Series / The Genius


Spoilers for S1 note 

Spoiler for S2 note 

Spoilers S4 note 

Beautiful defeats and ugly victories

The Genius (Korean: 더 지니어스) is a South Korean reality game show broadcast on cable channel tvN. The first season began airing on April 26, 2013. The show proved to be a hit for tvN and subsequently, three other seasons were aired.

The Genius brings together 13 contestants from various areas to compete for the top spot in rounds involving various games. Every episode, a contestant is eliminated following a main match and a death match. The winner of the main match will gain a token of life as assurance to proceed to the next round, and in some cases, receives an additional token of life to give to another player as well as a predetermined number of garnets. The worst performer in the main match is automatically sent to the death match, and is allowed to choose their opponent. However, they cannot choose a person with a token of life. The winner of the death match gains their opponents garnets (until S3) and the right to stay in the game.

Format changes

S2: A token of life was added to the game, with clues given to main match winners Its eventually found by Sangmin

S3: The winners of the death match are given a black garnet, which when three are presented a black mission can be attempted which would save the player from the death match if completed However they become a non-factor as none of the missions are completed successfully and the remaining black garnets are traded for normal garnets at the beginning of the tenth episode

S4: Besides being an all-stars season, S4 introduced 3 "Garnet Matches" where the person with the most and least garnets will be the winner and death match candidate of the episode. Also, all of the death matches have been played before and are now chosen by lottery with contestants able to veto those they don't wish to play.

Season one is subtitled Rules of the Game (게임의 범칙)

Season two is subtitled Rule Breaker (룰 브레이커)

Season three is subtitled Black Garnet (블랙 가넷)

Season four is subtitled Grand Final (그랜드 파이널)

An English subbed version of all seasons can be found here:

Tropes found in the Genius include

  • Achilles' Heel:
    • Hyunmin never seems to lose unless it's against Dongmin.
    • Sangmin is one of the greatest players on the show, but has never won a Death Match
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Sangmin and Yo-hwan had to go on their knees asking other players to save them.
  • Anyone Can Be Eliminated: Doing well in previous seasons doesn't mean you won't be taking an early exit from this one.
  • Always Second Best: Jinho's professional Starcraft career has been this trope. Other contestants never miss a chance to tease Jinho about it.
  • Back for the Finale: For the final, all the eliminated contestants are each given an item to give to the player of their choice. Along with 3 items for each of the specific games, there's always the First Game pick item (discontinued starting in Black Garnet), the Copy item, and the item blocker.
  • Best Served Cold: Ahyoung and Sangmin admit that wanting Kyunghoon out is the main reason they participate in Horror Race 2.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Often happens when two allies or close friends go to the Death Match, so one ends up eliminating the other.
    • More generally when a player survives at the expense of eliminating a close ally. for example Kyungran in S1 E3
    • Jinho seems pretty resistant to this, unaffected to lose Junseok and Poong in S1, Doohee in S2, and Kyungran in S4.
  • Brainless Beauty: Sung-Gyu of boy-band INFINITE. He claims he didn't even understood the rules of the first few main matches and becomes an easy target of manipulations for Kyungran and Sangmin. At least some of it must be an act, considering how deep into season 1 he goes.
  • Brandishment Bluff: in "Swords and Shields" game player can bluff that they have a sword or a shield and it will work exactly as real stuff, unless challenged.
  • Breakout Character: Junghyun in Season 2. Despite doing nothing for around the first 6 episodes, he ended up being one of the main characters of the season.
    • Arguably, Kyunghoon in Season 4. He starts the series with low status in the eyes of all the other contestants, and just survives in some moments, but went on to ace the second half of the series and reach the final.
  • Catch Phrase: Beautiful defeats and ugly victories.
    • "To the (x) players who survived, I will see you in the next round."
    • "I'll cheer for you in spirit" / "Don't even cheer for me" - as a way of apologizing and then rejecting the apology; comes from a infamous exchange during S2 E1 and has been repeated a few times.
    • "(Player) was eliminated in the (n)th round... Who will be eliminated today?"
  • Cat Fight: In one of the pre-match banters in season 4, Kyungran and lawyer Yoonsun are having an argument. Because both are intimidating female players, Sangmin yells: "All men, duck!" and producers jokingly add lazers effects between two women.
  • Celebrity Edition: The show started with the cast made of mostly (South-Korean) celebrities. In response to viewers' negative reception of the infamous "celebrity alliance" against "regular people" in season 2, contestants for season 3 were mostly "regular people" picked from public casting calls.
  • Chaotic Stupid: Kyunghoon's signature style of "play"... Which eventually makes him a pariah in everyone's eyes.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Token of life Twice In Season 2 Once when Sangmin gives Doohee the fake token of life after the monopoly game and When he uses the token to save Yowhan from the F4 Death Match.
    • The black garnets turn out to be a Red Herring since all attempts to use them fail.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Jungmoon's knowledge of the first 70 decimal digits of Pi in Season 4.
    • Dongmin's ability to differentiate weight of objects, which is exploited in S3 E5 and S4 E2. In S4 E2 (Horror Race), the producers never expected anyone to be able to differentiate the coins based on the metal weight in it (with only a difference of 0,1 gram!). This prompted the producers to make the coins differ from size instead in Horror Race 2.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Dongmin in the S3 E10's Death Match. Realizing that he played himself into a corner, he managed to win by confusing Yeonjoo into copying his crazy move.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Jinho curb stomps Kyungran in S1's finals
    • And an episode earlier (S1 E11), Kyungran curbstomps Sangmin in at Same Picture Hunt
    • When Junghyun plays Hongchul at Same Picture Hunt in S2 E8, Junghyun deploys a probably unbeatable strategy.
    • Hyunmin pulled an almost unbeatable strategy against Yeonseung in S3 E11's Death Match (Betting Black and White).
    • Yeonseung with Dongmin as "partner" absolutely brutalize Yohwan with Jinho as partner at Tactical Yutnori in S4 E2.
    • Once again, Dongmin absolutely brutalizes Kyungran in Gyul! Hap! (S4 E8).
    • Arguably, the finals in Season 4 can also be considered this.
  • Deadly Hug: In the first game of Season 4, Sangmin hugs Junghyun and whispers to him that he has the convict card.
  • Death Seeker: Dongmin in S3 E8, says he wants to go to the Death Match and tries to, but fails.
  • Double Unlock: The Black Garnets in Season 3. If you collect 3 (enough of a challenge in itself) then you avoid a Death Match... as long as you complete an extremely hard solo game first.
  • Eliminated From The Race: Using the Death Match.
  • Flash Forward: Occasionally used, less common in later seasons.
  • Flock of Wolves: Jun-seok's alliance in S4E6 Garnet Thief game. Out of four "teammates", Jung-moon is Dongmin's spy, Kyunghoon is ALSO Dongmin's spy who intentionally reveals Jung-moon's betrayal to gain Jun-seok's trust, and Yeon-seung betrays Jun-seok at the end.
  • Fixing the Game: Props like dice or cards are often "rigged" on purpose, so that observant players could abuse it. Same how some games are designed to be broken with some strategy.
    • Players often find ways to break games in ways producers didn't see coming. Like in S1 E4 Zombie game, Changyeop asked Jungmoon whether she is a human or a person. He is asking this for the exact wording on human card. If you draw zombie card you would never see how human card looks like. In later games producers fix this exploit by showing how all cards look like on a wall.
  • Gambit Pileup: Happens often in the Main Matches.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: Despite some players being slightly more or less likely to betray you, there really are no absolute good guys or bad guys, and the edit never pushes you to like one player more than another.
  • Guile Hero: both Sangmin and Dongmin.
  • I'm Not Here to Make Friends: Subverted, (perhaps Reality TV Values Dissonance). Despite the game being packed with betrayals, almost everyone gets on really well in Real Life.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: In season 2, Doohee gets tricked four times one after another, all in one round, with the final betrayal leading to elimination.
  • Korean Honorifics
  • Leitmotif: because of Junghyun's general cluelessness in games, producers gave him a special theme emphasizing his "bumbling old man" personality. It always plays when he is aimlessly roams the mansion alone, because other players didn't include him in their plans. This is twice as funny because Junghyun obviously plays this up himself and even notices his own leitmotif in one of the episodes.
  • Living Lie Detector: Dongmin uses his outstanding observational skills to see through others' lies. In S4 E5 (Loyalists and Rebels) he identified two rebels out of three just by looking at and observing them. He also managed to discover Hyunmin's betrayal plan immediately in S4 E9 (Horror Race 2).
  • Manipulative Editing: Used in conjunction with Once More with Clarity. Episodes often show us a specific story or perspective and after the Shocking Swerve rewind to show us how the events came to be.
  • Miming the Cues: used many times by various moles who disclose information about team strategy to other team.
    • In season 2, Sangmin used hilarious and exaggerated cues to tell the other team about his team's choices: it was either patting himself on a head for one outcome or dancing for the other. By the end of the game he was completely exhausted from dancing and his head hurt after hitting it all the time. His team never picked up on it though, even if it was really obvious in retrospect.
    • As a counter-point in season 4, Jung-moon used much subtler hand gestures for signals and it backfired when the other team misinterpreted her casual pose for a signal.
  • Mouthful of Pi: sequence of Pi was used in season 4's "Loyalists and Rebels" game to give advantage to a person who memorized digits of Pi.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: All of the non-winners, so far played straightest with Lee Junseok (eliminated first in S1) and Kim Kyunghoon (eliminated second in S3) in Season 4.
    • Subverted with Junghyun in Season 4 (3rd place in Season 2, eliminated first).
    • And Lim Yowhan and Kim Kyungran (both runner-up in their original seasons, 2nd and 8th out in Season 4).
  • Mysterious Employer: Bandage Man
  • Obvious Rule Patch: "Garnet Match" mechanic is a trap to block Yohwan's "keep low profile" style of play from season 2 — where he basically ignored main matches and didn't care to get garnets. Now, come garnet match and the player with the least garnets goes to the Death Match immediately. Appropriately, Yohwan is the first victim of this rule.
  • Older Than They Look: Rapper Jiwon's hip-hop fashion style masks the fact that he is in his late 30s. You can only notice it because so many people keep calling him hyung and oppa.
  • Once More with Clarity: Frequently used, often to help clear up a Gambit Pileup
  • Potty Emergency: Happened to Jung-hoon in S3, as they're were filming the end of the main match.
  • Power of Trust: building strong alliances is a big part of the game. But to create interesting television and breed conflict rules are designed to favour spies and moles who would betray their teammates for bigger personal gain. With this in mind, all the more impressive are "joint wins" when big alliance wins and each member receives the same amount of points. To pull this off all of them need to have unshakable trust that none of them will betray their team.
  • Professional Gambler: many contestants are professional players in poker, pool, go and even Starcraft.
  • Reality TV Show Mansion: The set is always styled like a mansion.
  • Recurring Character: Every Season except the first featured some returning players.
    • Jinho and Sangmin for Season 2.
    • Hweejong for Season 3.
    • Everyone in Season 4, since it's an all-star season.
  • Rules Spiel: Complete with neat animations.
  • Running Gag: Everyone's scared of Kyungran, complete with ominous music. She's revealed as the 5th Season 1 player to compete with The S2 contestants in the layoff game
    • Dongmin calling out to Dealer Hong.
    Dongmin: Chinguya. Chinguya! CHINGUYAA!!
  • Sempai/Kohai: korean variant of the same relationship type (sunbae, hoobae) becomes the basis of several two-man alliances like Sangmin/Sung-Gyu and Dongmin/Hyunmin
  • Serious Business: Especially for a Korean Variety Show.
  • Speech Impediment: whatever Jinho has that makes him mispronounce words all the time.
  • Spiritual Successor: The Genius is inspired visually and conceptually by the Liar Game franchise (especially Season 1). Indeed, some specific games appear which are near-copies of ones from Liar Game.
  • Stop Copying Me: "repeating your opponent's move" is a legitimate strategy in a number of 1x1 games where you open obscured board turn after turn. If you grabbed a lead, you can deny your opponent of new information by repeating his last move.
    • In season 2, after taking initial lead, Jung-hyun pretends to be sclerotic and keeps opening the same pieces on a board.
    • In season 3, Yeon-joo used this strategy to force Yoo-hyun to tread the path for her in Memory Maze and convincingly beat him, even after he aced that challenge just a week ago.
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: Inverted. On The Genius, when a contestant stands out with his/her game skills, others gang up around that player, instead of against, like it happens in other Reality TV shows.
  • The Hero Dies:
    • Hong Jinho is taken out in the middle of Season 2
    • Jinho again is taken out in 4th place in All-stars
  • The Rival: continuing from their respective Starcraft pro careers, Jinho (YellOw) vs. Yoh-wan (BoxeR) in Season 2.
  • The Teaser: each episode starts with a few minutes long banter between surviving players discussing events of the last week and planning their next move. Then intro music starts and it flows into the opening clip.
  • Thirty Five Minutes Ago: Kim Gura in S1E2 Election game. During preparation time, when all other contestants are hurriedly forming fractions and determine who they will appoint to be their fraction leader to vote for, Gura sits all by himself and ignores all and everyone. That's because he has already won by forming a secret fraction thirty minutes earlier, while all others were still casually chatting and intermingling.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Jinho during the Open, Pass game uses a single colored pack of cards note  and using only the cards design, getting the highest score winning the main match
    • Yeonseung during the Fish Shop game, teams up with Junseok to constantly underbid Hyunmin and Dongmin using Junseok as a distraction to allay suspicion
    • Kyunghoon in Season 4, especially the later rounds
  • Waistcoat of Style: Dongmin.