Perfect Stranger, from the Black & White OST — I have this song stuck in my head the whole time I was cooking myself dinner. Heh, it’s probably a sign that I should sit down and produce a recap.
And it turns out to be quite lengthy. Without further ado, here we go:
Zai Tian is taken from his home and brought to his protégé’s place for a quick and dirty Q&A session.
“You must have questions. Shoot.” his protégé says. Zai Tian takes a breath and steps closer, “Yes, I have a LOAD of questions. But let me ask you this first: the information I’ve been getting from the mystery informant, are they provided by San Lian Hui? If so, why?” The director shoots Wild Goose a look, Wild Goose lowers his head — old man doesn’t know about the fax and the informant. “I arranged the plastic surgery and the new identity.” The confession catches Zai Tian off guard. He chuckles sardonically and asks, “Why me?” “For your safety, I cannot tell you at this time,” the director replies indifferently, “Continue with your police duties. When the timing is right, I will tell you.” “Why should I listen to you? And you there, who are you to tell me what to do?” Zai Tian resists. “Because I’m the man who gave you everything,” his protégé answers quietly.
Growing more and more belligerent by the minute, Chen Zai Tian raises his voice,
“I’m someone you can destroy as easily as an ant between the fingers. But instead of squeezing its guts out, you chose to alter the course of this ant’s life. You made him believe he can live like a normal person; you made him believe he can love freely. But in the end, it’s nothing but an illusion; in the end, an ant is still an ant. He has nothing…. Do you think it’s funny? I’m ASKING you if you think playing with me is funny!”
As more and more anger fills his accusation, the director’s face grows sullener and sullener. But Chen Zai Tian continues, fearless.
“Has anyone asked me what I want? Maybe I want to live my own life!”
At which point, the director stands up and asks, “You really want to live your own life? Don’t you want to know why I went through the trouble of arranging everything for you? Patience. You need patience. I know it’s a lot to take in right now. But my child, things aren’t as simple as they seem. You don’t yet know the true value of your existence. Trust me, you are a very important person to me.” He pats Zai Tian on the shoulder and reminds him not to mention their conversation to anyone. “Remember,” he warns before dismissing Zai Tian, “The decisions you make, they affect more than just you. When the time comes, so will the answers. But before that, live well my boy.”
The following day, Chen Zai Tian returns to the police station. The first thing he asks for is the list of confirmed victims from the explosion case at the burger restaurant.
Xiao Mei wasn’t in the list of victims. Zai Tian sighs and mutters glumly, “Is it because you don’t have a family either, so nobody comes to claim you?” (Ehh, in that case you would be handed a separate file exclusively devoted to the Jane & John Doe’s to regard upon with utmost sorrow — ASSUMING the forensic anthropologists have done their job and came up with their Minimum Number of Individuals count. Technicality aside, I need a little convincing to believe that Xiao Mei really is dead. Yunno, charred bones or dental records would do.)
Noting that Hero requested to change partners earlier this morning, Lao Li pulls a chair besides Zai Tian and inquires carefully if something happened between the two of them. Zai Tian replies indifferently, “It doesn’t matter. My life was never in my hands… You don’t need to say anything, I’m not a good cop anyway.”
Zai Tian’s defeatism invokes a long, sympathetic yet supportive, but almost-too-corny-to-be-touching encouragement from Lao Li, telling Zai Tian something along the lines of despite the obstacles now, he is destined for greatness later, you know, the sort of things you hear in an English class on coming of age novels. — But that’s okay, because Chen Zai Tian really could use some fatherly affection.
“So you are saying, Chen Zai Tian is spying for San Lian Hui?” “Yes,” Hero replies firmly. “Not being able to return to the homicide investigation unit, you must be frustrated,” Xi Ying observes. “I’m frustrated as long as I’m stuck with Chen Zai Tian.” Xi Ying chuckles to herself and suggests, “I’ve never seen you so concerned with someone. Before this, even if your superiors don’t support you, you’d still focus on your work. Could it be that you have special feelings towards Chen Zai Tian, you just haven’t realized it?” “Except for irritation, what else could I feel towards him?” (La la la, someone’s in denial~) “If you dislike him so much, they why did you look everywhere to find him when he disappeared? You are angry now. But is it because he’s your friend so you feel betrayed?” “Absolutely not. I’m angry because he always has to meddle things up.” Xi Ying suppresses a knowing smile and says, “You care that’s why you’re mad. But do you care because it has to do with justice, or do you care because he’s your friend? You have to figure it out.”
Meanwhile, Zai Tian is doing some major thinking on the roof. (Apparently, the familiar setting of the ex-crime scene doesn’t evoke the gory memory of watching a lover die.)
As Zai Tian descends the roof to return to the main office, he encounters Hero walking in the opposite direction in a long corridor.
Without making eye contact, Zai Tian starts in an even tone, “Heard you want to change partners… Honestly, I don’t mind.” “The gun from the forensics lab, did you take it?”
“You think I’m the spy?” Zai Tian laughs out in disbelief, “Lemme tell you what I think. I think your mode of logical thinking is flawed. You suspect Leader Chen for distracting Xi Ying; you suspect Hulk for turning off the security cameras. But to me, that’s too easy. Because if I were the spy, I wouldn’t be stupid enough to let you suspect me. The real spy would be someone who’s with us every day, who know how we tackle problems.” (It’s always Hero doing the deduction, it’s nice to see Zai Tian’s take on things for a change.) Considering Zai Tian’s deduction for a moment, Hero turns and replies, “Fine. Maybe you are right. But don’t think I will let you off the hook so easily. Before you explicate your relationship with San Lian Hui, I won’t believe a word you say.”
With a slight nod, Chen Zai Tian starts: The day before the explosion, a secret agent called me…
Speaking of the devil, the aforementioned secret agent is having “tea” with Lan Xi Ying. Interestingly, he refers to her in the second person formal pronoun “nin” (您) instead of the more commonly used, familiar subject pronoun “ni” (你) (if you know French, it’s the same distinction between vous and tu).
… He wants me to supply him with information regarding the bank robbery. In return, he’ll arrange for me to return to the criminal investigation unit…
“How much do you know about Chen Zai Tian?” the secret agent asks. When Xi Ying demonstrates an average knowledge of Zai Tian’s background, the agent surprises her by revealing the forgery of Zai Tian’s credential and asks for her help.
…I had a bad feeling about it… They knew we have a spy in the branch… The man even hinted that… that Xi Ying might be the one taking the gun… What I meant is that perhaps we’ve been watched for a long time. Even though I don’t know why they perseverate on the robbery case, but I can tell you with confidence that there is a big reason behind it. (How pseudo-profound. Yet it tells you absolutely nothing. DUH! OF COURSE there’s always a darker reason behind it, that’s why we’re watching!)
“What can I do to help?” Xi Ying asks. “First, get his prints so I can run a background check on him.” When Xi Ying says nothing, the agent digs deeper, “I’m sure you didn’t forget how your father was framed.” Watching Xi Ying’s brow furrow, he continues, “The sooner we find the spy, the better for the both of us, wouldn’t you agree?” — at this point, he drops the formal pronoun.
“Why don’t you accept their conditions?” Hero suggests sharply. Zai Tian nods with a tint of sarcasm, “Right. If I were the kind of cop that you think I am. I should accept. Why didn’t I? So, much to your disappointment, I’m not that kind of police…. I have my own sense of right and wrong. I know somewhere in your thinking process, you disagree. But that doesn’t matter. As long as I’m true to myself, I don’t need other people’s approval.”
The same question mark is pending in the air for Chen Lin as well. She asks her father how long he’s known Chen Zai Tian. His father doesn’t answer directly. Instead, he asks Chen Lin, “Even if we were the ones to provide him with information, would that change your perception of him?”
As it would not, the matter is dropped. However, the father emphasizes again that Chen Zai Tian wouldn’t make a good match for his dear daughter. “I can tolerate a stubborn daughter but I cannot tolerate a masochistic daughter. Do you understand me?”
As the father daughter walk towards the lotus pond, the director exclaims that whenever he sees lotus, he misses his home town. “Yet, you’ve never taken me there even once!” Chen Lin pouts. Her father laughs. “The woman that you can’t forget, she’s still living in your hometown?” The director turns, surprised and slightly embarrassed. With a half mischievous smile, Chen Lin continues, “Mom said that the reason you cultivate lotus flowers is for that woman.” Then teasingly, she adds, “Am I right?” (Whoo Hoo! The playful Chen Lin is back — for one minute!) Ever so cautiously, the director asks, “What else did your mother say?” “Mom said… Even though you treated her well, your heart didn’t belong to her. And yet, she never regretted marrying you, because she truly loved you. Her only grief is that she left you alone in this world way too early… That’s the last thing she said to me in the hospital.”
(Without me raving how much I like it, the merit of this scene speaks for itself.)
After her little meeting with secret agent Bennett (at least that’s the name on the email address), Xi Yi brings back Zai Tian’s cup for his finger prints. After much reluctance, she emails the prints to Bennett.
The ying-yang agent pair turn out to work for the Minister of Defense. After acquiring Chen Zai Tian’s fingerprints, they successfully retrieved data on him. Unfortunately, his history prior to the plastic surgery has been erased, what was found was only a picture of him before the surgery.
On the other hand, Hero and Hulk continue to pursuit Xiao Ma’s past. According to official record, in 2005, he disappeared during a mission in North Korea. After losing contact with him for two weeks, he’s determined to be dead. (See, this is what I mean by needing to see Xiao Mei’s bones before confirming her death. Before you know it, another supposedly dead person is gonna come alive.)
While leaving the building, Hero spots the competent agent from the ying-yang pair. Her familiar look boggles Hero’s mind. When the ding of the elevator hits and the door opens, he finally places her familiarity into context — she’s the woman who dressed up as the nurse and killed the only survivor from the gun fight wayyyyy in the beginning. (Need to jog your memory? Here’s a little help.) With the realization, he dashes out of the elevator door. No luck in finding her.
When Hero returns to the police station, rather disconcerted by the accidental discovery, he receives a call.
The caller asks for Hero specifically, telling Hero that his friend, an accountant, recently sent him a package with the instruction that if he were to die, this package must be delivered to a reliable police. Now the important part: his friend died a couple days ago in the burger restaurant explosion. (Aha!) To buy time for a phone number trace, Hero makes himself clear that he’s no longer part of the criminal investigation unit. The caller ignores the remark and restates that his friend said to hand the package to an upright police in private without going into the police station — because there are their men on the inside. (Dung dung dung! Dramatic music playing. Okay, I’m having too much fun. 😀 )
After the mysterious phone call, Hero calls Xiao Lu and Hulk up the roof. (I swear, they friggin’ love the roof. Don’t they remember the roof makes for an easy target?) He assigns them to do a background check on the caller and put the information in an envelop, then place it in his desk, the first drawer on the left.
Chen Zai Tian is home early. As he walks to and fro in front of his door, thinking about his prospective on life, he notices a pair of shoes. Turning to the side, he spots a figure climbing a ladder.
“Careful not to fall” he speaks to the slender figure. Embarrassed, Chen Lin turns and explains, “I thought you were inside but not answering the door… So I thought maybe I should go in and take a look.”
She brings him a hand of beer and tries to get Zai Tian to talk about the argument with Hero.
With regard to the subject, Zai Tian exhibits the same bitterness. “What did my dad do?” Chen Lin laughs in incredulity. “Go home. I’m in a bad mood today.” As he speaks, Zai Tian starts to go inside.
“Does that girl really mean that much to you?” Chen Lin demands out of the blue, “Without her, you can’t find the strength to live? (How did he manage the days without her?) Did you know in order to find you I… Fine. Should’ve known. Should’ve left you on the streets.” She turns and takes a large gulp of her beer. “What do you know? You, who have been pampered all your life, you don’t know anything about the darkness of street life. These people who dwell there, they are the kind of people you wouldn’t waste even one glance. What you see is not how I used to look. Do you even think you know me? Do you know my past? If you had seen me the way I was before, can you promise to treat me the same way?”
Teary eyed, Chen Lin resorts, “Just because I don’t know your past, does that deprive me of the qualification to like you? Is participation in your past a prerequisite to enter your world?”
Chen Zai Tian knows he’s just a pawn in the bigger game, he can’t promise Chen Lin anything. Consequentially, he decides to push her away.
So “No”, he says, “We were never in the same world. … The door’s behind you.”
On Hero’s side, there’s new discovery. Xi Ying returned to the crime scene and found a shoe print which matches with another robbery from last year. From the shoe print, it can be deduced that the shoe was manufactured in Middle East, pointing once again at Sarkozy. (Except Director Tsai forgot to take into account the element of trade. Yunno, those shoes might be imported from Middle East because the labor is cheaper. Yeah I know, it’s all done in an effort to connect the dots with Sarkozy, but this link is just not strong enough. It looks almost like a stretch.)
Frustrated and hurt by Zai Tian’s rejection, Chen Lin goes to the shooting range. But when she walks into the elevator to go home, all the lights in the elevator went out.
In the mean time, the San Lian Hui director walks out of his private spa to find two lines written on the mirror in bold red letters. It reads, “Give me the name I want, otherwise I will trade it with your daughter’s life.” Fear, writes all over the director’s face.
Irritated, Chen Lin presses the emergency button to signal the malfunction of the elevator. Then a faint beeping sound attracts her attention. She looks up and sees — to her horror — a bomb.
Despite Chen Lin’s cry for help, the bomb is ticking fast. Then BOOM, the elevator gives in to the pull of gravity, it starts to fall…
I hardly talk about diction because the subject matter might bore some to tears (hmm n readers have just been scared away!). So put on a sleep mask for this section — that is, if you plan to read on.
You’ve been forewarned! So, let’s start.
The thing about spoken language is that, you can tell people’s origin from their accent; their education level from the range of their vocabulary; and even get a glimpse of their personality (reserved, boisterous, timid, etc) from the prosody of their speech. Given the multi faceted utility of speech, its variability is typically used to establish the most basic information about characters — you see that in books, in American films, but rarely in TW dramas (save for the Taiwanese vs. Mandarin line delivery). Which is why when the secret agent used the second person formal pronoun on Xi Ying and later switched to second person familiar, it stood out.
It’s a finely crafted method to reflect how cunning and manipulative the agent is. And since I’m all for character development, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about it.
Even though the agent sits higher on the food chain, he spoke to Xi Ying in a contrived civil tongue — only because he needs her information. The civility works as Xi Ying isn’t shown to be put on the defensive, which makes her all the more malleable to his control. However, when Xi Ying shows resistance to his suggestion (gathering Zai Tian’s prints), he immediately brings up Xi Ying’s father and essentially blackmails her into submission.
And he shows his dominance over her by 1) surprising her with his knowledge of her family background and 2) changing his tone and the manner in which he addresses her. This pronoun choice is a manipulation method and a direct reflection of the power distribution between the two of them. At the beginning, he’s seeking cooperation, so he uses the formal form of the pronoun to give the appearance that Xi Ying has the power. But once her behavior diverges from his plan, he immediately drops the formality and asserts his power by threatening her to watch out for her back. The irony is, he is the one who laid out the trap to frame Xi Ying in the first place.
Onto the creepy female secret agent. As this episode reveals, she and her partner are working for the Minister of Defense. Recall in episode 2, she helped Gao Yi kill the man in the hospital. If she has worked with Gao Yi then the Minister of Defense is most likely behind the Dreamer case. Recall again that one of Zai Tian’s secret faxes warned him about the murder in the hospital. Since Wild Goose is the informant, then San Lian Hui must be responsible for interfering, if not preventing the distribution of Dreamer. Taking a step back, it’s safe to assume that San Lian Hui and the Minister of Defense are working on opposite agendas. What’s unclear to me is the Korean tie. (And of course, how Zai Tian fits in.)
Gao Yi’s dreamer crew spoke Korean, so did Gao Yi. The doctors and nurses who operated on Zai Tian spoke Korean during the operation. Last but not least, Xiao Ma disappeared from a mission in Korea.
With all these Korean tie, there’s better be a darn good connection between them!