Racket Boys: Episode 3
Moms are often portrayed as the sacrificial homemaker who take care of their kids’ everyday needs from missing socks to homework assignments. However, raising children is a tough task, and misunderstandings are bound to happen even in the closest relationships. Though it might be hard for our badminton players to express their feelings to their parents, they realize how much their moms love them, even if it might not always be obvious.
EPISODE 3 RECAP
Jae-suk buys his old teammates food, and after ordering an expensive dish, all is forgiven for the ex-best friend. Hae-kang storms into the restaurant, demanding an explanation for why they are with the loser, and the others quickly tell him that they misunderstood Jae-suk. Hae-kang fumes since he is mad about them eating without him, but they already anticipated his response and ordered him an extra-large bowl. Pfft.
As they eat, the boys call Jae-suk a mama’s boy for leaving without a word just because his mom told him to, but Jae-suk points out that they cannot even sleep over a friend’s house without their moms’ permission. The others nod in agreement, and Hae-kang mentions how all moms are like that.
While the team packs up their equipment, Hae-kang asks about Jae-suk’s ranking and surmises that he only needs to defeat four more people to become the top player. Yoon-dam tells him to win against him first, but Hae-kang remembers his real goals: install Wi-Fi and beat the yellow-haired kid.
Some younger players run up to Hae-kang and comment on his amazing playing today. He boasts to his fans about his game and throws the others under the bus for not winning a single match. The others gag at the sight of Hae-kang’s bravado and pretend to barf on the side. Heh.
On the ride back home, Han-sol looks at their trophy and wonders aloud why Young-ja does not have an Olympic gold medal. Yong-tae informs the group that Young-ja never appeared in the Olympics despite being the top ranked female player in the world. They ask Hyun-jong about it, but he stutters for an answer, claiming to not remember.
Head Coach Bae comes to the rescue, defending Young-ja as the best even without an Olympic gold medal. The kids understand his words, but it does nothing to placate their curiosity. In the end, the head coach threatens to make them run home, and they finally stop asking.
Hae-kang receives a text from his baseball coach who wants to scout him back to their team. While treating him to fried chicken, the coach hands him a baseball, and Hae-kang pauses before answering. He tells his coach that playing badminton made him realize that he loves baseball way more. Pfft.
At home, the kids discuss potential victory ceremonies Se-yoon can do at the upcoming international competition, and Hae-kang fights with Han-sol over which dance is better. Hyun-jong steps out of his room to participate as well, but they all groan at his old-timer’s dance.
Se-yoon frowns when her mom calls and walks into her room to talk privately. Yong-tae wonders if Se-yoon is sick, and Han-sol tells him that she suffers from headaches before major competitions. Hae-kang suggests taking medicine then, but Han-sol scolds him for being unaware of doping tests.
They overhear Se-yoon fighting with her mom, and Hae-kang laughs at her accent. The others tell him that Se-yoon moved from a different city in order to be with Young-ja, and Han-sol adds how Young-ja was the only one who ever criticized Se-yoon.
Han-sol reminds everyone to send her their messages for Se-yoon, but Hae-kang refuses to make one. Interrupting their conversation, Hyun-jong showcases another possible victory dance, and the kids scream and shield their eyes. Heh.
Though it is Saturday, Young-ja needs to work overtime, and she tasks Hae-kang with helping his sister with her homework. He ignores her orders at first, but as soon as she mentions chicken, he bolts up and helps Hae-in.
After Young-ja leaves, Hae-kang sighs over how quiet the house is without the others. Hae-in tells him that Se-yoon is still here, sleeping in her room, and Hae-kang gasps since it is not even six. Meanwhile, Woo-chan eats with his parents, and his dad calls his name. Before he can speak, his mom interjects and berates her husband for always telling their son to quit badminton.
The family watches tv together when Young-ja returns with chicken, but to her surprise, Hae-kang goes into his room. She asks her husband why their son is mad, and Hyun-jong guesses that it has to do with his baseball coach’s visit. They call Hae-kang to join them, but he shouts back at them to eat without him.
At school, Hae-kang chews on candy and shakes his head at his teammates for studying. He tells them that the e-school program allows athletes to get passing grades, but they inform him that it only applies to students who get a forty percent average. Hae-kang balks at the news, but since the consequences of failing is not playing sports, he does not care either way.
Class President In-sol calls Hae-kang empty-headed and orders him to be quiet during study hall. He asks the athletes what they will do if they lower their school average, and Hae-kang chucks candy at him.
Reporter Kim drops by the girls’ school to interview Se-yoon and comments on the chilly air. He increases the temperature and waits on the side as the players finish their practice. He tells Young-ja that Se-yoon is a carbon copy of her, mentioning how she never smiles nor cries.
The boys get ready for a small competition, and Hyun-jong announces an upcoming evaluation to determine who gets to play singles. Noticing the players’ downcast expressions, Head Coach Bae assures them that it is not a big deal, but Woo-chan looks anxious as he glances at Yong-tae.
During the interview, Se-yoon dodges Reporter Kim’s attempts at provoking her by answering his questions with dry responses. Determined to get a sensational reply, he brings up the challenges of being female, including monthly periods, but his last question crosses the line and Young-ja stops the interview.
As their coach escorts Se-yoon out, the other girls insult Reporter Kim and his trashy questions. Though they do not like him, they recognize his status as a top reporter, which makes them wonder why Reporter Kim relented so easily to their coach.
Walking back home, Yong-tae grabs each of his seniors and asks if they will play games with him. He hugs Woo-chan, calling him his soul mate, but Woo-chan pulls away and reminds him that he is older than him.
Hae-kang asks Yoon-dam about Woo-chan’s bad mood, and Yoon-dam tells him that it is because of the upcoming evaluations. Since their team only has four members, they are essentially picking last place. Hae-kang thinks everything will be alright since Woo-chan and Yong-tae get along great, but Yoon-dam believes their close friendship only makes things harder.
At night, Se-yoon texts her mom back, apologizing for their previous argument, but cannot find the right words to send. With a sigh, she erases the text.
While Se-yoon goes to sleep, Han-sol barges into the boys’ room and reminds Hae-kang to send her a video message by tomorrow. He refuses again, and she curses at him under her breath. Before she leaves, she shyly waves goodnight to Yoon-dam, and Hae-kang gags at her change in attitude.
The next morning, Young-ja sits next to Hae-kang as he gets ready for school, and she asks him if she did something to upset him. She wonders if this is about baseball, but Hae-kang leaves without answering.
In New Zealand where the international competition is held, the new coach for the Korean team rushes out to the others with grave news. The head coach asks if one of the players is hurt, but the new coach says that it is something worse.
Back in Korea, the boys play their evaluation matches, and as expected, Hae-kang and Yoon-dam win their respective games. Though Hae-kang suggests a match to determine first place as well, Head Coach Bae calms them down since this is only an evaluation.
While the new coach worries about their missing player, the others shake their heads at him and point towards the hotel entrance as Se-yoon returns from her morning run. Unlike the new coach, the rest are accustomed to her training regime and expected as much.
The final match for the boys’ evaluation is over, and the winner is Yong-tae. Hae-kang and Yoon-dam call it a close game, but even so, they wonder if things will be okay between those two. As Woo-chan and Yong-tae come out of the gym, Yoon-dam flashes the head coach’s card, but Woo-chan wants to rest.
At home, Yong-tae lies on Woo-chan’s lap and asks him to come to the internet café with them next time. While Yong-tae keeps calling him his bestie, Woo-chan finally bursts and yells at their youngest for treating him like a friend instead of showing him respect.
Seeing Yong-tae’s expression, Woo-chan apologizes for shouting and assures him that he is not mad about the evaluations. As Woo-chan steps out to use the bathroom, Yong-tae asks the others if they really think Woo-chan was telling the truth, but they all shake their heads.
The national youth team goes over strategies for tomorrow’s games, but none of the coaches give Se-yoon advice. After they finish their meeting, Se-yoon approaches the head coach for tips, but he tells her to play like she always does. Once she leaves, the new coach asks if they should help her, but the head coach tells him that they cannot—right now, Se-yoon’s only rival is herself.
In their room, Yoon-dam turns to Hae-kang, worried about their team dynamic, but Hae-kang shrugs it off since boys their age forget about these things rather quickly. Yoon-dam marvels at his sage advice, but Hae-kang ruins the moment by acting childishly to his mom who wants to talk. Heh.
When Woo-chan returns to the room, he tells the others that Yong-tae’s birthday is approaching. The boys gape at him since they thought he was angry, but Woo-chan says that he was upset about losing but never at Yong-tae.
They ask why Woo-chan was glum then, and he tells them about his visit home. While eating with his parents, his dad actually told him to do well with badminton, but his sudden encouragement made Woo-chan anxious rather than happy.
Hae-kang asks if Woo-chan ever went against his dad, and Woo-chan admits to rebelling once. Yoon-dam is just glad that no one is mad, and Woo-chan smiles since he could never hate their team’s mascot. On cue, Yong-tae runs into the room and hugs his bestie.
While Se-yoon reads the encouraging text messages from her friends and acquaintances, her roommate asks on Han-sol’s behalf if she can send her some videos. She leaves the room to give her some privacy, and Se-yoon watches the clips Han-sol gathered.
The first is from her teammates who cheer for their ace, and the second is an adorably awkward interview from the villagers who think this is for a television broadcast. The third is from her housemates, and Hae-in wishes her good luck. At the end, Hyun-jong walks into the frame and tells Se-yoon to choose his silly dance for her victory ceremony.
Se-yoon smiles after watching the videos, but to her surprise, there is one more left. The last one is from Hae-kang who sits alone in his room and barely manages to apologize for his previous mistakes. He says that he did not recognize her at first but realized who she was right away.
He tells Se-yoon that she is cool for playing with the flag on her chest, but he has something more important to tell her: it is okay to lose. He calls her a crybaby, and Se-yoon tears up. Back in 2016, the two of them met at a national youth training camp, and he told her that it was okay to cry. Like then, present-day Se-yoon lets out her tears after hearing Hae-kang’s words.
Se-yoon makes it to the championship matches, and as always, she stays focused and calm throughout the rally. She wins the first point with a clean smash down the side, and not long after, she reaches match point in their second game after beating her opponent by eleven points in the first.
Her friends watch the match online, and scream in excitement when she smashes the birdie over and wins the title. Looking towards the camera, Se-yoon chooses Hae-kang’s dance, and he smiles approvingly.
The boys are awed by Se-yoon’s playing, but Hae-kang calls it luck. Han-sol scoffs at his statement and tells him that Se-yoon slept four hours earlier in order to adjust to the time difference and lowered their gym’s temperature to adapt to their climate. What he sees as “luck” is really her hard work.
During her post-game interview, Reporter Kim asks if she found a way to deal with her headaches, but Se-yoon tells the reporters that she simply puts up with it. Meanwhile, the coaches talk about Se-yoon, and the head coach comments on how she continues to amaze him every game. He points out, though, that she appeared happier than usual while playing this time.
At night, the other girls gather in Se-yoon’s room to party, but Se-yoon is happily asleep in bed.
Young-ja wakes up Hae-kang and suggests eating out as a family because it is Sunday. When he refuses, she asks him to talk, but Hae-kang tells her to just act like she did before since he is already used to coming home to an empty house and eating the lunches his dad packed.
Though he might be fine without a mom, he points out that Hae-in is different. He asks if she ever helped with his sister’s homework, and Young-ja has no reply. Returning to her room, she asks Hae-in about last week’s assignment.
Both daughter and father try to convince her that it is not important, but Young-ja is adamant about seeing it. When Hae-in hands it to her, Young-ja’s heart drops as she sees a photo of their family trip… with her picture pasted on top.
Finally understanding Hae-kang’s feelings, Young-ja finds her son and apologizes. He tells her that it is fine because she loves badminton more than her kids. While Young-ja accepts the fact that she made them lonely, she wants him to know that she never loved badminton more than her family. She asks for some understanding since this is her first time being a parent, but Hae-kang replies, “Mom, this is my first time being your son, too.”
As Hae-kang sits outside to think, Hyun-jong joins him. He tells him about the old days and how playing sports required connections. However, he encountered a player who disregarded everything else and eventually made the committee pick her for the Olympic team based on skill alone.
Hyun-jong tells him that the player retired, though, because she became pregnant. When a young reporter harassed her for an explanation, asking if she gave up her career because she was a female athlete, the player told him that the choice was hers. Afterwards, she bashed the reporter, and Hyun-jong chuckles just thinking about it.
Before he leaves, Hyun-jong tells his son that the player never regretted her decision—and he should know since she told him that last night.
Hae-kang goes to the kitchen to eat alone but turns in surprise when Se-yoon steps out of her room. She wonders why he is not with his family, and he tells her that he fought with his mom. He asks if she ever saw his mom smile, and she says that she has.
Back when they lost against Young-ja’s rival coach, she dismissed the team for the weekend with a smile. Se-yoon and Han-sol asked if something good happened, and Young-ja bragged about Hae-kang accomplishing a shutout and winning MVP.
On the topic of moms, Hae-kang asks why Se-yoon’s mom does not come to her matches, and she tells him that her mom thinks she might jinx her. He advises her to apologize to her mom first, but when Se-yoon asks if he can do the same, he reels back in embarrassment.
In the middle of their conversation, Se-yoon’s stomach growls, so Hae-kang takes her to a tasty restaurant (aka, Grandma and Grandpa’s house). When Se-yoon marvels at the spread, Grandma claims to eat like this every day, and Grandpa gives her an incredulous look.
Before they eat, Hae-kang comments on how adults always ask if you ate, but in the case of moms, they seem to actually care about the answer. After they manage to finish everything, they sit to digest, and Se-yoon gives Hae-kang some advice on how to reconcile with his mom.
At home, Hyun-jong berates himself for cosigning a loan and making Young-ja pay off the debt, but she tells him not to regret it since he did it to help his friend with his daughter’s medical bills. Feeling grateful, he takes her side in her argument with Hae-kang, but Young-ja scolds him for bothering their young son.
Hae-kang suddenly enters his parents’ room and tells them that he feels sick. Young-ja checks his temperature and treats him like a little kid. As she takes care of him, Hae-kang asks if she ever cried after losing a match or when he got hurt playing, and she tells him that she never has.
He then asks she ever bashed anyone, and she lets slip out that she has. She realizes that Hyun-jong told Hae-kang about her past and yells at her husband for sharing useful information. Turning her attention back to her son, Young-ja scolds him for not finishing his assignments, and his excuse of being sick no longer works. Heh.
Lying in their room, Han-sol asks if Se-yoon made up with her mom and tells her that losing is winning in these situations. However, when the time comes for Han-sol to take her own advice, she fails as she gets annoyed with her mom over the phone.
As the others advised, Se-yoon texts her mom first and sends a picture of the food she ate at Grandma’s house. Her mom smiles at the photo, clearly happy to see her daughter looking happy and well.
At Yoon-dam’s family’s bakery, the awkward cuckoo clock on the wall is actually a placeholder for their eldest son’s photo (which they keep secret from Yoon-dam). When a customer comments on their son’s good looks, both parents gush about how great he is.
At Woo-chan’s house, the table is much barer without their son there, and his mom asks his dad why he suddenly encouraged Woo-chan last time. He says that he wants their son to quit on his own before he enters high school.
All the kids gather around the table to study, and In-sol joins them as their tutor at their teacher’s request. He is shocked at Hae-kang’s level, suggesting that it might be lower than Hae-in’s, and Hae-kang grumbles silently, unable to object.
Before the parents leave, they warn the kids against distractions, but once they step out, everyone pulls out their phones. While they goof around, someone knocks on their door, and Hae-kang finds the city couple outside. They thank Hae-kang for the curry from before and wanted to return the favor.
Puffing up his shoulders, Hae-kang brags to the others that their neighbors loved his curry, but his friends grimace since they doubt it. Only Hae-in is brave enough to check the gift, and inside the pot, they find a mound of fast-food hamburgers. Their cheers can be heard from outside, and the city couple smiles in satisfaction.
To complete Hae-in’s homework assignment, her family takes a photo together by the beach, and Hae-kang musters a grin for the camera. Since they are out, they decide to take pictures with everyone in the house, and Hae-kang calls In-sol over to join them.
A small smile spreads across his face as In-sol runs next to Han-sol and copies her. As everyone poses, the camera never flashes, and In-sol apologizes for not setting it up correctly. Heh.
Playing in Grandma’s house, Hae-in asks her brother why they do not invite the others over, and he tells her that it would slow down the Wi-Fi. As she scrolls through the plethora of photos they took, Hae-in points out Hae-kang’s smile and says that it has been a while since she saw him this happy.
Flashing back to Hae-kang’s meeting with his coach, he said that his badminton team needed him and listed off the silly things he had to accomplish before playing baseball. His coach worried about him becoming friends with his teammates, but Hae-kang denied it. Before he left, the coach gave him some time to reconsider his offer, and Hae-kang thanked him for the opportunity.
The show demonstrates again how a story can be engaging and fun without any major villains, and having genuinely kind characters does not inherently mean boring. Even In-sol, who gets off on the wrong foot with the boys, is portrayed more as a prickly teen than an outright jerk, and near the end, the show reveals how he enjoys hanging out with friends and being part of a group like anyone else. In the same vein, the Jae-suk incident is resolved without much fanfare, which perfectly captures how quickly kids can learn to forgive and forget. When feelings were hurt, Yoon-dam lashes out at Jae-suk for abandoning them, but as soon as they hear his side of the story, they quickly open up and let bygones be bygones. They do not let bitterness control them, and as a result, they are able to let go of the bad and focus on the good aspects of their friends and relationships.
One of the main focuses of this episode was about moms, and we get to see more of Young-ja. She is undeniably an amazing coach and player, but being a working mom is a difficult position. It often requires women to become supermoms who perfectly balance their work and home life, but in reality, finding that equilibrium is hard. Thankfully, Hyun-jong seems to take care of the housework and childrearing where he can, but no matter how hard he tries, the kids still miss their mom’s presence. At first, Hae-kang’s anger seems to be about himself, but as always, the show reveals how thoughtful our young protagonist is. After helping Hae-in with her homework, he realizes how much his mom is absent in his sister’s life, and though he, too, is still at an age where he needs her love, his concerns are with Hae-in because he does not want her to experience the same loneliness he has.
I loved how the show handled this situation, painting neither son nor mom as bad. Like Young-ja said, she will make mistakes because she is only human, but I’m glad the show had Hae-kang point out that this is his first time, too. Parents should not expect their kids to always be understanding, and thus, I appreciated Young-ja for never blaming Hae-kang for acting out or being childish. She recognizes her mistakes as well as her son’s young age. Even if this is her first time as their mom, as the adult she should lead by example, and the way she gave Hae-kang space while never guilting him about her sacrifices was beautiful.
Hyun-jong’s role as the mediator was also well done as he never really oversteps his bounds and tries to force either side to reconcile. Instead, he approaches his son and tells him more about his mom. He uses the story to portray how much Young-ja loves her kids, but like his wife, he never makes Hae-kang feel like he owes his mom something because retiring was her decision. The emphasis on Young-ja’s choice being her owns—not because she is a woman or a mom—shows that retiring is not the automatic answer for all athletes, but in Young-ja’s case, it was what she wanted. She chose to be a mom, and even if she has to work long hours to provide for her family, she loves them dearly. It does not excuse her from being absent in her children’s lives, but it does put things into perspective and allows her character to learn from this event and grow.
While all the students, including Hae-kang, appreciate their moms, they still act like kids and find their parents annoying. The reoccurring joke of the players giving each other sound advice only to not take it themselves was precious, and it was a great way to have the characters bond with each other and be more understanding. Like Hae-kang, Se-yoon has difficulties expressing her feelings to her mom, and with the jinx added to their relationship, it becomes harder for her to lean on her mom before major games. However, Hae-kang’s observation skills strike again as he mentions how moms ask about food as a way to show their concern, and Se-yoon understands that her mom’s constant questions about her eating were a result of her love. Thus, she sends her the picture of her dinner, and it was lovely to see them fix their minor rift slowly but surely. Though I hope Se-yoon will eventually share some of her stress with her mom or another adult, I know she has good friends who will take care of her in the meantime.
As the touted prodigy, Se-yoon is under a lot of pressure and expectations from her coaches, friends, and even strangers. However, she is still a kid, and more than the well wishes, it was Hae-kang’s words of affirmation that made her cry and help her relax. Words like talent and luck mask the huge effort Se-yoon puts in, and in reality, it is her tenacity and drive that set her apart and make her great. Out of everyone, Hae-kang was the one who recognizes how draining it can be to be seen only as the top player, and it must have been doubly reassuring to Se-yoon to hear it from him since he was once in a similar situation as her. Though I doubt Se-yoon wants to lose, hearing someone tell her that it is okay if she does is encouraging because it means her hard work and self-worth is not tied to her results. Since everyone tells her to win, it can feel like they expect nothing less from her because she should simply be that good, but everyone can lose some days, even the best. As Hae-kang said, she worked hard up to this point, so she should be proud of her achievements no matter what happens in this game or the next.