In 1941, Chester Nakayama finds himself caught between his insular Japanese American neighborhood on Terminal Island, California, and his current life as an all-American guy. When extreme circumstances push both his community and personal life to the brink, Chester must grapple with what kind of a man he wants to be, all while someone watches closely.
A Japanese American woman, Masayo Furuya, is making herself pretty when something strange seems to come over her. Jerkily, she goes outside onto a pier. There, with stilted movements, she takes one of the kanzashi pins that she was using to style her hair and jabs it in her ear, killing herself.
The woman is laid to rest at a well-attended funeral, surrounded by her family and friends. During the funeral, a man, Chester Nakayama, notices a small string loose in the cuff of his shirt. He then has a strange vision in which his very flesh is unraveling, only to then snap back to reality. He experiences a flashback in which he is with the woman, who is preparing a herbal mixture for him. He tells her that she doesn't have to do it, but she says that it'll be ready in a week's time. The casket is carried outside, where Chester does a photo shoot of the mourners. Afterwards, he is approached by the woman's husband, who provides him with the herbal mixture seen in the flashback from before, calling him a coward. As he heads back to the group, a stiff wind starts up, causing the woman's casket to blown over and her body to fall out. Another woman, Asako Nakayama, states that is the work of an old spirit that followed them from Japan.
An elderly gentleman, Yamato-san, is on a fishing boat, the Taro, telling old fish stories. He says that he once fought against a 200-pound fish, resulting in him being named Tuna-Boxing Champion of San Pedro, having knocked it out in one punch. Meanwhile, Henry Nakayama tosses a few fish into the ocean, saying that it is good luck for Mrs. Furuya. Upon hearing her name, Yamato-san warns of there having been a Bakemono at the funeral. To this, Chester says that he thought they left the old country stuff behind, wondering why a Bakemono would even bother following them across the sea anyway.
Getting off the vessel, Henry meets with a man named Stan Grichuk, telling him that he has a beautiful catch for him and that it was a good day for mackerel. Grichuk, however, is not impressed, saying that there's too much bycatch in Henry's product and that it would take ten girls to sort through it. He offers him half of the usual price. In response to this, Chester says that he'll get his mackerel, even if they have to sort through it themselves, but they'll get his usual price. Henry is not impressed with his intervention, telling him that he should learn to fish if he wants to be a captain.
He and Chester head home in his Packard. They encounter a local Naval sailor, Marlon, who calls the vehicle a jalopy. Henry points out that only six Japanese on the island own their own car. Marlon says he got Chester the tickets, and Chester explains that they're talking Walt Yoshida to the movies, to see Down Mexico Way. Henry tells Marlon to keep his son away from the Naval Station.
Sitting on a bench, Chester recalls a passionate night with his girlfriend, Luz Ojeda. They kiss, and it appears they're about to do more. Back in the present, Luz arrives. She asks if he has "it" and he pulls out the herbal mixture. There are two bottles, and he tells her to take the gaiyo first, followed by the toki on the second day. It's implied that the mixture will result in her having an abortion. She calls it an offense to God, saying that it would kill her father if he knew. He tells her that he keeps seeing Mrs. Furuya, believing that his pressuring her into asking for this mixture led to her committing suicide. She asks what they do next, and he says that once it's all over, they can go their separate ways. She'll become a nursing student, and he'll travel the world to take photographs, as he wanted. She tells him of how her father always wanted her to be a nun, and she was going to, until she realized it wasn't what she really wanted. Chester speaks of his family, of how they moved from one island to another, only for his father to take a boat in tiny circles, that being their entire world. It's not for him. She thanks him, saying it would probably be best if he left first.
Henry is at Grichuk's cannery, where Grichuk tells him that the quality of the catch is declining and so he can't pay him as much. Henry argues that it isn't, but Grichuk tells him that his splitters can't handle the "guppies" that he's catching, that his girls have to do them by hand. He then gets his tie caught in one of the splitters and very nearly gets choked to death. He calls for help and Henry grabs a knife and cuts off the tie, saving him. He gets up, then trips and falls over a basket. Back at the Nakayama home, Henry is in his darkroom. He develops the photos from the funeral, only to find that the face of an individual in one of the photos is strangely blurred out. He is called up for dinner, which Amy Yoshida is attending as a guest. They talk about her brother's upcoming wedding, in March, leading Chester to realize that they haven't told her that he's moving to the mainland to become a photographer for a magazine. When his father expresses skepticism at this, he asks if he should be hauling fish for the rest of his life. His mother says that he's safe there and that you can't have a good life without family. To this, Chester darkly responds "Just ask Mrs. Furuya."
That evening, Chester and Amy are out walking and smoking cigarettes. He apologizes for the way things were at dinner, but she says she's glad. She's been going out with a hakujin from the Naval Station and the dinner proves that her parents don't know anything about it and neither does her brother, who's "as Japanese as rice." She says that what's truly scary is how Hideo Furuya would get blind drunk, beat his wife, sleep it off and forget, then see the bruises and beat her again, thinking that she was stepping out on him. She asks if he has any idea what might have caused her to commit suicide, but he lies that he hasn't seen her lately.
Back at the Nakayama house, there is a knock at the door. Henry answers it and finds Stan Grichuk at the door in a bad state. He invites him in for coffee, but Grichuk says that it won't take long. He says that he wanted Nakayama to be the first to know that he's been fired from his job, as the company is blaming him for the shutdown of the machine. He rants that he gave them thirteen years of his life and now he has nothing. Henry replies that he has his health and his life, to which Grichuk counters that he has a life, but no livelihood. He says that it puts him in a tough spot and if only Henry had brought him decent-sized fish. Getting in his face, he says that he needs reparation. Henry replies that Grichuk's the boss, while he's just a fisherman with nothing to give. Grichuk speaks of the antispying laws and how Henry didn't register his boat, the Taro. Henry replies that he was fishing for him in Mexico, but Grichuk suggests that all of his extra gas tanks could be part of a Japanese operation for the war. He threatens to report him and Henry asks what he has in mind. Outside, he hands over the key to his Packard and Grichuk drives off, though not before thanking him for saving his life.
Back at the Nakayama home, Chester is furious that Henry didn't wait for him. Henry replies that there was nothing to be done, but Chester tells him to stop saying that, that people don't think like that anymore. He tells him to not let Grichuk push him around and to be a man. To this, Henry tells him a story of how his father in Japan has only an ox-cart to pull around. When he came to America, he wanted nothing more than an automobile to pull him around. He saved for twenty years to finally get it and that even if they take his car, he's still the same man. "Don't you tell me how to be man, boy."
The two remaining Furuyas, Hideo and his son Toshiro, are at home when there is a knock on their door. It's Asako Nakayama, bringing a gift of food for his son. While they eat, she sprinkles rice on his windowsill. He asks what she's doing and she says it's purification, that the old spirits are there. He shouts that he doesn't need protection and she leaves in a hurry. Later, he and Henry walk to a local bar. The barkeep tells Henry that next Christmas, he'll have a Cadillac. "If we make it that far," he replies wanly. He apologizes to Hideo for Asako's bothering him, saying he knows how wives are. Hideo replies that at least he has one. He downs another drink and leaves, saying that he needs to use the restroom. He heads out to the pier and passes a woman in a kimono, Yuko Tanabe. He stares back at her, then looks again, then suddenly finds her gone. Then, his movements become spastic. He turns his eyes directly towards the sun and gurgles, then screams and covers his eyes. A group from the bar comes running and finds that he has gone completely blind.
At a brothel, Walt Yoshida is asking what movie it is they're supposed to be seeing. Chester reminds him that it's Down Mexico Way. He asks if anyone's actually seen it, and Walt summarizes a typical Gene Autry film. They drink to Hideo, though Chester asks if anyone's spooked that he went blind the same week that his wife died. They remind him that it's Walt's send-off and a group of prostitutes come down for them to select. Chester, however, abstains, as he has a girlfriend. The group heads off, leaving Walt alone. Then, Yuko Tanabe appears. He snaps her picture. She says that she was asked to serve tea to him. He asks for her name and she gives it, then asks why he isn't with the others. He says his mind has been on other troubles, telling her in vague details of his troubles with Luz. She offers to read his tea leaves, saying she has some in her room.
They head up to her room, which has a number of creepy masks on the walls. They sit down together and Yuko begins. He drinks and she examines the dregs of his cup. She says that the leaves say that he is two people, that he has light and darkness, life and death. He lives in two worlds, but is at home in neither. He is a "sparrow in a swallow's nest" and the swallows will peck him to death the moment he believes he is safe. She tells him that a perfect world lies ahead for him, if he looks within himself. She asks him what he sees, and he replies that he sees an open plain, a fenced acre, a house of wood and a child. She tells him that it is not lost to him, that he can restore his path, or else he will hunger for it forever.
Later, Chester is at Grichuk's place, with the Packard. He gets in and drives off with it. Grichuk comes out to investigate, but it is already too late. He pays a visit to his girlfriend, Luz. He asks if she took the herbs and she replies that it's not his concern anymore. He asks again and she says that she didn't. He sighs with relief, saying that he realized that night that everything that's happened with them is a sign. He tells her that he has the car and suggests that they just take off together and have their own acre - just him, her and the baby. She, however, points out the practical problems with this, that he doesn't even know her that well to run off with her and that they barely have any money and don't know anyone who could help them. He says they'll figure it out, but she says he'll see better in the morning, that there's no future for them. He prepares to leave, asking if she still plans to take the herbs. She says she doesn't know, that she's scared.
Grichuk stalks the empty cannery where he was employed in the dark of night. He then heads outside onto Henry's ship, the Taro, and pours kerosene all over it. He lights a match, then uses it to light the entire matchbox, only for a strong wind to blow out the flame. He looks around in confusion, then the wind gets even stronger, blowing him into the harbor water and drowning him.
That morning, Chester approaches the Taro, asking why his father didn't tell him he was going out. Henry asks where he's been, saying that things are a mess because someone knocked a kerosene can over. Yamato-san tells him someone is messing with his fishing net. They pull it in and discover Grichuk's corpse. Chester and Henry are sent to the local naval station for questioning, Chester telling Henry that he trusts Marlon and that they have nothing to worry about. Henry replies that he can feel something evil. Chester wonders why a spirit would go after Grichuk when he wasn't even Japanese. Henry counters that they are. Chester says that they'll tell them it was an accident, that he was a notorious drunk. Henry replies that they paying for their shame; that his own son brought shame and he's paying for that. He says that he knows what he did, asking who the girl is. Chester says it was a mistake, but Henry says that the mistake was his for letting his son go to L.A., too weak to resist. Chester counters that he's making his own way, as opposed to Henry, who's spent half his life in the U.S. but never left his island, begging for scraps from a drunk. He says that's the kind of man he'll n ever be, asking what they call that. Before he can complete his thought, though, an air raid siren sounds. He asks Marlon what's going on, and Marlon suggests that they leave. They do, as planes pass low overhead.
That night, the news comes in over the radio - at approximately 7:48 Honolulu time that morning, 300-400 Japanese bombers attacked the installation at Pearl Harbor, resulting in massive casualties. There was no warning of the attack. In his darkroom, Chester develops the photo he took of Yuko Tanabe, only to find that her face is nothing but a blur. Then, from upstairs, he hears sirens and banging on the door. Outside, a number of individuals are being loaded onto a van. He runs out into the crowd and is called over by his mother. Henry is being loaded onto one of the vans by the FBI, suspected of being a Japanese spy. He tells Chester that he's a citizen, and to fight for his country.
In her room, Yuko lights a candle. She admires her face in a mirror, only to then creak strangely. She wipes her face with a potion, only for part of her skin to peel off, showing decaying flesh underneath. She grabs a needle, bends it using only her fingers, then uses it to knit the skin back together.
- Hira Ambrosino - Fumi Yoshida
- Eiji Inoue - Hideo Furuya
- James Saito - Wilson Yoshida
- Teach Grant - Stan Grichuk
- Reilly Dolman - Marlon
- Lee Shorten - Walt Yoshida
- Alex Shimizu - Toshiro Furuya
- Yuki Morita - Masayo Furuya
- Yuta Takenaka - Genzo
- Peter Kawasaki - Shogo
- Mathew Yanagiya - Burt Okamura
- Kasey Mazak - Wada
- Camille Martinez - Miss Antoinette
- Lt. commander - Greg Strasky
- Priest - Tatsuya Aoki
Behind the scenes
- The opening scene, in which Masayo Furuya sticks a hair stick in her ear, was the very first scene conceived for the series by showrunner Alexander Woo, who intended to eventually come up with something better before realizing that he couldn't come up with anything better.
- In November 2019 this episode was nominated for an Outstanding Achievement Award by the American Society of Cinematographers, an award which it went on to win.