The Disguiser 伪装者 - Episode 13 (Recap)

These are quiet days at the Ming Mansion ... but under the surface, a storm is brewing. The presence of Ah Cheng's abusive mother is testing the bonds the Ming siblings have forged and Ming Tai is starting to investigate his brother's loyalties.
JoAnne: I'm trying to figure out a way that Ming Tai choosing Yu Man Li could solve both of these problems. I'll get back to you.
Eleanor ( I've decided to go by my name in the bloggersphere, so...I'm still dewaanifordrama, but I'm also just going to be Eleanor...hope that's okay): Oh Ah Cheng. I want so much that he doesn't have to go through so much pain. The Mings had better come through for him, otherwise I don't think things will end up going so well for anyone. 

Episode 13

When Ah Cheng sees the noodle soup his mother has prepared, a memory of his childhood assails him. Eating this kind of noodle soup, his mother going out to care for an elderly lady at the orphanage. At night, the mother returns, boiling with rage - and she beats him senseless. It's not the first and not the last time - she also makes him do hard manual labor. Why is she smiling one moment and a raging lunatic the next?
Do we ever get to find out why she was so mad that night? Was that the first time this happened?
I don't know if it's the first, but it's certainly not the last. My heart aches so much for the hurt that adult Ah Cheng has carried all these years. Any happy memories he has seem bent and twisted with equally terrible ones. 
Not sure who tipped them off, but young masters Ming Jing and Ming Lou come to rescue the abused boy and dismiss his mother, their housekeeper up to this point. She is crying waterfalls. Maybe she's under the impression she loves this boy ... or maybe she is just crying because she is losing an excellent job? Anyway, it's how Ah Cheng came to live permanently with the Ming siblings (a bit earlier than Ming Tai, it seems?) and I can't begrudge him his resentment.
I guess jail wasn't an option back then? I'm glad they took him in, but yes, this has been my whole issue all along: they clearly think of Ah Cheng and Ming Tai differently, and they didn't need to. It just never occurred to them, and that reeks of patronage and class divide. Ah Cheng must feel a confusing and painful mix of gratitude, love, and resentment.
I wonder also if perhaps the Ming siblings feel greater guilt about Ming Tai. His mother was killed saving their lives, all because the Wang family had a hit squad after them. Their guilt might have also resulted in over-compensating and showering Ming Tai with love in a way that they didn't for Ah Cheng. I'm not sure if I'm completely ready to throw the Mings under the bus either as being completely rich snobs who have mistreated Ah Cheng because he is from a lower social class. Not that they might not have, but I'm not completely convinced of it yet. 
Well, in the here and now, Aunty Gui is crying as well, feeling ... guilty? Rejected? We don't know exactly. Ming Jing is sort of comforting her and the ex-housekeeper begs her to be lenient. She wants her job back! Wow, she even gets down on her knees... Ming Jing tells her that the "problem" is Ah Cheng, whom they consider a blood brother. If he does not want her back, they will have to listen to him. In any case, she promises to talk to him again in the morning.
No, he's not the problem. The problem is that she was a horrible mother, and now she has no where to go, but that's her problem, not their problem. If compassion makes them feel as though they need to do something, then set her up somewhere else. But if they had any true respect for Ah Cheng, they'd never have brought her into the house without his permission - and if he didn't give it in advance when requested, then they would never have brought it up again. I'm kind of pissed off at the Mings, right now.
Maybe I'm confused, but I don't think they did give her permission. She wrote to ask, and didn't wait for a reply and I thought she just showed up, most likely to force their hands and to get them to pity her. Ah Cheng assumed that they had given permission, but I'm not convinced that they did. I think they were trying not to be rude and that's why they let her stay for a few days during the new year and maybe also to save her some face. She is someone elderly and infirm and societal norms dictate that you can't disrespect elders. I hate that she showed up and that the Mings didn't throw her out, but I get why they didn't. Ah Cheng has even told Ming Lou that he doesn't have any anger towards her anymore. And she's not even his birth mother, correct? She adopted him. Right? Or am I getting that totally wrong. Not that that justifies it. I do think that the Mings are trying to make everyone happy, and they can't. I just hope that they stick up for Ah Cheng. I also think that Aunty Gui is there for ulterior motives. I don't for one second believe that she wants to rekindle any sort of mother-son relationship with Ah Cheng. 
Ah Cheng brings Ming Lou some breakfast, and the older guy immediately mentions Aunty Gui. That's harsh - can't you give him some time at least? Ah Cheng says he does not want to talk about her and he won't have breakfast either, cause he's going to the Navy Club, to meet Minamida. Ah Cheng is a bit concerned about that woman, is it possible she suspects them? They're not sure whether she is just fishing for info or has some more solid proof. But they are certainly in danger... Ah Cheng has to make her feel that she's in charge and at the same time get her to remove obstacles for them (just like last time with Man Chun).
Ming Lou, you can play people like a fiddle, which means you're good at understanding their motivations and concerns. Why so tone-deaf here?
Yeah, he needs to give Ah Cheng some space - though Aunty Gui being there is sort of like a giant elephant in the room that does need to be addressed. 
He then gets sent to wake up Ming Tai ("That little fellow who just returned") and bring him to Ming Lou. It's cute that Ah Cheng seems to be very much on Ming Tai's side all the time :)
Well, I do think they all adore him. And I'm glad that Ah Cheng's feelings of resentment don't extend to him - although if Ming Tai hasn't ever wondered why there's a difference, he's guilty of the exact same sins against Ah Cheng. I don't disregard their generosity toward Ah Cheng...I just note its artificial limit, especially in comparison between the two boys they took in.
Oh Ming Tai. I love how that even though both Ah Cheng and Ming Lou know he's now a deadly spy, that they still treat him like the baby in the family. Haha. It's like they all can't help themselves. Not that we can blame them. Ming Tai is such a lovable rascal. And evne though Ah Cheng is often so crazily serious, he's also frickin' adorable. See gifs below. (Thank you Kakashi ❤)
As expected, the waking-up of the Brat does not go smoothly. Ah Cheng has to threaten to bust in the door for Ming Tai to open up. Ming Tai expects a scolding from Big Bro and Ah Cheng remains knowingly silent on the point. They're so cute.
They are but whenever they're in this house, particularly anywhere in proximity to the central hall, I can't concentrate on much beyond the gorgeous woodwork.
You concentrate on the woodwork then and I will look at Ah Cheng. Mmmmm. 
After slamming the door in Ah Cheng's face, Ming Tai does get ready to get dressed ... reluctantly and yawning. And suddenly, he remembers that weird little interchange with his brother the night before - "Remember, I'm always your Big Brother". Yeah... Ming Tai, we don't know what that was about either!
Big Brother is watching?
Yup, I second Jo's comment. Then spends an inordinate time watching the Ah Cheng gifs. 

Seriously, how old is this guy?! He behaves like my 6-year old on a bad day, as he flops himself into his brother's sofa. They talk about uni... so, Ming Tai, what's up with your immaculate attendance and model-student scores, including in Latin, which he always failed before? Ming Tai tries a few lies on his brother, but we're not convinced. Not at all.
Neither is Ming Lou. Look at that face. And I agree with you, yes - Ming Tai is very immature when home with his family. He tried it on Airplane Wang, too.  peaking of, aren't you a little sad that he's not the dad? I am.
I am and I'm not. I do want him back onscreen though. He's cool. I love how you can almost see Ming Lou being like, come on Ming Tai, you've got to be better at lying on the spot. All his words and actions are to help Ming Tai be a better spy. He knows Ming Tai is trying to put an act on and that he's acting nervously, so with things like the apple, he's coaching him on how to use his surroundings to his advantage. It was so cute! Big Brother spy is teaching Baby Bro spy how to do things more convincingly. Aw. 
Ming Lou then asks why he chased Big Sis for a whole block back in Hongkong, and Ming Tai says it's because she mentioned his father. But even though Ming Lou insists he has a right to know and thus investigate, Ming Tai says he does not want to. It would make their sister sad. Acknowledging that, Ming Lou tells Ming Tai to come ask him questions in the future. After a very short pause, Ming Tai turns around and asks: "Brother, are you a traitor?" Ahahaha, you didn't!
Okay, how did he know that happened? Does that mean Ming Jing knew and didn't stop? Why the hell wouldn't she stop? That doesn't make sense. She'd have stopped. So then how did Ming Lou know?
I think that Ming Tai already knows that his brother is keeping tabs on him at university, you know, to make sure he behaves and all that. It's maybe a bit odd, but not completely out of the ordinary. He's playing the dad, checking up on his attendance and studies. I think it's also to let Ming Tai know that he's being watched all the time. Ming Lou wants him to be careful at all times. He's coaching him. Training him to be a better spy. 

Ah Cheng is at the Navy Club, reporting to Miss Minamida about what they know about the bombing. He convincingly argues that the person who leaked information about the train is most likely in Division 76. And more than that, there's a specific person called Chen Liang ... who is quite busy earning money on the black market, with explosives. Well, unfortunately, this Chen Liang is dead (oh... was he bulldog?). And Commander Liang told him not to get involved in this complicated situation.
This part confused me a bit, I'll admit.
It must be the bulldog. It also confused me. Dang it though, that suit. That tie. That smirk *dead*
At Ming Mansion, Ming Lou tells Ming Tai that the rule is: no political talk in the house. Things are complicated and they will let history be the judge. Smoothly, Ming Lou then offers Ming Tai his watch - the one he wanted as a New Year's gift. Collecting watches, are we, Ming Tai? Ming Tai takes it.
'Things are complicated. Let history be the judge.' Spoken like a man working for the side you think he shouldn't, Ming Tai.
Oh these two. So cute. And what is it with Ming Tai and watches? He really does love them as keepsakes from people he cares about. And you can tell how fond Ming Lou is of him. Aw. So cute. 
Minamida goes to visit Wang Man Chun at the hotel ... she has her hair open and wears no make-up. She looks very vulnerable and it seems the death of her last living relative hit her bad. But Minamida needs her - now more than ever. It's Ming Jing she wants her to go after; find evidence she is part of the Communist Party! And then, once she has the evidence, Minamida will kill her. Helping Man Chun along in this will be: Lone Wolf. Uh-oh....
Now which one is Lone Wolf?
I don't think we've officially met Lone Wolf. They keep mentioning him/her rather ominously though. Eek! Wang Ou is incredibly beautiful. Especially sans make-up. 
After bowing to the ancestors of the family, Ming Jing sends Ming Tai out of the room - she has business with his brother. It's about Aunty Gui and the reason why she returned at this point in time. Uh-oh...... Anyway, Ming Tai seizes this opportunity to go poke his nose into things Ming Lou; he starts looking through his brother's documents and then takes on his briefcase.
So IS there more to Aunty Gui, then? That would explain the disregard for Ah Cheng's feelings and stated wishes.
Maybe I'm a broken record, but I really think Aunty Gui showed up unannounced. Ming Lou asked Ah Cheng, he said no way, but Aunty Gui showed up before they had a chance to tell her no.  
But what is that?! Ah Cheng has returned and immediately scolds Ming Tai for being in his brother's room. Ming Tai pretends he was looking for a book, in fact, Dante's Divine Comedy. Yes, there's a version, says Ah Cheng, but it's in Latin. Ahahahaaa. Ming Tai also sends Ah Cheng to fetch a book from the very top of a cabinet, which means that Ah Cheng has to go fetch a ladder.
This has to be a set up. You don't tell someone they can't be alone in a room and then leave them alone in that room.
Hehe. They're totally testing Ming Tai to see how good of a spy he really is. Haha. Oh Ming Tai, they know exactly what's going on. 
2nd attempt at getting documents from briefcase! Ohhhhh, Ming Tai has a spy camera-thingie! I like! So he is busy snapping pictures while Ah Cheng is coming closer and closer with the ladder. When he opens the door, Ming Tai is reading in his book, like a little angel. Oups, but he did not have time to put the document back fully! Ahahaha, it's really obvious that Ah Cheng is giving him enough time behind his back to to bring it back to order, zipper closed and all. 
Ming Tai the Half-Assed Spy
Haha. And Ah Cheng double checking to make sure how well he's doing. Haha. It's really quite adorable. Oh that bratty Ming Tai blowing dust in Ah Cheng's face. Not cool baby bro. Not cool. 
Once outside the study, Ming Tai asks Ah Cheng whether his brother is a traitor. Ah Cheng gives him the evil eye and repeats the house rule: no politics under this roof. Ming Tai adds: what about you, are you a traitor? The (not so) cryptic answer: I have nothing to do with the people Big Bro works for - I only know I am working for him. When Ming Tai wants to know whether those are good things or bad things they're doing, he starts lecturing him on how it depends on viewpoints. Love them together! Brooooomance!
Again with the carefully couched responses, though. Designed to make Ming Tai believe his brother is a traitor - so he won't look deeper, and find out the truth?
I think it's more to tell him: don't take everything as face value Ming Tai - there is more going on here than meets the eye. And Ah Cheng is right, in spying situations "good" and "bad" really can be quite subjective. 
When Big Bro comes down the stairs, Ming Tai excuses himself pretty quickly, to go read on his sister's bed. Once they're back inside the study, Ah Cheng points to the briefcase and Ming Lou checks: what, did they plant this for him?! Anyway, they're proud again, in that odd kind of way, that little bro is so swift. Ming Lou gives instructions to only reveal bit by bit. Also, Ah Cheng reports that Big Sis has a safety deposit box at a bank, probably to gets items to the Communist network.
So do they want him to know, or don't they? And what level of understanding should he have? Should he only figure out that he's part of Kuomintang, or also CCP?
I guess we're only going to find out bit by Ming Tai ;)

And then, Big Bro starts about Aunty Gui again. Shouldn't Ah Cheng give her another chance? His repeated no is pretty clear! Why can't the Mings accept it?! Ming Lou promises to make her leave this afternoon, but does he mean it?
Ming Lou! I can only assume you are being this thickheaded deliberately. But why? Or do you really have no clue about Ah Cheng's feelings?
I think he's also giving Ah Cheng a way to save face and to forgive Aunty Gui so that Ah Cheng doesn't regret it later. Not that he has to forgive her, but maybe Ming Lou knows that he wants to but is too hurt and too proud. I personally hate her for what she did to Ah Cheng, but I think that Ah Cheng isn't ready to completely cast her off. 
In his sister's room, Ming Tai is reading Latin to her. And then, he is trying to make her understand that he no longer wants to study, because it's useless in times of war. Haha, nope. Get a PhD, marry, make babies is her task for him. Ah Cheng joins them, at her request. Yes, you've guessed correctly, this is about Aunty Gui. She asks him whether the old woman cannot stay until the holidays are over. Ah Cheng's extremely hurt face says enough, so she sighs... and hands him a shirt that his mother has sewn.
Oh my God, people. Give it a rest, or I'll pray for Ah Cheng to betray you.
For some odd reason, I'm not as angry at Ming Lou as I am at Ming Jing - she seems the one to be completely tone deaf about the situation - Ming Lou I'm not sure about. 
Even Ming Tai chimes in to say he should forgive his pitiful mother. Leave Ah Cheng alone..... Ah, so apparently, his mother "suffered from insanity" back then? But does that change anything? After watching his mother struggle in the kitchen, Ah Cheng unpacks his shirt... a short, soft moment, but then, he remembers the abuse and throws away the garment.
It's to be expected that he'd have conflicting feelings about Aunty Gui, sure. But why prey on that? Do they think they're leading him to some sort of reconciliation and healing? Is that all this is? You're going about it mighty clumsily, if so, Mings.
I agree it's clumsy, but I do think there is a cultural gap here that perhaps we aren't quite buying into. I know we can intellectually grasp filial piety as a cultural concept, but the actual ramifications of living it get really complicated. I think that that's part of the struggle here. And I honestly do think that Ah Cheng is personally conflicted about what he wants to do, BUT I do think that Ah Cheng is also testing the Mings. I think he is testing them to see if they really do love him and will listen to him if he says no. 
It's the afternoon and Aunty Gui is leaving. Ah Cheng is watching from inside the house. Is he struggling? He is!
Which means, of course, that he'll change his mind. So were the Mings right? Did they know him better than he knew himself?
I think that they did know that he was conflicted, and perhaps they were trying to give him an out, BUT I do think it is vitally important that in the end they kicked her out. He needed to see that they would do that for him. 


I really want that woman gone - I hope Ah Cheng will NOT run after her! Yes, I know the drama wants us to forgive her, it seems she was not in her right mind, and she is ill, and old, and not a monster. But... no! Ah Cheng is suffering so much and I don't want that! It is worrying that both Ming Lou and Ming Jing do not consider his feelings first - what must he think?
You're right; she's not a monster - just a woman dealing with whatever demons caused her to behave that way. I'm not saying that Ah Cheng wouldn't do better to forgive her and let the hate go. I just don't like how they went about this.
Personally I think she has another agenda. Her whole coming makes me really suspicious. I think that for Ah Cheng's sake, it is good to make peace with his past, like Yu Man Li had to as well. I don't think that Aunty Gui should be allowed to stick around though. I want her gone as well, but I do think that Ah Cheng needs to let the anger and hurt go so that he can move on. The anger is eating him alive. 

That aside, I loved the interactions between the siblings in this episode. It is going to be much fun seeing Ming Tai attempting to uncover what his brother is up to in the future, I am sure!
I'm not sure I quite understand why Ming Tai can't know that his brother is a spy. It could just be that as a matter of course, they all limit knowledge of other participants as much as possible. That's a safety measure. But I don't think this is a secret that should be kept, in this case.
I LOVED how the big brothers were testing and training Ming Tai all without him not really knowing. It was so funny and cute. I love their dynamic. I think that part of the reason that he can't know right now is that Ming Lou has so many aliases that Ah Cheng is the only one trusted enough to know that information. It's just too dangerous for more people to know than is necessary. The fewer people who know, the better. But dang it! I would love for some brother spy hijinks all together.