The Battle of ChangSha Watch Along ep23

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Still life and Landscapes witness the wax and wane of days.  We fish for poetry and meaning as we are hanging on a thread, a red one, or the one on a kite.  The leaves on the bonsai are the same shade of jade green on a sturdier trunk.   A plane in the sky speeding by and gone like the clouds gathering and dispersing with the sun peeking through…is where their hearts belong.   The same sky, the same clouds, the same field of tall grasses…are never exactly the same.  A moving speech as the sun is setting, soldiers in the trenches surviving another day which could be the prelude to a dusk of darkest hour.

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GCM is grabbing a quick bite off a street stall when his Bigsis invites him for her homecooking, and a solution to his sticky situation on hand:  how to guarantee XP’s safety without sending him home.  The last thing he wants is to inconvenience Father, which would always lead to their tense topic of GCM heading home.  Bigsis, being obvious, reminds him that is even easier, GCM is a soldier in limbo, he can compromise with XP be the pilot equivalent, the Gu family’s forte.  It is an offer he can not refuse, as unwilling as he is.

Father starts their rare quality time with asking him whether he should address him as ShaoHeng, the name he has given his son, or ChingMing, the identity he has taken up, symbolic of him rebelling against Father’s wishes to be the honorable shining beacon.  After going about XX in vain, we can sense this is his last resort, a Father’s last plea for his son to come home.

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 As Father wishes…

My guess is he would love his Father to call him ChingMing, honoring his goal in life living with the clearest conscience doing his honorable duty for the war effort.  But it would also be dear to his heart if his Father would show him the intimacy of using the name he has given his only son, while supporting the life he has chosen to lead.

Mr Gu Senior could only wish.  He can not get what he wishes with threats of his son’s safety with the young lady who loves his son dearly.  Walking into the room, Father tells him Bigsis made his childhood favorite sweet pastry, BigSis2 brought back coffee from US and Father got his hands on a few yellow fishes he has asked BigSis to make a dish specially for their baby of the family.  Just to rub it in how much he is loved and on everyone’s mind.  Mr Gu Sr knows of his failed phone call to KunMing, he pushes his agenda by starting a conversation on how well he understands what Old Mr Hu is experiencing, all an old man wants is for his offspring to be home sound and safe, happily married with their own children…it must be seeing their mortality in the face with the hope of it passing along the generations.  Gu ShaoHeng knows it too, he was so emotional he gave you a call in XiangTan because of witnessing what Old Mr Hu was going through.

Spoiled all along, do you care about old folks like us? 
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Father is willing to pay the OuYang family, powerful in KunMing, a visit, but it is not necessary says GSH, it is enough for XP to be a pilot that would never be allowed to fight in order to keep him safe…like himself.

That would be good enough.

Mr Gu Senior can only let out a wry, sad chuckle, that is not good enough for himself,  nor for Old Mr Hu, never a peace of mind a moment not seeing his son, grandson safe, in this dire state of a harrowing war.  But it is a compromise, an understanding from his SH he can acknowledge.  True to his shrewdness in his powerful position, Mr Gu Sr demands a condition in exchange:  GSH has to return to ChongQing with him.
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This has nothing to do with her.

GSH immediately senses his dad is brilliantly going the softer approach of coercing him back to CQ whatever means necessary when he urges him to hurry up and marry HXX if he has his eyes set on her.  Her entire family can move back to ChongQing with us.  He generously suggests, hoping the safety of HXX and her family is an offer much harder to refuse.

Mr Gu Sr is so cool at shoving the babies, trapping them in their corner, he passive aggressively pushes GCM further whether it is not his wish to marry HXX.  If he loves her, he should marry her, if he marries her, her safety should be a highest priority.   In other words, does he love her enough, or not enough to care about her safety even?!  Or his safety for her sake?!  We have witnessed XX and GCM sat down im a lovely moving conversation moons ago. GSH says he has more important things to focus on.

What is more important than your life?!
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GSH stresses he wants to lead his own path in life.  Truth be told, Mr Gu Sr snides back when has he not allowed him following through with his decisions?  Not when he did not force him back when he enrolled in military school instead of business school Father has arranged.  He has not started on the years he allowed his son to be in service in ChangSha.

(WH has a precious tear in his sparkling eyes making his point wholeheartedly the entire scene and I appreciate this close up of his gorgeous side profile taking up half the screen in HD.)

GSH is pleading with his Father to allow him continuing on his chosen path, as treacherous as it is, risking his life.  He has no choice without the wit of his Father in the business world.   He makes a stern promise to his Father, what he knows very well matters the most:  He will not allow himself to die.  But what Father can watch on his son down a path of a dead end of a certain death?!

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  …Only being alive, can there be hope of winning.

GSH is young and optimistic still, Mr Gu Sr is no longer believing in the word hope and winning associating with their party, their country.

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GSH’s face contorts in pain,  what his Father is warning, he is too aware, suffering backups never arriving, crude strategies not well planned.   He is living in a shame their fronts are losing and receding for some time, for too long a while.
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When you get old, you will realize there are things not worth persevering…

governing party will switch, generals will rise and fall. 

The only thing that will last is the continuation of our family line.

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If ,

you die….

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The legacy of our family…ends.
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Father, the Gu family will not vanish.  China will not die,

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Mr Gu Sr leaves GSH behind…with his last words of the weighted conversation:

You can guarantee you will not die? !

GCM walks into the Hu courtyard with the sound of young MM reciting 三字经 in front of the educated Hu clan.  It is a line about a dog has his role to guard the house at night, and rooster knows when to crow at dawn, everyone has a worthy role in life to serve, if we do not strive to learn and be worthwhile, we are lesser than a dog or a cock.

GCM has chosen his role as what he deems worthwhile, not compromising his safety and understanding XP’s wish as well willing to sacrifice to be a worthy man.

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He apologizes to Grandpapa as the bearer of the disheartening news for the old man XP has left for duty earlier in the afternoon.  He failed at arranging for XP’s discharge.  He can only comfort, XP is still in training instead of in the line of fire, equipping himself the skills of a fighter pilot preparing him for a worthy man when he comes home safe.

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If he can contribute in the fight against the Japanese invasion,

it is the honor of our Hu family. 

If he perishes, that is his fate.

The older generation is always the stalwart of the family, nothing is worth more than the well being of their offsprings.  Nothing.  Not personal honor…but when everything is exhausted for the utmost cause…there is still a country to be served.  Without further adieu, Grandpapa bids his farewell to Grandmama and leaves ChangSha in the middle of the night, the stubborn, principled old man can not inconvenient Grandmama and her family a moment further. His hope is dashed, but the old man soldiers on cane in hand like always.
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Brother XiaoQiu, take good care of Grandpapa!

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XJS does not care about needle in her hand poking him, he would rather hug her than have her mending his clothes.  He would rather the world laughs at him in tatters, than wasting another moment with his wife.  He promises her, wishes he could take her with him living at his Unit as the army wife once he has moved up the ranks further and he would not let her lift a finger to a chore…he would hold her in an embrace every waking moment, I am sure.

 XiangJun… -JunShan

They both have something to say, and both would rather hearing out the other first.
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But they are interrupted by GCM hollering at XJS he has to leave and report to the base immediately his time off has been cut short.  XJS whines they are relatives deserving leniency, but GCM ensures him he would report his misconduct should he refuse to leave to the general without a wince.

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As XJS is scrambling out the door, he hears Grandmama affectionately calling GCM XiaoGu~ah~~!

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How hard can cooking a dish be compares to you fighting in the army? !

He is the Grandmama boy, smiling even more adorably at her than at his XX, thanking Grandmama for her tender loving care cooking the marvelous feast.  Overlooking this scene, XJS realizes he is fooled, by GCM of all the naughty youngsters in the house.  GCM even snides back:

So what if I am messing with you, you have been fooling around with me all the time.  Eat!

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XJS whines to Grandmama like a child, telling her not to believe the cooing, GCM’s manners are just his schooling, it is not a true attribute.  Hahaha forcing Grandmama wooing both of them are her very sweet Grandsons.

Too adorable.

 XM tells BiL the news he will start his service.  Dad teases him he has told every living soul in the block many times already.  XM has to tell BiL himself, awww!

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BiL pinches XM’s cheeks adorably joking with him whether this is just another hotheaded fad.  XM can go on and on, winning the rare affection of BiL being proud of him, but he is shooed off the seat next to BiL, BiL intends to sit next to GCM.  :)))
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BIL gives XM a compliment he is a better man than XiaoHe at least.  GCM gives his compliment by gifting XM his gun.

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Both of us have to make it back. 


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XJS holds the hands of XiangJun tighter than ever throughout the meal.

As he is leaving, GCM urges XX to be careful at the hospital.  XX says her missing you with a red thread.  She heard from a wounded soldier this is a good luck charm, bullets will curve around the body with this thread around the wrist.
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How did that soldier get injured then?

-His red thread was broken.

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GCM asks XX to tie the red thread on his wrist.  He is a believer of their love, as long as it is not broken like the red thread, it can put a smile on his face even when he has to leave her, with this reminder of how much she cares about him, his lifeline for an extra fight even at his last breath to come back to her.

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We were used to XX initiating the hugs, not anymore.  GCM repeats to XX to be careful taking good care of herself with him leaving her side.

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I will miss you.

-Me too.

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XJ and JS are still holding hands tightly.   What the obstacles did not break, makes their love stronger.

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I am the kite, my line is in your hands, just a pull from you, I will be back.

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XJ asks her husband what he was going to say to her in their room.   His face freezes,

XiangJun, actually…

My take used to be the obvious I love you and ‘PingOn’ very much. Do not worry too much about me.

But Mr Ren said in his weibo his take on what XJS was going to say is he wants to break the truth to XJ, MM is not PingOn, PO is dead, but they have a new adopted son in MM they can cherish as their own.  XJS can not be sure if he can come back and if these are the last words he can say to his wife, he would rather it be the most earnest, honest truth.  He is the only one sharing her exact grief, and the only one that can help her, he must be thinking. I think it makes much better sense than my take.  XJS no longer shies from expressing how much he loves his wife from the longing looks he can not get enough of her, from the urgent embraces, from his tight grip on her hand constantly, from that beautiful metaphor…another word about his love for his wife is unnecessary.

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And yet, he can not, betting on he can say it to her without the rush when he is back.

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 I will wait for you coming home.

-I will be back.

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I am moved to tears happy contented ones seeing XX and BiL shaking hands.  XX has grown into an equal, a trusted friend, a comrade of BiL he respects and depends on, trusting her to take good care of her Sister in his place.  It is also insanely cute how GCM is looking on their every move as if in disbelief.

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The sisters share similar longing faces seeing their love leaving their sight.  The guys ask how the other is holding up with a pat on the back.

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Seeing planes flying above, their own country’s planes, Grandpapa asks XQ, ‘is XP flying in the sky?’

They have more reason to wish upon above.

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Sun still peeks through the overcast, at the hospital the young soldiers are teasing XX, calling her XX Jei fondly in the ChangSha dialect, encouraged by XM who is spilling out XX’s anecdotes I am sure many are very colorful and not at all respectable.

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It is so sweet to see XM still has the childish prankster in him, with his new revitalized purpose in life.  The boy who used to complain of a physical chore or two is now serving the best he can, brightening the mood of all around.

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It is a serene, beautiful sunset in the overcast, Dad spills the bad news, IJA has broken the new city wall, advancing into ChangSha.   General Fang is making an address on the radio, it is his will

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Winning or losing the war, hinges on defending ChangSha.  I am a soldier, it is my duty to defend the land. The government will support the livelihood of my five sons.   I wish they can all graduate from college and be honorable men, carrying on my goal in life, serving our party our country.  With that, I can smile beneath nine lakes, six feet under.  I hope my wife will not suffer much grief.  From your husband, ZhiShan.

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Monitoring his soldiers, checking the progress of building up the defense of their base, GCM takes the time to take off his gloves, buttons up XM’s shirt for him with a tender smile.  (D’AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!! STOP IT GCM!  He could have just tell the boy like probably BiL to tidy his outfit like a proper soldier and it would still be cute enough!) The boy still has the pampered prince in him, whining for proper work in combat instead of mundane labor.
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You can stop doing your labor and wait for the japs to slaughter you.

While the other BiL loves to pinch some memorable pain on XM’s cheeks, this soft spoken BiL loves to pat his lesson sweetly on his face.
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General Fong has an uneasy premonition of how all quiet the front is.  This is the calm before the storm, the enemy has made advances with sneak attacks at night before in battles they lost in other cities.

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GCM orders his men to be on high alert at night fall, ready to fire at any sign of the enemy.

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XM is bored sitting still on patrol, he blindly aims at the distant foliage and it hits the advancing enemy!  The IJA is forced to retreat, leaving behind highly sensitive intelligence.

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General Fang takes the opportunity to make GCM leave the base just hit by cross fire, asking him to personally deliver the documents in japanese to their central base in Mount YueLu, on the west bank of the Xiang River running through ChangSha.  GCM refuses, he promises his unit commander he would report back helping out his unit to defend the front as soon as he made the urgent delivery to General Fang.

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GCM uses General Fang’s own words in his will he would live and die with his troops on the earth he must defend himself.  GCM is a member of his 10th Corp, he must follow his General’s example.  General Fang explodes he has enough of GCM, he would not care if Gu Senior blames him anymore if his son is hurt or dead.

If my Father heard of me dying for my country,  he would not blame anyone.  Let alone I would not speak of dying lightly until my last breath.
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XM is home breaking the most exciting news of his life, he has slain a jap.

In your dreams, huh?!   quips Dad.

No one takes his word with any weight.
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XJS is brushing his teeth, ready to live another day and it starts with him comforting and hitting a soldier under his care to his senses.  The poor guy is mourning the death of his cousin killed just yesterday.  XJS points to their entire front line, there is no use crying when there are shoots to fire at the relentlessly advancing enemy.
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Not even time to finish his cruller XJS witnesses, the young soldier shot and killed, as his soldiers are dropping like flies.   Just another brutal day.

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A recurring nightmare, which starts off perfect every time. He dreams of PingOn in XiangJun’s arm in that idyllic meadow, smiling at him and he smiles back.  It is happening so often XiaoDi knows he is dreaming of PingOn.

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XiaoDi promises XJS he would go and pay respect with his BigBro at PingOn’s grave when they get back home.  Home alive, if they can stay alive.

Breakfast is served early today, the roasted pork tastes nothing like Grandmama’s.  Still he can not finish a bite when they are bombed.
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Another nightfall, XJ carefully checks if all the windows are closed and PingOn is safe and sound asleep amidst the noise of the attack hitting closer.

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Grandmama is up as Dad secures the front door tighter, it is an ominous day, she can’t help but say it loud.

Operations are undergoing in the severe tremors of the bombs, lights are flickering maddeningly, but Cousin MingHan is deadly focus on his tasks like any other day or night at the hospital.
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Another break of dawn, but XJS is not getting any break.   Worse yet, their line of communication is damaged by a hand granade.    He can not even call for backup in the desperation.
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He can only ask for XiaoDi to sneak back to base, asking for backup.   He is the only one he trust.
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If you can make it back to the city, take a look at your Sister in Law, tell her I am safe and doing well.

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4 thoughts on “The Battle of ChangSha Watch Along ep23

  1. Wow, it’s amazing how war can change ppl so much, doesn’t it? I can’t help but chuckle at the relationship between XX and BiL in the opening episode, playing cat-and-mouse around Changsha…and look at the two now!

    So, just to clarify, is General Fang making GCM leave because he is still abiding by GCM’s father’s wishes?

    Ahhhh, I can just sense the ominous clouds impending doom; some of these screen grabs send chills down my spine. It reminds me of the pointlessness of war and of humankind’s self destruction! 😥

    1. It is! Without XX’s speech BiL may not pull himself together compromising w MM as PO so soon, you could never think you r ready to move on with the passing of someone this dear. XX also has another identity of a ‘Sister in Law’ with how bff r BiL and GCM!

      It is not just abiding by the promise to Gu senior, GCM must slso be a true right hand man, very competent Fang does not want to risk him any harm knowing this is just the beginning of the darkest hrs yet. It is also a strategic move in case he needs bkup and GCM can arrange. It is a very common despair of KMT when some generals r still operating on own gains, instead of willing to sacrifice whole brigade of infantry to help out another fraction, even when friendly.

      War is really an utter devastation, as bravely gallantly they r trying to survive, there is not a day, a moment they spend with their dear ones too aware it could be last even when trying to stay as hopeful as can be.

  2. Thanks for continuing with this. I finished the series and needed some time off from it. However it’s still a treat to read your watch alongs. Also thank you for what RCW said about XJS. I read one of the script writer’s Q&A that she thinks that what they both wanted to say is something mundane (along the lines of your original thinking) but I think RCW’s theory makes total sense too (also considering what happens after).

    This episode is truly the calm before the storm. But I cherish seeing GCM pranking BiL and the whole family sitting down together for a meal on their too perfect round dining table eating all that delicious home cooking.

    1. RCW really is marvelous with his read on his character and my vote for the best job amongst this very very good ensemble cast. XJ has not properly mourn the death of PO, the grief is too unbearable and she shuts off to protect herself from the pain too intense. When she is with XJS, he can feel she is almost herself…except MM/PO and there must always be an unsettling premonition, he knows he is the only one XJ can lean on, he is her anchor and he had rather he breaks the news and be there for her.

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