[Episodic Thoughts] “All That is Bitter is Sweet” Episode 4
All That is Bitter is Sweet <大藥坊>
TVB Series 2014
Cast: Linda Chung, Ruco Chan, Raymond Wong, Natalie Tong, Shirley Yeung, Sammy Sum, Pierre Ngo, Jazz Lam, Elliot Ngok
Disclaimer: This is a watch as I write episodic thoughts and some information may not be accurate since this is memory based. Certain dialogue is reproduced with some creative license adopted. I apologize if there is any mistake. All opinion remains my own.
There are two things this series, in this episode or in future episodes can do better;
1.the cliffhanger that is non existing. Need to entice viewers, not leave them at a point where there is no enticement. Something like Line Walker but less slow mo and less drama I suppose but with something to anticipate.
2. give a higher budget to poor Linda’s wardrobe. She already dressed like a widow and 4 episodes in, she has yet to change at all. Water rationing must be at its height back then. In fact the costumes are quite uninspired but the set decoration is good. The only one with a high budget for costume is Shirley.
If you’re dying to know, no one died or dying in this episode. In fact Raymond aka Kai Cho recovers, almost since it is still within 3 days dateline.
Meanwhile, Ruco’s goons sorta admire Linda for her tenacity as Ruco happily counts the 168 boxes of pills produced by Sheung Chun Tong aka Sheung Chun Pharmacy, the ones he bought for $5 each box. The pills are called Kau Kau Ching Hei Tan aka 9-9 Health Pills and made from the finest herbs available. Ruco plans to make a profit from it all and told his guys to keep the boxes away safely. An old man appears, calls him Dr Sheung and dresses his hair like the Qings minus the hair shaving. The actor is someone I haven’t seen for a very long time and he was always in those wuxia series. If you know his name, do tell. Anyway, Dr Sheung boasts how he was the last emperor’s doctor but never got to see the emperor. He knows medicine and herbs and he smells the pills and calls it “sap pat fan” aka 18 Opposites I think. He admires the skills of Sheung Chun Tong and marvels at the quality of the pills. And instead of keeping them away, he orders the guys to take them all out and crush them and put them in a large bath tub. And the guys then ambush Ruco, strips him (alas, only top part) and pushes him into the bath tub full of the crushed pills. Ruco recognises the smell and cries out how hot the water is and how his entire investment thrown down the drain. But the doctor says cryptically to those who has yet to read any spoilers that Ruco needs it more than he needs the money and it will be money well spent since it might cure him. Moreover he takes it as a challenge that he will find a way to cure Ruco of his illness and Ruco better quietly sit in the tub and soak in the goodness of the herbs. Ruco sighs and laments that he is making a huge loss and since there is nothing he can do anyway, he might as well just sit there as ordered.
Yes Ruco has some heart disease. So be prepared for him to DIEEEEEEEEEEE at the end or the Ruse Of Engagement like scene of his hand dropping as his head rests on Linda’s shoulder or something like that. There, I said it first!! We shall see!
Meanwhile Sheung Chun Tong celebrates the success of distributing the pills. Pierre and mom arrived to see Linda being congratulated by the workers for the impending wedding and one young worker laments “When you’re gone, we won’t have someone as nice and approachable as you” and Linda promises to come home often to visit. Pierre and mom looked on with much disgust on their face as Pierre feels the betrayal of the workers who is sorta pledging their allegiance to Linda as well as criticising her for wasting money with those pills but his mom says “Well, she is marrying soon, and daughters like a pail of water if married is like poured away, just you wait” but in English it sounds so nice but in Cantonese, it is with malice. Old master overheard with Shirley by his side and if looks could kill… he orders them into the room. Shirley is asked to be there as well and basically he scolded Pierre for the words he said and Pierre admitted he knew why brother was displeased. But he sticks to his gun and insists he is right in condemning Linda for wasting money and all that nonsense thing she does. The brother disagrees and scolds Pierre for being without insight, without foresight, without much of any sight at all. He says he is doing all these to preserve the good name of the pharmacy and if the pharmacy has solid reputation, people will automatically trust them and come to them. The pills are an investment for their future. He also says to Pierre not to hope for him to handover the pharmacy to Pierre, like ever since Pierre is gonna cause the pharmacy to close down anyway and old master does not want to see a 100 year old shop to close thanks to his incompetence. Of course the mother says to him not to degrade his own little brother and judge him so harshly but ahhhhh… old master has not finished. Old master looks at mom and says;
“You’re my step mother and I must respect you for that. But don’t forget you are a senior and as a senior you must act honourably as an example for the juniors. You have failed as a mother and a senior to your son. He is who he is partly because of you”
And of course both of them huff and puff and Pierre angrily says “Fine! I will leave this godforsaken place! I don’t need this place anyway!!” and he runs off, mother runs off with him and he looks to Shirley and says “Do you know why I asked you to be in the room?” and Shirley nods and says “Yes, I understand” and he says “Don’t forget, you too is a senior and you must behave and act like a senior does” and Shirley meekly nods but what he is telling he is to empower herself and not be afraid to speak up, after all she is his wife and he is the master of the house and so she is the mistress of the house.
They go for dinner happily.
Meanwhile Pierre is fuming, mom is fuming and Pierre declares they can leave the house, he doesn’t think he needs to depend on that old geezer anyway, they won’t starve. Pierre then asks “Mom, I remember you have some savings, if not tens of thousands, should be thousands by now? Give me the money so I can start a business” but his mom’s face changes and quickly she says “I know we can move away, we won’t need him but look at it this way; you’re the only son left. There’s no other sons. You will inherit at the end of the day, he can’t stop you from doing just that. So why must we leave? No! We should stay!” and Pierre is like “Yeah yeah, correct! Mom luckily you advised me, if not I would have missed out on this!!” and the mom actually feels relieved!
Dinner, everyone was having a good time when mom and Pierre appear and pretend to be happy, jovial, Pierre repeating whatever his brother scolded him as a speech to the workers which made his brother smile sarcastically and Linda is very nice to her grandma who says will miss her terribly and all that and that they’re after all family and Shirley looks amused and old master smiles even more sarcastically, knowing these 2 hounds are just pretentious parasitic blood suckers.
General Hui arrives and is greeted by the entire Chong family and he dotes on his daughter, Natalie. General Hui is Elliot by the way, a brilliant casting decision as much as Poon Chi Man is the mayor and in retrospect, I may have been too harsh on Du Yange as well. The 3 veterans really carried the show. However I am so disappointed with how General Hui is depicted and I shall get to that.
General Hui looks at the many gifts from guests and laughs heartily and asks for the list of gifts which Poon is very reluctant to give. He surveys the list and in it he notices Colonel Lau and wants to know what Lau gave them and Susan takes out the box (or was it Poon) and shows to the general that it is a golden pistol. Elliot is so happy that he grabs the gun but wonders why Lau gives the Chongs a gun and Susan answers truthly; it was meant for Elliot since these guests know Elliot will be officiating. Elliot laughs heartily as Susan, brilliantly outmaneuvered the general as she says;
“I am sure the general is very pleased with Colonel Lau’s gift which is special and hard to find. Alas, the other guests were not so thoughtful like Colonel Lau. All they have were golds and ornaments and such, which is nothing special and I know the general is not attracted to such ordinary gifts”
The general gets her meaning, isn’t offended and say he will keep the pistol and the Chongs can keep everything else. Poon looks more relaxed. The general then says I think Colonel Lau has a brother who wants to open a business in Foshan and tells Raymond to approve whatever permit he wants. Raymond politely replies he can’t do that, the business must be legal and the documentation must be complete before he can give the permit. Now that displeased the general who thunders why should he the great general be bound by such common insignificant rules? He insists until Natalie says to her dad not to make life difficult for Raymond and at the end he says;
“Fine fine. The colonel’s brother will adhere to the rules and regulations as required, and then you (Raymond) will approve the permit”
Raymond wants to protest but Natalie stops him.
Things are awkward but goes from bad to worse when the general sort of insults the mayor about the mishandling and rioting resulted from some epidemic recently. They all corrected him and says the pills by Sheung Chun Tong helped to clear the common cold and cold rashes and he observes the local treasure must be empty then but Poon observes the pharmacy did it for free. Now that intrigued Elliot who know wants to have dinner with the old master and family.
Meanwhile Natalie urges Raymond to get ready since the Mr Taylor, photographer is here and has been waiting for a few days to get his wedding photos and she attends to Linda’s wedding dress and interprets between a Russian sounding white lady and a clueless Linda.
Linda supposedly knows zero English and yet she can pronounce Thank you and another word too fluently. A bit of consistency will be very helpful.
Linda says she admires Natalie for being able to understand English. Linda says she has never go out of Guangdong and feels like a village girl but she also says, much to the sadness of poor Natalie that Raymond plans to take her to Shanghai for a very radical idea back in those days, honeymoon. Linda is very excited, Natalie looks like she wants to bury herself under the ground.
Linda looks lovely in her quasi western quasi cheong sam white lacy wedding dress by the way. In fact it is lovely and nice to see her away from grey and black for once. Natalie wants to correct the angle of Raymond’s black tie when he sees Linda and goes to her and Linda corrects the tie instead, with poor Natalie, always looking rather red eyed. She stares at them and Susan can see it plainly and everybody takes pictures and Susan asks Elliot to sit in the middle which causes another eye rolling from Poon. Old master is ok with the arrangement. Natalie is asked to join in and she looks at the happy couple wistfully and photo taken.
At night, Raymond apologises to Old Master for the short notice but no one is complaining. Pierre is there, looking smug and Linda, looking like Raymond says, lovely except she has been wearing the same hairstyle, same costume, same everything for 4 episodes now, including the same scarf. Don’t the poor rich girl ever change her clothes, ever?
Inside the general marvels at Linda’s beauty and is jovial if not an egoistical man in front of the old master, and Poon rolls his eyes looking at the general. Rather funny. Anyway the general boasts he has never been sick in his life or rather rarely sick despite being a soldier and exposed to rain, shine, wind and dust. The old master says however healthy, age is creeping up and one must take supplements to take care of one’s body. Pierre goes on to talk about some thousand year old or hundred year old deer err… ok lar, penis, good for health which intrigues the general but old master quickly cuts Pierre off with a stare and curtly tells Pierre to shut up and says to the general don’t listen to such nonsense. The general himself says he does not believe in supplements and challenges old master to listen to his heart beat and examine him. Everyone is scared and poor old master, tell the truth he will be banned, tell a lie and he can’t do that. So he tells the truth but delicately, cautioning the general not to overdo certain things that will harm his kidneys which is showing signs of slowing down. The general does not understand what he means and in the end Pierre bluntly says perhaps the general should stop having too much sex which is hurting his internal organs, his kidneys for example and the general looks mighty embarrassed to be told he may be too old to “do it” that often and old master stares at Pierre for being so blunt.
This is a very long scene, it establishes the character of the general pretty quickly who is a very egotistical arrogant military man, not very educated but loves his daughter very much. You can see he places all attention in educating Natalie, whilst he gives me an impression he is probably not very scholarly. I was hoping for a more sophisticated man but I do like the fact everyone is wary of him since he could be dangerous at any time. Raymond listens to the main government at Nanjing whilst the general is almost like a war lord himself.
Late at night, general is drinking alcohol and Natalie chastises her father for drinking again. The general is a bit drunk and he says;
“This Kai Kei is very pretty isn’t she? They look very compatible, they make a lovely pair”
But Natalie doesn’t understand where her father is going with this conversation when he says;
“You must think I couldn’t see it don’t you? Yes she may be pretty but you’re prettier. You’re more compatible with Kai Cho. Don’t deny your feelings for him. When your mother died, I was busy with war and you lived here for a few years. Back then I already knew your feeling for Kai Cho since every time I visited, you can never stop talking about him. Daughter, why are you torturing yourself? You helped him find photographer, find wedding dress, arrange for the wedding, and for what? For someone else’s wedding and yet you work doubly hard as if it was your own! Why didn’t you just tell me? If you tell me yourself, I can arrange for your marriage to Kai Cho. After all, who is that Kai Kei? She is just some doctor’s daughter, no one significant. But you, you’re my daughter! A general’s daughter, you are better than she will ever be, you’ll never be beneath Kai Cho at all! You should have just told me!”
It shows how much the general understands his daughter and I enjoyed this scene. But I love the retort by Natalie, who is teary eyed;
“Father, do you think I am so desperate to have this man that the only way I can get him is to have you arrange for my marriage to a man who doesn’t want me at all?”
and she walks away, I think crying as his father wants to defend himself and afraid he has hurt her feelings. She is hurting inside! HURTING!!
What a retort! And I also love what Susan said earlier that outmaneuvered the general on the issue of the wedding gifts. Poor girl. She knows her place in Kai Cho’s heart. Whilst at first she comes across as cold and uncaring and arrogant, I don’t think Natalie is that sort anymore. She is not arrogant but she is trying to hide her hurt. She is not cold but she is trying to control her feelings. She is not uncaring, she is in fact a caring person. She cares for Raymond and she understands to love someone is not to own someone, that someone must love her back voluntarily, if not that is not love. She could have asked her father to demand Raymond to marry her, Raymond probably couldn’t refuse but she doesn’t want her cousin to be unhappy which shows a person who is not selfish at all. I find her quite classy.
Anyway Raymond apologises to the old master for General’s behaviour who must have been more insulting than in the scene we are shown. The old man is not displeased and understands the Chong’s predicament. They go home whilst Raymond and Linda take a short walk, expressing deep love for one another, eagerly anticipating the wedding to which Raymond feels he is getting well soon and this episode ends with Raymond tenderly kissing Linda on her forehead.
Story wise, a step up from the last 3 episodes. Some scenes are still too slow, too much dialogue but they’re relevant. I like some scenes in here, each with someone confronting another but either directly or in a classy way. Props to the scriptwriter for writing something a human being will say, starting with what old master said to his brother and step mom, then of Susan to the general and finally between the general and Natalie. All very sensible lines well written, well acted and well delivered by respective parties. So far, the veterans and the supporting actors are walking all over the main lead actors, Linda, Raymond and Ruco. I in fact find both Linda and Raymond the most boring and Ruco not the most exciting. The ties that bind them all has yet to appear and I suppose there is a necessity to kill off Raymond as Kai Cho to make Linda’s Kai Kei more interesting and to reintroduce Raymond as the more funny fun loving brother. Because right now, Kai Kei is really boring. I find Natalie more interesting but I feel like ripping her bangs out of her hair.
Performance wise, all did well, even Linda. Kai Kei is boring, Kai Kei is forever in black and grey but Linda does well as the soft spoken Kai Kei, especially that scene where she marveled at Natalie’s prowess in the English language only to be spoilt by her accurate pronunciation of the word Thank You.
Natalie Tong has improved leaps and bounds. Whenever she is not OTT, she does fine and in here I am beginning to like her classy character very very much. I hope she is not a villain.
The veterans are golden in here. Susan Tse is just awesome as the obviously more intelligent wife of the not so intelligent Poon. Poon Chi Man did amazing too, his expression, his mannerism is just on point. Elliot Yue disappointed me only in so far as how his character is supposed to be where I expected someone classier and scarier but he was amazing as the egoistical general who thinks he is the smartest of them all when he is a fool who nonetheless loves his daughter very much. Du Yange is settling into the role of the old master except I don’t get why his workers so feared him in episode 1 when he is not very fearsome. He should have been depicted as someone highly respected and loved, not highly respected and feared which makes no sense which what is shown later.
The rest, no comment. Not even half nude Ruco who hasn’t much to do, yet.
- [Episodic Thoughts] “All That is Bitter is Sweet” Episode 1
- [Episodic Thoughts] “All That is Bitter is Sweet” Episode 2
- [Episodic Thoughts] “All That is Bitter is Sweet” Episode 3
This Episodic Thoughts is written by Funn Lim, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com, and was originally posted at http://bigapothecary.blogspot.com/