Tientsin Mystic - 河神 - Episode 9 (Recap)

SakiVI: I know, I've been taking ages with these. Quick recap: Butler Hu is now locked up for drowning Shopkeeper Wang in her jail cell with a pig bladder, and Master Guo, Butler Hu and Ding Dad all knew each other as army comrades fighting Mo Gu Dao back in the day. They also knew that Xianwu turtle statue from back in episode one. It's an old friend. Also, Master Guo has disappeared.
So, moving on...
Episode 9

We open to what looks like a stone bridge in the rain and Ding Dad getting tied up by Butler Hu who has his glasses all misty in the rain. Can he even see anything? When I wore glasses, I couldn't see a darned thing in the rain.
Or the snow, or coming into the warm from the cold, or when I get smeary fingerprints all over them...how does that happen, anyway? I very deliberately do not touch the glass portion of my glasses.  I put them on and remove them, every single time, by grasping the whatchamajiggies right at the temples, evenly, as I was taught, so the frames don't twist out of line.  When I do that, I very briefly remember the very first optometrist I saw, in Litchfield, CT, when I was a fourteen-year-old high school freshman getting my very first pair of (huge, weirdly flesh colored plastic) glasses ever.  I push them up my nose, each of 600 times each day, by the nose bridge -  and when I do that I remember realizing that you could actually tell individual leaves on trees.  None of which seems to matter so much when I can't even figure out WHEN exactly am I getting fingerprints on the glasses.
Ding Dad looked like a corpse even before he died
Oh, hello, Mama Gu! She's writing out prayers and she and Gu Ying and the room are full of my favorite colours. Guo Deyou enters. He thinks Mama Gu knows where Master Guo has got to, but she doesn't. Ying wonders if Master Guo has any old drinking buddies, but there's only Mama Gu. No gambling buddies either, so maybe, says, Ying, Master Guo has gone off to his lover's? But Mama Gu has thrown some divination thingies and now foresees disaster on the river. Oh dear.
We better still have two Guos when this ends.
Or even more
Over to Butler Hu looking rather dapper in his prison togs. He has a very comfortable cell because he's rich. That cell!! He gazes at his family photograph and, in particular, at his son's photo, and, over in the Shipping Committee house, his wife gazes the same son's photo. Ding Mao enters. How sad they only have each other now. He remembers sitting on the docks with Butler Hu's son, Tian Ming, who had got his bodyguard license. They'd planned to expand the committee together when Mao got back from studying. Mao had told Tian Ming to stop getting into fights every day. But Tian Ming was very confident in his fighting skillz.
He probably spent a lot of time defending Pretty Mao.
I only had eyes for the docks. Look at that shot! More beautiful than the boys
Agreed, absolutely stunning!
Back in the present, Mao tries to reassure Auntie Hu that the Committee will look after Butler Hu and her. She says simply that she cannot accept, that she has not been happy for even one day since Tian Ming died. We see that Tian Ming got hacked to death in a turf war. Boooo! Mao tries to apologize, but Aunty Hu simply says you were more Butler Hu's son than Tian Ming. She says she is suffering from a 1000 years of problems. Mao then bows to Tian Ming's picture while Yu Si comes to call him outside. There's been an incident on Yi Sheng Men's territory.
When you say it like this it doesn't seem like Auntie Hu likes Pretty Mao very much - or her husband, for that matter.
Just a heartbroken mama... 
Off Mao and Yu Si go to the dock where Tie Niu is wringing out his ponytail by a dead man, Feng Er Ma, and a young boy stricken with grief. Okay, what else is new in this show? Deyou and Ying show up, because of course, and it turns out the boy is the dead man's son. Our hero and the body are flanked on one side by men in black, and on the other side by men in trousers and braces. Hmm, guess we have two sides of an argument already. Ying tries to hug the boy who isn't having any of that, and Deyou notes a really grotesque bite on the corpse's neck. He also finds a Committee identity card in the corpse's pocket, but it's not a Committee dock. Fishy.
I'd say the bite is fishy, too. You know what completely freaks me out? Fish teeth. They just don't seem like they should have teeth. I wonder if any birds have teeth...
Of course they do. As do frogs
You know what you can go do to yourself, Kakashi.
Mao, Yu Si, and their men in braces show up. The Yi Sheng Men, in their black Chinese outfits, also gather. Yu Si screams which one of them did this. Crazy Cui, the Yi Shen Men leader, mocks Yu Si as the head of the Committee (but really, can't he be?) and Yu Si threatens him back etc. Crazy Cui says the Committee is leaderless, but Mao gets in and says that the Committee is under the Ding Family control and a member of the Committee is a member of the Ding family, and he runs the Committee. He demands to know which of the Yi Shen Men's hands are soaked in blood and to come stand before him now. Of course no one does. And Crazy Cui demands an apology. 
I almost expected a dance battle, really.  A la West Side Story.
Wow, Jo! I had the exact same thought! 
Oh dear, Captain Fu shows up. He tells them to settle it or he will follow protocol. Crazy Cui says it's between the two families. Captain Fu immediately turns away. Mao says, no, it's a murder, they'll follow protocol. Darn it, thinks, Captain Fu. He tries to force Mao to settle by saying he's gathered a mob, but Mao says he brought men to arrest the murderer. Captain Fu wants a rundown of what happened, and Mao says he'll do an autopsy. But Crazy Cui says Feng Er Ma looks like he was bitten by a rabid dog and thrown onto his territory just to frame Crazy.
But that would be...crazy.
The Shipping Committee and that other gang are basically mafia, I'm guessing, but small scale. Also Pretty Mao's hair is not helping with authority.

Deyou butts in and says his salvage team recovered the body, how about they just take it to the Water Dragon Temple like usual? Captain Fu and his curls agree. But Crazy Cui doesn't want that. So, Deyou says, if that's the case, everyone just fight. And they all point knives and axes at each other and the few police there point rifles and Mao shouts at them to stand down. Which they do, bit by bit. It was rather funny.
See, I wasn't far off base.
It would have been great with a bit of singing!
Mao then asks Crazy Cui, so I brought men to investigate my man's death, that's okay, right? Cui says, yes, it is. So, why are you so quick to fight, asks Mao? Makes you look guilty. Crazy Cui backs off a little and allows Deyou, to whom he refers politely as Little River God, to take the body. But, he sneakily says that Yu Si started the fighting, and so they must have a trial amongst themselves, even if the case is not solved and it can be on Committee docks in a week's time. Fu is delighted, saying yes, settle it privately. Mao, who has no clue what the word "trial" means for the Yi Sheng Men or even his Committee people, goes, er, okay, and it's agreed and everyone clears off.
This is the weirdest show, really.
Yawn though. I demand shorter shows.
Over at the prison, our very pretty Mao visits Butler Hu who has quite the luxury cell thanks to Committee bribes. Butler Hu promises to tell everything if Mao promises to hold the Committee together.
I always have to laugh when the guy in jail says 'just keep 'X' going and I'll tell you everything I know!' when usually he's in jail because of what he did to keep everything he knows SECRET.
Ah, so this is all a plot to get Mao to take over the Committee. Clever! 
With that deal made, Butler Hu explains everything, starting with Mo Gu Dao. Several years ago, Tienjin experienced strange flooding that devastated several villages. Surviving villages were afflicted by a strange disease of swollen blood vessels and skin ulcers that hurt so much, opium was the only way to feel better. Soon, the Qi Ming Village had some strange Mo Gu Dao whispers of a Holy Child, an incarnation of a river demon, that could cure the disease. In order to find that holy child, children were kidnapped and forced to drink tainted blood. Whoever survived would be the Holy Child. Butler Hu said people were shocked by the crimes, and thought river demons were on land after the flooding. The army went to exterminate the Mo Gu Dao. Villagers in general went to the Water Dragon Temple to pray against river demons. So, in the end, Ding Dad, Butler Hu, and Master Guo went to Qi Ming village to root out Mo Gu Dao. But Mo Gu Dao knew they were coming and used a sorcerer to drive 100 of their men mad. It turned into a massacre, and most of the kidnapped children died. Though Butler Hu remembers one child in a vat full of blood, who, it seems, survived.  Anyhow, they did manage to defeat Mo Gu Dao despite all this horror.
Umm, this was long enough ago that the Vat Baby wouldn't be Deyou or Mao, right? Or Ying? Well, being a girl we know the writer wouldn't have it be HER because what? women DO things? Never.
Crucial story, people, did you pay attention? I did, very hard, and yet, I feel asleep sitting up and my head almost hit my computer screen. Man, I'm so tired these days.
As Mao continues to look incredibly pretty, Butler Hu says the sorcerer was locked up, and Master Guo went back to recovering bodies. Butler Hu and Ding Dad started the Committee, which, let's face it, is a glorified gang. They thought the incident and Mo Go Dao were all behind them, but Mo Gu Dao was not done, and in fact infiltrated the Committee itself. Ding Dad decided to eliminate them all at once. However, this time, the cultists had gotten even crazier. They were willing to give their bodies to the leader to take over, giving up their cognitive functions to be controlled, and acted like demons. And they had infiltrated the Committee to get access to the shipping lines and thus to opium, their best source of relief. Ding Dad poisoned the opium, killing off the cultists.  Shopkeeper Wang was his and Butler Hu's collaborator.
You know, you're right about the glorified gang. It's like if Sons of Anarchy started a Rotary Club.
"they were willing to give their bodies to the leader to take over, giving up their cognitive functions to be controlled, and acted like demons."... because they were opium addicts? Is this a metaphor for something? 
Lan Lan's fiance, Qi Zi Xian, was at first just a customer, but he started getting into selling opium, and he threatened Shopkeeper Wang. So, she used the poisoned opium on him. Unfortunately for her, Mao discovered the opium den, and Butler Hu killed her to keep everything secret. (Crikey, this is complicated.)
I feel bad for Shopkeeper Wang. She was a mostly good guy.
Slept during this bit. Thanks for the recap, Saki.

And, this gets icky, because we've seen the creepy leader, he would sometimes impregnate a young woman (Xue Yuan Yuan, what were you thinking?) in an attempt to create a holy child. So, Chairman Ding stole the baby first. Except he got chased to a stone bridge where, in the course of fighting off Mo Gu Dao thugs, he dropped the baby into the river. Sigh, and not the good sigh, the "what a dummy" sigh. But he also saw it as a sacrifice needed to stop the Mo Gu Dao from creating a holy child, instead of, I dunno, secretly sending the kid away to the Shaolin Temple or something.
It could happen.  I read a news article the other day (horrifying) about a woman at a wedding who tripped in her high heels and dropped her baby off a high balcony. Poor thing died! Can you imagine how that mother feels? I don't know how you would continue to live.
Horrible stories. 

Mao thinks that Mo Gu Dao then killed his father for revenge. Nope. Butler Hu killed him. At his request, but still. We next see Butler Hu and Ding Dad on a boat and Butler Hu saying he doesn't have a choice, and Ding Dad saying this is the most reasonable path, and me thinking, wow, so much stupid, but anyway, let's continue. Ding Dad felt guilty for the child's death, he also got poisoned during the kidnapping with Mo Gu Dao poison, and Butler Hu was good at killing people, so he had Butler Hu chain him to the Xuanwu statue that they picked up from the Qi Ming village and toss them both into the sea. Then, Butler Hu untied Ding Dad and statue from where they were moored so that both floated down during the river ceremony to shock people because Mo Gu Dao used to tie kidnapped victims' bodies to the statue. That was supposed to be a warning that Mo Gu Dao were back. Only, no one picked up on it.
Bummer :D
Yeah, what up with that, Master Guo? How come it didn't ring a bell for you? Or did it...he did say he didn't want to talk about it.
Butler Hu goes on to say that he made Wang's murder look like a drowning so that people would blame river demons and fear the return of Mo Gu Dao. (Sidebar: he really is quite despicable.) This way, the Committee would be kept out of the Mo Gu Dao claims, and Mao would be kept out it too. And now, after Tian Ming has died, and the Chairman has died, and Butler Hu has been locked up, he asks Mao to take charge of the Committee properly. Butler Hu then waxes on about the river leading on who knows where but ending up in the sea, which is where it leads, I suppose, while Mao goes fetal for a bit and then uncurls as he seems to make a decision.I don't think of Butler Hu as despicable. I'm still of the mindset that Ding Dad and Hu were trying to do good but it just went all wrong. Ding Dad was dying anyway, so they used his death to warn others of what they perceived as a great threat. And it's not like they're wrong. Well...except for killing Shopkeeper Wang, and the opium trade. Okay, let's just call them anti-heros. They break the law but they also try to keep people safe.
I don't know. I don't like anybody

Water bubbles and then Deyou at the Water Dragon Temple, gazing at the statue and the body being laid out on the table there. The boy is there too. The salvage team ask if Master Guo will give some insight into the death with the Smoke of Insight technique, and Deyou says no, he left and he left his pipe behind. Not good. Deyou directs his team to ask around after Master Guo. Then he looks over at the crying boy.
Hmmm... lots of focus on the boy. What role will he play in the future? 
Deep in the water, we see a brown bag, the sort bo-ho style designers copy and sell for thousands of dollars, floating around.

And, then, Mao, dressed in a suit, striding through a line up of Committee men and women. They bow as he passes them. The executives all turn as one, and Mao, eyes straight ahead, passes them, Yu Si right behind. Mao signs his name with brush pen, and stamps his seal in gold wax. Yu Si shouts Mao is Chairman. This isn't just an investiture, this is a prince being crowned king.
Well, that's how it goes.
He strutted nicely, almost Fo Ye-style.

Extra Scene

Guo Deyou is putting on shirt (sorry, Jo) when Mao shows up with food.  It's breakfast, and while they prepare it, Deyou says it's the most important meal of the day.  Deyou also says what's important is not eating lots or little, but eating well rather than poorly.  Tianjinese breakfast is usually soymilk with congee.  People with money pair jianbing with fresh fruit and two eggs. And that's somehow his point. Ours, it seems, is that these two are best buds now.
He's a bit slight but I still think he has that Kwon Ji Yong sex appeal.


I am a little confused about this timeline: did they accidentally kill the child and hold the body somehow and then kill Ding Dad, or leave the body in the river, and then kill Ding Dad? And that statue warning where they tied Ding Dad to the statue to warn people: no one picked up on it! You'd think Butler Hu might've at least dropped a hint after all the trouble he'd gone to.
I sat here thinking oh, I can lay out that timeline! But then I tried, and you know what? I can't. Did Ding Dad try to steal a living baby, drop it in the river, then end up getting killed to serve as a warning since he was dying anyway? I thought he stole a dead baby - a dead baby which, it turns out, HE killed. But didn't they find the dead baby in the river when they were looking for clues about his body? See? I'm confused.
I didn't even realize it was a complicated timeline until you pointed it out but now I keep wondering...