Society Game Recap: Episode 1

Society Game Recap: Episode 1
Episode 1: October 16, 2016

I haven’t read any articles about this show or seen any previews, so I don’t know anything about it yet, but based on the name and the fact that it’s airing on tvN, I’m hoping this is like <Liar Game,> the Japanese manga/drama that also had a remake on tvN a couple years ago.

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The show starts off kind of like a serious documentary defining “society” and “game” and showing shots of various “societies” and then goes off on how leaders play such an important role in society. Okay, so now we know that the game is going to put a huge focus on leadership.

<Society Game> has a pretty epic opening credits scene which is rare for a Korean variety show. It reminds me of something from a Marvel movie opening. Also there’s no traditional host, just a computerized voice that plays over a tv screen, just like in <Liar Game>.

tvN has built a huge set for the <Society Game> contestants to live in and compete. It looks like a hanok style building, but it’s in a dome shape. This “dome village” is based off of the Chinese traditional house Tulou as well as the Panopticon. It’s divided into three areas, the Neutral Complex (Jungrib Dong), North Complex (Nop Dong), and South Complex (Ma Dong). (*side note: In Korean, Nop refers to wind that blows from the north and Ma is wind from the south. Dong refers to a part of a building.)

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The Contestants

The contestants enter the Neutral Complex carrying suitcases. Depending when they get eliminated, they’ll be staying at the complex for up to two weeks. There are 22 contestants in total and by order of appearance they are

Jang Hanbyul: 27, Singer, University of Queensland dental science graduate

Shin Jae-hyuk: 23, Model, Seoul Culture Arts University modeling major

Choi Seol-hwa: 24, Personal Trainer / Ballet Instructor, Kyunghee University dance graduate

Lim Dong-hwan: 30, Smart phone developer, Yonsei University mechanical engineering graduate

Jung In-jik: 26, Student, Seoul University physical education major

Park Ha-el: 24, Student, Korea University international relations major

Kim Hee-jun: 30, English Language Academy CEO, Illinois State University graduate / Seoul University Sports Management Masters graduate

Hyun Kyung-ryul: 32, PhD student/start-up company founder, Seoul University computer engineering major

Hong Sa-hyuk: 30, Doctor/ PhD student, Seoul University plastic surgery major

Park Seo-hyun: 22, Student, Yonsei University musical composition major

Lee Hae-sung: 25, Student, Seoul University business major

Yoon Macho: 30, Editor at Maxim Magazine, Seoulmode Design and Merchandising School fashion business graduate

Yang Ji-an: 29, Party Planner, Yonsei University journalism graduate

Pharaoh: 32, Rapper, Kyonggi University sports management graduate

Lee Byeong-kwan: 29, Personal Trainer, California State University business graduate

Kwon Ah-sol: 31, Road FC fighter, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University Management dropout

Oliver Jang: 26, Model, John’s Hopkins University public health studies graduate

Hwang In-sun: 30, Singer, Sungkyunkwan University dance graduate

Yang Sang-guk: 34, Comedian, KBS class 22

Chae Ji-won: 21, Student, Pohang University of Science and Technology industrial management engineering major

MJ Kim: 26, Mixed martial arts fighter

Yoon Tae-jin: 30, Announcer Ewha Women’s University dance graduate

I’m a little surprised that tvN included the university info for everyone, even those who aren’t currently students, but I guess it just goes to show how much emphasis this “society” puts on academic background.

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Once everyone is introduced, a booming voice on a large screen informs the group of the rules of the game. The contestants will be divided into two groups. In Nopdong (Green) contestants will vote for a new leader each morning. Whereas in the Madong (Orange) there is one leader that only changes if the other contestant decide to revolt. Basically, it’s a choice between a democracy and a dictatorship. The leaders of each complex get two advantages, the ability to distribute prize money and the ability to choose who to eliminate.

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Each daily challenge is worth 10 million won (about 10,000 USD) which gets distributed according to the winning team leader’s wishes. For the losing team of each challenge, the leader has to choose one person to eliminate. The challenges require strength, intelligence, and/or dexterity skills.

Only three people from each team will be able to compete in the final round for up to 150 million (about 150,000 USD) in prize money. Each team will be composed of 11 people. That’s 7 men and 4 women per team.

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Preliminary Tests

The contestant choose which test they want to take strength, intelligence, or dexterity. Their performance in these preliminary tests decides the order they get to choose their teams.

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The first one is the intelligence test. The screen shows a sequence of colors and the contestants have to memorize the order. Seven people are up for the challenge. Everyone gets the first color right. A couple people miss the second color. Three more drop out during the third color. One more drops out in the fourth. There’s just one person left, Park Seo-hyun, and she makes it all the way up to the 10th color, pretty much crushing her opponents.

Intelligence Test Ranking

  1. Park Seo-hyun
  2. Yang Sang-guk
  3. Oliver Jang
  4. Lee Hae-sung
  5. Hong Sa-hyuk
  6. Chae Ji-won
  7. Hyun kyung-ryul

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For the strength test, the contestants have to move 5 kg sandbags to a platform. (There are 16 sandbags for the men, and 12 for the women.) The one who moves them in the shortest time wins. The men go first, so the women definitely have an advantage because they get to watch the men try different tactics, and see which works best. Some carry the sandbags two by two, others throw them over.

Strength Test Ranking

  1. Choi Seol-hwa
  2. MJ Kim
  3. Lee Byung-kwan
  4. Lim Dong-hwan
  5. Hwang In-seon
  6. Pharaoh
  7. Jung In-jik

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In the dexterity test, contestants throw rings at a pole. The one who gets the most out of ten rings wins. It’s surprisingly difficult, and most contestants don’t even get a single ring in. At the end of the ten rounds, Kwon Ah-sol and Kim Hee-jun are tied with two rings each, so they go for a sudden death round.

Dexterity Test Ranking

  1. Kwon Ah-sol
  2. Kim Hee-jun
  3. Yoon Macho
  4. Yang Ji-won
  5. Yoon Tae-jin
  6. Shin jae-hyuk
  7. Park Ha-el
  8. Hanbyul

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Now it’s time to choose teams. All the first place winners get to go first and choose Madong (Orange). However, Nopdong (Green) fills up more quickly, perhaps because the other players want to avoid the first place winners, and so a few are automatically assigned to Madong (Orange).

Before moving to their complexes, the contestants have to pass a luggage check. They can only keep up to 5 kg of personal belonging, although the first place winners each get an extra 3 kg. No food or communication devices are allowed.

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The complexes are quite large. They are divided into rooms such as the leader’s room, storage, revolution/voting room, jail, kitchen, etc. Unfortunately, these rooms are all pretty sparse, so I’m guessing some of the challenges are going to award some luxury items.

This summer was one of the hottest ever, with heat wave after heat wave, and the contestants have to live in the open sun with no air conditioning or even electric fans. I actually bought a new air conditioning unit just for this record breakingly hot summer, so I can’t imagine being outside all day in the sun like that. I would probably have packed my bags and left.

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In Nopdong (Green) , the two models, Shin Jae-hyuk and Oliver Jang, happen to be acquaintances and they talk secretly about who to eliminate first, and just like any other <Survivor> knock off, it looks like alliances are going to be key.

Kim Hee-joon is hard at work making a simple meal of rice and potatoes. It must be rough having to cook all your meals like its the 1900s.

Yoon Macho calls for self-introductions, so that everyone can get an idea of each other’s strengths. Plastic surgeon Hong Sa-hyuk brags about how he is a hobby rapper, which is hilarious because on the same team is actual rapper Pharaoh.

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The contestants think over who they’ll vote for in the morning, and then suddenly the lights go out at 10 pm on the dot.

Day 2: Picking Leaders

On the second day, the Madong (Orange) contestants play a game to decide their first leader. The “voice” announces that the leader’s room has air conditioning, and suddenly everyone wants to be the leader.

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A couple of <Society Game> staff members bring in a covered box and it turns out to be a terrarium filled with earthworms and cockroaches which are then grounded into a smoothie. The first to drink up an entire cup gets to be the leader. While everyone’s still staring and trying to decide whether or not to drink it, Lee Hae-sung picks up a glass and chugs it, catching everyone off guard. The “voice” announces that the leader has been appointed.

Lee Hae-sung gets three keys: the leader’s room key, prison key, and leader’s box key. He also gets two revolution keys that he gives to Yang Sang-guk and Jung In-jik. That means that only those two can start a revolution, and if the majority of the Madong (Orange) residents go with them, the revolution succeeds and the revolution starter becomes the new leader.

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Meanwhile in Nopdong (Green), everyone’s trying to figure each other out. Only three people apply to be leaders. Kim Hee-jun, Yoon Macho, and Pharaoh. Basically, it’s the three oldest men on the team. Everyone gets 30 minutes to vote anonymously. Kim Hee-jun gets 4 votes, Yoon Macho gets 1, and Pharaoh gets 6, making him the team’s first leader.

In both complexes, everyone fawns over the air conditioning unit in the leader’s room, but it only works when the leader is in the room alone. As soon as anyone else enters the room, the AC gets turned off remotely.

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Back in Madong (Orange) Yang Sang-guk tries to convince leader Lee Hae-sung to join his alliance, and after thinking it over, leader Lee Hae-sung tells Yang Sang-guk that he can help protect him, but he can’t take on his entire alliance. Yang Sang-guk decides that he’s going to take over and calls for a revolution. Everyone’s like already?

If the majority decides to revolt within the next 30 minutes, then Yang Sang-guk will become the new leader. That means that five more people need to ring the revolution gong. Yang Sang-guk’s entire alliance decides to revolt and Yang Sang-guk appoints Kwon Ah-sol and Choi Seol-hwah the new key holders. Poor Lee Ha-sung. He ate all those bugs just to get overthrown a few hours later.

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It looks like Madong (Orange) is already divided into two alliances. There’s the revolution alliance (Yang Sang-guk, Kwon Ah-sol, Hyun Kyung-ryul, Park Seo-hyun, Choi Seol-hwah, and Hanbyul) and the non revolution alliance (Lee Hae-sung, Yang Ji-an, Park Ha-el, Lee Byung-kwan, and Jung In-jik).

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Team Challenge: Game Rules

Next, all of the contestants get called into the Neutral Complex to play their first team challenge. It’s Human Janggi (Korean chess.) Almost everyone gets a piece numbered 1-11, which moves forward or sideways on a 8 by 6, three story board. (One representative from each team is in charge of moving their team’s pieces. This person does not get assigned a number.)

The pieces can either move one or two spaces when on the same level, or one space when moving to a higher level. When a piece moves up on to an opponent’s piece, they get to play a mini-game and the loser’s piece gets eliminated from the board. Also, the pieces are concealed at the start of the game, so the other team doesn’t know which player has which piece until it’s time for a duel.

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Since every piece has a number, the total of the two pieces battling each other determines which kind of mini-game will be played. A total of 10 or below is an intelligence game, 11-13 is a dexterity game, and 14 or above is a strength game. Each team also has a special king piece, and the first team that gets their king piece to the opposite end or eliminate the other team’s king piece wins.

The two teams warm-up with a strength mini-game where two people wrestle each other while tied to a mini-statue. The first to knock off their opponent’s statue wins. Of course Madong (Orange) picks Road FC fighter Kwon Ah-sol to represent while Madong (Orange) goes with leader Pharaoh. Mixed martial arts fighter MJ Kim is annoyed that her team picked Pharaoh over her.

It’s an easy win for Kwon Ah-sol, and it takes about 3 seconds for him to pull his opponents statue off. Madong (Orange) gets a watermelon as a prize, and both teams return to their complexes to strategize for their first team challenge. They need to assign numbers to each player as well as their king piece. The game will start at 5 pm.

Madong (Orange) strategizes by assigning all the women to the low numbers, so that they will be less likely to face strength mini-games. They also plan to get all their pieces on to the third floor first, so that the other team can’t attack their king piece.

The winning team gets 5 kg of extra luggage for their team, so a lot is on the line.

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Madong (Orange) chooses Yang Sang-guk to move their pieces, while Nopdong (Green) chooses Chae Ji-won. Chae Ji-won quips that Yang Sang-hyun is so old, he’s gonna collapse in the heat. She also tells Yang Sang-guk, “No take backsies” when he’s unsure of a move. She’s like a yappy little dog getting on Yang Sang-guk’s nerves. Ha.

Nopdong (Green) moves their #2 piece (Hong Sa-hyuk) to attack Madong’s (Orange) #11, which they correctly assume to be Kwon Ah-sol’s. The total of 13 means that they are going to try to take out Orange’s strongest player through a dexterity game (ring toss) and they succeed by 2 to 0.

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Green’s #2 (Hong Sa-hyuk) quickly takes out another Orange piece #5 (Yang Ji-ahn) through an intelligence game, which is a puzzle. The first to get the answer wins. The answer btw is 3.

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Now it’s Green #2 (Hong Sa-hyuk) vs Orange #4 (Lee Hae-sung) vs  for another puzzle. Lee Hae-sung correctly guesses 1, which refers to the number of circles in the word.

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Orange starts to make their move towards the top tier. While green’s strategy seems to be to move all their pieces towards the opponents end. It becomes pretty clear that Orange team’s king piece is #8 from the way they keep protecting it.

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Next up is Green’s #1 (Im Dong-hwan) vs Orange’s #1 (Park Seo-hyun). It takes a couple of wrong guesses until Green figures it’s 28. Green wins. The answer is the number of lines times the number of shapes ( 7 x 4 = 28).

Green keeps trying to attack the Orange #8 piece, but Orange is doing a good job protecting their king. Now it’s Green’s #10 (Pharaoh) vs Orange’s #10 (Lee Byeong-kwan). It’s the first strength battle of the mission. Orange wins, but Green still has a chance to get closer to the orange king. If they win this next mini-game they will get a chance at the king.

It’s Green #3 (Yoon Macho) vs. Orange #10 (Lee Byung-kwan) for a dexterity match. Yoon Macho gets an early ring, but Lee Byung-kwan ultimately wins 2 to 1.

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Green #6 (Oliver Jang) loses to Orange #4 (Lee Hae-sung) at another puzzle. Interestingly, both of these guys are from prestigious universities (John’s Hopkins and Seoul University). The answer is Beijing.

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Green’s #5 (Kim Hee-jun) vs. Orange’s #9 (Jung In-jik). Kim Hee-jun is pretty short so he’s no match, and it seems like he’s pretty badly injured.

That’s followed by another strength game, Green’s #3 (Hwang In-suk) vs Orange’s #9 (Jung In-jik). It’s a woman vs a man, so it’s not even close. The green teammates are just like, “Just try not to get hurt Unnie!”

Now another strength game between Green’s #9 (Shin Jae-hyuk) vs. Orange’s #6 (Hanbyul). Orange wins. Things aren’t looking good for the green team. Orange has taken over the top floor, so there’s no way for Green to get to the Orange king. All Green can do is try to get their king to the end. Meanwhile, Orange can afford to wait things out.

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Green only has three pieces left unturned now. #4, #7 and #11. One of these must be the king.

Orange guesses that #7 is the Green king, but that turns out to be MJ Kim’s piece. Cue a strength mini-game between Green #7  (MJ Kim) vs Orange’s #9 (Jung In-jik). MJ is looking pissed off. Or maybe she’s just concentrating really hard on how she’s going to manage to beat a guy at a strength game. It’s hard to tell.

MJ of course is lacking in strength, but she uses her legs to pull down Jun In-jik’s statue. MJ wins! She says she knew she’d win because the men would be underestimating her.

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MJ’s win doesn’t matter though, because there’s nowhere for the Green king to run.

After the Orange team wins, it’s time for everyone to go back to their complexes. The winning team has to distribute earnings and get 5 kg more of luggage, while the losing team needs to chose one person to kick out from the game.

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Back at Madong (Orange) Yang Sang-guk distributes some cold water that he made by placing cups in front of the AC. I’ve never been a fan of Yang Sang-guk because I think his comedy style relies too much on playing dumb, annoying characters, but I have to give him props here for figuring out a smart way to get his teammates to like him.

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Money Allotment, Blacklist, and Eliminations

Madong’s (Orange) leader Yang Sang-guk chooses to distribute the money equally by giving each of the ten teammates 1 million won (~1,000 USD), while keeping none for himself. The teammates think Yang Sang-guk is so kind, but I think he’s being shrewd here since this is a really great strategy for getting people on his side.

He also gets to choose to blacklist one person from his team if he wants to. Once a team member gets blacklisted twice, he or she is eliminated for good. Yang Sang-guk thinks about writing down Hanbyul for trying to play multiple alliances, but eventually decides not to blacklist anyone.

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Now Nopdong’s (Green)  leader Pharaoh has to choose one teammate to eliminate for good. He goes with announcer Yoon Tae-jin, which is a terrible move. He picked her because she didn’t do anything during the Human Janggi team challenge, and because she wasn’t really close to anyone on the team.

Yeah…that was not a smart move on her part. This is no place for introverts.

However, unlike the other leader, Yang Sang-guk, it looks like Pharaoh is not good at playing the game. A lot of people are angry at Pharaoh for losing so many mini-games, and plan to eliminate him next, so Pharaoh should have eliminated one of them. Bad move.

End Narration: If the group needs to sacrifice someone, who would you choose? If it were me, I would choose not a friend or a foe, but someone that no one would get upset over sacrificing.

Next week on <Society Game>, it’s another day, another game, and another elimination.

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