Love All Play: Episodes 9-10
The return of a prodigal athlete shakes up our heroine, who was just finding the confidence to get back on her feet. And although she has the unwavering support of a smiley and wonderful boyfriend at her side, things are getting rocky.
EPISODES 9-10 WEECAP
A question popped into my head as soon as I hit play on Episode 9, and it’s still plaguing me. The question is this: what in the world does/did Jung-hwan see in Joon-young!? She makes her return to the plot (and the country) this week, and she’s absolutely, positively unlikable. Like, in every way.
She’s a total brat to the parents that adore her, she snaps orders at her little brother long living in her shadow, and as we’ll see later on, she’s equally awful to Jung-hwan. And of course to Tae-yang — that goes without saying. Basically, there’s no one she’s nice to. And I’m supposed to feel sorry that her drunken snowboarding injury wrecked her career as an athlete? Sorry, but I’m straight outta sympathy right now.
It all gets off to the uncomfortable start we all expected when Joon-young and Tae-yang accidentally run into each other at the tournament. Tae-yang immediately starts to cry, but this exchange ends with Joon-young storming off and saying, “Let’s not exchange pleasantries” and that she doesn’t want to see her again. Good, I don’t want to see her either.
Unfortunately, we see a lot of her, first making her return to her parents’ home and sniping at everyone and everything. She’s particularly annoying towards Tae-joon — as if she doesn’t care about their parents’ overt favoritism of her — and she tells him if he’s sorry for her, to pay for her grad school, to let her live in his Seoul apartment, and, finally and crucially, don’t get close to Park Tae-yang and don’t ask why.
Poor Tae-joon is keeping his cards suuuper close to his chest — and has been for about three straight episodes now — but man, it’s got to be getting to him.
Joon-young is soon talking to the press (well, kinda) and aims to get a job coaching the national team. Most of her fellow athletes are psyched to see their famous “noona” back, but her return has a bunch of ripple effects through the tight-knit badminton world.
One of those is that a new antagonist emerges — he’s JUNG YI-DEUN (Lee Min-jae), a player on the national team who has an ego the size of New Jersey and seems to live to cut Jung-hwan down to size.
Now, I’m not saying Jung-hwan doesn’t need some sense knocked into him, but Yi-deun drops the knowledge that Joon-young has returned right during their match — meanwhile, the Yunis players had been trying with all their might to prevent him from finding out until after the game.
Jung-hwan, of course, doesn’t have much mastery over his emotions, but where he annoyed me in previous weeks, I’m really starting to feel for him. For starters, he’s just started to open up to Yoo-min and they’re so cute together! Well, that gets put on hold when Joon-young comes back. He seeks Joon-young out in her neighborhood only to uncover the secret that Tae-joon is her little brother. Wow, so few people know this, it still baffles me.
It comes as no surprise that Joon-young will barely talk to him, and shrugs him off. So the boys wind up drinking together and we’re treated to some pink cheeks and hilarious whiney exchanges like this:
Jung-hwan: “Why is Joon-young your sister?”
And then the more sobering truth:
Jung-hwan: “Does Tae-yang know?”
Tae-joon: “If she did, do you think she’d date me?”
When Jung-hwan finally gets to talk to Joon-young one-on-one, she’s particularly hateful. When he asks why she never answered his endless emails over the last three years, she basically says that she hates him, because he knows the truth of what happened, and she wants to forget it. Jung-hwan cries, and Joon-young looks as b!tchy as ever. The exchange ends with Jung-hwan wondering why he’s even broken-hearted by her, and I can’t agree more.
Important to note, though, some unidentified individual is filming this exchange — at the end of the episode we see the video being uploaded, and the netizen comments start flooding in. So, the well-kept secret known only by four people is a secret no more.
I’ve been putting off the roughest part of Joon-young’s return, and that of course is how it affects our heroine. After all, Jung-hwan isn’t the only one having awful encounters with Joon-young. She basically torments and humiliates Tae-yang at every chance she gets, and as the episodes progress, we witness Tae-yang slowly breaking down. It’s not that much fun to watch.
More insight on her past makes me want to hug her even more — we see how she’s dealt with an almost total lack of love and affection in her life, how that’s made her into the adult that she is, how she’s so used to shouldering things alone, and now, of course, the weight of the guilt she’s been under.
If the burden of guilt was starting to become bearable — with her return to badminton and the support of the squishy Tae-joon — it all comes crashing down with the return of Joon-young, and it’s positively palpable how all the progress she’s made has been lost.
The team hosts a welcome back party for Joon-young, and despite Tae-yang’s assurances to Tae-joon that she wouldn’t go, go she does. Joon-young is as icy to her as expected, and the team picks up on it in two seconds even though no one really knows what happened between them.
But it’s when Tae-yang gets up and kneels in front of Joon-young that things get particularly heartbreaking. We see how tormented Tae-yang is, asking for forgiveness, to which Joon-young counters, “Who said you can be sorry?”
And later on, in a future exchange, the same sentiment continues, with Tae-yang crying, “Can’t you forgive me, so I can forgive myself?” and Joon-young, instead, telling her that she’s selfish and only thinks about herself. The scene ends with both girls crying, but there’s only one I feel sorry for.
In the middle of all these painful exchanges, we also learn about the moment where it all went wrong. In previous flashbacks, Joon-young was kind towards Tae-yang and covered up the truth purposefully. But that all went to hell when, in a quiet moment in her hospital room, Tae-yang thanked Joon-young for keeping the truth covered up. We see Joon-young shrink back, and that was the moment their friendship died.
It’s awful, because from here, it looks like a lonely orphan who was grateful to the friend she admired for protecting her. But to Joon-young, it was something else entirely. Once Tae-yang finds out about how her “thanks” were received, it sinks into her heart and starts to poison her even more.
Her game starts to suffer, and rather than support her, Coach Joo is just another antagonist punishing her and tearing her down. If he had any insight at all he’d be able to tell that she punishes herself plenty and doesn’t need any help.
Luckily, the Yunis team rallies around Tae-yang in a way that might have seemed impossible a few weeks ago — the team captain stands up for her, Young-shim and Sung-shil massage her leg muscles — it’s all very sweet.
But, of course, the greatest source of support for Tae-yang is the ever-wonderful and long-suffering Tae-joon. Although Tae-yang expends a lot of energy keeping him away, our episodes this week are not without some cuteness and a deepening of their bond.
Tae-joon is always there for Tae-yang in spirit, and tries to be there for her emotionally, but it’s hard for her to accept his support. In a particularly sad exchange, she explains how she has to pretend to be okay, and how she’s only used to dealing with hardship alone.
Despite her ghosting him, or putting on a happy face, he’s still around watching out for her (or trying to) and there are some wonderful hug scenes this week — one where they both “recharge” each other, and another where Tae-yang finally lets her emotions out, and goes to him for comfort.
More than that hug, delicious though it was, Tae-yang asks if he wants to sleep with her… and so they do. It’s bittersweet, though, because even though we know it’s a gesture of love and commitment between them, Tae-yang is still so wounded at this point. And she doesn’t even know who his sister is yet.
Despite feeling like I have a bunch of bricks on my chest from the sadness of this week’s episodes, I’m still enjoying the show a lot. I actually like that it’s willing to look at Tae-yang’s inner struggles so much, and dig into the weight of guilt, which we don’t see a lot of dramas do in this way.
It was also interesting that the male lead camera seemed to shift — or is shifting — towards Jung-hwan. He seemed like a support character early on, but now he’s actually got more plot going on than Tae-joon has. (I’m dying for him to put Joon-young in her place and grab Yoo-min instead, in front of everyone.)
While I’m dreading the reveal that is still yet to come, and all our main couple has yet to shoulder, I’m hopeful that it won’t be too long-lasting. Both Tae-yang and Tae-joon have battle scars that make them uniquely suited for each other, and there’s no resolution I’ll accept besides one where they sail off into the OTP sunset together. Just a few more waves first!