Episode 9 starts with Leary negotiating with Byron on hiring his men for the railway contract while Li Young and Ah Sahm prepare for their match.
Penny is informed by Jacob about the match, prompting her to go. At this time, O’Hara and Lee notice the streets of Chinatown are quieter than usual, finding that the community is gathering to spectate the match.
Ah Sahm and Young Jun have a moment while Li Young questions Mai Ling on the probability of only one of them walking away. The Foon Hai, Ah Toy, Long Zi and the Hop Wei all gather as O’Hara and Lee join with the other Chinatown officers to spectate.
Ah Sahm and Li Young step onto the mat, paying their respects to each other as Wang Chao explains the rules to O’Hara. Ah Sahm manages to gain the upperhand throughout the first part of the match, catching Li Young’s attacks and redirecting them.
O’Hara notices Penny arriving right as Ah Sahm has the fight won, knocking down Li Young and going for his sash for the victory. Li Young gets back up, focusing his attacks to Ah Sahm’s head and body to the point Ah Sahm can’t fight back. Father Jun notices the defeat coming as Li Young grabs Ah Sahm and Mai Ling gives the order to kill her brother.
O’Hara and Lee break up the fight, saving Penny from the crowd, Li Young takes Ah Sahm’s sash while Ah Sahm lays on the mat struggling to breathe. O’Hara escorts Penny out of Chinatown safely as they both start to see each other’s sympathy for the Chinese community. Father Jun accepts the defeat, keeping true to the agreement to the terms of the match.
Buckley visits Byron at his steel mill, manipulating him ln the pricing of the materials used and incepting the idea to use Chinese labor. Mayor Blake confronts Buckley of the visit as he wishes to be informed of his plans while Buckley agrees only to manipulate him that if the Mayor went to Byron, it would harm his political image.
As Ah Sahm is struggling to heal at Ah Toy’s, he is visited by a younger version of his sister. We are given a flash back of Mai Ling cared for Ah Sahm when they were children. Mai Ling seeks the help of Sifu Li Qiang to train Ah Sahm. In present time, Mai Ling is opposed by the Long Zi advisor Xiang, she kills him as a message to other council members that her leadership will not be questioned.
Lai and Ah Toy try and help Ah Sahm recover and Penny visits him as he rests, telling him she misses Ah Sahm. Struggling to recover properly, Ah Sahm is given a reality check by Ah Toy, leaving him to process what is worth to him.
The episode closes with Young Jun visiting him Ah Sahm, informing he is no longer part of the Hop Wei but shares the one memory in Grass Valley. Young Jun states they should have not come back. Lee is left to patrol the rest of the night by O’Hara only to be brutally beaten up by Zing of the Foon Hai.
This is definitely an episode we have been waiting for to get a deeper look at Ah Sahm and Mai Ling’s past before their separation. Back in my episode 1 review, I stated that originally I thought the series was going to go the clichéd route and have Ah Sahm try and find his sister only to find her near the end of the season and something would cause him to break.
Here it is done in a way where it is said why Ah Sahm had to fight and for what purpose. As much as there is 2 narratives about the Mercer Steel mill and the fallout of fight, the fallout of the fight takes center narrative as it is episode one in reverse for Ah Sahm.
Why I say that is he sees Li Young and Mai Ling last, then Ah Toy and finally Young Jun. Yes he sees Penny but I’m chalking that up to him being out of it. I stated this whole series explores the philosophy of one’s purpose, and Ah Sahm is still trying to find it. The downward spiral has started when Ah Sahm agreed to the fight as he did not have a purpose anymore or a goal with Penny.
Ah Toy lays it out for Ah Sahm when he finally wakes up. She tells him that Li Young has a purpose and there needs to be someone that Chinatown needs to look up to. Ah Sahm questions why doesn’t Ah Toy be that person, she mentions it’s not enough as she brings her personal experience in, prompting Ah Sahm to look for his purpose as he fought with none.
This still resonates with me to this day as it is a way of the series saying “Even though we live in this country, we are still under represented.” Ah Toy telling Ah Sahm to find his purpose is not the only person pushing for this, this is literal cry for a lot of people of color. As many shows and films have typecasted, poor casting choices and shunning people of color, this show hits it home in this moment between Ah Toy and Ah Sahm. Something that we will go into in Season 2 Episode 9.
The philosophy of finding one’s purpose is never ending, Ah Sahm has hit the bottom and where he is about to go from there, may bring him back to the point where he knows who he is and what he is supposed to do.