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Prison Playbook (2017) - Ep. 2 - Does it hold up?

We begin to get a better idea of what Je-hyuk is really like.

Seagull celebrates getting to use a knife because it’s pork cutlet night in prison!

Welcome to the review of the second episode of the K-Drama Prison Playbook. It isn’t about baseball, but it is about a baseball player. And in that sense, I think it’s even more interesting than it would have been if it had been about baseball. This whole series’ drama is built on Je-hyuk’s unique situation as a professional baseball player and the way it impacts his life. Had he been some nobody, he likely wouldn’t have gone to jail in the first place. It doesn’t want you to pity him for his position, but it does want you to see how it changes things.

In this week’s episode, Je-hyuk begins to acclimate himself to prison life. What does that entail? Well, let’s dive in!

Je-hyuk’s appeal

This episode deals a lot with Je-hyuk’s appeal, now one month into his sentence. Pretty much everyone is convinced that he will be released on appeal. Still, his best friend, Jun-ho the corrections officer, and his best prison friend, Jailbird, offer him all kinds of advice on various superstitions he should observe to ensure the appeal goes well. Jailbird is especially vigilant and full of advice since they share a cell and Je-hyuk paid for his mother’s life-saving surgery.

They have grown so close, in fact, that Jailbird helps Je-hyuk even so far as helping him flip the pages in the correct direction in the book he’s reading. The one thing Jailbird won’t do is share some premium snack he purchased. He’s so proud that he managed to buy it with his own money that he doesn’t want to share it. Jailbird is willing to do anything else, though, up to and including ironing Je-hyuk’s prison uniform for him so he’ll look good for the appeal.

Unfortunately, Jailbird is transferred to another prison before the appeal date can occur. They share a tearful goodbye and Jailbird tells Je-hyuk that he’s hung a present for him outside their cell window. Sadly, Je-hyuk completely forgets about it.

Even worse, however, is the appeal hearing. The final superstition he was warned against was getting his uniform wet before the hearing. Unfortunately, as the prison bus pulls up to the courthouse it’s raining. When Je-hyuk and his lawyer get inside, the prosecutor passes them a note. Je-hyuk’s ‘victim’ has been declared brain dead. Based on this result, his appeal is denied and he is returned to prison. The only bright side is that upon his return to his cell, he remembers Jailbird’s present. Inside the package hung outside the window he finds a note wishing that they will meet again someday to have better ice cream than the other item in the package, some of Jailbird’s snack frozen into some milk. Their relationship, while short, was sweet and wholesome in all of the best ways.

Ji-ho has some hidden motives

During the episode, Je-hyuk’s ex visits him a couple of different times. Always promising him that she was forced to go by his mother who does not yet know that they have broken up. But later we see her visit his mother and sister and it becomes apparent that she’s visiting on her own. Maybe she doesn’t want to be broken up after all?

Jun-ho gets fooled by Chief Jo

Toward the middle of the episode, Chief Jo is called to Je-hyuk’s cell for a medical emergency. Henchman is having a heart attack. Seagull is hysterically begging for help and the other corrections officers are losing their minds trying to figure out to fastest get medical aid to Henchman. Chief Jo, however, calmly states that he will give them to the count of three. When he reaches three, Henchman’s convulsions suddenly stop and he has a “miraculous recovery.” Most of the corrections officers are amazed that Jo could see through it, but Jun-ho is less impressed.

Later, they go through the same song and dance once again. Only this time, Henchman really is having a heart attack. He stops convulsing when Jo hits three, but he also stops breathing. At this point, Jo leaps into action and begins administering CPR and begging Henchman to breathe. Eventually, Henchman starts breathing again and Jo carries him through the prison halls to a waiting ambulance on his back.

Jun-ho is impressed, maybe Chief Jo isn’t as bad as he thought. So, when they happen to be on break together, Jun-ho buys Jo a coffee to celebrate the fact that Henchman didn’t die and that Chief Jo worked so hard to save him. Chief Jo thanks Jun-ho for the coffee but then rants about how awful the paperwork would have been and how he might have been made a scapegoat if Henchman had died. Jo’s efforts to save the man’s life had nothing to do with Henchman and everything to do with Jo wanting to avoid being blamed. It’s kind of ironic considering how much of these two episodes Jun-ho spends reminding Je-hyuk that the other prisoners are all bad men and Je-hyuk should stop helping them that Jun-ho is fooled himself.

Chief Jo gets caught

This storyline is a bit complex to describe in text format, because it actually involved multiple otherwise unrelated scenes and flashback extensions. Let’s try some bullet points

  • At one point Je-hyuk notices Chief Jo standing behind a bench exchanging something with Seagull in the yard. Jailbird explains that prisoners can buy telephone cards with commissary funds but that they are worthless in prison. Therefore they’re used as currency to obtain illicit goods. Seagull has traded a phone card for a cigarette. The reason for the location of the trade is that the camera that should be aimed there is broken.
  • Jun-ho’s little brother, Jun-dol, is a superfan of Je-hyuk’s. After much encouragement from Jun-ho, he goes to visit Je-hyuk in prison. He amusingly arrives decked out in full Nexen gear and with a large bouquet of flowers for his hero.
  • The errand boy gives Je-hyuk a tennis ball to practice throwing. During an exercise session before his appeal hearing, Je-hyuk shows it to Jun-ho who immediately confiscates it to ensure Je-hyuk isn’t busted with an illegal item right before his appeal.
  • Chief Jo is still pissed about Je-hyuk’s refusal to pay a bribe for preferential treatment. He decides to go to a media member friend with some made-up stories to make sure Je-hyuk’s appeal goes poorly.
  • Finally, near the end of the episode, Chief Jo finds the corrections officers gathered in a break room around a TV and encourages them all to focus on the news, he has it on good authority there is going to be something really interesting. The broadcast switches to a new report that Chief Jo has been providing illicit goods and demanding bribes from prisoners this entire time. He is arrested.

And now the flashback extensions...

  • When Jun-ho takes the tennis ball from Je-hyuk, Je-hyuk asks to throw it just once and Jun-ho obliges. Je-hyuk pegs one of the security cameras in the yard, redirecting it so that it can now view the area behind the bench where Jo makes all of his transactions.
  • When Jun-dol visits Je-hyuk he reveals that he works as an investigative reporter.

All of the corrections officers begin to wonder how an investigative reporter could have possibly gotten his hands on the security footage and Jun-ho theorizes that maybe one of the guards is working with an investigative reporter, knowing full well that he’s the one who did it. It’s some very nice comeuppance for the corrupt Chief Jo who absolutely was going to be a problem for Je-hyuk. Also, brilliant use of the flashback extensions again to give the scenes new context as it becomes appropriate.

Je-hyuk escapes Seagull but not Henchman

I liked that bullet point thing, let’s do that again!

  • Seagull, for reasons that escape me, decides he needs to stab Je-hyuk. He begins threatening the errand boy unless the errand boy brings him a knife.
  • Je-hyuk is coerced into signing generic autographs in the guards’ office to be handed out to officers and friends.
  • Eventually, the errand boy procures a knife and passes it off to Seagull during a religious service.
  • Je-hyuk arrives back at his cell and Professor Myung exclaims that they’re going to get pork cutlets tonight. Seagull notes that this means they’ll get to use knives (see header image, double entendre very apparent.)
  • Suddenly, a surprise inspection is announced. Seagull is unable to grab his knife before being dragged out of the cell and it is found. He is sent to solitary for 30 days.
  • Errand boy reveals that Je-hyuk somehow knew the schedule of the surprise inspections, even though it should have been impossible. One of the prisoners who overhears this can be seen later passing a note into a solitary cell, ostensibly Seagull’s.
  • Flashback shows that Je-hyuk was able to see the schedule on the calendar in the office while he was signing autographs unsupervised.
  • Jun-ho once again warns Je-hyuk to stop helping these people because they’re all actually bad. Cut to Errand boy eating a veritable feast alone in his cell, having stolen the chicken legs out of everyone else’s chicken soup for himself.

When Je-hyuk returns from his failed appeal it is to an empty cell. It’s unclear what happened to the old man, but Jailbird was transferred, Myung was released because his father is a powerful politician, Seagull is in solitary, and Henchman was in the hospital. He spreads out, enjoying the space before discovering the ice cream we discussed above.

Shortly after that, Je-hyuk is alerted that he’s getting a new cellmate. It’s Henchman again. Henchman immediately takes the toothbrush shiv from the last episode, screams, and stabs Je-hyuk in the left shoulder. This is where the episode ends, on a cliffhanger but it’s not the last thing I want to talk about for this episode.

Je-hyuk’s “slowness” causes people to underestimate him

The first episode established that Je-hyuk is a bit slow. But this episode established that perhaps he isn’t that slow of thought and simply prefers to deal with things in different ways. After all, he outsmarts both Seagull and Chief Jo in this episode. The most interesting thing he deals with, however, is the fallout from his failed appeal attempt. He puts on a brave face and both Jun-ho and Ji-ho are fooled by it until they rant at him for not seeming to care more. Jun-ho even promises to help break him out before Je-hyuk reminds him that baseball is the only thing he’s good at and breaking out of prison wouldn’t allow him to go back to it.

Through these rants, Je-hyuk remains stoic. But apparently, he remembers the advice he was given earlier that going to the church meetings can allow for some cathartic screaming. When he was first told about it he said he didn’t need that, but after enduring his best friend’s and ex’s distress he attends a meeting and screams f-bombs to the high heavens as people sing hymns all around him. Je-hyuk is not as dense or as emotionless as he appears. He’s just learned over the years to put on the facade. Perhaps because closers are expected to be fearless, or perhaps because he is known in particular as the kind of person who never gives up and always prevails. But we’ll get more into that later.

If any of you are watching along, what did you think of this episode? Were there any great moments you enjoyed that I missed? Let me know in the comments!