Twenty Five Twenty One: Episodes 7-8 Open Thread
What should have been a glorious moment gets embroiled in controversy, prompting our fencers to confront why they fence in the first place and whom they can turn to when they’re at their lowest. Meanwhile, new and complex feelings are cropping up in uncomfortable places.
EPISODES 7-8 WEECAP
This week, we learn that Hee-do started fencing in the first place due to her father, who encouraged her to try the sport but passed away from an illness before he could see her win a gold medal. He also urged her to only keep going with it for enjoyment’s sake – not for wins and accolades – and preemptively warned her that success come in steps, not a straight line.
In the present day, adult Hee-do tells Min-chae the same thing. She gives Min-chae permission to quit ballet if she only liked it for the compliments, but asks her to reconsider giving up if she genuinely loved dance itself and only wanted to quit because she wasn’t seeing immediate improvement.
But while Hee-do loves fencing for fencing’s sake and for the connection with her father, Yoo-rim seems to pursue it largely out of a sense of obligation. She knows that the sport she chose was tough for her family to swing financially, so she feels she has to be the very best to repay them for everything they’ve sacrificed for her.
With such high stakes, the gold medal match is intense. At one point, Yoo-rim’s sword breaks clean off the hilt, shattering her nerves and allowing Hee-do to make up a few points. They’re tied going into the final point, and both attack simultaneously. It’s so close, not even the camera shows who was faster, but the referee rules in Hee-do’s favor.
Yoo-rim challenges it, but the referee stands by his call, and Hee-do is awarded the medal. Yoo-rim crumbles in tears, and even Hee-do can’t help feeling sorry for her. When Yi-jin interviews her and asks about the hardest moment of the match, she looks over at Yoo-rim crying while all the cameras flash in her face and decides it’s this moment.
But it only gets worse from there. The populace, who already love Yoo-rim and know next to nothing about Hee-do, express outrage, and the media jumps on the chance to up their ratings. The story spins into a frenzy, accusing Hee-do of stealing Yoo-rim’s medal and even speculating she may have bribed the referee.
At a live press conference, the girls are asked to speak on the controversy, and both stick to their guns, each equally convinced they were faster. The barrage of thinly veiled accusations overwhelms Hee-do, who finally asks point-blank if they would have preferred she purposely lose and then takes off her medal and runs out, followed by Yoo-rim.
In the end, both girls are sent home until a disciplinary committee can decide what to do about the scene they caused. Hee-do watches as Yoo-rim’s father picks her up from the train station with a hug; meanwhile, she’s seen her own mother state on national television that she stole Yoo-rim’s medal.
We also learn that Hee-do’s mom had a hand in televising the controversy that led to Coach Yang being forced to step down from coaching the national team, having been accused of taking bribes. Hee-do’s mom prioritizes her job as a reporter over her personal feelings, and though she does feel sorry, she doesn’t let on to anyone – except Min-chae, years later.
But, though it’s not immediately apparent in the heart of the media storm, Hee-do’s not without support. There’s a beautiful moment when she arrives home and stops in a little restaurant (so she doesn’t have to face her mother) where some kindly grandpas at the next table over recognize her – but they sympathize with her and even congratulate her on winning gold.
Of course, Hee-do’s greatest support comes from Yi-jin, who gets all teary when she’s initially announced the winner. After the press conference, Hee-do runs off to be alone, but Yi-jin tracks her down and nags at her out of concern. Desperate to prove herself, she pulls out her swords and makes him feel for himself how obvious it is to the fencers involved who struck the point first.
Following that, Yi-jin chases down the referee and convinces him to give a statement reiterating that Hee-do won fairly. Ultimately, the girls are suspended for three months, but allowed to continue training with Coach Yang.
As the controversy starts to blow over, however, Hee-do finds herself battling feelings of a very different kind. By chance, she learns about two of Yi-jin’s past girlfriends, and that sparks jealousy – even if she doesn’t fully understand it.
Hee-do thinks she’s jealous of Yi-jin in the sense that she wishes she were as mature as he is. He makes bumbling mistakes as a rookie reporter – like freezing in the middle of a live report because his laptop gave him the blue screen of death – but he’s able to handle them in a way that doesn’t make the problem bigger, unlike her press conference walkout.
She’s becoming more and more aware of the age gap between them – and, more specifically, that it matters – and finds herself getting flustered in his presence. And she gets hurt and upset when he teases her, not liking being made to feel like a little kid instead of his peer.
Speaking of complicated feelings, Yoo-rim’s family takes yet another financial hit. Barely holding up under all the weight on her shoulders, and having no one to confide in, Yoo-rim ends up at the top of a high-dive board in what at first appears to be a suicide attempt. But after plunging into the water, she quickly surfaces to sob her heart out while clinging to the side of the pool.
Hee-do witnesses this, but doesn’t know what to do – especially as she remembers seeing Yoo-rim’s wet clothes in their dorm and realizes this is a regular occurrence. She tells her chat friend (whom she doesn’t realize is Yoo-rim) about seeing her former idol cry, noting from said friend’s reply that she might be going through a hard time, too. They decide to meet up, designating a yellow rose as their identifying mark since they don’t even know each other’s gender or age.
Yi-jin finds out Yoo-rim is going to meet an internet friend, and being a good oppa he insists on accompanying her to make sure it’s safe. Just when you’d think this can’t get any more awkward, Yoo-rim is the first to spot Hee-do carrying a yellow rose and realize what it means… and shoves her rose into Yi-jin’s hands and takes off running.
Hee-do reaches the obvious conclusion that Yi-jin has been her chat friend all this time, and that leads her to an even more startling discovery: she hasn’t been jealous of him – she’s been upset because she thought she wasn’t good enough for him.
She walks right up to Yi-jin (who looks like he’d rather be anywhere else but can’t figure out how to get himself out of this) and declares, “I have to have you.”
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- Looking back on 1998 with Kim Tae-ri and Nam Joo-hyuk in Twenty-Five Twenty-One
- Casting lineup complete for youth drama Twenty-Five, Twenty-One