28 October 2015

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The Disguiser 伪装者 - Episode 1 (Recap)

Posted by Kakashi Sensei on October 28, 2015
In a completely unexpected twist - I must say, I'm surprised myself!! - I've decided to recap Episode 1 of The Disguiser instead of starting a Nirvana in Fire recap. The latter may just be a matter of time, but time being as it is (=weird), The Disguiser made it into the front row, almost out of the blue. The Disguiser is set in the Japanese occupation era. In this episode, we meet most of the important characters. Bear with me and the drama. First episodes are always hard, especially in C-Drama's, I think.
I can tell you what won't help: four minutes in, and I'm seeing so much that reminds me of Inspiring Generation/Age of Feeling (which was really cool for a while, admit it!) and even Gaksital... so then I start thinking about them and have to rewind this in case I missed something important!
Hu Ge feels our pain, Kakashi

Episode 1

1939, Shanghai. It's two years after the Battle of Shanghai, the largest and bloodiest battle of the Sino-Japanese war. We are in the "Solitary Island" period, during which Shanghai appeared like an island of peace in an enemy-occupied land - and during which a Japanese "puppet government" was in power.
I am feeling so nostalgic, Kakashi. Also, I can't get over how gorgeous the sets are.

Black clad men storm the 76th Division Intelligence Bureau and start searching for something in the drawers and cupboards. It does not take long for them to find what they have come for: a microfilm. It is handed over to Wang Man Chun (Wang Ou - she plays Prince Yu's female advisor in NiF), Division Chief of the 76th Division Intelligence Bureau Headquarters (wow, what a title :). The woman is a toughie: she struts downstairs, into a signal intelligence room, and arrests the man in charge (and shoots several others in the process.)
Which is a bit confusing because if she's Intel... the telecommunications office is part of her organization.
Yes, but she is there to "clean up": there's a traitor (aka Anti-Japanese person). 
Afterwards, the guy in charge is tortured, while Chief Wang rests a little, gently massaging her temple. It seems they hid a guy in the Telecommunications department (now dead), one whose identity remains unclear, but one who could be working for the Communists i.e. is a spy. Wang Manchu is amused ... this Telecommunications department ... it really isn't what it seems. Cue execution of five men from the department. She doesn't even blink. I think we have met one of our bad "guys" already, guys.
Quick History: Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) and Communists were both trying to seize power within Imperial China despite bouts of collaborative effort, and Japan had been skirmishing with China along the borders of the country. Kuomintang did topple the Qing Dynasty and take control, but then Japan made a big push. During that general time period, the Kuomintang did control the government - but in certain places, like Shanghai, Japan was in control. Sort of.
That night, a telegram goes out, urgently requesting for a technician to repair a mechanical instrument. Is this code? Most likely.
Do I like puppies? Is Siwon the best part of She Was Pretty? Does Kakashi have a thing for Hu Ge?

In Hong Kong, the next day, Ming Lou (Jin Dong) (MINE) is bewitching a blonde foreigner with rose-magic tricks. She wants to know how he hid it from her and he teaches her this wisdom: If you come very close because you really want to see something, your perspective will become narrow and you will be deceived more easily.
This could not be more of a foreshadow, could it? All it's missing is ominous music going 'DUN-DUN-DUN' in the background.
Mine
Not far, a guy (Wang Kai as Ming Cheng aka Ah Cheng) enters a restroom, to do some cleaning - but that's not really why he is there. He is there to kill (strangle) a guy and to take his briefcase. Ming Cheng positions the body neatly on the toilet, takes care to lock it from the outside with the help of some wire-device and leaves. He is an Adjutant Major at the Intelligence Bureau and he clearly has not done this for the first time.
The whole time they were doing the weird angles and not letting us see his face I was pre-occupied with 'Is this Hu Ge? Is it? Huh?' I hope they don't do that a lot.
Just shows you're not watching enough Nirvana in Fire. I would recognize this guy's jawline even with my eyes closed
Elsewhere, Ming Lou is still sweet talking that woman. Well, actually, they're talking about politics and the tensions in the world, it's not really romantic. He is about to tell her where to go to be safe, but in comes Ming Cheng and tells him they need to leave. Like ... right away. They get ready, but before they go, Ming Lou tells the lady that going anywhere is fine ... but "just don't go to Shanghai". Dun-dun-dun.
Ha! I love it when that kind of thing happens to us. I never read ahead, so when it turns out we're having similar thoughts it tickles me.
Still mine
They guy that was killed was a Japanese official named Kumaji Harada, and apparently, he was investigating Ming Lou for several years. The problem is that he was under orders from one Yoko Minamida (a woman and part of the "new government"). Ming Cheng looks very discomforted by that information and somewhat alarmed when Ming Lou mentions that somebody else has kept a close watch... Wang Man Chun.
So then... these two are Communists? 
Yes - among other things. In this world, everybody investigates everybody else. There is no suspicion yet, but I also think the now-dead guy just got a little bit too close to things. Also, Wang Kai is hot.   
He is handsome, yes... but for some reason Jin Dong just really gets to me.
Said woman is currently in the Japanese Gendarmerie Headquarters in Shanghai, reporting on the spy she found in the Telecom department and the execution of everybody working there to the other woman after Ming Lou, Yoko Minamida (Matsumine Lilie). It seems that the "Chongqing activists" (a Communist resistance movement) is very active in trying to topple the new government. But Wang Man Chun has started to spread some false rumors that the man she tortured cracked and gave up valuable information. She believes that will drive the spies of the other side out in the open, where she will catch them. 
Geez - actually, it looks like I might be following pretty well. Are all y'all still with us?
Yoko Minamida likes that - and she pulls out a photo. Of our two awesome nice guy spies! She asks Chief Wang whether she knows them and she does, of course ... but the question shakes her, in an odd way ... so Ming Lou was her mentor ... and her former lover. Or at least, that's what the rumors say, she claims they are just like "brother and sister". Ming Lou has been asked by Wang Man Chun's uncle (Wang Fu Qu) to be the new government's Chief Secretary for Economic Affairs.
Okay, then... at least on the surface, NOT Communists. 
Double agent, my dear. Double agent. 
I didn't read the synopsis. Is that what it is? I'm happy for the sake of family togetherness.
In the car, the Ming brothers (Ming Cheng is adopted, and he serves as an aide/secretary to the older Ming brother) talk about yet another brother Ming Tai, who is landing in Hong Kong soon - seems to be their baby bro who is "restless" (Ming Lou seems a bit worried about him), but intelligent, and a student ...  Meet Ming Tai (Hu Ge), who is on the plane, doing rose-trick magic himself for a little girl. He seems carefree and nice, and I hate that, because this drama is dark and this guy will definitely get hurt in the process.
Tai is just a fresh-faced bundle of sunshine, isn't he? Looks a bit old to be a 'student' - but okay.
You think? Many over 30 students here ... some are just slower than others :D 
I tend to think of older students as people who've interrupted their studies to work, or just plain began late. He didn't strike me as either, but he could also just be more interested in having fun than in studying and so it will take longer? It's not like they have him pretending to be a teen, at least.
It goes well with the carefreeness, doesn't it? He has no serious role in life, he can just study forever. Nice.
And indeed: He is observed by the guy in the single seat across the aisle from him ... it's Wang Tian Feng (Liu Yi Jun), member of a Kuomingtang fraction (who, as we will learn in episode 2, may be against the Japanese occupation like the Chongqing activists, but these two fractions are not at all on friendly terms). It's a pensive stare, but I'm sure there's nothing GOOD in what this guy is thinking right now.
Okay, well, does that mean I'm wrong about above? 
Not at all. Whatever Kuomintang fraction is in power, it's not HIS. 
Drinks are being served ... but what is that thing the waiter put into one of the bottles before he pushed the trolley out? Ming Tai orders champagne, Wang Tian Feng red wine (that's the one!). Right when the steward wants to wheel his trolley back, Ming Tai asks why their alcohol has pieces of glass in it! What, there is none! Okay, then drink the alcohol the red wine in front of him. Busted, the steward grabs a cork screw and tries to stab Wang Tian Feng with it, but Ming Tai distracts him by throwing his champagne at him and then rams the trolley into him.
Hmm. Not just a student? How very Clark Kent of you, Hu Ge.

Bad guy is arrested (by Wang Tian Feng's private security) but now I'm dying to know how Ming Tai knew?! But no, Wang Tian Feng only wants to know what Ming Tai is reading. Which Ming Tai finds strange - cause anybody would have asked how he knew! YES! I WANT TO KNOW! Boss Wang is like: don't you know who I am? Ming Tai does not. He does not care much either, since he wants a quiet life and that means staying away from strangers. Especially if said strangers are clearly into politics.
Two things: First, when watching this scene I was struck by how nice and thick Hu Ge's legs are. Your picture reminded me, so thank you. Second, when you say Boss Wang and I'm already feeling all sentimental about the era and how good Age of Feeling/Inspiring Generation was when it started... I start thinking about the Dobi Gang, and now I'm sad.
Wang Tian Feng keeps asking him questions and it's totally like a recruitment talk. He particularly perks up when he hears that he is a member of the rich/influential Ming-family. BE CAREFUL, cute careless guy!!!
I am suspicious that one or the other of these two men is on that plane under false pretenses. Meaning: one of them already knew who the other one was. I have no idea which. Probably Ming Tai.
I kept thinking that too, but that's not it. It's possible this was a coincidence - but Wang Tian Feng KNOWS who the Mings are. And he totally knows the Big Bro quite well. 
I'm interested in that story. You know there is one.

In Shanghai, Ming Jing (Liu Min Tao, as Wang Kai's sister this time!), Chairwoman of the Ming Group and oldest sibling, visits Uncle Li (Guo Xiao Feng) - this is about rebel stuff! They talk about a newspaper that faces issues (that she backs financially however) and some medical equipment that she bought. Great ... so the whole family is part of the resistance, apart from little brother, who probably has no clue?
If Ming Lou is being offered a position in the standing government, he can't be part of the resistance, can he? (Double agent, dear, double agent!) 
Up in the air, the underling Guo Qi Yun (Wang Zheng) has appeared and tells Boss Wang that the prisoner has poisoned himself before he revealed anything. He then demands to know from Ming Tai how he knew about the poison. Yes, EXACTLY! Okay, so finally, here it comes: the assassin poured the alcohol too slowly - he clearly was not trained as a waiter. Also, the wine did not smell like it should have. Conclusion from the impressed Wang: The Anti-Japanese movement could really use Ming Tai's skills.
I'm a little excited that Ming Tai is sort of a Sherlock type. Sherlock mixed with Cary Grant. Ooooh... The Scarlet Pimpernel.
The offer scares Ming Tai, and he politely declines. "There has never been a person who has refused my offer", says Wang ... and it sounds like a threat. And it totally is. They have landed and they meet outside the airport, where Wang offers Ming Tai a ride in his car. Ming Tai refuses, but then, Qi Yun grabs him by the neck (damn those pressure points) and ... they kidnap him. WTF!
Oh dear. The guy did you a favor, Wang. This is how you repay him? Conscription?
In the pouring rain, Ming Lou (who has barely arrived) meets Wang Man Chun, who seems genuinely happy to see him. So wait ... why is she always talking about killing people? What does she know and what does he know? And what do they think they know? Ming Cheng is quite suspicious of her, but Ming Lou less so ... It seems he genuinely cares for her, which can't be good.
When she says 'we who make money through killing others' I think she means the military/quasi military position she holds, maybe. Oh but then she just calmly admits that she killed her last boyfriend and smiles like it's no big deal. He barely blinks, for that matter. And they're all so playful together! She's positively coy. Hmmm.

Will you just look at how gorgeous this is?
At Hunan, Ming Tai wakes up in a bed, still groggy from the drugs they gave him - and is promptly informed by Tian Feng that he's now at a military school --- for Kuomingtang spy training. Resistance is futile - and nobody will come looking for him, because he made it look like Young Master is happily back at university in Hong Kong.
Yeah, that's about the look I'd have on my face, too. 
And while his two brothers are swimming carefully in the shark pool that is the new government, little Ming Tai is drawn deeper into the political games he never wanted to be part of. He is to be Kuomingtang's new mole (the old one was killed by Evil Wang Lady) - and potentially Tian Feng's (code name Wasp) successor. If he does not want to? Well, we all know what happens to people who know too much... 

 Comments

Okay, this was HARD. It took me forever and ever to recap this first episode, but I'm slowly getting warm and I think we have now met most of the main characters (Or so she naively thought...). And great, I'm already afraid for the Ming brothers. There's danger everywhere! There's also awesome evil women and beautiful sets and Hu Ge. So vulnerable and frail ... cocky and definitely smart, but oh-so-in-over-his-head. The world he has been dragged into is brutal (the minor beating he received was sufficient to show that and there is more to come in episode 2) and it is pretty clear they have ways to break him if they want - or they could just kill him.
I was in love with the show about 20 minutes in, yeah. By the way - did you think this absolutely flew by? Fastest hour in a long, long time.
Prime reason: these episodes are not 60minutes long :D

I think they might be underestimating him though. He has already started to play them (first demanding to eat soup and getting it) and then making conditions (to get something from his suitcase, denied - and to call his family, denied ... but only until he told them that his sister would get very suspicious if he didn't). He is already testing his prison keepers and I'm pretty sure he'll gain the upper hand at one point. I also think that he has lived a very sheltered life so far, deliberately removed from the doings of the rest of his siblings - but that he just needs a little nudge in the right direction and he will be right there with them. I just hope he will not be pitted against them. Oh dear, now I'm afraid again. So much potential for heartache.
I agree with you on every point. He's the pampered baby of the family, but he is capable of quite a lot more than they expect, I think. And I really don't want division between him and Ming Lou because Ming Lou is mine and I like mine to be happy.
I am sorry, but I have this ominous feeling that Ming Lou will die
Nope. I can't hear you.

The political fractions are frankly super confusing, but we're just going by what the drama reveals. Reading things up on Wikipedia does not help much, because Shanghai was a special case anyway. The one character I am not sure about yet is Killer Lady Wang ... where does she stand? She is working for the pro-Japanese government, at least on the surface.

In sum: Episode 1 is the warm-up and sets the mood; episode 2 is much more straightforward ... and get ready for Hu Ge in uniform. 
*shivers in anticipation*

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