This may very well have been the best opening episode for the individual competition in four seasons of Top Shot. There was so much crammed into this episode, but I want to keep it brief this week, because I'm pressed for time and unfortunately need to put my energies to use elsewhere today. Of course I say that now, but an hour from now I'll probably have another long winded post, so let's begin and see where this goes.
The long shots are always fun to watch. Season 2's thousand yard challenge is still a testament to how talented some of the shooters that have been on this show are. It is these contests that can also often make or break a contestant, those who can manipulate and utilize the scope succeed while those who can't suffer the consequences.
The camera work on this challenge was superb. The side angle shots were impressive and there were a few times when I thought for sure it was going to be a hit only to have the bullet zoom past the opposite side of the target. It also gave a real sense of just how far 1500 yards is and how long it takes a bullet to travel. I can only imagine what was going through the shooters heads as they waited to see either that puff of dirt signaling a miss or the intense explosion that followed a hit.
I loved having George and Kelly back, although it definitely seemed like Kelly was taking a backseat to George. Top Shot is great because it is one of the few reality shows where they can bring in past contestants and have it make sense with the rest of the structure of the show.
I have conflicted feelings about the automatic elimination of Gabby Franco. On the one hand, we all know that the second half of the competition takes less time than the first half (in terms of episodes), and that means contestants get shown the door quickly. On the other hand though, I have a hard time with the show not giving contestants a fighting chance in the competition. Yes, Franco was the worst with the Accuracy International, but she had been stellar everywhere else this season, and I think had she had the opportunity to go to an elimination challenge, she would have shot her way back out.
(Sidenote: Not to pat myself on the back, because I was sorry to see her go, but I did predict last week that Franco would not win the title.)
The elimination challenge was equally fun. But let's talk about the new nomination tie-breaking rule for a minute. Finally, something that makes sense. I've said that in terms of reality TV, Top Shot is still fairly young, so it took a while for it to move beyond the simple pulling a name out of a hat trick that it has used for ties in previous seasons. This makes a sense. A simple challenge with a familiar weapon, one bullet, one target, and we still keep the show focused on accuracy as opposed to luck of the draw. In the words of Terry Vaughan, bloody brilliant.
Now the elimination challenge was smart because the contestants went from a bolt action, long range rifle to a shorter range lever action. The head to head challenge and fast paced shooting, in addition to the closer targets brought the contestants and viewers closer to the action.
The three ring targets were also really cool, and that opening shot with the black shirts demonstrating the challenge and the bullet flying in between the rings was awesome. That is what Top Shot is about.
I said it in the recap, and I will say it again, I have no idea how Chris Cheng won that challenge, but I am happy as hell that he did. Probably the tightest race of the season, but Bethards started out with such a strong lead that it was almost like, ok let's just wrap this up, Cheng is done, let's not draw it out. But the competition kept going and Bethards started to screw up, and that's what I love waiting for on Top Shot. No matter how close it seems, there is always that potential for a mistake, you can flick the safety on by accident, or the gun can jam, or you lose control of the lever action and fire more shots than you intend to. That's what makes this show exciting, and it's what makes Cheng's victory so rewarding. Not only did he come from behind, but he took out a guy who was being disrespectful to his fellow competitors and the contest itself.
Greg Littlejohn - I am scared to say, I might be turning the corner on him. I'm not a fan and I still don't really like him very much. However, my level of dislike is slowly wearing away. I'm not sure what it is, but his personality is certainly not coming on as strong as it was earlier this season, and it makes him a much more likable competitor.
Also congrats to the producers of Top Shot for going ten whole minutes before giving Kyle Sumpter any screen time. More of that would be welcome.
I loved the big wide grin the broke out on Augie Malekovich's face when Cheng shot Bethards' target. Augie is still a bit of a mystery to me, but these little bursts of personality are always welcome.
One more little item before getting to this week's hot button issue. I loved seeing Cheng get riled up in this episode. He's been portrayed as a pretty cool customer for most of the season, very calculated and level headed, which are all fine traits. But I love when those kind of contestants show they have a little fire in them. It's what turns them from being a likable contestant, to the one you want to root for.
Now, let's discuss the only other thing really worth discussing: Gabby Franco and Chee Kwan. Where did this come from and why could we not have been shown it sooner? It's so frustrating to be given this little side story only to have it be abruptly taken away by Franco's elimination. I know there has been a lot going on this season, but even if there had been a small taste of the progressing relationship between the two it would have made the emotional impact of this episode far greater.
Now you may be asking what is the difference between this relationship and the one I so derided earlier this season between Dylan Fletcher and Michelle Viscusi? The answer is given by Kwan, who said in his one-on-one that maybe "in a different time, in a different place" he could see having a relationship with Franco. That is man who is focused on the task at hand, he's there to shoot, and more importantly he is there to win.
There are only three episodes left and it's anyone's guess what's around the next bend.
Hit the comments and let me know your thoughts.