Oasis – K-drama Episode 1 Recap & Review


Episode 1 of Oasis begins with Lee Du-hak and Choi Cheol-woong running through the streets to catch a parade and see Oh Jung-shin. It cuts to a beaten and tied-up Du-hak in prison in the 1980s. It again takes us back to the past with Du-hak and Cheol-woong heading to school. While they consider each other brothers, Cheol-woong’s mother is not too happy with his friendship with Du-hak as he comes from a poor, farming family.

But the two boys could care less about class and status as they are busy picking fights with their seniors like Young-tak and getting punished for reaching school late. They are somehow still the best in their class as Cheol-woong is always first while Du-hak ranks second. They later try to sneak into a movie theatre but lock heads with the unruly Jung-shin who catches them.

They end up watching the movie together after they find out her father owns the theatre. However, the seniors they fought with in the morning, spot them and they run and hide in Cheol-woong’s lumber mill. While trying to hide, Du-hak almost falls and Jung-shin catches him. The two exchange a look before turning away. Once the bullies leave, she kicks them and tells them to stay away or she will hurt them.

While studying, Du-hak can’t seem to forget her and tries to write a love letter. Cheol-woong catches him and tells him that even he likes her and that they should fight fair and square to win her. He also reminds Du-hak that they have met her before and he recalls the parade.

They spend the rest of their day at Cheol-woong’s place where the villagers are working in the courtyard. Du-hak’s father helps Cheol-woong’s father who is drunk which embarrasses Mrs. Choi. As they head in, Mr. Lee compliments Cheol-woong and dotes on him while Du-hak looks on uneasily.

Later, while heading home, Lee congratulates Du-hak as he finds out that his son came first in school but then warns him to never do it again. He tells his confused son that he can never beat Cheol-woong. Cheol-woong’s grandfather is responsible for providing them with farming land, education and shelter and as gratitude, they need to stay under the Chois’ shadow.

But Lee ends up gifting Du-hak brand new shoes after seeing that his son’s toes are peeking out from his old and worn-out shoes.

Despite the brewing drama between the two families, Du-hak and Cheol-woong hang out and visit the girls’ school to get a glimpse of Jung-shin. They wait for her after school but she stays true to her words and whacks them in the face with nunchucks. But they have a meal together and the two boys ask her to pick between them, which has her amused.

However, Du-hak sees his new shoes and remembers his father’s words about never winning over Cheol-woong. He tries to leave but Cheol-woong and Jung-shin stop him. She reveals that she will be friends with them for a year and then decide which boy to date.

They acquiesce and we get a montage of the three hanging out, going to the theatre and playing on the beach. While Cheol-woong takes the initiative to get close to her, Jung-shin always does her best to include Du-hak who tries to hold back whenever he can. When they mess around, Du-hak secretly fixes Jung-shin’s homework which she notices.

Elsewhere, Lieutenant Colonel Hwang is demoted and along with Captain Oh, he is given the responsibility of handling the year’s election at Yeosu district (home to our heroes). At school, the teacher finally announces the ranks with Du-hak ranking first and Cheol-woong second. After class, he tries to assure him that he got lucky while Cheol-woong thinks Du-hak studied hard to impress Jung-shin.

The air feels tense but Jung-shin meets them and proudly states that she ranked 190 out of 200 and the two boys laugh. They have a meal with her parents but the camaraderie doesn’t last long as mother and daughter thank Du-hak for helping her with her homework, he taking credit (as he should) and Cheol-woong looking vexed.

When Mr. Oh brings up family backgrounds with Cheol-woong’s grandfather being an important revolutionist, he uses it to put down Du-hak. He reveals that Lee was their servant after his grandfather burned Lee’s slave contract. Jung-shin is furious while Du-hak meekly thanks the Chois.

Du-hak ends up puking outside which has Jung-shin and Cheol-woong worried. She tries to help him but he tells her to back off. She ends up slapping Cheol-woong for his words and leaves. As the boys head home, Cheol-woong keeps apologizing to an unresponsive Du-hak. He slaps himself and tells Du-hak to beat him but the latter simply says he understands why Cheol-woong said what he said. 

Meanwhile, Mrs. Choi goes to meet Hwang and it is revealed that they were old lovers and would have married if not for her father’s opposition. She bribes him as she tells him to make her husband an assemblyman in the coming election. He looks sinister as he asks what she can offer in return for his help.

As for the Lees, Du-hak helps his mother with the crops and she is constantly proud of him. He scoffs as she tells him that she has saved up enough so that he can live comfortably. As he gets ready to go to school, his father tells him to stop his education and work full-time on the farm since he doesn’t have money for college. Du-hak realises it is because of Cheol-woong and begs him to let him finish high school but Lee walks away.

That night, Mrs. Choi rushes to the mill where her husband is drinking and tells him that he will be an assemblyman for the Gukhan Party but he doesn’t look too happy. She says it is for the good of the family and the country as he can take down the party from the inside but he rebuffs her.

She goes to Mr. Lee and begs him to convince her husband. It is then revealed that they are almost bankrupt as the banks are upon them. She has been funding the opposition party, Minyoung Party and Choi is supposed to be their mole. In return, they will give her a factory but she fears that if her husband turns down the deal, there will be repercussions. 

As for the boys, Du-hak is unhappy at his new farming school while Cheol-woong is beaten up by Young-tak and other bullies now that Du-hak cannot protect him.

During the election announcement, Mrs. Choi meets with Lee who seems to have convinced her husband but she still looks worried. Choi gives an inspiring speech but ends up saying he will take down Gukhan much to his wife’s chagrin. Captain Oh informs Hwang of the development who doesn’t look too surprised.

As for the kids, Jung-shin tries to get to Du-hak but he keeps avoiding her. One day, she confronts him and he points out that he is now in a farming school. She still doesn’t understand why he is avoiding her and kisses him. She tells him that she likes him and he looks shocked. Cheol-woong walks by and spots them just at that moment.

We cut back to the present with an inmate announcing Du-hak’s scary reputation in prison while he holds onto a Math textbook. He asks why our hero is in jail, and Du-hak reveals he is a murderer. There is a short flashback of him trying to wake the bully Young-tak. The inmate reveals that he is Young-tak’s brother and stabs Du-hak. As he falls, he says it wasn’t him and we see that Cheol-woong hit Young-tak in the head with a rock.

The Episode Review

Oasis gives us major Reply series vibes with the nostalgia of the late 80’s, the perfect gritty aesthetic, colourful costumes and the life of South Korea during the revolution. The kids are cheerful and happy, playing in the streets and messing around.

But that is where the similarities end with Oasis taking a much darker turn right from the premiere. Surprisingly, we see it from the moment they meet with Jung-shin always preferring Du-hak, him backing away and Cheol-woong playing dirty to get picked by her. 

As for first impressions, loveable Jang Dong-yoon has perfected the puppy dog eyes and self-martyring to a tee while we can already predict the dark turn that Choo Yeong-woo will take as the reckless and emotional Cheol-woong. Seol In-ah as the brash but bubbly Jung-shin with her already iconic kicks but kind eyes is the highlight of the premiere.

Of course, we remember Kang Kyung-hun, the shaman queen from Alchemy of Souls and with her recent stint as an antagonist, we can’t help but get a similar vibe from her class-conscious character as Cheol-woong’s mother. However, her storyline with Hwang is pretty confusing and for a cable drama where we have to wait every week for the story to progress, the election conspiracy arc could have been executed in a little less convoluted way. 

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