Bonanza: Season 5, Episode 28

A Pink Cloud Comes from Old Cathay (12 Apr. 1964)

TV Episode  -   -  Western
6.0
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A mix-up in his request for mail-order Chinese fireworks brings Hoss instead a feisty mail-order bride whose militant ideas ignite a workers' rebellion and threaten the completion of a Virginia City railroad project.

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Cast

Episode cast overview:
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...
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Tai Lee
Benson Fong ...
Na Shan
Philip Ahn ...
Wang Sai
Victor Sen Yung ...
William Fawcett ...
Rafe
Mike Ragan ...
Rod
...
Mr. Tindle
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A mix-up in his request for mail-order Chinese fireworks brings Hoss instead a feisty mail-order bride whose militant ideas ignite a workers' rebellion and threaten the completion of a Virginia City railroad project.

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Western

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12 April 1964 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Per the title, Cathay was the old nomenclature for the country of China. See more »

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User Reviews

Less racist than you might expect
2 December 2012 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

You would think that after the cinematic disaster of John Wayne playing Genghis Khan in "The Conquerer," that Hollywood wouldn't stoop so low as to have a white person playing somebody from the far east. Evidently, they didn't realize that the things that make minstrel shows offensive to Afro-Ameicans applied to the Chinese, Indians, and Native Americans as well. Nevertheless we see Marlo Thomas playing a Chinese mail-order bride in an 1964 episode of "Bonanza." I suppose in an atmosphere where another white guy like Yul Brenner can get away with playing the King of Siam without any controversy, nobody seems to give a crap.

A new railroad spur is being completed through the Ponderosa, and everybody seems to be celebrating, including the Chinese-American laborers who helped build the line. It's not exactly the Golden Spike between the Central Pacific and Union Pacific, but it's still an accomplishment. Back on the homestead, Hoss has ordered a bunch of fireworks from a trading company in San Francisco who got them from Canton, China to celebrate the occasion, but instead sent him a whole different type of firework; specifically in the form of an extremely reluctant mail-order bride named Tai Li. Tai Li was a student at a school for girls lead by a radical woman Miss Lau Chu who opposed traditional Chinese rule until the Qing Dynasty captured her and executed her. Now she's bringing political upheaval to Asian Laborers who may or may not be exploited by the white man, and aren't truly being exploited by the Cartwrights. Tai Li's politics seemed to be a mix of Feminism, Marxism, and improved labor relations.

Her first task is to convince Hop Sing not to serve the Cartwrights. Next, she talks the Chinese Labroers into striking against the railroad. Later she rigs a music box to blow black smoke in Hoss's face and he tosses her in a watering trough for horses, something which in real life gave her lingering back problems as Thomas mentioned in her 2010 autobiography "Growing Up Laughing." Once Na Shan (Bensong Fong) the man who was supposed to buy her finds out Hoss got Tai Li, he comes to claim her only to be put off by her radical views which he blames on Hoss and accuses him of "bewitching" her. After she finds out Na Shan is a railroad foreman, she goes to turn them against him in another strike. The Tong finally decides to kidnap Hoss and Na Shan challenges him to a what looks more like a traditional Bushido-type duel(Yes, I know that's not Chinese, but this is old television).

Even Thomas herself realized there was no way in hell the make-up department could make her look Asian in any way, shape or form. Plus she was still pretty as a fake Chinese Girl. Ironically, since the Thomas family is half-Lebanese, Marlo is more Asian than John Wayne. Still it's easy to see why Thomas chose this role in the days before she ended up playing Ann Marie on "That Girl." The Old West was a place where Chinese and other Asian-Americans were exploited on levels that exceeded those of slavery. And even if they never happened on the fictional Ponderosa, Tai Li was going to be a woman who was going to make damn sure that stopped.


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