In the eleventh and penultimate episode of the first season of Yuri On Ice, the short program begins. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Yuri On Ice.
HE KISSED THE RING BEFORE YURI WENT OUT ON THE ICE. Do I need anything more? (Actually… yes.) Could I ever want anything more? (Okay… yeah, lots more.) WHO ALLOWED THIS.
Y’all, it’s all about love. For Victor, for Yuri, for the artistry of the sport. That’s literally what this episode is about, and it’s practically impossible to divorce this meaning from “Skate 11.” Without the love these two feel for one another and for the sport, this doesn’t happen. It’s there. IT’S EVERYWHERE. And I truly can’t believe this sometimes because I’m so used to being teased by this kind of narrative, and yet Yuri On Ice is like a rainbow waterfall, cascading the gay all over me, and I AM A THIRSTY MOTHERFUCKER.
h e l p
So, Yuri winning gold is not impossible at this point, but his free skate has to be out of this world in comparison to the other competitors. I think it’s important, though, to note just how incredible he was during this performance. Yes, his hand touched the ice, but all I could think about is how the Yuri at the start of this show would have never attempted a quadruple jump in competition. Certainly not like this! Even though Victor’s attention was on the other skaters, I can’t ignore that he smiled when Yuri finished. It’s undeniable that Yuri has found a confidence he never had before, that he thought impossible, that has transformed his entire life. Of course, it’s hard to recognize that when you score as Yuri has. All he can obsess over is his mistake and the chance that he may have blown the gold medal right from the start.
But he’s so much more than that. He’s grown more than any other skater, and I’m just so happy for him.
I really can’t fathom what the second season of this show will look like, but one thing I’d like to see more of are the vignettes we get of these skaters’ lives. They’re stylized as flashbacks, but they add a gorgeous texture to the competitions. Phichit isn’t just skating to win; his flashback reveals that he’s fulfilling a long-held dream of skating to “Shall We Skate?,” making him the first Thai skater to perform to that piece. WHICH IS SO MEANINGFUL, Y’ALL. So even if he doesn’t get a medal, he’s already won in his heart. And he did it with Yuri by his side! AH, THIS IS A LOT TO DEAL WITH.
I admit to being surprised. (Not as surprised as I was by JJ, but we’ll get there.) I assumed that Yuri would perform well, but I can’t ignore how much he’s improved as well. It truly felt like all the work he’d done in practice with Yakov and Lilia culminated in a flawless performance, one so intensely difficult that even Yurio’s coaches couldn’t believe what they’d seen before their eyes. But he did it. He pulled off something that was better than anything Victor had done before. Seriously, there’s that moment where Yakov flashes back to the image of Victor as Yurio skates, and it was DAMNING. Yuri skated better than Victor. Given what Yurio has said over the course of this season, it’s clear this is what he always wanted. Now, he doesn’t have the gold medal yet, but he wanted to best Victor. And he did it! He set the world record in the short program.
But it’s not enough. Yurio needs to have it all. He’s certainly behaving like he’s already won, and that makes me think that in the end, he isn’t going to get what he wants. He’s too arrogant about it all already, and this could easily go another way.
It’s also fascinating to me how many of these characters revolve their own lives around Victor. Chris in particular viewed Victor as someone who complimented his own career. Yet his internal monologue contains a surprising admission: he’s been bored without Victor to compete against. Couple that with his statement about his age and it’s clear that he doesn’t plan on doing this for much longer. Hell, this might be his final competition ever. Does that produce a fiery performance? Somewhat, but in comparison to Yurio and Phichit, I just felt like the guy had given up.
That’s even more the case when you compare Chris’s program to Otabek’s, who chooses to eschew the notion that there is only one way to skate. Instead, he does what he wants and what he’s good at, and it makes his program feel exciting. I was so thrilled by him, y’all! Part of it is because he’s so intense while he skates. There doesn’t seem to be any joy on his face or his skating, but there is a whole lot of determination. He was so FOCUSED, you know?
But is it enough to win? I don’t think so.
But the upset of the entire episode comes from JJ, whose confidence and talent gives way to a shocking result: he bends under pressure. It’s the first time that his internal monologue doesn’t revolve around his bizarre third person view of himself. Instead, all the expectations that he’s set for himself or others have assigned to him pile up in his mind. He promised to get married after he won gold; he told the entire world that he was going to be on top; his fans are anticipating another perfect performance.
And he gives them none of that. He doesn’t fall, but he underperforms every jump, and Y’ALL, I WAS NOT READY FOR THIS PLOT TWIST. I assumed JJ would do something ridiculous to get a higher score than Yurio, but I absolutely was not prepared for him to have the lowest score out of everyone. While I still don’t feel entirely in love with him—seriously, drop the third person thing—I did appreciate that even though he didn’t perform as he wanted to, he returned his love to his fans. That was a nice touch.
This went by SO FAST, y’all, and there’s only one episode left? Yuri has a immensely difficult challenge ahead of him, so I was stressed enough thinking about that. However, you better believe I am VERY upset over his final request in this episode: that Victor end his coaching of him after the Grand Prix, no matter the result. WHAT? WHAT? BUT Y’ALL JUST DID YOUR LITTLE VOWS AND IT WAS CUTE AND I DON’T WANT YOU TWO TO EVER SEPARATE WHY MUST YOU HURT ME IN THIS WAY.
The video for “Skate 11 – Gotta Super-Supercharge It!! Grand Prix Final Short Program” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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