To say that Lee Kwangsoo’s last episode on Running Man was an emotional event would be an understatement. For 11 years, he turned up every week to entertain the viewers with his antics. He worked hard for every laugh, sacrificed his dignity and did his very best to avoid penalty. He bluffed his way to victory, he competed fiercely, he faced his fears all in the name of variety entertainment.
In his last episode, Kwangsoo connived with PD Choi Bo Pil to fulfill a secret mission. While the members thought they were secretly helping Kwangsoo, (and themselves) to get high end prizes on his last run, it turned out that Kwangsoo picked out the items as farewell gifts to his members. He diligently made sure that each one would succeed in getting the gift that he had chosen for them.
The concept of the Kwangsoo’s final episode was simple. In order to be reformed and released to society, he must serve a sentence of 1050 years (meted by an actual judge) for over 3,000 “crimes” he committed in the show’s 559 episodes, accumulated over the period of 11 years. Of course, this includes assault, betrayal, public indecency which our beloved giraffe was well known for. Members were given the task of taking the most number of pictures with Kwangsoo, with the first placer receiving the same amount of gifts that Kwangsoo will receive at the end of the episode. For his part, Kwangsoo needs to make sure all the members get an equal number of photos so he can give his gifts to him at the end of the show.
The members tried to be funny as always, because Kwangsoo wanted to film like they did every Monday but from time to time, there were lulls when their eyes would meet and you would find the sadness beneath the laughter and the jokes.
Eleven years together on a show is no joke. And for audiences and cast members, revisiting the places where the show made a lot of memories made it feel like saying goodbye to a family member. I love all the members but Kwangsoo is the heart of Running Man. He has the natural gift of comedy and quick wit that is unrivalled in the industry. And he is much beloved in every part of the world because viewers recognize him for the gem that he is.
Throughout the hour and a half run of the final episode, I found myself ugly crying, so much that I had to blow snot from my nose a couple of times and remove my glasses every few minutes to wipe my eyes from all the tears. It was touching to learn how much Kwangsoo is loved by everyone, which makes his departure even more heartbreaking.
Throughout the episode, it became even more obvious how kind and professional Kwangsoo was, and how much he cared for his fellow cast members. At times, I felt like Jong Kook was too hard on him but the way he showed his brotherly love to Kwangsoo made me believe that theirs is a relationship that goes beyond professional. Jae Seok, who is closest to Kwangsoo tried to lighten the mood several times but he was obviously already missing Kwangsoo even before they parted. As the production flashed the memorable moments that Kwangsoo shared with Running Man members and the staff, it broke my heart that his journey had to end.
The actual gifts that production gave to Kwangsoo were so precious — an unlimited pass to the Running Man set, an actual name tag in gold, an album of photos taken during his final episode, and hundreds of messages from the Running Man staff. Viewers could feel how much love and thought was poured into the gifts and it makes me cry even as I write this. Kwangsoo deserves all the love.
Through letters and music that was played on the LP Bar, Running Man members conveyed their message to Kwangsoo — to them, he is not just a friend, or a co-worker. He is family, and they will forever be part of each other’s lives.
After reading PD Chul Min and PD Bo Pil’s letters to Kwangsoo, it makes me want to believe that Kwangsoo will run again, perhaps as a guest in the future. I hope he makes use of the all access pass to visit the set whenever, and wherever he goes, I hope our Prince of Asia succeeds. He deserves it. Farewell to our dear Giraffe, run free and do what you want without penalties. Thank you for all the years or laughter.
PS. If you’re planning to watch the episode, prepare a hanky — no, a towel — and be ready to bawl your eyes out.