The Exhibition Match
After what’s felt like forever, Hot Stove League finally returns this week for its scheduled 2-episode double-bill and what a way to kick things back up again. With an episode chock full of baseball drama and another big cliffhanger that looks set to ignite the rivalry between Seung-Soo and the Junior Managing Director further, the door is left wide open for the final act of this highly enjoyable drama to play out.
Episode 12 of Hot Stove Leagues begins with the exhibition match between Vikings and Dreams as the showdown between Doo-Ki and Dong-Gyu looks set to explode into action. Jae-Hee and Young-Soo narrate the action as Dreams play really well, taking a 3-0 lead early on. Dong-Gyu is good too, returning Doo-Ki’s pitches but also playing for pride, waiting for the opportune time to strike. That time comes and goes, as Doo-Ki strikes him out.
The game continues and Dreams look a completely different team from the year before. Min-Ho is brought on from the bench with a point to prove, as we cut back and see Doo-Ki giving him words of encouragement during past training sessions. Min-Ho struggles to adapt, with an awkward range and a lack of control until eventually he’s told to head back to the bench.
The first match ends and Dreams are victorious against Vikings. Dong-Gyu loses his temper and confronts his new team, shouting at them over the humiliating loss and throwing his hat at the fence. After a celebratory dinner, Min-Ho is called into a meeting discussing his psychological conditioning, especially given how he hurt himself last time he played. The coaches give him words of encouragement and advise him to continue learning and growing. There’s no pressure on him but he can also get over this injury.
The second day of the exhibition match begins, after an initial encounter that evening between Dong-Gyu and Seung-Soo, and this time Min-Ho begins pitching. As the group all start smiling, they see Min-Ho gift a home run to Dong-Gyu and continue to pitch. Only, this isn’t about winning, it’s more about Min-Ho getting his confidence back. As the match ends, the two teams tie 1-1.
After a celebratory drink, Seung-Soo speaks privately to Hong-Maan regarding a list of players who may possibly be doping. With that in mind, he heads back to the office and liaises with Ms Lim, including asking celebrities to come and watch the team play. Unfortunately the CEO arrives before he can put the plan into action and berates him, telling him not to get involved. After the meeting, Seung-Soo confronts Ms Lim and blames her for not standing up for herself.
That evening, Se-Young and Jae-Hee head out for dinner with Seung-Soo. He snaps his usual photo of the food and immediately asks them what they have to say. They ask him to be more friendly and cheerful, going on to tell him just how important and integral Ms Lim has been to the team. He tells them he wants the front office to be as constructive as possible but promises to try and ease up a little.
The Audit Department arrive the next day and immediately march up to Chi-Hun’s desk, taking him away and suspecting him to be hiding something. Seung-Soo follows after them and marches into the Director’s office, who whistles cheerfully and clearly was waiting for him. He asks Seung-Soo to make him coffee and as the two stare one another down, Seung-Soo looks set to explode into rage.
Is this the final straw for Seung-Soo? We’ve seen him keep his rage in check for a lot of this season but between the bits of his past coming to light and some serious tests of patience from the Junior Managing Director, there’s a lot to suggest this won’t end well for the General Manager. The first half of the episode does really well to showcase just how much hard work the team have put in to adjust their mentality and skills, being able to compete against the best club in the league.
Baseball is a team sport and as Stove League has shown over the past 12 episodes or so, you’re only as strong as your weakest part. Seeing this contrast between Min-Ho and Dong-Gyu is really interesting, adding some depth to this and much-needed thought provoking drama. Quite what will happen tomorrow though remains to be seen but for now, Hot Stove League appears to be heading toward a home run.
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