A well-built episode that develops on the premiere with a flair for emotional resonance.
This recap of the K-Drama Netflix series Twenty-Five Twenty-One season 1, episode 2 contains spoilers.
Twenty-Five Twenty-One season 1, episode 2 recap
As the episode starts, we’re back in the present, with Min-chae talking to her grandmother as they do some light gardening. The young girl attempts to subtly bring up the contents of her mother’s diary during the course of this, and we see that the wedding rings allegedly sold during the IMF gold collection program are still in Jae-kyung’s possession. It riles up the adult Mee-do when she finds out this fact via text, and she states she feels awkward about the situation, even after all these years.
Soon, though, we transition back into the past, with the backdrop of 1998 flanked by a cycling Yi-jin. When there, we see the events at the end of the last episode shot from his perspective, evidently so that the young man’s tempered joy does not go unnoticed by the viewer. A humorous scene involving the broken peeing boy statue then follows, with Hee-do’s mother upset that the yin-yang balance in the household has now been thrown off.
However, there’s definitely still tension between the family of two. Hee-do appears tired and jealous at the attention given towards her celebrity mother on her first day at Tae Yang school and decides to sneak off for a toilet break. At that point, she eavesdrops on a conversation involving the popular Moon Ji-woong, an in-demand student who rejects a girl coldly, stating that he only needs fans. Shortly after, Ji-woong and Hee-do properly meet, with the former wanting to know whether the fencing prodigy plans on becoming friends with his crush, Yu-rim. They share a bit of admiration for the gold medalist, but it’s cut short by class president Ji Seung-wan, who is ready to give the new attendee the school tour.
It’s a short introduction to the building, though, with the art studio and science lab skimmed over (after all, Hee-do will barely be in class), and an understanding of where the bathroom and infirmary are already established. But there is a friendly piece of banter regarding where the cafeteria resides, so it’s reasonable to assume the two young women will grow closer as the show develops.
Next, we reach the fencing gym, and get introduced to the cohort of the club. Hee-do isn’t necessarily fussed by this, favouring staring at the door Yu-rim is set to walk through instead. When she does, a practice match between the pairing is set for three days time, the incentive being that if the newcomer wins, she can have her shoes back from Coach Yang. It doesn’t promise to be a friendly bout, though, as Yu-rim becomes insulting in the changing rooms after training, branding Hee-do as an idiot, and stating that she is “nothing.”
Following that, we see Yi-jin has a visit from his brother, Yi-hyun, who had fought with bullies at school over jibes regarding their families’ bankruptcy. The elder of the two seems worried, and says that he will bring Yi-hyun to live with him once he has the money to, but for now, he should listen to his Aunt. Afterwards, Yi-jin finds himself at Yu-rim’s snack shop, a place he is immediately made to feel welcome in by the doting owner, who quizzes him on the state of his family. At that point, we learn that it was his rich family who sponsored Yu-rim, and that the student had come to apologise for the fact this agreement can no longer continue.
At night, Yi-jin waits for Yu-rim, hoping to get the chance to apologise to her in person. The two share an emotional conversation, and there does seem to have potentially been history between them, as there is an element of care present. At the culmination of the chat, Yi-jin goes to seek out Hee-do, who had run away upon seeing the pair conversing. Sat at the bus station, and then on the bus, they talk about anything from Yu-rim’s crying, to the congratulations over Hee-do’s Tae Yang school attendance, to athletes not being able to get injured. It’s an obvious manoeuvre to show that both people are forging a bond, but it is a sweet portion of the episode nonetheless.
By the time Yi-jin reaches his house, he is confronted by his neighbour, a model student type. She wishes to know why he showers at 6:50am every day, and if he can move it to 15 minutes later so water pressure is preserved for her own washing up routine. He agrees, believing that the student is smart, rather than bizarre.
The following day, Hee-do is repeatedly ignored by Yu-rim, and finds herself disappointed by the fact that she will never get close to the athlete she admires. She opens up to her chat room buddy, who wants to break their barrier and meet up, and we then see who this internet alias appears to be: Yi-jin. They soon meet at a maths academy (although not for the purposes of shattering their online anonymity), and banter about Hee-do’s lack of smarts. They then go their separate ways, one to a job interview, and the other to the important fencing bout against Yu-rim.
It’s a gripping encounter, the fencing match, and we get some intriguing context there too. When the two were younger, they had fought at a Junior fencing competition, with Hee-do coming out as the victor in a mismatch of sorts. In the present day, it’s a much tighter affair, and Hee-do only wins by a single point, but there’s the rumblings of a tense rivalry amidst the supposed friendly match, and eventual changing room confrontation. A tactical run down of why the match was lost by the gold medalist Yu-rim is sandwiched in between, along with a warning sent by Coach Yang that everyone will know her moves now, and that the hardest opponent in fact is a newcomer, not necessarily a serial winner.
In his job interview, Yi-jin gets rejected for being overqualified, the interviewer bitter over the student’s Yonsei University credentials. He’s then later met with more antagonism from his neighbour, before we cut to the next day at Tae Yang high school. There’s a funny interaction between Ji-woong and Seung-wan here which shows off their friendship, as well as some backstory towards what the young man gets up to in his free time, and his affection towards Yu-rim.
In her office, Coach Yang congratulates Hee-do for her win, informing her not to belittle her achievements, and to continue eating well, as her strength is, pardon the pun, her strength. The fencing upstart is then sent on an errand to the broadcasting club, where she discovers that Yi-jin used to present a radio show back in 1994. Described as “fun, rich and handsome,” the change is noticeable between then and his present state, emphasised by a cheery flashback which sees him as an enthusiastic youngster full of energy with the world at his feet, and then a morbid look at how the IMF crisis purged his family, and his prospects too.
When Hee-do goes to drop off something at Yi-jin’s house later that night, we see him confronted by two restless men owed money from his family. The young man is evidently shaken, as you’d expect, and it even affects the onlooking high school student. As such, he promises to never be happy again, and that he’ll spend his entire life thinking of the pain of others instead. When the two friends do end up face-to-face, there’s an air of upset which lingers before they converse outside of a supermarket, and open up to each other about their dreams. It turns out Yi-jin wanted to work at NASA, but it appears that ambition is firmly in the past.
Nevertheless, Hee-do seems to be some comfort to the depressed Yi-jin, and the story about the radio show he used to host is shared. It touches the elder of the two, who confesses that she is like he was at 18, and that he would “desperately” wish to turn back time. “I miss the things I used to worry about,” he says, before listing the trivial things he used to trouble himself with. So, in a bid to cheer Yi-jin up, Hee-do takes him to her old school grounds, turning a faucet upside down and letting the water spray upwards. But it’s not enough for Yi-jin, who flips the entire row and lets the water spray emphatically into the sky. It’s a happy, exciting moment of freedom for both, and as they run away from the scene when a warden reaches them, that joy turns to affection. “From now on, when you hang out with me, you can be happy and keep it a secret,” Hee-do states, a request which sends a noticeably touching ripple through Yi-jin, who smiles in response.
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