The Sympathizer – Episode 6 “The Oriental Mode of Destruction” Recap & Review

The Oriental Mode of Destruction

Episode 6 of The Sympathizer features the Captain and the General at the training ground of the General’s army. They not only seem to have soldiers who are ready to participate in the General’s madness to reclaim Vietnam, but the Captain soon finds that they have enough funding to gather arms and ammunition. This is also where he learns that the General plans to send a squad for a recon mission, which is no doubt akin to a suicide mission. The Captain feels aghast to find that Bon is planning to volunteer for the mission and, despite his best efforts to persuade Bon against it, Bon simply reasons, “Life is a suicide mission” and that “The war’s over when the General says so.”

Later, upon the Captain’s questioning about the General’s army, the General simply refers to it as “charity” and an NGO, with the Captain exclaiming at seeing the arms and ammunition being delivered to the camp that the General’s friends “must be very generous indeed.” Upon the subject of Sonny’s interventions that threaten to derail the General’s plan, the General hints to the Captain that he wants Sonny dead. The Captain sends a letter to Man, informing him about the General’s military mission, requesting him to save Bon.

The next day, the Captain visits Congressman Ned Godwin in order to know more about the funding of the General’s plan. Back in the present, he confesses to the North Vietnamese officer that even though he fantasized about Sonny’s death, bothered by his and Sofia’s relationship, he had decided that he wouldn’t do it unless compelled by the orders of the General.

Later, he visits the restaurant and suggests that Sonny track the funds that the General has been receiving for his mission, emphasizing that he doesn’t want any of their people to die for nothing. Eventually, they decide to meet again, and Sonny suggests finding the paper trail evidence as he has contacts with the LA Times for them to be published.

At the store, the Captain ends up in an argument with Bon over his decision to participate in the recon mission, where he claims that he’d find more meaning as a hero fighting for his homeland. The General arrives and takes the Captain near their army training camp while the General shoots at the communist targets, eventually asking the Captain to strip as they take a dip in a natural hot spring. Here, the General laments his losses, including Lana, who’s apparently been corrupted by America.

The Captain requests the General to go along with Bon, but the General wants the Captain by his side, still as a trusted aide. He sends another letter to Man, requesting to return home with Bon as a last attempt to save him.

Here, we find the Captain and Man, who’s now clearly a figment of the Captain’s imagination, in a dialogue. Amidst the Captain’s arguments supporting his homecoming, Man simply replies, “What happens to a mole that has lived too long in darkness when it’s suddenly thrust into the sun? It is blind.” He adds, “You belong there. You’re American.”

Back at Ned’s fundraising event, he meets Professor Hammar, who reveals himself to be the author of The Oriental Mode of Destruction, quite unsurprising to those sensitive to his many racist commentaries but still a shock to the Captain. He later takes snapshots of the classified documents pertaining to donations made towards the General’s cause.

He takes the papers to Sonny at their agreed meeting time, explaining the involvement of Ned and the CIA. He later confesses that he’s a communist spy, emphasizing that he doesn’t hate Sonny, even though he clearly does, envious of his relationship with Sofia and his “unburdened” disposition. Shortly after, he shoots Sonny using an empty Coca-Cola can, disguises himself, and leaves with the papers. On the communist officer’s interruption, the Captain clarifies that he had made sure to mail them to the LA Times, only it’s revealed to be a lie as he had proceeded to burn them in his kitchen.

Later, the Captain receives the only message from Man with a mere “request denied,” and he promptly burns it in agitation. Sofia calls the Captain, and it’s revealed that she knows about the Captain’s identity and also that he had killed Sonny. Even then, she tells him that she had made an alibi for him and asks him to go far away. He visits Lana for the last time before telling the General that he’s going with Bon for the mission.

As Bon and the Captain board their flight towards a lost cause, Bon has a panic attack while the Captain hallucinates the Major and Sonny.

The Episode Review

This episode mostly depicted the Captain’s panic and confusion over his identity. From the Captain’s conversation with Man, it’s quite evident that the Man he’s been conversing with is his own subconscious, who’s aware of the Captain’s attraction towards the American way of life. Amidst this realization, he frantically tries to justify his actions and existence:

“I’m a hero of the revolution. I infiltrated the army. I worked in their ranks for three years, enduring risks untold…the real danger was the contamination of one’s mind with capitalism, with Western culture. The rank and file of the foot soldiers? They never had to worry about that. All they had to do was stoke their hatred of the enemy. They never feared they might become them.”

At the same time, the scene, though highlighting the disjunct between the Captain’s two personas, feels quite dispassionate from what it’s trying to achieve, and thus, we never seem to be able to greatly empathize with the Captain’s emotional state.

The glaring issue that unfolded in this episode was Sofia’s reaction to Sonny’s murder, where she protects the Captain from becoming a suspect and secures him an alibi. We are not quite clear why Sofia would do such a thing, knowing that the Captain murdered her lover, and so the logic of the scene falls flat.

As we move towards the finale, it’s quite evident that The Sympathizer’s charm is waning quite drastically with every episode since its premiere. Hopefully, the finale is well worth the watch.

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