Hoa Xuande's the Captain and Robert Downey Jr.'s Professor Hammer - who is smoking - in the backyard at a get together | Agents of Fandom

‘The Sympathizer’ Episode 6 Recap & Review: The Captain Finally Breaks

The life of a spy becomes too much for the Captain to handle on HBO’s new hit series.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for HBO’s The Sympathizer Episode 6, “The Oriental Mode of Destruction.”

Despite already recovering from being caught in an explosion blast, the Captain (Hoa Xuande) faces his toughest challenges yet in the penultimate episode of The Sympathizer. His number of allies is running low, and he is struggling to remember which side of the war he’s even fighting for.

The race-against-the-clock style of storytelling makes The Sympathizer Episode 6 the strongest of the series to date. Hoa Xuande continues to prove he’s an incredibly talented up-and-coming actor while the supporting characters all give wonderful performances as well.

The Captain is torn between his commitment and his feelings throughout the episode. His loyalties are questioned and he is forced to make choices tougher than any human should have to make. Check out all the details from the latest episode of HBO’s hit show in our The Sympathizer Episode 6 recap.

The General’s Army Grows in ‘The Sympathizer’ Episode 6

The Captain and the General look down upon the General's army in The Sympathizer Episode 6 | Agents of Fandom
Despite the Captain’s warnings, the General is ready to deploy his army back to Vietnam. Image Credit: Bell Media.

Although he just discovered the General’s (Toan Le) plans to retake Vietnam, training for the invasion is already in full force. He plans to send a recon squad back to the homeland sooner rather than later. This idea immediately puts the Captain at odds with his blood brother Bon (Fred Nguyen Khan), who has been leading the exercises for the trainees.

The Captain seemingly convinces Bon not to join the recon group. However, while Bon states he is only part of this group because he misses fighting and feeling useful, his words aren’t overly convincing. The Captain suggests to the General that he would like to accompany Bon to Vietnam if he were to go, but the General shuts down the notion and alludes he would be more valuable taking out the journalist who has been slandering him in the newspapers.

A training montage ensues while the General gives an inspirational speech to his troops. Unfortunately, the General’s plans become even more realistic upon the delivery of some high-caliber weapons for the troops. The Captain knows there’s likely only one ally who could afford such a donation, so he’s off to visit Congressman Ned Goodwin (Robert Downey Jr.).

Despite not being able to find any proof of wrongdoing, the Captain is able to confirm from talking with the Congressman that he is donating to the General’s cause. The Captain offers to help out with Ned’s campaign in order to get closer and find out more information. After some schmoozing with rich white people he can’t stand, the Captain decides it’s time to take what he knows to journalist Sonny Tran (Alan Trong) in The Sympathizer Episode 6.

Sonny Tran and the Captain Follow the Money in “The Oriental Mode of Destruction”

Sonny Tran and The Captain scheme a way to take down the General in HBO's The Sympathizer Episode 6 | Agents of Fandom
The Captain is running out of ideas to stop the General, so he turns to Sonny Tran. Image Credit: Bell Media.

Although he already isn’t a fan of Sonny, the situation becomes even more awkward as the Captain’s ex and Sonny’s current girlfriend Sophia (Sandra Oh) joins their interaction. Despite the two of them taking their business outdoors, the entirety of their conversation is relayed from Sonny to Sophia after the fact.

The Captain pushes Sonny to “follow the money” to uncover the entirety of the General’s plans to restart the war in Vietnam. While Sonny still isn’t sure if he can trust the Captain, he is assured that they’re both momentarily on the same side of their often-opposed politics to stop more deaths of their fellow countrymen. Sonny tasks the Captain with recovering donation receipts from Ned Goodwin to confirm his involvement.

Sneaking into a Congressman’s house to uncover war secrets is already an incredibly difficult assignment. However, when the Captain arrives at Goodwin’s home for a campaign party to steal the receipts, his task grows even more challenging. He meets his former mentor, Professor Hammer (Downey Jr.), and the two discuss how Hammer is now writing speeches for Goodwin’s campaign.

After a few drinks and his department at the University being closed, Professor Hammer decides to share some dark secrets with the Captain, thinking he will understand. Hammer reveals he has multiple pen names and has been writing some of the most harmful and racist rhetoric towards Vietnamese people as well as other cultures throughout Asia.

Congressman Ned Goodwin’s Dark Secrets Are Revealed in ‘The Sympathizer’ Episode 6

Congressman Ned Goodwin gives a speech to his constituents in HBO's The Sympathizer Episode 6
Congressman Ned Goodwin reveals his dark side and disdain for Vietnam and all other communist countries. Image Credit: Bell Media.

The Captain immediately exits the party and starts looking for the receipts. Fueled by his rage, he rifles through Goodwin’s office and uncovers the donation records. The evidence is damning, featuring the donation of weapons and large sums of money to the General’s cause on behalf of Ned Goodwin as well as the CIA.

Despite almost being caught by the Congressman’s wife, the Captain manages to slip away with photos of the information unnoticed. He immediately takes the information to Sonny at the journalist’s home. However, just as Sonny is able to fax the documents to his colleague at the Los Angeles Times, all Hell breaks loose in The Sympathizer Episode 6.

As soon as things seem to be going according to plan, the Captain unloads his origins of being a double-spy to Sonny. He confesses his entire history working with the Communist regime and how everything he has done for the General has been to maintain his cover. Unfortunately, Sonny doesn’t believe him and thinks he’s being played.

In an incredibly rapid escalation of events, the Captain pulls out a gun and murders Sonny in cold blood, feeling he has no other choice. He cleans up the crime scene and reports back to the general that the job has been accomplished. However, it’s revealed in a present-day interrogation sequence back in Vietnam that the Los Angeles Times never ran their story.

The Captain Loses His Sense of Self in ‘The Sympathizer’

The Captain throws a tantrum at the idea of Bon joining the General's recon squad to Vietnam | Agents of Fandom
The Captain breaks down upon the realization Bon is returning to war. Image Credit: Bell Media.

Sophia calls the Captain over to her house after the police notify her that Sonny has been killed. Despite creating an alibi for him with the police, she immediately suspects the Captain of the crime in The Sympathizer Episode 6. She doesn’t give him up to them, but she admits that she knows he is a spy and demands that he stay out of her life moving forward.

The Captain returns to visit Bon, where matters only continue to get worse. Bon reveals he has decided to lead the recon team heading to Vietnam. Additionally, the Captain receives a letter from his friend Man (Duy Nguyễn) back home that he cannot provide any safe haven for Bon if he returns home. In an emotional fit, the Captain demands to Bon and the General that he accompany Bon back to Vietnam. Although the General initially refuses, he finally agrees after the Captain continues to plead.

With just one episode of The Sympathizer remaining, the timelines are finally beginning to match up: The Captain is returning to Vietnam, where he will be captured and interrogated by the Vietnamese army. However, it remains to be seen how he will get to that point upon his return and if any of his comrades will survive the journey.

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'The Sympathizer' Episode 6 "The Oriental Mode of Destruction" Review

'The Sympathizer' Episode 6 "The Oriental Mode of Destruction" Review
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Total Score

The Good

  • Completely unpredictable from start to finish.
  • Thrilling pace will keep viewers on the edge of their seat.
  • Hoa Xuande is a bonafide star.
  • Sandra Oh, Fred Nguyen Kahn and Robert Downey Jr. give phenomenal performances in supporting roles

The Bad

  • There's only one episode left.
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