When the episode begins, Chester (Derek Mio) is taking a photo of a local mother with her two kids. He imagines Luz (Cristina Rodeo) and sees what his kids might have been. Chester has received a letter with the bad news that his two boys were stillborn. His fellow translator Arthur Ogawa (Marcus Toji) is concerned about Chester’s mental state.
News of his recent brush with death has traveled as far as Long Beach, California where three Nisei (second-generation) MIS servicemen wait to ship out to the front as replacement personnel. Working as a translator increases one’s chances of surviving the war because in the Pacific war theater, no translator has died…yet. One soldier notes that a translator “took a flame thrower to the face and came out as fresh as a daisy.” One of the soldiers, Terajima (Taiga Seiya), sets himself apart and one of the two others comments, “Remember when he used to be fun?”
Terajima is, you guessed it, possessed by Yūko (Kiki Sukezane). You know the signs: the odd cracking of the neck and the stiff walk. When he puts his duffle bag over his shoulder, it is mysteriously wet.
Back at camp, Yamato (George Takei) is worrying over a new form that the government wants all the Japanese Americans to fill out. One has to wonder why Yamato is worried–isn’t he an Issei and therefore not expected to sign the loyalty questionnaire.
Major Bowen (C. Thomas Howell) is also worried, “The WRA is all over my ass to get 100 percent” he tells his secretary, Amy Yoshida (Miki Ishikawa). “I thought you all were supposed to be obedient.”
Amy’s flame, Ken Uehara (Christopher Naoki Lee), is indignant over the loyalty oath because the options are: “be sent to Japan, be sent to jail, be sent to die.” He adds, “This is a trap; it’s as plain as a hakujin’s (white person’s) nose.”
There are other traps and Chester might be in danger of falling into one. Arthur briefly explains why he decided to translate “tama” (玉）as pearl, but pearl should be “shinju” (真珠). The translation is that “bodies might shatter into glorious shards of pearl.” Anyone who knows pearls will understand how wrong this translation is.
What they have discovered is that Admiral Takahashi did psychological experiments on Sergeant Crittenden (Josh Hudniuk), the man who kept insisting that his former fellow soldiers were “white demons” and saved Chester when he was being attacked by other US soldiers by turning a flame-thrower on them.
Chester complains that he and Arthur are not allowed to interrogate the prisoners, possibly because the “Harvard translator is afraid we’ll spot his shitty Japanese.” Chester, now acknowledging that Crittenden was not on a yūrei inspired mission, confesses that he joined the Military Intelligence Service because he felt he was driven by the yūrei, so, “If there was never a yúrei, then why am I here?” Because they aren’t used as interpreters during interrogations, Chester complains, “Look at us! Useless to our country; useless to our families.”
Arthur, still in the comfort Chester mode, asks Chester if he played sports. At one time, Chester played second base on inner city baseball league.
Chester and Arthur are summoned by their commanding officer because a Japanese pilot survived the downing of his Zero, but his interrogator, Major Van Allen(Ted Cole) “hit a bit of a snag.”
Chester and Arthur see the whimpering Van Allen being carried away on a stretcher. The prisoner, First Lieutenant Tetsuya Ota (Kazuya Tanabe) bit off his ear. This is where the lighting, casting and camerawork make us and Chester question his assumptions. Ota seems possessed and spits the ear out of his mouth. He’s been tied to a post with his hands behind his back; his mouth is bloody and he asks, “Can you hear without your ear?”
Ota calls Chester, “Shiryō” (死霊), which Chester explains are “dead men walking among the living.” Chester and Arthur are babysitting Ota, but Chester isn’t sure if Ota is a man or a yūrei and neither are we.
Back at Colinas de Oro, Amy and her boyfriend Ken Uehara (Christopher Naoki Lee) are hooking up in the unused barracks, but someone is watching. Amy worries, “Shat if they use those answers to draft you?”
Elsewhere on the camp, three kids are playing hide and seek in the woods when they see a woman in white at the water. “There she is, the ghost woman,” one of the children exclaims. Yet this isn’t the real ghost woman, Yūko, but a very depressed Luz who imagines her two babies in the water of the pond she stands in.
Switching the scene to the camp cafeteria, Ken is asserting that “It’s our constitutional right not to answer” and tells Walt Yoshida, “Yoshida, if you don’t rock the boat,” he’s just as bad as the people who put their people in the stockades. A soldier quells the minor protest, noting that answering “no” to the most controversial questions (27 and 28) would be “considered as treasonous behavior subject to indefinite imprisonment.”
Amy learns that Major Bowen knows about her and Ken.
Ken tells her, “I couldn’t live with myself if I marked yes to a question like that.”
Back at the war, the pilot tells Chester, “The reason I am here is to save you.” He asks Chester to commit suicide with him. Chester takes a photo of him and becomes assured that Ota isn’t yūrei. Chester is provoked by Ota and hits him because of his sorrow for his dead sons.
In Oregon, Amy’s boyfriend tells her, “You don’t want the man who says yes to those questions,” but Amy isn’t convinced.
Luz remains depressed. Her father comes to see her. She is dirty in her white dress and he has come to take her home. Luz and her father are questioned by the military authorities. She can barely answer until the end when she recalls the names of her two babies.
Back at the war, Chester asks if Ota has children. Ota replies sorrowfully, “No, and it looks like I never will.” Like Chester, Ota believes in spirits. He can feel them. He looks forward to the next life because now he is unafraid of death as a proud warrior of Japan.
In Oregon, the matter of honor also comes up as Amy uses her position to gain access to Ken’s loyalty questionnaire and changes Ken’s answers.
Chester, in the Solomon Islands, breaks through to Ota realizing what the nine names mean. They were his college baseball team. Chester thinks baseball is America-ppoi, or very American. Ota was a pitcher and he remembers seeing Lou Gehrig. “I struck him out,” he says. At first Chester doesn’t believe him, but Ota explains that in 1934, an all-star baseball team played at Meiji Jingu Stadium in Tokyo.
Ota asks him for help–to give him an honorable death. Ota is destined to be questioned by an Ivy League university graduate at a POW camp. One wonders if he’ll even survive or become some soldiers souvenir shinbone letter opener or skull after the last episode “The Weak Are Meat.”
Chester tells Ota that,”The best thing about baseball…there’s not time limit, there’s no clock. There’s always a chance until the game is over.” Then he tells Ota, I would have liked to have taken a swing at your fast ball.”
Ota replies sadly, “I would have struck you out, too, like Lou Gehrig.”
Chester releases Ota and gives him the knife he was found carrying and Ota commits ritual suicide. Before he dies, Ota tells him, that Admiral Takahashi was born in Sendai prefecture on 7 June 1894.
Chester’s worried about yūrei are not unfounded as Sgt. Terajima (Taiga Seiya) arrives at Chester’s encampment and he unzips his duffle bag enough that we see: There’s a corpse inside.
Yūko hasn’t quite been forgotten at the Colinas de Oro internment camp. Before she leaves with her father, Lus tells Chester’s mother Asako (Naoko Mori), “Give this back to Yūko,” handing her the toy drum.
At the last minute, Henry (Shingo Usami) runs almost to the open gate and hugs her and the guard thinks for a moment but don’t shoot him.”Please, be safe. Be well.”
Back at the war, the official report will read that Ota broke free and committed suicide. For the US Army it is “not the happiest ending” but for Chester, he comes out better than Major Van Allen.
Chester might think he’s safe now that he’s sure Ota and Crittenden weren’t yūrei, but then Arthur comes into their tent and hits Chester with a gun and forces him at gunpoint get into a jeep with that mysteriously creepy duffle bag and drive away as the soldiers shoot at the tires. The jeep overturns. Arthur dies, but something emerges from the bag. The yūrei of Yūko has come in her very dirty white kimono and her face is totally rotted and she’s hairless.
“It’s time to go now, Taizō,” she tells Chester. Next episode we get to learn all about Taizō.
Historically, this episode covers some sad events that tore the Japanese American community apart, but also one of the things that today unite the US and Japan and the Japanese-American community.
The men who answered “no” to both questions became known as the “no-no boys” and there was a novel written about them. About 12,000 out of 78,000 answered no-no or gave qualified answers to questions 27 and 28 that resulted in them being labelled disloyal. The No-no boys were taken to Tule Lake.
There were others who replies yes-yes, but refused the draft on principle. Most famously, the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee argued that full citizenship rights needed to be restored to the Nisei before full compliance in selective services. Led by Frank Seishi Emi of Los Angeles and ACLU member Kiyoshi Okamoto of Hawaii, “sixty-three Heart Mountain resisters were found guilty on one count each of draft evasion and sentenced to three years in federal prison. United States Attorney Carl Sackett prosecuted the case.”
What is also true in this episode is that there was a Japanese professional baseball player, Eiji Sawamura (1917-1944) who on 20 November 1934 faced the all-star team that included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. He struck out both Ruth and Gehrig and the agent Connie Mack attempted to sign him, but Sawamura didn’t want to leave Japan. Instead, he joined the Yomiuri Giants in 1936. By 1943, Sawamura was in the Japanese Imperial Army and his ship was torpedoed. The Sawamura Award has been given to the best league pitchers since 1947.
The Japanese Americans were also good baseball players, something that has been largely ignored in comparison to the attention given the Negro Leagues.
In this episode, “Shattered Like a Pearl, ” while we might have thought that the yūrei was protecting Chester, now it seems that she has something else in mind or that she might be looking for someone else: Taizō. Somehow, we are misinterpreting what is happening, just as Chester at first thought he saw the yūrei when there was none. Pearls, unless they are fake glass, do not shatter but in the next episode Chester’s world and family will be shattered by things that weren’t real.