Navillera: Episode 8
Our young ballerino learns the devasting truth about his elderly student and does his best to watch over him from a distance. Though all he can do is stay by his side and cheer him on, his presence is enough for our grandpa who still needs some time to gather his courage before revealing his illness to his family.
EPISODE 8 RECAP
Six months ago. Deok-chul struggled to accept his doctor’s diagnosis and asked him to test him again for dementia. Despite trying his best to remember, the results were the same, and the doctor advised Deok-chul to record all his activities in order to make it a habit.
In the park, Deok-chul stared at a family playing nearby and thought of his own parents. As memories of his life flashed by, he looked at pictures of his children and choked back tears. Tears streaming down his face, Deok-chul raised his head towards the clear, blue sky and sobbed for his parents to guide him.
Deok-chul rides the bus home after picking up the anniversary photo and sighs to himself. At the studio, Chae-rok places Deok-chul’s notebook back into his locker and runs out. He calls Deok-chul to no avail, and decides to look for him, instead.
At the Shim household, everyone has gathered to celebrate Seong-gwan’s birthday, and though they bicker and complain, they sit around the table like a family and embrace the chaos. Even grumpy Seong-gwan smiles for a picture. Heh.
As Eun-ho arrives at her grandparents’ house, she finds Chae-rok pacing outside the gate, so she invites him inside. When Hae-nam sees their new guest, she excitedly introduces her husband’s ballet teacher, but by now, most of the children know Chae-rok one way or another.
Ae-ran wonders how the two of them came together, and Eun-ho tells them that they both worked at the restaurant. Realizing that he was a part-timer, Seong-san uses this opportunity to bring him down, but Hae-nam will not tolerate his rude behavior and threatens to kick out her eldest if he continues acting this way.
When Deok-chul finally comes home after his errand, he is surprised to find Chae-rok with his family and asks why he is here. Chae-rok cannot bring himself to speak the truth, so he makes up an excuse about increasing their lesson hours. As he gets ready to leave, Hae-nam and Deok-chul insist that he stay for dinner.
Seung-joo shares a drink with Sori at a bar, and she teases him for finally becoming a human who knows how to comfort others. He chuckles since he is not quite “human” yet. He admits to feeling moved by Deok-chul’s ballet even though it was nothing grand, and she understands his sentiment. Sori tells him that he will make a good coach, but Seung-joo reminds her that he did not accept the position.
At the dinner table, the conversation naturally turns to ballet and Chae-rok. When Seong-sook hears that Chae-rok only started four years ago, she asks if he is any good, and without skipping a beat, he replies, “I am.”
His answer lightens the mood, and Ae-ran asks about Deok-chul’s progress. Seong-sook scolds her sister-in-law for asking a thoughtless question, but Chae-rok interjects and brags about Deok-chul’s debut today. While everyone else celebrates this good news, Chae-rok looks over at Deok-chul with a concerned expression, and Eun-ho notices him staring at her grandpa.
Chae-rok sits on the outside couch with Seong-gwan and wishes him a happy birthday. Acting aloof, he grumbles about the yearly parties, but Chae-rok says that he is jealous of him since he has a family who celebrates with him.
Eun-ho joins them with cups of tea, but when Seong-gwan reaches for one, she motions at her uncle to leave. She takes over his spot and asks Chae-rok if anything is wrong with her grandpa. When he denies it, she assures him that everyone besides her dad supports his lessons so no one is worried about him since he is healthy.
After the party, Deok-chul walks Chae-rok to the bus stop, and Chae-rok complains about being treated like a child. He asks Deok-chul if he can go back home by himself, and Deok-chul repeats the same refrain, making Chae-rok smile. Once the bus arrives, Chae-rok gets on and looks back at Deok-chul who waves at him from the sidewalk.
At home, Deok-chul takes out his memorial portrait and mentally crosses off a task from his checklist. When Hae-nam calls for him, he quickly hides the photo in his desk drawer before leaving the room. Meanwhile, Chae-rok comes home and sits in the dark. He recalls the signs of Deok-chul’s memory loss and hangs his head, conflicted over what he should do.
The next morning, Eun-ho goes to work at the radio station and fumbles around with the unfamiliar tasks. When asked to call the guest, she looks for his number on her personal cellphone, and then to make matters worse, she speaks gruffly over the phone and forgets to introduce herself first.
On his way to the studio, Deok-chul realizes that his notebook is missing and hurries to his locker. He sighs in relief when he finds it and turns his attention to his new nametag. He tells Chae-rok that he likes it, and Chae-rok pretends to know nothing. Deok-chul chuckles at his grumpiness and says that he is in a good mood since his teacher is so nice to him.
Seong-sook stares at the photo of her parents and notices how much they have aged. When Hae-nam steps out of her room, Seong-sook returns to her loud self and scolds her hungover husband to wake up. Laughing at the pair, Hae-nam suggests that they stay for lunch, but Seong-sook grows solemn and tells her mom that she is giving up.
During their lesson, Deok-chul forgets the next step, and Chae-rok chides him for not paying attention. Despite his sharp tone, Chae-rok guides him through the motions and gives him detailed instructions.
In his office, Seung-joo watches a ballet performance and ignores the bombardment of calls from Sori and their friend. After the third one, he finally answers, and accepting his fate, he asks for his piano back in exchange for coaching. She agrees to return two keys for every visit and hangs up before he can protest.
Chae-rok stares off into space in the middle of their lesson and forgets how many times Deok-chul practiced. He tells him to do it again, but Deok-chul refuses since he already did it three times. Luckily, Seung-joo steps out of his office, and Deok-chul stops for today because he needs to talk to him.
At a café, Deok-chul asks if he can come to rehearsals with him to watch, and Seung-joo allows him to tag along and even perform from time to time. Excited about the opportunity, Deok-chul heads back to the studio to practice some more.
Chae-rok asks Seung-joo about the sudden change, and he tells him that he is intrigued by Deok-chul as well and wants to give him a goal. For a moment, Chae-rok considers telling Seung-joo the truth but decides against it.
After practice, Deok-chul writes in his notebook and complains about his aching bones. He wonders if it will rain and tells Chae-rok that going to the bathhouse would be heavenly right now. He says that it makes for a great bonding experience and guilt-trips him to come scrub his back.
Since Chae-rok is a softie, he accompanies Deok-chul to the bathhouse and tells him to think of him as his grandson. While scrubbing Deok-chul’s back, Chae-rok shares some of his own worries and asks if his relationship with his dad could improve if they came to the bathhouse together.
Chae-rok says that he only has bad memories of his dad, and though he hates him, he cannot stop thinking of him, either. His feelings remind Deok-chul of his own past, and he tells Chae-rok about the time he came to the bathhouse with his aging dad.
While Deok-chul scrubbed his back, his dad suddenly apologized to him, and those simple words melted his heart. He realized that he was not the only one who regretted not doing ballet this entire time; his dad regretted it, too. He believes Chae-rok’s dad is probably the same and reassures the younger man that things will get better like it did for him.
As they step out of the bathhouse, Deok-chul and Chae-rok stare at the falling snow, and Deok-chul says that he is starting to like the snow again because of the wonderment it brings. Ruining the mood, Chae-rok reminds him to do his workouts at home since he will test him next time, and Deok-chul scurries away before he can give him more assignments.
Seong-gwan visits his friend at the hospital and tells him that he failed to find his first patient so he is moving on to plan B. Even though his friend disapproves of his project, he hands him some money as a birthday present and tells him to use it for his documentary. Seong-gwan objects at first, but eventually, he slips the envelope into his pocket.
Chae-rok follows Deok-chul from a distance to make sure he gets home safely. Once he sees him go inside, he silently praises him for doing a good job and walks away. At the bus stop, he writes and rewrites multiple text messages to Eun-ho about her grandpa’s illness, but he does not know how to break the news to her.
He asks her out to coffee, but even face-to-face, he cannot find the right words. While Eun-ho tells him about her first day at work, she notices his sullen expression and correctly guesses that something is wrong. He lies, claiming that he is alright, and Eun-ho does not press him for details.
While Chae-rok drags his feet back home, Se-jong runs up to him and asks about his girlfriend. He wonders if his cranky mood is because of a breakup, and Chae-rok tells him the truth about Deok-chul. He asks for advice on how to tell Eun-ho, and Se-jong randomly brings up his soccer match.
He tells Chae-rok that he made a goal today, and Chae-rok calls him crazy. He points out that Chae-rok is correct; it is crazy, just like his dilemma. He tells Chae-rok that he is merely a goalie, so the one who should make the goal is Deok-chul. He advises his friend to simply cheer him on and trust his striker to do his job.
While Deok-chul does his workouts on the couch, Hae-nam sits in the kitchen and thinks back to what Seong-sook told her. She wanted to give up trying to conceive a child, and it broke Hae-nam to see her daughter cry. Even now, that day weighs heavily on her heart, and Deok-chul realizes that something is bothering his wife.
At home, Chae-rok waits for his morning call, but it never arrives. He stops by the clinic to get his ankle checked out, and Dr. Oh complains about him encroaching on his precious weekend hours. He heard about Chae-rok’s decision to focus on recovery from his best friend (aka, Deok-chul), and as long as he is helping him, he warns him not to betray his manager’s devotion.
Deok-chul double-checks his bag before heading out of the house and finds Hae-nam making more alcohol for their son-in-law. She tells Deok-chul that he was right about Young-il being a considerate man, and informs her husband that their daughter wants to stop. Deok-chul asks if she needs help, but she tells him to go and ace his test.
Chae-rok glances at the door, waiting for Deok-chul to arrive, and cracks a little smile when he walks through the doors. Meanwhile, Moo-young asks his friend for permission to go to Seoul, and his friend tells him to hurry to his son’s side.
Still in his outside clothes, Deok-chul stares out into space as something dawns on him. He takes out his notebook and realizes that he forgot about his doctor’s appointment today. He lies to Chae-rok about his wife being sick and promises to come back.
Chae-rok offers to come with him, but Seung-joo stops him from leaving since he received a call from the rehabilitation center. He orders Chae-rok to make up his missed session now, and does not understand his insistence on following Deok-chul. Unable to explain himself, Chae-rok agrees to go and texts Deok-chul that he will back for his lesson.
During his visit, the doctor tells Deok-chul that his condition still seems fine at the moment, but inevitably, his memory loss will worsen. He asks if he told his family yet, and Deok-chul says that he lacks the courage.
Testing Deok-chul’s memory, the doctor asks for the year, and Deok-chul replies, “The year I started ballet.” He answers all the doctor’s questions with memories, recalling today as the day his wife goes to the bathhouse, and tells him that he does not want to forget anything. Apologizing, Deok-chul leaves the office.
Chae-rok returns to the studio after his treatment, but the place is empty. On the streets, Deok-chul bumps into a person and drops his notebook. He bends down to pick it up, but as he stands up, the world around him becomes blurry and unfamiliar.
At the pool hall, Ho-bum and his friends play a game of billiards, and one of them mentions seeing Deok-chul on the way over. When Ho-bum glares at him, the friend drops the topic.
Worried about Deok-chul, Chae-rok calls Hae-nam, but she tells him that he has not been home since the morning. After hanging up, Chae-rok runs around looking for him, but Deok-chul is not in any of their usual places.
On their way home, Ho-bum and his friends spot Deok-chul standing in the street. They try to help him, but Deok-chul does not recognize any of them and can only repeat his name and family’s information. With no way of contacting his family, they search through his belongings for a phone, and Ho-bum looks through his notebook.
His eyes grow wide when he finds the page about his illness, but Chae-rok’s angry roar breaks him out of his trance. From afar, Ho-bum and his friends look like they are hurting Deok-chul, and Chae-rok assumes the worst of them.
Ho-bum’s friends take offense to Chae-rok, but Ho-bum tells them to stop and leaves Deok-chul in his care. Rushing to his side, Chae-rok remembers an entry in his notebook and tells him to watch closely. He dances for Deok-chul in the streets, and Ho-bum turns around and sees Chae-rok spin in the air.
In his notebook, Deok-chul wrote about his first encounter with Chae-rok, and though he does not remember how he got there, his body simply followed the music and found itself at the studio. Seeing the young man soar, it reminded Deok-chul of his past and helped him regain his wits. Since that day, he could not forget about his dance, and it led him back to the studio… and to Chae-rok.
Just like that time, Deok-chul watches him dance, and the snow falls around them as Chae-rok gracefully spins and jumps. As he strikes his last pose, Chae-rok locks eyes with him, and Deok-chul whispers Chae-rok’s name.
As a fan of the original webtoon, I naturally notice the differences between the drama and the source material. For the most part, the changes are minor, but they add up and impact the show. In the beginning, I doubted the show’s choices because they felt like unnecessarily divisive and overblown characterizations and backstories meant to make a heartwarming story more dramatic. However, as the show progressed, I slowly came to cherish these versions of Deok-chul, Chae-rok, Hae-nam, and the rest of the crew as variants of the original—not necessarily wrong, simply different. However, it was the ending of this episode that sold it for me. The scene of Chae-rok dancing in the snow for Deok-chul is a combination of multiple scenes from the webtoon, and while the ones in the comic worked for that story, this one works perfectly for the drama.
Surprisingly enough, the addition of Ho-bum was what made the scene feel even more special. His presence reminded me of the billiard scene where he orders Chae-rok to dance for him on the table. Back then, Deok-chul berated him for looking down on the future star and told him that Chae-rok’s dancing was meant for the stage. However, in that moment, on the streets and in the snow, Chae-rok dances for Deok-chul, and even though the conditions were terrible, he puts his heart into every move and makes that space his stage. Once an aimless talent filled with doubt, Chae-rok rediscovers his passion and reason to dance, and as a result, he shines. Even Ho-bum is stunned, but more importantly, his dance reaches Deok-chul who remembers ballet and Chae-rok once again.
From the first moment he saw Chae-rok, Deok-chul was enamored of him and his ballet. He wasn’t just some young and talented ballerino, but a remembrance of his first encounter with ballet and why he fell in love with it during his youth. In a sense, Chae-rok and ballet became one and the same, and to Deok-chul, this young man and his talents reminded him of his own passion for dance and helped him stay present. Unfortunately, the very thing that spurred Deok-chul to pursue his dreams is also the thing that may stop him from ever reaching it. Though I knew it was coming, I still cried when Deok-chul broke down after hearing about his illness. In that moment, he wasn’t the dependable grandpa who always knows what to say at the right moment, but another scared son looking for his parents to help him. Memories are such a core essence of the human experience, and Deok-chul shows just how important they are as he recalls the days, seasons, and years not as dates on a calendar but as precious moments with his loved ones. These aren’t just numbers to remember but events and people he cannot forget.
Navillera has always been a story about an old man and his dream as well as a younger man and his passion. At the same time, it is about the relationship that blossoms between these two individuals and their shared love for ballet. Just as Chae-rok is important to Deok-chul, Deok-chul has become irreplaceable for Chae-rok as well. Rather than view Deok-chul and his dream as a nuisance, Chae-rok learns to respect him, and Deok-chul becomes another reason for Chae-rok to do better and be better. Chae-rok receives a lot of pressure from those around him, not just from Deok-chul, but instead of letting it crush him, he is strong enough to accept everything—their expectations, desires, wants—and soar. Though I expect even more heartache for our lovely characters, I know that they will endure it all because of their love for ballet and each other.