I-LAND: Episode Five Recap

Episode One Recap // Episode Two Recap // Episode Three Recap // Episode Four Recap

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 Result

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.


14 thoughts on “I-LAND: Episode Five Recap

  1. I’m surprised you didn’t mention the one thing my brother and I were flabbergasted about: the fact that all of the global voting takes place before we can even see the performances. It is honestly bizarre… what’s the point of the Grounders even performing if the voting ends before we can even see them perform???

    And what’s more, we’re just expected to blindly vote for I-LANDers and grounders alike, since we’re not sure who all will be sent to the Ground from I-LAND by the producers and I-LANDers. The dramatic Seon reveal at the end will surely give him an unfair advantage over the other demoted I-LANDers that are still faceless at this point.

    I figured the global voting would just end up being a popularity contest for the people given the most screen time anyways, but it’s ended up being even more pointless than I expected.. Sigh. So frustrating.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t even really consider the fact that we’d be voting before the performance. Honestly, though, each of the performances so far have been so lackluster in their energy and editing that I don’t think a new one would change many opinions. It was always going to be a popularity contest, as all these shows end of being.


  2. I wouldn’t worry much about how pointless the global voting is, as someone mentioned in another comment, making some good points. Honestly, I’m surprised you and anyone believes the voting won’t be rigged just like they did with the Produce series. Having said that, I love wasting my time so I watched the individual videos on the voting website and I surprisingly found one trainee that I do like: Hanbi. He didn’t get much screentime but the boy is good. Much better than Niki, in my opinion, who looks more like a dancer than an idol.


  3. I only watched the two short dance performance videos. What, a full episode and only two 2 minutes performances by one-quarter of the trainees?

    I really couldn’t tell the difference between the performances, I don’t know how they were scored 15 points apart, 5 points difference each for the 3, perhaps a point or 2 each different but not 5. Add to the list of what the’s for this show. I had to search for that brief snippet of the new song demo, and fortunately someone had bootlegged one minute of it and it hasn’t been taken down yet. The demo: what the oof and doof.

    The $20m building still gets 20 million what the’s from me.

    Watching even 5 minutes of this show is un-entertaining. (Not the boys, but the show. Boys are fine, they are just kids.)

    This is state of the show for me: this morning the latest Ravi release is way way more entertaining than this show. Ravi is having the time of his life! He has his buddy Ha Sung Woon with him, and they are on a catamaran singing a tropical summer song with that wood synth plunky plunky sound. Actual fun is being had!
    There is an actual sung chorus too! It is not terrible!

    There, now that is the state of the world today: Idol survival show, bad! Ravi, not so bad!


  4. OK, gonna rant about this show, and I’m kinda curious as to Nick’s thoughts:

    I-Land’s biggest issue is that it is not entertainment. The show’s producers/editors are under the (mistaken) impression that turning on a camera and editing what happened that week down to an hour runtime results in entertainment, but it simply does not. I only watch one reality show at a time, so right now that’s I-Land, and as someone who’s watched at least one or two episodes of every major survival show (Sixteen, M&M, Under19, The Unit, and obviously the Produce series and its global adaptions.), I was trying to figure out just WHAT was up with this show. It wasn’t until I got a palate cleanser of watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race for the first time this weekend that I put my finger on it:

    Mainly, Produce’s entertainment was derived directly from its eliminations. Yes, the rankings were fabricated, but I have a hard time believing the producers rigged it SOLELY for money AGAINST the interest of what would also make INTERESTING television, they tried to do both. (Such as, Jonghyun being a frontrunner yet failing to make the group at the final hour makes for GOOD TV.) Yeah, they bungled that balance more than once (Yuri becoming Top 3, putting Chaeyeon’s ranking announcement after Sakura’s so they could get a “moment” together, and the Korean trainees pulling a “reversal” on the Japanese trainees who seemed to have them beat in the penultimate episode, all of which no one believed/wanted and can probably be pinpointed as the moment people started seeing behind the curtain.), BUT when the balance of plot vs characters is right (ie ranking and contestants), you have people saying “this lineup makes sense/it wasn’t rigged”, such as with IOI and Wanna One. It’s no different from writing a scripted drama.

    In I-LAND, now that they’ve been exposed, they’re seemingly saying “well, if we can’t control the eliminations, we can’t write a good story”. I’d honestly believe that they really ARE taking a hands-off approach and these contestant/producer votes are all accurate, that’s how directionless the series feels.

    It’s also got some construction issues: ambiance matters. Produce sold entertainment first and foremost, and it FELT like a pop show. It was fun, it had a bright color palette, and an upbeat atmosphere. It had no pretensions of making the world’s most talented band. I-LAND is desperately trying to sell trainees as “real artists” and suffers from the same problems that plague debuted boy groups also aiming for that. The set is dull, dark, gray, and black, and the contestants wear black or white. The songs are all lowkey and bassy. There’s no atmospheric interest here other than “dark”.

    Then you throw in story issues… Taki and Niki are the only contestants with a character (Kid and Heel) while every other contestant is… a desperate trainee. It’s not compelling. The I-Land/Ground split is an additional issue where the ground trainees are obviously the underdogs, yet they’re put in situations where they can never really get the upperhand on the I-Landers who have an absolute advantage over them in screentime and facilities. We’re supposed to root for the underdogs, right? It’s why Produce habitually humiliated trainees who had an advantage, such as the Avengers or Boombayah Team 1. Yet here you cannot debut if you are in ground. It plays audience sympathy against the central mechanic of the show, which means people just get shuffled around endlessly from I-land to ground and back again.

    Honestly, the show is lucky it has a Big Hit cosign: from what I see, no casual kpop fans are keeping up with this, the people discussing it are entirely BTS/Big Hit stans.


    • .
      In some order: yes, yes, sure, I agree, good point, so true, and yes.

      Especially that joyless building. Did they really have to go so cold concrete modern? There are no fun shots from any angle in that building. They should have … well they could have done almost any other concept and it would be better, but among them take a page from Silicon Valley startups with all the crazy decorations like slides between floors and trick rolly chairs instead of those uncomfortable af looking white geometric chairs. At least we could get good memes out of it.

      Fun fact: modernism can be fun too! They could have bought several dozen of of these and they would still have $19.5m to spare.
      They have a few at the kids museum we used to visit, and I couldn’t get my kids out of them literally or figuratively. Also a great ab workout.

      Two words: Ball pit! … of doom! with a climbing wall, and rope swing. Seriously, where is the climbing wall? How there could be a modern concrete building without a climbing wall. First one to the bell at the top gets immunity! Duh.

      Ice wall? Hand out the crampons!

      Or rename the ground the grass, and make the boys climb through a field of these on their walk-climbs of shame, and still have some lire to spare.

      They could even shell out a few million shekels for one of these for the boys to try to sit on, and still have some bitcoin to spare.
      (Fun fact: you can’t sit on it, even if you could. You just slide off. Hubby and I stayed at a posh NYC boutique hotel once with one of these in the lobby and did get to actually try to sit on it, nearly spilling my $30 martini in the process of sliding to a very uncool position on the floor.)


    • I very much agree with your “not entertainment” point. So much of it feels transnational… almost business-like. The editing fails to build toward any climaxes, and every round is cut into multiple episodes, which upends the momentum of the show.

      As someone who watches a fair amount of Japanese variety when I can find it, K-pop could stand to learn from its absurdity and… well… entertainment factor.


  5. First, the Grounders had had their umbrella before and after the vocal and dance unit competition.
    2nd, I had watched reality shows before, and I land is trying to break free from normal reality shows had.
    3rd, the participants have their screening time as well. If watched the vid cuts after each performance, you will see what I meant by. They have professional coaches behind. If you pay close attention to the 1st ep, they were introduced with their training background too.
    4th, let us sit back and enjoy the rest of the show. By right, these are young vibrant souls who fighting for their ambitions.


  6. Probably the only thing giving me a smidge of faith that this voting won’t be rigged is the fact that all the trainees are essentially under bighit, so there’s no need for an outside company to bribe for their trainees success.


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