Hello and welcome back to your weekly Queendom Puzzle coverage, and we’re halfway through the introductory Up-Down Battle from last episode, only pausing for a quick dinner break before going right back in.
I’m glad I didn’t talk about Rocket Punch‘s Juri‘s puppet gag last episode, as we get more details right at the start of Episode 2. Juri whipped up one of the best visual gags of the show to compensate for her plane-delayed teammates. Unfortunately, maybe she didn’t completely consider the logistics of phenomena like ‘stairways’ or ‘hallways’.
Juri’s one of the participants on Queendom Puzzle that could really benefit from the show’s format; followers of AKB48 or Produce 48 know she has a quick wit and a good personality for variety. It’s just that Rocket Punch and Woollim Entertainment don’t get her enough opportunities to showcase her unique character.
But her Up-Down performance is also a chance to show she’s more than just a goofball. She tabs Sunmi‘s “Heart Burn” for her performance, complete with big ol’ fans for stage props. Her tone is good, but it almost feels like an impression rather than a genuine performance. The choreo/vocal melody are fairly simple, and Juri perhaps goes a bit too laconic, failing to sell the song and leaving the majority of her peers unimpressed. 7-20.
The final Rocket Punch representative, Yeonhee, takes the stage to avenge her teammates lack of results. She’s been practicing steadily for her cover of Somi‘s “Dumb Dumb“, even while away in Japan, but tragedy strikes right away as the buckle breaks on her shoe during the intro. Yeonhee carries on with the failed footwear, nailing the costume change and even doing a couple twirls on her broken shoes. All credit to her professionalism and cool head, very few of her peers even noticed the shoe until after the performance.
Unfortunately, maybe making the shoe more obvious would’ve helped her score. She fails to break even with a 12-15. In the war between Cherry Bullet and Rocket Punch, seems like Cherry Bullet is faring better.
Next is Weeekly‘s main dancer Soeun, who despite her confidence with choreo is a kind of a do-it-all member on her team. But while she does everything capably, I wouldn’t say she’s a top three in either vocals or dancing. Her rendition of Seulgi‘s “28 Reasons” is just ok, and even Mnet wants it to be over quickly, cutting the whole second portion out of the live broadcast short. 13-14.
“28 Reasons” might not have been a particularly tactical choice for a performance, but Weeekly’s leader and MIXNINE it-girl Lee Soojin swings for the fences with Jisoo’s viral solo song “Flower” with a little Latin rhythm attached to the front. Soojin captures the expressions exquisitely, but maybe the performance is a bit too short, as it fails to impress the majority of her peers. She and her teammate Soeun share a 13-14.
The spotlight shines next on the second tripleS participant. Seoyeon, already a favorite with the rest of the cast, is as fresh as it gets, debuting three weeks after being cast. Her talents are, to put it nicely, unrefined, but her upbeat 4D personality makes her hard to hate. Backstage, she predicts she’ll get a 0-27 for her performance, but pleasantly exceeds her own expectations with a 2-25 final score for her rendition of sub-unit +(KR)ystal Eyes‘ “Cherry Talk“. Of course, one of the upvotes is her teammate Jiwoo, but who could be the other one?
It’s Shiroma Miru, who’s been an absolute saint on the show, upvoting every single performance so far. For her own performance, she also doesn’t stray far from home, presenting her own solo single “Shine Bright“. It’s a fine performance, light years from her awkward PD48 days, but it’s still a J-pop stage, which is short hand for intensely stiff. Her stage doesn’t move the needle and she gets a 5-22. She and Juri share some words and some tears, and it’s revealed that Juri gave a vote to Miru, which warms her heart.
Yuki is the Japan-born, charismatic rapper for PURPLE KISS. She’s a group favorite and a dark horse in the competition, and for her Up-Down performance she’s picked … her intro trailer song from two years ago. She goofs on one of her own lyrics, but is able to charm her way into a respectable 13-14 tally. The editing logic tells us the flub is to blame, but I’m personally thinking maybe the song choice was less than satisfying.
QP decides to through he rappers one by one, introducing LIGHTSUM‘s Sangha as the next performer. She pays respects to her CUBE Entertainment elders with a two-part medley of CLC‘s “Black Dress” and (G)-IDLE‘s “TOMBOY“. It’s … fine but again a bit too casual to make an impression. 11-16.
Speaking of CLC, Yeeun is here and is the final main rapper candidate to perform. The intro teases “Helicopter“, but then goes into “Cherry Coke“, which can’t but feel like a let down. The performance is taut and attractive! It makes me like the song a little bit more, which is a good thing. One of the brighter spots of the first round, Yeeun gets a solid 19-8 score.
Poor, poor Haein. Is this her first time on the Mnet rollercoaster? Because her performance, as rusty as it is, gets absolutely thrashed by the editing scalpel. No way around it, her performance feels old. Never the best dancer or singer within LABOUM, her comments at the end of the bloodbath seem like she didn’t take it seriously at all. I know it can be tough for a small-agency idol to compete, but I’ve seen TikTok cover dance teams with more polish. Mnet even took down the full cam version of Haein’s performance. Songs (“Journey To Atlantis” and “Between Us“) still bang though, and Suyun is such a nerd, lol. 5-22.
The producers continue to rush through the weaker part of the contestant pool, combining Weki Meki‘s Elly and Cherry Bullet’s Chaerin‘s portions together.
I thought Elly’s cover of IVY‘s “Sonata Of Temptation” was pretty good! Nice energy, sounded fine, the choreo was a bit stiff but nothing criminal. Chaerin’s Chungha for “Bicycle” on the other hand is a huge mess, you can see her brain going through the steps like “and then… and then…”. Just real bad choices made prior to this stage, and in real time.
But somehow they both get the same score! Do these both look like equally 4-23 performances to you?
JooE is free from the nuclear incident known as MLD Entertainment, which means she’s gotta drive herself to work and back. But it seems she does have a solid performance team behind her, taking great care in preparations for her cover of Sunmi’s “24 Hours“. The nerves are apparent from the start, but she’s able to fight through it and really broadcast a sexiness that she’s been trying to encapsulate for years.
Unfortunately, it seems her lack of conditioning catches up to her after the dance break, as her vocal strength fails her in the home stretch. JooE, who has been on King Of Mask Singer and what not, is a plus singer, so the result of 6-21 seems a bit unlucky.
We now get to see the second H1-KEY member Hwiseo perform. H1-KEY was the group who had the Thai member Sitala for a second before she got blasted for being the daughter of a PDRC supporter (good read, if you have 20 hours) and left for “personal reasons”. Hwiseo was added in as a result, and I have to say GLG Entertainment really lucked out on this one.
Like Riina, she begins her performance with a snippet of “Rose Blossom” before kicking it up a notch with a stellar version of “TOMBOY”, outclassing Sangah’s version and honestly most of the rest of the field. It’s just nice to see a performance where they have more energy than the backup dancers. Hwiseo does very well for herself, achieving a 23-4 score, sitting right outside the Top 3.
Finally, Lovelyz‘s Kei rounds out this first round of competition. Her stage was teased at the end of the first episode, and now we get to see the whole thing. “Destiny” is a heritage pick, with Kei never living down the fact that their song went viral even though they weren’t the ones performing it. She shows she’s a Queendom veteran with a dramatic intro, props built into the dresses and a smattering of details that can make a simple stage seem incredibly complex.
She’s also the last act; in the beginning the girls may have been voting more in line with their general feelings, but towards the end most of them were handing out downvotes like raisins on Halloween. Kei receives a very reactionary score of 18-9.
And with that, the first round is complete, successfully reshuffling the tiers.
Tier 1: Bora, Jiwon, Yeoreum, Hwiseo, Lee Chae Yeon, Nana, Yeeun
Tier 2: Kei, Jihan, Zoa, Fye, Soeun, Soojin, Yuki
Tier 3: Suyun, Yeonhee, Sangah, Dohwa, Riina, Jiwoo, Juri
Tier 4: JooE, Miru, Haein, Wooyeon, Elly, Chaerin, Seoyeon
Nana and Hwiseo make the jump from Tier 4 to Tier 1, while JooE tumbles all the way down to the bottom tier. Hero arc incoming?
The participants bid farewell to their old seat neighbors and rearrange themselves accordingly. After some awkward introductions, the first round is concluded. The contestants are given a chance in private to see who exactly voted which way for them. A good practice in psychology and philosophy, I suppose, but even idols like Soojin are wondering who’s taking it seriously and who’s just trying to game the system.
The next day the idols assemble at Puzzle Studio in casual clothes, followed by Taeyeon, who introduces the next contest. There will be a 7-on-7 team battle, with the 28 contestants splitting into four groups. There are two songs to perform, and two groups will go head-to-head, producing a performance music video that will be judged by … someone.
The first song, “Charismatic“, has Ylva Dimberg contributing to the production, a frequent collaborator on most of NewJeans‘ releases. La Chica provide the choreography, and the song’s laidback vibe feels right up Weeekly’s alley. The second song, “SNAP“, is produced and choreo’d by Mnet’s problematic faves Ryan Jhun and Choi Young Joon. It’s definitively girl-crush, but doesn’t really stand out in any which way.
The members get to pick in order of tiers which song they want to perform. Then the highest ranked member performing each song will go to a special Puzzle Room, in which they’ll get to decide the 7/7 split for that song’s competition. #1 overall Bora picks “SNAP”, and things get strategic quick, as #2 Yeoreum has to pick between deciding her own fate (“Charismatic”) or leaving it up to Bora (“SNAP”). She chooses “SNAP”, which might be the correct decision politically. Jiwon picks “Charismatic”, so Cherry Bullet is in complete control of this leg of the competition. This should not come back to bite them at all!
Both woo!ah! members and all of Weeekly pick “Charismatic”, both H1-KEY members hop onto “SNAP”. Last ranked Seoyeon gets automatically sent to “Charismatic.” Bora and Jiwon head to the Puzzle Room to divvy up the teams, but then are told the process is going to be shown in real-time to the rest of the competitors.
Jiwon takes a moment and then methodically builds herself a fairly well-rounded team. Bora on the other hand picks all the rappers, mostly just to torpedo the other team. She also sends the other good vocalists to the other team in order to ensure herself the main vocal position. Will her scheming pay off? Or are we looking at Produce 48 “Boombayah” all over again? As long as Bora avoids the court of public opinion, she might get away with it.
The teams are as follows:
“Charismatic” – PICK: Jiwon, Nana, Chaeyeon, Jiwoo, Soeun, Wooyeon, Jihan
“Charismatic” – DROP: Suyun, Haein, Seoyeon, JooE, Soojin, Zoa, Yeonhee
“SNAP” – PICK: Yeeun, Yeoreum, Sangah, Yuki, Bora, Riina, Chaerin
“SNAP” – DROP: Elly, Mina, Dohwa, Kei, Hwiseo, Fye, Juri
Disappointment is voiced, tears are shed, and revenge is sworn as the episode ends.
We already have the performance videos for this round available to us, so let’s watch and discuss!
No thoughts, just Nana in the rain.
All things serious, I actually think the DROP team did a better job of dividing the roles. Suyun, Zoa, Yeonhee, and even baby Seoyeon fit the song rather ideally. Maybe Lee Chae Yeon was a linchpin of the team, because there seems to be a balance issue, mainly way too much Jiwon. It’s like, if this was a real group, and there was that much Jiwon compared to Jihan or Nana, you’d be questioning the company’s decision making. Move Nana to center, Jihan to Nana’s old part, Wooyeon (who has like five seconds of singing despite arguably having the second best vocal on the team) to Jihan’s part, and Jiwon to Wooyeon’s. Simple.
Nana in the rain though. Team PICK probably wins.
This song was built for Yeeun and Yuki, and Riina’s length gives her an imposing figure as the center. I think her vocal tone fits the song perfectly as well. Chaerin remains a blank slate. Meanwhile the success of team DROP makes me think Bora is actually kind of dumb. Elly’s snotty tone is ideal this song, Fye was as capable a rapper as anyone on Team PICK, Dohwa redeemed her bad first-round stage, and even Mina was exceptionally strong, especially in her dancing. Only rough spot was Juri, who should’ve chosen “Charismatic” in all honesty.
Again I think Yeeun/Yuki are too powerful to beat, but also again I think Bora put herself into a position that made her seem less essential to the final group.
- The show is trying to set up this Rocket Punch vs. Cherry Bullet storyline, but I don’t think anyone’s buying it, least of all the members of the groups.
- I screamed with laughter when Yeonhee hit the Skrillex “OH MY GOD” right on cue. Might be my favorite performance in the entire round just for that.
- RIP Lee Chae Yeon, we hardly got to see you cry. See you next show.
- RIP Haein, I’m not sure who allowed this to happen. At least you’ll always have Dopamine (GIRL’S REVERSE).
- Laughed out loud twice during the Haein performance: leg thrust followed by a flurry of downvotes, and Fye’s confused face when it just ends abruptly.
- They’ll never actually say, but I’d love to know the actual order these stages were presented. I do think Weeekly’s Zoa went early, probably Hwiseo as well, and some of these other stages went later. Episode 2 felt like gamed-out, everyone downvoting everyone in the name of competition. The full cut of Soeun’s “28 Reasons” and Jiwon’s “Gotta Go” are very similar, vibes-wise. Both were better than Zoa’s performance.
- I think it bears repeating that when I talk about a show like this, I am not talking about the reality of what happened or real qualitative statements about this idol or that idol. K-pop is pro wrestling, and this is Hell In A Cell. I am talking about the product presented by Mnet for my entertainment, and the ability of the participants to play into that kayfabe or play against it.
- Thus, Cherry Bullet going full heel since Bora and Jiwon know the name of the game fills me with pleasure.
- Seoyeon being absolutely shit is completely intentional. Jaden Jeong is a genius.
- Suyun should go on MMTG with the amount of love she has for nugu hits.
- LOL at Bora continuing to shit on Elly after dropping her first.
- The moral of the story in Queendom Puzzle is that “B****es Be Shady”.
IATFB’s Shitters Section
Yes, I’m still watching this too, and while Hojo is the primary I can’t not give my opinion if I’m watching.
|UP-DOWN BATTLE||MY RANK||SHOW RANK|
|Cherry Bullet’s Bora||1||1|
|Cherry Bullet’s Jiwon||2||2-T|
|Lee Chae Yeon||7||5|
|Weki Meki’s Elly||8||25-T|
|PURPLE KISS’s Yuki||12||12-T|
|Rocket Punch’s Suyun||13||15-T|
|Rocket Punch’s Yeonhee||16||15-T|
|Weeekly’s Lee Soojin||20||12-T|
|Cherry Bullet’s Chaerin||23||25-T|
|Rocket Punch’s Juri||25||20-T|
A lot of fuckery in the voting this week for me, after an almost matching showing last week that freaked me out. If these were really done in order (it’s Mnet, so probably not), perhaps the contestants started figuring out it was in their best interest to vote as many down as possible? Who knows.
Anyway, Hwiseo started with a rare solid and stable vocal performance on this show, then transitioned into showing her charisma as a performer, and it all added up to an impressive package. Kei’s vocals set her apart from the crowd, but maybe I’m being harsh here because I’ve seen her do better than this before completely live. Elly’s votes are completely batshit to me. She went with a throwback song that carries a high degree of difficulty and pulled off not only the vocal but the performance was solid as well.
Shiroma Miru was by far the most surprising here. I never thought of her much talent-wise, if I’m being honest, but she went out there by herself and controlled the stage with a veteran performance. Not sure what I’m missing here other than it was in Japanese. Speaking of, Yuki’s stage presence and visual is enough for me to want her in the group no matter what, but thankfully she also arguably the most competent rapper on the show despite being Japanese. My main problem is she did mostly dance, and the stumbling over lyrics is basically a survival show taboo.
Yeonhee, Sangah, and Yeeun all gave dance-centric stages that showcased arguably their best attributes, but didn’t do much for me vocally. Yeeun choosing her own bad song to perform when she has great verses on CLC songs was … a choice. Meanwhile, the Lee Soojin, JooE, Soeun, and Chaerin run was just a lot of uninspired and tentative takes on charisma-centric songs that had relatively low degrees of vocal difficulty yet still were unstable.
As for the bottom of this episode, Juri simply fits best in a group, and these solo challenges are not gonna do her favors. As Hojo said, her best bet is being the most entertaining, and she’s winning there. I was honestly shocked at Haein, as LABOUM have always been professional at the minimum, which led me to wonder how much she even cared/prepared for this. I can see why she just quit. As for Seoyeon, well somebody has to finish last. The same things I said about her groupmate last week also apply here. I give her credit for the effort, but it felt unpolished and the vocals were being brutalized.
So far, I have some concerns unless at least two of Bora, Kei, and like maybe Hwiseo and Jiwon make it into the final group. It’s rather dire on that front so far. Pretty disappointed in the first impressions overall for the group, to be honest. A lot of them are definitely capable of better and just didn’t show it for one reason or another.