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Shōgun's Anna Sawai Breaks Down Episode 5's Sake-Off and Painful Aftermath for Toda Mariko

'I was feeling stuck. And I wonder if that's because Mariko felt stuck'

Kat Moon
Anna Sawai, Shōgun

Anna Sawai, Shōgun


[The following contains spoilers for Shōgun Episode 5. Read at your own risk!]

Shōgun Episode 5, titled "Broken to the Fist," opened with a surprise. Lord Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada) has returned to Ajiro, but he is not alone. Next to the daimyō is none other than Toda Hirokatsu (Shinnosuke Abe) — or "Buntaro" — who seemingly met his end in Episode 3 at the harbor in Osaka. As it turns out, the samurai is very much alive, and his wife, Lady Toda Mariko (Anna Sawai), is just as shocked as the rest of us. Sawai described what Mariko is thinking when she sees Buntaro. "In one word, it would be 'sh--,'" the actor told TV Guide. "At that moment, she's just very confused."

Part of the confusion is due to developments in Mariko's relationship with John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis). "Had she known [Buntaro was alive], then she wouldn't have done what she did," Sawai said, referring to her character and Blackthorne sleeping together in Episode 4. And though Buntaro does not know about this incident, it's obvious to him that his wife does not view the English pilot as a savage "barbarian" like he does. Tensions arise when Buntaro joins Mariko in Blackthorne's home, and the three of them — plus Usami Fuji (Moeka Hoshi), who was assigned to be consort to Blackthorne— have dinner together.

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Right away, the two men engage in an implied competition to outdrink each other. They pour sake into their bowls and aggressively slurp from them as Mariko and Fuji watch in silence. "Especially with someone like Blackthorne, who doesn't understand the culture and who is pushing [Buntaro's] buttons, I think [Mariko] feels there's nothing good that's going to happen after this," Sawai said. "And you can see in her expression that she's kind of like, 'Please stop drinking.'"

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Of course, neither man does. Instead, Blackthorne asks the samurai to share about his escape from Osaka. "Heroism is for the dead, and stories are for children," a visibly peeved Buntaro responds. And when the pilot refuses to speak about his experiences in war, Buntaro decides to escalate things beyond a sake-off. Many drinks in, he asks for his bow and arrow and narrowly misses Mariko while shooting at the gateway post of Blackthorne's home. When a horrified Blackthorne speaks up for Mariko, Buntaro orders his wife to talk about her disgraced family.

"It's not that she's ashamed of it," Sawai said. "But she knows that it's perceived in a certain way to other people, and so it's a story that she doesn't really want to tell in front of her husband." Mariko states that she is the daughter of Akechi Jinsai. He was hunted for murdering his lord, which led to the deaths of their entire family, with the exception of Mariko. 

Sawai remembered the challenges of filming the scene in which her character shares her background. "I was feeling stuck. And I wonder if that's because Mariko felt stuck," the actor said. Part of the difficulty was determining how open Mariko would be. "Because she's in front of Buntaro, she wouldn't be very, very vulnerable. She would have a certain mask," Sawai explained. "That's where I was having a hard time. She is voicing it for the first time, so she should be emotional — but she has to hide it because of Buntaro."

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It was a hard balance to find, and Sawai recalled struggling on set. "I remember feeling like I wasn't doing well, and [director] Fred [E.O. Toye] was coming up to me, being like, 'It's good,'" she said. "[Co-creator] Justin [Marks] was coming up to me, and I was like, I need to talk to [co-creator] Rachel [Kondo]." Sawai felt that the showrunner understood her and her character deeply. "And so I had a private moment with her, and then we went on shooting the rest of the scene," she said. It took roughly two days to film the events that transpired at dinner.

But what happened after dinner was a beast of its own. In the middle of the night, Blackthorne hears Buntaro yelling in the next room. When the pilot finds Mariko, she is badly injured. 

Hiroyuki Sanada — who, in addition to playing Lord Toranaga, is a producer on Shōgun — discussed the framing of this scene. "We didn't want to show domestic violence," he told TV Guide. "Just voice or sound. We can hear, feel what's going on. That's enough." The actor said that from the beginning, the team was set on explicit violence not being the "sales point" for this show.

"As long as it's implied, then that's enough to tell the story," Sawai added. "It didn't have to be the source of entertainment for the audience." 

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New episodes of Shōgun air Tuesdays at 10/9c on FX and stream the same day on Hulu.