[Episodic Thoughts] “All That is Bitter is Sweet” Episode 5

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.


Right now I am a bit overwhelmed. 8.30pm someone died. 9.30pm 2 characters died. All pitiful, all sad. I have been predicting Kai Cho’s death but his death was totally avoidable, hence my reaction as below which is not tears because this episode was bad but because I was so sad for Kai Cho. On top of that there’s poor On Lam and poor kid (son of Foon Hei) in Line Walker, it is a bit too much for me. Right now let me rest on this for a while and let me start of with the metre and continue later.

“What a way to kick a man down and I love it”


Ok, I am ready to recap. This is the episode where 1 brother dies and I suppose the other brother shall return. Why the 2 brothers are not in the same scene is I suppose because that will push the budget higher for special effects and god forbid Linda has to wear the same black/grey combination throughout this entire series due to lack of budget.

Anyway, plenty of Ruco in here.

The General demands to see the account books for the tax and etc and he doesn’t like what he sees. He queries why the collection is so low and Raymond (still as Kai Cho) explains economy is badly hit, people can’t afford to eat, more so pay taxes and so he and his father cut taxes to half. The General thinks that is stupid and he doesn’t care for as long as he gets his big share but Raymond counters if people can’t afford to pay, what’s the point of demanding high taxes? General isn’t pleased and he drinks some local alcohol, spits it out and declares he doesn’t like drinking local alcohol and demands to know why Raymond (still as Kai Cho) doesn’t allow French alcoholic drinks (think XO, Brandy and the likes) to sell at Foshan and he explains that this is to prevent competition from outsiders since economy is already that bad. Makes perfect sense but the General raises his voice and declares he has drunk the best alcohol and that is a Louis XIII (Louis 13th) made and imported from France. He basically told them to get him I think 3 bottles (can’t remember how much) by the end of the day, or else.. even Raymond can’t think of a retort to the thinly veiled threat. I am beginning to think this general is actually a fake know it all. Both men worry and then Sammy walks in and says “Sir, perhaps I can help”. So far I am undecided if Sammy is a villain or just a jealous guy.

Ruco is forced into the bath tub again but saved in time when Sammy comes to see him. Ruco rushes out and Dr Sheung isn’t too pleased as he feels he needs to cure Ruco to prove a point; that he can do it. However he notices something strange with the bottom of the bath tub where the residue from the 9-9 pills remain and it worries him as well as confuses him.

Sammy asks Ruco to find 3 bottles of Louis XIII for him and by the end of the day. Ruco says it will be very hard but Sammy says Ruco will be suitably rewarded and Ruco finally agrees. Later Ruco’s gang carries out a cart, opens it and inside are bottles of liquor from France, labeled with 3 stars. Ruco says these are the Louis XIII but even the boys aren’t fooled and says how can it be? It is 3 stars, not some numbering (since they can’t read). Ruco declares does it even matter? Ahhh this man got balls!

Ruco brings the bottles to Raymond, Poon, Sammy and the General and the General notices there is no number on it but stars (ahhh he can’t read!!). Everyone looks at Ruco for his audacity but Ruco smartly says Louis XIII comes in 2 bottles; one official and one personal. The one the general had was I think he said personal or for special occasion but the official one that most have is the one with 3 stars. They are the same. Moreover the 3 stars is of historical significance. Ruco says Louis XIII had a brother or something like that who is the King, Louis XII or something. And Kings have 4 stars. The brother fought for the empire with the King and so the King out gratitude named the liquor Louix XIII with 3 stars, to show that his brother is only 1 star less and only he has 3 stars, that he is above all but below only 1 man. Much like how the general is with his just below Yuan Shikai, the top man. Ahhh everyone looks at Ruco and goes like “You got balls with that story!” and the general is very very pleased. He drinks the liquor and declares it is indeed Louis XIII!! Ruco smiles, Poon goes phew!, Sammy is like well done you lying bastard and Raymond looks at Ruco who looks back and Raymond is like well well well… Ahh and then the general says he is happy to attend Raymond’s impending wedding and tells Ruco he wants 100 bottles of the same liquor so that he can shut everyone up and boast about his liquor stash and give one bottle to each general or high ranking person attending. Now everyone looks and Ruco and goes what are ya gonna do now? and Ruco smiles and says he will be happy to do so! In fact it will be his wedding gift to the deputy mayor.

Ruco and Raymond alone in Raymond’s office and Raymond says thanks for helping and Ruco says no problem and Raymond wonders if he can indeed provide 100 bottles and Ruco says it will be hard but not impossible. Raymond then says quite clearly he thanks Ruco for pulling off such a stunt and Ruco is like what ya saying, that’s Louis XIII and Raymond smiles and says there is not Louis XIII but there is a Louis XII. The 3 star grade is actually the lowest quality, Louis XII is actually the highest quality. He knows all these because when the French was applying for permit to sell Louis XII, he had to study up to know the difference. But he teases Ruco to say surely he can’t charge the 3 bottles as Louis XII price and Ruco says no problem, charge it as Louis XIII price aka 3 star price as his gift to Raymond. Raymond happily accepts and Linda arrives, Ruco sees Linda and awkward moment and Ruco congratulates them and declare they are indeed quite a compatible pair. He leaves and Linda asks why he is here and Raymond explains and Linda says “I am not sure if he is a good person but she is sure he is a complicated person” and Raymond smiles and assures her all is fine. Linda reminds Raymond to take his last dosage for the night before the wedding tomorrow.

At night Linda prepares for her wedding, and all is merry. Raymond himself is preparing himself for the night, takes the last dosage as his mother tells him she likes Kai Kei a lot and she is sure she will get on very well with her future daughter in law which makes Raymond a very happy man. Natalie was there and was wistful as his parents urge him to quickly start a family and Raymond promises he will try his best, that made everyone smile except Natalie who looks on the verge of tears. Bad news for them; the other brother can’t make it to the wedding as he is stuck at Yokohama. Raymond doesn’t mind as he says Kai Chung and himself is very very close and so he is sure Kai Chung feels pretty badly about not making it to the wedding. Later as he respect or something to his ancestors, suddenly he feels faint, sweats profusely and basically fainted. Very dramatic.

Sheung Chun Tong is inundated with patients all complaining about the same thing; sweating profusely, can’t see, vomiting, etc. Everyone questions the 9-9 pills but old master declares they should trust him; he is sure the pills are fine. Kai Cho arrives looking worse and his eyesight is failing him and he is carried into the room where another doctor stays with old master as everyone else is told to get out. Linda quickly go check on the waste from the herbs, questioning Pierre if there was anything missing during the production which greatly offended Pierre.


I too thought perhaps Pierre used cheap herbs, etc but it was much simpler…


Meanwhile remember the little kid that Linda treated? Ruco bumps into the family as he is delivering the 3 stars bottles to Sheung Chun Tong and the kid faints and Ruco carries him to Dr Sheung who is busy analysing the waste he feels is strange, uses a needle and discovers it is blackened, indicating presence of poison. The kid arrives and he is told the kid took 9-9 pill and the Dr checks his fingernails who quickly notices blackened fingernails and he declares the kid is poisoned. Why the kid is poisoned, he is not sure yet. He quickly tells Ruco to quickly bring lots and lots of soy milk and make the kid drink. Soy milk will counter common poison before it is too late and so the kid drinks and drink and drinks.

Meanwhile Linda notices the gansui herb changed colour and she wonders how can it be.

Inside the room, Kai Cho is getting worse. Old master and doctor battles to save him, from taking the 10 herbs pills to everything but the old master declares how come he is not stabilised and is convinced 9-9 pills have not take effect and he must open all acupuncture points in Kai Cho’s body to absorb the 9-9 pills. Now you know what will happen don’t you? The doctor is skeptical and says this is against every tenets of medicine and diagnosis (involving inserting the needle into the top of the head) and old master tells the doctor does the doctor not believe him (he is still in denial about the 9-9 pills) and Raymond weakly tells the old master “I am half your son already. I trust you” and the old master is very moved and so did what he had to do.

The kid is getting better and Ruco quickly rushes to the Sheung Chun Tong to tell them and sees Linda and tells him and Linda rushes out to the main hall and tells the doctor and Ruco says he can help by bringing the soy milk. Everyone doesn’t believe but the kid’s father says his kid is fine and in the end I think it was Ruco who says they can believe and drink or disbelief and just die and so everyone rushes to drink. Slow mo time again in the action as Linda remembers Raymond and rushes with a pail of soy milk when Raymond’s parents stop her and asks what is going on and Linda says Raymond is poisoned and they keep holding her back and she is so darn slow that I went “COME ONE RUNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!” which she doesn’t do so but anyway she reaches in time…

Outside everyone gets better.

Inside the battle continues as Raymond seems to get slightly better as the old master declares the 9-9 pills is now absorbed into the body, Raymond will be fine when suddenly, very dramatically Raymond spews blood into old man’s face and went limp and old master is shocked, numbed, in total disbelief when Linda arrives and tells her father urgently “Father he is poisoned! He must drink soy milk!” and the old master is in disbelief as he keeps muttering “Poison? It can’t be… poison? No… poison? Poison.. poison.. how can that be..” and Linda looks at Raymond and sees something is very wrong when the parents, Natalie, all rush in and the doctor realises they have made a huge mistake; he did not see the darkened fingernails because the 10 herbal pills masked that symptom and by doing the acupuncture thing to the head, he has opened all “points” where Raymond’s body has absorbed the poison into his organs and is now dying. All the old master can do is keep muttering “poison… poison…” and Raymond weakly looks at a crying Linda who tries to feed him soy milk frantically as he weakly says and I quote verbatim because this is really the pinnacle of this episode and explains perfectly why even Ruco admires Kai Cho as a person, a man, a leader and a human being…

“Don’t worry… I will be fine.. I promised to take care of you for the rest of your life..I promise I will give you happiness, I promise we will be together… forever…”
and then he hands drop and his entire body goes limp.

And this is where Linda’s OTT crying will make perfect sense as she cries out hard and everyone is total and absolute shock.

What an emotional roller coaster. I have been predicting his death; I am also thinking it will be foul play thanks to the greed and negligence of Pierre. Guess what? It was the arrogance of the old master. He refuses to believe his perfect 9-9 pills are imperfect. Even Dr Sheung thinks 9-9 pills is theoretically perfect but I am sure like all Chinese TCM doctors say, always be careful when mixing 2 herbs together. Maybe Pierre does have something to do with it and I hope not. So far I am loving the fact that the old master ruined his own reputation and killed Kai Cho because of his own over confidence and his own arrogance. That will make for a very interesting watch; how will Raymond’s family deal with the death and the cause was the old master, how the name will fall and how Linda will work to find out why 9-9 pills was a failure and what went wrong and to perhaps by the end of this series perfect it. I think that will be the basis.

The last scene was excellent, the pressure, the urgency, the fear, the confusion, the insistence, the arrogance, the battle inside the room with a dying Kai Cho, a scared Dr and and even more scared old master was really excellent writing, excellent acting and just overall awesome. Poor Kai Cho; from the little time we viewers had with him, he displayed strength in character and integrity. What a total waste. I am sure the old master will be haunted by his death forever since Kai Cho did say he trusted the old master and the old master will end up a beaten shell of a man thanks to this extreme failure. What a way to kick a man down and I love it! Linda I am sure will get Dr Sheung as her teacher or something.

Performance wise, no complains except for super slow mo Linda. I feel that scene where she is held back by Susan and Poon as she tries to rush to Raymond with the soy milk is such a badly acted scene by Linda. Too pretentiously “Oh I must go, I need to go…” sort of moment. She redeems herself in the final scene but the one that caught my attention was Natalie. I find her sublime in that scene and every scene she looks at Kai Cho. She has improved leaps and bounds with being sublime whilst Linda has become the old Natalie.

What a sad sad episode. Ladies and gentleman, the series officially starts in Episode 6.


This Episodic Thoughts is written by Funn Lim, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com, and was originally posted at http://bigapothecary.blogspot.com/

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  1. Thus series is so boring and Ruco has too little appearance! Linda fail as the heroine her acting is getting worse! Can’t feel for her at all!

    1. No. 1
      Ruco is NOT the lead. The lead is Linda.

      No. 2
      It is only episode 5 (now ep 7) and so how much is a lot of appearance? Because the story isn’t about Ruco. So if suddenly Ruco appears every minute, that’s just bad storytelling. I am sure he will have lots of screentime.

      No. 3
      I agree on Linda but I have hope she will do better in coming episodes.

      1. dont agree,

        no 1, linda is the female lead and ruco is the male lead.

        no 2, a good story telling have nothing to do with how many screentime an actor have,i remembered when diky cheung wai kin played the lead role in the duck of mount deer,he was almost every minute on screen and i dont think the story was bad.

        no 3, if linda always plays the same kind of roles then she cant improve or shines so i quess her performance’s will not going better in the coming episode’s or maybe the whole drama not.

      2. No.1
        The story is about Linda. She is the lead. Ruco shares the lead with Raymond Wong. I don’t get the need to bombard an episode with Ruco alone. It takes time and so let the story develop.

        No. 2
        My point exactly.

        No. 3
        Only time will tell. I don;t see how she is always playing same kind of roles. She plays different roles BUT the same way is a better description.

      3. “ruco shares the lead with raymond” i think thats only because he has a love relationship with linda, i think ruco will have a lot more screentime than raymond if the story goes further. but agree lets see how it develop,but this drama is too boring to not fall in sleep.

      4. Linda’s acting in this series is inconsistent. She’s good at some parts and inadequate at others. Perhaps she’s feeling the pressure to perform. I’ll stick around cos of Ruco.

    2. Ruco will get more scenes when she trains with the old palace doctor to reopen her shop. 1st Raymond has more scenes now to get the story going. 2nd raymond will have more scenes as well to balance screentime as equal male lead.

  2. Kai Cho died because of Sum ye’s own arrogance.. i really like that idea and he keeps muttering “Poison? It can’t be… poison? … is amazing acting indeed.

    I also yelled “Come On Linda RUNNNN, when the parents blocked her way of bring the soy milk! but i guess her reaction is acceptable, coz in real life when we are in shock/danger, perhaps we wont react as fast as we should

    1. I do get the delay but I find the way she act that scene is a bit pretentious. I don’t know what’s wrong with Linda, but I feel her acting is off all over.

  3. Overall this episode was good! I liked it. Linda’s crying was just right at the end when he died on her. It was not OTT crying which I was glad.

    1. I like this episode too. I also like it that Linda’s crying is not OTT but feel very real. Still think she’s the best in such scenes among all the other first lead females.

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