Part One: Narration, of course
We open with tons of explanation about the votes: which countries they’re coming from, who is ranking first place in each country, etc. To be honest, I rarely vote for these types of shows. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever actually voted for an Mnet show before. The closest I’ve come is streaming performances for Road to Kingdom, which didn’t end up being part of the vote anyways (even after the show promised it would). So, all this discussion of voting just makes my eyes glaze over.
I’ve got to say, these ultra-serious Namkoong Min narrated openings to each episode crack me up. It’s like they’re trying to make this series into Shakespeare, when it’s barely penny theatre.
Part Two: You guessed it! More discussion about who’ll be taking which part
We move into I-LANDer discussion of who’s going to be doing which part, and which parts ended up switching as practice went on. Blah blah blah. We’ve seen this all before. I wonder how a more creative editor would choose to present this behind the scenes footage. At this point, it’s almost as if an AI is programming what we’re seeing.
Seriously, though, we spent like a fifth of this episode talking about the performance’s “killing part,” and the drama that spawned from switching members. I just don’t care, and I suspect few viewers do. It would be enough to mention that the position was switched, and then move on to the performance. But, that’s why I’ve never quite understood the appeal of these kinds of shows. I mean, I watch them, but I always feel like they could be edited down to about 45 minutes and play much better than they do now. And speaking of running time, this episode was much shorter than the previous ones. Yet, it still moved at a glacial pace.
Part Three: An I-LAND haunting?
Next, we’re treated to a little “ghost” schtick. This is an evergreen prank on all the Produce series, so I wasn’t surprised to see it show up here as well. At this point, I wouldn’t be shocked if the producers themselves hung Halloween decorations in the corners of the I-LAND rooms just to spur some drama.
In this case, the boys suspected a haunting of some sort. Never mind that I-LAND is a studio set, presumably built only months ago. Unless any of the construction team had perished, I don’t see how an errant ghost could be haunting the trainees. At any rate, this was the “cute” part of the episode, designed to make viewers fall in love with these personalities. At this point, though, I don’t feel like I really know anybody’s personality on the show. And, I’ve been watching for six episodes.
Part Four: More practice, with a heaping dose of self-doubt
Next, we go to the Grounders, who are practicing the same song. It’s basically cut and paste from what we saw moments before: trainees worried about their positions, what to do in those positions, and how to get the choreography correct. However, I always feel like the Ground has a lighter energy than I-LAND. It really shouldn’t be the case, since it’s the punishment zone, but I always find the guys in the Ground to come across as more appealing. But, I have a thing about rooting for underdogs.
Back at I-LAND, we get a little backstory on EJ, who has been a trainee at Big Hit for a long time, and is always told that he has “potential.” He’s never told that he has fulfilled that potential, though. This was all very heavy-handed, as expected from reality TV, but it’s the type of thing that the show needs more of. Even little details like this inspire a sense of empathy that makes you want to root for these kids. I feel like I know so little about most of them, and almost nothing about their backstories.
Part Five: The I-LANDers’ performance, and its aftermath
Another problem with this show is that all these performances come off as so underwhelming. There’s so much buildup (sometimes hours and episodes of it) and the final product just feels oddly disposable. Part of this is due to the fact that there’s no live audience, but Road to Kingdom was at least able to shoot the performances in a way that elicited excitement. I-LAND’s cinematography during these songs feels like that of a behind the scenes fan cam. There’s no drama or dynamism to it.
As far as this song goes, it’s forgettable and rather faceless. It wasn’t bad, but I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to listen to it. And, at this point, I feel like the guys should be showcasing more individual skills. Not one of them has a real distinct voice or performance style, which makes it hard to imagine them as a draw within a group.
Once they debut, I’m sure they’ll be polished and exciting, but right now I’m not getting anything I can’t see in a million other boy groups. No unique tones are cadences. No real standout charisma. That’s probably too much to ask at this point, especially since they’re still all trainees. But, if I was a producer looking to form a group, I’m not sure that I would be super inspired by what we’ve seen on the show so far. The judges seem to be impressed though. I’m sure the performance comes across quite differently from their vantage point.
And in a moment of Mnet cruelty, I think guys themselves have to choose three members to eliminate. Though, it’s not really an elimination, it’s just sending them to the public vote. Still, it seems needlessly mean.
As the guys make the decisions on who to vote for, we get more of that funny, self-serious narration, where Namkoong Min looks off into the distance at some mysterious audience. I like to think of him as just rambling to himself in a dark room, ignored by anyone who might pass by.
Next, we rattle through the scores of each of the I-LANDers, with some commentary from the judges. Boring, boring, boring. It all feels so purposeless. It’s like, the show speeds through some moments, while lingering endlessly on others. And, it usually chooses the wrong moments to spotlight.
The three eliminated members, voted on by the I-LANDers themselves, are: Youngbin, Kyungmin, and Jaebeom. I can’t say I can recall a thing about any of these three trainees. That might just be my ignorance, but I also don’t think the show has done a good job spotlighting them.
The three eliminated members from the producers/judges’ votes are: EJ, Seon, and Geonu. I definitely recognized more of these trainees, though I don’t know that I could point out what they did wrong that others did better.
And, cue the waterworks. Look, I’m not some heartless person. I get that this is emotional for the guys, and I don’t begrudge them for being emotional. But, these episodes are devolving into a formula. Perform, eliminate, cry, and get in that weird egg to spin around. It’s all meant to be dramatic, yet it’s so predictable.
Part Six: Welcome back to the Ground, and more “parts” discussion
The Grounders are, of course, surprised at certain members being eliminated and sent to the Ground. They haven’t yet had a chance to perform, though I’m not sure their performance really matters in the long run since global viewers have already been voting before even seeing it.
The Grounders get a message from the producers to re-distribute their parts for the final performance. At this point, I about throw my phone at the screen. If I have to endure these guys talk about who is going to sing what part one more time, I am going to personally fly to I-LAND and reek havoc on that spinning egg so that nobody can perform at all. These segments are just so boring! There’s got to be a more entertaining way to address this part of the practice.
Part Seven: A thrilling twist? (In my head, at least…)
Meanwhile, our narrator moves out of his dark room and walks through a hallway of I-LAND. Maybe he’s the ghost haunting this set?
He continues to barely look at the camera, dryly reading rules and plot before emerging in the outside world. Is he headed to the Ground? This is honestly the most riveting part of the show so far. I need an I-LAND where he’s some sort of super villain, and the trainees have to team together to overcome him. I guess this is how boring the show has become. I’m imagining alternate variety series that would actually make me more invested in these trainees.
Part Eight: The Grounders’ last chance
And, we end the episode with all sixteen Grounders performing the same original song that we saw at the beginning. They’ve got much cooler outfits than the I-LANDers did. They look ripped from some fantasy film, which would be infinitely more compelling than the cut and paste performance we actually get. There’s not much to separate this from the performance we saw earlier.
I happen to be more partial to some of the performers in this group, but other than that there are still no unique tones or performance styles that might catch my eye during a normal weekly music show. It all just kind of blends into generic boy band performance 101. Interestingly, the subtitles include each performer’s age and nationality as their parts are shown on the screen. The producers are really trying to highlight this global voting initiative. I wonder how many people are actually voting?
This song ends with the lyric: “it might even blow your mind.”
Well… It didn’t. Maybe next time.