Prison Playbook: Episode 15

This will be my last recap on this show and I can’t believe we have to say goodbye. I do want everyone out of prison and happily living their lives, but I just don’t want to say goodbye!!

Wow, what a doozy of an episode for me to end my recaps on. It was quite the rollercoaster ride. There were four futures on the line this episode and though most ended with glimpses of hope, one devastated me and sent me to my bed to curl up in the fetal position. I’m not sure I’m emotionally ready to talk about the last one so let’s start with the happiness.

Congratulations, it’s a girl!

Min Chul has been in agony waiting to see if he’ll be released. It’s funny because Officer Paeng is possibly more excited than Min Chul. He gleefully comes to get him so they can wait outside the warden’s office for the good word. Except… it’s totally not good news. For whatever reason, the higher ups decided against his parole. Officer Paeng loses it when Na says a hollow sorry and then tells the other officers it’s time to eat. Paeng cusses him out and it gets heated, but the warden steps in and sends Na away. Once Na is gone, Min Chul slumps to the ground not able to hold himself up anymore.

This poor guy. He’s served 22 years and has been a model prisoner. Yes, he is a murderer and some might say he deserves longer, but I do think he’s a changed man and has paid for what he did.

It’s not all bad news for Min Chul. He’s been getting steady visits from a college student. She keeps insisting on him speaking more comfortably with him, and you can tell Min Chul is a little suspicious of why she’d treat him the way she is. Then she drops her purse and when she goes to pick it up, her necklace becomes visible. It’s the ring Min Chul gave his girlfriend before he went to prison. He asks her if she’s his daughter and she confirms his suspicions. Min Chul breaks down in sobs. He’s been alone for the entirety of his sentence other than the numerous prisoners he’s come into contact with, and now he suddenly has family.

I really like his daughter. She finds out by chance that her father is still alive when she was registering for college. She’d been told he was dead, but when she calls her mom she insists on the truth. The daughter then immediately calls the prison and makes up the lie about wanting to interview him for a paper. She didn’t hesitate, and the moment she met him, her first words were how handsome he is. She also visits him every day after he finds out she’s his daughter.

The best part about Min Chul is that once he finds out he has a daughter, he goes in to pray. He says he doesn’t care if he ever gets out of prison, he’s just thankful that he has family now and that is enough for him.

Luckily, that is not the only good news he gets. The higher ups give him a special Christmas parol. It’s annoying because they probably saved his parol for the Christmas one because it got publicity and looked good for them.

I cried happy tears both when he found out she was his daughter and when he was granted parole. One thing that has been disconserting about this show is they transfer our beloved characters out at random times and we never see them again. I was overjoyed that the show won’t end with Min Chul still in prison.

Hell froze over for Captain Yoo.

We learned last episode that Captain Yoo and his brother are pretty far apart in age, and were very awkward with each other. They’ve gotten closer, but it doesn’t seem like they’ve learned how to be honestly communicate with one another. Captain Yoo finds out his brother was fired from the university. They both know that even if Yoo asks him to stop working on his retrial and go find another job, his brother will just lie and say he’ll do it, then keep working on his retrial.

Yoo paces the cell and doesn’t know what to do. No matter what he says, his brother won’t listen to him. So he does the LAST thing any of us would suspect. He asks Han Yang for advice. Han Yang cuts through all the bullshit and tells him to stop pretending like he doesn’t want his brother to keep working on his retrial. It won’t be that much longer until they find out the answer, and his brother has already lost his job. He says that Yoo should share his real feelings, that he wants his brother to stick with him until the very end.

Yoo takes his advice and the relief on his brother’s face is awesome. They both can openly admit that Yoo needed his brother to work this hard on his case, and he still needs him.

And the best upside is the retrial information is leaked to the press and it’s all over the internet who the real killer is and that the officers are going to testify against him. I really hope we get a satisfying conclusion for Yoo and his brother in the last episode.

Is Je Hyeok really broke?

Of course when things start looking up, we’ve solved the Steve Bass syndrome and Je Hyeok is back to performing like he should, they bring back the sniffing weirdo who ran the wood shop. He finds out about the greenhouse the warden modified into Je Hyeok’s practice area, and decides to blackmail Je Hyeok into giving them money to keep it from he press.

Je Hyeok doesn’t want to tell the warden or Joon Ho about the issue and he also says he’s broke and doesn’t have any money. (Though I’m not completely certain that’s true). He’s at a loss for what to do and then Ji Ho comes to visit him, he seeks her advice and she tells him to clean out the greenhouse and not practice for the last two months he’s in prison. Je Hyeok follows her advice, and when they go to take a picture to send proof to the reporter, it’s completely empty.

I read the Maknae’s episode 14 recap and I have to say I don’t hate these two together. I’ve never been that into them, but they work. I don’t think she looks down on him or believes he’s stupid. She just knows that his mind works a certain way. She’s lived with his single-mindedness, and even broke up with him because of it. Je Hyeok does have a simple way of thinking about a lot of things and she knows that. Again, they don’t give me all the feels, but I’m fine with them staying a couple.

Speaking of romantic feels…

Joon Ho and Je Hee are adorable, but they have some work to do on their relationship. Je Hee has a hard time letting Joon Ho know when she’s having issues and only tells him the good things. He finally calls her on it, and she says she didn’t want to burden him. He lets her know he wants to be there for the good and the bad. He then goes in for a kiss, and stops to ask if he can. She agrees and they have a sweet moment. With Je Hee’s rape attempt, it shows Joon Ho’s character that he thought to stop and make sure she was okay with the kiss.

Soul crusher alert!

We’ve been amping up for Han Yang’s release. He packed his boxes, had his final fight with Captain Yoo, and gave Yoo some stellar advice about his brother. He even saw Ji Won and set a location for them to meet after he was released. His dad would be waiting for him there too. Ji Won teases him that he had a gift to give him when they see each other again.

Everything pointed to a happy ending for my favorite character. He’d been clean for months, had the determination to stay that way, and had the support from his boyfriend and family. His mom even closed up shop for the day. He was so adorable when he was talking about starting a chat room with his former cellmates.

But this show made sure we knew how hard it is for drug addicts to quit. They mentioned it so many times, I’m actually annoyed at myself for having hope Han Yang could beat the odds. True to life, the system is not geared to help people with addictions. Han Yang is met outside the prison by an old friend and he finds himself in the back of a van with a needle full of heroin.

This scene is done so well. The song playing in the background as he sits there contemplating a decision is below. The lyrics “please have mercy, oh God” blare as the camera focuses on his hand on the door, ready to get out of the car and walk away from that life and into the arms of his lover and family. He knows they’re waiting for him. He knows he can stay clean if he works really hard. And yet, he still can’t say no. He shoves his sleeve up, and injects the poison into his system.


Of course, it was a set up by the police. Han Yang had to know somewhere in his mind it was. How would his old dealer even know the day and time of his release if they weren’t involved? Ji Won goes outside to see if Han Yang is there. He glances down at the ring he has ready to give Han Yang and when  he looks up a police van rushes by. The last we see of the Looney who worked his way into our hearts, is while he’s in the police van and the drugs have taken hold, causing him to slump into a stupor.

My Thoughts:

This will be my last thoughts of the drama so I’ll talk about it as a whole. This last scene shows exactly what makes this drama one that will stick with me forever. Han Yang is a character who was treated with respect by the writer. They did not use his sexual orientation has a punchline and did an excellent job at showing his relationship in a beautiful and respectful way. They also managed to portray his struggles with addiction in a way that felt viscerally real (despite my initial concerns). We wanted him to overcome it so bad, but the system was completely stacked against him.

He’s just one character who left the cell and we, as the viewer, will never know how their life turns out. The writer managed to make it feel like we were sentenced to prison right along with Je Hyeok. Though I am sad that we may only find out what happens to a few of the characters, I can see why the writers chose to do it that way.

I honestly didn’t think I could get this attached to prisoners or prison guards, but the family the show created touched my heart and made me constantly laugh. Almost everyone seemed a certain way when we met them, then as we delved deeper into each character’s past and even present actions we learned a new perspective of them. Officer Paeng and Min Chul are two that come to mind when I think about first impressions versus who they truly were. I hope that the writer director team plans on more projects in the future because I need more of these types of stories in my life.

Now I’m off to watch the last episode. I had to give myself a day two to recover from Han Yang’s ending. I’m crossing my fingers this actor will start showing up in more dramas in the future. He did a fantastic job at being both off kilter and also such a tragic character.

Until the last roll call,

Drama Geek

Drama With a Side of Kimchi


11 thoughts on “Prison Playbook: Episode 15

  1. It honestly broke my heart at the end. And I love how the show really portrayed Looney’s addiction problem. It really messes up the body system and the insane temptation that consumes them. I think the writers did a very well job at showing how crazy hard it is to get over drug addiction.

  2. My heart broke upon seeing Looney did drugs again… He fought for a long time yet it ended up to nothing… Well I guess, it just really shows that whatever happens to us, there’s no one to blame but ourselves…. Choosing the right path is ours to make…

  3. gosh.. i really felt like crying.. han yang was gonna get his the best gift of his life.. i wished his family was more proactive in showing their feeling esp tell him about his mother’s feelings. i wont say she did a bad thing for putting him in jail but as he was opening up to others.. they should have told he misunderstood a few things esp about his mother.. and also it would have been great if they came to receive him when he got out.. after all that’s the moment when one feels lonely, vulnerable and sad when there’s no one with them..even i felt bad when he was the only one standing there.. instead of waiting at restaurant they should have gone to him…
    i really pictured the cell mates having a get together like han yang suggested.
    i really feel bad for the boyfriend too. he was loyal till the end.. i wished in every episode he wouldn’t break up with han yang and stay with him.. now can’t ask him to waste his life with a druggie..
    breaks my heart even though they are characters..

  4. Watched it and I’m so sad about Han yang.
    But is is it realistic or normal for police in Korea to bait someone who was just released from prison for illegal drug use.

    Like come on if someone just came out from rehab for a particular addiction. Do you shove that thing in their face.

    It just seems unrealistic that the police would intentionally bait someone who just served time for drug use, literally just minutes from their release.

    Is this normal in Korea or inaccuracy on the part of the drama?

  5. I watched the drama only today, 17 Feb, 2023!!!! Binge watched it in three days in Netflix. After watching the 15th episode, i whimpered with agony for Looney and hoped against hope that ep 16 will give me clarity to what I saw in ep 15. It’s 2am now and couldn’t sleep. That’s when I read your review and still can’t understand the need for such a twist for Looney.
    The drama is so life like, every character seems to be real. Loved it immensely, like his drama Reply 1988. However i can’t forgive the writer for giving Looney this ending. If it were the rehabilitation hospital, it would make sense. Taking him back to the prison would make him better?

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