HBO’s “The Sympathizer” episode 1 followed the life of the Captain – a communist spy who was embedded in the South Vietnam army. He stayed at the house of a high-ranking South Vietnamese General and grew up learning the American ways of doing things from a CIA agent named Claude. After the fall of Saigon, he was almost left behind while saving his blood brother’s wife from death. Now, “The Sympathizer” episode 2 on Max follows the story of his early days in Los Angeles, where he is forced to implicate someone as a mole due to the General’s adamance.

Spoilers Ahead

The Sympathizer Episode 2 “Good Little Asian” Recap:

“The Sympathizer” episode 2 follows the time soon after the Captain (Hoa Xuande) moved to the US. In the previous episode, we saw him struggle to get on a plane out of Vietnam in the wake of the fall of Saigon. He tried to help Bon (Fred Nguyen Khan) save his wife from the attacks. Although he managed to get on the plane with Bon, Bon’s wife and child died on the way. Together, these two blood brothers reach the US for a new chapter in their lives. The Captain tries to cheer Bon up about the land of possibilities. But Bon cannot get over the loss of his family easily.

How does the Captain write his coded messages?

In the US, the Captain tries to buy rich starch for his work. The locals pass on racist remarks without any guilt or shame. Nevertheless, he buys corn starch to form a liquid to write a coded letter for his contact in Paris, known as his ‘Parisian Aunt.’ For these coded messages, he would scan Richard Hedd’s repulsive book. He would find a page number, the line, and the word count for a specific word. Later on, the numbers would reveal themselves with a brush of iodine solution. But he needed to edit his messages since they needed to fit in small portions of paper.

Why does the General suspect there is a spy in his close circle?

Right after leaving Vietnam, the Captain joins the General (Toan Le) and other Vietnamese immigrants in a refugee camp in Arkansas. The General decides to wear his old dress uniform to meet the rescued residents, even if the Captain advises against it. In the camp, the people hate the filthiness they have to make peace with. The General is ignorant about their state, so he gets subjected to their attack fuelled by rage. The General wonders why the women are blaming him for their state.

The Captain says someone may have shared ‘misinformation’ that they lost through corruption and incompetence. So, the General wonders who is spreading such ‘lies’ about him. It leads him to suspect that there is a spy close in his association who sabotaged his work and sympathized with the communists.  For the same reason, he assigns the Captain with the task of finding the person who betrayed him. Soon after, the General moves into a house with his family but refuses to do any work that he considers to be beneath him. Filled with no other thoughts, the General remains fixated on finding the traitor. He firmly believes this person is from his close circle.

Why does the Captain get in touch with his old professor?

The Sympathizer Episode 2
A still from “The Sympathizer” starring Sandra Oh | Photograph by Hopper Stone/HBO

The Captain decides to get back to Professor Hammer (Robert Downey Jr.) from his LA grad school days, who agreed to sponsor his and Bon’s stay. He introduces the Captain to his Japanese-American secretary, Ms Sofia Mori (Sandra Oh). Hammer leads a department then known by an offensive term of Oriental studies. He felt his imperial attitude was justified and didn’t want his department to be folded into Asian American studies. Anyhow, he has an ulterior motive for sponsoring the Captain’s stay in the US. He wants the Captain, a biracial man, to reflect on his qualities based on his Oriental side and his Occidental ones.

After their discussion, a reporter questions the Captain about the state of Vietnam and expresses his solidarity without clearly knowing what he is supporting or opposing. During a celebration at Hammer’s house, the Captain is expected to share his observations. Hammer puts him on the spot. But soon after the Captain starts reading them, Hammer starts sensing he will be put in a bad spot. So, he stops the Captain midway. Right after, Hammer uses Sofia as a prop to explain his knowledge without realizing how his actions would humiliate her.

What happens between the Captain and Sofia Mori?

After Hammer uses them for his pleasure, the Captain and Sofia have a heart-to-heart conversation. The Captain shares a painfully personal and disgusting story from his childhood. After that, he gets into a sexual relationship with Sofia. But she makes her expectations about an emotional relationship clear from the get-go. Meanwhile, Bon hates that the Captain experiences that joy while he or others are in emotional pain. On the other hand, Mẫn (Duy Nguyễn) sends a coded letter to the Captain, saying the General can go to any lengths to get what he wants.

The Sympathizer Episode 2 “Good Little Asian” Ending Explained:

Since the General suspects a mole, the Captain tries to find someone to implicate. During a party with the people who moved from Vietnam, Bon shares his dissatisfaction about people being happy despite the destruction in their homeland. Then, American-born Tran Thuyet Son / Sonny lectures the Captain based on his textbook knowledge and insults him for being biracial. He also suggests not using the word ‘yellow’ in their shop name, considering the prejudiced views of the locals. Later, the General addresses everyone and blames others for his cruelties.

Who does the Captain claim to be the mole?

Claude (Robert Downey Jr.) joins the General to question the Vietnamese people he helped come to the US. The Captain senses potential danger and claims Major Oanh, referred to as ‘dumpling,’ to be the spy who betrayed the General. He shows the candy Oanh gave him before and claims his suspicion about Oanh’s business connections. Claude breaks it open and finds nothing suspicious inside it. Suddenly, the General says the Captain’s name came up as a spy and fishes for the Captain’s response. The Captain remains as composed as possible.

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The Sympathizer Episode 2 Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia
The Sympathizer Episode 2 Cast: Hoa Xuande, Robert Downey Jr., Sandra Oh, Toan Lee, Fred Ngyuen Khan, Tom Dang, Scott Ly, Tien Pham, Ngyuen Kao Ky Duen
Where to watch The Sympathizer

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