Navillera: Episode 4
Ballet was a dream deferred for our retired mailman, but he’s finally been able to work on turning his dream into reality. But it’s not all leotards and pirouettes — he’s finding that his loved ones are less interested in his dreams and more interested in him being a “normal” retiree.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Soon after Deok-chul posts a picture of himself in the ballet studio, he gets an angry call from Hae-nam ordering him to come home right away. His two oldest children seem the most concerned and Seong-san calls an emergency family meeting.
Looking worried and a bit down, Deok-chul starts off for home but Chae-rok stops him. He says that Deok-chul should straighten his shoulders and be confident, and gives him a “Fighting” for the road.
The entire Shim clan’s gathered (minus Eun-ho) and the atmosphere is pretty awkward. Seong-san and Seong-sook are the most vocally anti-ballet. While Seong-sook seems concerned about injuries, Seong-san just seems exasperated and embarrassed at the prospect of other people finding out.
It’s not a surprise that Seong-gwan is all for their dad following his ballet dreams, but interestingly both of the married-ins (Ae-ran and Young-il) are on his — and Deok-chul’s — side.
Seong-gwan doesn’t see what the big deal is, and he decides to leave the family meeting but not before giving his dad the same advice he had received himself: Keep telling them he’s happy and they’ll give up nagging sooner or later. His departure sets off a sibling squabble, and Hae-nam blames Deok-chul for the kids fighting.
Deok-chul takes a breather outside when Ae-ran joins him. She chooses this moment to share that she knows he was there “that day.” (A-ha so it wasn’t Hae-nam who found Ae-ran sobbing and and Eun-ho crying alone.) She urges him not to quit, and to do what he wants to do.
In the ballet studio, Chae-rok and Seung-joo discuss which piece he should dance for the upcoming competition. Seung-joo wants to go with something safe, but Chae-rok chooses Don Quixote. It’s flashy with a lot of jumps, and despite some reservations over how Chae-rok’s knees will handle it, Seung-joo okays it.
The next day, as they shop for ballet clothes, Deok-chul updates Chae-rok and tells him Hae-nam won’t even speak to him. Chae-rok explains that she’s in stage two. In his experience, a man telling his family that he’s going to do ballet leads the family to go through something like the five stages of grief: denial, anger, compromise, depression, and acceptance. He consoles Deok-chul and says it gets better. It seems to help cheer Deok-chul a bit, and he makes a purchase…but forgets to take his shopping bag with him. (No, please don’t let this be foreshadowing!)
It’s obvious Chae-rok and Deok-chul have grown closer, and after their lesson he informs Deok-chul that he’s preparing to enter a competition. Back in manager mode, Deok-chul jots down the information in his notebook and marks it with a star. Chae-rok takes a peek and tells him to put another star, and Deok-chul draws in one more big star as they smile at each other.
After the lesson, they run into Chae-rok’s doctor, Dr. Oh, and Deok-chul ropes him into taking care of Chae-rok for the upcoming competition, telling him that it would be as though he were the attending physician for a national athlete. It works, and the two ignore a sulky Chae-rok, to make plans for an early morning check-up.
At the restaurant, Eun-ho’s exhausted from working late to translate the manager’s thesis into English, something she agreed to do as a “favor.” When she goes to drop off the completed thesis, she overhears Chae-rok giving notice.
Eun-ho wishes him well and asks question: Can someone start ballet even if they’re older? She’s asking because of her grandpa. Chae-rok tells her that he knows an old man who’s pursuing ballet and that her grandpa can definitely do it too.
After work, Eun-ho gets a text from the manager informing her that the thesis needs revision and promises to give a good evaluation.
Hae-nam is still giving Deok-chul the silent treatment, and it weighs on his mind during his lesson. His lack of focus leads to him strain his back and Chae-rok calls an end to the lesson for the day.
Seong-san’s troubled by his dad continuing his ballet but Hae-nam tells him she’ll talk to Deok-chul and not to worry. Ae-ran’s presence at work doesn’t help his mood and they keep their distance.
Aw, Deok-chul’s on his way home, accompanied by Chae-rok. He worries over Deok-chul in his own way, half-grump, half-sweetheart. They run into Seong-gwan and after introductions, Deok-chul shoos them off when their bus arrives. On the bus, Seong-gwan gruffly asks Chae-rok to take good care of his father before getting off. His destination is a camera shop and he buys a camera for his documentary.
It’s a Shim kind of day, and Chae-rok finds eldest Seong-san at the ballet studio. He rudely demands that Seung-joo kick Deok-chul out, calling ballet humiliating. Seung-joo refuses and gives as good as he gets. He tells Seong-san that he might get a performance invite soon as Deok-chul might even be performing. Chae-rok wanders over to “accidentally” spill water on Seong-san.
Seong-san leaves in a huff, and after he’s gone Chae-rok asks if Seung-joo was serious about Deok-chul perform. When Seung-joo glibly says, “Of course not,” Chae-rok calls him a sociopath.
Still angry, Seong-san calls Hae-nam to say he’ll be boycotting all home visits unless Deok-chul gives up dancing — it’s either him (and his siblings) or ballet.
Hae-nam watches Deok-chul struggle to put a pain patch on, and helps him. There’s no anger in her voice when she tells him to stop ballet this time. She says their children have been through so much and reminds him how far they’ve come even though they couldn’t do much for them as parents (due to their financial struggles). Hae-nam reasons that they couldn’t give their children wings, so at least they shouldn’t be a burden to them now.
We see a flashback to the past where an eight-year-old Seong-san skips school — his teacher told him not to attend because his fees have not been paid. Hae-nam was very hurt by this, and remembering these old wounds, Deok-chul agrees to stop pursuing ballet.
The next morning in the middle of eating his cereal, Chae-rok realizes something is missing — he didn’t get a wake-up call from Deok-chul. At the same time, Seong-sook and Young-il bring hiking jackets for Hae-nam and Deok-chul to go hiking with them. Hae-nam notices that Deok-chul is lost in thought as they try to engage him.
At the studio with no sign of Deok-chul, Chae-rok gives him a call to find out where he is. Deok-chul is in the middle of the hiking excursion, and only manages to say “I don’t think I can do it anymore,” saying he’ll talk to Chae-rok later. Chae-rok is visibly concerned, and Deok-chul’s absence is noticed (and felt) by everyone at the studio.
Deok-chul has lunch with his family, and while they’re trying to convince him what a great time they had, his heart is clearly miles away.
Chae-rok actually heads to Deok-chul’s neighborhood to find him, and as he arrives, Chae-rok sees him with his family after their hiking trip and chooses to leave without approaching them.
He doesn’t get very far before running into Ho-bum and his three cronies. The resolve he had before has strengthened as he tells Ho-bum that he will no longer waste his time on him and that he has plans for his future. Ho-bum angrily asks whose fault it is that he’s in his current state, but while Chae-rok acknowledges that the football team broke up because of his father, he tells Ho-bum that at least he and Se-jong kept moving forward. Ho-bum has done nothing and is still trapped in the past and what happened on the field four years ago. Ho-bum gets angry enough to prove to us that Chae-rok’s words are true; Chae-rok walks away while Ho-bum watches.
Meanwhile, Eun-ho is at the restaurant preparing for her interview with a coworker when the restaurant supervisor comes over and compliments an idea she had about asking customers about any allergies. He says he’s sure they’ll both get hired. Then the manager calls Eun-ho over to revise her thesis again. Eun-ho seems conflicted, but continues to do her manager’s bidding.
Seung-joo calls Chae-rok to the university without telling him why until he gets there: he and Sori have decided that Chae-rok should practice for the competition with her student KIM SANG-SOO (Yong Ki). The two seem to be rivals, and greet each other with some sarcastic banter and insults, but this seems to be the plan — use their competitiveness to amp up their training.
Hae-nam is on the phone with Seong-san. Although she assured him that his father didn’t go to the ballet studio and they they went hiking today instead, he says he’ll drop by in the evening, adding that he got them both gym memberships.
Deok-chul is still despondent, staring into space as if he’s grieving for something, and it’s not lost on Hae-nam. That evening while Hae-nam is out grocery shopping, Deok-chul goes to get rid of his ballet clothes, but decides to try them on one more time.
Unfortunately, Seong-san walks in right at that moment and is furious. He asks his father if he doesn’t feel sorry to his children. Visibly angry, he yells that he has never gotten everything that he wanted, he had to give up a lot for his siblings, and worried about being poor even as a child. He yells that his father has always lived comfortably while he (Seong-san) had to bear all the burdens.
Just then, Hae-nam arrives home and hears that last sentence, and it’s enough to change her mind. She whacks Seong-san over the head with her bag of groceries and says, “How dare you!” She enlightens her son on how much of a burden Deok-chul carried for the family. She apologizes that they couldn’t give him much but defends Deok-chul, saying that he worked so hard, and that Seong-San grew up well so Deok-chul has nothing to be sorry for. “Why does our son’s success have to make us feel small?” she asks. Hae-nam sinks to the floor crying, and Deok-chul is choked up.
The next morning at breakfast, the mood has shifted. Hae-nam looks at her husband for a long moment, and then tells him: Do it if you want to. Deok-chul’s entire face lights up now that he has his wife’s support, and he’s all smiles and joyful energy as he heads back to the studio. Everyone is delighted to have him back, but of course grumpy Chae-rok gives him a hard time.
Deok-chul asks Chae-rok to do him a favor, and then we cut to Deok-chul pointing to his very old car (named Boong Boong). The car has been decorated with a few red bows, and Chae-rok is supposed to drive it and park it so it “stands out” to the person he’s going to gift it to. Chae-rok seems horrified over having to drive such a piece of junk and says he’s barely driven, but then the horror becomes genuine when Chae-rok is actually trying to drive. I guess he wasn’t kidding — he can’t even turn the blinkers on correctly! Deok-chul sits in the passenger seat and tries to coach Chae-rok as he drives. It’s a miracle they make it to their destination: Eun-ho’s workplace.
Deok-chul sends his granddaughter a text message, and she runs outside to meet him. After they greet each other, he says he has a present for her after her job interview. Deok-chul makes a call, and seconds later Chae-rok — literally haltingly — drives Boong Boong over on cue.
Deok-chul announces his gift, but when Chae-rok climbs out of the car, Eun-ho quickly puts the story together and realizes that Chae-rok was speaking about her grandfather all along. All three are surprised that they know each other. Deok-chul seemed pleased though, and when grumpy Chae-rok insists they are coworkers, not friends, Deok-chul says they should be friends instead, at which point they exchange an awkward greeting in banmal. Eun-ho then asks her grandfather what the real gift is — Chae-rok, the car, or both — which prompts a giggle from Deok-chul.
Eun-ho invites her grandpa to thank you meal at the restaurant, and Deok-chul is excited to see both his granddaughter and Chae-rok there. Chae-rok then announces that that’s his last day, and Deok-chul congratulates him on quitting his job to focus on dancing. He then tells the youngsters to get along, and although they look a bit awkward now, I don’t think that’s going to be problem for them.
Eun-ho drives Deok-chul home, and there’s a touching moment as he watches it drive away. He thanks the car for all its years of service, and tells it to take good care of his granddaughter. It’s so fitting with Deok-chul’s thoughtful character, and his stage of life where he finds himself saying a lot of goodbyes.
Eun-ho and Chae-rok are awkward in the car together, and Chae-rok stares down at his phone while Eun-ho comments that that was an interesting encounter. She then asks him how her grandpa is at ballet, and Chae-rok says that he’s not bad, to which Eun-ho replies that she thinks they’re both amazing. From the way Chae-rok reacts, it seems like the first time in a while he’s been complimented like that.
When Eun-ho arrives at home, Seong-san sees the car and quickly learns what’s up. Eun-ho says her grandpa will walk and ride his bike for exercise, and that it’s good practice for ballet, and Seong-san heaves an annoyed sigh. He then changes the topic, pressuring his daughter about the job interview.
The next morning Eun-ho gets an angry call from her father. While Deok-chul and Chae-rok head happily to the restaurant for their meal, we see Eun-ho confronting the manager at the restaurant about the evaluation grade she received (a C). A crowd is already forming around the office door, and soon Deok-chul and Chae-rok are a part of it.
Eun-ho says that the manager had promised to evaluate her well after she helped with the thesis, and questions why her coworker got a higher score than her. The manager is unperturbed and says that Eun-ho could have refused to help with the thesis. Eun-ho, getting teary and angry, says that she worked hard and did her best on the evaluation; she presses the manager to know the reason for the evaluation she got. Before the manager can respond, Deok-chul calls out his granddaughter’s name.
The family’s reaction to Deok-chul starting ballet was unsurprising in some ways, yet I was surprised by just how vehemently opposed Seong-san was to it all. He displayed such anger towards his father, and selfishness too, it’s as though he thought Deok-chul was pursuing his dream in order to spite the family in some way. Now my question is, is there something that happened in the past that created this anger and resentment or is Seong-san just a blowhard who’s overreacting? I hope it’s the latter because what we have seen of Deok-chul so far is someone who was hardworking and honest and just wants something for himself now that his children are grown and he’s approaching the end of his life.
Hae-nam was another surprise, but in a good way. She seemed so set in her ways, and her attitude towards their youngest son made me believe she would be the last to give in, if at all. It warmed my heart when she defended Deok-chul and gave him her blessing to keep dancing. She is the one who knows him the best after all, and whatever hardships and poverty the family endured, she and Deok-chul got through it together. On another note, am I the only one seeing similarities between Hae-nam and Chae-rok? They’re both cold and pouty on the outside, but soft and squishy on the inside. They’ve both been very sweet towards Deok-chul even with their sour faces on. It’s nice to see that Deok-chul has so many supporters in addition to Hae-nam and Chae-rok. It was nice to see Seong-gwan, Ae-ran, and Young-il stand up for him and they’re all kindred spirits — in one way or another, each one of them is going against the expectations of family in pursuit of their own happiness and goals.
Chae-rok is more openly showing us that he is really sweet, and I love his interactions with Deok-chul even more now. Deok-chul is becoming someone he values and someone who provides him with the affection and encouragement he had been missing from his parents. It was sweet vindication to see Chae-rok finally stand up for himself with Ho-bum because, Chae-rok truly has done nothing wrong. While I understand Ho-bum’s resentment and anger, the target of his emotions is misplaced. His dogged torment of Chae-rok’s life is starting to feel senseless; like he’ll end up hurting himself more than anyone else.
One character that I have yet to get a total handle on is Eun-ho. She seems to have a backbone, but so far that’s only been apparent when she’s talking to Chae-rok or her uncle Seong-gwan. Right now, it seems like she’s willing to follow in her father’s footsteps and choose security over finding her own dreams and path. It’s why she’s let herself be treated like a doormat by rude customers and the manager. But I’m not sure that choosing a safe path in life and finding your own happiness have to be mutually exclusive. We’ve seen now that no matter how hard she works or how much she plays the game, sometimes it just won’t work out in her favor (and I think she should have reported the manager as soon as she brought the extracurricular work, but that’s me). I hope we get to see more of her and understand her better in the coming episodes.