This is Kdrama Jen reporting live from her Netflix binge session of Prison Playbook. First, a quick introduction. I have been watching dramas for well over a decade, so if you need a recommendation or want to talk dramas, then I am always willing to give my opinion. I consider myself “fluent” in Kdrama. No, I don’t mean I am fluent in Korean, although I have been studying and I do love learning languages. Instead, I mean that I can discuss one drama by referring to other dramas with similar characters, or maybe the same actors, or similar themes. So, for example, I think Prison Playbook feels like Reply 1988, but instead of ahjummas chatting on the stoop, we have hardened criminals trying to figure out how to get by in the prison world.
I even think our main character is a bit like Taek (Park Bo Gum’s 1988 character). He appears to be slow and not very wise to the world except when he is talking about or focused on baseball. Just replace baseball with baduk and give him a little puppy smolder and you basically have the same character, minus the aggravated assault charge… Anyway, I look forward to chatting with you about Prison Playbook and whether you are already drama fluent or just getting started, I am happy you stopped by to visit!
So, I have the pleasure of talking about episode 4! To keep with the theme of the episode, I will be doing this “My Way.” That’s right. I am going to share some of my unfiltered thoughts and favorite scenes.
Nothing good can come of a press hungry warden and his captain
In order to lure in the press to cover their awesome Superstar K-like singing contest, Warden and Captain Na promise an interview with Je-Hyeok. Unfortunately, their resident baseball star is not interested in being interviewed. They decide to turn up the heat a bit through some old fashioned coercion. If he doesn’t agree to the interview, then they will not allow him to see a specialist, and apparently he is, you know, discovering his hand is experiencing paralysis as an after-effect of his shoulder stabbing incident. I would have thought their evil plan might work, but he just gives them one of his dead stares and refuses.
Fans are all the same
In the meantime, guard bestie posing as Je-Hyeok fanboy gets to hear the prison doctor compare his obsession with Je-Hyeok to his wife’s fangirling over BTS. So, it is not the most important scene to plot development, but they mention BTS!
Dr. Ko Can sing?
Dr. Ko practices for the competition, but we keep hearing this incredible Sinatra-like voice crescendoing through the prison. Although Dr. Ko seems to be not so great, could it be possible it is all a ruse? He is conveniently missing whenever the mystery singer is heard. Dr. Ko has a very solid reason for wanting to win. The winning participant has the chance for a one week furlough, and his daughter is scheduled for surgery. We also get to see a flashback that helps explain why he ended up in prison.
There is more than one way to get an MRI
I am constantly trying to figure out if Je-Hyeok is brilliant, crazy, or dim. He might be brilliant because he was able to get the carpentry shop leader (the one who sniffed his sweat and grabbed his butt) to smack him in the head with a board—complete with protruding nail. This gave Je-Hyeok the opportunity to leave the prison and get the MRI he needed. Ha! Take THAT Mr. Warden! On the other hand…he stood still when someone cracked his head with a board! Isn’t that crazy?
Dr. Ko wins (kind of…)
Dr. Ko’s performance was kind of cringe-worthy. He was what one might call “pitchy,” but he sang with such passion. He ended up winning. That’s right he won…a big old box of bread! Apparently getting a leave was just a rumor. Seeing his heartbroken reaction to hearing the news made my own heart clench a bit.
Well, Warden, you wanted an interview…
Backed into a corner of his own making, Warden is faced with the need to coerce a different interviewee. He targets Dr. Ko, the winner of the singing contest. Dr. Ko definitely doesn’t want to do it, but he is reluctantly on his way when he meets Je-Hyeok. Newly returned from his hospital visit, Je-Hyeok surprises Warden and Captain Na (and the interviewer). They are thrilled he is going to let them record him… right up to that point when he uses the opportunity to announce his retirement from baseball! Yeah, I think we are going to have some fallout from this bombshell!
I Hear Your Voice Psycho has a heart?
I must admit it; I wrote off Lieutenant Paeng as another cold and unfeeling prison guard. His steely glare reminded me of the character he played in I Hear Your Voice, so I was NOT expecting to be cheering for him. Through a series of flashbacks we discover he warned Je-Hyeok that he would be returning to wood shop duty and even gave him the chance to leave the penitentiary to seek medical care. Suddenly, we see all of his past actions in a different light. It is one of the many reasons why I am loving this drama. Nothing is as it first appears! Oh, and the best part about Lieutenant Paeng? He can SING! That was not a hopeful contestant practicing in the shower. That Sinatra-sounding voice was Lieutenant Paeng!
Episode 4 was long, but certainly sets the stage for some exciting developments. I kind of watched ahead, so I can tell you…don’t stop now!
Until the next roll call,