Chen Shen’s mask is not perfect, as good as he is at his job. His facade cracks when he was confronted with the shooting of his sister-in-law, and it cracks even more when he finally sits down with his former love again. The love rectangle is established and in place, but in such turbulent times, loving someone can mean losing everything.
Sparrow Episode 4 RECAP:
When Chen Shen starts the car to leave, the noise of the engine startles our faux couple in their apartment. Bi Cheng wants to leave the conversation until tomorrow, but the careful Shan Hai warns her about Bi Zhong Liang’s sharp eyes. He reminds her of their background story: they were married in February 25, 1939, their union was set-up by her uncle.
Shan Hai asks if Chen Shen has feelings for her, which Bi Cheng denies ardently. He clarifies that he is asking not as a husband interrogating a wife but as a comrade: “What I can deduce, so can Bi Zhong Liang.” Bi Cheng replies that she is not capable of espionage. If not for her identity as Li Mo Qun’s grandniece, she would not be sent on this mission.
It is clear Bi Cheng is not confident in her abilities, but she promises to work harder. Shan Hai is kind and tells her mistakes are natural. He also orders her to meet Chen Shen, to explain that she did not acknowledge him during the dinner because Shan Hai was there.
Chen Shen does not go home, instead he meets the Pi Dan’s group of four misfits who are excited at finally being called to help their saviour. He hesistantly warns that their current operation could get them killed, but one of them cheerily adds that at least he has given them another year to live. But when they hear they have to rescue a person who is currently imprisoned in the Bureau, their faces change.
It is Shan Hai and Bi Cheng’s first day at work. Er Bao shows him to his office, while Bi Cheng is brought to hers by yet another of Li Mo Qun’s relative. She is introduced to Liu Mei Na (Liu Jia Tong), who is a gossip but otherwise friendly. Mei Na is the information officer, who shows herself to be well-informed and networked.
Chen Shen joins Bi Zhong Liang during his morning trainings of the dog (well, he watches). When he complains about losing a month’s worth of wages on the gambling table, Chen Shen replies that he still has his secret drug dealings. But life is not easy for them, as they are now on the Team Hurricane’s hitlist.
Again, Bi Zhong Liang shows his incredible perceptiveness by correctly guessing that perhaps Mr Dai sent them the “gift” of six members to pave the way for Shan Hai into the Bureau. Further, Shan Hai is possibly Li Mo Qun’s people. Whoever he is though, he is an outsider, end of story. Bi Zhong Liang brings up Qiu Xia, but Chen Shen keeps his facade and tells him to do as he wants.
In his office, Chen Shen receives a call. When no one speaks for a long time, he becomes suspicious before understanding who it is. Meanwhile, Er Bao is ordered to continue to tail Chen Shen. Bi Zhong Liang reviews the information on all the new officers and sees that Bi Cheng joined Huangpu Military Academy in 1935.
That reminds him of their dinner yesterday, where he too noticed how strangely Bi Cheng behaved meeting Chen Shen. It is enough to raise his suspicions once again, and he gives Er Bao another order: to get all information on Shan Hai and Bi Cheng.
Sitting near the window in a cafe, Chen Shen watches with longing at Bi Cheng as she arrives. Flashback to when Bi Cheng was leaving, and Chen Shen was playing the harmonica she has gifted him, looking anywhere but her. She has hugged him, asking if he would wait for her to return. He did not answer but the sorrow in parting was clear.
Outside, Bi Cheng too gathers herself before meeting her past lover again. When she finds him in the cafe, he smiles at her and motions for her to come here, as familiarly as if no time has passed. He even helps her to her seat, more gentlemanly than viewers ever see him treat Xiao Nan. Her first words to him is whether he will cut her hair for her.
They both smile at that memory, but Bi Cheng’s hands are still shaking. She asks after him, and he asks when she did get married. When he hears it is 1939, he notes that she got married the year after she left the academy (and him). Back then, he was still in the academy. He didn’t sound accusing, but rather resigned.
He wishes her well, happy that she met someone good, and says as much. Bi Cheng looks like she is trying not cry, and when she calls him Teacher, he tells her not to. But once a teacher, always a teacher because he tells her: “I once taught you that if you are ever in a dangerous place, you must keep all secrets to yourself and learn to survive. Once you lie once, you need to keep lying in order to cover that first lie.”
She quietly asks if he has married, but the Plot carefully arranges for Xiao Nan and her friend to arrive at the moment. She cheerily introduces herself to Bi Cheng as his girlfriend. So the two girls end up hijacking the past lovers’ reunion. This information is of course delivered to Bi Zhong Liang.
After the not-date, Chen Shen and Bi Cheng walk back to the Bureau. Bi Cheng nervously asks if she could go ahead of him, and he is understanding of her reasons. She meets Shan Hai who has been standing at the door, asking if she went outside. She confirms it, as per instructed.
Chen Shen wants to leave as soon as he hears that Bi Zhong Liang wants him, but is forced to go inside anyway. On his way, he comes across his lackeys skewering rats as food (ew). The lackeys explain that how they trapped the rats, which are everywhere in the Bureau, using water buckets. It gives him an idea.
Inside the interrogation room, Qiu Xia is strapped to an electric chair. Bi Zhong Liang gives her a last chance to talk, but she retorts that there is no way of knowing now if he has chosen the right side. He agrees. They are all putting their lives at risk and they have no idea about each other’s fates. Qiu Xia: “Then I choose to die this day, before dawn.” (The dawn is, of course, symbolic.)
That is all the answer Bi Zhong Liang needs: “You decide if you want to die. But I will be the one to decide how you die.” The grinning Er Bao begins working the electric generator, electrifying Qiu Xia as she writhes in pain. They don’t allow her to die though, and stops just as she faints.
Desperate to stop the torture, Chen Shen remembers about the rats. He snips the wiring at the electrical box, just as Er Bao stops. They give her ten seconds to rest, before the torture circus begins again. Qiu Xia finally speaks, much to Bi Zhong Liang’s delight. He leans in to hear her whisper.
When he gets close enough, she bites his ear so hard she draws blood. Oh boy. Can’t say he didn’t deserve that. Er Bao has to punch Qiu Xia where her wound is to stop her and he is back at the electrical generator, with renewed gusto. But then just as Chen Shen planned, the electric is cut off and he joins them at the blacked out interrogation room, feigning ignorance. They learn that it’s the rats’ fault.
Bi Cheng has slipped into Shan Hai’s office to get his help on some of the forms she has to fill when they hear the commotion as Bi Zhong Liang is brought to the hospital. She wonders if it is the captured Nationalist members’ doing, but Shan Hai thinks otherwise: “How many fearless Nationalist members are there left?” It is probably Qiu Xia, though he knows her by her codename, who is related to the famous Sparrow.
He then stares at her, before asking how the not-date went. Bi Cheng sullenly tells him not to worry, she knows that she is married now. Shan Hai couldn’t help but smile a little at that, aw. You are so in love.
In the hospital, Bi Zhong Liang leaves the doctor’s office with a heavily bandaged ear. The sight gag makes Chen Shen laughs and points at it, willing Er Bao to join in. When they step outside, Bi Zhong Liang stops at where the officer (that Chen Shen framed) died and they have a conversation that is ominously ambiguous about Qiu Xia’s fate.
Bi Zhong Liang doesn’t need revenge on Qiu Xia. After all, once she reaches Nanjing, there will be a worse fate awaiting her. But an openly antagonistic dog is not frightening: “The worrying ones are those that wild dogs who can’t wait to caught you off guard and pounce on you.” Chen Shen asks if he means Shan Hai, but he stares long enough at Chen Shen to make me think otherwise.
But then he asks if it is a good idea to send Shan Hai to escort Qiu Xia to Nanjing. They can test him then. Even though he is not a Communist, he might still save a fellow resistance fighter. Bi Zhong Liang orders Chen Shen to get three train tickets and for Bi Cheng to join. They usually transport prisoners by car but the roads are unpredictable these days.
Back in their apartment, Shan Hai asks Bi Cheng if she has any news. He gives her a string of advice before telling her not to meet with Chen Shen recently to prevent rumours. She angrily says she doesn’t need him to tell her when to meet him and when to ignore him and closes the door shut. Poor Shan Hai looks completely confused.
At Pi Dan’s place, Chen Shen details his plans: if everything goes well, Shan Hai and Bi Cheng would be escorting Qiu Xia by train. On the way to Nanjing, there will be an accident-prone area that they could take advantage of.
The team must arrive in that area and set-up the accident by 12, and return to the nearest Wuxi station for the rescue operation. Chen Shen also asks that they buy him three boat tickets to Hong Kong and for Pi Pi to be brought to the harbour. He then shows them sketched portraits of Qiu Xia, Shan Hai and Bi Cheng. For the last one: “Unless there is no other way, I hope she can be safe and sound.”
Chen Shen returns home to find Xiao Nan asleep outside her door, with homemade soup in tow. She asks that he accompany her on her birthday, coincidentally the D-Day for the rescue operation. He agrees. He thinks that if he can officially take leave using Xiao Nan as an excuse and then rush to Wuxi.
He wonders if he will implicate Xiao Nan and if he should buy another ticket. Ever since he infiltrated the Bureau three years ago, the only person who treated him sincerely is Xiao Nan. But they clearly want different things from each other, because he only thinks of her as a brother.
Ryu: That cafe scene was heartbreaking. For circumstances we don’t know yet, they separated when Bi Cheng has to leave. When she returned, Chen Shen was likely at the battleground. We don’t know how Bi Cheng lived her life post-separation yet, but for Chen Shen who has always kept everyone at an arm’s length, she might be the last person he ever treated with actual sincerity. That was before manipulations and deceit become Chen Shen’s only way to survive and succeed, so it would be interesting how he would treat Bi Cheng from now on.
Oh and can we please talk about Shan Hai? I have Second Lead Syndrome the moment he appeared. There is not much of him now and I’m carrying over sentiments from future episodes, I know, so I won’t discuss why here. But I really like him. Curiously, he seems to be already falling for Bi Cheng. They don’t seem to have much history together, because Bi Cheng is very much uncomfortable and curt with him. It could be nervousness, but I think she doesn’t trust him very much yet. But he may just be the only one she could actually trust, Chen Shen included.