For this new season of Battlebots, The Young Folks’ music editor Ryan Gibbs and contributing writer Joey Daniewicz will be giving their impressions of each episode in our recurring feature Battlebots Chat. These will be a little more informal than our regular television, film and music reviews – after all we think it’s a little complicated to give a rating to something that we both consider to be a competitive sport as opposed to a game show or a reality television program.
Battlebots is a robot combat program that aired on Comedy Central for four seasons between 2000 and 2002 and then on ABC for two more in 2015 and 2016. In 2018, the show was revived by Discovery Channel,.
If you want the history on Battlebots and robot combat in general, SB Nation ran an oral history on the show’s first run in the late 1990s and early 2000s that is well worth your time to read. You can also read more about this season’s competitors over on the show’s official site. Also worth reading is Battlebots Update, which, like us, provides analysis of each Battlebots episode.
You can watch this week’s episode of Battlebots over on Discovery Channel’s website.
Ryan: Okay so this was a way better episode since the last one.
Ryan: Even if Tombstone wasn’t in it, it had a much better lineup. Yes, even with a Chomp fight.
Joey: RIP Chomp.
Fight One: Skorpios vs. Rotator (W)
Skorpios: Entered by Offbeat Robotics of Santa Rosa, California and built by Onion Beach. Skorpios is 2-0 going into this match. Its primary weapon is a horizontal saw on a jointed arm.
Rotator: Entered by Team Revolution of Doral, Florida and built by Victor Soto. Rotator has a 2-1 record going into this match. Its weapon is two horizontal spinning discs.
Ryan: Skorpios tried the same strategy in this one that worked for them during the Icewave fight. Control first, damage second. Except it did not go their way this time.
Joey: Yeah, Skorpios got by on controlling the match last time, but they kind of couldn’t control Skorpios and sustained way more damage. It was in tatters last time, but it’s a little different when it actually gets dismembered.
Ryan: It had it there for a while. But Rotator kept coming at it and then it got its saw knocked off. Like, that was a pretty nasty hit.
Joey: Rotator’s weapon is a lot better than I thought it was.
Ryan: Yeah, it messed up Skorpios really bad. There was a pointed near the end of the match where Skorpios’ control and battery internals were visible.
Joey: This was a pretty unpredictable outcome.
Ryan: Like speed and control are Skorpios’ strong suits. Damage? Well, this is the second fight in a row where it kind of did nothing to its opponent damage-wise.
Joey: Didn’t it have an opening and its saw wasn’t working? It can be hard to believe in the dangling saw in this meta.
Ryan: That’s right
Joey: Sometimes it looks great, but then…
Ryan: …It doesn’t. Like in this fight.
Joey: Do we know Rotator’s record now?
Ryan: Yes, they’ve had all four of their fights and are 3-1. So they’re likely to make the round of 16.
Joey: oh wow! I think at one point you were pretty skeptical? Am I remembering right?
Ryan: Yes, it’s a robot both of us really didn’t pay much attention to. I wasn’t a huge fan of its design. I thought the dual spinners was kind of gimmicky.
Fight Two: Witch Doctor (W) vs. Ultimo Destructo
Witch Doctor: Entered by Team Witch Doctor of Miami Springs, Florida and built by Andrea Suarez. Witch Doctor’s record going into this match is 1-1. Its primary weapon is a horizontal spinning disc
Ultimo Destructo: Entered by Carnage Robotics of Valkaria, Florida and built by Sean Irvin. Ultimo Destructo goes into this match with a 2-0 record. It has several weapon attachments and went into this fight in its flipper configuration.
Joey: So, uh, this was crazy. Was it wise to go with the flipper? Did we notice how fucking slow that thing was turning?
Ryan: This was really funny. Ultimo Destructo went into this fight with a 2-0 record, both fights untelevised. I know they did that with a different weapon attachment but jeepers, that did not seem like a showing from an undefeated robot. It literally got smashed to pieces.
Joey: This was very satisfying. Just the kind of reason you watch the show.
Ryan: Witch Doctor had some good driving in this one! Andrea Suarez did exactly what she needed to do. Ultimo wasn’t looking too good right out of the gate, and they took advantage of it exactly where they needed to.
Joey: They look pretty darn good going into the bracket. Are they at three wins?
Ryan: Witch Doctor is 2-1. So it all hinges for them on their next fight.
Joey: They look good. I hope they make it.
Ryan: Ultimo Destructo’s season also hinges on their next win…if they can find a way to put it back together. It looked as bad as Battle Royale with Cheese did after the Hypershock fight.
Fight three: WAR Hawk (W) vs. Overhaul
WAR Hawk: Entered by Western Allied Robotics of Seattle, Washington and built by Rob Farrow. WAR Hawk has a 1-1 record going into this match. Its weapon is a high-powered horizontal disc spinner
Overhaul: Entered by Equals Zero Robotics of Cambridge, Massachusetts and built by Charles Guan. Overhaul also has a 1-1 record as of this match. Its weapon is a grappling claw.
Joey: Refresh my memory, what happened here?
Ryan: This was the fight that started out promising but ended with both robots barely functioning and unable to hit each other. All while the commentators acted like it was the most exciting thing to ever happen.
Joey: Oh right! Yeah, this was absolutely awful. WAR Hawk looked like if it was functioning it would have mopped up Overhaul, though.
Ryan: Yeah. WAR Hawk started out very promising. It got some really good hits from its spinning disc. Overhaul had some good moments too. It pinned WAR Hawk to the wall on its side at one point. But then both of them seemed to have drive problems. Like all they could do is drive in circles.
Joey: I kind of just wanted one of them to die to get it over with.
Ryan: And that never happened. But WAR Hawk deservedly won the judges decision.
Joey: Yes, thank goodness. What’s the record there?
Joey: Same situation as Witch Doctor. Again, I like them and I hope they do well enough to make it.
Fight four: Warhead (W) vs. Chomp
Chomp: Entered by The Machine Corps of Seattle, Washington and built by Zoe Stephenson. Chomp goes into this fight with a 0-3 record. Its primary weapons are a LIDAR guided hammer and a flamethrower.
Ryan: Oh golly
Joey: Suddenly I am kinda digging Warhead.
Ryan: Took you long enough.
Joey: Took em long enough to decide they’re a grappler. I still don’t love the flamethrower but whatever.
Ryan: Look, I’m probably not going to say a lot of nice things about Chomp here, so let me get this out of the way first. I think Zoe Stephenson is a very talented builder who designed a really innovative robot. I really hope she comes back next season with something really cool that shuts up all of the people who doubt her.
Joey: I totally agree! I love seeing Chomp win. I always want Chomp to do it.
Ryan: Because this was really terrible year for her and Chomp. Maybe one of the worst in Battlebots history. I mean, how many other robots have ever had the chance to go 0-4 before this season?
Joey: Well, to be fair, the format usually doesn’t provide such an opportunity.
Ryan: Yeah. Like I keep saying, I put Chomp in a category with Mechadon. A beautiful and innovative robot that just doesn’t work in a combat setting.
Joey Yeah. Speaking of such robots, Warhead kinda had a similar thing going for it. A little more viable, but still more form than function.
Ryan: Along with Warhead not receiving major upgrades since season 5 of the Comedy Central show. But I think Warhead did really well here. Got Chomp’s hammer in its jaws a few times. Even got the whole robot in there at the end too.
Joey: Chomp is kind of the perfect bot for this incarnation of Warhead? Ridiculously grabbable.
Ryan: Oh yeah. And Warhead was one of the last robots to show up this season and already has a 2-0 record. Not bad at all.
Joey: Might make it! Its opponents have not been exceptionally difficult, though.
Ryan: Yeah Sharkoprion and Chomp aren’t, like, End Game or Bronco or Tombstone. Speaking of!
Main event: Tombstone (W) vs. Whiplash
Tombstone: Entered by Hardcore Robotics of Placerville, California and built by Ray Billings. Tombstone has a 2-0 record, both knockouts. Its weapon is its frightening horizontal spinning bar.
Whiplash: Entered by Fast Electric Robotics of Poway, California, built by Jeff Vasquez and driven by Matt Vasquez. Whiplash also has a 2-0 record going into this fight. Its weapon is a vertical spinning disc on a lifter arm.
Joey: Holy living fuck.
Ryan: You were convinced Whiplash was going to win because of the way this episode was heavily promoting the team.
Joey: It really could have won. It realllllly could have. Whiplash is sooooo good. It’s almost a shame that this wasn’t the finals.
Ryan: Yeah, I like Whiplash, and they put on a really good fight here!
Joey: This was literally just a battle of who could take more abuse.
Ryan: They got some excellent hits on Tombstone, which is not an easy thing to do. Had Tombstone violently bouncing around the arena on its side.
Joey: Tombstone is notorious for losing after self-inflicting. And it took a LOT here. I was surprised at how well it held up.
Ryan: Yeah, this was a great showing for both robots. You know how there are some fights where it felt like both robots lost? This one feels like a fight that both robots won.
Ryan: Like, Whiplash got KO’ed, but that was after giving all it could against the most feared robot on the show.
Joey: It felt like an actual coin flip. It felt like the outcome of this fight was in neither driver’s control.
Ryan: Like the fight was still close even after Tombstone took off one of Whiplash’s wheels
Joey: Yeah! Although that’s when I kind of knew.
Ryan: But the hit right after that seemed to be the decisive one. The collision sent Tombstone halfway across the arena and we think Whiplash walked away from it. But the next time we see Whiplash, it’s in a corner not moving, and that was it. I would have loved if this went to the judges. If we got however much time was left of that. It could have been a legit nailbiter decision.
Joey: If it went to the judges that would have been crazy.
Ryan: It could have gone either way and I would have been okay with it.
Ryan: So we have complete records for three robots at this point: Lock-Jaw, who has an automatic bye to the round of 16, Chomp went winless and Rotator is 3-1.
Joey: Awesome episode! A true redemption!
Ryan: We’ll be seeing a few more robots end their seasons in the next few episodes, but there’s also robots I’m not sure we’re going to see again. Like, what does Battle Royale with Cheese do at this point? Did Monsoon have to rebuild from scratch? I’ll be interested to see what happens.
Joey: They seem to be dropping bots with two losses, I think?
Ryan: Or shuffling them off to Science Channel or untelevised matches