The Sympathizer Episode 3 Makes A Mess Of Murder

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: May 14, 2024
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The Sympathizer Episode 3 Recap
The Sympathizer | Image via HBO




All four RDJ characters share a scene in The Sympathizer Episode 3, which includes a big turning point in the story and in the personal journeys of The Captain and Bon.

It’s no secret that Robert Downey Jr. has been a key selling point of The Sympathizer, and for those who tuned in specifically for his chameleonic performance, Episode 3, “Love It or Leave It”, delivers and then some. All four of Downey Jr.’s characters inhabit the same scene here, as The Captain attempts to build up the courage to assassinate The Major after implicating him as a spy in Episode 2.

Bon’s Past Is Revealed

While most of Bon’s time in the U.S. has been spent in a state of directionless grief, news of a potential assassination perks him up a bit. As it turns out, back in Vietnam Bon was a secret agent assigned to kill members of the Viet Cong.

The Captain needs the assistance, both because he’s far from a hardened killer himself, and also because Man is dragging his feet on giving the operation official authorization.

“Love It Or Leave It” does a fine job of building up to The Captain and Bon killing the Major. This is appreciated since it isn’t just an important plot development but also an important step on the personal journeys of both the Captain and Bon.

Robert Downey Jr. Plays A Racist Congressman

Ironically, the Major throws a “longevity” party for his mother – having no idea his life is about to end – and one of the attendees is our next Downey Jr. character, “Napalm” Ned Godwin.

Ned is a U.S. war veteran turned racist Congressman – is there any other kind? – who is a major hit at the party thanks to a speech about freedom and the joint efforts of America and South Vietnam in thwarting the spread of communism. It’s a crowd-pleaser, but it’s also fairly obvious that Ned isn’t exactly smitten with Vietnamese culture. Downey Jr.’s performance is arch, Ned gives the Major’s mother an offensive gift, and his interactions with the Captain show obvious dismay at his shared Vietnamese and French heritage.

The Captain and Bon Kill The Major

It takes a good while to get there, but eventually, the Captain and Bon do kill the Major.

The whole thing’s a mess. The Captain can barely go through with it, the Major doesn’t understand why he’s being targeted and almost escapes, and the camera takes it all in with detachment, like even it can’t believe what it’s seeing.

But the outcome is inevitable. With Bon’s help, the Captain is able to straddle the Major and shoot him several times in the face.

The Major is given a funeral, and with his death, the General believes he has done away with the mole in his camp. Of course, he’s wrong, but the Captain has managed to protect his identity for now. He even enjoys a little bit of luck, since Claude reveals he intercepted his coded message to Man – which explains why he never responded to it – but believes it was a message from the Major, asking for authorization to kill the Captain.

The End of The Sympathizer Episode 3 Features All Four Robert Downey Jr. Characters

As mentioned at the top of this recap, “Love It Or Leave It” features all four Robert Downey Jr. characters in the same scene. It occurs at the end of the episode, introducing the fourth and final character, a loose-cannon narcissist filmmaker named Niko.

Niko joins the Captain, Claude, Professor Hammer, and Napalm Ned for dinner, where they discuss a film about the Vietnam War that Niko is making.


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