Part One: Clarification?
We got some more clarification regarding the final group at the beginning of this episode. At least… I think we did? It seems like we’re working towards an act that won’t actually have twelve members. Making it into the final twelve only means they’re in contention for debut. I wonder what the plan is once the series is finished? Or will debut be part of the finale?
Part Two: Moving Up, and Moving Out
It’s interesting how members get to know their individual scores after a performance, but they’re not shared with the whole group. This obviously increases the psychological aspect of the voting, but I’m not sure it’s the best tactic to form an actual K-pop group.
We didn’t get to see every score, but it was revealed to viewers that Jungwon got the highest score of 75 and Jacob got the lowest score of 40. Niki’s score was higher than I would’ve expected based on all the dramatic editing around him and his failure as the group’s center during the first performance.
This being Mnet, I’m kind of surprised that they didn’t make the boys wear their score as a mark of shame. Though, once it was time to banish six of them to the Ground, they did proudly display the vote totals in front of everybody so the poor guys could see just how unpopular they were with the group. The voting has potential to be interesting from a sociological point of view, but I’m glad that it didn’t drag on. Voting in general is pretty boring to watch.
When all was said and done, Youngbin, Daniel, Jake, Jay, Nicholas, Niki were voted out of the I-LAND compound. Niki was pretty telegraphed by the amount of focus the producers have been giving his “storyline.” The rest were either people that they haven’t shown much or ones with (presumably) low scores. No judgment to the guys and the pressure they’re under, but the sobbing after elimination was a bit much. It’s not like these boys are being sent to their death! They have every opportunity to make it back into the facility. And really, being in the Ground towards the beginning of the series is probably better from an empathy standpoint. Everyone loves to see a success story, and a story arc.
On the flipside, the Grounders that progressed into I-LAND were decided by the judges (sitting in their creepy hideout observing everyone like Big Brother). The new I-LANDers were Taeyong, Jaebeom, EJ, Yoonwon, Sunoo, and Taki. To be honest, even though I’ve been watching the show and writing about it, I feel like I know nothing about most of the guys that moved up. I am starting to develop a soft spot for EJ, though (and Sunoo, after this episode).
I know I was just rolling my eyes at over-dramatic sobbing, but the emotion displayed when some of the I-LANDers and Grounders “reunited” made me think about how these trainees really do become family to one another. Obviously, the editing is emotionally manipulative, but I’m sure these guys spend more time with each other than they do their actual families, so being separated for even a couple of days probably feels pretty jarring.
Part Three: The Second Mission
The second test is a teamwork mission. Honestly, teamwork is kind of a funny thing to be testing when your whole show rests on the conceit of the guys voting each other in or out. That shady situation makes “teamwork” a tricky proposition.
The mission consists of the trainees performing BTS’s Fire (get that cross-promotion, Big Hit!), with an added dance break where they basically have to climb on top of each other so that if anybody makes a mistake the whole performance collapses. Scoring criteria is the same as last week, except for the fact that the highest individual score will be exempt from elimination, and if there are no dropout candidates from I-LAND, the Grounders’ Fire performance gets canceled. Also, a new Teamwork score is added to the mix.
Part Four: The Position Selection
Now, we’re back to my least favorite part of these survival shows: the choosing positions section. This part always drags on, and honestly I don’t care who’s going to be sub-vocal 5 or sub-vocal 6. Although, I did find it funny how Jay in the Grounders immediately wanted to take charge of picking positions. We have not forgotten the embarrassment of last week, where he couldn’t get anything he wanted. He wound up being the center by default this time, which is… interesting. I don’t know… I appreciate his ambition, but right now I feel like it outstrips his skill level. I’m sure he’ll surprise me.
Heeseung clenched the center position for the I-LANDers, which probably should’ve been the case for the first round as well. It was interesting to see how submissive the former-Grounders were in the position selection. I’m a little surprised that they didn’t want to pick more prominent positions than the I-LANDers in order to stand out, but I guess this is comparable to senior and junior artists within the K-pop world. Though they’re all trainees, there does still seem to be a natural hierarchy at work.
Part Five: Down Time
The I-LAND item room might as well just be renamed “product placement” room. It seems as if Mnet and Big Hit are all for cross-promotion whenever possible. I guess I’ve got to give it to them. They know how to make money.
It was nice to see some downtime in between the voting and rehearsing, though not much actually happened beyond some carefully edited fan service. K and Taki got some good screen time. So did Sunoo. His personality is really sticking out to me in a good way. So many of the trainee interactions and relationships during this segment mirrored those that made certain contestants so popular during Produce 101. The editors know what they’re doing.
Upon switching to a different setting, it was interesting to see the contrasting reactions between the new I-LANDers and Grounders. The former Grounders seemed almost uncomfortable in the sterile, competitive environment of I-LAND. And the eliminated I-LANDers seemed to question why the Grounders weren’t practicing harder and taking things more seriously.
I’m not sure if Niki’s just getting an evil edit (wouldn’t be the first time!), or if he really is as hotheaded as the show is depicting him. He seems to be the one that’s butting heads with everybody each episode. I’m not sure if this bodes well for him once public voting starts. But, we’re still early in the series.
Part Six: Mentoring
This time, Rain visited the Grounders for evaluation, in a much less dramatic manner than last week. I swear, this man does not age. Whenever he’s on screen, I remember how much I enjoyed watching him in The Unit. He’s got a good manner as a mentor. Tough, but not unnecessarily mean. Plus, he knows what he’s talking about. But when he does get harsh, he’s a pretty imposing presence. The boys crumble in front of him, which makes for a pretty entertaining TV. I could watch him teach vocalization all day long. It’s very endearing.
Meanwhile, Zico visited the I-LANDers. Honestly, I find him less convincing as a mentor. But, that’s probably because I find him less convincing in general.
It’s interesting how both teams skipped the drop and catch climax of the choreography. I understand why they were hesitant, but you would think you’d want to prioritize that bit early, so that you’d feel extra confident when you actually had to perform it. With that said, you’re not gonna catch me pulling off any human pyramid moves anytime soon!
In grand survival show tradition, the judgment for the I-LANDers was “the worst of the worst”. I love how they always edit these evaluations to look like the most horrible performance ever made, only to have a “magnificent turnaround” when it’s time to unveil the finished product. Poor Taeyong got the part at the bottom of the formation that “has to be stepped on all the time.” You never really think of those positions when watching a K-Pop performance, because they’re usually hidden by other members. But, I imagine it would be annoying to be stepped on or act as a human staircase time after during promotions.
Part Seven: Fiiiiiirrrreeee!
The final performance was fine, though the LED lights around the stage on these Mnet shows always make the video quality look so poor. It does no favors to the actual staging. And, comparing these performances to the ones on Road to Kingdom, you can really tell the difference between established acts and trainees. As far as individual trainees that caught my eye, I would say Heeseung and K were my personal standouts. And, I feel vindicated with those choices, because, I picked those two before watching the judge’s critiques. They seemed to agree.
Altogether though, I don’t think Fire is really a song that suits at twelve-member group. There’s just not enough for all of them to do. This was passible, but nothing exciting. You could kind of feel the strain, especially during the more stunt-heavy parts of the performance. I would love to see these guys grow into stronger performers, but so far I-LAND’s format is not really supporting that. It seems like all it’s doing is stressing them out.
The final scores weren’t revealed completely, but they seem to be better than last week. Even so, at least one person from I-LAND will be eliminated next week, and we’ll get to enjoy the Grounders’ performance of Fire. I’m sure it will be pretty much the same as the one we just saw, but in all-black clothing!