‘The Sympathizer’ Episode 2 Recap & Ending Explained: Why Did The Captain Called The Major A Mole?


The first episode of The Sympathizer took us back to the raging war between North and South Vietnam. We were introduced to the protagonist of the miniseries, the Captain, who was working in the South Vietnam Secret Police, but he (along with his friend, Man) was loyal to the North. Through his confession in prison, we learned about how Saigon fell and how the General, his family, the Captain’s friend, Bon, and Bon’s wife and child were prepared for evacuation by CIA agent Claude. However, due to heavy bombardment by the North Vietnamese, many of the escapees were killed, including Bon’s wife and child. Let’s find out if the Captain and Bon actually made it to the plane, so that the Captain could continue his spywork in America for the communists of North Vietnam, in the second episode of The Sympathizer.

Spoiler Alert

The Captain Reunites with Professor Hammer

The Sympathizer, episode 2, begins with the Captain submitting another draft of his story to the jailer because the last one that he had submitted was a little too Hollywood-y. As the narrative goes into flashback mode, much like the opening moments of the first episode, the story is told in a non-linear way. So, please, allow me to lay it out in a more straightforward fashion for the sake of simplicity. While getting out of Vietnam, the Captain and Bon did get onto the plane with the dead bodies of Bon’s wife and child. Then they were taken to refugee camps, where the General tried to win over the trust of his people (who were seething with hatred), and Bon went into a bout of depression where he was literally unable to do any of his tasks by himself. Things got so heated at the camp that the women attacked the General because he had failed the people of his community. That caused the General to believe that there was a spy among their ranks who was spreading rumors about his ineptitude. So, he tasked the Captain with finding out this traitor. While the General and his family were made to stay at the camp, the Captain and Bon got to move out and live in an apartment complex of sorts, and the Captain was employed as a member of the Oriental Studies department at his old college (Cal West College), under his mentor, Professor Hammer (yes, Claude and Hammer are played by the one and only Robert Downey Jr.). 

After this point, the narrative becomes somewhat linear, and we see the Captain using invisible ink made of corn starch (that can become visible with iodine) and the fictional racist book, Asian Communism and the Oriental Mode of Destruction, to communicate with Man and keep him updated about the General. Simultaneously, the Captain is forced to tackle Hammer, who is pretty racist under the guise of educating himself about all things Asian and is tasked with preparing an Oriental vs. Occidental study to explain his biracial origins. And he is asked to attend a soiree, which is basically Hammer’s way of ambushing the Captain regarding his understanding of race. The Captain faces further racism from a “well-intentioned” journalist who has no idea what’s happening in Vietnam, and the Captain schools him. This impresses Ms. Sofia Mori, who is Hammer’s Japanese-American secretary. The Captain updates Bon about what’s going on in his life. Bon has become functional, but he is apparently drinking himself to death to digest the deaths of his wife and child.

The General Opens a Liquor Store

The aforementioned soiree in The Sympathizer appears to be quite racist in nature because all the Americans are dressed in Oriental clothing, while disallowing the Captain from speaking his piece. Hammer literally adjusts Mori’s kimono because it’s not “Japanese enough.” That makes the whole Oriental Studies group look like a farce. Anyway, the Captain finds some semblance of comfort with Mori as they talk about his dislike for eggs (it was probably the only thing that was provided to the prisoners in South Vietnam) and squid (the Captain apparently did unthinkable things to a squid). Instead of being disgusted by all this, Mori is attracted to the Captain, and vice versa. At this point, the episode cuts to the Vietnamese jailer who is reading all this, and, much like the puritans on social media who are vehemently anti-intercourse, he asks if doing all this was necessary. The Captain, while breaking the fourth wall, explains that having a sexual affair was actually integral to learning about the country he was in and being accepted as a proactive member of society. 

Things didn’t look all that sunny and bright in the case of the General and his family. The Captain and the Major do tend to their needs, but the General is stuck in that same old cycle of looking for the traitor in the South Vietnamese camp. Instead of bothering with that, the Captain goes and confesses his love to Mori, who is also in love with him. When Bon finds out about it, he doesn’t approve of it. He just tells the Captain about the fact that the General is opening his own liquor store and then storms out. When Man learns about this, he warns the Captain not to take the General for granted. Man is right because firstly, the General opens a liquor store to bring his people together so that he knows who is with him and who is against him. And as soon as someone paints violent graffiti on the walls of his liquor store, the General uses it as an excuse to ramp up his search for the spy, even though the Captain tries to convince him that it’s probably the work of some anti-Vietnamese, racist individual. So, just when the Captain assumes that the General has become an alcoholic recluse, he tightens his grip on his people and the Captain.

Why Does The Captain Accuse The Major Of Being A Mole?

The General’s Liquor Store opening ceremony turns out to be a weird one. By the way, his shop is called Yellow Flag Spirits because he is clearly not aware of the racist connotations in America around the word “yellow.” Earlier in the episode, the Captain refers to Hammer as an “egg” and also sees his American interviewer as an egg because they are white on the outside and yellow on the inside. It’s a way of critiquing White people who think they understand Asians so much that they are partially Asian. There are several other food-related remarks. The one that I know of is the “gulab jamun.” It’s brown on the outside and white on the inside. That’s used to critique the South Asian diaspora and NRIs who only appear to be South Asian on the outside but have become White Americans on the inside. Coming back to the episode, Bon evidently hates the party because their fellow Vietnamese people are dead and the survivors are celebrating. The Captain runs into Sunny Tran, and they have a hilarious argument about having a vicious debate during their grad school days on being Vietnamese, the Vietnam War, and America’s role in it. The General gives a “rousing” speech about killing the traitor that he is after, which apparently works on the people who are attending the ceremony.

This is followed by an interrogation of all the attendees, which is conducted by the General and Claude. As he feels the noose tightening around his neck, the Captain throws the major under the bus. He says that since the Major is bringing “Keo Lac Vung” or peanut brittles (which look similar to the Indian “chikki”) from Vietnam, he has some kind of illegal connection, which he is probably using to destabilize the General. It’s not really clear if they buy it or if they actually suspect the Captain, but it’s evident that the investigation has taken a new direction.

At the end of The Sympathizer, episode 2, after being coaxed by the General (who is unhappy that the Major’s family in Vietnam is doing fine while his people are still in the refugee camps), the Captain employs Bon to go after the Major. Given how the depressed man has nothing to look forward to in life and has a lot of anger bubbling inside him, the Captain realizes that he is the perfect man for the mole hunt. If the Captain plays his cards right, he can direct Bon’s frustration in the Major’s direction and put an end to the General’s suspicions. However, there’s a good chance that this can all backfire. Bon can come to the realization that the Captain is using him, which can cause him to explode with fury and make him go after the Captain. Well, let’s see how the Captain deals with all this in next week’s episode.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
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.

Must Read

DMT Guide

More Like This