Chen Shen may be a talented spy to survive under the nose of his superior, enemy and sworn brother, but he is ultimately still human. Even at the risk of exposure and undoing everything he has done in the past three years, he desperately tries to save his sister-in-law from a certain death. It is our first glimpse of his idealism, and it explains a lot of what we know, and don’t know, about his relationship with Bi Zhong Liang.
Sparrow Episode 2 RECAP:
Chen Shen places a stolen IV at another windowsill and balances yet another explosive on it. He does a thorough check of the hospital exterior, weighing in the men stationed outside. Seeing a pile of wood, he gets an idea and pockets a nail stuck on one of the woods.
Back inside, he instructs Bian Tou not to let anyone in until Bi Zhong Liang arrives. He chats with the officer inside, who is once part of Nationalist force like Chen Shen. He promises to put in a word for him to be the leader of team 2. Meanwhile, the dripping IV from the second floor is melting the snow holding the explosive in the first floor.
They chat and we learn that Chen Shen and Bi Zhong Liang are known to be brothers who have gone through life and death together. Chen Shen has even saved his life. The clock ticks and Chen Shen imagines the explosive going off and him stabbing the officer in the brain with the nail.
The officer is clueless about his impending fate, protesting ardently that it is mere rumours that he said Chen Shen is only the team leader because of Bi Zhong Liang. That, he agrees with though. “Without him looking out for me, I will be a mere barber.”
Explosion rings out, shocking everyone but Chen Shen. Even Bi Zhong Liang can feel the tremors, who rushes to the hospital. Chen Shen acts out the scene in his head without a hitch, and when Bian Tou rushes in, another explosion goes off at the door. Without waiting a beat, Chen Shen tosses the officer, with another explosive, out the window into the pile of woods below.
He orders Qiu Xia to get onto a wheelchair but she doesn’t want him to risk everything to save her. Outside, Bi Zhong Liang arrives with his men and orders the hospital to be closed off. No one is allowed to leave and anyone who tries to resist is to be killed.
Qiu Xia pleads with Chen Shen to protect himself and preserve his role. But Chen Shen has a plan: he is going to frame the officer earlier for the escape. While they discuss this, Bi Zhong Liang and Er Bao are moving in. Oh no.
They see Qiu Xia on the wheelchair —and Chen Shen lying on the floor, face scarred. Bi Zhong Liang screams for Er Bao to get a doctor. In another room he paces next to Chen Shen’s bed, apparently worried. When Er Bao runs in with news, he makes them talk outside so that they won’t disturb Chen Shen, or give information to Chen Shen (both is equally possible).
Er Bao informs Bi Zhong Liang what we already know: four explosions and a corpse. He is asked to deduce the perpetrator: “Our own people.” Bi Zhong Liang asks which of them are the most suspicious, eyes hard. They both have an answer but Chen Shen, who is listening in, drops his watch. The noise surprises them.
To his credit, Bi Zhong Liang rushes in to check on Chen Shen. He is every bit the doting brother and asks him what happened. Chen Shen explains that after he made the call, he returns to the room to find Qiu Xia already on the wheelchair. Someone then attacks him, and he names the officer from earlier as the attacker.
That was when the explosives goes off and the officer was thrown away by the impact, he lies. He looks relieved to hear that the prisoner has not escaped. “If she escapes under my supervision, then I would have burdened you.” Bi Zhong Liang tells him to stay put and he will handle the rest.
Chen Shen remembers how it all actually went: he tried to convince her that the officer would make the best scapegoat as a Communist spy who tried to save another spy, but Qiu Xia says her only mission is to engage and protect him. He pleads with her: “If you don’t want Pi Pi to be an orphan, you must listen to me.”
Then the narrator helpfully tells us that with Chen Shen’s understanding of Bi Zhong Liang’s character, he would not plainly believe that the officer is a Communist spy. He is right, because Bi Zhong Liang orders Chen Shen’s story to be investigated.
We see how Chen Shen ended up lying on the floor. Qiu Xia must have him convinced that there is no way out for them. To fake fainting from the explosion, he cuts his face with a shard of glass (ouch). Now he has to play the waiting game, waiting for the right opportunity to save his sister-in-law.
Having gotten his hand on one of the explosives Chen Shen used, Bi Zhong Liang is told it is mercury fulminate, used primarily in detonators. Everything about Er Bao’s explanation follows exactly as Chen Shen intended. Even the officer’s relatives have confessed, to which Bi Zhong Liang noting dryly that with their Bureau’s tactics, who would not have confessed?
Bi Zhong Liang learns about Chen Shen’s whereabouts during the explosion and the answer doesn’t satisfy him. He orders Er Bao to tail him and then goes see Zai Xiang, aka Qiu Xia. He is a gentleman with her, bringing her clothes and asking if she is interested in a drink.
Chen Shen is finally released from the hospital and he banters with his sidekick Bian Tou, who worries about his brain after the explosion. He jokes that it is fine as long as their looks are intact. It is obvious that Bian Tou is the primary information relay for Chen Shen, who doesn’t even have to ask.
Bian Tou also informs him that he is wanted at Bi Zhong Liang’s house. His wife has prepared dinner. Bi Zhong Liang has also asked Chen Shen not to embelish his experience with the explosion. His wife is timid and can’t take the danger. Chen Shen jokes that their head fears nothing except for his wife.
Back at the interrogation room, Bi Zhong Liang plays the good cop, albeit a subtly menancing one. We see that he cares a lot about the wife, even adopting her Catholic views that everyone has the opportunity to repent and begin again. Er Bao is the bad cop, showing her photos of tortured prisoners.
Guessing correctly that she has children, Bi Zhong Liang says she wouldn’t want her children to see her like that. It works because Qiu Xia’s face strickens, though she only asks for water. But he only has alcohol or nothing. The warning is clear.
In Bi Zhong Liang’s manor, Mrs Bi fusses over Chen Shen like a mother. Herself a former nurse, she clicks her tongue at the amateurish bandage wrapping. But Chen Shen merely says that he allowed it because the nurse is pretty cute. It stumps and then delights Mrs Bi, who long wants Chen Shen to settle down. They are so cute together.
Qiu Xia does get her drink after all, and reveals that yes, she is Zai Xiang. But she has not seen Sparrow. He asks about the officer. Qiu Xia psyches him: “If I say that he is one of our own, do you really believe your Bureau is completely clean?” She tells him to just kill her and get it done with. It is insane how civil their conversation is.
Bi Zhong Liang finally returns home and is sweet to his wife. They sit down for dinner and Mrs Bi prays for the safety of the two men in her life. So it is Bi Zhong Liang’s 35th birthday. She quips that his life before 30 is given by his mother, and he adds that his life after is given by his brother.
Their conversation is cute and I’m doomed. Mrs Bi wants Bi Zhong Liang to transfer Chen Shen to another department, so he won’t be injured again, but he says that it is not up to him. The other department’s head is a relative of Li Mo Qun, his higher-up. He can hustle anyone, but not him.
After dinner, Chen Shen holds up the Bi family portrait and Bi Zhong Liang reminisces about his daughter, who died six years ago. He thanks Chen Shen for accompanying his wife all this while. Bi Zhong Liang thinks about how time heals everything and changes something that doesn’t exist into something that does.
Chen Shen laments: “It can even change a Japanese resistance fighter into a Chinese traitor.” Bi Zhong Liang asks if Chen Shen blames him for dragging him down this path. Chen Shen disagrees. As a deserter, even he returns to the Nationalist party, he would be fed to the dogs.
Bi Zhong Liang thinks that since Chen Shen blames him, that means he still has a conscience. But the Nationalist party doesn’t believe they have a conscience. That is why they must find a way to survive themselves.
He thinks about he brought Chen Shen to see Li Mo Qun many years ago. Li Mo Qun asked Chen Shen what does he know, and he says cutting hair. Chen Shen recalls how his father wanted him to be a Chinese scholar, but Bi Zhong Liang thinks he should learn something more practical instead: how to use a gun.
Chen Shen picks up the gun, and flashes back to the war he and Bi Zhong Liang fought in 1937. Theirs is the losing side and Chen Shen has shielded an injured Bi Zhong Liang with his body. They encounter a Japanese soldier who trains his gun on them. Bi Zhong Liang yells at Chen Shen to fire. He doesn’t want to because the soldier is just a kid, but he eventually does.
The experience must have scarred him because he can’t use one now. He asks Bi Zhong Liang to transfer him, but Bi Zhong Liang only trusts Chen Shen in the whole Bureau (oh really) and asks him to stay beside him. Bi Zhong Liang tells him to join the interrogation of Qiu Xia. He has to give Li Mo Qun an explanation, who returns to Shanghai tomorrow afternoon.
In his office, Chen Shen answers a call from a frantic Xiao Nan, who worries about him. He leaves to meet her at their usual cafe, and notices how Er Bao follows behind conspiciously. Xiao Nan asks after his cheek scar and he offhandedly explains that he got it from fighting over a girl. The reply doesn’t deter her and she refuses to give up on marrying him, which Chen Shen once promised while he was drunk.
It is clear he doesn’t want to as he asks her why she is hung up on him, someone who gambles and flirts. She thinks the world of him though, finding him an exceptionally good man. Now that he finds her to be alright (after fainting at the club earlier), he wants to excuse himself. She sulks that he just doesn’t want accompany her.
Chen Shen visits Mrs Bi next with a gift and then brings up the fact that Mrs Bi’s church is looking to sponsor a new orphanage. He suggests an orphanage his relative runs and Mrs Bi agrees to check it out. The orphanage is in the same church Qiu Xia passes by in the very first scene of this show, run by a nun who Chen Shen calls his cousin.
It is the same church Qiu Xia uses as their communication point, and Chen Shen sees a little boy who is being bullied by another boy. It is Pi Pi. Chen Shen promises Pi Pi that no one will bully him again, and he nods. They sit outside at the steps, while Er Bao watches from behind a tree.
Ryu: I maintain that the show’s portrayal of Chen Shen and Bi Zhong Liang’s relationship the most intriguing aspect of the show. We see more of this in this episode. Bi Zhong Liang’s motivation does not appear to be out of greed, but survival. He survived the war as a deserter of the Nationalist party, and now he survives as the head of the puppet government’s Bureau. I still think he cares a lot about Chen Shen, but he refuses to allow anyone or anything to threaten him.
I didn’t talk about our main character much, but this episode Chen Shen shines. He has so many layers to him. On the outside, he is the playboy who gambles and is only doing well because of his bigshot brother. Xiao Nan and Mrs Bi, on other hand, sees him as a kind and good man, whatever his exterior. But it is Bi Zhong Liang who suspects his deepest secret. After getting some of their back story, I understand his suspicion. They were in the same squad or platoon together, and they must have been idealistic Japanese resistance fighters once. For as well as Chen Shen knows Bi Zhong Liang, he too knows Chen Shen enough to understand that he has never truly converted to the dark side.
Maybe their relationship ceased being a real friendship since Bi Zhong Liang took on a position of power in a traitorous government. Maybe whatever concern and love they have for each other is just nostalgia, a leftover from their days in the resistance military together where they could quite literally trust each other with their lives. Right now, they do already betray each other in the little things, but I can’t wait to see how a single, grand betrayal would stretch the limit of their relationship.