Born to Make History: Yuri On Ice Episode 11, Our heartbeats flutter to a stop (but it’s gonna be okay, I swear)
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If you’re reading my posts for spoilers, you can carry on as you do. If you’re here because you’re trying to decide if you should wait until next week to watch because you’re nervous, if waiting a week is going to kill you if there’s too much tension but you don’t want to be spoiled, let me stop you right here. Play episodes 1-10 on permanent loop for the next seven days and then play 11-12 straight through next Wednesday. You’re welcome.
Because yes. It was That Kind of Episode.
From a narrative perspective, this is all as it should be. This is the dark moment, the crisis, the great buildup when all seems lost or at least potentially at stake. And if Kubo were only a mediocre storyteller, I’d be sipping tea and thinking, “yes, well, that’s all well and good, but you know it’ll be fine in the end.” As it is, here’s the GIF set currently describing my feelings.
I feel much the same way I do every time I read/watch Pride and Prejudice and I’m legitimately concerned whether or not Darcy will propose this time, as if the story will have changed somehow. Or even though Haikyuu! S3 got spoiled for me, I’m watching each set of the match with my heart in my throat and a pillow clutched to my chest. It’s not about knowing or trusting the outcome. It’s about the tension, the suspension of not only belief but of sense of place and time and self. Right now I’m in a hotel room in Barcelona, and my poor heart…
But I get ahead of myself.
Speaking of getting ahead of myself, I’m way overdue for a few corrections.
Episode 1: I referred to “the airport scene.” It’s not the airport, as many have pointed out. It’s still the skating area or whatever you call the place where they skated. It simply looked a hell of a lot like an airport. I’ve heard a zillion arguments on whether or not this was before or after the banquet—I suspect it was before—and whether or not Victor meant to refer to Yuri as a fan. I’m coming down on the side of Victor meaning Yuri to be something of a fan but also as someone who was in the Grand Prix Final with him. Since, you know, there are only six. No doubt he knew who Yuri was. This idea Yuri had that he should be so down on himself and removed was his own anxiety and depression talking, though, no question.
Episode 10: There’s apparently only one ring purchased in the store. I’ve watched this argument go back and forth like a tennis match, but some enterprising person who can read Japanese and who has really good eyesight, apparently, read the receipts and the tickets of the other rings, and Yuri only bought one. Victor had the other one all along. I’m not sure how they were matching, unless that was just luck, or if the intrepid receipt reader was wrong. Feel free to go have that argument on Tumblr if you want. I’m sure it’s still raging.
Probably there are a few more I’m due to acknowledge, but those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.
On to the recap and analysis of episode eleven.
We open with the announcer introducing us to the six finalists, in reverse order of standing. Since Yuri’s in sixth place, he’s introduced first. I love that as part of his intro montage they include The Kiss.
We then have our usual sing-a-long with the intro, but this time it’s different! As a special treat for the final, we get special credits!
It’s straight into the performances, starting with Yuri, but not before a heartwarming moment where Victor reminds Yuri that by simply kissing his ring, Victor is on the ice with him.
Like, that’s a still, but Victor basically stands there holding his lips to Yuri’s hand for twenty-five minutes. Whenever you have a bad day, go back and remember how Victor kissed Yuri’s hand before his SP. Never forget.
Mari and Minako are there, and they will hold up flags for pretty much every skater, but of course they’re super psyched for Yuri-kun. So is everyone at home, with Minami leading the watch party. The announcer reminds us Yuri tanked last year, and Victor fucks his fiancé with his eyes while he kisses his ring again.
Yuri kisses his ring too. Then he takes off.
The thing is, he’s had to shake up his program to try to win, to add a quad to try to beat JJ. He adds a quad flip to please Victor and to top JJ or at least keep pace. He’s not ever done it super well, but he’s determined to try. We know all this because as he skates we get a backstory of how he and Victor had plotted to include the flip.
But while Yuri skates, I gotta say, he didn’t seem super-relaxed. In fact, he’s never really owned this skate, except for China, and even then remember how we discussed he didn’t seem to enjoy it, that it was a duty? You didn’t simply feel the duty in this one. You felt the pressure. There wasn’t a joy here. This skate felt like a mountain to climb. And he didn’t climb it.
He did fine. He didn’t flub the quad flip, not really, but he didn’t nail it. His hand touched down as he landed, which cost him points. He didn’t top his personal best, and it was clear he wasn’t going to beat JJ. Yuri ended the skate on his knees, upset with himself for not nailing the skate like he wanted.
Victor, now, had a different experience, watching Yuri.
He was proud of Yuri for being confident in his decisions, but he felt like his heart was about to explode. He rejoiced with every success Yuri had, but when it came to the quad flip—Victor’s own signature move—he did the flip with him from the stands, as if he couldn’t help himself from joining in. While Yuri ends his skate in frustration, Victor flashes back to being asked by reporters what he has in mind for his next season, he thought about how he approached every program like a new beginning, always surprising everyone, but that held him back. He thought could only find strength on his own, but he doesn’t think that way, not anymore. Now he feels new emotions flowing through him, through Yuri. He wonders what he should give Yuri now?
Yuri’s score comes in, and it’s not what either of them want. Look at these faces.
There’s nothing to do about it now, though, but watch literally everyone else perform, and see how Yuri sorts out.
First up is Phichit. In addition to seeing him skate, we get a bit of backstory on him, which was adorable and beautiful at the same time: adorable because if anyone gets cinnamon roll MVP it’s Phichit, but beautiful because we see him with Yuri (and a pile of hamsters) talking about how this famous movie features a Thai actor but no Thai skater has ever skated to it. About how he was discovered, how he’s moved around to train but now has come back home. How Thailand has come here to represent in the stands. How this is his new beginning. How Phichit had always dreamed of skating to this music at the GPF and Yuri would be there too, and this is exactly what’s happening.
This sort of writing and wish fulfillment right here is why I think people need to only be using the oxygen for recreational purposes and not because they’re seriously afraid Kubo is going to let us down, but again, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Continuing on. Phichit skates, does well, but places below Yuri. Phew. I mean, good for you, bro, but Phichit on Ice is the sequel. You’ll get your gold medal next time, eh? On to Yurio.
Yurio basically knocks it the fuck out of the park. After struggling over and over to find his agape, he doesn’t just find it, he owns it. At one point Yakov gasps and whispers, “Vitya?” and imagines he sees a young Victor on the ice. Yurio nails everything. Everything.
And in the stands, alone, Victor watches alone, still and pensive, while the boy who hours before told him he was dead shatters his world record.
Yuri comes upon his coach and lover at this moment, seeing him watch his record get shattered. Victor puts a good face on it, says Chris is up, let’s watch him. Yuri watches Victor instead, who has never watched his old rival skate without him being a competitor before. Chris reminds us he’s older, that this is boring without Victor, that he’s Victor’s age. Victor watches him looking nostalgic; Yuri looks tense, especially when Chris’s score comes in higher than Yuri’s.
We finally get to see Otabek skate, and we also get to see Yurio cheer for him from the stands. While Otabek skates we get a little of his backstory, which is of his struggle and his determination to triumph and overcome. He’s got some great form and high jumps, and he ends up in second place behind Yurio. It’s not looking great for poor Yuri, because who’s up next?
That’s right, it’s JJ.
Oh, but wait. Do you recall that I said this guy had some major comeuppance coming, and I was going to tuck in and get ready for it? This is me. Tucking in.
Like, epically chokes. Self-crowned King JJ sails onto the ice and can’t nail any of his jumps. He keeps trying to recover, but he can’t get on top of it. Over and over and over, he can’t get in front of his anxiety until it becomes a spiral. His overconfidence has turned on him, and it is biting him hard in the ass and not letting go.
Yuri delivers a line designed to lead us in empathy, but I’ve hung out with Damon Suede too long. This is me. This is straight up me watching JJ’s GPF short program bomb.
I do see it. It’s the moment where I’m supposed to recognize his humanity, and I do, a little. Mostly I’m ready now that he’s fallen to stop wanting to stab him in the neck, instead settling for the leg. He can show contrition and I’ll stomp on his foot a few times and call it good. But for now this image? This is my joy. JJ’s mental image of his competitors as he falls from grace.
That was great payout. Again, that Kubo delivered this sort of narrative paycheck is yet another reason I’m not really worried about next week.
Yuri watches JJ and, in addition to empathizing, thinks, “It’s like seeing myself from last year.” Except then he amends that saying no, JJ wasn’t stuck in one place like he was. Yuri decides he doesn’t have regrets for taking on his own challenge this time. He’s proud of being one of the final six. JJ’s performance, disappointing as it is, helps Yuri understand that even a failure can be perceived as a victory. Which for Yuri is a pretty big victory indeed.
So I guess I can’t hate you anymore, JJ. But I did enjoy your fall. Sorry not sorry.
The episode ends with JJ’s fans cheering him despite his loss, JJ rousing himself with a last “JJ style,” Yurio covering his ears and shouting, “Shut up, shut up, shut up!” and the screen telling us it’s all to be continued. You think, damn, kind of a bummer of an ending, huh? You wanted a little more pep for the penultimate episode, right?
No you fucking didn’t.
We get the usual outro. We wait for the quick preview, thinking it’ll be a fifteen second teaser. This is not what we get.
It’s a long outro. Over a minute. We get their new standings first, letting us know it’s Yurio, Otabek, Chris, Yuri, PHichit, and JJ. Great, thanks, knew that. Yuri lets us know he’s going for gold in his free skate, we see that his family has all passed out staying up late for the watch party, and everything’s winding down. Including Yuri and Victor, sitting together in their hotel room, with Victor looking fresh as a daisy out of his shower.
They laugh about how Minako and Celestino are getting drunk together at the bar so probably best to stay away. Then Victor wants to know what it was Yuri wanted to talk to him about. And Yuri, very calmly, with a small smile on his face, tightens his fists. As the camera pans away to the building so we can’t see anyone’s face, he says, “After the Final, let’s end this.”
Now. I’m with you. I’m right there with you. But see the opening of this post. I’m with you in the same way said I worry about Darcy not proposing to Elizabeth. I know it’s going to happen but I worry still. I don’t believe for a second that Victor and Yuri are breaking up at the end of this. I am worried he’s quitting skating, which works from a narrative standpoint but sucks for season two. I want my cake and I want to eat it too. I want the whole enchilada. I believe in the power of the Kubo.
I also believe in watching the previews for next week.
Yes, it’s true, the two of them looked stony-faced and pissed at each other through every shot. They also looked this way in every shot right before we got this.
The theme of the show is love. Finding life and love. Yuri’s going to show his love to the world. The song you’re singing in the shower is called history maker, not heartbreaker. Guys, she’s going to pull this one through. Trust me.
People legitimately write me, often, and tell me they worried X or Y book wasn’t going to end well. The biggies are usually Special Delivery and Fever Pitch. I take that as a big compliment, that the books had THIS IS A ROMANCE branded all over them and yet readers thought somehow Mitch and Sam really weren’t going to get back together or that the parking lot incident would go too far south or that shit would get too real in any book I’ve ever written. But that’s the whole point. This is why you get on the ride, to feel that way. You want to feel that way. If you’re not calling the ambulance in act three, the author is doing it wrong.
I’m a lot more upset that there are only twenty minutes of new show left. That breaks my heart more than any possible narrative surprises Kubo could have in store. I want her to end the show in the right way, even if that means ending it in a way that means there can’t be a season two. I get that, man do I get that. I’m currently writing only the second book I’ve been able to write which is legitimately a continuing novel—usually with a romance, the happy ever after is when the story has to end unless they solve crimes on the side. I mean, what else is there for them to do? You want to keep reliving those characters and that world, but the whole point of a romance is the romance. Then you have to say goodbye.
I don’t want to say goodbye. I’m straight up not ready. But this show isn’t exactly a romance, is it? It’s a show about love. And ice skating. I’m really hoping Kubo and MAPPA decide Yuri and Victor have a whole lot more of both ahead of them.
I will be here waiting if they do. In the meantime, I will be here doing my meta posts and tumbling the hell out of everything, and I will be here next week for the final episode. We are also having a crazy world-wide-watch party on New Year’s Day on Facebook, and the week after Christmas I’m doing a post-mortem post on the series on Happy Ever After at USA Today. So we’ve got a lot of Yuri on Ice ahead of us.
Also, real talk: I ordered a Macacchin tissue box. And if you don’t think that sucker’s gonna be anywhere but on my signing table at RT, you’re a very silly person. Commemorative photos will be free, but I don’t drink alcohol anymore thanks to my migraine med, and if you want a pole dance you’ll have to bring your own pole. But I will karaoke “History Maker” with you anytime, anyplace.