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First Episode 50: 潜伏


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

Emule - tudou

Can't find it on youku, probably because it's too recent.

Very recent (2009) spy show about the 1940s starring 孙红雷 and My Own swordsman's 姚晨

This show is something everyone in China is talking about nowadays, so I thought it would make a great addition to our project.

--- Summary ---

The story takes place in 重庆 towards the end of WW2. The Americans have just taken Iwo Jima, and there are rising tensions between the Chiang Kai Shek's KMT and the Communist underground.

We are following a low-level KMT agent 余则成, whose job is to eavesdrop on people's conversations, specifically a group of communist sympathisers called 曾家岩50号 gathered around 林怀复. One day, an agent called 张名义 appears wounded and dies shortly after telling him that 李海丰 has defected to the Japanese.

余则成 find out from his boss 吕宗方 that 李海丰 is one of two main people in the HQ's communications division, the other one being the female general 姜毅英. He admits that some of the stuff they talk about does actually make sense, but is warned that they are dangerous people. He reports to a superior, later we find out that 张名义 was murdered because he didn't want to defect together with 李海丰

余则成 poses as an engineer outside his work, and is romantically involved with 左蓝, planning to marry after the war is finished. She is a teacher, but also works as a translator and seems to sympathise with the looming communist revolution. Still, 余则成 is shocked when she shows up in the group that he is eavesdropping on, which leads him to fail the mission (alert the other agents as soon as certain 孟 先生 shows up). Later, he finds out that she has translated an article talking about the revolution and urges her to not use her real name in the future.

But it's too late. His superiors know about the article and about their relationship and decide to send him to 南京. Leaving a letter for her is the best he can do. His mission is to find and help assasinate 李海丰, by figuring out his daily routine.

Since 李海丰 has spent a long time in their organisation, he knows almost everyone, so they have to send someone he doesn't know instead of a trained killer. So 余则成 gets stuck with this assignment despite not having any experience doing this. His new name is 劳文池, and his codename 蟹. He is given a watch, if anything happens to the boss, he should look for a man named 帖. It seems like giving him this mission is 吕宗方's way to protect him, because he has become a suspect and there is an investigation on him looming.

He meets 李海丰 and two other people, claiming that he is also defecting after being exposed. He gets a job as a secretary. After making contact with his boss 吕宗方 and arranging to meet him, he sees him get shot, his only contact left. The killer is interrogated by 李海丰, who knows that 吕宗方 wanted to assasinate him. They were planning to see who his contact was, and this killer guy ruined it. The killer guy says that 吕宗方 was a communist, and that he had no choice because 吕宗方 figured him out and started shooting. So 余则成 was saved, but is now stuck behind enemy lines. With his mission exposed and his superior dead and an investigation looming on him, and nobody knowing where he is, he decides to disappear and look for 左蓝 and settle down somewhere.

--- Summary end ---

无赖 wú lài * hoodlum / rascal

会议 huì yì * meeting / conference

共产 gòng chǎn * communist

帮会 bāng huì * secret society / underworld gang

过河拆桥 burn bridges after crossing

周恩来 Zhōu En lái * Zhou Enlai (1898-1976), Chinese communist leader, Prime Minister 1949-1976

交涉 jiāo shè * to negotiate / relating to

中共 Zhōng gòng * abbr. for Chinese Communist (party, regime etc)

坚决 jiān jué * firm / resolute / determined

反对 fǎn duì * to fight against / to oppose / to be opposed to

分裂 fēn liè * split up / to split / to divide

举措 jǔ cuò * to move / to act / action

造谣 zào yáo * to start a rumor


特务 tè wu * special assignment (military) / special agent / operative

抗战 kàng zhàn * war of resistance, especially the war against Japan (1937-1945)

抉择 jué zé * major decisions

外甥 wài shēng * sister's son / wife's sibling's son

查岗 chágǎng * To supervise someone's work.

叛逃 pàn táo * to defect / to desert / to betray and flee

潜逃 qián táo * to abscond / to slink off

投靠 tóu kào * to rely on help from sb


策反 cèfǎn * instigate rebellion within the enemy camp; incite defection

完蛋 wán dàn * fallen from power / destroyed / finished


家规 jiāguī * domestic discipline and family rules

电讯 diàn xùn * telecommunications / telecom

王牌 wáng pái * trump card

破译 pò yì * to break a code / to crack a riddle / to solve an enigma

珍珠 zhēn zhū * pearl / also written 真珠

密电 mì diàn * coded telegram / secret telegram

宝典 bǎo diǎn * canonical text / treasury (i.e. book of treasured wisdom)

牢骚 láo sāo * discontent / complaint

黑枪 hēiqiāng * a shot fired from a hiding-place

总部 zǒng bù * general headquarters

资格 zī gé * qualifications

鼓动 gǔ dòng * to agitate / to arouse / to instigate

内弟 nèi dì * wife's younger brother

公开 gōng kāi * public / to publish / to make public

委员长 wěi yuán zhǎng * head of a committee

埋伏 mái fú * ambush

周旋 zhōu xuán * mix with other people / socialize / deal with

眼皮 yǎn pí * eyelid

奸细 jiān xì * a spy / a crafty person

青浦 Qīng pǔ * (N) Qingpu (place in Shanghai)

妻室 qīshì * wife

黑名单 hēi míng dān * blacklist / list of proscribed people (books etc)

硫磺岛 Iwo Jima

围巾 wéi jīn * scarf / shawl

缠绵 chán mián * touching (emotions) / lingering (illness)

置身 zhì shēn * to place oneself / to stay

危局 wēi jú * perilous situation

呜呼 wūhū * die

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

单线 dānxiàn * one-way (contact); singleline (link)

总署 zǒng shǔ * general office

接风 jiēfēng * hold a welcoming dinner

蒋经国 Jiǎng Jīng guó * Chiang Ching-kuo (1910-1988), son of Chiang Kai-shek 蔣介石|蒋介石, Guomindang politician, president of ROC 1978-1988

汉口 Hàn kǒu * Hankou, part of Wuhan 武漢|武汉 at the junction of Han river and Changjiang in Hubei

听差 tīngchāi * manservant; office attendant

出手 chū shǒu * to put one's hand to sth

交易 jiāo yì * (business) transaction / business deal

清乡 I think this might be a Japanese name, or refer to a place in Japan

立功 lìgōng * render meritorious service; do a deed of merit; win honour; make contributions

抓差 zhuāchāi * draft somebody for a particular task; press somebody into service

稀奇 xī qí * rare / strange

接头 jiē tóu * connecting pin (on electric plug), contact

The language is around upper intermediate. The first half is almost at the advanced level due to lots of vocabulary and many references to political figures which might be confusing, but most of it can be figured out from context. The rest of the show is not hard to follow.

I really enjoyed this. Don't be put off by some terrible token special FX in the beginning, this is not that kind of show, and it doesn't happen again.

This show is slower than the recent 秘密图纸, and more political. Following an inexperienced spy caught behind enemy lines is an interesting premise and, although 孙红雷 seems a bit ill-at-ease in some scenes, he's a good actor and I'm sure that he will give a good performance over the duration of the show. The atmosphere reminded me of 暗算.

Definitely worth a watch, and will probably develop into an interesting show. I'm planning to watch a few more of this.



Edited by renzhe
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潜伏 is definitely an excellent TV series. It's another one of those typical "mainstream" TV series enforcing the communism ideology, and it's a lot welcomed by the Chinese audiences. But I'm not sure if its extremely complicated story lines (with all the different parties' interests, and all the factors coped into the decisions making processes by 余责成) is that appropriate for the purpose of Chinese language learning. I felt hard to follow Yu's logics even as a native Chinese, and as someone who's been dealing with mathematics all my life.

Right now lots of TV stations are showing <<人间正道是沧桑>>, also starred by 孙红雷.The series is meant for celebrating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of P.R.China. The story might not be as exciting as the other sky show, but at least it's easier to follow.

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Yeah, it's not something for beginners, you need to be comfortable with watching Chinese shows in order to watch this one.

But it's worth it. A few episodes in, things start falling into place. It's not as fancy as some other recent shows, no awesome fight scenes or complex camera work, it has quite a retro feel, even in the way it was filmed. But the story is good and the acting is good, and that's the main strength of this show. It also has some delightful moments -- the first time 余则成 meets his "wife" is very funny. when they said his wife was an illiterate woman from the countryside, he didn't quite realise what they meant.

The story is quite complex, and you'll need to concentrate to pick up on all the details. But that's the nice thing here -- there is richness to the characters and the complex situation he's in makes things interesting. And the retro style makes it kind of unassuming and unpretentious, so you concentrate on the story. The voice-over is a bit annoying, though.

I like the fact that 余则成 is not Rambo. He's a regular guy. In fact, he doesn't even want to be a spy. Watching him cope with very complicated situations is interesting. Anyone interested should watch the first five episodes to get the feel for this show. I'll keep watching it.

As for the missing words, 军统 is basically the KMT secret service, 日伪 seems to be a derogatory term for Japanese occupiers, and I still have no clue what "鸡鹅巷" is.

Edited by renzhe
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I think it refers to a time period. Here's the context:

他是鸡鹅巷时期的老军统. 对家规应该很清楚.

Seems to be referring to early days of 军统. Maybe it's the name of the street in Nanjing where they started or something?

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See here


And then more about the 复兴社. So basically he was part of the 军统局 before it was even called the 军统局?

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Bah. Looking up 70-odd words per episode is enough. I figured somebody might know. It worked, I got two people into the thread. Now watch it :mrgreen:

Anyway, here's the solution to the riddle:


Edit: Roddy was quicker.

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Bah. Looking up 70-odd words per episode is enough. I figured somebody might know.
Haha, I think for things like this, you're starting to get into words and history that many Chinese themselves wouldn't necessarily know.

Not sure if I'll ever get around to watching this though, I'm not a huge fan of spy dramas, and even less of a fan of historical dramas.

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It's very true that lots of Chinese don't know this part of history. I think the reason is complicated. Basically, such naughty spying things, regardless who did it or what its objective was, can hardly be put into the history books for kids to learn isn't it?

I finished watching this show a while back. To be really honest, I believe not all the decisions Yu Zecheng made were logical if one really thinks hard about it. In the actual circumstances it's simply not possible for his ever-stupid-pretending strategy to survive at his high position (天津军统站副站长). Real spys have got to be low-key, and nobody could be intelligent enough to make all well-rounded lies to everybody.

Btw, "日伪" refers to the local police force established by the Japanese occupiers.These are Chinese people, but the local folks don't admit their authority and thus called them "Japanese Fake (governing)". In other words, they are "汉奸".

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For what it's worth I really enjoyed the series. A friend recommended it to me and from start to end it kept me. I liked it better than the one about the code breakers [brain is not working for me today] and it was very well done.

The intelligence behind the actions, the changes within the characters themselves were all very believable. Watch it, I doubt you'll regret it.

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Yes, I'm half-way through it and I agree. The story is very complex and it's very interesting to follow the main characters' logic and all the individual interests and how they get out of all sorts of trouble by playing people against each other.

The interesting moments all come from the characters and the story, and sometimes it will make you laugh. It's full of delightful moments like that.

The difficulty is still between upper intermediate and advanced. The language is not complicated in terms of grammar or chengyu, but there's lots of new vocabulary for me. Most of it useful.

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I've just taken a look at the photos in #1 and noticed that the guy is the one in 梅蘭芳 and oh 我的天 I've lost all interest in watching it.

梅蘭芳 is such a bad film. 眼高手低得嚇死人 。。。 :evil:

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This one had been widely watched and discussed even before its TV broadcast, thanks to the convenience of internet entertainment. Many like it.

Story and acting is good. The relation between the couple is very convincing. And supporting roles are well done too.

Production is weak. I think this is a general problem to many Chinese TV shows. They probably all have tight budgets. Offices and homes look empty and cheap, as if no one is living in them. But if you say, "Tell me a good story and I don't care about other things/I'll fill them up by my imagination." They got a good story.

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The production is SO retro that I'm almost sure it was done on purpose. If I didn't know that it was from 2009, I'd swear that it was filmed in the 70s.

For example -- you have a scene, it's interesting, there is exciting music... then CUT new scene, the music stopped abruptly, and you're staring at a brown door for five second, then somebody enters. It's so 70s, it feels like a blast from the past. :mrgreen: They could be going for nostalgia, it certainly reminded me of real-socialist 80s drama.

On my version, even the music sounds like it comes from a worn-out tape recorder.

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Going to download a few episodes of this and see how I get on with it. Had been planning to watch something more modern, but didn't enjoy 我的青春谁做主. I'll roll back a few decades, then make another assault on the modern later (can't we just watch 中国式离婚 or 空镜子 again?)

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I've finished this, and I'm glad I did.

Not everybody will like this. The retro style may scare some, and most of it's plot-driven, with little in terms of action and cheap thrills.

But those who like it will really find it rewarding. Although many parts are not 100% realistic, this is complex and intelligent cinema, full of interesting characters, unexpected plot twists and subdued, dark humour.

The ending is absolutely brilliant.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Watched the first one. Seems really good, and it's good to see 佩瑶 from . . . 子夜, that was it! . . . again. And also 郭芙蓉 later, excellent.

What worries me though is that it all seems a bit too intricate, and they're not even wearing uniforms so you can tell them apart. I'm pretty sure that I'd drift off at some point and before I know it everyone will have changed sides.

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Yes, I was sure I had seen the actress before, and it took me a while to figure out who she was (佩瑶). 姚晨 is also good fun.

What worries me though is that it all seems a bit too intricate, and they're not even wearing uniforms so you can tell them apart. I'm pretty sure that I'd drift off at some point and before I know it everyone will have changed sides.

If I could follow it, then surely you can, too. :mrgreen:

Anyway, the most interesting thing I was asked recently (a minor spoiler ahead) was whether I thought that his boss the KMT guy knew he was a mole all along. It's especially interesting considering the way the series ends and adds a very interesting re-interpretation of the plot and the characters. On a further thought, he could have been a mole himself.

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What worries me though is that it all seems a bit too intricate, and they're not even wearing uniforms so you can tell them apart. I'm pretty sure that I'd drift off at some point and before I know it everyone will have changed sides.

If I could follow it, then surely you can, too.

Hmmm, I'm trying to figure out how to word this.... I give up

Anyway, it's not as intricate as it seems. They are pretty clear on who is on what side but they make it "feel" deeper

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