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Prison Playbook (2017) - Ep. 8 - Does it hold up?

It’s a drama set in a prison so I guess it couldn’t be roses and sunshine the entire time.

This episode has a rather large focus on the unfairness of life in general, but also in the justice system in particular. After seven episodes of mostly shenanigans, this one is very light on the shenanigans and heavy on the drama. So buckle in and let’s get started!

Resolving the cliffhanger

Actually, before we really get going, let’s take a quick pit stop to talk about the cliffhanger from last time - Je-hyuk has started pitching with his right arm. It’s not a huge focus of the episode, but Joon-ho does realize that the bullpen mound is actually way too close to the target. He and Je-hyuk move it back and pitches start falling short again. But after a little bit Je-hyuk begins hitting the target once more, albeit at a velocity that will not get out professional hitters. He’s still going to have some work to do even if he wants to try pitching that way.

Dr. Ko’s situation is even worse than we had feared

The episode wants to let you know about its theme very early on so it cold opens on another Dr. Ko flashback. This time we are shown his office as the leadership plots how to respond to the fact that their cheating on money stuff has come to light. I had originally thought that Dr. Ko might have volunteered to take the fall so as to ingratiate himself with the leaders or because they made him feel so inferior. As it turns out, they actually strong-armed him into it and promised that their lawyer would try to defend him. In the end, the lawyer allowed him to become convicted to take the heat off of the true perpetrators. This also appears to be the first time he’s ever referred to as Dr. Ko, likely in an attempt to flatter him into cooperating.

That’s not the end of Dr. Ko’s problems, though. It seems he’s enduring some kind of intermittent stomach pain. His cellmates and Lt. Paeng are concerned for his health but Captain Na refuses to allow him to visit an outside doctor because of an impending inspection (more on that in a minute.) After witnessing one of Ko’s bouts of pain, Na finally relents - a bit. He says that if all of Ko’s cell mates will write a heartfelt letter asking for Ko to be seen by a doctor then he’ll allow it. Captain Yoo has “chosen violence” as the kids say, and initially refuses to write the letter to continue the fiction that he doesn’t want to be accepted or have to accept any of his cellmates as peers. It turns out later that he wrote the letter and turned it in in secret, acknowledging that someone’s life was on the line and was more important than his petty vendetta, but Dr. Ko first had to endure much bickering between the cellmates trying to force Yoo to write the letter.

Even once Ko is sent to the doctor the scans reveal he has a kidney stone and the doctor insists there is nothing to be done but wait for it to pass. Ko is left in agony in his hospital room for some unknown period of time before Lt. Paeng can’t take it anymore and insists the doctor at least prescribe some pain medication. It is only at this point that the doctor admits that they could use a laser to break up the stone and resolve Ko’s issues.

Towards the end of the episode, we find even more unfairness leveled at Dr. Ko. You may recall that in the last episode his wife complained during visitation that his pay had been tripled in the most recent check. We discover that their company is once again under investigation for fraud and they intend to use him as the scapegoat once more, tripling his salary in order to bribe him into it.

The b-plot features the kid who cut his hand on the saw last week

Last week when the second woodshop chief was busily trying to force the inmates to make more furniture than they could reasonably be expected to make in order to allow Lt. Lee to profit excessively a kid cut his hand badly on the saw. This week we see him and Je-hyuk become close because Je-hyuk treats him humanely. Unfortunately, Lt. Lee has escaped all justice and placed all the blame on the former chief who has been transferred to another prison probably with several black marks on his record to boot.

The kid also confides in Je-hyuk that he’s going to be up for parole and is very excited to be able to attend his sister’s wedding. Unfortunately, we are given a glimpse into the parole preparation meeting held by the guards and Captain Na insists that he doesn’t have time to thoroughly review the kid’s file so he refuses to acknowledge that the kid does have enough points to be up for parole.

Later in the episode, Je-hyuk visits the infirmary with Joon-ho (who had been stung in the eye by a bee) late at night and they discover that the kid had attempted to kill himself. Je-hyuk sits with him and listens to his story. The kid is heartbroken at being in jail. He tells of how he worked hard at a construction job while simultaneously studying for an employment exam. Unfortunately, he didn’t pass the exam on his first try due to the demands of his schedule and later found his boss demanding that he drive the boss’ wallet out to him because the boss had been drinking with a client and left it at the office. The kid fell asleep at the wheel and hit a pedestrian. The boss is a real sleaze and didn’t bother to pay for the kind of insurance that would have allowed any employee but himself to drive the truck. So when the police question them about what happened and why the kid was driving the boss lies and says he never told the kid to drive to keep himself out of trouble.

After telling this story the kid begins sobbing and wishing he’d only worked harder. Je-hyuk comforts him by pointing out that the kid literally could not have worked any harder; using hyperbole to suggest that the kid should have just stopped eating and sleeping so he could study more. During this, we also get a flashback to Je-hyuk trying out for a pro baseball team. In one of only two examples of the unfairness of the world benefitting anyone we like in this episode, we discover that he was selected out of the try-out over other, more-deserving pitchers because he was the only lefty who tried out.

Then we see the other example. Je-hyuk meets with Captain Na and offers to donate money to the prison so that Na can stop fretting over the budgets so badly if Na will put in the time to review the kid’s parole case. In the face of having his own problems solved, Na finally relents.

Let’s talk about romance

That’s enough dwelling on unhappiness. Let’s talk about the show’s two ships, shall we?

Je-hyuk and Ji-ho still aren’t talking to each other, but both endure happy flashbacks of their time together. It can only be a matter of time before Ji-ho decides to challenge Je-hyuk on his refusal to see her - allegedly to prevent her from feeling the pain of their separation - and forces him to give it up. Je-hyuk is flat being stupid here. I can understand wanting to let someone go if you’re going to be gone for a very long time but she obviously cares for him a great deal and he’s only going to be in prison for a year total - less than that now. By the time she could get over him from his vicious breakup he’ll likely be out of prison again. In other words, his choice does not reduce the amount of time she would remain heartbroken. It merely guarantees that they wouldn’t be able to resume their relationship when he eventually gets out.

Joon-ho, on the other hand, still has his blind date scheduled at the beginning of the episode. His brother finally reveals the time and location to him and it’s...Je-hee’s restaurant. Joon-ho is displeased by this because as we all know, even if he doesn’t, he’s got a thing for her and doesn’t want her to see him with another woman. Fortunately/unfortunately, depending on your perspective, Joon-ho arrives for his date and discover Joon-dol already there. It turns out that the woman Joon-ho was supposed to meet for his blind date actually has a thing for Joon-dol, and Joon-dol for her. So they’re going to go on a date together instead. Joon-dol has thoughtfully paid for the reservation made for Joon-ho’s blind date so Joon-ho is free to eat there. In a wonderful coincidence, shortly after he sits down to eat Je-hee gets off of work and offers to eat with him. Did Joon-dol plan this entire thing to trick Joon-ho into going on a date with Je-hee instead? We may never know for sure, but my money is definitely on yes!

The only cliffhanger from this episode is in regard to whether Dr. Ko will quietly acquiesce to the demands of his company to take the fall for more of their corruption or if he will actually fight back. I expect that he’s going to fight back this time, but it may take him a bit to work up the nerve. And then, of course, we’ll have to see if he can win once he makes that choice. I’m not so sure about that.

This episode may not have been as fun as other episodes, but I still think it was really good and really interesting in its way. It’s only right to acknowledge that being in prison still sucks, even if there are hijinx to enjoy. Here’s hoping things go better for everyone next week!