Friday, March 30, 2012

Tony's Take: Top Shot Season 1

I asked Tony to begin his journey by posting his thoughts on Season 1 of Top Shot. He decided to write a short novel instead.

Howdy Doo TCG readers!  In this installment of “Tony kills time between Tuesdays” I’ll be sharing my thoughts from Season 1 of the show.  If you’re looking for a thorough recap for each episode, I apologize in advance for ruining your Friday.  That’s not what you’re getting.  I don’t even think I’m going to mention the names of each contestant.  Luckily for you, the bios are still up on History’s website.  If you have Netflix, I’d be mowing through this season.  Seriously, it’s like exercise.  There’s time for it, no matter how busy you claim to be.  What are you doing still reading this?  Go watch the season.  It was more entertaining than I’ll ever be.
Instead of a show by show run-down I’m just going to give major recognition to the guys (and potentially lady… read on to find out) who I cheered for the hardest.
My 3 Heroes
Kelly Bachand stood out right away as a guy I was going to attach my skis to.  Who is this kid?  A 22 year old college student?  What am I?  I’m something similar!  The major difference between us is that I can’t shoot feathers off a peacock from the other side of town, but screw it I’ll overlook that because that’s just how we roll here at TCG headquarters.  The first episode Kelly was thrown to the lions in a rifle competition (his specialty).  His red team lost and the only people who competed for the team were Mike Seeklander and Andre Robinson.  Mike was billed as being one of his team’s best shooters, but his underwhelming performance sent him to the elimination challenge against Kelly.  I’ll give the red team the benefit of the doubt here because Andre didn’t perform poorly, Mike wanted to face Kelly (respectfully viewing him as the best rifle competitor) and it is only natural to make the youngest competitor prove his worth to the team.  However, after Kelly absolutely smoked Mike (I spit at your crosswinds!) that should have been it.  He should have been considered a worthy competitor just like everybody else.  Unfortunately, he was immediately treated like a child by Bill (parenthetical sidenote: I have to believe the editing had a lot to do with the portrayal of Kelly as a mild-mannered, thoughtful, well-spoken young man.  He apparently told an insurmountable insult to Bill off-camera, and Pete mentioned Kelly has talked himself into more eliminations than anyone.  So the question of the season to me: Was Kelly actually a jerk?) and sent to elimination two more times despite being one of the most consistent performers with every weapon on the red team.  He was met with another elimination scenario when he and Blake were the final two in the first green-jersey competition.  There was just something endearing about a mild-mannered kid knocking off all these world-class giants, then going home and reading a book.  By the end of his run I couldn’t tell if I was cheering for him or simply living vicariously through him.  Whatever magical thing it was that he did, good job by you Kelly.
Blake Miguez was another immediate favorite of mine.  The unfortunate subplot with the red team losing almost every week was that we got to know the red team’s members a lot better than the blue team’s.  For example, did you know Blake is also an attorney and has experience as the executive of an offshore marine transportation company?  This is something I did not learn in the nine weeks he was in the competition, but I learned it from reading a one-paragraph bio online.  There were several reasons why Blake was one of my favorites.  The most obvious reason being his nickname “The Blazin Cajun.”  The other reason is basically every moment of the infamous “Rat Fink” episode.  The entire blue team is scheming in a bedroom, but what were Blake and J.J. doing?  Playing darts and lifting weights like champions.  That was just an awesome moment, and I can’t explain why I found it as funny as I did.  When Blake and Kelly were going head to head in the Shortest Fuse competition, I was legitimately stunned and a little bit hurt that Blake was eliminated.  I was really looking forward to Blake at least getting some more airtime in the later episodes, but he just never made it.  Like all great artists Blake left us right when the world was excited to see him unleash some pistol magic on the world.  Cheers Blake, we hardly knew ye.
J.J. Racaza was the third guy I found myself cheering for every episode.  Searching for a trend, I apparently love young competitors who have impressive competition resumes.  I normally love an underdog, and J.J. seemed to be the most feared competitor from week 1.  However, J.J. also provided a lot more to the show than just great shooting.  He had the coolest name out of all the competitors in the three seasons I’ve watched (Racaza?  Awesome.  Also I just found out his real first name is Simon.  I don’t know where the “J.J.” comes from, but I always appreciate when people go by unexplainable initials).  Secondly, I just liked his attitude.  Other competitors might have thought he was the guy to beat, but he never really gave off that impression.  He just seemed like he was happy to be there, even though he was clearly there to win it all.  As seen with Kelly, I really enjoyed how J.J. was able to pick anything up and immediately be one of the best with it.  Longbow?  No problem.  Throwing knives?  Enjoy the elimination challenge red team.  I also grouped him in with Blake as the guys that seemed to be the most fun to be around.  Yes, this is entirely related to the 4 second clip where they’re just having a good time outside while the blue team tries to stab them both in the back.  Needless to say, I was pretty giddy when he and Blake were experts for Season 2’s pistol shooting contest.
Iain Harrison would have made the list if I expanded it to four.  Yes, it is almost entirely because he’s British on a show overwhelmed by Americans.  Okay, he’s a really likeable guy as well, but being British definitely adds bonus points.  Unfortunately Iain couldn’t beat out the other three gents on my list.  Cheer up though Iain, you’ve got $100,000 and a Top Shot trophy that nobody else has from that season.  Did you get a trophy?  I don’t remember a trophy.  I have to assume there’s a trophy though.  If there wasn’t you can take 50 bucks from your winnings and go to a trophy manufacturing person and build your own Top Shot trophy and customize it with your design and make it the perfect size to fit your mantle… Do you have a mantle?
3 Zany Moments That Made Me Wonder "What The Hell’s Going On During This Episode?"
Rat Fink: This was the most confused I’ve been in a while.  I’ve already mentioned that my three favorite contestants were three guys who directly or indirectly pushed the action in this episode.  First of all, is it common language to use the phrase “Rat Fink?”  I know that if I was upset I wouldn’t be that creative in my insults.  I’d probably have just used a bunch of words that are apparently going to get edited out of this segment.  Nouns, adjectives, maybe even an adverb or two.  But I wouldn’t have come up with “Rat Fink.”
Second of all, Adam, is that really the way things were in the Marines?  Like would you be planning which of your buddies to stab in the back because you were worried they’d get the position that you, and three others wanted?  It’s a legitimate question, I’ve never been in the military.  I like to believe it’s a little bit different, just as I like to believe that Caleb telling J.J. and Blake that others were plotting against them was a lot more courageous than what Adam did… even if Caleb was only in the coast guard.  So many things about Adam’s actions in this episode befuddled me.  I understand scheming against strong competition, but why bring up military experience in the talking head?  And why write out messages on the pool table?  And is “Act your size” really the comeback you’re going to go with when somebody says you’re being immature?  Has the whole world gone mad, or is it just me?  Whatever the case, I really enjoyed this episode.  It was the turning point for me where I started cheering a lot more vehemently for J.J. and Blake.
Ex-Wife: What the hell did Kelly say?  What was the context of “Was she really that bad?”  Was she really that bad?  When Bill started hating Kelly I was very legitimately confused by it.  It led me to believe that Bill would hate me if I was a contestant.  Then I realized I didn’t do anything wrong, and I got mad at Bill for hating me even though he’s never met me.  Then I remembered he probably doesn’t hate me, and I’m not actually Kelly even though I’m living through him.  This was just a strange episode.  I couldn’t tell if the anger was really that palpable between the two, or if it was just manufactured to spice the show up a little bit.  They even edited out the farewell handshake between these two, so that means it was either water under the bridge, or they got into a fistfight and had to be separated while Kelly was yelling crude obscenities at Bill.  We may never know.  I do believe a blurb on the last episode claimed Kelly had been a guest on Bill’s radio show after the season, so they must have cleared the air.  Then again, I didn’t hear that episode of the radio show, so Bill might have invited Kelly on to yell angrily at him.  I’m ready to move on if you are.
Iain Nearly Eliminated Himself?:  A forgotten about story early on in the season was Iain volunteering to go to the elimination challenge against Jim in the first challenge the Blue Team lost.  The season was four episodes in, so Iain was a known commodity as an excellent shooter, and the blue team seemed to have no problem with what they were doing, despite ragging on the red team for eliminating their best shooter the first week.  Luckily Iain had a perfect run in the elimination challenge, and Jim got unlucky with two swinging plates that were seemingly swinging in unison.  Jim hit both plates and got eliminated, but he shot the plate he was aiming for.  If he’d have had a luckier draw, he would have forced a tiebreaker which either man could have won.  I didn’t believe at the time Iain had done anything to merit going to the elimination round, and I didn’t feel the blue team explained their strategy.  They simply made it sound like Iain wanted more practice.  Obviously you win the Top Shot competition by beating the other 15 competitors, but there isn’t a shooter in the world who could eliminate every member in every event, and I think the contestants have to be smart enough to know that.  I was confused, and still find it interesting.  The closest Iain came to being eliminated was by being the first member of his team eliminated.  It could have changed the tide of the entire show, and perhaps swung a little more power to the red team.  Alas, here we are and Iain is $100,000 richer than I am, so I probably shouldn’t question his strategy. 
That’s pretty much it for me.  I’d be remiss not to mention my hopes that Tara is recovering wonderfully from the tragic loss of her father.  I was going to mention it above in the polarizing moments of the season, but I’m too corny of a writer to make any long condolences sound sincere.  So I’ll tiptoe around a sensitive area while just saying I’m a big fan of Tara Poremba as a shooter and a person.
I’ll be back soon with my thoughts on Season 2, so start watching that season immediately after you finish Season 1. 
Godspeed fellow Top Shot fans.  Godspeed.
Follow Tony on Twitter @thREALtonybader

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