The Doping Scandal
Hot Stove League has been one of the most consistent Korean dramas on TV. The quality has remained steady across the previous 12 episodes and the show has done a fantastic job making this sport drama exciting and realistic in its portrayal of back-room politics that affect the entire team. The power struggle between the Junior Managing Director and Seung Soo has been the real driving force of this show though and as we reach the back-end of this drama, all of this looks set to deliver a really dramatic conclusion.
Episode 13 of Stove League begins with Chi Hun brought into the office and accused of bribery while Seung-Soo tries to keep his cool in the face of the Junior Managing Director’s monologue on baseball and how cowardly the sport is. After some negotiation, Seung-Soo is finally given the chance to internally investigate Chi-Hun.
Jae-Hee is transferred to the scouting department and despite this being the Junior Managing Director’s decision, a flashback reveals that he threatened Seung-Soo in the past to keep quiet otherwise he’ll reveal more secrets to condemn the team. In the present though, Jae-Hee tries to argue against the move but Seung-Soo remains stern-faced and adamant that this was his idea.
Meanwhile, one of the players meets with a shady supplier of steroids and after mentioning Doo-Ki and Dong-Gyu, police rush in and stop the transaction from taking place. This makes mainstream news and the team begin reeling over the possibility of the top players doping.
Dong-Gyu is the big name in the firing line as allegations of him doping cause an unwelcome spotlight to shine over his time at Vikings. To make matters worse, he receives an anonymous call from someone intent on blackmailing him, forcing Dong-Gyu to hand over money to keep them quiet from revealing what he’s been up to.
One of the other players mentioned is Doo-Ki, prompting the Junior Managing Director to invite Seung-Soo into his office where they discuss the implications of winning and whether Doo-Ki actually was doping or not. Instead of asking him outright, Seung-Soo decides on a different approach. With Young-Soo, they work together to try and suss out the true nature of the drug scandal, beginning with statistics surround Dreams but also looking at Vikings too to compare the two sets of players.
The KPB meeting takes place and the group discuss the victims of the scandal; the players allegedly on drugs. The Junior Managing Director convinces the group that they should go hard on those accused of doping and promises the new rules will see players banned for 2 years. Unfortunately he accidently slips out the name of Kang Woo midway through but backtracks, hoping to do damage control.
While Doo-Ki remains in the firing line for the scandal, Seung-Soo meets with the Vikings’ General Manager and discusses the situation but he refuses to listen, screwing up the list of possible dopers and throwing it in the trash.
The emergency meeting on drug use begins and the results favour Dreams -no one on their team was doping but Vikings record a whopping five players on performance enhancing drugs. Seung-Soo meets with the Junior Managing Director and feeds the good news back to him and for now, they appear to be on the same page.
Surprisingly, it turns out Dong-Gyu wasnt the one doping, despite what the flashbacks earlier in the episode teased. He threw the steroids away that night and to back this up, Doo-Ki and Seung-Soo discuss his character in private and how unlikely they believe he is to cheat.
Dong-Gyu refuses to give in to the demands of blackmail as we cut back to the present but it turns out Seung-Soo was the one threatening him all along. His issues however, aren’t related to doping – he’s actually involved in a foreign gambling scandal. Defeated, Dong-Gyu heads in to the KPB personally and admits the truth to them about his gambling.
As the scandal circulates, Dong-Gyu finds himself isolated from the Vikings players. As Jae-Hee, Se-Young and Seung-Soo hold a private meeting to discuss his future, Seung-Soo then meets with him in private and they discuss his career. He tells Dong-Gyu to clear his act up and change his attitude and if he can do that, he’ll allow him to play for Dreams and retire with them. After some deliberation, Dong-Gyu accepts.
Dong-Gyu is one of the more fascinating characters in Hot Stove League and seeing his progression over the weeks has been really interesting to see. Beginning as an arroagant, brash individual defiant in the face of change, seeing the moments in Dong Gyu’s past that have helped define his character, refusing to dope and working hard, really add an extra layer of depth and understanding to his motives.
Added to that is the storyline itself, which has managed to weave episodic ideas across the 12 episodes with a more serialised story surrounding Dreams’ potential break-up and the power struggle between Seung-Soo and the Junior Managing Director. This has made the show really exciting and with all eyes turning toward the fast-approaching finale, what will the fate of Dreams be at the end of the season? Only time will tell.
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