This week’s Kung Fu offers some new revelations, but leaves us with several dramatic cliffhangers, as befits its status as mid-season finale. This plot-thick episode follows several divergent stories, each setting us up for an exciting second half of the season. Read on for our review of “Jyu Sa.”
After last week’s feel-good ending, with Mia finally reunited with Shens, Mei-Li finding her confidence at Harmony Dumplings, and Ryan and Sebastian ending the will-they-won’t-they drama, “Jyu Sa” introduces the next set of trials for our gang. Nicky and Mia, with the help of Henry and Ryan, discover a mystical gem with the power to not only destroy a city, but also to cause our heroines to lose control when exposed to them. Althea gets closure with her abusive ex-boss, Chase, but his reappearance in their lives opens up new questions for Dennis about his own father, and after Sebastian comes to the rescue in a sticky situation, Ryan is left wondering if he knows his new boyfriend at all. We learn about the existence of a new brotherhood, the Wan Zai, whose mission is unclear. When the episode slams to a close with Henry’s kidnapping, the final shocking moment reveals that the leader of the Wan Zai is Henry’s own (theoretically deadbeat) father!
The official synopsis of “Jyu Sa” reads:
FRIEND OR SHIFU — After a tip from Evan (Gavin Stenhouse) leads Nicky (Olivia Liang) and Mia (guest star Vanessa Yao) to a secret meeting between Juliette (guest star Annie Q) and a mysterious scientist, Nicky begins to question whether she should approach her relationship with Mia as a friend or a shifu. Elsewhere, Henry’s (Eddie Liu) findings lead him to an expert that may be able to help decipher his research. Finally, Jin (Tzi Ma) and Mei-Li (Kheng Hua Tan) help to settle an age-old dispute between Chinatown’s oldest grocers. Shannon Dang, Jon Prasida, Vanessa Kai and Tony Chung also star. Kristin Windell directed the episode written by Matt Young.
Catch up on of our past season 2 reviews right here, and carry on below for our reaction to Kung Fu season 2, episode 6 “Jyu Sa.”
‘Kung Fu’ season 2, episode 6 review in conversation
Natalie: So this week was our Kung Fu mid-season finale, albeit with only a short break before it returns – no hellatus here. But it was a very busy episode indeed, very plotty, so I’m just going to get this out of the way before we start anything: I MISS KERWIN.
Nichole: When will Kerwin return from the war?
Natalie: Wah. I mean, there’s plenty of other Tan drama to focus on, but he needs to ride back into town and get his sister the fuck out of there.
Nichole: Yes, I cannot wait to talk about what is going on with Juliette! She’s giving me emotional whiplash.
Natalie: Yeah. I feel a little more solid on my perception of her now, but who knows if I’m right or wrong. But to get to her, we have to go through Nicky. There’s a fairly complex main thread that runs through this episode, that ultimately involves Nicky, Mia, Henry and Evan getting right into the thick of things regarding the TanPlan, but through the heart of it lies Nicky and Mia’s dynamic, which is still pretty shaky. How better to tell us this than show them beating the crap out of each other? For science, of course.
Nichole: Ryan is giddy. He loves studying them so much.
Natalie: I definitely have questions about Mia’s strength – Nicky only really became super-extra after bonding with her sword and later Biange, but Mia seems to be almost matched with her without those power-ups. But I was also immediately on edge about them being snippy – like, oh, is Mia angry here? This isn’t just for funsies? Spoiler: Mia was angry here. At least annoyed and resistant about being at the Shens beck and call, even if it’s for her own, and the greater good.
Nichole: Mia seems to feel like she has to prove herself. Like she is still conditioned to only rely on herself. She’s definitely not a good sport. When she refused Nicky’s hand up, I was like, “RUDE!”
Natalie: This actually ties into some musings I had after your wife came on and did her little bit.
Nichole: Pei-Ling, my beloved.
Natalie: Notes on today’s lesson?
Nichole: It was very relatable. Nicky thinks she is giving Mia what she needs, but she is protecting herself. Nicky didn’t like getting rejected and she doesn’t want it to happen again. Of course, it’s also mixed up with Nicky wanting to keep Mia close to keep her safe, but I think a big part of it is Nicky not wanting to fail and be rejected again. I feel that way sometimes as a parent. How do you guide someone without alienating them? It can be a tricky balance. Related, I felt like this interaction moved Pei-Ling slightly to the independent consciousness column.
Natalie: Do you? I felt like this still could be stuff Nicky came up with on her own, but something about the performance seems realer, don’t you think? Less about the information, more about the energy, for me.
Nichole: Yeah. I think it was the “I have been watching you” part for me. But above that it is more about their vibe together. Nicky doesn’t seem like she needs Pei-Ling emotionally the way she did last season.
Natalie: Regarding Mia, and that whole – you need to decide who you want to be to this girl thing – I have some thoughts about that. Mainly about the creation of a power dynamic like that when they’re already cousins and they’re not that far apart in age. It’s not that I think it’s wrong, just that it’s tricky.Mia, throughout the episode, doesn’t like Nicky being the boss of her. The only other person who trained her was her mother, and she’s never been in a dynamic like this, kind of subordinate or the student or the charge of basically another peer. Then there’s what Pei-Ling said – are you going to be her friend or her shifu, and my question is… what do you think the delineation is? Do you think there has to be distance? Do you think that can even work with, I guess, no generational age gap? Like, mentors can be friends, but this is sort of next level
Nichole: I think that is a really interesting question. It seems unrealistic for Nicky to be only a shifu. They are family after all, so there has to be some of that. Also, Nicky has more experience, but not that much more. Like you said they are near-peers. But I think emotionally Mia needs someone to lean on. To learn that she doesn’t have to do everything by herself and to unlearn some of her bad habits that were created when she was just scraping by on her own strength. Nicky does a good job this episode of navigating that tricky line, I think. This season has been a lot about Nicky learning on the fly and adjusting.
Natalie: So that whole emotional element is set up to play a part for the mission that Nicky needs to undertake this week, and it all centers around Miss Juliette, who has rebuilt the Bell for Daddy. She’s a weird one.
Nichole: I thought I had her figured out this episode and then she threw me for a loop.
Natalie: I started having thoughts and feelings when she tried to navigate Daddy around nabbing Mia.
Nichole: Was this the first episode where Russell was vaguely threatening towards her? When he’s like, “We’ll do it your way, but if it fails it’s on you”?
Natalie: Maybe the first time it was this direct, and not just general.
Nichole: I agree about the nabbing Mia part. She’s so hard to pin down. What is your deal, Juliette???
Natalie: She is madly treading water, but I still don’t know if that’s in a secretly good way or just a terrified way. But she’s definitely covering.
Nichole: There is more there I’m sure. I just can’t figure out if it is full villain going to replace Daddy or half-villain wants to get out of the game.
Natalie: From a certain scene we see later, I think she wants out. I find it funny that she has every resource imaginable, but Henry, from his dusty old under-funded library, is closing in! The Shoobies are only a few steps behind Juliette in terms of Bell History.
Nichole: Right? But, unfortunately for a character to be named later, they are a few steps behind.
Natalie: They do keep arriving just a little too late. But first of all, they find a lead about Li Jiaming, the Guardian who brought the Bell over, through the family line of a newspaper man, a Mr Tin, who became obsessed with the case of his disappearance. And when Henry and Nicky pay a visit to Ms Tin, she has some more evidence for them – though she was forced to give most of it to Tan. Things I wasn’t prepared for: Kung Fu claiming the San Francisco Earthquake was actually because of this bell. Which is something the others also can’t quite believe, later. But what did you make of the visit?
Nichole: I loved the old-timey video. For some reason that element tickled me. I also thought it was funny how quickly Ms. Tin is like, “Oh, you don’t work for Tan, fuck that guy, you’re my new best friends.” I was a little disappointed that the bell isn’t for mind control. Scratch that one off my bad-predictions list.
Natalie: I mean… don’t totally rule it out. There is SOMETHING mind controlly going on with SOMETHING to do with this paraphernalia. We’ll get there.
Nichole: Oh, right! I forgot about that part. Oops.
Natalie: However, I am at a loss as to how robber barons or modern billionaires gain from razing a city. But I mean, the gang say everything I am thinking when discussing it back at the center. Including: “We don’t seriously think this, right?” And: “Who gains?” And: Godzilla has his reasons.
Nichole: LOL. I actually love the bell being the cause of the earthquake, but I agree with all those questions. How can anyone gain from that destruction?
Natalie: Who gains is always my question about basically anything bad going down, if that doesn’t track for me I really can’t get on board with it, but the really important point was made: it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. It matters that Tan believes it, because he’s still carrying on. That’s exactly the point I made last season about Zhilan. She was doing deadly things because she believed in the legend. It didn’t matter if it was real or not – she believed it so people died. So, it was true – but that doesn’t change that fact. She had no actual proof in the magic being real. It’s more about what people will do and who will pay the price to get something they believe they’ll gain from. I really liked that point being made – but it does seem that the magic music and the magic rocks really are a problem. But they carry on digging and Evan continues to be super illegal.
Nichole: Evan has really taken to his life of crime.
Natalie: And he’s still exploiting Nadia for blackmail material he shouldn’t be able to access. Good for him, question mark?
Nichole: I don’t know! I can’t help but feel like things are going to get worse for Evan, but I don’t know if that is a rational worry. He has faced some consequences, but that doesn’t seem to have changed any behaviors. And I know I keep saying he is very justice oriented and willing to do what it takes to see justice prevail, it is all a bit much.
Natalie: He might go a bit Wesley in Angel, but I don’t know. He makes me curious. I’m a bit at a loss about him, but Gavin Stenhouse is so good. I want to go deeper into his head and his motives.
Nichole: Yes. We need a little more from Evan’s POV. He’s been a bit too peripheral to get a handle on.
Natalie: I mean, he’s pretty good at ambushing people and shaking them down, but I do have questions about where that might go ethically. He’s able to bring Nicky some new information after terrorizing Juliette’s driver, and Nicky decides to lurk the meeting they get wind of. A classic “I wanna come,” “It’s too dangerous” fight ensues. We’ve already done this once with Mia this season – she is the literal target, the shiny thing, the prize, so it shouldn’t even be a question. She should see the sense in that. It isn’t benching. It is tactics. Nicky shouldn’t have let her come.
Nichole: I do think Mia has to be involved and that Mia is in danger no matter where she is, so she might as well be where Nicky can see her. But obviously Mia is too impulsive and green to be on a mission like that without clear boundaries that Nicky is afraid to enforce.
Natalie: What they witness is basically a deal made with this guy who is like a… chemist? Of some sort? Dodgy science man who can create or refine or synthesize dangerous rocks.
Nichole: Evil scientist for hire.
Natalie: And instead of hiding and watching, Mia takes a look at that rock in the trunk of Juliette’s car. And promptly gets hypnotized. She can make it glow. Others who handle it don’t. Nicky is affected a little, but Mia a lot. So, responsive to the Warrior Guardian thing. So she turns on the rock and it seems to affect her, but for a minute I felt like this was a trap – that Juliette was letting all of this happen and fishing for Mia. Needed her to imprint on the rock. I don’t think I’m correct, but I went down that road for a minute.
Nichole: It was funny that they were basically in plain sight.
Natalie: The titular rocks – the Jyu Sa – are some form of cinnabar, which is like, a very toxic substance and I guess Dr Evil is making it safe for their use.
Nichole: Side note—I love the introduction of magical cinnabar because in Chinese fantasy stories, like xianxia and Wuxia, cinnabar is an important part of the magic lore. Like, magic talismans are written with it.
Natalie: That’s cool, but I don’t fancy anyone getting mercury poisoning.
Nichole: Dr. Evil has his uses.
Natalie: Then things sort of split off as the plot comes more solidly together for the audience. The info comes in piecemeal, but ultimately: Henry and Evan have some special buddy bell research time and manage to clear up the old timey video to identify some Chinese sheet music, through various perspectives, we have a very vivid picture painted about the impact. Magic music plus magic rock causes problems. Magic music played on magic bell resonating through many magic rocks causes big problems. The girls make a plan to go after the rocks before Juliette gets them, and the boys make a plan to go after the music via Henry’s Bell Guy. #iknowsomeone
Nichole: I want more “special buddy” research time for Henry and Evan.
Natalie: I bet you do.
Nichole: What can I say, I’m a sucker for emotionally mature men who respect women.
Natalie: They’re so thin on the ground! The straight women need them! Don’t waste them on each other!
Nichole: I mean, I don’t want them without Nicky at center! I just think they are cute buddies together!
Natalie: Fine, fine. Fair. Just as Henry is telling Evan about his Bell Guy, we see Bell Guy being visited by Juliette. It’s not a good time for him.
Nichole: I was so upset by that phone ringing on his desk. SO CLOSE. This is where Juliette is giving me whiplash.
Natalie: This was a big scene. A lot going on. First of all, he claims the magic music is a myth, which is a lie. She seems to know that he’s protecting some secret, and another “side” of this conflict enters the story — the Wan Zai. Some secret society – did you quite follow what it is and what their motive is?
Nichole: I don’t think it is clear what their motive is. Except they seem to want to protect this knowledge and not let it out into the world. Which—good, right? I did not expect the twist though.
Natalie: It definitely seems complicated, given the cliffhanger. In a “whose side are you on” way. But back in Bell Guy’s house, there is this insanely strange scene where Juliette tests out the magic rock and magic music by rather beautifully playing the tune on piano and exploding this guy’s brain.
Nichole: She was so creepy playing the piano!! I was like, okay, got it, big evil. But then…
Natalie: One moment, she’s totally ruthless about getting on with it – the next, it’s like she’s a fucking sleeper agent having woken up and found herself holding a gun she’s never seen before.
Nichole: EXACTLY. Girl, you knew what was going to happen!
Natalie: She does NOT look happy about killing the man. She looks upset and unsure and very shaken. I think she’s in very deep, and forced to perform this whole… act.
Nichole: But no hesitation about calling Dr. Evil up to give him a bunch more money for a bunch more stones!
Natalie: I don’t necessarily think she’s secret good, but I think she’s very stuck and has been making the best of it by smiling for Daddy but that maybe she hasn’t like, killed someone before. She has this horror moment, but then reports back to Daddy that yeah, she verified the stone works. She is still pretty shaky there. But she’s back on task. It was like a moment of horror, looking the evil in the face properly and letting it get to her before closing off again?
Nichole: She is obviously freaked out and trying not to show it. The way she looks though, I very much can’t believe she’s just planning to go through with it? But also, she knew what was going to happen, or suspected it at least, so she’s willing to go to certain lengths??? I don’t know. I’m very upset about the whole thing.
Natalie: Yeah, it’s very weird. There’s a big problem there. Something very complicated. I can’t help… weirdly… thinking of… do you Game of Throne?
Nichole: I only tangentially Game of Throne. I read the first book and a half and watched a few episodes. But it was definitely too many bummers for me.
Natalie: Well, my very favorite character is Jaime Lannister, like, by a margin of a lot, and Jaime has one of the best redemption arcs I’ve ever seen, in the books and like.. sort of on the tv show. They fucked it up a little. But he first comes across as evil. He instigates the event that kicks off the whole drama, pushes Bran Stark out the window because Bran catches him fucking his sister. Normal scenes. Despite this start, I am in love with him, and part of his trauma is that he was basically – from a young age, 15 – trapped serving in the Kingsguard for the Mad King. The one he ended up killing and getting the name Kingslayer for. But serving as a teenager and young man, he had to weather all sorts of things – like bearing the weight of guarding the king’s rooms while he raped the queen, standing by while the king boiled people alive and stuff. Like this duty bound role that he just had to be emotionless about. And he ends up killing the guy, and is like, HATED for it. But the point is, there’s this flashback where he is told, as a young man, like… watching these unfair and barbaric executions… we learn that he starts to disassociate. Like he “goes away inside.” In order to bear the role he’s trapped in, a life service role. Until like, the events of the books make all these established positions go to shit, and Jaime ends up rediscovering his worth and honor and autonomy etc. This is long-winded, but I look at Juliette and see her “going away inside.” But actually processing the man’s death cracks it. She knew she was going to kill him, and she did it still performing her role of Russell’s mastermind heir. But facing up to it, there’s a big quavering. And it didn’t feel like oh, I never thought about how evil this all was until right now. It feels like she knows and has a hardened mask and keeps shoving it down.
Nichole: It does feel that way. Maybe I’m struggling with it because we don’t know that much about her. Also the actress, Annie Q, is extra creepy when she’s in full evil mode and then when she quavers you want to put her in your pocket. I’m having a hard time balancing those two in my mind. I don’t usually consider myself a black and white thinker, but being unable to put her in a box is frustrating me.
Natalie: I can’t work it out either. I need Kerwin to help me. Babygirl, come home.
Nichole: Yvonne’s comment in your interview that when Kerwin comes back it will be surprising has me longing for him even more! What is he off doing?
Nichole: That does sound like an unhinged rich guy thing to do.
Natalie: Look, just bring him back to me and have him tell me some revealing story about Juliette’s childhood trauma. I’ve actually been thinking for a while about the dead brother Raymond. Who I assume had cancer, given the hospital donation. But maybe his death kicked things off. There’s always baggage with a dead brother.
Nichole: True dat. Doesn’t cancer seem like a brutally normal thing for a Tan to have died from? Maybe there is more mystery there.
Natalie: Maybe. Maybe cancer is a cover, or maybe they were like, less evil before his death evilled Daddy up. I don’t know whether he’s meant to have died as a child, a teen or an adult. And still nothing on the mother.
Nichole: There is a lot of room to learn more about the Tans.
Natalie: So that’s magic music. Well, there’s a little more to come on that, when Henry follows up. But let’s pivot to magic rocks. Nicky and Mia go on another mission, this time with a plan to intercept the order of cinnabar, and Nicky brings Mia along and waits til the very last second possible to tell her to wait outside. You couldn’t have had this conversation in the car?
Nichole: I wonder if Nicky was reluctant to do it, but once she was faced with the imminent prospect of both of them dying, she got the backbone to do it.
Natalie: How did you feel about the way she laid down the law?
Nichole: I had mixed feelings about it. She needed to do it, but I was surprised it worked. It felt a little weird that she was like, “Do you want to push back on me or get this job done?”
Natalie: It was kind of aggressive.
Nichole: A bit more ‘fed up’ versus a thoughtful discussion.
Natalie: And I still don’t entirely think like, Nicky Knows Best – she’s still floundering a bit, so she’s winging this control element. And Mia is still pretty shy and quiet, she doesn’t seem inherently, you know, rebellious or hotheaded. Actually, I would say that I was a bit thrown by her being like “I do what I want” because she’s been meek before. But she is also just not used to teamwork I guess.
Nichole: It feels a bit like she’s testing things out. She doesn’t really know how to trust people or work with them, so she’s just seeing what she can get away with. And like most teenagers, she wants to know where the boundaries are.
Natalie: She does go along with it, but them rocks are just too darn glowy. She and Nicky get to do a cool teamwork fight though.
Nichole: They make a great team when they are on the same side! Imagine Zhilan also fighting with the two of them.
Natalie: Oh, a mild deviation back to the sibling side — Althea has a great birthday present for Nicky. Super, super fucking illegal criminal birthday present. So naughty.
Nichole: I loved that! Althea hacking things on her phone is so funny to me. I can barely edit a google doc on mine. But also, when is Nicky’s birthday? Inquiring minds want to know!
Natalie: I worry about Althea’s skills or tools or creations getting into the wrong hands. She would be a great hostage.
Nichole: What is the appropriate thing to say here to ward off that evil? Protect Althea at all costs. Can you imagine Dennis if Althea were kidnapped. I’m having a meltdown even trying to picture it.
Natalie: She would be absolutely fine, she would be stepping all over them in heels by the end and making them thank her for it.
Nichole: Okay. I’m listening and learning.
Natalie: But in the scuffle, the jyu sa get spilled all over the floor and seem to hypnotize Mia. She sees them as extra-glowy, and they somewhat disable her, put her on the floor, but also make her lash out at Nicky. Then she shakes out of it. But they affect her to the point of like, controlling her. And Nicky said she felt it too, but it is implied, not as strong? What gives?
Nichole: It was unclear if it was a general bamboozle or a specific directive. I wondered if the lashing out at Nicky had to do with protecting the gems? Protecting herself? wejustdontknow.gif
Natalie: Maybe it’s turned her into a sleeper agent, like some sort of thrall. But Nicky is nice to her about it.
Nichole: I think that is where Nicky is finding the right balance. Mia doesn’t need a boss she needs some unconditional love. With rails, of course, which is where the shifu bit comes in. Nicky’s like, “You did a good job, you did what I asked. This wasn’t your fault. We’ll figure it out,” which Mia needed to hear.
Natalie: And they managed to hang onto one magic rock.
Nichole: Which Nicky hides in the living room? Where all of her family is all the time? There has got to be a better place.
Natalie: Look, I don’t know. That’s a Chekhov’s gun if I ever saw one. Althea: “Hey guys! I worked out the magic tune and recorded a synthesized version on my phone!” *hits play*
Nichole: OH NO. I didn’t even consider that.
Natalie: Kung Fu season 2 Finale: The One Where Nicky Kills Her Whole Family
Nichole: Dkajalsdk. Although, it did need to be that specific song, didn’t it?
Natalie: Yeah. But they know the song is a part of it, and like, Henry was trying to work out what it was. It tracks that they might access the tune… and play it when there’s a secret death rock in the room…
Nichole: “Secret death rock” is my new band name. Does Juliette know she’s missing a gem? You would think her order would have been pretty exact.
Natalie: The looked pretty neat in the case she showed to Daddy. Maybe the order was like “as many as you can do at this time.” I actually looked out for the missing one, but there wasn’t like a zoom in on an empty slot in the case. They were lined up evenly.
Nichole: I noticed that too, but I think there were two boxes.
Natalie: Ah, could be. Speaking of Henry. He’s the last piece of this main plot for the episode.
Nichole: Here we go.
Natalie: !!!!!!!! When Henry shows up at Bell Guy’s place and gets grabbed, I felt sure that it would be Tan’s men.
Nichole: SAME. I cannot believe when a new secret brotherhood was mentioned I didn’t immediately make the connection.
Natalie: I mean, I didn’t either. I really didn’t register it. But apparently Bell Guy’s Musical Illuminati Heavies were on standby and came to avenge their own. Or… something.
Nichole: Or something!
Natalie: And their leader is Henry’s fucking dad.
Nichole: They can’t think Henry did it can they?
Natalie: He seems fine with his son tied to a chair.
Nichole: His dad looked so menacing. Full 180 from last time we saw him. Last episode he seemed a little doofy.
Natalie: He doesn’t look like he’s ready to go easy on him. I have a lot of questions. Many of them were also asked by Henry: who the fuck are you and what the fuck do you want? But if we look back at Henry’s dad from earlier… Whatever he has going on, he seems to think Nicky is an adversary or at least an obstacle. Does he want to recruit Henry? And is the Wan Zai’s mission in opposition to Nicky’s? Are they good, bad, amoral… Is this the truth of why he left his family? Secret duty, played off as being a useless flake? Very Henry Winchester.
Nichole: Yes! That was my biggest question. Is this why he left the family? But also all the other things.
Natalie: I’ve got absolutely no clue where this is going, but do you have any hunches? Or what would you WANT the answer to be?
Nichole: I don’t have any hunches. But…if I had my way? I’d want the Wan Zai to be, maybe, protecting the world from the magical powers? Like, not inherently good or bad, but just aware of all of this power and trying to keep it away from everyone?
Natalie: Yeah, like a higher duty that doesn’t mess with trivial mortal personal conflicts. We do not interfere, etc.
Nichole: Yes! So in that sense Nicky is a danger to them, but they don’t necessarily think she’s evil, just a person can’t/shouldn’t have all that power?
Natalie: That could be it. Like she needs to be neutralized. And circling back to the top of the episode to run through the side plots of the siblings: yeah, this has to be Sebastian’s origin story, right?
Nichole: We are getting closer to Sebastian’s origin story. My greedy little hands want it now.
Natalie: He is either a plant or a defector of these guys. It’s gotta be. I mean, maybe not. Maybe he has his own unique backstory that is entirely personal and not anything related to this.
Nichole: I cannot go with plant. I just can’t. But I think you’re right, how many more loose story threads can they afford. It’s time to start bringing them all together.
Natalie: Nichole, it is too much of a coincidence. They know about Nicky. He asked Ryan about Nicky!
Nichole: Well, they were being super sketchy.
Natalie: So like, I mean, returning to happier moments… Sebastian and Ryan seem pretty darn thrilled to be together.
Nichole: Natalie. Sebastian barreling Ryan across the room. So hot. I’m fanning myself right now.
Natalie: Sebastian is super fucking toppy and honestly he made that comment about whether Ryan could “squeeze him in” sound NC-17, NFSW.
Natalie: He meant sex! Nichole, he was trying to fuck him in the doctors’ office! Like, I gasped.
Nichole: Ryan Shen, canonical bottom.
Natalie: I was like “did they seriously just.”
Nichole: Bob’s going to be so pleased.
Natalie: This is a family show! I’m shocked! I jest. What a good time.
Nichole: Amazing. Flawless.
Natalie: It especially surprised me because I wasn’t expecting Seb to be in the episode. So when he came bursting in… It was a whirlwind.
Nichole: But also, Ryan, get in the game. Ten minutes is a long time.
Natalie: I literally can’t continue this conversation without getting like, graphically smutty. But ten minutes is enough time for something or other.
Nichole: It was a lot(tm).
Natalie: It was crazy horny and I was genuinely shocked. Not CW horny, like primally horny. Sorry, JB, I know you’re reading this. Hi! I am looking respectfully!
Nichole: HE’S JUST VERY GOOD AT HIS JOB, OKAY?
Natalie: Look. I am sorry, I am still reeling from “squeeze me in” and how fucking loud it was, I cannot believe they got away with such an explicit — in all senses — reference to anal sex on a prime time CW show. It was just innuendo, but… Fucking lacivious. I wasn’t expecting this content when Kung Fu started but I appreciate it so much.
Nichole: I was trying to keep my expectations so low! Officially blown out of the water.
Natalie: I’m so used to giving, and now I get to recieve dot gif. But I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one to be like “WELL THEN” about it.
Nichole: We’re in this together.
Natalie: JB Tadena, you understood the fucking assignment. I love you. Jon Prasida, kudos on your commitment to the cause.
Nichole: Getting pushed around by a hot guy—nice job if you can get it.
Natalie: Lucky, lucky boy. I kind of want to know what they put in the casting call for Sebastian, and if it was like “must have extreme top energy.”
Nichole: Hahahahha. Nailed it.
Natalie: Okay, I have to stop. I am so sorry, all, you all deserve respect, except you, Bob Berens, you’re a nightmare, and you deserve all of what I am saying.
Nichole: I don’t know what you are talking about, Bob is a virtuous maiden who would never.
Natalie: Okay. Apart from his initial plan to fuck Ryan in the ass over his examination chair… he also gets roped into going on a date. In public. Outside of the bubble.
Nichole: What a relief! I didn’t want it to become a whole thing that they were hiding.
Natalie: He’s going to be Ryan’s date to the work party being held for Dennis. Dennis is being promoted. Dennis is having Sad Boy Hours. Dennis was maybe my MVP of the episode.
Nichole: Sweet, sad, nerd Dennis. He was so soft. When he started talking about the differences between orcs and goblins, I was like, “Oh no. I have to marry him.”
Natalie: Honestly, he’s been on my mind since the car episode — his insecurities about Althea — and I’ve been thinking about the potential of him having, like, some genuinely deep emotional problems. And I think he actually does. And I am… thrilled.
Nichole: Yes. There are obviously some big things coming for him, emotionally, and I’m ready for it.
Natalie: Here are some notes I made. “Dennis: painting his figurines? I’m crying. Baby. Baby boy.” “I kind of want Dennis to have a depression arc.” “He’s a good sad boy.”
Nichole: His magnifying glasses!
Natalie: He’s starting to hit me hard as someone who has this shell, and it isn’t real, and it’s so soft inside. I mean, we usually see inside. But maybe the way he’s viewed at work and by society. Him in that expensive sweater in his lovely house with his paints, like. God, I want to give him the world. I love every man in this show, and that is just NOT normal.
Nichole: There is so much to make every character multidimensional. It makes it hard not to love everyone.
Natalie: But like, the first thing we hear is yay! Celebrate Dennis! Dennis has a promotion! Then it’s like oh no! He’s not happy about it! He has guilt and inadequacy issues about working for his dad! He does not want to be celebrated! It’s weird. I’ve heard people whine about that sort of circumstance before – not having real recognition – but he sounded different. He sounded SO defeated.
Nichole: He was so sad. Like he felt bad for the people throwing the party. It wasn’t so much that he felt sorry for himself, it was like he didn’t want other people to have to pretend to feel a certain way.
Natalie: Shoutout to Althea, absolute babe, who — when Dennis initially mentioned wanting to cancel — goes, “Wait, why? Did Nicky tell you about the magic earthquake?”
Nichole: OMG. She was so funny. I love Althea so much.
Natalie: Between that and Ryan’s “he had his reasons” about Godzilla, this episode had some zingers.
Nichole: Also Ryan’s “Nicky’s so normal she’s boring” speech.
Natalie: Dennis. “Nepotism. Yay.” So glum.
Nichole: He was like Eeyore. A giant, hot, well-dressed Eeyore.
Natalie: So things carry on and Ryan and Althea help Nicky a little over the course of the day, but they all end up at this party while Nicky and Mia are hunting the gems. And honestly, Dennis being an Eeyore was one thing, but the whole nepotism, yay, takes a much sharper turn. I was not prepared for basically anything that happened at the party. None of it. I feel shooketh.
Natalie: First and foremost, we mentioned this a little, but Althea has to step out to help Nicky over the phone, and Sebastian is like “what’s the deal with Nicky? There’s a deal, I know it.”
Nichole: They didn’t make it too hard to suspect something. Nicky needs help with…work…
Natalie: They did sound cagey, but I do think Sebastian knows, or is digging with some basic knowledge. I feel like I’m going to get my whole “do you even like me or were you using me to help your cover” fight
Nichole: NATALIE WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO ME.
Natalie: He’s in the fucking Music Illuminati. It CANNOT be random that he has that job. And if he was a defector, why would he end up THERE, in a place with a person of interest to them. You would avoid that.
Nichole: I’m just trying to enjoy Sebastian and his top vibes. Leave me alone.
Natalie: I feel like a person who knew nothing would not pry as much as he did. Or they’d ask more innocently. They’d be less careful.
Nichole: I thought he was very normal about it.
Natalie: I dunno, it felt measured to me. I do not know. Maybe he was avoiding Ryan because he did truly want him but knew getting mixed up with him would be unethical for his Illuminati reasons. Leading to such issues as using him for intel.
Nichole: I’m so mad at you right now. Stop making sense.
Natalie: Okay, but like, truly, using logic, and knowledge of storytelling… What do you actually suspect?
Nichole: Ugh. I don’t know. I’m sure you are right, or at least close to something right about him, but I’m not ready for the bloom to be off this rose! I don’t want Ryan, the least emotionally mature dude on Kung Fu, to have to question if his second real boyfriend is using him for intel. He’s not equipped to deal with the psychic damage.
Natalie: I do think Sebastian likes him, and got together with him because he wanted him so much he couldn’t control himself.
Nichole: I agree. Even if he’s all mixed up in this stuff, I think what he feels for Ryan is real. But will Ryan agree?
Natalie: But I just feel like it is very likely — given the reveals in this episode — that he has to be connected to that secret society. Presently or formerly.
Nichole: I also don’t want Mei-Li questioning her judgment!! So many ways for people to get hurt.
Natalie: It would be so weird for them to just be like “Oh yeah and also Seb has an unrelated backstory, just based on the structure of the episode. The reveal of this club’s existence, the reveal of Henry’s dad, and the reveal of Sebastian’s combat skills. You’re meant to put it together. Argggggh. Maybe I am wrong and will look stupid later.
Nichole: I don’t think you’re wrong, even if it’s not 100% right.
Natalie: But Ryan tells Seb that there is something to know… but doesn’t finish because a totally unexpected villain enters the fray. Or re-enters, should I say.
Nichole: Talk about Arggggh. It was so upsetting to see Althea’s asshole ex-boss/sexual abuser. Hate that guy. I did love the sibling protectiveness of Ryan immediately finding Althea and being like, “let’s go.”
Natalie: He went totally cold when he cut himself off from chatting to Seb. Like deeply dramatic change.
Nichole: Very protective.
Natalie: When Chase talked to Althea at the bar… I literally could not believe what I was hearing. Like I had no idea what they were going for or how to process it or how she might react.
Nichole: My notes are just “Chase talks some bullshit.”
Natalie: They went HARD on that bullshit.
Nichole: It was like every canceled dude’s twitter notes apology on steroids.
Natalie: Like, I feel like I should say something profound about how they threaded the needle there because Jesus Christ. Like is this guy for real? Does he really believe himself? Or is it, as Althea says, his PR redemption arc.
Nichole: I was a little worried Althea was going to engage with it.
Natalie: Yeah, the thing is, I had no idea where this was going. But she starts in and then just keeps escalating in her takedown!
Nichole: We obviously haven’t seen the last of Chase, but I was pleased that Althea got a little closure with him.
Natalie: You can see him getting angry and aggressive behind his eyes. Like, behind the reformed citizen act.
Nichole: Totally. And then…I what he said to Dennis. I was so mad. SO MAD. I can’t even type it out.
Natalie: The hits start coming and they don’t stop coming and they don’t stop coming and they don’t stop coming. Him making that gross comment to Dennis about Althea was one horror, but YET ANOTHER SHOCK came when he made the comment about working with Dennis’s father. Operation: Destroy Dennis is go.
Nichole: Dennis’s face!!!! Okay but first let’s not miss the fact that instead of replying to Chase’s gross insinuation about Althea, Dennis just popped him right in the jaw!
Natalie: I enjoyed Dennis hitting him very much.
Nichole: No hesitation. It was so good. It has a lot of layers.
Natalie: But Chase cut him down hard in response.
Nichole: It was bad.
Natalie: This feels very nasty. Very dark. I don’t want Dennis to be sad!
Nichole: But it’s also starting to become clear why the show needed to make it clear Althea wasn’t taking money from Dennis’s parents.
Natalie: Yeah, that’s definitely important. Even though it was hypocritical at the start of the ep when she was like who cares about nepotism lol. I need Dennis to be okay. Also Chloe, who I’ve decided, arbitrarily, should be a lesbian.
Nichole: Chloe is scrappy, she can manage. I am loving Dennis getting to have some deeper emotions than “good husband” though.
Natalie: I genuinely don’t know how Dennis will cope with like “everything I knew was a lie, what is my world” but I am not being glib when I say I want like, a depression arc. Like a serious mental health arc.
Nichole: As much as I enjoy sweet himbo Dennis, I’m looking forward to him being tested a bit.
Natalie: Make me cry, Dennis!
Nichole: Just his face as he was looking at his dad’s contact info on his phone was enough to make me emotional.
Natalie: That was a lot. Sad boy hours. As mentioned, Sebastian saved the day, when Chase told his guys to go mess Dennis up. He tackles them and gets the upper hand and gets Chase to call it off, but it makes Ryan suspicious. I don’t know if I would have been as suspicious — a lot of guys know some sort of martial arts or fighting — but Sebastian’s response, like we’ve discussed, makes it clear that there’s a Thing.
Nichole: Okay. Why wasn’t Ryan INSTANTLY horny though? Because he’s been all I WANT DANGER AND EXCITEMENT this season.
Natalie: He really looked shocked, confused, maybe a little upset. Ryan, you’re letting the side down.
Nichole: He did. He obviously is! I guess this is a bit too real. OH THIS VERY STRONG SEXY MAN I’VE BEEN LETTING PUSH ME AROUND HAS A PAST?? I don’t know. On one hand I get it, on the other, Ryan, please. He’s very sexy, shut up.
Natalie: The way Seb says it – you have things you’re not ready to talk about. So do I. Is that cool? He’s kind of nervy about it. That puts me a bit in camp Trying To Leave My Illuminati Past Behind Me. In which case ending up at Harmony is a terrible coincidence. But it could also be like If I Don’t Talk About My Real Illuminati Job, It Doesn’t Touch My Relationship like “just don’t ask” — keep it in the bubble.
Nichole: I’m too compromised to have logical thoughts on Sebastian’s Illuminati past. I’m bamboozled by his dashing good looks and charm. I’m a perfect mark, LOL.
Nichole: Rounding out episode 6, we have a cute little side story this week with Mei-Li and Jin. Jin has set up an exhibit at the Art Collective showcasing the two oldest grocers in Chinatown. The problem is there is a feud between the grocers over who really was the first grocer. One side was there slightly earlier, but without a storefront and one started an actual storefront grocery store first. Each grocer threatens to withdraw from the exhibit if the other one doesn’t. Jin and Mei-Li try reasoning with each grocer separately. It becomes clear that even Mei-Li and Jin disagree about who really was the first grocer, but this gives Jin an idea of how to resolve the feud. I have to say, I really liked Jin’s solution which was to embrace the contradictions as part of the story, which I think is actually a pretty important life lesson, and we can talk more about, but I struggled a little bit as to why we were getting this particular story in this particular episode. Did you have any thoughts about that?
Natalie: To start with, I was surprised that Jin and Mei-Li, as a pair, had the “comic relief” plot. Not a bad surprise, but a surprise anyway. It was definitely disconnected and a little stakeless. I enjoyed it for what it was, but it was a kind of unusual thread amidst the rest. I’m trying to think about why. Like, we’ve had other episodes that have had a silly comedy side plot too… I’m not sure if it was the fact it was the parents, or the stakes of the rest of the episode, that made it feel different. In and of itself, I am OBSESSED with Mei-Li and grow more so every week. I LOVE her.
Nichole: She’s the best, and was obviously delightful talking about thinking Jin was sexxxy. Honestly, what’s not to love about learning a bit about Mei-Li and Jin recounting how they met and being ridiculously cute about it, but I think I’m craving something a little more connected for Jin, particularly. Mei-Li’s got her new dynamic with Sebastian, which I think feels very satisfying, so I want something meaty for Jin.
Natalie: I think her saying “Never,” when he said “are you going to tell me I told you so”… her delivery and face — might have been the best two seconds of the episode. And I was really surprised when it came out that they were on different sides of the conflict.
Nichole: Yes, that scene was very funny.
Natalie: But Jin… I mean he had meat, when he actually started up at the Art Collective. Maybe we need more Frank. I’d like to see his actual relationship to art, as well. Like, Jin the artist.
Nichole: Yes! Let’s see something that makes him tick outside of his family, and more generally, his community.
Natalie: I’m willing to forgive a lot for Mei-Li giggling and slapping Jin’s hands, but Tzi Ma is a great actor and the exhibition is a cool idea that he clearly put heart and hard work into, but we didn’t get to see it – him actually working, or coming up with the idea, the depth of the premise. Just a little bit of a comedy moment after the end result. I found it charming to see them so playful and cute and in love though. I did just about start losing my mind when Mei-Li talked about their meeting and then the unreliable narrator of it all. The “Sexy” really got me. Wasn’t ready. She’s so FUN.
Nichole: Same. I enjoyed it. I guess part of my issue is that I really do value the ‘lesson’ learned about not trying to erase conflict out of a narrative, but it felt like that should tie back to the main story more.
Natalie: Given how she acted at the start of Kung Fu season 1, I’m constantly delighted by her warmth.
Nichole: Yes, I’m so glad about the direction her character went.
Natalie: I don’t know if — on paper — I agree that all threads in an episode have to either literally be related (Sebastian reveal tying into Henry dad reveal) or simply thematically match, but given that it did feel a little random, maybe my judgment on paper is wrong and in practice I would have liked clearer ties. Or maybe it’s something that plants the seeds for later.
Nichole: I’m wondering if something in the future will tie it back in. For sure it is thematically consistent with the type of messages Kung Fu tends to support. Like, it wasn’t out of place on a large scale, just in this episode. And, again, maybe we are overthinking it. Maybe it was just a cute little story to give us more background on Mei-Li and Jin’s relationship.
Natalie: I did like that element! And I like the parents being whole people, not just relevant to the kids’ stories – though the kids had a lot going on this week. Am I right in thinking the exhibit didn’t open yet, this was like advance preparation? Because there was no mention of the kids skipping Dad’s big opening.
Nichole: I think you must be right because it seemed like the two families were getting a sneak peek.
Natalie: Maybe Jin’s delving into the history of various Chinatown mainstays will help the quest – the history from the early 1900s
Nichole: OOOOOH. Oh. I like that.
Natalie: The parents have missed a LOT of news from all three kids’ lives — well, 4 kids with Mia — over the course of this episode. Everyone’s got something big going on, and I’m curious about how the parents are going to react to everything – Nicky and Mia being stoned, Althea and Dennis’s Chase news, and Ryan a) dating Seb and b) Seb being all… punchy.
Nichole: *hot—I corrected that for you.
Natalie: Thank you. Do you think Mei-Li will hear the news about what Seb did at the bar – via hearing Althea’s news – and be like “why was Sebastian even there?” “Uhhhhhhh.”
Nichole: It doesn’t feel likely to me, but that would play into Sebastian’s fears.
Natalie: Also, can Jin and Mei-Li parent Dennis more? Given the update in his family life.
Nichole: Dennis does need some TLC. Actually, one of my favorite parts of the episode was the montage at the end when Althea is icing Dennis’s hand and he looks at her so lost and she kisses his forehead. It was so soft. My heart.
Natalie: Everyone leaves the episode in kind of a bad place… and a cliffhanger for Henry. Do you think Nicky will have to get him back? Or will his dad let him go?
Nichole: I think Nicky will be on the move to get him back, but it is also possible his dad might let him go before she gets to him. I guess that is dependent on if the Wan Zai are nefarious or neutral or good. I think Nicky might pull a Mia on this one. Like, want to run in half-cocked because of her anxiety. It’s going to be a real test.
Natalie: Well, we will have to wait two weeks now to find out!