Monday, November 29, 2010

The Bond Explained

With All due credit given to athlynn17 & carneliane
secondary source: asianfanatics  

The Bond Explained
or 10 reasons why Tse/Tai rules, and why it still works alongside Tse/Mui!
“Old Master is…dumb?”
Tse's first impression of Tai
(Episode 1)

To begin with, frankly, I personally feel that this pairing does not require any explanation cos it obviously holds its own, but here's the lowdown on what makes this duo form a bond beyond any partnership or ordinary camaraderie would ever be able to.

1. Save Chuk-Fan-Min-Fun, (who seem to walk and talk synchronized like clockwork) Tse and Tai share an immutable chemistry, whether as official and subordinate, friends or lovers. Even right from the start, Tse understands Tai perfectly and his gestures and words are swiftly intercepted and put into action. The (40) two act together like water unto wine, be it working on cases or simply, teasing the crap out of Chan Sai Mui. Tai is probably the only person on the same wavelength as Tse, the both of them (41) read each other's thoughts effortlessly. Right from the start, Tse and Tai trust each other, and the relationship is mutual from both sides. Tse greatly admires Tai's genius and investigative skills, while deep inside, Tai views Tse as the sort of savior that the imperial legal system needs desperately.

2. Their relationship also proves to be the most intense in the series in almost everything. From the time where (42) Tai and Tse stand side-by-side in street demonstrations against So Chan Tung, to the gripping scene where Tse and Tai Chung Mo are heated in a fierce, (43) drunken argument, with Tse withdrawing from the fight in (43b) angry tears.

Even when things are seemingly dire and helpless, Tai refuses to forsake Tse, and likewise, Tse, Tai. Both being equally stubborn and defiant, and both are not willing to let the other sacrifice himself and fall apart any further. Even though it means parting forever, it is a decision Tse makes at the end of the series for Tai, to ensure Tai will live.

Likewise, even though he risks Tse hating him and sacrificing their friendship for good, Tai hardens his heart and seemingly cuts of all ties with Tse and the rest of his family in order to protect Tse. By association with him alone, Tse is in constant danger.

A brief look of grief flickers through his expression when Tse tells him he has changed, but Tai determinedly pushes right to the edge, being mercilessly cold until he finally leaves Leung Choi County.

3. Tai goes through great means to protect Tse and his family from persecution by the So brothers, among all the characters, his is the largest sacrifice. Tai was determined to save Tse and the rest, in his own words, (44) 'even if it means killing my own brother', chilling words that would haunt Tse during his moments of doubt. Tai undergoes the harsh transformation to his older brother Tai Chung Mo, and later, exhausting all means to ensure the masquerade remains intact.

Initially, Tai was shown to be reluctant to seek Tai Chung Mo's help, knowing that it would only prove fruitless, but when So Chan Nam's plotting hits a dangerous pinnacle- Tai casts all his doubts aside and sets off immediately to seek his elder brother's help. There, he persuades a violently ill Tai Chung Mo to switch places with himself, therefore ensuring he can protect Tse during the trial to come and also do justice in his dying brother’s name in order to help him realize his wish. (45) Tai Lou Ye is so convincing in his act, and it is seemingly a flawless disguise which nobody sees through. However, Tse is suspicious right from the start, coupled with his strong gut instinct- he seeks to reveal Tai Chung Mo's real identity, leading to several emotional and violent confrontations.

When Tse finally finds out about the switch through a weak and ailing Tai Chung Mo, to his dismay, he was right all along. The (46) Tai brothers had switched identities before his trial under So Chan Tung commenced earlier. Tai Chung Mo tells them that in order to obtain a genuine scar, (47) Tai Lou Ye stabbed himself in the stomach, and rubbed the fresh wound with powdered chili in order to make it appear real and aged, and that each time he coughs, Tai bites on his tongue to draw real blood. At this point of the tale, we can see the (48) grief and emotion that overwhelms Tse upon hearing the intense pain that Tai had to endure, and is still going through all this time. He then decides to protect Tai's identity, like how Tai had protected him all this while.

4. Although Tai is only slightly older than Tse, the latter proves to be more naively optimistic at times, being less exposed to the harsh realm of politics and power play. Though clever and quick, Tse is simply much more inexperienced, and Tai is painfully aware that things could go astray, should he fail to protect Tse and his family. In other words, Tse, above all else, represents the hope that Tai has suppressed all these years.

Tai also sees Tse as a mirror of the justice, hope and equality he believes in, and as the personification of all things that could have been. Throughout his life, he has been heavily betrayed. He literally handed his dreams to his brother, only to have him morph into a heavily corrupted high-ranking official. So Chan Tung failed the social justice he was led to believe in, wielding his power with an iron fist. (49) His wife, unable to bear a life of poverty, had an affair, became pregnant with another's child, and in desperation-staged her own suicide. His life was a harsh one, compared to Tse's sheltered and happy world. In a nutshell, Tai has met failure in ambition, and in love-but in working alongside Tse, he finds a strange sort of redemption in himself and their relationship, and towards the end-is able to live his dream.

5. Most of you would scoff at the idea of Tse and Tai being in a romantic/platonic relationship, when from the start, The Gentle Crackdown II is all about Tse Wong Tseung and Chan Sai Mui's relationship. Hey, even the sypnosis tagline reads (translated):

"Crack a case and save the lives / This is how they start being partners and end up being lovers!"

However, I think the tagline not-so-subtly refers to Tse and Tai's relationship. I reaffirm my stand (ohoho!) by the following points:

- Chan Sai Mui has never contributed directly to Tse's case investigations on her own. True enough, she has guarded Tse Wong Seung with her life, transported a dead body on her own, and gathered evidence under the orders of Tse, but she has never managed to deduce accurately or solve the investigations directly. In fact, Tai is the one aiding Tse all along, with various methods and tricks up his sleeve. He is Tse's real (50) partner-in-crime, or so to speak. Even later on, after severing all ties with Tse as Tai Chung Mo, he still secretly guides his boyfriend from afar, watching over him.

·Tse and Tai had a connection right from the start. Tse and Mui's relationship, however, one fostered through time. Familiarity breeds affection, and we are shown how Tse falls for Mui in the later episodes. Yes, he does love her, but I tend to perceive what Tse feels for Sai Mui is a love bred out of gratitude and circumstances. In fact, during the (51) faux wedding banquet, Tse is driven to say:

"I'm a single guy, and she's a single lady. Is it so strange that we decide to get together?"

This statement alone speaks volumes. Deep down inside, Tse must have known that marriage is a subject a young man of his standing could not avoid forever. Before his marriage-born-out-of-desperation with Chan Sai Mui, Tse has never shown interest in the opposite sex, nor was he romantically inclined in the slightest, aside from visiting Yuk Yu Keng for fun. Tse dedicated all his time to his work and focused on solving various cases. He might have wanted to live like he had always done before, but bachelorhood was simply not an option in those days. To beget children (especially sons) is a very important duty for a man in traditional Chinese society. It was a duty and an obligation most males could not forsake, especially wealthy ones like Tse.

An individual with Tse's personality would most probably detest an arranged marriage. The next best option? Find one himself. And the only female that is close enough to him to even consider is Sai Mui.

· In his blog, actor Steven Ma, who plays Tse Wong Seung sums this whole show up by writing that "Without Tai Lou Ye, there will not be a Tse Wong Seung." The two characters' fates are indeed deeply intertwined with one and other, in more ways than one. Tai risks his life on a dangerous masquerade to save Tse. Tse, in turn, intervenes and manages to save Tai's life twice in return. They may never have had blatant displays of romance towards one and other in the series, but it's the little gestures and subtext that speaks aloud. There are many, many, many scenes in which there is a strong undercurrent of subtext. To name my favourite few:

-The first person Tse chooses to tell his dreams and aspirations is Tai, and from the way he speaks, we can see he is a little embarrassed and yet, very earnest. Tai in turn does not react with scorn, but looks quietly approving. Similarly, Tai later entrusts Tse with his dream of furthering justice, believing he is about to die.

- (52) Tse gives Tai a chalkboard. The act and the object itself is symbolic. Tai has not spoken a word since taking a vow of silence five years ago. Tai Lou Ye uses hand gestures, facial expressions and scrap pieces of paper to communicate, and Tse realizes Tai needs an easier way to reach out to himself the people around him.

Tse’s present of the chalkboard in a way, is alikened to returning to Tai a voice of his own, because soon after, Tai meets his ex-wife again, and learns the truth. In a way, it can be said that Tai’s self-decreed silence is broken only after he meets Tse.

-The little exchange between Tai and Tse when the latter decides to marry Chan Sai Mui, when no one else realizes what Tse is about to do.

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Tai: Are you sure about this? (he looks grieved, for obvious reasons,heh heh)

Tse: (equal look of angst) There is no other way.

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- Episode 18. Holy mother of all episodes! It simply screamed Tse/Tai, even pseudo-Greek-tragedy. Tai collapsing into Tse's arms during the trial...the obvious eye contact underlined with silent messages... Tse threatening the servant at knifepoint, even drawing a little blood...Tai's intention to poison himself should things go astray, and the arm grabbing and grief/rage/pain/angst Tse lets out through with simple gesture. Tai then reassures him that he will not do it if not in the most desperate of times and tells Tse that he’s very happy to be able to meet him and that he hopes they will not meet each other again in the next life, obviously because he hopes that he will not cause anymore trouble for Tse.The look on Tai's face and Tse's eyes when Tse thrusts the blank piece of paper into his hands!! And Tai's seamless reaction after they lock sight, bringing the episode to a dramatic climax...Tse/Tai is CANON, dammit.

-Tse begging Tai to stop the madness and shed the mask once and for all, and the fall-out soon after devised by Tai.

-Tai mentioning his wish, hoping to meet Tse in lifetimes to come. In Cantonese, there is a saying ‘Being brothers (partners), only in this life and no more in the next’. However, Tai prefers that they meet in the next life, a saying more frequented by lovers.

-We can see that why Tse and Tai are similar yet so different from one another then. Tse is an optimist, hoping to live for today, save the day from the baddies, and make the world around him a better place. Tai is someone grappled by the past, he only hopes to find happiness, and perhaps, love in the lifetimes after. This alone makes me squee over this pairing even more so, for romance is best brewed with a little angst to taste, bitter and raw.

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In the last episode of The Gentle Crackdown II, Chan Sai Mui and Tse Wong Seung are united, as expected. (And the entire town breaks into song ala High School Musical, but that's just beside the point)

However, what surprised most viewers was that the show ended with narration on the subsequent adventures of Tai Lou Ye instead. He is shown living as a wandering lawyer, helping further justice wherever he goes, which is his true dream.

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Now, tradition dictates that TVB endings always end with the main characters. Does this mean that the scriptwriters and the producers are consider Tai Lou Ye a main protagonist alongside Tse and Sai Mui? The tragic third party in a damn interesting love triangle? *evil grin*

In case this is dismissed as blatant fangirlism:

· They could have cut Tai off right after the scene where he leaves Leung Choi County via a boat prepared by Sai Mui and Chuk. But instead- they decided to let the viewers know what happened to him, and letting us know that one of his dreams is finally realized, even though it means leaving Tse and the rest for ever.

· The Gentle Crackdown II is narrated mainly from Tse Wong Seung's point of view, albeit not directly. Hence, I personally deduce this scene is meant to subtly imply to the audience that Tse yearns to know what happens to Tai after he is exiled permanently, when his existence practically erased, and all ties are cut off forever.

· Tse and Mui only get together once Tai is out of the picture, with absolutely no contact with Tse at all forever. Throughout the series, Tse's primary focus has always been on Tai. And in a letter to Tse earlier on in the series, Tai had written that 'working alongside Tse had been one of the happiest times in his life.'

At some point of the series, it is possible that Tse Wong Seung might have fallen for Tai Lou Ye, and the feeling would have been mutual. However, the Tse/Tai dynamics work to generate Tse/Mui as well.

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Why do I say this?

a) Tse and Mui's first kiss was shared during a game, which was an ancient version of The Toast Game made popular by the Super Trio Show in Hong Kong. Instead of toast, a piece of wood shot out from the device, which the two players had to catch between them by smashing their faces against the wood together. Tai was the one who persuaded Tse to give it a go in the first place. When Chuk declines to play the game again, Tai immediately suggests Sai Mui. Because he cared for Tse deeply, he also knew that Sai Mui would the *best* person for him, (I hence stress on the best and not the ONE), and gives a little nudge to create a spark between the duo. (But Tse, being effing gay and crushing on Tai at this point, is blind to all efforts)

Tai is an extremely smart, intelligent, and perceptive individual. He could not have been oblivious to the massive crush on Tse that Sai Mui harbored. He came up with the wickedly brilliant Truth Detecting Plan and its subsequent methods, measuring Sai Mui's pulse while interrogating her, getting Tse to ply her with large amounts of alcohol some point, he must have realized Sai Mui's 'Sei Lou Hang' is none other than Tse himself. And yet, he chooses not to let Tse know!

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c) Tai's expression upon hearing Sai Mui's speech during the faux wedding banquet. His usually calm and detached persona is shaken a little, his face registers surprise and oddly enough, something closes even to longing. He probably wishes he could openly declare his feelings for Tse that way! Ahahaha.

d) When returning to Leung Choi county as Tai Chung Mo, Tai decidedly raises his brow at Tse and Mui's sleeping apart from one and other, and the lack of affection on Tse's part. He is worried that Tse might not be able to love Sai Mui as easily as Tai thought he would have, and grieved and angry at Tse for being unable to let go of the issue of Tai Lou Ye's departure alongside his growing suspicion towards Tai Chung Mo, and accept his life as it currently is. He hopes that Tse will focus his energy on standing up for the people of the county.


1. Tse cares deeply about his hair being black and shiny and conditioned, whatnot. Ancient metrosexuality, anyone? (Side note: Also, he allows his lackeys to wash his hair, massage his scalp, etc etc. Since when was hair care part of the package? o.O)

2. Tse's hand being caught by one of his father's male friends during the brothel 'chasing game' scene, with the comments on how smooth and flawless his skin is.

3. Tse's immediate and angry response when So Chan Tung insults and belittles Tai, and his fierce struggling against the guards holding him back when Tai is slapped repeatedly by So later.

4. Tse staring daggers from the sidelines when So Chan Nam hugs Tai upon their meeting.

5. At the brothel, Tai is the only one who does not participate in the 'chasing game', choosing instead to sit down and drink himself silly. Thanks to his cheating ex- wife, he is so turned off women, duh.

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6. Tse screaming at Tai to TAKE OFF HIS CLOTHES! And the fierce robe-tugging that ensues! *dies*

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7. The scene where Tai coughs up blood during his trial, finally collapsing into Tse's arms. Though it is an act, Tse's anguish looks real and the way he holds Tai in his arms is rather intimate as well. You see that pose between star-crossed, doomed lovers in wuxia series all the time! *nudgenudgepokepokegrin* :lol?:

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7. The silent, angsty glances exchanged between Tai and Tse before Tai reveals his true identity to the emperor. And the way Tai's eyes are determinedly cast downward, silent with sorrow and resignation after his final words to Tse.

8. Tse grabbing the jade bowl and placing it before the emperor. Before this, he does this to marry Chan Sai Mui, placing her under protection bestowed by the bowl. This time, Tse is subtly hinting to the Emperor that he intends to take Tai as man-bride and welcome him into the family too! Yay!

9. The birthday episode- Tai Lou Ye is late to Tse's birthday celebrations, and is stopped by So Chan Nam. Tai later replies his taunting by saying "It's Tse's birthday today. I had a gift to get him." However, what Tai's present was is never mentioned in the show, leaving it open to speculation. Furthermore, Tai takes the longest to arrive, and seemingly bears no gift.

Fandom works in a way fandom does :

Due to the series being a TVB production where homophobes galore frequent and the nature of this fandom, we have no idea if this fandom will expand. But anyway, there are some fan goodies to indulge in if you’re interested :

Fan-made video :
(Song: Eason Chan- 'Xiong Di')


Content: carneliane
Additional content and screencaptures: athlynn17

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