You’ve heard of John Doe, but that is, at least in Cinemax’s “Warrior” reserved for unidentified white people. Our “John Chinaman” of the episode’s title is unidentified not because he’s dead and has no identification papers, but because he wants to be incognito. The theme of this episode is who knows and who does not.
Last episode Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji) was in the jail on trumped up charges that he assaulted two white men and under the suspicion that he had killed the two Irish men, Morgan and Davis, the day before. Morgan and Davis were assassinated at the end of episode 1 (“The Itchy Onion”) by Ah Toy. The police have no evidence linking him to the murders, but he attracted attention to himself by defending the mayor’s wife, Penelope “Penny” Blake (Joanna Vanderham), and her valet, Jacob (Kenneth Fok), from two drunken Irish men (“There’s No China in the Bible”). Although Ah Sahm pretended like he couldn’t speak English when arrested by Sergeant Bill O’Hara (Kieran New) and later interrogated by O’Hara’s subordinate Richard Lee (Tom Weston-Jones), he revealed to Penelope he could speak English. However, he didn’t see it as an asset as O’Hara had clearly decided Ah Sahm would be the perfect scapegoat for the unsolved murders and O’Hara also refused to listen to Penelope’s version of the altercation. Wang Chao (Hoon Lee) can’t come to Ah Sahm’s aid and the Hop Wei have decided that Ah Sahm’s foolish actions would help keep the police from looking further into the murders.
During the cold open, a man walks into a pricy dining room filled with white men. It’s our hissable anti-Asian activist, Dan Leary (Dean S. Jagger). He joins Byron Mercer (Graham Hopins) to talk about the cable car tracks.
Mercer tells him that “all indications is that the city will be accepting my bid” and Leary pulls out a knife to eat an apple. The dining room quiets down. Mercer admits that when he gets the official go ahead there will be “100 jobs, maybe more.” He knows that Leary is there to intimidate him, but Mercer is willing to work with Leary. He tells Leary, he will “hire on your recommendation and in return, you’ll help me keep salaries manageable.” What’s in this arrangement for Leary? A consulting fee.
Leary has another problem. Ah Sahm is taken into the court and charged with “two counts of aggravated assault in the first degree.” Prosecutor Stanton (Michael Bundred) objects and reminds the judge that Ah Sahm is the “prime suspect in a double homicide.” The problem is “no murder charges have been filed” and Judge Belstaff (Ron Smerczak) is by the book and not the one being written by anti-Asian activists. The prosecution has two witnesses, the O’Sheas, a father and son loutish twosome, but despite Penny’s willingness to testify the “defense has no witnesses.” Remember, Jacob was there but he is Chinese and can’t testify against white people.
The trial is set for the next day at 9 a.m. Leary has been sitting down listening to the proceedings and is troubled by how unmoved the judge was by the unfixed charges of murder so he urges O’Hara to take action to insure the man signed in as John Chinaman meets some rough justice before the next morning. “The people I speak for have already convicted” Ah Sahm for the two murders, Leary explains.
In Chinatown, Mai Ling (Dianne Doan) is holding court by herself and receiving this week’s casino receipts. The man tell hers that while “the box is full,” it is “not as full as it could be” because “every night we turn away players.” His idea is to expand the space and remove one of the bars to add 6-7 new gambling tables. The bar only accounts for 30 percent revenue. He agrees to make the necessary renovations in three weeks, but nervously asks, “Don’t I need Long Zii’s permission?” Mai Ling assures him, he has Long Zii’s permission through her, his wife, and what had been covert becomes more overt. Long Zii (Henry Yuki) is no longer the head of the Long Zii.
With the man gone, Li Yung (Joe Taslim) advises Mai Ling, “Your brother was arrested yesterday”
Mai Ling isn’t the least bit surprised, “Of course, he was.”
On that note, the scene shifts to the one white person working for Ah Sahm, the white woman he saved. Penelope goes to a bar to speak with his defense attorney, Phillip Coleman (Aidan Whytock), calling him by his first name. He’s at a bar, drinking to stay drunk. He was expecting Penny because Buckley warned him.
Penny tells him, “The Chinese man you’re defending is innocent. He was only protecting my man servant from those Irish thugs.” Although she asks him to put her on the stand, Phillip reminds her so much could go wrong and besides, “Buckley has made is excruciatingly clear if I let you anywhere near this case then I lose my job.”
Penelope asks, “What happened to you, Phillip? Do you really think to little of me now?”
Phillip responds like a spurned suitor, “It doesn’t matter what I think any more. You’ve made your choice.”
Now other people have made other choices. At the jail, O’Hara uncuffs three happy drunk Irish men and locks them in the same cell as Ah Sahm, telling them, “You boys behavior yourselves, you hear me?” And then, O’Hara walks away. Ah Sahm has been listening to this while in a meditative pose. Don’t worry, there won’t be any mention of grasshoppers here. The Irish bad boys are the ones who will end up feeling bad. By the time O’Hara returns (at least one cigarette worth of time), all the Irish men are down, including one in the neighboring cell.
O’Hara asked, “What the hell kind of Chink are you?”
To O’Hara’s surprise, the man known as John Chinaman replies, “What the hell kind of cop are you?” Ah Sahm clearly states that speaking English would not have helped his case to which O’Hara replies, “not while you’re wearing a Hop Wei suit.”
“Do you think because you wear that uniform you’re any different?” Ah Sahm challenges O’Hara.
“I don’t go around assaulting people,” O’Hara says.
Ah Sahm dryly replies. “At least I have the balls to use my own hands” because O’Hara brings “assholes like this to do it for” him. Ah Sahm is clear that he knows the color of his skin is what makes him guilty and unprotected by the rough justice of San Francisco.
O’Hara is a bit bewildered, saying, “Strange the way you can talk. I close my eyes and you could be anyone.” At this point, every ethnic minority is probably hearing the praise, “You speak good English” in their minds.
Ah Sahm and O’Hara both hear the door opening and Lee enters. O’Hara sees him and quickly says, “Shift over; go home.” Lee isn’t about to let things go. “I saw you with Leary” and he quickly adds things up. “You put the men in with him deliberately.” O’Hara hotly denies it but has had enough troubles for the day and leaves Lee to clean up.
With O’Hara gone, Lee asks Ah Sahm if he was speaking English with O’Hara, but Ah Sahm isn’t finished playing games. Losing his dead-eye stare, he softens his gaze and apologetically says, “Uh, John Chinaman.”
Back at the home of one of the thugs, one of the large family makes the mistake of answering the door during dinner and gets knocked down. Li Yong (Joe Taslim) attacks the Irish dirty dozen before Mai Ling enters. Mai Ling makes it clear that in order for his wife and daughter to live, Seamus O’Shea (Warrick Grier) and his son Paul O’Shea (Andrew Jones Davies)–the men Penny called thugs– must not testify in court.
The next morning, O’Sheas don’t show up in court. The prosecutor asks for a continuance but the defense attorney, Phillip declares, “their absence is a slight” to the court and any delay would “condone” the disrespect. The judge agrees and the case is dismissed. The mayor (Christian McKay) and Walter Buckley (Langley Kirkwood) aren’t happy but can still work this situation to their advantage. In the back, Penelope is lurking. Leary is also there and visibly unhappy when the charges are dismissed. Lee protects Ah Sahm on his way out of court, but it’s O’Hara who ends up alone, talking with Ah Sahm. O’Hara tells him to go out a side door because “that crowd will tear you to pieces. ” Although he almost allowed three Irish thugs to have at him, O’Hara explains, “scraping dead Chinks off the sidewalk stops being fun after a while.” When asked if he has three thugs waiting for Ah Sahm in the back alley, O’Hara says it would take more than three, wouldn’t it? O’Hara asks Ah Sahm “Just stay on your side of the line.”
Elsewhere in the courthouse, the mayor takes this opportunity to speak to the angry court audience members and the story hungry reporters. He assures them, “Friends I share your anger and your outrage” because “as you know my wife, my wife, was a victim of this attack as well.” For him, this is “a sad day for our city” where the average (white) citizens cannot walk the streets “without fear from a foreign criminal element” and “our own courts can’t uphold the very protections put in place” to keep us safe. He promises all of the city’s resources will be devoted to the “safety and sanctity of every (white) man, woman and child of our great city. “God bless you all. God bless San Francisco and God bless the United States.”
Away from the blood-thirsty mob of white people, the mayor gets a critique from Buckley. “You didn’t say anything directly about the Chinese,” Buckley complains. But the mayor doesn’t want to anger businessmen like Lymon Merriweather (Andre Jacobs) and their cronies who hire the Chinese as a cheap source of labor. We heard from Merriweather before when he complained to the mayor about the hammering death of his skilled bricklayers who just happened to be Chinese (Episode 1, “The Itchy Onion”).
Buckley warns “ambivalence won’t get you re-elected” but the mayor angrily replies, “every once in a while you could stand to shut the fuck up and let a man have his moment.”
In the alley of the court, Wang Chao (Hoon Lee) finds Ah Sahm and gives him a ride in a covered carriage. Wang Chao asks, “So how are you finding America so far” and seems somewhat offended because Ah Sahm doesn’t see happy to see him. Ah Sahm reminds him the last time he was in a coach with Wang Chao, he ended up branded. While Ah Sahm thought Young Jun (Jason Tobin) sent him, Wang Chao advises Ah Sahm that as far as Father Jun (Perry Yung) was concerned “you were on your own the minute you step outside of Chinatown” so “maybe figuring isn’t your strong suit.” Wang Chao was there on behalf of Mai Ling. Ah Sahm asks, “Who the hell is Mai Ling?” Wang Chao chuckles and thinks that’s probably the smartest thing Ah Sahm has said since he arrived in San Francisco. Yet Wang Chao wonders, “Why would Long Zii’s pretty bird concern herself over an onion” like Ah Sahm. He does carry a message from Mai Ling: “Get out of San Francisco.” But it was Wang Chao himself who in Episode 1 (“The Itchy Onion”) told Wang Chao that once branded by the Hop Wei, Ah Sahm cannot go home. He’s owned by the Hop Wei.
Wang Chao takes Ah Sahm back to the Hop Wei who are at Ah Toy’s bordello. Young Jun greets him saying, “Get your onion ass over here we have a few days of drinking to catch up on.” Ah Sahm pretends to Bolo (Rich Ting) and Young Jun that he didn’t understand what happened in court but Young Jun is impressed that Ah Sahm “fucked up a couple of Micks” and then “walked out of jail like it was no big thing.” Ah Sahm tells Young Jun “I had no idea I had left Chinatown,” but Young Jun advises him, “The white faces are usually a dead giveaway.”
Things are getting rowdy when Father Jun enters with a measured walk and an angrily quiet face. “I interrupted your celebration.” He asks for a glass for both himself and Ah Sahm but after he downs it, he dashes the glass on the floor and demands that Ah Sahm look at the brand on his arm.
Father Jun tells him “What makes you Hop Wei is your undying devotion to the tong, to your brothers in it.” He then reminds him, “You had no fucking business being out there at all,” meaning in the duck pond. Then he asked Ah Sahm, “You get me?”
Although Ah Sahm says, “I get you,” Father Jun remains angry and replies, “I don’t think you do” but he admits, “It’s partly my fault” because “I skinned you in without a proper initiation.” Because of that “I diminished the importance of the tong and now I have to correct that.” He swing a billy club at Ah Sahm, but Ah Sahm raises his hands to defend himself and although he is stronger than Father Jun, Father Jun demands that he “drop your hands.”
With his hands behind the back, Ah Sahm allows Father Jun to hit him in the gut, back, legs, etc. When Father Jun is done, then he leaves his men to celebrate. Ah Toy will take Ah Sahm up to her chambers to apply some ointments on his wounds. Ah Sahm confesses that he learned that in the US, “We’re not people here; we’re cattle.” Ah Toy asks Ah Sahm to take care of himself because she has plans for him, but when he asks, she declines his offer to stay. She doesn’t want his company afterward. She has one of her girls coming up to share her bed. Back downstairs, Ah Sahm gets a missive tied in a ribbon delivered by Jacob.
As you can imagine, Leary is angry. He goes to the jail and asks his three thugs, “Does anyone want to tell me how one skinny Chink managed to beat the hell out of all three of you?” He bails them out with O’Hara opening up the cell but “it’s hard to find good help,” and Leary isn’t happy with O’Hara either. While O’Hara asks Leary, “You and me, we’re square now, right?” Leary doesn’t respond, only saying “You’ve got more concerns, Bill. Your bust didn’t hold up. That yellow bastard just made a fucking fool out of you.”
Now at the mayor’s house, Penelope is fixing a drink for her husband the mayor. She puts a liberal amount of the powder acquired from the Chinese apothecary. Her husband tells her that “politics and marriage are a fraught combination” and is quite satisfied that although the case was dismissed he ended up “establishing the platform for my re-election” and so “all’s well that ends well.”The mayor starts kissing Penelope but she’s obviously revolted until finally the drug takes effect and she can push him off.
Elsewhere, the mayor’s man, Buckley, is meeting with a woman: Mai Ling. Buckley views the court case as a minor setback because he takes the long view of things. “The mayor has to show he is hard on Chinatown crime.”
Dressed in high heels (she doesn’t have bound feet) and a cloak, Mai Ling admits that she broke the treaty, but unfortunately also says, “My husband is still using restraint” but assures Buckley that he won’t be a problem. Still, because the Hop Wei burned the shipment of Chinese molasses (opium) in Episode 2 (“There’s No China in the Bible”), she needs another shipment.
Buckley replies, “And I need to see blood in the streets.” Mai Ling assure him it will happen because she also takes the long view, but does she really understand the political situation like Long Zii and the danger of the Chinese Exclusion Act?
Back at the mayor’s mansion, Penelope goes downstairs. She hears a sound and thinks it’s Jacob, but it’s Ah Sahm who has followed Jacob back to the mayor’s house. Although she pretends that her husband could hear them, Ah Sahm is there to return the money she sent. She warns Ah Sahm that her husband, “He would have been better served with your conviction.”
Ah Sahm tells her, “You could ask my name; here’s a hint: It’s not John Chinaman.” So Penelope learns his name and asks him, “Why did you do it?” Ah Sahm admits what he did was stupid because he tells her, “You called me I a coward in the shop” and “I wanted to prove I was not.” He invades her personal space and although Penny tells him, “I don’t think you’re a coward” now Ah Sahm tells her, “I don’t care what you think.” Yet one is left feeling that they both definitely care what the other feels.
Ah Sahm isn’t the only one following up on unfinished business that night. Leary visits Seamus O’Shea. O’Shea explains that “those slanty fuckers showed up here” but Leary replies, “You should have come to me.” Leary sets the O’Shea home on fire and the horde of O’Sheas flee as Leary warns Seamus to “take your family and leave San Francisco tonight. I don’t ever want to see you again.” Leary is the face of Irish terrorism in San Francisco.
If you’re keeping score, then here’s how things lie.
People who know Ah Sahm can speak English: Wang Chao, Penelope Blake, Bill O’Hara and Mai Ling. Possibly Li Yong.
People who know Ah Sahm is Mai Ling’s brother: Mai Ling, Ah Sahm, Li Yong.