The Gist: the final 6 skate off, with Yuri giving the first performance, followed by the skaters from Thailand, Switzerland, Russia, Kazakstan, and Canada. Yuri lands in the middle, having fallen short of his new quad but otherwise performing his tough program well.
The surprise twist comes at the end, with the pressure to perform finally catching up to JJ, who crumbles into last place. Brave face and silly JJ hand signs flown high, he braves his crushingly low score and stands tall before an emotional audience.
The majority of the episode is delivered as a broadcast, with commentators explaining what is going on and skaters sitting in the press booth receiving their scores. These scenes are inter-spliced with interior monologs from the skaters, as well as observations by Yuri, Yurio and Victor, who’s early performances allow them to watch from the audience.
With the scores set, we are ready for the final, final, final show down next week.
The Verdict: The long build up and tight scripting for each of the cast members is really playing off in the end. There is a strong sense of community, friendship, rivalries and engagement between the skaters and their support people. Yurio’s budding friendship with the Kazak is especially fun, as it pumps them both up in subtle ways, and the results hit JJ’s subconsciousness enough to nerve-him-out of contention.
The result is a believable world with a broad spectrum of likeable people — even when they are jerks — pushing themselves higher. Chris’ performance was especially well animated and, since we haven’t seen the Kazak’s routines at all, his time on the ice was a smart way to keep it fresh. All of the music was wonderful too.
What seals this week’s 10 rating is its master treatment of skirmish before the final battle. I can name few, if any other shows that set the stage for their show down so completely, without being over the top or gimmicy. YOI is matter of fact about it, with real world constraints on the time spent with scores and people. We know those scores, and the emotional placement of each skater. All that’s left is to see who can seal the deal and bring home a gold.