Love it. This show is as tense and gripping as I’d hoped for, and now that the setup is complete and we’re on the run, it’s barreling along at a great speed. It’s got a perfect timeline too, with an episode count that falls in lock step with our narrative countdown: with two episodes of setup behind us, that puts us at fourteen episodes on the run, one per day of Tae-san’s two weeks. Though if he’s going to suffer this much every day, I don’t know if I’ll make it to D-Day.
SONG OF THE DAY
Drunken Tiger – “내가 싫다” (I Hate Myself) [ Download ]
EPISODE 3 RECAP
After a brief recap of the events that led to Tae-san’s bloody, handcuffed escape on a motorcycle, we go back to that coffee shop conversation with his ex In-hye—you know, the one where she dropped the eight-ton bomb in his lap about having his daughter.
He’s still reeling from the fact that she had the child, especially when he was the one who shoved her into the operating room to get an abortion. She spits back now: “You should’ve guarded the door, like a proper gangster bastard.” Dayum.
She passes him the place and time to get the blood test to see if he’s a bone marrow match to his daughter, and says he can either show up there, or call if he doesn’t want to come. “If you don’t want the child to live.” He sits there stunned, repeating her words in disbelief: “If I don’t want the child to live?” Not that he needed proof that she thought he was scum, but wow.
And back in the present, Tae-san rides away, breaking every law under the sun just to save his daughter.
The mood in the police station is grim—homicide detective and Best Boyfriend Seung-woo hates that he had to hand Tae-san over to the prosecutor’s office without getting a confession, while his sunbaes blame his father the chief, and round and round the animosity goes.
Suddenly prosecutor Jae-kyung comes bursting into the precinct, demanding to see the man who killed Oh Mi-sook. Once she shows them her badge, Seung-woo says confusedly that they sent him over to her side, and then asks if she knows the victim. She just hangs her head.
But worse news is on the way… Rookie Cop picks up the phone and freaks out: “Jang Tae-san escaped!” Seung-woo starts asking for details, but Jae-kyung freezes cold at the name: “Jang Tae-san?” Oooh, what do you know?
Flashback to a courtroom: Tae-san is sitting on trial, as a young girl screams in tears, “That’s not the man who hit my father! He’s right there!” She points at mob boss Moon Il-seok, sitting in the audience with a smile. The girl’s nametag reads: Park Jae-kyung. OH.
So this is the beginning of her lifelong vendetta against Boss Moon—bad things happened to Dad and Tae-san was the fall guy, which she knew at the time. As the cops scramble to begin the manhunt, Jae-kyung runs back out in the chaos.
Tae-san speeds down the highway, still bleeding from the head, and realizes that there are traffic cams every fifty yards along his route. It cracks me up that he thinks to a movie for inspiration (we’ve seen that he loves action movies), and he realizes that he’s too easy to spot this way, and exits.
The cops hear from traffic control that Tae-san has circled back into their neighborhood, which they realize is because he’s still handcuffed and has to deal with that first. They race to set up roadblocks and go motorcycle hunting.
Two schoolboys find a motorcycle parked outside their school, and Tae-san smiles to himself as they ride it down the street in the other direction. Smart. He hides out until he finds a covered produce truck about to make a delivery, and hops on just in time to miss the roadblock being set up in that intersection by about two seconds. Phew.
Jae-kyung goes to her boss to ask for Mi-sook’s murder case, and he rips into her for her reckless behavior, her lack of discipline in her casework, and her terrible track record. He shuts her down.
Jae-kyung knows she can’t argue with any of it, but she stands there with her head hanging, and finally admits: “Oh Mi-sook died because of me!” She tells him the truth—that she’s been running her own investigation of Boss Moon and Congresswoman Jo, and Mi-sook was her informant.
She says the two power-players have a connection that goes back eight years or more, since Boss Moon’s days in Busan. Congresswoman Jo may have a pristine public image as the mother of a disabled son who lives for social work, but Jae-kyung swears it’s fabricated.
She begs her boss for the chance to bring them down, and adds that if she doesn’t catch Jang Tae-san with her own two hands, she won’t be able to breathe right for the rest of her life.
At the same time, the pair of evil plotters meets on a rooftop to do more evil planning, and Boss Moon takes issue with Tae-san’s swift transfer to the prosecutor’s office. What if he talks? Congresswoman Jo tells him that what they need is for Tae-san’s conviction not to be dragged out, and says she’ll take care of the prosecutor while Boss Moon finds a public defender.
He chuckles, realizing what she means. (I think what she means is for him to find a lawyer who will throw the case for a payout, though I’m also equally convinced she means for him to find an assassin-posing-as-lawyer to off him. I suppose either would work.)
But then a minion runs up with bad news: Tae-san has escaped. And then of course it gets worse (for them): Park Jae-kyung has been assigned to the case at the prosecutor’s office. Awww yeah.
The cops are busy trying to get a hold of Tae-san’s roommate Man-seok, but he’s nowhere to be found. Jae-kyung bursts into the precinct with her fellow prosecutor in tow, this time with a court order to take over jurisdiction on the case. They sigh that she’s fast.
She argues that looking for Man-seok is a waste of time, since he’s the first person they’d watch. Seung-woo counters that all runners are the same, and eventually they’ll make contact with loved ones.
Jae-kyung asks if he’s sure that Tae-san was the killer, and decides to go examine the crime scene for herself. She tells them that whatever they do, they can’t let Tae-san get out of Seoul.
And as she says it, the produce truck carrying our fugitive drives past the city border. I’ve never been so happy to see the Goodbye Seoul sign.
He has to get out when the truck makes a delivery stop, but he hitches a ride with another truck to a sandlot. There isn’t anywhere for him to hide, but he does find half a bottle of soda to steal, and then looks curiously at the bendy straw.
Congresswoman Jo visits the chief prosecutor to try and suggest that Jae-kyung is too inexperienced to handle a case as big as this one, while Jae-kyung arrives at the crime scene and breaks down in tears at the thought that Mi-sook was hanging on just waiting for her call.
She berates herself for running around like a fool (ah, the person she was looking for in Chicago was Congresswoman Jo’s son), while her friend was in trouble. They dig around for the digital camera, but it’s gone.
She’s just barely getting started, when the call comes from her boss that she’s off the case, and it was an order from higher up. Jae-kyung wails in frustration that this can’t be happening.
Congresswoman Jo arrives at home, and finds her front gate decorated with thank you notes and flowers, as usual. She heads inside, plops them down carelessly, and then enters a creepy basement… which turns out to be an underground tunnel connecting her modest house (which is her public front), to the lavish mansion where she actually lives. Good grief, lady. You go to some pretty extreme lengths to live your lie.
Meanwhile, Roomie Man-seok does what Tae-san asked, and goes to the nightclub where Mi-sook used to work. He talks up one of the bar hostesses to find out what kind of relationship she had with Boss Moon.
He staggers home drunk, but he did manage to get the story straight: Mi-sook was Boss Moon’s girl, and he killed her and then framed Tae-san for it. Seung-woo and the rookie cop are waiting for him to get home, and that’s the first that Man-seok hears of Tae-san’s escape.
Seung-woo makes him write down the names of Tae-san’s friends, and Man-seok says he doesn’t really have any. Aw. But Seung-woo makes scary threats about being an accessory, and he scrawls a few names down. (Man-seok turns out to be a friend from the orphanage where they both grew up, so he must be the only non-gangster acquaintance in Tae-san’s life.)
Man-seok’s alibi checks out and the motorcycle is found with the high school students, so they’re back to square one. Meanwhile, one of the sandlot trucks gets stopped at a police checkpoint, and when the cops ask him to open up the back, the driver sighs that he’s carrying nothing but sand.
They check anyway, even stabbing at the sand with a stick just to make sure, and then decide it’s clear. But sticking out in the corner is the tip of that yellow bendy straw. HA. I love it.
As soon as the truck pulls away, Tae-san emerges, coughing up sand. He climbs out at a gas station and starts running, but he’s so exhausted he can barely get down the road before he tumbles to the ground. But he wills himself back up, and heads inside a shed for cover.
He digs around for something to cut his handcuffs, but no amount of straining with regular farm tools is working, and soon he’s chased out by the sound of a barking dog. Bah. Can’t the guy just rest for a moment?
He finds a bicycle and rides over to the next farm, and stops at a river campground on the way, to steal some clothes hanging out to dry. As he does, the sound of a metal works shop catches his attention, and he creeps up to the house.
At the hospital, In-hye urges her daughter Su-jin to go to sleep, and shuts off the TV just as it announces the escape of a murder suspect. All they notice is that it’s Seung-woo’s district, and Mom is shocked that Su-jin knows what “murderer” means. She says she knows nice words too, like the nice ajusshi who’s giving her his bone marrow.
In-hye wonders if she knows something, but Su-jin lies that she’s just guessing that it’s an ajusshi, and Mom lies right back that she doesn’t know who the donor is.
Tae-san makes his way into a quiet shed, after stealing the electric saw from the metal worker’s place. He finds a house with a snoring grandma and tests out her hearing by pelting the door with rocks, but she doesn’t stir. So far so good.
Now he has to hope and pray that there’s an electrical socket in here. Phew, there is, so he tries the saw, but it’s so loud he jumps to shut it off. But it’s useless without the motor, so he finds a way to position it with his feet, and braces himself to turn it on.
Su-jin sits up that night, unable to sleep, just looking out her window.
Tae-san turns on the saw, and sparks fly as he holds the handcuffs to the blade, willing them to break. The chain finally splits. VICTORYYYYY. He’s hit with a wave of relief and laughter and tears.
6:10 AM. Jae-kyung has been up all night, and her partner Sang-hoon finds her just sitting outside the coroner’s office numbly. She asks with tears in her eyes how she’ll face Mi-sook, and he says that the case is out of her hands now, but they’ll find her killer. When she’s upset he calls her by name in banmal, but then it’s right back to “prosecutor” a moment later.
They go inside to see the body, and Jae-kyung gasps in horror at the stab wounds all over Mi-sook’s body. The coroner gives her the clothes Mi-sook was wearing, which had no other DNA but her own. Jae-kyung breaks down in sobs when she sees the bra she gave her as a present once, and clutches it as she cries.
But then she feels something inside the lining. Aww yeah. Is it the pawnshop slip? It is—she finds the receipt for the digital camera that she pawned the day she died.
She brings it over to her boss and shows him the slip for the last piece of evidence that Mi-sook died to protect. She gets down on her knees and begs for the chance to bring down Boss Moon and Congresswoman Jo, so that Mi-sook’s death and her father’s won’t have been for nothing.
It’s only now that she admits that she became a prosecutor for this very reason, and has spent the last eight years of her life doing nothing but investigating these two people. He sighs and asks if she can put her neck out for this. She looks up eagerly and says she’ll quit her job if she can’t catch them.
He sighs, “No, your neck. Your actual neck. You could die.” She still nods that her answer is the same.
The cops are out of leads and Tae-san’s in the wind, so they decide to start over in Busan, and begin with his past. Ruh-roh. You’re gonna find out things you don’t like down there.
Seung-woo takes a quick break to stop by the hospital, as Su-jin gets ready to go into the sterile chamber for the next thirteen days. He promises sweets and soccer and amusement parks when she gets through this, and Su-jin gives him a kiss. They’re so cute.
He apologizes to In-hye, sighing that she should really dump him for not being there for her when she needs him most. She assures him that they’ll be fine, and adds a joking reprimand at his fugitive for running away at a time like this. He swears he’ll kill that bastard himself, and assures her that he meant catch, not kill.
Tae-san sleeps in the shed, and I’m torn between happy that he’s getting rest and worried that he should be on the road.
In-hye prepares Su-jin to begin the marrow-draining procedure, and she stops to ask Mom: “When I come out of here, I’ll be alive, right?” Whoa. Kids man, they ask the damnedest questions. Mom promises, and tells her to focus on the things she can do once she’s out.
Jae-kyung raids the pawnshop storage unit, but of course there’s no camera. The pawnshop maknae says that Tae-san was the one who wrote up that receipt, which is when Jae-kyung finally realizes Tae-san’s connection to the pawnshop, which she hadn’t known (she lost track of him after his second prison term, and he’s been lying low since 2008).
She assumes wrongly that Mi-sook pawning the camera to Tae-san is what led to her death, and calls him a dog that’ll do whatever Boss Moon orders. But then it occurs to her that Tae-san is an orphan and has no family connections or anyone to benefit in exchange for doing the mob boss’s bidding. They decide to look into his past to figure out why.
She gets a call that stops everything though: Jang Tae-san has been found. Ack. No.
Boss Moon gets word that Jae-kyung came rooting around the pawnshop looking for a camera, and with the help of his one smart minion, puts together that Mi-sook had a recording of some kind, and that her phone message to Jae-kyung was a code. The worst part is that now Tae-san has the camera, or so they think.
A man develops photos in a darkroom, and then answers a call from his father. Ah, this is Boss Moon’s son, known only as Teacher Kim. A pan down to his shirt pocket lands on a pen. Oh noes, not another poison pen assassin. Was there a group rate at assassin school for this?
11:30 AM. Seung-woo reports to the team that a bicycle was reported stolen in a rural area, along with clothes from a campsite. I love that the rookie is in awe of Tae-san, wondering how he got so far in eight hours when they’ve only been looking within the city limits.
Jae-kyung says that the bicycle was taken seven hours ago, which means he could be anywhere by now. But Seung-woo points out that Tae-san didn’t eat a single thing while he was in custody, and didn’t get a wink of sleep either. There’s no way he could’ve gone one more night without rest.
They order the search to begin there, and Jae-kyung gets in the car to go herself. The police captain gapes at the prosecutor volunteering to do field work like she’s an alien.
Tae-san wakes up to the sound of the grandma yelling and cursing at someone in the yard. He peers out and sees her chasing a chicken around, determined to eat it today. It goes on for hours, and he starts to get anxious. But he also cracks up at the granny’s tenacity, and then catches himself: “Is this a time to be laughing?”
He sighs that he’s so hungry and thirsty, and just needs a place to hide out until Su-jin’s surgery. He wonders aloud what he’s going to do, and then Imaginary Su-jin answers back, “What’re you going to do?”
He envisions her sitting across from him, and that reminds him of the monkey. He digs it out of his pocket and brushes the dirt off in relief: “I promised to give it back.” Imaginary Su-jin: “You pinky-swore and everything. How are you going to give it back?”
She asks what he was trying to do by running away, and he says he wasn’t trying to do anything, except not die. “I can’t die, not until your surgery.” He sits there trying to piece together why Boss Moon framed him so perfectly and then set out to kill him, but when he turns to ask her, she’s gone.
Meanwhile, the announcement that a fugitive is hiding out in their town gets played throughout the village. Eep. Tae-san peers out the window to see where the grandma is, but this time she’s glaring right at him, with a cane at the ready. Dude, that effectively made my heart lurch.
He looks again, and realizes that it’s actually the chicken she’s still glaring at. LOL. She leaps for it and falls, and Tae-san sees his chance to sneak out the door. He doesn’t run though, and instead helps her up, pretending to be a hiker who lost his way in the mountains.
He asks expectantly if she wants him to catch that chicken for her. Next thing we know, he’s tearing into a chicken leg with a giant grin on his face. Ha. Well thank goodness he finally got to eat.
The granny asks if he wasn’t afraid to go hiking up there alone with no equipment, and Tae-san asks if she isn’t afraid to live here all by herself. She says she’s not afraid of ghosts or anything, because the only thing that’s truly frightening in this world is people. Tae-san sighs that she’s right about that.
The happy break doesn’t last long though, because the town mayor comes walking up to the grandma’s house. He guesses that her son has come to visit and the grandma just nods before explaining, and Tae-san gets up and bolts before she can.
It’s not long before Jae-kyung and Seung-woo get word that he’s been found, and they rush over with the national guard by the truckload. They’re not alone though, because Teacher Kim is hot on their trail.
Tae-san goes up into the mountains, but augh, they have SO MANY people on this manhunt—the mountain is just teeming with bodies. Teacher Kim moves among them, unnoticed.
Tae-san climbs up to the top, only to find another team closing in on him from the other direction. The sun sets, and he races to find cover in the darkness.
In the hospital, Su-jin crosses off another day on her “rebirth” countdown calendar, and beams.
And in the woods, Tae-san runs for his life. Suddenly a flashlight beam lands right on his face: “It’s Jang Tae-san!” NOoooo.
You know, in a show like this, it’s less a question of, Will he escape, because he has to. But the fun is all in the how, and I’m so invested in the details. I don’t know why, but as I was watching the handcuff saga in this episode I kept thinking of Castaway, which is completely removed genre-wise, but it was the thought that one human victory over something seemingly small—like building a fire or breaking a set of handcuffs—can be monumental drama if you build it up the right way. It’s that narrative focus on micro-drama that makes this show feel like Prison Break or 24, in a really good way. The shorter the timeline for the character, the more suspense we feel in every tiny action, and every bead of sweat feels earned. I know it’s not good for the blood pressure, but I really hope it stays high-strung through the end.
I like that we spent more time on Jae-kyung in this episode, because her backstory was the least developed (understandable, since it was the least essential to get the story rolling). The connection to her father’s death surprised me, partly because I was confused about their relative ages. I don’t think it’s necessary to have everyone so interconnected in the past, since the level of coincidence on this show does induce some suspension of disbelief (though more so in Seung-woo’s case I think, not Jae-kyung’s) but their connection strikes me as really interesting.
If she knows that Tae-san went to prison as Boss Moon’s patsy for whatever happened to her father, she knows to look higher up—so even if she thinks Tae-san committed murder, she assumes it’s a contract killing, ordered by Moon. In that sense she’s got a leg up on Seung-woo, who only sees what’s in front of him. Of course her judgment is clouded by the fact that she’s clearly on a personal revenge mission, and she even admits to being bad at her job precisely because she spends all her time obsessed with this one case. She seems reckless and desperate to the point of being irrational, and while that makes me nervous, it also makes me really interested in her character. She’s dangerous, and yet in this one instance, maybe she’s the perfect person for the job because she’ll be like a dog with a bone. I just hope she’s going to be more open to the idea that Tae-san isn’t a killer, because we all know Seung-woo isn’t to be trusted on that front.
My favorite thing about the show continues to be the main character, who feels very much like an everyman, with no superpowers, no genius abilities, and a huge pile of mistakes to atone for in his life. I can feel every bit of his desperation when he’s on the run, and it adds to the suspense that he’s just an average guy who panics and can’t think straight sometimes, and has to do everything the hard way. He’s not sure what he’s doing, where he’s going, or how he’s going to survive, and it really does just feel like raw willpower that fuels him. But when your hero’s motivation is so crystal clear—his daughter’s rebirth will be his own—what else do you need?