The Virus: Episode 1
OCN delivers in this thrilling new series that is sure to turn you into hypochondriac – it’s sort of made me one already. It’s not as dark and apocalyptic as I thought it would be, but it’s still frightening to watch a mysterious disease kill and spread rapidly from person to person. The Virus takes cues from Vampire Prosecutor in its visual effects and ability to be grisly, but without totally grossing you out.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
It’s been 24 days since the infection began. LEE MYUNG-HYUN (Eom Ki-joon) dashes up the stairs of a hospital, running away from the police. He ends up trapped on the rooftop, and the police and colleague JEON JI-WON (Lee So-jung) try to get him to surrender. Myung-hyun refuses to; he believes that they missed something in the investigation and they need to review all the evidence again.
And suddenly the virus within him attacks, and his eyes turn red. He cries tears of blood.
The police retreat and call for the CDC’s help.
Flashback to February 6, 23 days prior, at the beginning of the outbreak. A fire breaks out early morning at Hwaseong Sangrok Medical Center, and a team of firefighters battle their way inside. They find a doctor half-conscious, who warns them to escape while they can. They get him into an ambulance, and when he stops breathing, the EMT starts doing CPR. The doctor coughs up blood onto the EMT’s fingers and dies.
The ambulance passes by a bus, carrying a mysterious hooded passenger, whom we will later learn to be KIM IN-CHUL (Hyun-woo). A mother and her toddler sit down next to him, and he tries to suppress his cough, though unsuccessfully.
48 hours after the fire. The emergency response team involved with the fire starts getting flu-like symptoms, but then suddenly collapse, blood pouring out of their eyes and ears. One EMT crashes his ambulance into a truck, dying while driving. The mother sitting next to In-chul dies as well, while her toddler girl continues to play with her toys. The virus is at a 100% fatality rate so far.
Seems like In-chul is patient zero.
Three days after the fire. Operations Team Leader GO SOO-GIL (Jo Hee-bong) tries to get rid of a pesky reporter waiting for a scoop. He accidentally lets slip that there is an unknown virus, but Myung-hyun arrives just in time to deal with the reporter. Myung-hyun gives him the sound bite he so badly needs: “Everyone who has been infected with the virus so far has died.” And then he sends the reporter away to get checked for infections. “And don’t turn off your cell phone,” Myung-hyun adds. “If you die, we have to get rid of your corpse.” HA.
Myung-hyun and Soo-gil go inside the burned hospital to check for more clues. So far none have been found since everything was destroyed in the fire, but Myung-hyun finds it strange that the hospital – meant for mentally ill patients – has no CCTV cameras. In addition, why would a fatal disease start in a remote location like this?
They leave the scene, and Myung-hyun gets an urgent call from BONG SUN-DONG (Park Min-woo) to come to Nasan Hospital, where they have been trying to figure out the cause of the disease. Sun-dong seems to be the type that freaks out over every little thing, based on how urgently he tells Myung-hyun that they conducted an H5N1 test to see if their virus was like the avian flu. It ended up being a match.
Myung-hyun gives him a verbal slap on the head – how could that be!? There are no reports of any birds being infected, so how could this “people-only” virus spread, especially through just breathing?
KIM SE-JIN (Lee Ki-woo) appears, gravely confirming Sun-dong’s report. He shows them a 3D image of the virus through an electron microscope, comparing it to the H5N1 virus. Both have similar protein structures aside from a few varying amino acids. But through that mutation, the current virus is now more destructive and can attack both the respiratory system and internal organs.
Myung-hyun is skeptical, but Se-jin shows him experiments of animals dying within the first day of infection. It travels to the victim’s brain in a very short time, killing humans within two days. On top of that, the antiviral medicine Tamiflu (for the avian flu) is ineffective. Se-jin doesn’t think that the virus is actually spread through the air (which would have made it worse than the 1918 influenza pandemic), but it’s serious enough to get the government involved.
By the time the meeting begins with the government officials, the toddler girl dies while in quarantine. Since the fire broke out, 21 people have been infected and 17 have died. An additional 17 died in the hospital fire. Myung-hyun reports to them that immediate action must be taken to minimize the spreading of the disease. The chief of staff, KIM DO-JIN (Ahn Suk-hwan), is skeptical over how they could have an avian flu-like disease if there were no reports of it this year, so SIM TAE-JIN, the head of CDC, says it’s possible that it came in from an overseas traveler. Myung-hyun quickly shuts that possibility down. (There’s a strange tension between them…)
Myung-hyun cares more about the 12 infected people who were not related to the emergency personnel at the fire. He wants to get the World Health Organization involved to help contain and resolve this infection. But Kim Do-jin points out that the number of deaths has not reached a worrying number just yet. It’s possible to control, right? Tae-jin says they can, which frustrates Myung-hyun because it makes the disease seem trivial.
The officials can’t take the infection seriously yet, even though 34 people have died in 3 days, because no one knows how the disease is transmitted in the first place. Myung-hyun is quite the hothead, pointing out that this disease can kill anyone – including their families. I can’t believe the officials care more about being insulted by an infections expert than about the serious virus in Seoul.
Tae-jin catches Myung-hyun in the hallway. Even though he scolded his subordinate in the meeting room, he wants Myung-hyun to hurry up and find how the disease is being transmitted. But news of the infection cannot be leaked to the media, otherwise someone will get fired.
Myung-hyun calls his team together and sends out three teams to separately investigate the poultry farm near Hwaseong, the live fowls at marketplaces and supermarkets, and the food supplier for the hospital. He assigns Soo-gil to find out if any of the infected hospital personnel came in contact with the food, and orders computer expert LEE JOO-YOUNG (Yubin) to check if any of the infected people traveled outside of Seoul.
Although no one is allowed to contact their family members or the media regarding this disease, Soo-gil encourages Myung-hyun to call his wife. No one would begrudge him, since no one else lost a family member to an infectious disease.
The team springs to action, but nothing out of the ordinary comes up in anyone’s findings. Meanwhile, In-chul roams free, staying the night on the streets nearby homeless people.
Back at Nasan Hospital, which is now home base for the quarantined victims, Se-jin reports to YOON IL-JOONG, the head of the department of infectious diseases there. It seems Se-jin has an old wound to pick from two years ago, as he was left out on a list of nominees to participate in researching the avian flu. It’s a wound Dr. Yoon is well aware of, and had the research project not failed then, it’s likely this current virus could have been stopped.
It’s been six days since the outbreak, and Myung-hyun has no conclusions for Tae-jin. Ground zero for the virus is still Hwaseong, and Myung-hyun thinks they need to raise an alert over this disease. Tae-jin’s hands are tied, politically, so all he can give is another new employee for his team.
Ji-won introduces herself, and is immediately met with indifference. But instead of letting Myung-hyun push her aside, she proves to be familiar with the case already, and suggests that two unidentified corpses could have had contact with birds carrying the virus. Myung-hyun shoots that possibility down, since those corpses were from the hospital and probably were only in contact with doctors.
He later brings Ji-won with him to check the security companies near Hwaseong. When Joo-young hears of this, she pouts jealously. Despite her usual moody countenance, looks like she has quite the soft spot for the boss.
That day, YOO SOO-IN, Myung-hyun’s wife, visits her daughter Joon-hee’s ashes. Their daughter died when she was barely three years old. Myung-hyun considers contacting her, but decides not to.
Most of the security companies have no leads, but the last one was in contract with Hwaseong. However, the night of the fire they were blocked from entering the scene. Ji-won asks if their servers get an automatic feed that records whatever is happening on the hospital’s CCTV cameras. They check, and find that all the video feeds were static. It seems nothing was recorded at all, but only for Hwaseong Sangrok Medical Center. Suspicious.
Myung-hyun brings the video feed back for Joo-young to restore it, but it’s been completely damaged. She also followed up on the medical centers’ computers; even though they were restored, there were no new leads. She did find something strange, though: There were 17 corpses found at the hospital, but there were only 15 patients and hospital employees. The extra two were likely to be visitors or guardians. But Myung-hyun hypothesizes that there could have been more people at the hospital in general, and perhaps someone left the hospital before the fire.
If that’s the case, that means he’s infected, and he came into contact with the 12 other random people. As Myung-hyun says, the plague is now on the move.
In-chul heads to a convenience store, where Soo-in is also shopping. They both grab a pack of ramen simultaneously, and he apologizes, letting her take it first.
Suddenly he coughs; spittle flies in slow motion through the air, and hits her cheek. In-chul covers his mouth, grabs the pack of ramen and rushes out while apologizing. Aw crap.
The team gets a rude awakening when Sun-dong discovers a news report regarding Hwaseong’s fire and a possible infectious disease. It even names Soo-gil in the report, and he angrily calls up the reporter, Jung Woo-jin. Myung-hyun takes the phone and demands the article be taken down. If he does, he’ll give him an exclusive scoop. Of course, Reporter Jung takes that chance, and he deletes the article.
He promptly gets an email regarding the fire at the medical center… and it doesn’t look like it’s from Myung-hyun…
In-chul heads to his friend’s apartment with some food, all the while afraid of being followed. His friend got him a job through his older brother as a shop assistant in a Gangnam internet cafe. In-chul is afraid that he might be found out, but his friend reassures him that he won’t be caught. In fact, the friend had thought that he was kidnapped by loan sharks and died. How in the world did In-chul escape?
Flashback to the night of the fire. In-chul had run off, but the doctor had grabbed his feet. He managed to kick away and run out the room. He tells his friend it was pure luck he got away.
In-chul goes to the kitchen to make ramen, and his friend starts coughing up a fit.
Day 7 of the breakout, and Ji-won has been up all night catching up on avian flu records to be more up to date on the case… and hopefully get on Myung-hyun’s good side. Sun-dong reassures her that Myung-hyun is mean to everyone, but Joo-young and Soo-gil are his biggest fans. After all, Myung-hyun saved Soo-gil’s life once.
Ji-won wonders if he’s married, and Sun-dong divulges that he divorced his wife after their daughter died from a mutated flu virus. He ended up in a very bad shape, and now no one is to ever speak of it.
Myung-hyun stares at a map outlining the locations of the 12 random victims. He erases all of their names, and draws a line through the dots. Ji-won happens to be passing by at that moment and she recognizes it as a bus route through Seoul.
Joo-young checks for the buses on that route – bus 400 and 400-4 – and finds that 5 of the victims were all on that bus within a span of 2 hours. Myung-hyun and Ji-won dash to the bus depot to investigate, and the manager there realizes that one of the drivers for those buses has been absent for a while. They get his address, and find him dead.
Reporter Jung gets a colleague to trace the source of the email sent to him, but it’s near impossible. Since the email came after the article went out, he assumes it is someone close to the case… perhaps the arsonist?
Joo-young retrieves the bus’s CCTV footage and finds one that has 5 people that were infected on the same bus. The only commonality is that there’s a hooded young man coughing, but he doesn’t seem to have shown up on the death list yet. Myung-hyun has her check if he shows up in the latest police reports and hospital records as a recent death. Joo-young wonders if someone from the death list will also show up in Hwaseong’s hospital records as the one who escaped the fire, and so Ji-won posits that Hwaseong’s chairman’s wife might know something of a separate patient list kept at home.
With the wife’s permission, Ji-won and Myung-hyun rifle through the dead chairman’s study, and he finds related research papers on avian flu infection on humans. The papers date from just a week prior to the incident, so it means he was aware of the disease.
They get a call from Sun-dong: turns out an entire district has been infected, with dead bodies piling up. Myung-hyun instructs Joo-young to check the CCTV cameras on all the nearby public locations for a possible source. Ji-won catches up with Se-jin, who’s been getting all the infected victims to his hospital under quarantine.
Soo-gil and Sun-dong are at the “crime scene” so to speak, and Soo-gil catches a couple of young kids filming him. He deletes one kid’s video, but there’s another kid who keeps running away. Soo-gil and Sun-dong make chase, and that first kid starts filming the chase again. Of course, it ends up on the news, and of course Myung-hyun is pissed.
Finally, Joo-young has a lead. She shows them a video of a bank in that district and again, In-chul shows up in the video. Since he’s been near those people who died, he must have been infected… but how is he still alive? Sun-dong thinks he has immunity to the virus and may have the antibodies needed for the cure. Ji-won isn’t so sure – he could just be a virus carrier. Either way, they need him while he’s still alive.
Problem is, he just went down to the subway. In-chul looks up at the CCTV camera in the station warily, and we flashback to his time in the hospital.
He was bound and gagged when brought in, and they seemed to have given him a constant round of shots, all presumably to be the mysterious virus. He escaped the hospital, and now he’s free in Seoul.
The Virus is off on a promising start, and I like knowing that there’s a deadline of 24 days to find out how Myung-hyun gets to the point of being infected. Because the story sets up so quickly and you feel like you have all the answers already, it makes me even more curious how it will play out over 10 episodes. I’m trusting that there will be twist after twist, and that we don’t go astray too much from the main story with little stand-alone infectious cases here and there. I like procedurals… but not for this drama.
It’s a little strange to see Eom Ki-joon in a protagonist role because I keep thinking of him in his role in Ghost, where he was the purveyor of (anti)viral software and used it to achieve his own means. Here he’s fighting against a viral infection and stopping it from spreading. Har. I find touches of Park Shin-yang‘s acting because he yells a bit too much (especially at poor Sun-dong), and it seems a bit too surreal. But at least he doesn’t over-act too much on the other scenes. While Soo-gil provides some laughs (seeing him chase after people actually cracked me up), and Sun-dong is adorably jumpy around the boss, Ji-won and Se-jin are uninteresting so far. I think it’s because those actors are playing their characters straight, without any sign of much mystery behind them. (Although Se-jin does have his whole “failed to join a research team” angle going on that could prove to be linked to Hwaseong’s experiments, he doesn’t seem to be all cut up about it right now.) I didn’t know what to make of Yubin’s acting, until I realized that her character is meant to be the moody type – the kind that likes to complain a lot but gets her work done. It’s apparent she hates the presence of a new woman in her office because she harbors a huge crush on Myung-hyun.
Characters aside, there are so many hypotheses and questions sprouting out of my head now, which is always a good thing when it comes to crime dramas. Killer doctors with amoral standards of testing? Tell me why. Is it really just a mutated form of H5N1 virus, or is it something more? Doesn’t In-chul know he’s sick and infecting these people? Or is he doing it on purpose? I bet he’s doing it on purpose out of revenge for those who put him in Hwaseong in the first place, but his motivations are still unclear. It’s chilling to think that the outside force is not some terrorist group, or some mastermind criminal, but just a harmless looking college student with a cough that won’t go away.