Part One: A confusing prelude
This episode opened with all sorts of disorientation. The global voting apparently starts now, and there are weird hardcoded English subtitles as well? This all seems kind of sudden and confusing to me. But, all of I-LAND’s delivery has been a little confusing, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.
It’s weird… I feel like I’ve watched four episodes of this show, yet nothing has really happened yet. Initially, I liked the idea of switching between the two locations instead of outright eliminations, but it doesn’t feel like there are any real stakes and the show loses tension because of that.
Part Two: The Representative Missions
Last week we saw the first representative stage: the vocal units.
The voting results end up being: 81 for the I-LANDers and 74 for the Grounders.
Oh well… I liked the Grounders performance better, but to be fair I can’t remember either of them after a week!
Next up is the dance representative performance.
This time the Grounders are going first. And, there’s a lot of hyping up of Niki’s ability. In Mnet shows, that means this is either going to be really good or really bad. In this case, the performance was super solid, even though at times it devolved into a series of choreography tricks. But, I was impressed with the variety of genres they covered, as well as the expressiveness when they performed. I’d go so far to say that this was the best single performance of the series so far. Of course, that’s not saying much.
The I-LANDers are up next, and there is a switch in members (Sunghoon for Jay). The editing seems to be setting them up for failure, or maybe a stunning reversal?
So far, I-LAND seems to be setting up Jay as a sort of “lovable loser” character. It’s making it look like either he’s not working as hard as the others, or just struggling to deliver what the competition demands. I can’t tell if this is crafting a storyline where he ultimately improves and joins the final group, or the editors are just trying to stir up drama. Either way, this behind the scenes stuff went on way too long.
And, after the feature-length behind the scenes footage, we finally get to the performance. I’m reminded yet again what an awesome song Rainism is. Other than that, I didn’t think this was nearly as dynamic of a performance, though K proved yet again that he’s one of the most exciting dancers on the show.
The final score was 154 for the I-LANDers, and 139 for the Grounders. So, apparently, I know nothing because I thought the Grounders did better on both rounds. Though with the quick editing, it’s hard to know how different our view is from the judges’.
This means that no switches will be made and everybody stays where they are. At the very least, I guess we don’t have to endure another endless voting session and cry-a-thon, though to be fair, there were still some tears shed at the end of this round. What’s a survival show without tears?
Part Three: Sulking and Scolding and Popping
It honestly looked like a funeral procession when the Grounders were heading back to the Ground. I’m surprised that the producers gave them umbrellas. I wouldn’t think that would be a perk afforded to lowly Grounders. Of course, you don’t want to mess up the hair and make-up.
On the other hand, the I-LANDers were “majestic and dignified” (according to the subtitles) as they entered their giant egg transport machine to spin around into the next room. I’m not sure how you can be a majestic and dignified when you’re standing in that thing.
Next, Rain and Zico headed to the Ground together, and I half expected them to bust out in “Summer Hate.” I would have summer hated that, but at least it would’ve brought some levity to this funeral-like atmosphere. Instead, they basically chided the Grounders about things they could’ve done better. I suppose the constructive criticism was helpful, though I don’t know how well-received it was given the fact that the guys were all already in tatters. And then, of course, Rain tells them to smile after pointing out all the things they did wrong.
Meanwhile, it’s all ‘popping in your sleep’ at the I-LAND bedroom, which sounds just as awkward as it was in reality. Still, it’s nice to see some of these more lighthearted moments, as infrequent as they are.
Part Four: The Final Twelve
The next test has the ominous name of “The Final Twelve.” Apparently, this round chooses the twelve members who will get to move on to “part two” of the competition and be eligible for debut. This is where the global votes are going to come in, so participants like Niki and Jay better be thankful for all the screen time they’ve been getting, even if their results haven’t been that great.
This round will get rid of six of the twelve I-LANDers, based on the judges votes – as well as the I-LANDers’ themselves.Then, the global vote will be spread out amongst those remaining in the Ground. This seems like a pretty good way to form the top twelve, essentially mixing the producers’ and viewers’ votes together. Though of course, it hinges on the edits and screen time that Mnet has given (or hasn’t given) to each contestant.
For this round, the guys will be performing an original song, the demo of which had all that horrible Big Hit vocal processing the agency seems intent on slathering over all of their performers. They really need to embrace a new style of vocal arrangement, one that doesn’t sound so mushy. From what little we heard, the song itself didn’t sound like much, but I’ll withhold judgment until hearing the whole thing.
Part Five: Choosing parts… and more scolding
And… now we’re back to the guys choosing their parts. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t feign interest in this process. It’s a lot of voting and lobbying and talking. Thankfully, it was edited down this time. Sort of.
We then moved into the long practice montage, which we’ve basically seen before. The choreography is apparently twice as hard as the “Into the I-LAND” performance. The guys are all stressed. They’re talking about how the international contestants might be able to garner more votes from their respective countries. And sad, dramatic music is playing as the guys give earnest voice-overs over slow-motion practice footage, sometimes in black-and-white. So… basically what you would expect from this point in the series. All of it feels quite skippable.
What I continue to find interesting is that, unlike other survival series, there aren’t really any coaches helping the guys through all these practice sessions. The producers will come in every once and a while to watch and comment, but the guys themselves really have to forge the whole performance themselves. I wonder how effective this is as a training method for actual debut? I feel like, rather than pulling themselves up without much guidance, they should be learning from experts in the field.
This lack of training has Niki considering stepping up to lead the Grounders, even though he feels guilty about contributing to their downfall at nearly every turn. The poor guy obviously has a lot on his mind, and I feel for him. I think he’s really getting an unfortunate edit. Meanwhile, Jake takes over the teaching role in the I-LAND group. He’s getting a lot of screen time this episode, unlike before.
Rain comes back to the Ground to scold the guys once more. This time he doesn’t like their passive attitude or the fact that they don’t have a leader. But, he does like the fact that Niki was blowing up a balloon for a vocal exercise. So, I guess it’s not all bad.
He says he has .1% more affection for the Grounders, but his affection has largely been displayed by yelling at them. I do think that it’s authentic, but I wonder how the guys would do with a more positive training approach. They’re getting a lot of tough love, but not a lot of building up. To me it seems the biggest thing they’re lacking is confidence, and I’m not sure that constant scolding will bring that out. But, I guess this makes for better TV. And, I’m sure they’re only showing us the more dramatic parts.
We also get to hear more of this original song during the training. And, my suspicions are further confirmed that this is not going to be all that special. It sounds very much like a rejected album track. Ultimately, this training session results in Niki taking his place as the Grounders’ leader, as cheesy triumphant music plays in the background. Mission accomplished, I guess.
Part Six: An odd edit
We end this episode with a preview of what will happen after the I-LANDers’ eventual performance. Hint: it involves a lot of tears. This flash forward was quite heavy-handed, and I hate that after all the preparation in this episode, we don’t even get to see the performance. But, that’s reality TV for you. I-LAND will do anything it can to bring you back for the next episode!
Weirdly, though, they revealed that one of the eliminated participants next episode is Seon . Yet, we haven’t even seen the performance? This was a really odd reveal to drop at this point, since it sort of upends a lot of the tension that they’re trying to build. I’ve given up trying to figure out what’s going through these editors’ minds.