Sisyphus: Episode 11
In order to save the person he loves, our genius engineer risks his life to travel the unknown and find her. However, this mission requires much more than courage from our hero as he faces his own hidden demons and regrets. In the end, our genius engineer and time traveling warrior must save each other if they wish to survive and see another day.
EPISODE 11 RECAP
Trapped inside her past, Seo-hae wakes up in her old bedroom and looks for her mom. Though Seo-hae can see and hear her, the reverse is not true, and Mom walks right past her adult daughter.
Overcome with emotions, Seo-hae reaches out to touch her but moves away at the last second. In the process, she knocks over a cup, and despite being unable to see Seo-hae, Mom notices the fallen cup.
While Seo-hae traverses the timelines, Tae-sool finds himself locked inside a cage in an attempt to save her. His captor, time traveler Agnes (aka, Seo-jin), warns him about that man, and on cue, the doors swing open. Sigma waltzes in, and moments later, his lackeys drag Mr. Park in as well.
Seo-jin snarls at Mr. Park for bringing Tae-sool here, but he chuckles and calls her a hypocrite. Sigma orders Mr. Park to be placed in the cage instead of Tae-sool and accuses the broker of breaking his promise. Mr. Park blames Sigma for not keeping his end of the bargain first and asks why he did not send his family over.
Sigma tells him that he brought his wife and daughter to the uploader, but it was their choice to not come. He wonders if they hate him, and Mr. Park laughs, vowing to kill Sigma with his own two hands. Sigma snickers at the threat and tells the broker to sit down before turning his attention to his other guest.
Sigma greets Tae-sool warmly, and Tae-sool plays along—both of them dropping honorifics and treating this conversation as if it was a wedding engagement. Tae-sool says that he came for the cure, but Sigma wonders why they should hand it over to him.
Getting off topic, Sigma asks why people make antidotes and blames this wishy-washy behavior as a result of dishonesty. Tae-sool laughs at him for acting superior, but Sigma genuinely believes he is an honest and trustworthy man who just happens to want a war.
He asks Tae-sool to build the uploader in exchange for the cure, but Tae-sool refuses since it causes the end of the world. Sigma corrects him since only the peninsula is destroyed, but technicalities aside, he asks why the world ending is a bad thing in the first place. From his cage, Mr. Park calls him crazy, but Sigma wants to hear Tae-sool’s answer.
Tae-sool says that normal people would not want the end of the world, but again, Sigma disagrees. He claims that if given the choice, most people would push the button that destroys the world, and of those individuals, Tae-sool is no different.
Sigma proposes an experiment and hands Tae-sool a gun. He dares him to shoot in order to save the world, but Tae-sool cannot pull the trigger. His refusal to kill him proves to Sigma that Tae-sool pushed the button and chose to save the girl rather than the world. He tells Tae-sool not to feel guilty about it, though, since everyone is selfish.
He points to Seo-jin and Mr. Park as examples because they could not shoot him either. Sigma says that he gave everyone a chance, but no one chose the world, which means the real bad person is all of them rather than him.
Not falling for Sigma’s twisted logic, Tae-sool asks why he killed his old fund manager, and for once, Sigma’s smile disappears. Tae-sool continues his accusations, asking about his brother next, and Sigma regains his composure.
He tells Tae-sool that Seo-jin and Mr. Park were the ones who actually harmed Tae-san the most. As for the fund manager, Sigma says that he was betrayed, thus he merely took back his things. However, he takes back his previous comment about Tae-san since someone else should be blamed for his misery: Tae-sool.
Coming back to their main topic, Sigma asks Tae-sool again to build him the uploader, but like before, Tae-sool refuses. At first, Sigma laughs, but his expression hardens as he comes to a decision. He allows Tae-sool to have the cure and even throws in Seo-jin to help him administer it.
Tae-sool doubts his offer, but Sigma says that he likes him. He calls Tae-sool his last puzzle piece and brings up their old history. He was, after all, Tae-sool’s first investor, and tells him to be grateful from time to time.
Turning to Mr. Park, Sigma contemplates burying him but decides to give him one last chance. However, if he betrays him again, he promises to send over his wife’s and daughter’s dead bodies to him.
While still in a giving mood, Sigma offers to answer more questions, so Tae-sool asks how he wrote the message at his house. Sigma says that he can get anywhere, and with that, he ends the session.
As he gets up to leave, Sigma turns to Tae-sool and asks if he remembers him. Tae-sool looks up at him in confusion, and Sigma smiles, realizing that he must not.
While tied up at Asia Mart, Sun asks Bingbing why the brokers have not fled, and she tells him that the Control Bureau blocked the airports. He pesters her with more questions, wondering why she cares about the downloader so much, and she tells him that she is waiting for one more person.
His incessant prying gets on her nerves, and she points her gun at the hostages to shut them up. Seo-hae’s Dad does not even flinch—instead, he scolds her for illegal possession of firearms—and Sun looks unbothered by the threat as well.
He continues asking about their current situation and learns from Bingbing that Tae-sool invented time travel. He asks if the war could be stopped if Tae-sool disappeared then, and she does not refute it.
Once Tae-sool and his group return to Asia Mart, Seo-jin immediately gets to work and kicks everyone out besides Seo-hae and Tae-sool. She explains to Tae-sool that someone needs to find Seo-hae and administer the drug to her there, but failure means never returning to the present ever again.
Without even the slightest hesitation, Tae-sool takes his seat next to Seo-hae and grabs the needle. Seo-jin asks why he would go so far for her, and he tells her that he does not want to lose Seo-hae.
Accepting his resolve, Seo-jin hands Tae-sool the cure and tells him to take the shot as close to the present as possible. He notices a missing needle inside the case, and she tells him that the first person failed.
Before sending Tae-sool off, Seo-jin tells him that the future is a mirror of the past, so no matter how quickly he tries to outrun it, he cannot change what will happen. Listening to her warning, he replies, “A mirror can’t be faster than us, either.”
As Seo-jin administers the drug into his arm, Tae-sool loses consciousness and suddenly wakes up in Seo-hae’s old elementary school. Barely able to talk, Tae-sool stops some students to ask about future Seo-hae, but none of them have seen her.
He finds an odd door at the end of the hall, and on the other side is an open field. Tae-sool walks into the park, and this time, a passerby goes straight through him. He calls out for Seo-hae and spots her in the distance staring at her parents and younger self.
Tae-sool hugs Seo-hae in relief, but she tells him to get off since she has a splitting headache. She asks why he is here, and he tells her that he risked his life to save her. He smiles, asking if he looks cool, and she thanks him for coming.
She wonders what they should do next, and Tae-sool says that her parents are waiting for her in the present. In the middle of his explanation, Tae-sool starts coughing uncontrollably and spits up blood. Seo-hae asks if he is alright, but the world spins around them and sends them to a different place.
In the background, the television plays a report about a couple who died while saving people from a car crash, and Tae-sool recognizes the two little boys in mourning clothes. This is his parents’ funeral, and distraught Tae-sool watches as a scammer approaches his brother.
Seo-hae reminds him that his warnings are pointless since this is only a memory, and she drags him away. They end up at another scene on the same day, and Tae-sool sees his brother give up his dreams to go to college in order to provide for him.
Back at Asia Mart, Seo-jin tells Mr. Park that she will confess everything to Tae-sool when he returns, but he calls it a bluff since the truth would turn him away from her. She points out that he created this mess by stealing the safe, but Mr. Park says that he nearly died when she let Tae-san disappear.
After the fiasco at the Control Bureau headquarters, Officer Hwang reprimands Hyun-gi for breaking multiple rules, but Hyun-gi is too bothered by the truth he heard from Seo-hae. He asks if he time traveled, but Officer Hwang reminds him to ignore everything the prisoners say.
Distorting the truth, Officer Hwang blames Seo-hae’s dad for leading her to Hyun-gi’s house, and Hyun-gi accepts this version of events without question. As punishment, Officer Hwang takes away Hyun-gi’s gun and sends him home until further notice. However, as his superior officer leaves, Hyun-gi slips into the storage room that was left ajar.
While Officer Hwang walks down the hallway, a familiar voice calls out to him, and he twirls around to greet the chairman. Looking down from the upper floor, Sigma praises the officer for following orders and assures him that this should be enough. Just as Sigma planned, Hyun-gi steals a gun and Seo-hae’s file to exact revenge.
Sigma tells Officer Hwang that people believe what they want rather than the truth, which is why he knew Hyun-gi would seek vengeance instead of blaming himself for neglecting his mom. With everything in place, Sigma says that all they need to do is wait and asks the officer to gather everyone for one last farewell.
Meanwhile, Tae-sool and Seo-hae continue their journey through his memories and end up at the beach where the brothers sprinkle their parents’ ashes. Tae-san tells his younger brother that they will get to meet their parents again in heaven if they are good, but little Tae-sool rattles off the scientific principles that disprove his claim.
Seeing Tae-sool in pain, Seo-hae tells him to keep moving forward and leads him to the door. They walk into an abandoned building and find the brothers huddled in a corner. While little Tae-sool sleeps, Tae-san wraps his coat around him and silently cries.
Seo-hae holds onto Tae-sool’s hand as he wipes away his tears, and he tells her that this is the first time he saw Tae-san cry. Though she understands his fears since she had to relive her painful past as well, she tells him that moving forward is the only option.
Holding onto each other, they open the door and step into a blinding light. Tae-sool instantly recognizes the next memory and tells Seo-hae that this is the day his brother died.
Tae-sool watches his past self hanging out with his friends after the company party without a care in the world. While Seung-bok brags about raising Tae-sool during their university days, his jolly mood turns somber when he notices the look between the couple. After he leaves the table, Seo-jin mentions Tae-san, and past Tae-sool complains about his annoying brother.
Hearing his past self talk, Tae-sool grits his teeth and calls himself crazy. Though Seo-hae tells him that he isn’t that person anymore, Tae-sool knows that the man sitting there is still him. He lists all his faults and blames himself for causing the end of the world.
After Tae-sool’s angry outburst, the lights flicker, and he vanishes in front of Seo-hae’s eyes. She shouts his name, and suddenly, the scene changes to a wasteland. She finds him lying on the ground and shakes him awake.
Refusing to move, Tae-sool pushes Seo-hae away and tells her to leave him since he knows what is waiting for him behind that door. He says that he was never happy, but Seo-hae will not accept his breakdown because even she has happy memories after the war.
Seo-hae shares about the time she played in the empty classroom with her dad as well as the time she went to the stadium of BTS’s last concert. She also tells him about the clear night skies in the future and the shooting stars she saw. Everyone has precious, little memories which help them live, and Seo-hae believes Tae-sool has these, too.
Her words remind him of his own happy memory when his family went to the beach, and Tae-sool finds the strength to stand again. As they walk to the door, the case containing the cure falls out, and Seo-hae grabs it before they leave this terrible nightmare.
The next destination is a beach, and Tae-sool recognizes the building in the back. He tells Seo-hae that they reached the present and opens the case to get the cure. His smile momentarily falters when he sees one of the needles shattered, but he pretends to be alright in front of Seo-hae.
He distracts her by talking about her parents and tells her to take the drug first. Once he injects her with the cure, he apologizes, and Seo-hae opens the case, revealing the choice that he made. He tells Seo-hae that she can defeat Sigma and says that he has no one waiting for him anyways unlike her.
Before they part ways forever, he tells her to be less serious and laugh a lot. He pulls her closer, and they kiss. With tears streaming down her face, Seo-hae looks into Tae-sool’s eyes until she disappears, and Tae-sool is alone on the beach once again.
Seo-hae wakes up in the present timeline and stands next to Tae-sool’s unconscious body. She tells Seo-jin that there was only one cure and calls Tae-sool a jerk. She points out that she is waiting for him and shouts at him to wake up.
Tae-sool shields his eyes from the sun as a figure approaches him and reveals himself: it’s Tae-san. Smiling at his younger brother, Tae-san says that he promised they would meet again, and Tae-sool looks over at his family playing nearby. Tae-san explains how they share memories because they are brothers, and Tae-sool asks if he has been hiding here this entire time.
He touches Tae-san’s face and wraps his arms around him, apologizing for everything. Taken aback, Tae-san apologizes for not being a better brother and thanks Tae-sool for growing up so well. He pulls out a needle—the missing number one—and injects Tae-sool before he can object. He says his final farewell and reminds Tae-sool that he was and always will be by his side.
Unwilling to give up, Seo-hae talks to Tae-sool and begs him to get up. She needs him to use his skills to solve this problem like he always does and return to her side. She says that she misses him and buries her face into his chest. The heart rate monitor starts to beep again, and a smile spreads across Tae-sool’s face.
Opening his eyes, he caresses Seo-hae’s hair, and she whispers his name, staring at him in relief. He asks if she admitted to missing him, and she threatens to kill him. He chuckles, confessing that he doesn’t actually want to die, and sits up. He hugs Seo-hae, and she hugs him back.
A lot of the episode was spent on Tae-sool’s quest to save Seo-hae, but in the end, his life-risking trip was less about showcasing his heroism and more about presenting his grief and regrets. From the beginning, the show depicted Tae-sool as a flawed hero possibly experiencing depression and exhibiting self-destructive behaviors because of his unresolved grief and anger. He never got over the death of his brother and allowed his sadness to control and derail his life. Thus, when Tae-sool was forced to experience those painful memories again, he broke down and refused to move on. Rather than face the truth, Tae-sool thought living in eternal limbo was the better alternative. However, when all hope seemed lost for Tae-sool, Seo-hae was at his side and helped him find a reason to live.
Tae-sool finally takes the first steps towards healing by having a genuine friend show empathy and stay by his side without expecting anything in return. Seo-hae didn’t need to make a grand gesture to save Tae-sool. All she had to do was be vulnerable and present. She shares her happy memories with him, and it reminds Tae-sool that life is worth living for those small, seemingly insignificant moments. In the end, the loss of a loved one never truly heals or stops hurting forever. The show makes that clear with Tae-sool. Despite the pain, though, moving forward is the only way to heal, and eventually, just as Tae-sool moved from the wasteland to the beach that held his happiest memory, the road ahead will lead to clearer skies.
While some of the writing still relies heavily on convenience to create tension and move the plot (how did just one needle get utterly shattered while the other remained completely intact in that metal case?), the writers did successfully capture the universality of grief and that feeling of hopelessness after losing a loved one. Though the protagonists may be experiencing farfetched situations, the writers have rooted the story in human emotions. The allure of science fiction isn’t just in the possibilities of science (or the impossibility in some cases) but also the metaphors used to reflect the present time. Ultimately, the draw of the show is in the depiction of the human experience that people can relate to and understand.
While this episode had great Tae-sool and Seo-hae moments, I was moved more by the brothers’ relationship. As Tae-sool relives his past, he experiences scenes that he technically should not know. He sees Tae-san give up college as well as cry by himself in the abandoned building, and at the end, the show explains why. All this time, Tae-sool was not only watching his memories but Tae-san’s as well. They went through these painful moments together, and Tae-sool recognizes this fact even before he realizes that these were Tae-san’s memories, too. This was also why Tae-sool felt so guilty towards his brother because all this time he was too caught up in his own pain to notice Tae-san. He only ever considered himself as the victim, but watching the past as an adult, Tae-sool sees just how young his older brother was then, too.
However, what ultimately unites the brothers isn’t their miserable upbringing and shared pain but their happy memory. Both of them remember that day at the beach, and it wasn’t merely a coincidence that Tae-sool and Tae-san find each other in that timeline at that spot. It’s a bittersweet reunion since this will truly be the last time the two of them meet, but just as Tae-sool chose to sacrifice himself to save Seo-hae, Tae-san chose to save his little brother. It’s unclear what traversing the timelines means since Tae-sool and Seo-hae could interact with certain objects and people but not others. However, even if Tae-san may not be there physically or in his ghost-like presence, his final message to Tae-sool was that he would always be with him in spirit. Though this trip nearly cost Tae-sool his life, he came away from it a better man who is now able to move on and live his life with at least one less regret.