Mental Coach Jegal: Episodes 7-8
Just when it looks like the good guys are finally winning, they face not only setbacks but betrayals. When our mental coach starts to second guess his own healing journey, will his mentees be able to change his mind?
EPISODES 7-8 WEECAP
I am still enjoying this drama lot, but I’ll admit I’m a little tired of the endless circles around Coach Oh, as well as the corrupt Olympic officials that never seem to get caught… and never seem to hold my interest. That being said, the drama did take our hero on an interesting path this week, and it’s very much like life to see all the ups and downs that our characters go through, just in the course of a single episode.
We open on a high note: Ga-eul welcomed with open arms at the No Medal Club, and soon, a new journal from Gil for her to fill out. She balks and doesn’t think much of writing down her feelings — never mind feeling them — but still, the bond that she and Gil now have is the highlight of the show. (As is his house/club being the place where struggling athletes come to crash and borrow sweats.)
And thank goodness for those two, because I’m losing patience when it comes to our baddies, and I’m not sure why. It’s not because they’re not hateable — they are. Maybe it’s because they’re just a little too flat? Coach Oh is the biggest @sshole character in a long time, and I honestly don’t know how many more times I’m willing to watch Gil and the No Medal Club go all out with the dramatics (risking life and limb) to take him down… only for him to win in the end.
We did it before, and we do it again this week. The No Medal Club members investigate, stakeout, hack, and get into a scrappy (hilarious) dog fight – but once again, even with the evidence stacked against him, Coach Oh runs free. The shin kick that Gil delivers to him in frustration was very satisfying, and yet not satisfying enough. What I’m craving is a change in the story’s tempo. I don’t want to feel like I’m on a hamster wheel. Let’s get rid of this tool and move on already!
Where we do have some significant development is with Gil. Riding high on their successful sting operation to gather evidence against Coach Oh — before they even know they’re going to fail a second time — Gil meets something far worse: betrayal.
First, he and the No Medal Club learn that their elaborate plans to expose Coach Oh’s match rigging and illegal gambling was actually all masterminded by Tae-man, who shows up to gloat. It turns out all of that coming to light gets rid of his political rival — so Gil inadvertently wound up doing exactly what he didn’t want to: serving Tae-man’s ulterior motive.
But that’s not the only blow to Gil’s psyche. Moo-tae, after being taunted and tempted and threatened by Tae-man and Coach Oh, finally gives in. He becomes their dog — all to support his struggling family — and Gil is utterly broken. The scene could have packed a little more punch for me, but still, that puppy heartbreak in Gil’s eyes sold the whole thing.
The betrayal — along with Dr. Park’s criticisms of his behavior and mental health — sends Gil into a tailspin. And as much as I don’t like to see it, it did feel authentic. How can I help anyone else when I can’t even help myself? he wonders. In the midst of all this, in a deal with Tae-man, he chooses to resign as mental coach in exchange for the hard-fought evidence to be used again Coach Oh. Tae-man, snake that he is, promises to get rid of Coach Oh, but saving his own skin comes first, and he doesn’t follow through in the end. He’s awful. And worse than that, he’s also boring. Come on, Show, you can do better with your villains!
Where the show is really blossoming, though, is with our two young athletes. Watching Ga-eul’s healing unfold thus far has been heartwarming and adorable, and instead of a miserably clammed up girl, we now have an open and more mature young woman. She seeks out Gil’s counsel on her own now, and knows when she needs it — that self-awareness is a major win, as is watching her finally stand up against Coach Oh. You go, girl!
I also love how the show has handled Mu-gyeol’s arc. His brief but wild stint with Gil as his mental coach was like nothing he had ever experienced before. Harsh, maybe, but it did the job. And whether it was shoving him in the water or teaching him how to fail (with the help of the No Medal Club!), it’s nice to see Mu-gyeol get the exact counsel he needs. Gil has a lot of insight on Mu-gyeol’s issues, and he might bristle in Gil’s presence at first, but he quickly learns that Gil is right. We’ve seen Mu-gyeol go from arrogant to broken, and now, by end of Episode 8, he’s a little softer, kinder, and ready to accept counseling from his new “personal” mental coach.
I also like the rekindled relationship between Ga-eul and Mu-gyeol — they’re still drawn to each other, but unlike the sharp edges and claws of the past, now they’re able to sit together on the same bench (or couch!) and talk, apologize, and put the past behind them. Their cute little pre-romance moments lightened up an episode that focused a lot on Gil’s defeat, and it struck a good balance.
I’m a bit torn with the drama’s pacing, though. It feels almost as if it’s trying to do too much, or pull too many threads together all at once, and by the end of an episode it feels like more has happened than I can even fit in my brain — and the editing style of this drama doesn’t help it feel any more cohesive.
With so many colorful characters who I really feel for and want to see more of — Ga-eul, Mu-gyeol, Young-to, Moo-tae — the plot spends too much time orchestrating events around them instead of just letting us linger with them and watch their stories unfold. For instance, that moment where Ga-eul runs to greet Gil and just has this gigantic smile on her face — and he’s so touched — I want more of that, and I want to have time in those moments, to explore the character growth and their interactions with each other. So, more time spent with heart-to-hearts on benches and couches, Show, and less time with unnecessary villains!