Thursday, March 22, 2012

Top Shot Analysis: S4 E6 "Blast from the Past"

[Note: Blue team member, Dylan Fletcher was kind enough to provide some extra insight into this week's episode, specifically what was left on the editing room floor. However, I try and write both recaps and the analysis strictly from what is shown in each episode, and as I wrote this before Fletcher offered his comments, I decided not to change anything. I do highly recommend going back to my recap of "Blast for the Past"  and reading the comments he left if you want a better idea of what happened in the episode.]

Believe it or not we are already halfway through this season, and my what a season it has been. We've had crazy weapons, some crazy challenges, and some slightly crazy contestant behavior.

Enter "Blast from the Past" which only could have been better if a past contestant had shown up to really hammer home the title. I want to spend a little time on the challenges, because the bulk of this episode dealt with the contestants, whose actions, for once, were actually intriguing, instead of oddly fascinating.

The Challenges
One of the complaints I read on the internet the other night was that while the weapons were fun, the challenges were a bit of a snooze. I would have to agree with this for the most part. Neither one featured any fast paced shooting, instead relying on the tension of the back and forth nature of the challenges to hold the audience attention. This was something that worked better on the bag gun challenge than the atlatl.(Also, question, is it atl-atl? Or at-latl?)

My other major gripe with the bag gun challenge is that if the contestants are shooting a big, loud gun, I want them to be hitting a big loud target. I just wasn't getting the same excitement seeing the aluminum shells make a hole in the target board that I would have had there been a large explosion when they hit their mark. 

The atlatl was a fun primitive weapon to have featured. The slo-mo featured during the practice and challenge was amazing because the flex on those darts was ridiculous. I have to say though I would have much preferred to see the atlatl in a team challenge rather than the individual, you know there would have been some frustrated contestants. And (again not to harp but I can't resist) can you imagine how funny it would have been to see Greg Littlejohn standing in his throwing pose making those crazy faces, while his team agonizes behind him? Would have been priceless.

I also want to discuss team strategy in this challenge for a second, because I'm not really sure what blue team was thinking on this challenge. If we are talking in terms of pure stature of the contestants, blue team is made up of a lot of big guys. Red team is made up of four small guys, Gabby Franco, and Tim Trefren. Trefren was the only big guy on the team, so why sit Chee Kwan? This is a challenge with a cannon, what possible advantage could Kwan have given his team by participating? When red team fumbled with adjusting the cannon during one of their shots because no one was on the back to lift, it was Trefren who hustled back to do it. Now it doesn't really matter because blue team won anyway, but think how much harder would this challenge have been for red if they hadn't had Trefren to help with the heavy lifting. Sitting contestants isn't going to be an issue after the next few episodes, but after Tim was sent home, red better hope there aren't any more team challenges that require heavy lifting.

The Contestants
I'm going to again skip the Top and Not-so-Top shots this week. Blue team had pretty limited screen time this week, which I guess is one of the disadvantages of winning a challenge, but I'm sure they are okay with it. I'm also going avoid Top and Not-Top teams, because the real discussion lies with the red team.

As I've said repeatedly, I've been impressed with how even the teams have been this season. Minus the shotgun challenge, there haven't been any real blow outs, and the accuracy with the Bag Gun just showed how talented this season's contestants are. But more than that I've been impressed with the respect the two teams have shown each other. Clearly there is a divide between them, which is bound to happen when you are forced to live in the same house as the people you are competing with, but no one has really been shown getting into each other's faces. Plus despite the early clique problem on blue and the little tiff between Trefren and Cheng (which I am about to get to) the infighting among team's this season has been pretty minimal. It's a testament to what separates this show from anything else on TV to have these contestants act with civility and respect, instead of trash-talking and back-stabbing.

With that said let's get into the meat of this episode which was the whirlwind elimination process red team went through. As I pointed out in my recap, red team decided they needed to do elimination based on past performance, a decision I agree with, even if it isn't entirely fair. If anyone had completely missed the target this would have been easy, but everyone hit and helped walk it in to give red team a fighting chance in this challenge.

So where do you begin when placed in a situation like this, where you have to take the cumulative performances of the competition to make a decision? I wonder what would have happened had Kwan spoken up before Cheng decided to go on his rundown of successes and failures of his teammates? I suspect there might have been two very different people in the elimination challenge.

Regarding Cheng, I honestly believe the guy was trying to be fair, but he made three huge missteps in going about it. First, never put yourself in that position in Top Shot, even if you are on good terms with your teammates, setting up a situation where you list off people's flaws is never going to end well. Second, he didn't leave any room for discussion (at least from what the cameras showed). After losing a team challenge there has to be discussion, not just one person talking, because that person talking is then more or less screwed. Third and final, Cheng went through his exemplary record this season, which was pretty much the nail in the coffin. yeah the guy has performed well, but if you can't criticize yourself, don't put yourself in the position to criticize others.

Now, regarding Trefren. I have to say that leg shaking made me pretty nervous. I was surprised at how upset Trefren was, and how obstinate he was in going after Cheng. Gary Shank I think had the best perspective on this, placing blame of Cheng for putting himself in that position, and Trefren for perhaps overreacting a little to Cheng's comments.

The problem is that two people had to go to elimination, and it wasn't going to be easy, as proved by what happened on the elimination range. Red team (and blue for the most part) has been consistently open with who they were voting for and then sticking to that decision at the range. Then along comes Kyle Sumpter.

Sumpter is red team's leader, and is always looking out for the team. Did he make the right call by switching the vote to Trefren? Maybe. I have to think that Trefren would put the team needs ahead of his own vendetta if Cheng had come back from elimination against Kwan. At the same time there was a problem with an easy and simple solution, and Sumpter decided to take it.

The look on Kwan and Cheng's faces when he hit Trefren's target was just awesome, I mean the camera just seemed to linger on them and their "What?" expressions forever. I think Kwan did have a point though when he said he needed to prove his worth to the team, and if they had simply gone back to the previous challenge, where Kwan failed with the rope, and Trefren failed to hit his shot with the flintlock, that might have been the simplest solution.

I was sad to see Trefren go, he and Terry Vaughan have been my favorites this season. We'll just have to wait and see what happens next week when the traditional exhibition shoot-off takes place.

What did you think of last night's episode? We you as surprised as I was about Sumpter's switch up? And why do you think blue team sat Kwan? hit the comments and let me know.

Friday Surprise coming tomorrow and a new edition of Talkin' 'bout on Saturday (promise).

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