Monday, April 16, 2012

Tony's Take: Top Shot Season 2

Tony continues to work his way through Top Shot on Netflix, this time sharing his thoughts on Season 2.

What it is, yo?  I’d first like to wish the happiest of Mondays to TCG’s legions of readers around the globe.  Then I’d like to bring four hours of pain to your early-afternoon reading time. I’ve never been a believer in Monday being a hard day. Monday Night Raw is on Mondays. Monday Night Football is on Mondays. Domino’s has that sweet three-topping carryout deal for $8 on Mondays. On top of that it’s easy to carry on a conversation without giving a crap just by asking what that person did over their weekend. It’s the easiest day of the week in my book. However, since I started watching Season 4 of Top Shot I’ve noticed my left eye starts twitching and I interject nervous laughter and panic screams into conversation by about 3 p.m. on Mondays. I’ve got a Top Shot jones worse than Charles Barkley in Space Jam. I have to assume I’m not the only one who feels that way, so here’s hoping this post will calm your symptoms a little bit so you can be a functional member of society for another 24 hours.
Similar to my critically acclaimed Season 1 recap, this Season 2 recap just goes over my favorite contestants and what I viewed to be the key moments of the season.

My 3 Heroes
Jay Lim seemed to be the star of Season 2 immediately. On first impression everything about him made me want to cheer for him in this competition. The competitors all seemed to be elite military shooters (who ended up dominating the season… spoiler alert) or elite competitive shooters. Then in walks Jay Lim – golf instructor. It wasn’t until later on in the season that I realized he was also an Olympic qualifier as an archer. However, by that point he seemed to be already established as the underdog. This season essentially boiled down to military vs. civilians, and the perceived tension between Jay and George seemed to be the most tangible example of the chasm. It is very clear that Jay is an instructor, as he gave willing advice on nearly every weapon whenever his team was practicing. Unfortunately that seemed to rub people in the house the wrong way, leading to an exceptionally entertaining conversation between Jay and the Red Team’s Chris Reed (“You just tried to tell Gunny how to butter his toast”). It seemed like Jay was always on the chopping block for one reason or another, but he showed his versatility coming through time and time again. He ended up being the last civilian remaining amongst a cast filled with highly trained military members. I still haven’t seen Season 3 yet, but of Seasons 1, 2 and 4 Jay has to be the most intriguing (and polarizing) character of the bunch.  He was the face of Season 2, and even though he finished 7 out of 16, there is no way the season would have been as entertaining without him.

George Reinas was the contestant that appeared to get the short end of the stick when the show’s editing came into play. He is definitely the most outspoken contestant I’ve seen, and his willingness to put his opinions bluntly gave the show some talking heads that may have rubbed fans the wrong way. Despite George seemingly trying to play the role of the villain on the show it was apparent that he got along with most of the house members, and especially his teammates. For some weird reason I always am intrigued by the characters’ farewells to their teammates when they get eliminated from the show. The interaction between one member who just suffered a humbling blow to their ego and another member who is one step closer to victory is some real-life drama that is best left unscripted. While most characters shake hands softly and exchange two word pleasantries, George seemed to master the 5-second bear hug despite never having to even consider what life would be like after elimination. There was just something interesting about the sympathy he showed the other members of the household, and that finally shone through when he blew the shot to let Chris Reed stay alive in the competition. On top of that all, if you don’t think that hitting the first shot from 1,000 yards away is the most bad-ass thing caught on camera then you can shut up.

Chris Reed is everything right with the competition, and everything wrong with the show. There’s something inspiring about a guy winning when he seems like he just climbed out of a deer stand and wandered onto the show. There’s something heart-warming about the $100,000 prize going toward his daughter’s education. However, we never heard that Chris Reed required brain surgery not too long ago.  Even after hearing it I’m still a little hazy towards the details of his situation. That seems like a detail that might be important enough to mention sometime in the first 10 episodes. If the producers of the show knew Chris Reed won before the first episode aired, perhaps it’s a wise idea to involve his activities in the house in some aspect over the course of the season so the fans can start rooting for him before the last episode. I understood he was a calm, likable presence in the house but it wasn’t really until George threw away his chance at victory just so Chris would win that we realized how beloved Chris is. He was largely ignored during the season. This leads to the biggest problem I have with the show. When half the show is dedicated to the losing team’s process for choosing who they eliminate, the characters who are the early fan-favorites are inherently going to be eliminated within the first five episodes.  The same thing occurred during Season 4. The blue team seemed to have my favorite personalities, but after Terry and Dylan were eliminated I’m down to about two shooters who I’m cheering for to win just because the red team is such a mystery to me. I don’t know how to fix this problem, but I guess the point is that Chris Reed was an amazing contestant and Top Shot blew their ability to have him receive the most exposure.

3 Zany Moments That Made Me Wonder What The Hell’s Going On?
Tommy Gun: This moment wasn’t necessarily important in terms of the progress of the season. It was an early challenge between two contestants whom I never really believed had any chance at winning the competition. However the imagery of Athena holding that huge frickin’ gun was worth the price of admission. It was also something of a sad practice. There’s no way she could handle that thing. There’s no way I could handle that thing. This world class shooter looked like a child when shooting that ridiculous thing. I’ve cheered every season for the women to compete valiantly, but it’s challenges like this one that just make the competition seem to be unfairly skewed against women. The gun looked to be about half her size, and it was apparent that she’d be eliminated when she struggled to simply grip the gun. While it was extremely entertaining watching her spray all over the course and pray to precisely hit the target in a perfect line, it was also sort of painful to watch. It was apparent that for a female contestant to perform admirably in that challenge she’d have to be built like Chyna from Degeneration X in the 1990s. (second pro wrestling reference of the day. Note it!)

The Entirety of the Third Episode: I wouldn’t question a person’s toughness for dropping out or forfeiting based on injury for any sport. I especially wouldn’t do it when talking about people who can shoot a gun sufficiently. However, I was really confused when John quit the way that he did. He put his team at a huge disadvantage by walking away before the competition. I understand he wouldn’t be able to move the way History Channel wanted him to (which leads me to believe there was some outside pressure for him to formally quit rather than sabotage the competition), but if I’m in his shoes why not just talk with the team and basically plan on losing. He could have walked through the competition, and missed his shots in the elimination challenge to make sure he was the only red member eliminated. Instead he put a teammate at risk by quitting before, putting the team at a disadvantage.   The team would have certainly lost too if Jermaine didn’t do the most boneheaded thing I’ve seen in the show’s history.

Jermaine’s gaffe really deserves its own paragraph. I’ve done a lot of really dumb things in my life. I’m not going to claim to be intelligent. I just don’t understand how Jermaine could have done it twice in a matter of minutes. Jermaine was supposed to wait with the gun after hitting the target in order for his teammates to take the gun from him and go to the next station.  Instead he ran off with the gun himself. He couldn’t hear his teammates yelling at him to come back, so he wasted what seemed to be 20 seconds just running with the gun on his own. That would be understandable if he didn’t do it again 5 minutes later. My memory is a little hazy, but if I recall correctly he wasn’t even involved in the action the second time it happened. One of the stupidest sports moments in NFL history is when Jim Marshall returned a fumble to the wrong endzone for a safety for the other team. Jermaine made a mistake of similar magnitude the first time around, but the second time would have been like if Jim Marshall ran off the sidelines to intercept a pass and return it to the wrong endzone in the next quarter. He wasted near a minute of time total, and considering the competition came down to the wire at the end there is almost no doubt the blue team would have won without that mistake. It would have changed the course of the show. Blue team would have been up seven contestants to five, which means the blue team would have had to rattle off five straight victories in order to have the same resulting individual competitors. Because Jermaine was one of the stronger shooters in the competition, it seems unlikely that the red team would have achieved that. In an alternate universe Jay Lim may well have been the most unlikely winner of Top Shot ever, and the only difference could have been Jermaine’s critical error on this episode
GEORGE PULLED THE SHOT: This was the most shocking moment of the entire series to me. I don’t even know what to say about it anymore, so I’ll just keep it short. I knew George was a good guy, but I’d have never thought he would do something that drastic. He was the strongest shooter all season and with his long distance skill he had a very clear advantage when it got to the final seven-station challenge. Instead he chose to just punt it so Chris would win. Bravo to George for making a huge decision based on what he thought was right, but it seemed insane at the time and the shock still hasn’t worn off.

Season 2 was my favorite so far, and I left out a lot of really good action and really good contestants. In the time it took to read this blog post you probably could have just watched the entire season on Netflix. Oh well, some people require words to learn I guess. I don’t really know any concluding sentiments to end this post with, so I’m just going to stop typing and hope it’s sufficient.

And so it is, follow Tony on Twitter @thREALtonybader


  1. ACctually JEermaine only goofed up once; the competition was shot twice and edited to look that way. Watch carefully and you'll see excatly the same clip as Jermaine says "What am I doing" EXACTLY the same way twice. Also, look at Maggies hair; it goes from being in a pony tail to a bun, where she runs up to shoot, her hair is in a bun, then when they show her shooting, it's back in a pony tail. Also, Ashley Spurlin said that competition was shot twice. Also, Dustin said his final competition in Season 3 was reshot because he was faster than the cameras could follow him.

    1. With regards to the women on equal footing "debate": I firmly believe that there's too much of a "having your cake and eating it too" mentality from the fairer sex. I'm all for women competing and winning if they're talented enough to do so. However, I see all too often that they want the recognition of beating some of the male competitors while being given the ability to shine through their own division (High Lady awards etc) and thereby implying that their results were much better than they actually were. I've seen articles (match reports) written by lady journalist/shooters were they'll say that so and so won the High Lady title out of 150 competitors in a given match/division, implying they beat out 150 competitors, when in reality they finished 25th (still very respectable) overall out of 150 shooters but 1st of all the women shooters who only numbered 7.
      My point is that it's not an accurate representation of the results but rather a play on statistics to make the finish look better than it actually was. That being said, there are exceptional women shooters that beat out the majority of the field but overplaying their results only makes things look worse when they don't perform evenly against their male counterparts. Athena is a great example: she's a multi-time World and National Champion shooter winning the "High Lady" award which pitted her against only the women that shot in those competitions (less than 20 competitors) not the actual World or National Champion that beat out all competitors in the match/division /class (250+ competitors). The same is true for Maggie's reported titles; there were only a handful of "Lady" shooters at the National Championships she won, which illustrates how deceptive the reported titles really are.
      These wouldn't be sticky points if there wasn't such focus placed on their titles and how it should be compared to their performance against men 'cause in reality they wouldn't have their titles if they were compared against the men who were also entered in the competitions that they reported won. But saying these women have World or National Championship titles out of 12 other competitors doesn't have the same ring as implying that they beat the entire field. Compare apples to apples is what I'm saying; their performances overall are usually pretty impressive but by no means are they the Champion of the whole match of 100s of shooters, just the one who beat the other women entered.

  2. The results from all of the matches referenced (USPSA Nationals, IPSC World Shoot, USPSA Multi-Gun Nationals et al) are readily available online with a quick search of the events and competitor's name should one need statistical and visual clarification of what I've written above. Look it up and it'll be much clearer than how I may have described it.

    And just to clarify, there are women shooters/competitors that shoot really well and finish very well; Jessie Duff (Abbate) is a great example, she's beat the majority of men in just about every major match she's won but there are still men that she's not been able to beat out and while she's the holder of most available titles, it's still just amongst the female shooters, not all shooters in the match. Her finishes are impressive for any shooter (male or female) but you still can't just say that she's the match winner and if not for the awards specifically for female shooters, she'd be considered an exceptional competitor and shooter but she'd not have any National nor World Championship titles to her name. At least not yet...

    I'm just a little tired of how they want to be compared evenly yet don't want to be compared evenly at the same time. You can either be the best shooter at the match amongst all shooters or the best female shooter only amongst the other female shooters, just don't make it sound as if you're the best overall when your field of competitors was less than 10% of all those entered. If you want to be equally compared to your male counterparts then only report results versus everyone there and not mix the results from two different contests making it sound as if you beat everyone there. I think there would be more overall respect that way instead of being let down when your performance doesn't match your title(s) when an even and fair playing field is laid out.