The General Has A Plan in The Sympathizer Episode 5

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: May 14, 2024 (Last updated: 2 weeks ago)
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The Sympathizer Episode 5 Recap
The Sympathizer | Image via HBO




The Captain struggles with a loss of purpose in Episode 5 of The Sympathizer, and the General reveals he has a bigger plan than anyone realized.

The Captain’s adventures in moviemaking in Episode 4 of The Sympathizer were, in a word, unsuccessful. But the deviation into outright parody was a somewhat strange one for the HBO series to take at first glance, though Episode 5, “All for One”, justifies it in a roundabout way.

The Captain believed that his spying and counter-spying were becoming pointless. Rewriting history on a movie set seemed like the most readily available way to advocate for meaningful change for the Vietnamese people.

It backfired, obviously. But as it turns out here, there’s a lot more going on with the General than the Captain realized, and a return to Vietnam – though, as the flashforwards remind us, it won’t be a triumphant one – is inevitable.

The Captain Loses Purpose

Following his near-death experience in a botched pyrotechnic explosion, the Captain has lost his identity and several layers of his skin. He spends a while recuperating in the hospital, not getting many visitors, and angling for a handsome payout from the movie studio so he doesn’t make much noise about Niko having (presumably) tried to kill him.

But he’s lost. He’s suddenly surplus to requirements, seemingly for everyone, from the North and South Vietnamese to Lana and Ms. Mori.

At a loss, the Captain tries to give the settlement money to the Major’s family, but his widow refuses it. She suggests he puts the funds towards a new restaurant owned by the General’s wife, noting that the General seems to be working on a secret plan to liberate Vietnam.

The General’s Plan

Nobody believes the General is capable of anything these days, but as it turns out, he really is working on a secret plan to liberate Vietnam. He’s planning it in the basement of the restaurant, which is full of maps and charts and lists that presumably mean a great deal to him but little to anyone else.

This is quite the turn. The General has spent the last several episodes being paranoid and idiotic to an almost slapstick level, so it’s difficult for us – and indeed the Captain – to take him seriously. And yet he’s very serious. The only reason the Captain wasn’t in on the operation from the get-go is that he has been recuperating in the hospital for months and the General’s sulking that he took Lana with him to the film set (not that he had much of a choice.)

Love Disinterest

Speaking of Lana, she’s currently performing in a nightclub with Jamie Johnson. She didn’t visit the Captain in the hospital either, blaming him for what she calls the most embarrassing moment of her life. But they make amends in a softly flirtatious way, though the Captain rejects her offer to join her and Jamie for dinner so as not to feel like a third wheel.

Instead, he goes to see Ms. Mori, who is now dating Sonny, his former college rival. So, he’s a third wheel either way. He hangs around with the pair of them for a bit making snide remarks about Sonny’s cowardice, which aren’t entirely unjustified, and then he sulks off.

With things not going well on any level, the Captain tries to earn a small victory in The Sympathizer Episode 5 by threatening Niko with an alligator to ensure adequate Vietnamese representation in The Hamlet. It isn’t made clear whether or not it was Niko who tried to have him killed in the explosion, but at this stage, it’s beside the point. Niko makes no promises, and it’s clear from the conversation that the money from the settlement will be all that comes of the Captain’s moviemaking efforts.

The General’s Plan Part II

Episode 5 of The Sympathizer ends with the revelation that the General isn’t as stupid as he appears. As for what that might mean for the Captain’s future, well… we know he will end up in a North Korean prison sooner rather than later.

When the Captain goes to see Lana at the nightclub again, he has a vision of Man, assuming his friend has abandoned him given the apparent pointlessness of his mission in this “pathetic, defeatist fantasy.” And he might be right since the flashforwards make it clear that the North Vietnamese haven’t been able to track down the Captain’s so-called handler, and have been trying since the first time he mentioned him.

Anyway, this aside, the episode ends with the General revealing to the Captain that he has a whole battalion of soldiers training in a private camp outside L.A., ready to take back Vietnam. His plan isn’t just consigned to the restaurant basement’s walls – it’s very real and is about to take him back to the homeland.


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