change.
While San leads the police on a merry chase in order to give Shin-young a chance to escape, Bong-soon nearly reams Sung-won for trying to leave her in much the same way. (This is why she wins everything.)
And once she hangs him out to dry for almost leaving her, Sung-won responds by giving her a kiss. Aww, so it is possible for kisses to not be cringe-inducing in this show.
Once they’re safe, a defeated San tells Sung-won that Shin-young is the woman he loves, and that he mistakenly believed that things would go back to the way they were once he returned.
Bookie Gong is having a crisis over the prospect of his basketball business without San, and I do love that Ajumma’s all, Let me find the world’s smallest violin for someone who shot off his star player’s thumb.
But when she brings up how there’s no replacement for San, Bookie Gong ends up thinking of Chi-ho, wondering if he can get him in on his new team.
San brings Sung-won to stay with him at Ajumma’s restaurant for the time being, and the big lug listens from outside as Bookie Gong pours his heart out to San on his knees. “You’re all I have,” Gong pleads. “You’re everything to me.”
He goes into this admittedly-believable speech about only doing what he had to in order to survive, and that shooting San’s finger was the only way to get Daddy Choi off their backs. He knows he’s not worthy of San’s forgiveness, but he also doesn’t believe a word the doctor said about him never being able to play basketball again.
“Do you know what I believe in?” Bookie Gong asks. “It’s you, San. Let’s play basketball. Let’s play basketball, San.”
Chi-ho finally returns to basketball practice just as the coach is handing out new uniforms, only not everyone gets one—those who refused to change their names have been dismissed from the team. That’s when Chi-ho looks down to his uniform in horror to see his Japanese name printed on it.
The dismissed team members protest and call Chi-ho and Takeshi traitors for changing their names, especially in Chi-ho’s case, since he’d vowed to keep his until the bitter end.
But Chi-ho’s rage builds until he finally yells that he’s no traitor, and that his name is Min Chi-ho. He won’t play under any other name and throws his uniform down in defiance, something which Bookie Gong’s minions see and rush off to report to their boss.
Bookie Gong sees this as a grand opportunity—if Chi-ho is currently without a team, he can snatch him up for his and get his business started even without San.
And since Chi-ho refused to play under his Japanese name, Gong sees his team as a chance to appeal to patriotic Koreans. It’s Chef who comes up with the name Baek Hwa, meaning white flower, which has a roundabout way of meaning the Korean people.
So now they’ll be Baek Hwa, Korea’s basketball team. Huzzah! (Also, Sung-won eavesdrops on this conversation. Because he can.)
The police come looking for Shin-young in relation to the underground newspaper, but Secretary Kim manages to keep them at bay. Bong-soon is the one who has to fess up to him about how Shin-young is actually affiliated with the newspaper.
So Secretary Kim goes into damage control mode, attempting to wine and dine the police officer into dropping Shin-young’s case, but the guy is determined to find the truth.
But then when Secretary Kim follows him in secret, he finds out the police officer is taking orders from Count Byun, who as we know is determined to bring Daddy Choi down. That’s why the officer won’t drop the case.
San tries his hand at playing basketball, but he can’t sink a single basket. The omnipresent Sung-won arrives in time to play just a little as he expresses his love for basketball, and asks San if he wants to join Team Baek Hwa with him.
Their joining will serve a dual purpose, because they also need a new meeting space for their newspaper comrades due to the raid. It’ll be a perfect cover while Sung-won infiltrates Daddy Choi’s business, even though they’ll have to be extra careful to keep their identities a secret from the untrustworthy Bookie Gong.
Hong-ki is the new propaganda puppet for the Japanese now that San and Chi-ho are out (this time preparing a speech encouraging the people to accept a standardized uniform), and it’s hard to tell whether he actually feels bad toward San or not when he always seems to be overdoing the dramatics.
Either way, he seems to be wary that the same fall from grace could happen to him, and so is his overbearing mom—especially when she sees Coach getting bribed by someone that’s Not Her.
She’s especially not happy about lending her basketball court to Team Baek Hwa, even though Hong-ki uses some weird logic about keeping San tied to that team so he doesn’t go back to Daddy Choi’s team in order to cool her down. What’s his real motive, anyway?
Bookie Gong holds a big press event to garner attention for Team Baek Hwa, advertising national tryouts for those who want to play on the same team as San.
As San offers a heartfelt apology to the media and the people for the sins of his past, we see that Chi-ho is standing among the crowd of onlookers with one of the team’s recruitment flyers in hand. He thinks back to how he wanted to only play basketball under his real name…
Cue everyone’s complete shock when Chi-ho shows up for the tryouts. After telling San he’s glad he returned safely, he explains that he came “Because I heard you’re making a basketball team for the Korean people.” He just so happens to be free since he quit his old college team.
While Sung-won works undercover at Daddy Choi’s factory, Mr. Min drops by to visit with his future daughter-in-law as well as his future in-law. Shin-young recognizes Sung-won on her way out, but keeps quiet.
Daddy Choi brings his business idea of a people’s uniform to Mr. Min, who actually proves himself a clever man. He can’t show his outright distaste toward the uniforms (which he notes look exactly like Japanese military uniforms), so he offers an idea that blows Daddy Choi’s greedy little mind: if these uniforms are really for the people, why not offer them for free?
Shin-young decides to follow Sung-won, who literally must have noticed her when she’s wearing bright pink polka dots. He ends up leading her to the basketball tryouts, where she’s just in time to see Chi-ho’s stellar performance. He’s on the team.
San pulls a bit of a dick move in front of everyone by asking Chi-ho if he thinks he’s suitable for the new basketball team of the Korean people when he changed his name. “Are you not going to accept a Korean person who changed his name?” Chi-ho fires back.
But San claims he has a hard time believing how Chi-ho could go from refusing the pledge of allegiance to changing his name, and Chi-ho decides to just tell the truth for all to hear—that In-soo was arrested without a crime, and that Chi-ho was told that changing his name would free him.
It was only after In-soo died that Chi-ho realized that changing his name did nothing, and it even caused him to rethink playing basketball. Because of the people who remained by his side, like his fiancé (emphasis on that word) and Byeo-ri, he declares that he’s chosen to continue down his path.
Chi-ho: “From now on, my path is to prove that I’ve never changed, that I’m a loyal citizen of Korea. Because I changed my name I want to play for Baek Hwa, the Korean people’s basketball team, more than ever now. My true name is the same as ever before. I want to prove to everyone that I’m proud to be Korean, and that my name is Min Chi-ho.”
The crowd erupts into cheers. Shin-young is conflicted after having Chi-ho refer to her as his source of strength in his speech, compared to San’s heartfelt plea a few nights ago.
Sung-won finally confronts her about following him, and decides to level with her as her comrade in telling her that her father was the one responsible for not only sending San away to the labor camp, but for having his finger shot off just because he didn’t want the two of them to be together.
He then explains how San’s love for her is the only thing holding his rage toward her father in check, but that it’s killing him from the inside. At least he trusts her enough to hand her the information they’ve been compiling on her father, because they’re going to need her help.
Shin-young bursts into her father’s study to angrily confront him over what he did to San, and instead of denying it, Daddy Choi goes on an angry rant and slaps her, as is his custom, for her impudence.
Even when he tells her that he couldn’t accept her seeing the penniless San when she comes from so much money, Shin-young sticks to her guns: “I won’t ever forgive you, Father.” He slaps her again (shot!), and declares that if he ever sees her with San again, what he did to San before will be nothing compared to what he’ll do this time.
Shin-young vows that she’ll make sure her father realizes what horrible things he’s done and what a bad man he really is. She even curses Secretary Kim for keeping such secrets from her, wondering how the nice ajusshi she knew turned out to be just like her father.
Cut to: An oddly short scene where Hong-ki gets passed over to be the team’s advertising model because his mother got out-bribed by that Other Mom.
Secretary Kim gives Shin-young files which prove that the tax her father levied on his big basketball game never went to Koreans, but was instead used as lobbying funds for the Inspector General and his cohorts. Aww, Secretary Kim! You’re stepping up to do the right thing!
Then he actually breaks my heart even more by admitting that he sometimes forgets he’s involved in such awful deeds: “Because unless I forget about them, I can’t remain here. I don’t want to leave this place just yet. I want… to stay by your side a little longer.” Aw.
With these files in hand, Shin-young remembers the rest of her conversation with Sung-won where he’d asked for her help in easing the suffering of their people so that she wouldn’t make the same mistakes as her father. And, most of all, it would be a chance for her to atone in the eyes of the man she loves—San.
Shin-young stands at the threshold of the Expose Daddy Choi’s Corruption Meeting, unable to bring herself to go inside just yet. It’s only then that San finds out Sung-won even involved her.
Bookie Gong spends another long time convincing Hong-ki over to the team, using whatever lies necessary to work him over. As always, Sung-won overhears the conversation and reports back to the meeting, only he finds the envelope of incriminating files on Daddy Choi Shin-young ended up leaving for them outside.
San is against Shin-young’s involvement precisely because it’s her father they’re dealing with, and Sung-won’s “even if she has to suffer, it’s for the greater good” spiel doesn’t stop him from running straight to her house, yelling her name. Did you lose brain cells with that finger, San? The man in there wants to end you.
Shin-young finally agrees to meet him, and after a bout of this-doesn’t-involve-you/yes-it-does, San admits to having feelings of vengeance (for all of five seconds last episode) when he found out her father was behind everything that happened to him. But he endured, “Because he is your father. Because the thought of hurting your feelings was more painful than losing my finger.”
She apologizes on behalf of her father and asks San to forgive him, but San says it isn’t his right to condemn or forgive her father when he made people suffer on his blind quest for success. His entire reason for joining the underground liberation movement was so he could atone for the harm he caused.
“When this is all over,” San says, “I’m going to become a new person. Instead of focusing on my own success, I’m going to focus on playing fairly. I’ll show that even powerless people can succeed. I’m going to become a good man and stand before you again. Until that happens… please wait for me, Shin-young.”
Bookie Gong throws a festive prayer ceremony for Team Baek Hwa in Hong-ki’s mom’s courtyard, and she’s none too pleased at all the ruckus. He has to promise her compensation to get her off his back, and when one of his minions asks where he plans to get said money, Bookie/Coach Gong answers: “Prize money!”
Apparently, there’s prize money to be won for the champion basketball team, and Bookie Gong plans to enter Team Baek Hwa into the same league that Daddy Choi’s team was in. And win, of course.
In front of all the press, Bookie Gong asks the team to step forward, starting with Chi-ho… only, Hong-ki steals the spotlight and announces that he’s team captain to the world, which means he gets the coveted center position that was already promised to Chi-ho.
The players take a group picture, after which Sung-won and San sneak out, their alibis now secure. They join their fellow comrades from “The Dawn” to disseminate flyers on Daddy Choi’s pro-Japanese exploitation of his own people, and call for a mass protest outside of Choi’s factory.
Secretary Kim breaks the news to Daddy Choi that Chi-ho quit school (and therefore his school team) to join Team Baek Hwa… the same team San is in. Daddy Choi almost has a brain aneurism, so sure was he that San’s basketball career was over for good.
The sound of a crowd draws Daddy Choi to the window, where citizens have amassed outside in protest of his traitorous deeds. Sung-won and San are among those calling for Daddy Choi to come out and face them like a man.
Daddy Choi knows this is happening because Vice Chairman Yoon and Count Byun want him ousted from office, even as his own factory workers join in the protest due to months of unpaid wages.
One of the workers recognizes Shin-young as Daddy Choi’s daughter when she arrives on scene (what IS it with these awful polka dots?), desperately pleading with her to do something about their unpaid wages—how can they have the energy to work when they can’t afford food?
Shin-young is shocked that they haven’t been getting paid, and promises to talk to her father on the woman’s behalf. But when the rest of the crowd finds out who she is, they’re much less welcoming. In fact, they decide to redirect their anger toward her father right at her.
Secretary Kim knows the danger she’s in and runs down to help as the angry mob converges on her. The conflict escalates surprisingly quickly as every member of the mob finds a stone to hurl at Shin-young…
But San protects her by covering her with his body, taking the stones meant for her. Secretary Kim and Chi-ho arrive only moments after, but too late to get in on the moment San and Shin-young are sharing while he bleeds from the head.
Oh, finally. Even if I would pay cash money at this point to not have another love triangle-related (or is it a quadrangle now?) cliffhanger, I’m just glad that THE team has finally come together. Y’know, the one we’ve been waiting to see since the promotional materials came out, the one that’s going to the Olympics… which aren’t happening. Right. Almost got my hopes up.
It’s strange that this show spends what seems like an inordinate amount of time on things that aren’t necessarily irrelevant, but which don’t demand the time currently being spent on them. A big case in point this episode as well as in the past few: Hong-ki and his mom, Hong-ki and Bookie Gong, and last but not least, Hong-ki and his Ego. Why then, in the few critical episodes following a severe trauma where we could really afford to spend some one-on-one time with our hero and focus on his personal journey, does the show think we’re dying to know the ins and outs of Hong-ki’s daily life, especially when it comes at the expense of not knowing San’s? Granted, San made some headway in the beginning by apologizing and recognizing his faults, but then a magical thing happened: nothing changed.
Let’s consider his working with freedom fighters as a positive step forward for him as a character, as his proactive approach to doing right by those who listened to whatever propaganda he was made to spew. Why does it still feel like San is being so reactive? The scene where he called out Chi-ho on changing his name was so hopelessly murky—what made him do it? Does he really feel holier-than-thou, is he still envious of him as a basketball player, or is it all really still just about Shin-young?
The scene played like an insult comic going after the most genuinely miserable person in the room, all, “Hey, look at that guy, he changed his name! Booo!” Chi-ho: “I did it against my will so that my best friend and sworn brother could live, but he was brutally tortured and died anyway. This is just an effort on my part to inject meaning into my life because there are people who still depend on me no matter how dead I am inside.” San: “Oh… well that’s not what you said last week!” Everyone: “Just stop.”
That dramatic interpretation aside, San didn’t come out of that scene smelling like roses, while Chi-ho got all the applause and audience adoration. I guess the point of all this, still, is that Chi-ho isn’t going to get the girl—because lord knows that engagement isn’t really testing anyone’s will. Very Important Decisions are made in this show and then hung out to dry like follow-throughs aren’t a thing in this universe, with Daddy Choi completely sure that San’s severed thumb would also sever his connection with Shin-young (somehow), and Shin-young seemingly sure that agreeing to become engaged does not preclude an actual marriage (apparently). What is that family on?
And yes, it’s only human to be conflicted, but this romantic conflict is the exact same one we’ve been getting spoon-fed for the whole show when we were led to believe, through Shin-young’s Very Important Decision, that things were going to change. And then they didn’t.