Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Gauntlet Episode 6: Great Coral Grief

People who know me would not be surprised that I do not care for bullies. Grade school was tough. Junior high was a three-year nightmare. This extends to today, where a brainless blowhard is running the country, and numerous assholes and bitches throw their weight around on reality television. With that said . . . why the hell did I like Coral Jeanne Smith so much?

That was not the case from the start. In the big audition for The Real World and Road Rules (ripped off another BMP show, Making The Band), she got into lots of drama, including making out with a guy in the pool, and getting into bad words with Ellen. Remember that? Ellen shouted, "Kiss! My! Ass! Kiss my ass! Kiss my baby ass! Kiss my motherfucking baby ass!" Coral wound up getting to stay in New York for the season, and she was hard on a lot of people . . .especially Mike, when he told her about his racist uncle in the first episode. It looked like she'd be another in a long, long line of RW bitches.

But something funny happened. She lightened up. She indulged Mike's (then-farfetched) wrestling fantasies, playing "Coco Loco" to his "Miz." When Nicole tried to hook up with her boyfriend, Coral was in her corner, helping her out even after Nicole got drunk and vomited a few times. And when Lori couldn't do Battle Of The Seasons, Coral took her place as Mike's partner. They were never in danger of getting voted out, getting into the Inner Circle every time. Remember, Coral balked at helping her roommates out in their clash against Road Rules: The Quest, denying us the clash with Ellen that everybody wanted. And when Mike celebrated his 21th birthday by getting drunk and throwing a fit following losing out on winning a car, Coral picked up the pieces. Coral being on the winning team wasn't as unexpected as Danny Roberts and Kelley Limp making the final, but it was a pleasant surprise.

I get the Coral hate. There were times where she was out of line in ripping others . . . like with Ace (The Inferno) and Robin (Battle Of The Sexes 2). I've had at least one friend tell me that Coral is all bark and no bite. Her appeal for me isn't about her looks, the 32DD bra, or the fact that most of her "victims" had it coming (see: Stoffer, Julie). She had heart. When Sarah was at the lowest point in The Gauntlet, Coral comforted her. When Leah had her breakdown during The Inferno, Coral rode with her to the hospital. To me, Coral had more dimensions than a lot of her fellow competitors. And that's why it was tough to see the Veterans team gang up on her in Gauntlet III during their "Trim The Fat" kick. I know Coral is out there, and I hope she's doing well for herself. And if she's cracking vicious jokes at other people's expense, I won't hate her for it.

Thank you for sticking with this long prelude. I don't hate you if you skipped it entirely. And now, the recap.

 Airate: October 27, 2003
Recap Published: November 2, 2003
After a lopsided mission, Mike goes and breaks Coral’s heart. If you get off on the suffering of others, read on.
Previously on The Gauntlet: In Mudbath, Coral got eliminated early. Theo G.: “Three loses in a row. Something’s got to change.” In the Gauntlet, Rachel B. outlasted Katie in Hangman and sent her packing. Mike stated that the morale on the RW side was high. Sadly, no shots of Matt doing his happy dance. Shot of Coral and Mike hugging. Coral reminds us that she’s friends with Mike, and they won Battle of the Seasons together.

Outdoors shots. The players fast-motion walk to the mission site. Mission site? Already? No drama leading up to this? Wow, I am stunned. Jonny is wearing a red shirt with a white collar and a hat with his cute moguls skier logo on it. He’s Gilligan 2K3. He welcomes everybody to Holey Canoe. Feel free to roll your eyes. The objective: paddle a sinking canoe while bailing out water leaking through the hull. “I know the water’s coming,” Coral interviews, “and I know I’m going to be getting out of it. Water is just not my thing.” Jonny reminds them that the winning team gets to bank $10,0000. Veronica expositions that there are holes in the canoes and they’re half-filled with water to start.

Adam takes charge of Road Rules, showing them how to row. He admits that he never paddled a sinking canoe. On the Real World side, Matt’s giving instructions, since he’s an Eagle Scout with a canoeing merit badge. Coral starts in about not sinking the boat, cursing up a storm. The giggling you hear is everybody who has her in the Fantasy Challenge, where individual bleeps net three points. “I understand the fact that Coral can’t swim,” Trishelle interviews, “but I don’t think that she should make people in the boat panic.” The bruises on her face give her the Racoon Girl look Arissa patented on the Las Vegas season. Coral feels the need to ask for somebody to look out for her. Yeah, this is going to end well. Mike interviews that he told Coral he would never vote for her. “She’s going to be scared, and we’re going to have to pull her,” he adds. “When we have this team, we can’t have anyone that we need to pull. Everyone needs to pull their own weight.”

Everybody gets loaded into the canoes. Jonny has found his beloved airhorn he lost last week and he sets it off. Both teams row and bail water. Trishelle interviews that Matt is yelling commands, but he’s in the front, and nobody in the back can hear him. The RW canoe careens into the RR lane, but the RR canoe is far enough ahead. “They’re running against themselves!” Adam yells to his crew. He interviews that the team is in unison. Meanwhile, the RW canoe hits the bank and they row backwards.

RR canoe: still running. Adam: “Paddle your asses off!” They reach the halfway point. Adam interviews that “Real World is so far behind, it’s awesome.” The RW canoe is still slogging, tilting towards one side. By the time RW hits the halfway point, RR finishes up, as several of the guys jump in the water.

RW canoe? Chaos. Everybody yells at each other. Norman interviews that half of the team wanted to quit. Trishelle tells us that Matt still yells instructions, which Irulan tries to relay them to the others, Elka is pissed, and Coral is freaking out. Norman concurs, saying that Coral was in front of him and she couldn’t keep focused. I guess it would be informative to mention that Coral once drowned and actually died in an inner tube mishap. True story... it was covered in the 2001 Casting Special and Seasons. I’m guessing not even the lifejacket could keep her calm. By the time RW gets to the finish line, everybody from RR is sitting, two minutes away from starting a picnic. “We were just zigzagging,” Nathan interviews, “we can’t get from Point A to Point B to save our life. It was really an embarrassing time to be a part of the Real World team.”

Denouement. Jonny: “I really thought it was a great effort from both teams.” I admire how he can say this with a straight face. He awards the $10,000 check to RR, upping their total to $40,000. The team’s ladies run up and embrace him, since he’s so darn huggable. Jonny gives the usual spiel: thirty minutes to send somebody into the Gauntlet.

Still at the mission site. Coral insists the team lost because they can’t talk to each other. Matt figures it’s a lack of communication. Of course, Coral cuts him off, cursing up a storm to the others. Nathan is wearing Jonny’s brand of hat. Suck-up. He tells Coral that yelling and cussing aggravates everybody, which Coral denies. “She’s gotta know that about herself,” Nathan interviews, “that she can attack a little too hard sometimes.” I think she knows, Nathan. Coral is still raging about what happened. “She intimidates everyone,” Mike interviews. “She hasn’t been that strong these missions. She hasn’t been pulling her weight. How many times do you let a person off until you put them in the Gauntlet?” Tense music plays as the camera switches between Mike and Coral.

Mansion. Road Rules meeting. Everybody writes their votes. “This is the most dramatic part because there’s no safety,” Adam interviews. “You win and then you lose.” Steve reads off the votes: Tina with 21, Roni and Veronica with 18 apiece, and Sarah with 19. To her credit, Tina takes it better than Katie did, as she pumps herself up. She interviews that she doesn’t know how her name came up, but admits feeling that it was her time. Veronica interviews that if Tina loses, it would hit the team hard. Rachel R.: “Tina hasn’t got last place, Veronica hasn’t, and they had the most votes today. It’s ridiculous.” Roni who? Sarah what? Exactly.

Outside. Veronica and Rachel R. go for a walk. Rachel wears a black shirt that says “Cocky.” She tells Veronica that she doesn’t want to take out the “heart and soul” of the girls. Veronica admits to being biased. Rachel goes on about Tina being a team player, and that the secret ballot gives the team a chance to vote on somebody who doesn’t deserve to go. You know, you’d think I’d feel for those two, since they were victims of Emily last season. But now there’s something a little off about them.

Mansion. Matt has a talk with Mike, calling him the team’s leader who has to be confident. Matt says that everybody on the team are friends, adding, “If a friendship cannot outlast something as petty as a Real World/Road Rules Challenge, then you really gotta wonder what the friendship is based on.” Wow. That was good. “Everyone feels this way about Coral,” Matt interviews, “that she’s not positive for the team. But everyone is afraid of Coral.” Preach on, Brother Matt. Mike nods at Matt. “I’m in a mix right now,” Mike tells us. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t whether to sit there and vote off my friends, or should I just keep on sitting back and watch this team fall apart.”

RW Meeting. Mike gets on the case of those who wanted to quit Holey Canoe, saying he finishes everything he starts. Theo G. decides to vote for Coral, since she hasn’t impressed him. Norman votes for Matt. Irulan thinks that Matt would have the best chance in the Gauntlet. Elka goes with Matt, as does Nathan. Matt votes for Coral, saying that it’s nothing personal. Trishelle doesn’t want to lose Matt as a teammate, so she votes for Coral. “We need people on our team who want to be there,” Trishelle interviews. Rachel B. says it’s bull to send Matt in, so she votes for Coral. A graphic shows that Matt and Coral have four votes apiece.

Mike covers his eyes. Coral voiceovers that Mike said he’d never vote for her. Mike looks like he’s going to die. If you have tissues, break them out now. He wonders whether it’s better to put a strong or weak player into the Gauntlet. “Coral,” Mike says, “I love you to death, but in the past three missions, you have been our weak link. I think Coral should go.” Some say she’s not ready. Coral looks like a deer caught in headlights. Mike looks ready to cry, like he just shot Old Yeller. Everybody talks at once. Coral decides to go out. Mike’s voice is quavering. He sobs about him and Coral on Battle of the Seasons, and it’s so hard for him to vote on her. Basically, you’re either crying with him, or shouting, “Dude! It’s a game show! Get a grip!”

Outside, Coral sits down while Norman wipes a tear from his eye. She gets approached by Irulan and Alton. When I’m down in the dumps, I want to be cheered up by those from the worst season ever. “I gotta go home!” Coral gripes. “This is my friend. My friend. My friend. Friendship!” If she’s forcing out a cry for the cameras, then she’s doing a damn good job. Mike looks on from the balcony. Good going, you jerk... you broke Coral! Alton tries to explain that Mike had “ten pairs of eyes” on him. Coral, sobbing: “He’s my boy. That’s my homie. That’s my homie.” She breaks out, Irulan hugs her and Alton has to light up a cigarette. Hell, I don’t smoke and I need a cigarette. That was exhausting.

After commercials, Coral and Mike have a talk. Coral figured they were better friends than this; she understood the vote, but he didn’t tell her ahead of time and she would never do that to him. I can see her doing that to others, but Mike is special to her. Or he was. And her voice hits the equivalent of Ellen’s squeaky high notes. It’s almost painful to watch. Mike says it was hard for him as well. “That’s your responsibility to take care of that,” Coral replies. “I’m your friend. You’re supposed to take care of me.” Mike makes a face. Coral mutters, “Something’s off.” Mike can’t figure out what that means.

Outside. Group meeting. Coral tells the team she has no problem going into the Gauntlet and she was just caught off guard because Mike is her friend. “It’s definitely a right decision for the game,” Mike interviews. “But when we get back to L.A., I don’t know if it’s the right decision for life.”

Gauntlet site. Jonny does the usual spiel: Coral vs. Tina (a.k.a. Discount Coral); winner stays, loser leaves. RR cheers on Tina, while Coral is more subdued. Tina rolls the die and it comes up Deadman’s Drop. Tina interviews that she’s ready to kick butt, while Coral says she doesn’t want to go home.

Game time. Jonny lays out the exposition: both players are raised on trapezes ten feet over the water. RW breaks out the noisemakers as they cheer for Coral. Jonny sounds the airhorn, reminding Coral not to grab her legs while hanging upside down.

Heavy techno music plays as we get shots of Coral and Tina, water dripping down their bodies. “I got strong legs,” Tina interviews. “I know I have this. All is good.” The RW side cheers for Coral, but she puts a finger on her lips and the editors turn down the volume. She turns her head, looking at Tina. Voiceover: “I want to see her shake.” Cue creepy music and cheesy scary effects. “I want to see her struggle.” The camera pans up to Tina’s legs as they wobble. Oh, no. This isn’t editing! Coral’s unleashing her Carrie-like powers! We’re doomed! Tina starts to shake while Coral calmly hangs upside-down. Mike roots for Coral, eager to get off the hook. Tina struggles, then drops into the water. Game over, another sub bites the dust. Back home, Jeremy, Chris, and Raquel squeamishly gulp. Mike is beside himself as Coral plays on the trapeze. “The Coral I saw in the Gauntlet,” Mike voiceovers, “was the Coral I used to have in Battle of the Seasons.” The RW team hugs Coral.

On the RR side, Tina cries. You know something? I’m not getting any joy from this. Seriously, after Tina worked my last nerve on South Pacific, I was all but planning a party for when this happened. But she hasn’t gotten me that worked up here. Of course, if you quote me saying that, I will deny it. “Losing Tina was a really hard hit for the team,” Roni interviews. “She did so well in all the missions, and now she’s leaving. It doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel just.”

Mansion. Tina packs her stuff. Veronica tells a few of her teammates that Tina wasn’t sent into the Gauntlet to win. Rachel R. sees a few people getting targeted by others. Veronica corners Abram, asking him who would get voted on based on performance. Abram says he votes on who can perform. Veronica: “The guys are scared to sacrifice another guy into the Gauntlet.”

Meeting of the guys. Adam’s t-shirt: “I didn’t come to L.A. to take your order!” Remember when I said I didn’t hate Adam? Yeah, I take that back. Theo V. thinks the team needs five guys. Dave adds that a lot of people aren’t going to be happy. “The girls are probably all going to be off before the guys go,” he interviews, “which sucks, but it’s just good for the team, you know?” Three things. One: Like Irulan said, the teams are co-ed for a reason and an imbalance could potentially sink a team. Two: Dave just made me agree with somebody from Las Vegas. Three: Five-to-one says Dave had to ask Cara if he could say that on camera. Man, the RR side is just full of themselves this week.

Soft guitar music. Tina says goodbye to the team. She interviews that she made a lot of friends and that it hurts to go. “Positive energy,” she adds. “Positive karma. For the people who play this dirty? What goes around comes around.” Not on this show, but maybe she’ll be right.

Coral sits in the kitchen as she tells Elka she expected a vote from her before Mike. “He should’ve given me a heads-up,” she continues. “He knew he was gonna vote like that.” The soft guitar continues as we go back to Battle of the Seasons. Coral does the victory shimmy after winning $50,000 and not being obliged to share it with Holly. Coral smacks Mike with a cue card during Sidekick Showdown. They play with the oversized ticket to the Blockbuster Awards for winning. Coral comforts Mike after one of his Miz rampages. That was tough for me to take; BOTS was the first time I found myself liking those two. Hopefully, these two are still friends as I write this. Then again, I never imagined good friends Julie and Melissa would be at odds two years after their season, so who knows which way the wind will blow. I need some cheering up.

Next week: I’m going to cheer up. Fat suits! And since Donell made The Smoking Gun again, I feel the need to make jokes at his expense. Yay! Anyway, Rachel B. wiggles sweetly in her suit. “My boobs are sticking out to there,” she interviews. “How am I supposed to climb over a wall like that?” The players go through tires and over walls. In the Gauntlet, Irulan uses her noisemaker, which Veronica tries to grab. Adam: “You can’t cheer for your own team and you need to go out and buy some mechanical noisemaker? More power to you. I know you’re weak.” Shut up. Irulan: “I don’t have to do what you ask me to do, Veronica! You don’t put your [bleeping] hands on me, period!”

I know you readers are out there. Should I succumb to the urge to make Donell jokes in my next recap, kicking the man when he’s down because he was the worst part of the worst Road Rules season ever? Or should I play it classy, even if BMP indulges my fantasy of a two-minute sequence of Abram looking at a fat suit, flashing back to the Rumble Down Under? E-mail me at [REDACTED]. All opinions will be considered.

This is the start of the postscript. Donell? Hated him. The other recappers frowned at my looking for "he-so-fat" jokes. In retrospect, I can't say that I blame them for that. It's just . . . how many heavy people have been on a BMP show and not been a tool? The only one is Sharon from RW: London, and she & Race Car Mike lasted two missions on Battle Of The Seasons because nobody liked Beth. Jon was collateral damage. It's funny that Abram would get kicked off two editions of Road Rules, and yet I had no problems with the people he beat up. As you'll see throughout this season, Adam needed a beating so, so bad. Seriously, how many large people are on reality TV that did not come off as pantloads? And I'm not talking about TLC shows.

Speaking of the future coming from 2003 . . . this would be a tough season for Coral and Mike, between this round, Mike's romance with Trishelle (can I call it a "showmance" if the term hadn't been coined at that time?), and the last few episodes. They make for a good pair, though. I have an issue of GQ where a writer followed those two and Melissa around. I'm convinced that if an organization had raised money for charity by auctioning off a dinner with those three, they would've made four figures, easy. I hope Coral and Mike are still friends. In the end, I think The Miz will always need Coco Loco.

Speaking of Mike . . . today, I found out from Facebook that he will be hosting the post-season episode for The Challenge: Invasion Of The Champions. Better him than some nobody from an MTV show barely anybody watches. And he's competed alongside and against CT, Darrell and Shane, so it'll be a reunion for him as well.

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