The May 1 episode continued The Contender's streak of quality episodes as The Elite Eight boxers compete for spots in the next tier--naturally, the Final Four. As we see the boxers compete on a one-to-one level, ending the controversial "team" format, Joey Gilbert (formerly Team West) and Peter Manfredo, Jr. (formerly of Team East) faced off in the ring as a result of a "matchmaking" effort by Jesse Brinkley.
As the audience joins this week's episode, Alfonso Gomez celebrates his win over Contender pariah and perennial punching-bag, Ahmed "Hollywood" (aka "Babyface") Kaddour.
Gomez talks to the camera, but I don't catch what he's saying because I'm distracted by his appearance. Gomez looks like he's put his face to a hotplate. Must have been one hell of a battle.
Sergio "Latin Snake" Mora expresss his admiration for Gomez and his victory by calling him "The Little Mexican Engine That Could."
Next, all are back at Contender Gymnasium as Bald Corner Guy speaks with Bonsante, Manfredo, Gilbert and Brinkley (the remaining Elite Eight who have not had a second fight) about the next fight.
Maybe Next Time, Don't Tell Your Fellow Reality Show Contestants Everything
A lot of jumping around, as the boxers go back into training at the gym the next day. Sugar Ray works with a boxer and advises him to "Control the ring." (Good advice, by the way, whether you're a contestant on The Contender or The Bachelor.)
Gilbert tells the camera that he's "expected" to fight Manfredo, but he's considering a bout with Bonsante instead. (You just know that Jesse Brinkley is going to give him a world of grief about this, and sure enough...)
Later, in the loft, Gilbert makes the mistake of telling Brinkley that he's thinking of fighting Bonsante instead of Manfredo.
Brinkley tells Gilbert that he likes the arrangement as it is.
He tells the camera (and the viewing audience) that Gilbert is a "back stabber."
Before we shed too many tears for Gilbert, remember it wasn't too long ago when Gilbert criticized Bonsante for picking a fight with Brent Cooper, going back on his (Bonsante's) word. Hypocrite much?
Brinkley excuses himself into the loft common area to speak with Bald Corner Guy and watch a Sugar Ray Leonard fight from the video library. If video libraries like this become reality-show staples, I can't wait for America's Next Top Exotic Dancer.
All the boxers reconvene in the gym. Sylvester Stallone awards Alfonso Gomez another gold chain, signifying his place in the Final Four alongside Sergio Mora.
I'll Take Jackie as My Personal Shopper Any Day over Tommy
Jackie grins at Alfonso and tells him, "All right, Alfonso, you're all mine."
Frankly, if one of the rewards for being Final Four is to spend a night with Jackie, I think I'd rather take the ass-kicking from Anthony Bonsante.
Jackie tells Alfonso to pick another boxer to accompany them on their reward. (Oh, god, could this possibly get any worse?)
Much to my relief (and Alfonso and Sergio's, no doubt), reward consists of another shopping spree for clothes, but Jackie has infinitely better taste than Tommy, who should never, ever be allowed near a clothing store again.
Jackie takes Alfonso and Sergio to the Ferragamo and Zegna shops in Beverly Hills, which makes me start to wonder--why have there been more shopping spree rewards on The Contender than The Bachelor?! I'm sorry, but that just ain't right.
Sergio picks out a $460 white French-cuff dress shirt at Ferragamo, and Alfonso, with dollar signs in his eyes, watches the cashier at Zegna count out a stack of $100-bills. Frankly, I would have saved my shirt, slacks and suit budget for Zegna and looked for quality shoes and leather coats at Ferragamo, but... [Shaking head to clear thoughts.] Sorry, I don't know how I got off on a tangent. What tough-guy, alpha-dog things were we talking about again?
Alfonso Gomez sums up what a genuine treat this was: "A normal shopping day for me is Target."
Hey, don't knock the Target, buddy. Their Gold Toe socks? That's some first-class merchandise right there. And not to mention that Ferragamo and Zegna clothing may have been tailored by Italian monks who have taken vows of chastity, stitching by candlelight while quietly contemplating God, but no one beats an $8 pair of Denim Bay jeans from Target made by a Pakistani orphan earning 50 cents a day.
Hip-Hop Slang 101
It's all fun and games until we rejoin the other boxers in Contender Gym, then it's...uh, more fun and games.
Joey promises that if he wins, he'll play matchmaker and set up a fight between Jesse Brinkley and Peter Manfredo, Jr.
As Joey is discussing his plans with Anthony Bonsante because, apparently, he'll say anything on his mind to anyone who will listen, Gilbert ends by declaring, "Don't hate the player! Hate the game!"
And thus marks the beginning of a pattern I noticed throughout this episode: White guys using "hip-hop lingo" at least two years (or more) out of date.
Just to prove my point, one of the boxers (Brinkley, maybe?) walks out of the kitchen area, saying to no one in particular: "It's on like Donkey Kong today!"
Field of (Broken) Dreams: The Challenge
Sugar Ray, Sylvester Stallone and Tommy take the boxers out to a baseball field.
Anthony Bonsante, who is injured, was offered the option not to compete. He exercises that option and is benched.
Scattered on the baseball field are a series of markers and speed bags. The banners all have (a) a number and (b) a color.
Sugar Ray will have the boxers lined up, facedown, in the dirt and will call a number or color.
The boxers will have to race to the banner and pick up a speed bag. The boxer not holding a speed bag (e.g. the last one to the banner) will have to choose a boxer to compete against in a one-on-one challenge (the same challenge--racing to the banner to grab a speed bag, yadda yadda).
It sounds overly complicated (and is), but all things considered, it's not a bad challenge, as far as challenges for The Contender go.
After the first round, Sergio Mora is last to the banner and picks Alfonso to compete against. Mora eliminates Gomez in the first one-on-one.
After the second round, Mora is out (again) and picks Manfredo.
Sugar Ray calls out "Red!" Mora is up and running while Manfredo, still on the ground, looks around in disbelief.
"'Ready? R-E-D!'?" Manfredo asks Sugar Ray. "I thought you were saying 'Ready?' again!" The others laugh at Manfredo. Taken one too many shots to the head, that one.
Manfredo is out.
After the next round, Mora is out (again!) and challenges Jesse Brinkley. Jesse blows him away getting to the white banner.
It's down to Jesse and Joey in a best out of three.
After the first round, Brinkley has one point, up against Gilbert.
Brinkley and Gilbert rest up and have a drink between rounds.
"Let's go, Stinkley!" Tommy razzes Jesse.
Jesse tosses the rest of his drink at Tommy and, for good measure, throws his empty cup at the boxing trainer. He spits something at Tommy that gets bleeped out in editing.
In the second round, Gilbert and Brinkley are neck-and-neck as they approach the speed bag. Just as Brinkley is about to get his hands on it, though, Gilbert gets his hands around Brinkley and bodily tosses him out of the way, at the same time leaping over Jesse.
It's tied up, 1-1.
As the two boxers prepare for the third round, Jesse looks over at Joey lying in the dirt next to him and times it so that he blows a cloud of dirt in Joey's face a split second before Sugar Ray calls the banner.
Gilbert is distracted and isn't even off the ground by the time Brinkley is off and running toward the banner.
Brinkley has the third bag handily and wins Choice.
As the boxers leave the the baseball field, Brinkley looks at Sergio Mora and asks, "Why did you try racing me, Snake? You slither; I run." (Well, Jesse, maybe because Sergio is Final Four and doesn't really have too much of a stake in what happens this week?)
Maybe the Drama Was Meant for More Than Just Their Mamas
As the boxers hit the shower, Alfonso Gomez discusses Jesse's choice while the two are face to face, and, presumably, nude. This is in such violation of the Guy Code that I don't really know where to begin.
First of all, when two men are in the shower room together, even after a workout, it's best to pretend like the other isn't even there.
Secondly, if you must speak to another man in the shower room, make sure you have a good reason, like, "Hey! The gym is on fire!" or "Dude, did you know there's a scorpion crawling up your arm?"
Finally, if you ignore the first two guidelines, then whatever else you do, for the love of all that's holy, do not stand and talk to another man while he's in the shower with your hands on your hips. (End rant.)
In the kitchen, Joey discusses Jesse's decision while Jesse cooks. Jesse is ambiguous about what he's going to do. Joey makes the comment that Jesse is strange, that he sometimes gets a "sick and weird" look in his eyes. Then Jesse gives Joey a sick 'n' weird look and smirks.
"90210 boxing with Joey Gilbert," Jesse laughs at Joey.
In the ring, Jesse decides to be a matchmaker rather than fight, citing his injury. Sly nods and encourages him to choose two boxers.
Jesse selects Joey...and Peter Manfredo, Jr.
Jesse tells the camera that he's simply making Joey "do what he said he would do."
Bald Corner Guy takes Joey aside to try and calm his fears: "Everything you need to win is inside you," Bald Guy says.
That's a lot of wisdom, the kind you usually find only in 80's movies where a preteen learns he has a natural skill and challenges his bullies to a BMX biking/bowling/karate/chess competition that of course wins him the affection of the Cutest Girl in School™.
(But trust me, that tactic never works in real life, especially when after nights and nights of practicing with the Wise Old Mentor™, you let the bully take your king in a two-move fools' mate. Don't ask me how I know. I just do. But I digress.)
Meet the Manfredos, Meet the Gilberts...Um, Again
Meanwhile, Peter Manfredo, Jr., heads back to his Contender rental home and sees that his father has arrived. (Peter Manfredo, Sr., I presume?)
Since this is Peter's second go-around with The Contender, it's hard to say whether this is the same house that was rented for him last time, or whether that other property has reverted back to its original purpose: a cheap, depressing hideout where recently-divorced men in L.A. can hide and drink themselves to death.
Peter Sr. is wearing a black T-shirt with his son's picture and the emblem "Manfredo." Frankly, it's a sharp looking piece of merchandise (available at Caesars Palace during the Contender finale for $24.95 plus tax). I think everyone in the world should wear a shirt like this, with their picture and name emblazoned on the front.
Imagine how easy it would be to get through the line at the supermarket if you're writing a check. When the cashier asks to see a driver's license, instead of fumbling in your pocket for your ID while the line grows steadily longer behind you, you can point at your chest and say, "Check it out. How's that working for ya?"
On fight night, Peter Manfredo and Joey Gilbert are preparing for the bout in the locker room. Manfredo's girlfriend (or wife, whatever), daughter and father come to see him, while Gilbert's father, mother and sisters (?) visit him.
Gilbert's mother makes sort of a Marge Simpson sound in the back of her throat as she prepares to see her "baby boy" step into the ring against that "bad, bad man" from the East Coast.
Manfredo's (cute) toddler daughter asks Manfredo, "Go boom-boom?" and mock boxes with her father. Manfredo smiles and tells her "Yes."
That's pretty damn cute, if you ask me. I can't wait to have children of my own so they can ask me about my job: "Daddy smash a keyboard on users' heads? Scream at users and call them stupid?"
Me: "That's my girl!"
Gilbert Versus Manfredo
As Joey makes his way to the ring, he muses that this is a good matchup for him and makes a remark along the lines that "It's better to attempt great things and fail rather than conquer something you know you're capable of conquering."
Round One starts mostly a series of nice jabbing and some good technical boxing by Manfredo and Gilbert as each takes the other's measure in the ring.
However, the round ends with Manfredo domination as he lands two blows that seem to have Gilbert reeling.
Gilbert goes into his corner and tells Bald Guy that he's in trouble: He believes that he has at least one broken rib.
When Bald Guy asks Gilbert if he wants to throw in the towel, Gilbert decides to push forward.
The second round is all Manfredo as Manfredo absolutely dominates Gilbert. It's a wonder that Gilbert is still standing on two feet at the end of it.
The third round is a complete surprise: Joey Gilbert mounts an unbelievably energetic and vicious comeback, hitting Manfredo again and again and again. It's almost like Gilbert and Manfredo were two different fighters by the start of the third round.
More of the same in the fourth round as Gilbert absolutely punishes Manfredo. The only problem I had with Gilbert in this round is that he stepped back to look at Manfredo at the very moment that he should have gone all in and knocked Manfredo back. I saw a chance for a knockout, but Gilbert wanted to get a look at Manfredo, almost as if he were counting his chips before leaving the table.
In what will be remembered as one of the most controversial decisions in the course of The Contender, Gilbert and Manfredo exchange blow after blow, each looking to take the fifth round in what has been, up to this point, very likely to be a 2-2 contest.
During a somewhat frenetic and confusing moment, Gilbert comes in and hits Manfredo with a solid shot but appears to put his head down. When Gilbert comes back up, there's a cut gushing blood above his right eye.
The referee stops the match and calls Gilbert over to the corner so that the ringside physician can examine Gilbert.
After consulting with the physician, the bout is called to a halt and the decision is made to score the fight based on what the judges already have.
The fight is called for Manfredo.
Gilbert struggles slowly out of the ring, a hand on his torso, no doubt favoring the broken rib.
Back in the locker room, a physician examines Gilbert and asks him if he is in pain.
"Everything hurts," Gilbert openly weeps.
As Gilbert's family joins him in the locker room, the physician tells Gilbert that he will need to be taken to the hospital for an exam.
A gurney is brought in, but Gilbert declines, asking instead for his father to help him walk out of the gym to the waiting ambulance.
As Gilbert enters the ambulance, he tells the camera what an incredible experience The Contender has been.
I tip my hat to Gilbert for demonstrating an unbelievable amount of courage. I also think that Manfredo has gotten lucky far too often: Once when he was voted back in by the other boxers after his loss, again in a close contest with Miguel Espino and finally tonight against Joey Gilbert.
But do you know what the problem with luck is? It runs out.
phat32 (firstname.lastname@example.org) has never had to knock on wood but knows someone who has, which makes him wonder if he could