Sebastian and Mei-Li cooking in the kitchen on Kung Fu

‘Kung Fu’ season 3, episode 5 in conversation: ACAB but the C stands for corporations

Kung Fu season 3, episode 5 plunges us back into the mythic storyline after last week’s more lighthearted diversion. “Harvest” weaves together our disconnected supernatural storylines with some unexpected twists, opening new paths for the rest of the season. Read on for our review of “Harvest.”

Tensions are high at Harmony Dumplings as Carrie wants the dishes on the menu to pass a Chinese food “purity” test, while Sebastian and Mei-Li want to find joy in creativity. How far is Carrie willing to go to keep Mei-Li on track? Meanwhile, Jin is discovering the dark side of politics, testing his trust in Anthony.

On the supernatural side of things, Pei-Ling is in a battle for her life against Xiao. When Henry steps in to help save Pei-Ling, his newfound power interacts erratically with the magical ritual, perhaps handing the Shoobies the information they need to save Zhilan and stop Xiao for good.

And Bo? He is Daddy.

The official synopsis of “Harvest” reads:

THE RACE TO SAVE PEI-LING — Nicky (Olivia Liang) is forced to put things with Bo (guest star Ben Levin) on the back burner while she figures out how to help Pei-Ling (Vanessa Kai.) Sebastian (JB Tadena) voices his concern to Mei-Li (Kheng Hua Tan) about corporate’s growing oversight of the restaurant. Althea (Shannon Dang) and Evan (Gavin Stenhouse) help Jin (Tzi Ma) after a local politician is robbed of some valuable research. Finally, Zhilan (Yvonne Chapman) makes her move. Jon Prasida and Eddie Liu also star. Marielle Woods directed the episode written by Melissa Rundle (#305).

Catch up on all of our season 3 reviews right here, and carry on below for our reactions to Kung Fu season 3, episode 5 “Harvest.”

‘Kung Fu’ season 3, episode 5 review in conversation

Natalie: So episode 5 throws us in the deep end with pretty much everyone after the restaurant opening last week. Harmony Dumplings is up and rolling with Mei-Li still developing the menu as the chef de cuisine and I guess Sebastian as the sous chef actively cooking each service. He’s got a lot of responsibility, a lot of power, really her right hand man and partner. He’s even helping to develop menu items! How amazing! Nothing could possibly go wrong here.

Nichole: Please. Natalie. I’m so upset. My son. He doesn’t trust Carrie and he’s right and he should say it! Sorry for jumping ahead, I’m just so anxious for my sweet, talented son who has never done anything wrong in his entire life, except for some accidental manslaughter!!

Natalie: I think I want to start off by saying how much I love the development of Sebastian as a whole character who has really important roles in both the romantic story and the career story. Like, he could have easily been a sort of side character but Kung Fu really saw a few spaces where a character could fit and was like, “Hey let’s make a whole-ass person who has a lot of facets and make them important.” I think it really struck me in this one because he had no scenes with Ryan. That may have happened before, but I just love the increase in how he feels as a character and not sort of like, tethered to one thing.

Nichole: Yes. I also really noticed that this episode, because it is also obviously kicking off something that is going to be a storyline about him.

Natalie: Yeah, I am also concerned as you say. This is really jumping the gun, because we need to discuss the plot, but an upcoming synopsis says Mei-Li has to make a heartbreaking decision and I am fairly sure she will be told to fire him

Nichole: NOOOOOoOoOOOoOOOoOoooooo. If Sebastian gets fired, I’m showing up at Bob’s house with my tv to smash it on his porch (j/k kids, tv is not real, don’t threaten showrunners for storylines you don’t like).

Natalie: I feel like it has to be that, like fire him or we withdraw the funding, especially given the ending. But… God. I don’t want to see what happens there. Here, we’ve got some seasonal dishes to try and I mean… I’ll say I don’t know how accurate this is regarding menu approval. I do know a little about restaurants in terms of kitchen roles and effectively, the head chef either is a chef patron (owner chef) or a chef de cuisine (runs the kitchen for a non cooking owner.) I assume for a chef who isn’t the owner, they do have to get the dishes they create approved but also have a lot of creative control? It probably depends on the place. But Mei-Li is stuck in this weird halfway zone. Like, if I wasn’t a chef and hired someone to run my kitchen I would probably let them choose the menu but I don’t know. The point is, apparently “corporate” has to approve the menu items and I guess this is a thing.

Nichole: That felt… too controlling.

Natalie: I don’t know. It did feel like that tonally, but it may be normal when a head chef doesn’t own the restaurant. They have to get someone to taste their new developments! But I feel like it’s probably more like, here’s what I’ve come up with, and the non chef owner says, you’re a genius Chef, whatever you like. I don’t know. It did feel pretty odd. It’s definitely a change for them, who had full owner creative control before.

Nichole: Yeah, for sure a change. And I just found Carrie’s argument so weak.

Natalie: So I wanted to ask about that. In general, before we get to the crux of the issue. With the tasting and the menus. Before the whole… fusion drama. Carrie is positioning herself sort of on the Us side of us vs them, as in, Team Harmony, vs Team Corporate. Like, I’m on your side, we’ll hide this, we’ll bend this rule. I’m also surprised she’s like got a desk there and is on site full time, I thought she’d sort of just check in on occasion and have more places to manage too. Anyway, I wanted your thoughts on that whole Us vs Them thing that kind of takes a turn.

Nichole: I was surprised by the desk too! Like, would she theoretically always be at the restaurant now? Is this temporary while they are establishing themselves? Because Carrie’s salary coming from essentially managing just Harmony Dumplings feels like a huge overhead. I think that Us vs. Them thing was always a little sus, but I think Carrie thought she meant it. What I didn’t like about the whole thing is that it really feels like it is Carrie’s ego that is making the situation bad. Yes, Sebastian is being a little disrespectful, but I think in Carrie’s position she needs to have a thicker skin.

Natalie: I mean, let’s go to the crux of the issue. She approved the food, then discovered one dish was a personally created Filipino fusion dish unique to their kitchen due to Sebastian’s invention. And sort of on principle is like, no, we can’t do that. This was a very weird take to me. At first it seemed like she was sort of saying that the corporate view was rigidly stuck on the branding element and won’t be flexible. But it doesn’t take into account that the place has a built-in clientele. Like, who are they marketing the restaurant to? The “audience” already exists. And Sebastian is right, regarding “boundaries between Asian cuisines” — it isn’t inauthentic to do so, it’s always been done, and there’s a lot of American Chinese food that isn’t at all traditional Chinese food either. Like it’s a weird sticking point on a principle I guess. But I don’t get what clients they think they’ll lose.

Nichole: Yeah, I felt the same way. In my experience, most American Chinese restaurants have some fusion elements. It feels like a draw to me, to be honest. This is why the whole corporate thing is bad. It’s a bit like Anthony’s campaign manager trying to slot Jin into the corporate political machine — it misses out on what is actually good about someone or something. ACAB but the C stands for corporations.

Natalie: So you think Carrie’s behavior is a personal grudge against Sebastian’s behavior? Like for pushing back?

Nichole: I don’t think Carrie necessarily thinks it is. In her mind she’s probably just protecting the brand from a threat, but it felt more like, “This guy doesn’t like me therefore I need dirt.” And if she were less ego-driven she could easily see why he feels defensive and anxious and work with that. Instead of choosing the nuclear option right away.

Natalie: I mean it’s Mei-Li that lays down the law and says this is MY kitchen, not Seb. It’s a misdirected attack. But I also don’t get why they aren’t looking at reality and seeing that you know, the menu reinvention pre-quake was doing well, and that the Harmony clientele eat what Mama Shen tells them they want. When Mei-Li took back over as head chef she did creative weird things anyway.

Nichole: Yeah, it is a ding-dong move to try to stifle Mei-Li, but that’s corporate short-sightedness for you. But also, Mei-Li lays down the law, but Carrie knows she did it because she values Sebastian and so I’m sure she thinks Mei-Li will be more biddable without Sebastian in the way.

Natalie: It’s also like… just put the food on the menu and if people don’t buy it then there’s your answer. It’s not like they’re pre-making it and it’s going to waste.

Nichole: None of it made sense. Maybe next week after they solve Chloe’s thing, Chloe can invest in the restaurant so we can kick these corporate big-wigs to the curb.

Natalie: Mei-Li does her best to sort of make this peaceful and ask Seb to chill out a bit. I mean I love them so much, how defensive he is of her, and their vision, and how willing he is to support her.

Nichole: Yes. Exactly. Mei-Li has the situation completely handled, but Carrie is about to ruin it all!

Natalie: The end part is certainly a strange moment in how she observes them and seems… upset, or jealous, or at least disapproving. Witnessing their bond, realizing that personal loyalty will come first. And that Mei-Li will defend Sebastian I guess.

Nichole: YES TO ALL OF THAT. That was what really rubbed me the wrong way and lost Carrie all of my goodwill.

Natalie: What do you think she is thinking here? Like, “I must weaken that”?

Nichole: Yeah, my take was that she feels threatened by Sebastian and his sway with Mei-Li. So, she wants to secure her role as Mei-Li’s trusted confidant.

Natalie: So she immediately goes to look at Sebastian’s details and in fairness we can’t say she was looking for some dirt, she may have been like, okay, how long has he worked here or whatever. It may have started as sort of shady but vaguely innocent curiosity like ‘I need to know more about this relationship,’ but obviously she found his criminal history.

Nichole: The way steam literally blew out of my ears.

Natalie: This actually raises the question for me of whether Mei-Li knew this before Ryan did. Like was it there in black and white on his application.

Nichole: I was curious about that too.

Natalie: That feels like it may have been a slight error, like the fact that he has the charge on file when I feel like he didn’t disclose it when he got the job but I don’t know why is it NOW in his file if he got the job without it. Or maybe he did disclose it and Mei-Li kept it secret. Anyway, I don’t think it’s illegal for him to have a job or anything

Nichole: It’s possible Mei-Li knew he’d been in prison, but didn’t pry about the why.

Natalie: But I guess Carrie will use it to say that it’s a bad image. The file does say voluntary manslaughter.

Nichole: Oh did it? I think I got so mad I blocked it out.

Natalie: And I can’t see why that would be in his file now if it wasn’t there when he got the job. Yeah, it’s on his application for Harmony. When he filled out the form to get the job. So they must have known and Mei-Li didn’t tell Ryan. Whether the writers intended that or not that’s now incidentally canon.

Nichole: Assuming Mei-Li knew and kept it private, I actually love that. Like, that is Sebastian’s business.

Natalie: Yeah, that would be the retroactive truth because this detail is on the application form from the restaurant itself. So when he came to try for the job. I can’t remember if it sounded like he lied when we met him, but they’ve backfilled the truth to be that it was all legally disclosed and he was hired with full awareness.

Nichole: I don’t remember there being any sense that he hadn’t disclosed it to the restaurant — just not to Ryan. But I honestly can’t remember what we thought about that at the time.

Natalie: And that Mei-Li didn’t tell Ryan, though I guess Ryan learned the truth before Mei-Li knew they were dating. I forgot they kept it kind of secret even though people obviously knew.

Nichole: What do you think Carrie’s threat will be? Will it be a simple ultimatum about firing him or withdrawing support, or will there be a touch of blackmail involved.

Natalie: I really don’t know. I feel like she won’t be the bad guy herself, she will act like the middle man, “Oh I had to report this and oh THEY’VE said this.”

Nichole: Hmmm.

Natalie: I feel like Sebastian will be like… it’s okay Mei-Li. You have to do it. I want you to do it. And it will be very sad

Nichole: But… but… my son! Maybe instead of the Dennis depression arc, we’re getting the Sebastian depression arc.

Natalie: That is much less appealing to me. This is so unfair!

Nichole: I can’t imagine Mei-Li taking this sitting down. Even if she does it, she’d be looking for a solution long-term, I think.

Natalie: Yeah, I mean at the start of the season Bob and Kim insisted that Carrie isn’t the villain of this. Right now I can’t see how whatever falls out is going to be forgivable though.

Nichole: Yeah. It feels bad.

Natalie: Well, Jin’s also not in a great situation honestly. Everything is kind of going downhill!

Nichole: Yeah, Jin’s situation got messy fast!

Natalie: We don’t really know what his day to day role now is, but it seems like he’s a special personal advisor, I guess, someone actively getting involved in conversations and reporting back the temperature of things to Anthony. I’m still not 100% sure what position Anthony is going for and how big a deal it is that it needs a TV interview — but maybe I’m misunderstanding the power of local government in that city. I don’t feel like our local council members are on the news for the whole city. But anyway, it seems to be a big deal and they’re still on about this ordinance 11 thing, the support or opposition to hiring out private security to patrol the city I suppose. Anthony is against it, which is meant to be the “right” choice, and Jin says that young people get the issue but people of his generation don’t and just want help fast. What did you make of that, the whole idea of the older people, maybe the business owners, not being interested in the ethics or whatever of the security hire?

Nichole: It was a little surprising that it was that direction. That the young people got it and the older people were essentially willing to go for the quick fix. But, also the business owners have more to lose, I guess.

Natalie: Whoever this young woman advising him is at least isn’t condescending to Jin but I found it a bit funny that it was like “You’re seen as weak on all counts.” Do we know what Anthony is actually good at? Anyway the point is, she has this opposition research, like, making someone try to dig dirt on Anthony to see what kind of thing that could be used against him, and there are some shady photos he’s clearly trying to hide. A handshake deal of some kind. What are your thoughts on Anthony at the moment in terms of the long game?

Nichole: My gut feeling is that whatever is in those photos look worse than they are. Like they can ruin him, but he is probably not bad himself. I don’t think he’s corrupt.

Natalie: Neither do I, but he might be incompetent. I don’t know, I don’t know if the long game will be him succeeding or like Jin replacing him as the candidate.

Nichole: I was wondering about Jin replacing him, but it seems impractical at this point in the campaign.

Natalie: It does seem impractical but this is TV and Althea is banned from the internet so… Anyway, choosing to hide the pictures was clearly a bad move and the right thing to do would have been to explain the situation then and there, given that this is the point of the research. Anyway, when he’s mugged, it is obviously clear to us immediately that the pictures are the target. Do you think it’s like, an inside job?

Nichole: I wondered, but the woman who gave him the research didn’t seem like a good suspect. But somehow they knew there was something in there.

Natalie: Maybe that other campaign manager? I don’t know.

Nichole: Maybe. He was an asshole, so…

Natalie: Do you have any theories at all about what the thing in the pics actually was?

Nichole: I don’t really. A youthful indiscretion?

Natalie: It looked like he was meeting someone at a car and looked kind of recent but I assume we will find out. I guess I’m a bit surprised Jin didn’t press to find out when Anthony makes a fuss of it being stolen and Jin is like you said it wasn’t that bad. But he’s pretty new at all of this.

Nichole: Yeah. Jin sensed right away that something was wrong, but he didn’t press.

Natalie: Luckily he knows a private investigator. Why the cleaning bee? Why? Just to bring me some joy? It was a funny way of representing like, we don’t have a lot of money so we need a paying client. I didn’t even think of that, it sort of didn’t even need to be a thing, but look at them cleaning together!

Nichole: SO CUTE! Also, Althea’s energy has to go somewhere.

Natalie: Evan thinks Althea is adorable, he is so fond.

Nichole: Yes. The way he enjoys her is perfect.

Natalie: It’s so funny, again, I want a backstory episode of them in high school. Maybe that can be the season 4 wacky ep, a throwback but have the adults still play themselves as teens.

Nichole: YES. OMG. I need it.

Natalie: You know they’ll give Dennis some really stupid hair.

Nichole: He’d be the perfect nerd.

Natalie: Evan is a world class hottie but they’d have to shave his beard and it will be so strange.

Nichole: Oh man. I don’t know if I could handle that.

Natalie: Anyway I’m excited for their union and eventual polyamory. I’m such a hypocrite, I’m like, man, what awesome friends with such a long history, this friendship is so important. But also, kiss.

Nichole: But when you think about it, kissing is also so important.

Natalie: Look. I’m just bummed we didn’t get to meet Fancy John.

Nichole: What is the Fancy for?

Natalie: Long story. That I really wanted to hear.

Nichole: DVD Extra

Natalie: I mean… A surveillance nut? Althea bribing him with cookies? A thing that’s happened since high school? I mean this could go a lot of ways. Some shady. Some sweet.

Nichole: It didn’t seem too nefarious.

Natalie: I assume he’s a little old man with big glasses and satin jackets. Fancy. Maybe he’s known for his quirky hats.

Nichole: Lol. Maybe he’ll get a cameo at some point.

Natalie: Althea needs her sources!

Nichole: Oh good point. He may make another appearance.

Natalie: I don’t think I’ll get tired any time soon of her and Evan smirking at each other as they work together.

Nichole: It is so charming. They are such a good pair.

Natalie: I hope Nadia doesn’t get in trouble for using her role to pass on information to PIs. We already went through all of this when Evan worked there.

Nichole: Nadia needs a protection circle.

Natalie: Well, they recover this all pretty simply and can I just point out the “Althea Half” of the office?

Nichole: She’s making it her own!

Natalie: Like, Evans side is all dark paneled wood and green and like noir office and then Althea’s side is this sort of light coloured warehouse vibe with a pink chair. It’s like it was cut down the middle, not just the decorations but the style of the room! It’s so funny to me.

Nichole: It reminds me of an 80s detective show with mismatched detectives, like Moonlighting or Remington Steele. Except they like each other and are definitely not going to kiss.

Natalie: Maybe just a little kiss?

Nichole: Ok, maybe a little one. On the cheek.

Natalie: I’ve always thought Moonlighting would be a good show to reboot but gender swapped. Like the boy (Jensen Ackles?) being the model.

Nichole: Good yes. Maybe like Abbi Jacobson as Bruce Willis.

Natalie: What about Brianna?

Nichole: Oh god. I just started sweating.

Natalie: Like, I am really just keeping my interests niche but… it would be so good. And they’re so, so hot together.

Nichole: They really are.

Natalie: Anywho. If anyone needs me I’ll be living inside Evan’s affectionate laugh and smile when Althea gets to say case closed!

Nichole: Paradise.

Natalie: So of course it can’t be all that clean and simple though. Of course the crucial piece of material is missing from the briefcase when Anthony is about to go on the air.

Nichole: Of course. I have to say, I really liked the actor who plays Anthony here, Donald Heng. He did a really good job in that interview. It was really emotional to watch.

Natalie: He definitely sells his perspective as both authentic to the viewers of the in-world TV show, and to us as clearly scared. But what happens when he’s on air — changing his mind on voting on Ord 11 — seems to imply that he knows exactly who is responsible for the blackmail and that of course it’s to do with some outside pressure on this matter. So, a connection I guess to the person who hired the disaster drama maker. Do we think it’s as simple as his opposition candidate or a bigger bad?

Nichole: I think it probably ties back into the corporate security potential big bad. Like, they captured that one guy whose name escapes me, but he was just a pawn. Someone is trying to make money on Chinatown’s suffering.

Natalie: Hmmm. A pretty dramatic ending as yet unresolved for Jin. His poor face!

Nichole: That shot on Jin was so good! The way his whole body language changes.

Natalie: I feel like he’s going to push and Anthony will yell at him and he will be sad and I can’t handle it.

Nichole: I don’t know, I got more of a sense that we are going to see a different, more forceful side of Jin. He didn’t seem happy. Disappointed dad isn’t just disappointed, he’s also mad.

Natalie: He definitely seems mad but I don’t know. I already feel like he’s sort of parenting this kid and I feel like that shouldn’t be the dynamic for a grown ass politician but clearly he needs some guidance.

Nichole: Yeah. He’s on the wrong path for sure. Let’s switch over to the realm now and check in with Zhilan and Simon and all of the remaining souls. When we left them Zhilan had offered to fight the Harvester for them. The plan is moving ahead, but there is some chatter amongst the souls about the wisdom of trusting a murderer like Zhilan.

Natalie: I mean, she cannot be the only murderer in the realm. Every single person from every guardian family is intrinsically good? Mia’s dad sold her to Russell Tan! What would they think of him?

Nichole: I hope they would hate him as much as I do!

Natalie: Honestly these spirits are very picky.

Nichole: They really are, but sweet Simon has a pep talk for her. Simon seems to have really come around to Zhilan. Do you have any thoughts on the growth in their relationship?

Natalie: Definitely sort of a “You’re my new person” foxhole situation, especially because he is the one sort of vouching for her even when everyone is like she murdered Simon! He’s like I’m right here and I like her 🙂 Or at least is kind of willing to go to bat for her because he believes she’s the best option, could just be totally manipulative but I don’t think so.

Nichole: He doesn’t seem like the manipulative type. He seems very upfront. So he gives her a pep talk and a special sword, which didn’t seem particularly different from all the other swords, but it’s the thought that counts.

Natalie: Well, as soon as he gave her the sword I knew he was dead. So I gave up sort of being invested in where it was going after that, lol. I think his special sword was metal and the sword he had later was just shaped wood though. So he gave her the best weapon.

Nichole: I was not super surprised he died. I mean, he was already dead, but I have to say I was a little disappointed that we were back to last year’s specialty: A Plan That Fails In Every Way.

Natalie: Look, I still think the reaped souls have to be reborn into the restored realm. I mean maybe not, the power of them obviously plays a role later in the episode. But I still feel like they’re being captured in a pokeball

Nichole: Yeah, I am a bit hopeful that they exist somewhere.

Natalie: I feel like maybe at the end of the season they’ll all tumble out into the restored spirit realm or something, however they fix it. I’m jumping ahead a bit to Simon’s death… What do you make of him and Zhi?

Nichole: I think I probably should have assumed he was dying because I was like, “This relationship is really nice.” I like the way Simon was so honest with her and blunt, but still accepted her in the end. But to go back to the plan — it turns out to be that Simon uses himself as bait to lure the Harvester into the cave, then traps him there with Zhilan, but not before he gets in a snappy dig, “You’re strong, but not too bright.” Zhilan and the Harvester ended up having a bit of a heart to heart.

Natalie: So this was around the time I became almost positive that the Harvester is someone important who we already know. I mean I didn’t expect him to talk!

Nichole: He was also a bit reluctant to kill her.

Natalie: He did seem like, ambivalent-to-reluctant to kill her. We know the actor literally doing this body work isn’t a known person to the show, but the modulated voice… I mean…

Nichole: Yeah, I really, really want it to be Kerwin. Are there other possibilities?

Natalie: For a second, due to what happens elsewhere in the ep, I thought maybe a dark future of Henry. Or maybe the Emperor, Xiao made him a slave? But I feel like it has to be Kerwin.

Nichole: Kerwin feels right to me, but the idea that he is linked to Henry somehow is also interesting.

Natalie: He did NOT want to kill her, he peaced out of that cave fast. But maybe that’s because he’s focused on his soul gathering job.

Nichole: She couldn’t power up his special sword.

Natalie: I am still fairly convinced he’s not like, an evil evil evil killer. I think he’s sending them on somewhere. Well, right now into Xiao but…

Nichole: As soon as he just blipped out, my stomach dropped. I really didn’t want Zhilan to fail those souls.

Natalie: It isn’t Zhilan’s fault, but do they know he can vanish like that? Because locking her in somewhere she can’t physically get out of seems counter productive if they know he can blip.

Nichole: They must not have known he could do that.

Natalie: Poor spirit babies.

Nichole: I was so upset to see them go down one by one. Poor Simon. And, of course, Zhilan manages to get out just in time to see Simon go down fighting. That little pause before he disappeared… I cry.

Natalie: He was so brave and good. Her scream, like, she really cares.

Nichole: She does. SHE DOES. I just love her character development so much. Now she’s trapped and alone, but the good news is that the story of the realm now connects more directly into the main story via the magic charge up sword, but I guess, we have to catch back up to that point before we go into it.

Natalie: Where do you see this going for Zhilan from here? Or is that something to cover when we get to the other point of view witnessing her time in the realm? Because obviously the spirits and Zhilan don’t know it but this is connected to the other plot!

Nichole: Yeah, I don’t know how to talk about where she’s going without talking about the connection.

Natalie: Fair enough, let’s go back around again. I’ve got to say, out of all the openings in all the world, Althea gives Pei-Ling a makeover was not something that ever even cracked my top 100 ideas. I was surprised-to-startled to see it.

Nichole: I thought it was funny how Althea had evidently been DYING to do it.

Natalie: I have some questions about Pei-Ling’s monk vows or whatever, like doesn’t she want to go back to those clothes? Maybe it would be weird to walk around in them but people do it right? Like, I’ve seen monks or nuns. I feel like every time I see her in civilian clothes it’s sort of sad and sloppy and it feels really displaced to me, maybe Althea feels the same… It was a nice silk bomber jacket.

Nichole: Yeah, I mean, I have also been dying to see her in cute clothes so I relate to Althea here. The outfit was nice. I still think all of Althea’s clothes out like a shopping center is so funny. I’m looking forward to her having her own place where her clothes fit.

Natalie: Some people like to have their clothes exposed like that by choice… but yeah. I wonder where Dennis’s stuff is. Anyway how did you react when the stabbening occurred? I definitely thought it was real.

Nichole: I knew it wasn’t real, because it was too sudden and looked lethal. I mean, I definitely jumped and my brain was going WTF, but I was mostly WTFing because I knew it couldn’t be real.

Natalie: It seemed plausible to me, but apparently just an intrusive urge. Which raises the question, if Pei-Ling is worried about being a danger and won’t live in the house, why is she visiting? But never mind that.

Nichole: Yeah, I feel like the Pei-Ling danger level is not fully established. Or, wasn’t, previously.

Natalie: Unfortunately, this crisis is yet another blocker for Bo. Nicky is really, really insistently dedicated in a way that continues to surprise me, but do you think his questioning about her availability was fair? Do you think it was more in the vein of do you have time for me, or more like, are you emotionally available. The whole ex’s apartment thing, I mean, it looks bad to an outsider!

Nichole: I fell so in love with Bo for setting boundaries! VERY HEALTHY! I think he could tell in his gut that there was more going on than she wanted to share, and that was fine, but it meant he also couldn’t be sort of all in. You’re doing great, sweetie.

Natalie: Yeah, I think I agree. If it was just like… oh sulky because you don’t have time for me, oh your friend is sick? Boo hoo… I’d be against it. But it felt a lot more measured than a request for attention. Very self assured. Daddy is back.

Nichole: He was very Daddy this episode.

Natalie: Thank you for the validation.

Nichole: I finally saw what you saw.

Natalie: There you go! This is a mature-ass man aside from his floppy hair

Nichole: Very grown up and not at all 17 years old.

Natalie: Like there’s a higher emotional intelligence than Nicky is used to, I think. Anyway, what did you think of Nicky being so determinedly dedicated to him despite the circumstances? Do you feel like we know why? Why she likes him so much? Probably the daddy energy. Competence kink. He’s unflappable.

Nichole: Yeah, and he did drop everything and come save her family, which can forge a bond. But, you know, sometimes you just have a gut feeling about someone. The first time I saw Aaron I literally said, “I’m going to marry him.” So, I live in a glass house on this issue.

Natalie: More on this later, but I don’t have a ton of hope for Hicky after this, like especially once Bo understands why Henry is a permanent part of the Shen circle and is in on the secrets. She is making a real choice to commit.

Nichole: It certainly didn’t look too good for Hicky this episode, because I think we also saw Henry committing to being a good friend regardless of the romance situation.

Natalie: An interesting choice for the show. Committing to Bo also gives them another character to fold in and sort of give perspective to among a HUGE cast!

Nichole: Well, what are the odds we’re going to have some tragic deaths this season? To slim down the cast.

Natalie: There’s not a lot of people right now I’m willing to lose?

Nichole: SAME. Obviously not a Shen.

Natalie: Do you think Pei-Ling and Zhilan both might go? That seems possible but like… please, they ain’t randomly killing Dennis or Sebastian either. Henry maybe, if Eddie wanted to leave for some reason, I could feasibly see this compass thing ending badly… but I don’t know. That’s a lot of grief to drop on the group.

Nichole: In some ways, Pei-Ling, like Simon, might have an expiration date because she was already dead. I don’t want that. I won’t be happy with it, but it definitely feels on the table. Henry probably makes the most narrative sense. I feel like he could have a really good arc and they could make it really meaningful. But, I DO NOT WANT.

Natalie: Look. I don’t know. Let’s focus on the now.

Nichole: Ok. Okay.

Natalie: So Nicky I guess spends the night looking after Pei-Ling who is getting very weak from holding in Xiao. Ryan says like, medically sick, low vital signs so I guess that’s like heart rate, breath rate, temperature and stuff. She isn’t well, and Nicky has to cancel on Bo again to take care of her. No fireworks for you, Nicky.

Nichole: It was a little optimistic of her, tbh.

Natalie: I guess it was, but when Althea called her away she had no idea how bad it was. What do you think of Ryan being the one to tell her to bring Bo in on the secret of their lives? Is it premature? What would you need to trust someone with that? We never really saw Ryan tell Sebastian the whole deal but we can assume he and Dennis both know. I have no idea how like… some guy… would take that. I do feel like we are going to discover Bo has a roundabout connection. But trying to envision the sort of… broaching of it is hard.

Nichole: I think Ryan was right. Bo was already in pretty deep. I mean he hacked an FBI computer for her.

Natalie: Yeah, that’s true, he did do extreme crime for her but what if he’s just not able to believe in magic? Do they have proof?

Nichole: Then it’s probably better to have it out in the open sooner. So they can both move on.

Natalie: I feel like I’d be afraid of him reporting me to the authorities and having me put in a mental ward. “She thinks she caused the earthquake!” I can’t recall if they have any sort of proof at all about their magical connections these days. Any way to demonstrate power or… anything.

Nichole: I don’t know that they do, but they do have a lot of weird things happening, which he obviously has seen the edges of.

Natalie: I guess we will find out soon as this all ends with her planning to tell him, but it could go badly for them if he’s like lol I already know and I know all about you. That could turn her off him, so it probably isn’t that…

Nichole: I cannot figure out his deal. There has to be something right?

Natalie: Has to be. I’m sure he knows something about her from afar and he’s maybe testing her, waiting for her to come to him, see how long it takes. But that sounds kind of sinister. Maybe just like leaving it in her hands, waiting to see how long it takes her to trust me. Like “Thank you for telling me at last, but I am aware.” Would you see that as shady?

Nichole: It feels a little shady. He made a pretty big show this episode of needing to have a level of honesty between them, so that wouldn’t come across great.

Natalie: I really don’t know either. I’m extremely confused by it all at the moment and the way it ended made me think we will cut to the next episode and get a summary that Bo has been told and is processing it and that is that. But I feel like there has to be something!

Nichole: I would like to see the conversation, but you’re probably right.

Natalie: Anyway, Ryan is also the one that pushes Nicky to get Henry in on the research, reminding us that Henry has a degree and a very serious passion in the whole Chinese folklore and mythology stuff. He’s the best resource for investigating the deal with Xiao or finding something that may help Pei-Ling. Again this is probably smart advice. It may feel weird for Nicky to keep “using” Henry in this way, but he’s in the circle, so…

Nichole: Yeah, I think this episode made a good start at getting Henry involved because of his own interest in what they are doing rather than as Nicky’s ex boyfriend.

Natalie: I mean, we don’t know if he has a lot of other friends outside of the group who aren’t connected to his life of crime. Maybe he will reconnect with Razor. I still think he and Evan need an episode together where a) they discuss how weird it is to sort of be wrapped up in her life this way as the exes, genuinely moved on or otherwise, but still “family”… and b) discuss what Henry did to Nicky and what Nicky did to Evan by leaving.

Nichole: Yes. That could be cathartic for them both.

Natalie: I think something that stood out to me when Nicky visited Henry is that also, Henry doesn’t have anyone else to talk to about his big life issues. Like, ex-gf or not, the Shoobies are the only people Henry can share with about his own deal, they somewhat need each other, the inner circle of support has to transcend dating. Unless he wants to cry on the shoulder of the Wan Zai, which, spoiler alert, he does not.

Nichole: They have all been through a lot together and they do need each other and LOVE each other.

Natalie: I definitely felt like when she comes and tells him what’s going on and he offers to help, it wasn’t so much like “because I love you in that way,” but because of another level of unconditional love or loyalty or even duty, like this is what we do, being split up doesn’t change the fact that our group is dedicated to these things and they’re important. Even before that, he’s very very good, open, not sulky, not mopey like before, willing to deliver blenders.

Nichole: Yes. He seems to be in a better place in terms of moving forward with Nicky without the relationship.

Natalie: The problem at hand is distinctly bigger than a blender and he is willing to still be there and invest time and effort into a friend’s magical life or death situation. Ryan and Pei-Ling do pretty well with the research on their own though, discovering the truth about how Xiao died, imprisoned by the emperor in a magic cage and starved to death. I can’t work out if Xiao, back then, was meant to have been evil — I mean the emperor wanted a lot from her, immortal life and all, and she found ways to do it but the ways she invented made her mind seem like a pretty dark place… But ultimately he pushed her into doing these experiments then didn’t want to deal with her any more?

Nichole: I guess it makes sense that she’s pissed.

Natalie: Do you think there’s going to be a sympathetic angle to Xiao?

Nichole: Pei-Ling obviously felt some sympathy for her, so maybe? I think there’s a sympathetic angle there, but I don’t think Xiao is going to take the bait and reform.

Natalie: I certainly don’t think that, but I can’t work out if she’s used and abused or independently evil. I feel like her creating the bloodlines means she is sort of key to remaking the spirit realm.

Nichole: I don’t know. I do hope the spirit realm is remade, but I don’t know. What if the endgame is more actually taking the source of Nicky’s power out of the world, for real this time? They toyed with it at the end of season 1.

Natalie: I don’t know. Maybe. That would be a neat ending to the series if they don’t think they’re getting more than three seasons. That would feel fairly final.

Nichole: It certainly would.

Natalie: Anyway, exorcism via magic candle isn’t where I expected this to go, but you know what? Sure.

Nichole: You just have to roll with it.

Natalie: I liked the whole, spotting the clue that Danny probably was the one to lift it from the museum, but of course that victory moment of like, “Oh my god, we can do this,” is seen by Bo and there’s another mature and rational statement from him. I liked that he didn’t want to text about the issues and I liked that he doesn’t get angry, he’s just very firm.

Nichole: D…addy

Natalie: It’s kind of interesting, he feels like the dominant party in the relationship between him and Nicky, like not in a… not in a domineering way, but in the way that Seb and Althea are the dominant personalities in the power dynamic. Nicky was dominant to Henry, but I think Bo is dominant to Nicky.

Nichole: Bo is very upfront and I like that.

Natalie: That dynamic is kind of unusual to watch in a show with Nicky as the lead hero. But not… bad. Nicky isn’t immune to Daddy.

Nichole: I think she does need someone who can stand up to the craziness in her life and not feel threatened or “less.”

Natalie: Maybe take the whole being the leader and being in control away from her in private… That sounds kinky and like sure, okay, but she and Henry had growing pains due to their internal dynamic of leader and follower, maybe her being with someone who really didn’t relate to her in that context, who can sort of re-set the dynamic and give her a chance to put that down a bit…

Nichole: It could be really good for her. It certainly is this episode.

Natalie: All relationships have some sort of power dynamic at play, and I don’t mean that in a kinky way. It’s just a fact, very few people are totally level. It doesn’t mean they aren’t equal or aren’t happy or whatever, just everyone has some sort of a dynamic based on personality types, and Nicky/Henry and Nicky/Bo really have that difference in sort of Nicky’s boss levels. Bo telling her what’s what in a sort of mature and responsible way is a new side to her, seeing her like… the less “powerful” party, someone who’s calling the shots about what he wants and she’s sort of floundering at them… I don’t know. It weirdly really works. Maybe this is like how high flying CEOs go to a dominatrix.

Nichole: lol. Ok. I’ve definitely read that fic.

Natalie: I mean, that happens a lot in real life!

Nichole: So I hear!

Natalie: People in really highly powered or responsible positions… like someone to take charge of them and not treat them that way for a bit. I don’t think Nicky needs a dominatrix. But she might need a daddy.

Nichole: The other day my mom was like, “I should read your articles.” No. No, you shouldn’t.

Natalie: Oh no. No, mom. No. You’ll just have to write something else she can read.

Nichole: Maybe Subjectify needs to cover JB’s animated show, Firebuds. I could probably write about that without anal fingering and dominatrices. Maybe.

Natalie: Maybe! It’s good to have goals.

Nichole: I just snorted out loud.

Natalie: Leaving Daddy behind for now — kudos again for his firm statement of the situation without making it sound like a whiny, manipulative, ultimatum — what did you think of Henry offering the Wan Zai the compass? He’s very cute when he says, you know, “they don’t know that” but I’m like Henners, they absolutely do.

Nichole: I thought he was going to get away with it! I’m so naive. Lol. But, man, Yuen is such a stone-cold bitch [semi-affectionate].

Natalie: Really???

Nichole: Yes. Look, no one has done this, no one knows what it can do. Danny’s partner didn’t know the truth. And even having the compass, Henry didn’t know how to activate it. I don’t know. It seemed like he could get away with it.

Natalie: I guess that’s true, but the inner circle of the Wan Zai must have known what the compass would do when Danny was tasked with collecting the lodestone. They knew theoretically what it did, and then I guess Yuen put the pieces together when she saw how Danny acted about the compass after all that. The Wan Zai are interesting. They’re, like we said last season, kind of… not amoral, but big picture moral regardless of personal human costs. They definitely seem like, theoretically good, they’re just anti power being used, even by good people. Which makes it interesting to me that Yuen was willing to let Nicky and Henry use the candle for a magic ritual. Who gets to decide how and when the magic objects are worth using?

Nichole: Yeah, she set herself up as the judge for that. She did want to know before she gave them the instructions. I guess she was keeping her options open to give them the candle, but not the operating instructions.

Natalie: This one in particular I guess is like “what’s the harm? This will either not work, or do a good thing.” And apparently she trusts Nicky and Henry. A corrupt Wan Zai could do a lot of damage, but Yuen isn’t corrupt, she just went against Danny because Danny had personal stakes. I’m not too surprised she wants Henry’s services and ultimately I’m not against it. It’s better than being used by someone like Zarco. Henry could do a lot of good with the Wan Zai if they aren’t corrupt and I don’t think it’s a bad deal. I’m just relieved she didn’t drag him off then and there

Nichole: It did look like she was going to for a hot minute. I imagine her request will come at the most inopportune time.

Natalie: You’re probably right. I feel like she shot herself in the foot a bit honestly because given time I think Henry would naturally have used his gift in this way for his dad’s legacy. She didn’t have to make it weird and force it.

Nichole: That’s Yuen’s specialty. I hated her so much, but now I actually just think she’s super socially awkward, not evil.

Natalie: Hahahahahah that would be an interesting development, just like a sort of cold, blunt, inability to be good at people-managing. I mean she was a bit like “your father’s ridiculous obsession with protecting you” like… not into personal bonds, is she?

Nichole: She is not. That was such a funny line. A father? Protecting his son? There must be something nefarious going on!

Natalie: Oh Yuen. You are a funny one. You need to come over for waffles. Then you’ll see.

Nichole: She needs waffles.

Natalie: Anyway, what did you make of learning that this candle thing would be a face your demons moment for Pei-Ling? A whole self-service exorcism situation?

Nichole: I love it. Pei-Ling has been a bit withdrawn this season in a way that has made me sad to see, so it makes sense that she has to fight that fear to reclaim her life.

Natalie: She looked pretty dang ill by this point, not to mention the chain.

Nichole: Not going to lie, that chain cracked me up.

Natalie: I’m sure that was her choice but it looked very disturbing.

Nichole: She’s chained up, but then Ryan is standing RIGHT next to her. Like, she could definitely still kill him!

Natalie: He can dash out of reach!

Nichole: Can he though?

Natalie: I don’t know man, I guess it’s a precaution. They could have made the chain shorter, sure.

Nichole: It turns out not to matter anyway, when it counts.

Natalie: It’s an interesting group guarding her during the ritual — Althea and Henry plus Nicky. Althea never does the magic stuff!

Nichole: How about her speaking Latin? I was like, “Is Althea possessed now?” What can’t she do?

Natalie: Google stuff?

Nichole: She CAN she just MAY not.

Natalie: Now, in Pei-Ling’s mind, she’s no longer playing Xiao, right? That’s a different actress, Xiao’s true form? Under the veil.

Nichole: Yes! That was pretty cool. I wonder if it is the same actress that played her when we first see her creating the bloodlines?

Natalie: Well, either way she’s not stoked on the situation. Did anything in particular stand out to you about the sort of challenge of it all? The things she was saying to Pei-Ling?

Nichole: I thought it was interesting that she was poking at her for not taking advantage of this new life. It was true, in a way, but also, Pei-Ling knew something was wrong with her. Her gut wasn’t wrong on that count, so I don’t think she felt safe to throw herself into a new life. I know the danger is not totally managed at this point, but I do hope it gives Pei-Ling the confidence to be more herself now.

Natalie: Yeah, I think the whole embracing life thing is what stuck out to me. It sort of leapt out because of what we talked about before — the trope of a revived character being like it’s wrong that I’m alive, the balance is off, borrowed time. This was very much like “fight for your right to life, girl!” So maybe Pei-Ling won’t die in the long run? We aren’t being fed the idea that it’s wrong for her to be alive.

Nichole: Fingers crossed! There doesn’t seem to be a moral imperative for her to die.

Natalie: I was honestly kind of surprised when they started mirroring the fights — with Zhilan and all. Like when it started cutting back and forth between them and you realize it’s connected. Let alone Henry vibing in to bear witness. A lot sort of conglomerated at once!

Nichole: It did! It took me by surprise too! I was really thinking of Xiao as disconnected from the realm at this point. And, of course, it makes sense that Henry’s power might be activated by being in close contact with magic, but I still did not see any of that coming.

Natalie: So the Harvester’s collection of blue soul powers strengthen Xiao. To me this means the basic essence of the realm is within her I guess, that “source,”? It’s growing inside of her? I don’t see how dead souls disappearing to nothing could power her, they must be stored. How she made the connection with this “friend on the outside” I have no idea, but the way it cut from Henry tuning in, to the Harvester, I felt like he was connected to him in some way. Not just the magic. It made me wonder if it was Henry himself in some way, not Kerwin, like he has to enter the realm and sort of loop around in time or something and save Zhilan and collect the souls in order to reset the realm. But that’s kind of wild. Just the way it was shot made me think they were connected.

Nichole: I’m still hung up on it being Kerwin, but I do like the theory.

Natalie: Well, Henry’s involvement in general doesn’t go over well with Xiao. Like you said, the chain is useless.

Nichole: She breaks it like it was paper!

Natalie: I know Eddie said he really enjoyed getting to work properly with Vanessa after all this time on set not interacting. Quite an intense time!

Nichole: That scene was no joke. Everyone was going through it.

Natalie: Now look. I’ve seen Supernatural. I know how locking up someone inside your mind turns out. NOT WELL, BITCH! Is this an unfair baggage to bring to this situation?

Nichole: I don’t think it is, but in this case, Pei-Ling seems to know this is a short term solution. It’s not like anyone seems to be like, “Thank goodness we’re done worrying about that!”

Natalie: I also feel like she doesn’t feel great about it. The whole using fear against her. Of all the issues at play, this seems to have a tone of like, bad ethics for her. Maybe she will visit Xiao within her mind palace and help her to deal with it all, because it does seem basically like Xiao was done wrong by her horrible death and all.

Nichole: It would be nice if Pei-Ling could give her some peace before she’s gone for good.

Natalie: Any thoughts on what’s going to happen there? Or how Henry seeing Zhilan is going to proceed?

Nichole: Once Henry tells Nicky and Pei-Ling, they’re obviously not going to want to leave her there, but even if they did, that realm and the Harvester is the source of Xiao’s power, so they need to take him out. But I can’t imagine that threat is going to be off the board as early as next week, so I’m not sure what will happen when they get there. Do you think we’ll get a reveal on who the Harvester is next week?

Natalie: Gosh, I don’t know. I hadn’t thought of it.

Nichole: I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Natalie: They don’t actually discuss seeing Zhilan, do they?

Nichole: Henry says it out loud at the end. To himself.

Natalie: Yeah, but not with Pei-Ling. Do you think that’s why he wasn’t handling what he saw and felt? When he says he needs time, he’s very shaken and upset. Is that just like… handling the power, or the image of what he actually saw?

Nichole: At first I think it was the handling of the power. I think it took him awhile, back at home, to actually filter what he saw and understand it.

Natalie: That’s another reason why I wondered if he is connected to the Harvester — if what he felt was himself doing those acts or channeling it.

Nichole: Oh, interesting. I’m not sure.

Natalie: I don’t know, either way it’s a lot. I guess he and Pei-Ling will team up soon to explore this.

Nichole: I can’t wait!

Natalie: Nicky won’t be involved though because she’s too busy having the raciest sex this show has ever done to pick up the phone.

Nichole: OH. MY. GOD.

Natalie: I watch plenty of shows with plenty of ratings but I do sort of always park Kung Fu as like a family show in my mind, like a strong PG 13 at most and this was just really quite a strong sex scene for this show!

Nichole: Listen. I felt things.

Natalie: Daddy things?

Nichole: Yes, unfortunately, Daddy things. It was just so fucking hot. I think I blushed, to be honest.

Natalie: I’d like a detailed written apology for doubting me about Daddy.

Nichole: I should know better than to ever doubt you.

Natalie: I know a daddy when I see one even if he’s dressed like a teenager.

Nichole: Literal laugh out loud.

Natalie: There was certainly a powerful energy with the way he kind of caged her in with that lean off the door and then holding her against the wall. He’s not tentative in how he moves, very sort of, again, self assured and willing to take charge and she doesn’t seem to mind being swept off her feet and taken care of.

Nichole: It was ideal, for me, personally.

Natalie: I just wasn’t expecting active thrusting, really. Again, other shows with sex with full frontal nudity, no problem… here I was like oh my god! It seemed like a lot for Kung Fu in particular and I was quite startled.

Nichole: Look, if the CW is going to put them on at 9 pm, they gotta take advantage.

Natalie: You’re right, I mean I don’t watch other CW shows at the moment and I really feel like I’d forgotten that part of their reputation.

Nichole: They haven’t really leaned hard into that “CW sexy,” which I appreciate on the whole, but I did not mind this at all.

Natalie: I guess they haven’t had their big chat about the existence of mystical energy yet! Too distracted! Maybe we will get to see it.

Nichole: Fingers crossed! I want to see his reaction! Although next week looks pretty action-packed, so maybe not.

Natalie: At the moment which arc are you most urgently anticipating? Carrie? Anthony? Henry? Another one? What’s stressing you out worst

Nichole: Carrie is probably stressing me out the most. I’m most excited about the Henry/Pei-Ling/Xiao/Zhilan connection and what is happening there. I’m curious about Anthony, but I’m more interested in that one for Jin’s development rather than the plot of it. How about you?

Natalie: Gosh, I don’t know. Probably Henry also, maybe Anthony if it means Althevan are involved. There’s a lot of different threads going on really.

Nichole: Yeah, they managed to connect all the supernatural plots, but we have a few mundane ones hanging out in their own corners.

Natalie: Next week it looks like the Carrie/Sebastian thing will come to a head and I just want to know what we are dealing with, but as a side note we are also going back to the Dennis family issues which you know I think should have featured more. Maybe his mom and all will finally help sort out his father and his father’s terrible choices about supporting abusers.

Nichole: From your lips to the writers’ ears.

‘Kung Fu’ airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on The CW. Episodes stream free the next day on The CW website. ‘Kung Fu’ season 1 and 2 are streaming now on HBO Max.