Quick As Lightning
Episode 7 of Twenty Five Twenty One starts with Min-Chae revealing why she wants to quit ballet. She’s not seeing any progress and believes continuing like this is futile.
Only, her mother is quick to point out that progress is not linear. In fact, it’s closer to steps, with progress slowly improving over time rather than really quickly. If Min-Chae likes ballet, she should consider this carefully and rethink quitting.
This attitude of progressing toward your dreams stems from Hee-Do’s father, who encouraged her to follow her dreams. And as she holds her fencing sword for the first time, a beautiful shot dissolves forward to the present, in 1999 as Yu-Rim and Hee-Do fight it out.
While they duel, Yi-Jin notices that the English man he spoke to in the restaurant last episode is actually the referee for this bout. Small world, eh?
Anyway, this match has a lot of personal stake for Hee-Do, who remembers her father and the lessons he instilled in her. Unfortunately, he also couldn’t keep his promise due to passing away. However, this also explains Hee-Do’s never-say-die attitude, given part of the reason she’s fighting is for the memory of her father.
Within the match, Yu-Rim’s sword breaks as the score is poised on a knife-edge. The scores are tied 14-14 with the next point to win. And it’s Hee-Do who comes out victorious, battling back from a losing position to win and take gold.
Her mother happens to watch this from her office but her initial pleased look soon dissipates as controversy washes over the event. Yu-Rim is convinced she got there faster than Hee-Do, complaining to the referees. Via the slow-mo replay it’s really hard to see what happened.
After the duel, Hee-Do is interviewed by Yi-Jin about the match. She admits that she was thinking of her father and that this exact moment is the one that she’s struggling with.
The thing is, slowing the video down further seems to hint that Yu-Rim was actually faster, although it’s very hard to see for real. So it seems to could be a bad call from the referee or simply too close to call. Thanks to Yu-Rim though, this looks like it’s going to blow up massively across the country. And it’s not helped by Yu-Rim leaning into this and claiming she was robbed.
Questions from reporters see Hee-Do reframe the game in a rather controversial light, which only piles on the pressure for her. In fact, it becomes too much and she drops the medal on the table and walks away.
Yu-Rim follows though, pointing out that it was the ref’s fault and she genuinely believes she was faster and was robbed of “her” medal. Unfortunately, this has also had the knock-on effect of tarnishing the gold medal for Hee-Do, believing that it has lost its honour.
Following this big scandal, Hee-Do walks away, only to be picked up by Yi-Jin that night. He’s been calling her non-stop and tells her that running away isn’t the solution here.
Given she left without her team, she’s going to be in trouble. Hee-Do is having none of it though and continues to walk. Yi-Jin follows, telling her that he believes Hee-Do is a victim too, not Yu-Rim.
As the pair fence together, Hee-Do uses it as a demonstration that the fencers always know who is faster, even if the ref isn’t sure. Hee-Do is adamant it was her and Yu-Rim is just being a bad loser.
With Yi-Jin finally understanding, he decides to catch up with the referee. The guy doesn’t want to talk, despite Yi-Jin’s insistence in trying to protect the athletes. Eventually he does catch up, handing over the podaegi they were speaking about previously.
The ref is absolutely adamant he wasn’t paid off, pointing out that he was assigned the day before and isn’t from Korea. Yi-Jin urges him to speak up in order to save Hee-Do’s livelihood.
Hee-Do eventually heads back to her coach where she and Yu-Rim are both punished for the press conference. He promises to discipline them both, with the pair forced to head home and think over what’s happened.
On the way, Hee-Do notices all the papers vilifying her, claiming the medal has been stolen. Because of this, Hee-Do chooses against sitting in her chosen seat too.
On the way back, Hee-Do passes Daegeon Noodles, a place she remembers from her past. Specifically, she remembers her father getting her some noodles and almost losing him as the train departed the station. A lot of this episode has focused on Hee-Do’s relationship with her dad, and how she’s been driven by his memory this whole time.
Yi-Jin’s exclusive interview helps to shift public opinion too, as the public start to come around to her. A group of elderly men congratulate her on her hard work and gold medal, leading Hee-Do to start weeping at the table. It’s a tear-jerking moment, and a welcome one after everything that’s happened.
That night, Hee-Do sneaks into school after-hours to listen to Yi-Jin’s tapes. Unfortunately, she gets locked in the storage cupboard by the janitor.
She hurriedly rings Yi-Jin to let him know, as he comes racing up to join Seung-Wan and Ji-Woong with their operation. As they break in, Hee-Do overhears the old broadcasts of Da-Eun and Yi-Jin professing their love for one another.
The Episode Review
Twenty Five Twenty One delivers its best episode yet, one that’s tinged with poignancy and with a consistent theme surrounding overcoming adversity. There’s a nice undercurrent of social commentary regarding the media too and how they’re like vultures, circling around their prey and feasting off the scraps.
However, it’s Yi-Jin that manages to make good by the end, convincing the referee to speak up about the injustice of it all and call out the Korean media and Yu-Rim for their part to play in all of this.
Regardless of if a decision is correct or not (I think it’s clear that it was correct!), the unsporting way Yu-Rim immediately claimed it was cheating actually diminishes her credibility. If she’d just taken it on the chin, it may have actually helped her in the future but now it makes the potential redemption arc that much harder to accept if she continues on this way.
However, this also amplifies their disdain for one another and is likely to cause a lot of trouble going forward. The ending leaves everything wide open for tomorrow’s follow-up though, especially with Da-Eun and Yi-Jin confessing their love for one another on tape. If tomorrow’s episode is anything like this one, we could be in for a real treat.