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Prison Playbook (2017) - Ep. 3 - Does it hold up?

Time to meet a whole new group of characters!

Three prisoners from the show trying to watch TV (Kim Je-hyuk is on the far right) Netflix, Prison Playbook

We all know the drill, by now, yes? Let’s just jump right in!

New prison, new cellmates

Je-hyuk’s appeal has been denied and he’s been stabbed so it’s time for him to be transferred to a different prison. It’s unclear to me which of these circumstances leads to the transfer, though I tend to think it’s mostly the former. Je-hyuk, by the way, has healed up just fine from the shoulder wound so everything is well, there.

Since he’s moving to a new prison, that means we get a whole new group of cellmates. Our introduction to them is as they beat up Errand Boy for bringing them water for their ramen that’s not as hot as they think it should be. Still, let’s go over who they are and what they’re in here for:

  • Dr. Ko - Called doctor because he’s among the most educated and well-spoken of the prisoners. Constantly writing petitions to try and improve prison life, appears to have the rules and regulations book memorized. Embezzled from his big corporate job
  • KAIST - That’s actually the acronym for a well-regarded engineering school in South Korea. Used engineering skills to rig gambling
  • Jean Valjean - Stole some bread. Can’t seem to help himself from thieving whenever he sees an opportunity. At first, it’s implied he stole a single loaf but a later flashback shows he saw an unattended bread truck and stole it on a lark. Views Min-chul as a father figure, even calls him dad.
  • Min-chul - Imprisoned for life for participating in a gang fight which results in multiple stabbing deaths. Views it as his responsibility to mentor the younger prisoners into living better lives once they leave.
  • Looney - Moves in a little after Je-hyuk, in prison for doing drugs. Was apparently turned in by his lover. You may remember him from the previous prison, though we only saw flashes of him acting like he didn’t really understand the world around him.

These four appear to be plotting something nefarious, even discussing killing someone for most of the first part of the episode. Eventually it’s revealed that all of their intricate planning was not for a prison escape or for a murder, but to break the guard on the hot water dispenser so that they can increase the temperature higher than the permitted levels and have properly hot ramen. They’re a bunch of nerds!

Trouble at the prison job

Je-hyuk is assigned a job working at the prison woodshop. He’s not good at it. There is a guard in charge of the woodshop, Lieutenant Lee. His second in command is a prisoner who is referred to primarily as Chief. At first it seems Chief is a really good guy. He makes sure that Je-hyuk takes things easy because he’s still recovering from his shoulder injury and also ensures the prisoners who work in the shop get fed well when they have to work late nights. He also acquires a baseball for Je-hyuk to hold so he can practice his grips or just feel better because he has a baseball nearby.

Unfortunately, Dr. Ko discovers that the prisoners are illegally working without pay when they work nights. He writes a petition for them to receive the proper pay for such work and it turns out that this upsets Lt. Lee and Chief. They plant a wrench in Ko’s bag so they can punish him for attempting to steal it. Their plan is derailed by Je-hyuk who takes credit for the mistake in order to save Ko. It seems he’s going to get off with a slap on the wrist from prison leadership but Chief and some of his lackeys surround and grab Je-hyuk after everyone else has left and they’re prepared to rape him, beat him, or both.

Fortunately, at this moment Joon-ho arrives! He’s pulled some strings to be transferred to the same prison as Je-hyuk, cementing his status as a crazy fanboy, and he made a beeline to the woodshop in time to prevent Je-hyuk from being further abused. It’ll be nice to keep his bromance with Je-hyuk alive even in this new prison!

Flashbacks to Je-hyuk and Ji-ho’s relationship

We also finally begin to learn some more about Je-hyuk and Ji-ho’s previous relationship. Ji-ho complains during one of her visits that he never used to talk very much and that he was a bad boyfriend and that’s why they broke up. When visiting his mother and sister later, she admits that they broke up because she felt she was in love with him but that he didn’t return her affections. We’re also shown a series of flashbacks that show that, long before they were ever together romantically, Je-hyuk had always looked out for her.

The most memorable of these flashbacks shows a time when she was sick and he was on the road playing baseball. She complains that she can’t seem to get any medicine brought to her until the following day. He makes sympathetic noises but she indicates she knows he can’t do it because he’s not there. She wakes up the next morning to discover medicine on her counter and then finds his hat. It seems he came all the way back to bring her some late-night medicine and then left it without ever waking her up. In true, clumsy Je-hyuk fashion, however, he had accidentally left his hat behind. Cut to him at the field, lined up with his teammates and wearing a batting helmet.

His coach sarcastically asks if he wants to become a hitter now and Je-hyuk sheepishly goes to take the hat off of the player next to him and exchange it for the helmet. The player refuses and insists that he is the starting pitcher that day. So Je-hyuk moves down the line and trades with another player. It’s all very silly and charming.

Everything isn’t well after all

At the end of the episode, Je-hyuk and Joon-ho are sitting together talking when Joon-ho tosses the baseball Je-hyuk had received earlier back to him. Je-hyuk attempts to catch the ball with his left hand but it drops the ground. Joon-ho tells him to stop messing around, picks up the ball, and tosses it again. Je-hyuk still can’t catch it with his left hand. It seems like there might be more permanent damage to his shoulder after all!