‘Shogun’ Episode 1 Recap & Ending Explained: Why Did John Save Yabushige?

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Shogun takes place in the year 1600. Portuguese Catholics are doing good business with Japan and keeping the European Protestants at bay. In Osaka, the Taiko has passed away and appointed five Regents to take care of Japan until his son becomes old enough to rule. While all this is going on, an English vessel is seen sailing towards Japan. Its pilot, John Blackthorne, is convinced that they are near, but his captain has given up all hope because the ship is in shambles, they have no food, they have no water, and they are lost. Blackthorne tries to convince him to keep going, but the captain ends up shooting himself. Moments later, the ship enters Japan, and upon inspection by the samurai squad, it’s revealed that Blackthorne isn’t the only survivor. How is this going to be integral to the political feud between the Regents? Let’s find out.

Spoiler Alert


John Blackthorne Motivates His Imprisoned Men

In Shogun episode 1, we are introduced to Lord Yoshii Toranaga, one of the five Regents who are looking after Japan. He goes to meet Lord Ishido Kazunari, along with his general, Hiromatsu, his son, Yoshii Nagakado, and the rest of his posse. Ishido accuses Toranaga of misusing the powers that have been vested in him by the late Taiko by consenting to six marriages, thereby leading to the strengthening of his fief (it can be a reference to the estate that falls under Toranaga’s jurisdiction or the reach of his control), i.e., Kanto. Toranaga assures the Regents (which include Lord Ishido, Lord Kiyama, Lord Sugiyama, and Lord Ohno) that just because he is growing in numbers doesn’t mean that he is going to disrupt the peace of the land. Ishido accuses him of kidnapping the Heir’s mother, Lady Ochiba. Toranaga says that his daughter-in-law, who happens to be Lady Ochiba’s sister, is currently in labor, and that’s why she wants her by her side. Ishido says that that’s a shallow excuse, and Toranaga is holding Lady Ochiba hostage to ensure his own safety. Based on this accusation, Ishido tells Toranaga that he should not only return Lady Ochiba but also prepare to be impeached because the Council of Regents thinks that he is unfit to wield so much power. This angers Toranaga’s subjects, especially Tadayoshi, but Toranaga doesn’t break his composure. Instead, he apologizes for his subject’s behavior. Ishido gives Toranaga 7 days to do what he has been asked to do, and then he leaves.

Toranaga and Hiromatsu talk about Usami Tadayoshi being married to Hiromatsu’s grandchild, Fuji. Toranaga assures him that, even though Tadayoshi promised that he’d end himself and his family line (which means his newly-born son) to apologize for acting violently in front of Ishido and the rest of the lords, Fuji will live. Toranaga says that he doesn’t approve of Tadayoshi’s promise to perform seppuku, but it’s not clear if he’ll stop it completely or not. Hiromatsu reminds him that their lives are in danger too because, as soon as Lady Ochiba returns, the Regents will definitely try to kill them. Toranaga tells Hiromatsu that he is in the minority currently, and if he does anything rash, the other four Regents are going to rain hell on him, and that’ll be the end of his reign. So, he has to stay in their open prison and make it seem like his back is against the wall. In the meantime, Hiromatsu has to go to Ajiro to look into the case of Erasmus (the ship). Ajiro apparently falls under Lord Kashigi Yabushige’s direction, and he is interested in checking out the “barbarian ship” himself. Expecting the worst, John’s crew members begin to blame him for bringing doom upon them. John assures them that they won’t be harmed if they present themselves as harmless merchants who have lost their way and ended up in Japan. That said, if the Japanese do realize that the English sailors are there to expand their kingdom, then it’s “game over” for them.


John Blackthorne is allowed to live

Tadayoshi approaches Fuji and orders her to give him her son. Fuji threatens to kill herself, and that’s when Toda Mariko intervenes. Tadayoshi continues to act without any semblance of empathy, even though he is the only one who is responsible for his fate and the fate of his child. Mariko puts him in his place. She convinces Fuji to put down her knife and live for Toranaga’s sake. Although Fuji doesn’t want to do that, she obliges and gives up her son because of Tadayoshi’s stupidity. Mariko mourns this moment, and a very brief flashback makes it seem like she has seen this happen before. Shogun’s focus then shifts to Ajiro, where we are introduced to Kashigi Yabushige. His nephew, Kashigi Omi, tries to bring out all the English prisoners but fails. He manages to separate John from the rest of his crew and humiliates and scares him until he understands that he is not the one in control in Japan. Then, he is taken to Yabushige, who gets a Portuguese translator (a priest) to understand who John is. Since the Portuguese and the English are at war, the priest lies to Yabushige. To avoid getting killed, John grabs the priest’s cross and stamps on it to show that even though he and the priest are Christians, he is not one of them. That somehow prompts Yabushige to give John a place to stay while boiling one of his crewmates because he wants to punish someone.

Toranaga is seen playing with Lord Yaechiyo (the Heir), thereby proving that he shares an amicable relationship with him, while the rest of the Regents probably don’t. The Daiyoin tells Yaechiyo to go study so that she can express her fears about the kid’s safety as well as the safety of Toranaga’s clan without him overhearing it. She tells him that the Regents do not fear him because of his name. They fear him because of his Minowara bloodline. She tells him that he needs to become the shogun that Japan needs, since that’s the only move that’ll save him and Yaechiyo. Toranaga, however, is neither interested in doing what his ancestors did in the past nor does he want to become a shogun. Daiyoin emphasizes the fact that if he doesn’t hold a place of power and continues to be non-aggressive about everything that is going on, then the Council of Regents will win. Back in Ajiro, Yabushige enjoys a lewd performance art between a courtesan named Kiku and his Kosho. The following day, John wakes up to find out that he is still alive. He is given new clothes and food to eat. He still does not understand why he is being treated so well, while one of his crewmen has been killed and the others are rotting away in an underground cell, but he wishes to meet Yabushige because he seems to have taken an interest in him.


Why did John save Yabushige?

Kashigi Omi is under the impression that Lord Toranaga doesn’t know about the “barbarian ship,” and hence, he asks Yabushige why he is keeping Toranaga in the dark about it. Yabushige tells Omi that Toranaga’s fate has been sealed, and he doesn’t need to know about what is going to happen in Japan in the future anymore. Omi theorizes that as soon as Toranaga is killed, there’ll be a war. Ishido will contend with the Christian lords and their “Christian weapons.” So, at that moment, if Yabushige presents “Christian weapons” from the ship to the Christian lords, he’ll gain their trust and, hence, rise through the ranks. Hilariously enough, the Kashigis’ joy is short-lived because Hiromatsu lands on the shores of Ajiro to take care of the Erasmus. Yabushige, upon realizing that he is about to lose his trump card, tries to convince Hiromatsu that he and Toranaga can trust him to take care of the ship and the weapons in it. Hiromatsu puts Yabushige in his place very quickly. Since Yabushige knows that if he acts rashly in the present, his future will be jeopardized, he backs down and orders Omi to search for the spy who sent all the details of the ship to Toranaga. John is brought out and taken to Osaka by a Spaniard (who sails for the Portuguese) called Rodrigues, along with Yabushige, Hiromatsu, and their men. 

The journey ends up being a very treacherous one, and that’s when John’s naval skills come in handy. When they get to the shores of an island, Hiromatsu and Yabushige show no interest in searching for Rodrigues, who has apparently gone overboard and is lost. John protests and goes out to search for Rodrigues, along with Yabushige and some of his men. Due to some ego issues, Yabushige ends up injuring himself, thereby forcing John to save both Rodrigues and Yabushige.

At the end of Shogun episode 1, Toranaga has a conversation with Mariko about the fate of the Usami family. Then Toranaga employs Mariko as his translator and counselor in his mission to use John to sway the odds in his favor and defeat the rest of the Regents. It’s also his way of doing right by Mariko’s father, Akechi Jinsai, who apparently gave his life for a noble cause fourteen years ago. After resuming their journey to Osaka, Rodrigues reveals that he has found John’s journal, which states explicitly that John represents a country that wants to destroy the Spaniards, reach Japan, and establish a trade route with them (which is a roundabout way of saying that the English want to invade Japan). When John tries to kill Rodrigues, he pulls a gun on him, and John backs away. He laments that he is not going to die in this “wretched land.” Rodrigues points out that Japan is the pinnacle of human civilization, and he has much to learn about it. This is followed by a small montage where Fuji’s baby son is killed, the spy in Ajiro is revealed to be the guy who spotted the ship first, and John is presented in front of Toranaga and Mariko.


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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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