Basketball: Episode 16
This episode deals with sensitive material specific to its time period with all the finesse of checking things off one’s to-do list. On the one hand I’m glad that Basketball seeks to be historically accurate about various atrocities committed during the Occupation era, while on the other hand, what is this all this really about? So many spinning plates, just one week left to make a point. May the odds be ever in our favor.
SONG OF THE DAY
Philtre (with Younha) – “Fade (잊혀지겠지)” [ Download ]
EPISODE 16 RECAP
Chi-ho proposes, San interrupts, and the factory grandma makes it her goal in life to sing San’s praises so that Shin-young doesn’t have a chance to give her yea or nay on the marriage.
Chi-ho elects to wait while the grandma drags Shin-young with her and a few other workers to see a doctor, and it’s only after they get a checkup that Shin-young hears that the surgery for Bong-soon’s father has already been paid for.
And who else should be the benefactor but Chi-ho, who Bong-soon graciously thanks while Shin-young bites her lip nervously. He tells her that he’s going to visit his father to receive his blessing for their marriage, which only makes Shin-young more uncomfortable as her eyes keep darting between him and San. Is this girl for real? It’s almost like she wasn’t committed to this marriage, oh, two episodes ago.
Meanwhile during practice, Sung-won hears a woman’s voice singing and suddenly declares that nature’s calling. Hong-ki knows better, since Sung-won has been leaving every time he’s heard that song, so he follows his teammate as he meets with one of his comrades. (Worst spy ever.)
She hands him instructions on how to detonate the bomb they made, which Sung-won burns in his home after reading. Hong-ki sneaks up on him as he’s surveying the blueprint for the bomb and a scuffle ensues when Hong-ki grabs the bomb and threatens to tell on Sung-won.
But when threats against Hong-ki’s life don’t work, Sung-won blurts, “It’s for independence!” That stops Hong-ki in his tracks as he asks Sung-won if he’s truly part of the independence movement, and if he is, has he killed any high-ranking Japanese officials? (I’m sure he’s thinking of the one who took advantage of his mom.)
“If I keep your secret,” Hong-ki says with a whole different attitude, “can you do me a favor? Let me be a part of it.”
Bookie Gong tries sneaking up on San with a two-by-four while he practices basketball, intent on crippling him. Luckily Ajumma catches him and drags him into her shed to confront him over his actions, knowing that Daddy Choi must’ve ordered him to hurt San. “Why are you so helpless in front of that bastard?!”
She doesn’t know how to respond when Gong tells her that if he doesn’t do what Daddy Choi asks, he’ll be killed.
It’s Mom’s turn to sneak up on San, and she all but begs him to stop playing basketball since Takeshi promised to have San exempted from the draft list if he didn’t play. San finally lashes out when Mom repeats her usual “Let’s live according to our station,” as he asks her if she’s tired of living under other people, always doing their bidding.
But Mom’s speech is much like Hong-ki’s mother, in that she’s not ashamed as long as she can protect her son. But her pleas don’t seem to work on San, who refuses to live like her.
While Bookie Gong has his heart set on crippling San in order to live, Ajumma tears him a new one for it—all this time, she thought that he had a warm heart despite his exterior. “But how can you do this?” she asks him. “Not once, but twice? How can you do that to San? How can you call yourself a human being?”
As Sung-won and Hong-ki stand outside the Government-General Building with the bomb, Sung-won fails in his attempt to tell Hong-ki that it’s not a matter of throwing the bomb over the fence… it’s about making sacrifices, something he thinks Hong-ki knows nothing of.
Hong-ki’s usually cheerful demeanor turns serious as he corrects his teammate—he does know what sacrifice is. What his mother does for him is a sacrifice, and all he wants is for her to be able to live her own life. “In order for that to happen, I need to make sacrifices too.”
Daddy Choi and Vice Chairman Yoon squabble about the harsh methods Choi intends to employ to get rid of Mr. Min, though it’s clear that Choi doesn’t have to take orders from Yoon anymore. Yaaay, these are issues we care about.
Chi-ho tries to convince his dad to let him marry Shin-young, but gets reamed for it in return—who does he think is responsible for the shut down of their family’s factory? Even though Shin-young moved away from her father, Mr. Min claims that blood ties cannot be so easily cut, and forbids Chi-ho from ever mentioning her again.
Under Daddy Choi’s bidding, Japanese soldiers arrive to arrest Mr. Min for violating their bogus “peace preservation laws,” and declare that his factory is now the colonial government’s property. His home is also raided, with soldiers pointing guns at Chi-ho’s mom and his sisters.
While Bong-soon waits for the results of her father’s surgery, his fellow factory workers come with bad news—their boss found out, and is firing the factory grandma.
Shin-young tries to defend them with the official diagnosis proving that their illnesses are work-related, but the factory foreman just tears them up and calls them lies. Shin-young’s plan has failed, and grandma is out of a job.
San’s #1 Fan (aka Chef) finally releases all the pent-up feels he’s been keeping, even telling San that he’s just happy to be living in the same generation as him. But as he insists that San continue to play basketball, San is reminded of Mom telling him to QUIT playing. Decisions, decisions.
Next up for a visit is San’s old friend Bok-joo, just released from prison and actually bitter that San never visited him… even though he stabbed San in the back with a sickle. Either way, San apologizes for everything he did, only to be caught off-guard when he admits to Bok-joo that he hasn’t tried to find his missing little brother.
Bok-joo just gives a resigned, bitter sigh: “You’ve always been this way. It didn’t matter who got hurt besides you. Basketball, success… what you wanted was the only thing that ever mattered to you.”
Bookie Gong and Ajumma share a heartfelt moment as he tries to explain his own behavior as being born from his survival instinct, and that somewhere along the way, lying and conning people just became a habit. “I realized that I was deceiving myself,” he admits. “I can’t trust myself. But you still trust me?”
Ajumma nods as she wipes away a tear: “I’m nothing if not loyal.” Bookie Gong pulls her into an embrace, his faith in himself restored because of her trust.
San goes off to try and find Bok-joo’s brother, leaving his old frenemy in Bookie Gong’s keeping. But we soon find Bok-joo spying on one of Sung-won’s secret bomb meetings, the contents of which he reports to Secretary Kim… ah, so he’s secretly working for Daddy Choi now?
The exchange is that Secretary Kim has promised to find Bok-joo’s little brother in exchange for more detailed information about the independence movement Sung-won is leading, but he’s most interested to know if San and Chi-ho are part of it.
Daddy Choi gets a rude awakening when Vice Chairman Yoon tells him that he doesn’t own Mr. Min’s factory just because he’s now in charge of all cotton production in the capital, he’s just a manager. Count Byun, Takeshi’s father, is the real top dog in charge—and by the way, they’re going marry Shin-young off to Takeshi.
Even though Daddy Choi knows that the marriage is just another way for Count Byun to control what he owns, he’s not about to go against it. Secretary Kim finally speaks up with his first ever request of Daddy Choi, asking him not to use Shin-young for his business anymore.
Daddy Choi refuses to grant his request, so Secretary Kim has to drag Shin-young back to her father’s house by force. She recognizes Takeshi’s picture as the man who assaulted her at the formal gala and refuses to do her father’s bidding, whether it’s returning home or marrying Takeshi.
As she prepares to leave in a huff, Secretary Kim receives terrible news—her brother has been badly injured and is being transferred to the hospital. They see him right before he’s wheeled into surgery, suffering from a bullet to his lungs. Yikes.
Hong-ki rushes out to stop his mom as soon as he finds out she’s gone to Officer Hee-bong’s house, and he makes it in time to bar her from entering, begging her not to sell herself for him. “I’m no longer a kid you need to protect by sacrificing yourself,” he argues. Mom seems moved.
Shin-young’s Oppa is wheeled out of surgery, but they couldn’t save him. With his few remaining breaths, he tells his sister that he wanted to strip their father of all his power and use it to become different than Daddy Dearest.
With his last shuddering breath, he asks his sister to protect the family factory… and then dies. Shin-young and her father sob at his passing.
San has been getting the bureaucratic runaround when it comes to finding Bok-joo’s little brother, which is when Bookie Gong tries to drag him back to practice. But when San asks only after Shin-young, Gong tells him to stop pining over her if he wants to be safe from Daddy Choi’s wrath—after all, Shin-young got engaged to Chi-ho to save him from the labor camp.
This is the first time San is hearing this, and the news hits him like a ton of bricks. “Shin-young… is getting married to Chi-ho because of me?” he asks disbelievingly, before he bravely runs away to find her. Montages of their recent conversations flash through his mind, now that he can put her words in the context of what she had to do in order to save him.
Daddy Choi can’t hold back his tears at his son’s funeral, while Shin-young can’t get her Oppa’s last words out of her head. San goes searching for her at the factory first, only to find the three workers who accompanied him to the clinic have been fired and left outside to desperately beg the foreman to reconsider.
They bypass him once Shin-young arrives to blame her for everything (except for the kindly grandma), and Shin-young just sinks to her knees before them in the rain: “I… am responsible for this. I will take full responsibility.”
At Bong-soon’s house, a dead-eyed Shin-young tells San that she’s going to get those workers’ jobs back by moving back home and taking all that her father has. San begs her not to go back since her father has made her suffer so much, to which she coldly replies, “Who are you to tell me what to do?”
“I like you,” San blurts. “From the beginning until now, there hasn’t been a moment that I haven’t liked you.” Shin-young tries to be dismissive, but San backhugs her as he apologizes for the burden she’s had to bear alone.
He knows he came back because of her sacrifice, even though she insists that she made her own decision with regards to marrying Chi-ho. “I can’t change it back,” she says.
This time, San gives her a front-hug as he all but begs her not to back to Chi-ho or her father, and just to stay by his side until the end. “I will never make you feel alone again,” he adds, but she pushes him away all the same. Because she can’t protect him from her father, she’s going to go back and gain the power she needs to create a new world—the kind of world where the person she loves won’t have to suffer. (Why is everyone only crying from one eye?)
Byeo-ri’s street urchin friend pays her a visit at Chi-ho’s house, and manages to convince her that she has no future there if Chi-ho’s family goes under, since she’ll be homeless again. So she tells Byeo-ri about a great program she heard about, where young girls will be sent as nursing assistants to Manchuria… as military comfort women.
(Of course, they didn’t know at the time that the “Comfort Corps” was a carefully orchestrated roundup of young women by the Japanese government, which relied on coercion and kidnapping to enslave at least 100,000 Korean women—some scholars cite more than 400,000 women total from different territories under Japanese rule—for “use” as sex slaves for the Japanese Imperial Army. This act has been widely condemned as a wartime atrocity and is still being contested today by the Japanese government.)
Bong-soon’s father is home resting after surgery, with Bong-soon eager to show Sung-won to him when he arrives. But Sung-won keeps thinking of the bomb and the “sacrifice” he’ll have to make (I’m getting a suicide bomber vibe) and forces himself to break up with Bong-soon.
It’s game day, but half of Team Baekhwa isn’t even there. Hong-ki looks to his mother in the stands supporting him, and decides that he can’t let her down—he’s going to look for their missing teammates.
He finds Sung-won outside the Government-General Building with the bomb, ready to detonate it. Hong-ki tries dragging him back to the game claiming he has a plan, but Sung-won finally has to punch him to keep him away.
But Hong-ki finally reveals his plan, never mind that soldiers are standing like five feet away: rather than Sung-won just throwing the bomb over the fence, if their team wins the game today, they’ll get a chance to meet the Governor-General. Sung-won will have much more luck hitting the big target if he waits until then.
Chi-ho finds Shin-young outside her father’s house and apologizes for not making it to her brother’s funeral, though he finally loses his composure when she gives him distant, one-word answers. Could she not even ask what happened to him, especially since this was the first time he couldn’t be there for her?
“All this time that I did everything I could to help you and be there for you… what have you ever done for me?” Chi-ho asks. (Finally.) Even without a response from her, he immediately apologizes for being harsh.
But Shin-young sees this as her opportunity to deadpan her breakup speech, with the same “I’m powerless against my father” spiel. “I’m my father’s daughter, and you are your father’s son,” she adds, concluding that their merged path ends here. She’s going to live as Daddy Choi’s daughter from now on, leaving Chi-ho devastated.
She returns to her father, who’s turned to drinking after his son’s death, to tell him that she didn’t come home in order to get married—she means to become Daddy Choi’s successor.
San finally shows up to the game and addresses Bok-joo (who I guess has been adopted by the team) that it’s true that all he knew was basketball, and his desire to succeed at any cost came from his resentment at the hand (har) fate has dealt him.
“But the more I tried desperately to have it all, the more anxious I became. And I found myself drifting further and further away from the people I cared about,” San adds, before he tells his old friend that he can’t stop playing basketball because he wants to show others that poor kids like them can achieve success and be happy.
He also promises to find Bok-joo’s little brother so the three of them can live happily, which seems to shake Bok-joo’s revenge-y resolve.
Bookie Gong gives the team a pep talk (“Just hold out until Chi-ho gets here”) before they face-off against Takeshi’s new team.
San’s Mom is there to tend to Takeshi, and looks all the more nervous now that San is playing. The crowd, however, continues to cheer his name.
I didn’t think it was possible, but finally we got a cliffhanger without all three romantic leads in it. Of course that doesn’t mean it’s a particularly good or exciting cliffhanger, but such is the story of this show’s life.
I’m fairly sure I’ve either lost the ability to follow Shin-young’s story, or have just given up on trying. If it’s not her feelings that have been flip-flopping then it’s the writing, since this episode tried to present her as the noblest idiot of them all by sacrificing her happiness for San’s life. I might’ve bought that she never fell out of love with San if not for the multiple times where she’s had the freedom to back out of her decision to marry Chi-ho, even if it meant defying her very scary father. But she didn’t.
At those various points there was nothing pushing her to marry him, no sacrifices hinging on her decision, and I thought the point of all that was that she wanted to marry Chi-ho after all. And as San pointed out a few episodes back, she officially “chose” him. So then without impetus she started to act as though Chi-ho was pushing his feelings on her and acted as though she never wanted to marry him. She couldn’t even have a conversation with him in front of San without looking awkward and nervous. What happened to the Shin-young who cried that she didn’t want to hurt Chi-ho, in front of San? Indecision, thy name is Shin-young.
So then the focus now shifts to Shin-young making her umpteenth impulsive decision, this time to work under her father and pull the rug out from under him as per her brother’s wishes. Which, hah. It does feel as though the show assigns her a new purpose each week by way of throwing plot cupcakes against a wall and choosing whichever one sticks, so needless to say that I’d be surprised if she manages to outsmart her greedy father with all of her zero business acumen within the next two episodes.
My last head-scratching plot point is the independence movement side story, which comes off as so unintentionally haphazard that it’s hard to take seriously. Wasn’t Shin-young involved, or something? Wasn’t San also supposed to be involved, kind of? Also, why are they the worst spies ever? Talking about bombs with an open window in a heavily frequented area, holding two very suspicious discussions right outside the Government-General Building while carrying a bomb in full view of guards who must not know the word “bomb” (unless, of course, they weren’t yelling it loud enough), not to mention how Hong-ki came up with an infinitely better plan than Sung-won’s throw-the-bomb-over-the-fence idea without even trying. So if Hong-ki is the best spy out of a group of characters we don’t even know, what does that say about them? About everything?
- Basketball: Episode 15
- Basketball: Episode 14
- Basketball: Episode 13
- Basketball: Episode 12
- Basketball: Episode 11
- Basketball: Episode 10
- Basketball: Episode 9
- Basketball: Episode 8
- Basketball: Episode 7
- Basketball: Episode 6
- Basketball: Episode 5
- Basketball: Episode 4
- Basketball: Episode 3
- Basketball: Episode 2
- Basketball: Episode 1