Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Fresh Meat Challenge: ...And Now For Something Completely Different

What can I say about the arrival of Fresh Meat Challenge? Let me put it this way: I may have taken the wrong season to stop recapping.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sticking by my decision to take this season off. Besides, I have Wizard World to think about this weekend, and I would have been pressed to write an hour’s worth of episode within three days, which is not my speed. But I never would have guessed that Bunim-Murray Productions had a few surprises in store, and I am genuinely impressed so far.

Instead of pitting twelve BMP alumni against a dozen slabs of “fresh meat,” the challengers pair off into guy/girl alumni/newbie pairs. The alumni were randomly selected to draft a Meathead (still playing around with nicknames), based on the results of four games played before the two groups met. The endgame is Exile, an uncreatively-named event that pits two pairs against each other, away from the eyes of their comrades. Winning team stays in the game, losers go home. And the big prize this season? Two hundred fifty thousand dollars, working out to $125,000 per player, more than twice the jackpot each remaining guy from Battle of the Sexes 2 received.

We’re two episodes in so far, enough time to establish running themes.

1. Nobody Likes the Austin Kids

And who can blame them? Danny, Melinda, Johanna and Wes are too tightly clumped as a unit, to the point where they took over a Meaty room for themselves. The ones who suffer most are their respective partners: Evelyn, Ryan, Jesse and Casey. After Danny & Evelyn are sent into Exile, Wes tries to work some alliance-making mojo...only to get sent into the endgame along with Casey. And after both teams failed to bail themselves out of Exile, we got the third intraseasonal endgame in Challenge history. And guess what? If the commercial for next week’s episode are true, it’s going to be the same thing next week. I welcome this...after the Las Vegas season, Austin was the low point of The Real World history.

2. Wes Is An Asshole

Everybody compared Wes to Abram from the moment we saw the Austin casting special, but I’m thinking that Wes has the potential to be a greater malignancy. He obviously doesn’t get along with Casey, whose struggles on the walls in the pre-show trials were comical (anybody else remember Whitlow on the obstacle course in Boot Camp?). While Danny acted pissy at the knife plunged in his back, Wes remains to be such a punk to the point where MTV had a whole commercial of him acting like a dick. The sooner he’s taken out of the game, the better. As for Casey? On her MTV.com profile, it’s stated that she would use her prize money on breast implants. No further comment is needed.

3. Whatever Coral Wants, Coral Gets

How did Coral fare in her return to the Challenge? Let’s see...she was the second Challenger randomly drawn to pick a Meat (after Danny), and she chose Evan. Evan is a Canadian who impressed Coral because, in her words, “He outran a black dude!” Before the first mission (walking back-to-back on a balance beam attached to one of the bigger building in Australia), Coral’s name was randomly selected, allowing herself and Evan to determine the order. Since they got to see everybody else go first before being the last team to compete, they ended up with the best time to win the mission, allowing them to pick a team to go into Exile (Danny & Evelyn). This also made them immune from being picked as a replacement team should one of the two Exiled duos bail themselves out. Naturally, Coral & Evan end up winning the second mission (standing on pegs while trying to knock other teams out with a tethered ball)...which netted them a prize and the right to determine the order of the next mission.

Here’s the thing about Coral and Challenges: she’s an expert. She has an uncanny ability to avoid elimination, finishing four Challenges and competing in only one endgame. Even if she and Evan go on a winning streak, I can’t see them getting targeted by other teams once it ends. Coral may specialize in being a snark-happy bitch, but she knows how to work people. Aside from the Austin kids, she has competed with every one of the alumni in at least two Challenges, except for Derrick. If Coral & Evan make the final four, I won’t be surprised...that is, unless that’s Coral on a stretcher in the teaser, and she has to leave the game. I don’t care what her critics say...that will be a dark day.

4. Kinky Endgames

If the first Exile mission is any indication, the endgames should be a real treat. Instead of the enclosed space of Gauntlets and Infernos, the two doomed teams had to run from station to station, carrying weight equivalent to what they lugged coming off the plane. Danny had over 100 pounds of luggage since he had a lot of Melinda’s stuff. Along the way, the teams were given the option of playing puzzles at each station for prizes. To my surprise, there were no sponsor trinkets. Danny & Evelyn wound up with one minute cut from their time, not that it did them any good. If they had finished the second puzzle, they would have won the right to get into a car and drive to the finish line. How awesome is that? Let’s say there’s a similar scenario between Tonya & Johnnie and Tina & Kenny. Imagine Tina & Kenny running to the finish line. Imagine Tina looking back to see Tonya in the driver’s seat. Imagine Tonya with a crazed look in her eyes, remembering all the abuse she’s taken from Tina. Who wouldn’t want to see that?

So...who will be the last teams standing? Well, I’m weeding out the Austin brats and their respective partners right away. Derrick & Diem would have been automatic, given that Derrick is due for a win, but I just saw a teaser with her worrying about pulling her weight, so they’re out. Not out are Theo & Chanda and Darrell & Aviv, since both guys have never been eliminated from a Challenge. I’m going with the teasers to say that Coral will be knocked out of the game, as will Evan. Tonya & Johnnie? Too volatile. Katie & Eric? If there are smokes and booze waiting at the end of an Exile, then they’d win. Otherwise, I give them no chance. I refuse to give Shane any credit, so he and Linette are out. All that’s left is Tina & Kenny...and what the hell, I’ll bring back Derrick & Diem as contenders. In the end, I give the win to Darrell & Aviv. Is “Team Matzoh Tang” a good nickname for those two?

TARCon: The Silver Lining

Wednesday, May 17. Sometime after 10 p.m. I was feeling miserable...I was unable to find a seat at Stitch, had to eat my chicken quesadillas standing up, and two total posers won The Amazing Race. And I didn't even know that I had screwed up the timer on the VCR back home, missing the first hour's worth of coverage.

So...there I am outside of Stitch, bitching to a sympathetic ear about how much I hated BJ & Tyler, complaining that Ray & Yolanda had to share third-place "honors" with such teams as Adam & Rebecca, Ron & Kelly and (errrk) the Weaver family. I'm bitching, I'm bitching, and BOOM! Enter Ken & Gerard Duphiney, third-place finishers in TAR3. And just like that, my mood perked up.

I'm not a total reality groupie. Even with the SRO status and fans of the "hippies" coming out of the woodwork, I couldn't imagine staying home for the season finale. Sure, attendence from Racers is never guarenteed...but past and present, they come. For the most part, Racers are a saner breed than folks from other shows. The latest contestants are usually treated well...hey, Jonathan Baker is still breathing, right? For the most part, they're good sports...like Colin Guinn going up the escalator at Play by Play back in 2004 and running into fans with homemade "My Ox Is Broken!" t-shirts. Flo Pessenti not only came to TARCon 3, but she popped up a few more times, long after her televised cryjinx first aired. For the most part, local Racers come back to have fun...like the Duphineys, circus clowns Jon & Al, and the Paolo family (no reports of young Brian getting messed with by the clowns this time).

I didn't keep track of who came in at what times, so I'm just going by memory.

Ken & Gerard

I think Ken (the big, gay, single brother) missed his first TARCon in December. I was honestly surprised that Gerard (the smaller, straight, married brother) came over, especially since he has two sets of twins back home. All I remember is telling Gerard about TARCon 7, when I took the bald and receding heads (including Ken's) as a sign that the bald Uchenna & Joyce would win. They have at least a tie on being the fan fave team for their season, and are among the best teams never to have won.

The Gaghan Family

Didn't really say "hi" to them...it just feels weird to gush to little Billy and Carissa, you know? I read that both kids (along with kid sister Kelly) were supervised, but it was weird seeing them run into the crowded Stitch. I had a temptation to come up to Bill or Tammy and say, "Are your kids claustrophobic? [switching to Linda Weaver shrill voice] THEY WILL BE!!!!!!!" I guess I'm still a bit of a wuss.

John Vito Pietanza

I was bowled over, since I hadn't seen this guy in so long. Along with Jill Aquilino, he was one of five Staten Islanders to be on the show. The bad news? No Jill. I knew they spilt up, but I didn't want to say anything. By his side was Erika Shay, best known for being first out of TAR5 with Dennis Frensos. Oh, and the naked skydiving, but I forgot about that. Jonh Vito made my night when he told Erika that he framed an article I wrote about him and Jill back in 2002. Up until that moment, I never thought my stories were frame-worthy. John Vito also nudged me to the direction of...

Danielle & Danni

I was going to say "hi" to them anyway, since a. they're also from Staten Island, and b. Danni graduated from Wagner College. One word to describe them: grabby. Verrrrrrry grabby. Oswald & Danny grabby. I don't know if they did that to everybody or just me. It would've been cute if I was used to getting poked and touched like that. Still couldn't tell them apart.

Dave & Lori

So there I am, seeing Lori with Dave seemingly nowhere in sight. I introduce myself to Lori, making a lame "from Mahattan to Manhattan joke," since she's from Manhattan, Kansas. I ask where Dave is. Turns out he was there...he just had his hair cut, got contacts, and lost forty pounds. I was bowled over...check out their page on CBS.com. Now look at them from that night. Like he got made over during Beauty & The Geek, right? I also showed off my "Communing With Mr. Wizard" button, one of three I managed to grab that night (the others being "Dagnabbit!" and "It's Not Over Until The Phil Sings").

Ray & Yolanda

Ended up catching these two outside, roughly eight hours before Ray proposed to Yolanda. Turns out that they were far enough behind to warrant Yolanda getting waved past the final Roadblock. She laughed and agreed with me about how being labelled the "fighting daters" in commercials for the finale wasn't a good thing. I also found out that her years being a teacher gave her a sense about when somebody would flip her off behind her back...which she called Ray on in one of their rougher legs. Nice couple...if Ray screws it up, I'm sure Yolanda will have no problem finding somebody cool.

Zach Behr

I finally got to talk with the better half of the TAR3 champions. Honestly, I would have greeted Flo, but she wasn't there. Six seasons is too long to hold a grudge, especially since I've seen far worse than her since then. Anyway, Zach was working for NBC Sports, and now he's doing work behind the scenes on MTV's Made. Now I have to check the credits for his name whenever I can remember. Speaking of MTV, I forgot to ask if he was mad at the Zach from The Real World: Key West for ripping off his name and bushy hair. Maybe next time.

Phil Keoghan

Here's the thing about Phil...to us fans, he's Elvis. On his CBS.com blog, he figured that he got fifteen feet inside Stitch. See, even when the show goes into the dumpster, even when the more hatable teams last longer than they should, even when we face a race with a giant chair, go-karts and Bart the movie bear, we still have Phil. And if he ticks us off, like when he encouraged the Weavers after a non-elimination leg, we'll forgive him. All I remember talking to him about was the show's move to Sundays at 8 p.m. He called me "brother" at one point. He's very recognizable...as opposed to show co-creator Elise Doganieri, where I had to read her nametag. I felt embarassed, since she and husband Bertram van Munster (also present) were on the first season DVDs which I got a few months back. I chatted with her about the move to Sundays.

Other Racers

I never get to chat up Jon & Al, even though they've been at every TARCon that I can remember. I also saw Steve the Air Traffic Controller again...did he fly in from Chicago, or did he move? I also saw Avi, but I just shook hands with him. Nice guy...been to every 'Con since his season, and his partner Joe might be coming back this winter. I did break my string of TARCons where I'd have my picture taken with the winning team, with the highest-placed team there, or with one person from the winning team...I didn't want any part of BJ & Tyler. From what I heard, BJ had a light-up belt buckle...big fat whatever, right? Eric & Jeremy were there...passed. So were Lake (clean-shaven) & Michelle and Joseph & Monica. I meant to get to Fran & Barry, but they left before I could ask Barry if anybody had ever mistook him for Uncle Leo from Seinfeld. Turns out we were one Scott away from having perfect attendance from the entire season.

Meanwhile...out in Orange...

The following night, I saw coverage on Reality Remix on the West Coast party. Thankfully, Fox Reality didn't have the budget to send Lynn & Alex to TARCon. Instead, they interviewed past Racers about the finale. From what I heard, Chip rocked as an emcee, and I'm happy for the big fella. The bad news? Linda & Karen wore t-shirts that had "BJ" and "Tyler" on them, after the "hippies" wore "Bowling Moms" tees similar to those both ladies wore during TAR5. After a happy "T-Tow!" yell, Lynn & Alex gushed about how "the good guys won." Shut the hell up, broke-ass Team Guido.

The Next Day

Got about four hours of sleep before waking up at 7:30 a.m. to record TAR segments from The Early Show. Given my run of bad luck, they held off until 8:30, meaning I could have had an hour's worth of sleep if I had known. They interviewed the final three teams, while the others looked on. Dave reinforced his geek rep by recording the show on his camera. After BJ & Tyler got their checks, they flipped it over to Ray. I knew where this was going. It happened with Kevin on Rosie, it happened with Colin on TES, and it happened with Aaron after he and Hayden were eliminated from TAR6. It's getting really old, fellas.

I decided against taping BJ & Tyler on Live with Regis & Kelly, opting to freshen up and go online before heading back into the city. It's another tradition: day after TARCon, go to Jing Fong in Chinatown for DimSumCon, the only time I ever get my Chinese food off a cart.

As usual, it was packed. I found a table and dug in. We set a record for the most Racers at a DimSumCon with Danielle, Lori, Joni, Lake & Michelle, Joseph & Monica and Wanda & Desiree. It got to the point where some of the Racers ended up eating on a stage. The night before, I was distressed to see that I missed Wanda & Desiree...but I got to meet them. I also heard Joni and Lori tell a story about playing Truth Or Dare at Sequestersville in Portugal, and Dave was asked to do something with his thumb that he wouldn't normally do. I ended up flipping a coin in my mind, and I correctly guessed Joni's name. I heard she was wild the night before...if she was recovering from that, I wouldn't have guessed. I had fun, as my tablemates made "T-TOW" signs with their chopsticks, which was the one thing that I can remember.

To sum up...even with the crappy ending, I had fun. Who needs an hour's worth of show on tape, when I have my friends in snark? Barring a major move from CBS, I'll be back in December. And who knows? One day, I might end up being one of the rock stars coming through the door. In the meantime, enjoy my pictures from both Cons.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Cold Turkey

The new season of Real World/Road Rules Challenge begins this Monday. Twelve BMP alumni compete alongside a dozen newbies of various shapes and sizes. And you might be expecting me to break out dossiers on everybody involved, take a few jabs at host TJ Mirra, and get set for a seventh season of recapping. Well...no. I'm done.

The notion came to me a few weeks ago, when MTV.com put out their site for Fresh Meat Challenge (actually, it's Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Fresh Meat, but that's too clunky for me). As I was going over the bios of the new kids, I thought to myself: "Do I have to do this again?" After some soul-searching, I made a decision. This season, I'm going vegetarian.

In the beginning, I had fun. Television Without Pity had decided to no longer recap the Challenges. Made sense at the time, since the show only aired once a year. Before Battle of the Sexes debuted in January 2003, I had established myself on Reality News Online. There was a vacancy on the Challenge beat, and I went for it. Yes, I was a wannabe. I know now that I'd probably suck as a TWoP recapper, since I'd make a horrible moderator on the forums. But back then, I was happy to recap at RNO.

My stint as a Challenge recapper covered Battle of the Sexes, The Gauntlet, The Inferno, and Battle of the Sexes 2. I'd like to think that I was at least among the top ten recappers on the site. I wasn't as prolific as my peers, but I did my job and did it well. Every time and point was chronicled, every memorable quote was transcribed. Sure, I took a lot longer than the others to send in my recaps, but I felt it was worth it to get the episode from every angle, and snark upon those who deserved it.

The bottom fell out during BOTS2. At that point, I was feuding with most of the staff, including my boss. See, we had a Yahoo Group forum, and I would voice my opinion from time to time. And at times, they objected to it...sometimes to a ludracious degree. I felt that Stacie J. got shafted by Donald Trump and the Apex Coven on The Apprentice, they thought I was as crazy as her. I objected to Pamela's firing...bringing up the reference about her having a penis, which she joked about in the first episode. Suddenly, in the eyes of one recapper, I hated women. Just like that. Another said that if I met Eric Nies, Mark Long or Julie Stoffer, not only would I not rip them, but I'd ask for their autograph. Basically, this little pissant called me a phony. And I didn't answer back because I wanted to keep the peace. Even when somebody was on my side of an arguement, it usually went, "Jesus, I agree with Jason!" Suddenly, I was the Lydon LaRouche of RNO, a whipping boy for the elitists.

I should have quit. While I knew that I could piss people off, I never woke up one morning and decided to treat them like that. So I stayed online, hoping things would blow over. But five days after the BOTS2 reunion special, I got an e-mail from the boss, saying my services were no longer needed. The head honcho brought up the feuding, the lengthy process and the increased negativity in my recaps. In my defense, I had to deal with Eric Nies every week. You'd be grumpy covering that asshole every week. He also cut out the last part of my recap, where I said I'd have the readers' backs. I ended up putting that with my Inferno II preview.

I ranted. I raved. It took three weeks to write back to the guy, enough time for some of the anger to dissipate. I was made to be the bad guy, and I hated it. I decided to go it alone by starting this blog. Sure enough, RNO gave my old beat to the jackass who called me a phony. Worse, he started out by ripping my recap style in his first two paragraphs. That was enough motivation for me to cover Inferno II here. I knew that I could do a better job recapping than him. In the end, he quit after one season, begging off the Challenge and The Amazing Race for good. Also, he rooted for Beth, which no sane person should do under any circumstance.

So what changed between The Gauntlet 2 and today? Well, I've started writing again. Last year, I was doing freelance work for Staten Island Media Group, which published the Register and Source, two weekly newspapers. Things were going well...the editor said that if there was an opening, she would reccomend me. One day, I went to the office to pick up an article...and found out that the company was going out of business. After a little struggling, I managed to get in good with two publications. I feel that I'm getting back into the writing groove, and the recapping might get in the way.

On another note, recapping isn't as fun for me anymore. Every week, I'd record an episode. When I found free time, I'd play the tape. Then I'd take notes. Stopped the tape. Rewind. Play. Take notes. Stopped the tape. You get the idea. I'm thinking I'd be feeling like that even if I had a DVR. And even though I would be recapping sixteen new faces (the twelve newbies plus the four idiots from RW: Austin), I'll just be recapping the same drama. Tina will get under Tonya's skin, Wes will act like an asshole, Shane will wear some crap-ass "Where's Rachel?" t-shirt, etc. After a while, the thrill is gone, even with the snarky commentary from the likes of Coral, Darrell and Theo.

Don't get me wrong...I'll still watch the show. I'll post about it on the TWoP forums. And from time to time, I'll vent in here about, for example, how Eric makes fat guys look bad just like Donell did. But I won't buy a new tape, and I won't record the episodes. I saw Mark Long and TJ Lavin host the preview special, and I don't feel the need to keep count of how many "you shouldn't have retired!" jokes TJ read off the cue cards. Also, he has the worst facial hair now. Why should I subject myself to that?

This might not be the end for me. I could always recap the next season. Hell, I might run Who Wants To Be a Superhero? over the coals for your pleasure later this year. But I'm pulling away from the table and sending this plate of Fresh Meat back to the kitchen.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

TARCon: Tools Totally Outran Weenies

What can I say about BJ & Tyler, who won The Amazing Race last night? Well, they’re the first team to win the final three legs, the first to win the final two since Rob & Brennan from the first season, and the first to win three consecutive legs since Colin & Christie in TAR5. They finished last in two non-elimination legs, marking the first time a team got their money and possessions taken by Phil Keoghan more than once. They managed to keep things light throughout the race, befriending locals and thanking them in their own language. Bonus: unlike the other three all-male teams that won, you can easily tell them apart (BJ has dark hair, Tyler has light hair). Now...what better way to wash down crow than with a tall glass of Haterade?

Hated them. HATED THEM. How can anybody root for these phonies? They wear “Bowling Moms” t-shirts, and suddenly I’m supposed to be on their side because of a shout-out to Linda & Karen? Worse, BJ tried to channel the spirits of Frank Mesa and Chip McAllister by saying “It’s on like Donkey Kong!” They schticked their way throughout the race, endangering the lives of anybody between them and the camera. At least Jon & Al showed more depth after the first few episodes. Why should I feel sorry for them when their main haters, Joseph & Monica, come off as major tools?!? And “T-Tow”? Every episode with that bullshit. I get it...you’re hip, you’re alternative, you’re so freakin’ funny. There, I said it. Oh, and about befriending locals? Didn’t apply in Italy, where they mocked the accents. Now do us all a favor AND GO AWAY. And be sure to thank Eric for blowing the final Roadblock before you fade into obscurity.

You have to forgive me...last night was a trying night at TARCon. Apparently, they was a sizable pro-“hippie” faction. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t all follow the lead of the head recapper in liking and hating teams. That was one of many disappointments that night.

1. Taking a Stand

I got to Stitch shortly before 7 p.m...and I couldn’t find a seat. Every table? Tapped. Every barstool? Filled. So I had to watch the carnage unfold on my feet. This is in contrast to going to the Play by Play and Planet Hollywood, where most people had a seat. I understand the organizers couldn’t hit Play by Play because it might have been overtaken by Rangers fans during the NHL playoffs, and plans for a return to Planet Hollywood fell through. But if we go back to Stitch again, I’m getting there at 6 p.m....on the day before the finale. Better safe than sorry, right?

2. Oh No, Rayo

I was rooting for Ray & Yolanda because I didn’t have anybody to pull for since Dave & Lori got eliminated. So what happened? Right...they kept bleeding time, got their stuff and money taken by Phil, managed to get bunched with the other teams all the way up to the end, but they couldn’t make it interesting. They’re just like Danielle on Survivor...less camera time and storylines meant that they wouldn’t win, a fact I denied myself all night. This morning, Ray pulled the ultimate cheeseball move, proposing to Yolanda live on The Early Show. He’s the fourth Racer to pop the question on national television, fifth if you count Rob Mariano at the Survivor: All-Stars finale.

3. Human Error

I got home after 2 a.m., and I checked the tape. During every TARCon, I record the final episode, since most of the audio is drowned out by the crowd. I’ve done this for every season since TAR2. I rewound through the news, which I recorded in case somebody covered the party at CBS. As I did that, I noticed the time seemed off. I kept going back, and the sickening truth hit me: I didn’t get the first hour. I had not captured the elephants with the clues, the first trip to Japan in the show’s history, the guys chilling in bathrobes at the Capsule Hotel, the wild amusement park Roadblock, Eric & Jeremy wondering how hot the maiden was that they were carrying at the Detour, and the weird goth-looking chick Ray & Yolanda carried around. The tape picked up right when Ray & Yolanda gave their stuff to Phil. I guess it was only a matter of time before I screwed up that big. But after such a disappointing night, it seemed fitting.

In my next entry, I’ll talk about the fun stuff at TARCon...Racers whom I hadn’t seen in a long time, one guy’s transformation into a stud muffin, and how touchy-feely one set of female Racers were towards me. And I found out how Yolanda knew Ray was flipping her off behind her back. Next time, I swear.

PS: The other guys who proposed on the tube: Kevin O’Connor (on Rosie), Colin Guinn (The Early Show), and Aaron Crumbaugh (after he and Hayden were eliminated from TAR6).

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Road To TARCon

On Sunday, I went into the season finale of Survivor hoping that overachieving dumbass Terry would not win the $1,000,000 grand prize. Three days later? Same thing, different show.

For the ninth time in as many seasons, a few posters from Television Without Pity will be hosting TARCon, a major viewing party for the season finale of The Amazing Race. For the eighth time, I will be going...this time to Stitch, a restaurant on 37th St. in Manhattan. It probably would have been held at the Play by Play at Madison Square Garden, but the Rangers just had to make the playoffs this season...and then they just had to get swept by the Devils in the first round. The location is mostly moot, since most of us want to celebrate the season's end...and root against BJ & Tyler. Let's take a look at the other remaining teams before I go off on those idiots.

Eric & Jeremy

They haven't changed much throughout the season. Sure, they haven't been seen hitting on women left and right, but they remain somewhat annoying. Given that most of the nicer teams have been eliminated, I think my tolerance for them has increased. They have won five legs, which is one short of the record set by Colin & Christie from TAR5. Unlike those two, I don't feel that Eric & Jeremy have really earned most of them. If they win, we'll roll our eyes, but it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Hell, we'd even forgive the macking on Danielle & Danni, as well as cancelling cabs for two other teams at one point.

Ray & Yolanda

In the commercials for the finale, these two are the "fighting daters." They had some friction in one leg, and suddenly they're on the same level as Joseph & Monica. Maybe the promo people had that much trouble with these two. Compared to the other teams, Ray & Yolanda don't have much of an identity. Yes, they're the Token Black Team. Ray is the somewhat stern guy with hair on his head (as pointed out in an earlier entry), whose sense of humor comes out in spurts. Yolanda is nice to look at, and she has legs that Phil Keoghan crushes on. They're not a consistant or exciting team, having to start off in last place in three legs (with a fourth on Wednesday). It would be nice if they won, but that might be an underwhelming upset at this point.

BJ & Tyler

Why do people like these assholes? They're not hippies. Al Gore is more of a hippie than these two. Dick Cheney is more of a hippie. Just because they wear beards, act kooky and shout nonsensical phrases doesn't make these two hippies. I'm sick of them shouting "T-TOW!" everywhere they go. It's some sort of crap word that's supposed to bring harmony or some sort of crap. Personally, I think it's their special "safety word," if you catch my drift.

The worst part? Most people buy their act. On CBS.com, they have a 64 percent rating in the popularity poll, tops amongst all teams. Of course, like the poll on the Survivor page, it's a pie chart disguised as a bar graph. In this week's TV Guide, one writer suggested them for an all-star edition. This same person also overlooked Team Guido and Oswald & Danny for unfunny gay guys Lynn & Alex, so I'm not taking that opinion seriously. Basically, these guys are to TAR what Rupert Boneham was to Survivor...a bearded novelty act that wears thin over time. Remember what I said last night about not gambling? I will put money on the line that says that either so-called "hippie" will say something along the lines of "What a long strange trip it's been." Print this entry out, circle that last sentence in red ink. I have no inside information, but I know that I'm right.

No matter what the outcome, us TAR fans will have fun tomorrow night. On a happier note, Lynn & Alex will be attending a finale party in Orange, CA...meaning that they won't cover TARCon for Reality Remix. Of course, there's always the chance that somebody like Mark Long might swing by for interviews, but I won't try to strangle him with my bare hands. After all, I don't know where he's been. Otherwise, I'll be comparing professors at Wagner with Danni, trying to outgeek Dave & Lori, and avoiding the more annoying teams. Should be fun!


After watching the finale of Survivor, I hope you understand why I'm not a betting man.

I had a friend tell me that she saw Danielle in the finale teaser. I didn't believe her...blowing plot elements is more along the lines of what MTV and Bunim-Murray would do. Besides, I had the nice shiny Cirie victory to think about. Thus, my reaction to the Cirie/Danielle fire-building showdown that kicked off the finale:

"Okay, okay, yeah, yeah, yeah....no! No! Get the fire going! Get...okay, Danielle's flame is out. Get it get it get it...damn! Come on come on come on...no! NO! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!! DAMMIT!"

After a smiling Cirie got her torch snuffed, we were stuck with a generic woman, the yoga putz, and Terry, who looked like Tom Westman with a massive head injury. For the first time since the second season, we had three contenders for the final three days. Naturally, Terry won the reward challenge, earning a "power meal" and a comfy cot to sleep on. Then came perhaps the shortest immunity challenge ever, as the players tried to stay still on increasingly smaller platforms floating on the water. Terry couldn't make the third stage, and there was much rejoicing. Aras was supposed to be Yoga Boy, but he bowed out...and now Danielle was in the finals. Seriously, does anybody remember who she is?

So after both guys lay the same sales pitch to her ("Girl, everybody on the jury friggin' LOVES you!"), Danielle made her choice. Suddenly it's Pearl Islands all over again, as I tried to will Terry's name on the parchment. And just as Lil cast Jon Dalton out, Danielle voted out "Terri." Hip hip hooray, and goodbye to one of the dumbest Survivors ever! And a special "bite me" to David Bianculli, who just had to ride Terry's jock these past few weeks.

Aras ended up making history by slipping on the rocks and not only cutting up his back, but also slicing his hand on broken glass. Not the best omen, as the crack medical team had to stitch him up. I don't remember much about the council session. Bruce had to remind us he was Asian by calling the finalists "samurais," Courtney made a huge show on how she felt screwed over, and Shane pulled a bravura performance that would send his kid running to a new school out of embarassment. Not only did he slag both finalists, but pulled the "pick a number" bit. In the end, Bruce and Shane voted for Danielle, and everybody else voted for Aras. Not the happiest of endings, but at least Terry didn't win.

On a happier note, the reunion was a huge Cirie lovefest...at least between the examination of Shane's mental health and reopening Tina's wounds about her dead son. It was the same big deal that they made over Rupert after Pearl Islands. The biggest difference? Cirie doesn't have a massive ego that needs to be fed. The lack of tie-dye also helps. On the down side, most of the non-jury members got thirty seconds, maximum. This especially sucked for Bobby, who made fun of Courtney around during the game, christianed an outhouse himself, and was all-out funny in his short time. Oh, and we're going to the Cook Islands next season...and maybe the hidden idol won't be bogarted by a total dumbass.

That's that. Oh, and I gotta rest up for The Amazing Race finale and TARCon. I'll write about that before Wednesday...gonna stoke the hatred for BJ & Tyler. "T-Tow" this, fool.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

But Cirieously...

We have less than two hours until the finale of Survivor: Panama -- Exile Island, which has been a step up from the previous season. While nothing can top the awesome spectacle that was Palau (coming to DVD in August), we may have a winner that can match Tom Westman in terms of providing entertainment every week.

No, I don't mean Terry Dietz. Should Terry win immunity tonight, he will have matched Tom's record of six individual wins. But while Tom managed to kick butt on the field and pull deft manuevers to the point where nobody voted against him, Terry has been a strategtic dud. All he does is win immunities, cling to the hidden immunity idol he found in the fourth episode, and not make any friends from the majority Casaya faction. After a while, it gets boring. This past Thursday, I opened up a copy of the Daily News, only to find a sickening love letter to Terry written by noted reality hater David Bianculli. This guy, who also likes psuedo "hippies" BJ & Tyler, invoked Richard Hatch's name while speaking of Terry, and said that he deserved to be considered one of the best players ever.

One hundred and eighty degrees removed from Terry is Cirie Fields. Cirie is an operating room nurse from South Carolina, orginally from Jersey City. She looks to be on the heavy side, with her bosom barely contained inside her shirt. Why have some people fallen in love with this woman, who has admitted to underestimating herself all of her life?

In the beginning, there was the original Casaya tribe, made up of the four oldest women in the game. When Casaya came in last in the four-way immunity challenge, somebody had to be jettisoned from the game. Cirie was the obvious choice, especially since she had a fear of stuff jumping out from underneath leaves. But when Tina the "lumberjill" isolated herself from the group, Cirie was spared the axe, taking a single vote from the departing Tina.

With Tina gone, Casaya looked to be in trouble, since she was one of the hardest workers in the game. But luck would look after Cirie when the four tribes were merged into two. Cirie stayed with Casaya, which turned into one of the more dysfunctional tribes in the show's history. After Shane decided to leave the game, Aras had to keep an alliance strong, and he talked him off the ledge. Aras then turned to Cirie and Melinda (also from the original Casaya), telling them point-blank that one of them had to go. This time, Cirie got no votes, as she and Melinda voted for Shane, while everybody else took out Melinda. From that moment on until Day 36, Cirie would not be in any danger of leaving the game.

Over time, the Casaya tribe would lose only one member until the merge. They managed to go into the merge up 6-4 on the rival La Mina. Casaya was a tribe against itself. Courtney rubbed Bobby and Bruce the wrong way. Shane made an alliance while swearing on his son's name, then begged to take it back. And through it all, Cirie would do her interviews, laughing in a high pitch, happy as a clam not to be on anybody's radar. During one immunity challenge, she managed to pin Sally at one stage and shoved Misty donw hard in another. She wasn't the most dangerous person to watch, but she was highly entertaining. And unlike most of the competitors, she was intentionally funny.

The merge came, and Cirie found herself on Gitanos. The story remained the same...Terry would win challenge after challenge, and his inability to utilize his hidden immunity idol resulted in departures for Nick, Austin and Sally. Cirie's story started heating up with the tenth episode, where she won a reward challenge for knowing more about her fellow castaways. She went to a spa, allowing Aras and Danielle with her, leaving a jilted Shane to stew back at camp. In the end, Bruce was dismissed from the game due to blockages in his colon and bladder. Before that, Shane went off about how he himself had to carry Cirie, "all three hundred pounds pounds of her." The guy had actually exposed a rash to her the week before, and he was talking crap about her. Nice, right?

In the following episode, Cirie let her inner Cesterino out to play. After Terry wins immunity yet again, it looked as if Danielle was on the way out. But Cirie had an idea: why not get rid of Courtney, one of the bigger headcases in the game? This way, a potential winning scenario would be taken away. At Tribal Council, a clueless Shane voted for Danielle, Courtney and Terry voted for Aras...and Aras, Cirie and Danielle booted Courtney to the jury box, where she will no doubt make a spectacle of herself this evening. All Cirie had to go afterwards was convince Shane that there was no time to let him in on the plan. Oh, and she managed to catch a big fish on her first try, much to the bemusement of Shane. She was squimish about killing a snail for bait, laughing the whole time. In her interview on The Early Show, Courtney referred to Cirie as "a wolf in sheep's clothing." Given her constant laughter, "hyena" might have been more fitting.

Cirie got a pleasant surprised in the next episode. After Terry won yet another reward challenge, he got to determine how much contact the contestants would get from their loved ones. Terry allowed Cirie to let her husband Clarencio come to camp for the evening. Cirie entertained her "Honey Bunny" or "HB" at Gitanos, as he helped out with chores, in amazement that a couch potato such as his wife can live like this. Later, Cirie worked her magic again, engineering the surprise ouster of Shane.

This past Thrusday, the penultimate episode ended in a cliffhanger. Terry and Danielle got into an alliance, but Terry wouldn't give her his hidden idol. Had he done so, and had she decided not to double-cross him, Cirie would have been guarenteed to get her torch snuffed. Instead, Terry and Danielle voted for Cirie, while Cirie and Aras voted for Danielle. Both women competed in a tiebreaker: make a fire high enough to burn a rope. That's where we left off.

I think Cirie will nail the tiebreaker and move on to Day 38. It's a matter of story structure...at this point, I don't know who Danielle is. You can put her next to Sally and Misty, and I'd be confused. Remember Darrah from Pearl Islands? My point exactly. And there are three reasons why Cirie might win the million dollars this evening:

1. Aras and Terry hate each other with a white-hot intensity. Since the merge, Terry has tried to vote off Aras three times. Last Thursday, the two almost came to blows, settling on throwing verbal jabs at each other. The temptation is there for one to win the final challenge and cast the likable Cirie to the side, going for the most anticipated Day 39 ever. On the other hand, one could spite the other and take Cirie to the Final Council. And we've seen supposedly weak players wiggle to Day 39 with a shocking immunity win (Lil Morris, anyone?), so there might be hope for Cirie.

2. Today is Mother's Day. Cirie is the only mother left in the game. It comes together, does it not?

3. Okay, this is going to sound really stupid, but bear with me. Last year, we had the pairing of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. The two finalists on Survivor that season? Tom and Katie. One year later, "TomKat" had a child, and her name is Suri. Close enough, right?

I believe that Cirie is the sentimental favorite coming into tonight's episode, CBS.com popularity poll numbers be damned (Terry currently leads all contestants at 56.88 percent, which I really don't get). Last year, I rooted for Tom because the novelty of an overachiever winning was too much to bear. That guy pulled his tribe to victory, won six of eight individual immunities, and managed to stay popular to win 6-1. Cirie comes from a different angle as the woman who went from dead woman walking on Day 3 to a legitimate power player...all that while retaining her self of humor. Even if fools such as Shane and Courtney were to grill her for her moves, Cirie will deftly dodge the venom. In contrast, Aras hasn't felt the pulse around camp that well, and Terry is one of the most socally inept players in the show's twelve-season history. And I'm 98 percent sure Danielle loses the tiebreaker tonight.

In the end, Cirie will leave a great legacy behind even if she falls short. If she can last five weeks in the game after she got scared about looking under leaves, then anybody can win the million bucks. But only a few can from start to finish with a big smile. Here's hoping that the laughter gets doubled tonight. Go, Cirie!