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.

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