The trainees have come a long way! A lot of them looked very green in the beginning, but now many could be idols ready to debut. All three evaluations are interesting, but I think that the concept evaluation is especially noteworthy because they’re no longer doing covers. Because they have original material, they can really start to come into their own and show us who they are as performers. We’re so close to the end that we all have our personal favorites, but I think that this episode shows us just what that final group might look like.
*WARNING! This recap has spoilers for Episode 9!* This recap is based on my original notes back when I didn’t know the outcome. I’ve seen the final episode, but I had to take a break. Without giving away anything (I hope), the results made me realize just how invested I was – which is too much. But like I said, I committed to finishing the recaps and I’m not backing out now!
Last episode, the “nation’s producers” voted the trainees into five different groups according to concept. Now the teams perform for an audience of 2,000 who will vote twice: once for their favorite stage and once for their favorite trainee from that stage. The winning team will receive 220,000 benefit votes (120,000 for the top trainee, and 20,000 each for the rest).
Before we get to the performances, we have to reshuffle the teams a little bit. There are thirty-five trainees, so each group must have seven members. Because the trainees were assigned their songs before the last elimination, some songs are now missing people while some have too many. “Never” and “Open Up” will see the most drastic changes – the former needs to get rid of four guys, and the latter needs to add three.
The trainees for “Never” and “Oh Little Girl” are asked to decide their final lineup. They fill out ballots with the seven they think should stay, in order of who they think fits the concept the most. Each rank assigns a different amount of points, and the seven members with the highest total scores will stay. It’s a little confusing, so here’s a hypothetical example with my faves. Let’s say that Jonghyun thinks Sungwoo is the most suitable for this song, so he puts him in first place. Minhyun also votes for Sungwoo, but puts him in fifth. So Sungwoo would then get a lot of points from Jonghyun, and a smaller amount of points from Minhyun. (Fun fact: Minhyun actually correctly predicts the way the votes turn out)
Youngmin, Haknyeon, and Seonho are taken off the “Never” team, while Sungwoon and Guanlin tie for seventh place. Last week, Sungwoon feared elimination and showed his desperation to stay. Now that he’s survived, he’s even more determined. Unfortunately, the other vocalists (Minhyun, Daehwi, and Jaehwan) push him out because they don’t want to compete for parts. Meanwhile, the “Oh Little Girl” team votes out Moonbok. Sungwoon’s bitterness only grows when “Open Up,” Daniel takes the three other eliminated “Never” trainees over him. Jisung picks him for “Show Time,” which sends Moonbok over to “I Know You Know.”
*NOTE: Listed rankings are from Episode #8
1) SHOW TIME
Producers: Lee Geunwoo, ASHTRAY, Oh Seungwhan
Genre: Nu Disco
Members: Yoon Jisung (#15, MMO), Kim Samuel (#16, Brave), Noh Taehyun (#21, Ardor & Able), Ha Sungwoon (#25, Ardor & Able), Lee Woojin (#26, Media Line), Kim Sanggyun (#27, Hunus), Park Woodam (#28, HF Music Company)
Leader: Noh Taehyun
Center: Kim Samuel
Sungwoon pretends to be happy about being here, but Taehyun totally calls his bluff and reveals he actually hates “Show Time.” The members try to console Sungwoon by offering him leader, but he angles for center instead. He’s thwarted once more when the team chooses Samuel. Samuel is an obvious choice because of his dance and expressions, but he’s having trouble hitting those high notes. It sounds like they’re just at the edge of his range. Though there’s a lot of self-doubt, he does just fine and is praised by the producers and trainers. I think Samuel’s struggled a lot because of his falling popularity, so I’m glad he seems to be hitting his stride.
“Show Time” isn’t my kind of song, but I think they do a good job with this stage. While the song sounds bright, it’s so repetitive that it’s not really dynamic. It’s a good thing that the dancing and staging are more captivating and add more dimension. Trainer Kwon Jaesung did the choreography, so there are a lot of moves and gestures pulled directly from funny moments on the show. It’s smart because it’s fun and light-hearted. The stage also has distinct sections that make it more memorable, like the techno dance break or the funny rap section with Sanggyun and Jisung fighting over the microphone. The choreography tells a story, and it’s obvious that the boys really are enjoying themselves. My only issue is I don’t see much of Sungwoon or Taehyun in the broadcast.
Standout Member: Samuel. This is a perfect stage for a sixteen year old, and he’s rocking it. He’s clearly in his element, and that dance break looks like it was made for him.
2) I KNOW YOU KNOW
Producer: Hyuk Shin (Joombas Factory)
Genre: Synth Pop/Funk
Members: Kim Taedong (#22, The Vibe Label), Seo Seonghyuk (#24, WH Creative), Kim Donghyun (#29, Brand New Music), Jang Moonbok (#32, ONO), Kim Yehyun (#33, Widmay), Kwon Hyunbin (#34, YGK+), Kim Donghan (#35, OUI)
Leader: Kwon Hyunbin
Center: Kim Taedong
Since Taedong doesn’t seem keen on remaining leader, the team redistributes roles. To everyone’s surprise, Hyunbin challenges Donghyun for leader. He was inspired by his experiences with Jonghyun and Jisung and wants to pay it forward (look at my man Jonghyun motivating all these people!). I personally think Donghyun would have been better, but I appreciate Hyunbin’s spirit. He’s come a long way, and he’s certainly been making the most of his time on the show. As for center, the group narrowly chooses Taedong over Donghan, who was the temporary center. This upsets Donghan, who thinks that he could have kept it if he wasn’t ranked last.
This group is already feeling down because they’re the lowest ranked trainees. To make things more tense, they somehow end up with the most intimidating producer. Hyuk Shin definitely looks discerning and hard to please. Though he acknowledges that the song is hard, his face keeps getting darker during the performance check. After that, he says he doesn’t actually think they can pull it off (yikes!). He also critiques everyone during recording (except for Hyunbin, weirdly enough) and meticulously checks the rehearsal. But the group is doing better after that initial check. They’ve resolved to work hard and treat it as their last stage – which is a very real possibility.
I have mixed feelings about Shin Hyuk songs. Sometimes I absolutely love them (“Growl!”), and sometimes I just feel “meh.” “I Know You Know” is the latter category for me. There’s nothing wrong with it – it’s very pleasant, and the style is very trendy for boy groups nowadays. I can imagine rookies like Up10tion or Pentagon doing this song. But I don’t think it’s overly exciting, and there’s nothing in the performance that catches my attention (except those expertly executed heel clicks). It’s a smooth song, but it turns out more laid-back. It just lacks pizzazz compared to some of the other performances.
At the risk of sounding harsh, you can definitely tell these are the lower-ranked trainees. They’ve made it through two eliminations, so it’s not a question of whether they have talent. They have very nice voices, and the choreography is solid. However, I’d say most of them are lacking in stage presence. They look great and their smiles are nice, but I think they need a little something more. K-pop is an industry that prizes hard work as much as natural talent, so you can learn singing or dancing. What really sets idols apart are their onstage mannerisms and their ability to engage an audience. This group doesn’t really have that, and that’s why it’s so flat.
Standout Member: Donghyun. He seems so calm and at ease, and he’s the only one that has a solid stage presence. He best captures what the song is supposed to be like, plus he gives me major B.A.P. Daehyun vibes.
3) OPEN UP
Producers: Devine Channel
Genre: Future EDM
Members: Im Youngmin (#5, Brand New Music), Kang Daniel (#8, MMO), Joo Haknyeon (#10, Cre.ker), Kang Dongho (#11, Pledis), Yoo Seonho (#13, Cube), Kim Yongguk (#18, Chun), Takada Kenta (#31, Star Road)
Leader: Kang Daniel
Center: Kim Yongguk
The great center debate of this episode is here. As usual, they choose by making expressions and singing the lines. Seonho asks someone to push on his forehead so he can hit the high notes (oh my god, this kid…) Apparently this worked for Sungwoo several episodes back, but Dongho points out that you can’t really do that on stage. Haknyeon ends up as center, but problems arise when he has trouble picking up the choreography and singing the notes in a non-cheesy way. Because the Pledis boys like to take trainees under their wing, Dongho decides to help him out. He thinks if Haknyeon is able to improve, the result will benefit the group.
Unfortunately, Haknyeon messes up a lot during the performance check, which is embarrassing because the choreographer is there. Daniel changes the center to Yongguk, saying even Seonho (the most inexperienced) is improving. Dongho explains that he has faith in him, but he just doesn’t think it will happen in time. While the members are as gentle as they can with Haknyeon, he unsurprisingly takes it hard.
Now I’m not a huge fan of him after the “Right Round” thing. Judging from the immense amount of hate he’s getting, I’m not the only one. (I don’t agree with that; I just don’t think he should be Top 11) There’s a difference between confidence and stubbornness, and he needs to learn how to have realistic expectations. There’s a part where he says he’ll work hard to be a good center, and Youngmin replies he actually has to do it instead of just saying it. But I think he’s just very young and inexperienced, and hopefully he’ll learn through this show.
This song is definitely more my speed. EDM is in, and it’s very reminiscent of currently trending groups like Monsta X and Got7. The atmosphere is great. I don’t really pay attention to stage sets, but the lighting is killer. And I love how one of the cameras has water dripping in front of it. But while the mood is sexy, I don’t think the actual stage is. “Open Up” has a lot of masculine power and under-the-surface tension. The key points (body rolls and shoulder slides) should really hit that home. But they do it in a very light and restrained way, and I wish they be a little more daring and just go for it. I hope that doesn’t make me sound creepy; I just mean the way they dance doesn’t really ride the beat or match the music. But that’s really the only flaw I can see.
This group definitely has great teamwork, but there’s no question Dongho and Daniel stand out. Daniel looks more like the center than Yongguk does, because he has the charisma and masculinity that this song’s center needs. He’s also the strongest dancer, and I’m a dance purist when it comes to center. Dongho has always had a strong stage presence, but this time he really shines. His high note is so loud and clear it’s amazing.
Standout Member: Daniel. Dongho’s good, but I’m going with personal preference.
4) OH LITTLE GIRL
Producers: Kiggen and ASSBRASS
Genre: Hip hop
Members: Park Jihoon (#3, Maroo), Bae Jinyoung (#12, C9), Jung Sewoon (#17, Starship), Ahn Hyeongseob (#19, Yuehua), Choi Minki (#20, Pledis), Lee Euiwoong (#23, Yuehua), Lee Gunhee (#30, RBW)
Leader: Lee Gunhee
Center: Choi Minki
This segment mostly focuses on Jinyoung, who’s been fairly popular throughout the show but struggles with confidence and stage-presence. I actually called him “that cute kid who looks at the floor” for several weeks. He’s been steadily improving throughout the evaluations, and when he gets critiqued he asks Sewoon for help with his singing. He’s nervous in the recording studio, but he’s all smiles once he gets praised. Jinyoung isn’t high on my list, but I always like to see people who improve over time. He really does have a nice voice, so I hope that he can step it up.
We also get treated to a birthday hidden camera prank on Jihoon and Sewoon. Normally, I can spot these things from a mile away. Korean reality shows never broadcast real arguments between members to preserve the idea they get along all the time. But this time, I totally fell for it. I think it’s because Jihoon gets really upset at the “conflict” between Minki and Gunhee and storms out, and that part is real. (Normally, the “victim” gets specifically picked on or kind of just watches the drama unfold with their mouth wide open) I personally think hidden camera pranks are mean and cause unnecessary stress, but at least they took it in stride.
I thought I wouldn’t like this song, but I actually really do! It’s sweet yet smooth, and it reminds me of Astro. Though the performance is definitely on the cute side, it’s pretty light on the aegyo and doesn’t overdo it. I’m probably a decade older than most of these guys (good lord), but I can watch the stage comfortably without feeling like I’m cheering on babies. This group has really good teamwork, and it feels like a very cohesive performance. I wouldn’t say Jinyoung has completely gotten over his fears, but he definitely seems more comfortable and happy onstage. Sewoon’s vocals are actually perfect for this song, and Gunhee also does well. And Jihoon is solid as always – I’m starting to think he’s a low-key triple threat.
Standout Member: Minki. The others are really young, so he grounds the performance and keeps it from becoming too childish.
Producers: Triple H
Genre: Deep House
Members: Kim Jonghyun (#1, Pledis), Lai Guanlin (#2, Cube), Lee Daehwi (#4, Brand New Music), Hwang Minhyun (#6, Pledis), Ong Sungwoo (#7, Fantagio), Kim Jaehwan (#9, individual trainee), Park Woojin (#14, Brand New Music)
Leader: Kim Jonghyun
Center: Hwang Minhyun (Pledis crushing it up in here!)
As Sungwoo points out, this team doesn’t really have any drama or potential troubles. They’re all highly-ranked, they’ve all had standout stages, and they’ve all performed with each other before.
And they’re all literally best friends So we get to focus on fun things with them, such as the birth of yet another Ong Sungwoo gag when he decides to become the slate clapper for literally everything. MNET usually tries to look for the negative in everything, so it’s nice to see that my faves getting along without any drama.
We also get a good deal of focus on
Hyuna Cube when Triple H pays a visit to the trainees before the performance check. While some trainees attempt to play it cool, everyone’s reaction to seeing Hyuna is hilarious. The group also gets to go to Cube to record, and Guanlin takes great pride in showing everyone around his agency. He’s not so happy that they expose his messy locker, though.
Since I’m obviously biased towards this group, enjoy some extra fun GIFs I made:
Here’s a fun and accurate excerpt from my initial notes: “OH MY GOD I HAVE CHILLS!!!! OMG THE FEELSSSSS!!!!!” Joking aside, this is my absolute favorite. There’s a reason why these guys are the most popular trainees. They literally look like the real deal. Their roles are so clearly defined, and everyone has their part to play. There are actual idol groups that have yet to get it right like these guys. The song is amazing, the dance is stunning, and it’s all just so perfect. I try hard not to let my squealing fangirl side show, but my heart melts into a puddle every single damn time I watch this. It is 99% perfection, and it would be 100% if they gave Jonghyun more than one line. (Yes, I’ll always fight for him)
Standout Member: Minhyun. Bet you thought I’d say Jonghyun or Sungwoo! I love them all, but there’s no question this song belongs to Minhyun. I mean, the broadcast shows us the same shot of his face four times in a row. But visuals aside, he’s the perfect center for this song both skill-wise and mood-wise. It’s his time to shine!
1. “Open Up,” 552 votes
2. “Never,” 443 votes
3. “Oh Little Girl,” 398 votes
4. “Show Time,” 135 votes
5. “I Know You Know,” 83 votes
Although it’s pretty obvious that I’d personally switch “Never” and “Open Up,” I think this is pretty accurate. The “Open Up” members do pretty well individually, earning places #1, #6, #7, #9, #10, #11, and #22 overall. The top ranking member is either Dongho or Daniel, and we have to wait until next episode to find out! The trainees that got the most individual votes are: the unnamed trainee from “Open Up,” Park Jihoon with 182 votes, Park Woojin with 95 votes, Hwang Minhyun with 91 votes, and Bae Jinyoung with 82 votes. No revealing of the current online rankings so we stay in suspense.
We’ve got one more elimination before the finale! This time people could only vote for two trainees a day, so I think the results could be surprising. Seriously, this season is so much harder to predict than last year.
NOTE: All GIFs and clips come from MNET’s Produce 101 Season 2 Episode 8. Additional articles are from Omona They Didn’t on Livejournal.