The Disguiser 伪装者 - Episode 23 (Recap)

Ah! What an adrenaline spiking, but ultimately heart-warming episode! Yes, the beginning is bloody and violent ... maybe a bit too violent?, but in terms of interactions between the Ming Bros, this one is a gem! Ah Cheng gets a prize for being the most reasonable (at least today) and for keeping things sane. We get some kind of closure in this episode and it is nice to see that as brutal as that kill-order was, family bonds are strong enough to endure this. Indeed: what does not kill you makes you stronger.
Warning: many gifs in this post!
JoAnne: That's okay, I feel like I don't have much to say. We can just watch silently, all together.
Well, the warning was more for people with low-data allowances on their phones :D 
Eleanor: Most definitely my favourite episode so far. Maybe it will be my favourite always.  

Episode 23

It is now quarter past two - show time. A car is drawing near the sentry post… *gulp*. Ming Tai looks like he wants to disappear from the face of the earth. He takes a step forward, lifts his hand. The car stops. The door opens … out come Ah Cheng and Ming Lou, signalling them to move aside (Ah Cheng) and just staring (Ming Lou). Ming Tai lifts his gun and takes aim. And shoots.
*rocks back and forth* this can't be happening, this can't be happening!
But it was just a day”dream”, an imagination, because he has not lifted his gun yet and Guo urgently whispers “Team Leader”, which causes Ming Tai to snap out of his trance and to notice his surroundings again. The car has indeed stopped and the door opens … but out come Minamida and one of her officers!!! After the initial shock-surprise, it takes Ming Tai and his team only a second to react. ((If you do not want to read any graphic descriptions of violence, stop here and continue where indicated below)). Ming Tai shoots and hits Minamida in the shoulder. Man Li hits the soldier, but the driver still manages to set the car in motion, moving backwards now. The Japanese start firing at Team Poison Scorpion, who are now following the car, also firing away.
My Psycho Kitten was awesome, as always. But I live in fear of her dying, since she's not the goddamn romantic freaking lead like she goddamn well should be. Love isn't about your relative positions in society.  Love is chemistry. You have chemistry with my Kitten, Ming Tai!  Marry that boring Trainwreck if you MUST but please, first, love my Kitten.  Love her deeply.
Keep fighting for lover-justice, JoAnne, keep fighting! 
Yes!!! Love Man Li!!! Always!!! 
Man Li gets the soldier in the head and seconds later, Ming Tai takes out the driver. The car is still going backwards at a reasonable speed, when Ming Tai hits Minamida (who keeps firing at them) again, this time in the leg. She falls out of the car, but manages to get up and re-load her pistol. Ming Tai discards his gun and pulls out his own revolver (didn’t you use to be a good shot?! What is this!!), hitting her again and again, but nowhere fatal. She falls to the ground again, but manages to get up once more ... she has used all her ammunition. Realizing that this is the end for her, she bravely stands her ground and waits for Ming Tai to approach. They stare at each other for an intense moment and she smirks at him, as if to say: “do it already”. Without hesitation, he shoots her in the head.
Minimida was pretty damn cool. I'm sorry to see her go. Do you think the writer gravitated toward this unconsciously since it's obviously harder to write conflict for a SMART pair of opponents?
It seemed to me that by taking so long to kill Minamida, the writer wasn't so sure they wanted to kill her after all. Definitely a worthy opponent. Dangerous to our Ming brothers as well. She had to go. 
In the meantime, the ambulance arrives at the military hospital, and Uncle Li and Jiyun wheel an “unconscious” Ah Cheng to the VIP wards. They have the special pass that Minamida gave them, so the guard lets them through. Oh, you are SO CLEVER, guys!!! They go in right next to the traitor-patient and kill him with an injection (in the process killing a Japanese guard, but sparing the nurse, who is pro-Chinese).  
Wasn't she more pro saving her own ass?
Please don't tell me that's going to come back to bite them!
((resume reading here)) Back at the residence, Ming Lou sits down next to Manchun again, who is just starting to wake up (whoever prepared the dose to drug her did really well :). Just then, the telecom-spy with the braids comes in: she is here to escort Manchun home, yes, another token for how much Ming Lou cares and worries about her.
You diabolical man. So hot!
I'm still terrified that Manchun woke up while he was gone. And yes, Ming Lou is distractingly hotte. Not as much as Ah Cheng for me of course. 
Ah Cheng gets a terrible dressing down in front of everyone because it took him so long to get some medicine for Manchun (he just returned now)! Well, he has an explanation, he lent his car to Nantian, because hers broke down, but Ming Lou does not want to hear any excuses. Late is late! Manchun takes Ah Cheng’s side and reminds Ming Lou of his imminent meeting at 3pm. Another reason to lecture Ah Cheng, who does not even know Ming Lou’s schedule! Wow, I don’t even know how this guy is standing after being shot… must be some powerful opiates he got there…
Right, so they'd remove pain - but shouldn't they also remove the ability to speak, walk, appear like you have a brain? Why is he neither asleep nor a drooling, shambling drunk?
Cause he's cool like that
Well...if the drugs are right, they actually do numb the pain and allow you to function. Not all opiates knock you out. Plus, he's Ah Cheng. 
When they’re alone, Ming Lou and Ah Cheng discuss the mission … all went well, it seems, and the “clean up” has already started at the apartments, with the removal of all the evidence. The ambulance records at the hospital have been removed … and new fake evidence has been provided by writing down a misleading address (making sure there’s a trace of it on the paper below). They drink to their success, but Ah Cheng is hurting (YES OF COURSE HE WOULD BE HURTING) … and their victory is only temporary. They need to take care of Lone Wolf next (but without Big Sis noticing and not too forcefully) and handle whoever comes after Minamida… Ming Lou calls the person “our true opponent”. Oh, and they also spare a thought for Ming Tai. Well, THANKS. Is it not going to take this gently, that much is clear!
Great, so massive drugs and now booze, after blood loss too. This man has real stamina, Eleanor. *cough, cough*
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha I can't complain. 
And now, it’s time to act some more! Ming Lou re-arranges his hair (Ah Cheng says it looks like the hair of a traitor :D) and then, they step out together to face the press.
This would be the first known instance of 'Talk to the hand'.
These two are so frickin' cool!!!!!!!!!!
Ming Lou holds a poetic and inspired talk about the wonderful goals of the new government. That very moment, Liang, who is the one who gets to investigate the crime scene, comes to the conclusion that whoever killed Nantian actually was after Ming Lou, because they attacked his car. Makes sense! Manchun is informed and hurries to the press event, to break the terrible, terrible news.
Liang, you oblivious sock puppet. I so enjoy your smarmy ways.
This. Whole. Plan. And. Set. Up. So. Damn. Perfect. Ah! *dies* And the lighting. Man. Ming Lou looks AMAZING here!!!
Alone in the backroom shortly after, Manchun hugs Ming Lou tight. They wanted to kill him! She promises to watch him closely from now on, but he wants nothing of the sort - staying close to him is far too dangerous. She promises to do everything in her power to find the people who are responsible when Ah Cheng comes in and informs Ming Lou that Tengtian/Mr. Fujita request a meeting with him. Uh-oh.
How is it that I just feel more and more sorry for this bloodthirsty, psychotic woman? She's like a teenager - run by emotion and completely feral.
Definitely. Is the writer trying to make us feel pity for her and then she's going to do something terrible and we will hate her even more because of the sympathy? Or am I imagining this writer being too sadistic? 

The old man (= new boss) is genuinely sad about Minamida's death ... but he also has juicy info! They captured intel that clearly shows that the Chongqing government / the KMT wants him (Ming Lou) eliminated. Oh wait, so they intercepted the order that was going to Ming Tai's group?! He also totally fell for the fake ambulance record. But be wary, Ming Bros, be wary. I'm getting strange vibes from this guy...
Wait, wants who eliminated? Him, the old guy? or him, Ming Lou? That would be juicy (and confusing) if the KMT wanted Ming LOU gone.
Of course HIM, Ming Lou! (Added it above). This was the order the KMT gave Team Poison Scorpion after all! And this is how they're playing this whole sharade. KMT wants to kill Ming Lou, ergo Ming Lou cannot be KMT
So clever!!!! *applauds them*
And thus, this very eventful day comes to its end ... and Ming Lou and Ah Cheng return home. They notice the lights in the house, which indicate that Ming Tai is already in. "Dinner must be ready", Ming Lou remarks. Not likely, says Ah Cheng, who is super worried. Be it as it may, Ming Lou is ready to face what needs to be faced.
Whatever, Ah Cheng. You should be face down in the dirt, drooling and talking nonsense to ants. Are you Superman?
Yes, JoAnne, he is. He is. 
They enter ... and Ah Cheng mentions that there is no smell of dinner, only "gunpowder". He ventures to take their coats upstairs when Ming Tai appears on the stairs and pushes him back down. Don't hurt Ah Cheng any more!!! >.<
Ming Tai, if you knew what our Ah Cheng had been through today...
Ming Tai, I will hurt you if you hurt my Ah Cheng like that! *claws out*
Ming Tai steps down to them and Ming Lou asks what he is up to ... well, that must be a rhetorical question because Ming Tai looks like a ton of gunpowder about to explode! He attempts to hit Ming Lou, he dodges, but the next second, Ming Tai has a gun in his hand and points it at Ming Lou's head. Ah Cheng immediately draws his gun and points it at Ming Tai's.
Boys. Stop. Your blood sugar must be low after all this excitement. Come have something to eat and let's talk this out rationally.
Too many spies in one family. Jeepers. 
Ming Tai wants answers, but Ming Lou says that he already has them ... and then taunts him, like he does not believe Ming Tai would even dare to shoot. Ah Cheng shouts "put down your gun!", Ming Tai shouts back "why should I" and Ming Lou tells Ah Cheng to put his down first, Ah Cheng says he will if Ming Tai puts his down first ETC ETC, hahaha, this scene is great and there are so many parodies and re-makes of this on the interwebs! Well, finally, Ming Tai DOES shoot ... Ah Cheng's picture that he hung up not long ago.
Well that was just rude.
Ming Tai!!!!!!!!!!!
Ming Lou covers his ear and grunts in pain ... he is lucky if he does not go deaf after this. Ming Tai finally lowers his gun, so does Ah Cheng ... for like 4 seconds, before Ming Tai points it at Ming Lou anew, demanding his answers again, and then attacks. But Ming Lou disarms him with ease.
Because Oppa is awesome like that. Sorry, but he has to be an oppa.
Ming Tai, that was super mean to shoot that gun off. Poor Ming Lou and his ears. I know that what Ming Tai went through was rough, but it's not like Ming Lou and Ah Cheng have been out picking daisies all afternoon. Ming Tai is too hot headed and doesn't always think things through.
But of course, Ming Tai won't stop. He tries to hit his brother again ... and again and again, but Ming Lou is too good. And thus, they fight a brotherly fight that I will show you in gifs. It's hilarious.
She's right. Don't eat anything, you'll choke.
❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

They end up in a double foot-lock, both immobilizing each other ---- while Ah Cheng eats an apple and sighs. He knows them well though, because Ming Tai's anger evaporates pretty quickly and he takes his feet away from Ming Lou's neck. Exhausted, the two lie there, breathing heavily. 
Let's just linger on that image, shall we?
This must have been so fun to film. I can just imagine them cracking up with laughter all the time. Ah Cheng and that apple though. hahahahahahahahahahaha

Ming Tai wants to know why Ming Lou did not trust him, but Ming Lou corrects him - quite the opposite, considering he gave him the most important task. And has he, for one second, thought how Ming Lou must have felt? But Ming Tai is not ready to consider other people's feelings right now... it was HIM who was ordered to kill his own brother!! But Ming Lou puts him in his place: this is not about him. It's time he stopped being selfish and thought about Big Sis, the family and all the sacrifices they did for him. I don't know..... is that fair? It doesn't feel fair.
It doesn't feel like it makes sense, forget about fair. 'Repay our sacrifices by killing me, please, Ming Tai.' Because I'm of the opinion that deciding to follow the instructions is the same as doing it. He went right to that brink. He would have stepped over that ledge. Tell me how that feels different. He suffered all those agonies, whether he had that last minute reprieve or not. The only thing different is how long he had to suffer them.
But it also shows that if he really didn't think that Ming Lou wasn't a traitor, that maybe he didn't fully trust him. Ming Tai doesn't always think about others and what they must have been going through. He hasn't given a single thought about what Ming Lou and Ah Cheng have been up to all day. I totally understand why Ming Tai is so angry, and justifiably so, but he really hasn't thought through that Ming Lou and Ah Cheng have been making sacrificing and hurting for many years now and partly to keep him safe. He's not asking all the right questions. 

Ah Cheng chimes in and tells Ming Tai that Big Bro had absolutely no other choice but to use him for this task. Couldn't they have told him to kill Nantian on the telegraph, then?! Ming Tai demands to know. Ming Lou calls him a stupid no-brain and wonders how he even graduated; that telegraph could have been intercepted! (and it was! it was!!) And it would have exposed them all.
It's so sad that they aren't able to communicate in person, you know? If only Ming Lou ever saw Ming Tai face to face and thus could share this news with him. But no, the instruction must be passed through channels, since it's imperative that Ming Tai never know who Ming Lou is. Hmm? What's that you say? Oh, Ming Tai knows now? No way. That's impossible. Why, if he was going to be outed anyway, Ming Lou surely would have clued his beloved younger brother into the plan in some way that couldn't be intercepted or overheard. Right?
But could Ming Tai believably been able to show the conflict in front of his team? Maybe there are others around Ming Tai who are spies. I also think that Ming Lou wanted Ming Tai angry like this so they could have a fight and get this all out in the open. Ming Tai is young and inexperienced and too prideful in his skills and abilities. This is part of teaching him obedience and that he still has lots to learn. I know he's like a genius spy and all, but he also needs to understand that in this spying game he has to trust Ming Lou more. 

The atmosphere is still very tense, but Ah Cheng tries to get things back to normal (he seems in pain) mentioning the state of the house (in shambles) and Big Sis, who will throw a fit if she sees this. Okay, he really is in pain and can no longer disguise so, so Ming Lou tells him they need to fix his wound. They let Ming Tai, who still has a defiant, angry look on his face, stand there and retreat to Ming Lou's study.
I understand Ming Tai's anger and believe he's justified in feeling it, but can we please move past the petulant adolescent faces?
Ah Cheng! I am so sorry you're hurting! Come here! I'll make you feel better! 

Ming Tai comes knocking afterwards, when Ming Lou is just undressing Ah Cheng (YES, I know!!). A very quiet Ming Tai requests a meeting with big brother later: alone. As Poison Scorpion. Then, there is no need to talk, Ming Lou says: go home and wait for praise for an assignment well finished. Ming Tai lingers, looking forlorn and sad, but Ming Lou barks at him to go cook. He complies, without a word. Poor kid. It is so not like him to be so quiet... Ah Cheng puts in a good word for him and tells Ming Lou to not hold a grudge - despite him "going physical". Which is totally understandable from his viewpoint in this situation. Haha.
Come on, Ming Lou. You surely knew Ming Tai would try to kick your ass if you both survived the day, right?
This scene. *dies of cuteness* Ah Cheng. Seriously. Stahp being so cute!!! Okay, don't stop. I luff you. 

The brothers gather for a solemn dinner. The first to speak is Ming Lou ... and of course, he has to ask THE question: What would Ming Tai have done if it had been HIM that got out of the car? "I don't know", Ming Tai answers, after briefly hesitating. And Ming Lou nods: he could not answer this question either if it were him.
Bullshit. He was there, so his decision was made. There's no evidence, before or after, to suggest that he went there thinking he'd figure out an escape hatch on the spot.
I dunno. I think Ming Tai was hoping for an out. But we will never know for sure.

"What if I disobeyed the order?" Ming Tai asks. 
"You'd have been shot", says the Cobra.
That's fucked up. I get it, but it's fucked up. Does that mean that what Ming Lou was worried about was not really the effect on Ming Tai, as we thought...but on the fact that he'd have to kill Ming Tai if he refused?
I think there are several things going on here. At the end of the day because of who they all are, they run the chance of killing or being killed by the other if things go wrong. 
Ah Cheng tells Ming Lou to shut it and let them eat in peace - and anyway, who will give him money to replace all the things they broke? 
"He will", both brothers say at the same time. Awwww. And off they go bickering. Ming Lou says that Ming Tai is the one who broke everything, so he should pay - but Ming Tai says he is a student! And has no money.
Ming Lou's got the money. He can file an expense report with KMT. Well, but the reason it happened at all was to fix Ah Cheng's mistake. So make him pay? Oh but really, Ah Cheng made a mistake because he was trying to protect Ming Tai from the mistake Ming Tai made. So Ming Tai pays. Ming Tai's just going to borrow the money from Ming Lou though, so just pay for it already, Ming Lou.
About that, says Ming Lou: Ming Tai won't be able to return to Hong Kong University anymore. And he has already figured out how to tell Big Sis: they will says Ming Tai was expelled. Oh my god, ahahahahaaa! He will get some massive scolding, Ming Lou adds, but the good thing about it is, he can stay with them afterwards. 
"So who is going to give me money now?" Ah Cheng insists. 
Ming Lou looks at Ming Tai ... then he looks at his noodles... slams down his chopsticks, declares that these noodles are absolutely terrible and then leaves.
Aww, baby, I will give you a back rub and you will feel better. It's so hard to have such annoying little brothers, and carry all that responsibility at work, too, and no one gives you credit for trying to save the country, either.
I feel sorry for Ah Cheng caught in the middle. hahahahahahaha

"The wealthier, the meaner", Ah Cheng remarks.
And Ming Tai nods furiously. 
Stop the goddamn pouting before I PUNCH you.
Hahahahahahaha. Ming Tai, Mama J is going to punch you. You'd better watch out. 


Everything is perfect about that brothers-scene... especially the timing of it all, but also the tension, the emotions, the love between all of them, and also the knowledge that all of them are soldiers in a war that will cost so many lives of people dear to them. Ming Lou's "lecture" to Ming Tai rubbed me the wrong way, but it is not the first time we hear it. This is not about individuals and their feelings - this is about the bigger cause. And all of them need to sacrifice for it. I guess he has a point? And yet, it's terrible that Ming Tai had to go through it. He has a right to be angry - at least for a while.
He has a right, and their personal circumstances allow him that luxury - but it's dangerous to set that precedent, Ming Lou. Anyone in the war has the right, but doesn't often get the option to go sit in the corner and sulk.
I find Ming Tai still too bratty and insubordinate. It's all part of putting him in his place - mostly just so Ming Lou can protect him. 

Ming Lou always knew he would not be in the car - so for him, the stakes were never very high. And yet, he could not help but ask his little brother whether he would really have pulled the trigger if it had been him. Would he have? Of course he cannot answer this question, because it is impossible to answer in theory. Would he have? We will never know. But Ming Tai's life was indeed in acute danger, because if he had disobeyed, he would have been hunted down and shot - that was the real issue here and Ming Lou knew that. Thus, by giving the order to "kill Ming Lou" he actually had to jeopardize his little brother's life. Knowing that, I also feel very sorry for Ming Lou, who seems like a cold, calculating SoaB a lot, but really isn't.
No, he is. He sets his feelings aside and does what has to be done. That's pretty cold and calculating, to me. How is it cold if you feel nothing? Where's the hardness in that? That's like choosing between a hamburger and cheeseburger. It's not an issue at all.
But he does feel. All those tension headaches etc. I don't think he allows us to see how he's hurting. Ah Cheng knows. You can see it in the way he treats Ming Lou and pays attention to him. Ah Cheng knows exactly what this is costing Ming Lou.. Ming Lou is also walking on about five different tight ropes at once. I feel for him. I really do. 

Ah Cheng gets to be the voice of reason in this episode, watching tempers flare and cool off ... and pragmatically pointing out that life will go on and they have a house to fix. He wants peace in the house, at least as much as they can get, because their lives are just getting harder and harder as they are forced to play-act on so many different fronts simultaneously. I think he is really relieved that at least one of the secrets is out. Now that Ming Tai knows they're part of the organisation, they have an additional ally. And that is good.
Is it? Ming Tai is considering defecting. He doesn't know about the dual role they play.
I think though that Ming Tai trusts them more now and that's a good thing.
For Ming Lou it's a good thing that his baby bro is close and knows he is Big Boss in KMT, I'd say. It makes things a tiny little bit easier for them

All is good then? Well, this is episode 23 ... and there are 18 to go. Let's just say, this battle is far from won...
Since circumstances have required that we do this at a somewhat leisurely pace, it feels like a very, very long show.
This is just past the halfway point though, right? *sigh* I luff them so
Hm, but it is! 41 episodes. 

It is not the right Manchun-Ming Lou scene, but a cute BTS between them nonetheless