Navillera: Episode 7
Our young ballerino shows his maturity and makes some hard decisions, while his aging student starts to get discouraged, and a tragic revelation confirms our fears.
EPISODE 7 RECAP
After getting Hae-nam’s distress call, Chae-rok rushes straight over to the aquarium to help. Security can’t find Deok-chul on the cameras and Chae-rok goes to search for him, leaving Hae-nam to wait at the information desk.
Meanwhile, Deok-chul is in a dark backroom, looking dazed. A tannoy announcement snaps him out of it and he realizes he left Hae-nam alone and doesn’t have his phone to call her. Luckily a staff member finds Deok-chul and escorts him back to the public area, and he heads back to the cafe. Hae-nam’s gone, but Chae-rok spots Deok-chul and tells him off for worrying them.
While they wait for Hae-nam, Deok-chul asks Chae-rok about his ankle and Chae-rok insists it’s fine. Hae-nam hits Deok-chul with her bag when she arrives, angry at him for wandering off and worrying her. She apologises to Chae-rok for distracting him when he’s supposed to be practicing for the competition.
As he gets into a cab, Deok-chul still looks bewildered and doesn’t seem to know what to say to Chae-rok, but Hae-nam gives him cab fare home as thanks for coming to help. Deok-chul watches Chae-rok as they drive away and remarks that he doesn’t seem well, but Hae-nam shrugs it off as concern for Deok-chul.
Later that evening, Chae-rok sits in a darkened practice room at the college thinking about what Seung-joo said to him about giving up on the competition. Meanwhile Deok-chul’s at home writing in his notebook, looking solemn.
The next morning Eun-ho listens to a radio host congratulating a listener on their new job as she gets dressed for work. Ae-ran asks her why she’s so dressed up and is happy to hear Eun-joo’s got a job. Eun-ho says she’s still looking for what makes her happy, but for now she’s decided to try different things to see what suits her. Seong-san overhears Eun-joo talking to Ae-ran and gets excited, asking what company she’s going to be working at.
Cut to Ae-ran and Seong-san at work. He’s complaining about Eun-ho getting a temp freelance job and potentially missing out on the hiring window for big companies. Ae-ran rolls her eyes, and he criticises her for being too laid back about their daughter’s future. As she leaves, Ae-ran tells Seong-san that she missed a call from Hae-nam yesterday, and he remembers that he did too.
Waving off a curious colleague who’s noticed him bickering with Ae-ran, Seong-san finally returns Hae-nam’s call. She starts to tell him about Deok-chul disappearing at the aquarium but changes her mind and hangs up, complaining to herself about children who only call when it’s convenient for them.
Eun-ho arrives at the radio station while the show’s in progress, and watches everyone working quietly while the host speaks. Afterwards she’s given a long list of her new responsibilities, which involve a lot of menial tasks like contacting guests and printing scripts. As the newest writer she’ll be doing the scut work and not a lot of actual writing. The other employee emphasizes that Eun-ho needs to make sure things run smoothly which means keeping the host happy, because a radio show’s success depends on its host.
The studio is empty when Deok-chul arrives, and he stops for a moment to take it all in, looking solemn. He almost hurts his back while warming up at the barre and wonders at how stiff he feels after just one day off.
Chae-rok’s leg is still causing him pain and he’s all out of painkillers, so he heads over to the orthopedic clinic to ask for more. The doctor tells him that that was supposed to be a week’s worth of medication and Chae-rok’s MRI is clean, so he refuses to give him any more even though Chae-rok protests that he’s still in pain. He tells Chae-rok that his motto is “No peeing in the pants for warmth,” which means that although painkillers might help Chae-rok briefly, they’ll be worse for him in the long run. He sends an unhappy Chae-rok away empty-handed.
Seung-joo’s waiting for Chae-rok outside the studio, wanting to talk to him again about his injury and giving up on the competition. Unfortunately for him, Deok-chul sees Chae-rok through the window and interrupts, giving Chae-rok a chance to escape.
While he’s changing, Chae-rok asks Deok-chul why he’s been staring at him. Deok-chul’s noticed that he seems out of sorts, both yesterday and today, but Chae-rok dismisses his concerns.
Deok-chul’s struggling a little with the exercises today, but Chae-rok supports him through them. Watching them from his office, Seung-joo gets a call from Sori offering him a coaching job at a friend’s new ballet company. He turns her down, saying that teaching Chae-rok is stressful enough, and then interrupts Deok-chul’s lesson to drag Chae-rok away.
Chae-rok studies a large photo of a shirtless Seung-joo mid-jump that’s hanging on the wall of Seung-joo’s apartment. Seung-joo asks Chae-rok why he thinks he accepted him as a student. He was a stranger, and a complete beginner, and Seung-joo dislikes other people and had never been interested in teaching before.
Chae-rok asks if he’s regretting that decision now. Seung-joo doesn’t answer that, and instead says that the photo on the wall was taken during his last performance. He’s hung it there as a reminder to himself of what he lost and why.
It’s 2016 and Seung-joo, in costume for Don Quixote, walks through the halls of Palais Garnier. He smiles and waves to people he passes, but as soon as the dressing room door closes behind him his mask falls and it’s obvious he’s in pain. He tries to cover it when Sori comes into the room, but his leg gives way when he takes a step and he crashes to the floor. At the hospital, a doctor tells Seung-joo that he’ll never dance again. In a practice studio, he tries to push through the pain and dance anyway, but collapses to the ground sobbing.
Seung-joo tells Chae-rok that that was the lowest point of his life. Shortly afterwards he saw Chae-rok dance, and decided that even if it was over for him Chae-rok could dance on his behalf. He wants to see Chae-rok perform their ballet on stage one day, so he can’t just sit back and watch him make the same mistakes that ended Seung-joo’s career.
Deok-chul practices at the barre while Bom dances in the studio, accompanied by Anna on the piano. The girls stop to watch him, impressed by the progress he’s made. Anna says that she was expecting him to quit immediately and Deok-chul replies that most people thought the same. Bom disagrees, and offers to teach Deok-chul while Chae-rok’s away.
As she’s walking home, Hae-nam is stopped by a neighbor who wants to express her sympathies after her husband saw Deok-chul “shimmying around” at the dance studio. Hae-nam tells her to shut her ignorant mouth, because what Deok-chul does is art, and tells her that she’d throw salt at her if she had any (it’s what’s traditionally done to chase away evil spirits lol).
Hae-nam is in the kitchen making marmalade for the family and complaining to herself about gossiping neighbors when Seong-sook walks in. Seong-sook agrees with the neighbors about Deok-chul “shimmying around” and says that he must really love ballet if he’s still sticking with it, and Hae-nam, offended, replies that Seong-sook won’t be getting any marmalade from her this year.
Young-il rushes in wearing a party hat to tell Hae-nam that he’s gotten into college and wants to celebrate it with her, while Seong-sook notices a marmalade jar marked with Chae-rok’s name and wants to know who he is.
Getting off a bus, Chae-rok runs into Sori. There are big posters announcing a ballerina’s retirement hanging off a theatre nearby, and Chae-rok asks Sori what it’s like to retire from ballet. He’s having a hard time imagining what it would be like to stop dancing. Sori says that it was a fantastic feeling, and she ate an entire pizza to celebrate not having to diet anymore. For years she’d felt inferior and jealous towards Seung-joo, who was a genius, but quitting freed her, allowing her to leave those negative emotions behind.
Chae-rok admires Sori for accomplishing so much through hard work alone, but she tells him that sometimes hard work just isn’t enough. Seung-joo worked just as hard as she did but he was naturally talented on top of that, and Sori eventually realized that she’d reached the peak of her capabilities and couldn’t compete with him.
Chae-rok wants to find out whether or not he has talent. He started ballet late and hasn’t even debuted yet, but retirement age is already fast approaching and he wanted to use the Savilla competition to test himself. Sori says that when Seung-joo first saw Chae-rok perform he realized that he was instinctively creating his own interpretation of the dance, something many ballet dancers never achieve, and tells Chae-rok to have confidence in himself.
Back at the studio that evening, Chae-rok finds Deok-chul still there practicing and tells him about his dilemma over the competition. Chae-rok is worried that he might not get another opportunity if he lets this one go. There are no guarantees in life. Plus, he already told his dad he’d be competing.
Deok-chul tells Chae-rok about a motorbike accident he had when he was younger. He broke his leg badly and the doctors told him he may walk with a limp for the rest of his life and be unable to ride his motorbike – both particularly devastating for a mailman. He spent a year in hospital going through rehab, but he never gave up and eventually made a full recovery and got back on his bike. If he perseveres, Chae-rok will get another chance.
Chae-rok goes to Seung-joo’s apartment to let him know that he’s decided to give up on Sevilla, do his rehab properly and win the next competition instead. He won’t be like Seung-joo, stuck in the audience. He’s going to be performing on stage for a long time.
Seong-gwan’s out-of-town trying to track down his first patient, but the place he’s looking for has been demolished and he hits a dead end. He gets a call from Deok-chul asking for the password for Seong-gwan’s computer, which he keeps forgetting. The password is Seong-gwan’s birthday, and Deok-chul realizes that’s today and invites him over for dinner that evening.
Hae-nam is seeing Deok-chul off as he heads to the studio when the neighbour passes by without stopping to talk, and Deok-chul asks if they’ve fallen out. Giving him some cake to share with Chae-rok, Hae-nam tells Deok-chul that the neighbour was bad-mouthing him for doing ballet and Hae-nam told her off.
Further up the road, Deok-chul’s delivery friend stops to ask if he’s really doing ballet and wearing tights. Apparently it’s the talk of the neighbourhood, and he calls Deok-chul a silly old man before speeding off, leaving Deok-chul looking unhappy.
Seung-joo watches Chae-rok as he practices, moving slowly and gracefully around the studio. Deok-chul arrives and admires him, remarking to Seung-joo that Chae-rok shines brightly when he dances. Perhaps ballet is meant for young, healthy people like him rather than old, clumsy people like Deok-chul, and he’s just fooling himself into believing otherwise.
Chae-rok has decided that Deok-chul’s improved enough to move onto the next stage: moving through positions without the barre. Deok-chul finds it difficult to balance and to lift his leg without its support and is discouraged and apologetic, but Chae-rok reassures him that everyone finds it difficult at first. Watching Deok-chul struggle, Seung-joo calls Sori to ask if her job offer still stands.
As they take a break, Chae-rok observes that Deok-chol seems to be in a strange mood today. Seung-joo interrupts to invite Deok-chul to go somewhere with him, telling him that he doesn’t need to change out of his ballet clothes.
Chae-rok tags along as Seung-joo takes Deok-chul to visit the ballet company that Sori wants him to coach. As they watch the dancers rehearse Chae-rok points techniques out to Deok-chul who writes it down in his notebook, joking that it’s a manager notebook at the front and a ballet notebook at the back.
Since Deok-chul didn’t show, Hae-nam has dragged Seong-gwan out grocery shopping with her instead. He asks her if she’s ever seen Deok-chul dance and she replies that she’s not really interested, but Seong-gwan says that he is.
Chae-rok recognizes one of the ballerinas in the company. She used to be very good, but she was injured in an accident 10 years ago and has been in a wheelchair ever since. Deok-chul wonders how she can still dance, and she performs a graceful solo and then duet while in her chair.
Deok-chul is moved by her performance. He’s been plagued by doubts lately, regretting not starting earlier, feeling jealous of Chae-rok, and fearing that he looks ridiculous, but watching this ballerina has helped him to put his struggles in perspective. Seung-joo tells him that although he was skeptical at first, Deok-chul can create his own ballet, even if it’s not technically perfect.
As the dancers are about to take a break, Chae-rok interrupts to announce that there’s still one more performer left: Deok-chul. He’s hesitant but Chae-rok tells him to consider this practice for dancing on stage. Deok-chul doesn’t need to worry about making mistakes, he just needs to dance out of love of ballet.
Alone in the center of the studio, Deok-chul moves gracefully through the positions that Chae-rok has taught him. The audience applauds him, and Chae-rok smiles proudly and tells him to bow.
Logging onto the computer in his old room, Seong-gwan laughs when he finds that Deok-chul has changed the background to a ballet photo. Smiling fondly, he leafs through one of Deok-chul’s ballet notebooks and then writes the computer password on a sticky note so his dad won’t forget it.
In the locker room, Chae-rok invites Deok-chul for dinner but Deok-chul notices his missed calls and takes a rain check, realizing he’s running late. Before he rushes off, Chae-rok congratulates him on his performance, telling him he was amazing.
After he leaves, Chae-rok realizes that Deok-chul doesn’t have a name card on his locker and decides to make him one. He notices Deok-chul’s dropped his notebook and sits down to look through it, marvelling at the pages and pages of notes about himself. He flips to the front page and sees that Deok-chul’s put his name, address and photo there, along with a note that says he has Alzheimer’s.
Meanwhile, Deok-chul is at the framer’s picking up photos of himself and Hae-nam and we see a series of flashbacks. Deok-chul is writing in his diary about getting lost for the first time and needing to write everything down so he remembers things. He insists that he still wants to do ballet and perform on stage.
Another flashback to the doctor giving Deok-chul his diagnosis, telling him that his condition will deteriorate slowly for now but may suddenly take a turn for the worse. The doctor tells Deok-chul to take plenty of notes as a trigger for his memory and to give up driving, which is the real reason why he gave Eun-ho his car. He also recommends that Deok-chul tell his family as soon as possible.
We see a series of flashbacks of moments throughout Deok-chul’s life: sitting with his parents as a child, meeting Hae-nam, holding a baby. Sitting in the park, present-day Deok-chul looks at family photos on his phone and cries, asking his parents what he should do now.
Reeling from the shock of this revelation, Chae-rok drops Deok-chul’s notebook on the ground.
Well, I think we all saw it coming but we now have confirmation that Deok-chul has Alzheimer’s, and this drama is probably going to get a lot sadder from here. Honestly I’m a little disappointed, because it feels unnecessary to me. The premise of an old man finally seizing the opportunity to fulfill his lifelong dream as he nears the end of his life and realizes he’s running out of time was already engaging. It’s a universal concept that pretty much anyone, at any time of life, can relate to, and I don’t think adding dementia is going to make Deok-chul’s sense of urgency feel any more poignant than it already did. These characters are strong enough to stand on their own, and I wish that the writers had had more faith in the strength of the plot and the connection between Deok-chul and Chae-rok to carry the show without introducing this manufactured drama.
I’m very relieved that we didn’t go down the route of painkiller addiction, although I know it’s a major issue among professional athletes. It’s nice to see a doctor with enough sense to put his foot down and act in the best interests of his patient, even if it’s not what they want. It was also nice to see Chae-rok, despite some reluctance, come to a mature decision about his injury rather than charging ahead recklessly. He’s starting to allow the people around him to guide him rather than just relying on himself, and that’s enabled him to grow and make good choices. Chae-rok’s finally admitted to Sori that he’s afraid that he might not be talented enough to make it as a professional ballet dancer, and I think that that was an important step for him. He was in limbo when we met him because he was frozen by that fear, but now he’s ready to face his problems head-on.
I love how quickly Hae-nam and Chae-rok have grown close. Hae-nam trusts him enough to rely on him in an emergency, and Chae-rok acted unhesitatingly when she and Deok-chul needed him. Hae-nam’s maternal urges have been needing an outlet, and between sending him cake and making him his own jar of marmalade, it looks like she’ll soon be adopting Chae-rok as another grandchild. I think it’s a mutually beneficial relationship and I’m glad for them both, their interactions are so cute!
Deok-chul’s cheerful determination is one of his most endearing qualities, but it was nice to see that positivity waver a little this episode. He’s so consistently wholesome and kind that occasionally Deok-chul teeters on the edge of becoming a caricature, so a touch of bitterness made him feel a little more human. Jealousy and inferiority are natural emotions to feel in Deok-chul’s situation, and I liked how it linked back to Sori’s feelings towards Seung-joo when she was a ballerina. It’s interesting to see the complex relationships different characters have with ballet.
We’ve heard a lot about how Chae-rok caught Seung-joo’s attention because he danced the same kind of ballet that Seung-joo did, but I’d like Navillera to expand on what that actually means a little more. Are they referring to emphasizing emotion over technique? Ballet is an art and traditionally puts a lot of emphasis on the dancers embodying the emotion of the music, so I’d like to learn more about how Seung-joo and Chae-rok’s ballet differs from that. I realize that the writers are restrained technically from putting too much focus on the actual dancing because Song Kang is not actually a ballerino, but it seems odd to imbue the concept of their different kind of ballet with so much significance and then not explore why it’s so important.
Navillera has always drawn parallels between Deok-chul and Chae-rok, and Chae-rok and Seung-joo, but this episode leaned perhaps too heavily into those comparisons. Their experiences are so similar as to be unbelievable. Chae-rok has injured his leg and may cause irreparable injury to himself if he continues to dance on it before it’s fully healed, and Seung-joo tries to convince him to drop out of the upcoming competition by turning his own experience into a cautionary tale. That makes sense in the context of their characters and the narrative. But adding another very similar tale from Deok-chul on top of that felt heavy-handed and contrived – why was that necessary? It would have been just as effective to have Deok-chul simply listen to and reassure Chae-rok. What did Deok-chul’s experience add to the narrative? It was too convenient a coincidence to be believable, and pushed the limits of suspension of disbelief. Seung-joo didn’t do his rehab and injured himself so badly he was forced to retire. Deok-chul did do his rehab and made a full recovery. Should Chae-rok do his rehab or not do his rehab? It’s not exactly a masterclass in subtlety.
On a shallower note, I’ve been enjoying Navillera as a wholesome, feel-good show, and I think everything from now on is inevitably going to be tinged with tragedy as Chae-rok confronts Deok-chul, Deok-chul’s family find out, and presumably his dementia worsens. I’ve gotten attached to these characters, and I want happiness for them, but I think the best we can hope for is a bittersweet ending now, and I’m a little bitter about that at the moment. We’ll see if Navillera can change my mind.