Sisyphus: Episode 3
As worlds collide, our genius engineer finds himself running for his life, but no matter where he turns, someone is out to get him. Though our future woman tries to warn him of the dangers, she still can’t get him to comply and is forced to drag his non-compliant butt out of harm’s way. Try as they might to escape, the outcome feels inevitable, and our hero stands at a crossroads: return to his old life and live in ignorance or take a step forward and learn the truth.
EPISODE 3 RECAP
Sitting in the back of a taxi, Seo-hae stares out at the ocean while the driver waxes about the beauties of Busan. Inside the city, people gather at the exhibit hall for Quantum and Time’s conference, and security is tight—facial recognition scanners, metal detectors, and security guards as far as the eye can see.
As the guards check the building, one of them comes across a flickering hallway light, but since it stops after a moment, the guard shrugs off the incident. While he walks away, a body materializes behind him, and somewhere else in the building, two other, grotesque bodies appear along with a suitcase.
Another lone guard monitors the back area when the lights flicker off like before. He goes to check the power box, but instead, finds a strange suitcase on the floor. As he examines the case, the materialized person from earlier walks up behind him and snaps his neck. He steals the guard’s clothes and opens the case which contains a gun.
While Seung-bok practices his speech, Seo-jin grabs him from behind, and they giggle over their secret rendezvous. They talk about his upcoming keynote address, and Seo-jin berates Tae-sool for having the CEO title without any of the responsibilities. Seung-bok defends his friend since the company depends on him, but even so, he’s glad to be the one up on stage today.
With only three minutes before the main event, the killer from the future knocks out another guard and sets up his gun in the back of the auditorium. Aiming at the stage, he waits for his target to arrive, but when he sees Seung-bok, he takes his finger off the trigger.
Seung-bok starts off with a quote from William Gibson, “The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed.” He presents the new future to his intrigued audience, but stops when the back doors burst open. Tae-sool enters the room, and the whole place erupts into cheers.
Indulging his fans, Tae-sool struts down the aisle and takes over the stage. Despite his friend’s warnings about the death threats, Tae-sool tells him that he isn’t dying today and commands everyone’s attention in a matter of seconds. He charms the audience with a few jokes and smiles easily at the crowd.
Seo-hae reaches the exhibit hall and storms inside—ignoring the protests of the taxi driver and security guards. Pushing her way through, she runs towards the auditorium with the guards right on her heels.
Unaware of the commotion outside, Tae-sool continues his speech, pulling out a sugar cube from his pocket. He tells the audience to watch carefully as he places the object into a machine and steps away. He grabs a cup of coffee while the machine whirls, and to everyone’s astonishment, the sugar cube disintegrates. The particles fly towards Tae-sool, and the cube suddenly hovers above his drink.
Tae-sool tells the audience that they have achieved quantum teleportation and casually sips his drink as a thunderous applause fills the room. Once the cheers die down, he resumes, but his voice trails off when he spots Tae-san in the crowd.
Trembling, Tae-sool grabs his pills and then calls after his brother who leaves the room. When he tries to follow, Seung-bok blocks his path and urges him to come to his senses. While they struggle on stage, Seo-hae barges in and shouts at Tae-sool to duck.
The killer aims his gun at Tae-sool, but as he’s about to shoot, Tae-sool sees Seo-hae waving her sign at him. He moves just in time, and the bullet only grazes him. As Tae-sool falls to the ground, Seung-bok attempts to help him, but the killer keeps shooting. While Seo-jin drags her boyfriend off the stage, Bong-sun runs to cover his boss, and the next shot hits him.
Seo-hae rushes to the stage, shooting back at the killer, and drags Tae-sool behind the podium. She throws a smoke grenade and uses the brief reprieve to wake him up. They escape through the side door, but the killer follows Tae-sool’s trail of blood and finds them stumbling down the hall.
The killer shoots at his target—obviously missing because plot armor—and Seo-hae shoots back, effectively keeping him away. When the killer stops firing, she peeks over the edge, but the door behind her swings open.
She reacts in time to dodge, and they each get in a few blows before Seo-hae kicks him to the ground. She smacks him with a fire extinguisher and then points her gun at him. The killer tells her that this is all futile, but Seo-hae snaps at him to leave and pistol whips him.
Witnessing the entire fight, Tae-sool shrinks from Seo-hae, but she holds him in place by his sweater. When the police arrive, he motions for their help, but Seo-hae points her gun at his head and uses him as a hostage. She drags him into the stairwell, and one shot at the door scares the police from pursuing them.
As the police call for backup, the window above them shatters, and they notice Seo-hae sliding down the roof with Tae-sool screaming by her side. They plummet towards a roof landing, and Seo-hae uses her gun to slow their fall.
Not wasting a second, Seo-hae hauls Tae-sool to his feet as soon as they land and pushes him towards the edge. She takes out another gun and shoots a grappling hook to the ground just as the police arrive. They order her to surrender, but Seo-hae holds Tae-sool and jumps.
Tae-sool hugs his captor for dear life and momentarily passes out when the rope lurches. They hit the ground hard, and Tae-sool tumbles to the floor unconscious. Seo-hae gasps when she notices him stop moving, but sighs in relief after checking his pulse.
Taking a moment to breath, she studies Tae-sool’s face for the first time and comments on how different he looks in real life. She pokes his cheek, and Tae-sool opens his eye, causing her to flail backwards.
She tells him that they need to run, but Tae-sool shoves her aside and demands an explanation. She bops him on the head for screaming at his savior, and Tae-sool finally gets a good look at her and recognizes her from the wedding photo. He shows her the picture, but before they can talk, they find themselves at gunpoint, again.
While the two lackeys have their guns aimed at Tae-sool and Seo-hae, Mr. Park saunters over and introduces himself as the man from the call. He invites Tae-sool to join him so they can discuss things without shooting, and Tae-sool agrees. However, the lackeys knock them out with their guns, and Tae-sool mumbles about Mr. Park lying as he faints once more.
The news calls the conference incident an attack of terrorism and claims that Tae-sool is recovering in the hospital while the culprit was caught. Seung-bok ordered the media coverup, but the detectives in charge tell him that it won’t last long. They have no leads on the suspect, and their best guess is someone with a grudge against Tae-sool.
Seung-bok hands them a stack of files containing the most serious threats against Tae-sool, but the detectives look alarmed by the amount. When they don’t even know how long the victim has been missing, Seung-bok yells at them for treating this like a simple lost person case and not understanding the magnitude of the situation.
The Control Bureau investigates the accident site, and Officer Hwang wonders how the killer missed from this distance. His men bring in two body bags—the other future people who failed to properly materialize—and Officer Hwang sighs over all the extra work.
Seung-bok meets with the chairman in secret and apologizes for this predicament. The chairman doesn’t hold him responsible, and instead, sees this as an opportunity to oust Tae-sool. He claims to love Tae-sool as a son, but as an executive, he hopes the CEO won’t return. Seung-bok argues that the company can’t exist without Tae-sool, but the chairman says that they have Seung-bok.
Officer Choi informs his superior about Tae-sool’s last whereabouts and assumes their targets fled to a nearby motel. After a quick sweep of the place, Officer Hwang finds a shotgun shell and corrects the misguided officer: “It’s brokers.”
Already in Seoul, Tae-sool and Seo-hae sleep soundly in a van, and sitting across from them, Mr. Park dozes off as well. They arrive at a small mart where the cashier looks unperturbed by the whole scene, and the brokers tie their guests in the storage room.
When Seo-hae finally wakes up, Tae-sool asks for her name and wonders what she wants with him. When she only answers the first question, he drops the subject and turns his attention to escaping. He instructs her to grab the ruler by her feet, but Seo-hae remains uncooperative, blaming him for their mess.
He scoffs at her attitude since he never asked for her help and calls her a stalker. He wonders if she photoshopped the wedding picture, and if that isn’t the case, he asks if they had a one-night stand. She calls him crazy and kicks the ruler even farther away.
Reaching his limit, Tae-sool asks who she really is, and she describes herself as his savior. He mocks her for not saving him, then, and pesters her to get the ruler. Their childish fight reduces to “no, you be quiet,” and inevitably, one of the brokers hears them.
Mr. Park opens a suitcase and laughs at the useless junk inside. While he complains to his lackey, the broker with a scar, Uhm Sun-jae, escorts Tae-sool and Seo-hae into the main room. The cashier, Bingbing, flirts with Tae-sool, which irks Sun-jae, but one stern word from Mr. Park silences the entire group. He leads everyone into the secret back room where they already prepared dinner.
After they eat (or at least, Mr. Park ate), they watch the news about Tae-sool’s “recovery,” and Mr. Park complains about the lack of transparency. However, Tae-sool is more concerned about Bong-sun who is reported to be in critical condition.
Mr. Park orders the other broker, Uhm Sun-ho, to make him a cup of coffee with specific instructions, but regardless of how many times he asks, Mr. Park tells his guests that Sun-ho always gets it wrong. He wonders if they rested well, and Tae-sool lifts up his cuffed hands in response.
Getting down to business, Mr. Park formally presents himself as the owner of Asia Mart which mostly acts as an unofficial embassy. Tae-sool asks why he’s trying to kill him, and Mr. Park tells him that the Control Bureau is the real culprit. Besides, if the brokers wanted Tae-sool dead, then they would have already done it.
Tae-sool has dozens of questions for Mr. Park, but the broker tells him that not knowing might be better. He offers Tae-sool a chance to reconsider and poses a question of his own: how much would he give to return to the past to fix a mistake? Tae-sool responds, “Everything.”
With a grim expression, Mr. Park says that he understands that feeling all too well, but he breaks into his easy grin when Sun-ho arrives with his coffee. After a sip, Mr. Park scowls and explains to Tae-sool that the future is like this situation. As he starts to elaborate, Seo-hae finishes his thought, “[The future] is a mirror of the present. It can’t be changed.”
Mr. Park agrees to answer Tae-sool’s question in exchange for the key and orders the others to show him the truth. With their guns pointed at them, the brokers lead their guests to another room where Bingbing searches the computer for something. Seo-hae recognizes it as a downloader, but this means nothing to Tae-sool.
Sun-jae shoves a vest at Tae-sool, and seeing him struggle, Seo-hae helps him with it. He grumbles at her for tightening it too hard, and uses this chance to ask Seo-hae about her place of origin. She tells him that where isn’t important, but Bingbing cuts their conversation short when she finds the next location. As they head out, Bingbing hands Tae-sool some pills to help with motion sickness.
On the way over, Mr. Park scolds Seo-hae for not reporting her arrival with them and then mutters under his breath when she answers back informally. He asks for her full name, but Seo-hae doesn’t have a surname. She tells him that she doesn’t have parents either and merely came here to sightsee.
Mr. Park asks if she wants to die and digs through her bag since they don’t allow free rides. Seo-hae tries to stop him but is powerless with Sun-jae’s gun pointing at her. Mr. Park finds her weapons, which makes him chuckle, and then discovers the diary. Ignoring her protests, he reads the first entry, and Seo-hae launches herself at him.
Seo-hae manages to grab Mr. Park, but the other brokers aim their guns at her head. Tae-sool acts as the voice of reason, reminding everyone that this isn’t the US, and gets Seo-hae to let go first. Once everyone has calmed down, Tae-sool takes Seo-hae’s side and offers to buy the diary from Mr. Park.
The broker asks for a billion won (approximately $900,00), and Tae-sool laughs at the ridiculous price before agreeing to pay. He needs his phone, though, and Mr. Park tells him to call the police while he’s at it. Tae-sool explains how he turns off his GPS because of a stalker named Seung-bok, and Mr. Park takes the risk to turn on the phone.
As Tae-sool claimed, his GPS is off, and Mr. Park gives him a bank account number to transfer the funds, which now include a 500 million won access fee. Tae-sool sends him the money, and Mr. Park hands over the diary.
While Seo-hae grumbles about Tae-sool’s meddling, he tells her that they’re even since she’s his supposed savior. Seo-hae whispers to Tae-sool, warning him not to give Mr. Park the key since he’ll die, but Tae-sool figured out that much by himself.
They arrive at the rundown center where people line up for work, but they aren’t the only visitors today. While a fight breaks loose between the Korean and immigrant workers, two people carrying suitcases run away. Not long after, the Control Bureau arrives, and Officer Choi checks the area for any suspicious readings.
He smiles when the machine buzzes, and the two people from the future try to escape. The Control Bureau quickly chase them down, and from afar, Mr. Park watches everything with a scowl. He calls Bingbing for the location, and they drive to an abandoned warehouse.
Tae-sool looks around the dilapidated building in confusion, and Mr. Park tells him that they’re waiting for a person. He changes topics and grumbles about the national pension, which leads him to the subject of unexplainable phenomenon. He asks if Tae-sool experienced anything such as a photo of himself from things that never happened, and Tae-sool remembers the pictures from Tae-san’s camera.
Mr. Park tells him to think harder, and the pieces come together for Tae-sool. He realizes that “when” was the important question, and on cue, the machine behind them buzzes. The items around them lift off the ground, and a suitcase materializes out of thin air. Tae-sool stares wide-eyed as a body appears next, and Mr. Park repeats the Gibson quote. Opening up his arms, he welcomes Tae-sool to the future.
The Control Bureau continues to straddle this odd dichotomy of sheer incompetence and omnipresent meddling. On one hand, they haven’t posed a real threat to our heroes, but on the other, they appear everywhere and anywhere the leads cause trouble. The killer might be part of the Control Bureau (his lack of skills suggests as much), but he might also represent a third party after Tae-sool. If the latter is true, then the Control Bureau might be less of a “main antagonist” and simply a tertiary presence trying to keep the future out of the present. In a sense, there are no villains or heroes in this story. There are simply those with opposing views on the issue of time travel that puts them at odds with each other. The main problem is that everyone wields guns, which unfortunately escalates even tiny arguments into full-blown battles. Though I find the Control Bureau inept, apparently everyone related to security and enforcement suffers from this same infliction. Thankfully, the Control Bureau at least makes me chuckle, so they become tolerable in my book. Even if I roll my eyes at a scene, I can’t hate the show when it pokes fun at itself in the same way I do. When Officer Hwang commented on the killer’s missed shots, I laughed because that thought kept popping up in my head, too. Maybe the killer never meant to kill his target, but seeing how the bullet grazed Tae-sool’s ear, that theory seems unlikely. It also doesn’t make sense why the killer waited so long to shoot, but then again, he couldn’t even hit his targets in an open hallway so maybe he’s just bad at his job.
While the Control Bureau acts intimidating and fails at it because of their ineffectiveness, the brokers are the exact opposite. They look clumsy, but in reality, they are deadly and dangerous. Underneath Mr. Park’s goofy smile and fake hospitality is a ruthless leader willing to kill another person over the slightest offense. They might not have the slickest operation, but even with their shabby weapons and equipment, they get the job done. They caught Tae-sool and Seo-hae without much trouble and with way less people than the Control Bureau. In the end, the brokers are the lawless ones—even if the Control Bureau feels like a rogue agency most of the time, they are still bureaucrats—and as a result, Mr. Park and his lackeys feel volatile. They might “help” Tae-sool for the moment, but as soon as he becomes useless, I doubt Mr. Park will keep him along for much longer. In general, I find the brokers to be one of the more interesting entities in this story and am curious about their motivations and relationships. The two lackeys are clearly brothers, but why they follow Mr. Park is still a mystery. Furthermore, acting as time brokers seems like a risky job, so there must be some sort of pay-off. Are the brokers interested in time travel as well, or are they trying to gain something from the future? Also, who the heck is Bingbing and how does she know about these time traveling locations?
The two leads finally met after two episodes of running around by themselves, and I like the dynamic between them. They give me sibling vibes which probably isn’t the intended effect since they get “married” some time in the future, but for now, it works. Tae-sool feels like the haughty older brother who thinks he knows everything while Seo-hae comes across as the exasperated younger sibling who feels unheard. They constantly talk over each other, but their bickering sounds more annoyed than angered. When they finally stopped running (not of their own volition) and got to talk, Tae-sool immediately uses banmal and takes on a slightly mocking tone with Seo-hae. He acts like the older brother treating his younger siblings as if they can’t perform simple tasks and gets bossy when they don’t listen. As for Seo-hae, she is willing to worsen the problem merely to irk Tae-sool which really feels like something a younger sibling would do in the midst of an argument. If she was given the time to cool down, then I’m sure she would have regretted it, but in that moment, she probably felt so satisfied seeing him peeved.
Despite their mild antagonistic relationship, they feel like siblings to me because of the unspoken pact between them that coexists with their fighting. Seo-hae cares for Tae-sool’s safety no matter how annoying he might be, and does everything in order to protect him. Tae-sool, likewise, sticks out his neck for Seo-hae, and when push comes to shove, he stands by her side. Even if they squabble and make fun of each other, they come to the other’s defense and aid in a heartbeat. For Seo-hae, it makes sense because saving Tae-sool is her main objective, but for Tae-sool, his actions are merely a reflection of his kind nature no matter how much he claims to be a heartless playboy.
As the show continues setting up this world and the concept of time travel, we get a bit more hints about Tae-sool’s importance. He invented quantum teleportation, and from the demonstration, it feels like this technology is linked to time traveling in the future. If Tae-sool is the inventor of time travel, then it also makes sense why the Control Bureau let him go. They acted as if he was saved because of his status as CEO, but maybe they knew it wasn’t their place to kill him yet. It would also make sense why certain people in the future want him dead if their goal is to stop time traveling from happening in the first place. However, as Mr. Park and Seo-hae mentioned, the future can’t be changed. Like the myth of Sisyphus, time travel itself might be a useless and unending effort that bears no fruits. But if that’s the case, then why do people still take the risk and jump over? Either the hubris of humans knows no bounds, or maybe people are simply desperate and need any sliver of hope.