Series / The Genius

Rule Breaker note 

Black Garnet note 

Grand Final 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 anyone without a token of life as their opponent. The winner of the death match gains their opponents garnets (only applies for the first 2 seasons) 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 It was 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. The loser's garnets are also taken out of the game.

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 respectively. 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)

The show has become popular enough to have several podcasts dedicated to recapping and discussing it. They are:

Alternatively, you can also read recap page here.

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 Yohwan had to go on their knees asking other players to save them.
  • Always Second Best: Jinho's professional Starcraft career has been this trope. Other contestants never miss a chance to tease Jinho about it.
  • Anyone Can Be Eliminated: Doing well in previous seasons doesn't mean you won't be taking an early exit from this one.
  • 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 Season 3), the Copy item, and the Cancel item.
  • Bandaged Face: the announcer for some reason wears bandages over his face.
  • Best Served Cold: Ahyoung and Sangmin admit that wanting Kyunghoon out is the main reason they participate in Horror Race 2 (S4 E9).
  • 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 loses Jimmy Cha who secured her victory in that round.
    • Jinho seems pretty resistant to this, unaffected to lose Junseok and Poong in S1, Doohee in S2, and Kyungran in S4.
  • Brainless Beauty: Sunggyu of boy-band INFINITE. He claims he didn't even understand 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 far into Season 1 he goes.
  • Brandishment Bluff: in "Swords and Shields", players can bluff that they have a sword or a shield and it will work exactly as real stuff, unless challenged.
  • Break the Haughty: Hweejong ironically for a math teacher failing the basic math of predator/prey relationship and thinking that he has won the game by drawing lion in Food Chain (S2 E1).
  • 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.
    • "You'll have to get on my good side" a declaration of confidence that the player is in a powerful position (ie. you'll have to get on my good side so that I help you) - also born from S2 E1.
    • "(Player) was eliminated in the (n)th round... Who will be eliminated today?"
    • "I'm losing my taste for this" quoting Gura from the episode he gets eliminated.
    • "Fighting!"
  • 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.
  • The Charmer: Hongchul, who wins over allies with his smooth personality (and crazy laugh).
  • 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 only differ in size in Horror Race 2.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Sangmin and Kyunghoon.
  • Corpsing: players often mess with dealers trying to make them react.
  • 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.
    • Ahyoung's desperate move by using her final two points during "Black and White 2" also counts as this.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Deathmatches often repeat. Thus one can practice and/or study previous Deathmatch games and this can save you if you end up an elimination candidate. This became especially important for Grand Finale where every single deathmatch game was known in advance and all of them were repeats. Both Kynghyun and Dongmin separately did their homework practicing them, which was one of the reasons they both went all the way to the finale.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: There are many examples of this throughout the whole series.
    • Jinho curb stomps Kyungran in S1's finals. In the first game (Indian Poker), Jinho manages to fool Kyungran into folding while holding a 10, making her flustered for the rest of the game. In the second game (Gyul! Hap!), Jinho managed to get many Haps and Gyuls thanks to Jungmoon and Junseok's help.
    • An episode earlier, (S1 E11), Kyungran curb stomps Sangmin at "Same Picture Hunt".
    • During "Same Picture Hunt" in S2 E8, Junghyun deploys a unique strategy against Hongchul by forcing the latter to choose random tiles.
    • Hyunmin pulled an almost unbeatable strategy against Yeonseung in S3 E11's Death Match (Betting Black and White) by betting high on the four highest numbers in the first four rounds.
    • Yeonseung with Dongmin as "partner" brutalize Yohwan with Jinho as partner at "Tactical Yutnori" in S4 E2, to the point where none of Yohwan's pieces ever got a move.
    • Once again, Dongmin absolutely brutalizes Kyungran in Gyul! Hap! (S4 E8) with a final score of 57:9.
    • Arguably, the finals in Season 4( Dongmin vs. Kyunghoon) can also be considered this. Kyunghoon's troll tactics that usually work on other people don't work on Dongmin. In the first game (Number Janggi), Kyunghoon keeps moving one his pieces back and forth to confuse Dongmin. The latter, instead of getting flustered, immediately executes his plan to reveal as many of the former's pieces with as few pieces as possible. In the second game (Mystery Sign), Kyunghoon uses insane 897,687,543,217 number as a hint for the equation. Even with the long number, Dongmin still manages to get the mystery sign and answers it right.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Ahyoung always stumbles on her heels, especially when Dongmin is around.
  • Deadly Hug: In the first game of Season 4 (ID Exchange), Sangmin hugs Junghyun and whispers to him that he has the convict card.
  • Death Seeker: Dongmin in S3 E8 (Investment and Donation) says he wants to go to the Death Match and tries to, but fails.
  • Double Unlock: The Black Garnets in Season 3. If you manage to 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.
  • Double Reverse Quadruple Agent: happens all the time especially if Sangmin is around.
  • Eliminated from the Race: Using the Death Match.
  • Fakin' MacGuffin: In S1 E4 Zombie game, Changyeop drank his zombie cure, but kept the bottle and filled it with water and his saliva creating the illusion that it wasn't used. He then trades that concoction to Sangmin who proceeds to drink it and immediately figures that something's wrong by the taste and freaks out because he is going to become a zombie unless he finds the real cure in 10 minutes.
    • Season 2, when Sangmin himself pulls this on Doohee when he gives him token of immortality, which turns up to be a fake.
  • 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. However, players often find ways to break games in ways producers didn't see coming.
    • The first obvious example is 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 the wall.
    • Jinho has a knack for "breaking" games so hard, it becomes impossible to play these games ever again, like he did with "Open, Pass" and "5:5 Game".
    • The other example is in S4 E2 (Horror Race). Dongmin managed to differentiate the coins by its weight and vibration, instead of the intended magnetism property. The producers later discarded the magnetism property and only made the coins different by its size in Horror Race 2..
  • Flash Forward: Occasionally used to entice viewers to keep watching, though used less in later seasons.
  • Flock of Wolves: Junseok's alliance in S4 E6 (Garnet Thief). Out of his four "teammates", Jungmoon is Dongmin's spy, Kyunghoon is ALSO Dongmin's spy who intentionally reveals Jungmoon's betrayal to gain Junseok's trust, and Yeonseung betrays Junseok at the final round.
  • Gambit Pileup: Happens often in the Main Matches.
  • Good with Numbers: Jungmoon, Hyunmin and Kyunghoon all have exceptional math skills at the expense of weaker social play. The former can even remember many digits of Pi, which is used in one of the games.
  • 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.
  • Hard Mode Filler: Many of the main matches are Harder Versions of previous main matches.
    • Confined Scamming Horse Race in Season 1
    • Layoff in Season 2
    • Middle Race 2 in Season 3
    • Fish Shop, Horror Race 2, and Minus Auction 2 in Season 4.
  • The Hero Dies:
    • Hong Jinho is taken out in the middle of Season 2
    • Sangmin is 3rd eliminated in Season 4
    • Jinho again is taken out in 4th place in All-stars
  • I Have Many Names:
    • Cha Minsoo, "Jimmy" Cha, teacher Cha, even just Minsoo.
    • Korean terms of address might confuse the viewer because the same person will be referred to by different titles depending on relative age, gender and even profession of the speaker.
  • 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 day, with the final betrayal leading him to elimination.
  • The Kingslayer: Kyunghoon in Grand Finale.
  • Korean Honorifics
  • Leitmotif: because of Junghyun's general clueless tendency in games, producers gave him a special theme emphasizing his "bumbling old man" personality. It always plays when he aimlessly roams the mansion alone, because other players didn't include him in their plans. This is twice as funny because he 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. Some standout examples: He managed to discover Yeonseung being Veritas' team leader just from his speech and posture in S3 E4 (Sword and Shield). In S4 E5 (Loyalists and Rebels) he identified two rebels out of three just by looking at and observing them. He also discovered Hyunmin's betrayal plan immediately in S4 E9 (Horror Race 2).
  • Locked in a Room: In "Loyalist and Rebels" (S4 E5), Dongmin severely limits Rebels' options by forcing everyone to stay in one room so that they can't communicate with each other without revealing themselves.
    • "Confined Scamming Horse Race" in Season 1 is the same as previously played "Scamming Horse Race" but now players are locked alone in their rooms and have to rely on partners who can move freely to relay information.
  • Loophole Abuse: In the 5:5 Game in S1 E11, the contestants had to ask a group of ten guests questions that exactly five of them would answer "yes" to. As Sangmin and Jinho figured out, there was no rule saying that they couldn't influence the result of these questions themselves, such as Sangmin giving one guest a bracelet so that exactly five guests would be wearing bracelets or Jinho touching the back of his hand to exactly five guests' hands and then telling these same five guests his brother's name.
  • Lovable Traitor: Sangmin. Even after countless number of betrayals (especially apparent during the course of Rule Breaker, people still managed to include him into a team.
  • 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, Jungmoon used much subtler hand gestures for signals and it backfired when the other team misinterpreted her casual pose for a signal.
  • Mirthless Laughter: Yooyoung's hysterical laugh when she sees her team implode due to Doohee's betrayal in King Game (S2 E3).
  • Mistaken for an Imposter: when in S1 E6 (Catch the Thief) Sunggyu comes clean about being a thief, Sangmin doesn't believe him and bluntly shooes him away. He comes to regret this error dearly because thief's cooperation in this match basically decides the outcome.
  • 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( Jungmoon).
  • My Greatest Failure: Constellation Game for Dongmin/Hyunmin where everyone turns on them. Later even gets reduced to tears.
  • 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
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Dongmin throughout most of Black Garnet. As long as you're in his team and content with basically being his pawn, he will bend over backwards to keep you safe.
  • 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, comes 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.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: the way how many politically savvy players (Sangmin, Dongmin) spot "criminals" types in role games:
    • Gura, who is otherwise a very active participant in early main match discussions suddenly goes silent after getting his role in "Zombie game". Sangmin correctly deduces that he must be a zombie.
    • in "Loyalists and Rebels", Kyungran who is usually all about building big alliance strategies is more interested in possible strategies for rebels. Dongmin figures she must be a rebel.
  • Picked Last: Happens to Junghyun in Blackout game, much to his annoyance. Nobody wants him on their team (despite that he won every single game up to that point in the season).
  • Potty Emergency: Happened to Junghoon in S3, as they 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 favor 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 at least one returning player.
    • Jinho and Sangmin for Season 2.
    • Hweejong for Season 3.
    • Everyone in Season 4, since it's an all-stars season.
  • Right Behind Me: When Jinho and Yuram are discussing the outcome of Election game (S1 E2), Jinho tries to throw suspicion on to Kyungran as one of the traitors that lead to their loss. She just happens to be in the same room, behind the folding screen shooting her confession cam interview, when she hears the diss and angrily storms out to confront him.
  • The Rival: Continuing from their respective Starcraft pro careers, Jinho (YellOw) vs. Yoh-wan (BoxeR) in Season 2.
  • Rivals Team Up: Retroactively S3 E5 was one of the most important episodes in Season 3, because it marked the start of Dongmin/Hyunmin partnership. Combination of Hyunmin's fast, calculative mind and Dongmin's domineering social play and adaptability created an unbeatable alliance that steamrolled the rest of season 3 and a part of season 4.
  • Rules Spiel: Complete with neat animations.
  • Running Gag: Everyone's scared of Kyungran, complete with ominous music. She's revealed as the last Season 1 player to compete with S2 contestants in the Layoff game. Even the "Pierce" captions are reserved exclusively for her in Season 1.
    • Dongmin calling out to Dealer Hong (and comes in different styles).
    Dongmin: "Chinguya. Chinguya! CHINGUYAA!!''
    • Continuing the previous point, Dongmin continued teasing Dealer Hong because he said it becomes a jinx for him, which would make him eliminated if he doesn't do it.
    • "I will cheer for you in spirit." and "Don't even cheer for me.", which stemmed from Hweejong's outburst during the first episode of Rule Breaker.
    • Kyunghoon and Sangmin's Dog-Master relationship in Season 4.
  • 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.
  • Ship Tease: Happens several times, often accompanied by hearts special effects added by producers. It never comes to fruition at best (due to somewhat more uptight and professional atmosphere on the set compared to other Reality TV). At worst: alleged pair face each other in deathmatch:
    • Jung-moon and Changyeop. It all crashes and burns when she picks him for elimination and boots him off the show.
    • Kyunghoon and Ahyoung.
    • Dongmin and Dealer Hong.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Eunji to Sunggyu, because she keeps accidentally ruining his play like feeding him wrong hint in "Scamming Horse Race" and exposing his differently coloured decks in "Open, Pass".
  • Slave to PR: Celebrities on the show have to be careful not to betray people too hard because they have a very public image to keep.
    • Sunggyu gained "icon of betrayal" status through his sly moves on the show.
    • Yooyoung's announcer career tanked after the hate she got online for the infamous incident on Season 2.
    • Averted with Sangmin, who went through enough scandals, problems with law, and bankruptcies in real life. It is actually expected for him to be a shady character.
  • Sliding Scale of Cooperation vs. Competition: varies depending on rules of the main match. Most of the games with teams are either of "Treacherous Teammate" or of "Informed Minority vs. Uninformed Majority" varieties.
  • Spanner in the Works: Do NOT include Kyunghoon in your plans. One way or another, he will ruin it.
  • 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 1 vs. 1 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, Junghyun pretends to be sclerotic and keeps opening the same pieces on a board.
    • In season 3, Yeonjoo used this strategy to force Yoohyun to tread the path for her in Memory Maze and convincingly beat him, even after he aced that challenge just a week ago.
  • Stunned Silence: Majority alliance's reaction to Gura's resignation in Election game, complete with a crow leaving dots as it flies by.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Magician Eyunkul wearing his sunglasses indoors.
  • 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.
    • Played straight in S3 E7 (Constellation Game) against Dongmin and Hyunmin.
  • 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.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Each time Sunggyu happens to be in the same team with Eunji, who he claims to be completely incompatible with, because she is an Aries.
  • Thirty Five Minutes Ago: Kim Gura in S1 E2 (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.
    • Sangmin in S2 E7's God's Judgment game. While most of the contestants don't figure out that the dice can be rearranged until right before before the end of the game, it's revealed at the end that Sangmin figured it out mere fifteen minutes in.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Jinho during "Open, Pass" uses a single colored pack of cards note  and using only the cards design, getting the highest score winning the main match
    • Junghyun also ended up being this in Death Matches, being able to survive three Death Matches in a row.
    • Yeonseung during the Fish Shop game, teams up with Junseok to constantly underbid Hyunmin and Dongmin using Junseok as a distraction to allay suspicion.
    • Arguably Kyunghoon in Season 4, especially the later rounds.
  • The Unfought: Yohwan who came on the show specifically as a rival to Jinho has never faced him 1 on 1, despite being on two seasons together.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: It's in the name. In stark contrast with other reality shows (or even most game shows) The Genius uses complicated rules, game theory, and math. Explaining rules takes a significant part of each episode.
  • Waistcoat of Style: Dongmin.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: Jinho doesn't betray people, instead relying on his individual skills.
  • Wham Episode: depending on who you are Monopoly Game is either the best episode of The Genius or the worst, but either way it is an episode with big repercussions not only for the rest of a season but for the rest of the series.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: one of the first striking cultural differences you see watching this show is how often male contestants dye their hair in all kinds of colours only to revert back to their natural hair just a week later.