Sep 10, 2014

Korea's Next Top Model Cycle 5: Episode 1-3 Recap

Guys, I have a confession to make...I love model competitions. I have watched pretty much every cycle of "America's Next Top Model" that have come out, and even though the latest few have been kind of terrible it's still a guilty pleasure of mine. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a model, but I realized quickly I didn't have much going for me in the height and weight department. I knew there was a Korean version of the infamous show, but there weren't (as I'm aware of) any English subtitles so I didn't have the chance to watch it.

For the fifth cycle of the show subtitles have been provided by Yubisubs, which I'm very thankful for as this particular season is the first one to feature male models as well. I'm always out on the look for more eye-candy, so this was a perfect opportunity both to watch my favorite show format and drool over hot Korean guys all at the same time.

Episode 1
The first episode opens with some foreshadowing, as model and the show's MC Jang Yoon Ju presents to an eager audience the new mixed gender concept and proceeds to walk down the runway, as the model she is. The rest of the show's judges briefly give their opinions on the new format, and especially funny is Han Hye Yeon's reaction as she's clearly more than pleased to have some fine young men on the show.

To give the cycle a proper start, our very own Tyra Banks comes to visit, and certainly lifts the mood with her over-the-top personality. You can see the competitors clearly admiring her as well as looking kind of freaked out by her presence, which I can totally understand. I take it this was shot at the same time ANTM went to visit Korea, and they seized the opportunity to have her appear in the first episode, giving the new models some encouraging advice.

The casting session for the final 14 is a bit different from the American version that I'm used to, and it seems a bit quicker too, but the models all get to audition in front of the judges, take pictures and showcase their fashion and makeup skills. The actual judges later on in the competitions are nowhere to be seen in this first audition stage, but instead it's Tyra, famous actor/model Lee Soo Hyuk and some unknown person I have no name for.

Once the process is over, it seems like the real show is actually starting, with the lucky selected ones meeting up for the first time to try and grab a spot in the final 14. I'm instantly shocked by how young some of the models are, as one of them is only 14 years old, which means she is 13 internationally. While a buss picks the ladies up, and unknown figure riding a motorcycle shows up in front of the guys, and it's revealed to be none other than acknowledged male model Kim Won Joong. The two groups have not yet met each other, but are instead put through a small test of hair and makeup first to show what they know about beauty . Some of the gentlemen struggle with what products to use, whereas others (EXO's DO's lookalike Shin Jae Hyuk for example) are more familiar with the challenge. It results in a spontaneous street-look photo shoot, where the models get a first chance to impress with their posing abilities.

The final challenge is a runway show, which is the same one we first saw in the beginning, and the boys and the girls finally meet up and are told they'll be doing it in pairs of two. The models share their thoughts on whom they would want to work with, and despite Choi Ji In's wish not to be paired with goofball Kim Sung Chan, she ends up with him anyway. 29-year old Choi Jung Jin is also taken back by being paired up with the 14-year old girl from earlier, and tall girl Hyun Ji Eun is somewhat disappointed with the height of partner Kim Jong Hoon. 

Apart from the unavoidable fall down the stairs from one of the models, the show goes well, and Sung Chan even gets a kiss from his lady. The most popular contestant as judged by the audience screams is definitely Lee Cheol Woo, and he does really well to which is most likely due to his prior experience. 19-year old Jung Yong Soo deliveres an awkward and shy walk down the runway, and his partner isn't too pleased with him only placing his hand on her waist. His excuse? "I've never had a girlfriend before". Sounds awfully familiar, doesn't it? The Ji Eun-Jong Hoon team delivers a sizzling hot performance, and while Ji Eun feels embarrassed Jong Hoon pleasantly states: "I liked it".

The next day, all the contestants are taken to the location site of the opening title shoot, but not all of them will get to participate. 14 models are selected at first, but then when it seems as if all hope is lost, Yoon Ju announces that yet another couple will pass through. An audience-picked couple that had the best ending pose at the runway show will be given another chance, and those two are revealed to be none other than Kim Ye Rim and Kim Dong Gyu.  The models are given almost complete freedom in their poses and expressions at the shoot, which allows some to shine more than others. The girls, as well as mentor Ms. Han, loose their minds over Jong Hoon's chiseling abs and speculate whether unique looking Han Seung Soo is mixed or not, which he isn't. While Hwang Gi Bbeum soars with her modelling skills which ultimately wins her first place, other girls seem to struggle, and it is Ji In's performance that unfortunately sends her home in the end. I think it's a fair decision, because I don't think she did that well and she also seems a bit stiff and out-of-place as a model. My favorite at this point is definitely Gi Bbeum, but there are quite a few that I've got my eye set on.

The first episode is a bit oddly paced and edited in some places, but the structure is clearer once you get the hang of it. All the contestants seem nice and polite, which is a mile's difference from the American version, and the judges and hosts do their job well too. As I've never seen an episode of this show before, I was definitely won over by it's genuine, professional tone.

Episode 2

The second episode focuses more on the new-formed gang moving in together and exploring their new house. They're thoughtfully provided with their own runway, fitness- and dressing rooms as well as bags and skin- and hair products, and all of them are over the moon about the luxury. Granted, not all is fun and games as they're instructed to decide one male and female leader, as well as distributing the different chores such as cleaning and washing dishes. Bang Tae Eun and Gi Bbeum emerge victorious from the games they play to settle the leaders, and happily divide the jobs for the rest of the group.

The following day is devoted entirely to the art of walking, and Yoon Ju as well as the self-taught Won Joong help the gang improve their runway walks. Mouths drop as they're informed that the element of walking will be focused on more this season, and there might even be an elimination round based solely on their runway skills. Truthfully, none of them are great at it, and even those who had confidence get a reality check when Yoon Ju exclaims that she liked none of them. Poor Kim Seung Hee looks like she has never walked in heels before, which is understandable since she's only 16, but it's almost funny how bad it looks. The mentors struggle with teaching the models, as they continuously fail in keeping a good posture and pace as arms positioned correctly and a tight and firm core. Walking sure isn't as easy as it looks!

The next challenge is a team effort, as they divide into groups of 5 to try and beat each other in posing. The conditions aren't as easy, as they're asked to think of creative poses inside a wall filled with different sized holes. Some of them do better than others, but I'm impressed by the chances they take, such as Jung Jin literally standing on his head. This really isn't the most fun or exciting challenge, in my opinion, but in the end it's the A team (Tae Eun, Seung Soo, Ye Rim, Ji Eun and Jung So Hyun) that wins an exclusive 3000 dollar shopping voucher.

The gang celebrates Yong Soo's birthday with a cake and a present, and continue to clean the house, which had become very messy. In the gym Ye Rim asks Jong Hoon to show her some weight-lifting and he is embarrassed when he doesn't have the strength, and then Seung Soo tries instead and succeeds without any problems. Jong Hoon observes her admiration for the other male and adds: "I think it'll be hard to get close to her" with a pout on his face.

The next challenge is a photo shoot, and a truly challenging one indeed. With the help of various gymnastics gear and a heavy dose of water, they will get use their body strength and pose in swimwear. Most of the girls have no complaints about the skimpy clothing, but the guys are all the more self-conscious. Tae Eun is first up and isn't really bringing his A game until he takes his top off, much to the female audience's great pleasure. I'm in love with So Hyun's reaction in particular, as she isn't one to hide her emotions and definitely not her approval of Tae Eun's abs. Seung Soo isn't very shy either, as he professes his attention for Ye Rim and adds that he currently doesn't have a girlfriend either.

The guys seem to be doing particularly well as they get praised over and over again by Ms. Han, and I agree too that they are much stronger in this shoot, and you can see the girls getting more and more discouraged by the minute. Sohyun struggles posing on the vault, and even slips and falls in a very dangerous manner, but gets up again as the fighter she is. However, it's not enough to impress the judges as she's announced last place, while Tae Eun snatches the number one spot.

Personally, I would have wanted So Hyun to stay as I found her charming and funny, but I suppose she didn't show the skills the judges wanted to see. I am still wondering why Yong Soo is still there though, as I don't find him likable at all, and he just seems clueless as to what he's doing. I guess he could improve, but I certainly wouldn't have chosen him over So Hyun.

Episode 3

It's finally makeover time for the models, and both anticipation and nervousness spread among them as they meet at the salon. It's a mirror-less transformation, as the models gets to see each other's new looks but not their own, definitely causing some paranoia. Poor Han Ji An's scalp is so badly injured after what seems like years of straightening and perming her frizzy, curly hair that she gets it all cut off, and she isn't the only one. All of the ladies except Seung Hee and Gi Bbeum get a shorter haircut, and I'm not sure how I feel about some of them. I do think that both Ji Eun and Ye Rim look amazing with their new hair, but I certainly preferred Kim Min Jung's style before. Ji An also encounters problems with her new do later, as it looks good when styled but quite bad in it's natural state. It really isn't a good idea to give a person with that hair type that cut, and she's even brought to tears by how awful it looks. I truly appreciate how the rest of the group handles her emotional break down, because instead of talking behind her back and complaining like you'd see a lot in the American version, they try to help as best as they can. That's enough reason right there for me to enjoy the Korean replica even more.

I would say most of the makeovers are successful, and I especially love Seung Soo's much shorter hairstyle, as well as Tae Eun's shaved sides. I am  however not a fan of Cheol Woo's bleached do nor do I approve much of Jong Hoon's orange color. Stay away from the bleach, god damn it! Well, unless you use it to achieve an ombré look á la Seung Hee, because that looks marvelous.

The transformations for the male contestants isn't over yet though, as there's one more step before they can be reborn as new models. It's an experience known mostly to women, and it's one that I have personally not attempted yet: waxing. The guys are terrified at the sight of it, and look in horror at Cheol Woo who's first up to have his body hair removed. To be honest, it's quite hilarious to see the pain mixed with laughter and disbelief on their faces, and it's always nice as a woman to see a man go through a routine that is highly normalized within my own gender.

Confusion arises in the evening when Dong Gyu discovers an unfamiliar blue t-shirt whilst doing laundry, and the words "How do I look?" are printed on it as a message from Yoon Ju. All speculation clears up the next day however, as it's revealed that all of them will get to feature in rapper Beenzino's new video. Min Jung especially is overjoyed as she's clearly a huge fan of him, whereas the boys sulk about how it's not Girl's Day or Miss A's Suzy. 

The entire video is located at a coin laundry shop, and the models are going to be acting as various characters that all visit this place. All of them feel a huge pressure to do well, and since the challenge is quite different from a regular photo shoot or runway show, it's understandable some of them feel slightly nervous. First up there's Ji An, Yong Soo and Seung Soo, who basically storm the place and angrily start tearing things up. The concept is for the two men to fight over the lady, and they do a pretty convincing job. Well, if you exclude the stone-faced Yong Soo that is. Jae Hyuk and Cheol Woo get the honor of posing as a same-sex couple, and the latter feels everything but satisfied with doing just that. Yet in the end, he's the one that does the better job out of the two of them. It's honestly a bit embarrassing to watch them silently remove each other's clothes, but it's also kind of cool to have a gay couple included in the video, being South Korea and all.

Ji Eun and Tae Eun pose as a couple, and decide to spice things up by doing a fiery kiss scene. It's not even the director that suggests the idea, it's the two models that initiates the physical skin-ship. Yes, it's awkward at first and I'm sure it's not easy to get into the right mood when all the other models are behind camera watching, but once they get going it's amazing. Seriously, they make such a good looking couple.

Other performances include Jong Hoon acting drunk, Seung Hee, Jung Jin and Dong Gyu playing around, Gi Bbeum stripping down to her underwear and Min Jung and Ye Rim being generally cute. At panel, Dong Gyu gets criticized for not being able to show more of himself and gets eliminated, while Yong Soo still hangs on for some crazy reason. You would think he'd go home this time since it's the second time in a row he's in the bottom two, but apparently the judges feel differently.

One thing is clear, there's no way I'll stop watching the show now that it has come this far. The later episodes really picked up, and I enjoy both the challenges as well as their casual dorm life and banter. My favorites, so far, are Tae Eun, Seung Soo, Ji Eun, Gi Bbeum and Ye Rim, and I firmly believe those models all have the skills to make it far in this competition. Or at least I hope so. I will probably do another one of these recaps later on when more episodes come out, so look forward to that!

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