By Jenna Guillaume
What do zombies, floristry, bungee jumping, dogs, karaoke, coffee, saunas, arcades, fashion shows, bowling, and poetry all have in common?
The biggest boy band in the world.
Over the years, BTS has dabbled in numerous artisanal hobbies and adrenaline-pumping shenanigans in their variety show, Run BTS, which recently celebrated its 100th episode on April 14. And that list doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of everything the series has tackled since it began airing on Korea's streaming app V Live in 2015.
In the 100th episode special, rapper Suga expressed his surprise that Run BTS has lasted this long. If you go back and watch the early chapters, which are available to stream for free, you can see where he’s coming from. There's a wide-eyed earnestness permeating the group, which, while endearing, doesn't exactly lend itself to enduring comedy gold.
BTS has come a long way from being the boys who tested how wide they could open their mouths to determine which of them deserved to be crowned “best man” in the show’s second episode, and so has Run BTS itself. As the band noted in the milestone episode, the production values are higher (think renting out an entire mall after hours), they’re in bigger and better venues (like VR parks and indoor stadiums), doing more extravagant activities (including a three-part water park extravaganza), and, of course, securing big-name sponsors (#Fila).
But what hasn’t changed since those initial short-form segments is the chemistry of the seven members. Indeed, it’s only gotten stronger as they’ve become more comfortable in front of the cameras and within themselves. It’s what makes the show — and the chart-topping band — special, and what draws in new fans and keeps older ones coming back for more.
What’s fascinating about Run BTS is not just its wholesome irreverence, but also the way it complements who BTS are as a group. It allows RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook to showcase totally different sides than what you see in their highly polished, carefully choreographed music videos and performances. They take whatever is thrown at them (and the producers throw a lot at them, like zombies) and good-naturedly make themselves look ridiculous for the entertainment of the viewers — and, perhaps best of all, themselves.
A huge part of the appeal of BTS, and what takes you from being a casual listener to a fully-fledged member of their ARMY, is the joy they seem to take in each other. It's the way they all have their own quirks and strengths as individuals and entertainers but also come together as seven to form something remarkable. Run BTS highlights this teamwork while reinforcing the fact that no matter how many global records they break, millions they earn, or award shows they attend, the members are still a bunch of humble dorks who break things, make fools of themselves, laugh at their own terrible jokes, and throw each other under the bus for the grand prize of instant noodles. It's a reminder that at the end of all this, they still love one another a lot.
This is why Run BTS has lasted 100 episodes — and why, for its millions of viewers, it’s often the highlight of the week; a contained chaos that’s soothing and funny, as opposed to the spiraling, scary chaos of the outside world.
Whether you’ve never seen it before or just want to relive some of the best moments, here are some of the most essential episodes you should definitely make time for.
"The Taste of Korea" (Episode 20)Big Hit Entertainment
By this episode, BTS had hit their stride in the variety format; they seem more comfortable in front of the camera, and the show overall feels more cohesive. “The Taste of Korea” sees the members split into two teams for a cooking competition, the highlights of which include V, who apparently can’t cook, spending a comedic amount of time pouring sauce into a squirrel-shaped dish, and Jungkook making glazed sweet potato so sticky it becomes glued to the plate. But it’s the meme-worthy reactions of the other members to such antics that are the best parts.
"BTS vs Zombies" (Episode 24)Big Hit Entertainment
Poor BTS. This is just one of the many instances in which their producers scare the hell out of them for laughs. At least it provides many laughs. The guys are told they’re going on a “night safari,” but are then besieged by actors dressed up as zombies. They must complete special missions while the undead attack from all angles. It goes about as well as you might expect.
"The Variety Show of Memories" (Episodes 30–31)Big Hit Entertainment
In these episodes, Run BTS really leans into its format by getting the members to play popular Korean variety show games. Dressed up in retro clothes, the guys dance around, wrestle, play trivia, and try to remember lyrics to an earworm of a children’s song while half-asleep. It’s a compelling hour of television.
"BTS and Manito" (Episodes 33–34)Big Hit Entertainment
This is one of the most lo-fi moments of Run BTS in terms of production: It’s just the group in their practice room, playing games, gently pranking one another, and exchanging gifts. So simple, yet incredibly engaging thanks to the natural charm of the group. This is never more evident than in the iconic “photo zone” game, in which the guys jump in the air and pull off a specified pose at the exact right moment to be captured on camera, with absolutely hilarious results.
"BTS Golden Bell" (Episodes 39 and 41)Big Hit Entertainment
Another pair of episodes featuring BTS in a simple studio playing variety show games, but this one gave the fandom one of its favorite memes: “large-morara.” During a game called “shouting in silence” (a Korean variety show favorite), in which the members have to pass a word down a line while they’re all wearing headphones playing loud music, Jimin incorrectly interprets “carbonara” as the non-word “large-morara” — and Jin somehow manages in turn to correctly guess “carbonara” from that. Instant legend status.
"BTS Picnic" (Episodes 53–56)Big Hit Entertainment
In this surprisingly emotional, four-episode arc, the band goes camping. They go grocery shopping together — much more interesting than it sounds — plus play tons of games, and sing karaoke. While it’s all very entertaining, the most memorable moment is actually a more sincere one, when at the end of the trip, BTS write poems exploring their feelings about each other. It’s a moving insight into their group dynamic, and it even set the groundwork for the introspective themes explored in future albums.
"BTS in Toronto" (Episodes 69–71)Big Hit Entertainment
Yes, it’s another trip! This time BTS has a night away together in Canada during their Love Yourself tour. There’s more grocery shopping, the thrill of picking rooms in the house they’re staying in, and a family meal that they cook together. All incredibly mundane things, unless of course BTS -- and their producers -- are involved. On top of the suspense (and plot twists!) of the elaborate room selection process, there are surprise missions to keep things entertaining.
"Operation 007" (Episodes 79-80)Big Hit Entertainment
The best Run BTS moments tend to happen when the group is shamelessly betraying one another (only people who love each other as much as they clearly do can do so with such ease). These episodes are full of so much betrayal it’s dizzying. Set loose on a scavenger hunt in a shopping mall after hours, BTS lie, cheat, and ruthlessly compete in order to win -- leading to one of the most dramatic climaxes in Run BTS history.
"Summer Outing" (Episodes 83–85)Big Hit Entertainment
What’s better than BTS playing games? BTS playing games in a water park! Over these three episodes, the band plays water polo, goes tubing while trying to do math, launches into the air on giant inflatables, and gangs up against Jungkook in an obstacle course (because he’s that damn good at everything). Finally, in a quieter moment, the guys exchange gifts, which range from hilarious (V giving Jungkook fans emblazoned with his face) to heartfelt (J-Hope making a physical single for “Promise,” Jimin’s solo released via Soundcloud).
"Pajama Party" (Episodes 97–98)Big Hit Entertainment
This is only a recent entry, but it immediately became a fan favorite, thanks in part to timing. While the world is in lockdown, BTS invites us into their very own pajama party (purely coincidentally — the episode was filmed in the summer of 2019). Featuring the requisite games plus an outstanding attempt at ASMR, it’s a cozy, comforting and, because it’s BTS, completely chaotic series of episodes. It's exactly what we need right now.