Life, it sometimes seems, is awfully random. I recently watched a very cool movie entitled "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing", in which a character played by Clea DuVall (Sophie from Carnivalé, for those of you who watched) was hit by a car. She tried to figure out why such a life-altering thing would happen, but came up with no answers. She realized that there was no answer, which is an answer in and of itself. I thought about that for quite some time, until I had an epiphany of sorts. There are some certainties in life. “Oh great,” you’re all thinking. “She’s waxing philosophical.” I assure you, I’m not. But here are some things I know for sure: the sun will rise over the eastern sky tomorrow morning. When I drop an object, it will fall down and not up. Two plus two will always equal four. And on reality shows, it doesn’t matter what twists they’ve already unleashed; they will try to top it on the next episode. So what’s my point, you wonder? It is simply this: for those of you who are reading this in the hopes that there was a bigger explosion this week, one in which there may have been some maimings (if not outright fatalities), well, you can stop reading now. For although there was an “epic” twist this week, nobody went kablooey. It sucks, I know. I was disappointed too.
Now before I begin to rehash the details of what happened this week, I want to take a minute to talk about the fact that NBC used the word “epic” several times to describe the twist. When I think “epic”, I tend to think about things like “The Odyssey” or “The Iliad”. Hell, if we want to be contemporary about it, I’d even grudgingly assign that label to “Gone With The Wind” or, less grudgingly, to the “Rocky” movies. Well, not IV and V, but the others. But some chick from St. Louis tossing on some latex makeup and a fat suit does not an epic make. Sorry, I had to get that off my chest. I feel better now, so let’s begin, shall we?
How Much Innuendo Can They Pack Into One Afternoon?
The dates started off this week with Larissa and the new guys blowing glass at an art studio. How cool is that? I went to a Chihuly exhibit in Buffalo once, and it was really spectacular stuff. I was irritated that it got wasted on the new guys, because I bet Tony would have really enjoyed it. Anyway, Larissa pokes fun at Chachi, suggesting that perhaps he ought to make a beaver. Blowing...beaver...I’m pretty sure there’s a joke in there somewhere, but God help me, I can’t quite nail it. You’ll have to insert your own. Ha! Chachi, taking the ribbing good-naturedly, actually attempts to make the animal, but ends up with what he describes as roadkill instead. After having spent very little time actually showing the group working on the glass-blowing, Larissa pairs off with each guy for a little one-on-one time. Gil is first up, and he wants her to tell him something about herself that she hasn’t told any of the other guys. It wasn’t a bad approach, but Larissa flips the script on him and asks him to tell her something new about himself instead. Was she being coy, or is she so devoid of substance that there’s nothing new to tell? Hmmm. As is his custom, Gil is generic and simply says that he’s trying to be more open. How...insightful, Gil. Thanks for playing. Next is Jim, and I’d like to say that there was a meaningful conversation there, but no. She hopped straight in his lap and they started going at it. Have these two ever spoken? If so, are their conversations so lame that each and every one of them hit the cutting room floor? She quite literally sat in his lap, told him she has a crush on him, and they began making out. A deep and meaningful connection, that. After she tore her face off of Jim’s, she spent her obligatory time with Chachi. He told her that he wants her to see his serious side. You know, as opposed to his seriously obnoxious side that he’s been showing this whole time. Out of fairness, and “despite the fact that he’s done everything wrong from the minute he got here”, Larissa picks Chachi for that evening’s date.
”So, Uh, Do You Like...Stuff?
That evening, the two of them hang out at the top of the Mauna Kea volcano. It was painful for me, because it brought back the memory of her date with David Daskal, and his singing. Ha! I bet all of you forgot about that, didn’t you? Well, I’ll tell you what - I wasn’t going to suffer alone. Maybe we can all get a group rate on lobotomies. As Larissa and Chachi take in the spectacular view, they talk - about the spectacular view. That’s pretty much it. Maybe it was gorgeous enough that it rendered the two of them speechless, I don’t know. However, pretty much the only other thing that we saw them say was Chachi asking Larissa how she liked his “serious side”. Maybe they’d just had a heartfelt discussion on the catch-22 chicken and egg cycle of inner-city poverty and crime, or he’d laid out his proposal on how exactly we can repair our foreign relations after this tumultuous year. Or maybe he’d just said “Volcanos are purty. Me like sunsets.” The world will never know. But from what we were given to work with, how was that his serious side? Because he wasn’t blowing up a boat or acting like a high school kid about her genitalia? Okay there, Charles in Charge. If you say so. Or maybe I’m being too harsh. There was one other bit of conversation we were privy to. The two of them found a star to wish on (although I’d bet everything I own that it was a planet), and then teased each other about not telling what they wished for. We found out later that Larissa wished that she’d find the love of her life through her experience on the show, and Chachi wished to be the last man standing. Dumbasses. You just sealed your fate that neither of those things will happen. You can’t just go telling all of America your wishes. If you’re going to be superstitious, you have to do it right. After the date, Larissa confessed that “Yes, I’m falling for Michael.” She is? Wow. Based on that date? I personally would have walked away from it thinking “Boy, that was one spectacular view” and nothing more.
Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!
Lest the AJ’s feel slighted about her all-hunks-all-the-time date from the previous day, Larissa spends the following afternoon with the original crew. Giving the distinct impression that she wouldn’t be seen in public with any of them, the group explores what I believe she called “lava tubes”. I’ve never heard of those, so for the purposes of this article, we’re going to call them caves. After they’d navigated their way through the cave - wearing those cool miner hats with the lights on them, natch - they emerge into a clearing to find a tiki idol waiting for them. They’re all afraid of the idol, supposedly because visions of detonators are dancing in their heads. Personally I think they’re all having flashbacks of the Brady Bunch movie, but none of them were man enough to admit it. After letting Larissa read the attached note, they learn that the last man holding the idol that evening will be joining her for a swim with manta rays. NBC really missed the mark with this. It could have been a battle royale to the death, with all the guys ‘rasslin and fighting for the idol. How sweet would that have been? Unfortunately we were simply treated to more of the same ol’ same ol’, and each guy spent his few minutes with Larissa before she made a decision on who to go out with that night. Fredo went first, and said nothing noteworthy. Next up was Brian, who told her that he’d thought about quitting the game. Larissa responded by saying that if he quit, she’d quit too. Interesting. A lie, but interesting. Finally Tony sidled up to her, and immediately talked about his sketchpad. Yawn. Larissa noted that he was still pissy about the boat explosion, which she now thinks is funny. All of a sudden things aren’t looking so good for Tony. Not to make light of his sweatgland issues, but it occurred to me during this scene that every cloud really does have a silver lining. Tony will never have to worry about a George Costanza kung pao chicken-esque nervous appearance. And the Seinfeld references, they just keep a’coming. Larissa ultimately offers the idol to Fredo, probably because it’s been a really long time since they’ve spent any alone time together.
As they walk to the boat, Fredo opens up a bit about some of his previous lousy dating experiences. He tells Larissa a story about a woman he was dating, and how she turned out to be married. He goes on to say that he doesn’t share certain things with very many people. Yeah, he probably ought to have stuck with that policy, because his whole story was somehow very white-trash and, to me, off-putting. I mean, I realize it wasn’t his fault that he got played, but...eh. It was just a little too Springer for my liking. After the big confession, they change into wetsuits and, as promised, swim with manta rays. Plankton flock to their underwater flashlights, and enormous manta rays are everywhere. It was a little on the scary side, but still pretty cool. It beats dinner and a movie. Unless that movie is Rocky. But I digress. The rest of the date is fairly uneventful, by which I mean Fredo got no action.
So now that everyone has had their requisite dates with Larissa, it’s time for the “epic twist”. As I’m sure everyone already knows, Larissa is going to be made up to look like her own mother. She’s going to have a latex face attached by “the top special effects artists in Hollywood!” and she’s putting on the fat suit. They went into excruciating detail about the process of applying the makeup, and I’m totally skipping all of that. Suffice it to say that the whole thing takes hours, and is very uncomfortable and hot. She’s given an old-lady wig, frumpy clothes and a wart on her forehead with hair growing out of it. We’re supposed to be blown away by her transformation. Well, let me tell you people this: it looked like Larissa, wearing makeup and a fatsuit. Not just in a “mothers and daughters often resemble each other” way. No. In a “Hey, check out Larissa wearing that costume!” way. If I were one of these guys and I’d been fooled by that ensemble, I’d be making an appointment with my friendly neighborhood optometrist.
So here’s how the mission is going down: as the men pull up to Larissa’s house in their van, they’re going to catch a Larissa body double hugging Larissa’s “mom” and her friend Sarah goodbye. The timing is such that they only get the briefest glimpse of the fake Larissa before she gets into her car and is driven away. Then “mom” and Sarah are going to spend time with each individual guy, asking them uncomfortable questions. After the Q & A session, the guys will be taped on hidden camera back at their house, and Larissa will be given a chance to review the tapes and see what the guys say behind her back. It’s all very elaborate and sly, or so we’re meant to think. So, now that you’ve wrapped your minds around that epic, let’s talk about how it played itself out.
Fredo came in first, and was asked if he’d be willing to cut his hair if Larissa asked him to. “No,” he yelled “For my hair is my lifeblood! It is from where I derive my mighty strength, because I am Samson, and I shall not be tempted by the beguiling Delilah!” Okay, so that’s a lie. He said he’d cut it, but I didn’t like his spinelessness there. On the other hand, I also don’t like his hair, so I guess I should just be glad he’d consider losing the ponytail. Mom then asks him what he considers to be the most physically unappealing quality in a woman. “Short hair.”, he answers. Boy, that train of thought didn’t have too many stops, did it? When asked what makes a woman sexy, he gives the universally appropriate answer of “her personality.”
Jim is the next victim. In keeping with the tradition of barely letting Jim speak on camera, we don’t get to hear any of his answers. He’s asked what the most emotionally damaging thing he’s ever done to someone is, but we never find out what it is. Why is he on this show again? Oh, right. Because Larissa thinks he’s cute and likes to kiss him without the encumbering responsibility of “conversation” and “intellectual stimulation.”
Third guy up is Gil. He’s also asked the question about the most physically unappealing quality. After stuttering and stammering for a few minutes (while he’s obviously thinking “No fat chicks!”), he finally answers “Uh, bad hands?” To his credit, he admits later that it was the worst answer he’s ever given.
Because Tony has nothing more to him than his artistic nature, his question focuses on that. His question is, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Say Larissa painted a butt-ugly picture. Do you tell her how badly it sucks?” His answer? “I’d like anything Larissa made.” This made me so angry. I’d like to think my mom would see through such crap, and I’d like to think most guys wouldn’t be working so hard at saying the “right” thing. Guys, do you do this when you meet a girlfriend’s mom? Do you lie through your teeth, hoping that she’ll like you? If so, aren’t you worried that it’s going to be tough to keep up that sort of facade with her? Ladies, how would you feel if you heard a boyfriend say something like that? Would it give you the warm fuzzies, or would you think the guy was full of crap? I’m willing to concede that I might be unusual here, but I doubt it. I asked my boyfriend what he’d do in this hypothetical situation, and his answer was “I’d tell you it was horrible.” In my mind, that’s the perfect answer. Of course, this is the same man who didn’t tell me for 3 weeks that my home dye job gave my hair a decidedly greenish hue, so maybe I should just move on.
Brian is in the penultimate spot, and is given a tough question. Sarah wants to know what he’d do if he had tickets for game 7 of a Red Sox World Series, but on the same night, Larissa had an art exhibit opening. I think we all know that this is a situation that is nothing but hypothetical, as the Red Sox aren’t going to be seeing a World Series game anytime soon. However, hypothetical or not, Brian has to answer. “I’d go to her art opening.” Liar! Liar liar LIAR! You would do NO such thing! I know a guy who is a HUGE Red Sox fan. On the night they lost the ALCS to the Yankees, he called me. He told me it was literally the worst he’d felt since the day his father died. So either Brian is the biggest liar on the planet, or he’s not a real fan. I’m leaning toward the former.
Finally we have Chachi. Oh, the drama. Chachi is given the same question they’ve all had about what he considers to be the most physically unappealing quality in a woman. Finally verbalizing what every other guy was really thinking, he says that it would have to be when a woman looks like she’s out of shape and lazy. He realizes his faux pas as soon as the words leave his mouth, as “mom” shakes her head disparagingly and jots a few notes down on her paper.
After the Q & A session draws to a close, the guys are told that “Mrs. Meek” was so upset by some of the things she heard that she demanded to return to St. Louis immediately. Each of the guys made a videotaped message for her, all of them saying nice things about Larissa, and claiming to hope to see her again at some point. Chachi tried to justify his “out of shape” remarks by saying he adheres to the idea of a healthy body making for a healthy mind. Larissa viewed these tapes, rationalizing that Chachi really didn’t mean anything too terrible by what he said.
Oh, but wait. She then watched the hidden camera footage of the guys discussing their time with Mrs. Meek and Sarah. As always, the focus was on Chachi, and we got to see him digging an even deeper hole for himself. He jokes with the guys about how when he looked at Mrs. Meek, he was thinking how that could be Larissa later on in life, and how he was seeing a huge ass, no ankles, etc. He goes on to say how if Larissa was fat right now, there would be no attraction to her at all. Larissa is hugely offended by this, because I guess she feels like her personality should be enough to attract anyone. That’s sort of the point of this show, right? I’m so torn by her angry reaction to this. On the one hand, I’d be angry if I were her too. But on the other...well, there aren’t any heavy guys left on the show, are there? She didn’t exactly hop in Sean’s lap and start sucking his face off in the hot tub the way she did with arrogant Mike K., did she? I just don’t see why she gets to be all offended and hurt when she’s really no better. Even if she didn’t come out and say the things Chachi is saying, well...there’s that whole cliché about actions speaking louder than words. Hypocrisy isn’t cool.
You So Craaaaazy
That night, it’s elimination time again. She has to axe one AJ and one new guy. As the double doors open, in walks “Mrs. Meek”. The guys, still apparently oblivious, prepare themselves for a verbal beatdown. Chachi in particular looks uncomfortable. As “mom” begins to talk about how she’s seen the hidden camera footage and heard every word they’ve said about her, Chachi mentally packs it in. He knows he’s done. Mom goes on to say that “mother knows best, and what’s best right now is honesty.” She then begins to peel off her face. Oh man, I had so much fun thinking about the things that must have gone through the minds of the guys right then. “Oh my God! She’s a nutcase, and she’s TOTALLY MUTILATING HERSELF IN FRONT OF US! WE DESTROYED HER FRAGILE PSYCHE!” Come on, at least a few of you had to be thinking something similar, right? Anyway, the face comes off, the guys realize they’ve been had, and she unceremoniously gives Chachi the boot. Lucky for us, Fredo is still in the game. If Chachi has taught us nothing else, we’ve learned the importance of having at least one sheriff from Cleveland in town. We really dodged a bullet there. After leaving, Chachi admits that when he lets his guard down, he often says things before thinking them through. He’ll have plenty of time to practice not doing that back at home. Adios, Chachi. After he leaves, Larissa calls Tony to the side, a la the David Daskal elimination. She tells him that she thinks he’s amazing and wonderful, and although she thinks nothing but wonderful things about him, it’s his time to hit the bricks. He’s stunned, and can’t speak. He leaves without totally breaking down, but his post-elimination interview showed him with red, teary eyes. He thought they really made an excellent connection, and he’s just shocked. Larissa explains to the camera that she felt as though they only had art in common, and didn’t feel as if they ever talked about anything else. Can we really blame her? She has all those incredible deep conversations with Jim to compare the other guys to. Oh, wait...
Next week: Fredo spies on Larissa, submarine style. Oh, and it’s a 90-minute show. 9:30/8:30 Central.