[Discuss Away!] Running Man Episode 559 + Thoughts on Lee Kwang-soo Leaving Running Man

Get your tissues ready for this episode! I originally was going to update this post with a recap of ‘Running Man’ episode 559, but I wanted to get this post out first and this heavy feeling off my chest. A few weeks back, it was announced that Running Man’s traitor and giraffe very own Lee Kwang-soo would be leaving the show due to health reasons. The news undoubtedly caused many Running Man fans to be heartbroken over the news (me included) and left many people feeling devastated. Episode 559 was Kwang-soo’s final episode with the show and there were, undoubtedly, many tears that were shed. However, there’s also some comfort in knowing that Kwang-soo made the decision to prioritize himself and his health and his safety. For the past 11 years, he’s put everything and everyone else – including Running Man – first and now he can finally choose to focus on himself for once. To our dear Kwang-soo, you have worked hard and have done so well for the past 11 years.

Starting off with the episode itself, I shed so many tears while watching the entire thing. I wasn’t even two minutes into the episode when I started crying the moment Kwang-soo began to advertise the snacks that the staff got him at the beginning of his pre-recording episode interview because he thought it was PPL. It made me cry knowing that this would probably be our last time ever seeing him do that again (Kwang-soo’s PPL advertisement will never not be funny). It was only 2 minutes into the episode and I already began to cry (I’m such a crybaby).

Although the members tried to make this episode enjoyable by cracking some jokes and teasing each other and yelling at each other like they usually do, you could tell that there was this sadness that was sort of lingering in the air at the same time. As it hit closer to 6:30pm, the amount of time they would spend as eight got shorter and shorter and the feeling just got heavier and heavier as time passed. In between the jokes and the laughs and the conversations was this heavy feeling and this loud silence. You could tell that everyone was trying not to think about it and was just trying to film the episode as if it was a regular episode, but they were all dreading the inevitable moment of having to close off this chapter in ‘Running Man”s history. The photos that the photographer took of our cast members were all so so beautiful. The gifts that Kwang-soo got for the members was just a small representation of the huge amount of love, appreciation, and gratitude he has towards the members that has become like his second family. The letters that the members wrote Kwang-soo was just a small fraction of how much they adore and love Kwang-soo. Kwang-soo tearing up when Yoo Jae-suk correctly answered his father’s name also made me choked up. Before I knew it, tears were just rolling down my eyes uncontrollably. Kwang-soo’s own family was also a part of ‘Running Man’ and it means a lot to him. Plus, for Yoo Jae-suk to correctly remember his father’s name even after all these years must have meant a lot to Kwang-soo. Kwang-soo is loved by everyone and he loves everyone. There was so much love in that room at the LP bar, but there was also so much sadness at the same time. It was bittersweet watching that final scene at the LP bar.

Speaking of the LP bar, can we take a moment to talk about the letters? There were little bits of each letter that got to me and made me cry, but I think Jong-kook’s letter absolutely crushed me. His letter hit home the most for me because I also felt the same way as Jong-kook and thought the same thing. I too thought Kwang-soo would be there until the very end like how he was there at the very beginning. We all know how loyal Kwang-soo is to ‘Running Man’, I don’t think anyone imagined that Kwang-soo would be the member to leave. We all thought he would be there until the very end so it was just so devastating and shocking when news of his departure was announced. And by no means is this any of Kwang-soo’s fault. We all want him to be happy; we all want him to be able to do whatever he wants without having to worry about penalties or injuries. He dedicated the past eleven years of his life to ‘Running Man’, he should be able to dedicate the next 11 years of his life to doing what it is that he wants to do. But I’m also not going to lie, I resonated with Jong-kook’s letter; we all ultimately wanted Kwang-soo to be there until the very end because that’s what we thought he would do. Not everyone likes change, but change is inevitable and this is a decision that we will eventually learn to accept and have to respect. Like Yoo Jae-suk mentioned in the episode, life doesn’t always go as planned and that’s okay.

Other parts in the letters that stood out to me was Haha’s letter when he mentioned how he felt as if he would see Kwang-soo during the next recording because he saw Kwang-soo every week for the past 11 years. Yoo Jae-suk’s part in his letter when he pointed out how there was never a boring shoot because Kwang-soo was there also made me tear up. That’s a very beautiful way of commending Kwang-soo for the immense amount of hard work and effort he put into filming the show every week. When the other members were exhausted and burnt out, Kwang-soo stepped in and covered for them by putting in extra effort. Even though all the ‘Running Man’ episodes might not have been perfect by any means, they were enjoyable and funny because of Kwang-soo. Like Yoo Jae-suk said, there was never a boring episode or a boring shoot because Kwang-soo was around and his presence alone was enough. Kwang-soo was that difference maker. It was always a joy to have him around.

I’ve recapped certain ‘Running Man’ episodes here and there, but I don’t think I’ve ever really expressed on here just how much I love and appreciate Lee Kwang-soo. I’ve watched a lot of Korean variety shows growing up, I’ve been a fan of Korean entertainment for more than a decade, I’ve watched many Korean dramas and movies and I can confidently say that we’ve never gotten someone like Kwang-soo before. He’s so unique. He truly was his own person. He was so different; he was unlike anything or anyone we’ve ever seen on screen before. He shed his image and reputation as an actor and was so carefree on ‘Running Man.’ He didn’t care about the fact that he was an actor; he removed all of that worry and concern and image when he was on the show and he proved just how committed, loyal, and dedicated he was to the show. From the very beginning in 2010 to his very last episode, he was consistent. He was daring. He was bold. He was confident. Kwang-soo definitely showed something new that we’ve never really seen before in the Korean entertainment world and that’s something that I’m definitely going to miss. It’s not just that I’m going to miss him on ‘Running Man’ per se, but I’m also just gonna miss seeing his type of character in Korean variety shows in general. Kwang-soo was often known for his tricks and betrayals and his silly and ridiculous antics, but that’s what set him apart. That’s what set him apart from everyone else and it was so refreshing because we had never really seen anything like that until he showed up in ‘Running Man.’ Although all the members play their own crucial role in ‘Running Man’, I think we can all agree that Kwang-soo played a tremendous role in paving ‘Running Man’ to become what it is now.

Without Kwang-soo, there is no ‘Running Man’, but I would also like to argue that without ‘Running Man’, there is no Kwang-soo. The decision to leave ‘Running Man’ must have been a difficult one for him because ‘Running Man’ gave Kwang-soo the opportunity to promote himself. It put him on the map. It put him out there. He got more exposure due to his appearance as a fixed cast member on the show. He’s been able to create a name for himself through this show and that’s why I know this decision to leave wasn’t easy. He met so many people, he traveled around the world, he created everlasting friendships and relationships with the cast members and that’s something that he doesn’t take lightly. It’s something he will forever be grateful for. It’s something he will never take for granted. Because I love Kwang-soo so much and enjoy watching him on variety shows, I always got a little greedy and wished he would have appeared on more variety shows. I mean, his character and persona is so refreshing and he’s such a great fit for variety shows because he’s just so naturally funny. Kwang-soo is one of those people who is effortlessly funny and humorous and has the best comedic timing. He’s so funny without even trying and a part of me wishes he could have been on more variety shows. However, the fact that he wasn’t and appeared only on ‘Running Man’ as a fixed cast member proves just how loyal he was to the show and how much he loved it. He loved the show for so many reasons because it gave him everything he’s ever wanted and more. I know I shouldn’t be so greedy so I’m just so grateful that he was on the show for 11 years. I don’t think anyone expected ‘Running Man’ to last this long nor did anyone expect Kwang-soo to stay on for so long especially as someone whose primary occupation is an actor. I know I shouldn’t be so greedy, but a part of me wishes he was just taking a simple break and hiatus. A part of me wishes that he would take off as much time as needed and then come back one day. It’s just not going to be the same without Kwang-soo.

Kwang-soo is one of those people whose image on ‘Running Man’ completely differs from what he is behind the camera. He’s such a sweet, kind, and respectful man who takes good care of those around him. I appreciate just how much he’s done for the show and how much he was willing to let go for the show. Actors on variety shows often feel this struggle and conflict to balance both their variety show persona with their career as an actor and I’m sure that’s something Kwang-soo probably felt as well. He probably felt conflicted knowing that he has this image he should and is expected to uphold as an actor and then there’s his ‘Running Man’ persona where he’s known to be silly, comedic, ridiculous, and outgoing. I appreciate Kwang-soo for never being afraid to let everything go and how he simply enjoyed his time on ‘Running Man.’ I appreciate that he gave every single filming his all. I sure as hell appreciate Kwang-soo for keeping ‘Running Man’ going when the other members were exhausted. I’m not going to lie — as a loyal viewer every weekend, there were certain time periods throughout the show’s duration where I could tell the other cast members weren’t completely all the way there because they were exhausted. I mean, who wouldn’t be after more than a decade of non-stop filming and running? However, Kwang-soo always – and I mean always – gave it his all every single time. There was always 100% effort from him and I appreciate that so much about him. Sometimes, I felt like there were moments where he and Yoo Jae-suk carried the show. A part of that was due to their love and loyalty to the show, but also due to their love and kindness for the other cast members. They were willing to pour out so much more of themselves so the rest of the cast didn’t have to worry about pushing themselves too much. Kwang-soo gave up parts of himself so that everyone else on the show could relax and rest a bit.

Although I’m definitely very sad and heart-broken and the selfish one in me doesn’t want Kwang-soo to leave, I know his departure is for the better. After his car accident in February of last year, he needed time to recover, but he came back onto the show earlier than expected because of his love and loyalty to the show. I’m sad that he didn’t have the necessary time to heal and recover from the accident and that there’s still underlying consequences to that decision more than a year later, but I know it’s also what is necessary. ‘Running Man’ was known for being such a vigorous, physical, rough, and challenging show to film and the members have suffered from injuries in the past. Although the types of games have evolved and changed over the years so that the members aren’t doing as many physical activities and game any longer, the injuries have added up over the years and it’s really taken a big toll on all of their bodies. That’s why I can’t blame Kwang-soo for leaving. Even before his car accident, his body had already been going through a lot because of the show and the car accident only caused more shock, stress, and exhaustion to his body. Then he came back to the show even when he was still in his crutches because he loved the show so much. As a long-time viewer and fan of ‘Running Man’, I could sense that there was something off with Kwang-soo a couple of episodes back. I could sense that there was something bothering him or that there was something in the air. And I don’t know why or how I noticed it, but I could just tell that something wasn’t right. He just didn’t seem as enthusiastic as he had been in the past and it just didn’t seem like him. Fast forward a few weeks later and the announcement of his departure was released. Now it all makes sense and now I understand why he seemed out of it a few episodes back. I’m still very sad and I’m always going to be sad. I’m just as sad as I was when Gary left the show, but it feels so much worse this time because we got 11 whole years of Kwang-soo. He was one of the main reasons as to why I watched the show every week.

Out of all the things about Kwang-soo that I’m going to miss on the show, it’s definitely going to be his dynamic and chemistry with Yoo Jae-suk. When I tell you that I don’t think there’s any duo that is as dynamic, funny, amazing, and wonderful as Kwang-soo and Jae-suk, I really mean it. I really do mean it. Jae-suk and Kwang-soo just has this special connection and bond with each other that is unlike any other. They work soooo so so well together and they have the most amazing chemistry with each other. They’re both so funny individually, but they’re even greater and funnier when together. I seriously loved watching ‘Running Man’ because of the jokes between the two and all the times they would tease each other. I wished there were more variety shows with just Yoo Jae-suk and Kwang-soo. If the K-variety gods are listening to me, I would seriously watch that variety show all the time. That’s why I was excited for ‘Busted’ despite not being the biggest fan of the show itself. ‘Busted’ isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but it was the only other variety show where Jae-suk and Kwang-soo were cast members so I tuned into it. I love love love Yoo Jae-suk and Kwang-soo and I wish we could get to see more of them together. As selfish and greedy as this is, I wished we could have gotten to see more of them together in future ‘Running Man’ episodes. I wished we could have also gotten to see more of them outside of ‘Running Man’ as well. Who is Yoo Jae-suk going to tease now?

After falling in and out of love with so many celebrities, idols, and actors throughout the years, I can proudly say that Kwang-soo is definitely on my list of celebrities who I love and will always support. Yes, he’s known for being that reckless, funny, and childish person on ‘Running Man’, but Kwang-soo is truly so kind, respectful, and humble off the screen. He’s loved by many. He’s irreplaceable. He’s a great person and he has an awesome sense of humor. He’s a hard-worker, he’s someone with a good head on his shoulders, and he always gave ‘Running Man’ his all. I’m going to miss him on the show so much because his participation and role in the show was definitely something else. There is no other Kwang-soo. He truly was dynamic. It pains me to see him leave not only because he played such a big role on the show, but also because the cast members went through such a rough time. Along with the physically challenging and difficult games, there was a time when ‘Running Man’ was in a slump. It was truly so hard mentally and emotionally for the members to continue the show. Then there was the whole fiasco with Kim Jong-kook and Song Ji-hyo supposedly being kicked out from the show and then they eventually added Somin and Sechan whose additions to the show have definitely brightened up the ‘Running Man’ room. ‘Running Man’ went through some rough patches and bumps, but the show is in a much better place now so it breaks my heart even more to see that Kwang-soo left. But maybe this is also why Kwang-soo left. He left the show at peace knowing that it’s doing much much better in the present than it was a few years ago so he felt as if he could afford to make the decision to leave. Health always comes first. You should always think about yourself and what is best for you. For the past 11 years, Kwang-soo’s given up parts of himself to make fans happy. He’s made so many people, including me, laugh and I will forever be grateful for that.

Either way, it’s not going to be the same without Kwang-soo. When ‘Infinity Challenge’ ended, I was sad, but I could put up with it because 1 Night 2 Days Season 3 and ‘Running Man’ was still airing. And then when ‘1 Night 2 Days Season 3’ ended, I was absolutely heartbroken because (with the exception of that one guy), I loved the chemistry that the cast members had with one another (including with the late Kim Joo-hyuk who I absolutely miss and think about to this day). With those two shows gone now, ‘Running Man’ has really only been the variety show that I’ve been watching religiously every weekend so it pains me to see that Kwang-soo – one of my favorite members and the heart of the show – left. Maybe like how they did with Gary, it’ll take a little while for ‘Running Man’ to bid farewell with Kwang-soo and he’ll come back and make a few guest appearances here and there on the show. His presence, passion, and love for the show will never be forgotten and he truly gave the show it all. He went through so much with the show and I truly wish him the best. I hope Kwang-soo gets plenty of rest and doesn’t feel burdened. I hope he can rest, relax, and take a well-deserved break knowing that he did his best the past 11 years. The show has really helped me through rough times in my life and I will forever be grateful for Kwang-soo for playing a role in that.

At the same time, I hope the current ‘Running Man’ members don’t feel this burden of needing to fill this void that Kwang-soo previously occupied. Yes, Kwang-soo’s absence will be felt by everybody and it’s going to be challenging without him at first, but I hope the members don’t feel pressured to do more just to fill in for him. They can continue to be themselves. They don’t need to overdo it. They shouldn’t force it. Instead of jumping straight into things and overexerting themselves, I hope to see everyone just do what they have been doing. Take things slow, start off slow, and slowly integrate themselves into filming a ‘Running Man’ where there is no Kwang-soo. See how it is, see how things are going, and then go from there. As hard as it is for Kwang-soo, it must also be difficult for the members who thought they would be there with Kwang-soo until the very end. It’s not going to be easy, but it’ll get easier as time goes by.

As I’m writing this post, there’s still so many things about the episode itself that I wanted to touch upon and talk about. I’ll probably come back and recap this final episode with Kwang-soo as a way to commemorate all the great work he did on the show and to go a little bit more in depth about the episode itself. As you can tell with the length of this post, I’m still very sad about Kwang-soo’s departure and this week – for some reason – felt so long. It’s finally the weekend and we finally got the first episode without Kwang-soo. It’s going to be interesting to see what a ‘Running Man’ without Kwang-soo looks like and it’s also something that’s going to take a while to get accustomed to. It’s going to feel very weird, different, and even difficult at times, but I have belief in the members and I know they will do just fine.

So with that, to our dear Kwang-soo, thank you for everything for the past 11 years. 11 whole years of dedicating your time and work into ‘Running Man’ is a very long time. You spent the most important years of your life on the show and I will forever be grateful. Kwang-soo, you’ve worked hard. You can finally stop running now and you can walk peacefully at your own pace. Thank you for everything.

One thought on “[Discuss Away!] Running Man Episode 559 + Thoughts on Lee Kwang-soo Leaving Running Man

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