Dust off the cobwebs and unlock the safety, Top Shot is back. The All Star season kicked off last night to what I would call mixed results, but I'll get to that in my analysis post tomorrow.
The episode wasted no time getting to the shooting, bringing all the contestants onto the range where Colby laid down the new ground rules. No teams. No nomination range. Obstacles and weapons from past seasons will be combined into an unholy mismatch of new challenges. And there's a boat!
The first challenge found contestants crawling upside down along a length of rope while explosions were going off, and firing the SVT-40 at a target 125 yards down range. Then they moved on to climbing up a log and firing the LaRue Tactical Optimized Battle Rifle. This was followed by climbing under barbed wire with more explosions and shooting the FN FAL rifle from an unstable platform.
The eight fastest finishers would be safe. The bottom eight would face off to determine the bottom two up for elimination. Colby and some of the other competitors seemed to be really hammering home the idea that there would be less drama and more skill based competition this year. Tomorrow I'm going to delve into whether or not that's going to be a good thing.
Gary Quesenberry, my man, went first. It's never easy to be the person who has to set the pace in these kind of challenges. There's no benchmark, and there's no advantage of seeing where other people stumbled. Gary had a rough time and ended up with the slowest time. I'm not going to go through all sixteen contestants, but Kelly Bachand smoked the course with a time of one minute 26 seconds and won himself a pretty pair of binoculars.
The players safe were: Kelly, Alex Charvat, Blake Miguez, Chris Cerino, Jamie Franks, Joe Serafini, Peter Palma and Phil Morden.
The players facing elimination were: Gary, Greg Littlejohn, Gabby Franco, Chee Kwan, Kyle Sumpter, William Bethards, Brian Zins and Adam Benson. (Note all five Season 4 competitors ended up on the chopping block.)
There was a quick stop at what is apparently a new house on the same ranch (although I couldn't tell the difference) that was decked out with photos and weapons from previous seasons. It was perhaps the least amount of time the show has ever spent in the house.
The action then moved to the much hyped "Proving Ground" which was ultimately a little boring. The eight contestants in jeopardy have one shot with a Colt Peacemaker Revolver. The two furthest from the center of the bulls eye face each other in elimination.
If I was depressed after Gary went through his initial run, I was devastated to see he was going to the elimination challenge in the first episode. He was going up against Littlejohn and it was only as the show started to play clips from the last season that I remembered that Littlejohn was the runner up in Season 4 and had very nearly been the winner.
The weapon of choice for the season's first elimination challenge? The Milkor grenade launcher, a weapon that cost Littlejohn the title in Season 4, but one the Gary had never even laid hands on before. The Sawman made a triumphant return to get the guys in shape with the launcher and then it was off to one of the best elimination challenges ever.
Are the grenade launchers a little cheap in that it's kind of pandering to the audience? Sure. Do I mind? Not in the least. The great thing about the grenade launchers is everything about them makes it such a rich viewing experience. From the "thonk" sound it makes when fired, to the graceful trajectory of the projectile as it makes its way to the mark, to the massive explosion when it finds the target. Every time I expect to be hit by the blast sitting in my living room.
The twist this time is that the competitors had four targets to hit instead of the normal three. Gary started off strong but slowed down when the smoke obscured his field of vision allowing Littlejohn to catch up. But Gary kept his cool and was able to pull out the win when Littlejohn lost time for a reload.
The first two challenges may have been a bit of a drag in terms of pacing, but I have to say this elimination challenge had me on my feet shouting at the TV. I can't think of a better way to start the season than with grenade launchers and saying bye bye to Littlejohn.
There was a lot going on in this episode, so come back tomorrow when I break it all down and discuss what the kind of effect the new rules will have on the overall quality of the show.
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