Part One: Another “Fire,” and the Fallout
It was comforting to see all the I-LANDers cheering as the group scores were announced. I feel like we’re not privy to as much of this whole team support as we could be. With the editing, it seems as if all the I-LANDers are constantly after each other’s position, when I think in reality they’re probably bonding together pretty quickly. I I-LAND showed us some more of that.
The I-LANDers’ final group score was 78, which meant four people would be eliminated to The Ground. This is much better than last time, but still a pretty big blow when you consider a third of the group will be switched. And, of course the Grounders get a chance to perform their version of Fire. I’m glad they split these two performances between two episodes, because I don’t think I could stand watching two lackluster trainee performances of Fire in a row.
I’d be lying if I said I could remember many of the specifics of last week’s I-LANDer performance, but even so the Grounders’ version struck me as a bit more impactful. That could’ve been just because it was placed at the beginning of an episode when my eyes and ears were still fresh, but it felt more unified, which was the point of the round after all. I thought that Jake’s opening was particularly effective. With that said, this song just elicits nothing from me in a survival show context. There’s just not much you can do with it.
As far as I-LAND rankings, the top six were:
As first place, K can be exempt from elimination or use his exemption card on someone else. He was one of the performers who really stuck out to me last week, so I think his score was well deserved. If I-LAND had public votes, I bet K wouldn’t have even made it into the top three this round. That’s one of the reasons I prefer these shows to have judges with a background in their craft.
This reveal was followed by a lot of talking and guessing about who would be voted off. Will it be based on skill? Or personality? Or eagerness to train? K seemed to place cuteness and eagerness as important factors, and the editors played up his older/younger brother friendship with Taki.
Once voting had finished, the four unlucky I-LANDers who would be leaving were:
Honestly, Sunoo was the only one that really surprised me. I mean, he was even in the top six ranks from the judges. And he seems to have a good, amiable personality. There must have been issues that we just didn’t see as viewers.
K ended up using his exemption card on Jungwon, which also surprised me. I’m not really sure about this twist, to be honest. If he didn’t use his card this time, does that mean that he would’ve been able to keep it for the next round? Or was it a one-time thing? I just don’t know that there would ever be a situation where a top-ranked trainee would be voted to leave, which kind of negates the purpose of the card. Of course, this decision backfired for him big time, because his little bro Taki was eliminated instead of Jungwon, having received the fifth highest number of votes. The whole thing just seemed weird to me, and scripted to add unnecessary drama.
I’ll probably come across is totally heartless, but the waterworks during each of these eliminations are growing old VERY fast. I don’t begrudge the guys for feeling the emotions they do, especially in this pressure cooker situation, but it’s not like these are permanent eliminations. The whole show is structured around moving back and forth between these two groups of trainees, and we’re still only on episode four. So, it seems a little dramatic to be writing somebody off when there’s so much time left.
But, I get how emotions can be heightened in situations where these trainees are pretty much isolated and working non-stop. It’s a reality show ploy, as usual. I don’t enjoy watching it, and it all seems a little silly. That’s probably the jaded part of my personality talking, though. The editing certainly doesn’t do these moments any favors. One minute the guys are crying their eyes out like their pet just died, and the next they’re smiling and looking excited to welcome new people into the I-LAND complex. It’s pretty jarring.
Anyway, the Grounders moving into I-LAND are Kyungmin, Youngbin, Jay and Jake. Well-deserved, I guess – especially that last one.
Part Two: The Third Mission
The third test will be a representative unit, which will apparently test “sacrifice.” It’s a head-to-head direct competition. Each group will pick representatives to compete in vocal and dance units. Not everybody from each group will be performing, but they’ll be going up directly against each other — kind of like a good old fashioned dance battle. The winner will be picked from each head-to-head competition. If I-LAND wins the most total points (?), they don’t have to move anyone to the Ground. If the Grounders win, half of I-LAND will be sacrificed to the gods of Mnet. Or… maybe just sent to the Ground.
And… shocker…. the songs that the vocal units will be competing with are all from BTS! This seems odd, since I think of BTS as more hip-hop than vocal-driven. I really hope that I-LAND will branch out to other acts as well, because even though some fans refuse to believe it, there is a K-pop history that exists beyond BTS! It would be great for the trainees to explore different genres. Thankfully, the dance battles will offer more variety, with songs by Rain, Dynamic Duo, H.O.T, and G-Dragon.
I’m glad to see a switch-up in the structure of the performance rounds. I still don’t feel like I know too much about each trainee’s individual skills, so it will be nice to see a stage tailored to what they can do.
Part Three: Preparation… Endless Preparation
As usual, choosing and practicing and preparing is the least interesting part of any of these shows for me. I can only watch somebody in front of a mirror doing the same moves over and over again for so long before my eyes glaze over. Plus, the editing during these segments is always so predictable. They try to set up drama where they can, only for the final product to end up just fine.
With that said, Jay is killing me with his confidence. I’m not yet sure that it’s completely founded, but he definitely has one of the more unique personalities among the guys on the show.
What I took away most from the Grounders’ decision-making process was that Sunoo has a great vocal tone that I really like. Taki strikes me as the kind of trainee who ends up being a fan favorite, but when all is said and done doesn’t actually make the final group. I could be wrong with that, but he doesn’t seem to fit the general “type” that K-pop groups tend to favor. He’s almost too much of an individual.
Apart from those observations, this just felt like an endless discussion about who would do what part, who wasn’t up for it, and what switches could be made. It’s not all that interesting, honestly. I much prefer when the judge’s come in and scold the guys. At least that feels a little more organic, even though I’m sure there’s a lot of scripted situations being presented it as well.
I have to give it to K and the others in his dance unit. I can’t imagine performing Rainism in front of Rain himself. How incredibly intimidating. Hopefully they watch the awful Gang video a few times before hand, just to see him in his ridiculous outfit. That’s like the equivalent of picturing the audience naked to reduce nerves, right?
Before the actual performances, they showed the I-LANDers footage from the Grounders rehearsing, and vice versa. It was the first time some of the I-LANDers had seen the Ground, which was kind of cool. Also, the I-LAND set totally looks like Big Brother, K-pop style.
Part Four: The Showdown
We only got to see one head-to-head match this week, which is honestly ridiculous for an 80-minutes show.
The I-LANDers: Heeseung and Geonu – Butterfly
Both have good solid pop voices, but neither really knocked me out with anything I haven’t heard a gazillion times before. Their breathy style on this song seems to be very much within Big Hit’s preferred sound, borrowing equally from BTS and TXT (and their vocal processors). One thing I think both of these guys can work on is drawing the audience in more. It felt like they were looking down a lot of the time rather than looking out to connect with the viewers, which made the whole thing feel more unapproachable and less emotional than it could’ve been.
The Grounders: Sunoo and Daniel – Save Me
Honestly, I wish they would’ve sang Butterfly as well. I don’t really like hearing the same song twice in a row, but it would’ve been a more accurate comparison. I think Sunoo is becoming one of my favorite vocalist on this show. Daniel was a bit of a surprise as well. Both were able to pull in the audience more effectively than the I-LANDers. Part of that could’ve been the song itself, which is a little more dynamic, but I think this was just a more effective performance overall. Even so, no aspect of this blew me away.
I like this head-to-head battle approach. It’s a great showcase for the individual trainees. It actually reminds me of the singing competition show The Fan, which aired from late 2018 to early 2019. That was a super underrated series, and had a great format that was really well paced. It also introduced us to Yeji from ITZY and two of the guys that would eventually be part of MCND, among other debuted talents.
With I-LAND, I just wish it didn’t take so long to get to the actual performances. This episode could’ve easily been cut down to 40 minutes and still retained all the important moments. We need to spend less time voting, and far less time deciding who is going to perform, and when and how and blah blah blah. In general, I think this was the most boring of the four episodes yet and I can’t believe that they’re stretching this round across more than one episode. Wait… I’ve watched Produce 101. OF COURSE I can believe that!