Episode 2 of Twenty Five, Twenty One begins in the present once more, with Min-Chae speaking to her grandma about the garden and how different things are now.
They also touch on the IMF incident and the ensuing “gold rush”, although she’s quick to point out she never sold the gold rings. These rings are significant for Hee-Do, and as we cut back in time we continue our story between Hee-Do and Yi-Jin.
Hee-Do’s first day at school arrives and her mother escorts her in. She’s quick to meet the headmaster, Shin Jae-Kyung, and soon starts to acclimatize to the co-ed school. Given Hee-Do originally started off in an all-girls environment, this is very different for her.
One of the first people she meets is Ji-Woong, the resident “cool kid” who wants to use Hee-Do to get close to Yu-Rim. As he gushes over how perfect she is, Hee-Do can’t help but agree. She also meets his “diaper buddy” Seung-Wan, who happens to be the class president. She shows Hee-Do where all the major places are but for Yu-Rim, she’s overjoyed to get started in the gym and begin fencing.
Alongside Hee-Do, she’s there to train with Ye-Ji, Han-Sol Da-Seul and Ji-Soo. Oh, and of course Yu-Rin, who shows up late. Hee-Do is star struck and soon learns she’s to fence against her in a practice match. She’s given three days to train and try to beat Yu-Rim. If she can do that, Coach Yang promises to give her back her shoes.
Hee-Do receives a wake-up call though after a hard session training. Yu-Rim confronts her about the grueling reality of fencing. No one Coach Yang has taken on has lasted longer than a few months and she doesn’t believe Yu-Rim has the tenacity or the X-factor to stick it out.
Meanwhile, Yi-Jin continues to juggle his family responsibilities with his career. After sending some money across to his Aunt, he heads to Yang High School to meet Yu-Rim, apologizing to her for what’s happened between them in the past.
Yi-Jin appears to have abandoned her when she needed him most, although after hitting him several times she warms up a bit. So what’s their connection? Well, that’s something Hee-Do wants to know too when she shows up, eventually ending up getting the bus home with Yi-Jin.
On the way back to her place, Hee-Do urges Yi-Jin to shower a little later as his water pressure is interfering with her morning routine,
As the days tick by, Hee-Do’s plan for getting close to Yu-Rin go completely awry. She struggles to get through to her, and it’s clear that her earlier words were a definite warning. But why has she such disdain for Hee-Do? Well, flashbacks reveal a lot.
It turns out Hee-Do actually beat Yu-Rim during a tournament, and despite offering a hand to help her up, Yu-Rim shrugged it off. Hee-Do won that tournament, and it’s something that plays on Yu-Rim’s mind as she heads in for the big fencing match against her rival. And Hee-Do wins…again.
This time though, the pair do shake hands. Well, sorta anyway. Yu-Rim loosely touches her hand and walks away. The thing is, all of this was just a test to help Yu-Rim to work harder and study her competition, preparing for whatever may be thrown her way. There will be tougher opponents compared to Hee-Do.
In the locker room, there’s a really nice moment between the two girls, with the former pointing out how graceful and adept she is. Hee-Do also encourages her not to go easy next time, knowing that she hurt her ankle originally.
Back home, Hee-Do finds solace in the person she’s been communicating with online. They contemplate meeting up, unsure whether this will make them grow closer. The thing is, the scene immediately cuts to Yi-jin after this, seemingly hinting that he’s the one she’s been communicating with.
Yi-Jin heads for his job interview but unfortunately he’s over-qualified for the cleaning position and he’s rejected. Yi-Jin goes home empty-handed.
Now, we soon come to learn that Yi-Jin used to be the host on the school radio, playing songs and with numerous tapes recording his exploits. Yi-Jin’s lavish life back then, including his expensive car and belongings, are caught up in the midst of this messy IMF situation, which reared its ugly head back in 1994 when Yi-Jin was at high school.
With his father determined to turn things around, he shipped Yi-Jin off to military school while he organized a “sham divorce” to shield his mum from the backlash of what’s to follow.
While at the military, Yi-Jin’s father’s company declares bankruptcy, as do many other companies across the country. This essentially forms the basis of Yi-Jin’s fall from grace, along with his motivations for trying to do right by those hurt by his father going out of business.
Seeing all of his father’s workers destroyed by the IMF situation and completely bankrupt, even these years later during the Hee-Do timeline, is tough to watch. Two workers show up and berate Yi-Jin, but the kid promises to pay them all back and get a job so he can right these wrongs.
Yi-Jin goes on to promise not to be happy and to do whatever he can to help them. When they leave, Hee-Do tentatively shows and admits she has 3000 won for the trashed comic book. For Yi-Jin though, he’s had enough of money for one day.
Hee-Do’s sense of wonder and naivety reminds Yi-Jin of himself back when he was in school. So naturally, she takes him out to the fountains and tries to encourage him to actually have a bit of fun and open up.
This is, of course, something that he’s still wracked with guilt over but his little smiles and pushing Hee-Do into the water are at least steps in the right direction. Hee-Do is against Yi-Jin’s promise never to be happy again too, and decides that when they’re hanging together, he’s to open up and be happy – even if it’s in secret. As he smiles thinly at her, the episode comes to a close.
The Episode Review
The second episode of Twenty Five, Twenty One starts to deepen the ties between Yi-Jin and Hee-Do, as well as explaining exactly what Yi-Jin’s issues are in the past. It also shows why he works so hard and how he’s been doing his best to pay back all the debts he perceives he owes.
Of course, it’s not his fault that the IMF situation had occurred but given his father was in charge of one of the companies that went bankrupt, he feels a moral obligation to pay those debts back.
Meanwhile, Hee-Do’s past ties with Yu-Rim make a lot more sense now and there’s a nice rivalry/friendship brewing between the two, which I’m sure will be fleshed out more over the weeks.
However, the series adds a lot of intriguing elements to this story, especially the visuals which are beautifully done. The colour fading to black and white, jumping back in time in the process, is very slick and it certainly helps this one stand out visually.
The supporting characters haven’t had an awful lot of time in the limelight just yet though but I’m sure that will change going forward. Not only that, the mystery surrounding who Hee-Do is communicating with online is likely to keep things very intriguing over the weeks. Who do you think it is? My money’s on Yi-Jin!