Well, it’s finally here – the final episode of what unintentionally became the longest single-season Reality TV show in the short, colorful history of Reality TV. Hold on to your hats folks, this one’s a doozy.
As usual, we pick up where last week left off. Jill comforts Dawn Marie, who is emotionally drained from the stress of the last several days.
Mike tells us that there is “A lot of tension in the house because they know I’m not going to share the money.” Instead, Mike plans to share the money with his immediate family – mom and sister – who aren’t in the game.
The ousted family members sit on the back porch (there’s not some rule about not calling it a “back porch” if it’s attached to a house worth over six figures, is there?) discussing their next move.
Uncle Michael leads them in a discussion about who should get back into the game. Remember, they will be voting to determine who will face Cousin Mike for the chance to win a million dollars. He doesn’t feel that he can compete with the younger guys. Dawn Marie says she would vote for Cousin Robert or Cousin Anthony.
Anthony uses this as an opportunity to make a huge push to be the one they choose. He goes into a speech in which includes “Is Rob brighter than me? One hundred thousand percent. But if it’s a hundred meter race, I win.” He also tells us that “I think I can manage (the money) the best.” Not exactly showing a lot of faith in your dad’s skills as a Professional Financial Planner, are you?
Aunt Donna tells us something that completely counters what Anthony just told us. “Anthony is too immature to handle that kind of money.” I imagine that at home, Aunt D only lets Anthony play with the Monopoly money.
Anthony continues his speech. “With the exception of my brother and my sister, the nine people that are here right now are probably the most important things to me ever – ever in the world.” He says that thinking about those nine lives more than his own is all the motivation he needs to win. Two thoughts run through my mind. One, Anthony is either including himself in the nine, or he can’t count, because Mike isn’t there. Two, I wonder if the fact that he mentioned “Nine lives” is Foreshadow Man’s way of letting us know that there’s a cat-food eating challenge coming up.
The discussion continues. Uncle Michael would like a unanimous decision before they go to bed. Anthony: “Rob gets my vote.” It seems as though everyone else is going to vote for Anthony, but we don’t see everyone, so it’s more of an assumption at this point.
Jill tells us that she’s going to feel a lot of tension if Mike wins and doesn’t share, because she is his only relative in the game. She goes inside and tries to talk to him about it, but he won’t really discuss the money. She tells him “I understand one hundred and ten percent where you’re coming from.” What is it with this family not getting the whole concept of percents?
Mike tells us that he isn’t going to reveal his intentions to the family. “I’m just going to lay back and let their minds boggle.” Like that’s a challenge; their minds probably boggle over “Whole wheat or white?”
The next morning, Anthony tells us “Everybody had faith in me that I would share the money. Just the kind of person I am – I probably wouldn’t share it. I’d probably give them just a little tastes – just enough to rub it in.”
The House of Cards
Anthony’s declaration of greed still ringing in our ears, the family gathers to hear host George Hamilton explain how the voting will work. Mike is out; only the eliminated family members may vote, and they may not vote for themselves. They will take turns entering a room which has oversized cards of each eliminated family member. They will take the card with the picture and name of the person they want to represent the family against Mike, and place it face down on a table in the center of the room. George will then tally the votes, and the person with the most votes wins. Rumor has it this was a trial run for the new voting system the State of Florida will implement prior to the next presidential election.
We see each of them enter the room in turn. The only vote we’re shown is Anthony selecting an Aunt Donna card. So much for Robert having his vote.
Robert tells us “Part of me takes over that wants to vote for someone else to show protest to the control freak nature of some of the people involved in this game, and really kind of stick it to them.” As he says this, we’re shown the portraits of his aunt and uncle so we know who he’s talking about. Wow, I never would have figured that out on my own.
The voting concluded, George retrieves the cards. He tells us that he shuffled them in order to keep their votes confidential. He reveals the cards one at a time, and the final tally is Aunt Donna one, Robert one, and Anthony seven. Yes, you heard me. These people put the fate of a million dollar fortune in the hands of a twenty-two year old narcissist. Brilliant. Do you realize I’m being sarcastic, or do I need to show you a portrait?
Anthony tells us that “It’s about pride. It’s about money.” The last time I checked the Sacred Family Crest, it was about “Love or Money.” Where’s he getting this pride thing from? And is he really familiar with the concept?
Our friend Dawn Marie is not happy with how the voting went down. She whines “That sucks. Not even one vote for me! Just one I wanted!”
George tells them all that the final elimination contest will take place the following night.
Anthony tells us “I’m going to prepare for tomorrow night by clearing my head.” Good to know he won’t have to spend a lot of time preparing then.
Dawn continues her post-vote rampage, telling us that she told Anthony “You put your freakin’ mother in for one vote? You couldn’t put me in – make it look good?”
The confidentiality promised by George’s shuffling crumbled like a house of, well, cards. Melinda took head from Uncle Michael for voting for Robert instead of Anthony. She tries to explain, but UM keeps interjecting. Robert pipes in that UM is interrupting her.
He tells his uncle that despite what UM might think, not everyone is always on the same page as UM. Uncle Michael retorts “Robert, if you want to start getting wicked…” What, you’ll go get your machete? Robert points out that it was Um that started this argument. “And it’s done” states the elder family member as he abruptly leaves the room. Hopefully not to actually get his machete.
Aunt Donna picks up the torch (not literally.) “We had a unanimous vote last night, Robert!” Rob chops the legs out from under Aunt Donna (not literally), pointing out that Anthony had said he would vote for him, and instead voted for Aunt Donna. Aunt Donna shoots herself in the foot (not literally), defending Anthony by saying that people have a right to change their vote. Which is exactly why Melinda got in hot water (not literally) to begin with.
We leave this little family squabble to hear Anthony tell us, with the understated class that only Anthony can deliver a line “Mke thought Dawn or Rob were going to be sitting next to him. He found out it was me – he sh*t his pants.” Mike tells us that “If anything, I would be more scared of Dawn.” I think that goes for all of us, Mike.
We’re shown the ‘Tale of the Tape” Anthony is 22, 5’10”, 168lbs. Mike is 27, 6’1”, 198lbs. Two rounds. One Million Dollars.
Anthony tells us “I’m competing against Mike for a million dollars. No, no, no – let me rephrase this. Mike is competing against me for a million dollars.
Eat, Guess, Guess Again
The next night George, noticeably not wearing one of his pink shirts, shows up to explain the elimination contest that will decide the identity of the millionaire. Well, at least to describe the first round of that contest. The eliminated family members are dressed in their finest formalwear for the occasion. Mike and Anthony look sharp, but are not wearing jackets, the reason for which will be apparent in a moment.
George explains that Mike and Anthony... No no no, let me rephrase this. George explains that Anthony and Mike will compete in a race with three legs. In the first leg, each of them will be presented with five food delicacies which they have sampled in their stay in Palm Beach. They have to eat and identify three of the five before continuing to the second leg of the race. Fail to identify three, and you much eat all five before continuing.
The second leg of the race is to match the first and last names of the staff. There are large placards with the various names on them at the bottom of the pool (which is why A&M aren’t wearing jackets.) Once they have correctly matched the first and last names, it’s on to the third leg of the race.
In the third leg, each of them will answer true or false questions about their opponent. Once they have all the answers correct, it’s a sprint to the finish. The person to reach the finish and grab the family crest will win, and have “a distinct advantage” in the second round of the elimination contest.
And they’re off. Mike and Anthony each race to their personal food tables. Both quickly identify and consume escargot. Mike moves on to the second dish, which looks suspiciously like Nine Lives, but once again Mike correctly identifies it as Pate’. Anthony tastes it and passes. We then see Anthony try vainly to identify lamb brains. He offers up “Lamb stomach. Cow stomach. Sheep stomach. Some kind of stomach. Pass.” Next he tries the Tapioca Oysters. “Crab cake? Pass.” Our man Anthony is in trouble. Mike skips to the end, easily nails “caviar” and heads off to the second leg of the race.
Meanwhile, Anthony gets caviar, but having failed to identify three dishes, he’s forced to eat them all. Not only does he fail to identify the delicacies, he fails to keep them down. If you’ve never seen Pate’ De Foi Gras going the wrong way, let me tell you , you don’t want to.
Having reached the pool, Mike peels down his suspenders and dives into the pool. He beings grabbing the placards and arranging them. He tells us that he always looked at the staff as friends, and why do you need to know a friend’s last name. I can just see the puzzled look on his face when he asks someone if they know his friend Dave, and they reply “Dave who?”
Having completed the “Tossing Your Cookies” portion of the race, Anthony strips off his vest and joins Mike in the pool, frantically racing to catch up. It isn’t too hard; he never really considered any of the staff to be friends.
I should probably mention that the producers had placed several false names in the pool, and Mike fell victim to the most embarrassing of them all when he matched Ringo with the name “Starr”. “I Am The Walrus” dances through my head as the cousins continue their race. Melinda tells us that she couldn’t believe that they struggled with Franck Porcher’s last name, as it was embroidered on his uniform.
Anthony is the first to correctly match all five names, and he leaps from the pool and heads to the True or False portion of the contest. In a disgusted tone, he tells us that as soon as he said “Done!” he saw Mike turn around to see his answers and copy them. Which, while not particularly sporting, wasn’t against the rules.
Dripping wet from the pool, the two of them reach the last leg; standing on opposite sides of a large wooden divider. Each side contains the questions they must answer about the other. Once they have marked each as either true or false, they are to say “Done”. If they are correct, they will be allowed to continue. A single wrong answer will get the buzzer, and they’ll have to rethink their answers. The catch is, as with the name matching, they won’t know which answers they have right. Anthony tells us that he marked “Wishes he could have a pet monkey” as false, because he had told Mike that he wanted a pet monkey. It would turn out to be his downfall, for Mike also wants a pet monkey. Dieter would be proud of them both.
Perhaps the most bizarre question that was true was the Anthony “Has a fear of cats and raisins.” Raisins? That’s so funny that I can’t think of anything to top it. I’m stumped.
Mike is the first to correctly answer the questions, and he cruises to victory. And the still unknown “distinct advantage.”
Anthony tells us of Mike “ He’s got to keep an eye over his shoulder and not give me an inch. If he gives me an inch, I’m taking three feet.” As opposed to the more traditional mile.
At last it’s time for the second leg of the elimination contest. The family, still in their formal clothes, is stationed on a landing overlooking the room George, Anthony, and Mike occupy. In the room is a table, on which three safes reside; one black, one red, one green. Mike and Anthony have changed into dry clothes, Mike in a white tux, Anthony in a black one. For the first time in the show, I realize that Mike, the one member of the family that nearly everyone has been pulling for the entire show has always worn the “Good Guy” colored tux.
George explains the rules for the final part of the contest. One of the safes contains the million dollars, while the other two are empty. Anthony will open each safe in turn, and look inside, then close it. Then Mike will ask Anthony two questions. Finally, Mike will get to pick two safes. If one of the safes he picks has the money, he wins. If not, Anthony will win control of the million dollar fortune. I don’t know about you, but if Anthony wins, I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep my Pate’ down.
And so it begins. In order, George commands Anthony to open, then close each safe. It’s impossible to tell from looking at his face which one holds the money. When he finishes, Mike asks him “Anthony, what safe is the money in?” Anthony points at the green safe “This one.” The second question comes “Are you lying to me?” “No.” Wait a minute. What kind of question is “Are you lying to me?” It’s Anthony, of course he’s lying to you!
George tells them to change places, and with Mike in front of the safes, it’s time for him to make his choices. Aunt Donna tells us “It wasn’t just about Anthony, it was about everybody. I was crying.” As she says this, we’re shown her stearn, unflinching face and completely dry eyes. Dawn Marie needs to give her some tips on how to cry properly.
Believing Anthony, Mike picks the green safe, and opens it. George asks if it contains the fortune. It does not.
And here it is. The final choice. Mike, the guy the viewers have pulled for the entire time, the guy the B.O.T. chose to make it to the finals, has only a fifty percent chance of winning. Of course, the family doesn’t realize that. What with their confusion over percentages and all. Mike selects the red safe. Opens it. And turns away in disgust. It’s empty, and Anthony is the winner. Mike loses the fortune. I lose my Pate’.
Anthony tells us “I lied to him. I lied well.”
The family comes down the stairs and crowds around Anthony, congratulating and hugging him. Anthony says “Who thought the final contest would be lying?” Aunt Donna tells us “This was the perfect game for him” I couldn’t agree more. Anthony shows them all the money in the safe and asks George “Can I roll in it or something?”
There is champagne all around, and in a surprising move of class and sportsmanship, Anthony raises his glass and offers “To Mike.” Wait a minute, what’s that I’m feeling? It couldn’t be a twinge of approval for Anthony could it? I think it might be. Someone call my therapist.
As the celebration continues, Mike wanders away from the group, crushed that he lost. Dawn Marie goes to him and comforts him. It was actually a very sweet moment. Good lord, what’s wrong with me? Now I’m praising Dawn Marie? Forget my therapist, get Dr. Phil on the phone.
At Least They’re Fourth
I hadn’t been checking my watch, and I think the show is about to end. George starts up the stairs, then stops and turns. “Oh, I forgot. Anthony, you have one more decision to make.” He explains that Anthony is to be sequestered for the rest of the night, so that he can determine if he’s going to choose to keep the money for himself or share it with his family.
As George leads him away, Aunt Donna comments “My son is finally out of debt.”
That night, Anthony contemplates the things he’s learned since coming to Palm Beach that he didn’t know before. Dawn’s strength. Mike’s kind heart. Aunt Donna’s inability to drive. He sits down and writes a letter.
The next morning, the family gathers with George to hear Anthony’s decision.
Anthony enters the room looking sharp. Charcoal suit. Gray shirt. Designer tie. Hair stylishly tousled. Gone are the sweats, the t-shirt, the dew rag. You know what this means, don’t you? Yep, the Fab Five from “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy” paid Anthony a visit in the night. There can be no other explanation.
Our young millionaire reads the letter that he wrote the previous night. It’s actually pretty well written. He talks about his decision, whether to keep the money or share it. He reads “Last night, eight people put their hopes, dreams, and trust & confidence in my hands. That motivated me to not lose. And it just so happens that these eight people, and even the one I was competing against“ (or was he competing against you?) “are the most important people in the world to me.” “I don’t deserve a penny more than any of you. I hope you will all take one hundred thousand dollars out of the fortune, and use it to make your lives or the lives of others easier.”
There are hugs all around. Uncle Michael tells us of Mike, “I think the family has grown. I think we came in here with nine family members – we’re leaving with ten.”
I’m floored. I’m sure that reading this, you’re floored. Anthony, the cocky, annoying, loutish young kid, actually has a heart of gold. And he even managed a pretty eloquent speech. Thankfully, he brings me back to reality a little when he attempts to tell us that family is the most important thing of all. “I really, truly, finally see that besides money, and cars, and friends, family is the most important think you can have in your life.” That’s okay Anthony, we know what you meant.
George bids them farewell, saying “My life is richer for having met each of you. I said that in the most sincere”, dramatic pause to place finger on lips and choke back a tear, and continue “sense of the word.” He wasn’t referring to his paycheck for the show, was he? Ah, there it is. For a while I was wondering if perhaps my jaded outlook on life was fading. George exits through the front door, and our lives are just a little less rich for him leaving.
Aunt Donna has the last word before the credits roll, but I’m saving that for last.
As the credits roll, each member of the B.O.T has a few words for us. The ones that stuck in my mind were Jill and Linda.
Stylist Jill Swid tells us that meeting this family has been an incredible experience. “I wouldn’t trade it up for anything – styling any celebrity in the world, not even Madonna.
Linda the housekeeper shows just how dour she can be with “They’re all nice women, but I’m not going to miss them at all.” And I realize that surprisingly, I am.
I can think of no better way to end the final recap of this show, than with the words that Aunt Donna ended the show itself. “It’s finally (bleeping) over.”
I’d like to thank all of you that wrote me about the show. And I’d like to send out a special thanks to the Paranelli family, for enduring a lot of abuse at my hand. I’m sure that in reality, they’re all wonderful, lovely people. firstname.lastname@example.org