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Ah Sahm Struggles with racism in Cinemax’ Warrior Episode 4: ‘Blood and Sh*t’

Andrew Koji in Warrior
Andrew Koji as Ah Sahm in Warrior. Photo from David Bloomer/CINEMAX

By Jana Monji, AsAmNews Contributing Writer

Episode 4 takes us out of San Francisco and into the wild west of the Nevada-California desert, showing us different possibilities for Ah Sahm and Young Jun as well as for Chinese in the US. It also serves as a warning to people everywhere.

Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji) and Young Jun (Jason Tobin) are in tight quarters with four strangers: a racist White couple, a racist cowboy and a White priest who tries to keep the peace on a stagecoach.

The White woman, Nancy (Bianca Amato), openly voices her revulsion, saying,  “They shouldn’t be allowed to buy tickets. It’s a well known fact that they carry diseases.”

Her husband Shepherd (Ashley Dowds) asks, “Keep your voice down, dear.”

The woman confidently replies, “They can’t understand me.” We, of course, know that Ah Sahm can understand them well enough. She has to add, “My God,  the smell alone.” Let’s remember that bathing daily wasn’t big custom in those days, particularly in the desert in a time before cities and running water. The cowboy sitting on the same side as the couple, Mason (Craig Urbani), has the same attitude toward Ah Sahm and Young Jun.

Sitting opposite the White racists and next to Young Jun is a priest, Father Flynn (Andrew Stock), who quotes Leviticus 19:34 (“New American Standard Bible”): “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.” He concludes, “There’s room for everyone in God’s heaven.”

Racism goes both ways. Young Jun also complains about being in close quarters with “hairy ducks. The “fresh air” of Nevada is lost on Young Jun remarks they’ve been to a “dusty sh*t bowl” with bad food and bad hotels. He gives this episode it’s title: “I’ll take the blood and sh*t over the Grass Valley,  Nevada.”

Ah Sahm and Young Jun were sent to bring back a corpse in a coffin which Young Jun considers “coolie work.”

CS Lee as Lu and Andrew Koji in Warrior
CS Lee as Lu with Andrew Koji. Photo from Graham Bartholomew/CINEMAX

Their coach driver, Lem (Jonathan Pienaar), suddenly informs them, they are making an unplanned stop–not for just a meal, but the night.  The stop is at an isolated saloon run by a woman, Billie (Erica Wessels), and her Chinese cook, Lu (CS Lee).Ah Sahm and Young Jun lug the coffin off the top of the stagecoach and into the saloon. There Young Jun asks for “Two whiskey, please.” The Chinese cook brings them drunk chicken instead of the ham and beans that the other passengers get.

Ah Sahm and the cook talk about China and that makes Young Jun sad because “I’m a Chinaman who’s never been to China.” Young Jun was “born in San Francisco,” but he knows he’s not considered “American” so “I don’t belong anywhere.”

Jason Tobin and Rachel Colwell
Jason Tobin and Rachel Colwell as Wankeia. Photo from Graham Bartholomew/CINEMAX

Mason wants a bed and a whore, but refuses to take the available Native American, Wankeia (Rachel Colwell). The other whore, Sally, is entertaining a customer and, unwilling to wait his turn, Mason goes upstairs and interrupts the ongoing transaction and Sally’s customer (Francois Groeneward) flees.

Once Mason is done whoring he comes down and begins to pick a fight with Young Jun and Ah Sahm but Father Flynn keeps the peace by offering to buy Mason a drink which is the one vice that the church allows priests.

Young Jun decides to try the Native American whore and their interlude is tender.

While Young Jun is upstairs, Ah Sahm takes his plate to the kitchen and talks to the cook and learns that Lu and Billie are an item and the place was built by Lu who worked on the railroads and mined gold, too, but then found that he couldn’t get an equal exchange rate for his gold, meaning “twice the work for half the pay, I couldn’t live with that any more.”

Looking at Billie who is in the other room, Lu says, “That little lady right there, she is my gold mountain.” He advises Ah Sahm, “That’s America. little brother. Plenty of opportunity, just never where you think.”

Young Jun rejoins Ah Sahm in the front room with Native American whore and comes downstairs. He declares to Ah Sahm that he’s in love. “She’s just like me, a stranger in her own land.” He goes to the bar to get three whiskeys. The peacemaking Father Flynn has passed out but Mason isn’t. After being insulted by Mason, Young Jun walks away, telling Mason to “fuck off.” Mason declares that now the “yellow man” with his “little yellow dick” has warmed her up, he wants some “red pussy” so she can experience a real man.

Young Jun doesn’t quite understand what’s being said, but he’s a bit sweet on the woman. Just as it looks like a brawl between Young Jun, Ah Sahm and Mason, but suddenly Mason’s head bursts, the blood spattering Young Jun.

The local outlaw Harlan French (Christiaan Schoombie) apologizes for the bit of gruesome. He instructs his three men to take everyone’s valuables at gunpoint and we learn the coach driver, Lem, was working with Harlan.

Harlan also wants to the coffin but Young Jun tells him: “Fuck your mother.” Harlan instructs his three men to kill the two Chinese. All three men are killed but Harlan and Lem escape.

In two parallel discussion in English and Chinese, the passengers, Billie and Lu think this all doesn’t make sense. Why would Harlan want a coffin? Opening the coffin, they find a corpse but Ah Sahm plunges a knife into the corpse and after rummaging around, finds a small bag filled with gold nuggets. Young Jun is just as surprised as Ah Sahm.

Billie tells them that Harlan will come back “with an army and he’ll won’t leave anyone standing.” Harlan is already wanted for murder and robbery in Carson from a bank robbery a few years back. Hiding out in the desert isn’t an option because “this is his territory and he knows every inch of it.”

The White people decide on what to do, making plans about someone else’s gold in English as if the Chinese weren’t there. They want to leave the gold and go hiding in the desert. Ah Sahm finally addresses the other passengers in English, saying, “That would be a great plan if it were your gold; but it’s not.”  He challenges Shepherd, saying, “So all you got to do is come here and take it from me.”

Jason Tobin in Warrior
Jason Tobin as Young Jun in Warrior. David Bloomer/CINEMAX

Ah Sahm explains to Young Jun the situation: The horses are all gone. It’s 30 miles to the nearest town. There’s nowhere to hide in the desert.” Lu joins the Chinese conversation, telling Ah Sahm and Young Jun, with a gun in his hand, saying, “You brought death to my house. If you were real men, you’d stay and fight.” Ah Sahm and Young Jun decide to stay and fight.

Even though two people tell Young Jun to take the gold and run, Young Jun tells Ah Sahm, “If I had a brother, I’d like to think I’m the kind of brother that would stay and scrap with him.”  The only family Young Jun has is Father Jun.

Looking at Billie and Lu, Young Jun asks, “Do you believe that? True love. That would never happen in San Francisco.”

The two whores leave, climbing through a window as the others prepare downstairs. That leaves a rather scrappy magnificent seven: two couples (Nancy and Shepherd, Billie and Lu), Ah Sahm, Young Jun and the priest.

Harlan returns with about nine men, including Lem, to see Ah Sahm sitting alone. “You the welcoming committee?” Harlan says that it doesn’t matter what kind of “circus kicks” one does,  “I haven’t met a man who can dodge a shotgun blast pointed straight to the face.”

Ah Sahm attempts to negotiate, but Harlan says, that in order “to negotiate you need some leverage.” Ah Sahm tells Harlan: “If you leave now; I won’t kill you.” Harlan is amused, briefly, before Ah Sahm rips out his Adam’s apple and falls down dead. And the fighting begins with Lu and Billie and the racist couple firing from upstairs. Where is Young Jun and the father? Did they make a run for it?

Young Jun makes his entry from the front, quickly dispatching two men before brawling with a much bigger assailant. He’s saved by Wakeia. After the fighting seems done, Young Jun and Wakeia enter the saloon and see the two couples and Ah Sahm have survived. Then from behind, there’s a click of a revolver being cocked, but the father shoots that last gunman dead.

The father, Nancy and Shepherd all survive and will wait for the next stagecoach. Somehow, Billie and Lu have already sent word to the town that they have dead wanted men and expect to get reward money to clean up the mess and pay for the damage.

At the end, Young Jun and Ah Sahm don hats and saddle up on horses left by the dead men. Lu bids them farewell, telling Ah Sham, “Get back safely and, when you do, I hope you find something worth fighting for.” The two will ride on to the nearest town and hire a coach there–without the coffin.  After Young Jun tips his hat to Wakeia, Ah Sahm and Young Jun ride off into the sunset to spaghetti western-like music in a land where they should both be considered citizens, but aren’t.

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