Racket Boys: Episode 5
The aces collide as they fight for the top spot on the team, and they turn every little encounter into another battle. Though the coaches instruct them to cooperate, sometimes kids have to figure things out themselves before learning their lesson. However, rivalries are not the only things sprouting from the ground this season as young love starts to blossom as well.
EPISODE 5 RECAP
While the kids munch on snacks, Han-sol tells the group that she confessed to Yoon-dam, but he turned her down since they are partners for mixed doubles. She assures the others that she is fine, and they take her word for it. Moving onto a quick PPL break, the kids talk about how great the food is, and the cast breaks the fourth wall as they stare straight at the cameras. Pfft.
Still interested in the confession, Hae-kang wonders how she did it, and the others laugh at him for being so clueless—everyone these days just texts. Hae-kang gets defensive, asking if his teammates have confessed before, and they tell him that all three of them have been rejected by the same girl: Se-yoon.
Hae-kang balks at the news, but the others point out how popular Se-yoon is among badminton players. He asks if they still like her then, but they shake their heads since Se-yoon is in love with badminton first and foremost.
The four boys forage for herbs in exchange for using Grandma’s Wi-Fi, and Mr. Hong walks by dragging two enormous roots. While the boys continue digging, Woo-chan finds a familiar plant and takes a bite.
Moments later, Woo-chan becomes sick, and Yong-tae scolds him for eating a poisonous leaf. Thankfully, though, Yong-tae finds an antitoxin, which heals Woo-chan enough for them to carry him down the mountain.
On their way back, Hae-kang finds an interesting plant on the ground, but as he reaches for it, Yong-tae grabs him and warns him to watch out since he nearly lost his arm. Hae-kang thanks him before running away, and Yong-tae stays behind to mark the spot with his bandana.
Hyun-jong treats the girls to some food, and in return, they offer him some advice on how to bond with his players. They tell him that he simply needs to know PUBG, Facebook, and milk tea, but Hyun-jong points out that he tried all those things and still failed. Realizing their mistake, the girls inform him of the most important tip: just give the boys money and leave them alone.
Since Hyun-jong has plenty of questions left, he gets up to buy them drinks, but as a novice to the world of bubble tea, his mind explodes when the girls give him their intricate orders. Before he leaves, he asks if they should open a group chat, but they turn him down immediately. Heh.
Using each other as pillows, the badminton boys lie in the front yard while Yong-tae continues his fruitless quest for data. The others ask Yoon-dam about Han-sol’s confession, and Hae-kang brings up Se-yoon as well. Getting embarrassed about his elementary school crush, Yoon-dam clears up some of the misunderstanding floating around.
He tells Hae-kang that Se-yoon is just waiting for the right guy to date, and Hae-kang perks up his ears when he hears this. Jumping from his spot, Hae-kang goes inside to sleep, but as he disappears, he shares some of his data with Yong-tae.
The kids get on the bus in the morning, and after contemplating for a second, Hae-kang plops down next to Yoon-dam. They talk about the upcoming joint practice with neighboring schools, and Hae-kang gets excited over the chance to fight against his nemesis.
Yong-tae bursts his bubble since the yellow-haired kid hurt his arm, but Hae-kang vows to get revenge one day. He also adds how they will win as a team, too, and the others smile as they watch him buckle the front of his backpack like the rest of them. So cute!
The coaches announce a restructuring of the team, and Head Coach Bae emphasizes their new goal: strength as one! This means Yoon-dam and Hae-kang are partnered for doubles, and the two aces size each other up.
Reporter Kim drops by the girls’ school to chat with Young-ja and asks about Se-yoon’s condition for the upcoming competition in Indonesia. He also wonders if she will play mixed doubles in the summer competition, and Young-ja tells him that Se-yoon does not like playing in that category.
The boys’ team practices doubles, but the two aces butt heads and fight over who should lead the other. As the game progresses, their arguing worsens, and the coaches look concerned from the sidelines.
Meanwhile, the city husband and Mr. Hong help Grandma with her garden, but the city husband causes more trouble than help. The neighboring village chief, Mr. Dong, waltzes over to say hi, but in reality, he wants to taunt Mr. Hong about his village losing the sports festival every year.
Back in the gym, Hyun-jong tells the boys that doubles should start and end with high fives. The two troublemakers hardly agree with his sentiment and shoot daggers at each other instead.
Though Yong-tae’s dad keeps sending him herbal medicines, Yong-tae looks reluctant to take them as he drops the packets back into the refrigerator. While Young-ja and Hyun-jong notice this behavior, neither of them pushes him to drink it and leaves him alone.
Everyone gets together to eat sweet potatoes, and the mini rivalry between Hae-kang and Yoon-dam continue at home as they race to see who eats the fastest. They ignore Hyun-jong’s warnings to get along, but as soon as Young-ja scolds them, the boys stop competing. Heh.
Mr. Hong pops by to inform them about the sports festival and tells them that he needs a runner for the relay race. There are only three activities in the festival, and the race is worth ten times the other games.
Since each team can only have one teenager, both Hae-kang and Yoon-dam volunteer for the “ace” position. They each grab Mr. Hong’s hand, promising to bring him victory, but in their fervor, they squeeze a little too tightly. Pfft.
The principal pays the team a visit now that In-sol is on the team, and Hyun-jong grumbles to the head coach about the principal’s obvious motives. Head Coach Bae agrees that he should be cautious, but instead of the principal, he points at Yoon-dam’s dad.
The city husband helps Grandma again, but to her frustrations, he wastes time by tying pretty ribbons around the posts. She berates him for being incompetent as well as slow, and threatens to bury her helpers if they do not hurry up. On her way home, the city wife notices Grandma scolding her husband and frowns.
Yoon-dam’s dad stops by the office to hand Hyun-jong a drink, but as the head coach foretold, he is not here simply as a supportive parent. He tells Hyun-jong that his son has gotten worse from last year, and when Hyun-jong fails to understand his implications, he spells it out for him: “The only thing that changed from last year is the coach.”
He accuses Hyun-jong of favoring Hae-kang and giving him more opportunities. He also heard rumors of Hyun-jong playing in internet cafes, and as the parents’ representative, he says that he will be monitoring the practices for a while.
Despite Grandma’s gruff attitude, she feeds her helpers and beams at them when they enjoy her food. Mr. Hong asks the city husband if being a civil servant was always his dream, and the topic changes to what each of them wanted to be when they were younger.
Grandma tells them that people her age had no dreams, but she did once want to live in Seoul because everyone on tv looked so happy. Looking around the room, the city husband notices the family pictures on the wall and asks if he can take some photos of her house since it reminds him of his grandma.
The badminton team continues doubles practices, and Hyun-jong sighs at his two troublemakers who refuse to high five. Their egos inevitably clash, and they smash their rackets into each other. As the two boys fight, Head Coach Bae stops Hyun-jong from intervening, advising him to trust his players to solve this by themselves.
The city husband returns home with a bundle of things from Grandma and finds his wife waiting for him with her arms crossed. She thinks Grandma is taking advantage of his kindness, but her husband tells her that she is mistaken. Changing subjects, he asks if she got her paints and wonders what her next project will be.
The national team head coach complains about the host country treating them unfairly in a last-ditch effort to beat Se-yoon. However, the head coach tells the others not to worry about their ace since they found a solution to her headaches.
In her room, Se-yoon plays on her phone before her big match tomorrow, and unlike her roommate, she is unbothered by the large, antagonistic crowds. Rather, Se-yoon is jealous of the host country’s enthusiasm and tells her roommate that the solution is simple: do not give the other side a chance to jeer.
On their way to school, Yong-tae complains about his faulty phone and how his dad refuses to buy him a new one. Woo-chan mentions their doubles games, but this becomes a sore spot for Hae-kang and Yoon-dam. They use poor Yong-tae as their messenger and blame each other for losing.
During their joint practice, the other team’s coach finds Hyun-jong playing PUBG, and they make plans to play later. While the boys warm up, In-sol wonders if Hae-kang and Yoon-dam will be okay since both of them are evenly skilled, but Yong-tae points out that once the game starts, all will be revealed.
As the first rally begins, the opponents send the shuttlecock to Hae-kang repeatedly, and Yong-tae explains how the weaker link always becomes the target in doubles.
The city husband moves rocks for Grandma, but he drops the wheelbarrow, which earns him another scolding. Grandma’s son offers to help, but Grandma tells him to rest inside. From afar, the wife witnesses everything and sighs.
While on their break, Yoon-dam tells Hae-kang to follow his lead, but when the latter refuses, he asks if he cannot read the flow of the game. In the end, Hae-kang and Yoon-dam lose, but out of the two, Yoon-dam looks more devasted by the results.
Fed up with Grandma’s treatment of her husband, the wife confronts her as she leaves to go on a family trip, but Grandma brushes her aside since they can talk about it later. The wife chases after their car, but her husband stops her, explaining how Grandma is the one helping them.
He says that he asked for advice on how to take care of their garden, but the wife points out that their crops endured the recent storm just fine. He tells her that Grandma saved them since, during the terrible storm, she went out and fixed everything while being tossed around by the strong winds.
Yoon-dam’s dad closes their bakery early and drinks in the back. Mom asks if something happened at the practice game, and he tells her that their son lost his doubles match. She assumes it was because of Hae-kang, but he shakes his head—in the second half of the match, the opponents targeted Yoon-dam.
In the end, Yoon-dam started following Hae-kang’s lead, and Dad comments on how their son had unconsciously recognized Hae-kang’s skills. Despite what happened, Yoon-dam’s dad is certain their son will get through this and do well.
Courtesy of Yoon-dam’s parents, the kids eat pizza and fried chicken after their practice. The others thank him for the food, but Yoon-dam still looks troubled by his recent loss.
Se-yoon plays against an Indonesian player, and her opponent takes the lead in the beginning. The crowd’s boos fill the stadium after she makes a mistake, but Se-yoon keeps calm and smiles. As the match progresses, Se-yoon destroys her opponent—only letting her take two more points before winning the game.
After claiming the championship title, Se-yoon tells the curious reporters that she was in top condition this time since she solved her headache problem with some medicine. The new coach worries about a false positive on her doping test, but Coach Paeng assures him that everything was clean.
Hyun-jong sulks in the office, blaming himself for forcing Yoon-dam into a tough position by pairing him with Hae-kang. As a player who experienced something similar, Hyun-jong can empathize with his struggle, but Head Coach Bae tells him to watch them first before doing anything.
Here on the head coach’s favor, a couple of college players practice with the boys, and unlike their previous matches, Hae-kang and Yoon-dam score a point… and high five! Hyun-jong marvels at their sudden change, and Head Coach Bae explains how kids tend to enjoy chasing after goals. Even though the boys lose, they high five and beg the college players to play another round.
As Head Coach Bae cleans up, he sees the office lights on and finds Hyun-jong sleeping at his desk. He assumes the new coach was playing games, but as he gets closer, he sees a video of Yoon-dam and Hae-kang’s earlier match on the screen as well as extensive notes on each player.
Though Hyun-jong did stay at internet cafes, he did it to watch his players’ matches and write down each of their weaknesses. Realizing the effort Hyun-jong is investing into the boys, the head coach lets him sleep and leaves with a smile on his face.
At the sports festival, Mr. Hong grins at his two aces, but his face falls when he notices the boys staring nervously at their opponent: a track and field athlete. He asks if they can still win, and Hae-kang claims that they can… if Yoon-dam runs. Hahaha!
Now that their feud is over, neither Hae-kang nor Yoon-dam is confident enough to run in the race, so Mr. Hong desperately searches for a replacement. He even throws in a free wish to sweeten the deal, but everyone avoids making eye contact with him.
Hyun-jong runs as the first leg of the relay, and the race starts off evenly. Hae-in is second, and though she widens the gap, Mr. Hong fumbles the pass and falls behind. When all hope seems lost, their new anchor flies down the track, and everyone cheers as Se-yoon passes her opponent and wins the race.
Grandma returns from her trip and finds a little surprise outside her house. Someone painted a mural of Grandma’s “dream” on her brick wall—imagined portraits of her wedding with Seoul as the backdrop that ends with a family picture. It brings her to tears, and when her grandson calls, he says that he wants to visit and see the painting.
Meanwhile, the city wife grabs some kimchi in their yard and stops to admire the cherry blossoms. She stares at her paint covered hands and smiles blissfully into the sunlight.
While the boys entertain themselves by flipping bottles, Se-yoon gives them souvenirs from her trip and hands Yong-tae a special present as thanks. She goes out to run, but Yong-tae chases after her to explain that the medicine was actually Hae-kang’s idea.
After the boys went foraging, Hae-kang figured out that the “poisonous” plant he found was actually ginseng, and he accused Yong-tae of cheating him. Though Yong-tae claimed that someone else stole the ginseng first, Hae-kang still wanted a favor from him and asked for some herbal medicines to help Se-yoon with her headaches.
Recalling what happened, Yong-tae mentions how Hae-kang turned red, and Se-yoon looks up with interest. However, his imagination takes a strange turn as he wonders if Hae-kang might have stolen something from her. Though Se-yoon acts cool after hearing the news, a grin spreads across her face as she starts her run.
Before Yong-tae goes inside, Young-ja calls his name and hands him a new phone from his dad. She also gives him the bandana he left on the tree, and Yong-tae screams into the sky, “Thief!”
When the others hear of Yong-tae’s plight, they tell him to forgive his dad since he got a phone. Yong-tae informs them that the ginseng is worth five phones, and Hae-kang switches sides, urging Yong-tae to call the police. Pfft.
The kids head out on an errand for Mr. Hong and arrive at an abandoned warehouse. When they step inside, they find a badminton court as well as new equipment, and they realize that this was Se-yoon’s wish.
To commemorate the occasion, Yoon-dam calls everyone over to take a picture together. Hae-kang stands off to the side until Yoon-dam tells him to get closer, and he leans in next to Se-yoon who peeks over at him.
While eating snacks at home, the kids have to decide who will pick up potatoes from Mr. Hong’s fields. When no one volunteers, Yoon-dam suggests a game not correlated to badminton skills, and for the first time, Se-yoon loses along with Hae-kang. Before they leave, Se-yoon grabs a jacket, and Hae-kang checks his appearance. Heh.
In the car, Hyun-jong and Young-ja talk about Se-yoon winning the relay race, and she tells him that Se-yoon hates losing, which is what makes her the best. Hyun-jong comments on how she reminds him of someone, but his teasing falls flat as she threatens to smack him.
At home, Han-sol notices her lip tint not in its usual place, and the scene cuts to Se-yoon with suspiciously red lips. While they carry potatoes, Se-yoon comments on the breeze and asks Hae-kang what he thinks. Staring at her face, he says that he likes it. They are so adorable!
Back in the car, Young-ja tells Hyun-jong that Se-yoon wanted to play mixed doubles and adds that her partner was supposed to be Hae-kang. Both parents fail to make the connection and simply wonder why Se-yoon suddenly changed her mind.
As they walk down the field, Hae-kang stops to look at Se-yoon but does not say anything. By now, Hae-kang is carrying nearly all the potatoes, and they walk side by side, sneaking glances at each other and smiling.
This show consistently delivers the warm fuzzies every episode, and I cannot gush enough about its cuteness. All the characters are absolutely adorable, and I love how their relationships have grown. From the kids to the villagers, the show portrays the mundane lives of its characters with plenty of heart and laughs, so even if the conflicts appear minor, the fun comes from the reactions and interactions between the characters. For example, the city wife and Grandma have a misunderstanding—the former thinks the latter is taking advantage of her husband—but as it turns out, the husband wanted to thank Grandma because she helped them out first without expecting anything in return. While the overall direction of the story is predictable, the point of the twist is not to surprise the viewers. Rather, the reveals are more about seeing the characters’ reactions to the truth and how they change afterwards. The city wife no longer sees Grandma as another mean, old person with outdated, sexist beliefs but as another woman who used to have dreams as well.
While the show may not have intricate plotlines or mind-blowing twists, you can still see the care and deliberation the creators put into the writing and directing. Even the simplest scenes hold multiple layers of meaning, and the creators use every detail to make a point. One of these moments was with Yoon-dam’s dad and the snacks he provided. Though he was struggling with the fact that his son was no longer the best player, Yoon-dam’s dad never shows his feelings to the kids, and instead, he buys pizza (his son’s favorite) as well as chicken (Hae-kang’s favorite). This small act implies that Yoon-dam’s dad realizes his mistake about Hyun-jong favoring his son, and it comes across as his way of atoning for the misunderstanding. What I love the most about this little scene, though, is that Yoon-dam’s dad gets both their favorites because, in the end, that’s what he wants the coaches to do: pay attention to all the players and be fair. Though Yoon-dam’s dad may have overstepped and encroached on the coaches’ territory, the conflict is quickly resolved when he realizes the truth of the situation. He’s a well-meaning parent, but the show reveals how good intentions can sometimes be harmful if coupled with biases and misconceptions.
One of the major sources of conflict this episode came from Hae-kang and Yoon-dam becoming partners and fighting over who should lead. Their rivalry started from the very beginning, so this clash felt inevitable. However, the show approaches this conflict from an interesting angle by creating an almost ironic situation: by forcing the boys to work together, their relationship actually becomes worse. The two coaches respond differently to the situation with Hyun-jong wanting to intervene and Head Coach Bae believing the boys need to figure this out themselves. In the end, the head coach was right, but that does not mean that Hyun-jong’s answer was necessarily wrong. Because he was once in Yoon-dam’s shoes, Hyun-jong empathizes with his struggle of falling behind a friend, and in his case, he feels responsible for putting Yoon-dam in a similar situation. He starts to doubt his decision as their coach, but this where the head coach’s role as mentor becomes crucial. Since he is more experienced, the head coach advises Hyun-jong to wait a little longer since he knew from the start that Hae-kang and Yoon-dam were destined to be friends as well as rivals. As a result of their patience, the boys do solve the problem on their own, and this conflict helps them become better players and teammates. I especially want to applaud Yoon-dam for using this opportunity to grow as a player and turning this failure into a challenge to improve himself. He does not resent Hae-kang for being better or taking his spot, and though the boys may have fought over who was the best, once the results came in, Yoon-dam accepted them gracefully. From first impressions, Yoon-dam can seem superficial because of his love for social media clout, but it doesn’t take long for the audience to realize that he is genuinely a kind kid who is dedicated to badminton and his friends. Thus, there was no way a little rivalry was going to be able to break their friendship.
As the outsider, Hae-kang acts as the catalyst that moves the plot forward because his presence disrupts the natural order of things. While this means he creates tension within the team, his sudden appearance also causes ripples in other areas of life such as love. This episode hints at the romance budding between Hae-kang and Se-yoon, and both of them are too cute for words. The show captures the youthful innocence of both characters, and there’s a refreshing quality to their adorable crushes on each other. Both of them have become more aware of the other, and it’s endearing to see them try to show their feelings to the other person but at the same time be too shy to actually say anything directly. Like the season, their relationship feels like spring—warm, new, and still growing. It’s also nice to see a depiction of young love without the histrionics and overemphasis on first loves. Most of the time in dramas, relationships between teenagers are used as a setup for the adult romance, but for this show, the story is about the teenagers and not their futures. Whether or not they end up together for a lifetime is not the message of this show, and the audience is able to enjoy the lives of these characters for who they are right now rather than for who they will become.