Sisyphus: Episode 9
Even heroes need to rest, and though it is only for a brief moment, our time traveling warrior lets down her guard and genuinely enjoys a normal day filled with people, food, and laughter. Unfortunately, their pursuers did not get the memo, and in a blink of an eye, another happy memory is tainted. Our genius engineer is forced to pick between his friend or the world, but knowing him, I think we all know what he’ll choose.
EPISODE 9 RECAP
Seo-hae wakes up in Tae-sool’s bed, grimacing from the wound she got while fighting Sigma’s underling. Tae-sool stirs awake in the chair next to her and asks if she is feeling alright. She tells him that it is not a big deal and wonders what happened to Sigma. Tae-sool says that he is investigating his identity, but for today, he wants to set all that aside.
Instead, he wants to celebrate her birthday, and Seo-hae looks at him in shock. Tae-sool brags about being the inventor of time travel so figuring out her birthday was an easy task. He asks if she wants to come with him somewhere, and keeping his promise from the night of the party, he takes her to the amusement park.
Seo-hae’s eyes sparkle as she twirls around the park and marvels at the bubbles floating around her. Tae-sool smiles at her excitement, but a nearby mascot draws his attention and reminds him of his older brother.
Back when they were young, Tae-san worked as a mascot and told Tae-sool that everything was fine as long as he was having fun. This time around, Tae-sool finds himself repeating those same words to Seo-hae who remembers his dislike of amusement parks: it’s fine as long as she is having fun.
She smiles after hearing his response, but a familiar voice in the crowd surprises her. Seo-hae looks around for the source, but seeing Tae-sool’s concern, she ignores it and turns towards a gift shop to start their day of fun in earnest.
While Seo-hae tries on a headband, she picks one for Tae-sool as well, but he backs away from the tacky tiger ears. She immediately launches into a sob story, mentioning the lack of people, food, and a mom in the future, and Tae-sool relents to her puppy-dog eyes.
As soon as he puts on the headband, Seo-hae laughs and calls him dumb for actually listening to her. He takes it off in annoyance, but she places it back on his head, telling him that he looks cute.
They spend the day trying out all the rides, taking pictures, and eating snacks. Seo-hae excitedly suggests the Viking next, but Tae-sool shakes his head since he swore off all thrills after nearly dying in a plane crash. When Seo-hae refuses to leave him alone, Tae-sool sighs and agrees to ride with her.
Out of the blue, Seo-hae brings up Sigma and asks what will happen after Tae-sool finds him. He tells her that he will fix everything since he ruined it all in the first place, but if they beat Sigma, he wonders what will happen to her: will she disappear?
Seo-hae assumes as much, so Tae-sool hands her an envelope containing two plane tickets. He says that they should go on a vacation on Novemeber 1st—the day after the world ends—and Seo-hae glares at him. He berates her for thinking lowly of him since he rented two villas and promptly scolds her for eating all her churro while they talked about a serious topic.
Tae-sool gets up to buy coffee, and Seo-hae requests an ice cream cone for herself. He gawks at her bottomless appetite, but she points out that living on canned food for years changes a person. She tells him to hurry up since they have to watch the parade, and he playfully attacks her before going off to buy her more food.
Once Tae-sool steps away, Seo-hae’s hand flickers, and she hears her mom arguing with her younger self in the background. Seo-hae moves from her seat to avoid contact, but her mom walks towards her direction and drops some change on the ground. She asks Seo-hae for help, and in a daze, Seo-hae bends down to pick up the coins.
Standing in line with a bunch of other little children, Tae-sool gapes at the choices, unable to decide what flavor and toppings Seo-hae would want. When his turn arrives, he lets the girl behind him go first, and Tae-sool recognizes little Seo-hae. He orders the same cone as her, and little Seo-hae gives him a strange look.
While waiting for her cone, little Seo-hae picks up a call from her dad who tells her that he can’t come to the amusement park. After hanging up, she asks Tae-sool why he keeps staring at her, and he says that he is a genius and correctly guesses her name and why she is here.
Mom thanks Seo-hae for the help and notices the locket around her neck. She is amazed by the coincidence since she has the same one, and Seo-hae silently stares at her with tears pooling in her eyes.
Little Seo-hae asks Tae-sool if they met before, and he tells her that they haven’t met yet. As he watches her leave, he receives a call from an unknown number and picks it up. On the other line is Sigma, and Tae-sool drops his cone. Meanwhile, outside the park, the Control Bureau arrives and storms the area.
Sigma comments on Tae-sool’s cute headband, and from a distance, he waves at him. Tae-sool tells him to come out and face him, but Sigma chuckles. He asks if Tae-sool will choose the girl or the world since he reported Seo-hae to the Control Bureau.
Overwhelmed by the sudden appearance of her mom, Seo-hae fails to notice the Control Bureau approaching her. All the while, Sigma watches the situation with amused detachment and asks Tae-sool to choose one: save the girl or catch him.
Finally noticing the crowd forming around her, Seo-hae runs away, and her mom calls out for her daughter. Hearing her mom say her name, Seo-hae momentarily freezes, and Hyun-gi uses this chance to shoot her. Hearing the gunshot, Tae-sool makes his decision and rushes towards Seo-hae.
As her mom runs in the opposite direction looking for her younger self, Seo-hae cries out her name, but the Control Bureau drags her away. By the time Tae-sool arrives, the only thing left of Seo-hae is her headband. While little Seo-hae reunites with her mom, Tae-sool chases after future Seo-hae to no avail.
Unconscious and chained to a chair, Seo-hae dreams about her past and the day her world changed forever. On October 31, 2020, little Seo-hae thought she was going on a trip with her family, but from the looks on her parents’ faces, they knew what was coming.
Staying optimistic, Mom said that they still had time, but before she could even finish her sentence, a missile streaked across the sky…followed by another one and another one. While the city dissolved into chaos, Dad sped down the road, avoiding the flying debris and missiles falling down all around them.
As they reached a tunnel, they stared up in horror as a missile came right towards them, and a ball of fire engulfed the area. Thrown from the car, little Seo-hae slowly regained consciousness, but seeing the bloody bodies strewn throughout the street, all she could do was scream.
After finding Seo-hae, Mom and Dad helped her out of the tunnel, but a grief-stricken man bellowed at them to return his daughter. He grabbed Seo-hae—mistaking her for his child—and Dad punched him.
Leaving Seo-hae in Mom’s care, Dad went on ahead to find the shelter, but the man from before returned holding a glass shard. Still delusional, he stabbed Mom, and Dad came running back to save her. As they fought, Dad pushed the man over the ledge and watched him fall to his death.
When Seo-hae’s family finally reached the shelter, the lock no longer worked, so Dad forced the door open. However, they couldn’t close the door using the control panel, and with only three minutes left until the bomb dropped, they were running out of time. While Dad went to the back to find another option, Mom stared at the door with a look of determination.
Little Seo-hae seemed to realize something was wrong and called after her mom. Smiling at her daughter, Mom told her that she was happy to make it this far and gave her one last piece of advice: survive no matter how hard life might become.
Handing Seo-hae the locket, Mom promised to see her again and told her that she loved her. As she stepped outside, Dad came back to stop her, but Mom reminded him of their promise to protect their daughter.
Accepting her decision, Dad held onto Seo-hae, and they watched Mom disappear behind the door. Alone outside, Mom stared at the city and the bomb falling from the sky. As the world shook, the cries of her family filled the air.
Present-day: September 30, 2020. Seo-hae slowly regains consciousness and screams at her captors to show their face. Hyun-gi tries going in, but Officer Hwang tells him that he cannot interrogate Seo-hae since she killed his mom. He objects to the order, but the other officers drag him out.
Seo-hae glares at Officer Hwang as he enters the room and acts chummy with her. Giving her a quick lesson on time travel, he tells her that the low chance of success is not due to mechanical malfunction but rather genetics.
He holds up a needle and explains how they figured out a way to make time travelers disappear. He injects the needle into her, and immediately, Seo-hae screams in pain as she flickers in and out.
Officer Hwang warns her that two more shots will break her down completely and demands to know her plans with Tae-sool. Seo-hae smirks at him, asking why the Control Bureau doesn’t know already, and Officer Hwang stabs her with the needle again.
Besides Seo-hae, the Control Bureau holds the brokers as prisoners, and Mr. Park watches his battered men with worry. He causes a ruckus, and a guard enters his cell to quiet him down. However, Mr. Park wrestles the guard’s baton away and corners him.
Mr. Park asks the guard for the time and chuckles at the man’s terrified face. Though he has a policy against working with the Control Bureau, he will make an exception, and he tells the guard that he will walk out of his cell tomorrow. As his expression hardens, Mr. Park adds, “I will kill every single Control Bureau personnel that I see.”
However, Mr. Park will spare the guard as long as he hands some medicine to his sick broker. He returns the baton to the guard and doesn’t even flinch when the guard threatens to hit him. Unnerved by Mr. Park’s resolve, the guard backs down and gives the brothers the pill.
While Tae-sool stares at a map, Sun paces around in frustration, fed up with the lack of action. Calling the eager puppy to his side, Tae-sool recalls the ride to the Control Bureau’s headquarters, and deduces the general route from sound and distance. Putting the clues together, he realizes that the Control Bureau is hiding in a hospital—more specifically, the one his company runs.
During a company meeting, Seung-bok stares at a photo of him and Seo-jin until an employee grabs his attention. While they discuss next steps, Tae-sool waltzes into the room and mocks them for looking great. Seung-bok asks why he is here, and Tae-sool smiles at his old friend before requesting a letter.
After dismissing the others, Seung-bok writes Tae-sool the letter and mentions his absence at the chairman’s funeral. He calls his old friend disrespectful, but Tae-sool points out that the chairman was the one who locked his brother up and tried to torture him as well.
Since they brought up the topic, Tae-sool accuses Seung-bok of tricking him, too, and Seung-bok loses his cool. He grabs Tae-sool’s collar, but Tae-sool whips out his phone and records everything as evidence. Seung-bok orders him to leave, and Tae-sool nods in agreement.
Sun picks up Tae-sool but looks dismayed when the latter returns empty-handed. He asks how they will get in, and Tae-sool pulls up the video of Seung-bok and compares it to Sun. He asks the younger man to look mean, and Sun scrunches up his face to mimic angry Seung-bok. Heh.
Tae-sool’s genius plan is to have Sun pretend to be Seung-bok, and with a nice suit and a bit of a scowl, the hospital directors fall for their little trick. Tae-sool gives Sun instructions from outside, and the unlikely duo make a fabulous team as Sun excuses himself from the tour group and takes the elevators down to the basement.
All Sun has to do now is plug the USB into the main server, but that’s easier said than done. The first obstacle is a broken door, but Tae-sool easily opens it by hacking into the system. The next problem is an iris scan, but this, too, hardly poses a threat since Tae-sool saw this coming and created special contact lenses for Sun to replicate Seung-bok’s eyes.
Once Sun makes it into the main room where the Control Bureau keeps their prisoners, he hides behind a wall and uses his speed to sprint past the guards into the server room. Meanwhile, Hyun-gi washes his face in the restroom when his colleagues enter after interrogating Seo-hae. They complain about the new prisoners, and Hyun-gi quietly sneaks away with their badge.
Seo-hae wakes up when she hears someone come in and sees Hyun-gi sitting across from her. She tells him that she did not kill anyone, and Hyun-gi slaps her. He says that his mom was innocent, but Seo-hae points out that she is innocent, too.
The other officers bang on the door, but Hyun-gi locked it from the inside. With time running out, he grabs the needle and stabs Seo-hae in the leg. He watches her writhe in pain and flicker before his eyes, but it is not enough to quell his anger.
He points his gun at her head, and Seo-hae realizes that Hyun-gi no longer cares about the truth. She calls him out for taking out his regrets on her when the person he really hates is himself. Refusing to confront the truth, Hyun-gi presses the gun closer to Seo-hae and orders her to shut up.
With Tae-sool’s help, Sun finds the main server, and after scanning his fake iris, he opens the door and plugs in the USB. Tae-sool praises him for doing a good job and tells him to come out since now it’s his turn.
Putting up his hood, Tae-sool walks into the hospital and remembers the fun he had with Seo-hae at the amusement park just days before. As the guards eye him suspiciously, he turns on the fire alarm from his phone, and he uses the confusion to march towards the elevators unhindered.
The sprinklers go off in the Control Bureau’s headquarters as well, and the burst of water renders Hyun-gi’s gun useless. Seo-hae smiles, knowing full well that he is here, and up above them, Tae-sool makes his way to her.
On multiple occasions, people make Tae-sool choose between saving someone he loves or the world, and every single time, he chooses the former. Unlike a more typical hero who believes in the greater good, Tae-sool cares about those around him more than some arbitrary sense of saving the world. In the end, of course, he tries to save everything—the world and his loved ones—but if he really had to make a choice, I could see him letting the world burn in order to save the ones he loves. This characteristic of Tae-sool is one of his defining traits and explains so much of his personality and the underlying conflict that fuels the show. Tae-sool is somehow related to the end of the world, but no matter how many warnings he receives, he refuses to simply lie low and avoid his fate. He charges ahead to discover the truth even if it might cause harm because Tae-sool wants to save the people around him, too. He doesn’t believe in sacrificing others to stop a future that may or may not happen, and as a result, his doggedness creates problems for Seo-hae who wants nothing more than to keep him safe.
On the other hand, I love this aspect of Tae-sool because a hero who is willing to throw everything away for one person is much more interesting and relatable. It might come across as selfish, but the show already established Tae-sool’s heroic nature when he saved the plane. The audience knows that Tae-sool would risk his own life to save others, but if the time comes when he is forced to sacrifice someone else for the greater good, would he make that choice? Especially if the cost is his brother or Seo-hae? I’m sure Tae-sool will have to go through this dilemma over and over again because this question seems to be the crux of this show outside of the time-related ones. While Tae-sool is a genius who seems infallible at times, we also see him as a broken human being with vices and shortcomings. However, I don’t see his ability to love as a weakness. Rather, I would count it as one of his greatest strengths because, at the end of the day, this is what pushes him past his limits to achieve the impossible.
I like the budding relationship between Tae-sool and Seo-hae even though I still have some misgivings about the romance. Unfortunately, I did not find Tae-sool’s interactions with little Seo-hae endearing, and despite my fondness of Jo Seung-woo, even he couldn’t make the writing not feel creepy. Though I’m fine with adult Tae-sool with adult Seo-hae, I don’t understand how their relationship can actually blossom into a romance without bending some time rules because I’m definitely not okay with little Seo-hae growing up and ending with much older Tae-sool. (This unintentionally comes across as grooming, and I definitely do not want to think of Tae-sool that way.) However, outside of romance, I really like the two of them together and adore their found family dynamic. They care about each other and have an understanding that the other will always save them no matter the situation. This unwavering trust is what makes me love Tae-sool and Seo-hae as a pair even if I don’t necessary want them romantically entangled just yet.
While the show still has the same problems (lack of tension, plot holes, etc.), I am liking these later episodes more than the earlier ones and find the characters more entertaining (not the Control Bureau, I doubt I will ever enjoy seeing them on my screen). Besides the leads, I really like Mr. Park, mostly because it’s Sung Dong-il. Most of the time, the show doesn’t deserve his acting prowess, but regardless of the quality of the show, he still delivers a riveting performance that makes Mr. Park feel dangerous and mysterious. Though it was pathetic of the guard to get so easily bested by a tortured prisoner, it was not Mr. Park’s fighting skills that made him menacing in that scene but his demeanor. The air of calmness radiating from his whole being as well as the boiling rage hiding behind his eyes, all of these combined are what made Mr. Park’s threat work in that moment, and even though the guard had no reason to believe it, he instinctively knew that this wasn’t a man he could beat. This is what a strong performance can do for a character—lift them off the page and infuse them with emotions that speak louder than words.