Jump to content
  • Sign Up

First Episode 13: 暗算


Recommended Posts

A part of the Grand First Episode Project -- See this thread for more info.

Emule, Youku

Language Difficulty Level: Upper Intermediate

The story of a secret unit trying to decode transmissions by nationalist agents in the early 1950s.

It's set in the 50s, in a war setting, it's dark and gloomy (as the title suggest) and secretive and full of intrigue (as the synopsis suggests). It is slow-moving, but interesting if you're into the war/spy genre. The production and acting are quite good.

The language was intermediate to upper intermediate (lots of military vocabulary).

--- Plot Summary ---

We start with 铁院长 getting briefed on the situation by another officer. The PLA is secretly moving troops (commanded by 何师长) in ordinary trains planning to attack 大阴山, held by Kuomintang forces. They are planning to cross the 鸭绿江 river in the north, and eliminate the KMT forces in the south. The KMT have 100,000 operatives left on the mainland. He is then on the train to the spy headquarters, and talks to a fellow officer.

Once he arrives, he is furious about scarecrows being put at the perimeter to scare off enemies, and orders them removed. The people in the HQ are happy to see him, including the experienced 丁姨. He expects that 蒋介石 is planning to attack the mainland. We also see the action in the listening room and meet 安副处长, a young officer, and 陈科长, an experienced operative.

Fighting breaks out on the front and they have a briefing. They've cracked some enemy communications, and they are suffering losses at 大阴山. They are ordered to listen even more intensely. However, they lose all the signals within half an hour and cannot find them again. They fear that the enemy has a new way of communicating, and all their work so far is worthless, and they have to start from zero.

安副处长 explains to 铁院长 that the KMT is definitely not planning to attack the mainland. He thinks that they've stumbled upon a special frequency, and are using that, but 铁院长 thinks they would have found it by now, with so many people looking. They figure they need a year to find the new frequency and crack the transmissions, but they are only given 3 months and 80 extra people. That's not a lot of time, and they need people with extra sensitive ears, and these are hard to find. They get 28 people together in a small group, and within a week, they only find one frequency with enemy talk, after checking 45. That's only 2.5% of what they need, and they'd need 6 months at that speed.

丁姨 tells them of a colleague they had, whose ears were so good that he found enemy communication even though he could barely speak Mandarin, and that they need that kind of person to help them find the new enemy frequencies. She suggests a man who might fit the bill. 安副处长 gets on the train (accompanied by a bodyguard), I guess to pick this guy up, and listens to Taiwanese radio on the way. He supposes that they are encoding messages into these broadcasts. Apparently, he grew up in Shanghai and can speak Shanghai dialect.

The episode ends when the bodyguard suspects there is a spy/assassin on the train.

--- Summary End ---

解放军 jiě fàng jūn - People's Liberation Army

列车 liè chē - train

隐蔽 yǐn bì - to conceal / to hide

兵力 bīng lì - troops

阴山 Yīn shān - Yin mountains in Inner Mongolia

师长 shī zhǎng - military division level commander

日子鬼子 derogatory term for Japanese

本质 běn zhì - essence / nature

蚂蚱 mà zhà - grasshopper

严峻 yán jùn - grim / severe

纷争 fēn zhēng - to dispute

鸭绿江 Yā lù jiāng - Yalu River

帝国 dì guó - empire / imperial

消灭 xiāo miè - to put an end to / to annihilate

残余 cán yú - remaining

潜伏 qián fú - to hide / to cover up

猖獗 chāng jué - rampant / wild / unchecked

距离jù lí - distance / to be apart

背靠背 bèi kào bèi - back-to-back

战士 zhàn shì - fighter / soldier

神通 shén tōng - remarkable ability

胜仗 shèng zhàng - victory

情报 qíng bào - (spy) intelligence / information-gathering

腮 sāi - gills / lower part of cheeks

顽匪 wán fěi - gangster / bandit

夜壶 yè hú - chamber pot

驳壳枪 bó ké qiāng - Mauser pistol

迷宫mí gōng - maze / labyrinth

顺风耳 shùn fēng ěr - sb with preternaturally good hearing (in fiction) / fig. a well informed person

危言耸听 wēi yán sǒng tīng - frightening words to scare people (成语 saw); alarmist talk

庄园 zhuāng yuán - a manor / feudal land

阀 fá - clique / valve

不解 bù jiě - not understand / indissoluble

天线 tiān xiàn - antenna / mast

迷惑 mí huo - to puzzle / to confuse / to baffle

稻草人 dào cǎo rén - scarecrow

蒋介石 Jiǎng Jiè shí - Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975), former Guomindang leader

反攻 fǎn gōng - to counter-attack / a counter-offensive

蠢 chǔn - blunt / stupid

挣扎 zhēng zhá - to struggle / struggling

垂死 chuí sǐ - dying

置身 zhì shēn - to place oneself / to stay

滴哒 I think this is onomatopoeia for the blinking lights and beeps

阿里山 Ā lǐ shān - Alishan, mountain in Taiwan

狐狸 hú li - fox / fig. sly and treacherous person

批评 pī píng - to criticize / criticism

处分 chǔ fèn - to discipline sb / to punish

截获 jié huò - to intercept / to cut off and capture

特务 tè wu - special assignment (military) / special agent / spy

破译 pò yì - to break a code / to crack a riddle

控制 kòng zhì - control / to exercise control over

电台 diàn tái - transmitter-receiver / broadcasting station

频率 pín lǜ - (radio) frequency

监控 jiān kòng - to monitor

神秘 shén mì - mysterious / mystery

失踪 shī zōng - missing / lost / unaccounted for

预谋 yù móu - premeditated / to plan sth in advance

收工 shōu gōng - to stop work for the day

遗憾 yí hàn - regret / pity

静默 jìng mò - silence

沟通 gōu tōng - communicate

规模 guī mó - scale / scope / extent

联络 lián luò - communication / to get in touch with

突围 tū wéi - to break a siege / to break out of an enclosure

乌龟 wū guī - tortoise

可疑 kě yí - suspicious

苏联 Sū lián - Soviet Union, 1922-1991

重庆 Chóng qìng - Chongqing city,

纪律 jì lǜ - discipline

The rest of the vocabulary is in post #10


Edited by renzhe
wordlist added
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I watched a fair chunk of this a while back - the first act, when they're trying to crack transmissions between leftover nationalist soldiers and Taiwan is fairly good and can be quite tense. It suffers a little bit in that its all set at the base and feels very removed from the action - although they do come under attack on at least one occasion. The second act I found painfully weak as they basically abandon the eavesdropping and codebreaking and turn it into a love story, and not a very good one at that. Apparently the third act, about the communist underground in 30s Shanghai, is the best - but I'd given up by that point.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Watched this last night and it was interesting enough that I am going to watch a few more. Too bad about the unfortunate turns it makes that made Roddy stop watching, we'll see if I do the same.

The language wasn't all that difficult in my opinion but it moved fast and you have to get used to what they were talking about before things really could just be "listened" to (ie I found myself using subtitles a lot just to keep up). But this should be fine but the second or third episode.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that it would be a good idea to try and watch the third act immediately. Many people say that this is by far the best part. I get the idea that it was the third act that made this show so famous, not the parts before it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Okay so I finished this a long time ago and thought I would expound a bit on the whole thing:

It was good and the first "act" (apprx. episodes 1-12- if my memory serves me correctly) was decent (the acts refer to three seperate yet connected stories). The story is a deaf guy helps them figure out what channels the KMT is using for their broadcasts (a lot more indepth than that but it's accurate). The first 1-8 episodes are good and the last 9-12 deal with the guy finding a wife and wanting a son and the tragic ending to that. Really stupid and boring in my opinion and drug on for too long.

The next act (13-20 apprx) are super boring as well. Storyline placed a few years later as technology has changed and now they need a math expert to help break an algremthic code. In the end it turns out to be a very horrible attempt at a love story.

The best is the third act (21-the end) and is the main guy in the first two acts telling the story of his father and mother (who the father is played by the same guy) who both were communist party members during the time the KMT was still control and centers around the father as the KMT tries to catch the mole (who is the guys father). The most eventful and well thought-out part of the whole series. Loved it!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...


I've finally re-watched the first episode. Unlike the first time, I could follow the story, so I put together a summary and a wordlist, which should help people figure out what's going on.

It's a really good show, this one, at least the parts I've seen.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's the ones that weren't filled in

穷寇 - an enemy under pressure - poor bandits.

残部 - remnants of a defeated force

偷奸耍滑 - thieves, traitors and malingerers

康巴人 - Khampa, Tibetan group

靡靡之音 - decadent music (I have the impression this is the name of a Taiwanese propoganda station in the show?)

扑火 - put out fire? Couldn't be 扑灭?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

穷寇 - an enemy under pressure - poor bandits.

扑火 - put out fire? Couldn't be 扑灭?

I have slightly different interpretation. Not sure about the context. So maybe yours is right.

穷寇, is it 穷寇莫追? Do not push desperate enemies too far (or they'll fight back fiercely for their survival).

扑火 - 飞蛾扑火,自取灭亡?It's not put out fire. Throw themselves into the fire.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The context was two officers thinking back to the days when they were fighting the Japanese and comparing the Japanese troops of then with the KMT troops of now.

Here's the text:

- 让我想起胶东那次, 一路去打日子鬼子, 一路去打国民党, 看起来一样。

- 本质上却不一样。 那个时候日本鬼子是穷寇, 现在国民党是穷寇。

So I guess it could refer to an enemy who is so weakened that they might be desparate (and thus dangerous).

The extinguishing the fire bit goes like this:

一旦你这把枪被使用了,就说明我们遇上麻烦了。 枪是可以消灭麻烦的,就像水可以扑火。 但有时候水也扑不了火。

So yes, I think that "extinguish a fire" is the correct meaning here. I guess I should have figured it myself, but I was getting tired towards the end.

The part with the Taiwan station goes like this:


Thanks for your help, gentlemen.

Edited by renzhe
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

So you guys like it too? I heard a lot of positive commenting by Chinese audiences, though I myself could barely finish the first episode, maybe it's a personal taste thing. I just can't stand characters wasting time blabbering about nothing, here nothing means stuff that isn't fun, isn't interesting, and doesn't help advancing the plot.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that a spy drama as complex as this takes time to evolve, and can't be judged by the first episode alone. I admit to not seeing much of it (I've seen too many spy dramas by now, heh), but I've had it recommended by a number of people.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that a spy drama as complex as this takes time to evolve, and can't be judged by the first episode alone. I admit to not seeing much of it (I've seen too many spy dramas by now, heh), but I've had it recommended by a number of people.

I saw many raving reviews of it. I just managed enough interest to see the 1st episode last night, for the 1st time, as far as I can tell, the plot is painfully slow, the dialogue devoid of attention-grabbing material and more importantly sounds robotic. “风声” was a much more interesting adaptation of the story IMHO despite its numerous obvious plot holes and still IMHO way too many exploitative, excessively cruel torture scenes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...