Twenty-Five Twenty-One season 1, episode 15 recap – jubilation and devastation

By Nathan Sartain
Published: April 2, 2022
View all
K-Drama Netflix series Twenty-Five Twenty-One season 1, episode 15


A rawer episode that sublimely balances jubilation, devastation, tragedy, and the perils of distance.

This recap of the K-Drama Netflix series Twenty-Five Twenty-One season 1, episode 15 contains spoilers. 

Read the recap of the previous episode.

Twenty-Five Twenty-One season 1, episode 15 recap

We start with a loop back to Yi-jin discussing his news report on Yu-rim’s nationality change with her before it unfolds. He’s upset, but the fencer is understanding, and respects the fact that the journalist doesn’t apologise. She admits that she’s actually relieved that it’s Yi-jin reporting on the situation first, and that she hates reporters who make things up. There is one request though, that Yi-jin reports that the decision was made solely because of money, as that way Yu-rim’s parents would be protected.

Flashing forward, we pick up where we left off last episode, with Yi-jin breaking down in tears, and Hee-do greeting him. “You always hide when you’re in pain,” she says, before listening to her partner verbally express his regret in making people turn against Yu-rim. At that point, Hee-do approaches to wrap herself around him in a comforting embrace, and explains that Yu-rim herself said that he was just doing his job, and that it should be accepted. After some more consoling, the two hug again, composing themselves to later paint over the hurtful graffiti. While doing so, Hee-do offers a “warning” to her boyfriend, that she will share everything that is his, including his “sadness, happiness and despair.” She continues to tell him not to hide, and that she will be lonely if he does not lean on her. “Let’s suffer together when we’re in pain,” the fencer adds, which gets a coy smile from Yi-jin.

At UBS, Yi-jin requests to Jae-kyung that he transfers to the newsroom in any department but sports. Hee-do’s mother sees right through this, humorously referring to his statement as a “sweet profession of love,” but understands where he is coming from once learning the details of their relationship. So, she agrees, and sends him to local news. At that point, Yi-jin asks if there is anything more his superior has to say about his relationship with Hee-do. “Don’t fight,” is the blunt answer, delivered with a warm smile.

Arriving at his new desk, Yi-jin greets his friend Jung-hyuk, who instantly says that a smile like his doesn’t belong in local news. It’s a breakneck job, and plenty of information about a story involving an arrested protester is relayed in the car not five minute after Yi-jin has joined the team, yet Jung-hyuk also sees the funny side of this career change, pointing out that the only reason the journalist transferred is Hee-do. He does, however, add that it may come back to bite him.

Meanwhile, Hee-do is ecstatic when she receives an email from Yu-rim, something which transitions into a mashup of both athletes training, and adapting, in their respective countries. One has the pressure of being a stranger somewhere, whereas the other needs to break out on her own domestically. We do also discover that Yi-jin is much busier now too, something which leads to him being continuously late for dates. Hee-do doesn’t mind too much, though, acknowledging that they are sacrificing sleep to see each other. Towards the end of the flitting between emails (and numerous snippets of the womens’ lives), Ji-woong visits his girlfriend in Russia. It cheers the Olympian up, but not overly so, given she will still be alone on New Year’s Eve.

Disappointingly for Hee-do, she too will most likely be alone on December 31st, given Yi-jin has to cover a story. As it turns out, he’s reporting on the celebrations, enjoying the atmosphere as people wait for the bell-ringing to signify the start of 2001. Fortunately though, Hee-do is also there, and before long the journalist pulls her away from the crowd to a secluded spot with a picturesque view and plenty of privacy. Ergo, they enjoy the celebrations alone, while also agreeing to honour Hee-do’s wish to take out a couples plan on their phones to allow for more conversation time while they’re at it.

Next, we discover that Seung-wan has been accepted into university, and has been voted the freshman department representative. Additionally, she has turned into a pseudo-photographer for Ji-woong, who posts pictures of himself on a website where he claims he is “super famous.” He wants to know whether he should create his own webpage for people like him who like clothes, claiming that models are too unrealistic. Ji-woong’s ambition includes posting pictures of himself and everyday people he finds fashionable, and it appears that it will soon come to fruition. Hee-do relays this information over email to Yu-rim, but we see that on the Russian athlete’s computer, these attempts at communication, plus more, are left unopened.

While eating and venting to each other over food and work, Yi-jin and Jung-hyuk receive a phone call regarding a story involving a collapsed crane at a construction site. The former goes to the site, while the latter heads to the hospital. Meanwhile, Hee-do had an x-ray for a potential hand injury, and on her way home encounters her partner reporting on the deceased victims of the crane incident. She sees how shaken he is in having to discuss the event, and desperately wants to comfort him. But she keeps her distance, and later we see Yi-jin open up about the preventable tragedies to his superior, hurt by the fact that these events are recurring. “I don’t want to grow numb,” Yi-jin says when told to do so, stating that he wishes to emphasise with people instead.

After telling Jung-hyuk that he is foregoing sleep to drink, Hee-do, who has been sat on another table the entire time, ponders whether he could have used that time to see her instead. It kickstarts a comedic exchange, and the journalist fusses over his girlfriend to the point Jung-hyuk decides to leave due to second hand embarrassment. Together, the young couple then get drunk together, before sharing a sweet bedroom scene when they get back to Yi-jin’s house. “Let’s love with no regrets while we’re alive,” the journalist states, watching over the semi-sleeping Hee-do affectionately. A few moments later, the fencer confesses that she watched Yi-jin work, and explains that she didn’t go over to comfort him due to her supporting his career. This leads to the journalist embracing his partner, and he informs her that he felt the exact same way when watching her fence. They then share some sincere words with each other, and end with a tender statement of “I love you, in every way.”

While the Korean fencing team all use computers, Hee-do stares at her empty inbox, wondering if something has happened to her friend, Yu-rim. At that moment, a teammate begins to make a fuss over an article, one which appears to contain a quote from the Russian athlete claiming that Hee-do is no match for her. It’s laughed off by the target, though, who dismisses it as a journalist simply twisting words. At the Korea national team media day, Hee-do is naturally asked about the interview, but instead of rising to controversy, she simply deflects the question, knowing that it will get twisted if she answers truthfully. Here, she also threatens that if any editing or manipulation is to happen, she simply will not give an interview again.

In Madrid, Yu-rim goes to open the door of the Korean dressing room, only to stop herself. However, coach Yang quickly spots her, and rushes to hug her. Then, she begins fussing too, asking how her former pupil is coping living abroad. It’s a nice moment, but Yu-rim does quickly move the topic onto Hee-do, the person she wishes to meet the most. So coach Yang goes inside to fetch her, only to return unaccompanied, as Hee-do does not wish to see her friend. Upset, Yu-rim then departs. When coach Yang wonders why she wouldn’t meet her friend, Hee-do simply states: “Because I need to win.”

In the semi-finals, Yu-rim and Hee-do compete side-by-side against differing opponents, winning their respective matches (although the former’s victory comes in more intense fashion) to secure a final against each other. In the newsroom back in Korea, Yi-jin is happy to hear the news of the pair’s success, and gets ready to watch the match between the friendly rivals.

In due time, the final starts, and in spite of the outcome already being revealed last episode, it’s intense stuff. The stakes are made clear in between clips of the match, with Yu-rim disappointed by the twisting of her words and the burden she carries due to Korea’s resentment towards her, while Hee-do has to juggle the pressure of being the sole fencer that her country hangs hopes on. We also see some of the more personal stuff too, including Yu-rim’s teary attempts at composing an email to her friend, and her self-acceptance that she can’t be fully honest with Hee-do anymore.

As the final reaches a climax, a reversal of the Asian Games takes place, with Hee-do debating the referee’s decision over who moved the quickest. It doesn’t ultimately affect the result, though, as the Korean athlete eventually overcomes the deficit to claim gold in the heatedly contested match. There are no grand celebrations though, as the two athletes cry at the culmination of proceedings, hug each other warmly, and work through their hardships simply by comforting each other. Soon, the tears give way to a joyful emotion, and the pair continue their hug as we see that Seung-wan, her mother, and Ji-woong have all been brought to tears by the spectacle when watching it on TV. Elsewhere, Yu-rim’s parents vocalise their pride, while Jae-kyung and Yi-jin both congratulate each other on the result, and arrange for the three to have a dinner together.

In the present, Min-chae sends Hee-do a message about the Madrid final, and we hear that the present day version of the fencer is well aware that her child is reading her diary. It doesn’t bother Hee-do, though, who finds herself reminiscing anyway, observing high-schoolers, and visiting the tunnel where her and Yi-jin scrubbed graffiti off of walls. She narrates her fondness for her diary, and the time in her life when “friendship and love were all that mattered.” She also expresses her own wishes for Min-chae to experience the same type of youth. But throughout the scene, Hee-do continuously uses the word brief to describe these times, something which could ultimately be a harsh foreshadowing of what’s to come. There’s that, and also the fact that the next diary that Min-chae looks for has been lost.

Moving back to the past, Hee-do sets her gold medal on her cabinet before settling down with a yoghurt drink, checking her texts, and calling her boyfriend. Both her and Yi-jin express that they miss each other, excited for their meal later on. When the time does arrive, Jae-kyung and Hee-do are left alone, and while the fencer appears to be understanding (which pleases her mother), the disappointment is clear. In the car later on, Jae-kyung presses for an answer on whether it’s ok for the couple to struggle in coordination, as it is something which would see both continuously have to be sorry at different times, and a relationship that will always leave one person disappointed. Hee-do, though, insists she is fine with it. And, despite her upset over cancellations, the ecstasy when the couple do meet seems to trump all other emotions.

Excitedly, the two arrange to go on a trip together, even going as far as to shop for matching suitcases in anticipation of their holiday. At the station, it’s a different story, and Hee-do is left waiting as she sees news of 9/11 unfold on the television. Then, as expected, Yi-jin delivers the news that he will not be able to meet her, as it’s clear he is needed for reporting. On the bus, Hee-do reflects on her mother’s words, arriving at the destination alone, greeted only by a thankful, and regretful, note discussing their future together. A text follows, explaining that Yi-jin will be going to New York the next morning.

When Yi-jin arrives in the U.S., he is swiftly sent on an assignment to obtain interviews from the Korean survivors of 9/11. The first person he crosses takes instant issue with this, however, cursing at the journalist before slamming the door on him. That same day, in a hospital, Yi-jin witnesses the devastation firsthand, walking past dying, dead, and injured people to try and speak to someone for an interview. One person wishes to discuss the ordeal with him, though, simply to alert people that someone who is still in the building may still be alive. On the television, Hee-do watches her partner deliver the report, and wonders whether is alright. When she calls though, there is no answer.

The next day, Hee-do takes a phone call from Yi-jin, and finds out that her partner may be gone for an entire month. “I miss you a lot,” he says, but it’s obvious that the real sufferer in terms of the relationship is Hee-do. Being in New York is putting a different type strain on the journalist though, as he continuously has to come to terms with the increasing levels of devastation.

Sweetly, Hee-do loses a match on purpose at the training centre so she can watch Yi-jin on TV, appearing overjoyed when she realises she got there in time. This continues, and every day the athlete sits alone, in front of the same TV, watching her partner’s reports in the hopes of seeing his face. On the one occasion where it is just his voice, Hee-do fields a phone call from her partner, finding out that he will be in America for a longer period (it’s already been well over the promised month). Yi-jin does vow he’ll be back before New Year, though, and exclaims how much he misses his girlfriend, something which is dually reciprocated.

Conducting more detailed interviews, Yi-jin begins to struggle sleeping, needing the help of medication to calm himself. In the office, he talks with his colleague about the nightmares he has begun to endure, with both sharing similar experiences. “I believe I need to tell people this is hell,” Yi-jin says when asked what’s keeping him in New York, with his hopes that his reporting can help prevent such a tragedy from happening again. The older reporter calmly quashes his ambitions, though, informing the journalist not to keep his hopes up. Later that night, in the cold air, Yi-jin talks with Hee-do about everything, opening up about the “hell” he is living in, and the harsh words of the reporter. He does dismiss his girlfriend’s attempts at calling this experience growth too, something which upsets Hee-do, who now believes that her support no longer reaches Yi-jin.

The ending

On her break, Hee-do heads home, warmly greeted by her mother who is departing for work. Before long, some shocking news is delivered, as Jae-kyung informs her daughter that Yi-jin has applied for a job opening in New York. “I guess Yi-jin will apologise to me again,” Hee-do says, before adding that she wishes he would stop doing so. At Bosingak, Hee-do celebrates the New Year alone, while she narrates the fact that she continues to send support to Yi-jin, but that the more she does, the further they grow apart. Solemnly, she watches a different reporter stand in the place her partner once did, reporting on the same news he should be reporting on. Naturally, she gets teary over this, remembering another broken promise, and walking away only to be greeted by fans. When one asks whether she has a boyfriend, Hee-do stutters, before saying “I’m not sure.”

At the private spot they shared the last New Year’s Eve in, Hee-do watches isolated, and we see that Yi-jin does the same in New York, secluded from the rest of the group as he stares into space. Together, they reflect on the year prior, where they promised to always head to their private space on December 31st, and where Yi-jin said the words “let’s be together forever” to the happiness of Hee-do, who sincerely agreed. As the screen distorts, the episode ends.

What did you think of the K-Drama Netflix series Twenty-Five Twenty-One season 1, episode 15? Comment below!

You can watch this series with a subscription to Netflix.

Netflix, Streaming Service, Weekly TV
View all