Recap/Rewatch, Yuri on Ice Episode 12: Gotta Super-Super-Supercharge it! Grand Prix Final Free Skate

First off, I have an announcement to make: we have a winner for the Rafflecopter that has been running alongside these recaps: Maedhrosussandol, who won by answering the poll asking with whom would they pair skate…and the partner who led her to gold was, no surprise, Victor Nikiforov. Congrats, Maedhrosussandol! I will be emailing you shortly to talk to you about how to get you your prize!

Victor dips Yuri during the pair skate

Thanks to everyone who played along. If you can believe it, you are EVENLY pair-skating with Yuri Katsuki and Victor Nikiforov. Seriously. Well played, guys. Well played.

All right, we still have one episode left to recap, so let’s not waste any time. Let’s dig right in.

Remember this is the episode so chock full they stripped out the opening AND closing credits, playing the opening theme behind Stéphan Lambiel’s announcements. That’s how much this should have been episode 12 and 13, but they didn’t get that luxury, so here we are. Before we get to the free skates, though, first we have to sit with the whammy Yuri threw at us at the end of the previous episode, his “let’s end this” after the final. Now that we’re not just having a cliffhanger, we get Victor’s reaction, which is basically ours: what the hell, man. Shock.

Victor regards Yuri's announcement of retirement with shock

Except Yuri is not trying to shock Victor. He’s quite serious. He speaks carefully, having thought this through and prepared his speech, and after declaring Victor has done more than enough for him, Yuri thanks him for being the reason he was able to give his all to his last season. He bows, formally, and thanks Victor in what I’m sure Yuri feels is a proper acknowledgment and goodbye.

And then as his head is bowed, he sees Victor’s tears hitting his feet.

Victor closeup crying

We’ve seen Victor cry once before in this series, though it was subtle—the night he arrived and Yuri rejected him in every way possible, not even allowing him to sleep on the floor of his room for companionship, he cried himself to sleep, in private. Otherwise while we assume Yuri and Victor have become close enough to spar with each other—and we saw some of it in the shopping episode—we have not seen Victor cry in front of anyone, and Yuri’s reaction makes me think he has never seen Victor cry, either. Victor cries too as if he cannot help it, as if these tears are simply flowing out of him, unbidden, unstoppable. There are no tears in his voice, and he keeps speaking as if he’s attempting to grasp control of the conversation, but his tears tell another story.

He swears and says he didn’t know Yuri could be this selfish. Yuri replies that yes, he made this selfish decision on his own—whether he’s being deliberately obtuse or still failing to understand his partner is unclear. But when Yuri says he’s retiring, Victor’s tears spill faster, as if this is the true pain for him.

It’s interesting that there’s no mention that they must separate from one another, that they can’t still be a couple if Yuri doesn’t compete. But of course, unless Yuri follows him around, or Victor remains retired as well, it would be difficult to stay together. Also it’s clear, this scene driving it home, that their skating is such a huge part of their relationship, both coaching and skating itself, and Victor and Yuri both acknowledge this. What Victor is reacting to is that Yuri seems to be saying, despite Victor thinking he was proposed to, that there was in fact no proposal at all, that this was only ever a momentary thing and that all they had built was for a moment and nothing more. Victor is not ready to let this go, and he is hurt, deeply, that Yuri has decided to do this without consulting him.

 

Yuri looks at Victor in confusion

Yuri, meanwhile, is genuinely baffled that Victor is so upset, that he has been reduced to tears. He seems both stunned and fascinated and lifts Victor’s hair to get a better look at his tears—this doesn’t go over well. Now Victor is angry. And the, so is Yuri. “You’re the one who said it was only until the Grand Prix Final,” he points out, and Victor counters, “I thought you needed my help more.”

Yuri zeroes in on the elephant in the hotel room. “Aren’t you going to make a comeback?” Victor, furious now, asks how Yuri can tell him to return to the ice while saying he’s retiring. And in that exchange, you have everything about this episode.

Yuri is fixated on the fact that he knows Victor must return to the ice, that he cannot, must not remain only a coach.

Victor cannot bear the idea either of having Yuri retire at his peak of glory nor can he conceive of continuing to skate without Yuri on the ice with him. They are, it seems, at an impasse.

The real issue, though, is that they aren’t communicating, but I don’t know that they’re able to say anything more with words. So they agree to discuss this after the GPF is over—and now, somehow, they are supposed to get through Yuri’s skate. We introduce everyone and their standings, Stéphan interviews Victor…and notes that he’s not looking great. Which is the truth. Victor is not looking his usual shiny self. He’s tired, he’s not as put-together, and he appears worried.

First skater is JJ. Basically he starts to flub and then gets his shit together and recovers enough to get a decent score. Points to family and girlfriend for being way supportive, and love the South Park nod with baby JJ. Other than this, mostly my reaction here is, why in the hell does he have to beat Otabek? What’s the narrative purpose here? Because he recovered? I dunno. I think he should have settled on fourth and Otabek should have had bronze. Better podium family.

Phichit and his friends perform an ice show in his imagination

We do get some nice commentary from the others as JJ skates, there and at home, and then it’s Phichit’s turn. His skate was always going to miss the podium, but we get the perfectly wonderful peek into his dream of Phichit on Ice, his Thai ice show, and we are all here for it, Phichit. Let’s do this.

Now it’s time for Yuri’s free skate. Strap in.

Yuri and Victor are still awkward with one another, not really talking, remembering old conversations and basically not having the pinnacle moment they should. Rinkside Victor makes one last gasp, telling Yuri don’t worry, he can do it, believe in himself, and Yuri says, screw that, don’t start acting like a model coach now. He wants to smile for the last time on the ice.

Victor whispers to Yuri at the ringside

I always feel like this next part would resonate better if I knew Japanese, but maybe not. What we get from the visual and the Japanese translation is this: Victor grasps Yuri’s hand—ring glinting—and says, “Yuri, listen to me. I debated whether I should tell you this now, but…I took a break after becoming the five-time world champion to coach you, so how is it possible you still haven’t won a single gold medal? How much longer are you going to stay in warm-up mode? I really want to kiss the gold medal.” Then he hugs him, and though they draw back, they stay in close and regard each other—and Yuri laughs, closes his eyes, and hugs Victor again. In fact they tremble as they embrace each other tightly, and the announcer remarks that Yuri looks as if he might be crying.

Then they draw back, clasp their hands bearing their rings together, and Yuri’s voice over says, “I’ve already made up my mind about my goal.” As their hands pull apart—more to the point as Yuri pulls apart, Victor’s grip lingers as Yuri goes to the ice.

So what does this mean? What did they actually say to each other? What made Yuri cry?

First off, Victor says here he took a break to be a coach, implying he too has already made up his mind, that he already knows he’s going back, either because Yuri pushed him or because he was going to all along. Yuri says he’s made up his mind too—and from the way he monologs during this skate, it’s clear that goal is that he is done, that this is his final skate, no looking back, no future.  Victor, though, clearly is saying, give this skate your all, get the gold, give me something to kiss, but don’t stay in warm-up mode. He’s giving him a lecture, not at the kiss and cry but at the gate.

It’s actually the same commentary from the beach: you’re not weak, Yuri.

So Yuri goes out to the ice, knowing this is goodbye—to Victor, to skating, to everything—and he has decided to make it the best damn goodbye he can.

His monolog echoes the opening of the show, saying he’s nothing special (very Japanese), and off he goes. As he skates, we see his performance layered over Victor’s own, from his youth in particular, but also his adulthood, and Yuri thanks him for taking him all the way here, for everything he’s given him. He acknowledges it’s not only Victor he has to thank, that it’s also Yurio, and a flash to Minako. He tells us he’s changed the difficulty to be the same level of Victor’s—without letting Victor know—as a present to him, an acknowledgement to him. He acknowledges as he skates that he doesn’t want it to end, but if he does, it means slowly killing Victor as a competitive skater, and he can’t do that. And so he’s saying, look at the Victor who lives on inside of me. This wasn’t a waste of your time. Once again, he says he’s the only one who can show this to Victor—you see, as the viewer, that this whole program, this whole journey has ever been for Victor. Yuri is skating in front of an international audience and an arena full of people, but the only person who matters is the person in the kiss and cry, who came to Hasetsu to bring him back to the ice, and who he is bringing to the ice again now.

Victor beckons to Yuri in episode one

Yuri points at Victor in the same way Victor pointed at him when he arrived at Hasetsu

We find out that Yuri has cracked Victor’s record, the same as Yurio has with the short program—both Victor’s records are gone now. Victor congratulates Yuri as his coach and acknowledges it stings as a competitor. Excited, Yuri asks if that means he’s decided he’s coming back. Victor doesn’t say anything, but the answer is yes, he is.

They enjoy a lovely moment in the kiss and cry, hugging and mugging for photos, distracting Chris from his free skate. Victor asks for a commemorative photo—ha—on his phone. Chris doesn’t do well, and we don’t need to say much more here.

Otabek skates now, and he’s basically a backdrop as Yurio gets ready and Victor finds Yakov to say he’s officially coming back to the ice and Yurio freaks out, saying, “Wait, what, does this mean Yuri’s retiring?” Victor says he’ll make his own decision, then basically grips Yuri in this intense hug.

Victor hugs Yurio in a tight embrace while Yurio looks stricken

It’s worth notice we have not see Victor hug Yurio before, ever. And he doesn’t give him a “good luck” looking hug. This hug looks like desperation. And Yurio looks like someone has hit him with a brick. During this whole skate too, Otabek is telling everyone in his mental monolog to find your own path and skate your own dream.

Meanwhile, Yuri is looking for Victor, and instead finds Yurio going out to the ice right after Otabek is robbed of his place on the podium. And now we get Yurio’s free skate, and his amazing monolog.

Essentially in Yurio’s free skate we learn he has always admired Yuri and wanted to see him do well, but he has also been frustrated by Yuri’s inability to skate without mistakes. He’s captivated by his step sequences and can sense his potential, but when he saw him letting his defeat get to him, he was angry. Also remember, Yurio has demonstrated over and over again he’s basically unsocialized (his first friend was Otabek, made ten minutes ago) and has obvious anger and communication issues. He’s easily hurt, and he’s just been told Yuri is leaving the sport. Congrats, he’s getting Victor back—except Yuri doesn’t just want Victor in the sport again. He wants them both. He’s shocked, hurt, and pissed. And he intends to make this skate his message to Yuri: don’t you dare think you get to leave.

Yuri watches Yurio's FS and is overwhelmed

Now, he makes some mistakes in this skate, possibly because he’s skating in anger, but he also does some amazing recovery, and the main point is, he does what he intends to: he reaches Yuri. He isn’t Victor, he has never been Victor, but remember how Yakov saw his short program and whispered, “Vitya”? Well, it seems Yuri is watching this and seeing something that calls to him as well. Yurio spends himself dry in this skate, edges over Yuri to win gold—and nabs something even greater: he keeps Yuri from retirement.

Victor asks Yuri what will excite him

When Yuri presents his silver medal to Victor, Victor declares he won’t kiss it unless it’s gold, then teases Yuri saying he really had wanted to kiss Yuri’s gold medal, and does Yuri have any suggestions, an idea of something else that would excite Victor? He’s backed Yuri over the rail, and you think for a minute Victor’s going to kiss him.

Yuri panics, then pushes Victor to the ground, tossing his medal aside as he sits astride him and says, with passionate conviction, “Please be stay with me in competitive skating for one more year! This time, I’ll win gold for sure!”

Victor implores Yuri to stay in skating for more than one year, with Yuri on his lap

Victor, melting with excitement, tells him not to stop there. Picking up the silver medal to place it around Yuri’s neck, he says, “Even I’m worried about making a full comeback if I’m also staying on as your coach. In exchange, I’ll need you to become a five-time world champion, at least.”

Think about that statement for a second. Victor is saying, in addition to acknowledging it’s going to be hard to keep his title as best in skating if he’s also coaching, that if he has to choose between that title and Yuri having a shot at going for the same, he wants to support Yuri. Remember the beginning of the episode, where Yuri couldn’t bear the thought of Victor not returning to the sport and Victor unwilling to do so without Yuri? This is the compromise, and Victor is underlining it. “I will no longer be the champion,” he’s telling Yuri. “You will have to be. And you will not be allowed to retire anytime soon.”

Nodding, and weeping, Yuri cries and embraces him again. They remain this way together long after the arena has cleared out.

Now we have the end of the episode, the very, very end, which is Yuri’s exhibition skate. He would have skated this anytime he placed at a competition—so he would have at the Cup of China but not at Rostelecom. Normally he skates “Stay Close to Me” solo, but tonight, this time, he skates with Victor, a surprise for the audience, in a pair skate.

This pair skate is one of my favorite things about the show. On the BluRay you can watch it without the credits, and I do, often. It is so breathtaking, not only the song and the composition but the meaning it has. The journey these two have undertaken. The image of two men skating like this, so clearly in love, swapping roles in the dance. That moment when they stroke each others’ faces and the camera slows down to let us see, the lights full up, the colors saturated. The bookending of “Duetto” and “Stammi Vicino,” letting us see Victor first empty and Yuri desperate/lost and then the two of them joined and happy together.

Then, of course, finally we cut to Yuri in St. Petersburg, running across the bridge with Makkachin, we presume on the way to training, or something, and he’s meeting Victor and Yurio. Yuri’s hair has grown; time has passed. He’s hurrying to Victor, he’s eager to meet him, and when Victor sees him coming, he smiles, bright and full of life, and he calls, “Yuri!” and the episode ends.

See you next level, the screen taunts, and so we wait for that now. The movie first, and hopefully then season two, whenever each will happen.

Every time I finish watching the series I feel joy and hope and a tinge of sadness, hating that its over, warm and safe and satisfied because it ended well and because I know there is more. Of course, there is so much more online, in fandom and fanfiction and community in general, and more official story to come.

I have met so many incredible people because of this show, all over the world. I’ve gained readers for my own work, different readers than I ever would have made. I’ve watched other anime I never would have considered. Above all, though, this show gave me back hope. Hope in so many things, but mostly hope, period, and these days however we can get hope, that’s a good thing.

Here’s to Yuri on Ice, whatever it means to you, whatever it has brought you so far and whatever it brings you in the future. I will remain here, carrying on about it, until they kill the internet or I am dead, and even then I think I will still manage it.

Thank you to everyone who has read through this recap adventure! There will be more anime and manga reports to come in the future, so watch this space, and more giveaways too. See you next level, indeed.


Cover art of Heidi Cullinan's novel, Antisocial. Manga style cover with two young men standing in a manga panel, looking up through cherry blossoms. One is in a suit, no tie, the other in a plaid shirt. The cover is pink and very soft.

A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

Buy links

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

 

 

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