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‘The Sympathizer’ Episode 5 Recap & Review: The Captain’s Situation Heats Up

A near-death experience won’t stop the Captain from performing his duties.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for HBO’s The Sympathizer Episode 5 “All for One.”

After getting caught in an explosion on Niko Damianos’ (Robert Downey Jr.) movie set in The Sympathizer‘s action-packed fourth episode, the Captain (Hoa Xuande) finds himself in the hospital suffering from memory loss. Despite being unable to recall what happened to him, memories from his childhood flood through his mind.

Flashbacks from back in Vietnam with his Blood Brothers, Bon (Fred Nguyen Khan) and Man (Duy Nguyễn), carry him through his recovery. Although the movie has finished filming, the Captain is about to face his toughest challenges yet.

Bon is right by the Captain’s side, holding his hand throughout the entire time he’s in the hospital. However, due to his memory loss, he also asks why Man isn’t there. He flashes in and out of consciousness, and each time he falls back asleep, he dreams of his childhood. Check out all the details from the latest installment of the series to date in our The Sympathizer Episode 5 recap below.

The Captain Goes From Movie Set to Hospital Bed in ‘The Sympathizer’ Episode 5

The Captain is caught in an explosion in The Sympathizer Episode 5 | Agents of Fandom
The Captain accidentally gets caught up in an explosion that causes him serious injuries. Image Credit: Bell Media.

The flashbacks in The Sympathizer Episode 5 portray the Captain’s difficult childhood, getting made fun of for being a “half-breed with 13 buttholes” by other kids in school immediately after his mother passed away. However, despite not having any other friends, the Captain is invited to be a part of a new trio with a young Bon and Man.

The friends dub themselves the “Three Musketeers” and create a bond that would last into their adult lives. While he didn’t get many visitors, the Captain receives a cactus as a get-well gift from his ex-girlfriend Sophia (Sandra Oh), whom he hadn’t spoken to in months. After a few weeks in recovery, CIA Agent Claude (Downey Jr.) visits and demands he be discharged because he needs his help.

The Captain is given $15,000 from the studio as a settlement due to his injuries. Despite being banged up, the Captain proves his intellect is still sharp, talking the studio representatives up from their original $3,000 offer. Unfortunately, while his intentions are pure, his decisions with the money cause more problems than expected.

He decides to gift the widow of Major Oanh (Phanxinê) a large sum of money to ease his conscience for assassinating her husband. However, she demands the money be used to help fund the General’s (Toan Le) plans to retake Vietnam as she still doesn’t know he ordered the hit on her husband. Since CIA Agent Claude demanded he check on the erratic General anyway, he makes his way to visit him.

The Life of a Spy Becomes Too Much To Bear

The Captain sits defeatedly while being questioned by Vietnamese authorities in The Sympathizer Episode 5 | Agents of Fandom
The Captain is beginning to break down after days of intense interrogation. Image Credit: Bell Media.

Unfortunately, when he gets there, the General berates him for offering the money to Major Oanh’s wife before accepting it for his cause. He reveals that his plans go beyond just rallying support for capitalism in Vietnam; he wants to take the country back by force. While the Captain dismisses this for nonsense, he still decides he should relay the message to Man back in Vietnam, as it’s been a long time since they have spoken.

In the present, the Captain begins to break under the pressure of retelling his story to the Vietnamese interpreter. He demands to speak with Man, as he would be able to confirm that he was, in fact, a double agent and not a capitalist sympathizer. However, in the biggest twist of the series so far, it’s revealed in The Sympathizer Episode 5 that the Vietnamese army has no idea who Man is and hasn’t been able to find anyone by that name.

Distraught by the news that he has no one to confirm his status as a communist back in Vietnam, the Captain is forced to continue retelling his story about what happened in America. He picks the tale back up during his visit to Sophia to apologize for not contacting her while he was away. However, upon his arrival, he finds his least favorite person from his college days, left-wing reporter Sonny Tran (Alan Trong).

Old Friends Cause Problems in ‘The Sympathizer’ Episode 5

The Captain and Sonny Tran argue in The General's liquor store ahead of The Sympathizer Episode 5 | Agents of Fandom
Sonny Tran makes the Captain’s life more difficult by the day. Image Credit: Bell Media.

The Captain discovers the two are dating, and his worst fears have been realized. He sits down to talk with the two of them, and the Captain and Sonny can’t help but argue about politics. Sonny is called a hypocrite for speaking of Vietnamese independence but refusing to return to the country to rebuild, and he surprisingly agrees. However, Sophia immediately attempts to console Sonny and shuts down the Captain’s comments. He is losing his allies incredibly rapidly in The Sympathizer Episode 5.

Forced to move on, the Captain is headed to a musical performance recommended by Agent Claude. When he arrives, he finds the General’s daughter Lana (Vy Le) has returned to the United States and is the lead performer. The two flirt in her dressing room after the show, but she remains skeptical he will report her whereabouts to her father since she’s still in hiding. She’s been using the Captain’s mother’s name as a stage alias to keep off his radar.

After visiting Lana, the Captain heads to Niko Damianos’ house to wreak some havoc for blowing him up during his movie. He unleashes Niko’s pet alligator into his pool while Niko is swimming. This clearly gets his attention, and the Captain demands that all of the Vietnamese lines remain in the movie instead of hitting the cutting room floor. Despite only getting a soft confirmation, it’s good enough for the Captain as he returns to see Lana again in The Sympathizer Episode 5.

Bonds Are Broken in ‘The Sympathizer’ Episode 5 “All for One”

Blood Brothers The Captain, Bon and Man sit together ahead of The Sympathizer Episode 5 | Agents of Fandom
Despite being Blood Brothers, the Captain, Man, and Bon grow further apart with each episode. Image Credit: Bell Media.

Unfortunately, Bon interrupts the Captain and Lana’s conversation just as things are beginning to heat up. He declares the General is aware of Lana’s location, and the Captain is to report to him immediately. Upon his arrival, the General reveals Sonny Tran has written an article for the newspaper, revealing to the world his violent plans to retake Vietnam.

The Captain assumes this means the General will cancel his plans. However, he instead wants to expedite the pace. He reveals to the Captain he has already been training soldiers for his mission, led by none other than his Blood Brother Bon. The Sympathizer Episode 5 places the Captain with his back against the wall in the most emotional episode of the series to date.

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'The Sympathizer' Episode 5 "All for One" Review

'The Sympathizer' Episode 5 "All for One" Review
4.5 5 0 1
4.5 rating
Total Score

The Good

  • Unexpected twists and turns that drastically impact the final few episodes.
  • Hoa Xuande continues to prove he's an up and coming star.
  • Most emotional episode of the series so far.

The Bad

  • Flashbacks and unreliable narrator make it difficult to keep the timeline of the series in order.
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