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Navillera: Episode 1

tvN’s webcomic adaptation Navillera gets off to a promising, heart-felt start as it introduces its two main characters: an old man who dreamed of becoming a ballet dancer before life got in the way, and a young ballerino who’s losing his passion for dance.

 
EPISODE 1 RECAP

SHIM DEOK-CHUL (Park In-hwan) sits with friends in a funeral hall. One of their circle has passed away, and they lament that there seems to be fewer of them every time they meet up nowadays.

Deok-chul is turning 70 and has decided to give up alcohol for his health. Conversation turns to bemoaning the pitfalls of old age: the long boring days of retirement, their declining health and strength, and the feeling that their time is running out. They ask themselves why they aren’t more upset at their friend’s death, and Deok-chul remarks, “As you get older, you get used to goodbyes.”

After leaving the funeral hall, Deok-chul gets a call from a friend telling him to bring alcohol. Emerging from a shop, he hears classical music playing and follows the sound to a dance studio where a male ballet dancer is practicing alone.

Deok-chul watches him dance through the window, entranced. As LEE CHAE-ROK (Song Kang) strikes his last pose he catches a glimpse of Deok-chul watching him in the mirror, but when he turns around he only sees Deok-chul’s back as he hurries away.

Chae-rok’s teacher KI SEUNG-JOO (Kim Tae-hoon) watches him practice, looking dissatisfied. Chae-rok is due to audition for the National Ballet in a few days but Seung-joo doesn’t think he’s focusing properly. YOO ANNA (Lee So-young), the pianist, defends Chae-rok by pointing out that he has a knee injury and tries to blame the speed of her playing for throwing him off, but Chae-rok disagrees with her and excuses himself.

After he leaves, Anna remarks to Seung-joo that she thinks Chae-rok’s in a slump, and Seung-joo follows him into the break room. He asks whether his distraction is related to his father, and Chae-rok replies that he doesn’t have a father before shrugging off Seung-joo’s concerns.

Still in his black funeral suit, Deok-chul goes to visit a friend in a nursing home, bringing sweets with him rather than the requested alcohol. Deok-chul’s friend tells him that as his body has gotten weaker his mind has gotten clearer, and he’s spent a lot of time thinking about his youth and the dream he never accomplished.

He always wanted to build his own boat and sail on the ocean, but now he’s too old and unwell to do it. He asks Deok-chul if he has any dreams he never fulfilled — Deok-chul doesn’t answer — and urges him that it’s not too late, since he still has his health.

Deok-chul’s family have gathered to celebrate his 70th birthday. His granddaughter SHIM EUN-HO (Hong Seung-hee) asks what he wished for when he blew out his candles, and his wife CHOI HAE-NAM (Na Mun-hee) cuts him off to say that he wished for his children’s health and success, and for good health for himself so he won’t be a burden to them. Deok-chul doesn’t look as though he agrees with that answer, but doesn’t object.

SHIM SEONG-SAN (Jung Hae-kyun), Deok-chul’s oldest son, grumbles about his younger brother being late and then starts making barbed comments about his brother-in-law’s failed political career. Deok-chul’s daughter and middle child SHIM SEONG-SOOK (Kim Soo-jin) takes offense on his behalf, while Hae-nam tries to stop her kids arguing. They’re interrupted by the arrival of SHIM SEONG-GWAN (Jo Bok-rae), Deok-chul’s youngest son.

Seong-san instigates another argument over dinner. He clearly disapproves of Seong-gwan, and warns his daughter Eun-ho that she’ll end up like her uncle if she doesn’t work hard. The atmosphere is tense but none of the other family members speak up in Seong-gwan’s defense, and he says that he didn’t want to come because he knew a fight would break out. Seong-gwan gets up and walks out, wishing Deok-chul a happy birthday as he leaves.

Driving home from dinner, Deok-chul and Hae-nam have a disagreement over giving Seong-sook money. Deok-chul thinks that they should live their own lives now their children are adults, but Hae-nam says that her children are her life.

They drive past Chae-rok, who’s on his way to visit his mother’s ashes. He tells her that he has an audition soon, but that his father is getting released from prison the same day. His phone buzzes and he looks at it to find he’s been sent a harassing message: “You don’t deserve a good life, do you?” There are several more like it in the conversation history.

The next day Deok-chul shows up at Eun-ho’s workplace to take her out for lunch but she says she’s already eaten and has to get back to work. Deok-chul eats by himself and runs into an old friend. They used to work together as mailmen but now he’s doing food deliveries. Deok-chul says that he’s having trouble filling his days now he’s retired, and his friend urges him to spend more time with his wife. As Deok-chul waits for the bus to head home, he sees a poster for a college ballet performance of Swan Lake.

Meanwhile, Chae-rok is working at his part-time job when YANG HO-BUM (Kim Kwon) walks into the restaurant with a group of friends who look like trouble. After they eat he confronts Chae-rok, complaining loudly about how unfair it is that his father will be released from prison soon after he ruined people’s lives. He echoes the text Chae-rok got earlier: “You don’t deserve a good life, do you?” Chae-rok doesn’t respond and volunteers to foot the bill when Ho-bum leaves without paying.

As he’s getting changed after his shift, Chae-rok thinks back to when he was in high school. He was pleading with Ho-bum about his dad’s situation, but Ho-bum punched him, furious that he would ask for help after quitting soccer.

Seung-joo and his ex-wife EUN SORI (Yoon Ji-hye), also a ballet teacher, watch from the wings as a group of college ballet dancers run through their routine. Chae-rok is running late (which seems to be a habit of his). They disapprove of him working, as it takes time away from ballet practice but Sori advises that it’s best to leave him be for now. When Chae-rok’s ambitions grow and his goals become clearer, he’ll quit working on his own.

Chae-rok arrives just in time to take his seat in the audience. In another row Deok-chul stares enraptured as the curtain rises and the performance of Swan Lake begins. Chae-rok watches the male lead closely.

After the performance, Chae-rok goes straight to a chiropractic clinic. The doctor knows him well and treats his knee even though the clinic’s closed. He tells Chae-rok that he shouldn’t be dancing on it, and advises him to rehab it after his audition.

Chae-rok is practicing in the studio and his knee gives way when he lands. He attempts a jump again and again but fails every time. Seung-joo arrives and stops him, angrily telling Chae-rok that what he’s doing isn’t ballet. When they first met, Chae-rok had told him that he followed his emotions when he danced, but now he’s just following the routine mechanically. If he can’t pull himself together he should forget about the audition.

At home, Deok-chul can’t sleep. He tells Hae-nam that he saw a ballet performance today and envied the young dancers on the stage. In 70 years he never had the courage to dance, and now it’s too late for him.

It’s the day of Chae-rok’s audition–and his father’s release from prison. Chae-rok stretches in the hallway while he waits, but keeps glancing at the time. The audition manager surreptitiously tells Seung-joo over the phone that Chae-rok is there, and wonders what his deal is. Seung-joo responds that Chae-rok will be a lead dancer within the year. When his name is called, he’s disappeared.

Chae-rok waits at the prison gates for his father, but he doesn’t come out. A guard tells him that he’s missed him; he was released earlier that morning. Just then Chae-rok’s dad (Jo Sung-ha) calls him from a payphone to tell him that a friend has found him a job and he’s left Seoul. He says he’ll be in touch and hangs up. Crying, Chae-rok calls back repeatedly but his father doesn’t answer.

Deok-chul sits at home looking through an old scrapbook of ballet pictures and articles. Just as he’s about to trash it, he gets a call from his friend in the nursing home telling him not to throw it away.

That night, Deok-chul’s awoken by a phonecall. His friend has killed himself. He kept hearing the sound of the ocean outside his room, so he folded a newspaper boat and jumped out of his window with it. His suicide note to Deok-chul says that he wanted to be happy in his last moment.

The next day Deok-chul thinks about Chae-rok’s dancing as he contemplates the newspaper boat. He remembers watching a ballet dancer through a window when he was a boy and falling in love with it, but his father refused to have a son who wore makeup and danced and would live a life of poverty.

Chae-rok is practicing alone at the studio as Deok-chul watches him through the window again. This time he doesn’t leave when Chae-rok notices him. Chae-rok is annoyed and asks what he’s doing there, and Deok-chul replies that he wants to do ballet.

Seung-joo sits down with Deok-chul and tells him that he doesn’t give lessons, advising him to try elsewhere. Deok-chul has a fanboy moment over seeing the Ki Seung-joo, and says he wouldn’t have come if he was going to give up that easily. He insists that he genuinely wants to learn ballet.

Deok-chul comes back day after day to watch Chae-rok and the other dancers practice, despite the lack of encouragement. He sits in the corner mimicking their movements, cleans the studio to try and earn his keep, and applauds Chae-rok’s dancing, much to Chae-rok’s annoyance.

After watching him for a while, Seung-joo eventually asks him why he wants to do ballet. Deok-chul replies that he’s spent his entire life supporting his family, and has never been able to do anything he wanted to do. He knows he probably won’t succeed, but he at least wants to try.

Later in his office, Seung-joo remarks to Chae-rok that he looks pathetic next to that old man who desperately wants to learn. Chae-rok is offended and says that Deok-chul is the pathetic one.

Meanwhile, Eun-ho has started an internship at the restaurant where Chae-rok works. She’s asked for a recommendation on her first day and flounders until Chae-rok intervenes, then gets told off by the manager.

Eun-Ho overhears other staff members gossiping about Chae-rok’s father, who used to be the coach for a youth soccer team that disbanded after a scandal. Chae-rok’s friend KIM SE-JONG (Kim Hyun-mok) interrupts them to say that he was part of that team and tells them to mind their own business.

Seung-joo can’t stop thinking about Deok-chul’s words, and the look on his face when he watches the dancers. Later Chae-rok arrives at the studio to find Deok-chul already there. Seung-joo declares that Chae-rok will teach Deok-chul ballet, much to Chae-rok’s horror and Deok-chul’s delight.

 
COMMENTS

The premiere was slow, thoughtful and melancholy, giving us a chance to get properly acquainted with our leads. This is clearly going to be a character-driven drama, and I think it was a wise decision to immerse the audience in Deok-chul and Chae-rok’s lives before moving on to the premise of the show. By the time they meet we’re already invested in their characters, and understanding where they began will help us to appreciate the ways in which they’ll change each other.

Deok-chul is in a state of crisis. On the one hand, his 70th birthday signifies that he’s entering into the last period of his life. He’s becoming slower and weaker and his health is declining, and he’s confronted with his own mortality. His time is rapidly running out and he starts to dwell on his regrets and missed opportunities. On the other hand, Deok-chul’s struggled since his retirement, lacking the purpose that employment and the need to provide for his family gave him. Empty days stretch ahead of him. He has at once too much time and not enough. Deok-chul thought that his opportunity to fulfill his dream had passed him by, but with his friend’s urging he begins to question what “too late” really means. He doesn’t want to die with this regret, and decides to use what time he has left to accomplish his life-long ambition of dancing ballet. He may not succeed, but something is better than nothing.

Deok-chul’s storyline this episode really hammered home the theme of time running out, perhaps a little bit harder than necessary. Presumably the writer really wanted to ensure that the audience fully understood Deok-chul’s motivation by giving us so many conversations about old age and death, but it started to feel a little repetitive and heavy-handed. But it’s a universal theme and everyone watching can identify with Deok-chul: who hasn’t missed opportunities that they regret? Who hasn’t had to prioritise reality over dreams? Who hasn’t thought it was “too late” to change? I think we’re all rooting for Deok-chul to fulfill his ballet dreams, although I’m expecting some familial opposition. Hae-nam believes that their role in life is to support their children and grandchildren, and I think she’ll struggle to understand Deok-chul’s desire to put himself first for once.

Chae-rok, on the other hand, is a little bit of an enigma. He took up ballet seriously only a few years ago when he met Seung-joo, around the time of his mother’s death and his father’s incarceration. When we meet him, he seems to have lost his love for dance and is struggling to connect with it emotionally. Throughout the week of his audition his lack of focus can be explained by his preoccupation with his father’s release, but his switch from international competitions to aiming to become part of the National Ballet suggests that Chae-rok’s changing feelings may have been bubbling beneath the surface for a while. Did he want to be in Korea near his father? Did his knee injury change his plans? Or is he simply becoming jaded after devoting so much of his life to a single purpose? Chae-rok seems lost and unhappy.

Right now Chae-rok is dismissive of Deok-chul’s ambitions, but in pairing them together Seung-joo clearly hopes that Deok-chul’s obvious passion will rekindle Chae-rok’s. Two disparate people changing each other for the better after being forced together is an age-old trope and I’m not expecting any major surprises from the plot, but I have high hopes that it’ll be executed deftly enough to create something heart-warming and a little bit inspiring. This premiere was certainly a promising start.

 
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Thank you for the recap Branwen! ☺️ The show is heartwarming and inspiring. I didn’t know that it felt melancholic though lol, or perhaps I am good with melancholy in dramas.

I’m not going to go into details about how great these two characters -Dokchul and Chae-rok- are as it’s evident from the show and the recap, but I wanna share that I also feel like the side characters’ arcs are interesting and should be explained more in the coming episodes. Overall, the ensemble cast is just great. AND we got to see glimpses of ballet performances and they just look so good and it’s a pleasing thing to see to say the least.

I did post on my wall that the show was almost perfect for me except the one thing that I didn’t like in the first ep: How they dealt with the death of his friend. I agree with you that I think to make the audience feel the pain of running out of time it has other ways of making us feel that without having to go that route. The idea is already quite universal so I also thought it was unnecessary and uncalled for. Apart from that, I think everything is perfect. It’s something I look forward to -really look forward to- their next episodes.

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This is not a good drama to watch if you’re going through a midlife crisis. Or maybe is it exactly what one needs. I cried in so many instances: the funeral, his friends death. I thought it quite appropriate. At 70, death really happens quite often and there def is that range of how people deal with it and where they end up at 70. It’s my new fav currently airing drama.

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I knew the drama would make me cry. I prepared myself for it, but I did not expect to shed a tear within the first 10mins.

The conversation the friends had in the funeral was heartbreaking. Do we really get used to saying goodbye?

With all the current airing dramas, this one felt grounded, nothing extraordinary. Which is why, I like it. And 12 episode ain’t a bad number.

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Other people have noticed that this drama has it all: Great writing, great acting, sets, cinematography- the whole package. There is a wonderful warmth to it and I was not the first to notice that even though the story is different it has the same qualities as I WILL COME TO YOU WHEN THE WEATHER IS NICE. This includes great storytelling.

One great storytelling device is to draw upon iconic images to set out a theme. This is the real meaning of the story told by the friend that Deok-chul visits and who dies in the episode. His friend had a dream of building a ship and embarking on a voyage of exploration. He was going to name it the "Forward"- and the writer's choice of that name is intentionally fraught with far more meaning than you might have realized.

In Norwegian the word for 'forward' is 'fram'. The FRAM is a real ship (you can visit it in Oslo) -one of the most famous exploratory ships of all time, which was used as a vessel of exploration by the great Norwegian explorers Fridtjof Nansen, Otto Sverdrup, Oscar Wisting, and Roald Amundsen. Between the year 1893 and 1912 it explored first the Arctic and then the Antarctic- qualifying it as probably the greatest vessel of exploration of all time.

That means that the dream being told by his friend to Deok-chul has symbolic meaning to it far beyond simply expressing regret- it is about not just pursuing a dream but also about the need to continue to explore the world- in other words to continue to truly live one's life even as ones body has lost much of its strength.

The fact that the writer is employing symbolism at this level tells us that this writer understands how to tell a story.

I thought that this episode ended perfectly- with Seung-joo informing Chae-rok that he is going to teach Deok-chul ballet- he understands that each of them can bring something vital to each other. It was the moment when I heard Seung-joo telling Chae-rok that that I knew that this show was going to be special.

And so our voyage begins.

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Wow, thanks for this. Nansen is one of my heroes. What an amazingly brave and intelligent adventurer. Perfect for this story which is so beautifully put together. It's never too late ...

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He was not just an adventurer but even an inventor- marine Biologists and Oceanographers still use Nansen Bottles to taka sample at a specified depth.

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i'm all aboard for NAVI-lerra ... and wonderful analysis of show by @oldawyer! bon voyage to all of us.🥰

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‘’ It was the moment when I heard Seung-joo telling Chae-rok that that I knew that this show was going to be special.”

Same for me, I gasped and knew I’m in for a treat. I have only watched the first two episodes but one can tell the steady hands behind the storytelling as the side story of each main and side characters are peeled off. The character dynamics are simply delights. Besides CR and DC, I love the other interactions a lot such as the eldest son preferring to sit on the worn sofa outside the house and have that heart to heart conversation with the father - so mundane and yet so good.

Lastly, Kim Tae-hoon’s mentor is stealing scene left and right.

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This wasn't one of my most anticipated dramas when it was announced but now I'm looking forward to the next episodes. It has a lot of heart and is quite touching, to the point that I even shed some tears which almost never happens for premiere episodes. Like someone else mentioned it does seem to have some of the qualities of When The Weather Is Fine.

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Love the spunky grandpa and his drive to go after his dreams. Regrets aren’t final if you can still do something about it. And I can’t wait til he inspires the cranky and seemingly tough Song Kang who has all this talent but seems to be wasting it or in a slump. Yes, youth is really wasted on the young.

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haha your last line made me LOL. feeling a bit old these days, mi amor?🤭

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Haha! It meant to drive my point, mi amor, but you ruined it! 😫😂 Grandpa with his dreams and shy smiles felt more younger doesn't he? That's what I meant. Song Kang felt like a younger, cranky Dobie. 🤭

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I really liked Deok-chul character. He's so warm and caring and super cute. I'm exciting to see him in his new hobby and how it will impact his family and Chae-rok.

I was less interested in Chae-rok character, his story was more cliché and if Song Kang looks like a dancer, he kinda looked green in the emotional part of his character.

It was nice to see Kim Tae-Hoon as Seung-joo who seems to be good teachers and not a torturer like we can find in other stories about classical dance.

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Very little to add after what you and the other beanies have said. I just loved it.

Drama also reminds me of the warmth of When the weather is fine with a touch of My Unfamiliar Family during the birthday lunch. Just as JinSuk had a "secret life" in MUF and wanted more than just being the woman who takes care of her family, Deok Chul wants fo follow his dreams and put himself in the center of his life for once.

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Good comparison

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I had not thought of MY UNFAMILIAR FAMILY but now that you mention it the comparison seems apt.

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Looking back at the birthday dinner and the UNFAMIAR FAMILY vibe it gave off. This is not just going to be just a story about Grandpa and the Young Dancer. Everyone in this family will need to do some growing- even the granddaughter and especially her dad.

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That's exactly what I thought.

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For me much of Chae-rok's enigmatic behaviour, especially his lack of focus for his dancing, is influenced by his concerns for his father. What happened with the team and why is there so much guilt and acrimony? There is something unresolved that is affecting him and spilling over to his dancing. I love this. It's beautiful. I love the ballet. I love Deok-chul's quiet determination.

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I love everything about the drama.
I can totally relate to Deokchul.
He was busy providing for his family, not brave enough to defy his father's command to forget about ballet.
Suddenly, he has all the time in this world to follow his dream.
He may not be a talented ballerino, he may never gets a role in Swan Lake, but this time, at least he can try.
I spent years and years busy working and looking after my family.
Suddenly, pandemic arrived and I have all the time in the world to try something I always want to: learn to play piano.
I knew, know, I'm not talented enough. Someone with good fingers probably needs only few days to learn a song, but for me it can take a good three months to learn and play it. Not mastering it, but I can play the song and nothing can take that a way from me.
So, haraboji, I'm rooting for you. Fighting!

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The song you play will be one of the most beautiful songs in the world because it is played with such happy heart.

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Love the webtoon so I am so excited when the drama adaptation is finally out! Great cinematography, great cast which bring another level of emotions through the drama vs the webtoon. Love some of the choice of music and song in it, especially the one at the scene between Chae Rok and his father. Anyone have an idea of the song title? <3

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I agree with all these viewers that this is starting out as as excellent drama. I also want to praise the ballet scenes that have been shown so far. I love to watch ballet, and the dancing they've shown so far as seemed to me to be top notch. I hope we get many more snippets of dance.

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I actually wasn't a huge fan of this episode, I didn't enjoy it as much as everyone else did, but it didn't put me off it. I don't think it was the the melancholy. I did enjoy Doek Chul though. Chae Rok was as another beanie mentioned a more cliched story. That being said I will continue on the journey as mentioned above.

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I am simply a sucker for music/slice-of-life shows/coming of age shows like Navillera. And this one has met all of my high expectation so far. The story has been poignant yet tredy, and the cinematography has been warm with its dark wooded floors and flashes of sunlight.

1) This is a dumb observation, but I can't help but compare Navi to the last great music kdrama, DO YOU LIKE BRAHMS? Talented young man struggling with daddy issues? Check. Formerly talented performing teacher living too vicariously through their trouble students? Check. Lead character with all the desire in the word but lacking the natural talent or abilities? Check ... kinda. Yes, I'm aware this make grandpa correspond to Park Eunbin hehe, but am I wrong?

Does this mean that Navi will have a killer ballet performance at the end of show like in DYLB? I. CANNOT. WAIT. MY. HEARTEU.

2) So I looked up the word "Navillera" and found out that it's not some Euro ballet term but actually refers to a Korean poem about butterflies: https://www.gfsquad.com/forums/topic/2648-translation-poem-the-poem-that-inspired-navillera/

And also the inspiration for a song by the kpop girl group GFriend?? Haha, a bit unexpected, but good to keep in the back of our minds as we enjoy this show. Gramps dancing to kpop for a scene would be EVERYTHING.

3) @shichybot and I implore everyone to follow Gramps on Insta: https://www.instagram.com/dancing_duck70/?hl=en

So we can get more cute AF posts during the run of Navi! Yes, his handle is DANCING DUCK 70. Again, my hearteu.

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Lovely poem. Thanks for the pointer!

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It is, even in translation (whoever it was that translated it obviously did a stupendous job).

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Thank you for finding that poem Ahjussi Clown. Further evidence that this writer knows how to weave existing stories and even literature to add depth to the story being told.

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Same as you, can't wait for the performances but I still pin my hopes on Gramps doing Swan Lake with a bunch of little swan-lings 😍 or at the very least, a performance where Song Kang lifts Gramps in the air so he can soar. 😊

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serious probably ignorant question, do men lift other men in ballet hahaha? unlike in dylb, i cannot adequately predict the musical performance scenes due to ignorance.

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Thanks for the thorough recap; without it, I would have passed this gem by.

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Thank you @branwen for the excellent recap. I decided to rewatch episode one and it was even better the second time around.
Song Kang has a total clean slate with me since this is my first SK drama. Unbelievably Park In-hwan the same since I have only seen one of his dramas. I really enjoyed their performances. I think they will be great together.
This was an terrific premiere episode for all the reasons and beanie comments given. Going in I said I was not going to sweat the technical stuff but the dance performances/rehearsals that were presented looked wonderful.
I will say that the early introduction of the chiropractor was important to show that pain and injury are a constant for a dancer. Also I like that Seung-joo reminded Chae-rok that the career of a professional dancer is not long. It also reminds us of the terrible toll the pandemic has taken on the performing arts particularly the dance world.

O/T. One of the older pals of Deok-chul at the wake at the beginning is played by actor Jeong Gyu-su. Maybe a cameo. JGS was in my first kdrama HEALER where he played the detestable Secretary Oh.
I know it is crazy but JGS was so good at playing bad that he stayed in my actor’s doghouse until his appearance in NOKDU FLOWER where he played a good guy. He is currently appearing in BEYOND EVIL. He is one of those great unsung kdrama character actors.

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It's just my cup of tea... the story of old people always got me... their running out of time, their unfilled wishes to do, etc etc... But at the same time, it got me always thinking about if i were in their shoes... I know it's heavy, but we're going there at one point... Deok Chul might be one of us someday...

I'm enjoying Chae Rok of being cranky to Deok Chul.. oh he's been cranky all the time... Can't wait to see what happened with Chae Rok in the past, his relationship with Heo Bom...

Also, I can't wait to see Deok Chul and Chae Rok are getting closer and they're strength to each other... Yhmm... I'll need more Kleenex by then...

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Thanks for the recap!

I hope to be more coherent in my thoughts for the coming episodes, but I was insanely (like I don't remember the last time I looked forward to a drama this much recently) excited for this drama to premiere and it outdid my high expectations. I was looking forward to Song Kang in this one but Park In Hwan is the one I'm coming back to this drama for.

I get super emotional when it comes to stories about older folks, so the story about the harabeoji who wanted to sail was just T_T

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this is surprisingly sweet - in spite of Chae Rok's grouchiness. haraboji's earnest efforts are so cute, the music is soothing, the ballet company's dancing is calming...

just what the world needs now, i think. not the mean dramas - something sweet, calm, soothing, and ultimately kind.

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