So here we all are, gathered for our final hurrah. Human nature dictates that at the end of any time-consuming event, people look back upon the experience, and ask certain questions of themselves as well as of the event in question. What am I taking away from this experience? What have I learned? Have I grown as a human being as a result of my time commitment? Are all female reality show contestants doomed to come across as shallow, vapid hussies? While the answers to those first three questions are purely subjective, I think we can answer the last with an unequivocal, resounding “yes”.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. When last we left off, Larissa was down to her final two choices – Brian and Gil. At the time she went on the hometown dates, big-faced Jim was technically still in contention, but due to some unusual editing we’re just going to pretend it was a final two, not the final three it was in actuality. Head-to-head competition is more compelling anyway.
After the requisite (and incredibly long) retrospective of the rest of the season, we finally get down to the nitty-gritty. Larissa is going to spend time with Gil in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and with Brian in Boston, Massachusetts. Later, after her decision is made, she has a “huge secret” that she’s going to reveal. Okay, are we all caught up now? Excellent. Let’s begin.
Watch Out Fer Them There Gators
Larissa’s first hometown date of the show is with Gil in Ft. Lauderdale. He’s excited to show her around the swampland and pastel stucco Mecca that is South Florida. He likes the idea that she’ll get to see what his life was like before he ever made the incredibly poor decision to become involved in this show. Their first activity is on an airboat through a swamp, and already she must be in love. I mean, how cool is that? Skimming across the water, inches above alligators and festering waste, on a boat so loud that conversation is not only discouraged, it’s impossible? Jim totally missed his chance here. Had he but taken her on one of these rides, she’d have never known that he has the intellectual depth of a thimble. Ah well, hindsight is 20-20 and all that good stuff. After the rockin’ boat ride, Gil and Larissa visit one of Gil’s construction sites. Gil, you magnificent bastard! That is JUST the activity I would have chosen, had I been the one looking to impress a beauty queen. Larissa asks Gil “So, you actually do some of this yourself?” I suppose that in Larissa’s world, where people approach you on the street and say “Would you like to live in a Hawaiian mansion for a few weeks?”, manual labor seems like a fairly foreign concept. Gil puts Larissa to work spackling a wall, furthering his Don Juan-esque appeal. He waxes philosophical about how important reputation is in the construction business. And by “reputation”, he of course means “mob ties.” I grew up in a heavily Italian-American city, buddy. You’re not fooling me.
After the two tear themselves away from the clearly intriguing construction site, they go for a ride in a cigarette boat. Again with the loud boat. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, and maybe I haven’t had enough exposure to the joys of water sports or an environment where life revolves around the ocean, but damn! Those boats are louder than hell, and I think it’s fairly obvious that Larissa spends about seven hours primping before going out. One ride on a boat that fast is going to wreak havoc on perfectly coiffed hair. It’s nice that she has a team of stylists on the ready, just waiting for the “Code Red!” signal once the boat pulls up to the dock. Whatever, I’m probably just jealous. They arrive at the Viscaya museum and gardens, which is where they’ll end their day of romance and mystery. It’ll be difficult to beat the construction site, but Gil is a trooper. Larissa gives Gil a gift of a St. Christopher medallion, which is blue and “reminds [her] of the ocean, which reminds [her] of [his] eyes.” Gil thanks her disinterestedly. As they drink wine and Larissa moons over him with puppy-dog eyes, she asks him what he hopes will happen as a result of this experience. His response? “Oh, I’d be, of course, an actor.” Hee! Oh man, that’s hilarious on a multitude of levels. First, damn. Burn! Larissa just got badly, badly played there, and I think it’s quite possibly the funniest thing ever. Secondly, this is Gil, a man who can’t even deliver his own, non-scripted, casual conversations with any degree of emotion or inflection. I grew up in Buffalo, NY. Buffalo gets a lot of nationwide disdain, some of it deserved, some of it totally off the mark. So growing up in a city like that, you tend to get an inferiority complex of sorts, one that you usually deal with by overcompensation. You get inordinately excited when the spotlight is on your town, and you try to support those infrequent occurrences to the best of your ability. What’s my point, you wonder? Simply this: The worst movie ever made was set in Buffalo. It was a horrible, tragic waste of celluloid called “Stiletto Dance”, and it starred none other than Eric Roberts. I watched it solely because of the Buffalo connection, and it featured the worst acting this side of a third-grade food pyramid play. And yet, I found each character in that movie more compelling than the semi-animated 2x4 that is Gil. An actor? An actor, he says? I…it’s…no. Just no. He has cold, dead eyes, and a face that only moves from the lips down. So whatever – good luck with all that, Gil. To his credit, Gil elaborated on his acting aspirations by saying “It’s just the coolest thing ever. You get to be someone else.” Yeah, I really can’t fault him for that. If I were Gil, I’d be looking into being someone else too. Larissa is predictably pissed off that he didn’t answer, “The best thing that could come out of this would be for a super-keen, mega-cool relationship with you, pretty lady!” Hypocrite. Why is she on this show, if not for the exposure? She’s a freaking beauty queen/bikini model. It’s not like she’s on her way to MIT after the taping wraps to finish up her dissertation. So don’t hate the player, Larissa. Hate the game. And hate Gil for being so not self-aware. After a bit more awkward conversation, drawn-out pauses and wooden stares, their date ends.
I Will Pay You The Tidy Sum Of One Million Dollars If You Promise Not To Use The L Word
Now it’s Brian’s turn to strut his stuff. As he awaits Larissa’s arrival, he laughs about how he fell in love for the first time on a reality show, of all things. Well, crap. They did it. He did it. He went there. He’s the “I love you” guy. Right then, I knew this wasn’t going to end well. I’ll be totally honest with you people – had I not had the obligation to write this recap, my television would have been turned off right then and there. No, who am I kidding? I wouldn’t have been watching this in the first place. But even if I’d been sucked in, I would have flipped over to the repeat of the Sex and The City finale, which was airing at the same time. If I’m going to watch a train wreck, I want to know it’s scripted so I’m not so embarrassed for those involved. For her part, Larissa wants Brian to use this date as an opportunity to step it up a little bit, to do more to make her feel like a woman. Sigh. You know what she means by that? I want Brian to do something to make me forget that I have no real physical attraction to him at all, so he needs to somehow pull off impossibility. Perhaps he should also sprout wings made of wax, and spirit you around the city on his back, hmm Larissa? Or, you know, you could always look past the superficial, and put some stock into the more important characteristics. But no. I suppose that’s too much to ask.
They start out on a ship, which, if you’re going to go on a boat ride for a date, is a better choice. It’s quiet enough that you can actually have a conversation, which, for most of us, is a good thing. If this were Jim or Gil, well, not so much. Brian makes a comment about Boston not being a city of flash, and how the people there are more about substance. Larissa shows a 7th graders grasp of subtlety and subtext, as she remarks that Brian was using the city as a metaphor for himself. It’s true, though. It’s true for all the guys left in the finals. Fort Lauderdale is lovely to look at for a while, but there isn’t much in the way of intellectualism there. Floridians, I know you’re going to take offense to that, and I’m sorry. I’m not just making assumptions though. I actually spent some time considering moving to that very city, and couldn’t bring myself to do so because of a distinct lack of jobs and/or educational opportunities in my field there. Well, that and I also got unceremoniously dumped by the guy I was going to be moving there for, but still. It’s all about tourism and the service industry. It’s pretty and fun for a while, but it doesn’t feel like real life. Very Gil. Boston isn’t going to appeal to everyone, either. Only certain types of people will look at that city and find it visually appealing. It’s big, it’s loud, it has terrible traffic, and it’s crowded. It’s also home to some of the best universities and research centers in the world, and has an incredible sense of history and, well, substance everywhere you look. When I visited, I had a sense that everyone was intelligent and thinking about important things. I’m sure that isn’t true, and I know Florida has some smart residents as well. But there’s no denying the very different vibes given off by the two cities. Oh, and as for Scottsdale? Well, let’s see. I’m sure I can keep this metaphor going. I guess Scottsdale didn’t make much of an impression on me, just like Jim. It seemed like at any minute we might see a tumbleweed blow by, much like in the recesses of Jim’s mind. And those cliffs they played on were large features on the landscape, just like the abnormally large features on the landscape of Jim’s face. Ha.
While on the ship, Brian has a present for Larissa. They walk to the side of the ship, where he pulls up a trap containing two lobsters. He names one Gil, the other Jim. The master of symbolism that he is, he asks Larissa if she wants to eat them or let them go. His suggestion is to let them go, and Larissa laughingly agrees.
After the ship ride, Brian takes Larissa to the world-famous Boston shrine, Fenway Park. Fenway Pahk, I should say. I’ll tell you what: I’m a Yankees fan, and thus have been programmed to revile all things Red Sox. But it’s clear to everyone who knows even a little bit about baseball that although this might not be the textbook definition of a romantic date, it’s a clear sign that a Boston guy is into you. I hope Larissa had the ability to recognize how meaningful this was to Brian. She asks him who his favorite player is, and he answers that it’s Tim Wakefield. Red Sox fans loooove them some Tim Wakefield. I know a guy who named his cat Knuckles after him. So what a wonderful coincidence (!) that as soon as Brian says this, who should walk out of the clubhouse but Timmy Wakefield himself. There’s some uncomfortable starstruck commentary by Brian (“I’m not a butt-kisser, BUT…”), and then he starts to sing Larissa’s praises. He tells Tim – who, let’s face it, probably couldn’t care less - that she’s too good to be true, she’s so incredible, blah blah blah. Larissa eats this up with a spoon, and gushes later about how she can’t believe he was so nice, because she’s never had a guy say such nice things about her to another man while she was right there. How sad. Seriously, what sort of relationships has this girl been in? I mean, of course it’s nice to have your praises sung to a celebrity, but she’s never experienced that, not even with normal guys? Maybe I’ve taken a lot for granted in my life, but it’s all just very depressing. Tim gives the two each an autographed official jersey and then runs screaming back to sanity. Alone again, Brian and Larissa embrace in center field, and take note of the jumbotron welcoming them to the park. A little on par with those guys who propose to their girlfriends at basketball games, but whatever. I’m sure it was meaningful at the time. Caught up in the moment, Brian opens his heart and lets her know that he’ll always be there for Larissa, and that he thinks she’s one of only a few things in this world worth fighting for. They kiss, and celebratory music swells. And we all know what’s going to happen, because reality show editors are one-trick ponies, and they think they’re slick by painting what would look to be a very obvious outcome, only to pull the rug out from under us at the end. Did any of you think she’d pick Brian at this point? If so, I’m going to guess this is the first reality show you’ve ever watched. Am I right? I thought as much.
After their tour of Fenway, Brian takes Larissa across the street to a bar, which is empty, save for four guys. Friends of Brian’s. They inexplicably applaud the couple’s arrival, and I realize that “Dude, my friends are TOTALLY going to see me kiss this hot girl on t.v.” doesn’t actually go as far as “Dude, my friends are TOTALLY going to see me kiss this hot girl in person.” After some meaningless conversation and some beers, they depart. Cut to dinner scene at the Boston Harbor Hotel. They have the entire pavilion to themselves, and Brian – very strangely – informs us that Spruce Floral decorated it. I hate when the plugs are so obvious. Of course, I just gave them a plug of my own, but whatever. It really was nicely decorated, so that’s fine. Larissa is beaming, and claims that the energy that night is different from any she’s experienced with the other guys, and the kisses they’re sharing over the dinner are different than other kisses she’s shared with him. How are they different? Well, “this time he knows what he wants.” Heh. I’m thinking he’s probably known all along what he’s wanted, girly. You just haven’t been as willing to give it up to him as you were with, say, Jim or stupid Mike K. Hussy. After they finish their meal, they do that rocking-back-and-forth thing that passed for slow dancing back at the grade school mixers. During this, Brian intimates that he loves Larissa. He doesn’t come out and say the words, but there’s no question to where he’s going with it. She appears moved by his revelation, and cries, hugging him close. Oh god, this is going to end so badly. I wish I could take this at face value, because maybe then I’d find it touching. Unfortunately, I know what’s coming. We all know what’s coming. And it ain’t good. Larissa, still overcome with emotion, bids Brian farewell. The next time they’ll see each other will be at the elimination.
Can We Please Be Saved By The Bell?
So are we all prepared? Did you all start to overthink it the way I did? See, I gave the editors more credit than they deserved. I started this whole circuitous thought pattern about “Okay, they all know we as an audience have become jaded. They know we’re expecting them to edit it in such a way that the outcome will be “shocking.” So maybe this time they’ll throw us for a loop by giving us exactly what the editing is making us believe, and the twist will be that there’s no twist!” That would have been nice, wouldn’t it? Sigh. Anyway, okay. The eliminations. Larissa stands in the airline hangar, looking like a poor man’s Tiffani-Amber Thiessen. Gil and Brian interview about their respective states of mind, and Brian is more nervous than Gil. Or at least Brian knows how to emote his mindset. Gil could have been on the verge of a freaking breakdown, but we’d never know it. Actor. Ha.
Gil’s the first to arrive at the sacrificial altar. What an incredibly bizarre setup this is, by the way. I completely understand the need to have the airplane right next to Larissa, so they can drive home the point of “One man will fly away with Larissa tonight!” but still – it just looks so odd. There’s this platform on which she’s standing, with a red carpet covered in rose petals leading up to it. And yet she’s still in an airplane hangar. It’s just incongruous. Her first words to Gil are “You intrigue me.” He intrigues me too, as I had no idea that a block of wood could be so ambulatory. She goes on to say that she isn’t sure if he’s ready to take it to the next level, but she knows she has strong feelings for him. She has to trust her instinct – which tells her to choose him. ACK! She did it! They did it! She picked the hunk! AGAIN! God, this show sucks. Damn. I mean, yeah, we knew it was coming, but still. Blah! I can’t express in text how disappointed I was. Not only in her choice, but also in my surprise in it. I was totally ignoring my brain and still pulling for her to choose Brian, right up to the very last second. Stupid reality show. Stupid Larissa. Stupid me. To explain her decision, she talks about how she’d be on dates with the other guys, but see things that always reminded her of Gil. Yes, there are plenty of wooden objects all over this great planet, moron. It’s not necessarily a sign. So Gil walks up the stairs to the plane, and we have to watch her rip Brian to shreds.
His limo pulls up to the hangar, and he’s busy talking about how much he loves her. Oh sweet Jesus. Please stop, Brian. For your own sake, not just mine. He’s smiling as he makes his way to the altar of misery, and I’m just dying inside for him. That poor idiot. She starts off by telling him that his words and actions have moved her in a way she hasn’t been moved in a very long time. She knows he’d treat her like a queen, but he deserves a woman who can look at him right now and reciprocate his feelings. She wishes she was the one, but her heart is telling her something else. She wants a lifelong friendship. He’s the most interesting person she’s ever met, and she had an amazing time, but…well, she’s going to miss him. Brian can only squeak out a “me too”, and they embrace for the final time. Oh damn it. Don’t hug her! Kick her in the friggin’ knee, or smack her in the back of the head or something. Just don’t hug her. She breaks down in tears, but I don’t care. Screw her. Superficial bitch.
Okay, no. I take that back. I can’t fault her as an individual for feeling what she feels for whom she feels it. But I guess I really hate the concept of this show now. This makes two seasons where the “average guy” gets shafted, and it’s all so cruel. Seriously, what’s the point? It perpetuates so many horrible stereotypes, and for what? So we can say “All women are petty and small?” or “Nice guys always finish last?” In the real world those things might happen a lot of the time. Maybe the majority, I don’t know. I’ve read our forums this week, and there seems to be a lot of anger and confusion and bitterness about this outcome. Believe me, I’m right there with most of you about it. But we need to bear some things in mind. There are women out there who don’t value emotional connections as much as they value eye candy. There are men out there who are the same. There are people in this world who have always been the underdogs, and who never get a fair shake. And then there are people who see beyond all that. There are people who realize that physical connections are great, but can’t be the entire basis for a relationship. There are people who overcome childhood injustices to lead very nice lives. There is good and bad in all our lives, and I’m not going to make Larissa into the bad guy here for being vapid and shallow. She’s one woman, and if anything, I’m angrier with NBC and the producers and, hell, maybe society as a whole for perpetuating such inane b.s. Our first instincts are to try to extrapolate some deeper meaning from this show, to apply it to a bigger picture. We can’t do that. For every Larissa in this world – every pageant contestant, every bikini model – there are a thousand “regular” women out there who might have made a different decision. For every Gil or Jim or Chachi, there are a thousand guys who aren’t as one-dimensional as those men were portrayed to be. I guess my point is that we need to take this show for what it is – an isolated piece of entertainment, not applicable to real life. For although this is a reality show, it’s about as far from reality as most of us can get.
I Can Believe It’s Not Butter. Oh Yes. Yes I Can.
But this isn’t the end of it. Oh no. Not by a long shot. Because Larissa has a secret, don’t ya know? She and Gil jet off to Mexico to share their victory vacation, and they frolic in the sea, and play on the beach. I’m sorry, but what a crappy vacation spot they picked. Not because anything is inherently wrong with Mexico, not at all. But they JUST spent several weeks together in Hawaii. They’ve already done the tropical seaside thing. Why not mix it up some, and send them somewhere like Paris or London, or really just anywhere that isn’t as cookie-cutter as the environment they’ve already shared? Well, whatever. Maybe they just didn’t have much budget left. After three fun-filled days of hot tubs and shadowy embraces and Larissa applying coat after coat of shellac to Gil, Larissa needed to come clean about her secret. As they walked along the beach, she confesses to having dated Fabio. Oh for the love of God. That’s the secret? I mean, I want to make jokes here, but for what? Just because she dated the cheesiest man on the planet? I’m underwhelmed. She’s now dating the dullest man, so I don’t see how it should be an issue. All it shows us is that her taste in men is questionable. Gil, however, disagrees with my take on it, and pitches a fit. He stomps his foot like a petulant toddler, and then goes to cool off in the ocean. He interviews that he thinks it’s horrible, and he doesn’t know how to react. Yeah, big surprise there. So, yeah, he’s upset. We know this because he tells us, not because we can glean it from the inflection in his voice, or the emotions shown on his face. It turns into a whole huge thing, and Larissa is crying, saying how she should have picked Brian. Now she knows how Brian feels, and rejection isn’t fun. Gil thinks they shared a nice experience, and ought to just leave it at that. He leaves, and Larissa mopes around. “Shame on me”, she says.
We end the show with a voiceover by Brian, saying that he’s going to be okay. He had an amazing experience, and he’s changed a lot as a result of it. Even though he didn’t get the girl, he made some friendships through the show that will last a lifetime, and that’s good enough for him. That’s great. I’m glad at least one person walked away from this better than they were when they started. As for me, and you the viewers? Yeah, we weren’t so lucky. I wish you all the best with the next installment of the show (“Adam is back – and this time, it’s personal!”), but I won’t be participating. Godspeed and good luck to all of you. You’re going to need it.
Comments? Questions? Want to jet me off to Mexico so I can tell you about my exes? firstname.lastname@example.org