Part One: Mid-term Results
I must’ve missed this last week, but I guess global fans are also voting to select the group’s debut song? Is this right? If so, that’s a lot of power. It worked well with Wanna One, but I have less faith in the music that will be coming out of I-LAND based on what we’ve heard so far.
We then get to see mid-term voting results from the global votes, which is a trick that Mnet loves to do. It’s also a not-so-subtle way of steering the vote in certain directions, as those trainees at the bottom during the midterms are likely to get a boost based on the perceived danger of their position. They used this tactic in really frustrating ways on the final episode of each Produce 101 series.
4. Taki (!)
Honestly, I’m a little disappointed in this ranking. A lot of the guys that have quirkier personalities seem to be towards the bottom, at least in my opinion. I’m a little ashamed to say that there were a few guys in the middle rankings who I still know nothing about. That’s probably more to do with my waning interest in the series than their actual skills or personality, though.
Part Two: Refreshing vs. Explosive
The next mission is a concept test, which will either be categorized as “refreshing” or “explosive.” Why can’t it be both? I’d like a K-Pop’s group performance to explode refreshingly, for once.
And, as teased in the last episode, Seventeen sent a video message to introduce a mini mission, where the guys will be covering two of their songs. Now that they’re part of the ever-expanding Big Hit empire, I guess they’re bound to get roped into these sort of things. I’ve got to say, though, I-LAND picked two really good Seventeen songs for the guys to work with. Pretty U and Hit are both emblematic of their concepts, and take a lot of personality and energy to pull off. Hit, especially, has some really tricky choreography. And, Pretty U relies so much on character and expression that it will be interesting to see if these guys can pull it off.
To make things even more stressful, this mini mission needs to be completed within a day. That’s not very long to perfect a performance like this. I wonder how many of the trainees have already studied these songs as part of their training? I mean, they’re pretty popular ones.
Part Three: Seventeen, in the flesh
These practice sessions were actually very entertaining. I was especially charmed with Sunghoon’s difficulty in being “refreshing”. As someone with a self-identified “resting bitch face,” I can totally relate. Maybe that’s why I tend to like refreshing concepts? It’s something I could never pull off.
Then, the big moment comes. Four members of Seventeen enter the I-LAND complex, thoroughly freaking out the trainees. At first, I thought they were just coming to give the guys some pointers, but since this is a mini-challenge there’s really no point to it beyond fun interactions.
It’s funny, I feel like I’ve rarely seen Seventeen in this mentor role. It seems like just yesterday that they debuted, so seeing them as elder statesman in the industry is pretty gratifying. I may not always love the direction their music’s currently going, but they are a force to be reckoned with. I would be nervous and honored to perform in front of them if I was one of the trainees.
I’ve got to say, both teams did really well in this “evaluation”! In fact, this is the most I’ve been entertained by any of their performances so far, and it wasn’t even a real performance. Maybe I just love the songs too much to be unbiased, but there was a lightness to both performances that felt less rehearsed. Maybe they should only be given a day for each actual performance from now on! Even the mentoring session between Seventeen and the guys felt loose and unforced.
As a sidenote, I don’t think there’s any way the choreography from Pretty U could NOT make you smile. It’s just so ridiculously fun.
And, the Pretty U team wins this mini challenge, which gives them the advantage of picking their song for the main challenge. Sunoo was chosen as the MVP, which isn’t surprising since he’s basically made for this concept.
Part Four: A midnight screening
Next, the guys are called out to the yard to watch a compilation of videos from their global supporters. So, for viewers like us, this is basically filler. I’m sure it was nice for the guys though. Apologies in advance to any of my readers who might have been featured in these videos! You’re certainly not filler. I’m just a grumpy old curmudgeon who’s way too cynical about this stuff. Some of these videos were really cute, I guess.
This heartwarming display is quickly followed by some Q&A, which is the very definition of “content that should have been relegated to an after-show.” I’m not really sure what we’re waiting around for at this point. It’s been a while since we’ve kicked somebody off. Get on with it, producers! I mean it’s not like I want to see anybody go, but we’re already ten episodes deep here. We need to keep things moving.
We’ve now entered the part of the program where the producers are just leaving breadcrumbs everywhere, and the guys are aimlessly walking around from projector screen to notebook to chair, reminiscing and crying. Up until this point, I was thinking that this was probably one of my favorite episodes of I-LAND so far. But, this extended fan appreciation portion has just brought the momentum to a halt. I mean, it’s nice to see more of the guys’ personality, but not at the expense of forward movement when it comes to pacing. On a side-note, I’m always impressed with fan art. As someone who can’t draw at all, some K-pop fans are very, very talented in that regard!
Part Five: “Cream” of Dreams, and a breakdown of “refreshing”
It’s time for the third test song. And, for the first time I can remember, the narration is referring to I-LAND’s weird egg room as “the lobby.“ I don’t know why that word made me laugh so much. It reminds me of a dentist office or something, and I-LAND is certainly unlike any dentist I’ve ever been to.
Also, the subtitles I was watching briefly miss-labeled one of the mission songs as “Cream of Dreams,” instead of “Dream of Dreams.” That brought up connotations that I’m sure the producers were not intending!
As usual, neither of these songs sound that great from the short clips. I used to consider Bang Sihyuk one of K-pop’s most solid composers, but he really isn’t bringing his “A” game to this series. All the songs so far just sound like weaker versions of other songs. It makes me wonder what kind of sound the winning group from I-LAND will debut with. Hopefully they’re given their own style, and not just a hodgepodge of boy group tropes with bad Big Hit vocal arrangements. My expectations aren’t particularly high, based on the music we’ve heard so far.
Like earlier, the two songs are divided into dual concepts: Refreshing and Explosive. Yet again, I ask, can’t we be explosively refreshing? Or refreshingly explosive? I mean, these adjectives are vague as hell, anyway. And while we’re at it, can we get Golden Child through that magic egg to show how to properly do refreshing? They’ve got it down to a fine art.
I think for the refreshing concept to work, you have to have a sense of humor about it. You can’t be openly mocking it, or being ironic about it. You almost have to have an authentically goofy, awkward part to your personality. I think that’s why I tend to like groups that debut with a more refreshing concept. It shows me they’re not taking themselves too seriously, which I find charming. It’s a fine line, though. A refreshing concept can easily come across as cloying, or downright juvenile.
Part Six: Jay’s not-so-secret messages (and more tearful projector time)
Based on his midterm ranking, Jay is convinced that he will be the next to go. So, he’s written letters for each of the guys to open after he leaves. The way this is being edited, I’m almost certain that he will not be the next one to go. Either way, his personality has really become more charming is this series has gone on.
Of course, most of the guys immediately opened their letter, even though Jay told them that it was meant for later. And, the producers chose to linger on this moment, which feels really weird. It’s like holding a memorial for something that hasn’t even happened yet, and may never happen.
And… the episode brings us back to that damn projector screen. Seriously, enough with the messages to each other… to their fans… to their cat… to the nearest tree. This episode easily could have been cut to under an hour without all this sappy stuff. These are the segments I would expect to see as part of a finale episode, not this random one. Back to the “refreshing” pillow hugging, please! (And, I never thought I would have said that…)
This sap-fest is neither refreshing, nor explosive.
Part Seven: Elimination
Apparently, we won’t be getting any sort of a performance this time, as we move straight into the elimination. Now I realize why this has felt like such a filler episode. Produce 101 had the same problem as well. They dragged out their elimination episodes, padding them with all sorts of fan service.
Anyway… onto the elimination:
3. Jay (refer back to paragraph two, please!)
4. Hanbin (ditto)
11. Taki (ouch…)
I’m honestly a little surprised by this result, especially with how high Taki was ranked in the midterms and how much screen time he’s gotten lately. But, I’m even more surprised by Daniel’s placement, which has really tumbled over the past couple of weeks.
Now, we’re down to ten. Who do you all think the final seven will be? At this point, I’ve got a soft spot for Sunghoon, Niki and Jay.