Reality Hit List, July 8: It’s Getting Betterby Brian James -- 07/08/2003
Last week, for me, was the best episode of The Amazing Race so far this season. Not so much because the episode itself was that exciting, but remember how I’ve been saying I’m having a hard time getting into the show this season? I’m finally into it.
I think a huge part of it is this was the first week that a team I really cared about was eliminated. I’ve figured out that that’s a big part of getting emotionally invested in the show. Last season, for example, right off the bat I was very sorry to see Tramel & Talicia and Dennis & Andrew depart in Episodes Two and Three, respectively… then the week right after that brought the drama of the whole Heather & Eve Taxigate elimination. I was sucked in right from the start. This season, I either haven’t liked or haven’t had the chance to get invested all that much in the teams that have been eliminated… until now.
I really wanted to see Monica & Sheree do well; they seemed like fun, positive people and were proving themselves to be quite strong and savvy players. My heart sank when I realized there was no way they could arrive at the pit stop before Jon & Al. This was the kind of investment I’ve been waiting for this season - although I would have preferred they had stuck around! They’ll definitely be missed.
But now, a lot of the deadwood is gone and we’re left with six very distinct teams. (Even David & Jeff’s complete lack of distinction makes them distinct.) I know whom I like and whom I don’t like. We’re getting to know the teams better as their airtime increases. A lot of the petty drama that’s been particularly prevalent and irritating this season seems to have abated - even Tian & Jaree, who seemed headed for a fullblown meltdown the previous week the likes of which this show has never seen, commendably managed to pull it together. (Tian is absolutely right that sometimes things need to come to a head before they can get better.) This is the show I know and love and anxiously await each week - and it’s about time!
One last thing - when Millie was wiping away tears as she told us, “If I won the money, I would love to come back to a place like this and help those kids,” if you looked really, really carefully off to the right, you could see Joe Millionaire’s Melissa bathing an orphan.
Meanwhile, on For Love or Money last week, the big bombshell was dropped as our host Jordan told Rob in his patented “you could drive a truck through these dramatic pauses” fashion that the women were told that… (Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny have been killed and are roasting in the fiery pits of hell) whoever Rob chose… (is wanted in twenty-seven states for grand larceny and jaywalking) would win…(a year’s supply of Rice-A-Roni and a For Love Or Money stickpin) one… (is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do) million… (paperclips and a three-toed sloth named Herbert) dollars. You know, I’d still take Jordan over Rob any day, but I certainly hope he doesn’t talk like that in everyday life as well. Could you imagine? “I have to run… to the store… because… I’m… out… of… paper towels.” Hilariously, Jordan then continued, “I know your mind is racing right now” - as Rob had an utterly blank expression on his face.
From then on in, this episode was like that point in soap operas where a character finds out something bad about someone they trusted, but for whatever reason the writers have cooked up to stall the plot chooses to keep it a secret, and the other character thinks the jig might be up but isn’t sure, and round and round they go. And, much like soap characters, Rob told us endlessly that now he wasn’t sure if the women were in it for him or the money, while the women told us endlessly that something seemed wrong with Rob but they weren’t sure what. In fact, when Erin slipped and mentioned to Rob that the “winner” would be taking the others to Vegas, I was halfway expecting Rob to counter in soap speak: “Oh? And what do you mean by that, Erin? Why would you, one of three women on this dating show, use the term ‘winner’ if there’s no prize involved? If all the woman I choose gets is the chance to go on dating me? It couldn’t be that there is some sort of prize involved that I don’t know about, because I know you’d be honest with me about such a thing, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you, Erin?” But alas, it wasn’t to be - although in an apparent moment of utter self-clarity, Rob did tell us, “I don’t think I’m a prize.” Paige similarly got my hopes up when she mentioned jumping off a cliff, but no dice there either. Oh well - at least she ditched that blessed “promise to MYSELF!” ring this week. I thought perhaps this week her Care Bears lunchbox would follow.
And she was indeed around this week, because, proving that he’s a moron, Rob chose Paige over Kelly. Seriously - am I missing something here? I mean, even just on a more basic level, whom would you rather have lunch with - Paige or Kelly? Ah well. Kelly, you were consistently entertaining and will be missed. Last night was the two-hour finale, which I’ll talk about in my column next week. Oh - and have they always been giving the losing women taxis instead of limos and I just now noticed? [Editor’s Note: Yes.] Cheap bastards. I suppose we should just be grateful that they didn’t arrange to have the taxi take them one block a year for the next forty years.
Finally, on Paradise Hotel, good grief - if people are at each other’s throats this much now, what on earth would it be like if they were competing for any sort of prize?
Charla forces herself on Scott so aggressively she seemed just one step away from binding and gagging him, then tells everyone it repulses her when roommate Dave touches her bare skin - then wonders why Dave felt embarrassed! Beau and Alex have a blowup over Amanda that seemed to stem from a case of Beau wanting to have his cake and eat it too - it was hard to follow, but best I could tell, Beau’s argument seemed to be, “I don’t care about her, but how dare you not care about her while she’s flirting with you just to make me jealous?” Whatever it was, I just wanted to scream, “Boys! You’re both pretty!” (Unintentionally hilarious moment of the week: Beau snapped at Alex to “talk like a man.” ”Talk like a man?!?” squeaked a worked-up Alex in a pitch so high he made Peter Brady in the “Time to Change” episode of The Brady Bunch sound like James Earl Jones.) This culminated in Alex snapping that he didn’t give a damn about Amanda while Amanda was in the bathroom and could hear everything, which might make me feel sorry for her if I didn’t find her an insipid twit myself.
Finally, there’s Zack, whose behavior on Wednesday’s episode is going to take an entire subsection to sort out. The thing is, on a purely physical level, I actually agree with Zack that he’s probably the hottest guy there. But it’s not like there’s a significant difference in physical attractiveness between him and most of the other guys, and Zack’s personality just sucks. Combine the two factors and he winds up being one of the least attractive guys there. Case in point - the fact that he would actually come out and say he was the hottest guy there in the middle of having a temper tantrum because Amy actually (gasp!) kissed some other people in a kissing contest. Not that he seemed to have any qualms about kissing then-roommate Amanda later on, mind you - and actually, that in and of itself spurred a whole new round of “he said/she said”: Amanda said Zack started hitting on her, while Zack claimed Amanda started it. The footage clearly showed Zack making the first physical move, but since it was in flashback with no sound, for all we know Amanda could have asked him to kiss her just before that. Then later, when new roommate Kavita asked him if he wanted her, he offered up perhaps the most unenthusiastic “I guess” in history, which is, I would imagine, just what every girl longs to hear - not that this stopped either one of them from making out, either. I was literally coming up with different ways to call Zack one of the biggest, most narcissistic asses in history in this portion of the column in my head; then he dropped the bombshell that his mother abandoned him in a shopping cart when he was younger and my jaw just dropped. My immediate reaction from the cynical side of me - the side that wants to see an American Idol contestant perform Martika’s “Toy Soldiers” in front of a kickline of dancing hypodermic needles - was Deborah Harry’s line from “Well, Did You Evah?”: “Sounds like pure soap opera - I may cry!” But then, the more I thought about it, the more everything made a weird sort of sense: Zack, quite understandably, has a classic fear of abandonment.
I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be applying psychoanalysis to a Paradise Hotel contestant any more than I thought I’d ever find myself wanting to type the sentence, “Toni from Love Cruise, acting as the voice of reason, says…” but speaking as someone who has quite a sizeable fear of abandonment of my own (although thankfully, nothing that drastic ever happened to me), most of Zack’s behavior is a lot more understandable (although still not acceptable) now: even seemingly throwaway sentences like telling Amanda, “I hate it when people leave,” when she was packing to move into the single room take on a new significance. I think he throws himself into working out for the same reason I used to cry as a kid if I got anything less than an A on a report card: if he’s as “perfect” as possible, people won’t go away. When people still reject him in spite of his “perfection,” like earlier when Kristin and Amanda chose other guys for their initial roommates, it completely scrambles his thought processes and agitates him. Lastly, but significantly, I think the main reason he behaves like such a jackass is to test people: if they truly like him, they’ll put up with him no matter what.
There are some serious flaws with this way of thinking, however. For example, Zack could be the most gorgeous guy in the world and a girl could still reject him because he’s brunette and she only likes blondes. That has nothing to do with him personally or anything he did; that’s her preference. Also, most people - the kind of people you want in your life - aren’t going to put up with being tested. The kind of people who will stick around and put up with that kind of treatment have their own issues and the whole thing winds up on a downward spiral into codependent hell. So you don’t want to go around being an ass to people, but on the other hand, nor do you want to go around constantly crying that you were abandoned as a child, either. The trick is to find a happy medium. How, you ask? When I’ve perfected that for myself, I’ll gladly let you know! In the meantime, I’ve gone from wanting to throttle the guy to wanting to know more of where his head’s at.
I probably won’t be seeing much more of him, though - now that Big Brother will be competing against the Wednesday episodes, I most likely won’t be watching Paradise Hotel on any sort of regular basis, so I’m especially grateful that we have a thorough recapper here at RNO in Jeffrey Clinard to keep us all abreast on the show. Also, between covering the Tuesday episodes of Big Brother (unexpectedly having to cover Brandon’s departure is the reason why this column is delayed this week) and possibly another show in the near future, plus additional duties I’ve taken on as Assistant Editor of this site, this column itself is most likely going to be shorter in the future - more of a few quick thoughts/highlights of the week thing - and possibly more sporadic, although I’ll try to avoid that if I can help it. To be blunt, as much as I love writing, this site, and reality television, if I don’t stop myself, I’ll wind up spending the entire summer in front of my computer 24/7!
One final thought: first Survivor: The Amazon’s Heidi, now Paradise Hotel’s Amy. Is “I’m caught between a rock and a hard stone” the new “agreeance”?
Brian James is an actor/writer/singer in New York City and the Assistant Editor of RealityNewsOnline. An avid reality show, Passions, early Ryan’s Hope, retro music, and Internet discussion board junkie, he can be found holding up "Will Snark For Food" signs in subway stations as he continues to search for that elusive "day job." Brian would like to stress that his writings are based solely on what he sees in each episode of each show, and realizes that there may sometimes be more to the story and that people may behave quite differently under normal circumstances. Comments and cybertomatoes accepted at BrianJamesRNO@earthlink.net.
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