Monday, February 27, 2006

Gauntlet 2, Episode 12: Tired and Sick

I just want to apologize for anybody who has been waiting. I got hung up on the New York Comic-Con this past weekend, and I now know there are worse things than dealing with Beth week after week. Like coming back to the Javits Center after a quick lunch and finding myself in a throng of pissed-off fanboys, who got kept out due to overcrowding. After that, listening to Beth make feeble excuses is a breeze.

Previously on Gauntlet 2: The Rookies’ four-mission winning streak came to an end with a loss in Pull Me. Kina thrashed Cara in the Gauntlet, puncuating her winning point with “Beat it!” If I’m Randy, I', taking all the herbal stuff that I can just to look at her. Kina figures that with Cara gone, the Rookies will win.

We’re at the club again, with the usual booty-shaking merriment. Ibis interviews that everybody is enjoying staying in the game, not dealing with competition until it come ups.

Mansion. Jeremy is on the computer. He tells us that it is 1:30 a.m, and he got woken up by his wasted colleagues. “This isn’t goof for our team,” he adds. Some of the guys talk out loud and laugh, and I’m thinking the alcohol fumes would knock me back about ten feet. Cut to Jeremy sitting down, with a case of severe frowny-face. “No self-control,” he snipes to us. “If you can’t practice it when you’re off the field, then you’re not practicing it on the field, plain and simple.” At this point, I started staying goodbye to Jeremy. Yes, it was that obvious.

Daytime. David and Beth hang out. David is psyched, while Beth feels that they have to think every mission will be their last. “I’m one of the strongest people on the team,” Beth interviews with a straight face. “But I still don’t really know if people believe that I’m a good competitor.” Here’s a hint: no they don’t, honey. David tells us that he’s trying to pump Beth up. “I know she’s gonna try and I know she wants to stay,” he continues. “And frankly, I’m nervous if she stays. I wouldn’t trust Beth as far as I can throw her.” He said the same thing about Susie and Cara. Would the same apply to Ruthie, since she’s small and lovable? “I think there’s something ingrained in her that is just naturally deceptive.” Preaching to the choir, bub.

Clue time at the dinner table. MJ’s hair is weirdly tied back as he reads, “Don’t get too tired out tomorrow.” Yadda yadda, wear team colors and bathing suits, get ready to leave at 7:30 a.m. David interviews about being nervous to go into the Gauntlet. “If I do go in there,” he admits, “I’m gonna bite somebody’s head off.”

Later, the Rookies have a meeting. Alton brings up the winning streak that just got snapped. MJ adds that the vacation is over, and now it’s about the money. He interviews that Alton is the one guy he doesn’t want to face in the Gauntlet, and he doesn’t think he’ll go, but it would be a war if he does.

New day. Mission site. Shot of tires suspended in the air. TJ welcomes everybody to the Port Authority for today’s mission: Spare Tires. The deal: players have to dive into the water, climb a ladder, and make their way through the tires within ten minutes. Along the way, they have to pull a release latch, which sends a tire to the water below. Over time, fewer tires makes the mission more difficult. Jodi expositions that the last player has the toughest run, since that person will have to release two tires and crawl through thirteen of the original 24. TJ adds that once a player makes it through and drops towards the water, and next person can start. This continues until the entire team is across. Julie tells us that players get one point for each tire cleared, but not only are no points awarded for falling, but the next person has to drop two tires. TJ notes that the team with the most points gets $10,000 for the bank account, and the winning male captain gets a satellite boombox with a year’s subscription and safety from the Gauntlet. Jamie interviews that he doesn’t want to see any of the guys or himself go home. Brad feels that his head is on the chopping block, then adds that Beth is afraid of heights, and she blew one mission already. “If she pulls another stunt like that,” he adds, “I’m gonna be real upset with her.”

TJ tells the Rookies that they have to sit out one guy. Landon feels that Randy should be sidelined, since MJ has a longer reach. The team goes along with this plan. Landon interviews that they will send out a smaller and weaker person first, and if this person can’t male it one the first try, they can’t do it on the last try. Jeremy feels that his neck is on the line, and he doesn’t want to go. On the Veterans’ side, Brad notes that the team is “guesstimating” crawling ability. He asks Beth how comfortable she is with the tires. Julie interviews that Beth said she feels confident going at the beginning, so she will be going third. Beth tells us that she won’t be pretending she’ll be a professional on this mission. Derrick adds that he’ll give his best, and a win would pull his team closer tot he Rookies.

The Veterans start first. After TJ blows his airhorn, Katie jumps into the water and climbs the ladder. She interviews about trying to go as fast as she can, but the course is harder for short people like herself who can’t stretch through the tires. Timmy: “Come on, you little squirrel! Butter them hips!” Katie manages to pull through, dropping out of the tires with 23 points. David follows suit, as his shorts get puleld around his ankles. He drops a tire, struggles, then scores 22 points. “If we can get by Bethasaurus,” he interviews, “if she can get through, I think we can bang this one out.”

Beth’s turn. She gingerly climbs the ladder and gets into the tires, while Derrick shouts advice at her. Timmy: “That’s it! You’re Wonder Woman!” Dude, she's not ever Etta Candy. Naturally, Beth gets stuck. She interviews about not wanting to move because she’s afraid to fall. Brad: “I just want to see some kind of effort out of this girl, to make it look like she’s even remotely concerned with the team’s positon.” Beth continues to go slow as we head into commercials.

Beth still struggles. Robin interviews that watching Beth is “horrific,” to the point where the team tells her to drop. She does, getting no points. Loser.

Brad drops two tires on his run. He interviews that he went as fast as he could, then he makes a point to say that he didn’t find it difficult. He gets 20 points for his effort, followed by Aneesa (19), Timmy (18), Robin (17) and Derrick (16) “I feel like an earthworm,” Julie interviews as we see her crawl. “My hips are getting stuck and I’m squirming, and I’m just trying to reach as far as I can.” She reaches for a tire that is three steps away and nails it for 15 points.

Mark’s run. He reaches out to a tire that is four places away, using his feet to push off of another tire. Julie: “Come on, Tarzan! Swing it!” Mark gets it, as Randy studies a list of tires, scratching his head. I guess he got scouting duty while sitting on the sidelines. Mark gets 13 points (listed as 15), and he hopes the Rookies will have problems of their own. On the side, Julie hugs David, reminding him of how Beth said she would be good at the beginning. “Honey,” he mutters, “I don’t want to say her name. I don’t even want to look at her right now.” Timmy interviews that Beth is once again the only person not to come through, and that she didn’t give “an honest try.” The Veterans have 163 points total.

Rookies’ run. TJ blasts his airhorn, sending Ibis into the water. Alton tells her that it’s all in her legs. She gets through the tires and struggles, ending up slouched between two tires...and she falls off, triggering a huge celebration on the Veterans’ side. This is a fun mission, but now it’s basically over for the Rookies. There is no mathematical way that the Rookies can win now, but we're going through the motions. Ibis comes up crying, getting a hug from Kina. If that was Susie falling from the tires, Kina would have dropped her back in. “It’s the worst feeling ever,” Ibis understates. “It just sucks.” Derrick interviews that he figures anything can happen, and he hopes Ibis helped him out.

MJ crawls through the tires. TJ reminds him to let two tires drop, and then he calls him “brother.” I’m clinging on to the vain hope that somebody punches TJ by the end of the season. MJ pulls through, getting 22 points. He is followed by Jillian (21), Jamie (20), a struggling Susie (19) and Jeremy (18). Kina struggles to reach a tire, twirling in the opposite direction. She manages to kick off a back tire, and she succeeds to get 17 points. Landon (16) and Jodi (15) squeeze through.

Alton dives in, with no chance of winning whatsoever. He interviews that he’s confident in himself. Eventually he tries to get to a tire which is four places in front of him. Randy notes that the team is expecting Alton to come through. “He’s always been our man in the clinch to come through,” Randy adds, “and just give the best performance.” Shot of Alton trying to push off a single tire. “It’s hard to watch him try everything in his bag of tricks from climbing to get across this gap.” Alton continues to push off, only to spin around. He then gets out from the tire, clinging to it. Mark interviews that unless Alton can swing to the next tire, he’s a sitting duck. One of the Rookies yells for Alton to jump to the next tire. A smiling Julie tells Beth that he’ll jump. Alton swings around, as Suse puts her head down. He slips, hanging on with his hands, as we take a break.

Alton: “I’m just hanging. Can’t do anything, dangling like a spider with no more web to spin.” TJ counts down from ten seconds, as a few Rookies applaud Alton for his effort. He drops, and the game is over. The Veterans cheer, and Beth jumps around like she had something to do with it. Landon and Jeremy greet their captain with man-hugs. Alton interviews that it sucks wehn he has to be there for the team. “It’s days like today,” he continues, “that let you know that you’re human, vthat let you know that it’s all about a team effort. There’s not one individual that’s gonna win any competition for anybody.”

Denoument. TJ announces that the Rookies had two people fall off, and they got 148 points. The Veterans had one person fall (lingering shot at Beth), and they received 163 for the victory. Derrick comes up to get the $10,000 check, as well as his new boombox. The Veterans now have $50,000 to the Rookies’ $60,000. TJ adds that he will see Alton in the Gauntlet, and he leaves the Rookies to “deliberate in the crib.” Man, shut up, TJ. Jamie notes that this the team’s second loss in a row, and this is the time where teams get cut down. He adds that Alton would be stupid to put him in. MJ: “If I’m picked to go in it, I’m not just gonna sit there and be like, [swtiching to country bumpkin voice] ‘I’m sorry a little bit. I feel like I could’ve done more.’ Fuck that! I want to be here in the end.” When did MJ get so funny on purpose?

Rookies Deliberation Meeting. Alton apologizes for messing up. We get drawn-out suspense on who he’ll pick to join him in the Gauntlet, as the camera gives us MJ, Jeremy and Jamie. Finally, Alton picks Jeremy, who was not expecting to be picked. “Maybe I got these huge blinders on right now, Alton, but come on, man!” he bitches in an interview. “Wake up and smell the coffee! This is not the right decision.” Is he kidding? He blew one mission, and Adam K. went to the Gauntlet in his place. And compared to the stallions of the Rookies’ side, he’s just a show pony.

TJ swing by to get the pick. Jeremy makes it clear that he wasn’t prepared. TJ spins the wheel...and for once, it doesn’t land on Captain’s Choice. Instead, Alton and Jeremy will be competing in Capture the Flag. Alton interviews that Jeremy has performing well in every mission, but he hasn’t be performing about and beyond.

Gauntlet. TJ welcomes everybody to the site before calling down Alton and Jeremy. He goes over the rules to Capture the Flag: the players zip up opposing sides of a cargo net, trying to grab a flag at the top. Winner stays, loser goes home. Jeremy interviews that twenty feet will decide who will go home. Alton: “You never know what’s going to happen here. I just hope that God has me in his favor today, and that I come out on top. God: “That’s okay, you really don’t need me.” Jeremy mutters a prayer. No, seriously. “Everything is always in Your hands, Lord. Honor and glory be Yours, amen.” Personally, I’d be wishing for a jetpack, but that’s just me.

TJ rings the bell, and the guys climb the net. Jeremy struggles in Alton’s wake, and the big guy grabs the flag for the victory. Naturally, Jeremy looks bummed. Randy says that Jeremy came in with ferocity and spirit, but there was no way he could take Alton down. Jeremy tells us that it hurts to go home with the end being so near. Landon: “I’m bummed to see Jeremy go. He’s a good kid, but Alton is a very important person at the end for us.”

TJ wraps things up by giving Jeremy twenty minutes to clear out. Alton interviews that he never wanted to hurt anybody, but that this is a part of competiton. “The Gauntlet is a harsh place,” he adds. “It’s not made for the weak.” Unless you’re Beth. Jeremy: “Being withdrawn from the partying and being withdrawn from the late-night drinking escapades really hurt me in the end, but it was a prviilege to be on the team.” And we say goodbye to Jeremy, as BMP decides it’s not even worth it to have a farewell sequence, just like with Steve and Theo G. in the original Gauntlet.

Night. Brad tells Beth that she could have blown through the tires instead of just sitting there. Beth insists that she did not sit around, that she did not give up. “Beth is a straight-up disease to the team,” Brad interviews. “She takes zero responsibility for anything she does. She gets down, [switching to old lady voice] ‘I told you I wasn’t comfortable with tires.’ Well, no one here is comfortable with tires. I would absolutely love to get Beth off of our team for the fianl challenge.” He asks Beth if she would have given the same performance if there was a women’s Gauntlet. Beth evades a little, claiming that she never said she was perfect, “Accept me as a player,” she interviews, “and let’s win this money. Quit trying to sabotage Beth.” David tells Beth that if she doesn’t perform in the final mission, she’s screwed. “We’re playing for money here,” he tells her. “Either make it or you don't.” Cut to a close-up of Beth’s oily face. Cut to credits.

Next time: We have a mission with balancing on a platform. Kina: “I’m so ungodly pissed off, it’s not even funny.” Derrick: “This is where the game gets real ugly.” Beth bitches to somebody about saying stuff to her face. “I’m sick of being treated like crap,” she interviews. She tells Julie that the negative energy is fueling her. Aneesa: “Beth had better be shaking in her boots becasue I’m ready to kill that bitch.” Please don’t go teasing me, babe.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Conventional Warfare

Tomorrow afternoon, I will be going somewhere I have never been: to a comic book convention in New York City.

Ever since I started going to shows, I’ve never been to a local con. Sure, the Big Apple Con is a semiannual event at Penn Pavilion, but it has never been a “main event” type of show. Basically, I go there to score good deals on back issues, ignoring the occasional A-class talent that comes by, along with the usual assortment of B-list regulars and D-grade celebrities. Even when the show becomes “The National” (those are sarcastic quotation marks), my enthusiasm barely improves, as the so-called con sticks with the confusing corridors of Penn Pavilion. And there’s the MoCCA show, but it’s basically a wall-to-wall smorgasbord of indie comics, where I never know what to get.

In a weird way, the lack of a great comic con has led me to branch out. My first plane trip was to Chicago for Wizard World. I’ve been to San Diego for Comic Con International twice, taking in the local attractions as well as what is probably the best show ever. Last year, I stayed over at a friend’s place in Toronto for the Canadian National Expo. It might be sad that I’ve done all of this flying for comic books, but at least I got out and had adventures. Have you ever had Kenny Baker (the guy in the R2D2 rig) ask you about breakfast ? And that’s the tip of the iceberg.

The closest convention I was able to reach without flying was Wizard World Philadelphia. I’ve been there four years, and only one year without any problems. First, I stayed at a hotel overnight, and only went two days. The following year, I got lost several times and rear-ended a guy (no real harm done there). Two years later, I got pulled over by a state trooper, who let me off with a warning. Roughly twenty-hour hours after that, in the same general area, a bird hit my windshield. Not good times at all, even if there was no mark left on the car. There was also the DC Comics panel where I was hoping that I would not get a ticket to a sneak preview of Batman Begins, but that’s a story for another time.

When I heard about the New York Comic-Con, which would be held at the Jacob Javits Center, I was thrilled. Finally! I wouldn’t have to drive! Mass transit all the way! What could possibly go wrong? Well...

1. It’s in February. Even with global warming in full effect, it can get pretty damn cold.

2. There were only two full days for fans to visit, with Friday being for the professionals and insiders. This was normal joes can drop by from 4-8 p.m. CCI has a similar deal, but it’s on the day before the four-day extravaganza begins.

3. The Javits Center is barely accessible by mass transit. A few local buses swing by that area, and the nearest subway stop is blocks away. Factor in the cold and a lingering foot problem, and it’s not that sweet.

4. The NYCC takes place on the same weekend as MegaCon down in Orlando. Now we have a pissing contest between the two cons, and Wizard Magazine is backing NYCC. This sucks, since the available comic talent is halved.

So...factoring all of the above, along with folks in costumes running around, why am I going to spend as much time there as I can?

The Deals

It’s a gamble for me...letting comics stay on the shelves so I can get them cheaper at a show. There’s a weird hapiness of picking up a hot comic at cover price or I’m stealing from the vendors. And I can get trade paperbacks at half off the cover price, which doesn’t hurt.

The Panels

Listen to comic pros discuss new projects. Watch fanboys ask questions ranging from the inane to the funny. I didn’t pace myself at the Expo last year...I ended up nodding off at every panel I hit.

The Sketches

For five years, I had a large spiral sketchbook. Eventually, the cover fell off, and it got frayed and dirty. Over that time, I stood on line after line to get sketches. For me, a sketchbook is a guide of what I read over that time. Each sketch is unique from the others in my book and in other books. I saw an artist named Vincenzo Cucca bang out one Sephie from Meridian after another, each one different and beautiful. I’ve had writers draw in my book, ranging from the good (Geoff Johns and Joe Kelly) to the bad (Mark Waid) to the ugly (Bill his defense, he drew the Judge from Deadline after a panel, while standing). I met legendary artist Sal Buscema, and I surprised him by asking for a sketch of Man-Ape, who appeared on a cover of The Avengers pencilled by him, which I bought the day before. Last Christmas, my mother gave me a new book, and I will be breaking it in tomorrow.

That’s it. The fun starts tomorrow at 4 p.m. Who knows...if you’re in the area, maybe you’ll see me in the mix. Good luck and happy conning to you all.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Gauntlet 2, Episode 11: Resistance Is Futile

Previously on Gauntlet 2: The Veterans lost their fourth mission in a row, while the Rookies increased their advantage to $60,000-$30,000. In the Gauntlet, Derrick kicked Syrus out of the game. Timmy: “If we lose one more, we’re gonna snap.”

Time lapses from night to day. The Veteran males chill in their room, bumming over their lack of fortunes. Timmy comments about not being on a losing team before. Yeah, after being on the somewhat successful Road Rules team on Battle of the Seasons and the overdog RR squad in Inferno, this would be new to him. At least his Steelers won the Super Bowl. Mark notes that every guy lost makes the team weaker, while every guy the Rookies lose makes them stronger. Brad thinks the Veterans need to get together, then refers to a “little bit of cancer” on the team. Golly, I wonder who he means. Brad continues about how Beth kills morale on the team. Cut to Beth’s “gag me” gesture after her chat with Montana. “Beth is conniving,” David interviews. “She’s constantly trying to create divisions in te team. As a captain, she wants respect, but I don’t hear her. If you want to be respected, you have to speak up and contribute with a good plan.” Cut to Timmy: “Here’s the deal: one of us is gonna have to bang Beth.” The males laugh, because there’s not enough alcohol to make that happen.

Speaking of the luckiest beeyotch, she’s telling Kina about how this is a popularity contest, and she wonder why she should help the team win money. “They don’t think that I’m an asset to the team,” Beth snipes in an interview, “so it’s like, what do I have to do?” I’m leaning towards “leave and never come back.” Beth tells Kina that she feels dirty thinking about it. Cry me a river.

Some time later, Randy rubs Kina’s shoulder. Elsewhere, Susie gripes to Cara about how Kina didn’t say “hi” to her. The camera zooms to the not-quite-dynamic duo lying together on the couch, each holding a half-full glass, each not liking Kina. Susie thinks that the Road Rules: X-Treme girls are an unit, and her bonding with Cara has led to the foursome getting madder. “Cara and Susie are good competitors,” Kina interviews, “but they isolate themselves all the time. I feel like they make the team less cohesive.”

Clue time! Cara reads off the phone. This week’s key phrase: “Don’t let your team down.” Meet at the Port Authority at 9 a.m., wear bathing suits and tennis shoes. Cut to David and Robin stretching on their own. As for Timmy? Well, he’s wearing a wig and a t-shirt with a cartoon of a bikini-clad girl’s torso. I like Timmy a lot, but I’m starting to think that he carries more props with him than Carrot Top. He interviews that since it’s a female Gauntlet day, he has to think like a female. “Out backs are against the wall,” he tells us. “We’ve got to come out scratching, clawing, doing anything to pull out a victory. I’m sick of losing.”

Daytime. Beach. Mission site. TJ welcomes everybody to the Port Authority for today’s mission: Pull Me. He shows a platform that is suspended twenty feet over the water. The teams will hold on to a rope which keeps teammates over the water on the platform. They let go of the rope, the platform hits the water, and the turn ends. After both teams have a shot, they will go again...only this time, the rope-holders will get on the platform, and vice versa. If a team goes past 30 minutes in a round, the person in the anchor position (in the back) has to let go of the rope. The team with the longest combined time wins $10,000 for the bank account. Since this is a female Gauntlet team, the winning captain gets a year’s worth of movie tickets. “I am so sick of losing,” Julie interviews. “If we don’t win today, I’m gonna lose my mind.” It’s nice that she’s so sane, she hasn’t thought of peeing on somebody else’s bed.

Strategy sessions. Mark tells us that the Veterans will be spilt up by weight and strength. He adds that they need things mixed, as opposed to having all of the guys pull the weight, since this is a “girl Gauntlet.” Dammit, why are you playing to win with Beth’s butt on the line? On the Rookies’ side, Kina doesn’t want two people with the same weight on the same side. Once again: divided by weight and strength.

Rookies Heat One. On the rope: MJ (anchor), Alton, Jeremy, Jodi, Susie, Jillian. TJ blows his airhorn, and the team starts tugging on the rope, straining all the way. “We have this,” Alton interviews, ignoring the vultures of foreshadowing. “Our players are lighter. We feel our players are stronger.” Landon sits on the platform, yelling that it’s all mental. Alton: “So I feel like we have this in the bag.” MJ figures it’s all about positioning, grip and forearms. Joid and Alton grunt, and veins start popping on Alton’s bald head.

Back from commercials, the Rookies make it to the 9:30 mark. Ibis tells us that she sees Alton in pain, MJ turning purple and Jodi screaming, and it’s looking hard from her view on the platform. The Rookies keep pulling. Time for a lesson from Dr. Mark. “Anyone knows tug-of-war, you never rely on your hands. It’s all about locking ropes within your body and almost being able to free your hands.” The platform lowers, as the Rookies keep tugging. Eventually, they let go, and the platform-sitters take a bath. Total time: 11:11. Alton thinks they did a good job. “It wasn’t humanly possible for us to do anything more than what we did,” he interviews. “Is it enough to win? I don’t know.”

Veterans Heat One. On the rope: Mark (anchor), David, Beth, Robin, Katie. TJ blows the airhorn. The Veterans do not move, as Mark enters his zone. “This isn’t a pulling competition,” he interviews. “It’s a resistence competition. We’re not pulling it all, we’re resisting the fall. Use your own body weight, plant your ass on the ground, form a little unit, and just resist.” The plan works, as the team goes past 19:50. Robin asks the others if they’re okay. The strain gets to Beth; she interviews that her hands are getting numb, but she’s hanging on because she does not want to go to the Gauntlet.

TJ counts down to the thirty-minute mark, then orders Mark off the rope. Without the added strength, the rope-handlers struggle, as their platform-sitting teammates shout encouragement. Beth really looks like she’s in pain. Elapsed time: 32:11. Jeremy interviews that the Veterans are slipping, and it will come down to seconds. Finally, the rope is let go at 33:01. Robin hopes that the second unit can last thirty minutes in order to blow the Rookies out.

Rookies Heat Two. On the rope: Randy (anchor), Landon, Jamie, Ibis, Kina, Cara. The sextet locks into place, taking a clue from the Veterans. Cara interviews that she will give her all and do everything that she can. Landon strains on the rope, drops of water on his head. After thirty minutes, TJ calls Randy off. Landon notes that he can barely hold on once Randy’s strength is gone. He ends up bailing out to shake his hands. The girls immediately lurch forward, and the platform lowers. Landon jumps back on, but the platform hits the water at 30:10. Cara feels that the team did not give up, and she doesn’t know if it’s good enough.

Veterans Heat Two. On the rope: Timmy (anchor), Brad, Derrick, Aneesa, Julie. Mark calmly gives instructions from the platform. The six holders look relaxed and strained at the same time. “Control yourself,” Timmy tells us, “and you can lay there all day.” That’s my philosophy when I wake up and it’s raining outside. A time graphic shows the Veterans passing the Rookies’ time of 41:21, earning the win. The platform people clap, but the rope folks still hang on. “You know what?” Derrick interviews. “You guys have kicked out ass in the past four challenges. We’re gonna sit here and fuckin’ just hold it as long as possible for the hell of it.” Sounds like a recipe for injury to me. Cara glumly looks on, as the Veterans struggle without Timmy’s pulling power. The platform finally drops gently in the water to complete the mission, and the Veterans celebrate with hugs. I’m thinking high-fives would be too painful to attempt.

TJ tells both teams that they did good. Timmy is back with the girl shirt and the wig, both of which I don’t want to see again. The Rookies’ time is 41:21, which TJ calls “very respectable” with a straight face. Veterans’ time: 1:00:03. TJ gives the check to Beth, along with the movie ticket gift certificate. Somehow, I just know she talks on the cell phone in a theater. “I’ve pretty much proven that I deserve to be a part of this team,” she interviews, “and I’m sick and tired of taking shit from everybody on the team. They don’t want me there, but they need me to win.” I’m thinking she’ll get hers in two weeks, but that’s about the time Julie ends up getting bounced from the Challenge (as seen in The Inferno and Inferno II). TJ announces that he will be seeing the Rookies later to find out who faces Kina in the Gauntlet.

Rookies’ Deliberation Meeting. Susie interviews that she knows Cara or herself will be going in to the Gauntlet, but she thinks they would do well there and end up changing the team dynamic. Kina thinks that the team did well today, and that the decision sucks. Kina ends up tabbing Cara, saying that she would do good as a captain. Cara stifles a laugh, then says "may the best girl win.” Applause. Landon: “Our deliberation is pretty cut and dry. She knew it, we knew it. Let’s get on with it.”

Here comes TJ to get the decision. He then spins the wheel. As the players wait, Landon places his hand on MJ’s knee. Okay, then. And...dammit. Captain’s Choice. Again. For the fifth freakin’ time in the last six episodes. Kina goes with Name That Coconut, probably because seven answers to the questions relate to herself and her ex-teammates on X-Treme. Everybody claps, as TJ hopes that Kina and Cara know their history. Time for dueling interviews! Kina: “She’s an obvious pick. I don’t think we’ve had the greatest team chemistry with her. I’d like to see how the team forms without her here.” Cara: “When there’s already talk about you going to the Gauntlet before you even have the deliberation meeting, you kinda know what to expect. If it’s supposed to be that I’m the next team captain, great. If not, then back to civilization, and maybe that’s not a bad thing.” After the team does a cheer, some genius brings in a cat hissing. Wasn’t that funny with Elka and Trishelle, and it’s not really funny here.

Gauntlet. Players file in. I see a dog follow them on the way over. TJ strokes the Veterans’ egos some more for their mission win. Timmy still has the t-shirt on, but no wig. TJ calls down Kina, Kina brings in Cara. TJ actually congratulates Cara, which stumps her and me. Susie’s hands are on her face, the pain is that great. TJ goes over the rules to Name That Coconut: he asks trivia questions, answers are on the coconuts, five points to win, loser goes home. More dueling interviews. Cara: “Kina, you’re a raging psycho. Clearly, you have a problem with me. I hope I win so that I’m the next captain and prove you wrong.” Kina: “You don’t care about the team, and you don’t care about a damn thing but yourself. And that’s why I’m gonna kick your ass and send you home.” It’s safe to say that I’m off Kina’s bandwagon. Both players get ready, and Kina hocks a loogie as we head to commercials.

Question #1: “Who did Julie mudwrestle in The Real World: New Orleans?” TJ rings the bell, and both girls run over to the coconuts. Cara gets on top of Kina, but Kina grabs a coconut and lunges towards the safety zone. TJ confirms the answer: Jamie. Flash back to the wrestling, when Julie was somewhat sane. Hey, there’s Jamie’s little friend! I haven’t thought of that kid in so long. Cut to present-day Jamie grinning. Kina is up, 1-0. “There’s already so much violence and aggression,” Cara interviews. “It’s crazy. It’s not going to be a pretty game.”

Question #2: “Who replaced Puck when he was kicked off The Real World house?” Kina gets to the coconuts first. Both look over the answers. Kina grabs Cara from behind, but Cara gets to the safety zone as she falls. Derrick’s mouth is wide open, while some girl makes cat hissing noises. Cara’s answer of Jodi is incorrect, meaning that Kina can look for the answer at her own leisure. I don’t think Cara was that dumb...she just got confused. TJ announces that the correct answer is “Joanne.” Cut to 1994, and Cory welcoming Jo into the house. Kina leads, 2-0. “It’s exhausting,” she interviews. “I’m tired, but I know that I have to really suck it up and kick her ass.”

Question #3: “Who was the first person ever voted off Road Rules?” I was actually wondering why they would bring up Abram. Yes, I can be that stupid. Both players trot to the coconuts. Susie interviews that watching Cara in the Gauntlet is painful to watch, and she wishes that Cara knew the answers. Kina quickly snatches a coconut and lunges to the safety zone. Cut to Randy with a big dopey grin on his face. Turns out that Jisela was the correct answer. Cut to the voting scene in RR: The Quest. Kina leads, 3-0. TJ tells Cara to hang in there.

Question #4: “This cast member was not allowed to return to college after their participation in The Real World.” Could we make the questions a little tougher? Both girls grapple...Cara pulls down Kina, but Kina gets to the safety zone. Naturally. Julie is the correct answer. Cut to old-school Julie worrying about breaking the rules. Naturally, Susie is not looking happy. Kina leads, 4-0.

Question #5: “Who has a matching tattoo with Landon?” Kina rushes to the coconuts, and Cara shoves her to the side. Kina looks at her, and the crowd goes, “Oooooooohhh!” Cara pushes, as Landon jumps up and down like an idiot. Cara grabs a coconut, but Kina shoves her and grabs her shirt. Derrick has a big grin, and both sides erupt in chaos. Kina flails, breaking Cara’s bra in the process. “Who wants to stay more?” Julie shouts from the grandstand. Kina has a coconut, grunting, “I do, bitch!” She lunges to the safety zone with the correct answer: MJ. Cut to file footage of “xv” tattoos on Landon’s torso and MJ’s right calf. I understand most of the cast members from RW: Philadelphia have similar tattoos, but it’s more fun imagining Karamo and Willie watching at home going, “Damn, and I thought I was gay.” Anyway, Kina wins 5-0, and gets a big hug from Big Rand. He interviews that her win means she dserves to be the captain. Keep telling yourself that, buddy.

Denouement. TJ is happy neither girl gave up. He congratulates Kina, then gives Cara twenty minutes to get out. Both sides clap, and Kina gets another hug from Randy. She interviews that she’s happy to come back to her boyfriend, and the team knows she was meant to be here.

Mansion. Cara tells Susie that she hates to leave her here, and she would like to take her home. I know it sounds silly, since they'll see each other soon, but I’m thinking that Kina will probably beat up Susie, while the other three girls hold her down. Speaking of the captain, Kina comes in with a glass in hand, telling Cara that she did good, and she has a chance to speak her mind with “no combat, no nothing” from Kina. Cara tells Kina that she wasn’t being a team player while excluding her. “Kina, you were a horrible captain,” Cara interviews. “Wise up, mature up, and you might find yourself with a few more friends.” Cara tells Kina that she knows nothing about her. Kina interrupts about not having to know anything. “Was it my turn to talk?” snipes Cara. Kina repeats that Cara did good tonight. Cara says that she’s trying to have “last minute moments.” Once again, Kina wants to tell Cara that she did a great job, then she leaves. “How old is she again?” Cara asks Susie. “Please remind me.” Susie gets a good laugh from that. Kina interviews that the Rookies have a bigger advantage with Cara gone. “The new school will win,” she adds, “absoultelty, hands-down, without a doubt. I wonder if it will be competition.”

Outside, Susie is the only person to see Cara off. Cara sobs about how much Susie meant to her. Both girls cry and laugh and hug. Cara interviews that she’ll miss Susie, and she wants her to win. “It’s not the end, Susie,” she continues, “because we’re going to be lifetime buddies.” They say their goodbyes, and Cara rides off into the night.

I’ve heard a lot about how nasty Cara and Susie were. I’ve heard rumors about a threesome with Jamie...which would be sick, since Susie is supposed to be married. Yet, I can’t hate either one of them. I can hate Kina, though. She has a stick so far up her hinder, she’s spitting splinters. How special is a captain when she got the job from finishing runner-up in a rock-paper-scissors tournament? It’s a bad scene seeing the X-Treme ladies in action; Kina’s a bitch, Ibis is her lapdog, Jillian is a crap-stirrer, and Jodi is a train wreck. I hope that Cara was telling the truth on The After Show when she said that Randy was cheating on Kina. After Beth gets what’s coming to her, may Susie dismantle Kina in the Gauntlet.

Next time: MJ: “The vacation is over, dude. Now it’s the money.” The mission has the players climb through tires suspended over water. Alton struggles, trying to get to a faraway tire. Looks like Superman isn't so super after all.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Gauntlet 2, Episode 10: Broken Bull

I just want to thank MTV for spoiling the Gauntlet match that will air this Monday. Just because this show isn’t your precious Laguna Beach doesn’t mean people aren’t still watching it. In fact, the total number of viewers comes to almost three show a little consideration for us, okay?

Previous on Gauntlet 2: Jodi got over Mark. Here’s hoping every other girl out there follows suit. The Veterans lost their third mission in a row when Beth decided not to step up in Balancing Act, giving the Rookies the lead, $50,000-$30,000. Naturally, the ugliest bitch on this season just had to survive, as Beth beat Montana in the Gauntlet. Afterwards, Beth and Derrick exchanged pleasantries. “If people fuck with me,” Beth sniped to the camera, “I just might fuck with their game. So work with me, or face the consequences.”

We open with Jodi and Alton chilling out. Alton has been talking to Kina about feeling the pressure of the captain’s position. “This game is crazy!” he interviews. “It’s like a revolving door where our room is.” He tells Jodi about how “General Landon” gets pale anytime he goes to the Gauntlet. Wait...Landon got nervous about Alton going up against Danny and Adam K.? Jodi admits to getting nervous for Alton, interviewing that she enjoys the big guy’s company, and how it’s nice to feel comfortable. “It doesn’t hurt that he’s hot, too,” she adds. Alton tells us that he’s attracted to Jodi, but he just came off a relationship with Irulan. Cut to a Gauntlet clip of the couple kissing before Alton went to the Gauntlet. Alton tells us that being with Jodi is “healing” for him.

Elsewhere, Beth sighs to Syrus about how the Rookies know what to do, while the Veterans flounder. She interviews about how she’s sick and tired of her team, and that Syrus is the only friend she has. Big whoop...I’ve seen him be chummy with Coral and Julie during The Inferno. She asks him who he feels the weakest guys are. Syrus figures it’s him and Brad. Wait...what about David and Mark? They both look like they’re aging in dog years. “My head is kinda on the chopping board, always,” Syrus interviews. “But anyone that knows me knows I’m not giving up on anything, ever.”

Clue time! Robin reads off the phone, making a mention to “buck wild.” Wear team colors and be ready to get on the bus at 9 a.m. She makes motions that vaguely resemble going “buck wild,” with MJ making his own dorky gestures. Derrick still wears the weird blue knit cap. At least he doesn’t have the jumprope. He interviews that the Veterans have lost three missions in a row, and his ass is on the line again. I wish still had the Fantasy Challenge. We could get ten points anytime somebody says “My ass/butt is on...”

Night turns to day. The players arrive at the mission site. I’ll let Jodi handle the first impression. “I see this humongous tubular contraption. It’s in the shape of a cross, hanging on bungee cords over big mats. What the hell is this thing?” It’s more of a plus sign (+), but she’s on mark otherwise. TJ welcomes everybody to Canoe Bay and today’s mission: Buck-a-Neer. One team gets loaded on our conceptual bull, while the other side pulls pulleys and bungees to knock them off. Robin expositions that while the players are straddling the barrels (the body of the bull), they can’t use their hands to hang on, or grab teammates in front or in back. Basically, you squeeze with your legs and hold on. TJ adds that if a team can’t get anybody off the bull after thirty minutes, both sides switch places, and the other team gets a half-hour to knock one person off. If both sides come up empty, they go to an “all-star” round with four people from each team on the bull, while the other side operates the bull. The team that stays on the bull the longest wins $10,000 for the team bank account. The winning male captain gets a shiny GPS system, great for when you wake up from a three-day binge and have no clue where you are. TJ concludes by telling the Veterans to step up. Brad tries to throw us off the trail, interviewing that his team needs to win the mission, because he wants to be here.

After a coin toss, the Rookies get on the bull. Jamie interviews that he doesn’t know how good it is to go first. TJ blows the airhorn to kick things off. The Veterans start pulling on the ropes, while the Rookies hang on. The Veterans grunt and pull, but the bull doesn’t move by much. Susie interviews that her team anticipated a wild ride, but the Veterans are having problems. Cut to her flapping her arms. Derrick pulls hard, getting lifted in the air by the rope. Timmy: “It’s just a bunch of drunk ferrets. No one’s working together. We can’t budge these people at all.”

Time remaining: 25 minutes. Rookies hang on, Veterans pull the ropes harder and harder. “You’re kicking our ass, ain’t ya?” MJ quips, mouthpiece firmly in place. David: “My team absolultely has no strategy. We have no idea what we’re doing. We’re pulling with all our might, we’re trying to pull this and that way, and nothing is working.” Veterans continue in vain, as Derrick walks away to rest up, as we head to commercials.

Time remaining: 15:00. Veterans pull, Rookies hang on. Aneesa interviews that nothing is happening, and that is embarrassing. Time remaining: 10:00. Cara interviews that the Veterans are not in synch, and the Rookies are sitting back and waiting for the end. Robin gives out instructions, only to hate Katie tell her that the Rookies can hear her. “They’re two feet in front of me, Katie,” Robin snaps back, “what do you want me to do?” Katie tells her to stop talking loudly. David: “I think we’re all college-educated, pretty smart guys. A lot of them haven’t even graduated high school yet, so I think we might have the advantage. [Julie laughs in the background] Hopefully, we work this one out. If not, I’m gonna lose about five pounds.” Huh?

Time remaining: 5:00. The Veteran tug with no result. Julie interviews that so much time has passed, the Rookies will just copy any new plans the Veterans can think up. Timmy kicks a bottle in disgust. TJ tells the Rookie they’re down to one minute. The Veterans sit around, cutting their losses and conversing their energy. TJ blows his airhorn to end the Rookies’ round. Timmy to camera: “You’re a bunch of idiots!” Is he talking about to the Veterans, or to us for watching this show? Susie interviews that the Veterans couldn’t get anybody off (pause here to retch at the thought), and now all the Rookies have to do is knock off one Veteran for the win.

The Veterans climb on the bull, and a few production assistants give Syrus a boost. That cannot be a good sign. Mark thinks that the Rookies will mess up, pushing the game into overtime. TJ reminds the Veterans that if one of them falls off, the Rookies win. After the airhorn blows, the Rookies get a little more movement from the bull with their synchronized pulling, but the Veterans stay on. Aneesa interviews that they can stay on all day. Timmy tells his team tho hang on and wear their opponents down. Landon interviews that pulling the ropes is more difficult than they thought, and they can’t get any momentum going.

Time remaining: 25:00. The Rookies chant “one, two,” bucking the bull up and down. Ibis interviews that the team feels stupid for making fun of the Veterans. Jodi starts to herd a few guys into pulling. The Veterans hang on...but Syrus can’t, and he hits the ground. Adding insult to injury, we get three different angles of the fall. Game Over, Rookies win, cue the celebration. Alton is happy that Jodi came up with the strategy at the right time to save his butt from the Gauntlet. Beth whines about finding out Syrus was the one to fall. More Rookie celebration as the Veterans dismount, and Julie flings her helmet off. Derrick interviews that this is the fourth consective mission that the Veterans have lost, and now somebody will have to go home.

TJ wraps things up by giving Alton the $10,000 check for the team, and the GPS system for himself. Jodi interviews that her team has a $60,000-$30,000 lead, and Alton doesn’t have to go to the Gauntlet. The best part: remember when Danny bitched about how his team would lose every mission after Alton knocked him off? Yeah, he was a regular Nostradumbass. Anyway, TJ tells the Veterans that he’ll see them later. Brad interviews that nobody is safe from the Gauntlet. “I’m not nervous thinking it’s gonna be me going to the Gauntlet,” he adds, “but I’m thinking I definately don’t want to send one of the guys home.”

Veterans’ Deliberation Meeting. Everybody sits around quietly. Derrick is pissed that the team has lost four in a row. Syrus thinks Buck-a-Neer was a tough event where nobody had a strategy. Beth asks how the team will figure out who to vote for. “Syrus is like the only friend that I have in the house,” Beth reminds us. “I don’t want Sy to go to the Gauntlet.” I like the big fella, but wanting Beth to fracture further is reason enough to send him home. Derrick doesn’t want to say anybody’s name because he likes everybody. Julie: “I’ve seen Syrus perform, and that man steps it up. I can’t live with myself if I vote for Syrus.” It’s a sad day when I sympathize with Julie on anything. Given how she’s been on every Challenge with Syrus has been on, I take her Syrus-love over Beth’s. Everybody gets to voting. Aneesa interviews that she loves Syrus, but he should stand up and admit losing the mission for the team. That’s a bit harsh...aside from cutting Cara with words, what difference has she made?

TJ comes over to get the voting result. Derrick proclaims that he’ll be facing Syrus. TJ spins the wheel...guess where it lands? For the fourth time, the wheel lands on Captain’s Choice. Derrick thinks things through before picking Beach Brawl. David is surprised by this pick. “You got Derrick,” he tells us, “who’s about 160 pounds, and you got Syrus, who’s about 230. I’m thinking Derrick doesn’t have much of a chance of winning.” The combatants slap hands and man-hug. Syrus interviews that he will never give up, and this is an event where he can beat Derrick.

Time passes. Derrick relates the Deliberation to Alton and Jodi, getting to the part where the wheel landed on Captain’s Choice. Alton cycles through Name That Coconut and Sticky Situation...and then it dawns on him and Jodi that Derrick picked Beach Brawl. This is my favorite part of this lackluster episode. Jodi offers that Derrick didn’t pick Reverse Tug-Of-War. Alton: “Why did you pick that?!” Derrick: “I don’t know.” At least he’s honest. And somewhat stupid. “He’s a big boy,” Alton adds. “Big boy.” He interviews that the Gauntlet is a David vs. Goliath situation. “Syrus is no joke,” Alton continues. “He doesn’t want to go home, especially not to some 21-year-old kid. That’s not the way he wants to go out.” Jodi hopes that Syrus doesn’t pick up Derrick and carry him out. Derrick interviews that he’s worried about his choice, especially since Syrus outweighs him by 80 pounds.

Gauntlet time! Shot of the Beach Brawl pit. Derrick jogs in, interviews that facing Syrus will be the hardest Gauntlet yet. Syrus walks...and naturally, Beth is by his side. I hope he left his wallet at the house. He interviews that he’s going in relaxed, and that this will be like shooting free throws to win.

TJ welcomes everybody to the Gauntlet, then he calls Derrick down. Derrick announces that he’ll be facing Syrus today. The big fella leaps down to the Gauntlet area. TJ goes over the rules to Beach Brawl...drag your opponent out of the ring, best-of-three, oil makes it tough to grab, winner stays, loser goes home. As the guys get oiled up, Susie thinks that this will be Derrick’s swan song, since Syrus has 70 pounds on him, and Beach Brawl is a physcial event.

Both players hunker down. TJ rings the bell. In the next shot, Derrick’s hand is on Syrus’s arm. This throws Syrus off long enough for Derrick to push him out of the circle for a 1-0 lead. Syrus yells about how his arm was grabbed, but TJ isn’t hearing it. An overhead replay shows Syrus getting out, but there’s no conclusive evidence that the touch came after the bell. Now we see something I’ve only observed twice...a really, really, REALLY pissed-off Syrus. “I’m a very sensitive, passionate man,” he tells us. “That’s just how I get down.” Both players lower themselves for the next round. Derrick interviews that Syrus is now more angry and fired up. “The last thing I need,” he adds, “is a big angry man trying to fucking topple over me after getting mad.”

TJ reminds everybody that Derrick is up 1-0, then starts them up again. Derrick’s head seems to start on Syrus’s shoulder at the start, as he plows into his larger opponent. Both guys wrestle. Beth cringing on the sideline. Syrus bends Derrick down, but the little guy pushes him out. Syrus gets even hotter, insisting that Derrick’s hand got out of the circle. Once again, TJ isn’t moved. An overhead replay doesn’t help, since Syrus obscures any evidence of Derrick’s hand. Put it this way: the edited footage doesn’t show that Syrus is right, but it doesn’t show that he’s wrong. This beats the gut reaction most people have: “Do you want a diaper or a Seahawks jersey?” Beth yells to Syrus that he wants this. Syrus interviews that his strategy is to land on Derrick as hard as he can.

Round Three. Syrus plows into Derrick hard. Derrick flips Syrus over, but not before going out himself. Cue the inconclusive overhead replay. A sand-covered Derrick decides to bellyache, but the decision stands. Beth cheers Syrus on, and you know Derrick is pissed off about that. Alton expostions that all Derrick needs to do is get one more point.

Round Four. Both players hunker down. Long wait. Crowd shots. Go! Derrick drives forward, head going between Syrus’s legs. We go to slow-motion, as Derrick plows into Syrus, knocking him out of the circle. Game Over, Derrick stays on. A few Rookies cheer, as Syrus gasps and spits out sand. Cut to a pained-looking Beth. I guess somebody’s going to be cursed out in Polish for a few more days. Derrick gives Syrus water and a man-hug. He interviews that not having Syrus for the next mission will take away manpower and brains. “He’s an awesome dude,” Derrick adds, “and losing him is not going to help us in the future.” David thinks it’s amazing for a “little guy” to use leverage to take out a larger opponent. “He’s such a bulldog,” he continues. “The kid’s non-stop.”

Denouement. TJ congratulates both players for a great show. Robin looks on behind the bars, impressed by her captain. “Derrick is amazing,” she interviews. “I think this Gauntlet sent fear to the rest off the guys, like, ‘We may have to go up against Derrick in the Gauntlet, and we probably will lose’.” TJ gives Syrus 20 minutes to clear out. “He beat me like a captain should have done,” Syrus says of Derrick. “I’ll always be a team player. I’ll always be a force to be reckon with. Today just wasn’t my day.” Beth whines to Julie about being pissed off, and how Syrus should still be here. Her voice cracks, and I just want her to shut up. Syrus takes a dip on the beach to clean off.

Mansion. Syrus walks down the stairs to applause. Mark interviews about how Syrus and Beth are friends outside of the game, and that his departure might affect Beth. Mark hopes that she can be focused and have confidence in her skills. I’m half-convinced that he and Beth are hooking up on the sly. Syrus hugs Aneesa, who doesn’t want him to go. Beth interviews that she can’t express her feelings, since Syrus is the only person she can trust. “Honestly,” she adds, “I don’t know if I have the strength to go on.” Then go! Run away like you did last season! Syrus rides off, and Beth’s cheek glistens with tears. Whatever. Come back soon, big fella!

Dizzy Rooster. Sorry...that’s Club 330 and Diver’s Den. The usual party-going and shenanigans. Jodi and Alton get closer to each other. She interviews about how they enjoy being around each other. She tells Alton that she knows where he is, since she’s been there. Alton admits that he hasn’t been there. “Like, love is a weird thing,” he notes. “It’s one of those things. It’s not, like, being drunk and then being sober.” Yeah, I’m not getting that. He interviews that there’s always lessons to be learned from relationships, and he’s building one that will last beyond this Challenge. We’ll see, Superman. We’ll see. They kiss. Fade to credits.

Next time: Kina thinks Cara and Susie isolate themselves from the group, and that they don’t have the team in mind. Maybe they’re in a sorority: Kappa Gamma We Didn’t Kill Road Rules Omega. Cara: “Kina, you’re a horrible captain!” The mission involves preventing a platform from dropping by holding onto a rope. Beth’s trying to hold on for dear life, because she doesn’t want to go to the Gauntlet. Poor baby. It should be an exciting episode, unless you saw the commercial...then you know which team wins, and who goes to the Gauntlet. Thanks again, MTV!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Gauntlet 2, Episode 9: The Eighth Sign

Previously on Gauntlet 2: Beth and Montana bickered. Montana told us that Beth sucks at being a person. The Veterans were “stuck in neutral” during the Team Strength mission, and the Rookies upped their bank account to $40,000. Julie slammed the hood of a truck, and I’m pretty sure her psycho side will be coming out soon. Rumors of an alliance tore the Rookies apart, as Jillian claimed to have been approached by Cara and Susie. When confronted about it, Cara flipped out on the team, interviewing that she doesn’t know where they got the information.

Mansion. Jillian tells us that she’s decided to tell Cara and Susie about dropping a dime on them to the team. She tells them that she didn’t make it look like they would throw missions. Susie wants to know why Jillian said “you guys” when she was there with them. Jillian backpedals, saying it would have looked bad if she said something rather than saying nothing at all. “Look bad for who?” Cara asks. “I thought we were friends!” Susie interviews that Jillian ran to Kina with the information of the interteam alliance. “So now Jillian is a hero,” Susie adds, “and Cara has been officially villianized.”

Cara tells Kina that they need to put things out there because people are looking at her weird. Kina doesn’t agree with having another meeting. Ibis adds that if Jillian comes to the group and says stuff, it would make Kina look bad. Cara asks why not, then turns to Jillian, wondering what she told the team. Jillian agreed that they wouldn’t go through with the alliance. Ibis says that Jillian told the team that Cara went to the Veterans to give them information. This way, they all stay in the game and spilt the money. Wait...I thought collusion was outlawed after Battle of the Seasons. I mean, if it turns out Eric kicked back some dough for Mark after his “sacrifice,” I might have to hurt them both. Anyway...Ibis thinks that deal makes Cara look like a mastermind. Jillian argues that it didn’t go down that way, that Cara came to her and Susie and told them what the guys had said, but she wouldn’t do it. Kina tells Jillian that she didn’t say that. Cara asks if she should have gotten the information and laughed at Brad. Does it show how bored I am writing about this? I should be giving out prizes for anybody wading through this.

Time for Kina to get pissy. “The fact that you even had a conversation,” she snipes, “that would entail fucking people on our team is pissing me off right now, and will piss everyone off as well. So please take my advice and don’t rehash it.” Ibis: “For real.” Kina stalks off, accompanied by Ibis and Jillian. Cara tells Kina that she’s not approachable. Kina just mutters “okay” and walks away. “That, not effective, Kina,” Cara pipes up. “Don’t walk away from people.” Kina interviews that she doesn’t care if they have 10,000 meetings where Cara talks the entire time, that nothing will change the proposition that was made. Cara interviews that Kina isn’t willing to hear how things should have gone, even though she wasn’t there.

Elsewhere, the Veterans are gathered in the males’ room. Robin notes that the Rookie team is angry because Cara and Susie had a deal with the Veteran guys. David expositions that the alliance was supposed to be with him, Brad and Timmy joining forces with Susie and Cara. The problem there is that David would never trust either of the girls as far as he could throw them. Brad notes that Cara thought it was unfair that Kina gets to call who her opponent would be in the Gauntlet, and that there are so many castmates from her season (which I called a few weeks ago). “I have no motive to make an alliance with [Cara],” Brad interviews. “She’s the one on the chopping block. She’s the one worried about Kina. I’m in great spirits with my team. I’m in a great position with my team in all the challenges.” Brad then tells his team, “I feel very violated right now,” adding that he wants them to know he’s there for them. I’ve seen Brad get a wedgie...I’m guessing he’d be even less cheerful if he got violated.

Clue time! Randy reads from the phone, as the clue mentions “team balance.” Brad wraps up the reading: meet TJ at Tobago Port at 9:30 a.m. Timmy reminds us that the Veterans have lost two missions in a row, and they have to nip the losing streak in the bud.

Night turns to day. Shot of girls getting ready. Jamie and his chest hair hops off the bunk. The players leave the house. Cara whispers “help me” to the camera. With an insincere grin on what passes for her face, Beth interviews that being the team captain is the “suckiest position.” “I don’t want to have to bitchfight somebody in the Gauntlet,” she adds. The players get on the bus. Julie: “The thing about Beth is that we all are forced too swallow our pride and just be nice to the damn girl, because if you’re not nice to her, she’ll screw you!" Montana: “Everybody knows that Beth is a weasel. Beth had all the credibility of a late-night infomercial.” Beth interviews that she will never be friends with Montana, and that if the team loses, Montana will go to the Gauntlet with her. Sigh.

Mission site. We have a funky metal structure over water. It used to be all about the funky metal structures with this show. TJ welcomes everybody to the Port Authority for today’s mission: Balancing Act. The structure is a platform that hangs twenty feet above the water, with two tightropes going from one side to the other. The objective: get as many people across the ropes as possible. The only support the players can use is a small rope. Cut to test run footage, where two players grab the rope to keep balanced. If the players let go of the rope at any time, the turn will end. The team with the most players across receives $10,000 for the team bank account. The winning female captain also gets a $1,000 gift certificate for an online jeans site.

Jamie expositions that Alton and Landon will lead off for the Rookies, since the strategy is to have partners of equal size and weight. TJ blows his airhorn. The two guys walk slowly on the tightropes. Alton interviews that his foot started shaking, and he figures to fall already. The duo wobble and move back to the platform, hands still on the rope. Derrick interviews that he figured Alton and Landon would excel with their rock-climbing abilities, and that is not what’s happening. The guys struggle some more, and Landon playfully stomps on the platform. Mark tells us that the pair is proving how hard the mission is, since they are two of the best Rookies. Once again, the guys wobble and retreat. Alton: “Committing is the hardest part, because after you run back to the platform once, you know it exists, and you don’t want to leave it.” Eventually, the guys move far enough for TJ to tell us that they’re past the point of no return. They finally make it across, and TJ expositions that they made it across with eleven minutes and 28 seconds.

Next pair: Syrus and Mark wobbles on the ropes. Cut to Landon smirking. Mark dives on Syrus’s rope, and the big fella drops to the water, with Mark following suit. The Rookies get a good laugh, as Mark interviews they were four feet from finishing, and that he was lucky to land in the water feet-first.

Jillian & Kina. Kina stumbles back to the platform, still holding onto the rope. Timmy: “they’re like two Humpty-Dumpties up there.” The girls waver. Jillian goes back to the platform, but Kina hits the platform, flipping and going head-first into the water. Cut to Randy, not looking happy. Susie interviews that this is difficult to watch their captain not get two feet from platform.

Next up: Derrick & Katie. Guess the Veterans are matching up sizes after all. They start with their feet on the tightropes and a hand on the platform. Katie tells him to support her. They waver. Derrick pulls the rope, and Katie takes a dive. Derrick yells “DAMN!” while pounding the platform. Oh, Derrick. The day is still young. You will get more upset than this, buddy.

Next up: Cara & Susie. Cara interviews that she has incentive. “I’ve got every bit of incentive today,” she adds, “to go at it and go nuts with my best friend here, because good wins, always.” The girls waver, and Susie ends up diving, followed by Cara. Kina interviews about knowing the duo would try their best. She shouts “Good girl! Good girl!” and hugs Cara. Is everything forgiven? In an interview, Cara wonders if Kina is putting the drama behind her. She adds that she needed this to feel part of the team. Kina hugs Cara and Susie...and then Jillian sneaks up from behind to get in on it. Man...if it wasn’t for Beth, I think Jillian would be the big villain here. TJ comes in to tell us that the Rookies have one point, while the Veterans have none.

Stepping up to the plate: Robin & Julie. Julie interviews that she doesn’t want to teeter-totter like the others. The duo teeters, totters, and falls into the water. Jeremy & Jamie follow suit, as they take a bath. Montana & Aneesa try, but Aneesa gets pulled and falls off. Randy & MJ wobble and fall. TJ actually laughs at them, shouting, “Good try, guys!” Julie wishes that her team can get one Veteran across.

TJ tells us that Brad & David are up, and he figures they are the most capable to get across faster than Alton & Landon. Cut to Derrick crossing his fingers. The duo wobbles getting off platform. Katie yells that the tightropes will never be stable. Julie: “No slack!” The guys walk across in unison, but they wobble. Brad lunges back to the platform, losing the rope in the process. David rolls over him, giving us a spilt-second of homoeroticism. No rope, no points. Timmy: “You guys know you had that.” TJ tells us that Brad & David got disqualified. “They both let go of the rope,” he adds, “and they touched each other, so you can’t do that.” I’m embarrassed to say it, but that was funny. “They got spooked,” Randy grins. “You’ve got to continue going forward.” David swan-dives off the platform. “It’s just madness,” Aneesa interviews. “We’re dropping like flies.” Timmy taps Brad’s helmet, clearly looking pissed off.

TJ camera-talks some more about how Jodi & Ibis can put another point on the board for the Rookies. Both girls wobble on the tightropes. Robin looks on, thinking that they’ll make it. The girls pull on their rope. Jodi interviews that if they make it across, they can win the mission. They struggle, fall down, and don’t win the mission.

TJ informs us that it’s up to Timmy & Beth to cross under 11:38 to win. Time out. The game is on the line, you need a pair of players to excel...and Beth is up there. Who thought this was a good idea, especially after she and Julie choked at the end of Chock Full O’ Coconuts? Given how things shook out, maybe Beth decided to save herself for last. Beth camera-whispers that she can do it, and that if she can’t, she’ll be going to the Gauntlet. Timmy patiently guides Beth, getting her foot on the rope and a hand on the platform. Beth doesn’t feel steady, plopping back to the platform. The Veterans tensely look on. Montana: “Whatever happens, happens.” Syrus yells that the duo has two minutes left. Beth asks Timmy if he has her, and he has to reassure her. Syrus and Julie yell from the sidelines. Timmy: “I’m trying to coax her and nurture her and Dr. Phil her onto this damn rope and get across, because I want to win.” Beth cackles nervously. Julie: “It’s go time, Beth! It’s okay! Just try!” Girl is so crazy, she doesn’t know who she’s dealing with.

Back from commercials, Julie yells that Timmy & Beth don’t have the time to spare. Derrick: “Come on, man! Ten thousand dollars!” Derrick according to closed-captioning: “Come on, man! Take those dudes!” I just had to share that. Back to Timmy: “So Psychology 101 isn’t working out so well, and you can start to hear the peanut gallery barking at Beth. So now it’s turned into, ‘To hell with them, it’s their fault for yelling at me’.” Syrus yells that they have to go now. Beth is still not feeling secure, and she doesn’t think that she’ll make it across. Montana: “Everybody on the Veterans team is just embarrassed by the fact that Beth won’t even try.” On a website, Beth claims that she didn’t want to hurt herself before going into the Gauntlet. That’s funny...I don’t remember Kina wussing out. Perhaps Beth would have melted in the water, like the witch that she is.

Anyway...Syrus is still barking, Montana throws her arms in the air, and the Veterans team is screaming. Beth decides to just forget it. Derrick: “Timmy, just fuckin’ throw her in!” TJ counts down to zero, prompting the Rookies to celebrate and the Veterans to looked ticked off. The Rookies gather in a circle, jumping up and down. Closed-captioning: “(group grunting rhythmically)” Beth tells Timmy that she’s sorry, for whatever that’s worth. She interviews: “People are saying, ‘Ooo, Beth didn’t try, blah blah blah.’ You know what? I went out there, I stood up, I tried. So you win some, you lose some, and now I’m going to the Gauntlet.” Yeah, let’s give her a big round of applause for just getting on the rope. Timmy makes a cut-throat gesture before diving into the water.

TJ wraps up the mission. Kina gets lifted up by Landon and Alton to claim the $10,000 check for the team and the $1,000 gift certificate for herself. Seeing how she didn’t get far on the rope does she deserve it? Kina reminds us that the Rookies are on a three-game winning streak.

The van arrives at the mansion. The Veterans piles out and walk into their room for their Gauntlet Deliberation. Derrick starts by throwing a water bottle on the table. Syrus tells the women that the men gave their all. Beth tells the team to get on with the voting. “I know that I’m on the line for going into the Gauntlet,” Montana interviews. “But why can’t we send Beth against Beth to the Gauntlet? I mean, it’s just ridiculous having her on our team.”

TJ strolls in to get the decision. Beth squeals, “TJ, yaaaaaaaay!” Shut up, Beth. He asks Beth who was selected...and it’s Montana. Why? I know Montana might be seen as the weakest player after Beth, but she’s the person Beth wants. Why should Beth get what she wants, ever? Montana nods, looking okay with the decision. TJ spins the wheel. It goes past Captain’s Choice, and it seems to land on the line, right before Knock Off. Maybe the camera made it look like it landed on the line. Maybe there’s a rule saying that they can’t spin again. But TJ announces that Beth gets to choose her game, and the conspiracy talk runs wild on the forums. Of course, Beth picks Reverse Tug-Of-War. Montana still me, she’s just trying to keep hope alive.

Gauntlet. Shot of Montana walking. Beth welcomes us to the Gauntlet, calling it a “bitch fight.” She then makes a cat claw gesture with the accompanying hissing. She looks and sounds just like Kennedy on Reality Remix doing that. Just one more reason why I want her to get punched in the face. MJ: “Beth is like our seventeenth team member for us. I love Beth.” The Rookies cheer, as Randy interviews that the team has decided to make signs and treat the Gauntlet like a monster truck rally, because he feels this will be the most entertaining Gauntlet. Cut to the Rookie guys holding up “Tug Her Rug” and “D-[fence]” signs. TJ welcomes the Veterans to the Gauntlet, then calls down Beth, who gets huge applause from the Rookies. Montana comes down. TJ goes over Reverse Tug-Of-War again: flags on either end of the Gauntlet, ten feet of rope, you know the drill. TJ tells the girls that he knows they love each other, but they’ll have to try their hardest. The Rookies chant, “Tug her rope! Tug her rope!” Montana interviews that the Veterans don’t want Beth as captain anymore, and she’ll do her best. Cut to MJ holding up a sign that says “Beth! Mount Montana!” No. N-O, no.

TJ rings the bell, and both girls run, with Montana getting bounced back. Beth starts digging, as the Veterans cheer Montana. Beth keeps digging, prompting one guy to yell that there’s no treasure in the sand. Landon chats “Tug her rug,” and I still have no clue what that’s about. Beth gets herself an advantage. Derrick cheers for Montana, while Robin and Syrus shout for Beth. I hope they were paid to do that, because there is no excuse for that. Beth keeps lunging forward. Derrick buries his face in his hands. And sure enough...Beth gets the flag. Lucky bitch. Of course, the Rookies love it, while the Veterans pity-clap. Both players catch their breath in the sand.

Beth is up now. Robin quips that she thought Beth was climbing stairs. “Thanks,” Beth mutters, “even though I’m sure you wanted Montana to win.” Derrick: “I did want Montana to win, definitely. You’re the meanest person I fucking know!” The music gets dramatic, and we get a slow-motion shot of Beth look very indignant. The Veterans sort of chide Derrick for saying what they all were thinking.

Denouement. Beth shakes Montana’s hand, telling her she did a good job. Montana probably wonders whether she should punch Beth in the face. TJ congratulates Beth for her lucky, lucky win, then he gives Montana twenty minutes to pack up and leave. Aneesa: “Beth basically just [switching to fake soft voice], ‘I’m baaaaaack,’ and we’re like, ‘[long bleep].’ We gotta congratulate her now. We gotta kiss her ass so she doesn’t throw a mission. In the end, Beth is just Beeetttttth.” Brad tells Beth to let it go. Beth: “Asshole.” Derrick: “Bitch.” Your team captains, ladies and gentlemen!

Montana washes herself on the beach. She interviews that there was no way she could pull Beth due to her twenty-pound advantage. “It just goes to show you,” she continues, “good doesn’t always win over evil.” Now let’s see what the hag with no manners has to say. “Montana, I’m so sad that I had to kick your ass,” she smirks at the camera. “And if people fuck with me, I just might fuck with their game. Buh-bye!” She punctuates this with some more cackling. How does she not get her fat ass kicked in real life? Honestly, I would’ve guessed that some fan would have stopped her by now and thrown a sucker punch or two. Not like she doesn’t deserve it. It doesn’t matter if she feels like she’s playing a character...she’s still a bitch.

On a slightly happier note, the Rookies gather in their quarters. Alton asks the team if they feel good about the past week. Jamie interviews that this has been like high school with the emotional drama, and that it’s important to maintain a solid unity that cannot be jeopardized by unfounded rumors. Alton asks Cara if she feels confident. Cara says she liked Kina telling her and Susie that they did a great job. Kina interviews that she still doesn’t trust Susie and Cara. “Whatever,” she continues. “We have three more girl Gauntlets left, and I obviously know who I’ll pick.” I just want all of them to outlast Beth.

Farewells. Montana gets hugs and a group picture with a few guys. Montana shows off her a bruise she got in the Gauntlet. “I’m sad I lost to Beth,” she interviews, “but I don’t think any woman on our team can beat Beth in the Reverse Tug-Of-War. Cut to her going down the stairs with her bag. “All of the emotion over the last two weeks just kind of comes together into one moment [laughing] of loss and failure.” Timmy gives Montana a hug, as Beth watches from the balcony. She probably knows that the only way anybody would carry her luggage is if she’s in it. Timmy says that he’s sad to see Montana go, but he’s happy she was there.

Did somebody ask for a sore winner? “It definitely feels like I’m getting my revenge on Montana for being so evil to me. You know what, Montana? Karma’s a bitch, and you got yours.” That isn’t karma. Karma would be Coral coming in to make Beth cry and smothering her with the double-Ds. Karma would be Tonya baptizing Beth’s clothes and face in the pool. Karma would be Derrick going Code Red on Beth in the middle of the night, or Julie snapping and putting her in a chokehold. After watching Beth act like a bigger bitch and then reading her brag about her fluke victory? She can go fuck herself, because nobody else will.

Next time: Alton and Jodi get closer to each other. The mission is Buck-a-Neer...think mechanical bull riding, except that one team gets on the device, and another controls the bucking. Robin and Katie start fighting, and Timmy calls them idiots. By the way, tune in to The After Show on to see a meaner, nastier Timmy sound off on the cast. Awesome stuff all around.