Welcome back to Next Action Star, everyone! Let me get something off my chest right off the bat—I don’t like diva-esque behavior. I see way too many drama queens every day in real life to sit down and find it amusing on television. I won’t say any more, because if you’re one of the five fans reading this ‘cap, you already know to whom I’m alluding. So, what’s the sense in spoiling it? Let us go ahead and relish this drama as though it’s bloody Forever Eden.
This week, we are promised a very *action-packed* screen test, titled “Watery Grave.” The contestants will be in teams of four and play captives on a sinking yacht. They will have to fight for their lives while fighting for their last breath, as the ubiquitous deep-voiced voiceover guy tells us. Will they survive? Or, will this become their Watery Grave? They have 72 hours to prepare.
You’ll note that above I used “Forever Eden” as an example of a “bad” reality TV show. I did not use “Are You Hot?” because that was before my time, and the following scene makes it impossible to associate the word “hot” with this episode.
Apparently, it’s just one of these kinds of things: After the screen test, a bunch of the contestants got really drunk, had a crazy party involving an afro wig, and Mark woke up to discover Jared and Mélisande were together in the bed next to his. Well, almost. We get to hear the full story in excruciating detail, accented by hidden night-vision ceiling sex-cam footage of a stripped Jared, passed out on the floor next to his bed. Seeing Jared, Blobbed™ is not what I’d consider a titillating experience, and I suspect everyone watching the show agrees. Even Mélisande is turned away and sleeping soundly in protest.
The next morning, Jared seems quite proud of himself. He really needn’t be. Mélisande tells us that the event has caused way too many questions, gossip, and speculations, and wants to just drop it. Sean replies, “I think you guys already did!” Zing! Not really. Jared, however, is in such a good mood, he actually laughs. I don't want to start any blasphemous rumours, but I think that Jared has a sick sense of humour.
Glub Glub Glub or The Undertow
Well, sorry, folks. We can’t sit around and gossip in the kitchen all day; we’ve got a show to do here. We zip off and meet Jim, who teaches stunt diving classes . . . in the mansion’s pool, in this case. The contestants jump in and must practice swimming up to get air while some guy at the bottom pulls them under with a rope tied around their feet. Hmm . . . where’s Howard Fine? I don’t think he’d want to miss this hot action. All of them do pretty well, except for Mélisande, who suffers from “aquaphobia,” and Mae, who inexplicably holds her nose while she’s being pulled. C’mon, you can’t do that! It’s against the action star rules. Can you see Sean Connery holding his nose before jumping into the water in a Bond flick? You’d be just as likely to hear him yell “cannonball!” in the Scottish accent, too.
It’s time for the NetZero High-Speed Challenge. The contestants must dive into the water with a blacked-out mask and blindly grope their way along a rope path at the bottom of the pool. They’ll swim through a tunnel, receive an air supply (no, not that kind), and come back through. For most everyone . . . no sweat. Jeanne’s biggest problem was her swimsuit trying to come off, but is that really a “problem,” according to these shows? Even Mélisande and Mae make it through the tunnel with no hang-ups. Unfortunately, they both forget to come back through the tunnel, and instead wildly thrash their way straight to the top. Whoops. Will they be able to handle this underwater screen test scene?
The Spirit of Radio
This is relevant information. I swear. We head back to the house for some relaxing and learn that Mark hates all of the NetZero High-Speed Challenges. Not only are they hard, but they’re always things that he has never done. He can’t swim, he can’t drive a stick-shift . . . he just hasn’t lived a full life. We also learn that every morning from 7-10 A.M., the contestants tune in to “Mark and Jared in the Morning,” whether they like it or not. Because you know what Mark can do? He can talk. Mmm-hmm. He can talk, he can talk, he can talk, he can talk! Ooh . . . help me Dr. Zaius! Yes. It’s a musical recap, ladies and gentlemen, with an obscure Simpsons reference. No extra charge necessary.
Next Action Star: Swimsuit Edition
Next on the contestants’ agenda is swimwear. For we must look sexay in the water . . . or at least the ladies do. (Another action star rule.) They couldn’t possibly pick them out themselves and do a decent job, so our dear, crackly-voiced, peculiar friend Brenda Cooper has returned to assist them. Self-conscious Corinne had a run-in with the stylist a few weeks ago, so neither one looks particularly thrilled to see the other. Now, I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but is it exactly comforting that a show’s official “stylist” is wearing what appears to be a heavy-lifting/back support belt? Who knows--maybe that’s just cool these days. Brenda tells us that swimsuits always bring out everyone’s insecurities. Wonderful.
Brenda sends the girls off to one room to try on swimsuits, and the guys are sent to another room for “body makeup.” The guys are really disappointed that they don’t get to stay. Imagine their utter despair when they enter the other room and realize that they will be shaved! That’s right—no chest hair for these action heroes. All are coerced into becoming glabrous except for Mark, who doesn’t have to worry because he doesn’t have an action hair-o chest, which one of the body makeup ladies is quick to point out. He jokes that he doesn’t have any abs, either. Hmm. Add those to Mark’s dearth-list.
The ladies, meanwhile, are forced to endure Brenda, who quickly goes about commenting on all the ladies’ bodies and shortcomings . . . you know, generally how to win friends and influence people. Brenda goes on to say in a confessional that you have to work on your insecurities and develop a strong backbone in this business. Aaand cut to Brenda hinting that Mélisande should get a boob job. Brenda tells us in confessional that the ladies have great bodies, yet they don’t have good self-images. Aaand cut to Corinne telling us how Brenda told her to get a boob job, too. Can you feel the love, my friends? All the contestants do some cheesy swimsuit posing, and we head back to the mansion, where Mélisande rebelliously digs into some cottage cheese. Ha! Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Brenda!
Life and Death is Serious Stuff, Unless You Want to be a Prat
We segue via Wesley Snipe’s star on the Walk of Fame to the Howard Fine studio, where the contestants will be exploring the eternal theme of life and death. Howard tells them they must write and perform their “last will and testament,” i.e. their final words. John is up first and gets everyone to cry with his heartfelt and earnest performance. Mae and Sean also turn in great monologues. Finally, we come to the last one of the day, Jared. Jared’s a good actor; he should be able to make us all cry, right? Uh-nope. Jared waxes over-the top and ridiculous, throwing in the line, “How could this paragon of virtue and virility be cut down so in the prime of his life!?” Yes, complete with sobs and pubescent voice-cracks. Everyone stares blankly in embarrassment at him, and the crickets chirp enthusiastically.
The silence must continue for some time, for we go to a confessional where Mr. Fine tells us that Jared can make himself convey any emotion at will, which is a pretty neat trick. Unfortunately, that’s what it is—a trick. Jared argues that all his acting is completely organic. Mr. Fine ripostes that perhaps manipulation and dishonestly, i.e. faking people out, come naturally to him. Uh oh. Jared has been outed. Batten down the hatches and man your battle stations. Mr. Fine awards the casting cards to Sean, in whom he is no longer disappointed, and Mae.
The casting call is held soon thereafter, where Sean and Mae pick their teams. It works out swimmingly, and both think they have the winning combination. The teams are:
Sean, Jeanne, John, Corinne
Mae, Jared, Mélisande, Mark
The “Food of the Gods” is a Flaming Hot Dish
Next on the contestant’s agenda for the day is a formal-ish “event.” The contestants are all spiffed up and hanging out in the mansion (Mark has decided to borrow Jared’s atrocious frilly shirt from a couple weeks ago), hoping that this event will be good, as they’re all tired and starving.
Enter the answer to their insatiate prayers: Chef Juliano. They described tonight as an “event,” but I’d describe it more as an experience. Corinne has to do a double take and wonders at first whether he’s a chick or a dude. I could understand her confusion . . . for some reason the midriff shirt; long, flowing, and randomly braided/beaded hair; and low-slung culottes threw me off for a moment, too.
Juliano heads off to the kitchen after a brief introduction, and exuberantly begins ranting and raving about the virtues of raw food. He has created some sort of faux-cheeseburger from nuts, mushrooms, and spices and claims that it tastes just like the real thing, but is better for you. He sprinkles some flowers over a dish and proclaims it all the “food of the gods.” The contestants all seem to enjoy the experience . . . the man has left the term “flamboyant” in the dust a long time ago, but as John says, it’s part of the Hollywood experience, and you should soak it up and enjoy it.
The contestants sit down to eat the food of the gods, and all agree that it is, indeed, quite heavenly. Juliano comes back and presents them with some strawberry habañero peppers. Jared, realizing by now that the attention has shifted from himself to the amiable and rather far-out chef, asks for one. Juliano responds with a “Dude, really?” and obliges him with a “low heat” one. Jared eats it. Sweat begins to bead across his brow. Water starts pooling helplessly in his eyes. His face becomes a bit flush. Juliano grins and proclaims, “And the best part? It’s not burning a hole in your stomach, it’s killing parasites, man!” Jared seizes the opportunity to do what he does best . . . overact. He goes about the house, scarfing all the food, water, wine and ice he can to quell the flames within.
After all the fun, Chef Juliano waves good-bye to the contestants and heads out for a night of . . . well, we don’t know. All we know is that as soon as Juliano is out the door, Jared is up and making fun of him in a mocking manner. Funny considering how Jared exploded last week when Sean allegedly “mocked” him. Jeanne tells Jared that this isn’t Last Comic Standing, so sit down and shut up, tool! Well, not literally, but that’s what she’s thinking. Jared sits back down and starts menacingly twirling a knife as he and Jeanne verbally spar a bit more. Sean comes over and tries to confront Jared, as well, but Jared dismisses him as only the truly immature can: “I don’t want to talk about it right now.” Sean resists the urge to beat Jared’s over-inflated head in and walks away.
You know, Jared is starting to remind me of the neighbor kid who lives down the street from me. They’re both petty, puerile, and just plain peculiar, but the neighbor is also eight years old. What does that say? On a positive note, I don’t worry about the kid’s future. I know he’s going to grow and become something big. Like the Antichrist.
Your Love is Like a Broken Boat, It Never Sails Away
Bright and early the next morning, the contestants are packed into the van and head off to the screen test, passed out domino-style on one another. The set is an enormous water tank with a fake boat in the center. Director Gerry Lively greets them with a melancholy kind of eloquence, claiming that they will take them to the “edge of panic” today. John looks excited.
Today’s screen test appears to be filmed in two separate sequences. Mae’s group goes first, and the crew does not appear incredibly impressed. Jared resembles a blowfish trying to hyperventilate throughout, Mélisande does a terrible job with the “air-passing” scene, and Mae simply looks uncomfortable being underwater. Both girls have the tightly-squinted closed eyes when they go under, but Mae, however, does not hold her nose. Mark, luckily, seems to do a good job with his fight scene, despite having never been in a fight before. For those of you keeping track at home, Mark has no chest hair, no abs, no swimming ability, no stick-shift driving experience, and no street fightin’ exposure. Sean’s team turns in a much more standout scene, with everyone contributing solid performances.
After the filming, Jared and Mélisande chat a bit about the day, and Jared tells her that they did a good, nay, great job. Mélisande say she hopes they did well. Cut to an exasperated Mr. Lively literally holding his head and moaning while watching the scene. He is definitely at the edge of panic, and adds, as diplomatically as possible, that Mélisande might want to stick to being really, really good-looking as a career ala Derek Zoolander.
They’ll Never Agree
It’s time for the NetZero Recap, so we join our trio of judges in the war room to watch them bicker once again. We get to see the spliced-together scene video, and this scene was fun to watch. Louis starts things off when he says that the camera loves Mélisande, and Alan retorts that the camera also loves the Teletubbies and the Pillsbury Dough-Boy. To make a long, long story short, they literally cannot agree on anything this time—much like in previous weeks. Louis would like to eliminate Mark and Mae, while Alan would opt for booting Mélisande and Jared. What will they do!?
Call back-time rolls around, and the contestants congregate in the glass room as always. Tina arrives with scripts in hand, but before they are awarded, Victoria Burrows walks in and gives them all a speech about really bringing it, not holding back, blah blah blah, and that they are all at risk right now. And . . . this is different . . . how? With that out of the way, Tina begins awarding the scripts.
Receiving are: John, Corinne, Sean, and Jeanne. At this point, there are two guys and two girls left on the couch, and they just happen to be Mae’s screen test group. So much for your “we did great!” theory, Jared. So, four remaining, and Tina only has . . . um . . . a towering stack of approximately 5,000 scripts left in her hand. Yes, that’s right, the twist is . . . *no one gets eliminated tonight!* Everyone is relieved, except for Jared, who is irate that they left them hanging like that. He becomes a sort of wild-eyed “motivational ranter” to his group, claiming that they were better, and he’s very proud of the work they’ve done. And I am proud of you, my friend, for you have reached the end of this recap. It is either a feast or a famine with material on this show. Be sure to tune in next week as the contestants reach new creative heights!
I wonder if Mark has ever received fan mail before? You could send me some at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you’re feeling particularly philanthropic.