Fresh off another invitation to live with him, Vlad returns to the apartment to find it decorated for Christmas, much to his chagrin. He voices this to a confused Karl, who has no idea why Vlad is so against the holiday. Shortly after arriving, Vlad leaves, and Karl shrugs it off with the tiniest bit of a smile.
—Edited by TheFNGee
Vlad gets a call from his best friend Susan (Sue), who berates him for his current plan for his birthday, which also happens to be Christmas. She states suggestively that he can continue to repeat his past actions or actually spend it with Karl.
Meanwhile, Anna appears at their doorstep and convinces Karl to watch a movie with her. This visit turns into Anna overstaying her welcome in Vlad’s eyes as he reacts jealously. Later, waking from a nap, Vlad notices that Karl has gone off to be with his family; while a lonely drunk, Vlad does his best to get Karl’s attention via text. The episode ends with a new beginning for Vlad on his birthday.
My Thoughts on Episode 3
I enjoyed the fact that unlike in many modern-day BLs, this show acknowledges the passage of time in the script. It has become commonplace for it to be necessary for the viewer to guess how much time has passed between episodes as the season goes forward from the main characters’ first meeting. Gaya Sa Pelicula makes subtle mentions of time to keep places for how much time has gone by. It’s been a bit of time since Vladimir and Karl met, evident by the fact that it’s almost Christmas. The two are more knowledgeable of each other’s movements and moods, which brings a lot to the show’s emotional weight. After episode three’s repeating of their initial uneasiness with each other, none of that is present now.
That said, Karl is still Karl and, despite knowing Vlad doesn’t like Christmas at all (said off-screen before it takes place), Karl has decorated the apartment like you would see a department store. Karl’s indifference and confusion to Vlad’s displeasure at “Christmas socks” (Stockings for International viewers) was typical and well-acted as the two have a verbal back and forth on the presence of Christmas in their apartment.
It’s moments like this one that show the show’s strength, and that is the simple fact that both Ian and Paolo bring so much to their roles. They have such large personalities that encompass so much of the open space they share in the apartment, one of the episodes’ primary sets. The two carry scenes and dialogue written so well it always makes the episodes feel too short at 30 minutes. I just want to sit and watch them talk, which is unusual for me with a show.
“Jesus is too forgiving to be a Capricorn” had me dying of laughter. Karl’s one moment of silence as he absorbs Vlad’s words and Vlad’s visible reaction, realizing he’s gone too far, is an example of this. He quickly covers his realization while Karl whispers, “What?” and they move on. One thing this show has is subtly and makes use of every moment.
Vlad sits by the apartment pool, which feels like his safe space where he goes to think. It’s also the place where Sue calls him. She does, and the two discuss his plans for his birthday. If you forgot, Judit mentioned that his birthday is coming up, don’t feel bad. I totally didn’t realize it was Christmas either. However, this may be why Vlad dislikes the holiday. Like most people who share a birthday with a holiday, he hates it. Judit did point out that Vlad didn’t feel like he got enough attention from his family. Add to this the photo Karl found in his wallet of a baby with his father we can safely assume Vlad’s father is no longer in the picture as he is never mentioned. I want to make a side note and say I think it’s interesting how every episode we learn more and more about Vlad. But by the same coin, wonder why Karl is not getting the same treatment?
Back to Vlad and Sue. She boldly reads him like a well-worn book on his past actions and his future plans to spend his birthday alone drinking as only a best friend could. He hangs his head as her heavy truths sink in, and it is a testament to the two of them to create the feelings they do while not being in the same room. Like in past episodes, she appears over face time and sitting on her patio drinking tea. Susan points out the obvious: Vlad likes Karl and pushes him to make a change and spend the holiday with him. All the little movements and eye gestures between the two were so well acted and written; I really enjoyed their interaction.
Anna appearing was a surprising move for the episode. She is bombastic as she enters Karl and Vlad’s apartment on the phone with her client. She talks loudly and viciously while a stunned Karl watches. I can tell from his expression he envies her confidence. Like with the other characters, it’s through the things she says that highlights the character’s details. Like the fact, she has been using the wifi provided by an unknowing Vlad who paid it up to his last days in the apartment, and that confirms he did live in the apartment next door to Karl. Anna’s wifi request is thrown away as she convinces Karl to watch a movie with her in a flurry of verbiage while pulling him to the couch. Karl honestly has only been seen with Judit and Vlad up to this point, so a new person in his life might have been a solid reason for why he abandoned his own work to watch a film with the woman.
Vlad returns home with Sue’s words in his head as he gets up the courage to ask Karl to spend the holiday with him. Of course, Karl is super oblivious to what a big deal this is and shuts him down by informing him he is going home for the holiday. Before more can be said, Anna reappears from the bathroom, and Vlad is politely isolating himself to the dining room table while Anna and Karl hang out. For perspective on Vlad’s frown and growing jealousy, he had just admitted his feelings for Karl when asking to spend Christmas with him and was his first step towards changing his habits. Listening to Karl say, “I don’t like anyone (romantically)” was the last straw for Vlad. He stomps to the kitchen and looks around, and in a raised voice, wants to know why there are dirty dishes. Karl, oblivious to Vlad’s mood, tries to brush him off but in a shocking display of aggression. Vlad begins to count very loudly. By “two,” Anna is up and heading toward the door, with Vlad offering a petty “B’Bye” to her, rudely calling him “Dude.”
It’s such a colorful contrast to how Vlad was with Sue and how he interacts with Anna. I am excited for further interactions between the two. Karl waits for the door to be closed before rounding on Vlad, and Vlad reacts on instinct admitting to being a jealous boyfriend before quickly covering it up. The two act like children poking at each other to end the scene. It’s very telling that on Christmas Day, Vlad wakes up and searches for Karl. However, he is alone; Karl probably still angry from the night before to the point he left without waking Vlad to say goodbye. The silent moment of Vlad realizing this and curling back up on the couch with his orca whale stuffed animal was especially sad because we have never seen him this quiet.
The episode fast forwards to night time, where Vlad is still alone but now with empty bottles of beer before him. He looks at his ignored messages to Karl before acting like an angry cat as he threatens Christmas decorations, which still gets no response from Karl. Abandoning this after first tipping over the tree the way a cat would with a glass on a counter’s edge. Karl calls to demand that Vlad straighten up. Vlad seems elated to speak to him but fakes being gruff all the same. He then ignores a call from Judit, but while still drinking, he answers for his mother. Lying about how he is spending his birthday made me feel pretty sad for him, which speaks volumes on the acting in this scene as this is one of the only phone calls that doesn’t have an adjoining voice for who the character he’s talking to. Ian acted alone in the lengthy scene, and his facial expressions and body language perfectly communicated his mounting sadness.
It does make me wonder why we don’t get to hear the mother’s voice, but when Sue calls next, we do. Maybe it is to keep the situation between Vlad and his parents a mystery a bit longer. She notices Vlad is drunk right away, even without face-time. Instead of a jockstrap and clapper, he gets a sketch of her with happy-looking men, which doesn’t improve his lonely feelings at all.
He switches to music, and we watch him dance alone surrounded by all the decorations and Christmas lights, and if you don’t feel something during this scene, I want you to get your pulse checked. Opening his presents as the music plays and between dancing and falling over a few times. We see that Karl bought him multiple presents, and he smiles, enjoying opening each one. The scene set to the music and the amazing spinning camera create an almost superb dreamlike effect. It becomes a dream one I don’t want to spoil, but I have to talk about it because Ian does such a tremendous job.
The dream sequence is integrated into the dancing present-opening as each gift has little messages that make him feel more and more at home. But then, as he is holding the final present, the front door opens, and Karl is back early from his trip. Vlad is quietly stunned as Karl slowly walks across the living room, and the two share a most intimate and loving embrace. The power in that embrace backed by the amazing song “Tahanan” by Nica del Rosario made a kiss unnecessary. My feels were lit up like the Christmas lights in “Stranger Things” as the two held each other tight.
Another second of darkness and the picture frame replaces Karl, and I was literally shouting “WHAT WHAT WHAT” at my computer. This example is what I mean when I say these two actors have such a presence in these roles to elicit so much emotion from scene to scene. Bear in mind earlier in the episode, Anna said a game where the players listen to a song, and the person that comes into their mind is the person they like, and Karl is unequivocally the person Vlad likes.
The next morning Vlad awakens to all the Christmas Decorations gone and in their place birthday decorations. Balloons, a hand-painted sign for “Happy Birthday” done by the same person who made the Christmas stocking (Sock) for Vlad hung in their place. Vlad looks around in wonder and is stunned to see Karl in the kitchen holding a tall stack of pancakes with a single candle in the middle. No, he isn’t dreaming this time. When Karl sits beside him, the blushing Vlad remains silent until Karl calls him “Mister Jockstrap.” Vlad bashfully says he is sorry, and Karl messes about with his hair smiling. Vlad blows out the candle making a real wish before staring into Karl’s eyes, and the episode ends with Vlad watching Karl being very smitten with him. The music made for the show shines here as the scene slows down, and we hear the lush soundtrack and the sound of his breath blowing; it was a very stunning moment.
This episode took the number one spot for me from Episode 2 with its clever script. After complaining about how redundant episode three was, this is truly what I have come to expect from the series. The number of emotional revelations muted by scenes of hilarity was masterfully implemented and never felt rushed. Ian shined in this episode as each scene showed more and more of Vlad’s complicated emotions, and it was clear he has layers to him. It’s also clear that this show is about Vlad, and despite his earlier confidence in Episode 1, he is insecure and lonely beneath that devil may care attitude. I am a little disappointed in the lack of meaty scenes for the character Karl on par with the emotional scenes like Vlad has. However, Karl is honestly in a better place in life than Vlad, so it’s to be expected. That’s why he is so open to Anna’s friendship and can speak confidently to Judit (albeit a little nervous, but he clearly knows when is the right time to speak.)
The episode honestly felt more like a movie than an episode. The way it was written and the pacing covered so much ground over the course of twenty-four hours gave it that feeling. There was a beginning, middle, and an end that gave it a sense of finality. In retrospect, the only way Karl could have organized Vlad’s birthday the way he did was to leave his family early, travel back, and set it up through the night. So off-screen, Karl did a lot, which really shows the maturity Karl displayed from Episode 3 stuck. Like with previous episodes, this episode did more telling than showing.
This can be a bit for a casual viewer who is used to seeing things rather than hearing about them. But to me, it never felt bloated with information. I have more questions than I did before, like:
- What happened to Vlad’s father?
- Why didn’t we hear his mother’s voice
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. [See our Review Guide]