Racket Boys: Episode 10
Dreams, goals, success. What do these things look like for a teenager? While some adults might assume that kids today don’t have “real” dreams, goals, or successes, our young badminton players and their coaches know better.
EPISODE 10 RECAP
Still hidden away in the closet, Se-yoon asks if Hae-kang’s confident he can keep that promise of stopping Park Chan from winning Nationals. Before he can answer, Coach Paeng storms into the room, yelling, “Come out!”
Hae-kang stops Se-yoon from getting up and he exits by himself, smoothly closing the closet door behind him. While Hae-kang ends up having to run laps, Se-yoon gets away undetected. She can’t help but smile to herself. (Why are these two so cute?)
Hae-kang looks exhausted as he runs, but he smiles as he thinks about Se-yoon’s reaction to his promise. Young-ja sees his giant grin and can’t figure out what’s happening lol.
Yoon-dam wonders who the liar was, sure it was Hae-kang. He wonders what the other word was, since he had Coach Paeng as his keyword. Hae-kang insists he wasn’t the liar and that he had Coach Paeng too. But all the same Hae-kang volunteers to take the liar’s punishment, which was to clean with the second-years. Yoon-dam wonders what’s gotten into Hae-kang, but Hae-kang’s too preoccupied by the photos he and Se-yoon took together the other day to respond.
Two second-years do the laundry and find the liar notes saying “Coach Paeng.” Out of a neon pair of shorts (which Hae-kang had been wearing), one note says “Han Se-yoon.”
Young-ja smiles down at a sleeping Hyun-jong and we get a flashback to a past national training session. Hyun-jong had managed to beat everyone else to the top of the mountain. He’d attempted to play it cool but failed miserably by fainting at the summit but he was smiling all the same, which had made Young-ja laugh. Hyun-jong breaks the moment by breaking wind and Young-ja says she must have been crazy back then.
At home, Hae-kang tells his dad to throw him an apple–but he misses twice. His parents get more concerned when they realize he can’t see out of his right eye.
Luckily the diagnosis isn’t dire, but he needs full rest for a week and an eyepatch. At Hyun-jong’s relief, his doctor friend, Dr. Jung, asks if Hyun-jong is sure things are okay. What about how Hae-kang feels? Dr. Jung muses that maybe Hae-kang is only doing sports because his parents are coaches.
Dr. Jung’s parting words are to make sure not to let Hae-kang get stressed, as it could make his injury worse–and to forget what he just said about dreams and how Hae-kang might be feeling. Despite telling his friend he’ll forget all about it, Hyun-jong can’t stop thinking about what Dr. Jung said.
A week later, Hae-kang has an eyepatch and is feeling grumpy. He’s annoyed the other kids ate up all the ice cream and for hogging the TV so he can’t finish Parasite. When Yong-tae attempts to tell him what happens, Hae-kang runs away from Yong-tae and the spoilers.
The boys talk about school competition and Yong-tae sticks up a post-it that says D-5. When Yoon-dam asks why Hae-kang’s not responding to the group chat, Hae-kang is blase as he says he turned off notifications ages ago because its weird to text when they live in same house.
The recently “fixed” ceiling starts to leak again when Hyun-jong comes in asking for a word sans Hae-kang.
Hyun-jong starts by saying that he’s worked things out already and the three boys will stay at Yoon-dam’s house for the time being, what with the ceiling leak and all.
The reason Hae-kang’s not part of the talk is that Hyun-jong has decided his son will be taking a break from sports. He asks that they not contact Hae-kang at all for the time being and to keep the break a secret.
Yoon-dam, Woo-chan, and Yong-tae are shocked, especially with the school competition around the corner. They ask if they can contact him and just not talk badminton, but Hyun-jong says no. After all, Hae-kang might accidentally find out and get stressed.
Hyun-jong and Young-ja muse about what life would have been like if he hadn’t stood surety. They’d probably still be in Seoul, letting Hae-kang follow whatever dream he wanted. Young-ja asks if he’s going to tell Hae-kang about taking a break, but Hyun-jong says he has no excuses to give and no money right now. He wonders if he’s taking Dr. Jung too seriously.
Hae-kang lounges at home and only jumps to attention when his mom says she stocked the freezer with ice cream heh. He continues to hang out, and even when Han-sol asks if he’s working out a special training schedule on his phone, Hae-kang shoots back that he’s working out a plan on what to do with his free time. Se-yoon looks disappointed and angry at this slacker version of Hae-kang and she even slams the door on her way out.
It’s D-3 and at Yoon-dam’s house Yong-tae wonders if they should just send a text to Hae-kang. Woo-chan and Yoon-dam are against it and Yoon-dam trusts that Hyun-jong will let them know when it’s okay.
Yong-tae shares his latest social interest, a social media account that shares legendary badminton stories. Woo-chan says there are lots of accounts like that, so what’s the big deal about this one? It’s all about the Haenam Seo Middle School of ten years ago.
Their school used to be one of the badminton greats, with an incredible record of wins at various competitions. They even won Nationals eight years in a row. Kang Tae-sun delivered some of those victories, but who was the true legend behind it all? The secret will be revealed in the next chapter.
The boys can’t wait, and go seek out their school principal. He somehow manages to give the most boring retelling of the school’s glory years ever, but just as they’re about to learn who the true legend was, Coach Bae interrupts to call the school principal away for an important meeting.
The boys agree that they’re curious but can’t bear to ask the principal again.
The team, minus Hae-kang, lines up to say goodbye to Coach Bae, who’s heading to Seoul for a few weeks on business. He tells the boys to mind Hyun-jong and they win together, lose together.
Yong-tae gives his best puppy eyes and Coach Bae tells him to go ahead and speak. Yong-tae pulls out a piece of paper, saying it’s from all of them. Coach Bae is touched… until he sees that it’s a shopping list of snacks they want that are only sold in the big city. He laughs at their cheekiness and tells them to focus on their training.
Yoon-dam asks if the roof is fixed and Hyun-jong says hesitatingly that it’s not quite done yet. The boys ask to at least be allowed to see Hae-kang for a little while. Hyun-jong says he knows they have a big competition coming up but that they can’t see Hae-kang yet.
Hae-kang is sprawled out on the living floor, surrounded by snacks and watching variety shows (he’s living my dream life). Se-yoon’s mood sours as soon as she sees him and she goes to her room without so much as acknowledging him. Hae-kang asks her directly what’s wrong and Se-yoon just sighs angrily before leaving the house.
The next chapter of the badminton legend is out. The legendary member wasn’t star player Kang Tae-sun, but the coach of Haenam Seo. His nickname? The White Wolf. Haenam Seo’s decline didn’t start with Kang Tae-sun’s graduation, it was because the White Wolf disappeared. The anonymous account says that Chapter 3 is all about the disappearance of the White Wolf, but the story will only be available to people who can DM the coach’s real name or one of his most common phrases.
Hyun-jong overhears the team talking about Hae-kang and debating whether or not to contact Hae-kang since “there’s not much time left.” Yoon-dam holds the line and says no contact yet. Hyun-jong emphasizes there should be no contact till Hae-kang’s back in school. He’s met with a round of reluctant okays.
The team drops by Mr. Noh’s shop and they have an important question for him. Does he know who the White Wolf is? They finally get an answer: Coach Bae. The boys are thrilled to finally know who the legend is.
Grandma asks after the boys and wonders why they haven’t come back yet when the roof is all fixed. Hae-in wonders too, saying she wants to play with her oppas.
Hyun-jong mopes and Young-ja asks if he’s still trying to decide if he should talk to Hae-kang or not. She also tells him they’re in such bad shape financially that she might apply for another loan.
Hyun-jong promises to get the money back from his friend Yang-soo when they meet tomorrow. Young-ja’s skeptical; he’s never managed it before so why would tomorrow be different? But Hyun-jong says they need to live too, and help their kids follow their dreams.
Hyun-jong and Yang-soo meet at another fancy restaurant, but things start to go poorly when Hyun-jong brings up the loan and asks to be repaid. It’s only after Hyun-jong starts yelling at his friend that we see it was all his imagination. He gets a text from Yang-soo and the restaurant he ends up at is much humbler, just a little hole-in-the-wall place.
It’s D-1. Yong-tae wonders if they should just go ahead and text Hae-kang, since tomorrow’s the big day. Once again, Yoon-dam dissuades them since their coach told them not to contact Hae-kang. Yong-tae wonders how someone so obedient ended up beating up his sunbae, heh.
Woo-chan is affronted that Hae-kang never once texted them, but In-sol and Yong-tae say he’s just being his usual self since he’s never texted first. Yong-tae figures he might have forgotten about them altogether by now.
Yoon-dam shares what Han-sol told him, that Hae-kang’s just been hanging around like a zombie. The other boys all wonder why Yoon-dam’s talking to Han-sol, and he gets quiet and fidgety.
Yoon-dam tells them it’s time he told them now. “Actually, we’re–” Yong-tae cuts him off, “Don’t give me nonsense like you’re dating or whatever. I’m not stupid.”
In-sol changes the subject and suggests they talk to Hyun-jong about how they really feel.
Hyun-jong and Yang-soo sit together and Yang-soo asks, “Don’t you resent me? You lent me money, stood surety… But how come you never asked me to pay you back?”
Yang-soo knocks back soju and tells Hyun-jong that he wired him the money (three times the original amount).
Yang-soo shares that life was really tough but Hyun-jong was the only person who truly cared about him. Yang-soo starts to cry as he admits that when he called Hyun-jong that time, he’d been standing on a bridge.
As Hyun-jong drives home, he talks to Coach Bae about his concerns around Hae-kang and his future in sports. Coach Bae advises that it’s a given that Hyun-jong wouldn’t have the answer: Hae-kang does. When Hyun-jong arrives at home, he finds Yoon-dam, In-sol, Woo-chan, and Yong-tae waiting for him outside the house.
The boys have something they want to tell him, but Hyun-jong loses his temper. He assumes the boys are there because they’re worried about winning the school competition and that they’re disregarding his request because they’re not scared of him.
Woo-chan says that’s not why. “We just want to hang out with him.” It’s true he’d be a big help, but that’s not why they wanted to talk to him. He’s their friend–a good friend. They ask once again to be allowed to talk to Hae-kang and Hyun-jong looks both moved and abashed.
Hyun-jong and Hae-kang have a heart-to-heart (finally). Hae-kang’s surprised by the sudden questions about whether or not he wants to go back to Seoul, or go back to baseball. Hyun-jong explains that he feels like he hasn’t been paying attention to Hae-kang or asking him what he wanted.
So Hae-kang sets him straight. Yes, it’s true that he had followed his parents to the gym when he was a kid, but he had wanted to try badminton. He reminds his dad that he was the one who quit badminton for baseball, and then took up badminton again.
He continues, “I want to be the one who chooses what I do with my life.” He tells his dad that he has a new goal (national badminton player) and asks for permission to go after it. Hyun-jong grabs him in a hug, which Hae-kang tolerates for a few seconds before running away from his dad.
Hae-kang tries out different texts to send to the group chat, including the classic, “Mom–Oops wrong chat room.” Aw, he turns the notifications back on and the volume way up before heading out for a walk.
He catches Se-yoon practicing, but she’s still ignoring him so he asks what’s up with her and if she’s mad at him. She asks if his eye is okay. Yes. Then what about his arms and legs? She gets to her point: if he’s feeling better, then why is he always just sitting around watching TV and playing with his phone?
Se-yoon tells him to keep his promise to beat Park Chan or she won’t see him again. Getting everything out in the open seems to have broken the tension between them, and Se-yoon tells him to just play with her.
On the walk home, Hae-kang asks if today is the school competition. He’s confused when Se-yoon tells him it’s definitely two days from now. A loud notification chimes and a huge smile lights up Hae-kang’s face.
Se-yoon asks what he’s excited about and Hae-kang replies that the “parasites” are texting him. She notes that he looks awfully happy to hear from them and Hae-kang denies it completely. Se-yoon wants to know what they wrote, and Hae-kang tells her that the text says: It’s D-day. Are you ready? Se-yoon can’t believe Hae-kang really doesn’t know what D-day is.
It’s evening now and Young-ja and Hyun-jong walk home with Hae-in in tow. Young-ja asks what he’ll say to the boys and he wonders if he should pretend nothing happened and tell them they can come back now.
Once they get inside, they’re stunned. The living room is decorated with balloons and homemade signs. The kids are decked out in novelty hats and start singing Happy Birthday, with Yong-tae holding out a badminton-themed cake.
Hyun-jong starts sobbing loudly, which quiets everyone down. He apologizes for kicking them out and not doing much for them; he’s so grateful and sorry. They give him a big hug. He pulls himself together long enough to blow out the candles. When In-sol hands him a gift from the boys, that sets him off again. He continues to sob, hugging the bag tightly to his chest.
Now that the gang is back together, Yong-tae realizes that there’s still tons of ice cream in freezer (which means Hae-kang didn’t finish off the stash) and that Parasite is still left at the same scene from right before they left the house (which means Hae-kang didn’t ever finish). Yong-tae kicks off a mass pile-on when Hae-kang tackles him to stop any Parasite spoilers.
Hyun-jong strolls in proudly, showing off his brand-new birthday gift: a very small tracksuit. Young-ja insists he exchange it for something that fits, but worries it won’t be possible since the boys probably got it on sale.
Mr. Noh calls just then and Hyun-jong asks if he can exchange his tracksuit. When Mr. Noh says of course, Hyun-jong confuses Mr. Noh by saying he’s surprised he can get exchange discounted items. We see the boys had paid for it with their hard-saved allowance money and they’d insisted on buying the newest tracksuit. Aw, Hyun-jong is so touched he starts getting teary all over again.
Hyun-jong is back at Dr. Jung’s office and he’s annoyed that he took all of his friends’ words to heart. Dr. Jung laughs and says he did tell Hyun-jong not to bother, but the fact that Hyun-jong had been worried in the first place means he’s a good dad.
They talk about success and Hyun-jong wonders if success is something that a middle schooler can achieve. Dr. Jung says it is. At the school tournament, we see that Hae-kang is in the stands and all the boys cheer like crazy when Yoon-dam wins his match. Woo-chan even helps In-sol do their team victory move correctly. Dr. Jung says at that age, knowing who your real friends are is true success.
The whole village gathers for a feast to celebrate Big Gran’s 90th birthday (Ms. Shin’s mom). Mr. Hong asks her to say a word, so she pulls out her pen and notepad and everyone leans in to see what she says. She shows her notepad: “Let’s eat.”
After Big Gran takes the first bite, everyone else digs in and even Ms. Shin smiles. The only person not in attendance is Hyun-jong. He had to go meet the new coach for the Hwasun team in person and he’s hoping the new coach will agree to delay the draft match. Hyun-jong speaks to the outgoing coach en route (who was fired) and he learns that the new coach just returned from abroad and has really strong connections. The man does seem nice–but something about him feels off.
After the feast, Young-ja lets Big Gran know that Yong-tae’s prepared a special movie just for Big Gran, to remind her of her hometown Busan. It’s the touching film Train to Busan. And Mr. Hong faints in fright at the first sign of zombies lol.
After the movie ends, Yong-tae turns on a different video. This time it’s Hae-kang wishing Big Gran a happy birthday. He’s at Gwangalli Beach and he shows her the new Busan skyline. Se-yoon chimes in to say that though the buildings may have changed, the ocean and sky are the same.
Big Gran nods along happily. The home movie switches to Han-sol and Yoon-dam and they say the market was sold out of manggaetteok (a regional specialty of steamed rice cakes) but they’re getting some delivered to Haenam. And Han-sol says it was all one person’s idea. Yong-tae steps forward, proffering a plate of manggaetteok. Aw, that’s what Yong-tae’s mission during the training camp was all about.
Mr. Hong says someone should sing them a song (heh, such an ajusshi move). The badminton boys volunteer Woo-chan, saying he’s the best hip hop singer. He gets up, and starts to sing When I Am in Busan.
We see times when Big Gran had interacted with the boys and the other villagers, like when Hae-in had gone missing, Big Gran said she wanted to help look for her. During the village sports festival, she’d cheered everyone on by clapping. At the village meeting, Grandma had asked what she’d like to eat on her birthday and she’d written manggaetteok, which Yong-tae had taken note of.
Yoon-dam says it’s just like Yong-tae to pick a scary movie for a birthday party, but Yong-tae’s pleased with his choice. K-zombies are all the rage these days and there’s Busan.
Han-sol wonders what would happen if there were a real zombie apocalypse. They muse about what it would be like not to be able to leave your home if something like an apocalypse were to happen.
Se-yoon thinks, “Then we would miss this moment. Eating together, traveling together, and goofing around together.” Woo-chan agrees, “In the end we’ll find out what’s really dear to us.”
The village adults drink and we learn that Big Gran has more kids who didn’t make it to the party. Ms. Shin asks what brought the city couple to the countryside, and the city husband makes references to clean air and good people.
Ms. Shin and the city wife get into a small spat, and when Grandma tries to stop the fight she inadvertently make things worse by bringing up children. Grandma talks about having children as a duty, which judging by their faces, is a painful subject for the city couple.
The city wife takes her leave and after she goes, Ms. Shin disparagingly implies she’s too sensitive and is always looking depressed. That’s too much for the city husband and he sternly tells them all, “Watch what you say.”
Hyun-jong and COACH CHUN (cameo by Heo Sung-tae) seem to get along well as they drink and chat at a pojangmacha.
The kids talk about why the draft match is so important–it’s what decides which school is the main school for Nationals. Being the main school confers benefits like control over coaching, practices, and game strategies. Yong-tae suddenly gets a response from the badminton legend account.
The city husband says it’s not a crime to be single or not have children, even more so if you can’t have children. He tells the group that they wanted children, but some things are unachievable no matter how desperately you want it. Ms. Shin tries to get in the last word, and the city husband informs her that words can kill.
Coach Chun pays and leaves, and Hyun-jong jumps up saying he’ll get the bill. But the pojangmacha woman says Hyun-jong has to pay his half. Oh wow, Coach Chun only paid for himself. Outside, a drunk man bumps Coach Chun slightly, and he calls the man an asshole. Coach Chun also tells Hyun-jong that he can’t delay the draft match. Sports are sports, he says with a smile.
The kids gather round Yong-tae and learn about the truth behind the White Wolf. He’d beaten the children to achieve all those past results. Kang Tae-sun eventually retired from the trauma of it all and the White Wolf disappeared without a trace. Hae-kang dismisses it all as an old tale. Who is the White Wolf anyway?
10 years ago at Haenam Seo. The sound of someone being beaten fills the night air. A wooden pole breaks and Coach Bae glares.
I just want to bask in this show’s loveliness. Sometimes, I have so much I want to talk about (or complain about) that I could write a thesis about a drama. With Racket Boys I don’t even want to write, I just want to sit and soak up its goodness. Speaking of goodness, even when something seems obvious, this show has a way of making even the predictable fun to watch. Like with Hyun-jong’s dilemma about Hae-kang’s future and his choices, it was pretty obvious that Hyun-jong would realize Hae-kang is his own person and is already following his own goals. But that didn’t make their scenes any less heartwarming. It’s both the depth of the characters and the delivery that the actors bring to the table that bring the relationship and the emotions to life. The entire cast really is fantastic. I didn’t realize that I’d find Hyun-jong enjoyable and it’s a big reversal from the early episodes. After the family had first moved to Haenam, I was more frustrated with Hyun-jong than anything. I found him to be irresponsible and irritating as a coach and dad. But look at me now, I think he’s really found his groove and it’s evident in the way his team trusts and loves him. I guess I just needed a reminder that Hyun-jong is a good man and had all the makings to become a good coach. Coach Chun is going to be an interesting contrast to Hyun-jong. You’re pretty much telegraphing something in the water isn’t clean when you cast Heo Sung-tae, so it’s obvious he’ll be a baddie and I can’t wait to see how his story will develop. As a sidenote, what sort of person just walks away from a check without at least pretending to try to pay for everything? I had trouble wrapping my head around it; I’m so used to people fighting over bills in Korea that seeing Coach Chun forego even the pretense threw up a red flag for me.
We’ve seen both in this episode and earlier ones that the Haenam boys understand that Hyun-jong is a good adult. They trust him completely, even if they don’t always agree with him. I really liked being able to see more of village life with Big Gran’s birthday feast. The boys had always attended Haenam Seo, but having new residents really did breathe life into the village. Though Big Gran is mute and had used to never leave home, she cared about the newest arrivals. It was so fun seeing how Big Gran had ventured out a little more (and dragged Ms. Shin along for the ride). And Yong-tae’s special mission and his affection for Big Gran was so touching. The entire village has grown into a found family. I appreciate the show’s quiet moments a lot, like when the kids are alone and just hanging out. Their musings about the what ifs resonated with me. This pandemic isn’t a zombie apocalypse, but it’s made me miss being able to go out and be with the people I love. I know that one day, we’ll all be able to go out and travel together and eat together and be in person with each other, but in the meantime at least I have Racket Boys.