If you remember the old tale of “The Tiger and the Fox,” then episode is about divining who are the foxes and who are the tigers. Not everyone will survive this episode.
“The Tiger and the Fox” is a Chinese story that inspired the idiom 狐假虎威 (hú jiǎ hǔ wēi) or a fox takes advantage of a tiger’s might. The story is part of the “Intrigues of the Warring States” about a time (475–221 BC) when China was much divided until two states, Qin and Chu defeated the others and, eventually, Qin emerged victorious, unifying China in 221 B.C.
This episode begins at the edge of town, in an isolated wooden house with several rooms. Long Zii (Henry Yuk) is dressed for bed and sadly recalls, “For thirty years I was one of the most respected men in Chinatown; now I’m hiding out like some low level onion.”
His wife, the duplicitous Mai Ling (Dianne Doan), attempts to comfort him, saying, “It’s only temporary.”
Long Zii still mournfully remembers, “There was a time I could walk down the street and not once fear a hatchet in my back because the street feared me. Now there’s no dignity in this.”
Mai Ling calmly tells him, “This will pass. Things will change. You’ll see. Come on. Let’s get you into bed.”
Long Zii complies and agrees, saying, “I guess we’ll stay here a little while until we figure a way forward.”
Mai Ling says, “It’s safe here.”
Yet Long Zii knows better, and replies, “I’m not safe anywhere.”
If you recall, in the last episode, “Chewed Up, Spit Out, and Stepped On,” Long Zii met with Father Jun (Perry Young) at a temple after the Long Zii arranged for the Fung Hai to make the failed assassination attempt on Father Jun. Father Jun’s condition to keep the peace was the Long Zii dealing with the Fung Hai. Long Zii knew that Father Jun was going to have him killed.
After the credits, the scenes changes to cavernous rooms in Chinatown. Chinese women of all ages are examining clothed girls in a dark shed. Ah Toy sees one with possibilities and is told the girl was “bred for fucking” but Ah Toy is displeased to see the bruising on her legs.
Slaver Zan (Lim Yu-Beng) explains, “The men get lonely on the salt; I need to keep them happy.”
Ah Toy (Olivia Cheng) angrily replies that he needs to keep her happy. Attempting to assuage Ah Toy, Zan offers her another, Lai (Jenny Umbhau). “Her father sold her to me to settle a debt.” Then he adds, “even better, she’s never been touched.” According to Zan, she’s “still a virgin.”
Ah Toy asks for more information. She’s suddenly interested when she learns that the girl is from a small fishing village in the Shandong province.
While Ah Toy is buying flesh to prevent it being peddled, a father is hoping to financially gain from his daughter’s sex acts. Penelope Blake (Joanna Vanderham) is dining with her father, Bryon Mercer (Graham Hopkins) in a fancy restaurant. Penelope can tell her father’s upset. It’s about the cable car commission.
Mercer sputters, “Blake (Penelope’s husband and the mayor) promised me that contract; he swore it was mine.” He continues, “If it doesn’t come through soon I’ll be forced to declare bankruptcy.”
Penelope becomes angry, “I married the man; what else do you need me to do.” Her father doesn’t say it, but she figures it out and feels like he considers her nothing more than a whore, leaving the table after telling him, “Shame on you, Daddy.”
From the socially-approved whoring, we move to Ah Toy’s brothel for our soft porn segment where we get an over-the-head shot of Young Jun (Jason Tobin) with all his naughty bits covered by a fully naked a Chinese whore who is riding him to orgasm.
We assured that the sex was good for both of them and Young Jun gives her something for her headaches…”two pinches in a glass of water.” Dressed and on his way down the stairs, Young Jun sees Ah Toy with her new acquisition. Ah Toy declares that the girl is “not on the menu,” but Young Jun prefers experienced women because “how else am I going to learn?”
In her private chambers, Ah Toy draws a bath for the new girl, Lai. “You’ve had a long hard journey, but you’re safe here with me. I promise. Soon you may remember how to smile.” Ah Toy washes her back
In the Irish part of town, Sergeant Bill O’Hara is at The Banshee. Behind the bar, he sees the bloodied ghost of Jack Damon (Brendan Sean Murray). He’s noticed a man has been watching him. The man knows his name and offers to buy him a drink. We’ve seen this man before, for a split second during the last episode.
Unable to pay his marker owed to the Fung Hai and backed by Damon, O’Hara asked for the help of Dylan Leary (Dean Jagger). Leary beat Damon, but required that O’Hara beat him to death with Leary’s own walking stick, sending Damon to the White Mountain instead of going himself.
The man, Gresham (Steve Wall), is a bounty hunter and he’s looking for Richard Henry Lee (Tom Weston-Jones) who is wanted for the murder two men in Georgia with a $500 reward, dead or alive.
Gresham concedes, that “I have to admit; I did not expect to find him wearing a badge.” He explains to O’Hara, “What I need here, what I’m respectfully requesting from you, sergeant, is some cooperation.” Gresham makes an offer of “50/50, less my expenses, of course.”
You might not consider this a great transition, but you’ll understand later the relationship between Lee and Ah Sahm. Penelope doesn’t go home. Instead, she goes to her artist studio and takes off her jewelry, including her wedding ring. Perfuming her wrists and drinking red wine, she waits.
Penelope is, of course, waiting for Ah Sahm.
In Chinatown, Ah Sahm comes in with collection money and meets with Young Jun. When Ah Sahm lets him know that he’s going to meet a lady friend, Young Jun responds, saying, “I’m glad you’re getting some sticky before the blood jam begins.” Ah Sahm doesn’t know what he means and Young Jun admits, “I’m not supposed to talk about it” but tonight the Hop Wei are moving on not just the Long Zii, but on Long Zii. “Bolo already on his way to dice him and his bitch wife.” Father Jun sent one assassin because “Father Jun didn’t want to risk having someone tip off the Long Zii.”
Ah Sahm has no idea where this safe house is, but he goes to Ah Toy (Olivia Cheng), barging into her room. “Mai Ling, they’re going to kill her” and then if it isn’t clear why he’s concerned, he says, “Ah Toy, she’s my sister.”
Ah Toy wisely says, “She was your sister…in China.”
Ah Sahm pleads, “I can’t let her die.”
Ah Toy insists, “You can’t stop what’s happening.”
Ah Sahm reminds her that she told him he would need a friend someday outside the tongs and he needs one now.
So Ah Sahm disturbs a white male customer who is doing it doggie style in our second soft porn scene. The prostitute is one that we’ve seen before: Zhang Yan (Xiaoyu Peng). She was the one during the first episode, “The Itchy Onion,” who betrayed the Hop Wei to the Long Zii at Ah Toy’s brothel.
Ah Toy threatens her and then we see Ah Sahm running through the streets. He has a map to follow, but this is intercut with scenes of Bolo slowly making his way through the Long Zii defenses. Ah Sahm steals a horse.
At the Long Zii safe house, Mai Ling looks out and realizes that the guard outside is gone. She takes a knife and goes to check out her house, leaving Long Zii in the bedroom. If your husband lets you investigate a strange noise, you are his caretaker and not his equal.
Bolo faces Mai Ling and he has her by her neck off of her feet, telling her “Go to sleep.” But Ah Sahm attacks Bolo. Of course, Bolo is confused, “What the f*ck are you doing?” Ah Sahm is fine with the contract on Long Zii, but not on Mai Ling. Bolo informs him, “Father Jun gave the order for the both of them.”
Ah Sahm replies, “If you want her, you’re going to have to go through me.”
Bolo, still confused, but determined, replies, “I always knew there was something off about you. I don’t know what your deal is, but that won’t make this any less fun.” Bolo has never really liked Ah Sahm.
Bolo and Ah Sahm go through several rooms, destroying them until Ah Sahm disables Bolo’s left arm, but it is Mai Ling who kills Bolo.
Ah Sahm wants Mai Ling to flee with him, but Mai Ling insists, “Go, just go.” Ah Sahm has saved Mai Ling, but there’s no one there to save Long Zii
Long Zii is in the bed room with a sword. He hasn’t stepped out to investigate the ruckus as Bolo and Ah Sahm destroyed his safe house. All he can say, seeing Mai Ling’s bloodied lip is, “Mai Ling, are you hurt?”
Mai Ling tells Long Zii it is over and takes the sword and tells her husband to rest. She puts him to bed and covers him, but then she takes the sword.”
Long Zii understands, “So they managed to kill me after all. I’m glad it’s you.” I don’t believe that. What is it like to be betrayed by your young wife? Those last words act as a curse on Mai Ling.
“Close your eyes,” she tells him.She kisses his bald head, crying.
Long Zii says, “They have no idea who they’re dealing with do they?”
“They will,” Mai Ling replies. She stabs him and then he helps her by plunging it further into himself.
From there, we switch to Ah Toy’s brothel. The new girl is sweeping up, but the greedy Zan is there with a customer, Mr. Holbrook (Russel Savadier). In Chinese, Zan explains to Ah Sahm that Mr. Holbrook’s quarries proves the rock for half the buildings in San Francisco.
Holbrook has a fetish, “I fancy the untouched ones.”
Ah Toy is enraged that Zan is trying to make money twice on the virgin girl he sold and that he has made a deal without her permission. She tells them both to leave.
From there we go to another monetary transaction where a man could possibly make some money. Richard Lee is doing his own laundry in his boarding room when Bill O’Hara knocks on the door. O’Hara asks, “Is there something you forgot to tell me?” O’Hara shows him the wanted poster.
Lee remains calm and says, “Doesn’t quite capture me but close enough for government work.”
“Why don’t you tell me what it is then,” O’Hara says.
Lee tells O’Hara about a family of free slaves that “came to live with us to manage the farm.” The family had a daughter and Lee and her were “like brother and sister until we weren’t.” They used to meet secretly in the barn and she, Nora (Gaozi Raditholo), would leave first. They knew they would have to leave the South in order to marry and live together as man and wife.
Then one day, Lee remembers, “I heard her cry out.” Two of Lee’s cousins (Lance Elliott and Jason O’Neill) had been on to the two illicit lovers. His drunk cousins were holding her and molesting her. Nora fought back and enraged one of the cousins who took and sickle and “he killed her right in front of me.” Lee shot one man and then took the sickled and killed the other. “I buried Nora and left town that night.”
There is, of course, a man who has probably heard a lot of sob stories and is not impressed: The bounty hunter. Gresham says, “a bounty’s a bounty and the laws the law.”
Lee pulls a knife at a gun fight, but Gresham doesn’t reckon on the nature of a police squad who are there supposedly backing him up. Instead, Lee’s squad members beat up Gresham, but O’Hara wants him to be ambulatory. “You are no longer welcome in San Francisco,” O’Hara tells the bounty hunter, and then advises his officers to “get him up and put him on a train.”
Alone together, Lee admonishes O’Hara, “You could have at least tipped me off.”
O’Hara says, “What would be the fun of that?” O’Hara didn’t think that Lee was the cold-blooded murdering type so he wanted to hear Lee’s story and then decide if he would “save your ass or make some money.”
Another deal is being made that is not quite legal. Back in Ah Toy’s brothel, Ah Toy is talking to her partner, a man who uses her money to buy land because Ah Toy, being born in China, cannot legally buy land in California. Hearing some screaming, Ah Toy leaves and sees the broom on ground and Zan smiling in front of a closed door. Taking one of her hair pins, she slams it into Zan’s hand, pinning it to the wall.
Holbrook is unapologetic and is willing to offer more money. Ah Toy cuts his face and tells him, “You explain face to wife.” To the girl, Lai, she tells her to “Go to my room clean yourself up.”
As for Zan, while retrieving her knife, Ah Toy slices off his two of his fingers. Zan calls Ah Toy, a “crazy bitch.”
Penelope realized that Ah Sahm isn’t coming and has gone home. She drinks a drugged drink and looks at her husband who is studying papers on his bed. Going in she straddles him and then opens her robe off, placing his hand on her breast. He throws her on the bed and without any more foreplay and ruts her with less consideration than a dog after a bitch in heat as Penelope looks up blankly.
In the morning, back in Chinatown, Bolo’s body is found by the locals hanging from a banner strung between two buildings over a street. His body is dragged in to a Hop Wei conference where Father Jun is talking about excavations. Father Jun is told that Bolo “killed Long Zii” but “the bitch survived.” This surprises Ah Sahm.
At the Long Zii, Mai Ling is dressed in white with a scarf covering her neck.
Her lover, Li Yong (Joe Taslim), says, “I should have been there.” Mai Ling counters that she needed him there and then admits that the Hop Wei’s Bolo didn’t kill Long Zii. Yung Li understands that Mai Ling killed Long Zii
Mai Ling tells him, “It’s time; it’s our time.”
From there Mai Ling goes before the Long Zii who are waiting at Long Zii’s open casket. Playing the mourning widow, Mai Ling tells the story of the tiger and the fox. When her father told her the tale, even as a child, she understood, “the fox was just borrowing terror from the tiger.” Long Zii was the tiger but he was surrounded by foxes and “as he grew older and weaker, some of these foxes were fooled into thinking they were tigers.” Now the Long Zii tong must remind them who are the foxes and who are the tigers.
According to an article in Epoch Times by Jian Zheng, the story was used to comfort the emperor of the state of Chu who worried that his mighty general, Zhao Xixu was the one who inspired terror in the warlords of the northern states. A minister used the story to imply that in reality the warlords were afraid of the emperor’s armed forces and not of General Zhao.
At the Hop Wei side of town, Young Jun tells Ah Sahm that “things are changing.” Ah Sahm is new to San Francisco, but Young Jun says, “It’s like the ground is shifting under our feet” and Young Jun relishes it because “It’s our world now; everyone else is just living there.”
In the streets, Li Yong leads the Long Zii to face Young Jun and Ah Sahm who lead the Hop Wei. The screen goes black as they rush toward each other, leaving on the sounds of hatchets, swords and knives making the music of death on the streets on Chinatown.
Yet, it isn’t clear who are we to side with? The clever fox or the foolish tiger?