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I-LAND: Episode Two Recap

I’m back for more I-LAND, a couple days earlier than expected! This week was more focused on preparation than performance, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have plenty of observations.

Episode One Recap


Part One: Exposition, and a Tour of Paradise

At the beginning of this episode, I felt like we finally got some clarity regarding the overall scope of this project. It seems like the final debuting group will have 12 members? Or, maybe that was already laid out last episode? I can’t remember. I tend to zone out when the shows go on and on about the specifics of the rules.

It was very cool seeing more of the I-LAND complex. I’m still impressed by the set design and world-building that went into this. It gives the show such a unique vibe.

I guess The Ground is supposed to remind viewers of a depressing hovel or something. I’ll tell you right now, it looks a lot better than most hostels I traveled through when I was younger! Lots of space, nice lighting and a natural aesthetic. Add their flattering, all-black clothing and you’ve got a home base that doesn’t seem so bad.

Also, this episode solved the mystery of the car I spotted in the background last week. I guess The Ground isn’t a place for actually living — it’s only a training spot during the day. The guys are unceremoniously driven away in the dead of night, maybe to a cheap hotel?


Part Two: Mind Games

So much of an idol’s job is showing off their charm to audiences. I thought it was interesting that the guys basically had to do this to each other in order to be chosen as one of the twelve “I-LANDers.” I don’t really like mind games in reality shows, but it did reveal personalities pretty effectively. The “voting for each other” schtick reminded me a lot of variety mainstays like Survivor.

The producers are clearly sowing the seeds for a Ni-Ki and Ta-Ki frenemy situation (and possibly Ni-Ki vs. Heeseung rivalry), but I don’t think anything is going to come from either.


Part Three: The Mission

I-LAND’s first mission is similar to Produce 101. The guys must perform the show’s “signal” (or theme) song. We’ve already heard Into The I-LAND performed by IU, and it sits comfortably near the top of the Korean digital charts even as I write this. I understand why they chose IU (um… she’s popular), but I think the track makes more sense as an idol release. Of course, IU is technically an idol, but she’s kind of gone past that classification musically.

The way this series is set up, it’s interesting how I-LAND puts teamwork first, while The Ground is more focused on individual success, as the trainees attempt to break into the complex. Not to get too deep about a show that really isn’t, but I like the contrast between collectivism and individualism. It’s something that’s been on my mind a lot in our 2020 pandemic reality, and it will be interesting to see the contrast play out. At the very least, it sets up the David versus Goliath conflict that these shows thrive on. Of those in the ground, I suspect EJ will become a quick fan favorite.

Now, full disclosure, my least favorite part of any Produce episode was the endless sitting around and talking about who is going to sing what line and who was gonna dance what dance. It always went on way too long. I find it pretty boring in this show too, but it did spark some interesting drama.

I found Jay’s audition for each part to be pretty funny, in a pitiful kind of way. I like his ambition, but you’ve gotta back it up with skill. As of now, his attempts were pretty darn rough. I’m sure he’ll improve.

Ni-Ki is clearly becoming a lightning rod of storylines already. I like his ambition too, and the producers clearly have their eyes on him as a conduit for extra drama. The tension between him and Heeseung was interesting to see, especially when it spilled over to the entire group. From the beginning, it’s seemed that I-LAND is positioning Heeseung as a frontrunner. It’s not often that these shows also paint that person in a negative light. But, the editing definitely made Heeseung look more authoritarian than I’m sure he’d like. It was probably exaggeration, but also ended up creating a pretty humbling experience for him. Hopefully, this spurs on growth rather than bitterness.


Part Four: The Confrontation

The I-LANDERS were sent through their magical gate for a confrontation with one of the show’s judges, which turned out to be none other than K-pop legend Rain.

I love how he appeared like the boss at the end of a video game level. Even the set kind of reminded me of those dark castles in the 90’s Mario games. I’ve got to say, I kind of enjoyed watching his tiger training. He really put the kids through their paces. Being a K-pop idol is like being an athlete, and I’m sure these kind of drills are not unusual in the industry. It certainly brought out Ni-Ki’s weakness as a singer.


Part Five: The Performance

Of course, Mnet has to give the guys a freaking moving stage to perform Into The I-LAND on. It’s like “the floor is lava,” K-pop edition.

Still, between this and Road to Kingdom, Mnet is killing it with their creative staging. Not being able to have a live audience sucks, but it does force creativity. I loved the celestial light up panels all over this cube-like stage. The song itself still seemed to be in IU’s key, which was confusing and didn’t allow the guys to hit the high note that becomes the climax of each chorus. As a result, this performance felt oddly lacking in drama.

Kudos to them, though, for delivering this all without any training or guidance. I really do think that collaborative aspect is one of the show’s strengths.

Unfortunately, the judges had pretty low grades across the board for this first performance. I’d have to agree with them, as no single moment or performer really stood out to me. That’s probably to be expected at this point, though, and gives them something to strive for and grow from.

Given that “eliminations” depended on the strength of the entire team, it was revealed that six I-LANDers will be moving to The Ground next episode, only to be replaced for now. It’s an interesting penalty system, and I think they’ll be a lot of fluidity between these two settings as the series goes on.

Reader, who do you think will be sent to The Ground next week? Will Ni-Ki’s underwhelming center position cost him? Or, will most of the eliminations be members who barely got any screen time anyway?

12 thoughts on “I-LAND: Episode Two Recap

  1. Honestly, I am confused why would they not give them training at all for the test? I have no idea how other survival shows work since this is the first one I am checking out. But all of them require a lot of vocal training. Leaving them to their own devices won’t exactly be helpful. Even Rain pitching in was a tad too late. Had he come in midweek or something, the performance would have been much better.

    At this point, I don’t think I mind Niki moving to the ground. Nobody stood out for me to care if they stay in I-Land or not. Hopefully, it will get better in the subsequent episodes.

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  2. My thought producers set the applicant to improve their skill by themselves, if they can survive the challenges on theyre own strenght,personalities and skills. As the show going farther i think the producers will provide trainer for dancing, vocal and personal development. I think the first stage of challenges to the contestant tackles personality test which help to create best teamwork, discovering own skill.for me i like the show very much, very different

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  3. I think this show and Big Hit in general should invest more on good vocal teachers. The vocal quality in this show is pretty average (generally speaking). Sure, this performance doesn’t portray their full potential and it sung in a higher key that they’re usually accustomed to, but even the first episode performances were lacking in the vocal area. Better vocal ability would’ve saved the “Into the I-land” performance in my opinion.

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    • I agree, but I felt the same way about most of the trainees on the various seasons of Produce 101… at least at first.

      Also, you just know Big Hit will slather their recorded work with the kind of horrible vocal effects they’ve been using on TXT and BTS…

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      • Agreed, but even in Produce 101 you got 2 or 3 trainees who stood out as potential main vocalists. Here, the best I can say is that they’re stable and have a nice vocal color but oh well. That’s one of my issues with Big Hit.

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  4. I’m still not sure how I feel about the contestants judging one another. It might be an interesting gimmick for viewers, but I hope it doesn’t lead to animosity that could continue over into the debuting group. Maybe it’s just me, but the presentation of the contestants also reminds me much more of what you would see from a Japanese idol group than a Korean one in that the emphasis seems to be on watching the boys improve rather than having their full skill set on display from the start. It’s actually a pretty smart tactic since it guarantees more of an instant appeal to the Japanese and other foreign markets which are always more difficult to crack than the domestic one, especially for a group coming from BH during this time period.

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  5. I was happy about this show until they mentioned there will be a final vote from the online audience. Mnet rigged everything they touched, I have zero trust in them not rigging this as well. It would’ve been 100 times better if the final results were decided by the producers and the trainees, just like in this episode. Now I’ll have a bad impression when the group debuts, just like I did with IZ*ONE and X1 (and I was right! they were all rigged).

    Regarding Niki, he really disappointed me. Not for his lack of singing, but because of his facial expressions. Why is no one talking about that? He’s a great dancer but his performance was boring, to say the least. He looked serious/angry/blank the whole time. I’d really prefer to have someone who is just decent in dancing but has some charisma to compensate his lack of skills. This is probably one of the reasons why I prefer girlgroup survival shows, they usually take this aspect into account.

    Offtopic: Aren’t you reviewing ASTRO’s new song? I was looking forward to reading your opinion :c

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    • I noticed that about Niki, too, which is weird because he seems pretty expressive behind the scenes.

      Probably won’t review the new Astro song, since it doesn’t have a music video. It’s okay. It kind of felt like pleasant filler to me. I just want fun, upbeat Astro back.

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  6. Between this show and what little I saw of Produce, it’d seem idol training is too focused on dancing and very little on singing. Even less here, I guess, since Big Hit seem in my opinion to have figured out that some of BTS’ main selling points are the visuals of some members and their strong personalities overall, and used that as recruiting guidelines for TXT, for example. They seem to be going the same way with this group.
    (Also, not exactly a producer’s perspective, but one of the guys here said something akin to “I’m voting out those who don’t have strong characters.” What about ability?)

    Regarding the collectivism vs individualism thing, individualism actually seemed to manifest more among the I-Landers than the ones in the Ground who, at least as edited, meshed together quite nicely and right away converged around Hanbin and just seemed more laid-back overall. I think this is something that Mnet didn’t account for when deciding on the show’s narrative. Despite all the talk of camaraderie, the ones on the I-Land “fight for survival” and seem pressured to succeed while the ones on the Ground are like “we’re all in this together”, with perhaps a hint of “we’ve been wronged”. There must be a certain feeling of fatalism too; after all, whether you go up or not isn’t even in your hands, unlike it is for the I-Landers.

    This show’s definitely gonna be about playground politics as much as ability. So my forecasted eliminations are: Heesung as a get-back vote, Ni-ki, Jay for the sad show, Jake, Youngbin might go either way (he was “wronged” by Heesung after all) and probably K, who just seems something of an outlier (and who, also, never forget, suggested Ni-ki as center. Never discount the convoluted workings of the teenage mind.)

    By the way, am I the only one thinking Mnet will push for at least 3 “eliminations” per mission as a means to create drama?

    And, finally, I might say I was quite put off when they mentioned “global voting” for the final lineup, but at least here, unlike RtK, the outcome is anything but clear and a lot of people seem to be changing biases all the time as more and more is revealed about the contestants. (Big plot twist: Choi Seon in episode 1 vs 2.)
    Besides, at least in the English and Spanish-speaking K-poppie circles where I move, the favorite ones are the ones that IMO are clearly showing more charm, if not skill, than the rest; unlike, say, blindly stanning Pentagon during RtK. (Except for Jake and his stans. The boy has been something of a disappoinment on all fronts for me.)

    But anyway, I might be more open to letting the public choose this time.

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  7. As someone who has now listened to this song more than I ever thought I would, it is not in IU’s key. Her top note is G5 so the boys’ version is down a third to a D5. At least in the recorded version. But here they are singing a D4 for the choruses, then interestingly they push it down to D3 for the last chorus.

    Now is D5 high for a tenor? Not really. It is at the top end of a typical tenor range but it isn’t or shouldn’t be an unrealistic aspiration for a lead vocalist who should be better than typical. DK and Seungkwan of Seventeen hit it and higher all the time (Very Nice has tons of D5s and higher). Kyuhyun and Ryeowook too, with R more than K. A few could belt it out still in head voice = NFlying Yoo Hwe Seung. Some could hit it as a falsetto instead = WooHyun from Infinite, probably Sung Kyu too, for example 1:40 in this one ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdOc7x0k1xI. BTS have a couple songs up thataway = Blood Sweat Tears comes to mind, that really really high part towards the end tops out at F5.

    In any case, it seems that versus the recorded, the producers took a decision to have the boys just not go there for whatever reason.

    The show itself? Not for me, these kind of talent survival shows specifically and generally. I have other things to binge watch, like latest Forestella marvel of the week of what one can do arranging a song with a hot bass and a male soprano. ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWuUP-DVVys a cover of UEFA cup theme hymn mashed up with an old cover, fantastic, with A5’s in there. Now THAT is high. That’s like Sohyang territory.

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