If you want, you can always play this again from the start to catch Pedro’s speech as to why you should vote for him but I’ve cued it to start at the beginning of what Napoleon had to present instead.

We’ll get to the relevance of this week’s particular choice and what this has to do with this just a bit later. As for what the movie “Napoleon Dynamite” is about, probably for the best if I let the film speak for itself if you haven’t seen it already and later decide to go pick it up. Right, on with the show.

Zhang Peng and the Ninth Brother once again find themselves meeting at the latrine. As Zhang Peng says, it must be fate. However, this was a deliberately planned meeting for the two of them to get their Machiavelli on. Since Michelangelo’s David was completed in 1504 and Machiavelli was born in 1469 (and died in 1527), this is in fact not ahead of its time. A few interesting things are learned from this meeting on top of just the plotting.

Namely, that the Ninth Brother being in charge of the palace’s Internal Affairs department means that he’s also responsible for the latrines. This includes properly visible signs, so no-one ends up in the wrong one except on purpose, and the location is near some nice gardens so there’s something to look at in the days before iPhones. Good latrines are also responsible for much improved public health outcomes as people aren’t just dumping their waste everywhere, so don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s something trivial, either. Good latrines save lives.

Well, as for the actual plotting, since word clearly has gotten around that Zhao’s Wife is pregnant with the emperor, Zhang Peng and the Ninth Brother clearly see this as being to their advantage, If it’s a son, they think Qi Sheng can’t abandon him and they can use this to pressure him, also getting a lot of the court officials on their side and eroding his power base. Zhang Peng also thinks Zhao’s Wife is angling to replace him as Empress and this might be a means to block her. To add, at no time did the Ninth Brother look displeased or upset during this conversation but he definitely looked even more pleased to learn that the Empress (as still being played by Zhang Peng and not the previous incumbent Zhang Peng Peng) is actually not pregnant. No prizes for guessing what his long-term angle is.

To cap this whole toilet summit off, Zhang Peng says that if he’s 1st (most smart), the Ninth Brother is definitely 2nd. The Ninth Brother then says words to the effect that even if he doesn’t really understand what Zhang Peng is saying, he does find there is meaning to it now.


Well, never mind, moving on … (this show is nothing if not frequently perplexing everyone both within and without).

Cut to the dancing would be queen … yes, that would be Zhao’s Wife. She’s perpetually dancing in her room in You Lan Hall for … some reason … Zhang Peng drops in at this point.

Now, trying to make sense of what’s going on here, Zhao’s Wife is trying to make who she thinks is her love rival for the attentions of the Emperor by doing the following:

1) Not at all subtly dropping that the Emperor drops by all the time.

2) How about the fact we both got pregnant at the same time?

3) Did you know that the Emperor went out of his way to paint a portrait of me and I sat for him for 3 hours, isn’t it a shame you don’t have one? (“I’m not trying to brag about it.”, she says, clearly trying to brag about it.)

It all totally fails as there’s a complete misunderstanding of Zhang Peng’s motives. Though to be fair, how could they possibly know the truth, and even if they impossibly did somehow, how could they understand it?

All the attempts to make Zhang Peng jealous fail as he’s still clearly more interested in getting into Zhao’s Wife’s pants than Qi Sheng’s, which he’s making perfectly clear at least to the audience, it’s still not enough to penetrate the massive levels of self-absorption of Zhao’s Wife. Or failing that, personal assistant Number One Lu Li, which is what Zhang Peng warns Zhao’s Wife about if he takes the incense she’s burning as it seems to be having that sort of effect on him.

Basically up to now, Zhang Peng has been the worst would-be lesbian ever. As distasteful as it is, the fact remains that he could either have asked (or even worse ordered) Lu Li to have sex with him and she’d have had no choice but to comply. Being that she’s that she’s always done what she’s been asked by the Empress (and Crown Princess before that) and that the only sex Zhang Peng has gotten was inadvertently from the now Emperor after getting drunk because of the terror of such a prospect just in theory, he’s actually on negative points at the moment. Given how easy the set-up is for him to succeed, this is a terrible effort on his part in this department so far.

As for the pregnancy, he tells Zhao’s Wife to take of herself and he’s actually being sincere though once again, his being genuine about this is probably once again not being picked up on.

As for the portrait, Zhang Peng ends up with the wrong end of the stick (probably a different one at that) and thinks that Qi Sheng has been drawing pornographic art of his mistress. Apparently this word is yet to be known of the people of this era, at least in this form as his reference to preferring photos over hand-made portraits. I see even more of a comedy of errors than usual on the horizon. He warns her to be especially careful with it lest in falls into the wrong hands.

Cut to the next scene of Wives Two to Five gossiping that Zhao’s Wife’s portrait has fallen into the wrong hands. Apparently it has been stolen in the time it took to transition between scenes. So of course they feel the need to go find the Empress to tell her of this fact as soon as possible. We find Zhang Peng strategically loitering with intent.. I don’t know how he does it, I’d be sooooo bored by now. I can’t help but feel if he’d been able to get away with this in the modern era before his accident, he’d prefer not to be working. This seems to support that theory.

He does a literal spit take when he learns that Zhao’s Wife’s portrait is missing and there’s some gossip that the Empress might be responsible out of jealousy. He gets a brief scandalized response when he says that he’s had his hands on her actual person, why would he care about her portrait? At this point we learn that all of the other wives have a portrait from the Emperor as well. He thinks this whole business is stupid and kicks them all out. I suppose it’s quite possible that Zhang Peng did have a portrait done as well since they seem to be so common and since Zhang Peng has none of her memories as she departed for parts unknown when he moved in, he just doesn’t know about it, nor where it is. Anything’s possible, I guess.

Lu Li tries to squeeze Head Eunuch Qiang about what he knows. We learn that even he has a portrait and that the Qi Sheng was drunk when he did it. I’m going to reserve what I think about this development for the moment.

This episode is part of a continuing plotline about the ongoing power struggle over who gets to lead the nation. However, this particular episode is also fairly self-contained as it’s the mystery of the missing portrait. That’s what comes from a very awkward meeting between the Ninth Brother and his brother, the Emperor. It’s undoubtedly filled with lots of subtext and posturing as Qi Sheng says his brother can’t be too busy because he’s not doing anything of consequence and his brother responding that he in fact his job is not easy because it’s full of small and annoying tasks. Qi Sheng counters that if it’s small, how can it be difficult? I have a question of my own, which is basically if you gave him the job in the first place, why are you now castigating him for doing the tasks you gave him in the first place?

So basically, not at all a frosty meeting, then. All of this grandstanding is to get to Qi Sheng tasking the Ninth Brother to solve the mystery of the missing portrait. I can’t help but feel like Admiral Ackbar in that there’s definitely a trap in there somewhere.

By now, we’ve probably all noticed that many of the major players have a right-hand man or woman (or stooge if we’re feeling less charitable). Yang Yan is the Ninth Brother’s partner in crime, however we want to label him. He’s all Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon again as he’s flying all over the compound at night. You really have to ask why he doesn’t just walk up to the door and walk in, since it clearly would have achieved the same thing. Case in point, he’s clearly being watched by someone else dressed head to toe in tactical black who feels content enough to just stay in one place and watch undetected all the airborne theatrics.

Yang Yan once again fails to stick the landing once inside, as after sneaking past a sleeping Zhang Peng (whose sleeping pose is anything but elegant), manages to wedge his head inside a cupboard he’s searching when Zhang Peng suddenly sits up in his sleep before and almost seems like he’s going to wake up before dropping back down again.

He makes two shocking findings. One, row after row of boxes of aphrodisiacs, presumably this show’s sponsor trying to break out past that Fourth Wall again. In universe Yang Yan is shaking his head, I’m sure we all are out here too. The other more relevant one to this storyline is that he finds the missing painting as well.

A few things happen at this point. Probably in actuality all at once but they have to be shown in sequence.

1) Yang Yan has to report to the Ninth Brother what he found. The Ninth Brother speculates that this could be a test of his loyalties from his brother, the Emperor.

2) To the surprise of absolute no-one, the guy that was spying on Yang Yan was tasked by Zhao’s Wife to steal her own painting and plant it on Zhang Peng in Xi Sheng Palace (that the name of the place Zhang Peng hangs out at).

3) A third guy we’ve never seen before makes a report to the Emperor, Qi Sheng. We’re not privy to this conversation but I have my theories.

These people are often more decent than their rulers. The guy working for Zhao’s Wife is actually quite shocked to be offered money for what he did, he wasn’t doing it for that. He’d been led to believe she’d been wronged and feeling he was not fated for love in this lifetime (well, that’s depressing), he wanted to help her do so with the Emperor. She insists he take the money as he now has to go into exile for what he did (and that’s just even more depressing). Let this be a warning to all of us about celebrity worship.

We find Zhang Peng and Lu Li playing Not Rock Scissors Paper again. I’d be so bored if this is what they’re left to resorting to for entertainment. It’s something about some song about bees flying through fields of flowers and lots of air kissing and it’s the girliest thing ever – at least until the next thing which is both Yang Yan and the Ninth Brother walking up with their pinkie fingers linked. It’s so over the top, that it was final proof for me that neither were carrying a torch for the other and it was, in fact 100% pure unrefined bromance.

Zhang Peng does try to suggest otherwise by flat out asking if these two have something going on but Yang Yan’s denial of anything going on between him and the Ninth Brother is so unconvincing that paradoxically, I’m completely convinced they’re just best friends and nothing more than that (no sarcasm either). Yang Tan then attempts a deflection by saying Zhang Peng sleeps in a less than elegant position. Zhang Peng isn’t thrilled to learn that yet again, Yang Yan has been skulking about his room when he’s asleep but precisely because it is Yang Yan, isn’t as worried as he otherwise would be. Still on a huff however, especially about the unsolicited advice about the quality of his sleeping posture.

This all does lead to the revelation and confirmation that the missing portrait is in fact inside Zhang Peng’s room. The Ninth Brother palms off the decision on what to do to Zhang Peng and he decides to immediately take this to the Emperor. It’s a high stakes gamble, that of telling the truth.

Qi Sheng’s poker face is the poker face other poker faces wear as he hears the Ninth Brother make his honest report on what he found. Zhang Peng is also there and in his defense, he says that he hates being accused of things he doesn’t do. It’s not so much throwing himself on the mercy of the Emperor as just being tired of all this intrigue and challenging Qi Sheng to do as he will by putting the ball back into his court, so to speak.

Qi Sheng turns out to have pulled of a Xanatos Gambit here (you might remember Niels and Bohr namedropping this one at least once) as every path here would have been a winner. Turns out the Ninth Brother took the least worst option, though.  Turns out that mysterious conversation between Qi Sheng and that other previously unseen individual was a spy on all the other spies. Turns out he’s known all this time that the picture was planted on Zhang Peng from the beginning and was testing everyone else.

The Ninth Brother has taken the least worst option, though. He gets told off for being incompetent and not discovering this himself, hence opening the door for the Empress to be falsely accused but it would definitely have been much worse for him if he’d lied to protect the Empress as he definitely would have been caught out being disloyal. So all things considered, it counts as a win for him and he’s still in the game. Zhang Peng is suitably furious and wants to beat the offending party but backpedals when he learns that it’s Zhao’s Wife (though you both have to wonder who else it could have been and why he didn’t immediately work this out). Zhang Peng does mention to the Emperor that he doesn’t need to be dropping paintings all over the place, simply carving that he was here into the nearby wall will suffice.

So finally with that mystery put to bed, Zhang Peng (and by extension the audience), finally get to see what the fuss was all about when the other wives produce their respective paintings. Zhang Peng is expecting something at least somewhat pornographic and instead … well … Zhang Peng says the charitable description is that they’re abstract. The other one at the other end of the spectrum is that “This is …”. Well it’s something that stinks, that’s for sure.

Zhang Peng then goes on to say that the Emperor’s rice smells sweet, which is another way of saying that you know that something that smells that was just mentioned? When it comes from the Emperor, unlike that something that was just mentioned that stinks, it in fact in his case does not stink.

The episode ends on a rather abrupt note with Zhao’s Wife waiting for the Emperor to arrive and he never does.

Here’s the current state of play.

Zhang Peng is trying to get Qi Sheng before he gets him.

The Ninth Brother wants the Emperor’s job. That’s why these two are working together.

Zhang Peng couldn’t know that Qi Sheng isn’t trying to get him anymore.

Zhao’s Wife is trying to beat Zhang Peng but is losing badly, ironically because Zhang Peng is not only is not trying to compete with her over Qi Sheng (if anything, he’s much more interested in her versus Qi Sheng, where his interest is currently sitting at zero)  but is in fact trying to both leave the playing field and cede the game entirely – and yet he’s still winning. This is about as embarrassing as this can get for her, to be honest.

As for what Napoleon Dynamite has to do with this? Small spoiler for the movie but someone with the comments that appear on screen if you watched the episode through Viki did speculate if this was a Napoleon Dynamite situation and they turned out to be remarkably prescient, hence the celebratory dancing in the end zone (metaphorically speaking) when they’re shown to be correct. I, for one wouldn’t begrudge them that as it makes sense and it was funny, especially Zhang Peng’s very modern reaction. For the comment that appeared on screen early on in the episode (through Viki) that this was a possibility, give yourself a gold star.

Like this show, there’s a lot of What? Wait? Why? going on here.

Until next time when undoubtedly there’ll be some whole new set of occurrences to perplex us all …

See you then!