8/9 FINALE Recap: The Toast of the Town
That's one thing you have to like about I Want To Be a Hilton: When they do something on this show, they do it first class all the way, baby. Now, most shows at this point would call Dramatic Voiceover Person off the bench to do the final vocal recap to sum up the season to this point.
But not Hilton, boy. No, sir. No, ma'am. They tap Kathy Hilton her damn self to do the summing-up duties for the previous seven weeks of wretched, wretched television.
And it goes a little something like this:
In her usual deadpan, seemingly Valium-induced stupor, Hilton characterizes finalists Jackaay as someone she's proud to witness turn into a young lady, Jaret is...well, Jaret, and Vanessa as finally showing her softer, less competitive side.
Hilton recounts the seven themes: Etiquette, Charity, The Arts, Looking the Part, Sportsmanship, Press and Networking.
All in all, for once on a reality program's final episode, the recap made some sense and gave a taste to the viewers (both of them, including me) of what they'd missed.
Behold! The Reality Show Contestant! In His/Her Natural Habitat!
Kathy invites the three finalists to meet with her in a one-on-one setting, to get to know them all a little better. After seven bloody weeks, though, I don't know how much better she can get to know them individually. I'll sum it up for her: Jaret's the hick, Vanessa's the bitch with ice running through her veins and Jackaay has an accent so grating it could shred cheese.
Now, usually, if this episode ran for two hours (which was what I programmed my VCR to record, by the way), we'd see each of the contestants telling the camera ad nauseam what they hope to show Kathy about themselves, usually that they "value" the time they get to spend with her, that, really, this is not just an ass-kissing opportunity in a bid to win. But I Want To Be a Hilton doesn't get a two-hour finale. Why doesn't it get a two-hour finale? Because The Man's always trying to keep the Hiltons down.
Kathy (read: the producers) ask the finalists to choose a location for their meetings that is most representative of them.
Jaret meets with Kathy at a sports complex, either telling Kathy "I'm athletic" or "My best years were behind me, in high school."
Jaret, however, says that he chose the location to show Kathy that he wants to get his "life on track." And if that's the best Jaret can come up with, then, really, it's a shame that Kathy didn't host a "Bon Mot" theme week.
In what must truly be one of the most horrifying moments in reality television since Rupert removed his shirt for the first time, Jaret reveals to Kathy that he styles himself a poet.
He recites the following, transcribed by me for you to enjoy in its entirety.
I see the way you used to look at me
I see the way me and you
Used to be.
So close your eyes and take my hand
and try to understand.
You can read my mind,
you can feel my heart.
Just imagine me and you
together soon again.
I'll be waiting for you in heaven.
Kathy wipes a tear, she is so touched. She asks him who is the poem's speaker, and he replies that it's his grandfather.
I frown and rewind my tape and listen to Jaret's improv poetry slam once more. Now, at the risk of sounding cold (I know it's for his grandfather and all, sheesh), but...did he just give up in the third and fourth stanzas? I mean, a poem doesn't have to rhyme, but it's almost as if he reached the third stanza and decided to pick up the pace and just finish the damn thing because Hee Haw was coming on TV in a few minutes.
"That's fabulous," Kathy gushes. (I suppose poetry appreciation simply wasn't part of the literature requirements at Vassar...or wherever the hell Kathy attended school.)
"I think we both spoke from our hearts," Jaret nods. Meanwhile, I prepare an injection of insulin.
Dr. Hilton Is a Smooth Operator
Jackaay, on the other hand, regards her meeting with Kathy less as an opportunity to show off her questionable "art" and more as an opportunity to--are you ready for this?--get some free therapy out of the whole deal.
I hope that Kathy's major was Psychology, because, ready or not, here comes Jackaay with a whole slew of problems from her childhood. Girlfriend's got more issues than a complete library of National Geographic.
Jackaay's parents divorced, blah blah blah. Jackaay had to shield her younger sister from her parents' fights, yakkity yakkity. Jackaay hasn't gotten over it, yadda yadda.
And, look, it's not that I'm not sympathetic to Jackaay (I am, I am!), but I just don't believe in this level of self-revelation: She's broadcasting her family's crises to anyone in the world with a television antennae too lazy to change the channel after Mr. Mom. Jackaay, do what works so well for everyone else in the world: repress and drink.
Kathy listens with an understanding ear and tells Jackaay, "The more in life we get things out, the better off we are." Look for Mrs. Hilton in her next reality television series: Kathy Hilton's The Screaming Place.
Finally, Vanessa meets with Kathy in the alfresco dining area of a restaurant for lunch. If this is supposed to represent Vanessa, it either says, "I'm vacuous" or "I like a free meal." (Who doesn't?!)
Vanessa tells Kathy that she pushes herself hard and comes off as abrasive because she's working toward fulfilling her life goal: designing fashion.
Kathy listens to Vanessa's weird, sometimes rambling, spiel and responds: "I think your mom did a wonderful job with you. Let me tell you, just because people have money doesn't mean they have class or manners." Then Kathy Hilton produced a photo of Paris from her purse, stared at it and sighed.
Parting Is Such (Bitter)Sweet Sorrow
Kathy sends the three finalists to the gym for the afternoon, where Jaret does a little boxing, Vanessa climbs a rock wall and Jackaay uses the treadmill. It's pointless, but not in a good, "French Surrealist" kind of way, but more like a "failed NBC reality show needs some way to eat up 10 minutes of airtime" kind of way.
After the gym, the three are invited to a semi-formal dinner with Kathy and, as they come to believe this may be the last chance to show off their dining etiquette, Kathy, Jaret and Vanessa are so stiff and humorless it's almost as if they've been threatened that the first person to use the wrong fork will end up editing the DVD boxed set for this disaster of a show.
Near the end of dinner, Kathy asks Jaret and Jackaay to excuse themselves while she has a moment alone with Vanessa.
Kathy tells Vanessa that she feels that Vanessa will be a success no matter what she chooses to do in life (uh oh...), but that the purpose of the show was to choose a winner based on how much transformation had taken place in his or her life. Vanessa is stunned. I'm stunned, too--I didn't even know this show had a purpose.
Kathy breaks the news to Jackaay and Jaret then invites them to take a boat ride with her back to shore from the restaurant. What the connection is between being Final Two and a boat ride, frankly, I don't know.
Time for a Little Speechifyin'
Kathy gives the duo their final challenge: To deliver a speech about this experience.
Jaret and Jackaay are hard at work when a knock comes at Jaret's door. It's Stanley, the Professional Speech Writer.
Stanley has all sorts of wisdom for Jaret when Jaret expresses concern about the content of his speech.
"They don't remember what you say," Stanley intones with the gravity of a Jedi Master, "just how they feel about you."
(File this under: "Things I could have learned before I stayed up one whole night in college doing research about nuclear power for my Public Speaking class." Thanks a whole bunch, Stanley!!)
Stanley also kicks down the old nugget that the no. 1 fear of most people is public speaking, followed by the fear of death. People would rather die than give a speech, Stanley quips.
So if you ever see one of the living undead give a keynote address, you'll know that he (or she) has conquered at least one of those fears.
Amusingly enough, Jackaay is working with a vocal coach, who is trying (in vain, mind you) to break Jackaay's bad pronunciation habits. Predictably enough, when asked to pronounce Chicago, Jackaay yelps, "Chicaaahgo!" When asked to pronounced awkward, Jackaay belts out, "Aaack-werd!"
Really, the vocal coach should realize it's hopeless, but I hope she at least was paid for two hours of her time.
After the speech and vocal coaches, Jaret and Jackaay have spa and makeup appointments.
Come, Loved Ones, Rubberneck This Disaster
Then Jaret's mother arrives at his door while Danielle ("Jackaay's best friend") arrives to show support for Jackaay.
"I won a $6,000 watch! I got to do a fashion shoot with a professional photographer!" Jaret gushes to his mother, sounding more like he spent A Mother's Day Out at Neverland Ranch than a few weeks with Kathy Hilton.
The setting for the final contestants' speeches is a small banquet where even former contestants are invited to have dinner and watch the proceedings like bad dinner theatre.
Jackaay is first.
"Moving up the social ladder is not just something you can win in a contest," she quips.
(Well, apparently, it is.)
I'll be honest with you. I listened to the speeches, but they weren't particularly inspiring or worthy of a full transcription. The St. Crispin's Day speech, these are not. Jackaay goes on at some length about being transformed from a tomboy to a woman, thanks to Kathy's guiding hand. Jaret's speech is less speech and more a list of things that he did on the challenges.
While the content of Jackaay's speech is perhaps a little better than Jaret's, Jaret seems more natural. And, according to jackass Stanley, that's really what counts, right?
Kathy Hilton excuses herself from the room for a few minutes to consider her final decision.
When she returns, she lists the prizes awaiting the winner, including: a one-year membership to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, admission to the spring season of the opera, a new wardrobe, diamond earrings or cuff links (depending on the winner), Bergdorf Goodman products, an apartment in New York, a trip to Europe and $200,000 in spending money.
Kathy tells the assembled that the winner of the competition is the one she feels underwent the most significant transformation, and that winner is...Jaret.
They all raise a toast. Jaret thinks about the life ahead of him in New York. I think about the hour this show stole from me that I'm never getting back.
phat32 (firstname.lastname@example.org) wants to live like a Marriott.