Final instalment of Stephanie goes to UWRF + SWF! Today we’re talking environmental business, featuring activism, identity and the illegal wildlife trade; and sadly we’re not talking sand piracy.
Penultimate SWF/UWRF post. Today we’re talking about writing from the diaspora, the future of translation, and objects of piety and consumerism.
Today’s adventures in Southeast Asian writers festivals feature two panels from UWRF, one from SWF, and a broad look at the idea of the construction of space and borders in cities and minds.
Steph attended two panels on Spec Fic at SWF this last week. There were also two panels on horror, but she was unable to attend those. Under the cut: reading lists, Western-centric publishing, hantu on building sites.
Singapore is a tiny island with minimal resources, and so it’s been importing sand for land reclamation for 50 years. At first it purchased from its (poorer) Southeast Asian neighbours; those neighbours have since banned sand exports to Singapore. This has resulted in SAND PIRACY.
If you’ve been following my travel tumblr, you’ll already know a little bit about this, but today’s post here at NA builds on my blogging there and includes SANDING BY for SAND UPDATES so it’ll be a new adventure even for you!
The Peranakan Museum in Singapore is small but really lovely and interesting. Steph visited at 7:30 on a Friday night (half price Friday nights! That all museums would do such a thing).
Post is mostly about crockery and needlework, but does include some discussions of death (ooh ominous) and musings on religion.
With great delight, it’s time to experience the Most SF Future Museum Steph has ever visited; in the Most (Aesthetically) SF Future City Steph has ever lived.
In the final episode of Serangoon Road, we suffer through flashbacks of Winston’s last night, solve Winston’s murder, and I am fooled so thoroughly by how the show ends that I clapped my hands in delight.
We open with Winston’s Last Night, weirdly energetic fight-kissing with Joan (who isn’t wearing a cheongsam!!) and Winston on the ground. In a series of flashbacks we establish that Don passed by Winston (they conversed briefly), and that after visiting Second Wife he ended up tracing a path towards the Unionists Headquarters. How they do some of this detectiving is a mystery to me as they leap from Dixon Road looking for his favourite kopitiam to some other road and the union headquarters located upon it. I wish Don wouldn’t mumble so.
The effort to solve the mystery of Winston’s murder steps up its pace, as the well-dressed murderer from the previous episode is let out on bail and disappears into the streets of Singapore. While combing the streets with Joan, Don meets Claire’s gaze across Dixon Street. I laugh because it’s so awkward and I don’t want them to get back together. Don visits Professor Union Leader (E07) in jail, who is ALIVE after being SHOT IN THE HEART and arrested for being a unionist which I thought was a treasonous act? Who admits that he had a meeting with Winston but Winston never turned up so he thought nothing of it. Then he heard he was killed, and he knew his brother had paid for someone to intercept Winston but never mentioned this before? And that they had a meeting because Union Professor had paid Winston to investigate his brother James Lim? And Don just accepts this. Apparently. I don’t even know.
Pamelyn lays it on thick with how if CIA dude doesn’t help them find out about James Lim (the businessman from E03, and Professor Unionist’s brother) then the detective agency will close and her family will make her marry a Peranakan boy and she’ll never get to go to America with the love of her life. I roll my eyes so hard they’d fall out of my head if they hadn’t already done so at CIA dude’s horrendous Mandarin. Fortunately, Don makes fun of him on my behalf.
CIA dude does some snooping and discovers the file for James Lin exists but is empty; Big CIA Dude comes in and admits he knows CIA dude is the leak to MI6. This leads CIA dude to sass MI6 dude, and tries to play him, asking MI6 dude for stuff in return for directly helping him to get a position in Washington. In more white boy news, Frank comes to find Don, and the cinematography is excellent; Don is in the Black Orchid, laughing as he shakes hands to seal a deal with some Chinese dudes. Frank is actually excellent here, as a character though not as an actor, telling Don that he and Claire are leaving Singapore, but he wants Don to make his case to Claire because he’s not gonna spend the rest of his life with Claire if a part of her never leaves “here.”
Back at the Agency, CIA dude tells Pamelyn there’s no file on James Lin, like a big lying liar, and Joan’s songbirds are dead! It’s a threat! (“I can get her some for cheap, maybe even throw in a duck,” says my loveheart Alaric). Don however decides this is enough, and storms over to James Lin’s office where they can hear fighting about a key and JAMES LIN AND THE MURDERER DUDE ARE FIGHTING and then the murderer dude CUTS OFF JAMES LIM’S HEAD. It goes rolling down the stairs!
There’s a safe in the office, and Alaric and Don decide to break into it by using explosives. Yes. Excellent. As they’re setting it up Don asks how Alaric knew his gf was the one; “There’s only one Ju-E and I like her. There’s nobody else.” NO DON DON’T GO TO CLAIRE NO. Don asks if they’re using too much explosives; “what else am I gonna use this for?” which as you may suspect goes super well, but works to break open the safe. Alaric, after his financial woes, delights in dancing around as money falls from the sky and he shoves the cash into his pockets; Don is more interested in the folder lying there, with negatives and documentation.
A flashback reveals James Lin having dinner with a white dude; as if there’s ever any doubt, the white dude turns out to be Big CIA Dude. Don confronts Big CIA Dude (his name is Wild Bill, by the way), who is playing card games with other white dudes in some bar populated solely by non-Asians. Don threatens to take it to Ario, the murder of a chinese citizen, if Wild Bill doesn’t fess up; he fesses that James Lim had a silent partner, and Wild Bill didn’t care if James Lin dealing with the CIA went public so he’s not the one who had Winston killed but James Lim had political aspirations so probably didn’t; and maybe the silent partner cared…? IS IT THE TONGS I BET IT’S THE TONGS.
Back in the Agency, Joan makes a discovery and hears a sound, assumes it’s Don but obviously it’s not; it’s murderer dude. Joan cowers, is afraid, gets thrown around a lot but then she brains him with the giant rotary phone before stabbing him in the hand with a letter opener and then Don comes storming through and beats him like fuck.
After tying him to the couch and…leaving him there…Joan and Don decide to tell the Tiger General that Kay Song has been in partnership with James Lim to sell land to the CIA, on the grounds that the Tiger General would kill him for it.
In the Dragon House, the Tiger General is watching his coffin being made, as is a tradition. They ask for an audience (in English?!) and explain what’s been going on (IN ENGLISH?!) and when Kay Song gets his men to beat up Sam, Joan starts calling out for help IN ENGLISH out IN FRONT OF THE TONG HOUSE like that would ever help. Joan. Geeze.
The Tiger General gets mad at Kay Song: they come and they go and finally we have Singapore for ourselves, and you help the Americans take it. This is obviously a completely open and explicit discussion of colonialism and the possibility of being complicit in that; and perhaps a discussion of older Singaporean values versus more modern Singaporean values. He says “do not let me see the body,” of Song Ge; and then Song Ge suffocates Grandfather Dragon as they all just watch. He speaks softly; My grandfather had a heart attack, he says. We have witnesses. I’m sorry you had to be here for this sad day, Mrs Cheng, Sam. You may now leave me to my grief. It’s such a quiet, compelling, amazing scene of a psychopath and a community in the middle of a whole bunch of stuff that makes no sense.
In the CIA compound, or wherever these guys hang out, we find out that Wild Bill is being sent away and CIA dude gets to stay. MI6 dude is going to Washington, and hands over Pamelyn’s file to CIA dude. CIA dude makes him promise it’s the only copy. I kept my word, MI6 dude says. I hope she’s worth it. CIA dude basically chews the scenery through this entire section, as he always does.
We wrap up in a series of scenes across the Agency. Joan is looking at a photo of Winston; Don is looking pensive. Uncle Owner is dancing hilariously. Alaric and Ju-E are cuddling, CIA dude turns up to talk to Pamelyn, and Don is having memories of Claire. I bet he goes back to her, and I’m so boooreeedddd.
I realise that it’s Moon Festival, which is nice! There’s lanterns like I had as a kid (like I still have now), and family and moon cake and Joan gazing into her wine and she’s all “go to her” and I’m all NO JOAN WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT.
So Don is running and Claire and Frank are getting into the car Frank steps away. Don says he loves her; she slaps him. Don talks about how great they are and what they’ll do tonight instead of her leaving Singapore, and she makes out and she’s like “and what about tomorrow?” and he says “We’ll work it out” and “I love you” and Claire says “I’ll always love you” and “it’s too late” and then she walks away and gets into the car which has already started to drive away (I guess Frank thought she was gonna stay) and she just looks at Frank and gets in the car and doesn’t look back and I shriek and clap my hands in delight. CLAIRE YOU’RE THE BEST.
We cut to MI6 dude pushing a copy of the Pamelyn file into an envelope addressed to Wild Bill. “Take that, you little piece of shit,” he says, as he seals it. I laugh and clap my hands in delight. You were a jerk but well played, that man.
In Serangoon Road, Don turns up as everyone gathers in the street and watches the awkward CGI fireworks. There’s dragon dance (I don’t dragon dance at moon festival, but sure, I guess) and firecrackers and people smiling warmly at one another, and that’s where it ends, content and not-revenged and Chinese (with two interloping white guys) on Serangoon Road.
Hey so that was a series! As a finale it went where it needed to go, tying up all the loose ends and giving us an ending. The major season arcs of who and why Winston was killed, and boring white romance thingies, were resolved. But we didn’t learn any more about Alaric’s gambling, which was such a major thread in earlier episodes, and Ario was completely wasted. He spent so much time letting Don dictate things, despite being a police officer, and I’d like to know why. There was some effort towards lines towards a second season, primarily the postage of the file to Wild Bill and Song Ge’s dismissal of Joan and Don, and of course in the celebration of Mid-Autumn Festival, but all in all it felt like an end.
This final episode was also about relationships and connections. A lot of the flashbacks were about Winston’s relationships with the people around him (dancing and making out with Joan and teasing her; Don offering him help as they passed by one another; being firm with Second Wife and the boy). There was Pamelyn establishing boundaries in her relationship with CIA dude, Don trying to work out his relationship with Claire (and Frank trying to establish where his own relationship lies), the reaffirmation of Alaric and Ju-E’s relationship. Even the storyline as it extended out beyond Winston’s murder was about relationships: the Lim brothers spying on one another; Song Ge’s relationship to his Grandfather, and Joan and Don’s relationship to the Red Dragons. It was excellent in just this way, because if you’re going to tell a story of Singapore you need to be telling a story of families and relationships.
Speaking of families, I’d love to know if there was non-Asian confusion about Joan suddenly being Auntie and Second Wife and the boy being considered family (explicitly, with “中秋节 being a time for family”), as it isn’t something that needs to be explained but given the explainy-ness of other parts of the series, perhaps it does?
Sometimes in my reviews I think I came across as hating this series. I didn’t hate it at all. I loved the feelings of familiarity and home-ness I got from watching this, and the way my heart warmed and the way I felt homesick whenever they got something right (or even close to right); and the way it jarred when it was so wrong. I appreciated when the terrible things were accurate, like pompous Westerners (men and women) in their cooled, tidy, clean, separated enclave, too precious to dirty themselves near locals, not bothering to learn any of our dialects or languages (my father was one of those people, in fact). But this was not a great series, even on its own; and it was an awkward one when you remember it’s not only from My ABC, but from HBO Asia as well, when HBO is so well known for amazing television. This was not worthy of that – at times it was awkward, clunky, and filled with average writing and dialogue that was pedestrian and added no real character quirks, merely served to push the plot along.
But I still enjoyed the ride.
I have a wrap up post to come, which will be going up at Peril Magazine, talking about some of the themes of Serangoon Road after I’ve had a chance to percolate on them. Some things I’m gonna be talking about include: Don’s total disrespect for everyone in his constant refusal to clothe himself properly, I mean seriously, that is more inappropriate than the Mr Darcy goes swimming scene in the 1995 BBC P+P; Colonialism and westerners in SEA in the mid-20th Century; interracial relationships in SEA in the mid-20th Century; race relations; the representation of SEA in western media; the sense of home on my tv here in Australia and what that means.
Uh but if you wanna chat about this on twitter, fb or in the comments here. PING ME. Do it now.
- DON DRESS APPROPRIATELY HAVE SOME RESPECT. EVEN THE DUDE IN JAIL CAN DO IT.
- Old people memory dancing, so awkward
- Pamelyn, Secretary of my Heart, makes CIA dude apologise for lying about the file. I know you can’t tell me all about your work, she says. Just say no comment.
- When Joan tells Pamelyn about Second Wife and the baby, she says “your Uncle Winston had another family,” which is the exact right way to say it. At the mistress’ house, the boy calls Joan Auntie and implies that she’s paying for his new school, which, nwaaah. Family.
- Language watch: Joan says kopitiam but Don says coffee shop. Whhhhy? No Hokkien for like a million years. Lots of lols Mando, but technically should have been more also.
- After all that give give give help from Ario to Don, nothing came of it! Ario why you helping this mat salleh what.
- They tie murderer to the couch, bandage his hand, and then just leave him there?
- Wild Bill: so amazing with the lines. “Make sure you find them before they find you,” he says to Don in the bar about the silent partner; “You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas”; “It’s not that you did it, it’s whatever he’s got on you that made you do it.” This entire scene had some cliched lines but was still somehow excellent. “I can’t use you. Everyone crosses the line; it’s important you look back and you can still see it.”
- Grandfather Tiger also excellent lines, mostly to Joan and Don: “Speak.” to Don: “Not you.”
- Were the negatives in that file they gave to Grandfather Tiger (which Kay Song then burnt)? Could use that for future!
- WHERE WAS AUNTIE FORTUNE TELLER.
In the ninth and penultimate episode of S1 Serangoon Road, I kind of don’t understand the point? An Indigenous Australian wakes up next to the body of a girl he’d been on a date with, there’s lots of ang moh shenanigans, once again we try to talk about Black-White relations this time from an Australian POV, and Fortune Teller Auntie makes the most adorable faces.
We open with some super white previouslies, and then in on MR ERNIE DINGO (for non-Australian readers, Mr Ernie Dingo is a very well-known older Aboriginal Australian actor). He’s making out with the random journalist bartender Ange from two episodes ago, and making fun of chicken feet. He pauses at the making out: Ange says “it’s the 60s, we can do what we want.” FORESHADOWING GUYS. Next thing he wakes up NEXT TO A CORPSE (Ange). CREDITS BOY WE ARE MOVING TODAY.
Don is brought in by the always adorable Ario, to find Ernie in a jail cell; he says he doesn’t know how Ange ended up dead. Macca comes storming across to yell “I will do everything in my power, to see that prick hang” in front of the Police Station which, Macca, stop making a scene in the streets in Singapore. Have you no dignity? It quickly becomes clear that Macca is convinced that Ernie did it both because a) Racism and b) he ignored Ange’s attempts to get him to mentor her as a journalist, and so he doesn’t want her death to have been about the story.
Through a serious of blue flashbacks, we learn that Baby Don was helped by young officer Ernie in Changi, when Baby Don was looking for his father who’d gone missing, after his mother died.
In the Black Lotus (because of course), Nightclub Friend confirms that Ange and Ernie were in the club together, that Ange came by often to hang out, thought it was all exotic, like all the backpackers here. I love her undertone (later continued) that the backpackers are just ridiculous and shouldn’t be in Singapore, coming to Singapore for the wrong reasons to just exotify us all. It’s this Singaporean POV and commentary that really keeps me holding on to Serangoon Road, even when the other bits disappoint me.
Alaric offers to help Don with the investigation, and they head back to Ange’s apartment. It’s all locked up, so Don goes to climb to the second story and break in. Alaric protests. “You always underestimate me,” Don complains. “No, I over estimate you. I think you will do something quieter, and smarter.” Alaric is my favourite. Inside the apartment Don finds someone riffling through Ange’s stuff, and they fight. Outside the apartment Alaric tries to grab the guy; he BITES OFF THE GUY’S EAR and the dude jabs him in the balls. He makes Don hold the ear as the dude escapes, but at least they’ll be able to identify him. Inside the apartment they find lots of notes and a traffickable amount of hash, and Don goes off to yell at Macca. Macca continues with his being convinced about Ernie’s guilt, despite all the suggestions of maybe triads (and Ange’s obsession with Triad drug movements), and though I’m not tense about this at all. It’s Ernie Dingo and it’s so obvious!
Out in Bugis Street, Don discovers a dude (not missing an ear) who makes a habit of spiking the drinks of foreigners. Why is it always Don? After Don and Alaric catch him with some unconscious girls he admits to spiking Ernie and Ange’s drinks, but they got into a fight with a big dude and so spiking guy left. I cannot even with this.
Meanwhile, Ernie has been sprung and left at the Agency. Uncle Owner is shaving a dude outside, threatens Ernie. Pamelyn freaks out because she’s reading an article with a picture of Ernie’s face, then looks up to find Ernie. “It’s all right, I won’t nick anything,” he says, to continue reminding us about racial stereotypes and racism, and I like this bit better, because Ernie plays it so sad, and so resigned, and it works. It’s just – it exists. Joan puts him to work fixing things around the Detective Agency.
Macca caves to Don’s pressure and reads the draft Ange had given him; it’s good, he confesses, and Ange was on her way and also ‘nuts’ – going to the docks at night by herself, talking to dealers. The draft contains secret codes to do drug deals, so Don and Alaric decide to go and do so. They find a dude with a missing ear – but having taken Ario and some Polis along with them, discover that earless dude was in the cells the night of the murder, and in the alley behind Ange’s apartment they’ve found a knife with blood and Ernie’s service number, so they go off to arrest Ernie.
Maybe he did it, Alaric implies – if his drink was spiked, sometimes drugs make you crazy. He gives Don a shifty eyed look, and I hope Don’s drug use turns up in the finale.
Ernie is drinking tea when the Polis arrive, so he politely hands his tea cup to a police officer, and then RUNS FOR IT – I laughed really hard at this part, and the following few moments where they apparently lose an Aboriginal Australian in Singapore’s Chinatown, which seems unlikely.
From their friendship and history, Don works out where Ernie has been hiding and they discuss the options: Don has a plan for working it out, which, Don, why didn’t you try this mysterious plan earlier; or, Ernie says, he has a captain friend on a ship that’s leaving tonight. The captain is a mate and can get him through immigration, but he’d never be able to return to Singapore. Don’s plan, it turns out, is to recreate the experience, which DEFINITELY Don why didn’t you try this before. So they retrace Ernie’s steps with Ange, through Bugis and a little fight with a dude eating noodles, ending in the alley behind Ange’s apartment, where his memory gives out. Maybe I don’t want to find out, Ernie tentatively suggests, maybe there’s nothing to find out except that I did it. Anyway handwave handwave, Ernie remembers the noodle guy coming to grab Ange’s handbag, having a knife, fighting, Ernie dropping his own knife, noodle guy picking it up and running at Ernie, Ange not feeling very well, noodle guy stabbed Ange and they were so drugged they didn’t notice? I KID YOU NOT also how exactly does one prove that? Ernie is feeling very guilty because he was the one who bumped into the noodle guy, and Don is all it was fate and just bad luck and clearly has no sympathy, which, Don, buddy.
Don finds and drags noodle guy into the police station, where Ario is skeptical but accepting (agrees to run tests on the knife, background on the dude, etc). I would love to know what is going on with Ario, why he’s always so amenable to Don’s ideas and ridiculousness. I hope this comes up in the final episode!
Episode ends with discovery that noodle guy was originally one of the suspects in Winston’s murder, and Winston’s file is missing so what does it all mean? What are Joan and Don going to do about this? Don visits the High Commissioner to give a report on the final outcome, and the HC reveals that Claire told Frank about her affair and Don is all GASP and now I’m worried he’s gonna go back to her. Lady Penelope agrees with me that he should just leave Claire alone because he can’t offer her anything and also ugh love doesn’t conquer all guys, I mean come on.
This episode is (obviously) quite heavily about race; and it feels more comfortable with this discussion than it did in the very heavy-handed episode one. The Australian High Commissioner calls Don in, and notes that “Canberra’s trying to be a bit sensitive to the black issue – there’s a referendum in the air;” then continues, “Bloke’s obviously as guilty as sin.” “Abo. Booze. Woman dead,” he says, as if that’s all the evidence one requires. Don points out Ernie was a war hero; “Oh geeze, Aboriginal war hero, framed. That’s the last hero I wanna see.” Macca continues with his tirade despite growing evidence that maybe it was someone else. Don being the rest of Australia, telling Macca that Ernie fought and then returned to Australia to find his house repossessed and his kids stolen. The High Commissioner throws shade on both Macca and Ernie, too, saying “I suspect that Aborigine, and walkabout, will feature” about Macca’s headlines, which he wants Don to convince Macca to tone down. The HC also clearly doesn’t know Ernie’s name.
At the same time, it’s randomly not about race. Nightclub Friend talks about Ange meeting up with someone: “A big older guy, Aussie I think.” That time period, of course she would say black! It’s completely weird that the Australians are being all horrible about indigenous people but the Singaporeans aren’t. Maybe a nightclub owner is more flexible or something.
This episode is also about trust and friendship. Don and Ernie’s old trust; Macca’s lack of new trust; Ario’s weirdly high levels of trust in Don. And Don and Ernie’s friendship was a nice thing to see, as was Don and Alaric working together as they once did, without the Import-Export to get in the way.
This episode was also a return to the not great acting. Geoff Morrell as the High Commissioner did his best with his frankly terrible lines, and Ernie Dingo did some excellent work, as did Joan when she tries to convince Ario to let her look at Winston’s files. But overall, choppy plot, weird dialogue, way too much hammer over everything to move the plot along. I am disappoint.
So here we are with one episode to go. I hope that Don and Claire don’t get back together (I hope that Claire and Frank do indeed leave and never come back). Don can pine over Claire for a bit (if there was a second season) and then move on. I think we’ll find out who killed Winston, but it’s just the beginning of the mystery. Kay Song perhaps will have something to do with it. It’s all stereotypes and sad faces from me. Maybe there will be more Singapore as Character. STAY TUNED.
- Not enough Pamelyn
- Don for serious, do up your shirt at the very least, have you no respect
- Ernie you did your best with this script, I’m so sorry. “She had the whole world in front of her” Ernie I’m so sorry.
- Fashion note: some repeated outfits! I love everyone. Don refuses to do up his shirt, even when visiting the Ambassador: I hate everyone.
- Ernie wakes up fully clothed in bed under a doona. In Singapore. No, guys. Just no.
- Ernie was in the actual credit sequence? Seems weird just for one episode, but maybe they’ve been doing this for all the eps and I just haven’t noticed.
- White Spy Subplot: MI6 dude schools CIA dude on being polite with spycraft; CIA dude is actually terrible about it. I hate MI6 dude more as he says the phrase “taking in the exotic Asian surrounds.” MI6 dude gets CIA dude to break into Wild Bill’s office for something about Vietnam, and CIA dude almost gets caught; sasses MI6 dude. Guys get your filthy white paws out of South East Asia already, I hate you all.
- Why was Baby Don chopping wood?
- Chow mein is that what Australians in the 60s would have called it? It’s certainly not what they’d call it now.
- Fortune Teller Auntie’s faces were the best thing about this entire episode. She makes sex jokes and kissing faces, she’s the best.
Today on Serangoon Road, everything happens in just one day, Don stars in an action movie (AND continues on in his state of undress damn dude tone it down), and Joan cries beautifully. Also I can’t find the title for this episode.
The episode opens with two white girls running through a corridor with lots of doors and someone chasing after them. It is basically a horror movie on a boat. They scramble for a room and someone breaks down the door; lots of screaming; credits.
At the wet market, all ang moh are inappropriately dressed. Claire has a very low cut back to her dress, and Don continues to wear his singlet with his overshirt. Dude I am a girl in 2013 and I wouldn’t dress as inappropriately as you are in 1964, what is your problem, do you have no respect for Singapore. Claire tells Don off for getting high, and he shrugs it off, classic addict.
In the Detective Agency, some Australian girls are missing, and one of them has a very wealthy father. They were on a freighter bound for London; they had tickets but their families definitely didn’t know. Some Australian was to meet them in Singapore and take them home, but they never got off the boat. Wealthy Father is a close friend of the Prime Minister. Joan’s FACE when she realises this means they have to agree to find them. Some Australian and Don go to visit the Captain, revealing nothing; Don visits Fortune Teller Auntie who makes him hand over money before she admits that there were some men from the boat around, yes. Don gets in a fight in the Black Orchid saving the dude he needs to talk to, who pees on a wall and says the Captain harassed them when he drank, and they’d been hanging about with some Chinese dude named Hawk. He has a hawk tattoo. He’s a known associate of the Red Dragons.
Meanwhile Girl from the club takes to following Joan, and tells Joan that she gave birth to Winston’s baby! During Seventh Month she left the watch (as appropriate); Joan assumes she is asking for money. Joan gets mad; goes to the Black Orchid to see what she can see, and it’s strangely empty except for Kang’s Bar Friend. She says she never saw Mei Lin with another man, but cannot say if or if not his baby. Outside the bar, she flips her shit, and when she sees Claire she gets SUPER MAD on Don’s behalf, telling Claire not to ruin Don’s life. (This happens shortly after Claire tells Lady Penelope that she’s left Frank – so Lady Penelope orders two double gin and tonics for them)
A ransom demand is dropped at the Consulate demanding $10K or the girls will be killed. Some Australian thinks it’s Red Dragons despite Don telling him it can’t be, because the Red Dragons are strictly old school (drugs, prostitutes); he starts making demands of Ario, goes over Ario’s head, Ario is not impressed because now he has to go raid the Tong premises and like that’s not gonna bite him later.
Police start their raid, my boyf Kay Song, the leader of the Red Dragons, appears sharpening his cleaver. Nothing comes of the raid except for Kay Song being mad, and Ario being mad. “Why do you Colonials always think you know best,” he snaps at Don as he leaves. WHY INDEED also Don why are you even on this raid. A Tong Goon turns up and holds a gun to Don’s head as he demands “走了.” Kay Song’s FACE in this scene is so unimpressed, and so great, Chin Han you’re the best. He’s gently picking away at his meal (a delicious looking fish why am I vegan regrets regrets); he asks Don to tell him about the raids, and mentions that Hawk is no friend to the 13 Dragons.
Grand baba, who is also eating, gives Kay Song permission to let him deal with this dishonour. He deals with it by shooting at the Polis! Ario super unimpressed.
Having officially been bought out of the Import-Export by Alaric (“you know, how some people make great friends, but lousy business partners,” Alaric says as he hands over 500.), Don has to pay to get info on secret ways to get people off the big ships that come in. He asks Alaric to find out if there was a milk run the night the boat came in – when pimps take prostitutes to the ships for crew who can’t come ashore. Alaric finds out that there was a run, and two extra girls came back. He ends with “Eh, bring them back yah.” I like that after last episode’s break up, Alaric has voiced these boundaries and that a business break up doesn’t have to mean a relationship break up, and obviously his positive encouragement just reinforce that. It’s cool.
Don wanders around a kampung asking if people have seen the girls in his photo. Just as someone says yes, Don sees a dude with a hawk tattoo leaving a shack. He gives chase, but ultimately loses him as Hawk pulls a pile of crates down and makes a run for it. No matter though: in the shack is a girl! She is shaken and freaking the fuck out, and is on her own and very dirty. I fear the worst. In the Detective Agency she reveals after the Captain harassed them, Hawk offered to get them off the ship. He made Singapore sound great with Raffles and monkeys in parks, which, those monkeys are vicious, why would you want to go near them seriously I’ve been injured by them, my sister has been injured by them, they steal food and they are just nope.
So Wealthy Daddy won’t pay up, now that his girl is safe, even though Gina is still missing. But the money has already been wired, so Sam takes the money and goes to make the drop. Pamelyn and Joan tie up Some Australian, so he has an alibi, that they stole the money from him.
Hawk takes the money, they lose him, Sam runs up a ladder and spots him over the rooftops (HOW CONVENIENT), watches Hawk set up a decoy Chinese dude and run into a place. It’s true, I guess, that no one ever looks up, but you think people would learn eventually. Sam spots Ario and they meet up; while they’re spying to see what’s happening, there are gunshots! They enter to see a white girl being used as a hostage, and some Chinese men exiting. Ario recognises the men as Kay Song’s, so he’s gonna try to get Gina back.
I have some questions during this scene. A) why is Don taking command over a copper. B) Why is Ario letting him. WHY IS DON TAKING COMMAND OVER THE COPPER.
Outside Tong Place, there are guards. “Touch me and you’re dead,” Sam says to one, and I laugh out loud. Inside, Song Ge is sitting down to a banquet with many people. He grins at Sam. I have restored honour, made a lot of money, and killed my enemies, he tells Sam. I should thank you. When Sam demands Gina, he continues: You should be grateful I don’t kill you where you stand. But in concession to Sam’s point (“I should thank you”), he clarifies: When my men arrived, your princess was counting money with Hawk. So don’t go shedding tears for her. But he admits, like Sam said to Some Aussie earlier; we don’t kidnap (and kill) white girls.
Sam finds Gina in some gardens, because of THE CLUE dropped earlier about monkeys in gardens. It’s all about money and Camilla losing heart and Gina having no money to go on alone and feeling betrayed. He hands her over to Some Aussie, but doesn’t mention she had a hand in it. “If he’s smart enough, he’ll work in out for himself,” he tells Joan.
Joan is quietly processing what she’s learnt this episode. After going to Black Orchid she went to find Mei Lin, who reveals that Winston visited the baby on Wednesdays (which was when he told Joan he went to Mahjong). But the night he came, he believed someone was following him, and gave the watch to give to Joan for proof. He didn’t love the girl, only the baby. The baby doesn’t even get a name in this, which argh. Anyway Joan acts the shit out of both the scene with the mistress, and the later scene with Don, looking beautiful with tears in her eyes and as she raises her arm in frustration. “I don’t even get to scream at him, slap his face, and chase him out of the house,” she says, and admits his family wanted him to cast her aside, because nobody wants a barren woman. “Our culture,” she clarifies for anyone who might not be sure.
We close out the episode with a Claire who is unsure, but really only because other people who she’s come to trust are making her doubt herself. She’s been told by Lady Penelope that she doesn’t belong in Chinatown (“where do I belong?” she rebuts); then when she finds Don after what she describes as an awful day, he tells her not to leave Frank. “It’s no life here. You don’t belong here,” he says, so it’s a good thing she hasn’t told Frank and can go back to him. OH WAIT; I shake my hands at the screen as she agrees she hasn’t told Frank and can therefore go back to him. I also realise that today in continuity Claire was supposed to get her stuff from the house, so what happened to that. I don’t really understand what she is doing? Claire. I don’t care yet, but I’d like you to make sense.
This episode was delightfully low on CIA and MI6 dudes, but sadly made up for it in whiteness with excessive Australianness.
Two episodes left, and I still don’t know where we’re going. We’ve found out where Winston’s watch went but we still don’t know who killed him; Don and Claire keep breaking up and getting back together and who even knows; spy shenanigans will PRESUMABLY involve either Australians or Singaporeans again soon otherwise what even is the point; and the strongest story lines, as always, are the ones involving the Singaporeans. This series would be so much stronger if there were more Singaporean story lines and less of the other things, there are some AMAZING local actors in this production and they’re just not being used.
There was also, as there often is, a lot of ~atmosphere~ in this episode, lingering shots on random things, and sometimes it’s hard to tell whether it’s scene-setting or exotification. Either way, at least it’s comforting and familiar to me.
- Cinematography: SO GREAT.
- Pamelyn and the CIA dude: Pamelyn looking fine. CIA dude still not worthy of her. They could run away to Australia if she’s denied her Visa. After she has her degree, she might let him marry her, which, show, you haven’t sold this yet! Also no.
- Spy storyline: SURPRISE MI6 dude convinces CIA dude to spy for him. “The shame goes away,” he says, when CIA dude slinks off. “Chin up, you’re a real spy now.” So funny. This picture is perfect though, so colonial it hurts, white clad white dudes, buzzing of the mozzies at night, out in the air no regard for the rest of us. Bet there’s some malay butlers bustling around off screen.
- In further gross MI6 business, “Those Australians have got their knickers in a twist. It seems they’ve lost two of their breeders.” Did I hear this right? Because I’m actually unqualified to analyse this, breeders is a term queers often use about straight couples having kids but ALSO it is an Englishman referring to Australians so maybe it’s just misogynistic and paternalistic and gross rather than also confusing.
- When Joan checks her makeup before knocking on the door: so great.
- Malay watch: adorable and mostly untranslated. Mandarin watch: eh. Singaporeans acting great in mando though.
- “What an awful day,” says Claire to Don as she falls into his arms. I laughed because of how different and yet how terrible their days were.
- Next week: ERNIE DINGO. So I assume it’ll be racism against Indigenous Australians.