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Cato (spelled "Kato" in A Shot in the Dark) is Clouseau's manservant, and an expert in martial arts. It is unclear whether he believes Clouseau to be a great detective or whether he merely humors him. It is a running joke that he is instructed to attack Clouseau unexpectedly, to keep Clouseau's combat skills and vigilance sharp. Cato often takes these instructions to the point of ambushing Clouseau in his own house or at times when Clouseau obviously would prefer not to be disturbed. If they are interrupted during such an attack (as by a telephone call), Cato ceases to project the image of assailant and becomes a well-disciplined valet. Regardless of who comes off worse in the actual battle (and it is Clouseau who is more often humiliated, since Cato's ambushes usually do take him by surprise) Clouseau always gets his revenge on Cato by dealing him a sucker blow after it seems the fight is over. In later films, Cato helps Clouseau on some cases, as in Hong Kong, when Clouseau takes advantage of his own assumed death to determine the identity of his would-be killer. Here, Cato wears spectacles as a disguise but collides with various objects when the spectacles impair his vision. In Revenge, Cato, believing his master to be dead, runs a covert brothel in Clouseau's apartment: the entrance password was "Inspector Clouseau", which caused a humorous scene when the true Inspector Clouseau appeared. Cato opened another brothel in Curse of the Pink Panther, and converted Clouseau's apartment into a museum featuring all the disguises the inspector had worn over the years. In the earlier series, Cato was played by Burt Kwouk. In the re-launch, the role of Cato was offered to Jackie Chan, but the character was later scrapped for fear that the Chinese stereotype would be offensive, and Cato was replaced by a new character, Gendarme Gilbert Ponton (Jean Reno), assigned by Chief Inspector Dreyfus to watch over Clouseau. In a reversal of the Cato-Clouseau relationship, Clouseau often attacked Ponton unexpectedly, only to be stopped by a single blow.

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