Sunday, April 27, 2008

"Sun and Cloud Shadow"

In this episode, Caine wanders into the middle of a dispute between some Chinese settlers and the man who owns their land, a hard-bitten but meditative ex-military man called Colonel Binns (Morgan Woodward). The gist of the disagreement is that the Colonel abandoned a mountain and the Chinese stayed behind to mine it, persevering until they found gold. Now that the mountain has proven to be valuable the Colonel wants it back, and all the gold in it.

The racist behavior of the townsmen, particularly Binns’ sons Doug (Dennis Lee Smith) and Dave (Richard Hatch from the original “Battlestar Galactica”) aren’t helping the situation. In fact, in the beginning of the episode Caine is marginally involved in a scuffle in which Doug shoots and kills one of the village elders, Ying (John Fujioka). Caine also learns that Dave has a secret love affair with one of the Chinese girls, Po Ten or “Cloud Shadow” (Aimee Eccles). Po Ten had once been a servant in the Binns house.

The Chinese are prepared to take up arms to defend the mine, and Caine, revealed by his brands to be a Shaolin priest, agrees to represent them and negotiate some kind of agreement between them and Colonel Binns. Caine and Binns hit it off – Binns admires the “tiger” in Caine, although Caine tries to show this man, who only understands the outcome of battles, that there’s more to warriorship than physical victory. But he’s able to reach an accord with Binns, in a great scene in which Caine shows just how incapable of manipulation he is.

Unfortunately, things get complicated, as Ying’s son (Clyde Kusatsu) takes revenge for his father’s death, and Dave refuses to man up to his relationship with Cloud Shadow. On top of that, a Pinkerton operative has traced Caine to this location, and brought a Manchu martial arts expert to deal with Caine. Everything comes to a head in the episode’s climax.

Something about “Sun and Cloud Shadow” bothered me. I think I found the love story distracting. The resolution of the conflict left me lukewarm, too, as Caine faces his adversary in a pretty cool fight sequence, then turns to Dave and demands, “Choose,” meaning he must choose to face his father and claim his Chinese bride or remain silent, honor his father and let Binns cannon the Chinese. This just didn’t have the same ring of revelation and enlightenment that Caine brings to some of his other encounters with characters. I think I would have enjoyed more interplay between Caine and Binns and Caine and the Chinese, perhaps Ying’s son, showing these multiple sides of Caine, as Chinese and American, warrior and peacemaker.

Two out of four yin yangs. IMDB is here. The Manchu was played by veteran stunt man, karate instructor and actor Bill Ryusaki (image from Schumann’s Martial Arts Training Center).

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