First Impression: Smart Prison Life (Prison Playbook)

Prison is so funny…I can’t even..just watch it, won’t u?

Main cast:

  • Park Hae-soo (from Legend of the Blue Sea) as ex-baseball player, Kim Je-hyeok. Ex cos he’d probably lose his career after his stint in prison. Je-hyeok is one of those sllllloooooooow guys, whom you either describe positively as “stoic”, or negatively as “stoned”.
  • Jung Kyung-ho (from One More Happy Ending) as prison warden, Lee Joon-ho. He is best pals with Je-hyeok, and trained with him in baseball since high school, until an accident leads them on different paths. They reunite…in prison.


We find out how Je-hyeok falls from grace — from a pro baseball player well loved by his fans, to a prison inmate. On his way to visit his sister one night, he met with a thug who broke into her apartment to assault her. He fought (and won) the thug, well and good…but got sued for using (too much) violence on the criminal. He loses the case, and ends up in prison.

His first prison “family” is headed by a thug who calls himself “Professor Myung” (well, he likes to read…so, erm), Gundal (your typical mob type), and his henchman (Ddolmani), a meek looking halbae and Beobja (a young convict who has been in and out of prison he describes each with the well versed knowledge of a “hotelier”). Suffice to say, Je-hyeok doesn’t like being cooped up with those guys, and when he sees Gundal roughing up the halbae, he snaps and gets thrown into single cell ward for punching Gundal real hard (and he gives this little ‘yay’, which really cracks me up).

Joon-ho, who is both Je-hyeok’s fan and we later learn his pal, finally gets to meet him when Je-hyeok irates the prison’s superior (by refusing to pay a bribe to get a “posh single unit”). We get a short flashback of the two guys — Joon-ho, ironically, was the better performer in baseball during high school and was already sought after by some major leagues. Je-hyeok, on the other hand, tend to be overlooked.

During their trip to Seoul to enrol in Sports Uni with their coach, they got into a traffic accident. Coach died, and Joon-ho escaped with minor injuries. In contrast, Je-hyeok was given the “death sentence” by the doctors, since he tore his shoulders so badly that it was unlikely he could make a full recovery even after multiple surgeries. Strangely, Joon-ho was the one who gave up on baseball, and after checking himself out of hospital, he never crossed paths with Je-hyeok or Coach’s wife (the boys were boarding at Coach’s place) again.

Years later, we all know Je-hyeok is the one who became the baseball superstar…and Joon-ho, a prison warden.


Prison is all about dark, comedic moments. Made all the funnier when we have Park Hae-soo‘s passive, and clueless face on screen. On one hand, I laugh about his predicament — like having to undergo an intrusive anal check (with all the prison wardens — his fanboys — piling into the room to watch, and Je-hyeon can only whimper a “somebody save me” quietly), and at the same time…I want to hug this big, lost puppy. (aww)

Cos Je-hyeon is one of those guys who are very good — at ONE SINGLE THING, but a total failure at everything else. Like how he’d leave the windows open in winter and never bother to tidy up his room — only realising it days after he is incarcerated. And his instructions to his lawyer were not to get him into a better cell (with NO cellmates), or even to get him out of prison ASAP, but to complete those mundane things he missed out before he was thrown into jail. (like, priorities??)

However, it is this doggedness and singleminded-ness that made Je-hyeon successful today. Joon-ho is your popular, well-liked guy, who appears to be an all-rounder and pretty street smart. BUT, as his dongsaeng pointed out, he lacks determination. He gives up a little too fast, and too easily. With his minor injuries, he could have continued his baseball career, instead of now wistfully looking at Je-hyeon and wondering a million “what-ifs”.

I can’t wait to see how Je-hyeon will adapt to prison life, which ironically, someone like Joon-ho (with his innate street smart) would easily fit in. Although it is a little cruel to lock him up, since he didn’t really intend to knock down the thug that hard. You can’t blame a bear for his strength, right?

2 thoughts on “First Impression: Smart Prison Life (Prison Playbook)

Add yours

  1. Gotta say tvn’s lineup this year is diverse. They don’t have a blockbuster hit this year but I hope they’ll continue to give us different genres. Looking forward to more of this. Main character reminds me of Taek of Reply from his cluelessness from everything else but his sport.

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