For as much as they know each other, Chen Shen and Bi Zhong Liang’s actions and motivations can be just as unpredictable. He faces complications at every turn, and the arrival of his old flame —and her husband— could be the most difficult yet.
Sparrow Episode 3 RECAP:
Chen Shen asks if Pi Pi remembers the first time they met. He regrets not recognising his nephew earlier. But Pi Pi is quiet and doesn’t seem to be listening, his attention focused on playing instead.
Later, the nun known as Madam Wang tells Chen Shen that she has heard about his involvement in the hospital explosion from Pi Dan, the friend who provided him explosives earlier. He once saved their lives and if he has the need, they will help him come hell or high water.
He tells them about Qiu Xia, though he only refers her as a patriot, and asks her to gather Pi Dan and the others. He provides her money to buy the necessary arms. They have this conversation out of the earshot of Mrs Bi, who is playing with the kids. Of course, Er Bao who is outside has no idea about it.
They finally leave, and Er Bao accidentally drops his coat’s button in his hurry to leave. Eagle-eyed Chen Shen notices this and pockets it. When he returns to the Bureau, he is told he is wanted in the interrogation room. On his way, Er Bao comes in and his coat is noticeably missing the button.
Sounds of the whip and the interrogator yelling can be heard atop the stairs that lead to the interrogation room. Chen Shen’s every step forward is heavy, as he struggles to contain himself. Qiu Xia proves to be a stubborn prisoner. She is thrashed and bloodied, but she refuses to speak.
Bi Zhong Liang asks the captured comrade, who has caved in, to convince Qiu Xia to talk before “her clothes are torn apart, every inch of her flesh and skin ripped.” The comrade is forced to hold the branding iron, which is when Chen Shen enters. Bi Zhong Liang watches Chen Shen as he orders the branding to continue.
The hot metal closes into Qiu Xia’s face. Chen Shen’s face grows increasingly uncomfortable and he asks for the comrade to halt. It surprises Bi Zhong Liang, whose suspicion doubtlessly deepens.
Chen Shen smiles and asks if they can stop using such old tactics. If they only need her to talk, he has an idea. Bi Zhong Liang agrees and I can only describe his expression as being satisfied (over Chen Shen’s facade cracking, or over Chen Shen finally being proactive? So mysterious).
They sit Qiu Xia down in front of the suspicious men captured from the club earlier. All eight has admitted to being her informers, but the only one to know for sure is Qiu Xia. He wants her to reveal her true informer and release the other seven, who are innocent. He also snaps at the captured men, for admitting something they may not have done, just because of a little torture.
Qiu Xia smiles, knowing what Chen Shen is getting at, and says none of them are hers. Her informer is, in fact, Chen Shen. The answer shocks everyone. But Chen Shen merely grins at Bi Zhong Liang, announcing the interrogation to be over. Bi Zhong Liang hands him a gun and orders him to shoot the men down one by one.
Chen Shen refuses to do so, and Bi Zhong Liang admonishes him for not being able to fire a gun after one little incident. He threatens to kill him and frame him as Sparrow. He puts the gun in Chen Shen’s hand and aims it at the men. When Chen Shen repeatedly refuses to do, Bi Zhong Liang aims another gun at him instead. Oh shit.
Bi Zhong Liang demands that he fire. If not them, then it will be him who dies. Chen Shen throws the gun down and dares him to kill him instead. Gun aimed at Chen Shen, Bi Zhong Liang explains that Chen Shen is making everything worse for himself being the main suspect in the explosion.
He deduces everything correctly about Chen Shen’s plan to frame the other officer as a Communist spy. Qiu Xia is even trying to protect him by naming him the informer, so that Bi Zhong Liang won’t take it seriously, thinking it a mind game. Chen Shen dares him, and he turns to look at Qiu Xia, who has the most enigmatic smile. He fires —but at an innocent bird perched on the window instead.
He calls Chen Shen a good-for-nothing and that he won’t ever use a gun in his entire life, but it gets him worked up. Chen Shen holds him by the collar, asking him what’s wrong with not being able to fire a gun. He looks so riled up that Bi Zhong Liang is caught off guard. He then storms off.
Bi Zhong Liang calms himself before continuing the interrogation. Again, he asks Qiu Xia who Sparrow is. She stares out the window, where birds are flying. “Sparrow is everywhere [or everyone].” In his office, Chen Shen loses it. He hears the sound of Bi Zhong Liang’s ferocious dog being led to the interrogation room and it panics him.
Qiu Xia maintains that none of the men are hers, and that she didn’t manage to meet Sparrow. One unfortunate man is chosen to be the dog’s prey, and he screams for help as the dog bites him to death. Chen Shen paces in his room, willing himself to come up with an idea to save Qiu Xia. He remembers Bi Zhong Liang mentioning that his higher up Li Mo Qun is arriving in Shanghai at two, and it is now three.
Losing her calm for the first time, she asks if Bi Zhong Liang’s MO is to hurt the innocent. Meanwhile, Chen Shen calls Li Mo Qun’s secretary and asks if his boss knows that their Bureau caught a Communist spy. The secretary reveals that they too caught a big fish, but is interrupted by Li Mo Qun (Wang Jin Song)’s arrival.
The secretary must be nervous to be caught spilling information, making Li Mo Qun suspicious. He intercepts the calls, and seeing it is really Chen Shen, asks him to get Bi Zhong Liang to call him immediately. That is exactly what Chen Shen needs.
One man dead, seven more to go. Bi Zhong Liang asks Qiu Xia which one she wants dead next, and one of them (the only one who spoke to Qiu Xia and likely the actual informer) incites a riot. The desperate men fight back and Bi Zhong Liang and Er Bao runs out to watch from outside the cell.
The man fires at Bi Zhong Liang, who is so stunned he can only stare. But thankfully for him, Chen Shen arrives in time to pull him aside and sends a scissors flying at the man, slicing him at the neck. No gun, no problem. The scuffle inside the interrogation room finally ends with everyone’s death and Qiu Xia can only watch.
Bi Zhong Liang thanks Chen Shen, but he throws his words back at him: “A brother who only knows how to cut hair and not even fire a gun is just a joke.” But he relays the message that Li Mo Qun wants him. He will settle the mess here instead. Bi Zhong Liang seems like he has a change of thought, especially when Er Bao reports that Chen Shen did not meet anyone strange, but who knows.
After the phone call with Li Mo Qun, Bi Zhong Liang gathers everyone for an emergency operation. Chen Shen is still sulky and they are back to being cute again. Sigh. They have serious business though, as Bi Zhong Liang has received information that six Nationalist members are having a secret meeting. Best to capture them alive, but if a few dies, no one really cares.
He leaves it to Chen Shen, while he has to go meet Li Mo Qun. The Nationalist members are easily subdued. That night, Chen Shen has dinner with the VIPs. But the sight of one particular guest stops him in his tracks. It is Xu Bi Cheng (Zhou Dong Yu). In a flashback, we see that they were once lovers.
Li Mo Qun congratulates Chen Shen for the job well done, and he introduces his grandniece Bi Cheng and her husband, Tang Shan Hai (Zhang Ruo Yun). Shan Hai has recently defected from the Nationalist party in Chongqing and he is the one who provided information about the operation earlier.
Chen Shen shakes hands with Bi Cheng, who nearly calls him by name. Their handshake and eye contact lingered a little too long, enough for Shan Hai to take notice. Bi Cheng in particular looks shaken.
During dinner, they agree on Shan Hai taking up the role of being the leader of team 2 in the Bureau. Shan Hai smartly notes that for now the Communist party is not much of a challenge. Instead they have to worry about Nationalist party, under a certain Mr Dai, constantly working on one assassination or another.
The men discuss about all the big names in the new government, under Mr Wang, being in the hit list of the Nationalist party’s task force, called Team Hurricane. Many have died, some entrapped by femme fatales.
Bi Cheng also gets a place in Bi Zhong Liang’s bureau, as a secretary. Li Mo Qun thinks that is a waste of talent for her to stay a housewife. After all she has once trained in the Huangpu Military Academy. Later, after dinner, Li Mo Qun tells Bi Zhong Liang to send Qiu Xia to Nanjing if they get nothing out of her. Chen Shen silently absorbs this information.
Bi Cheng has a small talk with Mrs Bi while Chen Shen stares from afar for the longest moment with a complicated expression, not knowing Shan Hai is watching. Shan Hai interrupts him to bid him farewell, as if to insert his authority as Bi Cheng’s husband. Bi Zhong Liang orders Chen Shen to send them home.
Before he leaves though, Chen Shen spots Er Bao by the door. He holds up Er Bao’s coat and gives him back his button. Er Bao can only sheepishly thank him, while knowing that he has been completely busted.
Chen Shen offers to help Shan Hai to bring his luggage up their new place, but Shan Hai declines it, all polite. He can only watch as the new couple enter and sits in the car for a long time, watching the window for any movements.
In their new abode, the mood changes as Shan Hai checks for any spying devices. It is immediately clear that Shan Hai and Bi Cheng are not a couple, and that they are still Nationalists looking to infiltrate the Bureau. When Shan Hai asks why is she so quiet during the dinner, she explains that she doesn’t want to make any mistakes.
He points out about Chen Shen’s strange attitude and asks if he knows her. Bi Cheng is clearly uncomfortable, but Shan Hai explains that their survival are attached to each other now. So he must know everything she knows about the enemy. She finally caves in, explaining that Chen Shen is her teacher during her time in the military academy.
Ryu: Oh wow, Chen Shen’s stand-off with Bi Zhong Liang is intense. I’m not sure how much of it was Chen Shen’s acting or his true feelings. I wonder if he really believes that Bi Zhong Liang wouldn’t kill him. Maybe he really wouldn’t, because mere suspicion is not evidence enough for Bi Zhong Liang to kill his brother. I think I catch onto Bi Zhong Liang’s desperation a little, he is forcing Chen Shen to prove that he has not betrayed him. He is a master manipulator, but Chen Shen is not some small fry that will succumb to his manipulations. Neither will Qiu Xia, who is frankly too cool and poised for words. I liked her the minute she showed up.
Now that the key players are more or less assembled, we can officially begin our game of Sparrow hide-and-seek. I’m convinced that Chen Shen is in fact Sparrow (thanks to the theorists in the comments!) but this would mean his already treacherous path will be all that more dangerous. Before he is alone and therefore without any burdens, but now he has not one, but two women to look out for. And he will look out for Bi Cheng, and this is only because I have watched future episodes. Just look at how he stares at her.
Meeting a past lover is bound to be difficult, especially when both still seem to hold onto their feelings for each other. Bi Cheng looks completely shaken but even Chen Shen, who is an experienced spy, looks overwhelmed enough to let Shan Hai see through him. Now that Bi Cheng is infiltrating the Bureau as a Communist spy, then their paths will doubtlessly converge. Ideologies differences are the Capulet and Montague dilemma in spy dramas. For now they could become allies, being on the same Japanese resistance side, but when push comes to shove, who or what will Chen Shen choose?