Navillera: Episode 12 (Final)
This heartwarming tale of two men with a shared passion comes to a close, and though the end is bittersweet, the show never loses sight of its message of hope and love. Our elderly student gets his chance to soar alongside his teacher, and together, they show the world that it is never too late to start something new.
EPISODE 12 RECAP
As Hae-nam wakes Deok-chul up, he stares at her in confusion and asks who she is. Seong-gwan overhears his parents from the hall and rushes in. When Deok-chul fails to recognize his son as well, they take him to the hospital for a checkup.
The doctor tells them that Deok-chul may need to increase his medication, but for now, he should be fine since he has not shown other symptoms. Seong-gwan stays behind while his parents leave, and he asks if his dad can still perform. The doctor lets out a sigh since he should know the answer already.
With a heavy heart, Seong-gwan suggests to his parents that they should go back home and tell Chae-rok what happened. However, Hae-nam refuses to give up that easily and takes her husband to the studio to help him remember.
Chae-rok gets ready for the gala and writes a message to Deok-chul on a pair of ballet shoes (“the man who will soar, Shim Deok-chul”). He stops by to see his mom and tells her about his upcoming performance and how Moo-young will be there to watch him.
As soon as Deok-chul enters the studio, the familiar setting jogs his memory, and he remembers doing ballet. The others start to grow hopeful, but Deok-chul still cannot recall what he did or even who was here with him.
His eyes land on the barre, and Deok-chul walks up to it as if in a trance. As soon as he grasps it, he sees himself practicing with another man. The picture slowly comes into focus, and Deok-chul remembers Chae-rok.
Hearing his dad whisper Chae-rok’s name, Seong-gwan grabs his camera and shows him a recording of his practice. One by one his memories return, and Deok-chul recognizes all them. However, their happiness is short-lived as Deok-chul tells them that he has forgotten the entire routine.
Seong-san offers to call Chae-rok and break the news to him, but Hae-nam stops him. She believes Deok-chul should go in person and tell them the truth. She says that he should give them his apology as well as his gratitude, and Deok-chul nods in agreement.
While Chae-rok waits anxiously for Deok-chul’s arrival, the other dancers warm up for the gala. Sori and Seung-joo walk around the hall to check on everything, and she tells Seung-joo that he earned his piano back for becoming a human. He says that he does not need it, and she wonders if he wants a new one, instead.
Seong-gwan calls Chae-rok before they arrive, and once Deok-chul gets to the concert hall, he tells the truth to Seung-joo. He apologizes for not informing him sooner and explains how he only remembers doing ballet and having a performance today.
Seung-joo asks if he can still perform, and Deok-chul admits that he does not remember. His words cut off as he breaks down in tears, and though the others understand his situation, the show must go on. They continue with their rehearsal, and Seung-joo decides to put Chae-rok on stage alone.
Chae-rok interrupts, arguing that he cannot go up by himself, and he turns to Deok-chul. He points out that Deok-chul can recognize him which means his promise still stands—as long as Deok-chul remembers him, Chae-rok will teach him ballet. Chae-rok tells Deok-chul that even if it is not perfect, his body still remembers the moves, so he asks Deok-chul to trust him and move forward.
Seung-joo pulls Chae-rok aside and scolds him for being stubborn. He does not see how Deok-chul can perform, but Chae-rok begs him to trust him. He brings up Seung-joo’s old words about how he hates seeing Chae-rok sit in the audience, and he tells him that he feels the same way about Deok-chul.
Chae-rok refuses to let things end this way and wants Deok-chul to finish on stage. Seung-joo looks over at Deok-chul in the audience and finally relents. As Chae-rok tells Deok-chul the good news, he assures his nervous student that they can do it.
Eun-ho offers to drive her parents to the gala in her car, and Seong-san lets her take the wheel. Meanwhile, Seong-sook and Young-il buy some flowers before the show, and Young-il informs his wife that Deok-chul likes baby’s breath. She wonders how he knows her dad so well, and Young-il points out that Deok-chul is his dad, too.
One by one the family members arrive, and the seats are filled with familiar faces—even Ho-bum has come to watch. In the dressing room, Chae-rok hands Deok-chul a present and tells him that he put a spell on them for good luck. Deok-chul cannot take his eyes off the shoes and thanks Chae-rok.
The gala begins, and the first performance goes underway. Seung-joo drops by the dressing room to check on his final performers, and both Chae-rok and Deok-chul tell him that they are ready. In the concert hall, Moo-young arrives a little late and takes his seat.
Soon, the second performance starts, and our duo gets ready behind the stage. Before taking his position, Chae-rok asks if Deok-chul can do it, but Deok-chul forgets to answer, completely absorbed by the others’ dance.
An unease creeps into Chae-rok’s voice as he bombards Deok-chul with a series of questions, asking who he is and what he loves the most. Deok-chul turns his attention back to him and answers everything with conviction.
Chae-rok reminds Deok-chul that he is currently doing what he loves the most and expresses his confidence in Deok-chul’s abilities to pull it off. He goes over to the other side, and they stare at each from across the stage and exchange nods.
The music for Swan Lake fills the hall, and Deok-chul enters the stage with Chae-rok. Their performance captivates the audience, and their family members watch in awe.
All of a sudden, Deok-chul stares into the bright lights and stops dancing. Those who know immediately understand the situation, but Chae-rok does not falter and continues dancing.
In the midst of his confusion, Deok-chul hears Chae-rok’s voice in his head, and all his memories from this past year flash before his eyes. Just as Chae-rok said, Deok-chul’s body remembers, and he recalls his one wish: to do ballet.
Deok-chul’s arms move on their own, and his feet follow. As his body dances, his mind clears, and Deok-chul grabs Chae-rok’s hand. They spin on stage and dance together, showing the audience the culmination of their grueling practices and love for ballet. Holding hands, Deok-chul and Chae-rok stare at each other before taking their final leap, and they soar through the air.
Deok-chul wakes up in his room and sees the bouquet he received from the gala the other day. He sits down at this desk to put away his ballet shoes, and he finally notices the message Chae-rok wrote on the inside. With tears pooling his eyes, he stares into the sky and says that it all feels like a dream.
That evening, the family gathers to celebrate Deok-chul’s successful performance. While everyone is in a good mood, Deok-chul announces his decision to move to a nursing home, and cold wave of reality washes over them.
He tells them that he will eventually forget who they all are and does not want them to see him in such a state. Everyone tries to convince him otherwise, but Deok-chul tells them to think of it as a trip and asks them to respect his last wishes.
Later that night, Seong-sook sits with her dad to talk with him privately. He tells her to hurry home before the roads get icy, and she asks if he will drop her off, then. She mentions how he always picked her up from school when it rained, and she wanted to repay that kindness to her children.
Life turned out differently, though, and Seong-sook says that it was for the best. Rather than pass his love onto her own kids, she wants to return it back to him. Deok-chul grabs his daughter’s hand, and she begs him to let her take care of him the same way he did for her. She cries into his shoulder, and Deok-chul cries as well.
Chae-rok visits his mom with Moo-young, and they place a ticket next to her urn. He says that it would have been nice to have her there, too, but he knows that she is watching over him even now.
Early the next morning, Chae-rok wakes up annoyed when his phone rings, but he bolts up in bed when he hears Deok-chul’s voice: a morning call. Hae-nam wonders where Deok-chul is going since his lessons have ended, and he tells her that he still has one more task to accomplish.
Another change in morning routines occurs at Seong-san’s home as he stays behind and sends his wife and daughter off to work. He looks more comfortable in this new role than before, but from his expression, he clearly longs to leave with them as well.
Chae-rok grumbles about Deok-chul as he arrives at the studio and stops in his tracks when he sees him waiting for him there. Pretending to be grumpy, Chae-rok asks why he came in today, and Deok-chul reminds him that he is his manager. Since he soared already, now it is Chae-rok’s turn, and Deok-chul resumes his duties.
When Seung-joo comes in, he sees the pair working together again and smiles. During practice, he pushes Chae-rok who follows his instructions without a single complaint.
After their lesson, Seung-joo asks Sori to come over, and they talk about Deok-chul for a while. She finally asks why he called her, and he places a ring box in her hand. He says that this one is more expensive than their first, but she closes the lid without saying much. He pouts at her lackluster response and takes back his proposal. Pfft.
Eun-ho comes home from work and finds Seong-san’s glove on the couch as well as his job applications. He finds her looking at his stuff, and he tells her that he used to play baseball. She asks if he was happy when he played, and he says that he was.
Seong-san tells his daughter that watching Deok-chul’s performance reminded him of her. He wondered if she might smile if she did what she loved and tells her to do what makes her happy. She nods at her dad, and he smiles back at her.
Seong-gwan calls for a family meeting and dresses up for the premiere of his documentary. He plays the video for everyone, and they smile as they watch Deok-chul practicing ballet. It ends with his audition, and Deok-chul tears up as he sees himself on screen.
Afterwards, Deok-chul sits outside with his youngest and thanks him for capturing his finale. Seong-gwan admits to wanting more time with him after hearing about his illness, but as he was editing, he realized that Deok-chul felt the same way.
He tells his dad that he is returning to the hospital since he now understands what he can do as a doctor: give people more time. He promises to do his best, and Deok-chul supports his decision wholeheartedly.
Chae-rok meets with Eun-ho, and she gives him a copy of the documentary. She tells him that she always thought he was a natural talent which was why she envied him at first. However, seeing the film, she learned that his skills were a result of his hard work, and tells him to do well in his upcoming competition.
Eun-ho says that she found “it” as well, and he congratulates her. Though calling it a dream might be too grand, she says that going to the station every day makes her happy. She thanks him for helping her find what she loves, and he says that he cannot wait to listen to what she will create in the future.
Chae-rok packs up his bags for his trip, and Moo-young appears in the doorway to tell him that they should go. When they arrive at the airport, Chae-rok’s supporters are all there to send him off, including Deok-chul.
Chae-rok introduces his dad to them, and Deok-chul is glad to have finally met him. Deok-chul tells Chae-rok to take care of himself, and he tells Deok-chul to stay healthy, too. He says goodbye to everyone and walks to the gates by himself.
As Chae-rok disappears from view, Deok-chul runs after him for one final hug. With tears streaming down his face, Deok-chul lets him go, and Chae-rok wipes away his own tears as he moves on ahead.
Three years pass by, and Hae-nam is now a professional at tracking down her husband. Now that his illness has progressed, Deok-chul walks around the neighborhood delivering letters which are really just notes telling the random receivers to call Hae-nam if they see him.
After finding Deok-chul, Hae-nam convinces him to come home by promising him ice cream. While Deok-chul eats his cone on the couch, she tells him that Chae-rok is returning and wants to see Deok-chul. He does not register what she says and instead asks when it will snow.
Seung-joo’s studio is filled with dancers, and in his office, he interviews a complete beginner who wants to start ballet. Though the man is hefty and stiff, Seung-joo accepts him without hesitation, and the new student twirls with joy.
Sori brings Seung-joo coffee and criticizes him for taking on another newbie. He tells her to be more supportive as his company coach… and wife. Staring at their dancers, neither of them can believe that they started a ballet company together, and Sori credits Chae-rok and Deok-chul for their success. Seung-joo tells her that Deok-chul no longer recognizes him, and because of that, he misses their Swan Lake performance even more.
At the radio station, a junior writer tells the main PD and writer that their guest might have fallen through. As they scramble for a replacement, Eun-ho offers a solution and solves the problem with calm and poise—no longer the frantic young writer she was before.
As for her parents, Ae-ran is now the head consultant and runs an entire department filled with employees; and Seong-san works for a baseball team and proudly displays his glove from Deok-chul on his shelf. Though a lot has changed, their personalities remain the same as Seong-san sends a text message to the family chatroom, telling them to all come over since Chae-rok is visiting.
Dr. Oh finds someone staring at the poster of Chae-rok outside his clinic and brags about being his doctor. As he demonstrates his ballet knowledge to recruit a new patient, Seung-joo appears and leads his guest away.
Ho-bum and Se-jong have made the roster for the same third division team and are teammates again. They bicker like friends and talk about Chae-rok with smiles on their faces, both of them clearly happy for his success.
Also returning to soccer is Moo-young who now works for a school club and lives back in his old house. Like a proud parent, he collects newspaper clippings of his son which chronicle his success as a top ballerino.
Deok-chul sits outside, waiting for the snow, and when it finally does, he gets up. He leaves the house and walks to the rail crossing in his neighborhood. As the train passes, Chae-rok suddenly appears on the other side, and he calls Deok-chul’s name.
Chae-rok spreads his arm and takes a bow towards Deok-chul, and his old student calls out to him, asking if he soared. Chae-rok nods his head, and Deok-chul returns the gesture, bowing to him from across the tracks. They smile at each other as the snow falls all around them.
Epilogue. Back when Deok-chul was still practicing ballet, he sat down to leave behind a message to himself. Even if he might forget everything in the future, he wanted to remember that he did ballet and had a dream.
Chae-rok called Deok-chul back to practice, and Deok-chul gave the camera a quick finger heart before rushing back to his teacher’s side. The scene ends with our lovable pair practicing ballet, and a message from the creators: “It is still not too late. Just as Deok-chul did it at seventy, you can do it, too!”
The show was warm and tender to the end. Though it was bittersweet at times, the core message was one of hope, and Deok-chul’s life was and still is filled with love and joy. He achieved his dream of soaring on stage, and I cannot think of a more fitting conclusion to his ballet journey than sharing the spotlight with his teacher and showing the world the outcome of their efforts from the past year together. Meeting Chae-rok changed Deok-chul’s life, and meeting Deok-chul changed Chae-rok’s as well. They found one another when they needed them the most, but after that final stage, it became clear that it was time to let each other go. As Deok-chul said, it was Chae-rok’s turn to soar, and in order to do so, he needed to go on ahead by himself. The Chae-rok from a year ago might have floundered, questioning his own deservedness, but now, he knows that he is allowed to soar and be happy.
At the end, we see Deok-chul after three years and his illness has progressed. He no longer recognizes Hae-nam, and it seems that he has forgotten all about ballet and Chae-rok. At the same time, though, something inside Deok-chul still holds onto that period of his life as he looks towards the sky and waits for the snow. Back when Deok-chul was still training, he told Chae-rok that he likes the snow again because of the wonderment it brings. It seems what Deok-chul is really waiting for is that emotion than actual snow falling from the sky, and so, when he asks about the snow, it comes across as Deok-chul thinking about Chae-rok who brings that same feeling of awe. In light of all that has happened, the final scene was poignant and altogether a perfect farewell to our pair. It’s a happy moment tinged with sadness as Deok-chul hears about Chae-rok’s success—the final task on his checklist—and the two of them take their last bow. Both of them danced for the other in the snow once before, and their bows acted as both an acknowledgment of their shared history as well as a signal to the audience that the show is truly over. Their dance and story have come to a conclusion, and while this might not be the end for our characters, this is where we, the audience, must leave them.
I know some viewers were dissatisfied with the Alzheimer’s disease plotline, but seeing the creators’ final message, it became even more clear to me that Deok-chul’s illness was never meant to wring tears out from the viewers or to make the audience pity him. Rather, it was the catalyst that helped Deok-chul start anew, and the message of the show takes an entirely different route from most stories concerning dementia patients, the terminally ill, or the elderly. Navillera is not a show about accepting one’s end or even embracing life’s ultimate finality. It is not even about living every day to its fullest like so many shows portraying similar themes often choose. Surprisingly, the show is about beginnings rather than endings, and through Deok-chul, the creators are able to tell the audience that it is never too late to start. After hearing about his condition, Deok-chul does the unthinkable: he goes after his dream and starts something new. Though he faces a disease that will strip him of his memories, Deok-chul does not let it stop him, and instead, it pushes him to ignore all his previous doubts and be true to himself. Whereas so many stories about the elderly and Alzheimer’s patients revolve around the past or simply enjoying the here and now, Navillera wants its audience to know that hope always exists. It may not be in the shape or form you want it to be, but it is there, motivating people to pursue their happiness. Thus, Deok-chul’s illness is not about his end, but signals a new beginning and the start of his journey to soar through the air.
All the characters embody the show’s core theme, sending a message to the audience that it is okay to start whenever. Some people may be in a place like Eun-ho where they do not even know where to look, while others are like Seong-san and need to leave their current path to start over. There are also individuals like Seong-gwan who may be going back to something they left behind, or those like Seong-sook who are finding something they have forgotten. It’s also a message to the Ho-bum’s and Se-jong’s of the world, telling them that they can move on from their past and pursue their dreams or whatever makes them happy. It’s for the Seung-joo’s and Sori’s who may think that they already failed but in reality, life has so many second chances. Lastly, it’s a love letter to the people lost like Chae-rok, struggling every day for their dreams but losing sight of what they want, as well as for the people like Deok-chul who may be running out of time and think only the end remains for them. No matter the case, the creators made it clear that wherever you are in life and whatever your situation might be, there is still hope in the world, and it is never too late to start.