The Advisors Alliance 大军师司马懿之军师联盟 - Episode 2 (Recap)

kakashi: A very gripping second episode, in which we realize how clever Cao Cao is and how slow Sima Yi is. He has a long way to go.
Panda: What an action filled episode, Wow.

Episode 2

After the kerfuffle is over, Cao Cao signals to the Simas and Yang Xiu to join him - and they march to the palace. It looks very intimidating, wow. This is exactly what he has been waiting for, right?
What is so striking here is how prepared Cao Cao is. You can tell he has been waiting for this for a very long time. He is entirely in command of the situation, and his army looks completely ready for war.
Yeah, well, he lays around with headaches all the time. He should have detailed plans.
The Emperor almost pisses himself when he hears about the situation - he wants to flee, but his wife implores him to stay. Her dad (Dong Chen) will set it right, she promises. Swayed, the Emperor gives the order to execute "the thief".
This Emperor though. So weak, so cowardly.
He's actually cartoonish, which stands out oddly for me in this show - like that weird slo-mo meet-cute on horses in Episode 1.
It's a total fail. The ambush comes in the one place everybody would expect an ambush - and of course, Cao Cao has men there to kill all assassins - one of his son's, actually (Cao Zhang). It's quite gruesome how the assassins are dropped down from up high.
This scene is so beautifully shot. For a tiny second I actually thought the Emperor's ambush plans would work. I should have known better. Cao Cao of course has men in place and they cut down all the King's men. It is a total bloodbath with the King being the loser.
It was a really gorgeous scene, you know, just from a technical aspect. *disclaims any particular affinity for violence immediately.*
At the Sima household, Sima Yi's wife Zhang Chun Hua is alerted by Guo Zhao about what happened. At least, to Chun Hua's relief, it seems Sima Yi is not involved in the assassination attempt. Still, she knows something big is about to happen and she gets up, even though she just had a cesarean.
Poor woman, just had a major operation and now she has to worry about the fate of the men in her household. 
Hey, it could be worse. They might have needed dinner. Or the ancient version of a remote.
At the palace, they all gather in the courtyard: The Emperor, Cao Cao and his entourage, and everybody he has dragged there. It's to be a trial against the guy they caught, General Dong (the Empress' father) - and Cao Cao tells Xun Yu/Wenruo to lead it (he has singled out this guy to help him, it seems). Damn, everybody is terrified. Who is in on this?! When Xun Yu asks about the treaty of alliance the traitor must have signed, Sima Yi's father staggers. Oh shit. But when Sima Yi asks his father about it later, he denies he was involved.  
The Emperor is such a waste of space.
He really is. How could he be SO weak? This is not a rhetorical question. How could the minister have left the court in such a position that this Cao Cao could come in and just take over like that?
To protect everyone else, General Dong bites his own tongue off and dies. Cao Cao, completely unfazed, asks the crowd whether someone else wants to confess. Step up now, be treated fairly ... or be killed later. Nobody says anything - when Cao Cao orders Empress Dong (who is pregnant) to be brought forward. She is brutally dragged from her chambers by Xu Chu, Cao Cao's guard.

Poor Empress both her husband and dad failed to protect her.
How can he act like this toward the emperor? I don't get it. He should be beheaded! I'd plot to kill him too, even if he is smart and all that. The NERVE. I keep hearing that South Park character: 'Do not question mah authoritayyy!'
The Emperor begs for her life, but it's clear that Cao Cao has him under his thumb completely. Everybody is embarrassed by how weak the Emperor is. Xu Chu starts to strangle the Empress in front of everyone ... and here they expose themselves: One, then two and a third minister start shouting that Cao Cao is a traitor. Fine, he says, come up here and kill me! Well, that's not happening. But those minsters are killed on the spot by his son's men.
I doubt I have ever seen a more ineffectual Emperor. It's one thing to kill the Empress but she was pregnant! It was very sad. The Ministers that spoke up I feel knew they were going to be killed anyway. Cao Cao certainly didn't seem surprised by the ones who spoke up. He already knew most,if not all the coup plotters.
First Rule of Evil: Do not ask a question if you don't already know the answer.
Sima Yi's father almost says something ... but not quite. He still claims he is not involved in this when Sima Yi asks again, but he tells his son "you don't need to know anything". In the meantime, Cao Cao continues his play on stage - now scolding his son Cao Zhang, who gave the signal to kill the ministers, for doing something so reckless. The son is dismissed. At this stage, Minister Yang Biao can't contain himself any longer, to his son's great sorrow. He is outraged at what Cao Cao has done.
Cao Cao scolding his son is such a joke.  Sima Yi is slower than I thought he would be. From his dad's reactions, It's quite apparent that he has a connection to what's going on. I don't know why he is still asking him questions. 
He doesn't want to think it of his father.
Cao Cao orders his arrest despite Yang Xiu's pleading. Cao Cao then turns his attention to Mr. Sima. He asks him directly whether he has something to say. He doesn't, really ... but it's clear that Cao Cao has long since made up his mind about the Simas. Sima Fang is in charge of security and those assassin were able to enter the competition way too easily.
Cao Cao is no fool.
Slightly off topic but it loos like this guy has an extra finger, or at least space for one.
It's now Sima Yi's turn to plead for leniency. He claims his father relaxed the security in order to allow more talented people to come. Cao Cao laughs and calls him a "sweet talker" - he sure is. It means he alone walks free - but his father and older brother are arrested. Cao Cao has a ton more Ministers arrested for being Han-supporters - and says who is innocent and who isn't will depend on who gives him the most valuable information. Yang boy and Sima boy exchange glances ... but not friendly ones. At the very end, the Cao family bows to the Emperor. What a farce.
This entire scene is such a farce. I wish he would kill the Emperor now and be done with pretending to be under his rule. I really dislike and don't trust Yang boy. I just know he has some slimy tricks up his sleeve. Sima Yi needs to go shape up, he's playing in the big leagues now.
Just from what I'm observing, Nihuang would NEVER have married Sima Yi.
Yang Xiu asks for an audience with Cao Cao not much later. He has confidential information. It's Sima Fang who has conspired with Dong Chen, not his father! And he is sure there must be evidence, too. He had the Simas investigated because of the planned marriage between their families and he found out they write suspicious letters to Yuan Shao in Hebei. Cao Cao gives Man Chong the order to search the Sima house carefully. 
He has paid someone to do something in the Sima household. I just know it.
The raid is conducted immediately after.  Outraged, Zhang Chun Hua makes an appearance. Ji Bu, the swordsman, reacts strongly when he sees her. He quickly de-escalates the situation when the soldiers are about to get rough - what is their connection?
There was definitely something there... An old lover perhaps? 
I see her with him more readily than I do her husband, anyway.
Next, Sima Yi pays Feng Xiao a visit - in his secret service lair. He is asking for a close investigation and is sure it will show his father is innocent. Feng Xiao asks Sima Yi why he thinks Cao Cao has only arrested their fathers and not him and Yang Xiu? Sima Yi doesn't seem to understand. Think carefully, Feng Xiao advises him.
Cao Cao is lucky to have Feng Xiao. He is measured and smart. Sima Yi still looks and acts thoroughly out of his depth. I feel some pity for him. It's obvious his dad and elder brother shielded him from much of the inner machinations going on. However, now he needs to step up and act.
I don't know why the sons weren't arrested either, though. 
Man Chong finds a hidden letter to Yuan Shao in the bridal gift that was returned from the Yangs to the Simas. Damn. Did Yang Xiu plant this in episode 1?! But it seems it's Sima Fang's handwriting.
I think that it would have been incredibly careless of Sima Fang to have kept such incriminating evidence so shoddily. I think Yang boy did plant it. Must have been same time he sent that rude letter.
Why would he keep it in a wedding gift? Planted there, but perhaps stolen from a real hiding place.
Yang Xiu is summoned. When asked why he has not spoken up about these letters earlier, he says he was afraid to be killed. And he sucks up to Cao Cao again, it's yucky. Anway, Cao Cao gives the order to imprison and interrogate Sima Fang and offers Yang Xiu a position next to him. His son Cao Zhi is mighty excited about this - because of Yang Xiu's knowledge in literature. Cao Pi doesn't look pleased at all. As a gift for Yang Xiu's usefulness, his father Minister Yang is released.
I already see the 2 factions forming- Cao Zhi/Yang Xiu vs Cao Pi. Yang Xiu is so smarmy and weaselly but unfortunately very smart. He has succeeded in setting his dad free. 
Table-cloth wearing fat faced weasel.
After Yang Xiu's dismissal, Cao Pi warns his father not to trust this guy - he is too smart. Xun Yu too thinks they should investigate carefully - a letter alone isn't enough to convict a person. Feng Xiao too advises to be cautious. The key, he says, is not just the letter. It seems Cao Cao is fully aware of that (and Feng Xiao knows him best).
Cao Cao has the best advisors and he utilizes them well. I also think he's aware of the rivalry between Cao Pi and Cao Zhi and it amuses him.
When all the rest of them seem so incompetent, I almost wish he was officially in charge - even if I'm outraged that he just bullies everyone.
Sima Yi has returned home and is obviously thinking hard about what is going on. He hears that Chief Yang has been released. There is brief hope in the Sima household that their father will soon be released too! But no. Their dad has been transferred to prison, they hear. As the only one.
Worst news possible, it means their dad's situation has been escalated.
I like Dad, so far. This is not good news.
Sima Yi and Sima Fu rush to the Yang mansion, but they are rudely denied entry. It seems the Yangs have betrayed them... and if that anti-Cao edict is found at their house, they are entirely done for. It is indeed that list (the Clothes Edict) that Cao Cao wants to find ... and Feng Xiao gave Sima Yi those hints to make him search for it, of course.
As i said, Sima Yi is still lagging behind. He should have known they had been betrayed by the Yangs when Yang Snr was released and his dads situation worsened. Yang boy has been one step ahead of him the entire time.
Maybe they should have known something was up when the wedding was called off.
Sima Yi attempts to go see Cao Pi, but he refuses to see him. He also sees that other houses are searched ... and understands that the Clothes Edict has not yet been found and the Caos do not know where it is. He still doesn't understand why his father is the only one who has been imprisoned though. His wife suggests to get help from Ji Bu - he has previously saved her from bandits.
Hmmmm, is that all the connection between Ji Bu and Mrs Sima? I am not totally convinced
Well, you know, you save a damsel in distress, the hero and the damsel are pretty much contractually obligated to fall in love...
Sima Yi goes to meet Ji Bu in a tavern - bringing a sword with him as token. Ji Bu indeed recognizes it and is ready to give him information. Only ... it doesn't seem he knows anything useful.  
I fear for Sima Snr's life.
Me too. But do you believe Ji Bu?


Wow, Cao Cao is such an interesting villain! Completely ruthless and yet, so cunning. He knew about the assassination attempt and used it masterfully to expose all his enemies. He also knows how to manipulate everyone around him. There are things that really speak for him - his use of advisors, for example. He actually listens - and at the same time educates them. Other things make him a typical tyrant - he rules through fear and uses secret police methods to scare everyone. Snitch now and be spared - but keep quiet and know you will be killed.

I was quite outraged at Yang Xiu's behavior - I am almost certain he planted that letter. He is indeed very smart, he knew his father was in danger and he planned ahead. Still, it's a very despicable thing to do (if he really did it). And yet, he is just trying to save his father. From his viewpoint, this is probably a necessary sacrifice.

What really happened between Ji Bu and Sima Yi's wife is still a mystery. I think there is something else there ... he was extremely protective when she was threatened in that scene in her house. And what is with the sword? 

Everything you just said. To be very honest, if I had such a stupid Emperor I might also act like Cao Cao. I have truly not seen a more useless and weak leader. Cao Cao didn't amass all this power overnight, so why couldn't he have curbed him a bit before it got to this level? Cao Cao had quite a perfect coup, killed most of his enemies and he has made it undeniably clear who runs the show. I hope the Emperor knows his time is numbered.

Sima Yi and Yang Xiu have such an interesting dynamic. Both very smart, filial men. Yang Xiu is just obviously more prepared for court intrigues and shenanigans. I don't like him one bit yet I am so impressed that he had the foresight to plant that letter. Sima Yi is so behind in everything... He needs to start acting instead of simply reacting. 

You guys pretty much covered it. I wonder if we end up rooting for CaoCao, despite his brutal tactics? Or at least for him and Sima Yi to have some sort of understanding that settles things down?