There are only a handful of people who know of my love of Korean variety shows, and even fewer that I speak to them about said shows. But today, I want to share my love and appreciation for one show in particular that has a rapidly growing fandom. If you like logic puzzles and playing mafia (or similarly, Resistance, Coup, etc.), then I think you'll quickly find yourself absorbed by this program.
Fresh into its fourth season, which debuted a few nights ago, The Genius is a Korean variety show that gathers celebrities who are more or less famous for being quick-witted and intelligent, and pits them together in a Survivor-style elimination, where one contestant is ejected from the game per episode, until only one winner is left. This season is graced by the presence of the previous three seasons' final winners and runner-ups, as well as some of the most stand-out contestants, both good and bad, from the previous seasons. Cast members include the likes of former pro-gamers Hong Jinho (YelloW) and Lim Yohwan (SlayerS_'BoxeR'); singer Lee Sangmin (Roo'ra), comedian Jang Dongmin, students Oh Hyunmin and Kim Kyunghoon; actress Choi Jungmoon, and a variety of other people from various professions (i.e., poker player, politician, announcer). The list only increases if the other three seasons are included.
But enough about the show itself. This post isn't about recapping episodes and analyzing strategies behind each game, but rather I think that it provides great commentary on human relationships when things are at stake—namely, one's elimination. Possible spoilers ahead.
Having watched and scrutinized all previous episodes before, I, along with many other viewers, have noticed a distinct difference in the way people act when faced with crisis. Interestingly enough, these differences can be gathered from the way people in each season play. Now, barring from a few changes, the major rules of the program remain untouched. This is why I think it is interesting that a group of 13 can essentially play the same game, but have vastly different methods and results.
Season 1, for me, was marked by the general idea that in most of these games that they played, there was a way to prevent a majority of the players from facing possible elimination. With the exception of maybe one person, there was a consensus almost every episode that the method that would allow the most number of players to win would be used. By the end of the 13-episode run, I felt pretty close with the contestants, and was genuinely surprised by both the strategies and alliances made.
Season 2, as most followers of the show will probably tell you, was ruthless in nature, as players consistently tried to find ways to make the minority win. While I wouldn't venture to say that it was selfish (although, let's be honest, that's a hard assumption to make), there were very distinct points where it felt like a free-for-all. But, it's in the nature of the game that was created. Thinking about it this way, the camaraderie that appeared in the first season was almost uncharacteristic. That said, this difference was made painfully obvious by the addition of the first season's winner and second runner-up to the cast. I actually found this season hard to watch.
Season 3 was a nice change of pace. It brought back a little of the spirit of the first season, but also had this rawness to it that kept resurfacing. This season was set apart from the others by how intelligently the alliances were made, kept, and destroyed.
So what happens when you combine players from all three seasons into a single room and make them play the same game all over again? Well, chaos.
After watching the first episode tonight, I found myself not watching the actual gameplay, but rather the interactions between the players (more often than not, the most interesting part of shows such as this). As the players enter the room one by one, I could feel a sense of friendly competition between them all...but, boy was that an emotional roller-coaster.
When faced with the need to survive, I can understand a few things. For one, the desire to keep as many people alive as possible. This was demonstrated by the "this is the highest number of people that can absolutely win" and the "this is the minimum number of people that the game dictates have to lose" strategies. These are often the most heart-breaking strategies after you have gotten to know the players. I also understand ruthlessness to some degree, as shown by the "as long as the X number of us are a team, everyone else will lose" strategy. It's simple and decreases the number of people you need to plan and react with. Finally, I understand making allegiances everywhere, spreading yourself thin. This strategy is demonstrated by those who talk to everyone, but essentially play the game on their own. I can understand these things.
What each round ultimately comes down to is betrayal. I don't understand it, nor will I pretend to, but I do recognize its necessity when certain players are faced with certain choices. However, at the very least, the logic behind betrayal must be made clear for me to watch it happen and say, "wow, that was actually pretty smart". Otherwise, it's difficult to watch.
I guess I don't really have a point anymore. I started this post with gusto, but soon remembered it's hard to go into what I want to talk about without giving away too many spoilers.
I don't know. Go watch the show. It's amazing.