‘Queendom Puzzle’ Episode 9: The Semi-Finals and more eliminations get show back on track, but at what cost?

Episode 8? We don’t talk about Episode 8 around here (though at least the other episodes exist).


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Episode 9 starts right where we left off, right after the eliminations of Episode 7. As the newly freed idols shuffle backstage, they receive flowers and letters from … themselves. Mnet provides us with a heartfelt farewell to the five eliminated contestants, which was done right away and without wasting a week of time. I’m sure this will be a time to remember for everyone.

After this bit of sentimentality Mnet says “enough with all this emotional crap, it’s time to ELIMINATE some MORE IDOLS” as we cut to the live broadcast. Everyone’s dressed in their semi-finals costumes, and the Top 7 announced in Episode 7 remains seated in their thrones. Which is strange, because we already know the new Top 7 as of the week prior, allowing MC Taeyeon to ask Yeonhee (sitting in the peanut gallery) how it feels to be Top 7. Feels wacky, but I digress.


It’s then back to recorded content, as we follow up with the day after eliminations. The girls arrive at Puzzle Studio, and it feels a little emptier with five of them getting Thanos’d. Taeyeon informs them via recording that Team ‘i DGA’ will have the opportunity to recruit a member from one of the other teams, having three chances to do so. However, unlike the All-Rounder Battle’s forced recruitment, changing teams is up to the contestant herself.

Team ‘i DGA’ deliberates and after considering things like team chemistry, concept fit, talent, and popularity, they go with Nana as their first choice. She’s offsite recording, so they phone her up, offering her any part she wants if she shifts over. After hemming and hawing for a bit, Nana decides to stick with Team ‘I Do’. Their next choice, Suyun, also chooses to stand pat and remain with Team ‘Puzzlin”.

The final choice is the oft overlooked Elly, whom Team ‘i DGA’ pitches fiercely, with offers of premium vocal parts and group malatang sessions. Elly ends up switching, since she was kind of the odd person out on Team ‘I Do’, who retained eight members and would be forced to cut a person anyways if she chose not to switch.


The teams are all set, so it’s back to the live broadcast to watch the performances. Up first up is Team ‘Puzzlin”, and we get our requisite flashback to practice. Since eliminations have changed the landscape of what each team looks like, all three teams have to redistribute parts a bit before continuing with rehearsals. ‘Puzzlin” resolves open questions from Episode 7, with Jiwon giving way to Kei for main vocal, and winning the sub vocal 1 role in a run-off vote against Soojin. Practice is hard, but they must persevere blah blah blah.

Puzzlin’” is a by-the-numbers cute/pure concept that is not one of songwriter (DAY6) Young K‘s better works. Kei fits naturally into the concept because it’s basically a Lovelyz b-side (maybe c-side, their b-sides ruled way harder than this song). There’s not really enough in either the song or the performance to give any of the other competitors a platform to showcase anything we already didn’t know. No one is bad, but no one is particularly great either.

Second in the order is Team ‘i DGA’. Elly gets her desired vocal parts after flunking the tryout while on Team ‘I Do’. Since she joined the team late, she practices extra hard to make up for lost time. Recording goes smoothly for everyone, except Yuki, who can’t quite hit producer (iKON) Bobby‘s desired inflection on the first few passes. Of course, she eventually gets it.

There’s something really awkward about how “i DGA” flows as a song, but hey at least it’s different than the other two? Also, did Elly really get vocal 1? Because it feels like she definitely had the least parts out of everyone. Even Fye, who supposedly got demoted, had a bigger highlight than Elly. Anyways, everyone here did fine. Yeeun made it look too easy. Elly was a nonfactor for maybe the first time all season.

The last team is ‘I Do’, whose only point of business is tidying up the parts a wee bit after the departed Elly. Nana and Yeonhee go toe-to-toe for the intro-heavy sub vocalist 3 position, which Nana wins despite Yeonhee’s extensive preparation. Oh how we love our loveable loser. She (yet again) turns her ‘L’ into a ‘W’ by acing her rapper lines, even though the rap part of this song sounds like crap.

I Do” is “Puzzlin'” but with a trust fund, enough to afford proper costumes and stage design. The melody here is more functional than in “Puzzlin'” as well, though that’s not saying a lot. This is definitely a title song Ryan Jhun shopped around but was rejected for that wedding march riff being just a little too cringe-inducing. I didn’t have a great sense of dread and pity when this stage ended, unlike at the end of “Puzzlin'”, so there’s that much.

All three stages have been presented, and the show gives the voters a few more minutes to smash that like button, showing a heartfelt last plea montage featuring some of the more desperate contestants.

Time is called, and it’s time to reveal the winners and the losers. Firstly, the winner of the Semi-Final, of whom each team member receives a boost of 30,000 points. Team ‘i DGA’, which boasts four of the previous Top 7 contenders, wins the benefit. But before eliminations are announced, we downshift into some more content so Mnet can make additional adjustments accurately tabulate the results.


It’s time to preview the Final Battle’s songs, both of which are composed by legendary SM Entertainment songwriter Kenzie.

Billionaire” is fine, a better song than any featured in the Semi-Final, but “Last Piece“, love it or hate it, is the more impactful of the two in all its ‘BING BANG BONG’ glory. The girls get their chance one by one to select the song they want to perform. They also won’t know who’s singing what until they made their choice and entered the representative cubicle. “Last Piece”, of course, is incredibly popular; the first 8 idols to make their choice all pick the song. Nana at ninth is the first to pick “Billionaire”.

The “Last Piece” cubicle continues to fill up with hopefuls like a FEMA holding pen, the final count being 16 to 5 for “Billionaire”. Obviously, even after eliminations whittle the numbers down, there will be heavy competition to see who remains on the team.


Speaking of eliminations, it’s time to get the rest of the episode done with. Taeyeon announces more results. The new Top 7 are revealed as:

  • woo!ah’s Nana
  • H1-KEY’s Hwiseo
  • Lovelyz’s Kei
  • WJSN’s Yeoreum
  • PURPLE KISS’s Yuki
  • CLC’s Yeeun
  • Rocket Punch’s Yeonhee

Things have held fast since the interim result.

And finally, the eliminated contestants, who I will eulogize in order of their announcement.

Fye came in with little to no expectations, but honestly held her own on most stages. We knew she wasn’t going to win because of the language gap and her already full schedule back in Thailand, but she’s positioned herself well for future variety appearances.

H1-KEY’s Riina was painted as a villain during the first episode but recovered nicely, unfortunately that was the most focus she got the rest of the way through. She was the best dressed on many occasions. Bright things ahead for her and H1-KEY, due to this show and many other factors.

Shiroma Miru‘s limits as an idol are the same as they ever were back in the Produce 48 days. She shined when she didn’t have to worry about choreography, and was a glass-eyed statue when going through her steps. This season being so dance-heavy just imploded her chances from the start.

Weeekly‘s Soojin had some last minute chances to bounce back from the bottom tier, but never mustered up the performance to make it happen. This is mostly Mnet’s fault, as most of these original tracks since the All-Rounder Battle onward have been a mishmash of mid. I wonder who on the production team listened to “Overwater” and was like, “Yeah, this is gonna do ‘Never‘ numbers!” Anyways, gone are the glory days of MIXNINE domination, Soojin and Weeekly continue their search for identity after so much promise wasted by their company.

Cherry Bullet‘s Jiwon continues her losing streak on these shows. She doesn’t make missteps but never makes the cut, whether it’s against fellow veterans or fresh-faced newbies. Like I said during my evaluation of her Up-Down stage, the talent is there, it’s just something a step below what breakthrough idols are doing, and Jiwon is just trying the same thing over and over again.

Weeekly’s Zoa I thought did really well throughout the competition, showing that “I’ve grown up a bit” side that all maknae’s eventually do. If she would’ve won, this might have been her (Oh My Girl) Arin moment! But unfortunately, being merely good enough is not enough to sway other fandoms into voting for you.

And finally, Cherry Bullet’s Bora, who had been close to the Top 7 during the last elimination, finds the short rope here in Episode 9. Dohwa may be the protagonist, but Bora was the lightning rod, drawing attention both good and bad through her unhinged shenanigans. I respect her immensely for putting her cards all out on the table, donning multiple personalities (Artist Bora, Genius Bora, Angel Bora, Devil Bora, Gyaru Bora) just to entertain us.

No doubt if Mnet gave us more footage of the girls interacting/practicing/plotting instead of just endless recaps, maybe we could’ve seen even more of Bora’s machinations. But I thank her for being here, as it made my job easier. May you never escape the Mnet survival show vortex, you crazy diamond.

The raw vote totals (with benefit added) went thusly:

  1. Hwiseo – 594,400
  2. Nana – 537,782
  3. Yuki – 522,245
  4. Yeoreum – 505,236
  5. Yeeun – 494,677
  6. Kei – 485,485
  7. Yeonhee – 461,327
  8. Elly – 377,416
  9. Juri – 376,298
  10. Dohwa – 343,755
  11. Jihan – 339,485
  12. Suyun – 312,667
  13. Wooyeon – 307,745
  14. Jiwoo – 306,475
  15. Jiwon – 296,033
  16. Fye – 290,370
  17. Miru – 285,533
  18. Riina – 275,835
  19. Zoa – 273,641
  20. Bora – 249,489
  21. Soojin – 229,811

The benefit had little-to-no effect on the Top 7, as the gap between Yeoreum and Elly is rather large, even with Elly receiving the bonus. A win for “Puzzlin'” would’ve gotten Jiwon into the safe zone, but Miru and Riina wouldn’t have gained enough to beat Jihan, who is the next non-“Puzzlin'” contestant in the order. An “I Do” win wouldn’t changed much of anything, with Zoa + 30000 not able to top Wooyeon’s vote total.


It’s fun to see the Elly and Juri campaigners doing so well, even beating Jihan in popularity. But if these results are any indication, I don’t think much will have changed for the Top 7, as Yeonhee’s voting logic is much the same as Elly’s and Juri’s, them all being the Team Queendom Underdogs.

It’s also obvious that those who voted for Kei didn’t vote for Bora, and vice versa, and the battle for “Thumbs Up” main vocalist was won decisively by Kei. I think her position in Top 7 is pretty safe, along with Hwiseo and Nana, who have dominating all season long. I also think Yuki stays, as RBW stans are strong like that. Yeonhee is on the bubble, but she has good momentum going into the finale.

There cooooould be an upset in regards to either Yeeun or Yeoreum. If it wasn’t for the benefit, Kei would’ve passed both in the standings, and Yeonhee and Yeeun are separated by around 3000 points. It is most likely neither gets displaced in the finale, but it’s not impossible. There is still some drama to be had!


Random Thoughts

  • They changed the name, kind of.
  • Homie sightings: PURPLE KISS’s Swan and Dosie and Cherry Bullet’s Haeyoon, Remi, and Chaerin got to watch their teammates’ demise, while tripleS‘s Yooyeon stole the show.
  • Maybe the interim ranking could have been shown on the broadcast, eh? Rather than the [REDACTED] we got last week.
  • Taeyeon hasn’t shown up physically to the Puzzle Studio since like Episode 4, which is perfectly in line with some of the most legendary Produce hosts (stares at Lee Seung Gi).
  • They smashed a guitar in the All-Rounder Battle but couldn’t afford a fake Samsung prop in the Semi-Final?
  • Haeyoon putting away her phone during Bora’s farewell speech had the same energy of a Little League mother packing up the lawn chairs after her son’s team got shellacked in the playoffs.
  • How much money has Big Corn Tea invested into this program?


IATFB’s Shitters Section

“PUZZLIN'”>”I Do”>”i DGA”

Hojo was completely correct in saying that “PUZZLIN'” is like a throwaway Lovelyz b-side. That said, it’s also the best out of the three songs, as it’s something I might not turn off if it comes on. In terms of performances, the “I Do” team do their absolute best to make that insanely-pitched song entertaining, so they have to get credit for that.


I hate to say it, but looking at the raw vote total, I wonder how much actual drama there will be in the finale. It’s not that all seven don’t deserve it, even if I’d prefer a slightly different lineup, but unless Mnet does their Mnet thing, it sure seems like the current Top 7 will be the final Top 7, for better or worse. Perhaps AOA‘s fandom can pull off a miracle, same with Juri’s, but while I’m happy to see Elly up there, it never seemed like she got any push until recently. Might be too little too late.

As far as the eliminations go, I definitely don’t think Riina and Bora deserved to be that low based on what they showed, though being chosen as the villain and not having a big fandom will do that. Same for Fye, who I think should be around the Top 10 based on her body of work. Still, I suppose it doesn’t really matter since none of them were getting into the Top 7, and the penalty for not making the final round is missing like one performance.

About Hojo

Big honkin' hot take machine