"Sympathy for the Devil" is the sixth session, or episode, of Cowboy Bebop.
- Hiroshi Takeuchi
Mechanical Animation Director:
- Masami Goto
Dreaming, Spike has a flash-back of himself, naked and being operated on by surgeons in a room where human organs and a fish float in water-filled tubes. Soon, he jolts awake in a nightclub where a kid is on stage playing a blues tune on a harmonica.
Meanwhile, Faye inspects the refrigerator on board the Bebop, but only finds a can of dog food. Ein is waiting by his food dish patiently but Faye instead eats the dog food herself, saying to Ein that he should work for his food.
Jet joins Spike at the nightclub. While Spike confirms their next target with his computer glasses, they discuss blues music. Jet says he's a lifelong fan of the genre. Spike soon confirms their three million Woolong bounty head, Giraffe, however, someone is in the way. It turns out to be an old friend of Jet's, Fatty River, so Jet yells from across the room, sure to draw attention as they greet each other. Soon, Giraffe leaves the club and Spike begins to follow him discretely as he goes outside. Giraffe himself is following the kid who performed on stage. He enters a taxi with an old man in a wheelchair. Spike watches Giraffe, then get into a taxi to follow. Rather than confront him, Spike runs back.
Giraffe follows the two to a sky rise hotel. Preparing himself, he bursts into a suite and finds them, demanding the old man be returned, calling him Zebra.
Spike darts for his ship, the Swordfish II and arrives in the area. Suddenly, Giraffe crashes through the window of the hotel, and Spike narrowly catches him. Spike is disappointed that he's been shot, since that will affect the bounty. He tries to get him not to speak, but Giraffe insists that Spike help "him," gives him a ring and says not to be fooled by the way "he" looks. He dies as the police arrive in the air.
Back at the Bebop, Jet and Spike talk about selling the ring. Faye briefly tries to keep herself part of the reward, but Spike quickly refuses that, and Jet gives her an invoice for the expenses she's incurred. Jet goes to lunch with River to get some information. He was also trying to catch Giraffe. Fatty explains that Giraffe and Zebra were the leaders of the Self Defense Volunteer Squad and Wen is supposedly Zebra's son.
- Fatty River explains:
- Ten years ago they had a confrontation with some space raiders. A land dispute. It all came down at some R&D facility near Mars. A few days later the raiders are wiped out, Zebras missing, and Giraffe is found blindfolded in a silo. They say Zebra double crossed him so he could run the squad solo. Later, Zebra turns up in a wheelchair with the kid. Guess it didn't turn out the way he planned.
Back at the Bebop, Jet and Faye find Wen in an old newspaper article from 30 years ago where, shockingly, he looks the same age.
Meanwhile, Spike goes back to the nightclub and follows Wen and Zebra after the show to a warehouse. A bright light captures Spike, but he is able to see the kid and Zebra quickly. Wen questions him and, when Spike treats him like a kid, Wen takes the high ground and fires at Spike, precisely hitting his hand and knocking his gun away. Wen warns him to stay away, and that he's not a kid.
Wen explains to Spike that he was with his family during the Astral Gate accident and the hyperspace gate explosion annihilated the environment. Wen, however, emerged from the charred remains of the ground unharmed and, furthermore, without aging anymore. Wen was experimented on until Zebra infiltrated the R&D lab. He used Zebra as cover for his appearance, the third such person he's used. Wen then asks for the ring and, when Spike plays dumb, he continues to shoot. Spike finds cover and fires back, knocking Wen's gun away. Spike advances, but Wen quickly runs up the stairs and pushes Zebra down. Spike is forced to catch him as Wen runs away, but Spike keeps shooting after and hits Wen in the face, falling down behind some boxes. Spike finds, however, that he's no where to be seen, seemingly true to his claim of immortality earlier.
Spike returns to the Bebop with Zebra, presumably dead and in need of a funeral. However, it's noticed that he has tears in his eyes and actually paralyzed. Jet then uses a brain scanning machine called the Alfa Catch to record his memories as video images. They witness how Giraffe got shot at by Wen in the hotel room. In the memory, Giraffe explains that the stone can return aging to Wen – the only thing that can kill him now.
- Jet explains:
- When the gate exploded, a coordinate system was created from the resulting twists in hyperspace – a kind of singularity that drew in vast amounts of energy, enclosing and crystallizing them into a single faceted stone. The gem that makes up this ring. The same energy broke Wen's circadian rhythm. His pineal gland continually produces a substance like melatonin that inhibits aging. That's the theory in a nutshell.
Jet asks Spike if he "gets the picture," to which Spike responds, "Yeah, as if." Jet crafts a bullet out of the gem and Spike loads it into a Thompson Center Contender. Jet also notes he doesn't know what will happen once the bullet goes into him – it could explode – but that only excites Spike. As he leaves, Faye expresses worry that he won't come back. Spike then admits he doesn't like the scenario.
Spike flies his Swordfish II and tracks Wen in a stolen taxicab. They travel away from town and Spike shoots at the taxi, causing it to crash into an abandoned gas station. Wen emerges from the fiery explosion unharmed and faces down Spike, who has landed and gotten out of his ship.
Wen fires three shots with a sadistic smile on his face: one lands at Spikes feet, the next wide right of his head, and the third just grazing Spike's cheek. Spike shoots Wen between the eyes, who stood still expecting to survive another bullet wound, but the gem works and turns Wen into an old man. Wen falls to the ground and dies, saying he finally feels at ease. With his last breath, he asks Spike if he understands.
Spike replies "Yeah, as if", tosses Wen's harmonica into the air, points at it with his finger and says "Bang".
- “If you don’t work, you don’t eat. You’re a hunting dog... hunt up some food. We girls are different. We have to be pampered because we’re delicate and refined.”
- — Faye Valentine
- “Damn that blues harp sounds sweet; I knew it would.”
- — Jet Black
- “I thought you liked jazz.”
- — Spike Spiegel
- “Don’t be dense. I started wailing the blues when the doctor whacked my bottom on the day I was born.”
- — Jet Black
- “A baby hipster, very cool.”
- — Spike Spiegel
- “Betrayal may come easily to women, but men live by iron-clad codes of honor.”
- — Jet Black
- “You really believe that?”
- — Faye Valentine
- “I'm trying to, real hard.”
- — Jet Black
- — Spike Spiegel
- Tank! (TV Edit) - Opening titles
- Digging My Potato – Spike's eye surgery, through Session Title
- Don't Bother None – Spike follows Giraffe who's following Wen
- Spokey Dokey (Alternate Take) - Spike watches Wen while Fatty explains to Jet
- Spokey Dokey (Alternate Take) - Eyecatch II card, through Wen's flashback to the Gate blowing up
- Meteor – Wen faces-down Spike
- Spokey Dokey ("Alternate Take II") – [Unreleased take] Wen sits alone, Jet theorises with Spike
- "Stomp" – [Unreleased] Hand-drums during the big showdown
- Spokey Dokey ("Alternate Take II") – Wen's dies, Spike understands, but he can't play
- The Real Folk Blues – Closing titles
- Live in Baghdad – Preview for Heavy Metal Queen
Themes and Motifs
- Missed Bounty: This session is an example of the crew missing a bounty opportunity. They attempt to collect the 3 million Woolong bounty on Giraffe who is killed before they have a chance to catch him.
Homages and References
- "Sympathy for the Devil" Is a song by the rock band The Rolling Stones on their album, Beggars Banquet. The narrator of the song is the Devil, who like Wen, watches as generations of people die around him.
- Fatty Rivers' name is a reference to Muddy Waters, the legendary blues musician.
- Wen is seen wearing a green jacket with a black shirt and yellow tie. The trademark outfit of Lupin the Third.
- Wen's harmonica-playing is a homage to Charles Bronson's character Harmonica in Once Upon a Time in the West; Spike trying and failing to play it at the end of the episode may be an intentional reference Cheyenne's sarcastic comment to one of the trigger-happy bystanders in trading-post/bar scene early in the movie, right after he's first met Harmonica: "You can't play!".
- This episode was unaired due to a child being killed on and themes of violence. The scene of Wen getting hit in the forehead had the impact replaced with a Hit Flash and his bullet mark digitally removed in the Adult Swim airing. On top of that, this was one of three episodes delayed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, as it contained a scene of a man falling from a high-rise building and a child (Wen) emerging from burnt corpses and later the burning rubble of a destroyed building. The beginning dream of Spike in surgery had his lower nudity blacked out on Adult Swim.