3 Body Problem Episodes 5-7 Recap: Truth and Power

Raj, Jin, and Wade watch The Eye in The Sky Event
Photo Courtesy Ed Miller/Netflix

The following recap contains spoilers for 3 Body Problem S1E5, “Judgment Day” (written David Benioff & D. B. Weiss and directed by Minkie Spiro), S1E6, “The Stars Our Destination” (written by Alexander Woo and directed by Minkie Spiro), and S1E7, “Only Advance” (written by David Benioff & D. B. Weiss and directed by Jeremy Podeswa). Portions of the novels The Three-Body Problem and The Dark Forest are also referenced.

We don’t know what extraterrestrial civilization is like, but we know humanity.
― Liu Cixin, The Three-Body Problem

Episodes 5-7 of 3 Body Problem largely leave the 3 Body virtual game behind, but focus on a much more complex set of issues—namely who deserves trust, who deserves power, and what various groups will do when they possess trust and power, or when they don’t. In the last three episodes, Jin and Jack mastered various levels of 3 Body, leading the shadowy organization behind the game to trust them. But when that organization begins to lose the trust (and in turn) the power of the race they have idolized, to what lengths will this group and the rest of humanity go to get it back?

Wade and Da Shi make a plan for Judgment Day
Photo Courtesy Ed Miller/Netflix

By the end of Episode 4, the trust and the relationship between the San-Ti and their followers on Earth had begun to erode. When they begin to understand that the nature of humanity can just as easily lean towards deception and underhandedness as benevolence and happiness, the San-Ti sever the communication with Mike Evans. Evans believes their silence is all “part of the plan,” but the San-Ti clearly stated their plan at the end of Episode 4: “A liar cannot be trusted. We cannot coexist with liars. We are afraid of you.”

Evans introducing a simple child’s story like Little Red Riding Hood introduces this new side of humans to the San-Ti, and after they discover Evans uses these same tactics to hide the San-Ti’s intentions, humans no longer become as useful to them. Our usefulness has been used up and our true identities revealed.

Episode 5

After Mike Evans caused the San-Ti to lose their trust in humans after his Little Red Riding Hood fiasco, he and his followers still remained on the Judgment Day tanker in hopes of reestablishing communications with the “Lord,” while also staying in international waters so other governments could not restrict their movements or activities. Only Ye Wenjie was captured after the raid on the 3 Body Level 4 summit, and Mike Evans remains free.

Evans, someone who has not been seen publicly since the mid-1980s, remains at-large to those who are hunting him, such as Mr. Wade and Da Shi. They now have enough knowledge and information to be sure that Evans is behind the strange things happening on Earth and behind the group heralding the San-Ti takeover of our planet. To begin to build their counter-attack, Wade and Da Shi need information, and they think Evans is the only one with access to it.

Da Shi and Mr. Wade anticipate that every conversation that Evans had with the San-Ti would be recorded so their followers could use it as their “Bible” for future generations while they eagerly await the San-Ti’s arrival in 400 years. But getting that recorded data from a secure oil tanker that never makes landfall is problematic. They can’t shoot the boat out of the water, as that would destroy the data. Any clandestine operation of special forces on the boat would lead to the followers likely destroying the data (I didn’t buy this explanation, but whatever, the payoff is worth it), and sending a mole onto the ship would take too long.

The only viable plan Wade and Da Shi can imagine is to try and recruit Auggie to fire the nanofiber machine back up. They need her technology, even though it could risk the countdown restarting in her head that is already perilously close to zero. Da Shi becomes the chief salesperson for the job, saying he believes what’s happening is the right thing to do, and any consequences to her because she resumed working would be worth Auggie’s personal sacrifice.

Mike Evans aboard Judgment Day
Photo Courtesy Ed Miller/Netflix

Auggie is eventually recruited to use her invisible nanofiber technology to create an invisible cheese grater of sorts, except one that will slice right through not just a nice gouda, but also a boat and everything (and everyone) that is on it. As Judgment Day passes through the Panama Canal, the nanofiber net slices through every piece of metal, flesh, and bone in its path, eventually killing Mike Evans and everyone else on board. Searching through the destruction, Da Shi and Wade find the hard drive that they think holds the data they need.

The best data scientists money can buy spend two weeks trying to access the hard drive, but it has, like, alien levels of encryption or something that they think could take “trillions” of years to open. “Billions,” if they get lucky. But shortly after, WELL WHAT DO YOU KNOW, the hard drive opens and reveals the files inside. It’s a bunch of small text and media files from Evans’ communications that take up no more memory than an old iPhone 11. However, there’s one other file named SOPHON, which is hundreds of millions of times larger than the rest of the files.

Let’s stop right here for a second. I don’t claim to be an expert on these matters, but I am going to go out on a limb and recommend that if you suddenly come into possession of an alien species hard drive that shouldn’t be able to be decrypted, and yet magically opens, you don’t want to click on the big file name just because you’re curious. If we think bots and viruses on our computers are bad, just wait for what an advanced alien race has in store for us.

Mr. Wade and Jin deduce that clicking on it will take them back into the 3 Body Game. They do, and once inside they ask their guide about what SOPHON is. Bad idea. Their Follower is more than happy to explain that SOPHON is a couple of folded, multi-dimensional computers that the San-Ti designed to fit into single protons. They fired those protons at light speed (which they can do because they have no mass—I’m learning so much about physics!) toward Earth and they have now penetrated every known system on our planet. What’s worse is they are entangled quantumly (is that a word?) back to the San-Ti, so the alien race is hearing and seeing everything we do on Earth.

Auggie and Da Shi build nanofibers
Photo Courtesy Ed Miller/Netflix

Just in case we don’t believe them, the San-Ti finally reveal themselves to the world through an event that becomes known as The Eye In The Sky, where the entire world sees a reflection of their surroundings in the sky, in a scene that looks like it came straight out of Inception. The San-Ti then take control of every screen on the planet and display three words for all of humanity to see:


Episodes 6 and 7

Throughout Episodes 6 and 7, the world is in a panic. The entire globe knows about an alien race that will arrive in 400 years, and it causes an all-out panic. Riots, looting, death, cults emerging, mass suicides, basically the worst scenes imaginable playing out in every city across the planet. Power brokers like Mr. Wade are now in the business of finding a way to protect our planet from far-away invaders, using technology and advancements that are far behind those coming for them. And our science and technology is woefully behind.

The cause of all the ineffective science and suicides among scientists that were uncovered in Episode 1 was also revealed to Wade and Jin while they were back inside the game. In a quick refresher on human development and evolution, the Follower reminds them that humans have been around 100,000 years. It took us 90,000 years to evolve from hunter-gatherers to farmers, another 10,000 years to move from farming to industry, 100 years to move from industry to the atomic age, and 50 years to move from the atomic age to supercomputing.

Wade and Jin learn why the San-Ti targeted science on Earth
Photo Courtesy Ed Miller/Netflix

The San-Ti apparently took much longer to move through their evolutionary development, so they are afraid that the advancements human technology will make over the next 400 years will surpass their own by the time they arrive on Earth. “We are a doomed species” if that happens, says the Follower. That’s why the San-Ti Sophon targets fundamental science, particle accelerators, and cutting-edge scientists. When science stops, progress stops. When progress stops, the San-Ti have a better chance of survival.

This revelation jump-starts Wade and Jin into developing a plan that allows humanity to intercept and infiltrate our enemy with just the knowledge we possess in 2024. The outcome: Project Staircase, an ambitious attempt to place 1,000 nuclear bombs in space along the path to the San-Ti that can be detonated and act like accelerators (or stairs) for a probe that will be launched from Earth. If everything goes to plan, the probe will reach 1.2% of light speed and intercept the fleet in less than 200 years.

After abandoning the effort after Judgment Day (her life’s work did kill thousands of people, after all), Auggie is recruited back to Project Staircase to develop a nano-sail that will catch the power of the nuclear bombs and propel the probe further into space. Jin must be quite the saleswoman, because she recruits Auggie back to the cause again, promising Auggie that her work would now save billions of lives, instead of chopping people up into fish food.

When Wade and Jin can only get countries to amend their treaties to allow 300 bombs to be collected, the plan has to change. The bombs must be spread much further apart, which means the size of the probe must now be drastically reduced. For it to work, the probe now can not maintain the weight of an entire human body (apparently in this version of 2024, we actually do know how to put people into cryo-sleep. Ted Williams and Walt Disney will be so happy!). Now, it can only carry a brain. Wade deduces this will be just fine because we can anticipate that the San-Ti will reengineer the body for this brain, and it will be human again. The plan once they have this new human is less clear.

Will Downing deciding whether or not to donate his brain
Photo Courtesy Ed Miller/Netflix

We are realllllllly starting to stretch the science and fiction parts of this science-fiction story, but it works for the plot, because Wade now wants to know if anyone has a brilliant friend who might be dying that would be willing to donate their brain to this cause. Jin and Auggie both look at each other and think of their friend Will Downing,

Downing, one of the Oxford Five (now Four, which will be amended again later), was recently diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. He was the one who never thought he amounted to much of anything compared to the rest of the group. He was “only” a science teacher at a local university instead of a leading-edge scientist, wealthy entrepreneur, or Britain’s third-largest crisp manufacturer. Jin tries to get him to donate his brain for the mission, delicately making the ask. Auggie and Saul are second-guessing it. Wade thinks Downing is the right man.

Will Downing decides to do it. Not because of any loyalty to the human race (he won’t sign that part of the contract), but because Jin wants him to. He loves Jin, and even though he only told her that at the very end, he would give his life (literally, it would seem) for her and what she thought was right and true and noble. After undergoing the euthanasia procedure, all that remains of Will is a collection of neurons and pathways in a frozen container. It’s cold both literally and figuratively. But Mr. Wade has a different perspective. Who we are is in our heads, he tells Jin. And that’s the part the San-Ti can never take from us. They can’t read it with Sophons or crack its code. It’s the advantage we have.

The Oxford Five is now The Oxford Three. But even with their numbers reduced, they still have work to do, and Will’s sacrifice might just make everything worth it.

Written by Ryan Kirksey

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