The Man in the High Castle Season 1 Episode 5: The New Normal Recap

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In episode 5, The New Normal, Juliana and Joe return to their home cities after their missions in the Neutral Zone. Each undergoes a debriefing and must try to navigate the tense atmosphere of their respective empires. Frank tries to put the pieces of his life back together after the deaths in his family and his aborted assassination attempt. Tagomi and Wegener try to complete their mission before getting Wegener out of San Francisco. Kido begins his investigation into the shooting of the crown prince, with the knowledge that, according to Japanese custom,  his life depends on bringing the shooter to justice.

Recap

The episode picks up with the ending of the previous episode, as shots ring out and the crown prince falls, desperately wounded. Tagomi and the princess rush to his side. Kido springs into action, shouting out orders to stop anyone from leaving, find the shooter and confiscate all cameras so that no one sees their beloved leader in his weakened state. Wegener is on the podium, watching the drama play out.

Frank has the gun in his hand, but hasn’t fired. The little Japanese boy standing next to him and the boy’s father both see the gun in Frank’s hand as all three scatter. Frank puts the gun in his coat pocket and at the same time the necklace he made for Juliana slips out of the pocket, onto the ground.

He finds an isolated spot to hide the gun while the crown prince is loaded into an ambulance and taken to the hospital. Tagomi promises to join them soon. As he’s leaving, he notices the necklace Frank lost and picks it up. All foreign visitors are being searched and detained, so Wegener eats the message he had for the science minister.

Ed is at the apartment when Frank gets home, still in a panic. Ed hasn’t heard that the prince was shot. Frank tells him to go home and keep quiet about the gun and everything that’s happened. Ed tells Frank that Juliana called but didn’t say much.

During the night Juliana’s bus is stopped by soldiers and everyone’s papers are checked, but she makes it home safely by morning. She and Frank slowly start to fill each other in on what’s happened while Juliana has been gone, but Frank won’t let her touch him and doesn’t tell her about Laura, John and Emily.

The crown prince has extensive surgery and is left alive, but in critical condition with an injury to his heart. The princess is angry that this happened to her husband and no one was able to protect him. She’s allowed to sit with him while he recovers from the surgery.

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Juliana visits her mother and Arnold. Anne asks why there are so many soldiers out in the streets, but Juliana brushes her off. Anne says it feels like the occupation again and wonders if the Nazis are about to invade. She looks forward to being taken over by the Reich, not realizing that they intend to bomb her city into dust rather than invade and conquer the Asians, then free the white people, like she hopes.

The Japanese are keeping the news of the assassination attempt on the crown prince under wraps completely, not just the extent of his injuries. Anyone who wasn’t there doesn’t even know it happened, which maintains the image of Japanese strength in the face of the Reich.

Anne and Arnold express their sympathies for Frank’s loss of his sister and the kids. Arnold can tell that Juliana doesn’t know about it and manages the conversation so that she doesn’t make a misstep with her mother and has a moment to react internally while her mother complains about Hitler and asks about Trudy. Arnold doesn’t know what happened to Trudy, and Juliana doesn’t tell her parents.

It’s a table loaded with secrets.

She leaves as quickly as she can to get back to Frank and share her grief over his family. He lets her hold him this time. His arm is still bleeding where Ed shot him.

Joe arrives back in NYC and parks his truck on Broadway in front of a “One Reich, One Führer” sign. He looks at Frank’s sketch of Juliana then stuffs it in his pocket just before Nazi goons shove a bag over his head and kidnap him.

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Juliana treats Frank’s gunshot wound. He lies and says he doesn’t remember how he got it. He asks her to stop the bleeding so he can go to work, a metaphor for his desire to return to their normal lives and her inability to do so, which has now altered his life irrevocably.

Juliana is full of remorse over the damage she caused by taking the film to Colorado, but Frank knows that Juliana is who she is and she had to go. She couldn’t predict the future and she had to go for Trudy.

Juliana asks if there will be a funeral. Frank explains that they were incinerated, so there’s nothing to bury, but Laura’s husband Bill is holding a memorial service later today. Frank is going, but Juliana realizes that she won’t be welcome, since Bill knows that she was ultimately the reason why Frank was arrested. Or maybe it’s just her own guilt that makes her feel that way.

Juliana asks why Kido let Frank go. He tells her about the smuggler they caught with the other film. Juliana asks what they do next. Frank tells her things can’t ever go back to normal, but they have to pretend in order to survive and get through the day. Juliana looks like she doesn’t like the idea of going through the motions of normality in order to hide in plain sight.

Tagomi visits Wegener at his hotel and finds that an armed guard has been stationed at the German’s door. Wegener hasn’t been able to retrieve the information he swallowed yet. Tagomi has given up on the mission and simply wants to save Wegener’s life by getting him out of the JPS on the only flight to NYC tonight. Wegener insists on trying one more time to pass the information to the science minister so that they can prevent another world war. He feels his life alone isn’t worth anything compared to preventing a war, but Tagomi doesn’t want to be responsible for anyone else being hurt today. He will get Wegener’s passport back and get him on the flight.

At the gun factory, Ed questions Frank about Juliana and the gun. Frank tells Ed to stop talking so much because it’ll get them caught, but Ed didn’t think Juliana would be kept out of the loop. Once Ed goes back to his work station, their boss tells Frank he doing good work and asks if he’s still designing jewelry. Frank says he’s done with all of that.

Kido gives Yoshida orders on how to conduct his search of the vicinity of the shooting. As they walk, they notice a Japanese officer committing seppuku, the ritual Japanese suicide that involves self-disembowelment and then decapitation by a second, known as a  kaishakunin.

The official was likely being punished for allowing the crown prince’s assassination attempt to occur. Kido will have to commit seppuku if he’s unable to find the assassin within a certain amount of time. Once the ritual is complete, Kido asks Yoshida to act as his kaishakunin if it comes to that.

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Juliana goes to her dojo as usual, but isn’t welcome since the Kempeitai came there looking for her. She leaves and goes to turn herself in. Yoshida questions her about where she went while she was missing. Juliana tells him she went looking for Trudy in her favorite palces. Kido joins them during the questioning. They ask her about Randall. Yoshida hits her in the face and Kido threatens her when she insists that she doesn’t know Randall. Kido tells her that her normal life is over, but he lets her leave.

She goes straight to Randall’s apartment to look for signs of Trudy. The apartment has been ransacked by the Kempeitai, but she finds crumpled photos of Trudy in the wreckage. Soon a woman who describes herself as a friend of Randall’s comes in and asks if Juliana delivered the film. After a bit of back and forth about trust, Juliana tells her that, yes, she delivered the film. The woman, who we’ll come to know as Karen, is relieved and thanks Juliana, a rare event from a member of the Resistance.

Juliana asks Karen why the Man in the High Castle collects the films. Karen doesn’t know. They bring him the films and he sends back intel they use against the Japanese. Juliana wonders how that’s possible, but Karen doesn’t have any answers about the films. She does understand how much Juliana’s lost and has felt the same things. She kept going by by fighting. Juliana says that this has to be about something more for her.

She asks Karen where else she can look for answers. This is, of course, what Karen has been waiting for. The Resistance was hoping to recruit Juliana for further missions. Karen tells her that they think Randall and Trudy were sold out to the Japanese. There’s no other way the Kempeitai could have known where the film would be. Just before Randall was arrested, he mailed a card to the PO box they use.

It’s a visitor’s pass to the Nippon building, the seat of the Japanese government. The name Sakura Iwazaru is written on the card. They don’t know what the name means, but there’s a job opening available that Juliana is qualified for. She could search for the leak that got Trudy and Randall killed, but it would be very dangerous. Juliana takes the card.

Joe is taken to Obergruppenführer Smith’s offices, where Major Klemm is waiting to debrief him. He was brought in using a fake kidnapping to keep his cover intact. Smith joins them during the questioning. They treat Joe as a hostile witness and act as if he failed in his mission. Smith is angry that Joe lost the film and didn’t say enough about Juliana in his report. He needles Joe about failure and his disappointment in Joe throughout the interview.

At the end of the interview, Joe approaches Smith alone and says that even though he didn’t do everything Smith asked of him, his original mission wasn’t to retrieve a film or kill the Man in the High Castle. It was to identify and gather intelligence on key Resistance members and he did that by finding Lem. Plus, he kept his cover intact for future missions.

Smith replies that Lem and his family disappeared yesterday, so Joe was a failure, since they don’t know where Lem is. Joe failed because he’s a small cog in a large machine that only works if every person follows orders exactly and Joe failed to do that. If parts go rogue, eventually the whole machine will break down. Smith threateningly tells Joe not to ever disobey a direct order from him again. He also repeats the word “fail” repeatedly 😉, to make sure Joe is as ground down as possible.

Joe’s mission really was a test to see how he performed in various situations and with various types of orders, whether they made sense or not. I’m not sure how much use he would have been to the Reich if he’d followed orders precisely, but been killed. Field agents need some latitude.

Joe apologizes for his inability to die by following senseless orders. Smith asks where he’s spending VA Day tomorrow, then invites Joe to his family’s house for a picnic when he finds out Joe doesn’t have plans. Smith thinks it would do Joe good to spend time with his own kind in community. By his own kind, he specifically means practicing, true believer Nazis.

Smith has finished tearing Joe down, now it’s time to build him back up to be the Joe he wants to see. It’s a tried and true formula. They want intelligent agents with unwavering loyalty. Joe proved his intelligence by making it back alive despite his orders. Now Smith is baiting him to prove himself to his father figure.

Frank and Ed go to the memorial service for Laura, John and Emily. Bill, Laura’s husband, gets defensive about holding a normal service for his family. His bosses and coworkers are there and he tells Frank that it would look worse than it already is if he didn’t have some kind of service. He needs to continue working in this community, so he needs to maintain his reputation. Frank tells Bill he understands.

The funeral is officiated by a Buddhist monk who didn’t know Frank’s family and can’t even be bothered to get their names right. When he calls Laura and Emily “Emilia and Lorna”, Frank corrects him. A man sitting a few seats away takes note of Frank’s intensity. After the ceremony, he introduces himself as Laura’s former boss, Mark Sampson. He runs a hardware store on Mission. He tells Frank to stop by any time he needs to talk. He lives at #42, across from his store. Then he hugs Frank and softly says in his ear, “To life, Frank.”

“To life” is the English translation of the traditional Jewish toast and blessing “l’chaim”. Mark uses it as code to let Frank know that he knows Frank is Jewish and that Mark is also Jewish.

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Tagomi meets with Kido to have a rapid fire argument. He asks when the Kempeitai will release the foreign visitors’ passports. Kido refuses to give a definite answer, or even an estimate. He asks about Tagomi’s visit to the hotel this morning to visit with a foreign guest or guests. Tagomi suggests that the foreign businessmen’s time is valuable and they should be allowed to return to their countries. Kido feels that everyone’s time, meaning his own time, is valuable. Tagomi hangs out with the royal couple, so he understands what’s at stake. Kido goes for the checkmate, saying that Tagomi should understand why he can’t make any exceptions, since he needs to be thorough.

Tagomi chews his lip in frustration as Kido leaves. That mention of the royal couple backfired on him.

I love watching scenes between these two. The repressed feelings could power a whole city, or an entire Tennessee Williams play.

But Tagomi will not be thwarted by the likes of Kido. Just as Wegener finishes retrieving the information he swallowed, he gets a call from Tagomi. Wegener has 2 minutes to get out of his room and down to the lobby. His guard will change in 8 minutes. He should take elevator 3 to the lobby. Tagomi is waiting in said lobby by elevator 3, wearing an excellent disguise of a hat pulled low over his eyes.

It’s all very James Bond, except James Bond probably doesn’t exist in this world. This is where we discover that though he appears quiet and unassuming, Nobusuke Tagomi is actually one of the coolest characters in this universe. There’s a reason the crown princess is so into him.

As soon as the door to elevator 3 opens, Tagomi hands Wegener a diplomatic ticket, which will allow him to board any flight in the JPS without ID. A taxi is already waiting outside for him. Kido will figure out what Tagomi did, but Tagomi can deal with him.

Wegener spots the science minister in the lobby, with another Nazi officer named Müller, who will recognize Wegener. This is Wegener’s last chance to anonymously deliver the information to the minister and he takes it, despite the risk to himself. Wegener pretends to bump into the minister and drops the tiny canister into his pocket.

Müller has turned to look in a mirror, but notices Wegener as he walks away. Wegener insists on his Swedish persona and walks to his taxi. Tagomi is not impressed with Wegener’s inability to maintain stealth. The science minister was fooled, but Müller wasn’t.

Juliana is stopped by a guard at the entrance to the Nippon building and has to show the visitor’s pass. They allow her to enter when she explains that she’s there to apply for a job. She’s sent to wait in the hall outside an office with a petite Japanese woman.

The man who sees her for an interview ignores her, then has her stand and take off her coat. He decides to hire her to work in personnel, reporting directly to him. Her work will require personal services in addition to her usual duties. Since it’s an honor for a lowly girl like her to be allowed to work in a job such as this, she’s not to question his authority if she wants to work. He unzips his fly and asks if she wants the job or not.

As Juliana is hurriedly leaving the office, she stumbles into Tagomi, which causes him to drop her necklace. She picks it up off the floor for him, then runs away down the hall. With concern, he watches her go.

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Commentary

VA Day stands for Victory America, the day the Germans defeated the US. It corresponds to the real world VE (Victory Europe) and VJ (Victory Japan) Days.

The episode begins with Frank dropping the necklace he made for Juliana that she left behind when she left him to take the film to Colorado. She said it was a reminder of herself for him, but he couldn’t help but see it as a sign that she was leaving him. The necklace is replaced by a gun in Frank’s pocket. Tagomi finds the necklace and the episode ends with him dropping it in front of Juliana when she’s she in distress after having been violated. She gives the necklace back to him, though it’s rightfully hers. He senses something important happening.

Frank often loses his way when he thinks with his head, but his heart always steers him in the right direction. His art comes from his heart and flows when he’s being true to his heart. I think Tagomi, who’s very sensitive to energies, can sense the heart in the necklace. Juliana thinks best with her morality and sense of justice, which is a little different from her heart. This is why she keeps leaving Frank behind, even though she does truly love him. Tagomi works from spiritual energies and bridges the gap between Juliana and Frank, as he did by moving the necklace between them in this episode.

Joe is a lost soul who has no fully formed internal identity. He’s looking for a cause or a person to follow so that he can form himself around those beliefs. Like a sunflower, he grows toward the strongest person in his orbit. He wanted to live up to Juliana’s strong ideals so that she would love him. John Smith can sense that, so he’s going to make himself the strong authority figure that Joe wants to please.

John Smith’s motivation is his family, which is very, very different from Frank’s heart. Frank is motivated by the loss of his family, but he also has a universal sense of love, anger, right and wrong. John is motivated only to keep his own wife and children safe and will literally do anything it takes to accomplish that. He’s taken part in unspeakable acts as a Nazi and justified it in his mind as the only way to protect his family. He is an opportunist and a narcissist who uses his family as his excuse while he crushes others under his feet.

Kido is much the same as Smith, without the love of family, leaving only honor and duty to keep him warm at night. Kido has a cold, unbending sense of honor and justice that doesn’t involve actual humanity much. Yoshida is the only person he cares about at all. Otherwise, he follows rules and obeys laws. He cares about people only in the abstract and individual deaths don’t affect him, unless it’s the death of a person he’s been assigned to protect, as it would be with the prince. Then his personal honor is involved and that’s a different matter. The rules have been broken and must be compensated for.

The Japanese and Germans are involved in their own Cold War that’s every bit as deadly and tense as the one that spanned the post war years in our universe. But with the two powers overtly splitting the world between them, there are no proxy wars to cool the heat between the two powers, so another world war has to be avoided using different methods.

The Neutral Zone helps relieve some of the tension, since it provides a buffer zone on the eastern and western borders between the empires’ territories where indesirable people and activities can be banished, but kept available for future use. The two countries also follow strict diplomatic protocols to keep things from spiraling out of control. But as we’ve seen, various agents still continuously try to start or avoid another war.

Though their guilt haunts Juliana and especially Frank, they aren’t responsible for the deaths of Laura, John and Emily. They were caused by the Nazis’ racism against the Jews, Kido’s racism against anyone who isn’t Japanese, and his propensity for using violence against innocents as a means of punishment. Kido doesn’t even seem to understand that Frank and his family are fully human and have real feelings.

The depth and intensity of Frank’s feelings are a contrast to Kido, who has cut himself off from his emotions, other than his devotion to the Empire and its code of duty and honor. Tagomi, on the other hand, feels every human life and loss, and works with Nazis, the crown prince and princess and his assistant all as equals.

Images courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.

 

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