Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Top Shot Recap: S4 E9 "The Longest Shot"

I learned two things while watching last night's episode of Top Shot:

1. It is very important that if you are watching the encore episode that airs at 11/10 central, that you do not change the channel to History until 10:01 p.m., otherwise you end up seeing who was eliminated and ruining the entire episode.

2. While it is fun to watch Top Shot with a large group of friends, they sometimes talk over the contestants, making it difficult to follow everything that happened.

I bring this up because this recap, at least as I am planning it right now in my head as I simultaneously write this line, may be a little bare-bones. Not to worry, all the important stuff is here, but it probably isn't as in depth as either of us would like.

We begin, as we always do, with the return of Littlejohn and the nailing of poor Terry Vaughan's plaque on the bulls eye board (it still stings...), this time, thankfully, sans friendship speech.

This was followed by the reveal of this season's hidden plotline, the unexpected, but I would not say unwelcome, flirtatious relationship between Chee Kwan and Gabby Franco. Most of the focus this season has focused on red as a team, so there hasn't been much room for individual plot points, as there was with the divided blue team. It was an odd choice to throw in at this point of the competition, but I'll talk more about that tomorrow.

At the practice range Colby kept the surprises coming. Not only were the contestants informed that they had made it into the individual portion of the competition, they also found out they would be going from British weapons, to serious long range rifles, namely the Accuracy International AX338. To top it off,  they would be helped by two of Top Shot's most famous riflemen, Season 1's Kelly Bachand, and Season 2's George Reinas. We also learned that Littlejohn and Reinas had been stationed in Iraq together for six months (fun facts are the best facts!). Franco seemed to have the best handle on the gun, shooting a tight row from the top of the target down to the bulls eye.

The first individual challenge would feature the longest shot in Top Shot history. Using the Accuracy International, contestants would fire at a thirty inch target, 1500 yards down range. It's a distance that is skewed by the cameras, until contestants started popping off shots. The wait between the trigger pull and seeing the dust cloud was excruciatingly long. Shooters would go up one by one; the shooter who took the longest amount of time to hit the target would be automatically eliminated, shooters 1-4 would be safe, and shooters 5-7 would be up for elimination.

It was a tough episode to gauge how well contestants were doing, the amount of time it took a shot to travel down range, coupled with the editing of the episode, pretty much made it impossible to know how a shooter did until Colby read off the time.

I won't go through who shot what exactly, you can watch that for yourself, if you haven't already, and just skip to the end. By the time it got down to the final three shooters, one thing was for certain, Chris Cheng was either going to be out of the contest or be up for elimination. Then Franco came up and lost whatever magic she had found on the range, taking well over two minutes to hit the target, and putting her at the bottom of the pile. Kwan was the final shooter, and as each contestant was asked to step away until it was their turn to shoot he had no idea where everyone else was in the challenge. He went up and took his shot, but in turn he eliminated Franco from the competition. There was an emotional goodbye between the two, with Kwan tearing up during his one-on-one.

With Franco gone, there was still a decision to make about who to nominate for elimination. The bottom three consisted of Cheng, Kyle Sumpter and William Bethards. It appeared as though Sumpter wanted to continue the team meeting strategy by deciding who would be in the challenge before the going to the nomination range. While he seemed pretty set on having himself and Cheng be in the elimination because they were the two worst shooters, Cheng wasn't convinced this was the best strategy.

The nomination range started out on an even keel with votes going to Cheng and Sumpter. Cheng then seemed to be feeling the influence of two his former teammates, namely Tim Trefren and Sumpter. Bethards made a few comments on the range that rubbed Cheng the wrong way, much in the same way his own comments had rubbed Trefren the wrong way. And much like Sumpter, who threw his teammates a curveball when he decided not to vote for Kwan to go up against Cheng in the atlatl challenge, Cheng decided he was going to throw his own curveball by voting for Bethards. Cheng was in with three votes, but his competitor was tied between Sumpter and Bethards with two votes apiece. This season implemented a new tie-breaking strategy. Instead of drawing a bullet out of an ammo box, the tied competitors would take aim at a target, the closest shot to the bulls eye would be safe from elimination. Bethards went first, and Mr. Hey Diddle Diddle couldn't quite hit the middle, shooting just above and to the right of the bulls eye, leaving just enough room for Sumpter to sneak in and stay out of the elimination challenge.

Bethards and Cheng were introduced to the Henry rifle...not much else to say really except more George and Kelly, woo!

The elimination challenge featured five targets placed at progressively farther distances down range.  Each target had two metal rings and a center bulls eye. Using the Henry rifle, Cheng and Bethards would have to hit all three rings on each target before moving onto the next one, however they could hit the rings of the individual target in any order. Bethards got out to an early lead that he hung onto to for most of the challenge, with Cheng trying desperately to keep pace next to him. But then... something happened, and I'm not quite sure how to describe it because I don't really understand it. By all accounts, Bethards was going to run away with this challenge, but then he had trouble with the mechanics of the weapon, unintentionally shooting of  two shots while he worked the lever of the rifle. This small error seemed enough to let Cheng regain his footing and tie up the challenge. In the end, a hard fought victory was handed over to Cheng, and Bethards was sent packing.

What did you think of last night's episode? How would you feel about a Top Shot style dating show where instead of roses, the bachelor or bachelorette shot the targets of the suitors they wanted to send home? Glad  Bethards went home, or would you have rather seen Mr. Van Helsing get staked?

Come back tomorrow for my breakdown of "The Longest Shot" where we'll have some fun with the Kwan Franco flirtation.

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