Warning: This recap is not spoiler-free. Proceed at your own risk!
We’ve already reached the eve of Kingdom‘s final round. And to celebrate, the show is going to pause for a… sports day.
Ironically, as much as I’ve been complaining about the lack of levity on the show, this episode is the least interesting to recap because it’s basically a typical variety show sandwiched in between Kingdom’s competitive rounds as filler.
Before we get to the fun and games, there’s a dramatic introduction of the final round’s theme, “No Limit.” (Honestly, I suspect there will be some limits…)
This round will have two parts (see? already a limit). The first part will mix and match members between the groups. Even though the guys feign total surprise at this turn of events, cross-collaboration has been a hallmark of every season in this franchise. This time, there will be a vocal unit, a rap unit, and a performance unit. This isn’t too different from Queendom, which had vocal and performance groups.
Poor Changmin’s got a lot of details to get through as part of this announcement, and they seem to drag on forever. Honestly, my eyes started glazing over as soon as he began rattling off tens of thousands of points possible for each round. Numbers are hard on a Friday.
Because of this, I think I missed some of the specifics around choosing collaborations. I guess ATEEZ gets to choose their groups since they scored highest in the last round?
Anyway, this is how it shook out:
ATEEZ chose BTOB and Stray Kids
The Boyz, iKON and SF9 become the opposing team by default.
Next, we head to Kingdom’s track meet, which I suppose is this season’s version of the retreat that the Queendom girls went on. Of course, the male version focuses on physical strength rather than emotional connections. Typical… right?
Rather than recap this filler in excruciating detail, I’ll just list some random observations. But before I do, the format here reminded me of the excellent variety series Let’s Go Dream Team, which I recommend every chance I get. It was such a great blend of idol and sports variety, and gave a much-needed spotlight to lesser-known groups. And… BTOB’s Minhyuk used to be a staple on that series, if I’m remembering correctly!
*ATEEZ’s Grungy fashion choices, complete with baggy jeans, were an interesting choice for a track meet.
*I loved hearing Crayon Pop’s Bar Bar Bar in the background of the vaulting montage. It was wonderfully on the nose.
*I need Stray Kids to re-debut as “Strawberry Kids” at least once. Is there a cute fruity concept lurking in our future?
Much respect to iKON, who play the role of the sarcastic hecklers in the sidelines. I won’t even pretend that I wouldn’t be right there with them…
*The vaulting segment was fun at first, but like so much Korean variety, it stretched out waaaaay too long. In the end, it reminded me why I usually fast forward through a good chunk of the Idol Athletic Championships each year.
*MNET Are really getting their mileage out of the slow motion shots, aren’t they?
*I wonder if Changmin knew what he was getting himself into when he signed onto this show? Hosting a sports day is an interesting look for him…
*In a move straight out of the Produce series, the guys vote amongst themselves to crown the “visual king.” Honestly, this kind of fluff rarely appeals to me. I’d much rather they have a chance to get to know each other through team-building activities or collaboration. These silly bits always feel so forced.
But just in case you were curious, here’s who the guys chose:
4. Eunkwang (BTOB) / Hyunjae (The Boyz)
3. Sunwoo (The Boyz)
2. Felix (Stray Kids)
1. Minhyuk (BTOB)
Definitely some surprises, but yay for us oldies in our thirties!
*If nothing else, it’s nice to see BTOB get some well-deserved respect from their junior groups. I can’t say they’ve ever been a personal favorite of mine, but I believe any group who has stuck it out as long as they have deserves recognition from those whose careers stand on their shoulders.
*“Catch the balloon tail” was… interesting. Not really the “collaboration” I’ve been longing for…
THE (ALMOST) FINAL EVALUATION
We’ve yet to see everything added up, but here were the results for two more of the four voting categories in the last round:
1. Stray Kids
2. The Boyz
1. Stray Kids
4. The Boyz
MY FINAL EVALUATION
Thank goodness this lasted only one episode.