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Like an unpowered space station adrift in deep space, Girls Planet 999 continues its solemn journey through the dark unknown. Episodes 3 and 4 finally get to the nutritional value of the show, giving us the first real glimpse of the trainees’ skills and personalities. Those already familiar with the Produce series know how the beats go: picking parts -> bad practice -> good practice -> performance. These episodes do away with the overlong explanations and rule making that have dominated so far, making the show much more watchable in the process.
Starving for this type of content makes me realize how Mnet really kneecapped itself by not televising the initial grading session. In previous seasons, it’s so easy to generate a narrative by moving trainees rapidly from one “class” to another. Typically, as trainees continue to impress beyond their initial D/F rank, or an “A” trainee disappoints over and over again, Mnet can build a narrative foundation on which they can pace the show around. This also happens early enough in the series that the producers can take a mulligan on any of these choices relatively quickly (shout outs to all the A-Class trainees eliminated in the first rounds).
But GP999 takes that away and doesn’t have a good replacement. Revealing their grades (the K/J/C 1 through 33 on their nametags) without showing the context or even footage of the grading audition doesn’t work at all. “Oh she’s the 28th best J trainee, just trust me,” says the show.
This also helps explain why the editing is so jarring in GP999; there’s no narrative foundation to operate with, besides whatever backstory casual fans are aware of (Yujin is from CLC). Mnet can’t even decide if, say, Ezaki Hikaru is worth televising, and she’s been a front runner in the polls since day one.
Anyways, nothing can be done about that at this point. Back to the CONNECT STAGES! Er I mean the traditional, time-filling Dance Battle. Except this time there’s
high stakes! Each performance group makes a temporary cell and they battle with their opponents. The mentors pick a winning team and they get to pick whether they go first or second during the actual Connect Mission. It’s kind of like when they tried to make the MLB All-Star Game to matter for a while.
After this, we FINALLY get to the CONNECT MISSION.
Twice – “Yes or Yes”
Probably the cleanest pair of performances of the show. Good energy from both teams. Kim Sein didn’t do as bad as the mentors say she did, but she does have a (hilarious) problem with her expression. Team 1 wins, but it’s close.
Team 1 MVP: Kim Hyerim. Might be the strongest performance for the entire round, definitely in the top 5. Li Yiman also impressed, considering her weak performance during her intro stage.
Team 1 Sorry Mnet Hates You Award For No Screentime (SMHY): Hyerim’s cell mate Ma Yuling. Star48 just not really showing up this season.
Team 2 MVP: Ririka Kishida. Compares favorably to her NiziU performances. Set the tone for the team.
Team 2 SMHY: Leung Cheukying. Nothing really to say.
BLACKPINK – “How You Like That”
Is the choreography for HYLT hard or easy? This song seems very “performable”, but there’s a lot of pieces in the choreo to memorize and both teams get them mixed up at points. Team 2 gets flustered by their mistakes, which makes all the difference. Team 1 wins.
Team 1 MVP: Xia Yan by a mile. Absolutely ferocious. Everyone else felt really timid. I’m happy that Seo Youngeun can sing, she’s probably going to make it to the end.
Team 1 SMHY: Inaba Vivienne. This is actually the only team in the entire round in which every member receives a shout out and some favorable screen time. But Vivienne gets the least.
Team 2 MVP: Rinka Ando. A pillar of consistency.
Team 2 SMHY: Shima Moka.
IZ*ONE – “Fiesta”
“Fiesta” is a very difficult song! The high notes are high, and the choreography is highly aerobic especially after the chorus. Both teams struggle but obviously Team 2 just doesn’t have the pieces to bring it together.
Team 1 MVP: Kang Yeseo/Choi Yeyoung/Sakamoto Mashiro. It’s a balanced stage. The centers get everything right.
Team 1 SMHY: Poon Wingchi. It’s actually not that bad? She gets a little show time. They cut away from her during her part.
Team 2 MVP: Hooboy. Kim Yubin’s expressions never falter and so I’ll give it to her.
Team 2 SMHY: Lin Shuyun.
Oh My Girl – “The Fifth Season (SSFWL)”
Oh My Girl supremacy. I’d prefer “Secret Garden” but this one has more rap so I get it. Don’t feel like it’s as close as the masters make it out to be.
Team 1 MVP: Kim Bora. It’s her stage to lose. The group isn’t weak at all but she does the heavy lifting. Chang Ching can’t sing but her dancing gets all the little details right, which is pretty wild for a song that’s as complex (especially in the hands) as SSFWL. Also I agree, Ryu Sion is gorgeous.
Team 1 SMHY: Lee Hyewon
Team 2 MVP: Lee Rayeon dragged a less talented team through the mud and rain to get them to an acceptable level.
Team 2 SMHY: Kanno Miyu
BTS – “Mic Drop”
Practice takes the group from awful to passable. But competency doesn’t fix cringe. The dancing is painfully awkward. I had to rewatch it a few times to figure it out and it hurt more every time.
MVP: Lin Chenhan. I knew An Jeongmin was going to be good but was surprised at how much Lin Chen Han excelled. She wasn’t particularly good but she bought into it, which helps immensely.
SMHY: Kitajima Yuna
Seventeen – “Pretty U”
Makes a world of difference when the performers actually love the song. Eons better than the Idol School performance. It felt like everyone’s parts made sense, optimized for each trainee’s skill set. Multiple dark horses here exceeding expectations, in a just world all three cells would move on.
MVP: A lot of good candidates but Kamimoto Kotone’s rap really came out of nowhere. Coupled with those sharp dance moves? Magnificent. Yang Zige was also exceptionally good. Probably my least favorite was Liu Shiqi but that’s also a hard main vocal part.
SMHY: I take the comment about “How You Like That” Team 1 back, this is the most fair team. Mnet loved every one of these girls.
EXO – “The Eve”
Does it live up to the hype?? (No.) I agree with the judges, they hammed it up a bit too much. The YWY version is much more stone-faced, Fu Yaning should’ve called her old cast-mates for tips. It just didn’t feel cool.
MVP: Hard to pick. No one 100% got it right, but almost everyone was in the 90th percentile. I’ll go with the judges and give it to Kim Suyeon, though I did kind of roll my eyes at her ending fairy lipstick smear.
SMHY: Xu Ruowei but it’s not super egregious
Pretty U Team takes the boy group battle crown, and Yes or Yes Team 1 take the overall gold. And thus ends the Connect Battle! The first elimination is next.
- In order to better implement a sense of “fairness”, Mnet released every single fan cam the day after episode 3 aired, even from performances that haven’t been shown yet. The problem is, that the fancams and the performances aren’t from the same source. As in, they perform once for the episode, and then it seems they do one again for the fancams. Funny thing is, it seems they’re told to make the same mistakes (cracked notes, missed dance steps) that they made during the full taping. You can see it in Cai Bing and Zhou Xinyu’s cams in particular.
- Despite Vocal Master Jo Ayoung’s comments, Bora’s harmony note with Zhang Luofei sounded correct in the performance and high in practice. But maybe they’re doing some pitch correcting here for broadcast.
- Speaking of broadcast treatments, it feels like this season has a lot less editing than Produce did. Certainly less than Chinese shows do.
- Genuine emotions at Kim Dayeon finally getting the validation she’s been seeking.
- Lol at the 10 second montage that covers 9 days of training. YWY2 would’ve shown like half of that.
- Lol at the sign falling down during Fiesta 1’s practice.
- Kim Chaehyun making her push for the most Lawful Good trainee of all time.
- Everyone from Biscuit Entertainment had a strong performance (Seo Youngeun, Arai Risako, Murakami Yume).
- Please Jin Goo, please stop with the oversize suits.
- The idea of showing the lowest rated cells mid-practice is interesting in theory but worthless if you don’t show it to us, Mnet.
- There’s a line of thought that You Dayeon really screwed up by picking talented team members. I typically agree with the “hard carry” strategy but I don’t think that applies this year. It works well when most people are looking for a trainee to support, but this year there’s a lot less “undecided’s” watching the show itself.
- It’s wild how Mnet just does not want to acknowledge the existence of Fanatics as a thing. Kim Doah and Chiayi battled during the dance battle and Mnet’s just like welp.
- Roada Xu didn’t fit the concept. I think this is her Achilles’ Heel, she’s gonna be Kaeun’ed in the way that when Mnet decides the average age of the group is gonna be like 19, Roada will be deemed too mature to execute the more youthful concepts.
- Wen Zhe desperately trying to get Sein to concentrate has big Disappointed Asian Household energy (I am Sein).