Part One: Parting at dusk, misting at dawn
We open with last week’s eliminated trainee Geonu being seen off by the guys as he literally disappears into the foggy darkness of the night. It’s a little post-apocalyptic, isn’t it?
As Mnet likes to do, the guys’ rankings now correspond to certain privileges within the I-LAND complex itself. It really adds to the whole Big Brother feeling of the show. I wonder how motivating this actually is to the trainees? As a viewer, it feels a little extraneous.
More importantly, the top three ranked contestants get to enjoy a day off. I bet they’re itching to escape the confines of I-LAND, even if pandemic precautions limit their outside choices. The “benefits” that other ranks received cracked me up. One of the perks was literally the ability to mist themselves with a spray bottle. If that’s a benefit, I must be living high on the hog because I can do that anytime I want!
Part Two: The “Chemistry” test
The next mission is announced as a chemistry test. In my mind, this means the guys will pair up and host a talk show or comedy act or something. But, of course, it just ends up being more songs and choreography. They’ll be performing a pair of original songs called Flicker and Dive Into You. Judging just from the short previews, neither of them appeal to me.
However, the twist that’s kind of cool about this mission is that the units have to deal with stage props as well. Anyone who watched Road to Kingdom will know how important props and stage performance can be when interpreting a song. I’m eager to see how they handle the added pressure.
As the top ranked trainee last week, Heeseung gets to pick the song and members he wants. From those short clips, both songs kind of sounded the same to me. But, I guess the guys probably got to hear the whole thing.
And as expected, Heeseung chose a power team for himself. I certainly can’t blame him, and we know how Mnet loves a David versus Goliath storyline.
Jay is begrudgingly put onto the “weaker” team, and his resentment is palpable from the very first moment. He takes the leader role, intent on making sure his team wins, even though this technically isn’t a team-vs-team battle. And though I think that Jay can sometimes get in his own way, he seems to be pretty good in this role. The dynamics of his team are pretty fun.
When it comes to part selections, Heeseung’s team took a more democratic approach. But, the atmosphere felt serious and stuffy. I kind of have a feeling that this is setting us up for a surprise reversal when the actual performances happen. We’ll see. They certainly piled on the dramatic music in this otherwise neutral scene!
This “reversal” narrative is furthered as the editing shows us Heeseung’s team sleeping while Jay’s team is practicing. We’ve seen where this leads too many times in these kinds of reality shows…
Part Three: Of course my favorite I-LAND moment has to be the stupidest one…
Meanwhile, we are treated to a brief moment of Taki almost eating what looked like a paper packet? This was easily the most random few seconds in any I-LAND episode so far, and honestly one of the funniest things I’ve seen in the whole show. It just reminded me how young he actually is. The editing could do with more of these funny, innocent, unscripted moments.
Part Four: Check-ups and dog cafes
Next, we enter the midpoint check-up with the trainers, and it’s a particularly dull one. I don’t have much to say about this, except for certain members being called out for certain things. I thought that Sunoo being chastised for what’s essentially a modified version of the worm dance was pretty funny. I mean, how serious can you be when talking about a dance move like that?
In an odd swerve in tone and plot, we flashback to the outing that the top three got to experience. I always complain that we don’t see as many fun moments during I-LAND as we should, but this felt like an odd time to throw it in. Still, it was nice to see the guys having a relaxed time, and I like that they went to a dog café. Some ridiculous clothes on those dogs, though!
They also got to go ice-skating, which was a prime opportunity for Sunghoon to show off his skills. I still think it’s so cool that he’s an ice skater, and if he makes the group I hope they take advantage of that talent within their choreography.
Next, we have a vocal check-up. And, the trainer is a woman! Other than the dance battle from a couple episodes back, is this the first time that there’s been a female presence on the show? I think it’s a perspective that’s needed on the judging panel… not just as a vocal coach.
Also, it’s nice to see a little attention being paid to the vocals. Vocals are one of my personal favorite aspects of K-pop, and I-LAND has barely touched on them. In keeping with the industry’s recent trends, most of the attention has gone to dance and performance. That’s fine, but when I’m listening to a song I can’t see the dance and performance. Vocals are really, really important.
After this check-up, K gets some needed feedback about some attitude issues I think a lot of viewers have noticed. It’s a dramatic, emotional moment, and an uncomfortable one as well.
Part Five: The performances
And, we are ready for the performances! To be honest, I was kind of worried that this episode would go by without any actual songs, which would’ve felt like a total waste.
This time, the elimination will be decided by global votes, with the producers getting to pick their number one choice as well. That top-scoring trainee will have their votes instantly doubled, which will definitely affect the rankings. I think this is actually a pretty good way to skirt the line between judges and viewers, and prevent any misguided “shock” eliminations.
The Flicker team
First off, this song was incredibly dull. And, just like most of I-LAND’s performances, the vocals seemed to be mimed. It’s not that the guys can’t pull off a stage like this. It’s that this performance brings absolutely nothing we haven’t seen or heard a million times before.
In an audition/survival show like this, you would hope to find some standout qualities that would excite you about a future group. This was entirely competent, but nothing stood out to me. And without a dynamic song, the whole thing felt forgettable.
Oh, and remember last week when I mentioned how happy I was that Mnet hadn’t pulled out the tired “Avengers” line when describing a unit group? Well, that ended this week, because it’s the first thing the judges noted after this performance was over. As a huge comic book fan, this felt more like the West Coast Avengers to me. And kudos to you if you get that reference!
The Dive Into You team
Well… this song was not that great either. I’d say it’s marginally more interesting than the last one, but it’s clear that Big Hit is not bringing their “A” game when it comes to original songs for I-LAND. However, I’m instantly drawn to this group because they have personality. Personality goes along way when you’re talking about idol groups, and absent any real showcase on vocals, it’s one of the few ingredients that would really catch fans’ attention pre-debut. The lyrics to this song, though? Questionable, to say the least.
So, although I didn’t care for either song, if I were choosing which unit to support on this episode, it would be the Dive Into You team. The whole performance felt much more loose, which I think was largely due to the style of choreography. I also think that many of these members are just bigger, more expressive characters than those on the other team.
At any rate, the producers chose Jake as their number one, and he gets double the votes going into the next elimination. Good for him. I’ve seen a lot of support for him online, so I’m sure his fan base is happy.