The Great Escape is one of my all-time favorite Korean variety shows because it combines deduction, problem-solving, and puzzles.
It also has Kim Jong Min in it.
I am a fan.
He’s practically the most intelligent dumbass in Korean television right now… and this is in fact, a compliment. I have been a fan of his since the first season of Two Days, One Night (when he walked in darkness and self-reflected as he was rendered unfunny after his return from military service) and seeing that he’s basically the only person to be in all four seasons of the show is just awesome.
The Great Escape is basically an Escape Room with a high budget setting. Aside from the elaborate sets they also employ a ton load of extras. I don’t know if Philippine television is ready for this kind of setup but I’m guessing they’ll probably use cheap studio sets… much like when IBC tried to mimic Takeshi’s Castle back in the day.
I mean, I know it is just an Ovaltine-sponsored segment but… there are Christmas-themed parks during the Ber months with better details than that uninspired set.
Eat Bulaga designed better obstacle courses before that Takeshi’s Castle segment.
Here's a video I got from the TVN YouTube channel.
Anyway, The Great Escape’s best episodes have either zombies or exorcisms in it. Although, the serial killer, the time machine, and the prison escapes have the best setups.
In the course of three seasons, six men have made the show awesome.
And now I am going to rank them, the best The Great Escape players based on what they bring to the table.
Now disclaimer, I am bored when I did this list. I took three hours to write this and as I gloss the paragraph to iron out the kinks, I may come out as a dickhead. If you are a fan of some of the names from the bottom spots, I am sorry. I like them all but I checked out what they brought to the table. I looked at their improvements in deduction and problem solving as well as their ability to elicit laughs. Not everyone could be on the top spot so if I piss off people… I am sorry.
But I do admit, it’s fun to rank the escapees.
The game starts now.
6 | P.O.
There are a lot of things working against P.O. in The Great Escape. For starters, he is the youngest person in the group so he can’t go gung-ho without checking in on the older players. Also, he came from the Kang Ho Dong line. Like Kim Jong Min, you can’t help but respect and follow whatever the hell Ho Dong wants to do. Most of the people from Kang Ho Dong’s line are either goofballs or dumbasses. This is not a diss or anything… because acting like brats is why there are shows like the original Two Days One Night, Kang’s Kitchen, Knowing Brothers, and New Journey to the West.
And more importantly, P.O. is not the smartest and the strongest of the core. This makes him second-guess the situations apart from a few flashes of brilliance.
The good thing about P.O. though is that he wants to help – either as an errand boy or bait – for as long as he contributes to the group. He also builds statements that lead up to the right statements. Sure, other members would piggyback from his ideas but it’s not like P.O. is hating on them. Basically, he is the consummate role player… or a very useful prop.
5 | SHINDONG
Initially, he is the original brain of the group. In some ways, he still is. Shindong can openly diss Hodong whenever the opportunity arises with little to no consequences (it must be because he’s part of international K-Pop group Super Junior).
If this was Season 1, then I would have ranked him higher.
During the third season, he lost weight.
Also, I thought he somewhat regressed.
Shindong is almost like Kim Dong Hyun as far as being a scaredy-cat. Sure, he’s the group’s master of puzzles and an ace in terms of deductions but Captain Shin’s brain would be rendered useless during the zombie apocalypse and cult episodes. There are at least two horror-themed episodes per season and some episodes have terrifying things thrown here and there. Sure, he stands out in the first go-round, the gene bank, and the bunker but these episodes aren’t as funny.
But yeah, there are times when Shindong takes the lead without a care of what Ho Dong thinks. In some ways, this is I guess one thing that he has that Byung Jae lacks. When he’s on to something, he really takes the lead and Ho Dong supports him.
Hopefully, we get to see a better Captain Shin in season four.
4 | KIM DONG HYUN
I don’t know if he’s still an active UFC competitor but while he has yet to formally announce his retirement, he has also appeared in a lot of Korean variety shows. Apart from The Great Escape, Stun Gun (or Cicada to his Korean fans) also has Amazing Saturday, Master in the House, and Player, among other commitments.
Oh, and for some reason, he rocks the hell out of the zombie and cult episodes.
Seeing a grown man with a mixed martial arts record of 22 wins, four losses, one draw, and one no-contest scream like a little schoolgirl is just awesome. Dong Hyun bolts like a freight train at the sight of gore and it racks up the views. And unlike Shindong, the fact that he denies being scared is what makes his antics comedy gold.
If I want to make a person watch The Great Escape, all I have to do is play the part wherein Kim Dong Hyun dashes like a madman after opening a door that revealed a severed body or the time in season two in which he rips his pants and hits a metal cabinet after running like hell when a zombie's hand appears.
But here’s the other thing about The Stun Gun. His pride urges him to take the lead. The prison episode for starters is a great way to showcase his cage skills. Carrying instruments with the foresight of using it in the future is another. Yes, he’s an unreliable scaredy-cat but when his combo of intelligence and strength in important situations is on, it all of a sudden becomes the Kim Dong Hyun Show.
3 | KIM JONG MIN
I must admit – even if I am a huge Kim Jong Min fan, I have doubts about his inclusion in the program. Jong-Min may be shrewd but he can also be a bit of a dumbass at times. If this is a history-themed show, then Jong-Min is fine but in an escape room setting… as mentioned, I have doubts.
Anyway, there are times when Jong Min’s inability to “get it” annoyed me. If the escapees are going to act in stealth-like the one where they tried to save the students from a cult faction, then shouting in corridors and purposely sabotaging the missions by acting all scared or like a goofball are blatant red flags. Also, as one of the originals of Kang Ho Dong’s line, Jong-Min is acting like a cross between the childish Eun Ji Won and the clueless MC Mong.
And like Ho Dong, he’s totally unreliable when it comes to things that required intelligence like solving math, remembering equations, and even reading English words.
But you know what, he stumbles on things… for the win!
Being lucky is a good trait and for some reason, Jong-Min steadily improved in the course of seasons because of his ability to search for clues and deduct on certain scenarios. He also has the ability to see things in the dark, which is a good thing because most of the members are terrified by it. The core members, in fact, trolled Jong-Min during the gambling episode because over the course of the program, he has become overly ambitious. Being street smart actually made him an important member and there were times when they relied on him to look for the things they miss.
Still, Jong-Min is still a lovable dumbass. Ho Dong would still scold him every now and then for thinking of food instead of the mission. There are still times wherein he forgets to bring the clues integral to the missions. And there are still moments wherein his mind blanks out when they need all of their brains to work.
Again, Kim Jong Min is a lovable dumbass.
But maybe he’s just pretending to be one?
2 | YOO BYUNG JAE
Though small in stature, Yoo Byung Jae is basically the team’s most complete player.
He is pretty much a Chris Paul archetype as far as making things happen in their universe. He is not easily intimidated during scary situations and he would volunteer himself whenever they need to do something – either physically or mentally – for the sake of the mission. He is also a goldmine in English problems and when people are doing unnecessary things, Yoo serves as the guiding light.
With that said, I guess the main problem with Byung Jae is that he is too level-headed and he wants to let the others shine.
In the season 3 finale mission, Byung Jae was forced to spend their money because the rest of the gang wants to spend it on food even if they already ate. Unfortunately for them, the next mission is a spicy ramen-eating challenge. I guess they lucked out because the production team went easy on them but Byung Jae saw this coming. He has trouble disciplining Jong Min and Dong Hyun and unlike Shindong, he can’t force Hodong to do things he doesn’t want to. This is why Byung Jae relies heavily on Ho Dong to knock sense on the others.
But yeah, season 3 clearly revolved around his abilities to knock the missions off the ballpark. Ho Dong relies on him to understand the difficult problems, Shindong relies on him to work when the horror specials destroy his psyche and the rest back his words up because none of them have the capacity to do what he can do.
1 | KANG HO DONG
After all, The Great Escape is his show. While Yoo Jae Suk is arguably Korea’s top MC, Ho Dong is the dude at number two. Ho Dong is the team’s leader and whenever Jong Min, Dong Hyun, and even Shindong’s antics get out of hand, he steps up to get the group back to normalcy.
Ho Dong’s leadership is his most important strength because everyone looks up to him. For example, when Jong-Min acted all scared in the first zombie episode, Ho Dong collared him off-cam to straighten him up. When Dong Hyun is all over the place, he is the one that reminded him that he is a UFC fighter… and a father as well… so he needs to get his shit in order.
He also takes care of his buddies – most especially their youngest member. While he gives Jong-Min tough love, he tries to give P.O. confidence.
Ho Dong also demands to know everything that is happening even if he is not a brainiac. Like Jong Min, he gets the job done by acting street smart and being mindful of the environment. I guess this is why Ho Dong looks for food while telling everyone to not mess up the clues. Sometimes, he can be a bit overacting when he finds clues but in some ways, he is also forcing an aura of competition. Ho Dong is the only person to fail in two missions – although his sacrifice played a crucial role in the zombie camp.
Then there’s his insane power. For some reason, Ho Dong can finish off puzzles by literally and figuratively destroying the clues. He can force open locks, destroy cabinets, mow down doors, turn useless objects into weapons, and yeah… use his build to get what he wants.
And lastly, Ho Dong lets the team shine. He relies on Byung Jae to unleash his mind and lets Shindong create entertaining situations for himself. He lashes out on Dong Hyun and Jong-Min for being goofballs but at the same time, their characters have become comedic focal points. P.O. also feels as if he’s Ho Dong’s pet project as he wants the kid to step out of the shadows and to not second guess his decision.
And I guess he has improved this season.
So yeah, this is why Kang Ho Dong is on top of my list.
The fourth season of The Great Escape is going to return in 2021. The third season ended with a cliffhanger so I am expecting the return of the time machine, zombies, cult machine, and even the serial killer arc. It sucks that Season 3 had to happen in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak but at least they were able to finish the season.
I just hope they can lure guests that would run missions with them. I think this is one reason why the last Season 3 mission kind of underwhelmed (although I am just nitpicking here).