Monday, February 27, 2017

Mole 2: What If It’s Not Bill?

I like Facebook. I've made friends from real life and online. I see who their friends are. I don't clash with anybody because I don't have that many friends, so I seldom brush up against somebody who rubs me the wrong way. I get birthday alerts, and I can see it when my fsneriends celebrate the birthdays of others. Today, I found out that today is Bill McDaniel's birthday.

A long, long time ago, there was a reality show on ABC called The Mole. It wasn't as rough as Survivor, and it didn't cater to the lowest common denominator like Big Brother. It was presented as a mystery, where players would compete to put money into a pot. The twist: there was a mole in their midst, a saboteur that would subtlety thwart their efforts. At the end of each episode, the players would take a quiz about the Mole's actions. The person with the lowest score would be "executed," and sent out of the game. There were two seasons to start, hosted by Anderson Cooper, before he joined CNN and broke out as a household name. With low ratings, ABC converted it to Celebrity Mole. The biggest reason why there was a second season was due to Kathy Griffith, who brought the intentional humor (in contrast to Stephen Baldwin and Corbin Bernsen) on the way to winning. After Celebrity Mole: Yucatan (won by Dennis Rodman; best not to dwell on that), ABC buried The Mole. Thanks to the writers' strike in 2007-08, ABC dug it up, dusted it off . . . then let it languish without any fanfare before buruing it again and pouring concrete on top of the coffin.

I've blogged about The Mole last year, and I reposted my interview with Dorothy Hui, who won the second season (titled The Next Betrayal). My original plan for bringing back my material from Reality News Online was to cover my four seasons recapping Real World/Road Rules Challenge. With Bill's birthday (a young 74!), I'm going to make an exception.

Quick background: By the time I wrote this essay, it was generally accepted that Bill was the Mole. The producers' clues were a little too obvious, at least to folks that would obsess over clues. Those in the know on the show's forum on Mighty Big TV (later Television Without Pity) even dubbed themselves the "Billuminati." Because I had to be contrary, I tried to point out suspicious behavior from the final three players: Dorothy Hui (whom I had followed after we briefly met during auditions), Heather Campbell (the nice girl whom bad stuff always happened to in the second half of the season), and Al Spielman (the "fun uncle" from Long Island who rubbed a few viewers the wrong way). Thanks to the clues, we knew they were playing to win, especially after Elavia Bello (whom was practically wearing a "I AM THE MOLE!!!" sign throughout her run) took a bribe to leave the game. You'll have to seek out the episodes to get context, but I like to think it holds up on its own.

Mole 2: What If It’s Not Bill?

by Jason Borelli -- 07/22/2002
If you’ve decided to live in denial and still don’t think Bill is the Mole, this article is for you! The other remaining players have done some suspicious things as well, and they have lost plenty of money. So if it’s not Bill, just who is the Mole?



So, you’ve decided to live in denial.

You’ve watched The Mole every week. You’ve seen the clues, both hidden and obvious, and you have determined that it simply cannot be Bill. He is not the Mole. Pisces sign on the floor? Cracking open Rudy the Gnome to get the exemption? An older gentleman playing the saboteur in the second season of every other version of the show worldwide? The telegram with the phone number that spells out “THE MOLE IS BILL”? Nope, you won’t let that ruin your fun, and you would need a far greater sign in order to snap you out of rebuffing the facts:

“Hello. I’m Anderson Cooper, host of The Mole. While there are only a few episodes left, it’s safe to say that Bill is the Mole. So you can change the channel. No sweat off my back. I’m on CNN now anyway, so I could care less about ABC. Seriously, change the channel. American Idol is on now, and you’ll look like a dweeb if you’re not talking about that show at work tomorrow morning. So once again: Bill is the Mole. Now please go back to watching less intelligent television programming… most of which, ironically enough, is on ABC.”

The situation is not hopeless, though. Along with Bill, there are three other contestants. Unlike Bribs, the choirboy Texan who was executed in the last episode, each of them has shown shady behavior throughout the series. So don’t be surprised if Bill gets the red thumbprint in the next few episodes. The indicators can be seen in the games themselves and in some of the hidden clues that can be seen throughout the game.

Al

Looking for a Mole suspect to rival Bill is a challenge in itself. Trying to put Al in that spot is a challenge squared. He exhibits a lot of his personality, some of which can grate on other people’s nerves. But there are ways to frame him as the Mole.

Going back to the first episode, Al had trouble on the Pulse Rope Walk. Wearing a heart monitor that would beep anytime a certain rate was exceeded, Al had to stop frequently when the alarm went off. He managed to finagle his way into the heart of two games: Little John/Little Jane and Rappelling, losing the chance to add $35,000 at the end of the latter. With LJ/LJ, he earned an exemption and the right to give another player an additional free pass. In my mind, the exemptions are key to eliminating players. When Al gave an exemption to Katie, he took the players’ odds of getting executed from 11-to-1 to 9-to-1, and he saved the person whom was considered to be the weakest (somewhat ironic, given that Katie would stay on for five more episodes).

The most glaring of Al’s flubs came during Gladiator. While protecting Dorothy, he was the only contestant to be “killed”; the “egg” on his armor broke, spilling red dye and knocking him out. However, his mortal wound was not cause by an opponent’s sword. Rather, he broke his egg with his own shield. Clumsiness? Or an effort to put the pressure on his fellow contestants?

The hidden clues make for a more compelling case. In the second episode, Al used the phrase “burned my apple” in reference to the deception with Bribs and Ali over supposed exemptions. Four episodes later, Anderson is seen drinking apple juice and biting into an apple. Before one execution, a black cat is shown for no good reason. According to the Mole Fan Club (www.themolefanclub.com), Al is the only player remaining to own a cat. But the Bike Game offers an odd clue. At one point, the following phrase were scrawled on the road in different colored chalk (read it from bottom to top):

YOU

BEAT

WILL

MOLE
 
THE

That’s ten red letters, five yellow and three blue. Later in the episode, a door number was shown: 153. The room’s occupants? Al and Darwin. All that has to be done is remove the zero, and you have 153. Or count “you” as one word, count the letters in yellow, and show how many lines are chalked in red.

Conclusion: Al is a dark horse to win and a longshot to be The Mole. One thing is for certain: if the latter is the case, the producers will have to deal with a very upset Katie, since Al wouldn’t be able to leave no matter how much she wanted it.

Dorothy

At first glance, Dorothy appears to be the anti-Mole. On two occasions, she won money for the group with some genius-level thinking. But as you dig deeper, you start seeing signs of Moleness.

As I said before, exemptions can help a Mole drop the hammer on other contestants. When she and Lisa lured Darwin and Katie out of their rooms, not only did the roommates get exemptions, but $2,000 was also taken from the pot. Lisa was the lucky one, as Anderson originally approached Dorothy for the exemption. What did she do? She grabbed the last piece of cake, the only slice without a blueberry. It could have been a coincidence, a usually picky eater indulging herself. Or she could have intentionally dropped the voting from twelve people to eleven.

Dorothy winning $50,000 highlighted the Dumb Vs. Smart game. But she pulled two answers out of thin air, including taking letters to form the word “mistrustfulness,” earning exemptions for herself, Bill, and Rob. If she was the Mole, she increased the chances of elimination from ten to eight. And who would think of her as the Mole after such a heroic effort?

There are other indicators. For one thing, she went oh-for-two playing the Relative games, not earning $30,000 and becoming the only player not to spend time with her loved one (her mother). Her lack of stamina has made her a liability in physical tasks, forcing the others to work around her. For instance, during Think or Sink, while she was lost trying to find the number of stairs leading to the top of the hill, Katie and the remaining swimmers guessed the answer for themselves. Finally, during Pass the Ball, Bill’s exemption was nullified when Bribs knocked the ball out of turn. But it turned out that Darwin let Dorothy hit the ball instead of him, costing the group $40,000. Did lack of thinking cloud their judgment, or did Dorothy see a chance to sabotage the game?

The hidden clues to implicate Dorothy are hard to find, with nary a ruby red slipper to be found. The black cat could be a reference to her eyeglasses. Two clues made possible reference to her cake eating: the telegram that ended “ready for a second helping” and the message of “Are You The One?” covered under blueberries. And Anderson eating the apple and drinking apple juice could refer to New York, the Big Apple, which is Dorothy home city.

Conclusion: Don’t count her out. The “second helping” could also refer to another twenty-something woman being the Mole (after Kathryn Price). If Dorothy is the Mole, then she did a better job of it than coalition partner Elavia pretended to do.

Heather

If you want to deny yourself the prospect of Bill as the Mole, Heather is your best bet. Bill himself called her a “sneaky Texan” during Evader, and perhaps that expression could fit her more accurately than we think.

I mentioned the “second helping” reference before, and Kathryn and Heather do share some traits. For one thing, they’re both presented as hard luck cases. Kathryn did a fair share of crying during her season. Heather finally broke after losing two chances to get exemptions during Evader. Kathryn was engaged during her season; at one point, she refused to have her head shaven bald in order to win money. Heather wasn’t engaged coming into this season, but was proposed to by her boyfriend midway through. That probably wasn’t planned, but it would be a nice parallel.

Her actions have been very Mole-ish, going back to LJ/LJ where she slipped and fell into the water without being hit. The sextet in the Bike Game won $20,000, but $10,000 was taken from the pot after Heather touched a bike prior to the contest, even though Anderson had specifically told the group not to do that. And during Relative Disguise, she failed twice while looking for Katie’s father and Dorothy’s mother.

Her lack of exemptions might be a smokescreen. She has had four chances, and she has failed to earn one. It was understandable when she passed on a free pass in order to spring Al and Myra from jail during Get the Key; they were due to chat with their loved ones back up. Gnome Home was a little more suspect. If she knew that an exemption was in the gnome, why run the obstacle course first and let Bill crack it open? Perhaps she figured Bill would figure out Anderson’s “Romancing the Stone” clue and fake stumbling on to it. And in the first Evader game, she gave up when Al spotted her. With all due respect to Al, Heather might have been able to outrun him with ease. Getting caught by Bribs was easier to swallow.

Conclusion: If the Mole isn’t Bill, it has to be Heather. Should Dorothy, Heather’s current coalition partner, get executed in the next episode, then it has to be Heather. Also, compare the money unearned by Bill and Heather (games such as Buy and Sell and Pass the Ball, where the entire group can win or lose money are not included):

Episode 2: Bill refuses to put on a baby diaper in Lotto Clothes; cost $18,000 (would have doubled the money).

Episode 3: Heather falls off plank without taking a hit in Little John/Little Jane; cost $5000.

Episode 4: Heather takes part in losing Rappelling game; cost $35,000.

Episode 5: Bill can only tread water for eight minutes during Think or Sink; cost $20,000.

Episode 6: Bill eats unauthorized ice cream; group penalized $10,000 (with Darwin and Heather). Heather touches bicycle before Bike Game starts; group penalized $10,000 (with Bill and Darwin).

Episode 7: Bill breaks gnome in Gnome Home game; cost $30,000.

Episode 8: Heather cannot find Katie’s father or Dorothy’s mother during Relative Disguise; cost $10,000.

Episode 9: Heather screws up Wine Wager; cost $5000.

Total Amount Lost: Bill -- $78,000. Heather -- $65,000.

So either Heather is the Mole, or she would have made almost as good a Mole as Bill (or the other two for that matter; Al lost $75,000 under the aforementioned criteria, while Dorothy lost $50,000).

In conclusion, there is hope. There is the possibility that Stone-Stanley Productions, in an effort to duplicate the Survivor rumors where Gervase was supposed to win the million bucks, have smacked us in the face with red herring. There is the chance that the most obvious clues were overlooked, and that we’ve been suckered. Al could be the Mole. Dorothy could be the Mole. Heather could be the Mole. Maybe Bill is just a guy from Washington who wants to win a six-figure pot. I’ll be rooting for that in the coming weeks, along with snow in July, winged pigs, and everybody on reality shows getting along during their entire season.

Seriously, find the episodes . . . especially the penultimate round that followed his essay, where the gang had to play in "Anderson's Fun House," which led to roaches raining down on Dorothy, Heather balking at the thought of sharing a dark room with a snake, and Al forced to stay on a bed overnight, while "Tiny Bubbles" played incessantly. Also, I think Anderson ranks as one of the best reality show hosts in the history of the genre. I know, he only did it for two seasons, and he didn't bother mentioning it in his autobiography, but I'd rank him favorably to folks like Jeff Probst and Phil Keoghan. And once you go through The Next Betrayal, read Bill's book on his experience, Reflections Of The Mole. It makes for a good read for diehard fans, and most of the cast contributed commentary. I'd be demanding that another network acquire the series, revamp it, and make it worth watching . . . but I'm saving my strength trying to do the same for The Amazing Race, which hangs by a thread at CBS. I'd suggest ABC . . . but they still air The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. No thanks.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Hot & Bothered: The RW/RR Challenge Battle of the Sexes Reunion

This is the end . . . at least of our time in Jamaica. It's funny how wrong I was about certain people when I re-read the recap. I wouldn't think of Veronica as a human being for most of her tenure. Well, maybe I felt for her when Julie kinda/sorta tried to murder her in The Inferno, but I'll get to that eventually. I thought Emily was a heinous bitch, and I forgave her before the end of 2003. And at the time, I was okay with Eric. Then came Battle Of The Sexes 2, and he became "Eric Fucking Nies" to me. I'd also start referring to Mark as "Marky Mark" after that season. Puck wouldn't become a Challenge veteran, but he still sucked. At least I had that right. Anyway, here's the Reunion recap, as well as some bitching about MTV in general.

Airdate: May 12, 2003
Recap Published: May 21, 2003 (Honestly, I don't remember the gap. I swear this is not selective memory at work) 

MTV brought back as many of the Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Battle of the Sexes participants as they could fit into one room. Let's flash back to some of those special moments and find out what the players have to say.
 
Before we start, I have a bone to pick with MTV. How come this special only got a half hour? The reunion for Extreme Challenge got an hour, as did Battle of the Seasons. Real World: Las Vegas? One hour. That's right… the most tedious, uninteresting season in the show's history, and they got a full hour. Meanwhile, there are a ton of questions to be answered and revelations to be exposed, but only a fraction of them were shown. For instance, Ellen is now engaged. Yes, Ellen Cho, athlete and screechy pain in the rear, is getting married. But that wasn't shown on the reunion.

While I'm at it, I should bring up the Road Rules marathons. Status quo dictates that for a new season, MTV runs old episodes. Even though half of the seasons are in syndication, I saw at least three installments that were to be run this weekend. At I write this, MTV is showing one and only one season: Campus Crawl, the most embarrassing season in the show's history. Yes, I think everything went downhill after Australia, but I would have liked to see some of that once more. But no, MTV has a need to dump some episodes of Punk'd on Saturday night, so who cares if I want to see James and Theo have fun in unnatural ways? Worse, they keep pimping the premiere for South Pacific this Monday, which is a load of bull. Monday is the preview special; May 26 is the start of the twelfth season.

I guess I'm ticked that I didn't attempt to attend the reunion. For some reason, I thought they'd squeeze in all 36 participants. That shows what a dummy I am. Surprisingly, Puck wasn't there, so there goes most of my bile. The only ones there who make my blood pressure rise were Ellen and Colin. Worse, Melissa had mentioned on her site that some of the contestants had gotten together with former Road Rules cast members, and I interviewed one of them a whileback. I hadn't met this person, and I wanted to see her up-close. I'm not a stalker or a hanger-on. I just wanted to see some cool people. And maybe have Veronica tell me what she would have said to Emily if given the chance.

Highlights. Colin: "You get 36 of these people in the same room, and something's ready to explode." Eric Nies dives into the pool naked. Syrus thinks the guys are going to kick the girls' butts. Dan: "All eighteen of us were beat by Amaya and Melissa." That's a favorite line. The girls scream and celebrate their surprise win. Of course, MTV hates me as much as BMP, so they show Melissa going verbal medieval on Julie. David E. is still bitching about Puck spitting on his face. James tears the clothesline. Rachel calls the Inner Circle ugly. Puck disses Ellen while his son is strapped to him. More highlights. Laterrian: "It's not the battle. It's the war." Poor LT. Julie and Beth got prizes, and he didn't. Ellen: "He just told me he's gonna kick my ass!" Anne disrespects Ayanna. I still hate Anne.

After the title sequence, we get to MTV Studios and a studio audience. Hey, it's Jonny Moseley! I thought they'd assign some no-name VJ to hold reign. He introduces the "toughest of the tough": Genesis, Ellen, Blair, Melissa, Lori, Mark, Shane, Antoine, Veronica, Colin, Ruthie, and Jamie. Some notes: Lori's hair is straight and short, which works for her. No more comparisons to Catherine Zeta-Jones. In a show of friendship, Colin and Ruthie wear caps with each other's names graffitied on them (see photo at the top of this article). Weird thing is, the "h" in "Ruthie" is upside-down, so it's "Rutyie." The good news is that Jamie finally shaved. The bad news? His hair is long, and it doesn't look right. There could be an upside: if Smallville ever needed a young Lionel Luthor for a flashback scene, Jamie's got it cold.

Jonny asks the guests about their wildest experiences. Mark chimes in, talking about how the guys stole the big chili. Cut to blue-tinted flashback. Sure enough, Puck, Mark, and Eric are carrying a huge prop chili. "Pepper's on the move," Eric says with authority. One of the girls asks where they're taking it. Hey, it's Beth! I haven't wasted a brain cell on her in a long time! Mark tells her that it's going to their Villa. Back in the present, Mark calls it a male-bonding moment. Antoine brings up the naked water skiing. Blue-tint. There's Antoine, happy face over his equipment, water skiing.

Jonny asks the ladies the about wild times. Veronica asks if they had any. Ruthie responds, "You were in the boy's villa most of the time!" The audience laughs. Melissa admits to "kickin' it" with Jamie, Mark, Colin, and Shane. "I like you ladies," Melissa adds, "but [bleep], that house was crazy."

Not content with the answers, Jonny decides to jog the memories. Cue the flashbacks. Eric dives into the pool, again. Jake wears the man-thong during Dead Man's Drop. The girls struggle with Tree House, and Jisela wants to hurt Jonny. Betty talks about how she and Puck were going to get married in October, but he wanted to do it in Jamaica. The guys wear tropical formalwear, and Jake is wearing that damn thong AGAIN. Dan keeps panning his camera from Ruthie to Blair: "Beautiful, Blair. Beautiful, Blair." Melissa interviews about how she doesn't think the girls should go to the wedding after he abused Ellen. Lori interviews about Antoine flirting with the female judge during Human Aquarium. Veronica and Lori strip during Battle of the Opposite Sexes. Christina: "I think all of us are here because our parents probably didn't pay enough attention to us." Jake rides his new bike while naked.

The audience applauds. Yay, Jake's naked bits! Jonny asks about hook-ups. Everybody demurs. "C'mon, Veronica," Jonny presses, "who were you macking down on?" The crowd goes nuts. Colin keeps repeating, "Oh no he didn't!" Shut up, Colin. Jonny asks her about Eric. "Who wouldn't want to make out with Eric Nies?" she asks. "You have to get it out of your system, and once it's done, it's over." Poor Eric. She goes on about how he brought her "the juices," and Colin tries to turn it into a euphemism. Blair mentions he hooked up with himself. I didn't need to know that. Jonny goes after Colin and Melissa, but they both deny it. Antoine talks about how he kept trying to hook up with Genesis on a regular basis. She adds that he tried to show his penis, and she keeps telling him she's a lesbian. He responds, "Do you want to tell me more after the show?" She playfully smacks him. No one remembered David and Ayanna? That's sad.

Jonny asks what missions they liked the best. Of course, Ruthie brings up Maximum Velocity. Cut to pink-tinted flashback: Ruthie stops on a dime while sliding down the rope. Ruthie admits she almost cried while watching that. Lori admits she did cry. Melissa: "I cried in my car! Big ups!"

Jonny focuses on the "crazier crap." Girls cheer: "Vaginaginaginaginagina!" Guys get psyched. The girls celebrate their Sergeant Says win. The girls celebrate their Dead Man's Drop win. Colin and Mark get excited after completing Seven Rings of Saturn. In Freeze Your Butt Off, Melissa really freezes her butt off. Christina: "She's completely blue." There's an inset of Melissa, smiling and grimacing at that highlight. Veronica dangles on the stirrup over the water. Jamie celebrates his finish in Stairway to Heaven. In the finale, both teams assemble their puzzles. Mark interviews about not feeling guilty over disassembling the women's puzzle. The guys get ahead and finish the mission for the grand prize

Applause. Yay, duplicity! Jonny points out that Melissa had a tough time with the missions. Cue the pink-tinted highlight of Melissa panicking during Stairway to Heaven. "I go, 'Melissa, are you afraid of heights, you don't like them?'" Mark says. "She says, 'Mark, I don't like missions'." Ellen thinks that the missions were skewed at times. She points out Stairway, where Mark is significantly taller than her. Mark: "I will come over there and beat you." Is that a promise? Everybody has a good laugh. Veronica notes that she finished it, and she's only 5'1". Ellen also thinks the final mission was skewed. Jonny asks if the boys cheated. Cut to blue-tinted highlight of Colin taking the girls' puzzle apart. Lori says that it was unfair for the judges to allow the boys to cheat. There were judges? Mark notes that the guys won by 45 minutes, and they would have had 45 minutes to finish the puzzle by themselves. Jonny brings up the E-word for the first time, asking if things would have been different had Emily been there for the women. Ruthie figures that Emily would have been the only one "demon enough" to knock the puzzle over.

Back from commercials, Jonny asks us what happens when you put 36 strong bodies and personalities together. Cue the highlights: Melissa rips into Julie. In an inset, Melissa has her poker face, neither cringing nor laughing. Colin: "Everybody who's ever been on this show is a freak." David E. keeps accusing Puck of wife abuse, and the Scabby One spits water on him. Now David is on the phone: "No, I'm gonna [bleep] him up and I'll have my ticket!" Please. I could blow hard in David's direction and knock him over. Puck and Ellen bicker about the wedding. Ellen cries about how Puck told her that he was going to kick her ass. James gripes about BOTOS, probably since his ever-so-innocent girlfriend might have to strip. Except she didn't have to strip. Do not get me started. Ellen curses out Melissa. I wish I knew the context; it's been established that the editors cut and pasted that on the first week. Amaya needs a partner. Anne gripes about Ayanna, and Ayanna goes passive-aggressive.

Jonny asks everybody about David E. Cue blue-tinted replay of the spit. "What people don't know is spit was spit back on Puck many a time by David," clarifies Mark. "It wasn't like one spit. It went on for the whole day." I got that from Colin's site, but it's good to have it out in the open. Shane mentions that David had spat on Ayanna. "He was spitting all over the place," Blair says. "Hey, random guy in Jamaica! Pppptt!"

Jonny asks Ellen about Puck. "Some people really milk everything for what it's worth and dry and act up, and I really think that's kinda lame." Suddenly, I hate Ellen less. I'm sure that will pass in time. Blair adds that Puck makes money by being Puck. Ellen continues, saying that she won't judge Puck, but she didn't appreciate how he treated her. Maybe if you didn't take the bait to begin with, everything would have been fine.

Jonny brings up the voting process, which was the "biggest drama." Cue the highlights. Ruthie interviews that the guys have their process set. In the first Inner Circle, Melissa wants to send Julie home. Christina: "I think the girls have constructed the team spirit, too be more of an evil cheerleading cult." In inset, Genesis laughs. Seriously, given that she spent time with Anne and Emily, Christina shouldn't have brought that up. Those three were on the sidelines, belting out cheers like "Sis Boom Bah! [Bleep] Veronica!" Back to the drama: the Inner Circle moves to vote Rachel off, as Ellen and Emily talk crap about her. The boot is made, and everybody is shocked. Jake says the "Who took my cheese" line, which is one of Blair's favorites.

Emily in flashback: "If people want to change the way things are done, they need to work their ass off and get into the Inner Circle." Ellen voiceovers that Emily is not making friends. Veronica shouts "Yeah!" in an inset. Emily drops the hammer on Veronica, who doesn't want to speak with her heart. Once again: Veronica, if you want to tell me, I'd like to hear it. On to the men's drama: Shane and James are tied for last place. James thinks he should stay, but Antoine chooses to keep Shane. Then Emily tells everybody she's leaving with James.

Applause. Yay, Emily's bitchiness! Jonny wants to shed light on Emily's beef with Veronica. She suggests that Rachel and her had bigger boobs than Emily, but Jonny isn't buying it. She says that she had been friends with James. Cut to Blair: "Did you ever make out with James?" Veronica playfully smacks him, then goes into how James helped her move during a weekend. Colin: "He brought you the juices?" Man, shut UP, Colin. Veronica denies any juice having. Ruthie says that Veronica's booting was hard since she didn't feel right about it, but Emily had said it was what the girls wanted. Lori is confused, figuring that the only ones aside from the Inner Circle, herself, and Melissa (both of whom liked Veronica) were Emily, Genesis, and Anne. Sadly, Ayanna is forgotten yet again. Ruthie rubs her eyes, probably fighting back the tears. Lori continues, saying that she respected the Inner Circle for doing what was thought to be best. Ruthie says it's not fun to vote off people you love.

Jonny keeps asking about Emily. Ruthie notes that she was surprised that Emily told her one thing and told the cameras another. "I hope that when she sees what she says," Ruthie adds, "I hope she learns something." Yeah, keep hoping. Jonny brings up Emily leaving. Blair drops a bombshell: Emily and James had agreed to leave when one was voted out. The girls are shocked. Ellen figures it would have been easier to dismiss Emily had she known that. Jonny mentions that Emily isn't here. Veronica: "She probably should never leave her apartment for the rest of her life." Nice! Laughs and big smiles all around.

(Side note: as a member of the legendary Berkley team, James went to the Collegiate Rugby Championships at the time of the taping. Of course, Emily went with him. I think that if the timing were better, both would have been in attendance to face the music. But I still think Emily is a bitch. If you're a BMP alumnus and are preparing to compete in a Challenge, remember this: dump Emily as soon as possible. You'll be doing me a favor, as well as yourself. Don't become the latest victim of Emilizzy Borden just because you stared at her or her boyfriend for a second longer than she liked.)

Before the commercial break, Jonny notes that the players weren't the only ones to win Saturns. Cut to the tape: Mark and Ruthie are outside, and he "decides" to drive to Minnesota to surprise the winner of the MTV.com Fantasy Challenge. Ruthie adds that the winner beat out over 200,000 players. Me? I came in 11,817th place. Thanks for asking. Mark and Ruthie drive through Minnesota to greet Danielle, a.k.a. motherearth29. She hugs Mark and Ruthie. I think the boy running around is her son. She contemplates getting an "MTV.com" license plate. She drives off. Yay, Danielle!

And now, please join me in a prayer for the soul of Jen Shrader, fellow recapper at RealityNewsOnline. The first Road Rules: South Pacific ad pops up. The only thing I can deduce is that this Donnell character is a big guy, and I'm going to like him. I thought that last year with Sarah, and her maladjusted butt was booted. When will I learn not to get emotionally attached? Anyway, if this season is anywhere near as awful as Campus Crawl (or Campus Limp, Stagger, and Bleed, as I like to think of it), Jen's going to need all the help she can get.

Back to the show, Jonny shows us unaired footage:
  1. The men chant, "String him up! String him up!" Antoine gets his ankles taped together and he gets strung upside down. Antoine in inset: "Anything for my boys!" The boys smack him with pillows.
  2. Preparation for the stirrups mission. Eric tries to explain something, but Ellen snipes back. "Shut up!" she says. "Wonk wonk! We're the first ones going, Eric. I think you might be a little concerned about what the rules are and what they're not. Oh, wait, I'm sorry… you're the Buddhist." Boy, that was random. But the forum dwellers were dying to hear "wonk wonk."
  3. In Razor's Edge, Jonny chastises somebody for taking the scooter off the platform… and his cell phone rings.
  4. In BOTOS, Shane takes his shorts off, and gyrates his naked body. Eh, let somebody else have that.
  5. Colin repeats Jonny's Human Aquarium spiel for Melissa. I think the point was that Jonny feels the need to stop for air every few words, making for a robotic delivery. Either that, or Colin wants to kill and skin Jonny, thus becoming the Olympic gold medalist. Melissa laughs. Since this was probably after Emily left, I'm guessing Melissa took her humor wherever she could get it.
  6. Theo teaches Julie how to dance, since she has "pa-dooka-dook." I think that means "junk in the trunk." Outside, he bends down, moving his butt. Bad move, Theo. It's not that he's talking to a pariah like Julie. It's just… well… the girl can't dance. Look back at the New Orleans season, and you'll understand. I can see the headline: "RW Girl Attempts To Bust Move; Dozens Injured."
  7. Dance montage. Antoine gets a few seconds with the camera. Antoine's increased fan base swoons.
  8. The guys have some fun. Mark plays straight man as Blair eats a plant, Eric circles around him making noises, and Colin does a halfway decent attempt at mimicking Adam Sandler's "Canteen Boy" character. Colin keeps asking Mark about the boom mike. "This is what happens when you're on a complex and can't leave," Mark tells us as Colin stares glass-eyed into the camera. "You start losing your mind."
Applause. Yay, mental defects! Jonny asks about the "human piƱata." The others correct him, referring to it as a "Toineyata." Colin says that they had to convince Antoine that this was done in America. I can see Colin's shirt: "I'm a New Ladies' Man." Great, he's pimping his book. Jonny asks Colin to do the impression, and Colin obliges, doing the Inner Circle spiel. The others laugh, knowing Colin wants to be Jonny so bad.

Jonny moves on to Shane, and how he wanted to leave. Shane says that he was only with his family and friends for a few weeks between Campus Crawl and Battle of the Sexes. Jamie adds that he had planned to leave with Puck, Eric and Colin to go to the Blue Mountains and "chill with some Rastafarians." Jamie? Just say, "I like ganja." We won't judge you, man. Colin notes that he had to weigh that option with winning the money.

Jonny asks if anybody has final thoughts. Veronica tells Ruthie and Ellen that she doesn't have any hard feelings towards either of them. She adds, "I just hope that [we] grow from this and we learn to deal with people in the future." On a less personal note, Blair wishes his little brother a happy birthday. The crowd applauds. Yay, Tommy Herter!

Jonny tells the women that he wouldn't feel right without giving them a chance at redemption. It's time for the last challenge, where one person from each team competes. At stake: a Game Boy Advance SP. Oh yeah, that's much better than a new car. Jonny adds that the game requires skill and strength. The mission? Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots. Fans with no lives remember that David Burns (the thickly-accented stud from RW: Seattle) played that with boxer Roy Jones Jr. during Challenge 2000.

Veronica vs. Antoine. The Belgian plays to the crowd, showing his bicep. The game is over before it starts, as Veronica knocks Antoine's block off. She playfully punches him, and they hug. And on that note, Jonny says, "No more fighting or tricky voting business until the next battle." If the rumors are true, that could be aired in September.

That's that. I got a few follow-up ideas, but I have a tendency towards laziness, so don't expect them soon. While I've had some rough times recapping the season, I did have a lot of fun, and I hope you did as well. I don't know if I'll be recapping any more Challenges for RNO in the future. If this is my last recap, it will be because I finally got a life, and I wouldn't have the time to review episodes. So thanks for reading, stay safe, and if you see Emily walking your way… run away as fast as you can.

I had to get one last dig in on Emily. Seriously, she was going to leave with James and vice versa? While I thought James was "whipped," I wouldn't have been surprised if his competitive nature (seen in full during Road Rules: Maximum Velocity Tour and Extreme Challenge) made him stay. To me, Emily was Public Enemy No. 2. Today, people on this show do so much worse, and they all pale to the horror that is Johnny Bananas.

And oh my shit, I was wrong about Donell. So wrong. He was a pantload-and-a-half. He probably shouldn't have gotten the beatdown from Abram (who makes his Challenge debut in The Gauntlet), but I wound up hating the asshole. The only people I liked a lot from that cast were Dave and Christena . . . and she wound up pissing me off during The Inferno. I probably didn't mention Sophia by name, mostly because I didn't want to come off as a name-dropper,even if "first openly gay Road Rules cast member" wasn't as big a draw as "Annoying girl" and "ADD-addled a-hole"). She would appear in Battle Of The Sexes 2. That would not be a fun time for her.

And this is the end of Battle Of The Sexes. Share the recaps. And if you were part of the show in any capacity, I'd like to know what you thought of my writing circa 2003. Leave a comment or drop me a line on Facebook. Keep an eye on this blog . . . I'll be posting my reaps of The Gauntlet soon.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Battle of the Sexes Episode 18: Finale

This is it. Well, for this season. As much as the ending might have been foul, it felt a lot "cleaner" than the other finales I wound up covering. Judge for yourself.

 Airdate: May 5, 2003
Recap Published: May 15, 2003 (I really took my time with this one. This might have been the biggest delay I had with the website.)

It's the big finale - three guys against three women in a challenge that combines brains and brawn. But the guys seem a little short on the brain end. So what do they do to overcome it? Well, you'll just have to read on to find out.
 
This is the end, my friends. After five months and eighteen episodes, we can put the latest offering from Bunim-Murray Productions to rest. I've had my ups and I've had my downs, but I have to say it was worth it. I got one more rant in me, so let's get started.

Previously on Battle of the Sexes: The ladies won Maximum Velocity, ending their losing streak. Mark voiceovers that the field has gone from 36 to six. One fun thing about watching MTV's marathons is that you can see the mob get cut down every half-hour. Jamie expositions who the final six players are: Lori, Ruthie, and Ellen, Mark, Colin, and Jamie. Mark reminds us that the winning team will get $150,000 in Chili's Cash.

For the last time: Credits! Midtown! Bye, Anne! I won't miss your bony self! Bye, Amaya and Dan! You'd be such a cute couple if Dan didn't swing that way! Bye, Emily! Please don't chop me up with that bloody axe! Bye, James! Please break up with that crazy woman! Bye, Colin! Do you know most of the people who post on the forums want to take out your other ankle? Bye, Theo! You got something malignant on your back! Wait, that's just Ellen. Bye, Melissa and Jamie! Your season is represented well with you two! Bye, Rachel! I hope you don't try to break Emily into too many pieces! Bye, David E! You suck, you know that? Bye, Antoine! I know you're from Belgium, so you don't have to play nice with me! Bye, Jisela! Please don't do another Challenge! Bye, Christina! I wish Piggy or Susie made the trip instead of you! Bye, Puck and Julie! I'd wish you luck in duping colleges into thinking that you're viable guest speakers, but you don't need any help! And I hope Judd becomes Bogart's favorite author! Bye, Jonny Moseley! I hope Colin isn't looking outside your window right now, breathing hard! Bye, Midtown! I hope your careers get some sort of boost from this show! I know my writing career won't!

We start with the girls sipping drinks. Melissa is still there. I'm thinking BMP intended the last two episodes to be run back-to-back. Melissa is giving the remaining girls tips, including "steer clear of the D-R-A-M-A." Ellen interviews that it feels good to make the final three, but it's bittersweet that Melissa has to go. While I wouldn't fit Ellen for one of Melissa's t-shirts, at least she came around from Julie's booting. She adds, "I know she's definitely surprised by her own performance." You, me, and everybody else on the planet. Ellen talks about how the girls were awarding superlatives the previous night. Lori gives Melissa one for Most Fashionable. Melissa interviews that she's been packed to go for eleven days. She repeats that she's "missioned out" and she's glad the losing streak is over.

Men's Villa. Mark voiceovers that he feels for "Frenchy." So do most American Idol fans. Oh, he means the departing Antoine. My bad. Mark calls Antoine by that name again as he gets into the van. I know Antoine has been the best sport on this show, but just once I wanted him to yell, "I'm not from France! I'm from Belgium, you Yankee bastards!" "If you need a place to stay in the U.S.," Mark offers, "call Jamie." On the women's side, the girls gang-hug Melissa. She thanks Ruthie for the car and Lori for "understanding my pleasant negativity." I think "pleasant negativity" would be a good home page name. Melissa turns to Ellen. "Thank you for all the excessive cheerleading," she tells her. "In hindsight, it really does help." Ha! Melissa interviews: "To my girls that are left: good luck, win the money." Antoine interviews that the men's top three has a better chance of winning. The van departs as Melissa waves goodbye.

Men's Villa. The guys have been given a puzzle to fool around with before the final mission. Mark tells Jamie that he can't see it being the final mission. Jamie sees it as a big part.

Women's Villa. Ruthie asks the others to assemble their puzzle together. Ellen voiceovers that the women who are left are awesome. "The boys are stronger," she adds, "but we're tough little cookies and we can hold our own and show them what we got." They complete the puzzle and celebrate.

Men's Villa. Mark: "Do you think it's weird that we haven't got the first one yet?" Jamie interviews that his team's athletic prowess shouldn't be a problem. He adds, "This mind game could potentially be a stumbling block for us."

A close-up shows the sponsor phone ringing and vibrating. Ellen and Colin read the instructions: girls wear pink, boys wear blue, and both teams wear athletic apparel with swimsuits. "This is what it's about," a slightly abrasive Colin interviews. "No more talking, no more complaining. It's game time."

Competition site. For the first time, there's an audience. Wouldn't that be problematic in diffusing spoilers? Everybody slo-mo walks. The guys tower over the girls. Jonny welcomes everybody to the final mission, where the scores have been wiped clean. This mission, called It Takes Three, will test balance, agility, brains, and teamwork. Ellen starts the exposition: the mission has three parts. The first is the Tri-Ski Slalom. Next comes the Block-by-Block Brainteaser. Third comes the ropes course known as Pole Cat. So it smells really bad? Mark picks up the exposition, saying that part of Pole Cat is called Bridging the Gap, where players have to cross poles using planks. Jonny reminds the teams that they're only as good as their weakest link. Ruthie expositions that they can't continue to the next event without completing the first, and they must obtain a flag upon completion. Jonny mentions that the ropes course has been adjusted to accommodate the height and weight differences between the genders. Of course, first team to finish wins. Colin: "It's time to get it on."

Preparation. The players put on helmets, belts, and gloves. Colin duct tapes his ankle, which has been hurting since Tree House. "Ankle schmankle," he tells the camera. "As far as I'm concerned, I don't even have ankles." Ruthie tells Lori that they have to stay together and commutate. The mission is about to start. Colin voiceover: "I know it's gonna be domination." Ellen voiceover: "They'll be eating our dust."

Back from commercials, Jonny starts things off with his bullhorn's siren. I guess BMP is twelve-stepping him off of airhorns. Tri-Ski Slalom. Both teams strap into two long skis and navigate an obstacle course. Thankfully, there's no dancing involved. Mark interviews that they have to walk as a unit, "kind of like a three-legged race." Or a six-legged, but who's counting? The girls step on the first hurdle, lifting themselves. Ellen voiceovers that if one person leans, so do the others. The guys clear two hurdles, while the women are working on the first. Jamie is in front, shouting the cadence. Now the guys slalom around leftover figures from People Mover. The girls sound off in unison while slaloming. Jamie voiceovers that they're in the flow. Mark picks up the flag, and the guys run to the next part as the crowd cheers. The girls continue, "Right and left. Right and left."

Event 2: Block-by-Block Brainteaser. The guys look at the large Styrofoam pieces, seeing that they have to assemble a bridge shape. Like at the Villa, they have problems. BMP decides to unleash the popular music, starting with "Take It Off" by The Donnas. Jamie interviews that the guys are shooting blindly. Meanwhile, the girls are done slaloming, and run to the blocks. Ellen interviews that the guys have gotten nowhere. "There's literally eight million ways to solve it," Mark interviews, "but there's eight million ways to screw up. As soon as you think you nailed it, something's wrong. So we're sinking in quicksand, fast." Jamie goes through the pieces, but he's stumped. Colin shouts, "Where's the hint, Jonny?"

The ladies study the picture of the assembled puzzle, as Ruthie dissects it. They get to work. The guys struggle. The girls solve it and get their second flag. Yep, it's Battle of the Seasons all over again, with the Road Rules team struggling with fishes and poles, and dopey Mike solving the puzzle for Real World. The crowd goes wild. "Now they're ahead of us," Colin interviews, "and all I can think is, "Hey, I just lost my shout at 150 grand!'"

The girls keep running. Ruthie interviews that they're on an adrenaline high and the guys are scratching their heads. They come to the Polecat Ropes Course. Ruthie climbs the net, and then encourages Lori to take her time. Next comes Bridging the Gap. Lori expositions that they have to get across telephone poles by creating bridges from pole to pole.

The guys are still trying to solve the puzzle. Just when I think my capacity for ill was diminished when Emily slithered out of the game, I am proven wrong. Mark: "The guys kinda get a twinkle in their eye. If [the girls] leave out their puzzle, why not take a look at it?" Because it would be cheating? Colin disassembles the ladies' puzzle, shouting commands to Mark and Jamie. Soon, the guys got it. Mark continues: "Do I feel guilty copying their block game? No. It's strategy." No, it's cheating. Even if the rules are ambiguous towards such tactics, it's still cheating. I'd expect an old-school RR veteran and team mentor to know better. I am ashamed of Mark. The guys run towards Pole Cat. Colin has no idea how far the women have gotten.

The answer: not far. The women work on the planks, but the camera pans to show the approaching men going into the net. Ruthie starts to walk on the plank as the guys set up. She voiceovers, "How the hell did they get that puzzle together?" Because they cheated, Ruthie. The opening bars of "Can't Stop" by Red Hot Chili Peppers play. Ellen: "I'm totally shocked. I'm in complete, utter disbelief." Ruthie and Jamie cross their respective planks. Ellen voiceovers that it's anybody's game.

Back from commercials. Jamie takes the lead as Ruthie has trouble. Ellen interviews about how unsettled she gets when Ruthie has problems, since she's Superwoman. Colin crosses the plank. Jamie points out the obvious: the women are having problems, while the men are keeping things as smooth as possible. Ruthie crosses, as do Jamie and Colin. Mark points out a problem with going last: the poles have gotten loose, and he has to balance himself. He crosses.

Ruthie gets across the poles, and shows Lori how to follow her, adding "Don't be scared!" Ruthie interviews that the guys have zoomed past them, but they're not giving up. Next on the hit parade: "Still Waiting" from Sum 41. I liked the video, but I love the one for "The Hell Song." Lori slowly crosses. Ellen crosses. Meanwhile, the guys cross ropes on pulleys. Colin, bum ankle and all, walks the tight rope with little difficulty. Mark gets shaky on the rope, but he manages. Ruthie gets to the pulley. "If we don't get across soon to race them," she interviews, "it's not going to be pretty."

The guys reach the zipline. Jamie goes first, hitting the water. Lori goes on the pulley. Colin flashes gang signs on his way down. Ellen goes on the pulley. Mark zips down. The guys swim to shore, as Mark gets the final flag.

The moment we've been waiting months to see. Good Charlotte's "Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous" blasts on in the background. What's with the hits today? The guys run, bursting through a sign. And that's that. They win $150,000. While they hug and celebrate, the girls keep plugging away. "We put our best to the top," Colin interviews, "and the best just took home the money. I can't wait to call every single guy, because they all wanted this to happen."

Quiet music plays, as Ellen crosses the tightrope. Ruthie goes down the zipline, as the guys cheer her on. She interviews that she doesn't want to see the guys. She adds, "All I'm concerned about right now is, 'Girls, let's finish this out.'" Lori zips down. Ellen squeals on her way down. The guys still and wait. "You gotta give them credit," Mark interviews. "They were great competitors throughout this competition, and they didn't give up. So big-ups to all you women." Whatever, cheater. And a guy that white shouldn't be saying "big-ups."

Finally, the ladies reach the end. Colin gives Ruthie a long hug. Once again, I adore the intraseason love. Come to think of it, how come we didn't see Jamie give Melissa some love before she left? Colin interviews that he's sad Ruthie couldn't win as well. As much of a jackass that Colin can be, he's always genuine about Ruthie. He suggests he buy her dinner if she picks him up in her car.

Jonny comes by to recap what transpired. He notes, "Ladies, you should have knocked your blocks over!" Ellen says she didn't know and Jonny admits he didn't either. Man, this is a tainted win. Jonny tells the girls that they represented well, then awards the big ol' cardboard check to the guys. Of course, Colin hugs Jonny. Seriously, Colin is fixated. Ruthie interviews that the guys did a great job.
Now Jonny has a surprise announcement. He awards a Saturn Ion Quad Coupe to each of the guys. Mark actually tosses the check in celebration. That man is going to get spit in his food every time he goes to Chili's. And that's if he's lucky. Colin's reaction? "I'm gonna hump this car!" I think that might be the only humping he'll do for a while. "Nobody gives you $150,000 and then a car," he interviews while in his Ion. "This is what you call 'big pimpin'," right here." Would it be wrong to ask BMP to digitally replace Colin with Teck in future reruns? Here's another beef: how come all the guys get cars? Last season, the only members of the victorious RW team to win Saturns at the end were Sean and Elka, since they had the best score among the RW duos. In other words, only Mark should have won a car. It's disappointing that everybody from last week got a new set of wheels except for Antoine.

Colin carries Ruthie to the water, and Mark does the same with Lori. "We're walking away from a month in Jamaica," Lori interviews, "having known that we've done some crazy things here." Cue the misty water colored memories, as "I'll Do Anything" by Simple Plan plays. Mark dives off the ledge and into the pool. Anne and Lori have a pillow fight. Dan falls through the sunroof during Seven Rings of Saturn. The guys hang Antoine by his ankles while Mark wails on him with a pillow. A buck-naked Jake rides his new bike past the girls. James pukes up water after winning Breath Hold Bungee. Veronica's ankle gets caught in the stirrup. Seriously, that pretty much wrecked her chances in retrospect. A quick Spidermon shot. The guys hose Blair with beer. Eric Nies lifts Ellen after she wins Freeze Your Butt Off. Quick shot of Puck giving the thumbs down. Rachel gives the peace sign before leaving the show. Dan does his happy dance as he re-enters the game. Ruthie: "From this experience, I will definitely miss those moments, such beautiful moments that can't even be explained."

Apparently, when Ruthie says "beautiful moments," the editors think "a slow-motion shot of Puck spitting water on David E." Being the punk that he is, David demands Puck's disqualification. And cut to… oh, good. Melissa is reaming out Julie. I'm torn. On the one hand, Melissa comes off as a bitch to those just tuning in. On the other side, Julie is so shady, she needed to be cussed out. And kicked off. I know the Melissa bias is active in me, but Julie's booting was sorely needed. Ellen cries after the whole "kick my ass!" exchange with Puck. And bless her heart, there's Aneesa, one breast exposed. Puck smirks. Shut up, Puck. Ellen interviews that the true challenge was not battling others, but herself.

Men camaraderie highlights. Laterrian leading the "Ride or [Oedipus Rexing] die!" shout. Mark interviews that he's proud that the Inner Circle never sent anybody home who was in the middle of the pack. Shot of Ruthie yelling at Ayanna. Cut to Emily making the icky face. Cut to Ruthie hugging Gladys. Ruthie: "To actually take that extra step, to vote somebody off not just based on points, shows a lot of courage." Tell that to Rachel and Veronica. Scenes from Puck's wedding, since the sun rises and sets at the Scabbed One's will.

The guys and girls frolic in the water. Would anybody like to take us out for good? Okay, Ruthie, the floor is yours. "I think what we proved here is that no matter who wins, it's about respect. Men, women, we're equal, because we respect each other." Cut to credits.

And that is officially that. Well, that's almost that. We got a reunion to slog through. Will Puck make an appearance and make the show all about himself? Can Colin don the garb of Leon Phelps, a.k.a. "The Ladies Man," and hawk copies of his book, "The New Ladies Man"? Would MTV set up a makeshift obstacle course and put Melissa through her paces? Will Lori finally explain what she sees in that bigheaded dope she calls her boyfriend? Will Rachel and Veronica blowtorch an effigy of Emily, to the delight of the throngs in Times Square? And finally, will a certain recapper express great sadness that he didn't lie about his age and attend the reunion? Stay tuned. 

There's one more recap covering the reunion, but this is the last Challenge appearance for Lori, Colin and Ellen, as well as Antoine and Melissa (for obvious reasons). Want to know something weird? I would wind up missing Ellen. I didn't like her on Road Rules: The Quest, I was hard on her, even as she battled the epitome of all that was wrong with reality television. I would have figured she'd come back because she was as able a competitor as Ruthie, but she apparently got a life of her own. Meanwhile, Katie wasn't anywhere near as good, and she became a bonafide veteran. Ellen would come back in the preview special for Battle of the Sexes 2, which will get posted here eventually. All I remember was her recalling the puzzle. "Boys cheated," she noted. "Looking at you, Mark Long!" Who would have guessed we'd be on the same wavelength?


The other bummer was that this would be the best Challenge in Ruthie's career. I'm happy she got labeled something other than "Dangerous Drunk Girl," but a win would have been nice in her four Challenges. I'll eventually break down BOTS2, and how she wasn't at peak performance. She looked okay in Gauntlet 2, but she got into the worst possible endgame against Beth, the worst possible opponent. The episode was not for the faint at heart. And then she only lasted five rounds in The Duel II. Like Ellen, I'm guessing she got a life of her own. Good for her. And nearly eighteen years after Real World: Hawaii, her antics seem so tame. Well, except for the drunk driving. I still like her, though.

ETA: Just remembered hearing about people cheering Ellen during the final mission. The funny part? They thought she was Janet from RW: Seattle. She was also Korean-American. I felt like sharing that.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Battle of the Sexes Episode 17: Penultimate Plunge

I'm not in the best of moods, so I figure it was time to get the penultimate episode on the blog. I wound up using "penultimate" in all six seasons that I recapped. I like showing people that I'm smart, but I don't want to club them over the head with it. That is what separates me from Wes E. Coyote: Super Genius.

Before I begin . . . anybody else see Invasion of the Champions? I don't think any of the "underdogs" came off well. That includes Nicole, the saving grace of Real World: Skeletons. I didn't think she'd be on The Challenge because she was pretty normal compared to her roommates. She's nice and from Staten Island, so I'm pulling for her. In other news, Darrell (who made his debut in The Gauntlet) has two kids, and CT has successfully reproduced. As much as I see CT as the closest thing to a hero this show has, little Christopher scares me. He is a cutie, though.

Airdate: April 28, 2003
Recap Published: May 4, 2003 

It's the second-to-last mission, which means the last-place overall on each team goes home. Can the women stop their losing streak or will the men power through as usual? Or are they all just hangin' around?

Previously on Battle of the Sexes: Shane won Spidermon. Melissa in interview: "Lose, lose, lose." Antoine won Human Aquarium. Melissa: "It's emotionally exhausting." Antoine won Razor's Edge, as Lori looked down in defeat. Ellen: "It's been mission after mission of the boys just dominating."

Women's Villa. Lori is sunbathing as she tells Ruthie she likes being a girl, and wouldn't come back as a guy. Ruthie listens as she rubs oil on herself. I have to repeat to myself, "She bats for the other team, she bats for the other team." Lori continues: "Think about survival in the world. It's not smart to walk across a steel beam sixty feet in the air, where you can slip off and bang your head. It's not smart to do that. It's smart to be afraid and cautious." She adds that guys do stupid stuff all the time. I am recapping this, so maybe she has a point. Lori interviews that the ladies have been on a losing streak, and it's been embarrassing. The background music whines, "Why do all the good ones have to die?"

Lori and Ruthie are floating on inner tubes. This is the most we've seen of Lori outside of the missions. Lori realizes she's not guaranteed to place in the final three; she's gone if she gets a zero and Melissa places in the top three. Ruthie interviews that they're one mission away from the final competition, and Lori has to do well. She tells Lori not to worry about placement, to do the best and show no fear. Lori interviews that the guys can't imagine losing.

Cut to Mark drinking tea with Antoine. How do I know it is tea? Because the soundtrack is formal and British, not something they'd bring in if coffee was involved. Antoine tells Mark that he can't imagine the girls winning other than by a fluke. He figures that only competitive girl is Ruthie, and even she can't compete against Mark or Jamie. Mark feels confident that the men will do well. Antoine interviews that the guys are reaping the benefits of teamwork, as opposed to individuality.

Bathroom mirrors. Two messages scrawled in lipstick: "Be strong, XOXO" and "Beat the guys!!! - Genesis." How long has it been since we've seen Genesisms? Ruthie reads the phone details: wear athletic gear and sneakers. Ellen interviews that she doesn't know what it will take to get their confidence back. Over at the Men's Villa, Antoine reads that the departure time is 12:15 pm. Mark interviews that if any of the top three guys gets a zero, Antoine could sneak into the final competition. He adds, "Antoine, you ain't gettin' my spot!"

Shots of an elevated platform and rope. You can practically hear Melissa groan. Jonny welcomes everybody to Maximum Velocity. They named a mission after Maximum Velocity Tour? Now I'm sad James isn't here to take part. BMP was probably going to send everybody on a scavenger hunt and call it The Quest, but Ellen might have shot that down. Jonny explains the objective: to free-rappel down a rope as fast as possible. Jamie expositions that they use a device: squeeze and you move, let go and you stop. Jonny adds that the contestants must reach the red area of the rope to log a time. Mark notes that if a competitor falls and bungees, that person is disqualified. Jonny continues, expositioning that those not playing will be blindfolded, so as not to know how the others did. For the winner: a Saturn Ion Quad Coupe for each member of the team. This is the "sudden death" round, so the lowest cumulative scorers will leave.

A few moments ago, the ladies were wearing different colors. Now they have red tops. Is this solidarity, or BMP's latest continuity failure? Ellen starts about how the girls have lost six missions in a row, but Lori corrects her with seven. Ellen continues, saying that she wants to give all the little girls at home something to cheer about. Any little girl who watches this show would have been traumatized a long time ago. Lori interviews that the guys are comfortable with winning, adding "I'd really like to see their faces in disappointment when they lose."

Platform shot. Jamie and Ellen are on the ground, hands on hips. Jamie admits he's nervous, but he wants to nail it. Colin whispers to Antoine about "bombing it." In an interview, Antoine says he really wants to win the car and he has to take risks. "We have to bum it down," he adds. "I will bum it down, and I really hope those guys will bum it down as well." Is Antoine a freelance slash writer back in Brussels? Colin keeps whispering, reminding Antoine that a win by him would be a hat trick.

Shots of stormy clouds. A blindfolded Lori yawns. Jonny walks by, letting everybody know that Maximum Velocity has been postponed due to lightning. Ellen is wearing red, but Lori and Melissa wear darker shirts. Ruthie (with white top) interviews about how it sucks to wait another day, and that she wants to keep the momentum going.

Mood-setting rainy shots. A strong wind blows the curtains. At least Hurricane Juliet isn't paying another Challenge season a visit. Melissa tells the other women that she put in a formal request for a win, which Ruthie seconds. "I don't know if you heard me the first time," Melissa replies, "BUT WE HAVE TO WIN THE CAR TOMORROW!" Lori laughs on the bed. "It's going to take everything the girls got to beat the boys right now," Ruthie interviews. "I personally cannot take another loss." Shots of the girls. Dreadful music: "Tomorrow never comes until it's too late." Shut up, music.

Normally I don't talk about commercials, but I have to ask: has anybody seen the latest Snapple commercial with the bottles and the guinea pigs? Does the bottle with the blonde hair and blue visor remind anybody else of Mark? Maybe it's just me.

Time lapse shot of sunrise and cranes setting up. It's Mission Day 2. Ellen wants to set the tone for her teammates. "If I do really well," she adds, "the rest of the girls will follow my lead." Jamie is feeling good. Both contestants are strapped in, and the platform is raised. We get two shots of the Ion, in case we've shrugged off the last 1,503 subliminal messages to buy one.

Jamie gets ready as Jonny starts the countdown. Jamie barely moves as the camera stays on him and Jonny's voice fades out. Airhorn. Jamie drops quickly, then bounces back up for the disqualification. Jamie notes that he dropped faster than he thought. Mark interviews that Antoine has a shot at the final three.

Ellen hangs as Jonny asks if she's ready. Countdown. Airhorn. In comparison with Jamie, Ellen's drop is slower, with more control of the device. She voiceovers that her strategy for every mission is to think things through. Cut to her dropping, where she lets out a yelp. It turns out her hair is caught in the rope. She makes a noise so shrill, I thought it was a bleep. Jonny tells her to yank it out. Jonny has never had long hair before. Lori and Antoine are blindfolded at the sequestration tent, but they can hear Ellen. Her final time: 59 seconds. "When you get scared, fear just leads to mediocrity," Ellen interviews. "I did less than mediocre today."

Colin vs. Lori. Colin: "Jamie took his balls, put them in his hand and shot down the rope, and I'm going to do the same." Colin needs to stop fixating on the naughty parts. Countdown. Airhorn. He slides down, pausing a few times before hitting the red. His time: eight seconds. Mark is enthusiastic in his interview. "Colin just kicked ass this mission," he notes, "so the women are gonna need some sort of miracle to win the Saturns."

Queens of the Stone Age play as Lori gets ready, slipping a little before starting. Countdown. Airhorn. She slides down the rope as Colin did. The girls cheer. Her time: nine seconds. Ruthie expositions that Lori's score was good enough for the final three, but maybe not enough to win. She adds, "Somebody's got to get in and do something."

Antoine vs. Melissa. You think Melissa is that somebody? She interviews about how fourth place is not good when there's only four people. She gets strapped in, and she feels good. Then the platform starts to ascend. "Oh, hell no," she mutters, putting on her blindfold. Back to the interview: "I'm going to go in there, leap to my death and be done with it." The platform keeps rising, and Melissa is still not in a good mood.

Antoine gets ready. From the top of the platform, he interviews that the rope looks short and there's little margin for mistake. Countdown. Airhorn. Antoine doesn't even stop on the way down, bouncing back up and getting disqualified. Colin interviews that Antoine didn't win three in a row, and he's going home. I don't understand. If Jamie logged no score, how come Antoine didn't take it easy? A car is good to have, but he had a shot to win $50,000.

A guy on the platform reassures Melissa as she hyperventilates. "Maximum Velocity is not fun," she interviews. "It's not cute. I don't think it really helps anybody. It would be bad sportsmanship to [say], 'I'm scared, I don't want to do it'." She pauses. "But I don't want to do it!" Back to the platform, Melissa is near tears. I'm still amazed she's lasted this long. Jonny is on the bullhorn, asking if she's ready. Colin: "I think there's pee dripping down her leg." God, shut UP, Colin. Even if it's true, you should keep that to yourself. Jonny's countdown has a nice echo effect, while Melissa screams. He pauses at four after she tells him to stop. He continues, she yells, "Jonny, that's not nice!" Maybe it's the bias working, but I think if you search Jonny's room, you'd find a Bunkbed Incident CD signed by Julie.

Jonny sounds the horn. Cut to wide-angle shot. Melissa is not moving. She interviews that all trust is out the window. "This isn't about the game anymore," she adds. "This is about me facing a fear." She asks Platform Guy if it's hard before sliding down, jerking to pause a few times. Her time: 29 seconds. So after all the drama, she still finished a half-minute better than Ellen. She interviews that she is proud to have done it.

Mark vs. Ruthie. Ellen interviews that it's all up to Ruthie. The platform ascends. Mark hangs on, ready to go. "There's always something to prove that I can do anything," Ruthie interviews. "Just like anyone can do anything."

Dark skies. Mark notes the thunder and lightning. The platform descends. Ruthie feels the need to win it for the girls. "I don't want to see the looks on their faces again with another loss," she says. "It just kills me." As opposed to Emily, who kills everybody.

Mission Day 3. The Ion is still out there. I'm surprised nobody ripped it off during the night. Mark wishes he could have done the mission yesterday. Ruthie notes that she thought about it last night, and she's excited. "Better be a dead stop," she laughs.

Mark. Countdown. Airhorn. He slides down, finishing with fifteen seconds. Now Jonny starts the countdown for Ruthie. "Do it for the girls," she voiceovers. "Do it for the looks on their faces. I don't want to see them down again." She slides down as we go into commercials.

Back to the show: Ruthie slows down once and stops dead. She shouts, "Got it!" as the girls cheer. Even Mark, who is still hanging on the cord, has to smile, while Ruthie thanks God. Her time: four seconds. Not to doubt Ruthie's phenomenal abilities, but divine assistance could have been a plus. On the ground, Jamie and Colin look sour. Because they lost the Ions, or that they have to beat Ruthie's time? "We've got two chances of winning this: slim and none." Colin interviews. "And slim just left town." Once again, BMP's continuity stinks.

On the ground, Ellen hugs Ruthie. Mark admires Ruthie's style. As they stand next to each other, I see that Ruthie is tiny. I mean tiny. In a show of intra-season love, Colin hugs Ruthie. Mark interviews, "After watching Ruthie go and get such a incredible time, the girls deserve that car, one hundred percent." Well, that and all four ladies finished the mission. How screwed up would it have been for Jamie and Antoine to get cars despite their blunders?

Jonny makes it official, giving the car to Ruthie on behalf of her team. Once again, she thanks God and restates that she didn't want the girls to be disappointed again, adding, "We're ridin' in style!" Ruthie interviews that it felt good to end the losing streak before the final mission.

Scoreboard:

Men: Mark (443), Colin (439), Jamie (407), Antoine (391)

Women: Ruthie (401), Ellen (378), Lori (376), Melissa (341)

Jonny restates that since this is the sudden-death round, the lowest scorers go home. Melissa steps up to make her farewell speech, clad in a pink maid's outfit. She interviews that carries no disappointment since she's "missioned out." She tells the groups that she's staying to work with Ms. Faye and Ms. Joan. "My heart will be in the game," she adds, "but my ass will be in the kitchen." See, this is the chick I grew to dig during her season. She tells the boys it was nice hanging with them, and the girls to win the money.

Antoine's turn. He tells the girls he's glad they snapped their skid "with so much brilliance." He tells the guys that over time, he thought of them as a family. He interviews: "This challenge of adapting my European personality and identity within a bunch of American guys has been the greatest and most enjoyable challenge, and I'm very happy with that. That's what I'm taking home." That, and a truckload of prizes. I think I'm going to miss Antoine the most from the men's side. He's the best thing to come out of Belgium since Nostradamus. Or at least Jean Claude Van Damme.

Sunset. Restaurant. The remaining players (Melissa and Antoine included) toast to the final day. Ellen interviews that they've been waiting for tomorrow. Mark states the obvious: that they've spent the past four weeks whittling the field down to six people to compete for the "Chili's Cash." Lori interviews that the girls are feeling positive. "This is it," Colin interviews. "It's been really fun this last month, but it's time to go get paid. It's time to get it on."

Next week: Final mission. All I saw were ropes, nets, and skis. Skis in Jamaica. That is not right. Oh, and a trio will walk away with $150,000, and I'll walk away with mental scars and involuntary twitching when I hear the name "Emily."

One more thing: if you want to comment on the show, the recaps, or anything else, my line is open. You can e-mail me at [REDACTED]. Heck, comment on the Dog Days articles if you'd like. I cleared up some room on my account, so I'm ready.

This would be the last time we would see Melissa in a competitive environment. Okay, there was Battle Of The Network Reality Stars, but does that really count? I was happy she made it this far, and I was joyful that taking out Julie in the first episode didn't make her a target. Yes, Antoine was awesome, but Melissa is my people. She doesn't blog as much as she used to, but you can find her stuff here. And I don't ever want to hear "MElissa" ever again.

Damn, the continuity was wacky. From what I remember, in missions like that, those at the top of the leaderboard would go first, meaning Ruthie would have started things off with her miraculous performance. I wish I could check the recaps from Colin, Lori and Melissa, but those are more or less gone.

For safety's sake, I took out my e-mail. Nobody ever wrote in, which kinda sucked since I liked feedback. If you have Facebook and want to hit me up, here you go. And now, because nobody asked for it . .. . the Snapple commercial with the Mark-looking bottle!

Monday, February 06, 2017

Battle of the Sexes Episode 16: Everybody Sucks


This season is drawing to a close. Or was back in 2003. I'm writing this on the night before Invasion of the Champions debuts, which will no doubt be another clusterfuck brought to you by Bunim-Murray Productions and MTV. Even if Johnny doesn't luck into yet another win, or if CT gets the title that Diem never could, it's going to be a painful ride. And I can't seem to shake it. If there are programs to kick that habit . . . twelve steps or not, I'm ready for it. Compared to 2017, Emily's actions in Battle Of The Sexes seem so quaint.

 Airdate: April 21, 2003
Recap Published: April 27, 2003

We find out Emily's decision - does she go home with James? Do the women win a mission? Does MTV manage to show the episode without royally screwing up? There is a "yes" and two "no"s in there, but you'll have to read on to find out which is which.
Quick heads-up for the readers: do you live in New York? Are you between the ages of 16 to 25, or can pass yourself off as such? MTV is looking for people to attend a reunion special for the show. Am I going? Well, the notice says that everybody is going to be there. On the one hand, I'd like to see some Challengers, such as Mark, Jamie, Veronica, Rachel, David B., and Blair, among others. And while I did meet Melissa once before, it would be nice to see her again. On the other hand, I still see red anytime I think about Emily and her actions. Ellen works my nerves frequently, and I can't stand to look at her or Ruthie, not after they both rolled over for Emily. And Puck is an automatic deal-breaker for me in any situation. He'll just make the reunion all about him. The last thing I want is get in trouble when I smack him with an Adventures of Barry Ween trade paperback, shouting, "The power of Judd repels you!" Nah, I'll stay home and recap the sucker when it airs.

Previously on Battle of the Sexes: Everybody played Human Aquarium. The girls didn't fare well. Their Inner Circle booted Genesis, who raised a glass to her own dismissal. James and Shane were tied for last place, and Ion Lifesaver holder Antoine decided to save Shane. At this point, Emily decided it was time for her to go. Basically, it's the final minute from last week, with dramatic editing and music. Then the screen goes black. There's silence for a split-second. And then . . .

CREDITS! MIDTOWN! Damn, that's jarring. I see Emily elbowing James off the surfboard yet again. The guy is whipped. I used to think that Emily could do so much better. Now, I think James needs somebody new in his life. Or somebody who's familiar. Hey, James. What happened to Rebecca? Did her folk music drive you crazy? Go back to her, dude. Believe me… you'll be saving yourself a ton of grief if you dump Emily, and soon.

We go back to where we left off. Genesis yells, "What the [bleep] are you talking about?" Ruthie asks Emily why she didn't say anything until now. Emily responds, "Because I didn't know what their decision was going to be." Ruthie turns away in disbelief. Emily interviews that one of her sisters needs her badly back home. Cut to black and white shot of Emily on the phone. Great… first Amaya's crisis and now this. I hate withheld information. Emily continues, saying she has to be there for her sister. For a second, I lower my anger. Ruthie says she doesn't want anybody who doesn't want to stay to remain. Emily tells the other ladies that if their sisters needed help, they would go. Ruthie expresses her shock. Then Emily tells the others that if James had stayed, she would have stuck it out one more day. So the sister isn't that important? What a bitch. There's a dramatic pan to Lori. "Yeah, Emily has personal matters," she interviews, "but the fact that she admits she would be here if James was still here? Tell me one situation where it's cool where a girl bails out on the rest of the girls because of her boyfriend. It's a lame move." Word on that, Lori.

More dramatic editing. Ruthie interviews about some girls who have left like Veronica. The Ghost of Highlights Past shifts us back a few weeks, taking out the color, but giving us echoing voices. Ellen doesn't consider Veronica a friend, but does see her as a competitor. Cut to Emily, who really wants to send her home. "I know that Veronica really wanted to be here," Ruthie interviews in the present, "but Emily was very adamant getting Veronica out." And it helped that you and Ellen let her, Ruthie. Never forget that. Back in the past, Emily lays on a huge pile of crap about Veronica: "She doesn't care about teamwork." Back to Ruthie: "To watch Emily leave now… that's not a team player." You're damn right. Let's say that you and Ellen kicked out Anne that day. At this point Veronica might still be with you. But with Veronica gone and Emily departing, you and Ellen are stuck with Lori, Melissa, and Genesis, three ladies who don't strike fear in the hearts of men. And one of those three will be on the final team to go up against the men. Do you see that bag in the sky with the wings and the dollar sign? That's your $50,000 prize flying away. Wave bye-bye, Ruthie. Wave bye-bye.

Jonny calls up the Women's Inner Circle to explain what's going on. Emily repeats her deal while laughing, as if shooting her team in the foot for the third time is so funny. She says that James has been her moral support in Jamaica, and now she needs to go home. She cries a little. I'm not caring, at all. Genesis and Lori look on. Cut to Shane, who's probably wondering how to break the news to Rachel. Can you imagine that? I keep picturing Rachel and Veronica at the Los Angeles airport, lying in wait for Emily. The fact that she quit would push them over the edge. Emily repeats that she's going home, and Genesis is staying. Great… another call to the wife to hold off the welcome home party. Genesis bursts out laughing, as the background music drones on with "totally insane" over and over. Genesis and Emily hug. Ruthie looks on. Jonny bids farewell to Emily and James, telling them, "It wouldn't have been the same without you." He welcomes back Genesis, and she laughs some more.

Melissa comes in for an interview: she figures that Emily's departure is beneficial for Lori and Genesis. What about you, Melissa? You go from next on the chopping block to getting a brief reprieve. She continues: "I'm happy that Lori's finally in the Inner Circle." Yeah, Lori is King Ralph. She's been below the radar for so long, and now an improbable series of events has thrust her forward. Clearly she knows this, as she laughs about being so far behind Ellen.

Packing. James packs his bag. Hey, there's a rugby ball! I forgot that James played for Berkley. Genesis and Emily hug. James packs. Emily and Ellen hug. More packing. Emily leaves. "See you guys," she tells Ruthie. "Good luck." Yeah, you too. Try not to bite James' head off when you mate. They get into the van and ride into the night. My verdict? She' going into the Reality TV Hall of Shame. What she's done in the past few months is reprehensible, and she deserves her induction.

Sunrise. Awesome aerial shot of Jamaica. Men's Villa. Everybody's still sleeping. The camera focuses on the Sponsor Phone, as it lights up and rings. Shane reads the instructions: wear sneakers, boots, and sunscreen. Lori repeats that at the Women's Villa. Melissa: "Okay, so I'm going to wear just my birthday suit and some boots. Cool." Here's my Melissa Conspiracy Theory on why we haven't seen her dole out the one-liners. In case you didn't know, Melissa is in the cast of Girls Behaving Badly, a practical joke show that airs on Oxygen, a cable network is owned by Oprah Winfrey. I'm guessing that Oprah called up Bunim and Murray, telling them that she owns Melissa's funny, and if they show her like that, she would kill them. Seriously, there should be balance for all the "I'm not cut out for this crap" segments. Back to the show: Shane sees that he's behind Antoine by six points. He figures that he has to have seven people between him and Antoine in order to stay in the game, but he concedes that the odds are against him. Genesis explains her only chance to stay on: win the competition, get the Ion, and keep it for herself. She thinks she's about 40 points from Melissa. Actually, it's just 30. If she scores 31 points and Melissa gets disqualified, then Genesis would advance. Ruthie interviews that all she's thinking about is how well the team can do.

Jonny welcomes everybody to Razor's Edge. He tries to make it sound suspenseful, but falls flat. Quick shots: scooter, platform, scooter, scooter, platform lifted higher. The objective: cross one of three beams while riding a scooter, without falling off. Shortest time wins. Colin expositions that the metal frame is lifted 100 feet in the air by two cranes. Antoine drops exposition with graphics backup: there are three paths to the finish line. The right-hand path is longer, but is twelve inches wide. The left-hand path is shorter and eight inches wide. The straight path is the shortest route, but it's only four inches wide. There are safety nets that catch anybody who falls in between the beams. Genesis explains that the players have to get to the end without falling off or taking a foot off the scooter. Jonny announces what the winner gets for the team: a vacation to Cancun, with airfare. Melissa cheers, so I'm guessing hope does indeed spring eternal. Oh, and the winner gets the suddenly popular Ion Lifesaver. Genesis interviews that the girls are hellbent on ending their losing streak.

Hey, we got popular music! Missy Elliot's "Work It" plays as the ladies practice riding the scooters. Sadly, they don't get to the part where Missy sings backwards. Ellen tells Ruthie that they have to go "balls to the wall." She also figures that if Genesis gets through it, then more than half of the team has a chance to win. Not much faith for Lori and Melissa, I take it. Those two ride the scooter on a simulated beam. Missy sings, "Girls, girls, get that cash." We get it, Missy, but thanks.

The platform is raised. Jonny asks Mark if he's ready. Mark is strapped to a bungee cord, in case he falls off. He tells Jonny he's picturing the platform being two feet above the ground. Jonny counts down from five and blows an airhorn. Jonny loves his airhorns. Mark slowly pushes the scooter down the path. He veers right, towards the long and safe route. Jonny yells at Mark, telling him to keep one wheel on the board. Mark takes the front wheel off the path, still taking his time. A helmet-cam gives us Mark going slow. He finally pushes off towards the finish line, clocking out at 47 seconds. He tells Jonny the trip was nerve-wracking.

Ruthie's turn. In the Fantasy Challenge, I finally got her, trading Emily in the process. Ruthie interviews that the rest of the women go after her, and she wants to set an example to inspire them. She starts off slow, going left. And then she takes her foot off the scooter. Jonny blows his horn twice. He tells her that's against the rules, and disqualifies her. Perfect. I wait so long for Melissa to leave, so I could get Ruthie. When I finally get her, she gets no points. Jonny instructs the platform lowered, as Ruthie covers her face.

Back from commercials, Ruthie hops off the lowered platform. Genesis walks with her, and Shane hands her a cigarette. This show is one huge tobacco ad at times. Genesis voiceovers that the girls depend on Ruthie to win. She tries to reassure Ruthie about the DQ, since she got two during Collision Course and Spidermon, adding that she stepped off to regain balance on the beam. Melissa adds that Ruthie has more than enough points. Obviously, Ruthie is disappointed in herself.

Platform. Ellen tells us that she has to perform well to "hold it down" for the team. She starts off, going left. The front wheel goes off the path, over the edge. She tries to adjust herself, but she takes a foot off the scooter. Double airhorn blare from Jonny. Did I mention Ellen is on my fantasy team as a starter? She mutters, "Oh, dammit!" Ruthie is on the ground, shaking her head. Jonny tells Ellen her foot came off, and the replay backs him off. Ellen states the obvious: "This mission is teaching us we have to rely and trust the rest of the girls." Cut to Ellen on the ground, supervising Lori on a practice beam, telling her not to take her foot off.

Colin on the platform: "No, I'm not scared of heights. But I'm scared of Jonny Moseley." Judging from his recaps, I think Colin's got an obsession. He starts off, the background music going on about "amazing trails." I get depressed, still CBS is airing a half-assed response to American Idol where The Amazing Race should be. Colin takes the long route, finishing at one minute, ten seconds.

Lori goes off, cheered on by Ellen and Ruthie. She goes left, finishing at 0:54. Ruthie interviews that she's glad Lori made it across.

Jamie on the platform: "Relax, get across the finish line, score some points." He looks down while scooting, taking the safe route, finishing at 0:25.

Antoine pushes off, picking up speed before the path separates, slamming on the brakes at the right time. Colin and Mark smile on terra firma, in awe of Antoine's skills. He goes right, not being overly cautious, finishing at 0:23. Over a replay of Antoine's performance, Colin labels him "The Mad Frenchman." He adds that it's either Antoine or Jamie winning.

Melissa on the platform: "It looks like it's all fun and games until you fall off and [bleeping] die." Look, if any of you have a problem with her doom-and-gloom attitude, take it up with Emily. If the stronger players had remained, Melissa wouldn't be here. Ruthie yells at Melissa to take a deep breath. Melissa in interview: "Again, I know I have to do it, so it's not like I can quit." She starts to lose it as Jonny counts down. "See, there he goes," she continues. "Jonny blowing that horn again. What's that?" I think it's a fetish with him, Melissa. He blows, and she starts scooting slowly. Very slowly. A glacier going uphill could go faster. Ruthie looks at her watch, as if Melissa is going to beat 23 seconds. Being the nice guy that he is, Antoine starts yelling for Melissa to look at him. Pan from him to her, and she's barely out of the starting line. She gets scared as she goes towards the split paths, shushing Antoine. She asks him if the wheels are still on the track. She finally gets a little speed, finishing at 2:40. Say what you will, but Melissa is not a quitter, unlike certain harpies we know and loathe. "It's fun for everyone," she tells the camera. "Okay, can we bring it down, now?"

Shane tells us his chances: since Antoine wasn't disqualified, he has decided to go down the middle on the narrowest path, since he has nothing to lose. He slowly goes down, trying to keep his balance. Antoine is on the ground, smiling. "Look in front of you," he encourages Shane quietly, "look ahead." Hey, it beats Julie's "BUNGEE, CHRISTIAN!" from Extreme Challenge. But Shane can't keep his balance, falling into the net for a disqualification.

Genesis is on the platform, and she has decided not to duplicate Shane's path. Melissa feels bad that all the pressure is on Genesis to win the vacation for the team. Genesis reviews what went down: Ellen and Ruthie got disqualified, and Melissa moved at a snail's pace. She adds, "I feel like it's really solely up to me if we're going to win this or not." Ellen tells the others to focus positive energy on Genesis. That's easier to do since Emilizzy Borden took a hike. Lori wants to close her eyes. Genesis gets ready as we go into commercial.

Coming back, Emily is telling the others she's leaving. Normally, when there's a screw-up, I blame it on BMP. This time, somebody fell asleep at MTV, and the first act got run again. So what does MTV do? Right… go to credits and start up Aston Kutcher's opus, Punk'd. People from the Eastern and Central time zones got screwed for the night. Yes, I realize the episodes are often rerun, but some of us have an interest in the damn show. Some people might not want to wait until the next day. So shame on MTV for dropping the ball.

17 ½ Hours Later…

Lots of editing. Genesis starts on the path. Lori interviews that if Genesis flies across the course, they could win. More editing. Genesis is struggling, shaking juts a little. She takes her foot off, getting the double blare. She didn't even choose a path. In her interview, Genesis silently rolls her eyes. The ladies look dejected. Lori states the obvious: once again, they have lost.

Jonny takes his time in award the prize package and the Ion Lifesaver to Antoine, whose time of 23.1 seconds beat out Jamie's 25.58. Antoine accepts everything with a big smile.

A production assistant puts Mark on top of the scoreboard with 410 points. On the other side, Ruthie is leading with 365. The others look at the boards. Mark flexes his muscle, pointing at his score. Given that Mark hasn't been a total tool, he's entitled to brag. Genesis notes that neither Inner Circle is going to deliberate.

Men: Mark (410), Jamie (407), Colin (404), Antoine (391), Shane (349)

Women: Ruthie (365), Ellen (347), Lori (342), Melissa (309), Genesis (245)

In a sad attempt at humor, Jonny walks up with something under his shirt. I don't know what it is, but it squeaks. Genesis compliments him on his "rack." Whatever. Jonny calls up the Women's Inner Circle, and Lori is really excited to be up on the other side. She even handles the announcement: "I would like to ask Genesis to leave now!" Everybody laughs. It would've been better if Genesis had worn an Emily mask. Catharsis can be good. Lori and Genesis hug.

Men's Inner Circle. For the first time, Jamie handles the announcement. He says that he has nothing but love for Shane, but it's time for him to go. More hugging.

Now Antoine gets to award the Ion Lifesaver. "I was intending on trading this item of power for some intercourse with Genesis," he begins, as Genesis smiles. "But since we couldn't agree on a rendezvous time, all I have left is Shane." He explains his choice: Shane was the only person who attempted scooting down the middle. He continues: "He really rocked it. He's been rocking it for a couple of days really well." He tosses the Ion to Shane. Antoine interviews that Shane is one of the youngest people on the show, adding, "You've shown so much maturity and courage, that I really think it must be awarded." Shane interviews that Antoine knows he wouldn't accept the gift, so he gives it back and they hug. Genesis pipes up: "I'm finally going home!"

Night. Shane hugs Ellen, thanking her for a good time. Genesis didn't think she'd get attached. She laughs, "Why do I care about you losers so much?" More laughter. Ellen replies, "Before you're a loser, too!" Genesis asks the ladies to beat the guys, and Lori responds, "Well, we're kind of trying!" The van goes off into the night.

Women's Villa. Ruthie and Ellen are sharing quality time. Beats the old days, where Ellen would fiddle with her nails while Ruthie looked seriously contemplative. "It's not about winning prizes at this point," Ellen interviews. "It's about pride." No offense, but pride is all you have left. They laugh some more. Ellen: "There's a lot of pressure, but I think we can do it." Not according to the oddsmakers, Ellen.

Well, there's no more Inner Circles. Next week, the top three on each side advance to the final round. Antoine has a good chance on making it. If one of the other men should receive a zero, all Antoine has to go is complete the mission. He would get a minimum of 29 points, vaulting him into the top three for the first time. As for Melissa, things are a little dicey. First, Lori would have to get a zero. Second, she would need to score a minimum of 33 points, placing fourth place or better.

Next time: Oh, look. It's another elevated platform. A figure slides down a bungee rope. Jonny tells everybody that the winner gets a Saturn Ion for each member of the team. For some reason, Antoine is wearing a tie. Mark: "The women are going to need some sort of a miracle to win the Saturn." Naturally, Melissa is panicking. Ellen's hair gets caught in the rope. Close-up of Ruthie, her eyes going all "Eye of the Tiger." Ellen: "It's all up to Ruthie now. She's our last hope."

Postscript: Number of combined Fantasy Points from Ellen and Ruthie: 20. Number of Fantasy Points from Emily: 28. Number of Fantasy Points from Melissa, who I had on the bench: 39. Thank goodness Jamie (40) and Antoine (41) stepped up; otherwise, the week would have been a total waste.

Yes, children . . . once upon a time, MTV constantly ran this show on the schedule. Nowadays, if you miss it the only time it airs, you have to watch it online or "On Demand." And I don't take back my tone with Ruthie, even though I grew fond of her. She made mistakes, and she and Ellen wrecked their best shots at winning on that show.