When it comes to the finale of any reality show, we expect the zing of the season to be at its peak. But “Physical 100” has been different. To be honest, it took us a while to get used to it. Our brains are hardwired to expect sass and drama from anything that resembles a reality show. But “Physical 100” was playing a different game altogether, right from the beginning. Some episodes have undoubtedly been slow, but it would be criminal to call the finale unengaging despite its lack of strong moments.
When we started watching the show, we were insistent that such moments were required since this was a reality show at the end of the day. However, four weeks later, our perspective gained a better understanding. “Physical 100” is a reality show, but it is also a competition based on strength and willpower. The mind games we see contestants playing in other shows translate into what one must play with oneself to keep going in the competition. The drama we should be expecting from this show is the kind that happens from the heart, not the kind that happens for the ratings. No doubt there were moments we rolled our eyes at, but that did not stop us from feeling as deeply for the contestants as they did for themselves.
The end of “Physical 100” Episode 8 was a heartbreaking one for us as Sung Hoon was eliminated from the “Punishment of Sisyphus.” We were biased towards him, and we believed we would not care who won the round since our favorite had lost anyway. But we cannot deny that when we saw Sung Bin just collapse on top of that hill, unable to move any further, something in our hearts twisted. It was at that moment that we realized what trying to win this game stood for. In every other reality show, the contestants have to put in an effort to entertain and endear themselves to the audience. In this show, the contestants had to bring the best of their sportsmanship, and it was up to the audience’s intelligence to catch on to that.
The final five contestants to go on to the last quest were Jung Hae Min, Park Jin Yong, Woo Jin Yong, Min Cheol, and Jin Hyeong. As they sat together for a dinner that we would like to call a pescatarian paradise (we know there was other meat, but still), a topic was brought to light that often gets pushed to the background. Remember our previously mentioned eye rolls? They happened because whenever the contestants suffered a loss, they said that they had come to “Physical 100” to prove a point about the abilities of the people in their field or to test their own limits against the who’s who of the fitness world or even to prove that they were the best there was. We just wanted to hear from someone that they were there for the money. It is a big ask from our end to want the contestants to leave behind political correctness on an extremely public platform, but maybe we thought that considering the daunting tasks they were taking on, mentioning the money would not invite any judgment from us.
But it was during the dinner that something came to light for us. Sports, unless they are hugely popular, are often neglected by the people and the government, and this translates into a lack of funds for the players’ professional and personal lives. Let us say that they did choose to participate in “Physical 100” for the money; it was not as flippant a matter as we were thinking. We don’t know whether the presence of these sports persons would actually benefit them outside the show, but we hope the conversation around this topic keeps growing.
As the contestants move towards the final quest, it is a battle of wills more than anything else. We had liked Min Cheol right from the beginning, so watching him lose by less than a second hurt us in a way we could not have imagined. But more than that, we were surprised that we felt bad when Jin Hyeong was eliminated. We were not aware that we had been rooting for him, yet his loss felt like our own. Probably the toughest competition of everything was the part where they had to do laps continuously. The way the contestants kept going, it was clear that it was not so much about wanting to win as it was about not wanting to lose. The games in this quest were not about celebrating the victory of a person but about sharing the grief of the ones who lost. When Park Jin Yong lost, we did not feel a shred of sympathy for him. Instead, we felt a sense of pride for a person we had only been aware of for a few moments yet who ended up inspiring us through his sheer grit and determination. This was the peak moment of the finale.
The final round, in which the contestants had to pull at an endless rope, had us exhausted at the description itself. Surprisingly, the stakes were higher when there was just one person they were competing with. It was as easy as it was difficult, and mostly, more than anything, it was a battle of wills. Woo Jin Yong won, and our congratulations to him for that. It wasn’t as much a moment of euphoria as it was about relief—that they had all proven themselves and could go home without any regrets, and even if they had any, they had done more than what anybody else could do. “Physical 100” as a show requires some patience, but it is all worth it in the end, and we cannot wait for Season 2.