Jang Eun-sil Report – Physical: 100 Episode #2

Well, there won’t be much to report on Jang Eun-sil here. See, one hundred is a big number. It makes sense that the first actual challenge will remove half. But in the meantime, managing the titular one hundred affects the show’s pacing, so we’re in for a multi-parter to cover the event. Unfortunately, that means Jang does not perform in this entire episode. So, what happened with our cliffhanger, the hanging challenge? Well, it was the soldier who won, and in doing so, gains an advantage for the upcoming game. But before we get there, we have to watch the other fifty do the same challenge. Come on, guys. Notable here is that the cheerleader drops second, alongside the huge dudes. Overall, the women didn’t do as well in this group, with the top scorer taking 16th place.

After one of those nighttime massacres or maybe some unfortunate bathroom sex, the one hundred contestants are then funneled into a social commentary room. The bottom fifty assume their corresponding numbers – including Jang – and then watch as the top fifty line up on a raised platform. The soldier may have won in the first group, but the overall winner – based on time, I guess – was a mountain rescue climber! Makes sense.

Pictured: the pre-quest winner

While the bottom half stews in their inferiority, and funnily enough, the top half stews in their superiority, the first official event is announced: a deathmatch. Three minutes, one-on-one. Whoever’s the last person holding the ball is the winner. If time runs out and it’s nobody, the game is reset and one minute is put back on the clock. Jang giggles. Now, the elevated privileged get to choose their opponent. So, one by one, we have half the contestants making their selections of the other half – with some exceptions. Some of the top fifty choose among the top fifty, to everyone’s surprise. Thankfully, in terms of pacing, we don’t see who everyone picks, at least not yet, and nobody picks Jang in this episode. However, one dude picks a woman and tells her, “I don’t think I can beat any of the men here.” We cut to a talking head where she says, “You chose wrong.”

Physical: 100 certainly took production design notes from Squid Game, but this is where the drama should come in. Remember “Gganbu”? That had – Oh, God, the memories just punched me in the gut and I need a second to recover.

I knew I could count on you!

Of course, the polite Koreans are mostly polite with each other. “Would you compete with me?” the ice climber asks the first guy. But if we’re already jumping ahead to episode six of Squid Game, don’t we need to know about these relationships before we bring them to climax? Maybe “drama” isn’t the point of a strength competition, but then, what about strategy? Well, in the manosphere’s ultimate test of strength – the proverbial street fight – strategy is very important indeed.

The first deathmatch is between a farmer and Cha Hyun-seung, one of the stars of Single’s Inferno and backup dancer to Sunmi. Goddamn. Both have enviable physiques, but the farmer guy is taller and more muscular. Without the benefit of observing anyone else’s play style, these two are whistled out of the gate and immediately start wrestling. Three, two, one, time. Nobody got close to the ball. In overtime, Hyun-seung squeezes out a victory, though most people on the sideline seemed to be rooting for the farmer. They talk about how his body was shaped by labor, which swings close to the underlying politics of an American show like Tough As Nails, but then someone replies that Hyun-seung’s body is also impressive. It wasn’t a value judgment.

The farmer is the first to smash his torso, and he says, “I lost to a guy half my size. You useless chunk of muscle.” We’re getting a sense now for what this game is gonna be like. In the second round, it’s the dance choreographer from Kingdom, who’s apparently the leader of a “bone-breaking team” – perhaps a scary way of saying “contortionists” – squaring off against a comparable physique. This one takes place on the more cluttered of two arenas, where one is a mud pool and the other is an obstacle course. They’re zooming around, and it ends up looking like professional tag, which you may have seen as a viral video at some point. There’s close calls, slow motion, ducking in and out of the environment. In the end, the zombie loses, but he and his opponent have a dance-off to thrill the crowd.

The third round is between two female boxers. Now, this game isn’t technically about fighting, but we already have the first round as precedent. “I know you’re my senior, but I can beat you in a boxing match,” the younger woman says. “She’s savage,” Jang observes, laughing. The two contestants enter the arena and the junior starts in with MMA and grappling. “It felt personal,” the senior boxer later recounts. This contestant wanted to settle a score, and to her credit, she won. Still, no strategy there. “I’m gonna fight the other boxer,” she says. No! You’re gonna fight the 18-year-old kid. You know you’re gonna do that!

On the pre-quest, Mr. Zombie actually dropped into the water early. His thought was, “I’ll make them think I’m weak, so they’ll underestimate me,” which sounds like he’s a fan of American competition shows. The far more insidious strategy belongs to a slimmer guy, or at least, a guy made slim in comparison to his chosen opponent: the strongest man in Korea. Slim Jim – and I have to note that Netflix subtitles don’t translate on-screen text, so I won’t know anyone’s names for a while – knows that the strongest man is gonna be slow, so if he can get the ball first, game over. Good strategy. He doesn’t get the ball first.

Everyone’s like, “Oh, he’s screwed now.” True enough, how do you take the ball from that guy? They wrestle, but no dice. Slim Jim decides his only option is to tire him out. The ball is big, and unwieldy, so it isn’t the easiest thing to control. When the strongest man turtles up with the ball underneath him, Slim Jim actually lifts him – and slams him down. In the interview cut into this scene, the strongest man says of his turtle maneuver, “I defended the ball well,” and his eyes drop, which totally gave it away:

The ball gets lose, and it’s nevertheless a moment where I made an O with my mouth. That’s the difference, though. That’s the drama. There are stakes here. When Slim Jim loses the ball right off the bat, his plan goes to pot. Getting the ball back isn’t just about winning the game, it’s about proving himself correct, and making up for what could’ve been a massive error. “I think I got too comfortable,” the strongest man says. “I don’t want to admit it, but I wasn’t good enough.”

The final round of the episode is our first bodybuilder, who chooses “Agent H” because he wanted a challenge. People! Strategy! This sequence opens with a montage of contestants being interviewed about Agent H. Many are wary of him. One of the contestants says, “Agent H. He’s so handsome.” But maybe this is a higher aspiration: don’t take a weaker opponent, test yourself. That’s the true measure of strength, isn’t it? The bodybuilder is taller and more muscular, but Agent H quickly proves he’s the better fighter. I have to think that Jang will be suited to this game, no matter how she’s chosen. But this episode ends on a cliffhanger. It’s super tight between these two guys. “They’re all proud, so they don’t want to lose,” one of the contestants observes. If Jang’s deathmatch ends in a cliffhanger, I won’t be functional for a week.

For more coverage…
Physical: 100 Episode #1
Physical: 100 Episode #2
Physical: 100 Episode #3
Physical: 100 Episode #4
Physical: 100 Episode #5
Physical: 100 Episode #6
Physical: 100 Episode #7
Physical: 100 – Final Report


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