Friday, February 03, 2017

Battle of the Sexes Episode 15: Passing the Franc

This is the big one. The huge turning point for this season of The Challenge. I vaguely remember knowing about this, and I was hoping it wouldn't be that bad. It was. Easily the worst moment that didn't involve Senor Scabby.

Airdate: April 14, 2003
Recap Published: April 20, 2003 (It probably took a while to extract all of my venom)
Shane and James are both in danger of leaving. What will happen? Why does Emily look so conflicted (at right)? Will the Ion Lifesaver actually be used? Will the guys have to make a decision?! And what's with the "To Be Continued" cliffhanger?
Previously on Battle of the Sexes: Some guy with a weird face and an annoying voice tells us that there's no need for the Men's Inner Circle to deliberate who gets voted off. Oh, that's Puck? Man, it's been a while. I still hate him. James and Emily are still a couple. She loves being in Jamaica with him. Christina thinks it's good to see a couple supportive of each other. Emily calls him the best friend she ever had. And once again, Christian, Devon, and Timmy cry.

James and Shane are sitting around one of the Villas. James feels "sketchy" about being at the bottom of the standings. A graphic shows that James has 314 points, while Shane has 315. James figures that he has to be two places better than Shane in the next mission. "James is built for competitions," Emily interviews. "This is where he feels comfortable. This is what he loves." James thinks that the eliminations have been done in a fair way, adding "I'm going to be going for it, just like anybody else, dude." He and Shane laugh, while I hyperventilate. He said "dude"! Fifteen episodes, and he finally cracked a "dude"! If you watched a lot of Maximum Velocity Tour or Extreme Challenge, you know James is all about the "dude." This is truly a landmark.

Women's Villa. The Sponsor Phone rings. This time, it falls on Melissa to read the instructions: the men wear Speedos, while the women wear two-piece swimsuits. Ellen wonders why the guys can't wear trunks. Melissa wonders what's with the bikinis. "We're going to do something very humiliating," Ellen suggests. "Dude, I'll humiliate myself," Melissa counters. "I need 50 G's." I hope Emily doesn't find out Melissa said "dude." She might think Melissa is making a play for James.

Sunset. Mission site. Jonny's there with three guys and two girls, all in red shirts. Jonny welcomes everybody to Human Aquarium. The objective is to stay submerged in the aquarium while holding a cup of fish upright between the knees. Emily expositions that they will use snorkels to breathe, and that their bodies much stay submerged, save for the knees and one hand. Jonny adds that there is a twist: every five minutes, a "new marine resident" would be added to the tank. Shane and Mark run down the list of creatures to be dumped every five minutes: lobsters, sea urchins, and shrimp. You think Melissa is going to like this mission? "This isn't really me at all." Shane and Mark continue: sea cucumbers, algae, and crabs. Melissa: "Not really into that, either." The weird thing is, she's wearing the same outfit from the first week. Can you say "out of context"? Jonny notes that the winner gets a winter vacation for the whole team. The women already have the ski and snowboard package, so that would be a nice bonus. Oh, and there's the Ion Lifesaver, making its penultimate appearance.

The contestants strap on the snorkel gear. Jonny counts down from ten while the contestants submerge themselves. Shots of Ellen, Jamie, and Mark. The goggles make Mark's eyes look really big. One of the red-shirted women points at Melissa. Already? Melissa interviews that water is coming into her snorkel. Jonny sounds the airhorn, stepping back as Melissa thrashes out of the water. Total time: 25 seconds.

Shot of snorkels jutting out of the water. A redshirt points somebody out: Emily. She coughs up water, throwing her snorkel and goggles away. Her time: 49 seconds. She interviews that she's disappointed, and she hopes her score will be fine.

Another snorkel shot. Colin's eyes bug out before Jonny taps him out. Colin interviews that when Emily got out, the water got into his mask. He chucks his bottle, finishing at one minute, three seconds.

After shots of Ellen and Mark, Lori surfaces (2:05). Ruthie interviews that she felt Lori leaving on her left, but could still feel Genesis on her right. She adds that she really wants the women to win.
Another shot of goggles and knees. Jonny instructs a redshirt to tap Ellen out, since her head came up. She lasted 3:20. This was not the most well thought-out mission.

Finally, Jonny gets to add some "marine residents." With five people out in under five minutes, this would be as good a time as any. Jonny and the redshirts dump sea urchins into the tank. Mark's eyes dart around. The soundtrack goes into a Jaws riff. Shane interviews that he can feel the urchins sucking on his skin. "They're fine," Ruthie interviews. "Sea urchins are harmless, unless they sting you." More are dumped into the tank, and Genesis decides she's had enough, surfacing at 5:07.

Underwater shot of a fish. Jamie has urchins on his chest. Jonny tells a redshirt girl to tap Ruthie, since her head came up. On all that I hold holy, the editors put in a sound effect from the pinball game on my laptop. What is up with that? Did Bunim-Murray Productions decide to save their money and good editing techniques for The Real Cancun? Ruthie notes that only the guys are left, and it's disappointing. Melissa interviews that she's tired of losing. The editors replay all six women messing up, in case we didn't get it the first time.

Jonny pulls Mark up. Mark has that "What did I do?" look on his face. He interviews that he floated to the top, and his forehead was exposed. He adds that the only ones left are Shane, James, Antoine, and Jamie. Who's having the most fun? Jamie interviews that he's in his environment, going so far as to name his urchins. In a rare show of editing genius, the urchins' names are shown: Sebastian, Ken, and Wilbur.

The redshirts pour in sea cucumbers. Jamie sticks his hand in his Speedos, since he doesn't want to get bitten there. Lobsters are dumped in. Shrimp are poured in. Mark and Colin shout to the remaining players, warning them of the seaweed. The time elapsed is 27:16, and crabs are introduced. Here come the brown sea urchins. Antoine interviews that he had to punch those away from his body. A crab scuttles on the tank floor, obviously angry he couldn't get on Survivor.

Elapsed time: 39:26. Jamie chokes under the water. He interviews that his snorkel was leaking, and he had to blow out water. Melissa quietly mutters, "Oh no no no." She still loves the big dope. Anyway, he surfaces at 42:55, interviewing that he's happy with his performance. "We're all one big happy family down there," he adds.

Mark interviews that Antoine, James, and Shane are in the water, adding that James has the most to gain, since he's in last place. James interviews that he has to remain there. Ellen interviews that Shane is comfortable under the water, but James is a fighter and Antoine is chilling. She adds, "This is going to take a long, long time before this is over."

Back from commercials, Ellen yells to the remaining players that they've been under for two hours. I hate to think how wrinkled they'll be once they come out. Colin shouts encouragement to Antoine: "Do it for the Motherland, 'Toine!" I thought Belgium was the Uncleland. Ellen yells encouragement to Shane. Shane interviews that it's all about staying power, adding, "If James wins, he's staying." A graphic pops us to remind us that Shane has 315 points and James has 314. James interviews that he's not coming up before Shane.

Shot of fish, followed by a small crab and a giant lobster. Ellen and Colin yawn. Elapsed time: 3:07. Shane interviews that the show tunes he's been singing in his head have gotten old. "I'm even out of hymns, for God's sake!" he adds. "I have nothing to do." However, Antoine is amused, as he laughs through his snorkel. Lori interviews that he's making jokes and hitting on the girl judges. "What is the name of the girl?" Antoine asks in a muffled voice, as if he's talking through a kazoo. Lori points out that Antoine is aroused. Too much information. The girl judge replies, "Nice boner!" and everybody laughs. In an effort to kill me, BMP substitutes "boner" with a "BO-OING!" sound effect. Lori interviews that Antoine is happier under water that she's seen him above it. BMP wastes a few seconds to have Colin parody a credit card commercial. Lame.

Shane interviews that he started laughing and water shot into his mask. BMP decides to cut out the real reason he got that way (as recapped by Colin and Lori) and have us think Antoine made him like that. Shane surfaces at 3:21:17. Emily yells support to her boyfriend: "Stay there, Jim! Stay there!" Oh, shut up. Shane feels good to get out of the water and stretch his legs. He notes that he lasted two hours longer than he imagined.

Emily has her head over the tank, telling James not to give up. She interviews that he wants to stay in the game. Antoine is still laughing. "I'm in a world of frickin' pain," James interviews, "and this guy's just laughing and having a good time." Antoine yuks it up some more. He interviews that James is not having a good time. Emily starts yelling at Antoine to knock it off. She's got a smile, but I think she's serious. Antoine: "I can feel that the more I talk to him, the more I laugh, the worse he feels." Emily is still talking when James bolts up (3:23:25). With the win, Antoine slowly gets up after 3:23:25. "I would like to enjoy this moment to the full," he says as Ellen towels him off. "Okay, so what are the names of these girls?" The redshirt ladies smile.

Jonny takes about 20 minutes to announce that Antoine won the prize package and the Ion Lifesaver. He interviews that it feels great for him. Genesis interviews that he deserved to win for the team, and she hopes that the girls will strive harder.

Scoreboard. Genesis points her bottom-dwelling score to Ruthie, indicating that it's her time to go. This is out of sequence, since I can see the men's scores. Ruthie interviews that everybody knew Genesis was going home.

Ruthie (365), Ellen (347), Emily (317), Lori (309), Melissa (278), Genesis (248)

Now we get a production assistant putting up the men's scores. Lo and behold, there's a tie: James and Shane each have 349 points. Shane interviews that he did the math wrong, thinking he'd be up by one if Antoine beat James. "We've gone through the hell," James drones, "gone through the gauntlet, and we're just trying to survive."

Mark (376), Colin (372), Jamie (372), Antoine (355), James (349), Shane (349)

Jonny announces the Inner Circles: Ruthie, Ellen, and Emily; Mark, Colin, and Jamie. Antoine has the Ion Lifesaver. He gives both teams one hour to deliberate. Melissa interviews that there's no deliberation on the female side, since they're voting off the lowest score. Mark tells us Shane and James are tied. We know, Mark! Colin interviews that the Inner Circle has to make a decision as a team. Jamie notes that this had to happen sooner or later. Colin interviews that this is what the women went through in the past twelve missions. You mean they had to break a tie every week? Shut up, Colin.

After the commercials, all six guys have a meeting. Colin interviews that it's been easy to not make a decision in the past. James says he wants to stay. Shane says he wants to stay. Mark asks how the Inner Circle can make a fair decision, and Colin suggests a coin toss. What if it lands on edge, man? What then? James thinks he'd lose in a toss. I'm not going to lecture him on probability, since I have the same way about 50/50 odds. Colin notes than both James and Shane have won prizes for the team, and he doesn't want to make a decision that isn't cool. Enough waffling! Make a choice! Mark points out that Antoine has the Ion. In an interview, Mark confesses that the IC has been reduced to giving Antoine the choice. Fellas, it's not a hard thing to do. Write down a name on some paper. Put it in a box. Count the names. People do it all the time. Antoine says he would save Shane since, "I think I feel closer to him." Make of that what you will. Antoine also brings up James, who would be the "most pained" to leave.

Now James has something to say. He declares that he should stay, since he's worked for it, overcoming a zero to make it this far. I can't blame him for speaking up. I'd be restraining myself from lying about what Shane would do to the IC should he get the boot. James interviews that he thinks Shane's going home. Colin tells James and Shane to leave the room so the rest of the team can make a decision. Shane interviews that James has won two missions, and he feels he's going home.

Now it's time for the Men's Inner Circle, plus Antoine, who is still on the fence. He interviews that he wants to hear from the IC. Colin says that he's been amazed by James' performances. Mark suggests that they might need calmness, which Shane has. Antoine brings up "something grander," whatever that means. Mark says that Antoine has the right to save somebody, and Colin agrees. Antoine interviews that he feels comfortable in his decision.

Judgment. Since the women are lacking drama, Jonny invites their Inner Circle up. Ruthie calls Genesis awesome, but adds, "today is your time." Ruthie laughs, saying this is the second time she's had to say goodbye to Genesis.

Men's Inner Circle. Colin tells Jonny that things are different, and he calls up Antoine. James and Shane link arms in anticipation. Antoine doesn't drag it out, giving the Ion to Shane. James nods, apparently okay with going home. Emily has a sad look on her face. "Something bothered me in the way that James approached facing our decision," Antoine voiceovers, as the guys hug James. "I find Shane's attitude more ad-meer-able in that he sold me much better than James not facing the music." Lori hugs Emily. James and Shane hug. James thanks the IC, telling them, "I don't bear any hard feelings, dude." He said it again!

Personally, I would have gone with James to stay. He got next to squat in Extreme Challenge, and he's a lot fiercer than Antoine and Shane. If something were to happen to the IC, James would fill in with little fuss. I have nothing against Shane: any guy who gives Emily crap about her IC decisions deserves affection. But Shane's a relative newbie, and he was hell-bent on going home last week before he won Spidermon.

Jonny recaps: James and Genesis are departing. Here comes Emily, with a small smile on her face. "Hey, guys?" she says to the girls. "That changes my decision to stay." Even though I've known about this for a while, it was still a breathtaking moment. Genesis has the best follow-up reaction: "Huh?" Emily: "That changes my decision to stay. Sorry." Let's review: Emily railroaded the Inner Circle to vote out two of the strongest competitors, Rachel and Veronica. And now that her boyfriend is going home, she's going with him. Unbelievable. Genesis in interview: "What the hell are you talking about?" Lori in interview: "Our biggest 'We're tough, we're independent' cheerleader is now saying, 'Well, my boyfriend is leaving, so I'm going to go, too.'" Graphic: "To Be Continued."

Next week: Emily's addressing everybody, saying that James has been her moral support. Lori: "Tell me one situation where it's cool where a girl bails out on the rest of the girls because of her boyfriend." We'll overlook that her boyfriend is Kyle. Genesis: "What the [bleep] are you talking about?" Cut to the next mission: Razor's Edge. It has a scooter, a narrow beam, and a really panicky Melissa. A helmet cam shows one contestant falling off. The big question: will Emily come to her senses, or will she deserve to be scorned and ridiculed in my very first Reality TV Hall of Shame article?

I like imagining what the situation would have been had T.J. Lavin had been hosting. "Not Quitting" is 85 percent of his brand. With so many people bailing on their own that season, Teege would've went ballistic.

The fallout spills into the next episode, but I might as well say that we'd never see James again. Or Emily. From what I heard, they stopped being a couple (presumably without Veronica screwing things up) and went on to live normal lives. Like you'll find out in my recaps of The Gauntlet, I would eventually forgive Emily, at least for Rachel and Veronica. I can't take back wanting James to stay for a number of reasons. . . . including the possibility that he would reignite his bromance (a term not yet coined) with Theo in a future season, and Shane interviewed about how Sarah sucked during Road Rules: Campus Crawl, which I did not take well since I identified with her the most. Spoiler warning: The Gauntlet would be downright brutal to view, let alone recap.

Sadly, I don't remember why Shane got eliminated from this mission, because I can't retrieve Colin and Lori's recaps. Also, I think Melissa's mask was defective, but she probably wouldn't have lasted long if that wasn't the case. I was NOT kidding about the pinball noises. At least Jame said "dude" a few times. On many levels, that's all I wanted from him.

PS: I never did write a Hall of Shame article on Emily. Or Puck. Meh.

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