Welcome back to Next Action Star! Last week, the twenty remaining contestants were pared down to fourteen finalists, and I suppose this is where things really kick off. We’re greeted by a new, fancy-schmancy opening and everything, where each contestant is flashed on the screen a la Survivor. Even the ubiquitous “Dramatic Voiceover Man” is here for the fun, and he gives us the details on this episode’s screen test, entitled “Special Ops.” The scene unfolds with two pilots shot down behind enemy lines. Their only chance for survival is an elite team of four commandos and a sniper, who only works alone. At the end of the day, two more contestants will be cut. But enough of all the serious stuff; it’s time for:
The High Life
We meet the gang as Tina is introducing them to the Next Action Star Mansion, which is filled with all the fixin’s of Hollywood Hills stardom. As the gate slowly opens, everyone’s jaws drop. This place is amazing! The contestants ooh and aah over the fancy cars in the driveway, the swimming pool, hot tub, weight room, and even the staircase. It’s a regular Batcave. Jared explains that they’re dangling a carrot in front of the contestants—if they work hard, this is what could be their everyday life. No more driving Yugos or taking the subway! Or bartending.
The contestants dash inside to begin exploring and picking out their rooms. Next to check out is the pool, where most of the guys jump in without hesitation. Greg tells us, “None of the girls went into the pool on the first day, except for Viviana, who went in with her G-string and bra.” Yet another classy move. Later, back in the house, Viviana storms up the stairs into one of the bedrooms, and is furious to find Jared and Greg stretching out on two of the beds. She claims that it’s not fair . . . she came in there first thing and claimed that room, because she wanted a room upstairs. Now, gentle readers, let me ask you: Is it just me, or will a mansion probably have more than one bedroom “upstairs”? Jared then tells us that they would, of course, give the girls that room if they really wanted it. They simply couldn’t resist teasing a certain individual.
Show and Tell, Only Sadder
After all the fun, it’s time for work. The contestants pack into the vans and head off to the Howard Fine studio for acting lessons, which they will receive from Mr. Fine over the next five weeks. This week’s assignment is “emotional recall,” and I sigh already, because there’s absolutely nothing that I can make funny out of such an intense exercise. Everyone was instructed to bring something of sentimental value to class and explain what it is and what it signifies to them. Santino has a gold chain which his Grandmother used to wear, Mélisande has an elaborate good-luck charm, and so forth. A touching moment comes from Jeanne, who brings a photo of her daughter. She explains that her daughter was adopted by another family and begins to tear up, with everyone else following suit.
Next up is Harold (“House”), who reveals his dark past through his story. House has a necklace with three objects that represent a part of his personal growth. When asked what the lowest point of his life was, he replies that his whole life seemed low. He reveals that he used to be a gangster, and when Mr. Fine asks what was the worst thing he did, House tells briefly of selling drugs to his friend’s mother. House then appears to go into a catatonic state for what seems to be an eternity, silently hanging his head as tears begin flooding from his eyes. Jeanne’s crying, John’s crying, Corinne’s crying, Mae’s crying, everyone’s crying. Heck, I’m starting to get misty-eyed just watching this. After quite a few attempts by Mr. Fine to get House to snap out of his trace-like state, House finally comes out of it and softly says, “I’m straight, man.” House later tells us in confessional, “On one side I had tears of laughter and on one side tears of pain, because I can’t help but smile at all the pain and still [look] be where I’m at.” Everyone claps, and that’s the end of that exercise.
Mr. Fine concludes the session, and then explains his awarding of “casting cards,” our first reward-like challenge of the show. The winners of each week’s casting cards get to choose the ensemble they wish to work with for each screentest and choose their own role. He proclaims the winners of this week’s cards Jeanne and House for taking risks and going beyond their “easy” point. Whew . . . now back to your regularly scheduled snarkiness.
Pick Thy Poison
Back at the mansion, the contestants separate into two teams for the screentest scene.
On House’s team, “Team Alpha”: House, Sean, Mark, Viviana, Santino, John, and Linda.
On Jeanne’s team, “Team Bravo”: Jeanne, Mélisande, Corinne, Somere, Mae, Jared, and Greg.
Shortly thereafter, the contestants are hanging out in what appears to be the living room, where Jared and Viviana get into a heated argument over . . . a stool? Yes, that’s right. Viviana is ranting that Jared was “rude to her” and tells us in confessional, “Don’t blow the nose on me, because I’m Pinocchio. I can take my nose and stick it up your *bleeeep*.” What the heck is going on here!? That makes absolutely no sense. Linda tries to make peace and calm Viviana down, but to no avail. Viviana bellows to no one in particular, “You’re confusing my beauty with weakness, and you have no idea what you’re getting yourselves into!” She goes on in another confessional to say, “I’m a sweetheart, but don’t mess with my tail. If you step on my tail, *growly-noise*.” Good Lord. Methinks someone needs her medication.
Bullets, Bombs, and Bemusement
The next morning, the gang attends firearms training to help with their scene. Everyone is really excited about this! Their instructor is a drill-sergeant-type guy from International Tactical Training Seminars, who is sporting a bad tan line around his sunglasses. He tells the contestants that they “. . . train actors. Actors like George Clooney, Benicio Del Toro, and Jennifer Lopez.” Incidentally, George Clooney and J. Lo have to be two of the worst actors I have ever seen. He also stresses that safety protocol is a must. If you don’t follow it, you get the boot. So, what is the first thing Viviana does? She lets her pistol slip out of the holster, landing behind House’s foot . . . while she never even notices.
Aside from Viv’s frightening level of inattentiveness, everyone has great fun with the training. After studying some “tactical maneuvers,” the instructor gives them a debriefing for the “NetZero Challenge,” which is very badly edited, I must add. The two teams must perform their “rescue” of their two pilots and escape. Navy SEALs can perform this operation in ten seconds, so how do our action stars do? Team Bravo completes it in 19:57 seconds, while Team Alpha comes in at 29:41 seconds. Team Alpha, of course, had the great help of Viviana stumbling around and firing off shots haphazardly. An instructor floats at her side, looking extremely flustered as he repeatedly points her gun away from human targets, while Team Bravo collectively cowers in terror on the sidelines. “That’s a real gun, sweetheart,” remarks Jared. There is collective agreement that no one feels safe around Viviana.
Here’s the Catch
Back at the mansion, Tina informs the contestants that she has a guest to introduce to them. Why, it’s the man who can make all their dreams come true: Joel Silver! Mr. Silver walks into the room, greeted by a standing ovation. He talks with the contestants for a bit; they all say how excited they are to be here, and so forth. It’s kind of a boring segment for us, really. However, Mr. Silver does perhaps utter a Freudian slip: “The problem is I have to make a movie with two of you.” You’d expect him to go on and say, “. . . and I can’t pick any more, blah blah blah,” but no . . . that’s all! At least the contestants are still excited.
Later that night, Team Alpha practices around the pool table and
psychoViviana freaks out again, blowing up at Linda when Linda offers some friendly advice. Everyone stands around awkwardly for a while, and finally Linda apologizes to Viviana, saying she wants everyone to get along so they work better as a team. Viviana “accepts” her apology, but feels the need to add, “You know what, you just think you’re a great actress, and I don’t think you are,” before walking off. Linda is understandably furious. Is a cat-fight in the making? Nay, claws are retracted and both head in opposite directions.
There are Explosions, and Then There are Explosions
The boot camp theme continues, as the contestants must wake up at 4:00 A.M. for the big screentest. Jeanne, Mélisande, and Somere tell us that they’re blown away by merely stepping onto the professional movie set. Their director for this scene is Gerry Lively, who, contrary to his surname, is a no-nonsense kind of guy who doesn’t want anyone forgetting their lines or generally wasting his time. Coupled with his British accent, I’m tempted to compare him to Simon Cowell, but I detest that show, so I won’t.
Viviana realizes that she hasn’t made a fuss in this segment yet, so she begins to make up dialogue while they’re running through the scene. Mr. Lively will have none of that, so he pulls her aside and explains that they absolutely have to keep to the script. I really expected Viv to come up with some kind of retort, but remarkably, she does not. I guess she’s just saving it for a more inopportune moment.
After a bit of rehearsal, the contestants head off for a spot of lunch before the actual shoot. All of them are squished together at one table, and everyone’s having a fantastic time talking and laughing. Everyone, of course, but Viviana. Dang. I’ve said that so many times, it’s about to become a familiar, colloquial phrase. She stands up, and heading for the door, says, “You laugh too loud for me,” in her best “pathetic” voice before darting out. Jared, who still feels bad over the stool argument, follows her out to try to reason with her. Like a fool.
Last week, we were promised explosions, and here is the explosion. Viviana goes ballistic, ranting on with, “They were laughing so loud, they were yelling at me.” Jared keeps a safe distance and chews nervously on his dog tags. She concludes with the ever-reliable “Don’t try to understand me. I’m too complicated for you.” I bet that Viviana will have no trouble pursuing her acting career, even if she doesn’t make it on this show. If a director is making a psycho-horror movie and Jeremy Irons is busy, they’ll think, “Hey, let’s get that Viviana we saw on TV! Just don’t give her any weapon props. We can digitally add those in later.” Jared, glad to have escaped with his life, goes back to the table and advises her team not to let her bring them down and affect their work during the shoot.
Unfortunately, we don’t see the screentests filmed individually, just a montage of flying bullets, dirt, and the return of the Fiery Infernoball™. We see John forget one of his lines in the heat of the moment, and Mr. Lively is out of his chair in a flash. I have a feeling it wasn’t to give poor John some moral support. With that and some fancy editing, the scenes are filmed and that’s a wrap. It’s up to the judges to decide which two will be eliminated.
Mmm! It’s Finger Lickin’ Good! or Pick Thy Poison, Part II
Back at the mansion, the contestants are all relaxing, chatting, and generally hanging out in a jocund way with each other. Some play pool, and I notice that the cue ball is crystal clear, with something written inside it. Maybe it says “NetZero.” You know, this show really needs to make their sponsors a little more visible.
House tells us in a confessional that in his opinion, “Viviana needs to learn to coexist coherently with other people.” As a counselor, he seems a capital person to talk with her and try straightening her out. He has a talk with her in the kitchen, and mentions that she just might, perhaps, be merely trying to shock people, no? Viviana argues that this is simply the way she is all the time; you can ask any of her friends and they’ll tell you. She goes on, “If I really wanted to shock people, this is what I’d do. I’d take this flower and eat it!” She hops atop the kitchen counter, and pulling a (poisonous) Calla Lily from a vase, begins to munch on it. Yum! Give me another plateful of delicious, home-cooked flagrancy. House is by now halfway down the hall, shaking his head in disbelief. Maybe if you ignore her, she’ll go away.
Later, in the still of the night, John walks by and notices that Viviana is still up and sorting through her suitcases. When he politely inquires what she’s up to, Viviana replies, “I’m going home.” John, puzzled, tentatively says, “Aren’t . . . we . . . home?” Yep, it seems that House’s strategy has worked. Complex Viviana cannot stand being around these simpletons who like to have fun and are threatened by her beauty and complexity. No, they did not validate her greatness enough, so our dear enfant terrible will no longer grace us with her presence. Either that or her pass from Belleview has expired.
The War Room Report: Fair and Balanced
Victoria Burrows is back with two new sidekicks: Alan Schecter, who will produce the Action Star movie, and Louis Morneau, who will direct it. Hmm . . . I thought Joel Silver was going to produce it himself? Maybe he will be “executive producer” (aka looks good in a suit). I would tell you what they said, but it’s easier to simply say that none of them could really agree on anything, except to nod solemnly at the news that Viviana has walked from the competition.
The contestants gather in a room with Tina, who has the scripts for next week’s screentest. There are thirteen contestants remaining and only twelve scripts, and they cannot have one person running around confused on the set. Thus, the odd one out will be eliminated. Tina points out that one of their peers has been absent all evening, and Viviana, indeed, has walked from the show. None of the women will be eliminated tonight. Everyone looks positively heartbroken. Except . . . not. The exotic bird, it seems, has flown the coop and is headed back to where she is most appreciated--perched on a pole.
Only one individual will be sent packing this evening, and the unfortunate Y chromosome to receive le boot is . . . Santino! This is a bit of a surprise to everyone, since Santino was confident in his performance, and I recall the two guy-judges liking him. Santino gets five minutes to say his good-byes, and that’s a wrap. He tells us in his parting confessional that he’s a little upset, but enjoyed the experience, and this won’t be the end for him.
I feel compelled to celebrate, for tomorrow will be the premiere of the Next Action Star. Aren’t you excited? No, I’m serious. We’ve been watching The Viviana Show up to this point. Next episode, the contestants will have to face the terrors of acrophobia and R-rated love scenes! I certainly hope you’ll be here to join me.
My self-esteem depends solely on the compliments of others. With that in mind, you may contact the author of this recap at firstname.lastname@example.org. Just don’t step on my tail. *Grrrowl*