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Old School Intern: Episodes 1-4 (Review)

Do you smell the karma in the air? In its opening week, Old School Intern sets up the story of a hero with the opportunity to take revenge on his old nightmare of a boss. But the drama also shows us that a comedy full of hijinks and role reversals might just make us think twice about how we treat the people around us, too.

Note: This is an opening week review only.

 
EPISODES 1-4 REVIEW

Park Hae-jin is back on our screens playing our hero, GA YEOL-CHAN. When we first meet him, it’s as a curly-haired intern at Ongol Food, where he reports to his “kkondae” boss LEE MAN-SHIK (Kim Eung-soo). As Yeol-chan narrates for us, we get our first glimpse of Man-shik… and what the term kkondae really means.

“It’s slang for an old person or teacher,” we’re told, as we see Man-shik acting like a jerk on the subway. But, as we watch some grade school bullies on the same subway ride, we’re told that, “Young kkondaes also exist. A kkondae is a person that forces others to accept their old school beliefs regardless of how old they are.” Then, we see what happens when our sad sack Yeol-chan works under the oppression of Man-shik.

His treatment of Yeol-chan is actually worse than I was expecting. Rather than just forcing him to be a gopher and coffee-getter, Man-shik is downright cruel. That wasn’t in the definition of kkondae that I heard? He bullies and picks on Yeol-chan to the point of it being today’s workplace harassment. And Yeol-chan endures everything from having his fabulous ideas stolen, to bowls of boiling hot jjigae thrown at him, to getting set up for failure and a forced resignation.

It’s not that much fun to watch, actually, but don’t worry, our underdog doesn’t stay on the bottom for long. Episode 2 opens five years later, where Yeol-chan has more than proven his smarts and his self-worth. He’s the general manager at Joonsu Food and responsible for creating their viral ramyun, Spicy Chicken Ramyun. In other words, he’s the ticket to their success.

Yeol-chan lands deals and is highly successful at work, but man, he’s also a super nice guy. His team obviously looks up to him, and he makes decisions with the all-too-near memory of what it was like when he himself was an underling. He seems to have gotten over the scars of his past thanks to his success — he’s thriving both professionally and financially (hello mansion penthouse!). I like a tale of good guys winning, but where’s the story? Well, Man-shik joins Yeol-chan’s team as a “senior intern” and things get crazy.

There’s a little bit of corporate espionage in the works, too. Joonsu’s Chairman has a son by the name of NAMGOONG JOON-SOO (Park Ki-woong) who’s in a tangle of jealousy over our hero’s success, and seems ready to scheme (in a comedic sort of way) to bring Yeol-chan down. He and his henchman purposefully choose the worst of the prospective interns, and then leave them with Yeol-chan to deal with.

The new interns are super quirky, but I think they’ll blend right in since the permanent staff is just as quirky themselves. Yeol-chan seems to be a step above them in sanity — but he’s also pretty shaken when he’s forced to confront the dreaded man from his past. No one knew of their past connection, and Yeol-chan wants to keep it that way, but we know our baddies will try to exploit that forth with.

To make matters worse, Man-shik has basically no shame regarding how he treated Yeol-chan in the past, and that seems to get to Yeol-chan more than anything. He tells Man-shik that his age won’t protect him and not to expect to be treated well — and with that, the action begins.

While it’s pretty funny to watch the hijinks at play (and it’s only just the start, I’m sure!), I honestly found it a little hard to watch this old guy getting put in his place. I know the drama is all about poetic justice and role reversals — and obviously our kind Yeol-chan won’t go too far (right? right?!) — but it’s still a little uncomfortable. I feel kinda sorry for him. Maybe I’m just kkondae myself? Or maybe it’s because Kim Eung-soo is just so great here.

Old School Intern’s premiere week has a good setup of power dynamics, but I’d like to see a little more about the characters. At least, that’s what it will take to get me hooked. Comedy and petty revenge are all well and good, but I always look for a story with strong characters… and a little more development maybe? I’d like to learn more about Yeol-chan besides what we’ve seen in the past. The backstory was full of pathos, and gave us good context for their current scenario — but I’d like to see inside present-day Yeol-chan, too, so we can get more invested in his conflict, instead of just watch it.

Right now we really only know Yeol-chan as he exists in the workplace. He’s respected as a leader, thought of as an “angel,” and even pretends to be golden towards Man-shik to maintain that image. It’s a promising setup, but I think we need to learn more about who Yeol-chan is now in order to get more emotionally involved in the story, and I hope that’s coming with our episodes next week.

And I can’t close this review without a word on the instantly-infamous commercial that Joonsu Foods made with their successful entry into the Indian market. Yeol-chan (who seems to speak every language under the sun) successfully closes the deal, and also somehow winds up as the star of the CF used to sell “Hot Chicken Noodle” ramyun to their newest consumers. It’s a lavish and wacky satire of a Bollywood production — except I’m not sure they actually mean it as a satire. In fact, I’m not sure how I feel about this at all. I see what they were going for, but is it silly, or just tone deaf?

Speaking of silly, I do hope our drama packs on the madcap. If we’re going to be focused on workplace shenanigans and dinners for the entire show, I’m going to need a lot more laughs. Will Old School Intern go for those laughs? Or will they take a step back and humanize our villain, showing us that at the end of the day, people are people, and maybe payback isn’t so great after all?

I don’t think we’ve seen enough of what the show has planned to be able to tell yet, so we’ll have to stay tuned to find out. I’m also hoping to see more of the crazy chicken mascot that lurks in their office, but maybe that’s just me.

 
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I laughed for a good 2 minutes when that ad scene came on and then rewatched it again for another good laugh. Kdramas do no wrong in their ridiculous sense of humour 😂

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I enjoyed the first 2 eps but things starts to go south for me from ep 3 onwards. I would expect Yeol-chan to have a bigger and more competent team working under him if he's such a hotshot general manager at Joonsu Food.

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I agree with your recap comments on Bollywood satire .It has to be taken in lighter vein right .
But suddenly a KBS documentary that I watched long back flashed into my mind. Its a bunch of k pop stars visiting to India. It just a horrible portrayal of Indo .
India is not about flashy songs, dresses, beggars and Tajmahal

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For some reason, I keep getting flashes to Pegasus Market without the whit or charm. The glaring loose ends in story continuity are really setting of my spidey sense.

On the surface ep01 was full of familiar SKDrama elements. However for me, I fear the tropes it has already played have left it little room to move away from a story that is very brutal at its heart even it attempts to wrap it in "wacky" SKDrama packaging.

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I've seen the said KBS documentary you mentioned and truth be told, it is the initial impression of the k-pop stars that you might have considered horrible. As the stars went around trying to see if India can be another place to 'spread' k-pop music, they found out that their initial misgivings about the country's culture were unfounded.

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Ohh that CF😊😊
I thought it was a great editing work by a geeenius video editor. Didn't know it was an actual CF from this drama.
I like it. It is silly but in a good way like a big budget bollywood production. If they were going the satire way, they have nailed it!!
Hot chicken noodle with no chicken is my fb story and whatsapp status 👌

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I also wanted to see more of the crazy chicken mascot that kind of looks like a foot with wiggly fingers 😂

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I loved the first week. It was more emotional and heavier than I expected (suicide talk and all). I'm also happy to see PHJ in a new drama (Forest didn't happen) but I always see him as Yoo Jung from cheese in the trap, so i'm always thinking that he's skimming and knows what's in everyone's head but obviously he doesn't lol.

I'm also very happy that there's no romance so far and if there was I completely missed it lol. 12 episodes is more than enough for the story they want to tell so that's another bonus point.

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Maybe it's just the fabulous Kim Eung-soo, but I thought Man-shik was more than just a cardboard villain. To me, his main problem is that the Korean notion of “group loyalty” has almost completely replaced his sense of right and wrong. His chief aim in life is to support, unquestioningly, the system (and the company) that has given him his place in society. IMO his treatment of Yeol-chan at the start is typical of many older bosses in Korea, and he only became downright cruel after he was ordered to put pressure on YC to resign. And he did seem genuinely dismayed by the order, and disturbed by the CCTV footage of YC’s breakdown. Of course he just ignored his conscience and continued being a horrible kkondae boss. But these nuances give me hope that there will be more subtle and interesting developments in store.

Needless to say, I think Kim Eung-soo is absolutely killing it as Man-shik. (Did he ad-lib the “badminton” thing? The other actor and the extras were visibly cracking up.) But as someone who has resisted Park Hae-jin’s charms for years, I thought he was both very moving as the despairing intern and dead funny as the straight man to Kim Eung-soo’s more overt comic turn. As for the Bollywood-style ad, I thought it was cringing-making but oddly charming. Then again, I’m not from India, so I’m not the best judge of its appropriateness.

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I’m not sure on this one so far. I actually really enjoyed the first episode. Now moving on to the timeskip, I’m glad things have worked out better for our main character. The tone is what I’m not sure about now. Are we supposed to feel bad for this old man, who stole from someone, causing their suicide? Who verbally and eventually physically assaulted his junior? Are they going for a comedy? So far it hasn’t been very funny (imo of course). Some shows are good at juggling between the two but this one just comes off as unsure about what it wants to say or do. It’s not even cathartic to watch our old intern get subtly bullied.

We’re only 2 episodes in so, there’s room to grow. Despite always thinking PHJ does a good job, I’ve never been able to finish any of the shows he’s in. I guess his choice of projects just doesn’t gel well with me or something.

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