Born to Make History: Yuri!!! On Ice episode 7, the one that broke fandom
This is a spoiler post. I’m reminding you of that now, because we’re going to do a quick intro then shake your hand and get into the full on recap, and we’re jumping right on to the end of the episode because I’m not burying the lede. Because this really was the episode that broke fandom. It broke everybody. There literally are videos and GIFs and loops of people screaming as they watch it. A reader sent me images she snapped of her daughter watching The Moment. Because there was A Moment in episode seven. In episode seven, YOI made a bold leap forward, did something we’ve never seen, not quite like this–unless I’m missing something big in the anime world, in which case please educate the hell out of me.
Programming note: I managed to figure out a new way to do still images which is actually better in every regard, so there are no GIFS here. Twitter will still have GIFs aplenty, though, where you can turn off image preview and skip them if you want, and TADA we all win.
Anyway. Let’s get to this.
Episode Seven: China’s On! The Grand Prix Series Opening Event!! The Cup of China Free Skate
In episode seven, they make the character’s feelings canon.
We’ll get to that moment the proper way, walking up to it through the recap, but we’re going to start there, pinning it to the wall so we can point at it. If you watched in real time, you gasped, you screamed, you exclaimed in shock as it happened because you thought, no way, they won’t show that, they won’t do that, they never do that, and this is why this episode gets its own post, because they never do that, but they did that. So we begin here, planting the flag of acknowledgment that they did it. It happened. It’s here. In the same month that the US elected a Cheeto, a Japanese anime showed two young men embracing each other in a moment of joy and passion and sharing a kiss, in front of the fucking world, on camera, and nothing happened except that everyone cheered and the time slowed and the music swelled and the internet exploded in GIFS.
Also, in breaking news, I was just given some links by @ again, font of knowledge, and they have changed EVERYTHING. I feel like I’m going to reference them more later, but for bookmarking and for your own pleasure, here’s a summary:
- Lost in Translation, some seismic shifting that will happen when you find out what some of the words/phrasing/gestures actually mean, like the hand linking in 6 JFC
- On the Love Songs, a deep dive into examining what the songs mean to Yuri and a bit more, worth a read
- BUT THIS, YOU MUST WATCH THIS, which is a translated version of Victor’s skate he does which Yuri copies. This is what Victor commissioned, what he skated to, what Yuri copied and put on the internet (or so Victor thinks) and this is what actually drew him to Japan. When I watched it I cried out about six times and flailed and my family repeatedly asked me what was wrong until I got annoyed and told them to either shut up or watch it with me.
Anyway. The recap.
So we’re still in China, still at the same event. Yuri’s done the short program, and now he has to do his free skate. Everyone’s calling him, congratulating him, and we get one look at Yuri’s expression and see the shitstorm coming. Our boy is going to take his big moment of glory and turn it into a doubt spiral. No question about it.
Victor sees this too, and basically spends the whole episode doing every single thing he can to mitigate it. He tries direct and indirect methods. He attempts to distract him. He puts him to bed–sleeping on top of him–when he finds out Yuri hasn’t been able to get any rest. He forbids him from doing jumps during his warmup to try to keep him from screwing up and blowing more of his confidence, but Yuri doesn’t listen, flubs his jumps, and loses more confidence.
Once again, because we’re at the event, we watch other skaters do their thing, so a good chunk of the episode is devoted to other skaters doing their thing. Which is important, even though it’s also annoying. I don’t actually care about these guys, but without them as foils I don’t have anything to compare Yuri to. Plus it builds suspense, so that when Yuri goes we’re all hyped up. More than anything else, though, the writers are using these other events, their programs in particular, to highlight Yuri and Victor’s own conflicts. The music often reflects what they’re going through at the time, which is a neat trick.
Mostly during this episode, though, Yuri is melting down, more and more thoroughly, and Victor cannot stop the disaster no matter what he does. Eventually he hauls Yuri away from the event, where they can still hear vaguely what’s going on but no one can see them, but this doesn’t really slow Yuri down.
We watch everyone from the short program do their free skates, and they’re pretty good. Chris gives a good performance, this one not as sexually charged though he does once again say he thinks he’s going to ejaculate on the ice, he’s so excited. He’s also thinking about Victor and Yuri the whole time, mostly Victor, remembering when Victor debuted and tossed him flowers. He wants to compete with Victor again, this time beating him and getting the gold. Phichit does well too, really well (dancing from The King and the Skater II, because they made a sequel to that movie, didn’t you know?). I really love this sidebar with him because I feel like there’s a spinoff skate series with him as the lead. Are you listening, anime people?
While this is going on, though, downstairs Victor and Yuri are not doing well. Victor tries to stop Yuri’s panic by literally blocking his ears, but this doesn’t work either. Nothing works. Victor doesn’t understand, because he doesn’t know why Yuri’s so nervous, so he doesn’t know how to motivate him. The nerves don’t make sense. He notes that skaters’ hearts are as fragile as glass, then decides since nothing else has worked, perhaps he should try shattering Yuri’s into pieces.
And here we go.
Everything changes right here. Everything fucking changes.
“If you mess up this free skate and miss the podium,” Victor says, “I’ll take responsibility by resigning as your coach.” At first nothing happens, they just stare at each other. Then Victor grimaces, like he realizes, shit, he fucked up, that wasn’t the play to make. And then tears begin to roll down Yuri’s face.
Just tears, steady streams as he keeps staring, and Victor freaks out, losing his shit, realizing he actually did break Yuri into pieces, and in hindsight perhaps he didn’t want to do that, oh fuck. And then Yuri lets him have it.
“Why would you say something like that, like you’re trying to test me? I’m used to being blamed for my own failures! But this time, I’m anxious because my mistakes would reflect on you, too! I’ve been wondering if you secretly want to quit!”
“Of course I don’t.”
“I KNOW.” (more sobbing)
Yuri is the one weeping, but it’s Victor who’s undone. He cannot with this, doesn’t know how to behave, and it’s making him crazy. This is a thousand times worse than freaked-out Yuri, and now he has only himself to blame. Plus this has been, in a way, his fault all along. Yuri has been freaked out because he doesn’t want to disappoint him. And now he’s even more upset because Victor just confirmed his worst fears, in a way. He tries, one more time, to fix it.
“I’m not good with people crying in front of me. I don’t know what I should do. Should I just kiss you or something?”
“No! Just have more faith than I do that I’ll win! You don’t have to say anything. Just stand by me!”
Yuri’s sobbing, screaming this at Victor, all his feelings, his passion laid bare. Now I want you to think about what I linked you to above. What was the name of Victor’s song from last season? What called him to Japan?
Stand by me.
Victor is so fucking thinking about this, because his eyes are wide, wide wide here. And this show is demonstrating over and over again that it throws nothing away. Stand by me indeed.
We’ve still got other skaters doing their thing, and now we’ve got the last guy before Yuri–Georgi, the stalker, who is dancing to “Heartbreak.” I’m going to ignore him because he creeps me out, but the song is great, and the music is playing while Victor and Yuri walk into the arena, not even able to look at each other, let alone speak. Once again, we’re thinking, fuck. This is already over. How the hell is Yuri going to do this if all he’s done is freak out, and then have that big showdown? He hasn’t slept, hasn’t done his jumps, and now he just got all bald with Victor, who said stupid shit?
Well. This is our Yuri.
Yuri’s still got a little snot to get rid of from all that crying, so Victor trots out the dog kleenex box. Yuri takes one, but he deliberately drops the tissue so Victor will have to dive to catch it, and then he takes the opportunity to tease Victor, poking at a bald spot in his hair. I didn’t comment on this in episode four, which I meant to, but this is a running gag, this bald spot poke, and to bring it up now is both a power play and a moment of levity. I’m going to fixate on the power of it, though. Because sometime between the parking garage or wherever they were having that argument and here, Yuri turned the table around, and I have yet to see it turn back. This is why this show is no yaoi. This show is saying fuck you, assigned roles and rules and all the other crap. That little poke said so much. It said, “I forgive you.” It said, “You’re a dumbass, but I get you, so I forgive you.” It said, “I’ve got this.”
I love this show so hard.
Now Yuri skates. And he skates like a motherfucker.
He should be tired. He should be screwed, but he skates, and he skates like we have never, ever seen him skate. The entire time, he gives us an internal monolog, and it’s as beautiful as his skating. He says he feels better after crying, and he’s amused by the expression on Victor’s face when he started. He also expresses frustration with Victor for his failure to understand his mental weakness, noting this wasn’t exactly a surprise, he’s been telling him about it the whole time. He’s too inexperienced as a coach.
Stupid Victor, he thinks, and lands the fuck out of a jump.
He does well for a while, getting lost in the music, the flow, but he flubs his favorite, the triple axle. He shakes this off, though, thinking he did well considering his lack of sleep and warmup. Then he muses, almost in the same breath, about how Victor would react if he turned the last jump a flip instead of a toe loop.
No big. He just plans, in the middle of his fucking performance, overtired, overwrought, and in the middle of the show, to do something he’s never actually done with the program. Because he wonders how his
boyfriend coach might react.
He over-rotates one of his next combos. But he shakes that off too, and declares he’s strong and getting stronger all the time.
I want to become stronger…I can become stronger. I can surpass Victor’s wildest imagination!
And then he does the quadruple flip instead of a toe loop. He doesn’t quite make it–he does it, but it’s not perfect. It’s enough, though, to send everyone on their feet, to make Victor’s mouth fall open, to make Russian Yuri freeze with shock. The announcer excitedly reminds us this flip was Victor’s signature move, but even he never did it at the end of a program.
And now here we are. At The Moment.
Out of breath, Yuri holds his pose and stares at Victor, trying to work out what he thinks. His hands are over his face.
Is he crying? Is he mad? Which is it?
Victor runs to the kiss & cry as the crowd cheers, and Yuri cannot take his eyes from him, breathless to know the opinion of the only person in the room who matters. Giving up, he stakes to meet him, and when Victor stands there smiling, Yuri says, “I did great, right?”
And then all the sound dies away, the frame slows.
We get a flash of the ceiling, and then it’s nothing but their faces, Yuri’s eyes wide, Victor’s focused and determined as he brings his mouth down on Yuri’s. The camera has slowed down so far time is crawling. We still have no sound. Nothing, only this moment, drawn out and expanded and blown up because it’s fucking important, because everything has been quietly building to this even though it has also caught us entirely by surprise, which is why it’s also so glorious. We wanted this, but we didn’t expect this. And they knew it, so they slowed it down.
That’s what happened. My god. How perfect and wonderful is that. It’s not that two characters kissed. It’s how they did it, how it was handled, who it was, how the setup was laid out, everything. So fucking beautiful. So perfect.
Victor kisses Yuri in front of everyone. On the mouth. Kisses him so hard he knocks him to the ice, but don’t worry, he cradles Yuri’s head with his hands so he doesn’t get hurt. Yeah, go slow that down and check that out. Go ahead, do it a few times, no one will judge you.
Everyone sees this kiss. Everyone sees this kiss. It is on television. It is broadcast to Japan, where his family sees it and gasps, everyone but his mom who simply smiles and looks pleased as hell.
THIS FUCKING SHOW, THIS FUCKING GODDAMNED SHOW.
“This was the only thing I could think of,” Victor tells Yuri, “to surprise you more than you’ve surprised me.” “Really?” Yuri replies, and beams at him. And then we all beam at them both, and sigh, and squeal, and melt, and dance in our chairs, and have happiness we didn’t know 2016 could give.
Phichit wins gold, Yuri gets silver, and Chris gets bronze. Now they’re all on to Russia, where Yurio vows to make Yuri into borscht.
I am currently off to make tea and stretch my legs, and then I will be on to episode 8’s recap, at which point we will be caught up with recaps until Wednesday. Do check out those links above, though, especially the translation of Victor’s free skate song. Holy cats.
I have a lot more to say about their relationship, especially after that vid, but I want to wait to the end of the episode 8 recap. So I’ll see you there.