There is just about zero tension when supposedly game-changing, top-secret intel is transmitted to both the Japanese and Chinese. Still, the aftermath of Yan Zhi’s involvement forces her to choose between loyalty to her best friend and loyalty to her country.
Rookie Agent Rogue Episode 2 RECAP:
Mrs Feng hands her husband the stolen compact, but they are surprised to find that there is no message. She wonders if something happened and Yan Zhi realised the compact isn’t hers. That would spell serious consequences.
Mr Feng decides that they should first make sure of Yan Zhi’s allegiances. If she is with the Japanese, then things will no doubt but easier. But if push comes to shove, they will just detain her here.
In the powder room, Yan Zhi is freshening her makeup when she notices that the compact is not the right shade of her skin. Remembering what happened with the agent Junko earlier, she looks for the hidden message inside. She finds it, but the note is blank.
Quick-witted Yan Zhi then uses the heat of a bulb and the words begin to appear. The note confirms what Wan Zhi Chao fears earlier: the agents has indeed gotten wind of the Yangtze river blockade plan. While she is still absorbing the information, clearly shocked, someone knocks at the door.
Fortunately, it is Man Na who is there to tell her the dance is beginning. She pulls her friend in and dramatically reveals that the key to the battle’s victory in her hands. A surprised Man Na wants Yan Zhi to report about it immediately, to her dad. After all, Mr Feng is the head of Shanghai’s secret service branch.
Yan Zhi has other ideas though. She wants to return it to Song Mian, it is his case after all. Even if she finds him detestful, lol. Man Na points out that she has neither his phone or address but she just says if there is a will, there is a way.
The next thing we knows: Man Na is running to her dad about the message. She tells him Yan Zhi is at already on the phone downstairs, calling the National Salvation Association. The call does goes through to Song Mian’s office — but Mr Feng hangs the call before she can speak to him.
Mr Feng snaps at her: “How is possible that someone like you found a Japanese agent’s message?” When Yan Zhi defends herself, he calls her ridiculous and tells her to see him in his office. Meanwhile, Song Mian is surprised to hear the call came from Mr Feng’s mansion, specifically a young woman. It gets him thinking.
Yan Zhi asks if there is anything wrong with her reporting about the message, but Mr Feng says she must be first verify its authenticity. She grows increasingly wary and tries to refuse showing them the message, but Man Na pulls it out of her hand to show her parents. innocently assuring her that it is no big deal.
Even though Yan Zhi desperately tries to make sure the message gets through to the authorities, her inexperience plays right into Mr Feng’s hands: she doesn’t even know the number of the association. She must really not trust Mr Feng, because downstairs she makes sure to confirm that the association’s men are on their way.
With only fifteen minutes before the men arrives, Mr Feng decodes the rest of the message using a special chemical. It details specifics of the plan that we already know from the first episode. The message also includes maps of Jiang Yin fort and Wu Song Kou, where expansion works are being done. This is the same bit of information that Song Mian presented to his boss, only in scraps.
There is no doubt this is important intel, but if the message is found decoded, Mr Feng would immediately reveal himself to be a traitor. But he has a plan to defuse the situation and orders his wife to send the message, hidden in a walking stick, to Officer Liu. Then he gets to work recreating the original message.
When Song Mian arrives, he is given the message and left alone with Yan Zhi. The other officer records Yan Zhi’s statement and she is told that whoever who has seen the message has to be interrogated. She is understandably unhappy, especially when Song Mian is blowing smoke in her face.
He says it is unfortunate that the message is not decoded, or else Yan Zhi would be under serious suspicion. She will have to follow them back to their headquarters then, but of course our girl is not cowed by the threat: “Fine. Do you serve dinner?”
Later in the National Salvation Association office, we learn how Mr Feng altered the message to look like an intel report on the Huangpu River defense strategy instead. This does not align with what Song Mian has observed of Long Er, the agent who transmitted the message.
Wan Zhi Chao wonders if this means the Japanese are in the dark about their Yangtze plan but that wouldn’t make sense either. This leads to Song Mian questioning the authenticity of the message. Whatever it is, Wan Zhi Chao plans to recommend to their headquarters in Nanjing to bring forward their plan.
The real message has gotten to the Japanese Chief and he is alarmed by their audacity to plan to strike at the Japanese naval forces. He transmits the message back to Japan accordingly.
The narrator tells us that the message has gone through just in time. In August 1937, the Japanese naval and commercial fleets urgently sails into the mouth of Yangtze river. By the time the Chinese sent their own forces to intercept those fleets, it is already too late.
Song Mian rushes to see Wan Zhi Chao and confirms that their judgment earlier was right: the message was indeed fake. Wan Zhi Chao reveals that there is a Japanese mole in the Nanjing Military Commission, codename Ying Zi, also Long Er’s superior.
They finally land their suspicion on Mr Feng on the bait-and-switch message, but all those who have came into contact with the message are suspicious, including Yan Zhi. The fact that Junko transmits the message to Yan Zhi of all people, instead of just throwing it away, is reason enough.
So that is how Yan Zhi ends up getting kidnapped to the National Salvation Association, gagged and blinded. An officer threatens her with a gun to her head, pretending to be a Japanese yelling at her supposed mistake at transmitting the wrong intel and causing them damage. Ohh I see what they are doing.
But then Yan Zhi notices something: the sound of a lighter being clicked, over and over, which she recognises as a habit of Song Mian’s. The smell of smoke too further confirms her suspicion and she visibly relaxes, grinning now.
She dares them to shoot her: “If I die here, then call that one called Song Mian to collect my corpse and make your association erect a gravestone for me with the words: National hero Lan Yan Zhi: every new year, have that Song Mian come bow at my grave.”
When Song Mian balks, she mocks him for having such weak psychological resilience. How can he be a secret agent? This obviously impresses Wan Zhi Chao, because he releases her when she demands so, and politely introduces himself. He asks her how she found out, clearly intrigued.
Of course, now that she is out of danger, Yan Zhi just arrogantly says there are too many loopholes: the sound of Chinese military canvas shoes, the sound of someone reporting, the sound of lighter clicking. Once she finishes her explanation, she turns towards Wan Zhi Chao: “Shouldn’t your subordinates receive criticism?”
Back at the office, Song Mian orders Yan Zhi to sit and unimpressed by his attitude, she makes a point to sit in Wan Zhi Chao’s seat instead, lol. Wan Zhi Chao is so impressed that he doesn’t even care and apologises for causing her fright earlier. She just wants to leave.
Song Mian barks that thanks to her wrong intel, the entire Songhu battle is affected. Now she needs to recount everything that has happened from the moment she met the agent Junko to the moment she left the ship. An uncomfortable Yan Zhi says she has explained everything but they make her write a statement anyway.
Yan Zhi is so done with everything that by the time she finishes the statement, she just wants to leave on her own. But procedures dictate the secrecy of the association, so she is blindfolded once again. This is another one of Wan Zhi Chao’s tests, though, who is incredibly taken by Yan Zhi’s talent and perceptiveness.
She correctly deduces that they have taken her back to the association again, and she balks at that. But Wan Zhi Chao tells her that they want her to stay for dinner and for a little test. Unhappy, but ultimately left without a choice, Yan Zhi obeys.
The test is the same as the game Yan Zhi plays in the very first scene of the show and she interrupts Wan Zhi Chao before he can finish explaining. Of course, she gets everything correct, right down to the details: from the child selling newspapers to the direction of the bus. Wan Zhi Chao listens with a satisfying grin while Song Mian looks really grim, pffft.
Alone, Wan Zhi Chao tells Song Mian that Yan Zhi is the best candidate for the job. Song Mian doesn’t want to drag an innocent civilian into this but Wan Zhi Chao reminds him that no one is innocent in war and no one deserves to die either.
But he agrees to test Yan Zhi again, to appease Song Mian. Still, if she really passes the test, then that means she is destined for the job.
Yan Zhi is finally having the promised dinner when Song Mian comes in, all grim (though, that is his default face). She balks when he wants to test her again. When he promises that it is the last one, she asks what is he basing that promise on.
Song Mian: “My character.” It makes her laugh, because that is the probably the most ridiculous thing she has heard so far. She makes him wait until she finishes her noodles. Food comes first.
When he brings a bouquet of roses, Yan Zhi eagerly takes it from him and asks if he is secretly in love with her (which explains all that tsundereness?). Of course not. Her final test begins: in five seconds, she must guess exactly how many petals he has in her hands. He grabs a bunch and throws them in the air.
Of course she accurately counts all those petals, and on the second time too. He takes her to see Wan Zhi Chao, who has been anticipating good news. He happily welcomes her to their association, as a member of the country’s elite force.
Yan Zhi rejects without a second thought. Where are all her taxes going into if they require a woman to do their job? But Song Mian understands the real reason for her rejection: she is afraid of wronging her best friend, Man Na. If Mr Feng is indeed the mole, his entire family will be implicated.
He says that with or without her, they will still investigate Mr Feng. But if she joins them, she gets a chance to prove their innocence. This suggestion of course appeals to Yan Zhi, especially when Wan Zhi Chao explains the significance of their battle plan: their entire country will be lost if it fails.
Wan Zhi Chao tells her to weigh the lives of 400,000 of their people with one Feng Man Na. She makes Wan Zhi Chao promise that he will let the innocent Man Na go, even if Mr Feng is found to be the mole. And this is how she tacitly agrees to become their spy in the Feng household.
Ryu: The main problem I have with this show is that I, as the viewer, always feel ahead of all the characters who are supposed to be heads of intelligence offices and secret agents. The plot is straightforward as it is, with The Big Plan being beaten into our heads repeatedly, and there is no chance of the viewer being confused over what is happening. That is not what I want with my espionage dramas. I want mystery, I want intrigue. I want to be constantly guessing what is going to happen and if I missed any clues in the characters’ actions or conversations. I don’t want to wait around for everyone else in this show to catch up on the not-so-secret message.
Mysteries can be tiring, crypticism can be painful, when things are dragged out. But when everyone’s ambitions and allegiances are so clear-cut, it sucks a lot of fun out of watching a spy drama. Maybe it is still too early and the writers are saving the best for last. Still, despite the weak writing and dialogue, I do like the protagonist. Even though some scenes are exaggerated (is it really humanly possible to count all those rose petals?) to emphasise her intelligence and perceptiveness, I still enjoy the characterisation of Yan Zhi. Because who doesn’t love smart, sassy female leads?