All Hell Breaks Loose in ‘Shōgun’ Episode 5

All Hell Breaks Loose in ‘Shōgun’ Episode 5FX

Uh-oh! If you’ve enjoyed watching Shōguns forbidden relationship between Mariko (Anna Sawai) and John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis), then the beginning of episode 5 surely struck fear in your heart. As I predicted, Buntaro (Shinnosuke Abe) is alive. Again, it’s TV 101, people! If you don’t see a character die, then it didn’t happen. Sadly, Buntaro’s return isn’t great for anyone in this story. Sorry, man, but your wife moved on pretty damn quickly since your fake-out TV death! If last week was the Blackthorne and Mariko romance episode, this is the keep it a secret or you’re dead! episode.

Before we get to The Shōgun Dating Game, let’s recap how we arrived here. Forced to escape his political rivals in Osaka, Yoshii Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada) and his army now occupy the fishing village of Ajiro. He brought his son, Yoshii Nagakado (Yuki Kura); Englishman Blackthorne; translator Mariko; his vassal, Kashigi Yabushige (Tadanobu Asano); and now the samurai Toda “Buntaro” Hirokatsu. In the short time that Toranaga was away bolstering his forces, a lot has changed.

For starters, Blackthorne and Mariko became a wee bit more than just a barbarian and his translator! On a slightly more lethal note, Nagakado slaughtered one of Ishido Kazunari’s (Takehiro Hira) reputable samurai—without his father’s approval. That creates new problems for Toranaga to deal with, so I’m sure the great lord will be pleased.

Nope! Toranaga is Very, Very Angry

Of course, Toranaga reprimands his son for thinking so impulsively. Yabushige claims that his nephew, Omi (Hiroto Kanai), came up with the plan. So Toranaga grants Omi command over his army. Using his falcon as a metaphor, Toranaga explains that the goal is to lead the killer to his prey so that he kills for you. Later, the great lord reveals that it was actually a solid plan. He has home court advantage now.

That said, promoting Omi over Yabushige continues to test his uncle’s loyalty. Yabushige sends Igurashi (Hiro Kanagawa)—an older, eye-patch-wearing samurai—to mend things with Ishido. As we flip to Osaka, I can’t imagine that Ishido will tolerate Yabushige much longer—he receives Jozen’s decapitated head in a nicely wrapped gift box. Ishido presses for Toranaga’s impeachment once more, but his efforts are again halted by a loophole; the council still needs to appoint a fifth member. Bureaucracy (at its finest!) slows down the meeting. The four regents can’t find a suitable and unbiased option. Lord Sugiyama (Toshi Toda)—speaking his first lines of the show so far—isn’t able to help, either.

Yabushige is easily one the most Shakespearean members of the story.FX

Back to the Drama!

Buntaro is furious. Toranaga forces him to live in Blackthorne’s house, just so Mariko can fulfill her duties as both a translator and a wife. Buntaro hasn’t even met Blackthorne, but he hates him nonetheless. Mariko’s husband isn’t even kind to his own niece, Fuji (Moeka Hoshi). So Fuji spills the beans and says that Blackthorne enjoys the company of other women. There’s only one other female character in this house, so yeah: Buntaro is downright pissed.

We simply must talk about this bizarro C plot: Blackthorne is keeping a rotting pheasant nailed to his house. He says that it’s a gift from Toranaga and he’s letting it age, but it smells like shit and everyone hates it. At dinner, he feeds the group rabbit stew. They’re horrified. It’s not a great start to a Meet the Parents-esque dinner from hell, where Blackthorne, Mariko, and Fuji dine together with their new housemate, Buntaro.

Right away, Buntaro calls Blackthorne a “baby monkey” and makes fun of the way he eats. Then, in a makeshift dick-swinging moment, Blackthorne and Buntaro hold a sake-drinking competition. The tension, obviously, is incredibly high. We’re just one mistranslation away from Buntaro slashing Blackthorne’s neck. Instead, the samurai drunkenly shoots an arrow mere centimeters away from Mariko’s face. She doesn’t even flinch (badass!), even though he’s flambasted as shit. He fires another arrow and it splits the first in half. Sweet.

Poor Mariko...FX

Oh, But There’s More...

Blackthorne tells Buntaro that his wife deserves better treatment. (Never mind that the Englishman cheated on his own wife when he slept with Mariko.) Buntaro laughs in his face. He informs Blackthorne that Mariko’s family comes from a “disgusting, filthy line,” Then Mariko finally reveals her tragic backstory: She is the daughter of disgraced general Akechi Jinsai, who assassinated the former warlord, Kuroda. He ruled Japan before the Taikō—and Mariko’s entire family was sentenced to death for the crime. She is the only family member who survived, since she married Buntaro. Still, Mariko wishes to join her family in death. She’s here solely because her husband commands her to remain alive. The backstory adds a wrinkle to their relationship; whereas Buntaro was portrayed as a cruel man, now he’s shown as a merciful protector of Mariko, in a way.

Sadly, this brighter view of Buntaro lasts for only a brief moment. Later that night, he beats Mariko and flees the scene. “If you disturb this home, you dishonor the Anjin,” Fuji screams at him. “What is there to dishonor?” Mariko responds. “This house is cursed.” Blackthorne goes outside and yells Buntaro’s name. A staring contest ensues. Buntaro takes out his sword in an attempt to kill himself—but changes his mind, apologizing to everyone and blaming his behavior on the sake.

In the morning, the Englishman gives some advice to Mariko. She can kill herself and join her family, die in a suicide mission while trying to avenge her clan, or kill herself (spiritually) by staying with her husband. “If you can’t see that, you’ll never be free of this prison,” he tells her. “No, Anjin-sama, it is you who is imprisoned,” Mariko shoots back. “If freedom is all that you live for, then you’ll never be free of yourself.” Whoa! Okay, Mariko. We have an ideological war on our hands now. Um, hold on, let me join in. Ah! I’ve got it. “No, Mariko-sama. Live. Laugh. Love.”


Then, Chaos!

Blackthorne’s gardener removes the rotting bird from his house because it’s so stinky. He’s then... killed? Apparently, Blackthorne told everyone that whoever removed it would die. This whole plot is insane! Someone help me out here! The bird needs to rot for a few days before they can…eat it? This is the first time I’ve ever directly asked the readers of Esquire to help me out in the comments.

Blackthorne is also going insane about the bird. He essentially ordered someone’s death on the same day that his new girlfriend broke up with him. Following his failed advice to Mariko, she declares that they’re firmly Anjin and translator—nothing more. Blackthorne begs Toranaga to let him leave Japan, but the great lord replies, “I can’t be bothered with this nonsense” once he hears about the bird fiasco.

As everyone’s lives split at the seams, so does the ground. A massive earthquake strikes the village. Toranaga almost dies, but Blackthorne saves him once again. Still, Toranaga’s forces are decimated. From atop a mountain, they watch as the earth’s plates shift and Ajiro is destroyed.

This falcon is a damn good actor, am I right?FX

Please, I Can’t Take Anymore...

My head is spinning. Did you catch all of that? I’m genuinely sorry, readers, but there’s more. At the very end of the episode, Lady Ochiba (Fumi Nikaido) returns to Osaka. I know what you’re thinking. Who the hell is that? Is my brain capable of following even more characters in this show? Like it or not, she’s just one of a couple new characters we’ll meet next week.

Sooooooo….let me explain. Lady Ochiba is the Taikō’s widow. She’s also the only one of his consorts to bear him an heir. For the previous four episodes, she was imprisoned at Toranaga’s castle under the pretense that she was helping her sister (one of Toranaga’s six wives) deliver her baby. Back in the very first episode, it was one of the matters that disturbed the council during Toranaga’s interrogation. Now that she’s back home in Osaka, Lady Ochiba can move her own chess pieces to ensure that her son (the rightful heir) comes to power. “The time for politics has come to an end,” she tells Ishido. “The council will answer to me.” Phew!

If we can learn any lessons from this, it's that you can’t have a wife and a girlfriend, even in feudal Japan. Though men have tried for eternity, all have failed. One last piece of advice: Don’t nail dead pheasants to your house!

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