Navillera: Episode 9
Even though his memory gets worse by the day, our elderly student lives in the moment and refuses to give up on ballet. It might have taken him a long time to go after his dream, but now that he is here, he will not back down. Understanding his student’s determination, our young ballerino sticks by his side and pushes him to be his best even if those goals seem impossible.
EPISODE 9 RECAP
Chae-rok broaches the topic of Deok-chul’s lapse of memory and asks why he pretended to not know him. Deok-chul says that he was zoning out, and Chae-rok accepts his obvious lie. He tells Deok-chul that he is coming over for dinner, and they walk the rest of the way in silence.
As they reach the house, Chae-rok and Deok-chul run into Seong-gwan who is here to pick up some stuff for a trip. While Hae-nam and Deok-chul prepare the table, Chae-rok steps outside to chat with Seong-gwan. He asks about his trip, and Seong-gwan tells him that he will be away for a while because of his documentary.
Talking in circles, Chae-rok struggles to find the correct words to explain the situation with Deok-chul, and Seong-gwan grows increasingly frustrated. He tells Chae-rok to spit it out, so Chae-rok drops all the frills: “Grandpa has Alzheimer’s.”
The words can barely get out of his mouth as Seong-gwan refuses to believe him, but Chae-rok explains how Deok-chul already had two incidences. Though he saw it written in his notebook a while back, Chae-rok will pretend to know nothing until Deok-chul is ready to tell him. In the meantime, he will do everything he can to help Deok-chul achieve his goal of doing ballet.
The news of Deok-chul’s illness bothers Ho-bum as well, and he stares at his computer screen, unable to play.
Seong-gwan turns to his older brother for guidance, and over the phone, he asks if he would tell his daughter if he ever gets sick. Seong-san says that he would not tell her because a parent’s duty is to act tough, and Seong-gwan hangs up without any explanation.
At the dinner table, Seong-gwan announces his new project: Deok-chul will be the main character of his documentary. Chae-rok tells Deok-chul that filming might give him more motivation, so Deok-chul happily accepts his son’s offer.
Joking around, Chae-rok wonders how much they will be paid for appearing in his documentary. Seong-gwan grumbles to Hae-nam, asking why Chae-rok is in their house, and she tosses the same question back at her wayward son.
After dinner, Seong-gwan drops Chae-rok off at the bus stop and continues walking alone to think. Meanwhile, back at the house, Hae-nam places a face mask on Deok-chul and complains about all the men in her life working against her.
On his way home, Chae-rok crosses paths with Ho-bum, and he uses this opportunity to apologize for misunderstanding the situation from before. He tells him that Deok-chul is sick and asks that he call him if this happens again.
The next morning, Seong-gwan returns to his parents’ house with multiple bags and tells his surprised mom that he plans to stick by his dad’s side for the documentary. Though Hae-nam calls him another mouth to feed, both parents clearly enjoy the presence of their son as evident by their wide grins.
Remembering Chae-rok’s words, Seong-gwan goes into Deok-chul’s room and finds his notebook. He reads the entries with shaking hands and wipes away his tears before anyone can see them.
Before coming here, he stopped by the hospital and heard from Deok-chul’s doctor about his condition. Seong-gwan asked if his dad could continue doing ballet, and the doctor told him that he should know the answer since he was a doctor, too.
Ae-ran offers to drive today since Seong-san came home from work late. He comments on the benefits of working at the same company, and she scoffs at his refusal to thank her outright. While resting in the passenger’s seat, Seong-san calls Hae-nam to ask about his brother.
When she tells him that he is filming a documentary about Deok-chul, Seong-san sighs in frustration. Ae-ran wonders what is wrong, but he just huffs next to her. He refuses to talk about anything and tells her that everything is fine—both his family and work.
At the radio station where Eun-ho works, the host reads a submission from an elderly fan. He wants to encourage his granddaughter, and Eun-ho looks up when she hears her name being called.
The fan is Deok-chul, and he describes her conception dream: the brightest star in the sky fell into their yard, and she was born. To Deok-chul, Eun-ho is his brightest star. She tears up at his message and remembers the time he comforted her after she failed her internship.
Deok-chul listens to the radio as well before heading to the studio with Seong-gwan. On their way over, he notices his son’s worn shoes and looks troubled. Once they reach the studio, Deok-chul receives a thank you message from Eun-ho which brightens his mood.
As he gets changed, Deok-chul realizes that he forgot his dance belt, so Chae-rok hands him a spare. Deok-chul takes a sniff, and Chae-rok yells at him since those are washed. Smiling sheepishly at his teacher, Deok-chul thanks him for the belt.
During practice, Seong-gwan films his dad and sees him do ballet for the first time. Deok-chul’s sincerity and determination finally hit him, and Seong-gwan lowers the camera, fully engrossed in his dad’s love for ballet.
While the men are out dancing, Hae-nam is busy grocery shopping for the family. She buys a whole box of mackerels which are supposedly good for the elderly, and sends a box of pomegranates to her daughter.
Over lunch, Deok-chul asks Chae-rok if he contacted his dad again, and Chae-rok tells him that he will take care of it himself. He changes the subject back to Deok-chul, suggesting another increase in their lesson hours, but Deok-chul already has plans for this afternoon.
Since he cannot make it to today’s lesson, Deok-chul offers to buy their meal. While he gets up to pay, Chae-rok spots his phone on the table and quickly installs a location tracking app.
The dancers at the ballet company eagerly wait for Seung-joo’s arrival, and Sori assures her nervous friend that he will show up right on time. As she predicted, he comes not a second too early and starts class immediately.
Instead of joining the others for lunch, Seong-gwan visits his friend at the hospital to talk about his dad. He smiles sardonically, commenting on how his friend got his wish: he is soaking wet and finally coming to his senses.
Deok-chul’s afternoon plans were buying a pair of shoes and waiting for Seong-gwan to come home. Once his youngest arrives, he hands him the box and tells him that it always bothered him to see his son wearing those old shoes.
Seong-gwan shares with Deok-chul the reason he quit being a doctor and tells him that the patient’s blood was still warm. Even though he declared him dead, he could still feel his warmth, and in that moment, he realized that he was powerless.
He explains to his dad that he cannot take off these shoes because they remind him of that day. For him, forgetting his mistake frightens him since it might make him believe he could save people again. As of now, he isn’t ready to move on, but when that day comes, he promises to wear the new shoes.
Chae-rok practices in the studio, and during his breaks, he checks on Deok-chul’s location. When Seung-joo returns from coaching, he compliments Chae-rok’s diligence and tells him to get ready for today’s lesson.
Dinner at the Shim house is mackerels in all its lovely forms, and Hae-nam tells her son to not be picky if he wants to get married. He calls her notion a fallacy, but Deok-chul offers him a piece of advice: Hae-nam is never wrong. Heh.
At Seong-san’s house, Eun-ho grumbles about her dad missing family dinner, but Ae-ran comes to his defense since he is busy. They talk about Eun-ho’s new job, and she tells her mom that it is fun.
She describes it as a different world that makes her want to do better, but the problem is that she keeps making mistakes. Ae-ran tells her to stop making them, then, and Eun-ho sighs, pointing out how similar her parents are sometimes.
After their lesson, Seung-joo comments on Chae-rok’s changed attitude and his continued motivation. Chae-rok says that he was always like this, but Seung-joo disagrees. He asks if something happened, but Chae-rok leaves without answering.
Seung-joo seeks Sori for advice, and she tells him that some people grow from failure. He finds that a false belief since only success causes growth and wonders if Chae-rok’s change is related to Deok-chul. Sori does not see the problem with that, but Seung-joo still seems bothered. Changing topics, Sori brings up his first day as coach, and he tells her that it wasn’t boring (aka, he had fun).
At home, Chae-rok looks at his dance belt and thinks back to Deok-chul. He once told Chae-rok that he was afraid of forgetting his own desires which was why every moment was precious to him and forced him to strive for his goals. Those words stuck out for Chae-rok, and the next day, he pushes Deok-chul even harder during practice.
Deok-chul’s body will not move like he wants, and he starts to feel conscious of the camera catching all his mistakes. He glances at his son, and Chae-rok scolds him for getting distracted. As Chae-rok yells at Deok-chul to do better, Seong-gwan’s expression darkens, but he keeps silent.
Taking a break, Chae-rok joins Seong-gwan on the roof, and the latter gently suggests toning down the practice. Chae-rok flatly refuses his request since he will follow Deok-chul’s lead. After giving it a lot of thought, he realized that Deok-chul wants to succeed more than anything else.
Returning to the studio, Chae-rok extends the first peace offering by inviting the group out for lunch. Though Seong-gwan accepts, Deok-chul is not in the mood for food, so Chae-rok agrees to buy him a lunchbox, instead. Completely oblivious to the others’ moods, Seung-joo pops in and asks for an eel lunchbox. Pfft.
Once the others leave, Deok-chul drops by the clinic to get his knees checked. He wonders if he might have reached his limits, and Dr. Oh asks if he should consider giving up now. His advice shocks him, and Deok-chul does not know how to respond.
Star ballerino HWANG HEE (cameo by Seo In-gook) visits the studio to pay his respects to Seung-joo. He marvels at the place and calls Chae-rok lucky for getting things so easily in life. Seung-joo says that it was not easy for Chae-rok either, but Hwang Hee brushes off the comment and tells Seung-joo to lighten up.
He wonders how long Seung-joo will keep Chae-rok under his wing, and his question seems to hit a nerve for Seung-joo. While the two of them chat privately, the others gather outside the office and stare in awe at the famous guest.
When they come out, Deok-chul introduces himself as a fan, and Seung-joo explains how he is learning ballet from Chae-rok. Hwang Hee assumes Deok-chul is doing it as a hobby and tells him to have fun. Deok-chul does not correct him, but he is not the only one hurt by his words.
Chae-rok chases after Hwang Hee and tells him that Deok-chul is serious. He knows that it will not be easy for him, but Chae-rok points out that ballet is not easy for anyone. He wants Hwang Hee to know that Deok-chul is putting his life on the line, and Hwang Hee says that he understands.
Chae-rok joins Deok-chul in the changing room and asks him what ballet means to him. He wonders why he did not say anything to Hwang Hee, and Deok-chul tells him that he does not care what others say—he will not give up because he knows that he is not weak. Meanwhile, Bom practices in the studio, and Seong-gwan watches her with tears pooling in his eyes.
In his office, Seung-joo scoffs at Chae-rok’s request to put Deok-chul in the upcoming program. He tells him that it is not a school talent show and berates Chae-rok for veering off course. Undeterred, Chae-rok begs him to allow Deok-chul to at least audition, and Seung-joo relents, warning him that it will be hard.
Hearing the news of his audition, Deok-chul breaks into a smile and thanks Chae-rok for this opportunity. He wants to do Swan Lake for his performance, and no matter how much Chae-rok tries to dissuade him, Deok-chul will not budge.
After a fruitless attempt to change Deok-chul’s mind, Chae-rok offers to buy coffee, but Deok-chul gets up first since he wants to treat them. He leaves after taking their orders, and while they wait for him to return, Seong-gwan thanks Chae-rok as well.
Moo-young takes the bus to Seoul, and on his way to see his son, he bumps into Se-jong who was going to Chae-rok’s place, too. After exchanging stiff greetings, Se-jong takes his leave, but at the last second, he comes back and tells Moo-young about Ho-bum injuring Chae-rok.
Deok-chul returns to the studio with their coffee, but he got their orders mixed up. Chae-rok exchanges a look with Seong-gwan, and they decide to let it slide. After practice, Chae-rok reminds Deok-chul to rest for today, and Deok-chul thanks him again for everything.
As Chae-rok comes home, he notices a pair of shoes in the entryway and looks up in shock when Moo-young steps of the room. He brought chicken soup for his son, and they eat dinner together for the first time since his release.
Breaking the tension, Chae-rok asks if they ever went to the bathhouse together, and Moo-young tells him that they went when he was younger. Chae-rok suggests going again next time, and the two of them slowly bridge the gap between them.
Deok-chul writes the audition date in his notebook and steps outside to sit with Seong-gwan in the yard. While they stare into the night, Seong-gwan tells Deok-chul that he always looked like someone who loses to him and blamed that part of his dad for their family’s hardship.
Lately, though, Deok-chul is starting to look like a different person, and Seong-gwan calls him a winner who does not give up. He says that it moved him, and Deok-chul grins at his son’s compliment, promising to win this time.
Moo-young gets ready to leave, but Chae-rok tells him to stay since it is late. That night, they lie in their beds unable to sleep. The next morning, Moo-young sees his son off, and Chae-rok thanks him for the meal before getting on the bus. As for Moo-young, he stops by the pool hall and runs into Ho-bum who stares at his old coach with a mix of emotions across his face.
At the studio, Chae-rok worries about Deok-chul being late, but Seung-joo tells him that he came a while ago. He thinks Deok-chul must be in the restroom, and a creeping unease washes over Chae-rok. He runs to the stalls and hears someone cry in the far corner.
He bangs on the door, but Deok-chul remains unresponsive. Growing increasingly desperate, Chae-rok kicks open the door and finds Deok-chul panicking inside with tears streaming down his face.
I understand Deok-chul needing time to deal with his illness before sharing with his family especially since it was an earth-shattering event in his life that he had a hard time accepting. Thus far, the show has depicted Deok-chul as a thoughtful man, but at the same time, he has a strong sense of responsibility and independence. We see this side of him in the past scenes such as when he memorized his route in a short amount of time as a postal worker as well as the incident where he broke his leg and worked tirelessly to walk again. Hardship is not a foreign concept to Deok-chul, but every time him experienced a low point, he always tried to overcome it alone. It makes sense, then, for Deok-chul to carry this burden by himself in a foolish attempt to keep his family from suffering. However, unbeknownst to Deok-chul, his family always knew like they know (and will know) now about his illness. Though Deok-chul may think he shouldered everything on his own, we saw Hae-nam silently standing in the background acting as her husband’s support. She’s the hand against his back—unseen but felt—and hopefully, Deok-chul realizes that he was never truly alone. He may feel a need to stay strong for his family, but in reality, being vulnerable isn’t always a sign of weakness. Above all else, I want Deok-chul to share his illness with his wife soon not just for her sake but his as well because Hae-nam is stronger and much more dependable than he might recognize.
While I wish the family knew about Deok-chul’s Alzheimer’s disease, I am glad that Chae-rok respected his decision to keep it a secret just as Se-jong advised him. That being said, Chae-rok telling Seong-gwan was the right choice, and I thought the show set up that moment well so the audience could understand why Chae-rok decided to share with him. I’m sure Seong-gwan appreciated the gesture even if he didn’t show it at first, and in the long run, I believe Deok-chul will be grateful for this as well. For the most part, Deok-chul is looking at his situation from a parent’s perspective, and as a result, he cannot fathom what it must be like for his children to stay in the dark. It’s clear from Seong-gwan’s reaction that being lied to hurts, but as it turns out, all the Shim children are more caring and considerate than initially depicted. Setting aside his own feelings, Seong-gwan lets his dad keep his illness a secret because he, too, understands that Deok-chul is suffering the most from this news. Deok-chul must feel like he is losing his sense of self, and forcing him to reveal his illness to everyone when he is not ready only reinforces the fact that he is no longer in control of his life. In a sense, Seong-gwan and Chae-rok are letting Deok-chul continue his daily routines in order to give him a semblance of normalcy, and they match to his pace without him even realizing the compromises they make on his behalf.
One positive effect of Seong-gwan knowing about Deok-chul’s illness is that Chae-rok can now talk to someone about it and express his worries. Despite the minor clashes between teacher and son, the two of them have Deok-chul’s best interest at heart, and consequently, they always end up on the same page after their disagreements. While it might not be Chae-rok’s responsibility to take care of Deok-chul, it is obvious that he wants to be a part of his life because even if this relationship will bring him heartache, knowing Deok-chul has also taught Chae-rok so many things. As Seung-joo pointed out, Chae-rok has changed a lot after meeting his elderly student. Having an ardent and unwavering supporter in his corner did wonders for his self-esteem, but more importantly, Chae-rok now has someone he also wants to protect and help. His world is expanding, and little by little, he is learning to speak his mind and have the courage to face different challenges because his dreams are no longer just about himself. The despondent young man who let his past dictate his self-worth has disappeared, and Chae-rok has grown into a steadfast person who has learned how to forgive and move on with his life.
Though Moo-young did not deserve it, Chae-rok extends his hand to his dad to slowly fix their relationship. In all honesty, I don’t think Moo-young has shown much character growth to prove that he can do better since he practically ran away from his son after his release. He barely gives Chae-rok a chance to even be mad at him, and I still find his actions selfish than wholly repentant. He may have paid the price legally, but he has shown very little initiative to make amends emotionally to those he hurt. However, there is still a chance for Moo-young to apologize to his son as well as the teens who were in his care, and I trust the show to give the victims the closure they need. While the show is a bit heavy-handed with some of its parallelisms, I do like the contrast between Chae-rok and Ho-bum, which shows how the past can tie a person down. Both these young men never moved on from the incident with Moo-young, but unlike Ho-bum, Chae-rok met Deok-chul who helped him stand back on his feet. Despite being a bully, I hope Ho-bum gets another chance because I want him to sincerely apologize to Chae-rok and realize that his actions were wrong. After that, I believe Ho-bum will be able to find his own path to soar, and then, both boys can finally be free.