Racket Boys: Episode 7
Badminton teams from across the country gather together for the summer competition, and players from far and wide all come hoping to win. Our young players use this chance to show off the results of their training, but things outside of their control get in their way. Though the coaches try to protect them, the kids learn that hard work might not always be enough to win.
EPISODE 7 RECAP
The badminton team watches videos of Hae-kang’s matches, and Hyun-jong asks if they recognize the differences between his current form and his younger one. Hae-kang nods in understanding and replies, “I was much cuter in elementary school.” Pfft.
While Yoon-dam and Woo-chan agree with Hae-kang, Yong-tae sighs at his answer and points out the real difference: his old racket is tacky. Exasperated with their silly observations, Hyun-jong explains how Hae-kang’s racket drops while he plays, which means he needs special training.
During practice, Hae-kang and Yoon-dam play a match, and afterwards, Hyun-jong tells Yoon-dam that his usual, good form becomes rigid when he goes against a challenging opponent. He advises him to relax, and encourages him to aim for a spot on the national youth athlete team.
People clamor for an interview with Se-yoon, which unfortunately cuts into her practice time. Though Young-ja asks her superiors to reschedule, they push her to continue the back-to-back interviews for their school’s promotion.
At Hae-kang’s old baseball team, the coach has secured a scholarship for one of their players, and he tells the office assistant that he will bring back their ace (aka, Hae-kang).
After practice, Yong-tae asks the others if they want to play games with him before the competition, but Yoon-dam orders him to listen to the coach’s instructions. As his teammates head home, Hae-kang tells them that he needs to stay behind for his special training and looks over a sticky note.
Still enamored with the mural, Grandma forces her husband to take pictures of her and scolds him for not getting the right angle. Earlier, Hae-kang taught Grandma about the art of photography—including all the ridiculous poses for the best shot. In the present, Grandpa throws out his back trying to recreate those pictures, and curses Hae-kang for making him suffer. Heh.
An argument grabs the group’s attention, and they find Ms. Shin (the daughter of the elderly neighbor) demanding a couple of hikers from the city to pick up their trash. The audacious hikers (cameo by Jo Jae-yoon as one of the hikers) refuse to comply, but before things get heated, Mr. Hong intervenes. He grabs the garbage and shouts at the hikers… to throw away their bags where they can find it.
Hae-kang continues his individual practices in the warehouse, and at night, he falls asleep, completely exhausted. The others are anxious about the upcoming competition as well, and Yoon-dam has his arm in a cardboard splint to help with his stiff swing.
While they go over their upcoming games, Woo-chan asks about In-sol, and Yong-tae tells him that he forfeited his single matches to check something out. Speaking of In-sol, he watches Hae-kang’s match against the yellow-haired kid and takes notes.
In their room, Han-sol asks Se-yoon what makes her the most nervous, but nothing in particular does. Han-sol sighs at her answer but accepts it since Se-yoon is guaranteed to make the national junior team while she barely gets in the youth one. Se-yoon repeats the question back to her, and Han-sol says that the mixed doubles make her anxious.
The next day at the summer competition, coaches drop drinks off at the table for the national youth and junior team coaches, and Young-ja is no exception. They tell Young-ja not to bother since they need to ask her for favors as Se-yoon’s coach, but Young-ja asks them to look favorably on Han-sol, too.
Interrupting Young-ja, Coach Lee Yoo-ri (aka, her rival) comes by with expensive drinks and tells the coaches to watch out for her player, Na-ra. Once Yoo-ri leaves, Young-ja mentions that Hyun-jong wanted to see Coach Paeng, but her husband is hiding behind a banner, unable to show his face.
The boys prepare for the competition, which means Woo-chan is giving out handshakes and Yong-tae is familiarizing himself with the restroom. Hae-kang jumps rope to warm up, and Yong-tae advises him not to expend too much energy before his game. Hae-kang reminds him that he is Yoon Hae-kang, and In-sol scoffs at his catchphrase.
While Yoon-dam takes selfies with the other elite players, Hae-kang jumps in to challenge his yellow-haired nemesis. He threatens to kill him, but Busan Jeil’s Lee Seung-hun tells Hae-kang to watch it if he does not want to be destroyed in the team matches. Hae-kang tells the extra to back off, and Yoon-dam drags him away before a fight breaks out.
Hyun-jong and Young-ja meet with their players who have their matches soon, but Yong-tae runs to the restroom in the middle of their talk. Yoon-dam and Han-sol set off first, and on their way to the gym, they cross paths with a senior badminton player who is here as a line judge.
The senior player greets Han-sol familiarly and tells a confused Yoon-dam that she used to like him. He asks if she still likes him but then smirks since he already knows about her crush on Yoon-dam. Noticing Han-sol’s restlessness, Yoon-dam changes the subject, and senior player eventually leaves.
As Yong-tae exits the stall, he finds Hyun-jong waiting for him outside. His coach knows that he is using the restroom as a place to hide, and he assures Yong-tae that he has practiced hard and is doing well. Hyun-jong places something in his hand and hopes that everything he wishes for will come true.
The creepy senior is the line judge for Yoon-dam and Han-sol’s game, and before the match even begins, he verbally harasses her. Yoon-dam tells her to ignore him, but the senior’s nasty comments get under her skin and causes her to mess up her first serve.
On a different court, Yong-tae wears a new necklace and wins the first set. As for the mixed doubles, they lose their first one, and Young-ja asks Han-sol if something is wrong. Though Yoon-dam tries to tell her about the line judge, Han-sol cuts him off and says that she was distracted.
When they play their second set, Han-sol makes a bad call, which costs her team a point. The senior taunts her for paying attention to Yoon-dam’s face instead of the shuttlecock, and he threatens to upload her private messages online.
Yong-tae wins his match with an even bigger gap in the second set, and he jumps into Hyun-jong’s arms. Afterwards, he runs over to his team and does his Lee Yong-dae style celebration, which the boys copy as well.
Hae-kang notices Se-yoon’s grim expression, and the others look over towards the mixed doubles match. They can immediately tell Han-sol’s step is off, but none of them know why.
As their game continues, Yoon-dam makes a mistake, and senior uses this moment to harass Han-sol again. He calls her too conservative regarding physical affection which is why he rejected her feelings. Han-sol grits her teeth and tells Yoon-dam that she is fine, but this time, Yoon-dam refuses to ignore it.
Dropping his racket, Yoon-dam rushes towards the senior and kicks him squarely in the chest. He demands the senior to apologize to Han-sol, and the coaches run over to pull him off the line judge.
Young-ja defends her players’ actions after hearing about the harassment, but the committee member says that they should never condone violence. Coach Paeng speaks up, agreeing with Young-ja’s sentiment, but he makes it clear that the committee has made its decision: Yoon-dam and Han-sol are disqualified in all individual categories.
Grumbling audibly under his breath, Coach Paeng bashes Hyun-jong for staying silent this entire time, but Hyun-jong ignores his rebuke and leads his player away. Yoon-dam apologizes to Hyun-jong for causing trouble and asks about the head coach. Hyun-jong tells him that it is alright, but neither are certain about how Head Coach Bae will react.
The audacious hikers return to the small village and stir up more trouble with Ms. Shin. She barks at them to move their car, but the rude one fights back, calling her unfriendly. Mr. Hong runs over with his hand plow, looking like a killer straight out of a horror movie, but to Ms. Shin’s frustration, he directs them to a better parking spot.
The girls and boys team eat lunch together, but Hae-kang and Se-yoon are absent. Woo-chan tries to console Yoon-dam and Han-sol, but clueless Yong-tae points out that their disqualification makes it harder for their doubles partners to place. Yoon-dam asks about their head coach, and In-sol tells him that he went to see a committee member.
Feeling guilty, Yoon-dam and Han-sol find their partners in the hallway, but before they can say anything, Se-yoon brings up the conversation from last night. Though she has nothing that makes her the most nervous, Se-yoon does have an answer for the least: playing doubles with Han-sol. She says that together they are unbeatable, so they should occasionally let others win.
Han-sol hugs her in gratitude, and their show of affection moves Yoon-dam to call his partner’s name, too. Hae-kang immediately shouts at him to shut it, but tells Yoon-dam that the doubles matches were basically a warm-up anyways. Though they forgive them, Hae-kang and Se-yoon want food in return, and their partners happily agree.
While sitting outside, Yoon-dam asks Han-sol if she is alright. She says that she feels guilty towards their partners, but Yoon-dam stops her since he wants to know if she is really fine. She tells him that she is, and he offers her his hand so they can eat snacks together.
The boys get ready to watch Hae-kang’s match and run into Head Coach Bae who is with a committee member. The head coach leaves without saying anything to them, but with his back turned, he gives Yoon-dam a thumbs-up to show his support.
With his teammates supporting him, Hae-kang walks onto the court for his rematch with the yellow-haired kid. Hyun-jong’s only advice for his son is to remember his special training, and Hae-kang gets ready to show the world his skills.
The yellow-haired kid wins the first set, but their side anticipated as much. The real battle starts from the second, and as predicted, Hae-kang wins this time. While the yellow-haired kid looks exhausted, Hae-kang seems more composed thanks to his special training, which turned out to be basic physical training to increase his strength and endurance.
From the audience, Se-yoon watches Hae-kang and is so absorbed in his match that she fails to hear her friend talking. Meanwhile, the boys’ first team opponents observe Hae-kang’s game as well, and their ace Seung-hun bandaged his hand as a trick since they plan to win no matter what.
The last set begins, and despite looking tired, the yellow-haired kid holds tightly onto his lead. While Hyun-jong wonders what they should do, Head Coach Bae hands him a sheet of paper, which he then shows Hae-kang.
The paper is a note containing Hae-kang’s hitting patterns, and it helps him win the match. Afterwards, the boys wonder who figured out the opponent’s weakness, and Hyun-jong points to the mastermind: In-sol.
When they arrive at their lodgings, Hae-kang helps In-sol carry their stuff inside and thanks him for the help. In-sol says that they are even now, and both boys smile.
Hae-kang shows the others his sticky note, and they are surprised by the rather straightforward training method. Showing off, Hae-kang tells the others that the Chinese characters on top mean “open up your heart,” and his teammates marvel at how smart he is.
In-sol’s eyes grow wide as he asks if the others are really that dumb, and he tells them that the characters actually mean “beginner’s mind.” Hae-kang scoffs, claiming that they were just joking around, and the boys laugh a second later. In-sol smiles in relief and apologizes for his outburst since they would have to be really dumb to not be able to read it. Pfft.
While In-sol gets up to use the bathroom, the rest of the boys talk about their upcoming team match. Yoon-dam asks who will sleep on the floor since there are five of them now, and without skipping a beat, they all lay down to claim a spot. When In-sol comes out, he finds room on the bed since Hae-kang is on the floor.
The atrocious hikers keep coming back, and this time, they block the tiny road with their car, causing a traffic jam. Though Ms. Shin calls their number, they hang up on her.
Hae-kang spots Se-yoon warming up for her singles match, but before he can greet her, Park Chan (the top-ranking boy player) approaches her first. Hae-kang teases them for their intricate handshake, but Park Chan brushes aside his taunts and tells him to do well in their upcoming game.
Se-yoon leaves the boys to do another interview, but they follow her and watch from the sidelines. When she smiles for the cameras, Park Chan smiles at her, and Hae-kang shakes his head.
Young-ja introduces Se-yoon to the national team coaches, and Coach Paeng jokes around, saying that Se-yoon left behind her MVP trophy. She plays along with them and accepts the coffee drink that they give her as well. Young-ja asks if Coach Paeng met Hyun-jong yet, and from behind a pillar, Hyun-jong watches them.
In the village, Ms. Shin has a showdown with the hikers who refuse to move their car. She threatens to call the police, and the hikers finally relent, though the rude one spits on the ground and warns her to be careful.
After they leave, Grandma worries about Ms. Shin, but she says that those city folks are too cowardly to retaliate. She lashes out at the city couple for bringing trouble to their village, and everyone disperses before things escalate.
Yong-tae splits a popsicle with their rival school opponent when Hae-kang’s old baseball coach asks them for directions and Hae-kang’s whereabouts. While the coach hurries away, the other player explains to Yong-tae that the stranger is a baseball coach.
Hae-kang walks beside Park Chan to their court, and he tells his opponent that he did a good job defending his title until now. He plans to reclaim it, but before Park Chan can ask him something, Hae-kang bursts through the curtains so he can enter first. Pfft.
Se-yoon’s first match is against Na-ra, and even Yoo-ri, the opposing coach, thinks she will win. In the court next to them, Hae-kang keeps up with Park Chan, but as the set continues, the gap between them grows.
Contrary to expectations, Se-yoon trails behind Na-ra, and though Young-ja suspects something to be off, Se-yoon claims to be fine. From the audience, the girls tense up as they watch their ace play, and Han-sol wonders if they inadvertently pressured her to win.
Both courts are filled with intense rallies as all four players give it their all. Once they reach match point, the top-ranking players find an opportunity to smash the shuttlecock across the net, and neither opponent is able to return it. The audience erupts into cheers as the two games conclude, but the results are mixed: Park Chan’s went in while Se-yoon’s is out.
The boys worry about Hae-kang’s response but leave it up to Yong-tae to calm him down. As for Se-yoon, she leaves the court without a word while Na-ra cries into her coach’s shoulder—the perpetual second finally beat first.
When Hae-kang joins his team, they ask if he is alright, and by “he,” they of course mean Park Chan. Hae-kang chuckles at their joke and asks if they want to play games at night since the singles matches are over. His composure amazes his teammates, and they give him a thumbs up.
Meanwhile, a small crowd gathers around Se-yoon as she processes her loss, and Han-sol has to scare everyone away to give her some space. Se-yoon tells her worried friend that Na-ra was just better today, but when Han-sol questions her, Se-yoon admits to feeling frustrated, too.
She points out, though, that there is nothing left to do, and she is fine with the results since she gave it her all. Han-sol weeps for her friend who remains dry-eyed even now.
The yellow-haired kid sits with his teammates who marvel at the fact that he smiled after losing his match to Hae-kang. They try comforting him, explaining how Hae-kang used to be the best player in the country, but the yellow-haired kid already knows how good Hae-kang is.
Joining Young-ja in the stands, Se-yoon apologizes for losing, but her coach grabs her hand and massages it. She realized that the coffee from earlier must have upset her stomach, but she wonders why her meticulous player drank it all before a match.
Se-yoon tells Young-ja that she has a goal: to be the youngest national athlete in Korea. However, in order to achieve her dream, Se-yoon knows that skills are not enough. Young-ja asks who told her that, and Se-yoon answers, “Besides you, every adult I met since I was little.”
As the weight of Se-yoon’s words sink in, Young-ja apologizes on behalf of all the adults, but Se-yoon assures her coach that she is fine. She thanks her for everything, and Young-ja hugs her.
In their motel room, Yong-tae shows off the replica of Lee Yong-dae’s necklace that their coach bought him, and the others guess that it helped him win more games than usual. The boys wonder why Hae-kang is so calm though, and Yong-tae says that he has an idea.
Once Hae-kang leaves the room to go play games by himself, Yong-tae reminds the others of Hae-kang’s main goals. He already achieved his revenge, and tomorrow, they might actually win their first team match. Once he completes everything, Hae-kang will return to baseball, and Yong-tae tells the others that he saw the old baseball coach.
While Young-ja drinks with Hyun-jong, he tells her that the baseball coach came to see their son about a scholarship opportunity. Noting his wife’s uncharacteristic behavior, he asks if this is about Se-yoon, and Young-ja tells him that she is a huge fan of Se-yoon.
She talks about her conversation with Se-yoon after the match, and admits to Hyun-jong how guilty she feels towards her. Hyun-jong orders another bottle of soju and comforts his wife, telling her that the kids are all grown-up. He says that Se-yoon must be fine if she said so, but Young-ja knows the truth—she was lying.
On the roof of the motel, Se-yoon and Han-sol train despite the late hour. While practicing, Han-sol’s strings break, so she returns to their room to get it fixed. Moments later, someone opens the door, and Se-yoon is surprised by how quickly her friend returned.
However, the person joining her is Hae-kang, and Se-yoon drops her jump rope. She starts to cry, and without a word, Hae-kang walks up to her. She grabs his arm, and he stands there quietly as she sobs into his shoulder.
The show continues to explore the relationships between generations, and in this episode, the focus was on how adults influence kids and their perspective on the society. Even if there are helpful adults like Young-ja who try their best, there seems to be plenty of awful adults out there to counteract her deeds. Though Young-ja wants her players to succeed and have their efforts be recognized, she also relies on social connections and favors to achieve this. The top player, who once made the committee choose her based on skill alone, is now willingly compromising those ideals in order to help her students. On one hand, it’s admirable to see Young-ja go above and beyond for her players because she wants them to have an easier time than her, but on the other, it reflects a sad truth about our reality. Nepotism runs rampant in the sports world, and these issues are not an overnight phenomenon. Consequentially, change feels impossible at the individual-level, so even people like Young-ja eventually follow the crowd. The kids naturally see what the adults do and say, internalizing these messages about success and social ties. Thus, the younger players grow up thinking that the current, toxic traditions are the only way to win, and rather than fix the problem, they reinforce it, as well.
Se-yoon’s loss feels frustrating because of this reason. The adults have taught her to believe that earning the coaches’ favors is the only way to become a national athlete, and it belittles her hard work. Se-yoon puts in monstrous hours of practice into badminton, and the show emphasizes how much she pays attention to even the slightest details in order to maintain a good condition before matches. However, all of her efforts crumble in the face of nepotism, and when an influential coach hands her a drink, she feels like she has no other choice than to take it. What makes it worse is that Se-yoon hides her pain and acts as if everything is fine when it is not. She did not lose after giving it her all, and as a result, it also makes Na-ra’s win feel cheap. Instead of feeling happy for the other player for achieving a well-deserved win, it’s a bitter ending that shows how much adults and society have failed the younger generation.
Beside Se-yoon, the badminton committee really disappointed me in the way they handled the harassment incident. Their response sent a clear message to the kids that they cared more about upholding their status as the authoritative figure than watching out for their players’ safety. Coach Paeng might talk about rules and teaching kids the importance of fairness all he wants, but his actions today told me that he is really more concerned about upholding the law rather than justice. If their issue was actually about violence, then they should not have disqualified Han-sol. She was the victim in this situation, yet the committee punished her as well. By not even bothering to mention the senior’s punishment, the show makes it clear that the committee is more bothered by how Yoon-dam and Han-sol handled the situation than the actual crime that caused them to act violently in the first place. Again, it’s another example of how adults fail kids and create a world that tells them that their voices do not matter. I also hated how Coach Paeng mocked Hyun-jong for being quiet because it was just a petty way to ridicule him. None of Young-ja’s arguments worked, so I doubt Hyun-jong saying anything would have changed the situation. Also, the people who should have been given a platform to talk were the kids, especially Han-sol, yet none of the committee members seemed interested to hear their side of the story.
Despite the negative influences from the committee and society in general, the kids still hold onto their kindness and do not let the world corrupt them. Though Yoon-dam could have handled the situation better, I understand why he knocked the senior to the floor, and out of everyone, I thought he showed the most consideration to Han-sol’s feelings. At first, Yoon-dam told Han-sol to ignore the taunts, but as things only got worse, he seemed to realize that his “advice” to Han-sol was wrong. She shouldn’t have to feel “fine” about being harassed, so Yoon-dam attacked the senior and yelled at him to apologize to Han-sol. Though I bashed on adults failing to set an example, my criticisms are aimed solely at the committee because Young-ja, Hyun-jong, and Head Coach Bae all handled the situation well. The coaches supported their players and never once blamed them for being disqualified. Unlike the committee, they recognized Han-sol as the victim and understood why Yoon-dam felt compelled to intervene, which shows that they listened and respected their players.
While it was only a short moment this episode, I love how Hae-kang and Se-yoon’s relationship is growing. Both of them understand what it means to be the best, and I think this shared experience helps them connect to each other in a way that no one else can. Se-yoon is seen as the mature player who rarely shows emotions, but to Hae-kang, she is just a hardworking crybaby who pretends to be fine when she is not. As for Hae-kang, most people see him as the silly and prideful ex-champion who talks too much, but to Se-yoon, he is the heroic and reliable boy from camp who sees through her façade and goes out of his way to help her. As soon as Se-yoon saw Hae-kang, she burst into tears because, with him, she has no need to hide. Likewise, Hae-kang needs no explanations for her tears and knows that she simply needs him to be there for her while she cries. It’s the silence between them that speaks volumes, and even though they are young, it does not diminish the strength nor value of their love and friendship.