Navillera: Episode 2
Becoming a ballerino definitely won’t be easy for our retired mailman, but he’s very determined to achieve his dream. His reluctant teacher is still coming to terms with their new arrangement, but their student-teacher relationship is already brimming with comedy.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Chae-rok stands appalled at what he’s hearing: he’s been appointed Deok-chul’s ballet teacher. That’s not all—Seung–joo has also decided that Chae-rok needs a manager and Deok-chul is the man to do it. While Chae-rok freaks out, Seung-joo ignores him and tells Deok-chul his duties are to make sure Chae-rok is practicing, taking care of himself, and to report back if Chae-rok does anything foolish.
Deok-chul immediately vows to do his best as Chae-rok lets out a frustrated shout. Seung-joo and Chae-rok carry their argument over into Seung-joo’s office and all Deok-chul can do is listen in uncomfortably. When Chae-rok stubbornly refuses to teach, Seung-joo gives a choice: return to the School of Dance or leave.
Chae-rok caves and finally agrees to do teach on one condition: Deok-chul has to maintain a sus-sous (a ballet form) for one minute–and has one week to prepare. Seung-joo protests that the move is too difficult for him to master in a week, but Chae-rok doesn’t back down, and Deok-chul eagerly agrees. He sounds confident but from the way he grips his bag strap, that might be a bluff.
On his own at home, Deok-chul practices in front of a mirror…and can barely last a second in the position. Hae-nam is cooking up a huge pot of soup and calling up each of her children to try to get them to pick up some home-cooked food. Seong-sook is the only one who bothers to pick up, but she’s too busy campaigning for her husband’s latest political run to have a proper conversation. The call is short but Hae-nam makes sure to follow up and text Seong-sook that she’s wired money over.
She gripes about them not being there for her and tells Deok-chul dinner’s ready. She gets no response since he’s absorbed in practice and when she goes to fetch Deok-chul, she finds him sprawled on the floor with his mirror atop him.
As Hae-nam helps with a small injury from the fall, Deok-chul reveals nothing about what he was actually up to. She tells him to go meet with Seong-gwan. She’s anxious about his lack of employment and tells her husband to test the waters and see if their son has any plans to return to his old job. Deok-chul points out that Seong-gwan quit because he didn’t like it, but at Hae-nam’s exasperated response, he agrees to go see Seong-gwan.
Eun-ho and Seong-san have dinner together, and he lays out a path for her future starting from the internship she’s currently in. She balks a little at the way he’s writing out her life goals, but he’s frustrated that she’s not being ambitious enough. The conversation gets derailed by the arrival of Seong-san’s wife (and Eun-ho’s mom), Ae-ran. When nagged about why she’s late to dinner, she shocks them by saying she had been at a job interview.
Chae-rok wakes up for the day and writes himself an encouraging message on a sticky note, which he then posts on his fridge. It joins a large collection of messages from his parents, all encouraging and expressing love for Chae-rok.
Dad settles into his new job, as a sort of resident guidance counselor at a rural school.
Deok-chul continues his training, this time with a little jogging and lifting weights. He struggles all throughout and laments that he should have started ten years ago. (Aw, Hae-nam sees him trying to do sit-ups and wonders if this is all because of his friend’s recent death.)
Chae-rok drops by to visit Sori but he’s mostly there to complain about Seung-joo and the fact that he’s appointed Deok-chul as his manager and pupil. He wonders if Seung-joo doesn’t believe in him or trust him.
Sori points out that Chae-rok hasn’t been improving and that Seung-joo was already a principal dancer at his age. Everyone called Seung-joo a ballet genius back then, but there was hard work and conviction behind that genius. So the question is, what sort of ballet does Chae-rok want to do?
Later, Deok-chul keeps his word to his Hae-nam and goes to see Seong-gwan. They have a cute moment with Seong-gwan suddenly taking his dad’s phone for a selfie, but he looks a little down when he’s told to answer his mom’s calls.
He tells his father, “I can’t stand her talking about the hospital anymore.” Deok-chul replies, “Then keep telling her. Tell her you’re happy right now, then she’ll give up sooner or later.” Seong-gwan is speechless at his father’s words, and watches him walk away silently.
Seong-san startles Hae-nam by stopping by the house unannounced. She worries at first, but when he says he’s fine, she takes him at his word. She happily says everything’s working out fine for Seong-san and his family after all, so the only two she’s worried about are his siblings. Hae-nam runs back into the house to pack up some food for him to take.
Alone, he tries to call Ae-ran but can’t get through and complains about his wife applying to work at “his” office. Deok-chul arrives home just then and points out that Ae-ran worked at that company too, twenty years ago, and perhaps she’d wanted to go back all this time.
He relates a story from years back; Hae-nam had gone to drop off food at Seong-san’s. She went inside and found Eun-ho wailing and alone…Ae-ran was on the balcony, sobbing. Deok-chul says Seong-san should leave her be, because she’s finally free. Seong-san notices the exercise equipment then and asks his dad if he’s been exercising. Deok-chul denies it, and emphasizes his point by saying that all he does is breathe.
That night, while Hae-nam sleeps, Deok-chul practice his sus-sous again. He lasts longer now, but not by much. He practices every moment he can, even at the dining table, and we see his form gradually get better and last longer. With one day left before the deadline, he practices but fails to reach one minute. He wonders aloud if he’s being too ambitious in his old age.
It’s D-day and Chae-rok starts the timer as Deok-chul strikes a sus-sous. He beings to wobble just seconds in but he looks determined. We see his grit has served him well in the past as we get a flashback to his first days on the job as a mailman. Deok-chul’s supervisor had given him a dressing down after delivering mail to the wrong address. He was given a week to memorize the entire neighborhood’s addresses and Deok-chul spent all his time studying a map, wandering the neighborhood. The task seemed impossible, but he achieved it (to the shock of his supervisor).
Still holding his position, Deok-chul’s breathing is labored, and he’s trembling and sweating with twenty seconds left on the clock. Seung-joo beams with surprised delight at Deok-chul’s ability, while Chae-rok looks on in horror as the timer runs out. Deok-chul passes!
At a cafe, Chae-rok sulkily asks Deok-chul if he was an athlete when he was younger, lol. The two attract stares since Deok-chuk calls Chae-rok “sir” and uses formal speech with his much-younger teacher. Chae-rok tells his student to cut it out and expresses bewilderment that someone so old would want to learn ballet all of a sudden.
Deok-chul confides that he would like to perform on stage in Swan Lake, even though he knows it’s a distant dream. Chae-rok laughs as he leaves but Deok-chul has a question for him: Where can he can buy ballet clothes?
After a successful shopping trip, Deok-chul tries on his new clothes and likes what he sees. He’s nearly caught by Hae-nam but he manages to evade suspicion (for now) and stashes his clothes in a hiding place. He texts a thank you message to Chae-rok…and Chae-rok crankily vows that he’ll make Deok-chul quit within a month.
True to his word, Chae-rok starts Deok-chul off with an intense stretching regime. Deok-chul can barely walk straight at the end of the session but he’s in good spirits. Once their lesson ends, Deok-chul puts on his metaphorical manager hat and shadows Chae-rok.
They eat together, and that’s when Chae-rok discovers the manager noteboo, which is where Deok-chul’s been keeping all of his Chae-rok notes. Chae-rok grumps about the notebook’s contents, especially the part where Deok-chul calls him cranky. He haughtily states that he was only cranky because of how bad Deok-chul was, whereas Chae-rok has always been good even when he was a beginner.
Instead of getting snippy, Deok-chul exclaims that Chae-rok is amazing and that he was touched the first time he saw him dancing. This gives Chae-rok pause, but then he’s back to his old self and he abruptly gets up to see his doctor.
As soon as Deok-chul introduces himself as Chae-rok’s manager, the two of them ignore Chae-rok as they discuss what should be done about his back and knee issues. Chae-rok shouts that he doesn’t need anything (but he does take the tissue Deok-chul offers when he runs out of toilet paper in the bathroom, ha!).
Deok-chul’s very dedicated and detailed when taking notes about Chae-rok, much to Seung-joo’s amusement, but he hasn’t quite won over Chae-rok yet. He doesn’t make much progress in getting to know Chae-rok better, but he does learn the basics: that Chae-rok lives alone with his dad living elsewhere, and that his mom has passed away. However, Deok-chul’s attempt at a bonding moment, sharing that both of his parents have passed, falls flat.
Deok-chul struggles with pain through the night and into the morning. Even when hurting all over, he still remembers his job as a manager and gives an annoyed Chae-rok a morning wake-up call (because that’s what celebrity managers do according to the TV).
It’s another tiring lesson, but this time Deok-chul gets to move beyond stretching. Chae-rok’s in his default mode the entire time (cranky) but he puts a pain patch on Deok-cheol’s back after practice and he grudgingly takes a bottle of plum tea that Deok-chul gives him.
At the restaurant, Eun-ho gets into an altercation with a customer demanding something that’s no longer on the menu. He throws napkins in her face and demands it anyway. No one steps up to help her–until Chae-rok comes over and asks the customer to leave. When the customer refuses rudely, he resorts to banmal and yelling, just like the customer, and kicks him out.
Eun-ho thanks Chae-rok later, but he scolds her, saying that she shouldn’t be such a pushover because it impacts the other workers. Eun-ho snaps and she fires back that she must succeed no matter what. He has no idea what it’s like for people like her, so he should just shut up. After work, neither one can stop thinking about the altercation.
The ballet lessons continue and Deok-chul seems to be enjoying himself immensely. He’s getting stronger and he dances and goes into ballet form at every chance. Chae-rok is still annoyed by him, but he has gained two fans at the studio in the form of Anna the pianist, and Kwon Bom, a ballet dancer. As the days pass, Deok-chul starts to adopt Chae-rok’s wardrobe too, which annoys Chae-rok to no end. But from the tiny smile he hides after one of their lessons, it’s clear there’s an affection growing.
Chae-rok gets his morning call from Deok-chul even on a Saturday. He gets another call, from a restaurant owner he knows and he agrees to take on a delivery shift as a favor. The day starts out uneventfully, but when he makes delivery at a billiard hall, he runs into his quasi-nemesis Ho-bum. Ho-bum sneers and tells Chae-rok that he seems to be living well, but Chae-rok makes it back the restaurant without further incident.
Back at the restaurant he runs into another issue–Deok-chul happens to be eating there. They’re surprised to see each other, and Deok-chul immediately threatens to tattle to Seung-joo. He gets worked up over Chae-rok riding a scooter, and bans Chae-rok from doing further deliveries because a ballet star can’t risk injury to his person. Deok-chul decides to do the deliveries himself and amazes Chae-rok and the restaurant manager when he zips off and successfully completes delivery after delivery. Chae-rok asks Deok-chul again if he was an athlete in the past and Deok-chul simply responds that he was a mailman.
There’s just one final delivery to make, to the billiard hall again. Perhaps sensing something is up, Chae-rok volunteers to go and sure enough, Ho-bum is there waiting for him. Once again, Ho-bum and crew refuse to pay, and this time Ho-bum throws his chopsticks right in Chae-rok’s face. Chae-rok says that despite Ho-bum’s comments that he’s been living well, he hasn’t been. So Ho-bum should pay up.
Ho-bum advances on Chae-rok and grabs him, saying he’s dead meat. But then a voice calls out Chae-rok’s name, and both boys turn and see Deok-chul taking in their standoff.
Chae-rok spends most of his time being cranky, but you can see that he’s not a bad guy. He really does have a lot on his plate and it must feel like an unnecessary distraction to be a teacher to a newbie dancer in his 70s when you’re already concerned about your own career. This episode we saw a few fleeting moments when Chae-rok’s defenses were momentarily lowered, and it could be that Deok-chul is just what he needs. Deok-chul can’t really be rebuffed by prickliness, and at his age, he’s experienced so much that he may be a support to Chae-rok in a way that Se-jong or even Seung-joo can’t.
After all, Chae-rok was a high school student not too long ago, so I can forgive a little attitude. So even though he’s mostly been a grump throughout these episodes, I don’t dislike him, since we also see glimpses of a kinder person throughout this episode. Life has dealt him a rough hand at a young age. I am curious to know why his father was sent to prison and why Ho-bum hold such a strong grudge to the point he wants to ruin Chae-rok’s life. The crime was serious enough that he had to go to prison, but not so serious as to bar him from working at a school, it seems, so what could it be? (Fraud? Embezzlement of team funds?) It seems that Chae-rok both misses his father and also resents him, so I’m curious to see how their relationship unfolds in the coming episodes.
For now, Deok-chul is hiding what he’s doing from his family, but I think he’ll soon encounter some resistance and shock. He may be late in starting his journey to achieve his dream, but it’s beautiful to see how he’s also trying to encourage everyone around him to find their own happiness and dreams. Maybe that’s always been his personality, or maybe at his age, he’s experienced what it’s like to give up pursuing something that you love and he wants others to know there’s no “right” way to live.
And it’s not really just Deok-chul and Chae-rok who are in need of finding their path. The entire Shim family is interesting because each member of the family seems to be feeling stuck in a way. From Hae-nam to Eun-ho and her parents, to Seong-gwan the doctor-turned-director, to Seong-sook and her husband’s attempts to win political office, there seems to be a lot of aimlessness and uncertainty. I hope the show will explore that a little more because there are quite a few people who need to hear Deok-chul’s philosophy that there’s more than one way to live and that dreams are worth fighting for. I know Deok-chul’s dream seems improbable, but with his determination and Chae-rok’s talent, maybe a future Swan Lake performance featuring our student and teacher is indeed possible.