Top Shot Episode 2: Zipline of Fire

Welcome to your weekly Top Shot post which recaps the episode from a contestant’s point of view.  Long post and spoilers follow, so click below the jump to read the recap!

The episode opens with Red Team returning to the house after the elimination challenge.  At the time, I was surprised to see that Kelly beat Mike out – I didn’t know until AFTER the challenge exactly how good Kelly was with a rifle, and he turned out to be absolutely unflappable under pressure.  I admit I sold him short, and after that challenge I gained a ton of respect for his abilities both in the limelight and as a shooter.

That evening was pretty hilarious, actually.  What you don’t see in the episode is The Mike Seeklander Memorial Dart Tournament to see who got his bed, Blake’s impersonation of Colby, and the invention of the ADL: the Asian Dart League (don’t ask where we got the name).

The next day, we were on to the practice session, where we met Ben Stoeger, a top ranked USPSA Production shooter with a Beretta 92, and as such a logical choice to teach us the ways of the force/Beretta.  Blue Team had in my opinion a HUGE advantage going in to this challenge, as we were stacked deep with pistol shooters.  Blake, JJ, Chris, Adam, Tara, Iain, and me all had lots of experience with pistol shooting and both the speed and accuracy necessary to make any shot on any one of those tubes.  In the episode, our concern as Blue Team was Jim, who struggled with the pistol in practice.  In his interviews and with us he confided that he wasn’t comfortable with the pistol.  We hoped as a team that we’d have the option to bench him for the challenge, as that would eliminate our weakest link.

Too bad that didn’t happen.  At the actual challenge, it turns out Red Team got to pick who would sit, and they picked Blake after hearing about his shooting during the practice.  The challenge itself consisted of shooting a series of glass filled tubes that reduced in size from 4 inches to 1.25 inches in diameter.  Red Team went first, and they had some trouble – 5 team misses (one from Brad, two from Frank, and two from Bill) cost them a lot of time and left the door open for us on Blue Team.  Blue Team stepped to the line, and Jim on the large tube missed his first shot, but then we really stepped up: as a team we went 1-for-1 on each tube after Jim, completing that run with Chris doing a great running reload of the 92 to set it up for Jim.

Jim stepped up, and…nailed his shot.  With the reload and the miss, we were still almost 30 seconds faster than Red Team, giving Blue Team our second win of the series!

Back the house, there was a little interpersonal drama.  Red Team, having been dealt two losses in a row was having a bit of internal conflict as Brad, Frank, and Bill’s personalities began to clash.  This hashed out at the elimination range as after a complicated vote and a tie-breaker, Brad and Frank ended up in the elimination challenge: the Zipline.

The consultant for the zipline was Matt Burkett, 3-gun and USPSA shooter who has shot the Zipline at the MGM Ironman (the inspiration for this challenge) multiple times.  In the elimination challenge, Frank and Brad tied on the first round, forcing a re-shoot.  In the re-shoot, Frank hit only one target to Brad’s five hits, making him the second player eliminated from Top Shot.

Frank was an all-around hilarious guy to have in the house, and as one of my 7 roommates our room got a lot quieter after he left.  Next week on Top Shot is the archery challenge – look for english longbows, balls of fire, and fleeing Frenchmen!


  1. Thanks for the bonus content, Caleb. The show’s format doesn’t always seem fair to me (shouldn’t all the contestants get to try shooting at 15 MPH?) but it is still fun to watch, with mainstream appeal. Keep up the, uh, retroactively already occurred, good shooting.

    Hilarious part of the episode this week for me was when the closed captioning said “GLOCK .35” – yes, with the decimal point. I didn’t know they made a thirty-five caliber pistol!

    Isn’t the .35 a .40?

    Does this mean I have to type another “Who’s on Glock?”

  2. “Ben Stoeger, a top ranked USPSA Production shooter with a Beretta 92”

    Is there anyone on that show that is not a top-ranked something or other?

    All those champions and all those blown shots make me feel A LOT better. 🙂

  3. Ben was the consultant – he just finished second at Area 5 in Production behind Dave Sevigny, so he’s a legit stud.

  4. I didn’t know about the zipline until they came back from the elimination,and MAN DID I WANT TO DO THAT.

  5. After watching the first two episodes, my question is:

    Did any of the contestants *ever* watch “Survivor?”

    I’m just not seeing much understanding of the whole “reality TV gaming strategy” going on here.

    There’s more to winning this then just being the best shot, but if anyone has picked up on that, it hasn’t shown through yet.

    Caleb, anything you can comment on regarding how people tended to “play the game” without violating whatever agreements you had to sign?

  6. I’m not sure I agree with you about Survivor, Rob, although I’d love to hear Caleb’s thoughts all the same. 🙂 It seems like the first couple eliminations in Survivor usually don’t have much politicing, it’s usually more a dump the weakest or most annoying kind of vote.

  7. Rob, I’m pretty sure that everyone there was conversant on the “reality show strategy” such as it is. The thing is that some people, myself included, refused to play that game. The difference between Top Shot and Survivor is that in Survivor, if you get voted, that’s it – game over man. In Top Shot, if you get voted into an elimination challenge, you’ve got the chance to shoot your way back.

    That’s the big difference and what allowed people like myself to treat it like a shooting competition. If someone wants to play silly political games and try to railroad people, they are welcome to do that. I just won’t.

  8. “SB,

    Ben Stoeger shoots 3.78 El Prez drills, so I reckon he’s a fair shot”

    Yes, exactly, aren’t they all fair shots?

    Mike Monkey Butt shoots 3.48 El Prez drills and is a Super Hidden Dragon Ninja Master Power Level IPSC but he can’t hit the broadside of a barn.

    I feel even better. 🙂

  9. Caleb,

    I was actually impressed by the level of teamwork shown and glad there wasn’t the back stabbing common on reality shows. I was glad to see the spotters really working for their shooters, for instance, and not trying to sabotage them, etc.

    What I meant though is there were several instances of contestants “shooting themselves in the foot” game-wise, when they had no reason to do so and when it was in their best interest not to do so.

    I’m thinking specifically of Mike wanting to go against Kelly in the long range shoot in the first episode and then in the second episode when one of the contestants (can’t remember who) said he was going to vote for one person to be eliminated and then changed his mind at the last moment and voted for a different person. That’s a good way to make *two* people who are willing to vote for you next time.

    That’s the “lack of gaming strategy” I’m talking about not the “screw your buddy” kind.


  10. I’d be willing to bet that if given the opportunity to do it again, Mike would not have volunteered to go up against Kelly. I think that’s what sent it home for us – Mike getting eliminated like that.

  11. I also think it interesting that the photos the History Channel used for the profiles has all the guys looking mean and determined. But the one female competitor with a smile.

    As for the competirors, although we only see a few minutes, thus it’s really hard to gain a feel of someone’s nature. There are a number of players whose personalities seem to conflict, or rather cause conflict.

    Brad – comes across whiny, and not seemingly performing on a level that his words often claim.

    Bill – he just rubs me the wrong way, and I thought his reason for sending Kelly to the first elimination challenge was just obnoxious.

    But I also know these shows focus on ‘drama’, and try to hype it up in it’s presenation. Definitely love the ‘behind the scenes’ insight.

    Regarding Mike, “Underestimation of one’s enemy almost always leads to loss.”

    But at least he seemed to handle it in good fashion. Looking forward to the next episode.


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