Well, as per usual I’m about a month behind. I’m fairly up to date on actually watching the episodes. It’s just that the process of typing and editing my notes is a little more involved than I anticipated. But I have notes done for Episodes 3 through 6, so hopefully I can zoom through these pretty quickly and catch up. In this episode, all of the trainees get their final rankings and the first real evaluation begins. And the timing couldn’t be better, because I’m starting to want to learn more about these trainees and see who has what it takes to be Top 11.
*Warning! This recap contains spoilers for Episode 3. I’m trying to stay as faithful to my initial notes as possible, so I’m writing it like I haven’t seen the other episodes.*
EVERYTHING BEFORE THE GROUP BATTLES (aka approximately an hour of filler)
1. Final Rankings: Picking up from last episode, the trainers inform the contestants of their final level. Over half of them get moved up or down, but the real drama is with the A ranks. They have to wait until the very end, before they find out their own results – which are announced in front all the lucky ducks that got to move up. Luckily, after some drawn out suspense it turns out that they were all skilled enough to stay in A. MNET tried to fake us out with Fantagio‘s Ong Seungwoo, but I wasn’t having any of that. So we end up with 16 members in A, 17 in B, 22 in C, 23 in D, and 23 in F.
2. Pick Me! A.K.A. Center Selection: BoA emcees an extra segment to determine who gets the coveted center position for “Pick Me.” The 16 A-level trainees have one hour to prepare a one-minute performance to the instrumental version. Afterwards, everyone votes. Personally, I thought this section was entirely too long. The main takeaway is that Lee Daehwi didn’t actually win through skill, but by singing and dancing the girl’s version of “Pick Me” to the beat and then throwing in some aegyo. But it does provide a closer look at the different A level trainees.
3. It’s Finally the Countdown: We then get treated to some behind the scenes footage of the rehearsal and recording for M! Countdown. Naturally, the A trainees are delighted that they get the center stage, which happens to be a rising platform. And there’s an extra rising platform for Daehwi! All of this stuff is cool, but the downside is that it’s really difficult for the lower ranked members to watch – especially for the F level trainees, who are basically relegated to background dancers. There’s a brief sad moment when NU’EST member Choi Minki cries, frustrated with how things have turned out. But ultimately, the lower ranks turn their sadness into determination to do better in the future.
*While most of the Pledis/NU’EST trainees moved down or stayed in a low rank, Jonghyun moved up from D to B – finally scoring a small victory after a sad start to their Produce 101 journey.
*Yuehua‘s Ahn Hyeongseob is the MVP for funny moments this episode. When he got an A, he was so excited he went running up the stairs and literally smashed into the door. Which was terribly awkward. But I’m really happy for him because he was the one that Seokhoon said was so terrible last week. Sometimes you can get an A for effort!
He also really wanted the “Pick Me” center spot and was so hyped for it, but nerves got the better of him. He basically wasted his entire minute delivering an earnest speech and then frantically dancing in the last few seconds. The reaction of his fellow Yuehua trainees is priceless.
*In unlikely bromances, MMO‘s Kang Daniel and Media Line‘s Lee Woojin have struck up a friendship. Daniel has kind of been getting the cocky edit, so it was nice to see him looking after Baby Woojin and taking on an older friend/older brotherly role.
IT’S COVER TIME!
With all that filler finally out of the way, we move on to the first round. The first mission is covering iconic songs by some of the most famous boy groups. Aside from Daehwi, the groups are formed randomly. One person’s name is selected from a pool, and then he can choose the trainees he wants. Then the sixteen teams race to grab the song they want. BUT these are head to head battles, and there are only eight songs. Only the eight fastest groups will be able to choose the song that they want, and then they pick which team they want to directly face off against. Oh, and to make things even more dramatic, the winning teams get a 3000 vote bonus.
Daehwi gets first pick as an advantage of being the center. He chooses HOTSHOT‘s Sungwoon, Samuel, Park Jihoon of Maroo, Haknyeon of Cre.ker, B9‘s Jinyoung, and Yuehua’s Euiwoong. So aside from Sungwoon, he basically picked everyone who’s currently in the voters’ Top 11. Someone has clearly done his homework! I do think that Daehwi might be getting the famous MNET evil edit, but it’s obvious the guy’s a strategist. We already saw this during the center selection stage, when he hid in the upper bleachers and spent half of the time spying on Samuel. In short, he’s definitely playing for keeps.
FOR NEXT WEEK
Before we launch into the battles, we get a brief taste of all the drama yet to come. The show spends a few minutes on each team to see how they’re initially faring. I’ll leave out the two we actually get to in this episode, but here’s a preview of what I think the editors will focus on next week.
1. Shinee, “Replay” – Team 1 is stoked for this cute refreshing concept, especially since they have NU’EST’s Minki and Justin and Jung Jung from Yuehua. However, Team 2 seems to be filled more with manly men…and they are not excited at all. They even figured that they would be targeted for their non-cuteness, so they’re super gloomy.
2. Super Junior, “Sorry Sorry” – Daehwi might have formed his visual “Avengers,” but I think Team 2 is the real one to watch out for. Pledis’s Minhyun got second pick, and he chose well. He took individual trainee Kim Jaehwan for his vocals, Seungwoo for his dance, YGK+‘s Kwon Hyunbin for his visuals, Daniel for his
all-around skills noticeable pink hair (hahaha), and Jonghyun for his drive and leadership skills. There’s a little hinting at Jonghyun’s hesitance to lead (I totally teared up when Minhyun timidly asked if he’d be okay with it), but I think that’s a fakeout. I so can’t wait for their performance. Meanwhile on Team 1’s side, we have a potential Mr. Bossy Pants in The Vibe Label‘s Ha Minho – who boasts about hand-picking his members and electing himself leader. So we’ll see how that character turns out.
3. Infinite, “Be Mine” – It’s a battle between Team 1’s Yoo Hoseung of FNC and Team 2’s Im Youngmin of Brand New Music. Hoseung’s vocals are so impressive that the whole room looks up at his high notes. And Youngmin knows the choreography already. Who will win, the team with the singer or the one with the dancer?
4. Seventeen, “Mansae” – This is actually probably the saddest battle. Team 2 is made up of all the people who didn’t get chosen by anyone. They’re pretty much all F ranks, and the 1 D rank is feeling the pressure to do right by his team.
5. Beast, “Shock” – Team 2 might have some inter-group drama. Their leader Park Heeseok of GINI Stars is gunning for that center part (there’s always at least one). His teammates are misunderstanding – he just really wants to sing that one line! The rest of the members gently check him, but he clearly doesn’t get the hint. They eventually pick a different center, but some of his teammates don’t look too happy…and neither does he.
Team 1 also has a member that’s in conflict with the rest of the team. Seo Seunghyuk from WH Creative gets super impatient because they take forever to decide parts. He just wants to get practicing like the other team, but his group dawdles and jokes around. His irritation is extremely apparent. That zooming out shot of him focusing on the other team while his teammates dance around is editing gold, but I totally feel his pain.
6. BTS, “Boy in Luv” – The center debate evades no one, not even the “Avengers.” Unsurprisingly, all of these handsome guys are hungry for the center. Daehwi starts to volunteer himself, but then Jihoon starts talking about how he was a child actor. Then Samuel starts talking about he was a child actor and dancer (in the States, no less!), but leader Sungwoon chooses Jihoon. The other team’s drama seems to be that they’re against the most popular trainees, which is a position that no one envies. But they do have some notable members, like NU’EST’s Dongho and Cube‘s Lai Guanlin.
Now that we have a sense of how things are going to be, we move to the actual battles. About 800 or 900 fans are invited to be part of the audience. I was pleasantly surprised to see a mix of both males and females, although it’s still mostly women. After watching each battle, the audience has the opportunity to vote for one trainee (and they can abstain or pass it to someone else). The team with the most combined votes wins.
BATTLE #1: “10 out of 10”
|“10 out of 10,” 2 P.M.|
|Team 1||Team 2|
|Main Vocal||Yoon Jaechan||The Vibe Label||C, #60||Noh Taehyun||Ardor & Able||A, #24|
|Sub Vocal 1||Lee Hoolim||YGK+||B, #86||Yoon Young-bin||Banana||D, #67|
|Sub Vocal 2||Kim Hyun-woo||YGK+||C, #89||Hong Eunki||GON||D, #41|
|Sub Vocal 3||Yoon Jisung||MMO||D, #9||Byun Hyun-min||K-Tigers||C, #73|
|Sub Vocal 4||N/A||N/A||N/A||Ahn Hyeong-seob||Yuehua||A, #5|
|Rapper 1||Kim Taewoo||Narda||D, #44||Park Woojin||Brand New Music||A, #38|
|Rapper 2||Kim Taemin||Han Areum||F, #30||Choi Jun-young||STL||C, #81|
|Leader: Kim Taemin
Center: Yoon Jisung
|Leader: Park Woojin
Center: Hong Eunki
NOTE: The rankings listed are from the online voting results as of Episode 3
The Prep: The one thing that you’re guaranteed to see on Produce 101 is a center debate. It’s a notoriously tricky choice – everyone wants it for the attention, but not everyone has the skills or stage presence to pull it off. Team 1 is debating between Jaechan and Jisung, but they ultimately with the younger Jaechan. One trainee actually compares Jisung, who is 27 like me, to artificial seasoning while Jaechan is natural. So that really helped both of us with our age complexes. But when their center flubs his lines and choreography during an evaluation, they switch. Jaechan understandably isn’t very happy about it, but he recognizes that it’s best for the team.
With Team 2, the battle is over leadership. Park Woojin is elected leader, but Noh Taehyun of HOTSHOT knows the choreography and is oldest member. Taehyun’s take-charge style clashes with Woojin’s more mellow one, and the tension is super palpable. During the evaluation, poor Hyeongseob gets direction from both of them when he flubs in a line. In the hands down most awkward moment, Hyeongseob looks past Woojin at Taehyun. Poor Woojin ends up super frustrated, but his teammates assure him that he’s doing a good job. A leader’s responsibility is managing people, and in this case being a good leader is letting a forceful personality do his thing for the good of the team.
Out of the eight songs, I think that “10 out of 10” is one of the more difficult ones. There are others that are harder to sing or dance, but “10 out of 10” is very much from a different era of K-pop. It’s an old school style that hasn’t really endured, so the key to success here is stage presence. Team 1 did fine and certainly looked like they were enjoying themselves, but they ultimately lacked that crazy energy. They just needed a little bit of oomph or something. Jisung stood out by far, proving he is indeed the reaction king.
Team 2 is much stronger by comparison. They just seem sharper and more cohesive, and a lot of their members were able to stand out and make their mark. Their center Eunki might not have been as noticeable as Jisung, but he was certainly very capable with his dance skills and his charisma. Hyunmin from K-Tigers threw in some tricks that brought back 2 P.M.’s acrobatic vibe. And of course, an abs flash will certainly grab attention. Hyeonbseob also took advantage of his ending shot to flash a devastating wink, unsettling current wink master Park Jihoon.
The Results: In general, the members of both teams are matched against each other by position before we see the overall verdict. Most of the Team 1 boys beat out the Team 2 ones with direct comparisons. But Ahn Hyeongseob pulled in 163 votes, and Hyunmin was popular as well. This gave Team 2 enough of an advantage to win 401 to 357.
BATTLE #2: “Call Me Baby,” EXO
|“Call Me Baby,” EXO|
|Team 1||Team 2|
|Main Vocal||Kim Seonglee||C2K||A, #53||Joo Jinwoo||MMO||F, #77|
|Sub Vocal 1||Yoon Heeseok||Jellyfish||B, #32||Lee Seokyu||IT||D, #50|
|Sub Vocal 2||Jeong Won-cheol||HF Music||B, #85||Jeong Sihyun||GNI||F, #62|
|Sub Vocal 3||Kim Donghan||OUI||B, #78||Kim Dongbin||Kiwi Media||F, #25|
|Rapper 1||Jang Moon-bok||ONO||F, #8||Jang Daehyun||OUI||D, #66|
|Rapper 2||Seong Hyun-woo||The Vibe Label||B, #84||Han Minho||IT||C, #82|
|Leader: Jeong Woncheol
Center: Kim Donghan
|Leader: Joo Jinwoo
Center: Han Minho
The Prep: Both teams have some pretty major center disputes. Team 2’s Dongbin insists rather forcefully on being center, although most of the team members want to go with Minho. They can’t seem to decide who’s better at the choreography, so they choose based on who wants it more. As they later discover, that’s a really bad way to choose such an important role. When he doesn’t live up to the hype, they go with Minho. Team 1’s Hyunwoo is also forced to yield the center to Donghan after Kahi says he has no impact as center. Fortunately, he lifts his spirits by forming a close friendship with Moonbok.
In my opinion, neither performance was overwhelmingly great. Now EXO is my favorite group and “Call Me Baby” is one of my favorite songs, so I’ll admit that I was extra judgmental here. But out of all of the battles, I was the most ambivalent about this one. Appearing effortlessly sexy is the crux of this number, and neither of them really hit the mark on that. More importantly, none of the members really stood out to me except for the ones I already recognized (plus Dongbin with his drama). Overall, I think that Team 1 was more memorable. They definitely tried to tackle the smoothness of the song head on, and Moonbok did have a very unforgettable moment where he popped out behind Hyunwoo and dropped to the ground like Thor. Team 2 was fine, but just seemed a bit softer in comparison. On a side note, I find it hilarious how both teams came up with an alternative rap . Poor Chanyeol and Sehun really don’t have any rapping cred (but I still love them).
The Results: It’s a close one, but Team 1 wins 380 to 353. Moonbok pulled in a lot of votes, as did Jellyfish’s Heeseok. Someone from Team 2 grumbles that it was a popularity contest, which unfortunately it probably was.
- Park Jihoon, Maroo Entertainment
- Lee Daehwi, Brand New Music Entertainment
- Samuel Kim, Brave Entertainment
- Ong Seungwoo, Fantagio Entertainment
- Ahn Hyeongseob, Yuehua Entertainment
- Joo Haknyeon, Cre.ker Entertainment
- Lai Guanlin, Cube Entertainment
- Jang Moonbok, ONO Entertainment
- Yoon Jisung, MMO Entertainment
- Bae Jinyoung, C9 Entertainment
- Jung Sewoon, Starship Entertainment
So far the rankings have been pretty consistent, but we’ll see how this 3000 vote bonus shakes things up. Those visual trainees are still hanging on, which goes to show how much looks matter in K-pop. I finally learned why Park Jihoon is so damn popular: apparently he was a child actor who appeared on television with Big Bang like a decade ago. And I think I heard something about him being a Big 3 agency trainee once. Still pretty superficial reasons to favor someone, but it explains a lot. I’m still iffy on all of these good-looking guys because I haven’t seen what they can actually do, but I’m willing to reserve judgment until the “Boy in Luv” performance.
Episode 4 is a doozy, with six head to head battles. There’s plenty of drama, tears, and awesome performances to come!
NOTE: All GIFs and videos come from MNET’s Produce 101, Season 2 Episode 3