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27 March 2017 @ 10:07 am
Overcoming The Fate - 2017 Zimbio TV Couples March Madness Challenge Analysis & Recap  
(Image: The CW/ABC/MTV/Netflix/HBO/Freeform, art by Rafael Hidalgo/Zimbio)

For the past five editions of Zimbio TV Couples March Madness Challenge, the competition has been won by same-sex pairings, with Gossip Girl's Blair and Chuck and OUAT's Rumple and Belle almost had it in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Bonnie and Damon of The Vampire Diaries fame succeeded this mission three years later, but as with both pairs, the fate wasn't in their favor. Surrounded by the lesbian Final 4, this year was the chance of them breaking the curse.

But at the same time, three all-female pairs also settled their score: opposite Bamon was Emma Swan and Regina Mills, also known as Swan Queen, four-time Final 4 finalists in the competition since 2014, and has never got further the round before. Whoever ship won the match got to face against either the reigning champion Clarke Griffin and Lexa (Clexa) in pursuit for their second title (and probably their last) or the new ship on the block of Kara Danvers and Lena Luthor (Supercorp) who were debuting this year on a high note by reaching Final 4.

Although marred with cheating accusations and alleged use of bots, the 2017 edition of Zimbio's TV Couples March Madness Challenge has offered what could be called an exciting match where unexpected wins were produced at the last hours. New couples and veterans pushed their voting efforts to win rounds after rounds, until only one remain. As with other polling competitions, this post recaps some of the actions during every round and of course puts a new meaning of "stat attack," not just the basic statistics right below.


As with the very Fandom Warrior tradition in online polling competitions, the post opens with breaking down this year's competition in numbers, exactly what the title has said. The stats for this year's running are compared with last year's running.

Votes4.7 mil3.7 mil

First of all, this year's competition attracted over 3.7 million votes, approximately a million less than last year though still better than 2015's figure of 3.5 million. I could say that this would be due to the "ten vote limit" per IP a day which was enforced during Final 4 onwards to be explained later in this article, and with such restriction removed, there could be more votes, perhaps almost 4 million.

Over the rounds, 1.3 millions were cast during the first round, 1 million during the second, over 300.000 in Sweet 16 and Elite 8, approximately 500.000 in Final 4, and over 300.000 again in the final. Keep in mind that these numbers are approximate figures based on the calculation of the vote numbers shown on a white bubble speech beside the "Vote Now" button, taken before the round closes, so this is anything but accurate.

48 shows took part in this year's competition, three more than last year. Out of this year's participants, 31 fandoms returned, but not forever: for Castle, Person of Interest, and Rizzoli & Isles, this is their last competition as they have concluded their series. Next year could be the last for shows like Teen Wolf, PLL, and TVD, among others, but that's another story. That being said, 17 of them are new to the competition: This Is Us, Stranger Things, Gilmore Girls, and The Blacklist are the fresh names out of their E!Online campaign, while others such as Luke Cage, UnREAL, Atlanta, Timeless, Chicago P.D., Riverdale, black-ish, Lucifer, and Scorpion marked their first campaign here, although the Lifetime drama did taste their first campaign way earlier: the 2016 TV's Top Couples, where their Rachel/Adam pairing sunk in the very first round.

Girl Meets World, Modern Family, and Grimm returned from the competition for the first time since 2015, after not making the cut last year, while for New Girl it's their first since 2014, one year earlier than the three.

The number of individual characters competing also improved 2016's number of 118, with 123 represented, meaning there were five characters featured in more than one ship whose names are as follows.

Fandoms with Multiple Representatives
4Once Upon a Time, The Vampire Diaries
2Game of Thrones, Gilmore Girls, Grey's Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder, Pretty Little Liars, Shadowhunters, Supergirl, The 100, The Big Bang Theory, The Walking Dead

Tying with four couples represented are Once Upon A Time and The Vampire Diaries, holding the title for having the most couples in the competition. OUAT kept the title since their 2016 outing, with four ships represented, being Captain Swan, Outlaw Queen, Swan Queen, and Rumplebelle, and apparently this very composition didn't change at all this year. TVD on the other hand also stayed with Stefan/Caroline, Damon/Elena, and Bonnie/Damon since last year, but what caught the eye for many was the fact that Klaus and Caroline were listed as The Vampire Diaries ship, in contrast to their being The Originals ship last year.

Characters with Multiple Representatives
2Caroline Forbes, Clarke Griffin, Damon Salvatore, Emma Swan, Regina Mills

As explained before, there were four characters featured in more than one ship out of the 123 competing, all of them being Emma Swan, Regina Mills (OUAT), Damon Salvatore, Caroline Forbes (TVD), and Clarke Griffin (The 100). Again, another OUAT/TVD cake here, with Clarke sneaking in. Last year, it was more crowded with Barry Allen (The Flash), Caleb Rivers, Spencer Hastings (PLL), Jessica Jones (Jessica Jones), and Klaus Mikaelson (The Originals) in the mix. Up to this point, two ships for one character is still the magic number.

Pairing Rates20162017
All Male67
All Female115

Finally, the ratio of the ships. Last year, I didn't provide such data (it was debuted when I recapped last year's E!Online TV's Top Couple), but here are the comparisons: This year saw 52 hetero couples, 7 all-male, and 5 all-female, putting aside the gay/lesbian context with the assumption that not all of the 12 couples concerned are within the mentioned spectrum (e.g., friends, brothers/sisters), and somehow it's exactly the same number as with the E!Online competition earlier. Compare it to last year where the ratios between hetero, all-male, and all-female pairs were 47-6-11. With these numbers, last year's competition emphasized more on female pairs, and less on all-male and hetero couples. Swanqueen and Clexa are the only all-female pairings recurring in this competition, while in the all-male camp almost everyone from last year returned with the exception of The Fosters' Jude & Connor and Shameless Mickey & Ian (who unfortunately missed out this year even after a fairly successful E!Online competition campaign).


As usual, the first round saw 64 competitors who were vying to be the 32 that would advance to the next round. Last year's finalists Emma/Regina, Bonnie/Damon, Clarke/Lexa, and Stiles/Lydia were drawn into the far end of each conference's bracket, to see whether they will make it to the Final 4 once again while overcoming some of the new threats as they went. The first round voting lasted for a whopping four days and eleven hours (107 hours), allowing the competing fandoms to devise their voting strategy. The first round also overlapped with E!Online's timeline which either broke or made the campaigns of Stydia, Outlander, and Malec, three of the competing ships in this competition.

What went wrong with Jamie and Claire's effort here in Zimbio once again? (Image: Decider)

In the Ross & Rachel conference, two OUAT ships Swan Queen and Outlaw Queen (Regina and Robin) proceed to the next round after straight-up defeating Luke Cage's Luke and Claire and UnREAL's Quinn and Rachel, both being the newcomers in the competition. Haleb, Mileven, and Sanvers also had their smooth run, with Bellarke tasting their bitter defeat by conceding defeat to Clace (Jace/Clary) in a 50-50 percentage, which went to the latter's favor by a margin of 220 votes although Bellarke initially led with 80 votes (some said there were anti-voting measures towards Bellarke. Usual rivalry stuffs...). Over Sam & Diane, PLL's Emison went through to the next round after getting OUAT's Rumplebelle (Rumplestiltskin and Belle) to kneel with 58-42, with MerLex (Meredith and Alex) from Grey's Anatomy easily beat out the Outlander couple Claire and Jamie in a 60-40 score, possibly due to the latter's struggle during their E!Online campaign at that time. Pacey and Joey had two interesting matchups of Booth/Brennan - Connor/Oliver and Barry/Iris - Cosima/Delphine. Booth/Brennan took Coliver's edge in the middle until it was declared the latter succeeded in gaining more advantage against the Bones couple, while the Orphan Black pairing seized the lead at the early hours until Westallen denied their chances at the last minute. Finally, Zack & Kelly saw the valiant runs of Supercorp (Kara and Lena Luthor), Fitzsimmons, and Poussey/Soso, with defending champions Destiel and Shoot successfully upper-handed black-ish's Dre/Rainbow and Liv/Major. Steroline also managed to crush This is Us's Rebecca/Jack's campaign with a final percentage of 55-45. The round concluded with 15 TV titles still in contention, left all contingents from The Vampire Diaries unhinged with all of its competitors advanced through, and recorded 1.3 million votes in a single round.

The second round saw a couple of interesting matches, being Westallen against newcomers Betty and Veronica from the new series Riverdale in Pacey & Joey and Steroline/Shoot in Zack & Kelly. The sole representative of The Flash unfortunately was given the early boot by the Riverdale team with a 63-37 in the latter's favor, while Shoot still had their journey under control by defeating Steroline with the same percentage.

Having defeated in the same round in the E!Online competition, Emison managed to give Captain Swan (Hook/Emma) the upper-hand, after making the OUAT couple surrender with an end percentage of 60-40, consistent since early Tuesday. Despite their compatriot Haleb (Hanna/Caleb) fell victim to another OUAT couple Swan Queen, they have in fact set a new milestone for PLL, being able to go past the second round, which wasn't possible from the Teen Choice-winning series back then in any online competition.

Nobody expects anything from Poussey and Soso in this competition until they defeated the giants... (Image: Elle)

Upsetting wins came in the form of Mileven/Klaroline and Poussey & Soso/Stydia match. Both Klaroline and Stydia managed to lead the early hours, but in Mileven's match, they seized midway through the round's duration, while Stydia had it worse, having a last-minute upset against the OITNB couple quite comparable to what happened to Bellarke in the first round and the Barcelona vs. PSG match in the Champions League, where Barcelona's last-minute goal denied PSG's victory under the "away goals rule". Destiel also had their journey denied after Supercorp managed to give the pairing a 51-49 treatment, forcing the two-time Zimbio winner failing to go for its third. In a more positive note, Johnlock (Sherlock and John) and Fitzsimmons managed to win their games despite the 50-50, winning by a small vote margin. The rest of the winners included Clace, Sanvers, Haylijah (Hayley/Elijah), Bamon, Clexa, and Malec.

The competition then narrowed down to 16, with decisive matches between Johnlock and Bamon, Beronica and Malec, and Supercorp and reigning champion Shoot laid its course. In the Johnlock/Bamon game, the Sherlock pairing led for a short time before Bamon locked the lead for the subsequent hours, earning them the spot for Elite 8, same also said to Malec where Beronica managed to lead the early hours only to have the Shadowhunters pairing barely winning the game by a margin. Shoot however lost ground to Supercorp, ending their title defense efforts by the end percentage of 62-38 to Supercorp's favor, joining the fellow Supergirl effort of Sanvers after defeating Mileven in a landslide. In the other games, Emison easily defeated Haylijah to pave their way to the Elite 8, while Poussey/Soso officially became one of the dark horses in the competition after defeating Fitzsimmons with 62-38. Both Clexa and Swan Queen also managed to win their respective games as well.

Emily and Alison reaching Elite 8 marks a new record for Pretty Little Liars in polling competition, a feat that wasn't possible in the previous years (Image: pumpkinlub.tumblr)

The Elite 8, also being the "conference finals," met Swan Queen with Sanvers in Ross & Rachel, Emison with Bamon in Sam & Diane, Clexa with Malec in Pacey & Joey, and Supercorp with Poussey/Soso in Zack & Kelly. The shorter voting duration of 59 hours also meant that this game is a very decisive affair for the fandoms involved. In the first game, Sanvers led the game in a narrow margin, but it didn't take long for Swan Queen to turn the tables in almost 24 hours prior to the vote's opening, and managed to lock the victory for their another Final 4 appearance. The Emison game, which had a more meaning than just being a PLL vs. TVD faceoff, started off with Emison leading with sizeable margin, but it was Bamon's valiant effort that brought them to the lead after 24 hours, quickly recovering from having 35% to ending the game in an impressive 60-40 win. Finally, both Clexa and Supercorp "locked" their victory to face each other after denying Malec and Poussey/Soso to earn more than 35% of their votes throughout the round, as easy as it sounds.

From this point, the road of Final 4 has finally been mapped.


This year's Final 4 (Image: @sassyphos / @bonneibennett / @littlemachine_ / @ox_healhow on Twitter via Zimbio, full, separate versions go here)

Swan Queen, Bamon, and Clexa have managed to re-take their Final 4 position from last year, while this is the first time Supercorp managed to do so, being one of the new couples in the competition and the last new couple standing. Three F/F ships, one Bonnie Bennett and Damon Salvatore, and only two spots left. As the OUAT pairing faced the TVD pair, and the Clexa fandom, taking the account that most of the fandom refuse being associated with The 100 after numerous queerbaiting allegations, battling Supercorp, questions raised: Will last year's final between Bamon and Clexa happen again? Will it become an all-female finale? Or will Zimbio March Madness offer anything new in this year's final? But most importantly, the million dollar question would be "Will this be Clexa's second title?"

The Final 4 then kicked off with one twist: one IP was limited to ten votes per day, with a temporary ban given if one exceeded the number, effective for future rounds. The first hours were filled with a sour note, with cheating and botting accusations being made towards Bamon, of all others, causing the ships to 'stop' voting for a while, and as it went many commenters argued that the restrictive measure "advantaged the bots." However, conditions stabilized hours later, which saw Swan Queen managed to catch up Bamon and Clexa stealing the lead from Supercorp within the first 24 hours of the round. The subsequent hours effectively turned into an arms race with both sides from both matches managed to equalize the game, until the final day where Swan Queen managed to overtake Bamon after hours of holding the precious lead, ending the game with an eventual victory. Clexa also re-turned the tables after Supercorp's brief lead, ending the game with a much bigger percentage of 55-45. This meant that the final game is an affair of two lesbian ships.

As the final match came, it was all between Swan Queen against Clexa. For the former, this was a chance for their first ever title, and for the latter, this was a pursuit for their second. As the game started, Clexa held a comfortable lead, but almost mid way through, Swan Queen managed to catch up Clexa's wave, only to have it lost by a couple of margin. The final 12 hours saw the OUAT ship's effort of minimizing Clexa's lead, but nothing more was gained. Alas, Clexa was named this year's champion, effectively winning their second consecutive title.

They won the competition for the second time, why should they worry? (Image: commanderofraccoons.tumblr)

Clarke and Lexa's second victory in Zimbio TV Couples' March Madness Challenge finally put them on par with Supernatural's Dean and Castiel, with both having two wins in the competition. There's no telling whether Clexa will pursue its third due to the fact that this would be their last year in the competition, as the rumors said so.


As with Top TV Couple, the Zimbio competition also has the spreadsheet full of statistics. From the bracket view, the comprehensive entry list complete with quick stats and schedules, game results, competitor's ranking, and of course the progress bar.

With the Zimbio poll being the one with no decimal placement, the intervals in the progress bar sheet is emphasized more. The intervals were set every four hours, with the exception to one: the 1pm interval (in PT, which is literally 4am in my place). The intervals share the same timeframe with the E!Online competition's, particularly 5 pm and 5 am intervals. This allows for a better calculation of the voting average and the ability to track movement in every matchup, allowing one decimal in the voting average to be one of the tiebreaker-deciding factors (compared to the E!Online competition where 50-50 ties are a rare sight thanks to the decimal placement). Unfortunately, some intervals were either cut or a little late than expected due to either personal life or worse: fallen asleep. However, there were instances where I was able to get up early, thus allowing me to retrieve results from an interval as early as 2pm, close to 1pm, which should have been another interval. Also worth noting that Daylight Savings Time observation wasn't used until Final 4, meaning during that time I retrieve the results at a normal times as visible in the "Progression Card" sheet's reference times at the bottom left corner of the sheet, and the Final 4 required me to retrieve the results one hour earlier from my normal time.

The progression tracking also revealed a couple of interesting bits during the entirety of each round. In the first round, the percentage movements were quite slow, which puzzled those who have voted, considering the non-existence of the decimal as pointed above. There's one contrasting outcome though: the Emison/Bamon game during Elite 8 showed quite a fast progression, going from 35% at 5 pm on the first day to 51% 16-17 hours later. The final game also showed a more active change of percentages during the specified checking time, with Swan Queen's effort of fighting back against Clexa.

The following is the provisional ranking for the competition based on the last round the ships were eliminated and their final percentage.

You can also check out the whole spreadsheet by following this link to see the complete entry list, progression for all matches and the brackets in full, and you can also download on-the-go in *.xlsx format from here for Excel viewing.


The title defense for Clarke Griffin and Lexa has been a mission accomplished for the Clexa fandom. A second Zimbio title, and one E!Online title last year, claiming three throughout their campaign since last year. It is no denying that both have become the face of the lesbian ships in television series, with more credits go to Lexa for being openly lesbian and still able to fight like others until her death. Their winning article can be seen here.

The victory also showed the two sides of the same "online competition" coin for the LGBT fandom: on one side, you have Isak and Even from Skam representing the gay pairing as the E!Online winner, and on another, Clexa fills the lesbian representation role as the Zimbio winner.

The Swan Queen fandom shouldn't be written off from the list either, becoming a pairing that has finally broken the Final 4 curse and an eventual runner-up as well. They finally found their charm in their fourth try, winning against Bamon at the last-minute effort, and they could have done this once more in their fifth try next year. Losing the game does not matter for them, as two key people have already promoted their effort: Regina's actor Lana Parilla and the showrunner Adam Horowitz. The latter's recognition however was something more special, in that they have dreamed to have the showrunner(s) promote Swan Queen, even after going through hard times, one of them being Michael Coleman (Happy the Dwarf on the show) calling out the shippers in a series of now-deleted tweets.

(Image: Reaction GIFs)

At the end of the day, all shipping competitions have ended. The Fandom Season is still running, with polling competitions like this being aplenty on other sites, but in the World Fandom Championship calendar, it'll take a long wait for the next one to come, especially with the fact that Livejournal's Fandom March Madness no longer being held: the SpoilerTV competitions, starting with the Episode Competition, and the Character Cup which is the next WFC round.

As always, every sought-after online polling competitions ends with this very question: can you bring home the winner a Teen Choice surfboard? Try your best.


Posts from This Journal by “zimbio march madness” Tag

Butterflysnogged on March 28th, 2017 09:13 am (UTC)
I'm glad that Poussey/Soso cracked the top 8. After everything the writers put Poussey through in this last season, she freaking deserves that and more.