Yuri on Ice 1.9: Yuri vs Yuri! The Horror!! Rostelecom Cup, Free Skate

You got your katsudon in my pirozhki! You got your pirozhki in my katsudon!

The Rostelecom Cup concludes! Everyone does their free skates and receives their final scores. JJ places first with another flawless performance, Yurio makes second with a fast-and-furious display, Michele gets third after being inspired by his sister Sara, and Yuri makes fourth, barely squeaking his way into the Grand Prix Finals.

The first time I saw this episode, I had the terrible (and obvious) thought: that with Victor out of the picture, Yuri will inevitably fail. Over the course of this series, Yuri has come to be completely dependent on Victor, to the point where Victor leaving even for a day poses a great risk to Yuri’s performance. Fortunately, Yuri himself realises this before it’s too late, and manages to overcome the Victor-shaped hole in his heart.

Yuri’s free skate has some of the most complex feelings we’ve seen from him so far; his internal monologue is essentially a gauntlet of emotional issues he has to run through. Victor’s gone? Skate like he’s watching. Losing control? Relax and try again. Think you’re going to lose? Stop thinking that, and just let the moment happen. By the end of the free skate he’s in a state of almost meditative calm, a state we haven’t really seen him in until now. He’s gone from a shaky mess to a huggable zen-master.

Speaking of transformations, Yurio undergoes one of his own this episode. After his grandfather returns from the Cheap Drama Zone, he receives an inspiring gift: katsudon pirozhkis. It’s a heartwarming moment, and it’s made even better when Yurio shares them with Yuri later in the episode. Yurio goes hard in his free skate and burns himself out completely, but still manages to blow past the competition and place second, just behind JJ.

Ugh, JJ. His character has always felt a little half-baked to me, possibly because his character is so much more glamorous than the others. He doesn’t have any internal struggles or deep-seated emotional issues, he’s just a win-hungry rockstar who acts like the ice itself belongs to him. There are no true antagonists in Yuri on Ice, but he’s definitely the closest to one: a cocky, easily-dislikable titan with no troubles to share. I do sincerely enjoy the way his story ends, but I would have appreciated a gentler beginning.

Oh, and Michele has a small victory of his own as well! His sister Sara tells him to leave her alone, to stop being a creepy, overprotective big brother and start being his own man, with his own life. Surprisingly this doesn’t ruin his free skate, but it gives him the chance to reassess his choices and fill his performance with more truth and emotion that it ever had before. It’s a short journey, but one I really admired. Good job, show!

Some more notes before Yuri starts hugging people again:

  • Michele gets kinda problematic for a moment, calling Yuri a “closet perv” and accusing Sara of being anti-Italian. Yikes, bro.
  • Seung-gil loses! He seems truly heartbroken, a striking change from his usual self.
  • The flashbacks to Yuri and Victor first meeting were a nice touch, those moments feel like such a long time ago now.
  • Aww, JJ’s girlfriend is so apparently unimportant she doesn’t even get a name. Sad!

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you tomorrow for the next episode of Yuri on Ice!

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