Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Adventures in Orlando: Day Four

I should have posted this hours earlier. I wanted to watch The Daily Show, and I waited for it on the couch. When I came to, it was after 12:30, and I missed that and The Colbert Report. You have to love those post-vacation comas, right? My mother went right to bed after we got home. Did I mention she has to go back to work tomorrow?

Nothing much happened on our getaway day. Mom had to get up early to arrange details for the flight home. We hit the breakfast buffet one last day, and I only had two helpings of stuff this time. It wasn't like I had a pile of pancakes topped by muffins and omelets all the time, but I reckon I was chowing down on stuff that wasn't quite healthy for me. Also, I didn't get to weigh myself anytime this weekend, and I would've been afraid to do that, for fear that I gained weight that I couldn't burn off from all the walking. Have I mentioned that I just took a nap?

Nothing really happened today. The animals that had been outside our window were not to be seen, as if they knew we were done with the place. Not only did our bag make it to Newark right away, but it was one of the first on the conveyor belt. And when we got home, there were several newspapers waiting in front of the door, even though Mom wrote a letter to our deliveryman to hold off during the weekend.

Short story: I had a good weekend. There were no major hitches to speak of, which is great since I'm the sort that keeps stepping on rakes during vacations (forgetting medication, missing the window before a flight, losing my sketchbook and my camcorder on the final day of a convention, etc.) The weather was nice . . . I don't think the temperature hit 80 degrees all weekend. I had bought a tube of sunscreen to lose and I forgot all about it, and all I got was mildly red around my neck. When I looked in USA Today, I saw that we might be getting snow. Snow. Really. Gotta love the wonky weather of the early 21th Century, right?

Anyway, Disney World was great. The "characters" don't do anything halfway at all. Granted, the happy and helpful attitudes and the nametags with their hometowns listed (drinking game: drink when you meet somebody who's actually from Africa!) are a little cult-y for me, but it was nice in the long run. More importantly, in a vacation spot that calls itself "The Happiest Place on Earth," I didn't suffer sugar overload to the point where I wanted to haul off and slug a hapless "character." And I didn't get molested by some schmuck in a costume, which was also good. I do have to mention that I didn't really get close to any of those guys. I really thought I would be out of place there, and I wasn't.

I think that's enough talking, especially since I'm suffering from bouts of keyboard dyslexia right now. I've been uploading far too many pictures of the weekend on Flickr, and I'm still not done. Tomorrow, I'll decompress at home, and then I'll start looking for work. So I can get a job. So I can make money. So I can save money. So that I can get away from home again. And so that I get motivated to blog again. I think that really is a circle of life.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Adventures in Orlando: Day Three

Had a bit of a rough start this morning. Last night, I had taken Chlor-Trimeton to help me get to sleep. It used to be in my routine years ago until it vanished from drugstores. When I went to Duane Reade on Thursday to prepare for the trip, I found one box on the shelf. Well, I think it might have turned me into a zombie for a few hours. I felt like I could use a nap . . . or a coma. Five comas, back-to-back. Add that to eating lots of rich food, including African cuisine, I didn't feel my best going to my final destination in Orlando: Magic Kingdom.

Yes, there I was, along with my mother, at the place which is about 180 degrees removed from my mindset. And seriously, every employee (sorry . . . "character"; that's what they're called) had been super-nice to me and Mom all weekend. I'm not used to it. I think it's a mix of my neuroses, my mental condition, my past with interaction, and the fact that I've live within the boroughs of New York my entire life. Somebody tells me to have a great (or "magical") day, it takes a lot for me not to respond with "Go fuck yourself."

It turned out the Magic Kingdom wasn't that big of a deal. All right, I think that's because I'm not a kid and it was the off-peak schedule. I reckon March is a great time to head to Orlando, when it's warm even in the final official days of winter, but not Southwest America warm, where local birds burst into flame in midair on a regular basis. The lines that I went on weren't too long., and I didn't feel that much like a fish out of water. Also, I have to admire a place where the first place you walk into ("Main Street, U.S.A.") has no rides, but lots of places to shop and eat. I think Plan B would've involved burly men grabbing patrons by the ankles and shaking money loose.

I went solo to Carousel of Progress in Tomorrowland. This was an exhibit shipped direct from the 1964 World's Fair in Flushing, N.Y., with lots of improvements. Basically, it's the story of an eternally-young family watching the times bring improvements to their lives. They're young on account that they're audio-animatronic (had to copy the phrase from the map), meaning they move around like humans, but they're not real and just a little creepy. Even the dog is a little unnerving to watch as he lifts his head and barks at the right time. In the end, we're about ten minutes into the future, where the boy is teaching Grandma the art of virtual reality video games, and Father keeps repeating game scores, prompting the voice-recognizing oven to ruin Christmas dinner. It's hokey in general, but it's cute to watch, with the stands rotating like a wheel, given the allusion that the stages are moving.

Me and Mom also visited a show based on Monsters, Inc. This one had the Pixar visuals, but the key was that the characters reacted to audience members. Also unnerving, and I was ready to duck out of view if my face had come up on screen.

We did a lot of walking, though looking back at the map, we didn't do much in Fantasyland. Once again: I'm not into rides. Mom made me go to the Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square, which was a bit lame. I'm probably not alone . . . only kids that were never exposed to the likes of Scream, Saw, and their sequels would get frightened, even with the nice effects. Also, the ride stopped for about a minute, which was annoying. We took a riverboat around Tom Sawyer Island, which had audio-animatronic sites near the water ("Indian" village, shack with rowdies, etc.) And then there was the Hall of Presidents, featuring Audio-Animatronic Abraham Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address (I think), and 44 presidents that mostly nodded when their names were announced. A more cynical mind would've added more, like having William Henry Harrison cough violently, William Taft chewing on a turkey leg as big as his thigh, Gerald Ford falling apart, a robotic Hillary Clinton grabbing her husband by the ear, and George W. Bush . . . ah, screw it. You come up with something. In the end, the audio-animatronic Barack Obama gave a speech, and I half-expected audio-animatronic (yes, I hit CTRL-V yet again) Fox pundits to barge in and yell at the President for indoctrinating the audience. Disney engineers can make an eight- or nine-foot Hopper . . . why not Bill O'Reilly's big head?

We bounced around a bit. I wound up eating a hummus sandwich with strawberry yogurt for lunch. Happily, the bad feeling in my stomach was mostly gone. We wandered around Adventureland and Frontierland for the rest of the day. Tom Sawyer's Island was a bit of a waste, though watching my mother try to navigate a "barrel bridge" was pretty funny. That was very unstable; all it would take is one extra from Wall-E to break the thing. The Country Bear Jamboree was up my alley, though my mother thought I was nuts for liking (wait for it) audio-animatronic bears that seemed inbred (or "in-bear-ed") playing on funny instruments. Oh, and the animals with their heads mounted on the wall were enjoying it as well. She got at me by making me go to Pirates of the Caribbean. As you'd expect, a lot of the visuals are based off the movies which were inspired by the original ride, including several appearances by everyone's favorite metrosexual swashbuckler, Captain Jack Sparrow.

And that's about it. We tried to get into a few restaurants on Main Street U.S.A., but they were full up. Mom got her quota of shopping done while I watched (as I occasionally tried to find a snack that would be guaranteed not to send me to the hospital from an allergic reaction), and we went back "home." I managed to catch The Amazing Race (Jaime & Cara getting eliminated = satisfactory conclusion), and we got dinner at the cafeteria afterward. Tomorrow, we head for home. I know there's a lot I left out . . . like Mom looking for places to smoke, and how non-flash photography and moving objects aren't a great mix . . . but I think I covered the basic stuff well enough. I have to say it: I had a good time. While I wouldn't rush to sink a few grand coming back here anytime soon (or fall backwards into an ALL. EXPENSES. PAID. vacation), I can now see the appeal. Even if we had a week, there would be far too much to do. We never even got to explore the parks thoroughly at night or touch base at Hollywood Studios. One day, I might get a chance to come back, and now I wouldn't hesitate at the thought of going. Just don't expect me to wear the mouse ears.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Adventures in Orlando: Day Two

Well, we had quite a day. Turns out that the Animal Kingdom isn't totally a wild animal park, but rather a glorified zoo . . . albeit a fun glorified zoo.

Mom and me spent the whole day there, exploring most of the place. We didn't go on any rides, since I'm really not a roller coaster kind of guy. Mom decided to go shopping first for the kids of the people who she works with. We found out that for no charge, you can have your goods delivered to wherever you're staying the following day. "Clever" doesn't begin to cover it. I wound up using that method myself, even though all I bought was a t-shirt and an Eeyore doll made up for a safari. I think Mom likes Eeyore because I remind her of him. Make of that what you will.

While we didn't do any rides, we did take in a few shows, like one based on A Bug's Life. In it, you put on 3-D glasses (which seldom works out for me) while Flik (the heroic ant of the movie) introduces various insects (and a spider) to the audience. Of course, things go wrong, like one bug spitting acid at the same time water is spritzed on the crowd. Things really go south when an eight-foot Hopper (the biker-looking bad guy) comes out to try and get even with the crowd on behalf of insects. He calls out hornets, and you don't see anything happening on the scr- HOLY SHIT WHAT POKED MY ASS?!?? Giant spiders descend from the ceiling. It's basically chaos until a lizard tries to eat Hopper, and he manages to flee. As a parting shot, the PA asks all assorted insects to leave, and you feel stuff crawling under you. I looked at my seat afterward, and I didn't see anything that would suggest that happening.

We wound up ping-ponging between the Africa and Asia regions. In Africa, you can go on a safari which gets close to the animals . . . or at least as close as you can get. I'm thinking electric fencing is involved. Basically, if you have a digital camera like me, it becomes a game of spotting an animal and taking a pictures while the vehicle is going at a good clip. Even if you have over 2,000 "bullets," it's still a challenge. Sometimes, you wind up with elephants with their backs to you. The biggest highlight of the day came away from the safari, going on a trail. I managed to see gorillas. Lots of silverback gorillas, looking at the throngs of people gathered with studious looks. Or maybe it was utter contempt. At one point, one of the apes wound up taking a few drinks from a small waterfall by using his big hand. Needless to say, they were imposing-looking suckers.

A lot of the day is a blur in retrospect. We went to the far-off Rafiki's Planet Watch (named after the wise ape from The Lion King), which had a building of behind-the-scenes stuff, as well as a petting zoo. I'm happy to report that the zookeepers did not rip the tails off the donkeys, then reattach them with tacks. I went on an Asia trail on my own. I wound up spotting a tiger, and as my finger pressed down on the button to take the picture, another tiger leaped up and wrestled him for about five seconds. I wound up with a nice blur for a picture.

We wound up going to a balls-out production of The Lion King. Nothing to end a day like live-action performers interacting with giant mechanical animals (including a grown-up Simba and Pumba the warthog) and some poor guy dresses as Timon the meerkat. They covered the big songs -- "Circle Of Life," "Can't Wait To Be King," "Hakuna Matata," "Be Prepared" and "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" -- and put on one hell of a show. No sensations of bugs crawling on my ass was also appreciated.

Mom and me had lunch at a place in Asia. We also filled up at the resort for breakfast and dinner. I'm amazed that I didn't roll or bounce back to the room. The price totals are obscene even with the meal plan, but once again: ALL. EXPENSES. PAID. Magic words to live by. Sadly, there's not enough time for us to do stuff in or around the place. I guess it's an acceptable trade-off. I did vist an arcade, where I managed to suck wind on a few racing games. It's sad that I grew up around arcade games, yet I can't get my bearings on a crap pod-racing game based on a movie -- The Phantom Menace -- to save my life.

One more day left. Don't know the gameplan as of this writing. I'm thinking the Magic Kingdom is definitely in play. Mom is now okay with a lack of fireworks in order for me to watch The Amazing Race, though I'll see if we can do both. For the record, I have that on timer back home, but crap does happen, and I don't know if I can avoid spoilers if I have to on Monday. But the bottom line is that even as sore and as full of food as I am, I'm still having a good time. If I don't have nightmares of Hopper and Simba beating me up, that will be a bonus.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Adventures In Orlando: Day One

Friday, 9:20 a.m. Eastern Time
Flash back to February. My mother is at a company event in Manhattan. She's been working at a wine importer for years, and the office would probably fall apart without her. To her surprise, she's honored by her bosses with a big gift: an all-expense-paid trip to wherever she wants to go. This explains why I'm on a plane bound for Orlando, writing this longhand for my blog.

Anything related to Disney barely interests me. The allure of the Magic Kingdom is lost on me, since I'm not into rides or waiting on line to go on them. Disney owns ABC, and the only show I've watched on a consistent basis has been No Ordinary Heroes, which is currently in a ditch with NBC's The Cape, waiting for somebody to throw dirt on it. I'm still pissed that two great shows -- The Mole and Pushing Daisies -- got canceled, while crap like Wipeout and The Bachelor remain on the air. The latter seldom works out in the end; most of the final couplings don't make it to the altar (present note: I am not going to look up the exact stats). Bill Simmons theorized that since there's months between the doofus bachelor proposing to whichever mental case he chooses and that making it on the air ("The most dramatic Rose Ceremony . . . EVAR!!!"), the putz figures that it would be easier to plow through groupies in the end, because that's probably what he does during that period of time. Seriously, if you watch The Bachelor and/or The Bachelorette, you're a part of the problem.

Where was I? Right . . . Disney World. My mother isn't really Disney-minded, but she's been interested in going to a wild animal park. And yes, Disney has one of those. While I'm not at all that keen about, say, getting the business end of a giraffe's tongue, it does sound like an intriguing weekend. Seriously : All. Expenses. PAID. And it's not like I'm missing anything right now. Well, there is C2E2, which is starting up today in Chicago. I went to the inaugural edition last year (covered here, here, here and here), and I figured that it's too early in the year for me to go on my annual convention trip. I tried getting a four-day package for Comic-Con International at San Diego, and I wound up getting nothing after 4-6 hours of trying to pull it off online.

Right now, I'm in a good mood. My mother and me got to the airport on time, and I don't think I forgot anything. We're not sitting together, and she could get a middle seat for me. But then the nice lady on the window offered -- yes, offered -- to switch seats. I should hate the window seat, but I'm used to it. With an aisle seat, I feel like I'm dangling. Like I said, I'm in a good mood. Even with Mom suggesting going to Disney World (re: Magic Kingdom) to watch the parades and get my picture taken with Goofy, I'm all right. And I hope I stay all right when I get online later in the day.

Plane's moving. I'll be back later.

10:38 p.m.

Well, the good news was that the flight was pretty uneventful. I know that the odds of a crash or an Oceanic 815 thing happening are about one percent of one percent of one percent of . . . repeat that about twenty or thirty times. But it's always in the back of my head, y'know? We landed early, and our sole suitcase (remember, we're just staying three nights) isn't there. We're assured that since Mom put special Disney tags on it, it should be on the bus. We get on the bus and arrive at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. We look in the storage compartment on the bus . . . no suitcase. Well, it must be at our room already. We enter our room . . . right, no suitcase. For all I know, it could be back in Newark. Well, we hang around the room, my mother on the balcony, looking at the animals outside. It's not like they're so close to the lodge, but they are visible. We wind up seeing giraffes, zebras, and an East African Crowned Crane (we also got a sheet with animal pictures, hence the lack of "funny looking bird" here). Eventually, my mother's hunger forces us to get a quick lunch, since she didn't have much to eat back for breakfast at Newark Airport. We get back to the room . . . NOW our suitcase is there. This is good for me, since I had a long-sleeved, flannel-y shirt on. I know . . . I'm nuts. I just figured that I should be warm for getting out early in the morning, even though the forecast back in New York called for temperatures to peak at 69 degrees (and it isn't even spring yet!) Anyway, one change of top later, we head for Epcot Center.

You would think that Epcot would be outdated, but they've kept up with the times. Take Spaceship Earth, for itself, the ride that takes place in the big globe that everybody notices. It takes you through human history, with all sorts of sights and sounds, as well as frighteningly realistic figures moving around. It's as close as I've ever been to the condition known only as "tripping balls." The only bad part was that a camera took pictures of my mother and me. At the conclusion of the rides, passengers answer questions that shape a future civilization. And that's where the pictures came in, as our heads were stuck on goofy cartoon figures. For me, it was traumatic. For my mother, it was freakin' hysterical. I also played a video game where I controlled a figure made up of images of me running, jumping, and celebrating. Needless to say, I am not showing my mother that.

Given how late we got to Epcot, we really didn't get to do much. The other ride we went on was based on Finding Nemo, but that was lightly ruined by unruly kids who wouldn't shut up during the ride. We wound up in an aquarium of sorts, complete with sharks, dolphins and two manatees. I don't remember being so close to sea cows before. There were also a lot of flower sculptures of Disney characters, which was nice. We wound up having Chinese food, did a little shopping, and I more or less strong-armed Mom into leaving before the fireworks. So now I owe her a fireworks show by the end of the weekend. In my defense, we've been up since before 7 a.m., and I didn't really sleep on the plane ride.

The hotel room is okay. We both thought we'd get something bigger. For my mother, her frame of reference is the hotel she stayed in London two years ago while visiting my cousin, who was studying abroad. For me, it was the unexpected find from Expedia in a Baltimore suburb last year, where I was staying for a mere two days for Baltimore Comic Con. It turns out a lot of cable stations aren't on the television, but that's not that big of an issue. I also didn't make it back for Fringe, but that's why I set up the VCR before I left home . . . because I wasn't sure if I'd make it back in time. Ditto for Sunday and The Amazing Race, which I had to set for more than an hour to cover any schedule pushing due to the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

All in all, this was a good day. Here's hoping I'll be more Happy than Grumpy by Monday. I'd settle for more Happy over Dopey at this point.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The End Of Russellmania

The end of the Russell Hantz era of Survivor came this past Wednesday night. Okay, if you absolutely have to be picky, it ended on August 27, 2010 (as extrapolated here). The ending was anticlimactic, as a guy named Matt Elrod became an answer to a reality television trivia question by besting Russell on Redemption Island (more on that later) in a game of domino stacking and tumbling. As for as endgames go, it wasn't as lame as, say, covering the contestants in itching powder and sweatshirts, sticking them on treadmills, and going to jump ropes for a tiebreaker, but it was pretty unimaginative. Russell went out the way fans would expect . . . in a blaze of sour grapes. He called out his tribe (Zapatera; came out as "shoemaker" on Babelfish), accusing them of throwing the last challenge in order to vote him out two days prior, and did some crying. In other words, typical Russell-like behavior.

For those just coming in: Mark Burnett was running out of ideas for Survivor, which remains his favorite child. Three seasons prior, he had cast Russell for Survivor: Samoa, along with nineteen others who will remain in obscurity as the years pass. Russell was an asshole from Day One. He lied about being caught in Hurricane Katrina, lied about losing a dog in the storm, burned another player's socks without him knowing about it, and basically became the most hated man in reality television. He also managed to form an alliance and snag hidden immunity idols without getting clues, which probably resulted in lots of production people losing their jobs. He managed to last all 39 days on skill, luck, and with the help of some of the dumbest people to play the game. With Russell having no shot at the $1 million grand prize on account that he was a massive jagoff, the others treated the money like a hot potato, flinging it between each other until some girl named Natalie kept it in the end. But Russell made an impact, and even I was entertained near the end. I chalked it up to a combination of Stockholm Syndrome and the fact that everybody else was a blur. Quick, name any five contestants from that season without using Wikipedia. Yeah, I thought so.

Since Russell was the only memorable person in Samoa, he got a berth into the following season, a rehash of the all-star format titled Heroes Vs. Villains. This time, he was put in a game with nineteen other people with experience on the show. Naturally, he landed on the Villains tribe, where his main rival was Rob Mariano. Rob is somebody whom I consider to be one of the most overrated players in the show's history, and you can't tell me any differently. Quick summary: he played a fool in his original season (Marquesas) to the point where his second tribe tried to throw a challenge in order to vote him off (it didn't work). He made the merge, but didn't make the jury. However, he was memorable enough to warrant bringing him back two years later for All-Stars. He hooked up with Amber Brkich (known as "Lamber" back in the day because she followed Jerri Manthey everywhere), and they managed to run the game as a power couple because they were taking on the dumbest people to play the game. Between Lex, Kathy, Rupert, "Big Tom" and Jenna Lewis, you didn't have enough brainpower to operate a toaster. Long story short: Rob got three votes for him, three votes against him, and Shii Ann was nice enough to vote for Amber, giving her the win. Oh, and Rob proposed to Amber before the votes were announced, and they became America's Couple or somesuch bullshit. They also were inflicted on fans of The Amazing Race twice, but that's another rant altogether.

Anyway, the Villains managed to run the game, and Russell got himself in an alliance that managed to trump Rob's, and the Beantown Bozo got bounced after eighteen days. I'll spare you the rest of the details of the season, including JT handing an immunity idol to Russell (along with a nice note that Russell laminated as a keepsake). The runty bastard made it to Day 39 again, only to finish third after Sandra (whose win was delightfully unexpected) and Parvati (who rode the Russell train to second place). At the reunion, precious time was taken for Rob and Russell to snipe at each other, and I think host Jeff Probst may have wet himself in joy. You have to understand something about Probst: the man loves him some alpha males. Sure, Russell's size didn't make him a top dog, but his personality made him an attraction, and that was enough for Probst to start touching himself. Word of warning: if you're related to Jeff Probst in any way, you might want to stop reading now. I'm only going to get nastier from here on out.

Somewhere in the world, Mark Burnett was also idly playing with himself. Here he had a main event between two of the biggest "names" in reality television. He had to do something. So he made a decision: invite Rob and Russell back for their fourth and third tries, respectively. Burnett would put them on Redemption Island, where he would send those who had been voted off to a place where they would live on the bare minimum on their own. When two of them would be on the island (or whatever Burnett would call an island . . . his definition of that is pretty loose), they would compete in a duel. The winner stays, the loser throws their buff into the fire and leave the game for good. As I write this, I'm assuming that once a merge between the two tribes, whomever is on Redemption Island would come back to the main action. While this new format has shades of Pearl Islands (where the outcasts beat the two tribes, and two of their number were voted back into the game), it was clear that Burnett was scrapping near the bottom of the barrel. Specifically, Real World/Road Rules Challenge, which started on that format back in 2003 with The Gauntlet. Of course, there would need to be a season to film between HvV and Redemption Island. What could be done?

Answer: invite champion collegiate and professional football coach Jimmy Johnson to Nicaragua, along with nineteen of the dumbest people that could be cast. All right, I'm probably being too hard on the Nicaragua cast, but anybody with half a brain was voted off quickly, while another game of hot potato was played between people who probably couldn't spell "Survivor." Jimmy himself was gone after eight days, a victim of age and nature. He did wind up getting a lap dance from Probst at the reunion special, while other players (including jury members) got shafted on air time. The host then grinded all over the leg of Terry Bradshaw, one of Johnson's co-hosts on Fox's NFL pre-game show. To say it was embarrassing would be an understatement. Between two people quitting (including the unbelievably odious Naonka, who will no doubt be the "guest of honor" at an NAACP fundraiser where people would pay to punch her in the mouth), "masterminds" getting outwitted, Probst openly using his reality host mind powers to influence a vote, the players not getting influenced by Probst's mind mojo because they didn't have minds to begin with, and a dumbass nicknamed "Fabio" (because he was blond and dim, and apparently that was enough to warrant the moniker), Survivor hit an all-time low in quality.

Once all footage of Nicaragua was buried in a hole thirty-feet deep that was then filled with concrete (something the producers of The Amazing Race did with their all-star season years ago), Burnett moved on with promoting Redemption Island and Rob and Russell's involvement with it, which was the worst-kept secret ever. Once the cat was finally let out of the bag (half-torn to shreds already), Probst laid this gem on the Entertainment Weekly website: "I’m not concerned at all about any Russell fatigue — that people have had too much. If you’ve had too much of Russell, I dare say you’re not really a Survivor fan. He embodies Survivor. He’s polarizing. You hate him or you love him." You just had to love the cavalier "fuck you" attitude Probst had for the fans. Russell was an anchor that was dragging the show towards the abyss that most shows are falling into, and those sane enough to hate the punk had problems? Also, at the Nicaragua reunion special, Rob revealed that he and Amber had their second kid. You would think that Rob would at least look to have a normal life, as opposed to being a grown-up version of the eternally bratty morons that pollute Real World/Road Rules Challenge every single season these days. Honestly, Mark Burnett could look at the "hinjinks" of mouth-breathers like Evan Starkman, Kenny Santucci and Johnny Devenanzio (the show's permanent Axis of Ass) and start getting horny at "bad boys" stirring up trouble on his show.

And that brings us to today. I'm not going to get into most of the action, given that I still don't know most of these people after four episodes. One day, I might write an essay on Phillip, a man who seems to be more of a Section 64 than a "mere" Section 8, but that's not happening today. I'll skip to the irony of a fella named Ralph finding the hidden immunity idol without getting a clue about its whereabouts. In Nicaragua, the producers at least tried to "Russell-proof" the idols by hiding them in less conspicuous places. So it was hilarious that Ralph ("Redneck Yeti" comes to mind describing him) just stumbled across it, beating Russell at his own game. The pipsqueak managed to get by, allying himself with Krista and Stephanie. Since Russell is known as "Russhole" on the forums, I think of those two as "Russhoes." I know, it's not nice, and I'd be happy to hear alternatives. Anyway, after the
Zapatera tribe won their first two reward/immunity challenges, the bulk of the team elected to throw the next one in order to vote Russell off. Sure enough, they managed to lose the challenge, the majority sextet successfully split their votes, a three-way tie was forced between Russell, Stephanie and Ralph (who probably didn't think of using his idol), and Russell wound up losing on the tiebreaker. After snuffing out Russell's torch and sending him to Redemption Island, Probst chastised Zapatera for voting out "one of the most successful players in the history of Survivor." There are so many reasons why I could never play this game. One of the top ten would be the fact that I could never, ever respect Jeff Probst. EVER.

Probst: Well, you have voted off a two-time finalist and a certified genius. Whether it will bite you in the ass remains to be seen. Grab your torc-

Me: Um, Jeff? Could you repeat that?

Probst: You didn't hear what I said?

Me: Not really. Sounded like your cheeks were full of Russell's spunk. Could you spit it out before talking?

Now you know the rest of the story. Russell lost the Redemption Island challenge, got teary-eyed (like he had in past reunions after his losses), and baited Ralph (one of four players who elected to watch the contest) into revealing his hidden idol. On EW and his own site, Probst praised Russell with so much vigor, any printout made of those pages would come out very sticky. Russell himself has contemplated suing his tribemates for throwing the challenge. My response would be, "If you're not fucking over somebody, you're not playing the game right." Oh, and Russell may have leaked spoiler info on Samoa and HvV. I'd go over that, but it's the night where we have to set the clocks forward by an hour, and I should go to bed. Personally, I don't think this is the last we've seen of Russell Hantz. I honestly believe he'll come back next year to "star" on Celebrity Apprentice, which would mark the first time I would root for Donald Trump to lunge across his desk to strangle somebody, as opposed to the other way around. Probst predictably left the light on for Russell as far as returning to Survivor. If that happens, that might be the broken straw that finally -- FINALLY -- gets me to stop watching this rapidly declining show. But I doubt it.

PS: While thinking about what to write for this post, I decided that I wanted to be famous. If that happened, I might wind up being considered being a guest if and when Probst gets roasted. Rather than asking you to search my posts on the Television Without Pity forums for mentions of him, I figured it was high time to actually embed something . . . in this case, how I would address the overrated bastard. Just replace "my" with "Russell's," and don't forget to throw in a "Rob's" for good measure. Enjoy!

PPS: The Joes in the van are Breaker and Dialtone. Now you know . . . and knowing is half the battle!