Racket Boys: Episode 6
The generation gap between the kids and the adults feels unbridgeable, and the rift only seems to grow with each passing day. While the adults reminisce about their past, the younger generation rolls their eyes at another unsolicited lecture about a bygone era. In the end, both sides need to work towards understanding each other in order to find a happy compromise.
EPISODE 6 RECAP
Inside the bus terminal, the badminton boys argue over what to do. Acting as the voice of reason, Yoon-dam advises everyone to return to practice, but Yong-tae and Woo-chan warn the new members about “Run to Hell” (aka, intensive training). Last year, the boys could barely lift their spoons afterwards, and Yong-tae even collapsed.
Hae-kang switches over to the “let’s ditch” team, and to everyone’s surprise, In-sol joins them, too. They pool their money together for their trip, and Hae-kang has the least amount since his roommates have been secretly collecting a housing fee from their parents. Before they head off, Yoon-dam tells them to be careful, and they assure him that they will.
Hyun-jong overhears Han-sol and Se-yoon talking and tries to jump into their conversation. He interprets their use of yang literally, and Hae-in sighs at her dad for being so ignorant. Young-ja tells him that keeping quiet is communicating and asks if he told the kids about their joint practice. Hyun-jong giggles since he pranked the boys about having intensive training today.
Young-ja asks Hae-in about school, and Hyun-jong starts lamenting how quickly his daughter is growing. Hae-in scowls at his whining and then scolds him for forgetting about the traffic lights. While they wait at the intersection, Hyun-jong asks Young-ja if she knows what yang means, but she mumbles back, “I don’t know, either.” Heh.
Hyun-jong arrives at the gym with bags of snacks and finds Yoon-dam practicing alone. He assumes the rest of the team must be hiding to surprise him, but Yoon-dam reveals the truth. Since most of the boys ran away, Hyun-jong gets permission from the head coach to take the day off and go on a trip.
On the bus, Yong-tae digs through his backpack but the envelope with all their money has disappeared. Though practically stranded, Yong-tae tells the others not to worry since there are tons of jobs available in the city.
Once they arrive, Hae-kang grumbles about their predicament, but Woo-chan and Yong-tae tell him that this is better than intensive training. However, their grumbling stomachs argue otherwise, but a stroke of luck finally hits them when Yong-tae finds a recruitment flier.
While Hyun-jong drives down to meet his old buddy, the boys go to a construction site, looking for work. Though they lie about their age, the employer quickly busts them when Yong-tae innocently tells him their middle school’s name.
The boys promise to work hard, but Supervisor Yoo (cameo by Lee Joon-hyuk) turns them down. A younger employee, Park Joon-young (cameo by Kim Sung-chul), comes to their defensive, and Supervisor Yoo relents.
Hyun-jong meets with his old friend, Coach Lee Jae-jung (cameo by Park Hae-soo), and they greet each other with the middle finger. Jae-jung introduces Hyun-jong as his minion to his elementary school players, and Hyun-jong is surprised by his strict tone.
At the construction site, Supervisor Yoo instructs the boys to move bags of cement and keep their helmets on at all times. They ask him for advice, but he says that he has none. As soon as he leaves, Joon-young tells them to take off their helmets and teaches them how to carry the bags. He says that they should ignore what geezers say, which earns him Hae-kang and Yong-tae’s respect.
Grandma’s grandson has come down to see the mural, and her son’s family promises to visit more often.
Back at the construction site, Supervisor Yoo scolds the boys for tearing another bag and orders them to wear their helmets properly. Joon-young defends the kids again, but Supervisor Yoo tells him that this is how they all learned back in his day.
After the supervisor leaves, Hae-kang and Yong-tae take off their helmets and complain about the boomer. Woo-chan disagrees, but Hae-kang taunts him for being a boomer-wannabe. He asks where In-sol is, and they find him sweeping the cement they spilled earlier.
Hyun-jong tells Jae-jung about his team playing hooky, and they talk about how much harder it was back in their day. When they were in university, their seniors would not let them eat any meat during team dinners and forced them to warm up their toilet seats.
While the adults reminisce about their past, Joon-young complains about the boomers always yapping about the old days. He tells the boys to live how they want since no one will take responsibility for their lives.
When the boys’ stomachs growl, Joon-young grabs them some food and asks if they ran away from home. They give him a roundabout answer, and he wonders if they have a cliched story like losing their money at the terminal (which is exactly what happened).
Hae-kang thanks him for the food, but Joon-young tells him that it comes out of their paychecks. They still appreciate all his help, so Joon-young gives them another piece of advice: “Don’t trust adults.” Before he can finish, Supervisor Yoo calls him over.
While the girls’ team walks over to the gym, they smell perfume, and Han-sol scolds the others for spritzing themselves before practice. Se-yoon calls her out for putting on lip tint, too, and she asks what happened with Yoon-dam.
Last night, Han-sol asked Yoon-dam if he wanted to switch mixed doubles partners, but he said that he liked playing with her. Holding back her smile, she told him to be careful at practice since he was still the ace, and they fist-bumped before heading to bed. Accepting his answer, Han-sol tells Se-yoon that her crush is really over.
Since most of the boys fled, Young-ja instructs Han-sol and Yoon-dam to practice doubles, and then calls Se-yoon over. A company team coach is here to scout her, and she immediately wraps her arms around Se-yoon, asking if she wants to sign onto her team right now. Pfft.
Hyun-jong asks Jae-jung if he should punish his team for ditching or just ignore it, and his friend says that they behaved well as players because they were hit all the time. Hyun-jong shudders at the thought since he never got used to physical punishments, and Jae-jung agrees, asking if he remembers those terrible third years.
Back when they were players, the third years bullied Hyun-jong and Jae-jung for not keeping the first years in check and hit them a hundred times each. Though the coach found them, he ignored the scene and simply told the bullies to lock up properly after they finished. Ugh, so disgusting.
The two of them grimace just thinking about the coaches, and Hyun-jong mentions how they promised to never follow their seniors’ footsteps back then. While they drive, Hyun-jong asks why Jae-jung is listening to K-pop (Zico’s “Any Song”), and his friend tells him that he just turned on any song.
Dropping his cement bag, Hae-kang takes off his helmet and sits down to rest. While he berates his teammates for ripping another bag, a worker yells at him to watch out. Hae-kang looks up as a pipe comes hurtling towards his unprotected head, and at the last second, Supervisor Yoo pulls him to safety.
The supervisor shouts at Hae-kang for taking off his helmet and points out that everyone hates wearing them as well. However, he tells him that there is a reason behind their protocol and says that being young should not be used as an excuse to ignore the rules.
Jae-jung buys hotdogs even though they just ate, and they drive back to the elementary school. Hyun-jong brings up their old days again and mentions how some people romanticize being beat. Hearing those words, Jae-jung slams on the breaks and heaves a sigh.
The night the third years hit Hyun-jong and Jae-jung, another coach heard about the bullying but brushed it aside. However, the one inside swinging a bat was Jae-jung who took his anger out on the first years. He threatened to hit them twice as much, but Hyun-jong found him and stopped things from escalating.
Jae-jung tells Hyun-jong that he regrets that day, and even though he only hit the first years once, it was still one too many. Hyun-jong consoles him since he did not know better, but Jae-jung refuses to use that excuse because it is not true.
He says that this is something he will carry with him for the rest of his life and vows to not repeat the same mistakes to his players. He tells Hyun-jong that he admired him since that day, and Hyun-jong tells him to buy him a drink then.
After the boys finish their work, Supervisor Yoo apologizes for yelling at them earlier. He correctly guesses that they ran away from practice and tells them to listen to their coach. He acknowledges, though, that he is not always right and that Joon-young’s advice holds some truth as well. In-sol asks if they can visit him again, and Supervisor Yoo hands him his phone number.
At the elementary school, the young players dance to “Any Song” and eat the food Jae-jung bought. The kids complain about all the mistakes he made in their orders, and Jae-jung promises to get it right next time—his tone noticeably softer than during practice
The kids clean up after their break, and Hyun-jong marvels at how the older kids help alongside the younger ones. Puffing up his chest, Jae-jung brags about his team coming in first place without using outdated training methods. Hyun-jong points out that he placed first before, too, but Jae-jung points out a crucial difference: his players enjoy badminton.
Though tired from work, the boys count themselves lucky for running into a nice person like Supervisor Yoo. Scoffing, Joon-young pops up and explains how they were cheated by the supervisor. He tells them that they did two days’ worth of work today, but worst of all, the supervisor sent him to collect their lunch fees as well as the compensation for the bags they ruined. The boys accept his story without question, but In-sol is not as easily convinced.
A handful of uninvited coaches visit the girls’ practice in hopes of scouting Se-yoon, and they will do anything—even join her mom’s prayer group—if it means winning her over.
Meanwhile, In-sol threatens to call the supervisor to verify Joon-young’s story, but when he makes the call, his face falls. Joon-young smirks since he knew the supervisor would not answer, and In-sol frowns.
Walking Hyun-jong out, Jae-jung tells his friend that there is always a reason for why kids act a certain way. He mentions how adults constantly tell kids that they will understand when they get older, but he finds that as ridiculous as kids telling adults that they should become their age. While it sounds silly, though, Jae-jung points out that they were once that age.
Jae-jung advises Hyun-jong to keep up with trends, and teaches him what yang means. Jokes aside, he knows Hyun-jong already had the answer to his dilemma before he came to visit, and the two friends give each other the middle finger as farewell.
Elsewhere, Supervisor Yoo picks up his phone, and In-sol tells him about Joon-young. Showing his true colors, Joon-young warns the boys to watch themselves and stalks away.
When the boys first got to the construction site, In-sol saw the notice about the company paying for meals and reimbursing any damaged items. In reality, this was why In-sol knew Joon-young was lying because the number he got from the supervisor was fake.
While Supervisor Yoo enjoys drinks and expensive side dishes thanks to his latest prey, the boys realize that they only received one person’s wage. They wonder who they can trust now, and Yong-tae defaces the recruitment flier, warning others away.
Yoon-dam and Han-sol clean up the gym, and their hands accidentally touch while putting away the shuttlecocks, causing them to quickly break apart. Meanwhile, Young-ja apologizes to Se-yoon for having the coaches over and explains how she just wants her players to have better future than her. Se-yoon tells her that it was fine, and instead, asks about their next joint practice.
The boys return home after their arduous day out, and only Yong-tae is in a bright mood since he found the missing money in his pocket. The others are barely able to hold Hae-kang back, but Yong-tae remains optimistic, claiming to have an idea on how to deal with their coach. Hae-kang says that he no longer trusts him, and the others agree. Pfft.
On his way back, Hyun-jong takes his friend’s advice and listens to BTS. When he arrives at the gym, the boys are on the ground and have a baseball bat ready. He orders them to get up, and then, to the boys’ horrors, he calls them his yangs and begins using all the “dopest” slang. When he refuses to stop, the boys get on their knees, begging him to hit them, instead.
The others are impressed by Yong-tae’s plan—he prepared the bat as well as butt pads for them—but In-sol asks what he was going to do if Hyun-jong really hit them. Yong-tae says that their coach would never do that and calls him the only adult that he can trust. Though he might be awkward, they all agree that he tries hard to connect with them. Huddling together, they take a picture as a team to remember this moment.
Yoon-dam goes to the bakery unannounced, but instead of a warm welcome, his parents are tense and his siblings nearly cry. His younger brother asks if they have to eat pizza now, and the kids beg Yoon-dam to let them enjoy their noodles this once. Yoon-dam looks dumbstruck by their pleas, and for the first time, he notices his picture on the wall.
Yong-tae goes home to a mountain shack and finds his dad preparing more tonics for him. His dad asks if he finished the previous batch, and he tells him to rest inside while he makes dinner.
Arriving back to his room, In-sol finds his dad using his laptop and kicks him out. He looks through the search history and discovers that his dad was looking up wristbands for badminton players as well as tips on how to avoid injuries.
When Hae-kang comes home, he is surprised to see his sister all alone, and she tells him that she is always by herself until someone comes back. Hae-kang apologizes, but Hae-in says that she is only a little lonely and understands how much sports mean to him. As she gets up to use the bathroom, Hae-kang reads her homework assignment listing all her wishes.
Hae-kang goes to the warehouse to practice, and later that night, the girls come to pick him up. Han-sol bounces off first because her phone died, so Se-yoon and Hae-kang walk home together. She teases him for being scared of the dark and almost crying over the phone to have them come get him.
Se-yoon mentions their joint practice today, and Hae-kang gasps since he would have never ditched if he knew they were coming. She asks if he hates running that much, but Hae-kang tells her that he is talking about a different reason. Before he can elaborate, Han-sol returns and links arms with Se-yoon.
Young-ja guesses that the boys went home since Hae-kang is sleeping in their room and pats her son’s head. Hyun-jong asks about the coaches that came to visit, and Young-ja shares some of her worries concerning the girls’ futures. When she turns around, she finds her husband sleeping and pats his head as well.
In the morning, the city couple admires the mural, and Grandma comes out to join them along with Mr. Hong. They talk about how the mural has attracted a lot of attention, especially her grandson’s, but unfortunately, not everyone is happy about it.
Their elderly neighbor and her daughter complain about the garbage the tourists have thrown on the ground, and the city wife asks if they hate people from the city. Grandma tells her to understand since the daughter went through a lot after moving to the city, and the elderly neighbor is a college graduate but is now mute after her husband died.
Woo-chan wonders why everyone is training early in the morning and asks if anything happened at home over the weekend. They all pretend like nothing has changed, but Yong-tae is burping medicinal tonics and In-sol is sporting a new wristband.
In their room, Se-yoon and Han-sol paint Hae-in’s nails and braid her hair. Afterwards, Hae-kang and the boys show off the snack buffet they prepared for her, and then Young-ja calls her, revealing a home theater in their bedroom.
One by one, everyone tells Hae-in that they are her friends, and Young-ja hugs her daughter. While the kids pretend to hold back their tears, Hae-in ruins the mood with her blunt question: “Why?” She points out that none of them are her “friends” but thanks them nonetheless. However, she tells Hae-kang to stop peeking at her homework and stomps out of the room. Heh.
They follow Hae-in outside and watch from afar as she hangs out with Grandma’s grandson. Both kids complain about their family misunderstanding them, and the grandson tells Hae-in that he likes hanging out with her the most. Though they failed everything else, the others are glad that her last wish (making a friend) came true.
That night, Hyun-jong drowns his sorrows with soju and cries to his wife that he is not ready to hand over his daughter just yet. He lists off all the things that he beats the grandson in, but Young-ja tells him that Hae-in’s favorite person is DDotty (the YouTuber).
While the other kids leave for the weekend, Hae-kang stays home alone since his parents are taking Hae-in to the hospital. Before they go, Hae-in gives her favorite doll to her brother to give him courage since she has DDotty merch to protect her now. Despite Hae-kang’s bravado, the thunderstorm that night leaves him crying and hiding under the covers.
At practice, the boys look over the summer tournament bracket, and their first team match is against Busan Jeil—the school with the association director’s son. The individual matches are also interesting since Hae-kang is facing his nemesis in the very first round. The real problem, though, is the next match against Park Chan, the number one player.
Hae-kang barely bats an eye and tells Yong-tae to pass along a message: his opponents should just prepare for their team matches since they will not pass the preliminaries. In-sol asks why he is so confident, and he replies, “I’m Yoon Hae-kang.”
While cleaning the boys’ room, Young-ja finds Hae-kang’s badminton racket under his blanket. The grip is worn from Hae-kang holding it all the time, conveying the truth behind his confidence. With the others cheering for him, a spotlight falls on Hae-kang as he plays on the court, and he smashes the shuttlecock across the net.
The double betrayal from Supervisor Yoo and Joon-young caught me off guard because I had gotten used to the show’s rhythm of subverting expectations and presenting the warmth in humanity. Like in the writer’s past credit, he gets people familiar with certain narrative devices, and then creates a twist by choosing the initial, obvious route. All the evidence for their betrayals is set out from the beginning, but the creators condition the viewers to see these as red herrings. What makes the betrayals hurt more is that neither man ever frames himself as trustworthy, but because the kids are innocent, they do not question the adults nor their motives. In both cases, the scammers warn the boys to be careful of adults, and as it turns out, be wary of them, specifically. It becomes a bitter lesson for our young heroes, but even after all that, the show ends on a hopeful note: there are still adults who care for them. Hyun-jong is the clear foil to the construction workers, but the show takes it one step further and teaches the boys that they have fathers who love them, too. Yong-tae may grumble about his dad and feel lonely because of his family situation, but after experiencing a bit of the “real” world, he starts to appreciate his dad and realize that he has another adult in his life who just wants the best for him. Likewise, In-sol may have fought with his dad about badminton at first, but he sees how much his dad worries about him and thinks about his health. Though most adults should not be blindly trusted, our boys know that good person still exist in the world.
While the majority of the boys improve their familial relationships, Yoon-dam was the only case where things got worse. The show made it clear that Yoon-dam was his parents’ pride, but I never thought their favoritism would inadvertently cause the others kids to dread their oldest brother’s presence. What makes this situation regretful is that Yoon-dam is seen as the perpetrator by his siblings when he is really a victim like them. I doubt his parents wanted this to happen, but they clearly knew what was going on in their family and did nothing to correct their behavior. They showed apprehension when Yoon-dam came home, which indicates that both parents are aware of the problem. They do not blindly love Yoon-dam and forsake the rest of their five children, but when Yoon-dam is with them, he becomes their top priority to the point where the other siblings wish him gone. From Yoon-dam’s response, it appears that he was never aware of their sibling strife, and I hope he does not blame himself for what happened. While his parents messed up, I think their relationship is still salvageable because the parents clearly love their children and the siblings seem to fear more than hate Yoon-dam. Unfortunately, this is a scenario where the adults have created the problem yet the kids are the ones dealing with the consequences. For Yoon-dam’s sake, I hope his parents understand the harm they are causing and work towards a solution before the damage becomes irreversible.
While this episode showed the boys’ perspective on the generation gap, it also revealed Hyun-jong’s side of the story. Try as he might to be “cool,” Hyun-jong is a boomer who lives off latte stories (aka, back in my day). However, as the show reveals a bit of his background, his use of past memories is seen less as a tool to cut down the younger generation for being weak and undisciplined but as a reminder to himself that kids nowadays do have things better which is a good thing. Hyun-jong and his friend do not romanticize their past and justify the use of corporal punishment. Rather, they vehemently despise physical violence, and still shudder at the thought of it despite these incidences happening decades ago. The show makes it clear that hitting is never acceptable and the trauma that comes with it lasts a lifetime. Thus, when Hyun-jong brings up the past, it isn’t simply his way of telling the kids to appreciate what they have but a message to himself that the old days were kind of terrible.
The creators also acknowledge the cyclical nature of violence, and how hate often begets more hate. However, through Jae-jung, the show tells the audience that being the victim in one situation does not excuse you to act as the perpetrator in another. Doing so only sows resentment and continues the cycle which creates more victims. The show takes a firm stance against bullying, and I liked how the creators did not give Jae-jung a free pass. Though he only hit the first years once, that was enough to brand him as a bully, and as a result, Jae-jung now lives the rest of his life repenting for his actions. In light of all the scandals and issues surrounding bullying in schools, I’m happy that the show was so unrelenting in its message. While bullies can be forgiven by their victims, that does not mean they are allowed to forget what they did. Just as the bullied will live with that trauma for years, the perpetrators should show genuine remorse for their actions and live the rest of their lives atoning for their sins. That does not mean that bullies cannot learn from their mistakes or should be tormented by their past, but they should be held accountable for their actions and make sure they do not repeat their mistakes.
Near the end of the episode, the show focused a bit on Hae-in and how the move also affected her and not just Hae-kang. Though she might be little, Hae-in has worries and wants just like the other big kids, and I’m glad the show addressed her viewpoint. Unlike Hae-kang, Hae-in wasn’t able to make friends right away because there are no children her age in their neighborhood. She might be going to school and have friends there, but none of them are her neighbors which means Hae-in is left alone most of the time. It was heartbreaking to hear her say that she was used to feeling lonely, and though I found her compassion admirable, it was also sad to think that Hae-in might have been forced to mature too quickly. Thankfully, the show reveals that Hae-in does make a friend (though it might be temporary), and even if their attempts failed, she appreciates her wholesome yet meddlesome brother and his friends. While I’m sure things could be better, Hae-in is surrounded by awesome and doting people, and I’m sure she will continue growing up being her sweet and witty self because of their kindness and love.