Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Message From The Doctor

The following essay is NOT endorsed by the BBC. But I can dream, right?

Hello. It's been a while since we last met. I have many names, but you know me as the Doctor. As in, "Doctor Who?" Wasn't my idea. I had to campaign to get my name changed in the mid-Eighties. Anyway, I thought that we can have a talk.

I have been traveling through time for centuries now. I can tell you that I can name at least twenty years, past and future, worse than 2016. Recently? Not really, unless you count the time my arch-nemesis -- the Master -- took over the planet for a full year. I wound up hitting the proverbial reset button, so you don't recall that. If only I could do the same right now. And I spent the bulk of that year in an aged condition, living in a doghouse. To this day, I break out into tics anytime I hear Scissor Sisters.

The celebrity deaths? That's to be expected. People die. Things die. You'll die, and I'm certain that I shall pass one day. I've been to concerts with Prince and David Bowie, but I never met either of them. It would feel like cheating if I took a trip in the TARDIS to see them now. And I didn't get around to seeing Muhammad Ali. Before you ask . . . no, I was not the person who stole Cassius Clay's bicycle, putting him on the path to boxing glory. And I'm not planning on doing that anytime soon. I was also hurt when I found out that Steve Dillon had died. He moved on beyond drawing my adventures way back when.

But there was so much to be angry about in the past year. General unrest, the mess in Flint, the disastrous "Brexit" vote. Have you seen the people behind that? They were not expecting to win! They just wanted to further their careers, and now Great Britain is leaving the European Union. As somebody who is about inclusion, that was painful to watch.

And then there was what happened in the United States a few years ago. Once again: I travel through time. It's my thing. And I did not see that coming at all. Yes, Hillary Clinton does come off as somebody who learned ambition directly through Lady MacBeth . .. . but to lose to that? And get more votes? Flabbergasted. I am simply flabbergasted. I keep thinking maybe things would have been different if I took his votes back in time to relive the Fifties, but that's not my style. I promised the Obamas one supervised trip after they leave the White House. Barack didn't get to fulfill many of his promises, but I feel he's earned the adventure.

Why am I talking about this now? Because I feel partially responsible for the failure that was 2016. Apparently, I picked the worst 365.25 days to step away from the spotlight. I don't have a voracious ego, but I feel that I serve as a beacon of hope. I can change minds . . . usually. Odds are that if you're reading this, you follow me closely. I can't see a Venn Diagram where my circle and those voters would overlap. That's why I'm not screaming "PUDDING BRAINS!" at the top of my lungs. You probably feel a lot sicker about events than I do.

For the past year, I've done some stress-free traveling. I am aware of the books, comics and the magazine, but I cannot vouch for how "canon" any of those are. The last time you saw me, I was having that long-overdue dinner with River Song. She didn't say how big a relief it was for her to not look like she was robbing the cradle, but I could tell.

Why did I leave? The past few years had been so hectic. I encountered my unholy trinity: Daleks, Cybermen, and the Master. Only now, he was a Time Lady calling himself "Missy," an evil Mary Poppins. I made some questionable calls . ..  like saving the life of a girl in a Viking village, only to watch her transform into an amoral immortal. And the worst part is that I have a huge gap in my memories. I'm certain I had a female companion. Yes, I know that's usually the case, but I can't remember her. I think she did to me what I did to Donna Noble to save her life. I can't recall her name. And I've developed a taste for eclairs. Weird, I know.

Looking back, I also felt that you needed a break from me. I am prone to self-pity, but I thought the vacation was justified. After I regenerated, I became crotchety and hug-averse. Sure, I looked more dashing, but I wasn't as cuddly as I used to be. I was cranky, which is common in incarnations that are multiples of three (to save headaches, I discount Beardy and Ten-Point-Five). My new catchphrase was "Shut up!" And then I came back, trading in the Sonic Screwdriver for Sonic Sunglasses, which many of you didn't like. There was also the guitar playing. Now, I like playing a lot. Apparently, I have the knack for playing that, and I don't see myself stopping. Remember when I first regenerated, and I had the recorder? Come on, shredding is so much better than blowing. Had Ben grabbed the device and shoved it up my nose, he would have been justified. But I must have looked like I was deep in the throes of a Time Lord midlife crisis.

Sadly, I cannot "correct" what has happened. The last time I played politics, I created a power vacuum where the Master became Prime Minister, and the American President was vaporized by the Toclafane. I couldn't undo that, to my regret. The most I have done was to make sure that outside forces didn't influence the election. It came out clean, in the sense that this mess was human-made. No aliens meddled with affairs. I thought that the "winners" might have been Sontaran infiltrators, given their warlike march. I remember when they were a fearsome race not summed up by Strax. And there hasn't been reports of passing gas, so I'm certain that the Slitheen are not involved. I would check for head-zippers.

Another concern that I have is that I cannot gauge the foreseeable future. This is unnerving to me. I cannot say whether the new status quo will be riches or ruin. For all I know, 2017 might prove to be more depressing that the previous year. As scary as this might sound, the future is in your hands.

You don't like what is going on? Change it. Get involved. Find a place that would be in dire straits come January, and give your time. If you're too busy, send money. But try to get out there. Leave your homes. I am convinced that if the Internet existed in the Fifties and Sixties, the pioneers of civil rights still would have marched. "I Have A Dream" is more powerful to see than to read. If there is a revolution, it cannot be online only. I know that it's hard to get out of bed these days. I know the temptation to listen to Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt" in a loop. But you have to solve the problem yourselves. I can only do so much. I like the United States. I probably shouldn't, not after the business with the Daleks in Manhattan. And the Weeping Angels, where I lost Amy and Rory. And the time in the Wild West. And the first time in the Wild West. So many years have passed, I have changed my face many times, and I still can't get "Ballad Of The Last Chance Saloon" out of my head. Why couldn't I have that purged?

As for me? I will be back. There will be a special on Christmas, and then I will have new adventures. Naturally, there will be a companion. After 2017, I'm not sure I'll be around anymore. Well . ..  not with this face. Given the attitudes of those in power, I might try to become a Time Lady just to torque them off. I have never tried to shape a regeneration, but I am tempted to make the transition to blow tiny minds. Or maybe I won't be as pasty. I'm sure you'd be fine with it.

As for the new bosses in London, Washington and elsewhere? Mind your manners. Listen to the people. And remember . . . I have been described as a madman. You don't want this Doctor to make a house call. In the meantime, I feel the guitar calling to me. I just learned how to play Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It." Something tells me I'll have that in my brain for a long time.

The Doctor

Friday, November 04, 2016

Sharing The Blame: An Analysis of Puck's Departure from 'Battle of the Sexes'

How funny is it that I give Wes shit under the assumption that he's smarter than his fellow Challengers, yet I wrote a small thesis on freaking Puck Rainey? I did my homework, checked out sources, made some predictions, and came to the conclusion that Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray should get out of the reality television business. This is back in 2003; the only reason why Bunim isn't producing these days is because she's been dead for years. Anyway, this is from March 3, a week after Puck's "farewell" episode aired.

What really happened with Puck's departure from the Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Battle of the Sexes? And who is to blame for repeatedly bringing Puck in front of the cameras again?

This was how it was supposed to work this week on Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Battle of the Sexes: Puck finds out his family - his wife Betty and son Bogart - have been detained in Jamaica, since Betty lost her green card. Puck spends the full half-hour ranting and raving like a lunatic before huffing off in his usual way. In response, I would levy a dozen or so good lines at his expense and come up with a clever title for the recap, like "Puck Amuck," "Puck Off," or "…And Don't Come Back!" Admit it, you were thinking along those lines when you watched the teaser.

So what happened? Puck went off, broke some stuff, and left the show, perhaps never to return (remember, he did show up on his season of The Real World after he left the house). Aside from that segment being less than a third of what was expected, you'd think that I would revel in the chance to write witty lines at Puck's expense. Here's the kicker: you heard the window break and saw the holes in the wall? Well, that wasn't Puck. No, that was just more manipulation, brought to you by Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray.

During one recap, I vowed never to read the web sites of contestants, lest they influence my writing. Well, I couldn't hold out. Every week, I read inside recaps from Colin, Lori, and Melissa. This week, all three said the same thing: Puck only broke equipment, since he wasn't allowed to see his family. He cut a microphone wire with the machete. And that was it. The holes in the wall? Well, according to Colin, Jamie was fooling around with Puck's guitar, and the Scabby One had a moment inspired by John Belushi in Animal House: he smashed it like he was a rock star. Swept up in the euphoria, Jamie had grabbed a pole or one of Colin's crutches (Colin wasn't sure which it was) and rammed it into the wall.

As for the broken window, that was all Ayanna. Melissa heard that she smashed the window, and Lori mentioned that Ayanna's hand was bleeding. Actually, that brings me to something a lot more interesting: the fight between Aneesa and Ayanna. Yes, there was a verbal fight, where Ayanna went insane. I understand that a lot of stuff gets left on the cutting room floor. I don't need to see the credits being filmed, and David E. spitting on Puck AND Beth. Here's my problem: Ayanna going off was in the teaser that followed the first episode. Remember the segment with Ayanna rambling, "Aneesa, I gotta go"? Bunim-Murray Productions does that a lot.

So BMP made us think that the entire episode was going to center on Puck alone, as opposed to another game. This is standard operating procedure for the producers. What else do they have to offer these days? Their faux documentary, The Real World: The Lost Season, was a colossal dud. Road Rules hasn't been good in years. The Real World: Las Vegas is used as a low-cost alternative for anesthesia in hospitals. And really, who gave a spray of bullets about P. Diddy's version of Making the Band? Time has passed Bunim and Murray by, and they won't admit it. They're probably praying for a riot from their newest cast members in Paris right now.

I'm not letting Puck off the hook. Yes, he did resemble a human being during his wedding. But other than that? Usual Puck-like behavior, like something you'd see at a zoo. To start, there was the fight with David Edwards. I'll admit, I don't know who started that. Puck didn't improve things by spitting in David's face. But David was such a full-on mental patient, the other cast members sided with Puck and demanded he stay. Murray wouldn't acquiesce with them unless David was filmed spitting on Puck in payback. Seriously, Colin wrote that. How old is Murray, anyway?

Puck was a poor sport. After completing the Tree House game, he taunted the girls who were struggling to finish it. He played with a noisemaker while Veronica was trying to get her Inner Circle speech out, causing her to stop and snap at him. Of course, the guys didn't have a problem with him, since he was on their side. Besides, anybody who goes up against him would end up a pariah, like David.

And then there was Ellen. As Melissa said on her site, Ellen made the mistake of jousting with Puck in regards to his revamped wedding plans. That was a stupid move on her part. Now Puck was out to get her. He taunted her while wearing Bogart on his chest. Seriously, Ellen might have been able to confront him, but while he had his son as a shield, all she could do was sneer. Sure, she probably fabricated the story about how he was going to kick her ass. But the worst thing Puck did was unforgivable. After she announced Rachel was out, he walked up to her and threw up in front of her. You heard me: he vomited in front of Ellen, on purpose. Who does that? Seriously, what the hell was Puck thinking? As I read that nugget of information from Colin, I sympathized with Ellen, and you know from reading my summaries that is something I don't want to do.

Here's what gets me: according to Colin, Puck's plan was to cut out of the show halfway through. Why was that? Because Puck could make more than $50,000 on the campus lecture tour. Fifty grand is the cut of somebody who wins the final mission. Think about it: he deprives some RW guy of getting a shot at the grand prize. I also heard that all of the contestants got $4,000 for showing up. Look, I know some of you want to call these people "media whores" for going back on the reality treadmill, but who doesn't need $4,000? I think of some of the RW guys I would have wanted to see in Puck's place. Norman Korpi (New York) could have brought new and richly deserved insults for Beth, and maybe hosted another rollicking toga party. Jon Brennan (Los Angeles) could have joined Beth, Veronica, and Yes in avenging their first-round elimination in Battle of the Seasons. David Burns (Seattle) might have followed up his appearance on The Lost Season, and knocked down people with his thick Boston accent. Matt Smith (New Orleans), whom Puck dissed in the 10th Anniversary Reunion commercials, would have delighted us with his breakdancing skills and overall whiteness. Malik Cooper (Back to New York) could have brought his mellow ways to Jamaica, and maybe confront Jisela over playing him.

(Yeah, I thought of the two other males from San Francisco. Sadly, I don't see anybody getting eager over seeing Mohammed again. As for Judd? Hey, I'm a huge fan of his work and his status as the anti-Puck, but he would've gotten creamed in physical competitions.)

Also, Puck could have caused a lot more damage with his departure. In order to even out the ranks, the producers brought back Dan, who had been voted out earlier. But what if he couldn't make it back? During his stay in Jamaica, Puck had much respect for Blair. I got that from Sarah Greyson, the member of Campus Crawl who was voted out from that show. She even referred to Blair as a "Puck Whisperer," probably recalling the time he talked Puck out of going after Ellen. Blair had obviously agreed to be Puck's partner for People Mover, but Puck left Blair twisting in the wind. Had Dan not come back and Blair was unable to play the game, the men's team procedure of voting out the weakest player would have doomed him. Dan's return was good in theory, but by filling Puck's place alongside Blair, he was ensured another dismissal, barring a great performance. All Blair had to do was finish well enough to not lag behind the other contestants. So much for Puck being a team player.

As for Puck's future? I heard a rumor that he was pitching his family life as a reality show, a la The Osbournes. It even has a name: Puck Loves Betty. In this era of crap like The Anna Nicole Show, I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! , and Are You Hot?, a Puck-com is the last thing we need. Not like anybody would force me to watch, but the idea of it on the air skeeves me out. Should it be approved, I believe it gives intelligent people the right to burst into that network's office, grab the person who okayed it, and beat that person in front of the underlings. If Anna Nicole Smith were fully cognizant, she'd be cringing, too.

I had also heard rumors that he was considered for the first season of The Surreal Life. So hearing about him being on the follow-up doesn't surprise me a bit. Even if he shares a house with has-beens like Mayim Bialik and noted steroid abuser/collect call pitchman Hulk Hogan, Puck would still be the "bad boy" on the show, even at the age of 34. Heck, he got married on TV, just like Corey Feldman. Of course, the WB would eat Puck up, as his fans boost the ratings and the detractors get to throw rocks at the broadest side of the biggest barn.

Ultimately, the blame for Puck's actions falls on Bunim and Murray, for casting him back in 1994, and coddling his bad boy ways. They took a skuzzy bike messenger and turned him into a monster. And when he rebelled against not being able to see his family, they manipulated the footage to make him look more dramatic. It's high time that BMP cease operations and move on to something other than lowering the bar for reality television. If Puck wants a happy ending, may he spend the rest of his days with his family, and not disgrace us with his horrid presence.

First of all, how eerie was it that everybody I had in Puck's place wound coming to the show within the next four seasons, except for Malik and his awesome afro? On the other hand: Blossom on The Surreal Life? With Hulk Hogan? Retrospect is a bitch. And I'm guessing most of you thought Aneesa and Ayanna had it out only on Battle Of The Sexes 2. I remembered seeing the clip in the teaser. What I did forget about: Puck puking in front of Ellen. I ask you: is that nastier than Julie pissing on Coral's bed in The Inferno? Colin might have been a self-indulgent blogger, but damned if he didn't offer up juicy details. Anyway, that's enough vintage fame whore contemplation for one day. Next time: unneeded uproar over nudity!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Battle of the Sexes Episode 9: Life Goes On

It's the Puck farewell episode! To my surprise, he's over and out before the first commercial, which I would not have bet on at the time. The guy is a mixed blessing, in the sense that I freaking hate him, yet I couldn't resist beating him like a pinata. With the news coming in over the details of his departure, I wound up doing a whole essay about it later that week. Also, he was rumored to be on the upcoming season of The Surreal Life, which turned out not to happen. No, we wound up with Trishelle from The Real World: Las Vegas, as well as The Gauntlet and The Inferno. And I didn't realize there was no "E" in "Broom." I don't think David would care either way, but I'm still kicking myself.

Airdate: February 24, 2003
Recap Published: February 28, 2003

Puck is gone in a fit of fury, but the game must go on. How does Aneesa (right) fit into the plan to change the Women’s Inner Circle?

Before I begin, I need to have a word with David Broome, formerly of RW: New Orleans and this fine show. David, I saw you on Chappelle’s Show this past week, and I have to ask: are you going to come up with new material soon? As much as everybody loves “Come On Be My Baby Tonight,” it’s more for the kitschy appeal than anything else. You might end up being perceived as a one-trick pony, and you know that’s not love (woo woo). You’re young, you’re talented, and thanks to Julie, you’re no longer the most loathed person from your season. If you want, add words to the song. I don’t want your career highlight to be having your song played on Real World: Chicago as Cara landed her umpteenth guy.

Previously on Battle of the Sexes: Puck got married. Betty (the bride) and Bogart (their son) left to go home. “I’m all broke up over it,” Puck tells us, “but the P-Man is still here.” I hate the P-Man. Cut to last week, where Ellen lowered the boom on Rachel. Dan’s jaw couldn’t drop any lower. Lori interviews that there was no reason to vote Rachel off. Emily makes the “hurry it up” sign to Jonny. Puck tells us that Betty is in an “immigration hole.” Uh oh.

After the credits, we get super-fast-motion of clouds streaking, as tense piano music plays. Mark interviews from the Men’s Villa that Puck says he’s done. Puck curses out the cameraman, saying he doesn’t want to be filmed. Wow, he is ticked. Doesn’t Puck cease to exist if there are no cameras? Mark interviews again (with different hair) that Betty is not a U.S. citizen and she forgot her green card. The cynical voice in my head says that it’s in Puck’s back pocket. Anyway, Betty and Bogart are detained in Jamaica. Puck cusses out another cameraman. Colin says that Puck is detained by the show, while immigration authorities detain Betty and Bogart. “Puck is the type of person who doesn’t want to be restricted by anybody or anything,” Colin analyzes. “When that happens, he rebels.”

Thunder and lightning segue to the Women’s Villa. Something breaks very loudly. Christina tells us that Puck is smashing things, including his guitar. Cut to stock footage of stairs in a scary light. Christina: “And then he walks out with a machete in his hand.” Cut to black-and-white hand holding machete. Could be Puck, could be one of the guys from Tambaqui on Survivor. Ayanna continues: “A mah-che-tee!” she overenunciates. “He came up to us with a mah-che-tee!” Then Christina says that Puck told her he had to go.

Sure enough, there’s a night vision shot of Puck (with lit cigarette) going to the van, with Mark right behind him. The van drives off. America learns the meaning of the word “anticlimactic.” Seriously, when Wanda from Eonline and other spoiler freaks were talking about this, I figured it wouldn’t be over before the first commercial.

The Women’s Villa is a wreck, with a hole in the wall and other shambles. Colin informs us that Puck leaving was part of the “Master Plan.” “He came here to be Puck,” Colin adds. “When he was done, he was done, and he doesn’t need to stay.” Christina has more to say: “I think all of us are here because our parents probably didn’t pay enough attention to us.” More shambles. She continues: “Or maybe Puck’s looking for some kind of validation.” Somebody other than Puck sweeps up the mess; a more symbolic gesture I have yet to see. Syrus interviews that the men’s team has lost a good player and their best nightly entertainment, but they’ll be sleeping better. A camera zooms in on the machete, impaled in some sort of fruit.

(Quick note: There’s more to be said about what happened, but if I start here, it’ll take a while to stop. So I’m putting my take on Puck and Bunim-Murray Productions in another article. Meanwhile, RealityNewsOnline sources say that Puck claims he will be on the second edition of The Surreal Life, so you can look forward to seeing him there…)

Daytime. A plane flies overhead. It could have the Rainey’s flying back home, or it could have Rachel flipping the bird to Emily and Ellen. Speaking of Ellen, she asks Syrus what the guys will do now that they’re down one man. Theo doesn’t doubt that Puck would come back, but Syrus tells him that he wasn’t there to see what happened last night. Ellen smirks. “See you later, Puck,” she says. I wouldn’t have blamed her for doing an extended version of Melissa’s happy dance. Cut to a crack in the wall, and a maid mopping up.

Back to the game: Emily and Ellen are talking about Rachel being voted out. I’m thinking of calling these two the Axis of Petty. “That decision didn’t go very well with the group,” Ellen understates. She tells Emily that she had talked to Ruthie, and that maybe a group meeting is in order. Emily says that if the others want the Inner Circle to change, they have to work to get inside. Ouch. Ellen interviews that Emily is not making friends, and that there might be consequences.

Cut to a shot of a spider in its web. Oooo… symbolic! Veronica, Lori, and Aneesa are having breakfast. Veronica interviews that she would love to send Emily home, since she did that to her on Battle of the Seasons. Cut to a flashback shot of Veronica and Yes getting voted off. I miss Belou. BMP could’ve charged people to see a Puck/Belou fight. Veronica goes on, saying that Emily was responsible for sending Rachel home in a similar manner. “I’m beginning to see how threatened she is by competition,” she adds. If that’s the case, then why is Emily in her third straight Challenge? Veronica needs to think things through. Aneesa thinks that Emily is settled in to do whatever she wants. Cut to a shot of Emily during Freeze Your Butt Off, staring down the cameraman. “I think she wants to win,” Aneesa continues, “and she’ll eliminate any competition. That’s not teamwork to me.” Not to defend the emerging villain, but elimination is a huge part of the game.

Mission site. Jonny points out that Puck is gone. We know, Jonny! I count at least four ladies smiling. Jonny also states the obvious, that the men’s side is down by one. Jake is wearing Mark’s “100% American” cap, and it doesn’t look good on him. Jonny says that the mission is a pairs competition. The guys look stumped, not knowing how things will be resolved. Jonny goes into a spiel as we go to commercial.

Happy rock music plays after the commercials. Jonny tells the assembled players that he decided (yeah, right) to bring back the last player to be voted out. Curtains are raised, and Dan makes his return. Immediately, there’s yelling and moaning, followed by muffled sobbing and cursing. Not from the cast members, but from everybody who dumped Dan in the Fantasy Challenge. The contestants cheer loudly, as Dan strikes a cute pose. Really, who doesn’t love this guy? “I wish that everyone would have the opportunity to step through curtains,” he muses, “And look at all their friends applauding them. It just makes you feel so good.” He runs to the girls and they gang-hug him.

Once the excitement dies down, Jonny introduces everybody to the latest game, People Mover. The object is for each pair to move gender-specific pieces from an outer rink to the inner. I get the impression it’s more fun to play than to watch. The pair with the fastest time wins a ski or snowboard package for the entire team. It’s Jonny’s signature skis! The winning pair also gets the Ion Lifesaver, which gets ridiculed by the Immunity Idol and the Power of Veto all the time. He goes on about yellow spaces and that each person can only move one piece at a time. Finally, those not competing are sequestered in the “Pineapple Lounge.” There’s a sign that says, “Cast Lockdown.” I guess that was meant just for Puck.

The contestants map out strategies. Ruthie sits on the floor, eyes closed. Genesis explains that Ruthie likes to clear her mind in order to focus. Ruthie interviews that there’s something going on with the other girls, and that’s stuff she’d never do. “I know this is a game and there’s money involved,” she says, “but I wouldn’t have imagined people getting ugly in character just for $50,000.” Clearly, Ruthie is not a reality TV fan.

First match: Mark/Jamie vs. Anne/Emily. Jamie interviews that he has an idea on how to move the pieces, by working on opposite sides of the puzzle. Emily and Anne slowly go over their task. Mark and Jamie move in fast-motion. The ladies aren’t going that fast in comparison. Mark blows his whistle at three minutes, 23 seconds. Emily interviews that the puzzle was simple, but “sometimes, you just freeze.” She blows her whistle at 6:38.

Theo/Syrus vs. Ayanna/Ellen. Jonny blows his whistle weakly, and stares at it. Heh. The guys are slow in going over what to do. Ellen interviews that the plan is to rotate the puzzle. Theo gets stuck moving the pieces. Ellen blows at 2:42. She brags, “Theo and Syrus are still trying to figure out what we figured out in there is having a game plan and sticking with it.” She’s just ten pounds of smug in a five-pound bag. Syrus blows at 8:22. He interviews with Theo that they had the puzzle done without knowing it. Theo make fun of Syrus, and then asks him if he’ll be back tomorrow. Syrus playfully wrestles Theo. I like those two.

Eric/Colin vs. Genesis/Ruthie. The guys move in fast motion. Genesis says that if one figure is placed incorrectly, four have to be moved. The guys argue and Eric yells at Colin. After he screwed up the last pairs mission, resulting in Yes going home, maybe Eric is the Mole. He blows his whistle at 3:03, while Ruthie blows hers at 4:04.

Jake/Shane vs. Melissa/Veronica. The guys argue. Jake interviews that Shane moved pieces one way, and Jake moved them back. Veronica blows at 3:22. The guys go into super fast-motion before Jake blows at 4:23. “All I was doing was slowing down the genius,” Jake interviews afterwards, “and he had the hands of a surgeon.”

Antoine/James vs. Christina/Lori. James shouts at his partner. Mark my words: it’s only a matter of time before he snaps. Antoine voiceovers that he had good vision of the puzzle. James blows really hard at 3:02, to the point where his head is about to explode. Christina blows at 4:10, saying afterwards that she and Lori had been mellow with it, but they should have hauled more ass.

Blair/Dan vs. Aneesa/Tonya. Okay, how fair is this for either guy? I had a source tell me that Puck had a weird respect for Blair, making him a “Puck Whisperer.” So when Puck leaves, Dan is automatically inserted to replace him? Couldn’t Jonny (or the producers) give the guys more of a warning, to allow for pairs changes? As for Dan: I don’t think it’s right that his partner had to be the one who is above him in next-to-last place, with nothing to lose. Anyway, Blair interviews that he and Dan decided to make up the plan on the spot. The girls move the pieces around. “You got it, baby!” shouts Tonya. Man, who would’ve guessed she’d say something like that to Aneesa? Dan blows out at 4:27. The girls go fast-motion before Tonya blows at 7:14. She interviews that she feels comfortable with her performance. She and Aneesa hug. Never thought I’d see that.

Jonny announces the winners of the prize package. After a dramatic pause, he gives it to the ladies, who cheer and hug each other. Jonny goes on, saying that Ayanna and Ellen had the best time, and they won the Ion Lifesaver. Melissa is brought out of hiding to say that the guys thought they had the game in the bag. Ayanna squeals a lot, skipping away with Ellen.

Ruthie and Anne walk alone. In an interview, Ruthie says that one of the girls had a plan to sabotage another teammate. Wow, this is The Mole! “As much as I’m trying to dismiss it,” she adds, “I just can’t get it out of my head.” She tells Anne that she finds out more about people’s true character every day and it’s not pretty.

The scores are posted. Colin, bum ankle and all, still leads the guys with 200 points. Guess who’s at the bottom? Needless to say, the odds of Dan following in the footsteps of Amy from Big Brother 3 are greatly diminished. He eyerolls, “I’m just waiting for the inevitable doom of getting voted out of Jamaica. AGAIN!” Jonny announces the Inner Circles. For the women, it’s Ruthie, Ellen, and Emily. For the men, it’s Colin, Mark, and Jamie. Jonny tells Ayanna and Ellen they can give the Ion Lifesaver to one person for saving. Shots of Dan and Aneesa’s names on the bottom of the scoreboard. Jonny gives the ICs one hour.

Since Ellen saved Tonya last time (and what a good decision that was), she offers the IL to Ayanna to give. Ayanna contemplates giving it to Aneesa. You know who would be nervous at this point? Genesis. Think about it: Aneesa gets saved, Tonya would be protected by Ellen, and Emily would shield Christina. That leaves Genesis, who (like Rachel last time) is fourth from last. Ruthie takes Ayanna aside to tell her about something Aneesa was contemplating, which is something Ayanna didn’t know about.

There’s a shot of a small lizard, followed by a slug and an owl. Cut to the Women’s Inner Circle, walking into a field. I know Ruthie’s the owl, but I can’t match the others to the members of the Axis of Petty. Ruthie says that what goes on in the WIC stays there, and the others agree. Ruthie then drops the bomb on Emily: Aneesa had come to Ruthie with the plan to have somebody partner with Emily and sabotage her. Emily is taken aback before calling it B.S. Ellen snorts in derision. Ruthie claims that holding that in tore her apart. Yeah, if Aneesa is scheming like that, then why did Ruthie give her a pass last week? I think Ruthie’s got a grander plan. Emily isn’t worried about Aneesa, since she’s too far away from her, points-wise. She continues, “I really think the longer that Veronica stays here, the more animosity our team has.” Ruthie gives Ellen a look that roughly translates to, “What the hell is she talking about?” Ellen gives a responding look of, “I know!” Emily thinks that Veronica tries to cut down people. In an interview, Ruthie can’t believe that she went on about Aneesa and her treachery, and Emily wants Veronica out. She adds, “Now I know why everybody wants to see you gone!” Ellen claims that she and Ruthie have tried to be impartial while in the WIC, not taking out teammates for being threats, Emily thinks that the WIC “writes the game,” and wouldn’t want Veronica to replace either Ruthie or Ellen in the WIC.

Sunset. Time to announce who’s going home (again). Some of the guys are wearing Speedos. Jonny calls up the “Chippenmale Inner Circle.” Shut up, Jonny. Mark holds up the broken handle of Puck’s guitar, which represents “the P-Man.” Shut up about the P-Man! Damn, P-Man sounds like a character from a Masters of the Universe parody. Of course, Dan gets cut loose (again). He interviews that he had “such a blast,” and he fakes some tears.

Women’s Inner Circle/Only Entertaining Constant Of This Show. Ruthie goes on about the person who had a lot of spirit. Thankfully, she doesn’t drone on like Ellen, giving the axe to Aneesa. In an interview, Ruthie says that the others would think Aneesa left due to low points, and that the “other stuff” can’t be tolerated.

Jonny calls up Ellen and Ayanna to award the Ion Lifesaver. For some weird reason, Ayanna gives it to Tonya. But she got it last time! Maybe Ellen talked Ayanna out of giving it to Dan, since Blair had the second-lowest point total and would have been booted. Aneesa isn’t as sickened by the WIC decision as Rachel, but she says that she would have done anything to get Emily out of the Inner Circle. “It should’ve been taken care of a long time ago,” she adds.

Dan loads some bags into the van. Anne reaches in and pulls them out. I’m really going to miss Dan. He interviews that people thought they’d be competing for prizes, but none of it matters in the end. Dan hugs and gets kissed by Ellen. Aneesa gets a hug from Theo. Shane takes a picture of Aneesa and some other ladies. Ruthie has a contemplative look on her face. Next to her, Ellen inspects her nails. “Maybe it came out of desperation,” Ruthie interviews about Aneesa’s plan. “Maybe it came out of something that someone else had talked to her about. I really don’t know. But it doesn’t belong here.” Aneesa interviews that she hopes Emily doesn’t win, before laughing and wishing that the girls she likes kick some ass. She and Dan wave out the van’s windows.

Next week: The ladies have a meeting. Anne is not doing it. Doing what? Emily feels wrong about doing it. Once again, doing what? James feels that supporting the guys and being with his girlfriend are at polar opposites. He tells the guys that Emily’s not doing it, and that they’re a team. You’re killing me, man. James: “Why does there have to be nakedness?” That’s it! Jonny starts up a game. Overhead shot of two ladies taking off their clothes. Gratuitous nudity? Shoot, who needs the P-Man after all?

Reading the recap, I can't believe I forgot about Aneesa's plan to bring down Emily. I still like her more than Rachel, though. I know this was the first show that Aneesa and Rachel were on together, but I don't know if they hooked up, leading to their team-up in Battle Of The Exes. Between Rachel and Veronica (the Eminem-looking chick from her season), I'd say Aneesa has crap taste in women. I would miss Dan more, though I kinda soured on him in Inferno II. This episode would be a bit tame in comparison to the next one, where hell broke loose. After reposting my Puck piece, I'll go over the carnage in "Shirks and Skins."

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Battle of the Sexes Episode 8: Cold-Butted Snakes

I'm back. Sorry if you've been impatient. Two weeks ago, I hit New York Comic Con, and I've been working on stories from there. I've also been playing catch-up with my television addictions. Yes, that includes The Real World: Bad Blood, which is going to have fourteen cast members in the near-future. "Shitshow" just about covers it. If you just care about The Challenge, two of them are slated to appear in the upcoming season. As for BOTS? We reach a critical point where the true villain makes her first big movie. And this is the last full episode with Puck . . . and thank goodness for that. My condolences if you stumbled across a RW: San Francisco marathon on MTV Classic, and got to see him in action. His shtick is timeless, in the sense that he probably deserves a beating now as he did in 1994 and 2003.

Airdate: February 17, 2003
Recap Published: February 24, 2003 

“You’re as cold as ice. You’re willing to sacrifice…” a good player. Yes, coldness was the theme of the day as first they have to withstand an icy torture and then Ellen the ice maiden boots another woman – to the dismay of many other teammates.
This recap goes out to reality television’s number one fan, Kathy Griffin. She represented herself with honors on Celebrity Mole: Hawaii, raising the quality of the show in the process. Props also go out to our own Brian James, who interviewed Flo for this site, giving a reviled character an added dimension. Will I take a similar route and interview Ellen? Don’t hold your breath.

Previously on Battle of the Seasons: Puck got married to Betty in the biggest wedding on reality television. Well, it was the biggest, until Ozzy and Sharon renewed their vows. Choke on that, Corey Feldman! Lori gets the mission clue on the sponsored phone. She admits that the girls are on a losing streak, and it’s embarrassing. Cut to the first episode, where Melissa brings up voting off Julie. In light of what happens tonight, I don’t see how she “set the tone” for future Inner Circles. Julie was so unpopular, most of the RW women were aiming on voting her out. Christina thinks the voting in a popularity contest. Rachel: “Anyone can go home now, and that’s a threat that you don’t want to live with.”

After the credits, we get shots of the sky and flowers. There’s a shot of a slug crawling. Cut to Puck hugging Betty and Bogart. That can’t be a coincidence. Puck interviews that he dreamt of having a healthy baby and a good wife, and he has both. “Don’t piss her off, though,” he adds. “She’ll stab you with a pair of scissors.” Betty and Bogart ride off in a van.

Women’s Villa. Rachel gripes about how some of the women don’t want to be there for the whole four weeks. So it wasn’t just Amaya? I wish there was elaboration. Genesis explains to us that Rachel has expressed negativity about the group as a whole.

Outside. Amusement park atmosphere. The contestants fast-motion walk to Jonny. When there’s fast-motion, you know there has to be drama squeezed in. Jonny welcomes everybody to Freeze Your Butt Off. Rachel expositions that the object is for the players to sit on a block of ice and hold their hands over their heads, and the person who does this for the longest period wins. Jonny whips out this week’s sponsored prizes, which are mountain bikes for the winning team. Half of them are probably on eBay as you read this. Genesis and Theo give dueling confessionals: she says the girls are hell-bent on ending the losing streak, and he says the guys have to stay focused. Jonny also brings out some hand-held doughnut-shaped thing. Oh, that’s the Ion Lifesaver, which took last week off. Aneesa sees that she’s at the bottom of the standings. Dan observes that he’s third from last, ahead of Blair and Eric, and he has to beat at least one of them in order to stay.

Jonny tells the guys that fairness has to be ensured in relation to the amount of exposed skin. He holds up a pair of Speedos. Immediately, the girls cheer, since they’re obviously fans of male blur shots. “We got to wear punk-ass Speedos!” Theo grouses. “I don’t wear Speedos because my thang can’t breathe!” As if that wasn’t bad enough, we get a shot of Theo getting a wedgie. The guys pull them up and rub sunscreen on each other. Shane wiggles around. Jake: “Quite frankly, we look damn fine.” Thong Boy would say that. More stuffing of male parts. Melissa and Veronica laugh. The guys pose, blurred bits and all. Melissa: “This is the best day ever!” Dan complains that he didn’t know how big his butt was.

Everyone gets ready to sit on the blocks of ice, in what appears to be a grounded roller coaster. It’s hard to tell what exactly the BMP people are smoking. Everybody sits down, butts and feet on the ice. Of course, there’s yelling and screeching. Lori interviews that the ice is so cold, “it’s like sitting on fire.” Puck groans. He’s sitting next to Ellen. For a second, I almost feel sorry for her. More groans of agony. Puck spills some popcorn into his mouth while keeping his arms raised.

Jonny eliminates Antoine for putting his hands together. True story: I actually picked him to replace David on my Fantasy Team. So when he got booted, I got mad. Anyway, Antoine clocks out at 14 minutes, 23 seconds. He interviews that he didn’t realize his mistake because he was focusing on his butt. Aneesa lowers her arms while singing, and one of the masked judges catches her (22:37). Puck reaches into his mouth, only to be busted by Jonny (24:13). Puck bitches about the decision, saying that he was told he could eat popcorn, but he didn’t know he couldn’t pick his teeth. Ever hear of a tongue? Loser. Christina raps about beating the boys as Dan beatboxes along, but he gets nailed for clapping (29:02). He immediately figures that he’s going home.

As Blair leans over to sniff her armpit, Tonya tells us about the girls losing two missions in a row. Blair corrects her, saying that it’s three. Shane gets eliminated (31:22), followed by Syrus (33:12) and James (47:54). “One by one,” Ellen interviews, “all of the guys are dropping like flies.” In fast-motion, Colin (one hour, 17:14) and Jake (1:23:33) bow out. Mark clings to hope, saying that women have a greater tolerance for pain, but the men are motivated. More fast-motion: Blair (1:29:13), Mark (1:33:12) and Theo (1:35:00) get the boot.

Soon, Eric is the last man sitting. Jake interviews that all of the guys’ hopes are on him. Multiple shots of Eric concentrating. “He’s a little dehydrated,” Jake continues, “a little crazy in the coconut.” Tense music plays. Eric looks around before slowly lowering his hand to scratch his ear. The music stops. Eric pulls the arm back up. “No one saw that?” he asks a teammate. Aneesa: “No one saw what, Eric?” Busted!

After commercials, Eric gets eliminated (1:47:45). Mark notes that a lot of the women are still in the game. “The girls have won that mission,” Antoine says softly. “They have the mountain bike. But two hours down the road, arms up, ass on the ice, fighting for one little point.” Man, that’s evil. His accent makes him sound a lot more diabolical.

More shots of the ladies. A fly crawls on a stomach. One of the masked judges sees Rachel’s foot coming off the ground and boots her (2:14:14). She interviews that she did well, beating all of the guys and four of the girls. Following her are Lori (2:27:07), Veronica (2:29:07) and Ruthie (2:43:22).
Melissa is in pain. Mervin Palmer, an on-site medic, checks her pulse. “Melissa has turned blue,” Christina voiceovers. “She’s completely blue.” In other words, she’s a Melissicle. Mervin tells her that her pulse is 64, which is below normal. He tells her she could get hypothermic, and there are no drugs to treat her. As her legs shake from the cold, some of the contestants beg her to get off the ice. Jonny assures her that she would get 33 points, her highest score since the first mission. She finally bails out after 2:58:37. “She’s such a tiny little lady,” Christina says. “She’s like 80 pounds. Melissa is, like, my leg.” Melissa lies down on something inflated, crying in pain while the feeling is rubbed back into her legs.

Meanwhile, a judge busts Emily for lowering her arms (3:00:25), paring the contest down to Ellen and Ayanna. Ellen, cool as a cucumber, turns around. Ayanna looks skyward, in obvious pain. Finally, she quits at 3:09:15, giving the mission to Ellen. Eric lifts Ellen from her seat, taking her to get warmed up. Ayanna reveals that this was a strategic decision; since she will team up with Ellen in the next competition, Ayanna wants Ellen and herself to remain healthy. Eric dips Ellen in water. Ayanna goes up to Rachel in fast-motion and shakes her hand, causing Rachel’s breasts to bob up and down violently.

Jonny awards the bike to Ellen on behalf of her team. Puck, being the consummate good sport that he is, razzes Ellen while giving her two thumbs down. As you know from last week, Ellen did flip the bird to Puck when he won last week. Oh, wait… that didn’t happen. So shut up, Puck. Ellen dedicates her win to Ayanna. Aneesa says that the girls can beat the tough guys. “The ladies just held it down,” Theo interviews. “They represented, and they beat us.” Why can’t Puck take lessons from him?

Fast-motion takes us to the scoreboard, as Jonny announces the Inner Circles. For the women, it’s still Ruthie, Emily, and Ellen. For the men, it’s Colin, Theo, and Mark. He gives both ICs one hour to decide who goes next, and reminds them that Ellen holds the Ion Lifesaver.

Ayanna approaches Ellen in regards to the IL. “You earned it,” Ayanna tells her. “Now do with it what you want to do.” Can you say, “famous last words”? Ellen considers giving it to Dan, but she respects the guys and their system of voting out the lowest scorer. Lori hugs Dan, telling him he can’t go, but he sees his score as the lowest. Aneesa is disappointed in getting the lowest score. Behind her, Colin is carrying Melissa. Since I recapped the hookup special, I wonder if that would be mentioned next year. They would make for a cute couple. Dan hugs Aneesa, asking, “Shall we exit gracefully?” Tonya hobbles along, still injured from last week, knowing that’s a disadvantage to her. Rachel is happy, telling Veronica she’s moving up in the standings.

Women’s Inner Circle. Ruthie asks Ellen who will get the IL. Ellen brings up Dan again, but she mentions a flaw: if Dan is saved, Blair and James are tied for next-to-last. Since Blair is Ellen’s friend and James is Emily’s boyfriend, that would be problematic, so Ellen decides to give it to Tonya. Emily brings up Aneesa, but Ruthie shoots that idea down, since Aneesa brings morale to the team. Since Tonya is saved, Ruthie moves on to Christina, which Emily immediately rejects, since she’s friends with her. “I think it’s hard for me to send somebody home that I really like,” Emily adds, “where there are people left in the game that I think should go home first.”

Ellen asks for another name. Emily complies, bringing up Rachel. Ruthie asks if Rachel’s performance has been consistent. “Consistently bad,” Emily snipes. Meow! The claws are officially out. She goes on to say Rachel is unfocused and uncompetitive. Ellen interviews that Rachel was the only person all three Inner Circle members had to question. Ellen is on a roll: she calls Rachel flaky and suggests that she has done some shady things. Emily says that Rachel reminds her of girls she knew in high school who made her life wretched. Oh, good, now Emily is projecting. A few muscular girls stuffed Emily into a locker when she was 15, and now Rachel is going to suffer for that. “I don’t think she deserves to be here,” Emily hisses. “If she stays, she’s just going to be a toxic teammate. I just want her gone.” Emily? Honey? Do you even know Ellen? She deserves biohazard signs all over her. Ruthie says that Rachel was the only person where elimination dawned on all three of them. Emily grins.

Judgment time. Jonny invites the Men’s Inner Circle to make their announcement. Theo spares us the drama, giving the boot to Dan. He’s a good sport about it, telling everybody that there’s chocolate cake in the girl’s kitchen. Everybody cheers.

Women’s Inner Circle Decision. Ellen steps up, and produces a long-winded speech on how nobody can compete without the support of others. She keeps going, making Genesis’ booting of Julie downright abrupt. And it continues: “The person tonight who’s leaving, I’m sad to see go, but thank you so much for all you’ve given and all your hard work. And Rachel, we’ll be sad to see you go.” There’s a cut to the guys. If BMP ever needed to make money, they could sell posters of that shot. Theo’s lips are puckered. Antoine’s leaning in, almost as if to say, “Excuse me?” Dan’s eyes are so bugged out, they threaten to knock his glasses off. “The girls’ house is nuts!” he voiceovers. You would know, dude; you’ve spent half the time there. Tonya’s eyes dart around in surprise.

After commercials, the guys are chattering as Rachel comes up to make her speech. Lori interviews that there’s no reason to vote her off, adding, “I think the Inner Circle made a very big mistake.” The guys continue to cheer Rachel on. I think half of it is caring about her; the other half is that the girls bring the entertainment to these announcements. Jake: “It’s clearly ‘[Cat hiss], I don’t like you, you took my makeup, who ate my cheese.’ It sucks, it’s lame.” And Jake calls Eric nuts?

Rachel starts to break down, saying that the IC is B.S. The guys (led by Puck, naturally) egg her on. She goes on to say that the IC set a negative tone that won’t disappear. Emily mouths off silently, probably telling Jonny to wrap things up. Rachel stalks off from the cameras.

Now it’s time to announce who gets the Ion Lifesaver. Ellen gives it to Tonya, since she “took one for the team” in the last mission. The men jeer the decision as Ellen hands the IL to Tonya. Ellen: “I feel like I’m being completely criticized over every decision I’m making, and nothing I do seems to be right.” My goodness, it’s almost like she’s talking to me!

After the announcements, Rachel decides to give Ellen a piece of her mind, telling her she doesn’t mind being sent home. But she objects to the charge that she’s not a team player, saying she’s done nothing but work things out. Ellen interviews that the Inner Circle takes three people to make a decision. She should be a bank teller, since she’s so good at passing the buck. “This game is ugly!” Rachel laughs at the camera. “The Inner Circle is ugly! And I don’t want to be a part of it anymore.”
As Rachel stalks towards the general direction of away, Ayanna passes her, muttering to herself. She tells Ellen she doesn’t want to be partnered with her for the next mission, adding that she would “rather be a partner with Tonya hobbling along on some damn crutches.” She interviews that the only reason for Rachel leaving is that somebody saw her as a threat.

Speaking of Emily, she’s avoiding the drama, as she hangs with James, Antoine, and Christina. In a confessional, she says it’s a game, and anybody can be eliminated that’s either a threat or undesirable to have around. “I don’t think there’s anything dirty about that,” she adds. Christina adds her two cents, saying that Emily is getting a bad rap, and everybody is overreacting. “It’s ridiculous high school drama,” she adds. Oh, sure, and when Julie got voted out, she thought that Inner Circle was an “evil cheerleading cult.”

Fans of Semester at Sea get something they’ve been expecting: Ayanna babbling off the deep end. “You talk about negativity?” she yells at Ellen. “There’s other people that have been heckuva more negative than her from the break! From the break! Don’t give me that negativity rhyme!” Ellen tries to tell her that it wasn’t a personal decision, but Ayanna isn’t buying it. Ruthie has to intervene, yelling, “If it wasn’t her, it would’ve been somebody else!” Ayanna calms down, telling Ruthie that she just doesn’t understand why Rachel had to go. In Ruthie’s interview, her voice wavers a little. She says that she didn’t realize how much the decision would hurt the others. Out of the three IC members, I expect Ruthie to lose the most sleep. I still like her. Ellen keeps babbling about things not being personal, and Ayanna decides to believe her. A defrosted Melissa interviews that it wasn’t fair that Ellen and Ruthie were the scapegoats. “I find it highly suspicious,” she adds, “that after that vote was made, Emily was nowhere to be found.”

Ruthie and Ellen walk together. Ellen thinks that they’ve tried to be fair in the Inner Circles, and she feels they weren’t fair tonight. You think? She starts to cry, blubbering that she felt played by Emily. “She’s the one who threw [Rachel’s] name out,” she sobs. So she just conveniently forgot about the time she wanted Rachel out because she wouldn’t help her with the log cabin? And it’s all Emily’s fault for following the logical path from last place to fourth-from-last? Is this girl kidding me? If Ellen gets $50,000 for winning the Challenge, then I might have to hurt somebody. Emily was catty in wanting Rachel out, and Ruthie should have sacrificed Aneesa for the good of the team, but Ellen chooses to live in denial. She keeps sobbing, “Now I don’t know if I trust someone else.” Shut up. Fade to credits.

Happy fantasy game postscript: I was all set to personally dropkick Antoine back to Belgium for his abysmal performance. But he gave me 56 points, 45 of them coming from three acts of nudity as he stuffed himself in Speedos. So thank you, Antoine, for not being afraid of the cameras. Rock on with your Belgian self.

Next week: Were you wondering why Puck’s family was in the first scene? Well, Betty gets detained, since she’s not a U.S. citizen and she left her green card at home. Puck is ticked. Female voice: “There was a break-in.” Puck tells the cameraman to not point the camera at him. Christina: “And then he walks out with a machete in his hand.” As anybody from Big Brother 2 will tell you, there’s nothing more dangerous than a would-be mental patient with a sharp object. He’s not so endearing now, is he?

I think this was the last time I was on Rachel's side on anything. I don't think she gave me anything really critical during Battle Of The Sexes 2 a few years later, but I wound up regarding her as "all muscle, no hustle," a competitor whose build scared off people from voting her into endgames. On the flip side, I think that I was pro-Emily prior to this episode. I probably doubted her sanity being in a relationship with James, but I didn't start to hate her until this episode. Not a fun week for me . . . I liked Dan, hated the Women's Inner Circle's decision, and my favorite cast member almost froze to death. If memory serves, Melissa said on her blog that didn't get any deep bruises from the ice like most of the other women. Oh, and the guy writing the summary saw "Cold-Butted Snakes," and didn't make a connection to Paula Abdul.