Thursday, April 5, 2012

Top Shot Analysis: S4 E8 "The Mad Minute"

I don't share a lot about my personal life in these posts, mainly because this isn't that type of blog, but I've dropped in a few pieces here and there just to let you, the reader, get a little better idea of who I am. I say this only because Tuesday was a bad day for me. I worked, I took a test, I got a test back I didn't do very well on, I got lost on the back country roads of northern Wisconsin in car that was dying with a phone I was meaning to get replaced. The one thing I was looking forward to was relaxing and watching Top Shot at the end of what had turned out to be a very long day. However, I should have know that luck was not on my side on Tuesday, and even Top Shot decided to lay it on me by kicking out my man for Season 4, Terry Vaughan.

I've invested a lot into this season of Top Shot, writing posts, watching episodes, sending tweets, and interacting with contestants (notice how money is nowhere on this list, blogging is free, welcome to America, you're welcome), so it was pretty devastating to see Terry Vaughan get sent home on Tuesday. I don't think I've been this devastated since J.J. Racaza was sent home in Season 1. (I'm crossing my fingers this isn't coming across too stalker-y, I realize this is just a TV show, and that Vaughan is still alive and well.)

Anyway let's dig into the episode, because while I do want to spend a good chunk of this post talking about Vaughan, there are a few other areas to address.

The Challenges
Speed shooting is always a fun part of this competition but one that is often difficult to execute effectively. Speed often comes at the cost of accuracy, which is a difficult idea to rationalize when the show is called Top Shot. The team challenge was good, if again, a little boring. I will admit I was as surprised as the contestants seemed to be when the targets started to move, it was a nice twist on a simple challenge. I always enjoy when the teams are forced to face off against one another. Yes it may make the outcome more obvious, but it's almost always more exciting to watch than having teams take turns.

I was a little curious about blue team's decision to sit Gabby Franco. During the practice she struggled with the amount of trigger pressure on the Webley. I was watching with my friend Tony and I said if they were smart they would go back to the house and start telling blue team how good Franco was with the revolver. Now, the episode didn't show this, but I wonder if that might have been what happened. To me it would have made more sense to sit someone like Kyle Sumpter or Gary Shank who would most likely have more experience with revolvers than their teammates.

I don't think teamwork has ever been shown to be more important than it has in Season 4. Sure, the past seasons have had strong teams, but red team this season is just flat out ridiculous. These guys (and girl) have their act together. On the other hand, blue team just couldn't quite catch on, and didn't seem to want to (I can talk about the teams in past tense as we know next week the competition moves on to the individual stage.) I don't think we've ever seen a team work so poorly together, and I think the reason for that is the lack of a team leader. I haven't always been a fan of teams who have appointed (or in some cases succumbed to) leaders. Most of the time the leader believes they know best in all aspects of the competition, take Jay Lim from Season 2 or Jake Zweig from Season 3. Both jumped at the chance to fill the leadership gap they saw on their teams, and in both cases, that leadership painted targets on their back. This season however, Kyle Sumpter is presenting a different kind of leadership. He said early this season that the leadership for red comes from each of the individuals that comprise the team, and while that might seem trite, I challenge you to tell me that hasn't been the case. While Sumpter may be the leader (and I feel I should note the guy's personality still rubs me the wrong way) he is a team leader, he isn't out there for his own ego.  Take for example this last episode where he told Gary that he would shoot a full chamber with the Webley and then pass it on to the next person. He wasn't telling Gary how he should shoot the Webley, he was managing his team for a successful practice. A good leader also knows when to step aside and let someone else take the reigns, which is why Tim Trefren and Gary Shank were calling the shots in the challenges that complimented their respective expertise.

Contrast these actions with blue team, who were a mess from start to finish. There were times when a team member would step up and give a little pep-talk, but there just wasn't the same level of communication going on like there was on the red team. However, there is another way to look at this. While red team has been playing a team game, the blue team members have been playing this as an individual competition from the start, and now that it's green jersey time, those three remaining shooters on blue have made it to part of the game they have been ready to play. The question now is whether or not red team can turn off that camaraderie that helped them succeed as the competition becomes every man (and woman) for themselves.

What was I talking about? Challenges right.

The "Mad Minute" was a pretty good challenge. I liked that it had real roots in history, and translated well in terms or action and tension. I wish I could have filmed the manic conversation between Tony and I as we waited for Colby to give the results. Here's a brief transcript:

"How many shots did he take?"
"I think he took more than Greg."
"No, he had to have taken less shots."
"But Greg shot slower didn't he?"
"But Terry got jammed up a little."
"Tie I think it's a tie."
"Terry can't go home."
"Littlejohn can't beat him, not like this."
And so on...

It was a fun challenge to watch, and I don't think I breathed for the entire minute Vaughan was shooting. I would definitely be up for more military style challenges in the future.

The Contestants
As I mentioned in my recap there was on odd moment in "The Mad Minute" where the cameras cut away from the blue team meeting and focused on the red team enjoying another victory. It was the rare moment this season where red team has been portrayed in a negative light, and I wasn't really sure what the purpose was for showing it, or what the purpose was for Kyle Sumpter talking about it. Yes, one of the advantages of winning is that you don't need to worry about the consequences of losing. It just seemed a little mean-spirited and against what this show is about.

In my new favorite side game, What hat will Chee wear today? Kwan reverted back to Kyle Sumpter doppelganger hat, after trying out a baseball cap last week.

Finally, it is time to say goodbye to Terry Vaughan. I've been a strong supporter of Vaughan this season, and I was pretty crushed to see him go. I was more upset that he was outed by Littlejohn, and further upset when he was beaten by a technicality rather than a poor performance. I really wanted Vaughan to go up against Bethards in the elimination because despite his poor attitude, Bethards is a strong shot, and I could have lived with Vaughan being outed by a superior shooter. I have a hard time living with the fact he was outed by someone like Littlejohn. Take away his off-putting personality for a moment and we are still left with a shooter that has been sent to elimination three times and has won two of those because he didn't take as many shots as the contestant he was shooting against. The other time he almost gave a up a strong lead by struggling to close out the challenge against Colin Gallagher.

I don't want it to seem like I'm pissing and moaning about Vaughan losing. I don't want it to sound like I am saying his elimination was unfair. A lot of people have been hitting up Twitter to voice their complaints that Vaughan should have won because the point of the contest seemed to be to take the most shots, which he did. However, I disagree. There needs to be a level of consistency throughout the challenges, and if they would have changed for this one contest, I think there would have been just as many people complaining about that.

What I am saying was that Vaughan was a lot of fun to have on the program. He was a strong shooter, a likeable personality, and someone who was clearly there to have fun, without being annoying about it. he played the game clean and straight, owning up to his mistakes, without being afraid to call other people out for their own. he was a contestant that embodied all the things that make this competition great, and honestly now that he's gone, I'm not sure who to throw my support behind for the rest of this competition.

Come back tomorrow when I talk about who I will throw my support behind for the rest of the season.

Hit the comments with your take on "The Mad Minute" and who you think is going to take the title.


  1. Hi Chris. There are a couple of aspects I want to address about the Mad Minute elimination.

    First is the dissapointment a lot of people on Facebook and Twitter seem to have about Terry getting beaten with a British weapon. I think that my opinion on this can best be summed up by a conversation I had with a friend earlier today. My friend said, "I can't believe he was beaten AND WITH A BRIT GUN!!" I replied, "yes, but you have to remember, this is a historic weapon from decades ago. It's not like they still use the No.1 MkIII Enfield in the British Military or even commonly as civilians. That would be like saying I can't believe the Amercian got beaten with a Schofield Revolver." My friends head cocked to the side and he said, "...a what?" I said, "exactly."

    The Lee Enfield No.1 MkIII, while an amazing piece of advanced weaponry for its day, and a wonder of battle rifle evolution, just isn't the kind of thing that is mainstream in the world of shooting today. While 2012's shooters and gun enthusiasts might know what it is and even have an experience here and there with them, it's not high on the collector list and certainly not a favorite with recreational shooters. Also, obviously they're not used in military service anymore so that's out as well. It's really a small community who regularly shoots the No.1 MkIII.

    Sorry, that was a bit of a long-winded rant.

    The second point I want to talk about is people saying that Terry should have won because it was about how many hits you could score, as well as how many shots you could get off. Actually that's not historically accurate. The original Mad Minute, done with the Enfield No.1 MkIII was a test of how many HITS COULD BE SCORED IN A MINUTE on a target 300 yards away. The British intsructors weren't concerned with how fast their soldiers could cycle the weapon and miss. They were concerned with how many hits they could score. After all, in battle, it didn't mean anything if your bullet didn't hit an enemy. The exercise was designed to get the British soldier to accurately shoot the rifle as fast as they could, key word being "accurately". They wanted the soldier to AIM AND SHOOT as fast as he could. While being able to cycle the weapon quickly was definitely a key, they still stressed to the soldier that they had to be able to hit the target. An instructor would never say, "well, you didn't hit a damn thing, but at least you were fast." They would say, "you're going fast, but you need to slow down enough to hit the target." With more practice, the British soldier would be able to aim correctly and get his scoring shot off faster. In that sense, Greg did win the competition. He went as fast as he could while being more accurate than Terry. Terry did score as many hits as Greg, and he did fire more shots, but in reality, his speed cost him accuracy. In my eyes, and I'm sure the eyes of the Brits who designed the original Mad Minute, Greg better represented the ultimate goal.

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