Three Days: Episode 4
As the search for the president continues, the circumstances surrounding his disappearance start to become clearer. But fear not, puzzle lovers. This is Three Days after all, where episodes always raise more questions than they answer. Episode 4 delves further into the past to add a boatload of new mysteries to the ever-growing list. Someone needs to pass me some mustard because this pretzel just keeps getting twistier.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
The episode begins back in February 1998 (the same month named in the “Confidential 98” floppy disk at the top of Episode 1, as you’ll recall). A bike cop pedals through a seaside town to begin his night patrol, greeting everyone he rides by. He’s a pretty popular guy. He notices something out at sea. As he stops to investigate, a gunshot rings out. He takes it in the skull and flops on the pavement, dead.
Elsewhere, a group of young men in camo fatigues and face paint have been climbing into their vehicles. They ride to their destination in tense silence. Among their number is a young Security Team Leader Ham.
But of course that tantalizing carrot is immediately yanked away with a jump forward to the present day. Team Leader Ham is on the phone in his office at the presidential villa ordering the assassination of the president. Because it wasn’t terrifying enough the first time, again we see him discover Cha-young listening in on the incriminating conversation from her hiding spot under the bed.
Moments later, she’s staring down the barrel of Ham’s gun, attempting to talk him down. “Stop this. Your plan failed,” she tells him. Ham insists that the president will die tonight, but Cha-young believes Han Tae-kyung will protect him. In the end, Ham chooses not to shoot her (another gunshot would raise suspicions), opting instead to knock her unconscious with a fist to the face.
March 5. 11:40 PM.
Back on the train leaving Cheongju Station, we pick up the other cliffhanger from Episode 3. Tae-kyung is headed for seat 1007 where he believes he will find the president. He is pursued by Blue House agents as their leader informs them that Tae-kyung is suspected of an attack on the president earlier that night.
The passengers seem thoroughly unfazed as armed agents sweep through the train, calling over their radios that Tae-kyung must be found and arrested immediately. Eventually he is surrounded in the middle of a crowded car. He attempts to fight off the agents, but Tae-kyung is vastly outnumbered and soon finds himself locked in handcuffs undergoing an intense interrogation.
Tae-kyung sends the agents to look for the president in the first car — as far away as he can get them from car 10, the president’s true location. The agents realize they’ve been duped and attempt to warn the two left behind to watch Tae-kyung, but it’s too late. With the playing field leveled, he quickly incapacitates his guards and heads for the tenth car, locking the door behind him.
With the agents trapped behind the locked door, Tae-kyung feels secure enough to begin a slow, suspenseful walk toward seat 1007. Little does he know he’s being stalked by the mysterious young man with thick-framed glasses who was on the phone with Team Leader Ham at the end of Episode 3.
As Tae-kyung approaches the president’s seat, Thick Frames pulls a silenced pistol… but the man sitting in 1007 is not the president after all. Thick Frames slinks away, but something tells me we’ll be seeing those glasses again.
Tae-kyung recognizes the man as Special Prosecutor CHOI JI-HOON (Lee Jae-yong). Remember the president’s insider trading investigation that was teased in Episode 1? Yeah, he’s the guy in charge of that.
Meanwhile, the Blue House agents have ordered the train to stop. They wisely decide not to send all their forces to one location again, and split up to secure the interior and exterior of the train.
When Tae-kyung identifies himself as a Blue House agent, Prosecutor Choi assumes he has been sent by the president to dissuade him from revealing the results of his investigation. As it turns out, the last person the president gave that assignment to was Chief Economist Han Ki-joon, better known to us as Tae-kyung’s dad.
Tae-kyung asks if the investigation has anything to do with Confidential 98, and the prosecutor’s surprised face all but confirms that it does. Prosecutor Choi refuses to give him any information about the case or the document, even as Tae-kyung pleads with him: “My father died because of Confidential 98!” All the prosecutor will say is that the president and Tae-kyung’s father were trying to cover up their past wrongdoing.
And it looks like that’s the only intriguing tidbit we’re going to get, because just then the agents swarm the train car and haul Tae-kyung away, even as he screams for more answers. The Blue House agents try to interrogate the prosecutor about their conversation, but he remains just as tight-lipped with the agents.
Outside the train, Tae-kyung is handcuffed and loaded into the back of a squad car along with an agent. They drive off. Suddenly, his car breaks ranks and swerves, and Tae-kyung’s handcuffs fall off his wrists. The agent whips out his gun immediately.
The driver cuts the wheel hard to give Tae-kyung a chance to fight back, which is when we see that it’s Bo-won behind the wheel. Whoa, wha, HUH? Where’d she come from? Tae-kyung grapples with the agent in the backseat, until they’re both hanging out the side of the car with the door open at full speed.
He barely avoids being shot, and uses all his strength to put a stranglehold on the agent until he finally knocks him out. They leave him lying incapacitated by the side of the road, and Tae-kyung and Bo-won speed away in the squad car.
A flashback to moments earlier helps us fill in the blanks. Bo-won rushes to the train station, responding to a radio call for backup. As Tae-kyung is loaded into her car, she discreetly slips the handcuff key into his palm.
Back in the present, Tae-kyung prepares to leave Bo-won and head out on his own. She insists on going with him, undeterred by his warnings that she will be named as an accomplice.
She tells him what she knows about the retired government officials who died in the fire the same night his father was killed. Why? What’s the connection? Only one person can tell them for sure. They have to find the president.
Meanwhile, it looks like more trouble is brewing over at the Blue House. The Chief of Civil Administration wants Chief Presidential Secretary Shin on the phone pronto. He orders all the chiefs to get to the Blue House immediately. Yikes, that can’t be good.
But poor Secretary Shin has enough on his plate already. Back at the presidential villa, he laments the disaster at the train station — Tae-kyung slipped right through their fingertips and still no sign of the president. Agents inform him that the female officer who helped Tae-kyung escape has been identified. A warrant is out for Bo-won’s arrest.
Team Leader Ham walks in, demanding that they continue the search for vehicle 8911, the car that the president took when he left the villa. If the car was not found at the train station, it means the president never arrived. Find the car, find the president. Secretary Shin wants to stop relying on Blue House agents alone to find the president, but Team Leader Ham asks him to wait just 30 more minutes before going public with the news of the president’s disappearance.
The phone call from the Blue House comes in. The Chief of Civil Administration tells Secretary Shin that the results of the Special Prosecutor’s investigation are going to be announced sooner than expected. Although he believes the president will be absolved of the insider trading charges, the investigation turned up information about a different incident. If the information proves true, it would mean impeachment. He requests that the president return to the Blue House immediately.
Secretary Shin agrees to send agents back out to search for the president. He tells Team Leader Ham that he had better make good on his promise to do it in 30 minutes. Ham splits his team into four groups and sends them out to check all the possible routes between Cheongsoodae and the train station for vehicle 8911.
Cha-young awakens locked inside Team Leader Ham’s wardrobe, her mouth gagged and her wrists and ankles bound with tape. Panicking, she struggles to break free.
Tae-kyung and Bo-won are also trying to identify the possible routes that vehicle 8911 might have taken. Tae-kyung knows the agents will have the same plan, so it’s imperative that they get to the car first.
Bo-won has a sudden realization: If the president took the levee road from Cheongsoodae at 7:20 PM, he would have been redirected at the detour where Bo-won herself was directing traffic back in Episode 1. They decide to check out the detour route.
At the same time, Secretary Shin is having a realization of his own. He now understands the reason the president was trying to get to the train station that night without informing the security staff. He was desperate to find Prosecutor Choi and stop him from reporting the results of the investigation.
On the way into his office building, Prosecutor Choi is hounded by reporters, giving him another opportunity to practice his favorite hobby of refusing to answer questions. Inside, the prosecutor asks about some new information his staff has received, but they’re unable to confirm the source. He tells them to cancel the morning press conference. “Are we retreating?” a staffer asks. Not at all. Prosecutor Choi just wants to reschedule.
While traveling the detour route, Tae-kyung and Bo-won ponder what could have happened to the president’s car. A landslide? Wild animals? They study a map and Tae-kyung estimates the time it would take to travel the road in a dense fog. It looks like the detour would have circled the president back toward Cheongsoodae, passing nearby right around 8:00 PM. If so, he would have been hit by the EMP.
Further down the road, the agents have finally located vehicle 8911 empty and abandoned on the shoulder. A frustrated Team Leader Ham quickly deduces that the EMP is to blame. Back at the presidential villa, Secretary Shin wonders what might have happened to the president in the 5 hours since the EMP went off.
Team Leader Ham and the agents start to piece together the puzzle. Elsewhere, Tae-kyung and Bo-won are following the same line of thinking. Flashbacks confirm that they’re all on the right track.
At 8:00 PM, the EMP disables vehicle 8911. The president gets out of the car uninjured. So then how does he end up alone in the woods, bleeding from the head as we saw earlier? (Or do I mean later?) With no way to contact Cheongsoodae, the driver recommends they start walking back, but the president would rather not. He says that this is the first time it’s been quiet in the two years since he took office, and insists they continue toward the train station.
Both sets of investigators think the president must have taken the bus to travel the 10 kilometers to the station. Team Leader Ham finds the closest bus stop where the number 7 bus goes straight to Cheongju Station.
The Blue House is shocked to learn that Prosecutor Choi is about to begin the press conference right this minute, with no advance warning.
The prosecutor and his staff discuss the possible ramifications of reporting findings that are outside the scope of their initial inquiry (the insider trading investigation) and bringing such serious allegations against the sitting president. Prosecutor Choi wants to proceed anyhow, and the press conference begins.
The dueling presidential searches simultaneously discover what happened after the president and the driver boarded the number 7 bus. As Tae-kyung and Bo-won turn to avoid driving past the scene of an accident, Bo-won sees an overturned bus that’s being lifted up out of a ditch. And in the window behind cracked glass is its number: 7.
Remember in Episode 2 when Bo-won heard about a bus colliding with a car? Yep. Same bus. The 25 injured passengers have already been transported to two hospitals. Team Leader Ham seems to be unraveling a little, screaming at the agents to find out which hospitals and notify him immediately when the president is found.
In another flashback, the president asks his driver if he has a transit card. He marvels at how pathetic it is to be president; you don’t even have a bus pass. The agent worries what the passengers will do when they see the president on the bus, but they climb aboard anyhow.
Once they are seated on the bus, the president explains that no one would recognize him here. They only recognize him in his suit with agents at his side and public fanfare.
The agent asks the president why he wants to go to Cheongju. He doesn’t answer, but he thinks back to the last conversation he shared with the four men who were drafting up Confidential 98, including Tae-kyung’s father. They agree to meet on March 5 and the President asks everyone to be safe until then.
When we return from the flashback-within-a-flashback, the number 7 bus is approaching its untimely end. The street lights are still out following the EMP blast and the bus driver is having trouble seeing through the thick fog. He has to swerve quickly to avoid running into cars that have already collided in a bloody accident. The bus goes flying off the road and rolls into a ravine.
With yet another time jump, we’re back to the present hour where the president is now lying unconscious in a hospital bed. The TV set in his room shows the progress of Prosecutor Choi’s press conference. The prosecutor prepares the assembled crowd for the shocking news they are about to hear, and promises to reveal everything.
But not yet. Because first we have to check in with poor Cha-young who’s been locked in a wardrobe for the entire episode. By throwing her weight around, she finally manages to topple the wardrobe and smash her way out. With her wrists and ankles still tied up, she finds a cigarette lighter and sets fire to the bedsheets.
Two agents outside the building see the smoke pouring from Team Leader Ham’s office and race to the rescue. They remove the gag from Cha-young’s mouth. “You have to stop it!” she screams. Something tells me Team Leader Ham will regret that he left this loose thread dangling.
Prosecutor Choi begins to tell the story of Yangjinri, Donghae in February of 1998. Ten scouts were sent from North Korea leading to an incident where 24 were killed and another 19 wounded, including civilians.
En route to the hospital, Team Leader Ham thinks back to the very same incident. As in the opening scenes of the episode, we see him riding with a group of soldiers in camo fatigues. An announcement comes over the radio — a North Korean submarine has been spotted in the sea near Yangjinri.
When the soldiers reach the edge of the village, the townspeople are in a state of panic. People have been wounded and many civilians are still trapped in the village as machine gun fire continues to sound in the distance. Ham looks on in horror as the townspeople plead for help. He cannot wait 20 minutes for the snipers to get into position. He asks for all soldiers to be sent into the village to attempt to rescue the civilians.
Prosecutor Choi continues. At the time, the incident at Yangjinri was declared to be a product of the North Korean invasion. But new evidence indicates that the incident was planned in advance by someone working for America’s Falcon Consulting at the time. That someone was President Lee Dong-hwi.
The president lies comatose in his hospital bed, unaware of Prosecutor Choi’s announcement and the fact that Team Leader Ham is readying his sidearm as he gets ever closer to the hospital.
The unconscious president dreams of a conversation he shared with one of the men from the meeting we saw earlier. They worry that they will never be able to reveal the truth about the people who were behind the Yangjinri incident, people who are now very well respected. Wait, does this mean the president could actually be a good guy?
The lighting changes drastically and suddenly the president is alone in a room with some serious fire damage. Was the man in the president’s dream one of the two who died in the fire?
A news report says that in addition to the president, also implicated in the incident are Tae-kyung’s father Han Ki-joon and two other men, Kim Ki-beom and Yang Dae-ho (who are all dead, as we know).
Tae-kyung and Team Leader Ham arrive at the hospital at the same time. As Tae-kyung races up the stairs and Ham ascends in the elevator, the president’s heart rate starts to drop. Between labored breaths, he manages to croak out four words: “It’s all a lie.”
March 6. 1:15 AM.
This was the strongest episode so far, at least from where I’m sitting. The series really started to show off what it’s capable of in terms of complicated, layered plotting. And I’m talking layers upon layers. I’m really impressed with how much the writer had teed up in the first episodes that we’re just now starting to see pay off. There are story threads that were obviously set up to be important later, such as Prosecutor Choi’s insider trading investigation. But there are also a lot of little things that were snuck through in such a subtle way that I had no clue they’d pop up again. I’m thinking of things like the bus accident being mentioned in Episode 2 and seeing Bo-won directing traffic at the levee road detour long before we found out that the president had taken that route.
Now that I see what the writer’s up to, I’ve got my eyes peeled for anything that might turn out to be more than what it seems. For example, is anyone else wondering about the bloody two-car collision that caused the bus to swerve? Do you think there’s something more going on there, or has this show just driven me to paranoia?
Either way, I’m beginning to appreciate how much detailed thought the writer has had to give to who is where and doing what at every minute of the night. And if we are to believe the title, we’ve got a couple more days to go. I’m looking forward to watching as the writer slowly fills in the big picture for us.
But let’s set aside my enthusiasm for jigsaw puzzle storytelling for the moment, because I also recognize that this episode is far from perfect. The train sequence at the top of the episode drags on a bit long when you consider that the take-away is really just the short scene between Tae-kyung and Prosecutor Choi. And it’s a great scene! But it’s almost as though the writer doesn’t have faith in the story she’s telling. She has this wonderful little scene full of character and clues to the bigger mystery, and she slathers a flashy-but-fluffy action sequence over it to make sure we’re not getting bored. But action without substance is what’s really boring. How long can I watch people run around a train?
A big pet peeve of mine is getting the same information twice, and this show loves to double down on exposition. Take the scene where Bo-won tells Tae-kyung about the fire. I know it’s brand new to Tae-kyung, but we’ve already heard this story. Can’t we all just reasonably assume that Bo-won would pass on that information? Or could we see her start to tell him and then cut away to something else? Instead we’re forced to watch as she relays every detail, and even furnishes documents to back up what she’s saying.
This episode took the redundancy to new heights by having Tae-kyung and Team Leader Ham simultaneously following almost the exact same path toward finding the president. A double sin, equal parts repetitive and far-fetched.
This episode had some lovely character moments for the president and Team Leader Ham. More of that, please. Conversely, Tae-kyung and Bo-won were driving around in a car and looking at a map for most of the episode. (Although I will say, realizing that Bo-won was driving Tae-kyung’s squad car was one of my favorite moments of the episode.)
One final thought. The Three Days drinking game: Any time someone says they have to find the president, take a drink. On second thought, better not. You’ll be blacked out before the 30-minute mark.