Thursday, February 23, 2012

Top Shot Analysis: S4 E2 "Into the Trenches"

Last week I spent a fair amount of words breaking down the challenges, and touched briefly on my first impressions of the contestants.

(Sidenote: I keep wanting to write characters instead of contestants, mostly because I'm trying to analyze this first and foremost as a television program.)

This time around I think it is going to go the other way, but we'll see. That's half the fun. At this point, I don't even know how much I'm going to say.

The Challenges
The first challenge was the first one of the season to feature a physical component, and also the first to feature Top Shot's second favorite set piece (the first being exploding targets) barbed-wire. I liked this challenge because it shows the gradual complexity that Top Shot employs in its challenges. Week one, we stand and shoot at targets with a revolver. Week two, we run, crawl under barbed-wire and shoot an automatic rifle.

The other thing I enjoyed about this challenge, especially coming right after Episode One, was how different it is to shoot an automatic weapon. Several contestants mentioned they were unfamiliar or had never even shot an automatic weapon before. The difference really shone through in the practice range. Taking one shot at a time and aiming each shot, is not the same as setting up a shot and letting loose a spray of bullets, and it showed on the practice targets.

When the challenges get more physical it can put extra strain on the contestants. This was evident in one of the first episodes of Season 2 where contestants were forced to run to a shooting platform and shoot around pool balls. This led to several injuries by the more out of shape contestants. Since then, the physical aspect of the challenges have helped to add extra tension by creating potential confusion among the contestants on what their next step was supposed to be.

In this challenge however (and I really should start paying more attention to the clever names that appear on the title cards, my goal for next weeks posts) the real anxiety was not getting to where the gun was, but what happened once you got there. The challenge featured typical Top Shot fare, exploding targets placed down range. However with the B.A.R. you needed someone to help spot your shot, which isn't a problem until you're whole team is shouting advice in the trench with you.

Again this episode helped highlight another aspect I have never thought about for this show. These early team challenges must be awful for the contestants. Not only are you often pitted against someone shooting nearby, not only do you have Colby yelling about every hit, miss or close call, but you also have your entire team shouting advice to you. I can't imagine trying to decipher what they were saying, much less putting that advice to use. (I'll talk about this aspect of the challenge more down in Contestant portion.)

The only issue I had with this challenge is that not every member of red team had an opportunity to actually shoot. It didn't seem to be an issue this time around for elimination, but I would hate to see someone thrown under the bus because they didn't have an opportunity to shoot because another team member wasn't fast enough completing their portion of the challenge.

There isn't much to say about the elimination challenge, except, oh wait, EFFing GRENADE LAUNCHERS! This season is really bringing the heat in terms of weapons. It was a fairly straightforward challenge, but I liked the fact that they were forced to load the weapon before they could begin the challenge. This seemed to be a key point emphasized in the practice and it really did determine who stayed and who went home. Top Shot is more than just hitting targets, its making sure the contestant with the best understanding of the weapon comes out on top.

Outside of that, I'd say the audience got exactly what they wanted. Cool weapons and some seriously sick explosions. (I mean really, was it just me, or were those some of the best explosions we've seen on Top Shot?)

Before the episode started, Colby tweeted a question asking if anyone thought one team really looked stronger than the other. Right now, I think it's too soon to tell. Both teams seem pretty evenly matched. They each have a few standouts, a couple in the middle, and as these first two episodes proved, they don't have anyone who is immune to choking.

The Contestants
I'm going to more firmly establish a format for this section of the post, but will try and follow how I talked about contestants last week. Here are my Top and Not-so-Top-Shots

Let's get the ugly out of the way first.


Let's start with Colin Gallagher, whose personality is already rubbing his teammates the wrong way. The little screen time he had did not do much to improve his imagine. That being said, he has two things going for him. One, he hasn't tried to be a leader, which hurt Jay Lim in Season 2. Two, the guy can clearly shoot, which can often (though not always) offset a disagreeable personality in this competition.

Gun Fauxeri (Dylan Fletcher) and Michelle Viscusi showed some weird flirtation that just didn't seem to belong in the house. This isn't Survivor, where contestants are roaming around in their underwear. This is Top Shot, people came to play. You can make friends, in fact I'd say it's almost expected in this competition, but you didn't come to fall in love. Not to mention the creepy nine year age difference (and the fact that I may have just developed a small crush on Viscusi).

Gregory Littlejohn continued to show of his cocky side from the minute he reentered the house after elimination last night.

Finally, I'm still not a huge fan of Kyle "Papa Bear" Sumpter. He still dominated most of the one-on-one camera time for some reason, and part of that is because he was in the elimination, but really this guy just doesn't have too much to say that I'm interested in.

On a more positive note...


I want to start with William Bethards. If you read last week's edition of this post you'll know I wasn't the deacon's biggest fan. This week though he seemed like a different person, more toned down and focused. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and blame his personality in the first episode on jitters due to starting the competition.

Chee Kwan gave perhaps one of the most honest and funniest reactions to being benched we've ever seen on Top Shot. He was clearly upset about not being in the team challenge, but still managed to keep it light-hearted. Reactions like that really let the audience know who came to play, and who just wants to get the money, and Chee came to play.

I'm also liking Tim Trefren. Trefren didn't get a lot of screen time, and while Sumpter has declared himself red team leader, Trefren has made it clear that he's ready to fill those shoes should he be asked to do so.

And last, but not least, the Toppest of Shots goes to Terry Vaughan. Vaughan had his entire team yelling in his ear about where he should be shooting, he kept cool under pressure and brought home the win for Blue. In addition his one-on-one reaction was great, displaying all the traits that make Top Shot contestants so different from any other reality show contestants. He was honest about what happened but was also able to laugh it off.

However, I also must disclose this is not my only reason for choosing him. In my Top Tweets post form earlier in the week I stated I would not be following any of the current contestants, a rule I had to break. Yesterday, Vaughan's wife followed me, and Vaughan himself soon after. I had a very nice exchange with Vaughan over twitter, and can say he is exactly the standup guy he has thus far presented himself as on the show. I really appreciate the supporting words he and his wife gave me about this blog, and their help in promoting it to their own followers.

That's a wrap on episode 2, hit the comments to let me know what you thought of this week's episode. Remember you can catch up on History's website or Hulu anytime.

I'll try and post my ideas about what an all-star season of Top Shot would look like in the next day or two, and will post a little more about Terry Vaughan over the weekend.

Follow me on Twitter: @cswiets

1 comment:

  1. I really like your blog and your opinions, and I thought you might be interested in one factual correction:

    "and while Sumpter has declared himself red team leader" - We actually agreed as a team that Kyle would be our team leader, and this happened before the first team challenge. There was definitely a doomsday plan in the event that Kyle got eliminated where we would let organic leadership fill in the leadership gap. To confirm your other point, Tim was definitely ready to step up if we needed to call on him.

    Keep up the great blogging!