Episode 4, White Mountain introduces us to another tong, the Fung Hai. Sergeant Bill O’Hara doesn’t like the Chinese, but that doesn’t keep him away from his favorite vice. This episode begins with him at a Fung Hai gambling den where he meets a familiar face: Jack Damon (Brendan Sean Murray).
Damon had left San Francisco to work for the Pinkertons in Chicago, but couldn’t stand the winters. Returning to San Francisco in the fall, he ended up working for the Fung Hai (who are distinguished by their tattooed faces). Damon vouches for O’Hara for a $50 marker. At first, O’Hara is winning big at the wheel, and Damon suggests that O’Hara take his money and leave. O’Hara is greedy and by the end of the night, he’s left with nothing. Although he tells Damon, “I’m good for my marker,” Damon and his thugs beat O’Hara up.
Damon tells O’Hara that the Fung Hai believe themselves “to be direct descendants of Ghengis Khan,” and the Mongols “had the biggest empire in the history.”
The Chinese sought to understand their enemy, the Mongols, and sent scouts out to the Mongolian plains. The Chinese saw a great white mountain rising up “where no mountain should be.” It was a mountain was made of thousands bones.
Damon explains that the Fung Hai had a problem. They could break the legs or threaten the family of a Chinese man who did’t pay up on his marker, but “what are they supposed to do when an Irish man owes a debt.” Damon continues, “That’s where old Damon comes in. I can go down where they can’t.”
While the standard is two weeks, Damon is extending O’Hara the “police man’s special of three weeks” and if he fails, then O’Hara will be “taking a trip to white mountain.”
By 1878, the Chinese could testify agains white men; California was forced to remove all racial bans on testimony in 1872, due to federal laws.
In another part of town, Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji) is recovering from his initiation into the Hop Wei when he was beaten by Father Jun with a billy club. Joining his fellow Hop Wei for a meal, Ah Sahm admits, “It only hurts when I breathe… and sit.”
Bolo (Rich Ting) tells him, “You think that’s bad. Look at this.” With that he slams a railroad spike into the wooden table. “I always carry it with me. It reminds me where I’ve been.”
Bolo was in Utah, originally meant to work on the railroad but became known as the Yellow Demon by the white men who used him as entertainment, pitting him against other men in death matches. Father Jun (Perry Yung) had to go and see this Yellow Demon for himself. Impressed, Father Jun bought the Yellow Demon.
Outside, Young Jun tells Ah Sahm about his “skinning” where Father Jun had to be especially tough because he didn’t want to show favoritism. Young Jun reaches out to Ah Sahm, saying, “You know you can trust me right? I’m smarter than I look.” He asks Ah Sahm why he came to San Francisco and learns it was because of a girl, but Ah Sahm lies and says, “She’s dead.”
Later, Ah Sahm meets Jacob (Kenneth Fok) who takes him to a building owned by Penelope Mercer Blake’s father, Byron Mercer (Graham Hopkins). There, Penelope has a gorgeously airy artist studio that would be the envy of any woman wanting a room of her own in San Francisco. Through Penny’s questions, we learn that Ah Sahm’s American grandfather was a sea captain who often traveled to China. “One year he got sick and couldn’t make the trip back to America.” His grandfather died when Ah Sahm was 15.
Penny attempts to be coy, saying, “I don’t know why I asked you here,” but Ah Sahm says, “I think you do.” Penny kisses him and they become lovers.
If you’re wondering about that other guy who’s in San Francisco for reasons unknown, Richard Lee (Tom Weston-Jones) is at the police headquarters. O’Hara is not. Walter Buckley (Langley Kirkwood) speaks with the Police Chief Russell Flannagan (David Butler) about “very angry constituency” who are concerned that “our laws can fail to deliver true justice.” Buckley gives Flannagan a slip of paper and the police are ready for a raid. Lee is sent looking for O’Hara, giving Lee more awkward moments at the O’Hara household. O’Hara and Lee arrive just after the first shot is fired at the raid.
Unfortunately, Buckley should have checked on where the mayor was first. Buckley races to get the mayor out of the brothel before the police can come in. Buckley didn’t count on Ah Toy who tells O’Hara, “It’s not a brothel. It’s a boarding house. These are good girls.” To show her appreciation, she gives O’Hara an envelope, saying it is “a gift for Chinese New Year.”
Sensing Lee’s disapproval, O’Hara explains to Lee, “This whole bust is the problem,” because “we’re all just pawns in someone else’s game.” He warns, “Keep your head down. You do what you have to to survive.” When they have the opportunity, they can transfer to a different division and do some real police work. O’Hara still wonders, “Why does a Southern boy like you have to come” to San Francisco. We already have a big hint. Earlier in the day, Lee has been asleep in his room, dreaming of a naked Black woman beside him.
At the Long Zii, Li Yong (Joe Talsim) and Ah Sahm’s sister, Mai Ling (Dianne Doan) are preparing for war. Mai Ling visits Wang Chao (Hoon Lee) and he fits her with a small gun that is rigged to her forearm. She’s really wants him to set up a meeting between the Long Zii and the Fung Hai.
Wang Chao warns her, “No good can come for dealing with the Fung Hai.” Wang Chao still sets up the meeting only to learn that no good comes from dealing with Mai Ling. Three of the top Fung Hai are assassinated and replaced by men Mai Ling and Li Yong had a deal with.
Mai Ling isn’t done for the night. In her coach, she parks outside of the building where Ah Sahm and Penny are meeting. In the carriage, she tells Ah Sahm to go home and hands him a ticket to China. A war is going to start and she won’t hesitate to kill him. He asks her to come with him, but she refuses saying that in China, she is nobody. We already know as Mai Ling should that the Hop Wei own Ah Sahm. He can’t go home.
Ah Sahm tells his sister he regrets letting her marry her abusive husband and “I should have fought to save you. I won’t make that mistake again.”
There are others who can’t help repeating their mistakes. The episode ends as it began. O’Hara is back to gambling, this time courtesy of Ah Toy’s money.