I’ve been trying to avoid spoilers for the final episode before I can watch a subbed version, so suffice it to say this weekend was hard. In an effort to curb my curiosity, I’m committing myself to finishing all my recaps. And for those of you who are catching up, there’s still plenty of drama to come. The first eliminations were fairly predictable, but the second ones have a lot of surprises. It’s not that hard to figure out who survives (for the most part), but determining the actual rankings is a real guessing game.
*Warning! This recap contains spoilers for Episode 8!*
CONCEPT EVALUATION: THE SORTING
A few episodes ago, we saw previews of five original songs with five different concepts. The boys will once again be separated into teams, and the voters determine who gets what song. The trainees then prepare a stage based on their concept and perform in front of 2,000 people. The audience can vote twice: once for their favorite team, and once for their favorite trainee in that team. The winning group receives 220,000 benefit votes – 100,000 for the most popular trainee (!!!) and 20,000 each for the rest.
Before we head into eliminations, BoA gives everyone a more in-depth look at the different concepts. She then splits the trainees into groups, but the groups don’t know which song they will be performing until everyone gets their assignment. We take a brief moment to address the “voting controversy” where three trainees (Kang Daniel, Kim Dongbin, and Lee Kiwon) – indicated which songs they wanted on SNS. As a penalty, they must go last and are sent to whichever songs still need people.
There’s a lot of drawn out suspense and teams guessing their songs, but I’m just covering the basics. Though many trainees will be eliminated by the end of this recap, I’ve listed some more recognizable names so you can get a sense of each team’s vibe:
1) “I Know You Know” (Blue Group)
Producer: Shin Hyuk (Joombas Factory), known for hits like EXO’s “Growl,” Shinee’s “Dream Girl,” and Justin Bieber’s “One Less Lonely Girl.”
Genre: FUNK/SYNTH POP. It has an 80’s/90’s retro sound similar to Bruno Mars.
Notable trainees: Kim Taedong, Kwon Hyunbin, Seo Seonghyuk
2) “Oh Little Girl” (Yellow Group)
Producers: Kiggen and ASSBRASS, composers of Monsta X’s “Trespass”
Genre: HIP HOP. It’s not the kind most people would expect; it’s more funky and cute.
Notable trainees: Jang Moonbok, Park Jihoon, Park Jinyoung
3) “Show Time” (Red Group)
Producers: Lee Geunwoo, ASHTRAY, and Oh Seunghwan
Genre: NU DISCO. (Their package shows the slow sentimental ballads they composed, so I think the genre change is hilarious) It’s a bright and upbeat number about the boys’ excitement to debut.
Notable trainees: Kim Samuel, Noh Taehyun, Yoon Jisung
4) “Open Up” (Black Group)
Producers: Devine Channel, known for hits like BTS’s “Fire,” Vixx’s “The Closer” and “Shangri-La,” and Triple H’s “365 So Fresh”
Genre: FUTURE EDM. A passionate and sexy song where the man asks his lover to open her heart to him.
Notable trainees: Kang Daniel, Kang Dongho, Kim Yongguk
5) “Never” (Pink Group)
Producers: Triple H – the crowd goes wild when they see Hyuna.
Genre: DEEP HOUSE. An emotional story of a man trying unsuccessfully to forget his ex.
Notable trainees: Kim Jonghyun, Lee Daehwi, Ong Sungwoo, and basically all my faves.
You can learn more about the producers here.
CONCEPT EVALUATION: THE CENTER DEBATE
Since this is before eliminations, the groups have more members than they actually need. So there’s a chance many won’t perform the song they’ve been preparing. Even if they survive, they could be reshuffled into another team (the limit is seven members). Therefore, the pressure is on for everyone to prove they belong where the voters placed them. Each group splits into two temporary teams for rehearsal, electing two temporary centers. If you didn’t get enough center drama from the last two episodes, you’re in luck!
Lee Euiwoong wants to be center for “Oh Little Girl.” His rank has been slipping every week, and he sees an opportunity to climb up. Unfortunately, he’s eclipsed by higher-ranking members like Jihoon and Choi Minki. Though disappointed, he isolates himself in order to focus on his part. It pays off when both Kahi and Don Mills praise him in their classes. He’s not the only one with the drive to survive. Yeo Hwanwoong, also sensing he could be eliminated, goes the extra mile in convincing his members and wins center for “I Know You Know.” He too gets praised by Kahi.
Ha Sungwoon is #27, but everyone else in “Never” is much higher. He’s hungry for center, but the others choose Lai Guanlin and Hwang Minhyun. This makes him feel burdened because he’s the only one extremely close to the cutoff. The others are competing to be able to perform “Never,” but he’s competing to stay on the show. This desperation works in his favor when he’s the only one willing to dance solo for Kwon Jaeseung, who points out how his hunger to survive means he will succeed.
Meanwhile, “Show Time” has four center candidates. Kim Samuel and Yoon Jisung are more popular and have good stage presence, while Park Woodam and Yoo Hoeseung have the vocals needed for the part. The group goes back and forth on what’s best for center, but ultimately decides that the look and feel is most important. I think it’s interesting that the boys (and the show) mainly define the center as the person with the “killing part.” The examples they show – BTS’s Suga in “Fire,” Seventeen’s Minggyu in “Mansae,” and GOT7’s Jackson in “Hard Carry” – are all really just the catchphrases of the songs. I personally think the center has a lot more responsibility than that. But it’s fun to see all the teams using the cringeworthy “expression battle” method to choose.
The “Open Up” team doesn’t have center drama, but it does continue the saga of “leader Daniel.” He’s picked because he’s the most experienced dancer, but he makes a rookie mistake by only focusing on the temporary team he’s assigned to. He realizes his error when Kahi praises his group and his leadership skills, then puts the other half of the trainees through their paces. Luckily, he quickly makes sure everyone is up to speed and it ends on a happy note.
THE OBLIGATORY FUN INTERLUDE
Byun Hyunmin and Hoeseung host this segment to determine the strongest trainee in Produce 101 through the classic punching machine. Dongbin racks up a high number for his tiny stature. He’s eventually replaced by Seonghyuk, who won all of those arm-wrestling plank battles. But the big surprise is Kim Donghyun. His Brand New Music friends are fulling expecting him to fail when he beats Seonghyuk with a whopping 947.
Donghyun can’t rest easily, because everyone expects resident strong man Dongho to clean up the competition. He punches the machine coolly, but gets the exact same number. There are no ties on this shows, so they have to go head to head in another nerve-wracking match. Donghyun doesn’t know if he has it in him, but manages to push the score up to 949. However, in the end Dongho manages a 950 and claims the title.
Bonus: The hilariously awesome story of Sungwoo posturing big time, only to fall flat on his face when he doesn’t even come close to Seonghyuk’s score
This time there were 55,365,681 total votes – that’s like the whole population of South Korea! I think at this point we’ll recognize most of the trainees that make it, but I’ve still list them by their team and onsite ranking within their group. Once again, last place is revealed after first place.
34. Kwon Hyunbin, YGK+ – Vocal/”Downpour,” last place
33. Kim Yehyun, Widmay – Vocal/”If It Was You,” last place
32. Jang Moonbok, ONO – Rap/”Fear,” last place
31. Takada Kenta, Star Road – Vocal/”Spring Day,” last place
30. Lee Gunhee, RBW – Vocal/”Amazing Kiss,” first place (top trainee)
29. Kim Donghyun, Brand New Music – Rap/”Boys and Girls,” 2nd place
28. Park Woodam, HF Music Company – Dance/”Pop,” 5th place
27. Kim Sanngyun, HUNUS – Rap/”I’m Not the One You Used to Know,” 3rd place
26. Lee Woojin, Media Line – Vocal/”Spring Day,” 2nd place
25. Ha Sungwoon, Ardor & Able – Vocal/”Downpour,” 3rd place
24. Seo Seonghyuk, WH Creative – Vocal/”Amazing Kiss,” 3rd place
23. Lee Euiwoong, Yuehua – Rap/”I’m Not the One You Used to Know,” last place
22. Kim Taedong, The Vibe Label – Dance/”Shape of You,” 2nd place
21. Noh Taehyun, Ardor & Able – Dance/”Shape of You,” first place (top trainee)
20. Choi Minki, Pledis – Vocal/”Playing With Fire,” last place
19. Ahn Hyeonseob, Yuehua – Dance/”Get Ugly,” 4th place
18. Kim Yongguk, Chun – Vocal/”If It Was You,” 1st place
17. Jung Sewoon, Starship – Vocal/”Playing With Fire,” 1st place
16. Kim Samuel, Brave – Dance/”Get Ugly,” last place
15. Yoon Jisung, MMO – Vocal/”Downpour,” 4th plae
14. Park Woojin, Brand New Music – Dance/”Get Ugly,” 1st place
13. Yoo Seonho, Cube – Vocal/”Downpour,” 1st place
12. Bae Jinyoung, C9 – Vocal/”Downpour,” 4th place
Some Highlights and Observations:
*Seonghyuk once again pulls a reversal and shoots up about twenty places, avoiding elimination. BoA asks him if he had planned another dinner with his family, and he replies that they ordered chicken this time and he’ll have to eat the leftovers.
*Minki is the first person to get over one million votes, at Rank #20. BoA asks Jihoon if he’s wiling to let Minki be center for “Oh Little GIrl”, and Jihoon replies he’ll at least consider it. This pretty generous, because Jihoon volunteers for center every time.
*Ahn Hyeongseob takes time thanks Park Woojin, who has been in every mission with him up until that point and has helped him out a lot.
*Jung Sewoon takes a moment to clarify that Dongho is not actually a scary person and there’s no beef between them. I think Dongho’s intimidating to strangers, but if you know him he’s probably a lot softer.
*I’m shocked that Samuel has fallen from 2nd to 15th place. Why do netizens hate him all of a sudden? It’s not like he did anything to fall out of favor.
*Park Woojin and Lim Youngmin are both expecting to be called around the same time. When it’s Woojin, Youngmin is slow to react and gets accidentally ignored – so Woojin runs back to give him a hug.
*Once again, Yoo Seonho accurately predicts his standing and stands up before BoA actually calls his name.
*Bae Jinyoung and Jihoon are apparently besties, because they’re sitting and holding hands during the ranking announcements. Jihoon even says something like “Hyung thinks you’ll be Top 11,” and Jinyoung goes, “You really think so?” It’s so stinking cute!
THE TOP 11
(Once again, these screenshots are terrible quality and do no justice to their visuals)
11. Kang Dongho, Pledis – Vocal/”Playing With Fire,” 2nd place
I must confess there are other NU’EST members who are more my type (*cough* Jonghyun *cough*). But Dongho has been steadily rising in popularity, and it’s well-deserved. He has very nice vocals and a strong stage presence. He’s also been earning all sorts of nicknames like “Bandit Sexy” and “Flaming Sexy,” which is hilarious. There aren’t a whole lot of real manly men in K-pop, so he’s a refreshing change of pace.
10. Joo Haknyeon, Cre.ker – Dance/”Right Round,” first place
I’m not thrilled about Haknyeon because of his behavior during the position evaluation. It doesn’t really help that the camera keeps cutting to his “Right Round” teammates that probably won’t make it. But he does use his screen time to mention them and subtly apologize. I still don’t want him in my Top 11, but at least he attempts to correct himself.
9. Kim Jaehwan, individual trainee – Vocal/”Downpour,” first place
Jaehwan has grown on me a lot throughout this show. He’s part of that group of trainees that always does well, and I like that he’s friends with the Pledis boys. But more importantly, it’s clear he’s the vocal to watch out for. I think that his skills will definitely be needed in the final group, and I’m so happy that he makes it into the Top 11 this time.
8. Kang Daniel, MMO – Dance/”Get Ugly,” 5th place
He’s lost a few spots – probably because of that voter controversy – but he’s still managed to stay up towards the top. I personally wasn’t bothered by his situation, because it’s a very small thing in the long run. But I do appreciate that he takes the time to apologize both during the concept assignments and when he gets called up onstage. He seems like a trainee with a lot of potential, so I look forward to his next stage.
7. Ong Sungwoo, Fantagio – Dance/”Get Ugly,” 3rd place
Jonghyun may have become my ultimate favorite, but I still have a soft spot for Sungwoo. He’s just got it all. He can sing, he can dance, he’s good-looking, he’s funny, and he’s well-liked. Apparently he has a lot of male fans – I guess he seems like the perfect best friend to them and the perfect boyfriend to female fans. I really hope that we can see more of him next time, but I’m pretty confident his spot is secure.
6. Hwang Minhyun, Pledis – Vocal/”Downpour,” 2nd place
Up until recently, I knew very little about Minhyun. Out of the NU’EST members, he’s been getting the least attention on the show. But he really impressed me last episode during “Downpour. He has such a clean and beautiful voice, and an earnest gaze that gives me chills. And of course, he’s good looking (still faithful to Jonghyun though). I think two NU’EST members should make it into final group, and he’s my second choice. On a side note, it’s so sweet that he wants to debut with Jaehwan.
5. Lim Youngmin, Brand New Music – Rap/”Boys and Girls,” 1st place
Youngmin has gotten really popular recently! I’m not quite sure why, but it probably has to do with “Boys and Girls” stage and the way he looked after Dongbin. Or maybe it’s because fans really wanted to see that alpaca dance he promised them. I.O.I. only had one serious rapper and two semi-rappers, so I think it would be great if more than one rapper makes it. He’s not one of my personal favorites, but I still like him.
4. Lee Daehwi, Brand New Music – Vocal/”Playing With Fire,” 3rd place
It’s nice to see Daehwi climbing back up after all the hate he was getting. And MNET isn’t giving him the evil edit anymore! It’s pretty obvious that he’s super talented, but he’s focusing more on being humble and part of the team. You always see his reaction shots cheering the others on, and it seems like he has a lot of friends. That kind of stuff goes a long way with me, so he still remains one of my top picks.
3. Park Jihoon, Maroo – Dance/”Get Ugly,” 2nd place
Fellow first place candidate Guanlin is shocked to hear Jihoon’s name called before his. (You can actually hear him shouting out, “Hyung, wait!”) Though everyone is surprised that Jihoon is not even 2, he pleasantly takes it in stride. I actually think that he’s more capable than the show portrays him, because most of the time they only talk about his visuals or high ranking. When it comes to the actual performances, we don’t see much. So I really wish that we’ll see more of his talents soon.
This leaves Kim Jonghyun of Pledis and Lai Guanlin of Cube as first place candidates. Both are high-ranking fan favorites, and both participated in the “Fear” rap stage. Jonghyun received a 110,000 vote benefit as the top rap trainee, but he doesn’t even need it. He wins with close 2.8 million votes, almost 600,000 more than Guanlin!!!! Now, it’s pretty obvious that he’s my ride or die favorite. But even if he wasn’t, I’d still think he deserved this win. There are plenty of reasons why he could be #1: his talent, his leadership skills, his NU’EST notoriety, etc. But I truly think it’s because of his kindness and humility. Not to say the others aren’t either of those things, but it’s clear that his mentality is so different.
For example, take those segments when the trainees wait for their results after performing. Normally, the candidates for first place will say something like “I really want it” or “I hope I get it.” When he and Guanlin were waiting for the “Fear” rankings, his voiceover was “I was so upset about my mistake that I wasn’t even looking at the screen.” And when he did win, he felt incredibly guilty because he made a mistake. Even as he heads to the top seat, he tells Jihoon that he needs to take his spot back. I’ve said this before, but I’ve been involved in entertainment my whole life and I’ve met very few people with these truly kind and selfless qualities. People like him seem to be a rarity in this industry, and I’m glad viewers are recognizing him.
At the end of the episode OUI’s Kim Donghan manages to grab 35th place. The other candidates are Hong Eunki (Gon), Jang Dongsu (S.How), and Park Sungwoo (HIM). Saying goodbye to the eliminated trainees seems to get a little harder each time. We’re getting attached to our favorite trainees, but they’re also getting attached to each other. So there are some genuine friendships that are prematurely ending. There are also a lot ot of same-agency trainees that are losing a friend: Yuehua, RBW, MMO, and Starship. I think some good ones were eliminated this time, like Hwanwoong and Eunki. I’m especially saddened by Jinyoung’s departure, which seems way too soon after his strong rap stage.
UP NEXT: The groups redistribute members for the concept evaluation, and everyone freaks out when Hyuna pops by. I’ll try very hard not to be biased towards the “Never” team, but I make no promises!
NOTE: All GIFs and clips come from MNET’s Produce 101, Season 2 Episode 8
Additional Sources: Wikipedia, Reddit