The Disguiser 伪装者 - Episode 12 (Recap)

Love grows and secrets are revealed in this episode. Ming Tai returns home, and for a while, it feels like war and pain and suffering are far, far away. But there is subtext, so much subtext, and a wary dance begins between the brothers.
JoAnne: I'm just going to sit here and sulk.
dewaanifordrama: Sometimes I really don't like happy episodes when you know trouble is coming. You can just feel that the hurt is coming. 

Episode 12

Happy and smiling Wang Man Chung closes the door after her mentor and starts changing out of her uniform. The phone rings. Outside, Ming Lou checks his watch... is he timing how long it will take her to... SCREAM as she hears the news of her relative's assassination?! He feigns concern, she starts emptying her gun inside. When it turns quiet, he goes in - and comforts the absolutely heartbroken woman. In this face that she can't see, there is not even a speck of love. 
She must have been especially close to her uncle, I guess.
Ming Lou is cold. Man Chun looks absolutely stunning in her grief though. Some really beautiful lighting and posing and cinematography here. Really and truly gorgeous. 
Ming Tai is watching fireworks on a bridge ... and Man Li scares him with her own firecracker, smiling broadly at his display of nerves. She tells him to ease up, the mission is over and it's New Year! And she is in the mood for a date with young, rich, and hot Master Ming.
That sounds like an excellent idea, Ming Tai. Why don't you do that?
Yes, Ming Tai, I think that is also a good idea. 
He is not in the mood though, he is pensive... not because of the kill, but because he is homesick. Seeing the fire works makes him miss his brother and sister a lot. They always lit them together. And now, he is in Shanghai, but cannot go home.
Oh, boo hoo.
Haha. Jo is NOT happy with Ming Tai right now. Man Li ❤❤❤
"Go home", she says. If he goes right now, he will be in time for reunion dinner. It's like he only needed this tiny nudge and he breaks into a sweet smile as he thanks her. He goes back to their hideout, changes and takes his suitcase (he has Man Li to thank for reminding him of this, too.)
Look! Look how she cares for you!
Seriously, Man Li is awesome. *sigh* 
In the meantime, Ming Lou has arrived at the restaurant where the killings took place. Already there, Dummy Liang and his Dumb and Dumber crew. Ming Lou manages to look stricken at the sight of his dead "teacher". He learns that there is no evidence and nobody saw the killers' faces. Obviously, a pro operation. Liang once again falls over himself trying to prove his worth and determination and Ming Lou says.... "don't let him find you first". OMG SO MEAN and yet so brilliant.
This guy has ice water running through his veins for everyone but his family.
It is wonderful to watch Jin Dong playing Ming Lou. Wonderful. I am so impressed. 
On the streets of Shanghai, Ming Tai runs into Jin Yun (yes, people... it's fate!!!) and pays for the chestnuts she has just ordered. I am sure our Chinese speaking friends will tell us why they call each other Mr. Xiao and Miss Hui? They walk together and share chestnuts. How can anybody hate them together?! It's like their worlds have turned quiet all of a sudden. Like they have stepped into a pink bubble of peace and healing.
I only hate them together in the context of them being together meaning Ming Tai and Yu Man Li are not together. She's so blah, in comparison.
I think they make up names for each other in the spot, at least that's what I was thinking, but maybe there is more to it than that. 
Gently, they probe each other again, but only get so far - Ming Tai even apologizes for invading her privacy. He expresses how thankful he is for having his life saved. She gets all teary eyed and says the one who saved him was called Dong Yan. That is all she knows, and it might even be his code name. Ming Tai promises to remember him nonetheless. Ah you poor, poor people ... why didn't you stay in your pink bubble for a bit longer... dying a nameless death and being forgotten by the world, that is in their future too.
Probably because she sucks at being a spy.
Jo's comments keep on making me laugh. I would have loved these romantic scenes in the snow so much more if it were Man Li. The setting, lighting, etc. were all gorgeous - I just struggle too much with Jin Yun. 
He seems so disheartened and sad at this moment, she tries to comfort him by saying he is doing the right thing: a rich boy, but fighting for his country. And even if they die nameless, they will have helped to build a new and better world. She feels very proud.
Just wait. You'll probably get someone killed. Let's see how proud you feel then.
Haha. So she totally looked him up and knows he's a rich boy. 
They walk on and into their bubble again, passing a movie theater, hinting at pleasures in the lives of normal people. Two movies are showing and he guesses that she would pick the martial one, about Mulan... because she is like Mulan. People, I've taken at least 10 Hu Ge screenshots in this scene. He looks so goddamn good.
I can't argue with that. I will, however, point out that she is in no way his physical match, and she looks like she's about 35 so that whole 'first kiss' thing makes me laugh, and not kindly. If only there were someone around who loved Ming Tai and looked good with him, too...
All of a sudden, Dido's "White Flag" started playing in my head. I don't think anything will ever get me to love the Ming Tai-Jin Yun ship. And Jo, don't laugh at spinsters, sometimes it's not for lack of trying... 
Ah Cheng arrives at the scene of the massacre. He reports to Ming Lou that Officer Wang is "a little better", after some sedatives. He offers to move her to a hotel and then convinces Ming Lou that he should go home himself, since it's New Year's. He leaves Liang in charge (warning him quite clearly not to make any mistakes) and kinda promises to protect him. Liang heaves a sigh of relief when Ming Lou is gone. 
He has a mouth like a mouse, or a rat. Maybe a rabbit.
A scared little rabbit. Or I guess he's the mouse being played with by an icy-veined Ming Lou cat. 
Somewhere else in Shanghai, Uncle Li is returning home. He opens the doors to his empty place and for a moment, a memory lights up the dark: his wife and kid, sitting at the table, waiting for him. That moment is quickly gone, though, and the grief returns. He looks at a picture of when they were all together... and we see that the little boy in the photo is little Ming Tai.
I recognized the mom immediately. Completely stunned.
*starts crying* This makes me so incredibly sad. For everyone. That moment in the forest where they met for the first time since Ming Tai was a boy now seems even more tragic to me. To meet and not know who the other is. Pass me the tissues please. 
Grown up Ming Tai is still walking with his Communist lady and it begins to snow. Ah, first snow... and some plum blossoms in a walled garden. She is spellbound by their beauty - and he climbs the wall to get some for her. But the owner of the tree has spotted him and attempts to hit him with a cane. Frantically grabbing his suitcase and then running as fast as they can, they flee. The chestnuts lie forgotten on the ground.
Which is a sign, of course, that there's nothing nourishing or warm about this relationship. It's going to be as brief and fleeting as the cherry blossoms, running out as quickly as they scattered down the road themselves. Maybe she gets killed quickly? One can hope.
The scene was so preeeeetty!!! Ming Tai, run back to Man Li and fall in love with her! 
It's like they want to run to the end of the world together and they look happy, truly happy. And yet, they need to stop - and when they have stopped, reality comes back. It turns a little awkward between them, or charged, and they wish each other farewell and say they will meet again if fate so wants. She turns and leaves ... but hesitates and calls back at him that he was wrong about the movie. She would choose the other, Legend of the White Snake (白蛇傳). Why? Because the main female character would move mountains and fill the ocean for her love. Ming Tai: DEAD.
Such a cheap ploy, you partner stealer.
You have to admit that that was a pretty smooth line there. Poor Ming Tai, he's a goner. And that legend was really interesting. Thanks for the link! 
At the Ming Mansion, Ming Jing sits alone at the table, remembering bygone times with a heavy heart. But what is that? Somebody is lighting firecrackers in front of the house! It's Ming Lou and Ah Cheng, but Ming Jing's eyes seem to search for a third person... Ming Tai. So missed. And like a miracle, there he is! Oh my, how glad his sister is to see him...
It was fun to see him revert to about twelve.
All the smiles. So many handsome men smiling. So much happiness. My heart is about to burst. 
And then, Ming Lou pulls out a present ... for Ming Tai. How did he know he would come visit?! that is the question. Ming Lou's answer sounds (willfully) ominous: "You think your little tricks can fool me? Remember: No matter where you go, I am still your Big Brother".
So what's that all about, anyway?
Hmmm, Cobra, are you trying to tell Poison Scorpion something there? Is he letting him know that he's always got his back? That he's always watching? 
They sit down together to have dinner ... and it's just normal, a family, with their little fights, and their little habits. Ming Jing is spoiling Ming Tai senseless - and Ming Tai easily falls back into playing a little boy at that table. Ming Lou has given him a belt ... one in a long succession of belts, it seems. Ming Tai says he rather wants a watch; in fact, the one his Brother is wearing right now. Wanna bet he'll get it?!
Pain in the ass brat!
It is hilarious to watch a man in his thirties play a twenty year old. I bet they had tonnes of retakes from all the laughing. And thank you for that adorable head waggle gif Kakashi! 
In something I would say is a little display of power, he gets his big bro to sing Chinese opera for them too (the only time Jin Dong was dubbed in this drama, if I'm not mistaken). More display of power: Ming Tai does not want to hear what his brother suggests (Meilong Town), but something more martial, Diplomat Su Wu, Lonely Shepherd of the North. He does not want to usual joyous songs; he wants to think of hardship, so as to know what to treasure. I am not 100% sure I understand this scene, to be honest ... but it does feel like a test to me. Is this about the text of the song? Is Ming Tai telling Ming Lou he thinks he's a traitor?
I wasn't sure, myself. But his sister had told him that Ming Lou was a traitor, so I think he is trying to test that out. Perhaps singing the song was an attempt at nostalgia.
There was a lot of cultural sub-text going on here I think. I think you're right about testing the waters as far as being a traitor goes, but I also think that Ming Lou's resistance to singing something more martial might be because it is too close to how he feels - he risks revealing some of his personal feeling and that would risk his identity becoming known. I am also guessing that these operas also have deep cultural significance that a Chinese audience would pick up on immediately. I tried to find some info, but struggled. I did find this website though and I will try and do some more digging. I have seen Chinese opera performed and the costuming is gorgeous! 
Ming Lou finishes, Ming Tai gets up and claps enthusiastically ... when the door opens. It is Aunty Gui ... Ah Cheng's mother. Without a word, he leaves. Ming Lou has him summoned to his study to explain the situation, but Ah Cheng is very, very upset. Yes, she adopted him, but she also almost beat him to death! How dare they not consult him on this, he shouts, but of course, in this house, he is just a servant. Ouch. Now you said it.... It has a bitter aftertaste, because it is not entirely untrue.
And to say it now, he's been thinking it all along. Pushing it down, because he does love them and is grateful to them. But he must look at Ming Tai, and wonder why it's so different for him.
Crap. This is not going to be good. Despite the Ming's best efforts, they have perhaps not been as egalitarian as they think they are. 
Ming Lou promises to talk to Big Sis - they will send Aunty Gui away again. Yes, that is what Ah Cheng wants, even though he claims he feels nothing when he sees her, not even anger anymore. She is in the kitchen when Ah Cheng goes there. He turns to go, wordlessly, but she starts telling him how bad her health is and that coming here was her last resort. She implores him to forget what happened in the past - she is old now. He turns, finally, and says: "Whether you are good or bad, it has nothing to do with me". She leaves - and then, he notices the noodle soup she has prepared. Deep in thought, he turns the bowl between his wonderful hands.
Part of me thinks 'Oh well, sucks to be you, Auntie Gui. You probably should have been a better person all those years ago.' Part of me remembers that kindness and compassion are the better response, but it's difficult. And in this situation, forcing Ah Cheng to accept something he's clearly not ready to accept? That's just wrong. To me, his feelings trump hers. Give her some money, if you like, but find her a job somewhere else, and don't make him feel like he's at fault, here.
I also don't fully understand why Ming Lou didn't let Ah Cheng know that he had told Ming Jing not to let Aunty Gui come. Is he trying to protect his sister. Ack! He NEEDS to stand up for Ah Cheng right now and let him know that Ah Cheng is important to him as family and not just as a tool to be used. And I 100% agree with Jo. Ah Cheng's feelings most definitely trump Aunty Gui's. I know that Confucian principles dictate filial piety, but Ah Cheng is right that her abuse has severed any semblance of what could have been filial ties. 


Sad Wang Kai is beautiful.... but Ah Cheng, please don't do anything stupid. :( :(

There were many super intriguing scenes in this episode, many of them subtle and quiet. Despite the risk, Ming Tai decides to go home. It represents his old, carefree life and much, much happiness. But right at the door step, there is Ming Lou with a warning: I know what you are up to. Ming Tai is immediately suspicious (as Ming Lou must have anticipated) and thus, the happy festivities are not so happy after all. They really seem like rivals most of the time - but not for their sister's affection, this is more about winning, simply winning over the other. 
Ming Lou has acted as a father of sorts to Ming Tai, but he's not really a father.  He's a brother, and Ming Tai is growing up. Some of this will be a young man's coming of age and wanting to define himself separately, but I think some may also be that another man has come into Ming Tai's world, and he has great influence. We can't forget that Ming Lou knows exactly what's up, too, and so his behavior has added complexity. He is both older brother and secret boss. He will be aware of the various types of feelings Ming Tai has - but he can only react in one way publicly, although he needs to maintain control, privately.
I can't decide if I want Ming Tai to know that Ming Lou is Cobra or not. I know that this family has many happy memories together and I do believe that there is genuine love there, but they also have so much dysfunction. Ming Jing and Ming Lou have had to become adults and parents much too young, but judging from how well Ming Tai has turned out, they did a good job. But all of that happiness is jeopardized by the dangerous situation that all the family members are involved in. And all the half-truths and lies are going to come back to haunt them. 

The appearance of Ah Cheng's mother drives this home even more. There are no happy times to be had, because either the past or the future can intrude at any time, and they will. Often unannounced, and never welcome.
Gee, I wonder what other long-absent parent will show up?
Ah Cheng. My heart aches for him. And no, not just because he's Wang Kai. Working with Ming Lou gives him purpose and meaning, but I think that years of neglect and abuse and not getting complete familial love starve a person. He is hurting and angry. And that makes him dangerous. 

There is a stillness in this episode too, though: when Jin Yun and Ming Tai are together. What they don't have chemistry together?! Seriously? They have TONS of chemistry! But not of the sizzling kind. They are simply good for each other, in a quiet, healing way. He would never be able to talk to Man Li like this. Man Li is a different, a feral creature, born of violence and forged into iron. This woman is not a weapon. She is somebody, like Ming Tai, who has been drawn into this fight and stays because of the greater good.
We do not care. We want what we want. Stop being rational, stop making sense, stop being fair. Be unfair with us! Did my Psycho Kitten ASK for that life? No! Does she want that life? NO! She wants a Ming Tai life, too. Why can't she have it? Why can't we give it to her? Go awayyyyyyyyyy, Train Lady. Go away!
I think that this honestly comes down to a casting issue. If Hu Ge and Song Yi (the actress who plays Man Li) hadn't had such a connection, I think I could maybe have a teensy bit more sympathy for Ming Tai liking Jin Yun. Those scenes where Ming Tai rode back to base in the rain on a horse to thrust himself in front of a firing squad for Man Li were beautiful. He loves her deeply, just maybe not in a romantic way. I guess I am just a lot more sold on their attraction. Sometimes casting choices are just not my favourite, and not much is going to stop me from loving Man Li more with Ming Tai. She also fits into the crazy Ming family more. I feel like Mama Tiger Ming Jing and Psycho Kitten would get along like a house on fire.