Ariq is dead and with him dies any obstacle hindering Kublai from bringing the Song Dynasty to its knees. Or so The Great Khan would like us to believe.
Despite his outward display of unity and power, Kublai is clearly shaken by the death of his brother and understands that if he allows subjects to see these cracks in his exterior then all faith in the All-Powerful and Fearsome Khan weakens considerably. Matters aren’t improved by the sudden arrival of a gift of severed Mongol heads care of the Cricket Minister himself Jia Sidao.
Speaking of… Sidao decides to treat his army to a bit of team-building exercises by challenging the strongest among them and defeating him to forever quash any doubts that he’s the boss this side of the Walled City.
Mei Lin finally makes her move as well by infiltrating the Khan’s harem in series of titillating nude scenes that are reminiscent of a Play Boy Bunny Playmate audition. She almost overplays her hand by defying Chabi who plays a very active role in picking her husband’s bedmates. The Empress is no fool however, and in a silent exchange between the two women towards the end of the episode battle lines have surely been drawn.
Kublai’s grief haunts him throughout the episode and provides some intimate character interactions with other members of the cast. Whether it’s a very private conversation with Empress Chabi about how his grief haunts him in his dreams, compelling Marco to recount the Biblical tale of Cain and Abel, or listening to Hundred Eyes’ counsel it is very clear that Kublai can’t shake off his grief over killing his own brother. It is doubt that takes root within those thoughts that weigh heavily upon him.
The fact of the matter is that Ariq’s death has not silenced dissenting voices within the Khan’s court. His cousin Kaidu throws him a feast in his honor and when Kublai doesn’t show up, instead sending Jingim in his place, it is perceived as a slight upon Kaidu’s pride as a Mongol. Instead of explicitly voicing his displeasure at Kublai’s noted absence, Kaidu decides to channel his frustrations toward Jingim by reminding the Prince of his colossal failure at Wu Chen and questioning his “Mongol-ness” among other shortcomings. Having had enough of Kaidu’s insults Jingim storms out of the celebrations in a fit of rage.