“Listen up” DaYing snaps back through clenched teeth, “There is only one reason I would come back to this team: I came back to help my best buddy, not out of self-interest. But you, you thought I was a self-serving manipulator after all this?” He throws his arm in disbelief and walks away from Xiang to retrieve his bag. But Xiang’s not finished. He closes his eyes and continues calmly, “You sound so heroic. No need to beat around the bush. If you still have feelings for JieEr, just say it, I can put a large red bow on her and give her to you.” “WHAT-ARE-YOU-SAYIN’? Enraged, DaYing smashes his bag against the floor, marches towards Xiang and jams a fist in Xiang’s cheek, sending him into the wall. “Did I say something wrong?” Xiang continues to be a pain in the ass despite DaYing’s anger. Indignant, DaYing replies with syncopated emphasis, “You may verbally assault me but don’t you dare denigrate JieEr’s love for you.”
“I didn’t ask her to do that.” Xiang yells back in desperation, like a failed debater who knew he had lost the argument but struggles to cling onto the last thread of reason. “WHAT?” bearing his teeth now, DaYing sends out another fist, knocking Xiang onto the floor. “If it weren’t for the fact that I knew how deep JieEr’s feeling runs, if it weren’t for the fact that you were by best friend, I WOULD NEVER HAVE GIVEN UP!” DaYing loses control for a fraction of a second and sends his fist out for the third time. Then pulled back by the faint voice of reason, he stops in mid motion, leaving his fist suspended in air, inches from Xiang’s face.
(Okay, I took the liberty to embellish the dialogue so it sounds better. But man, this scene is so not cool. Boys, leave your drama in high school!)
Wiping a small droplet of blood from the corner of his mouth, Xiang says lightly, “This should make you feel better.” Stunned by Xiang’s comment, DaYing slowly puts down his fist. Xiang continues, “I know about your grandma’s story. If you considered me your best pal, you shouldn’t keep it to yourself.” DaYing’s mouth drops open, “So, you… What you said just then…” Xiang cracks a weak smile and struggles up, “You’ve done so much for JieEr and I, I can’t ever thank you enough. So I thought maybe, letting you release those bottled up feelings is the least I can do to repay the debt DongFang family owes you.” “I don’t need you to do anything for me. As long as you treat JieEr well, you don’t owe me anything.”
(Nevermind, this scene is not as uncool. But, what’s with the flashing lighting in the background? ‘its blinding. OwOwOw my eye!)
W and DaYing returned to DaYing’s home town and soon find themselves hitting a gigantic brick wall. Tie Lan left a considerable amount of possessions behind but none has to do with her famous dribbling technique. Meanwhile, Xiang is growing more and more irritated at himself for not being able to break out of the mold that had kept him from improving. The trio agrees that the only time they’ve seen Xiang struggle with his own potential and raise above it is when he was forced to a tight corner by Can. Speaking of which, WuJi Zun’s plan to shape Xiang into a respectable opponent by reintroducing Can into Xiang’s life worked effortlessly well. Upon mentioning his name, Can limps into the court with his trademark nose wipe and crooked smile… (YAY he’s baaaaack! *does victory dance*)
Progress is made on both fronts. Can’s addition to the team provides Xiang with a challenge to work against. W’s persistence plus DaYing’s stroke of luck leads to the revelation of a lead to the dribbling technique — the secret lies in the ball Tie Lan left DaYing. (Before I explain, prepare yourself to get into SciFi mode, other wise your rationalization is going to jump out and hit you on the head with a pan.) The golden threads on the ball is made with an (undisclosed) special material that alters the way the ball bounces. In other words, it makes the ball bouncier and hard to control. (That’s an understatement. W had said the goes against the laws of physics. *rolls eyes*) When DaYing tries to control the ball, he inadvertently learns, through trial and error, to use Tie Lan’s famous dribbling technique. (If it sounds far fetched, that’s because it is. But hey, that’s why willing suspension of disbelief is there to bridge the gulf between reality and imagination.)
Can’s training with Xiang proves to be difficult. Watching Xiang getting up and falling and getting up again, even Can feels unbearable for him. (Bet you haven’t seen Can wearing a soft expression such as the one on the right.) Finally, Can decides to call it quits, explaining with brave honesty that the situation has changed. He no longer holds any grudge against Xiang and Xiang no longer fears him. They have officially dissolved any lingering resentment or guilt and gone back to the happy old days of Young Master and Ah Fu. Consequently, this punch-bag kind of practice won’t do Xiang any good, it only makes those who care suffer with him. Unless… “Unless there is a second person that can create a tremendous amount of pressure, otherwise, it’s just a waist of time.”
DaYing on the other hand, faces an entirely different challenge. In order to learn the technique invented by his grandma, he must first forget everything he has learned about basketball because they only serve to limit him in the box of existing knowledge and hinder his integration with the flow of motion imposed by nature. (Sounds kind of like Tai Chi.) He must infuse him self with the ball, get to know it, and eventually take control of it — and that is his grandma’s dribbling technique.
If Can alone doesn’t exert enough pressure to push Xiang to the edge of a cliff, Can plus Qiu Kui should do it. But the three of them are well aware that both Can and Qiu Kui are the best of the best in street basketball domain. Normal people can’t even muster the courage to play against one of them, not to mention the two combined. A small mistake or a brief inattention may cause him a major injury. Although torn between respecting DongFang Xiang’s will and the desire to not hurt him, Can takes the first step. He snatches the ball from Xiang, bumps him onto the floor and looks back at JieEr, “Zhan JieEr, I know you cannot bare to see him hurt like this. But save your girlish feelings for later.” “I’m not Zhan JieEr”, JieEr calls back, “I am Qiu Kui.” But before she can finish, a stream of hot tears already escaped her eyes. The torturous training proceeds.
They can’t all come to an impasse, because then the drama would be stagnant (and we’d be switching channels).
After a day of practice, learning to take control of the special basketball, DaYing concludes that he has learned the technique. W is unconvinced. She tosses a normal ball to DaYing and asks him to reiterate the graceful steps. Oozing with confidence, DaYing throws the ball in midair and jumps to the side to catch it. CLUNK, it hits him square on the face and bounces off onto his foot, then victoriously, the ball rolls towards W’s foot and submissively stays there. “What? This one doesn’t count, let’s try again.” Same result. The problem is not that DaYing got lucky when he was using Tie Lan’s ball. It’s because he hasn’t really learned the method, so when he is handed with an ordinary ball, the feel leaves him completely. “Oh don’t worry.” DaYing waves a hand to ease W’s concern, “That’s easy. If worse comes to worse, we can always secretly replace a normal ball with this special ball.” W raises an eyebrow and picks up a random stick lying on the counter and smacks it on DaYing’s head. DaYing ducks the stick and moves away from her with a kind of intricate agility W has never seen him done before. Then it hits them like a wave crashing down on a rock — he’s using the technique. “Come on, hit me again.” DaYing urges. W waves the stick again, DaYing ducks again. “I remember now.” DaYing exclaims excitedly, “No wonder it always feels so familiar whenever I play with that ball. I remember now. Each time I’m using the technique, it felt like grandma is chasing me with her stick. It’s the same feeling!”
“W, keep hitting me, I want to know if I’ve learned it after all.” W considers it for a moment, then a sly smile creeps into her eyes. “It’s no fun hitting you by myself. Let’s get some more people.”
Some more people ends up being the entire village.
Don’t think just because DaYing grew up in the village, the villagers feel bad hitting him. In the face of a few extra hundred bucks, they’d do anything. And so, W has prepared her wallet to award anyone that gets to hit DaYing, $100 TWD per hit.
They did it, W and DaYing did it.
But Xiang…? WuJi Zun visits Xiang at the gym, who is exhausted and frustrated. Zun retells the the story of the Ultimate Battle of the Rome warriors where the only way the battle can end is through the death and sacrifice of a warrior. He concludes that the reason Xiang failed to raise above himself this time isn’t due to physical constraint or limitation on skill. Instead, it’s because Xiang still fears his grandpa and that fear takes away from his determination. Without the drive and motivation it takes to win a strong opponent, there is no hope for Xiang and JieEr’s future.
The actual competition starts the following day. The instant DaYing sees Can dressed in a PiLi jersey, he seizes the opportunity to give Can a hard time. 😀 The opponent is formally introduced. Since it’s the last episode, all the elite players whom PiLi has defeated in the past decide to gather together and form a brand new team centering around the WuJi brothers to celebrate the end of Hot Shot. (Whoot whoot…?)
Jump ball. Starring WuJi Wei and Yuan DaYing. Result: tie. The ball bounces off the floor and shoots upward. WuJi Zun and DongFang Xiang jump up to catch the ball, Zun snatches it a half second before Xiang could grab it. Without further ado, Zun shows off Kang-Long-Wu-Hui and scores the first two points, not a minute has past since the game commenced.
Xiang has the ball. He dribbles it, turns left, turns right. Everything is within WuJi Zun’s expectation. No use. I know your strategy. Right at that instant, Xiang pulls the corner of his lip upward and lets himself fall back while bringing the ball in front of him. He shoots and scores in front of WuJi Zun’s face. Slightly surprised at the change in strategy, Zun breaks into a small smile. This is getting interesting.
The Tian Wu team shoots, Xiang jumps up and his finger touches the ball, altering its path. “DaYing, rebound!” DaYing and WuJi Wei jump up at the same time to catch the off coursed ball. DaYing catches the ball, Wei slams it away from DaYing’s hand. They both drop at the same time, then immediately, Wei shoots up to grab the ball. DaYing plants himself on the ground and waits with a smile. Wei retrieves the ball, as he’s falling, DaYing jumps up and takes the ball from Wei. Touché.
Right when DaYing loosens up to brag about having a better hunch on timing and a more connected team, he misses the flying ball XiaoYun is passing to him. Wei intercepts it, but Xiang is quicker. He simply takes it from Wei’s hands and heads towards the hoop to do his version of Kang-Long-Wu-Hui. Zun jumps up to block him, Xiang spots Zun in his peripheral field of vision and stops in midair for a fraction of a second, causing Zun to hit his arm and commit a foul. (How he manages to defy gravity for a second and dangle in midair like a ghost is beyond me.) “Did you pause on purpose?” Xiang smirks, “You would smack it down anyway. Might as well let you commit your foul.” Two points easily scored.
2:4, PiLi leading. Not so fast, WuJi Wei gets the ball and slams dunk (or is it slam dunks?) with enough ferocity that the force throws DaYing outside of the side line. Four minutes into the game, PiLi Wolves has only scored eight points, all of which are earned by Xiang. When the first quarter finally ends, all five of the PiLi players are exhausted beyond comprehension. Slightly agitated, Can walks up to W, requesting to let him play. W comforts her team that although the gap between the two teams are widening fast, everything is still within control. (As long as she doesn’t faint in the middle of the competition.) To raise morale, W turns to DaYing and says with a smile, “Watch my hand, I will signal when you can use the technique. And that will be soon.” A pleased smile surfaces DaYing’s face.
The second quarter starts. WuJi Wei has the ball. DaYing looks towards W, she nods and smiles at him. DaYing narrows his eyes and ducks his body, time to use the secret weapon. Almost too fast to see, he slides past WuJi Wei, stealing the ball from him and zig zags away towards the basket and slam dunk! DongFang Shuo stands up, shock and fear written all over his face.
A deafening cheer erupted in the audience seat. But there is dead silence on the court.
Once again, Yuan DaYing scores another two points for PiLi like a ninja zipping through the opponents. (All he needs is ninja-like music to go with his moves.) But PiLi is playing against no ordinary opponent. Whenever DaYing uses his secret weapon to penetrate TianWu’s defense, Zun watches each and every one of his moves. (Which is why Can is still on the bench.) By the end of the second quarter, Zun is able to follow DaYing to the basket. Before long, he will find a way to block off DaYing as well. (WuJi Zun’s some super learning machine with exceptionally developed visual system and pretty eyes. :D)
When the second half begins, TianWu has brought back three phenomenal players to better assist the WuJi brothers. All of these players have been renamed WuJi, presumably all are Tian Wu Ren. DaYing tries his old trick, but this time, it was blocked off by Zun. The game following that turns to an one sided shooting practice for TianWu and the difference in score dragged out by DaYing in the previous quarter has been caught up and surpassed.
Can is switched on to formulate a triangle with DaYing and Xiang. The three of them work impeccably. Can’s unpredictable moves plus DaYing’s inordinate dribble is only perfected by Xiang’s infallible shooting skill. The situation stabilizes for PiLi quickly. At the last second, Xiang’s slam dunk ties PiLi with TianWu, giving PiLi a last opportunity — the after shock of the slam dunk also cracked Xiang’s leg bone. But the game is not over yet.
It had just begun.
The pressure of time and the fatigue pile together to make winning a far fetched but not impossible dream. Can attempts to block the opponent but fails and falls on the ground. Xiang and DaYing both reach out a hand to help him up. Can apologizes, “Sorry, I didn’t stop him.” “Don’t say sorry.” DaYing replies, “We are all brothers. And, we haven’t lost.”
There is 10 seconds left and PiLi is behind by three points. But none of them are giving up hope.
It’s DongFang Shuo who gives up first. He walks towards the PiLi bench and engages in a private talk with Xiang. “If this is going to cause you your basketball career,” he says, “Then let’s stop. I will go tell them. If you want to be with JieEr, then so be it.” “Grandpa,” Xiang replies, “This game cannot terminate.” “What are you talking about?” “Grandpa, if you stop the competition now, WuJi team might disintegrate because of that. Then the dream you’ve invested for so many years would go into waste. I can be ruined. But I don’t want to disappoint you.” (Old man, what have you done?!)
It was an emotional last 10 seconds for PiLi. But they did it. The game ended with DongFang Xiang’s three point shot. A tie with TianWu.
But the Ultimate Battle isn’t over. According to legend, when the warriors hear the battle drum, they no longer fight for victory; they no longer fight for honor; they no longer fight for themselves. What’s left is the will to fight, to try, and keep trying.
Watching her team, her comrades, her babies reach the end of this journey, W closes her beautiful eyes with the smile of someone who had lived a full life. She falls, and falls, and is, no more.
It ended on a positive note. So I would say this is a satisfying episode. It doesn’t always have to end with the happily-ever-after. That’s just life. I’m glad that the writers decided to center around the theme of friendship and bring back the basketball games in the last episode to remind us why we watched Hot Shot in the first place.
From excluding Can in the conversation at the start of the game to extending a friendly hand to help him up towards the end of the game, a transformation takes place to celebrate a kind of friendship we all yarn for, and the glorification of brotherhood is where the strength of the drama lie (in terms of plot). To me, the love triangle is a plot device, whose purpose is to elevate the camaraderie DaYing and Xiang shares and it would clean up the drama if the muddy relationship angst on the side is cut out. But then again, consumer tastes often get in the way of original work. (Funny how I called it original work after all its resemblance to Slam Dunk.)
The drama ended in a symbolic yet poetic way. W is doomed to die, but her death is artfully done, both diverging from the typical terminal illness cliché and conveying the message that: we should all try to find something worthy of our time and if we are lucky enough to find it, we should not anyone discourage us from investing 100% into it.
So this is it. Thanks for everyone who has left a comment in the past to rant and rave your thoughts on the drama. Your comment is my motivation. 😀