Kung Fu season 2 takes a major threat off the board more quickly than expected when Nicky and Henry team up with none other than Kerwin in order to get a powerful artefact out of Russell Tan’s hands. Along the way, assisting Nicky allows the other Shen siblings to work out what they want from their careers with more clarity. Read on for our review of “The Bell.”
When we last left our Kung Fu heroes (and slightly less heroic faves), quite a few characters seemed to be feeling pretty stuck in a rut. Nicky was reeling from her failure to bring down Russell Tan, as well as her failure to connect with her cousin Mia, who seems to be the key to the current nefarious actions afoot. Kerwin, Tan’s son, was raging against the confines of his family and confused about his place in his father’s plot. What else is there for them to do but join forces? Of course, neither of them know that someone rather important to them – in a myriad of ways – is, in fact, still alive and on her way to San Francisco. Kung Fu season 2, episode 3 “The Bell” sees both Nicky and Kerwin somewhat get their groove back as the rebel son helps our heroine break into his own house for a little light destruction of property.
The official synopsis of “The Bell” reads:
INSIDE THE LION’S DEN — After a mishap forces her to re-evaluate her plan against Russell Tan (guest star Kee Chan), Nicky (Olivia Liang) turns her attention to finding out what Kerwin (guest star Ludi Lin) is up to after learning he’s back in the fold. Jin (Tzi Ma) offers help to an old friend at the Chinatown Arts Collective, and the team makes a big move against Russell Tan. Kheng Hua Tan, Shannon Dang, Jon Prasida, Eddie Liu, Gavin Stenhouse, Tony Chung, Vanessa Kai and Yvonne Chapman also star. Winnifred Jong directed the episode written by Brian Anthony.
Keep reading for our reactions to Kung Fu season 2, episode 3 “The Bell.”
‘Kung Fu’ season 2, episode 3 review in conversation
Natalie: This week’s episode of Kung Fu was one of those moments of TV that kind of pulls me up short, because things I expected to be a long term problem or burning issue suddenly get handled and leave us with new problems. Like, a mystery solved faster than I expected.
Nichole: Yes, it’s the same way I felt with the weapons last season. I was like, “Wait. She found another weapon already???”
Natalie: The one thing about Kung Fu season 1 and the weapon search is that I never had a real grasp of how fast the pace would be – whether they’d get all eight by the end of the season. In this episode, “The Bell” (RIP Bell), there are some elements of that quickness that feel a bit shoved in to me, but then again, I’ve also been really impressed and surprised when TV has subverted my expectations on what the Big Deal moment is in an arc before. I can remember a few occasions, and it’s always like the macguffin that the characters are fixated on actually doesn’t have the stakes you expect – it’s just that their pursuit of that leads to new stakes. Or rather, I should say, the focal thing turns out to be a macguffin rather than the real point. But jumping into the episode somewhat in order, we open on a shot of Henry’s kind of cool apartment. Have we been there before?
Nichole: I don’t think so. Can I just say, I loved Nicky’s sexy, but practical pjs. I do understand this is a CW show and so there has to be a little somethin’ somethin’ but I loved how the scene was sexy and cute and wholesome all at the same time. Refreshing. Also, congratulations on your abs, Eddie.
Natalie: Honestly, I was a little bit like… this scene is maybe a bit unnecessary, in terms of just… All that happens here is reassurance that catches up on the plot so far. Nice reassurance, but I guess I wasn’t sure why it was placed there. Now you say it, I do think maybe it is for the sake of somethin’ somethin’? I’m so not wired to register that.
Nichole: I also think it is setting the stage for the fact that this episode is about Nicky getting her mojo back after a major setback.
Natalie: That’s fair. I’d also like to see that apartment in better daylight. But they have a little cuddle and tell each other that things take time and that they’ll work everything out. There’s a pretty abrupt cut to Kerwin being paraded around like a show pony, doing an interview to reintroduce him to the world after his “accident.” Zhilan will be playing the role of “fast car” in this metaphor.
Nichole: Yes, ouch. Juliette and Dad sitting off to the side judging his performance – CREEPY.
Natalie: Yes. There were very obvious puppetry vibes there. Approving nods. Not subtle. And Nicky and Henry notice that too. Were you surprised that Kung Fu season 2 went straight to Kerwin team-up?
Nichole: I was surprised. I really appreciated Henry being like, “he killed Simon Lau’s bodyguard [Simon Lau reference –DRINK] you can’t reason with him,” because I was also like, “this feels very optimistic of you.” Henry is so good though. He thinks it’s a terrible plan, but once he commits, he commits. But please don’t gloss over the melodramatic opera swimming! Please tell me your thoughts about a new dramatic Kerwin exercise moment.
Natalie: I am so, so, sorry to Ludi Lin, but I laughed so much at the dive to Ave Maria. It’s not that he isn’t hot – but I’m like, is this meant to be ridiculous and extra because he is so extra?
Nichole: I want one every episode! I’m going to be so disappointed if we don’t get another one.
Natalie: I feel so bad if they’re not intending it as a joke, but I feel it has to be – like this lavish little prince being totally melodramatic. To be clear, I love it and I do not want it to stop. But I find it hysterical.
Nichole: Same. I liked Kerwin last season, but I am DELIGHTED by him this season. He’s a whole rollercoaster by himself.
Natalie: Honestly, even his little eyebrow movement from his first scene here in the interview bewitched me. I am OBSESSED. And he was made all the more enjoyable and extra by being juxtaposed against Nicky and Henry in their street clothes and their way of talking. I just don’t get tired of the inherent ridiculousness of rich people.
Nichole: I really, really loved the whole scene. I don’t know if it wins my official favorite line, but, “Look who it is, Nicky Shen, and…the boyfriend,” had me howling.
Natalie: I was a bit “convenient” about Nicky and Henry having discovered the deal with the bell SO fast given Nicky just saw a broken bit of metal, but never mind. She is a master sketch artist I guess, and so much of their research has been about identifying imagery. But it means that they go to Kerwin with this full plan – or at least the idea of one – to team up with him and take the bell out of Tan’s hands. But the entire health club scene, the dynamic was just so amusing. Henry’s little finger wave to him in the pool. The fruit water. Conducting this chat while a staff member dresses him out of frame.
Nichole: Shout out to Eddie’s delivery of the line, “Oh, we lied.” Again, howling. The cast is so good at comedic delivery and it’s always a little bit of a surprise.
Natalie: Approaching him was a pretty big gamble. Nicky’s instincts were good, but what if it had gone the other way? I don’t know if they’ve seen enough of him to make that call, so – despite the fact that she was right – do you see this as too reckless of Nicky?
Nichole: This is an interesting question. We, as viewers, obviously know Kerwin is unhappy and ripe for this conversation, but, I also think Henry was right to be wary of Kerwin. That is the “logical” take on the situation. But I think one of the things that Nicky also has is this super keen judgment about what is “right.” I don’t really know if this is meant to be part of her “spidey sense” or whatever that we’ve seen before, but I am willing to see it that way.
Natalie: Kerwin also gets to break the news to Nicky that Zhilan is “dead” (she’s not, she’s just in a motel). Really nice “gift” from Dad – photos of her burned body in the cell. We can imagine clearly how Kerwin would have responded to that, but how did you think Nicky took the news?
Nichole: We didn’t get much of a reaction, did we? She just seemed sort of shocked and that was it. She’s so fundamentally good that I can’t see her being happy about Zhilan’s death even after everything she’s done. And in a way Zhilan is her last tie to Pei-Ling, so I’m sure there were some complicated emotions she tucked into some corner to analyze later.
Natalie: I feel like Nicky seemed a bit shocked about Zhilan, but we don’t linger on it. And correct me if I’m wrong, but Nicky never spots her later in the episode?
Nichole: No. Nicky doesn’t know yet. I hope it’s coming soon, though.
Natalie: I cannot explain to you how obsessed with Ludi’s delivery on “What if I do want to… stick it to Dad.” Like in terms of how uncomfortable he makes informal speech sound, especially next to Henry being goadingly blunt.
Nichole: He was exceptional this whole episode.
Natalie: Again, I’m so sorry Ludi if this isn’t meant to be funny. The fact that Kerwin takes himself so seriously is just…. Funny. It is endearing as fuck.
Nichole: And as long as we’re talking about his delivery. Did you notice when he leaned in close to Henry and said, “I told you, I’ll keep you safe,” how wildly sexually charged it was? I was like, “What is happening? Is this a thing now?”
Natalie: Yeah, he’s like a big cat or something, he just has this ingrained litheness. He is inherently sexy even though it still is very, very funny. I want to see what he’s like when he’s properly chilled out and happy. But yeah, honestly, him interrupting the sexy sparring and giving his approval and twirling his little paper? Come on. He carries power well, even if he has none in his family.
Nichole: The dynamic between the three of them did not disappoint in any way.
Natalie: Maybe that’s why he’s so stuck – he’s inherently wired to wield power but is stifled from doing so by his own circumstances and the way he’s been conditioned. Though I think he would happily give it over to Zhilan too. Or maybe it’s just his upbringing and superiority complex.
Nichole: He is meant to be her trophy husband. I’m not taking questions at this time.
Natalie: That works. But ultimately Kerwin is on board, and he seeks them out with all his resources ready to go. I like that. He did all the work, and worked out if it could be done, and came to them with a plan. Efficient. He also tells them that Tan wants to sacrifice Mia, the most precious special butterfly, in order to make the bell work. As of right now, we still don’t know what the bell could do. But if it’s a nice and spiritual gift, protected by guardians, I feel like the bell should not be bloodthirsty!
Nichole: I was surprised she was intended to be a literal sacrifice. I don’t know what I thought she was supposed to do, but I didn’t envision her having to die. I thought it would be more emotional manipulation to get her to work with him to do whatever the bell needed to do.
Natalie: It could be some other sort of sacrifice, but… sacrifice is sacrifice?
Nichole: Yeah, I got murder vibes from it.
Natalie: With Tan and his sacrifice, we also learn that Kung Fu’s whole season 1 Weapon Quest was apparently because he wanted to use Biange to ring the bell. A) What did you think of that? and B) What the everloving fuck does the bell DO. Again, if this was meant to be a good thing and a gift… how is it so… deadly.
Nichole: I was relieved to get an explanation about his original plan, even if it was just to handwave it away. But it did give me permission to just put that whole plot away for good. The thing about the tones? What do these magical tones do? Mind control? Murder?
Natalie: I appreciated Juliette being like “But father, what is it all for” – very plainly – because same.
Nichole: Yes, Juliette is all of us.
Natalie: We do not get an answer, because Kerwin interrupts at just the wrong moment, in his suspenders. More on that in a moment, but… suspenders.
Nichole: Important suspender content break.
Natalie: So at this point, Ryan and Althea get brought into the plan. No Evan this week. I must say, whenever shows do things like this – discussing mystical and criminal things – in a public place, like a school or, here, a bar, I get a bit edgy. Anyone could overhear them planning to buy dangerous chemicals with hacked credentials! Guys!
Nichole: I mean, it strikes me as a bad idea, but I just handwave it away. If I can accept Althea just hacking Henry into a chemistry professor in under a minute I can accept that no one is paying any attention to them in public.
Natalie: Haha. It’s always one of my things. I have an episode of Not Another Teen Wolf Podcast titled “They Really Need To Work On Whispering.”
Nichole: What actually drives me nuts though is when a show sets up that expectation for you over and over and then subverts it, it’s like, I trusted you, guys.
Natalie: What do you mean about subverting expectations? Like when a show has constant public chatting and then breaks the reality by having them overheard at one time?
Natalie: Can you remember an example? But yeah, I do know what you mean.
Nichole: I feel like both Supernatural and Buffy did it at some point, but I can’t give you a concrete example.
Natalie: No, you’re right. But even so. Ryan does start getting quite worked up about it when Nicky is failing to process the chemical rules…
Nichole: I was so happy to see Nicky not be perfect at something for once! She was so cute and confused.
Natalie: It ultimately results in Nicky telling Ryan he will be coming on the mission. But this scene basically involves moments for both Ryan and Althea about their career. We should circle back to those parts and their earlier scenes. Let’s do Ryan first. Where we saw him earlier, he was coming into Harmony to tell his parents about his residency placement at UCSF. He has to leave a message with Sebastian, and it’s again, kind of hostile. What did you make of that?
Nichole: My big question of the episode is why is Sebastian so hot and cold? Is that on purpose? Is he uncomfortable with Ryan around the kitchen crew? Does he think Ryan is uncomfortable around him, so he’s on the defensive? I just don’t know! Because when he’s being natural he seems so cute and happy and comfortable and when he’s not he’s just really not. Sebastian, reveal your mysteries.
Natalie: I felt like, once again, it was this sort of disdain for Ryan not being like, staff of Harmony and just swanning in and out, like the bosses kids being a hindrance? But it doesn’t feel quite right.
Nichole: It feels more and more like a class issue to me.
Natalie: Yes. Not discounting that whole blue collar white collar issue. And then Ryan gets hostile right back when Sebastian is like… basically… are your diamond shoes pinching you? But as soon as Ryan gets pissy, Sebastian softens! What is with these guys!
Nichole: They probably need to fuck about it, Natalie.
Natalie: I mean… But with Althea, Ryan admits that even though he chose UCSF, now that he’s got it he feels… trapped. Like that he was cemented in place now when he’d always wanted to travel and branch out. Then why did you put UCSF first, Ryan? Why not New York or Austin or Chicago or Hawaii. He CHOSE this, but he is conflicted. Do you empathize?
Nichole: That whole sub plot of Ryan’s felt a bit out of nowhere to me. I don’t think we were really given any reason to think he would feel that way, which is surprising because Kung Fu normally handles those things with a deft touch. I spent the whole first half of the episode wondering why Ryan was so unhappy. It didn’t make sense until he spelled it out. So, no, I didn’t empathize just because it didn’t make that much sense to me based on Ryan’s whole character. That being said, on a normal human level, I do understand that feeling of thinking you’ve got time only to realize you’ve made decisions that limit your choices. I mean, I’m turning 50 in a few weeks and I’m suddenly feeling very weird about everything in my life, lol.
Natalie: I did sort of vibe what his issue might be right away, but I don’t know if it felt out of nowhere or not. Ryan is a quiet and passive sort of guy and I feel like he maybe doesn’t act very much, and so yeah just that element of doing the autopilot thing and not being sure he wants it when it comes down to locking it in… following expectations… I got it, but I dunno. FOMO is real. I could see where that line of thinking was going, though, as the episode continues, and I don’t know if I love the idea of doing scary, illegal and deadly things with Nicky as being an adventure replacement for backpacking around Europe.
Nichole: I’m curious how they’ll incorporate Ryan’s skills more into their schemes. Althea has always had such an obvious place, but Ryan has been more hit or miss. This episode set the expectation that he will be more involved, and not just on dish duty.
Natalie: Yeah. Science guy, I guess? Moreso than anyone else does. Like Henry is Lore Guy, Althea is Hacker Guy… and Hacker Guy – well, Mrs Shen-Soong – is now in high demand after her dramatic quitting went viral. She is fielding a lot of new opportunities but isn’t incredibly keen on any of them, and again, at the bar, she has this reveal that identifies her desire to work for herself, in quite a funny moment.
Nichole: It was very funny. “…and I can always tell you to stuff it!”
Natalie: The candid honesty of her being like “No, that’s not it.” when Ryan and Nicky are like “well, this has real stakes and we are helping people” is… well, harsh but hilarious. Incredible delivery.
Nichole: Yes, I was truly blindsided by it.
Natalie: So she has this lightning bolt moment that she wants to be the boss of her own company. What it will actually do in terms of programming is yet to be determined, but we have a direction to look towards for her… I do kind of still think she should do the PI firm.
Nichole: The PI firm is brilliant.
Natalie: It would be ironic if she did something in cyber security, protecting people from hacks.
Nichole: Ironic, but in a good way.
Natalie: We shall see, but yeah, the sweet callousness of her brainwave was adorable. And mean. and cute. and funny.
Nichole: Agree. I’m excited to see what she does.
Natalie: How did you feel about the creeping knowledge that the Tans will be at home for the break-in? We learn that well before Nicky does.
Nichole: I was so stressed out! Why didn’t Kerwin warn them?
Natalie: I guess there’s not a lot they could do. Or maybe Kerwin was being watched too closely. Like, them choosing to stay in? And the souffle? It felt like leashing him to me.
Nichole: The souffle, oh my god.
Natalie: Or maybe not. Maybe Dad was fooled by the interview act. I don’t know. If it was suspicion, what did they suspect?
Nichole: Later, with Juliette in Dad’s office, I couldn’t believe she fell for his excuse. Did she? Or did she have her own motive?
Natalie: His excuse is like: Yes, I am snooping, I am trying to play the game like you wanted. Presumably this has always been a part of the daddy issues – they were involved in this kind of sneaking around before? It sounds insane, but if it had historical precedent…
Nichole: Or she just really, really wanted to believe him.
Natalie:. It also depends on Juliette’s true aim – what her private endgame is. How are you feeling about her at the moment?
Nichole: I still don’t feel like she is 100% evil. There is something more complicated there, but I don’t know what it is.
Natalie: His excuse sounds very weird to me, but then again, I’ve never been pitted against siblings in ways that prize manipulation and trickery. Like, Kerwin’s excuse made it sound like he needed to learn some context of what Russell won’t reveal in order to have a shot at leverage or information to manipulate with, even if just in ways that mean he “coincidentally” acts or suggests things in Russell’s interests.
Nichole: It did sound insane, but the way he said it had such a desperate edge to it. Maybe it was believable even though he was desperate for a different reason.
Natalie: Her, I really don’t know. Maybe her intrusion was worse masked as a threat. Maybe she suspects Kerwin is truly anti-Dad and wants him to succeed at hurting Russell where she can’t. Maybe she is protective, or maybe she is that bad.
Nichole: If she were that bad would she fall for that excuse? I don’t know. She’s still a mystery to me.
Natalie: So Nicky, Henry and Ryan need to enter the Tan house with Russell still inside, and as we mentioned, they didn’t get a heads up about that, but Kerwin didn’t get a heads up about managing an extra person coming in. Do you feel that’s a fair trade?
Nichole: Definitely not! Kerwin should have let them know that the whole plan was at risk. If no one is home, who cares about an extra dude?
Natalie: That’s fair. I have no idea the time turnaround of dinner – if Kerwin had the chance to get away between the reveal they weren’t leaving and the time he was meant to get onto the security system, but… not ideal. I always enjoy a good “guy in the chair” moment though. Even if Kerwin’s guy in the chairing did include solutions like “kill him” about the unexpected presence of a restorationist. That “Kill him.” “What? No!” is such a fantastic bad guy trying to be on the good guys side cliche moment.
Nichole: I felt like that scene was a turning point for Kerwin and how Ludi Lin was playing him. Everything from there on out felt more genuine and less melodramatic rich guy. Like actually putting his heart into something cracked that façade a bit.
Natalie: There’s a bit as we move forward that I have a lot of questions about for him, but ultimately it all goes to shit because Ronnie throws a wrench, literally, into the plan. And security is alerted, chaos reigns etc. But surprise! Another person enters the fray. Zhilan chose this very same night to try and take out Russell too!
Nichole: She was perfect with her bag of guns and questionable wig.
Natalie: Are we sure that isn’t just her new haircut?
Nichole: I guess it’s possible, but I thought she was in disguise. I can’t see her getting those bangs even under these circumstances. Although she obviously still looks ravishing.
Natalie: As soon as she came into the picture, though, I felt a little relieved, because I could see the way that this was going to take the blame away from Nicky for the break in. Until they review the tapes, at least.
Nichole: It added to all the chaos. I was so stressed out by everything.
Natalie: When Kerwin says “forget this all, it cannot be traced back to me… and then screams at them to get out now… did you see his stress there as his personal stakes and fear for his own consequences, or any general humanity in concern for Nicky?
Nichole: A little from column A, a little from column B? I think he has temporarily aligned himself with them and in that sense he wants them to succeed. His gradual escalation of emotions around it was perfectly executed. I’m not sure even he knows what his reasons were, though.
Natalie: Yeah – he’s so, so stressed, and it seems like he doesn’t know how to act. Literally, he is pacing and not sure of what action to take, and then he makes a move to act – he gets decisive and is going to leave the room – when Zhilan comes in. Before we get to her – this was my big question – how do you think he was going to act? Run away, or help Nicky? Because it’s a moment where this pretty passive guy does actually make a move to do… something
Nichole: In my heart, he was going to help Nicky. If I think about what he was most likely to do in reality? Probably run. Everything is FUBAR, all bets are off.
Natalie: Of course, Zhilan stops him in his tracks. What were your feelings about their initial conversation? It felt very, like, frozen in time.
Nichole: God. The look in Zhilan’s eyes when she sees him. Why not just stab me directly in the chest? It would be less painful.
Natalie: The dramatic jacket-tossing.
Nichole: And the fact that she thinks Kerwin sent the men to kill her. Natalie. I was emotionally compromised.
Natalie: One thing I found interesting was their matching color palette, the maroon blackish red outfits on both of them. Doing an exact match for costume to shorthand a character link can be traditionally seen as quite heavy handed or a rule not to do sometimes, too obvious, but I read something a while back that challenged that idea and use it quite obviously to show connection, and I think it worked here
Nichole: All I was thinking about was all the emotional electricity in the room, so I don’t think I’m a good judge of that.
Natalie: Did it surprise you that Zhi was the more obviously emotional one? Kerwin says some things here like “I wanted to kill you myself” and “I can’t let you get what you want” about killing Tan. And whether they’re lies from Kerwin or not, Zhi was more like “I didn’t want to do it, it was bigger than personal feelings, your dad doesn’t love you (and I care about that and want good things for you, not shitty dads. Zhi was quite openly emotional about how her actions did not negate her feelings, but I mean, she still did it. Confusing.
Nichole: I was a bit surprised at how open she was. Surprised, but also a little relieved. She’s obviously still willing to do the very worst things to achieve her ends, but at this point her ends actually match Nicky’s. She wants to take down a very bad man!
Natalie: It occurs to me that I still don’t know exactly what she wanted Biange for. Was it to take down Tan because of her family’s issues due to the textile factory? Because that’s still a personal feeling – it isn’t really bigger than her and Kerwin, it’s literally a one generation above, personal family issue, not a service to the world.
Nichole: Yes, I think she wanted it to make sure she had the power to punish Tan and protect people.
Natalie: Even though Tan sucks and will harm more people, I can’t say her goals and methods vibed altruistic in season 1.
Nichole: I think she explicitly says in the flashback episode that she wants the power so no one can hurt her again. So, it’s not super altruistic, more like this childhood trauma pushing her to extremes to protect herself. This season it feels a little bit more like she wants to take him down to stop him from doing any more damage to other people. And she’ll still kill anyone in her way, but she will feel a little worse about it.
Natalie: Her attitude feels a little evangelical at this point, like this fixed purpose that makes her not care about anything else in the way. I assume at a point she will need to let it go.
Nichole: Yeah, I imagine when that wall gets broken down we are going to see a real flood.
Natalie: But for now they have to have a little fighty fight about it all, of course.
Nichole: Important note from the fight scene: “Dat ass tho.” Are we going to talk about “Don’t make me kill you.” “You already have.” Because…wow…my heart.
Natalie: I mean they had a lot of sexy pauses so they could stare and all that, but I was surprised they were both weeping.
Nichole: I loved it. I LOVED IT. So much emotional damage clanging around.
Natalie: Then they have to have a little sit down about it. Again. exactly mirrored, like the clothes. These two are a wild pair of star crossed lovers.
Nichole: Their chemistry is off the charts.
Natalie: Meanwhile, Ronnie has decided that Ryan and his friends are quite nice and tells them how to get out safely. Good for Ronnie.
Nichole: I laughed so hard at “How are you feeling? Physically, not emotionally.” What a good bedside manner Ryan has.
Natalie: So my question is, does Nicky now have a known enemy in Tan? Do you think that they’ll have him review security footage and know that it’s her? Or will he just think it was all Zhi?
Nichole: I would think he will know it was her. I guess there is a possibility that Kerwin erased or turned off cameras? But he didn’t have a lot of time to fix anything. Will he think Nicky, Zhilan and Kerwin were all working together?
Natalie: That’s very possible. I want to return to that in a minute, because I have more questions about that. But firstly: how do you feel about the fact that Ryan is happy to stay in SF and get his fill of adventure by helping Nicky? I feel like that’s not exactly the same kind of thrill seeking and is a huge fucking risk.
Nichole: I like Ryan being happy in his chosen career. I think of him as a bit of the audience stand-in, in that he’s not super strong or super exemplary except that he has this focus on literally saving people in the “normal” way. So, I was bummed that he felt trapped by succeeding in those goals. I want him to want to stay in SF and be a doctor! However, I agree that I wasn’t super comfortable with the idea that he was, like, thrill seeking with Nicky. But, I think it is possible that there might have just been a weird vibe this episode that isn’t going anywhere other than saying he’s happy to be able to help Nicky and also have his career.
Natalie: True. I could be worried over nothing. However, it did give him the chance to be all fake-deep to Sebastian and gain some points.
Nichole: LOL. I didn’t think it was fake-deep!
Natalie: No, I’m joking. It’s just that he seems to feel the need to prove himself to this guy. And he’s veiling the details of what happened in something that sounds enigmatic and profound.
Nichole: LOL, okay, true. I wondered if Ryan more happy and content in his own skin would help break down whatever barrier Sebastian has up. I’m ready for Sebastian to get the inside skinny on Nicky’s life.
Natalie: Maybe Sebastian also was like “not touching that” because he knew through the Harmony grapevine that Ryan could be leaving town for his med studies. He seems pretty happy when Ryan says he’s right where he wants to be.
Nichole: Yes. There was a more mellow flavor to the interaction.
Natalie: Still not moving too fast!
Nichole: I have a feeling the will they/won’t they is going to last a long time
Natalie: Well, I’d like to know more about Sebastian’s deal then.
Nichole: Yes. I’m ready for more.
Natalie: But we see that Nicky and Henry are aware of the vibes, so i assume the whole family will get in on it
Nichole: I wondered how Nicky knew, because we don’t really see anyone else clocking their vibes until that moment. Like, did she just pick it up right then, or has Ryan been talking about him?
Natalie: I’m really not sure! We see Henry ignore a text from his dad, which I know is to be continued next week, and Althea posting on the seriously legit sounding “Code-Wow” website.
Nichole: Um…how about disembodied torso Dennis?
Nichole: I’d very much like to have seen how filming went that day.
Natalie: Yeah, he had two scenes this episode – one proper one when looking at Althea’s job board, and then another one where he just had to be sleeping with his shirt off.
Nichole: Ok, Tony, lay here. “Ok, where should I be looking?” Uh, don’t worry your face isn’t going to be in it. Okay, push that blanket down just a little bit more. “Like this?” No, a little bit lower…
Natalie: His face is in it if you really turn up the brightness… Never change, CW.
Nichole: Again, congratulations on your abs, men of Kung Fu. I salute your dedication to your craft.
Natalie: What a time. But okay, there’s a little more meat back at the Tan house. Juliette and Russell discuss replicating the bell to produce something with the same tones – to unleash whatever this power is. Still pretty confused about Juliette here – with how she responds to Russell here about Kerwin, and whether she’s really trying to win the kiss from daddy by making him a new bell, or whether she’s pitching an idea to make him believe it will work, but actually acting underhandedly.
Nichole: There was a desperate quality to her argument. I couldn’t tell if she was genuinely scared of what would happen to her if she didn’t have this plan. Russell didn’t actually seem that mad at her. She also didn’t seem very mad at Kerwin, just like, you were right about him whatever let’s move on.
Natalie: At this point, what do you think this fucking ding dong can actually do?
Nichole: I keep coming back to some kind of mind control, but I don’t even know why.
Natalie: It’s definitely possible.
Nichole: Maybe I watched the Mysterious Benedict Society too recently.
Natalie: What did you think of Kerwin and Zhilan both leaving town separately? We don’t know what was said after their little bit of floor time. Do you think the separate travels are a cover for a later rendezvous?
Nichole: My gut feeling was that they both left to deal with their own problems, but I would prefer it to be that they are working together.
Natalie: Well, Kerwin seems to have given Zhilan the details about Mia – seems she’s the next target of things Russell really loves or whatever. Though obviously he doesn’t love her as like, a human being.
Nichole: I hated that. Zhilan, don’t hurt that feral baby!
Natalie: Maybe her plan is to become Mia’s bodyguard and protect her from Tan. LOL. Kidding.
Nichole: NO, don’t be kidding, I like that.
Natalie: Okay, okay, what if it is that, and what if Mia likes Zhilan and is all “buzz off, Nicky.”
Nichole: OH MAN.
Natalie: “This woman is my new fave.”
Nichole: I am into it.
Natalie: That could be very dramatic.
Nichole: Lots of potential angst.
Natalie: Anything else about the main plot before we hook back to Jin?
Nichole: No. I’m ready to dive into Jin.
Natalie: So circling back, this episode’s more grounded slice of life plot was following Jin as he goes to visit his boyfriend Frank at the art collective. We get quite a lot of scenes that actually have pretty drawn out conversations about the circumstances. It’s given a fair amount of screen time. First of all, what did you think of the balance of this side plot? Or the amount of time and weight given?
Nichole: My first thought was, “Wow. Natalie was right.” At first I was a bit surprised by the amount of time it was given, but at the resolution it makes sense, because Jin is really carving out a new place for himself that I’m sure will continue to be relevant throughout the season.
Natalie: It was intense, though.
Nichole: He remembers their favorite beer.
Natalie: Some of the way things were phrased, like… I’m not being silly, it was super intense in terms of the way Mei Li acted too. Just some of the phrasing… I don’t know! It definitely felt like a really big deal.
Nichole: It was 100% framed like a lover situation. I mean, I know they aren’t going there, but, yeah, even a lot of the phrasing was there. “We never finished.” “I just can’t do it alone any more.” “Why are you leaving me?” ???!!!!???
Natalie: It was effective for painting the picture of a close relationship, but it just got me thinking about the way TV and films choose to express intimacy, especially between men, and why those ideas sometimes get jumbled. Because yeah, there’s definitely a common thread of using romantic tropes to show a male bond, especially in stuff like a military drama or something. Like there’s only so many ways to show an intense, non-family bond and I can’t say I was expecting it for Jin!
Nichole: Yeah, we haven’t really heard much about Jin and Mei-Li’s life outside of the restaurant and the family, so it felt like a lot all at once.
Natalie: But ultimately, yeah – it feels like they were each other’s Most Important Friend with Dreams Together and then Jin got married. And like… come on. But okay, the plot – Jin tries to donate money to the art collective, and Frank won’t accept it. It feels like Frank was left behind, in a really depressing way. That’s a fantastic actor, by the way, Andrew Tinpo Lee. When he says “It’s how it goes. You’re busy. Everyone’s busy.” Ooof.
Nichole: As someone closer to Jin’s age than Nicky’s age, the whole scene was very relatable. Just being tired, tired, tired.
Natalie: I would have to revisit Kung Fu season 1 closely to remember the exact details of Harmony Dumplings with whose dream and idea it was, but given this update, it sounds like Jin had his own passions that he put aside for the restaurant. And he decides to quit working at Harmony Dumplings and instead, help Frank try and revive the art collective. The whole thing is, as mentioned, played way, way more intensely than I expected
Nichole: I was super sad for Mei-Li.
Natalie: Girl, they’re not divorcing. He’s still living in her house.
Nichole: But it’s a big change and unexpected! They are used to being in each others’ pockets! And it obviously feels a little bit like a rejection of this thing they have both worked hard to create. But, of course, she’s super supportive and she should be. It was just sad.
Natalie: Yeah, it’s definitely a change in the amount of time they spend together. I really should go back over season 1 to see the Harmony Dumplings history, as obviously when Kung Fu started, Jin was the main chef, but apparently that would have originally been Mei-Li. But now that she’s got things thriving, he feels like he can move on. It doesn’t help that it’s really framed like a goddamn romance, like going back to my old love. Whether that’s art, or Frank, or whatever. But in truth, Jin wants to help revive other elements of the Chinatown community as times have changed, and I’m keen to see his artwork! And his tactics for helping the place
Nichole: I’m excited to see where this goes.
Natalie: With Mei-Li, I guess there’s the weight of it being like “Did I steamroll your dream with mine”?
Nichole: It retroactively casts a different feeling onto everything they’ve worked for.
Natalie: Whether that’s a valid concern or not.
Nichole: I doubt it. Jin obviously doesn’t see it that way. I think he just sees that now, because of their success they have more options.
Natalie: But it’s still played a bit like he’s going off to war or something, with all the I’ll miss yous. I do get that it’s a dramatic change in the time they spend together. I do get it. But it sounds like Jin has bigger plans than just the art collective. She says “where will you go? what will you do?” Also very dramatic statements, and sounds like he just said i’m leaving the restaurant and not exactly what for?
Nichole: I don’t know, if my husband and I worked together on something we built together, and then he announced he wanted to go do something completely different? I would react exactly like Mei-Li. But I don’t think the show is going to dwell on it. I think Mei-Li is going to thrive and bond with Sebastian and Jin is going to probably, I don’t know, uncover some kind of plot in Chinatown that he needs Nicky’s help to take down.
Natalie: Oooh, that could be fun/horrible. I guess one final question about the Harmony Dumplings Divorce is: what will the kids think?
Nichole: Okay, my one thought on that is, we know from interviews that Mei-Li and Sebastian bond in the kitchen, so what if Ryan is jealous twice over, once because he wants Sebastian’s attention and twice because he is upset that Jin isn’t at the restaurant, but Mei-Li is still happy
Natalie: I feel like one of the kids is going to be upset by the change, and Ryan does feel the most ripe for it. We shall see!
Nichole: Looking forward to it.