When we last left "The Family", The Secret Board of Trustees had just denied Aunt Donna access to the million dollar fortune. Aunt Donna’s horrifying scowl had wiped the smile off of host George Hamilton’s face, and parents all over the country gained a new disciplinary tool to use on their small children. “Billy, if you don’t eat all your vegetables, Aunt Donna will come get you.” We’re asked the question “Will Revenge rip this family apart?” I don’t know, what normally tears apart families held together by fear and intimidation?
This week opens with Aunt Donna telling us that “Now that I’ve been eliminated, I’m very upset, really ticked off.” This surprises me, because to this point,”pissed off” is the only emotional description Aunt Donna has been able to muster. Apparently being eliminated from contention has brightened her mood. She tells us that she wants her husband to win. There’s a shocker.
Cousin Anthony reveals to us that his father will now be looking for a new team mate, and his son is the obvious choice. Sure you are, Anthony. I think your dad might have been on the fence about that before you called him a moron last week. But such bonding moments only make a father-son relationship stronger.
The next morning, we get to see how Aunt Donna reacts to being exiled to the kitchen with her fortune-access-challenged relatives. She gives the food a once-over before executing a perfect grimace-scowl-frown combination that would have made Cinderella’s step-mother proud. As she attempts to force down a few bites of humility with her breakfast, her husband can’t resist the temptation to have a little fun at her expense. Uncle Michael pokes his head in from the formal dining room, offers a Cheshire Cat grin, a wave and a “Honey, how you doing? So close, yet so far.” Aunt Donna bares her fangs, and before anyone has time to realize she was just smiling at the joke, children across the nation were volunteering for a second helping of brussel sprouts.
Later by the pool, Uncle Michael and Aunt Donna discuss the board of trustees. Uncle Michael points out that the board has all the control, while Aunt Donna comments that they also have favorites. When Michael suggests that “If they do, they do for a reason.” Aunt Donna replies “Could never be a good enough reason for me to have a favorite.” Her husband retorts very quietly “Gimme a (blanking) machete.” Donna doesn’t even blink. “Chop a couple of heads off with it.” This exchange took place with all the emotion of “Pass the salt” and so horrified me that I was tempted to ask my wife if we had any brussel sprouts. Sure, go ahead laugh. What have you got to worry about? I’m the one that’s been mocking this pair for the last five weeks.
All My Cousin Michaels
Ringo, the family’s social secretary, informs the group that the next fantasy competition will be battling dinner parties. The family will break into two teams, which will plan competing dinner parties. Each will be judged on Presentation, Menu, Etiquette, Grace Under Fire, and Conversation. The competition will be judged by special guests, whose identity is kept secret until that night. They will meet with the network-provided party planners, who will present them with options, but the final decisions regarding theme, menu, cutlery, etc, will be up to the team members. The winning team will fly to the Bahamas for a day at the five star Atlantis Resort and Casino.
Team One is Aunt Donna and cousins Maria, Jill, Robert, and Edward. They chose to go with a “Venetian Carnivale theme. Team Two (Uncle Machete, cousins Mike, Anthony, Melinda, and Dawn Marie) selects Mardi Gras as their theme because they don’t want to come off too stuffy. Like there was any chance of that with this bunch. Each team goes about decorating the interior of their entertainment tent and then heads off to dress for the evening.
The family gathers to greet their mystery guests, who turn out to be Soap Opera Legend Susan Lucci and some guy named Helmut Huber, who we later discover is her husband. Helmut isn’t just the strong, silent type, he’s more like the invisible, silent type. After a glass of champagne in the house, during which we learn that Aunt Donna loves Susan to death, it’s off to Team One’s Venetian Carnivale. The family arrives at the tent before Ms. Lucci and What’s His Name, and quickly discovers that the lights of the tent have attracted a swarm of bugs. They manage to douse the place with bug spray before their honored guest(s) arrive. Robert tries to lay on the charm with “Susan, you’ll be sitting next to me – lucky you.” He’s right about her luck; she’ll be sitting beyond machete range of the woman that loves her to death.
At this point, Ringo appears and announces a late arrival for dinner; Cousin Michael. How many Michael’s does this family have? It was like a scene out of “Newhart”; “I’m Michael, and this is my nephew Michael and my other nephew Michael.” Too bad Grandpa Michael and Grandma Michael couldn’t make the trip. Cousin Michael is Ed’s brother. Andrew the butler informs Aunt D that they have enough food, but they didn’t order enough plates, and asks her how she would like to handle the situation. She suggests taking a plate from the kitchen. That’s thinking on your feet right there folks. Had Dawn Marie been faced with that dilemma she would have had a panic attack – but I’m getting ahead of myself. Andrew attempts to really throw them off, and he spills some wine. Oh come on! These are such minor obstacles. If you really want to test their Grace Under Fire, how about surprising them with a Burmese Tiger Trap at the entrance to the tent or something?
Finally, it’s time for Susan and Claude Rains to head over to the Mardi Gras tent. They make it to the awaiting golf cart without incident. Excellent! They’re going to be kidnapped by a rival crime boss and the family will be forced to rescue them! Sadly, no; they arrive at the Mardi Gras dinner party without a scratch. Stupid risk-averse producers. We’re informed that the men will wear beads and the women will wear bow ties. As Anthony puts Susan’s tie on for her, she purrs “Well this is fun.” Ringo again announces the late arrival of Cousin Michael. Once Michael is seated, Anthony asks over the table “What’s up, Bro?” Dawn Marie attempts to show some decorum, and tells him “We have a special guest, don’t scream over her.” Ms. Lucci laughs it off, saying how nice it is to see everyone so happy to see their cousin. Uncle Michael stammers through an impromptu comment. “Um, I think there’s a tradition… actually, in New Orleans… when something unusual happens during dinner, I think it says that the rest of the year is going to be great for health… uh, wealth…” “And great sex.” Cousin Melinda finishes. There is laughter all around, but Dawn Marie promptly throws a bucket of water over it with “Speaking of sex, nobody here has had that in about fifteen days.” The production crew tops this off perfectly with a needle scratching a record and crickets chirping. The rest of the family quickly exchange nervous glances. Ms. Lucci suddenly looks uncomfortable. In a private moment, DM confesses “I talk and half the time I say things from left field – but that’s me.” That’s you alright, Dawn; a reality TV producer’s dream come true.
Instead of recovering from a wine spill, Team Two has to react to the dreaded “cockroach in Ms. Lucci’s food” conundrum. Uncle Michael takes her plate, telling her he just saw something fly into her food. It was brilliant. Clearly this family knows how to solve even the most difficult of problems. If they ever went through Starfleet Academy, they’d be the first cadets since James T. Kirk to solve the Kobayashi Maru scenario. Anthony tells Susan “I have everything you’ve done on tape.” She replies “You’re doing a great job of sucking up.” The young stud then convinces her to dance with him. Andrew tells us that he was impressed with how at ease and smooth Anthony was, and that Ms. Lucci kept her knickers on, but really hit it off with him. Andrew, you scamp, you.
After the second dinner party concludes, it’s time to announce the winners. Susan tells everyone that this is the really difficult part, as she was very impressed with their spirit, generosity, and warmth. Did she have dinner with someone else and we missed it? Ringo presides over the proceedings, announcing the categories, presumably to make Ms. Lucci feel like she was at the Daytime Emmy Awards or something. Team One wins Menu and Grace Under Fire. Team Two takes honors in Presentation and Etiquette. The winning team’s hopes now rest solely on Conversation, and we know that Dawn Marie has completely screwed her team in that category, right? Wrong! In a stunning upset, Team Two wins! Anthony proclaims “I beat my mom in a dinner party!” More importantly, he’s just been crossed off the list of make-over candidates for “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy.”
The next day, the winning team is whisked away to Bermuda via seaplane. The Atlas resort is spectacular; breathtaking views, magnificent water features, and opulent décor. The group checks into an enormous suite, then spends the day frolicking at the on-site water park. DM, which I’m starting to think should stand for “Drama Mama”, even chooses to swim with rays. Of course, she quickly freaks out and exits the pool when one of them touches her.
Meanwhile, back at the estate, the losers learn that they will be treated to a piano performance that night. They speculate as to the identity of the performer, and since they got to meet a famous person last night, they decide that tonight’s guest would also be famous. Ed suggests it will be Barry Manilow, only to learn that Cousin Maria adores Mr. Manilow. She mentions that “Time In New England” is a favorite. Ed looks uncomfortable, possibly remembering some time he did in New England that he neglected to reveal to the producers. Relax Ed, it’s just a song. When they finally assemble in the music room, the stay at home family members learn that instead of “Copa Cabana”, they’re going to get to listen to opera. Judging by the looks on their faces, I think they would have rather done laundry again this week.
Ringo comments about the evening, telling us “They thought they were going to get to see someone famous, like Barry Manilow.” His smirk reveals that he looks down on their taste in music, and I imagine if they’d hoped for Robert Goulet, he’d have had a apoplectic fit on the spot.
At long last, the family is reunited, and it’s time for the next challenge to determine who will be put before the Secret Board of Trustees. In the dark of night, the family is driven to a boat dock, where they meet the King of Cheese, George Hamilton. George has the six family members that are still in the running for the fortune board a life boat and don life vests. Dawn Marie looks very uneasy. George tells them to row to a buoy that’s about twenty yards from the dock, and tie up. He warns them “Whatever happens, don’t abandon ship.” On queue, the boat begins to sink, and Dawn Marie completely flips. “I gotta get out – I’m gonna have a panic attack.” Which would explain her next brilliant move – removing her life vest. Anthony’s words to his father last week ring in my head: “You are such a moron.” Her relatives convince her to put the safety device back on, but despite George’s repeated warnings to go back to the boat if she wants to participate, she continued flailing towards the dock and away from her shot at a million dollars. She informed everyone that “I’m gonna have a heart attack!” and asked “Are there sharks?” Anthony tells us privately “She was worried about sharks. She was worried about sting rays. She was worried about tidal waves.” When she finally returns to the boat, she continues to sob and cover her face.
George speaks to the eliminated relatives on the dock (Robert, Melinda, Maria, and Aunt Donna) “Revenge is sweet, isn’t it?” He tells them that each of them will get to throw a life ring to one of their relatives on the sinking boat, and the two people who aren’t rescued will go before the board.
Robert is up first. “Dawn Marie is (blanking) her pants. I think we should throw her a line.” Oh, couldn’t you just let her drown? Please? The drama is killing me. I know some of you are probably thinking that I’m being a little harsh, but I talk and half the time I say things from left field – but that’s me. I mean, if the excuse is good enough for her…
Melinda chooses to save Jill. Anthony tells us “Melinda says she picked Jill because they have a history of closeness. That’s not how the game is played. You’re supposed to pick somebody you think deserves to win the money.” I wish he’d pulled out the Official Family Rulebook, or quoted the rule number or something; I had no idea the game was so well defined.
Maria decides that she is going to save Ed. Aunt Donna tells us that “Maria didn’t pick Anthony – I was very pissed off.” Ah, I knew she couldn’t go an entire episode with out saying that.
Finally, it’s Aunt Donna’s turn. The last three people on the boat are her husband, her son, and the relative she considers an outsider. I don’t know for sure who she will pick, but we all know who she won’t; have a seat, Mike. Uncle Michael and Anthony plead their cases to her. Anthony screams “I’m your son! I’m your first frickin’ born!” Aunt Donna decides to save her husband, sending Mike and Anthony before the board.
Before the fateful vote, Anthony tells us “I’m pissed.” Like mother, like son. Of course, you’ll remember that a few weeks ago, Anthony was furious with his mother for not electing to send him to face the board against Cousin Mike. Now she grants him his wish and he’s angry with her. There’s just no pleasing some children. Perhaps if she and Michael had been more strict with him as a child, he’d show more respect. But you know what they say, spare the machete, spoil the child.
Much like this recap, the show’s contests ran long this week, so to save time we’re spared shots of George presenting the names to the board and retrieving the results. The board deliberates. Jill likes both Mike and Anthony, so this is a tough one for her. Andrew was impressed with Anthony’s ability to schmooze Susan Lucci. Linda the housekeeper points out that Mike is big-hearted, and if Anthony won he’d spend the money on high class call girls. Ringo says “How you treat your mother dictates how you move forward in this world – and his respect for his mother is completely lacking.” Franck sums it up best with “Anthony is fake. Mike is real.” Skip to George announcing to the family that Anthony has been denied access to the fortune. In a class move, he gives Mike a big hug.
Of course, in the next scene, Anthony makes sure we don’t forget how he’s really feeling, treating us to “I’m pissed” for the umpteenth time this week. He confronts his mother “Why would you put me up against probable elimination? Was there a rational thought behind your decision?” One thing you can be sure of, Anthony, is that your mother didn’t have a favorite when she made her decision. Because as we all know, she could never have a good enough reason to have a favorite.
The show closes with Anthony telling us “I’m out of the million, so basically I just have my dignity right now.” I don’t know about that, but from what we’ve learned about his parents this week, he should be thankful he still has his head.
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