Thursday, March 1, 2012

Top Shot Analysis: S4 E3 "Shotgun Showdown"

"Shotgun Showdown" may be the best episode of the season so far, which I know isn't saying a lot three episodes into the season. This episode gave us some amazing weapons, some cool challenges, and a little bit more insight into how the contestants are playing this game.

Once again, I'll break it down by challenges and contestants, and this week there's plenty to talk about in both categories.

The Challenges
This week's team challenge (dubbed "Double Tap Challenge" thank you Wikipedia) featured two kinds of shotguns, firing two kinds of ammunition. The Benelli M4, one mean looking gun,  and the Benelli Vinci, a gun that looks as beautiful as it sounds. (Seriously, I'm not the kind of person who calls inanimate objects sexy, but that gun was damn sexy.)

Top Shot continues to experiment with how to do challenges, which is keeping things fresh this season. I don't think we've seen a challenge set up quite the way this one was. 

I loved the two step process of this challenge and the fact contestants only scored points for the clay targets. It added a lot of tension to the challenge knowing that the moving target had to be hit before any points could be score. This wasn't too much of a problem for the red team who demonstrated incredible rhythm in this challenge, but blue team could not get it together, missing critical shots on the moving and clay targets. 

I was initially worried the time limit on this challenge might prevent contestants in the back of the line the opportunity to shoot both weapons. I didn't want to see an issue like the one we ran into last week where Iggy didn't get a chance to even participate in the challenge. However, this didn't turn out to be a problem and, again with red team, we were able to see the speed at which this challenge could be executed. On the other hand, with blue team, we could see how detrimental taking your time with this challenge could be to your overall score. 

This challenge also demonstrated that last weeks shouting chaos on blue team at the end of the team challenge was just the tip of the iceberg. We saw the complete collapse of this team not only in the house, but on the practice range, and most importantly in the team challenge. I've never heard a team be so quiet out of what seemed to be genre disinterest, rather than intense focus, in a challenge. 

The elimination challenge ("Horse Race"), as I mentioned in my recap, had the feel of a carnival game. I wish I understood physics more to understand how they came up with a challenge where shooting they target could actually hurt the contestants progress. This challenge was all about precision, specifically timing your shots. The timing aspect is a skill heavily emphasized in this episode, and one that displayed the proficiency of the shooters. While Viscusi panicked and started firing off rounds willy-nilly, Vaughan was able to find a slow and steady pace to rock the wheel down the track and stay in the competition.

The Contestants
As the number of contestants slowly starts to dwindle, we are starting to see more of how each one is playing the game. Gregory Littlejohn started the episode showing how fractured the blue team had become over the course of two challenges. The nomination discussion between the blue teams members was particularly revealing.

Now I don't intend for this part of the blog to become repetitive, but at this point in the show there are still too many contestants to give fair screen time to. I'll do my best to keep my thoughts fresh.

So once again I'll break down my Top and Not-so-Top Shots from this episode.

Not-so-Top Shots:

Michelle Viscusi proved that not only could she not handle the Benelli, but also that her vocabulary did not extend beyond the phrase "kick ass". Part of blame could be placed on how the show is edited (which in my opinion was spectacular for this episode), but she must not have said to much else if that was all they showed.

Gregory Littlejohn broke down and continued his slide to the bottom of my favorite shooters list. Not only did he show his disregard for the integrity of this competition by telling the rest of his team he would not vote for his friends (a claim Colby openly mocked on Twitter during the episode), but he also broke down discussing his decision to vote for Vaughan, even though Vaughan was ALREADY VOTED INTO THE DAMN CHALLENGE! (again, props to the editors for drawing this out, because it was hilarious) However, I will give credit where credit is due to Littlejohn for responding to the red teams wish of"good luck" with a brief "Thanks." He saved his entire team from looking like complete dicks. 

I'd mention Gun Fauxeri again, but there isn't much new I can say, the guy is just too cocky to be likable.

On to the good, although I should take this point to mention the contestants for the most part didn't really do anything to win me over or tick me off, so I apologize if this section is a little shorter than usual.

Top Shots:

Let's start with the welcome return of Season 2 winner Chris Reed. Granted this is kind of a cheat since he isn't a constant but from his joking with Colby, to his instruction on the Benelli, to his congratulatory talk with red team after their win, he was a welcome presence on the show.

I'm also starting to come around on Kyle Sumpter. He has a slightly robotic personality that reminds me of Mitt Romney, but he's proving himself to be a strong team leader.

While I don't mean for this to become a Terry Vaughan cheering section, I can't fail to mention him once again. This week he continued to display his levelheadedness when discussing his teams complicated dynamics. In addition he demonstrated his ability to overcome his weaknesses by mastering the Nova and pulling out a win in the elimination challenge. 

Just  few stray observations I wanted to comment on quickly, mostly involving the fashion being displayed in this week's episode. 

Is this the first time the women are wearing different style polos than the men? I always thought all the contestants wore polos with buttons, but Viscusi and Franco were both wearing buttonless ones that just had a shallow-V.

Why was everyone wearing bandanas on their wrists? I can't imagine it helps with shooting, but who knows? Colby commented on Twitter that they were friendship bracelets, but contestants on both teams were wearing them. I'll be curious to see if they pop up next week.

The other thing about Kyle Sumpter that is winning me over? Those sweet hats he and Chee Kwan are wearing during the practice sessions. Love it.

That's it for "Shotgun Showdown," next week we move away from firearms and into crossbows. 

Come back tomorrow for my surprise mystery post dealing with one aspect of this season of Top Shot I have overlooked. 

Follow me on Twitter @cswiets

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