Racket Boys: Episode 14
Whether or not their ace arrives in time, the girls’ finals will happen, and they will have to face the Seoul team with or without her. While everyone believes they have no hope if their top player fails to show, the girls refuse to give up even if things look pointless because, as it turns out, the bond between friends is a very powerful motivator.
EPISODE 14 RECAP
After catching the next flight, Se-yoon and her coaches arrive in Korea and notify Young-ja of their situation. They have to submit the order an hour before the finals, but no one knows if Se-yoon will be there in time.
While the girls prepare for their matches, Young-ja notices Han-sol’s absence, and her players tell her that she stepped out to use the bathroom. Though the order is due soon, Se-yoon is stuck in traffic, and her eyes brim with tears. Meanwhile, Han-sol sits alone on a bench when a woman approaches her.
Since the boys made it to the semi-finals, Hyun-jong returns their phones, and they promise not to play games all night. They make a speech about the importance of Nationals, but their words are nothing more than empty grandstanding as they play on their phones in their room.
When they lose, Hae-kang chides Woo-chan and In-sol for dragging him and his new phone down. Sitting off to the side, Yoon-dam asks where Yong-tae is, and Woo-chan tells him that he went to the laundromat. Unlike the others, Yoon-dam looks sullen as he tells them to stop playing and get ready to cheer for the girls.
Hae-kang wonders why their captain is edgy, and In-sol explains how Se-yoon will miss the finals. Talk of the competition dampens the mood, and In-sol worries about their own game tomorrow against Busan.
When Han-sol returns from her break, she finds her teammates sitting in groups of two, which leaves one person out. She orders them to be in the same row, and Na-ra snickers at them from across the aisle. Ignoring her, Han-sol asks where their coach is, and one of the girls tells her that she went outside.
In the hallway, Young-ja yells at someone, complaining about the overlapping schedule. After she hangs up, Han-sol approaches her and tells her that the order is due. She asks about Se-yoon, though she already knows the answer.
Elsewhere, a couple of boys mock Se-yoon for hogging the spotlight even in her absence and call her overrated. Park Chan overhears them, but before he can confront them, Jae-suk stops his Seoul teammate.
At the laundromat, Yong-tae and the other juniors fight with some baseball players for pulling out their load before it finished. The baseball players look down on them, but as soon as the third-years arrive, they lose their bravado. While In-sol tries to smooth things over, Yoon-dam and Woo-chan look ready to bite their heads off.
After they resolve the issue, Yong-tae asks In-sol if something happened to the others. He tells him that Yoon-dam is anxious because Se-yoon will not be back in time, and Woo-chan is frustrated because he has not made the order once. Yong-tae finds his explanation about Woo-chan hard to believe, but In-sol says that he feels the same way.
Before the finals, Young-ja reminds the girls that the match is not over yet, but even in this moment, they look for their ace. Despite trying her best to make it to Nationals, it is too late for Se-yoon to play, but she desperately asks the coaches to drive a little faster.
The girls manage to secure two wins, and Han-sol gets ready for the last singles match. Yoon-dam and the boys cheer her on, but after she leaves, they talk amongst themselves, commenting on how the girls did well coming this far even if the results will probably remain the same.
In the hall, the previous doubles team apologizes to Han-sol for their loss, but she tells them that she will lose, too. Noticing one of their busted rackets, Han-sol offers her some advice as a fellow left-handed player and says that they need to work on their coordination.
Before their match, Na-ra acknowledges Han-sol’s skills, but she plans to win Nationals and the MVP title. She tells her to resent Se-yoon for this predicament, especially since she will be abandoning her after graduation—after all, someone like Se-yoon has no concept of friendship.
Though Han-sol plays well, the gap between her and Na-ra refuses to shrink, and Young-ja wordlessly watches from the sidelines. While the kids worry about their friend and teammate, Hyun-jong comes by and asks them what Han-sol needs the most right now.
Yoon-dam understands him first and loudly cheers for Han-sol, setting off a chain reaction throughout the group. Hyun-jong grins at the kids’ enthusiasm, but his smile disappears when he spots Young-ja acting strange.
Na-ra wins the first set, and the Seoul team makes celebratory plans before the match is over. Young-ja tells Han-sol to do the same which inadvertently means losing, and Han-sol knows things would have been different with Se-yoon. She always thought if she tried hard enough, she could eventually beat her, but now she knows it was foolish.
Young-ja steps out for a smoke, and two coaches complain about the boring finals, unaware of her presence. Angered by their comments, she scolds them for ranking the players, but one of the coaches defends himself, pointing out that Young-ja is the one acting differently. He asks if she thinks Han-sol will lose, and his scathing words snap her back to her old self.
Returning to the court, Young-ja marches up to Han-sol and comes up with a new game plan. While Na-ra is better prepared than them, they can use her overconfidence to their advantage. Following her coach’s advice, Han-sol wins the second set.
However, in the final set, Na-ra finds her rhythm again and takes the lead. While they switch sides, Han-sol turns to Young-ja for guidance, and in the audience, Hyun-jong explains to the kids that hard work does not guarantee success.
Hae-kang argues that it does increase your chances of winning, but Hyun-jong says that it only counts when your opponent slacks off, which is not the case here. As the kids cast their eyes down, Hyun-jong continues, “But sometimes, there are explosions of strength bigger than usual. Whether they’re a result of hidden efforts or a miracle, I don’t know.”
Yoon-dam asks how they make it happen, and on the court, Young-ja answers: thinking about someone special sometimes brings miracles. As Han-sol plays her final match, a thought crosses her mind.
Back in her first year of middle school, Han-sol was part of the same Seoul team as Na-ra and the others. They were a group of five, so whenever they went anywhere or did anything, she ended up as the odd one out with no real place among her peers or on the court.
Her only solution was transferring, but even in this faraway place, she found herself alone… until one day someone appeared by her side. A pair of feet play alongside Han-sol, and she thinks to herself that this person is with her now. The camera pans over, and Se-yoon stands in the back, cheering for her friend with tears streaming down her face.
Slowly but surely, the girls grew closer together, and Se-yoon asked Young-ja to make Han-sol her partner because she preferred left-handed players. Earlier that night before the final match, the woman who talked to Han-sol was Se-yoon’s mom. Her daughter asked her to come support her friend and passed along a message: thank you and sorry. All this time, the reason Se-yoon wanted to make it to Nationals was not to play but to cheer for her team and Han-sol.
The shuttlecock whizzes across the net and lands on Na-ra’s side—the match point goes to Han-sol! As the initial shock fades, the boys erupt into cheers, and Se-yoon runs over to her friend. Han-sol sobs as she hugs her and narrates, “I don’t care if the group is odd or even. I’m just super happy right now.”
The rest of the girls rush over, and they all cry while huddling together. Young-ja watches them with a heavy heart and walks away.
The spotlight goes on Han-sol as the National’s MVP, and Reporter Kim asks who she is thinking of the most out of all her friends and acquaintances. She tells him that she wants to thank her teammates and coaches, and wonders if she can take her picture with everyone. As the rest of the team comes up, the Seoul girls congratulate Han-sol on her win.
Before the last picture is taken, Han-sol runs over to Reporter Kim and corrects him: she might know a lot of people, but she only has one friend, Se-yoon. The two girls stand side by side in the middle and flash huge smiles for the cameras.
The younger boys eat ramyun at a convenience when the baseball players from before pick another fight with them. This time, though, they brought their seniors, and the badminton trio quietly follow them to an empty lot.
Yong-tae uses his glib tongue to talk his way out of the situation, but the baseball players order him to shut up. The leader raises his hand to slap Yong-tae, but Yoon-dam steps in and blocks him. The rest of the boys (expect for Hae-kang) come to their juniors’ rescue and tell the baseball players to leave.
At home, Young-ja drowns her regrets in soju, and Hyun-jong wonders why she is upset after winning. She tells him that she doubted her team and forgot to take her own advice—she gave up on them.
Back in the lot, the difference between the two sports becomes painfully clear as the rest of the baseball team surround our badminton boys. The baseball team captain mocks them for playing a lame sport, but In-sol remains levelheaded and advises his friends to leave.
Unfortunately, the baseball team lost their match which means they have nothing to fear, and their captain calls In-sol a worthless substitute. The baseball team readies for a fight, but Hae-kang appears out of nowhere and waltzes towards the middle, casually whistling the entire time.
Hae-kang barely bats an eye when the baseball captain grabs him and nonchalantly greets his old adversary. The crowd begins to murmur about the infamous pitcher, and Hae-kang smirks.
Hyun-jong consoles his heartbroken wife, reminding her of her accomplishments as a coach. He says that her girls trust her, but this only makes her cry harder for betraying them.
Facing off against the baseball captain, Hae-kang berates him for ridiculing his teammate, and In-sol nearly cries after hearing his words. As Hae-kang defuses the situation, the baseball captain holds onto his last ounce of pride and calls him over to an alley.
Hae-kang humors them and describes the baseball players as villains in a movie. They fully accept their new roles and offer Hae-kang two options: fight with them or crawl between their legs. Hae-kang asks if they know what the hero usually does, and he throws the first punch.
As Young-ja cries in her room, someone knocks on their door, and she finds her team standing outside with the trophy and a cake. She asks if they resent her, but the girls know how hard their coach has worked for their sakes. They hug her in thanks, and between sobs, Young-ja apologizes to them.
The boys return home without Hae-kang and wonder if something terrible happened to him. Moments later, he walks in looking fine, but his teammates still check every nook and cranny. Hae-kang claims to have solved the issue with one punch, and the boys sigh in relief since this means he did not fight. Heh.
They ask why he did not answer his phone, and Hae-kang lies about not hearing it ring. Flashing back to earlier, Hae-kang offered his new phone as a third option to stop their argument since tomorrow’s game was worth more than his phone or pride.
After the girls return from their celebratory party, Hae-kang meets with Se-yoon outside. She wonders why he did not text her, and he says that he did not want to bother her. More than her win, he is glad she came back unhurt and tells her that she did well. He asks what she will do next, and she tells him that she plans to eat sweet snacks.
They stop their conversation when Yoon-dam and Han-sol walk in their direction, and the couple takes a seat at a bench—unaware of their friends hiding nearby. Yoon-dam asks what it feels like to win, and Han-sol says that it is great. Since his game is tomorrow, she returns the favor from the other day and hugs him.
Yoon-dam holds out his hand as he suggests they go back, but when they turn to leave, they hear someone cough. They brush it off as nothing, and Se-yoon sighs in relief. Now that they are alone, she notices how close she is to Hae-kang, but neither of them moves apart.
A text from Han-sol breaks the tension, and Se-yoon takes off first. Before heading home, Hae-kang stops to grab some snacks, and while waiting for the bus, he overhears some badminton boys grumbling about Se-yoon. He tells them to be quiet, and one of the jerks asks why he cares. Hae-kang says that he likes her (omo!), and the jerks complain about her admirers.
Earlier that day, Park Chan kicked the jerk in the back after hearing him talk poorly about Se-yoon and told him that she was more important than winning (omo x2). When Hae-kang comes home, he sees his rival hand Se-yoon two bags of snacks.
Despite the plethora of choices, Se-yoon munches away on Hae-kang’s chips. Han-sol mentions meeting her mom before the finals, but Se-yoon pretends to know nothing about it. Changing topics, Han-sol asks how she feels about Park Chan, and Se-yoon calls him cool and good looking.
Noticing her friend omit the most important part, Han-sol wonders if she likes someone else, but Se-yoon refuses to answer. As Han-sol reaches over to take one of Hae-kang’s chips, Se-yoon pulls away and tells her to eat something else. Heh.
Hae-in teaches Grandma and Grandpa how to read, but they whine about their strict teacher and give up. She convinces them to try again, but Mr. Hong’s brother interrupts their lesson. He and a colleague offer them 30 million won for their property (approximately $26,000), and order them to just sign since they cannot read.
Mr. Hong takes Ms. Shin on a drive and brings up the golf course. Cutting him off, she says that they should club anyone who dares to mention it, and Mr. Hong laughs nervously.
Head Coach Bae meets with Coach Paeng to ask if they can lift the ban against Tae-sun, but Coach Paeng tells him that no ban existed in the first place. The reason Tae-sun hit his senior at all was because the other player called his coach trash, which was something Tae-sun could not ignore.
After Hyun-jong gives his team a quick pep talk before the semi-finals, Yong-tae looks out at the empty stands and frowns. Suddenly, the ring of a gong and the beat of a drum fill the quiet gymnasium, and the Haenam neighbors march in to cheer for the boys.
Yong-tae is the first one to play, and the cheer squad goes crazy until a referee orders them to calm down. Next is Hae-kang and Yoon-dam as doubles, and they make a heart together for their fans after winning their match. So cute!
The second doubles team with Hwasun’s captain and their yellow-haired star loses because of an accident, and the pair heads over to the hospital. The Hwasun boys leave their hopes and dreams in Hae-kang’s hands as he gets ready for the final match.
Before they step inside, Hae-kang asks Seung-hun about his new tricks, but the Busan captain apologizes for last time since he changed his mind a tiny bit after their game. Hae-kang takes all the credit and tells his opponent to focus on the match.
Hae-kang wins the first game easily (twenty-one to nine), but in the second set, the momentum shifts to Seung-hun’s favor. In the end, Hae-kang manages to pull through and win the match by two points.
While everyone celebrates, Se-yoon wonders if something was off about that last game, but the rest of the kids are too busy jumping around and chanting with the cheer squad. As for their opponents, the Busan team take the loss like champs and congratulate their captain for fighting hard.
The Haenam folks set out a huge spread of food—even cooking soup on the side—and the kids thank them for the meal. Afterwards, they ask where their neighbors bought everything, and Hae-in explains how they made it all from scratch and spent the entire day cooking. Aw, that’s so sweet!
The boys find Seung-hun waiting outside and tell him that he did a good job as well. Once the others leave, Seung-hun tells Hae-kang that the results would have changed if he realized his secret sooner. However, he has no qualms over the results and promises to keep his lips sealed.
The neighbors return home still giddy about today’s adventure, but their faces cloud over when Mr. Hong’s brother and his colleague greet them. Ms. Shin learns about the golf course, but Mr. Hong’s brother tells her not to worry since his boss will explain everything soon.
In the yard, Hae-kang brags about winning Nationals tomorrow, but Se-yoon knows he is hiding something. She mentions how close the second set was in comparison to the first and wants him to tell Hyun-jong the truth.
Mr. Hong’s brother vouches for his boss’s character and says that he already visited them before. A familiar car drives up to them, and the despicable city hikers step out, dressed in suits.
The boys chant for Hae-kang when he walks into the living room, but they soon realize something is wrong when he does not join them. He tells the others that he cannot see like last time, and Hyun-jong bolts to his feet. His phone rings, and the Hwasun coach notifies him that his players are injured. He says that they can still count on Hae-kang, but Hyun-jong stares at his son, distraught.
The show highlighted the girls’ relationship these past few episodes, and I loved every detail of their friendship and growth. Han-sol struggled with her identity as a badminton player, and through her backstory, we understand why she felt so unsure about her place. In Seoul, she was the odd one out with no partner, and her isolation only worsened because of her left-handedness. The problem, as Han-sol pointed out, wasn’t that the Seoul girls were mean but because they were an odd number. There are no bad people in this story, which is what makes Han-sol’s predicament even more disheartening as well as relatable to anyone who has experienced being the third wheel in a friend group. Moving to Haenam did not solve the problem; it was finding Se-yoon that finally helped Han-sol. However, the thought of her only friend leaving her behind to go to Seoul—the very place she ran away from—and the constant pressure to fill her spot was too much for her to handle all at once. It made her lash out because, in Han-sol’s eyes, Se-yoon seemed to not care as much about the friendship she cherished so much. Thus, when Han-sol hears from Se-yoon’s mom that her best friend thinks of her in the same way, it reaffirmed their feelings and gave Han-sol the confidence she desperately needed. Her anxiousness wasn’t just about other people seeing her as Se-yoon’s shadow, but Se-yoon, herself, treating her like that, too. Once Han-sol got over this fear, she started to change her outlook and wanted to win against Na-ra for the first time.
On multiple occasions, Se-yoon has called Han-sol the greatest partner, and now we see how much more that simple statement actually means to both of them. Just as Se-yoon is Han-sol’s only friend, the same is true for Se-yoon. In a string of coincidences, these two lonely souls found each other at the edge of the country and chose to become friends. The trait that Han-sol attributed to causing her solitude was the thing that Se-yoon thought positively of, and whether or not this was true, the fact that Se-yoon called her left-handedness comfortable says so much about their dynamic. They see in each other what others could not, which is why they might know lots of people but only count one of them as a real friend. Playing doubles together signifies the bond they built over the years, and so, a good partner isn’t simply about skills but trust between the players.
When Han-sol got mad at her before the world championships, Se-yoon did not act bitter about her sudden outburst, and instead, she reflected on her own actions from Han-sol’s position. She realized that she hasn’t always made her feelings known to her best friend, which is why she sent her mom to pass along her message. The reason Se-yoon wanted to make it to Nationals was so she could cheer for her teammates, especially Han-sol, and it was awesome to see such a positive and strong female friendship portrayed in a drama. It wasn’t a romantic love that pushed Han-sol to try so hard but Se-yoon that motivated her to win. Above everything else, it was their love for each other that created a miracle, emphasizing the importance and value of friendship.
All the neighbors in this small village bring a smile to my face, and seeing everyone gather together to support the boys was heartwarming. It was also a nice touch for the show to flip the usual joke about the country folk buying everything like shikhye only for them to have actually made all the food from scratch this time for the kids. Their embarrassment was adorable, and I love the found family spirit of the villagers. Despite the happy tone for most of the episode, the ending was a bit ominous with the return of the city hikers. That particular storyline felt unfinished, and now I know why. I doubt Head Hiker will be able to build a golf course over their houses especially since Ms. Shin now owns the majority of the land, but I wonder if this means her greedy siblings will make an appearance again. Even if this new plot does not excite me, I look forward to the villagers bonding together to take down their foe, and I really hope the hikers finally get what’s coming to them.
With only two episodes left (curse this new one-episode-a-week format!), the show is slowly winding down with the boys’ finals coming up. However, the Jeonnam team faces multiple challenges as two of their top players are out of the running, and now, their ace is injured as well. Knowing Hyun-jong, he’ll probably want his son to rest since he values their future over winning games, but Hae-kang is just as stubborn and will most likely want to play. I’m glad he shared his current condition with his teammates instead of shouldering all the burden by himself like the last game against Seung-hun. It also shows how much Hae-kang has grown to rely on his team and their help. While I feel bad for the Hwasun boys who wanted to win Nationals just as much as our Haenam players, a part of me is happy for the chance this gives In-sol and/or Woo-chan. Both boys really want to play, and now they have the opportunity to prove that they aren’t worthless substitutes and show the world their skills. However, this puts Hyun-jong in a predicament, and I’m definitely not envious of his position. Everyone has worked so hard to reach this point, and no matter what happens, I’m sure the boys will give it their best and congratulate each other afterwards, whether they win or lose.