Hi and welcome to the first edition of The Swan recaps. This recap takes you through the premiere episode, shown on both Wednesday and Thursday night, April 7 and 8. In each episode two women give three months of their life over to a team of experts; they're cosmetic surgeons, therapists, a cosmetic/reconstructive dentist, a laser eye surgeon, a dermatologist, a fitness trainer, and a "life coach," who, incidentally, is also one of two executive producers. At the end of three months, the team decides who will move on to the pageant, which will be shown at the end of the season.
We begin the show with the host Amanda Byram, known by some for her Paradise Hotel gig. She lets us, the viewing audience, know that this show will feature the "most unusual competition ever designed for TV." Although I think reality TV brings us fairly unusual competitions (Samwise Gamgee singing Elton John songs; Chip and Reichen, world-racers, kickin' it with the Sepiloc orangutans; beautiful women vying for the attention of a Cro-magnon underwear model; etc.), I'll agree with "unusual" and leave "most" moot. Amanda tells us that the experts will transform these women, but only one will be crowned the Swan.
Just to fill you in on the show concept, I'll re-visit a recent article from the Houston Chronicle, also posted in this show's forum. The article quotes Nely Galan, an exec. producer who doubles as "life coach;" she says that in one rendition of the "Ugly Duckling" story, the duckling looks at its reflection and believes itself to be ugly, although it really isn't. Played out in this episode is a similar theme. The two women featured aren't what one would term "ugly," by any stretch. They're women who consider themselves to be "ordinary," and what's of note here is how they see themselves.
The Ducklings Hatch (and Waddle)
As JFK, Jr. once said, "But let us begin." The crew approaches Kelly Alemi's front door. She answers it. She cries immediately at the greeting, "Hi, I have a surprise for you." No, you did not win the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. Close. You have been chosen to be in the Swan Program. Take this stale bread and we will be waiting for you at a pond in Golden Gate Park.
Kelly is 28, a flight attendant from Stratford County, Maryland. In her initial consultation, she says that she'd never seen herself as pretty and would love to someday look in the mirror and think that. She tells us that middle school is when she "lost [her] soul." Her husband Bob mentions that their marriage would be helped if she could be self-confident. Kelly confesses to having only had sex with Bob seven or eight times in four years! Bob, months later, views this episode, puts a bag over his head, and makes a phone call:
Bob: Hi, is this the McGander Sweepstakes?
Bob: I'd like to enter your contest to win reconstructive surgery, relocation, a name change, some viagra, electroshock therapy, a happy meal, including one of four McGander toys, collect them all.
The experts or, as they call themselves, the Swan Team sit at a conference table and view Kelly's case. Together they decide what Kelly will need. Randall Haworth, cosmetic surgeon, suggests altering Kelly's lips, to add to her sensuality. Sherri Worth, reconstructive dentist, also comments on her mouth, suggesting work done to Kelly's smile, so she will "be able to kiss." By the end of their meeting, they determine that Kelly will also receive breast augmentation and liposuction in six places! My hope at this point is that Bob, her husband, will have something to kiss after all this suctioning. Anyway, Bob seems like a genuinely nice guy, and here's hoping for minimal finger-pointing and maximal canoodling for Bob.
Rachel, 27, a construction company clerk from Sammamish, Washington, considers herself "average." In her video segment, we're introduced to her husband, who--and forgive me for not being objective here--is a jerk. Her father is also a jerk. At this point we're clued into the fact that Rachel's issues with herself have much to do with two big jerks in her life, whom we would rather go under the knife first, and not in a "cosmetic" way. Anyway, her dad says to the camera that Rachel is a "female copy" of him. Now Rachel seems smiley, happy, and fun, whereas her dad has the sheen of an old, rotting wooden door, falling off its hinges and covered with dust mites. So the man is obviously deluded. In any case, when Rachel was in the third grade, her dad told the teacher "not to expect too much out of Rachel," which set her up for being self-pitying her whole life.
The team of experts view her video, conspire, and finally agree to a nose job, a Michelle Pfeiffer lip transplant, a brow lift, a chin implant, a breast augment (make that two), and lipo in five places. In addition, she'll be on a weight-loss and fitness program, as will Kelly.
Jerry, This Butt's for You
Host Amanda tells Kelly and Rachel the rules of the Swan Program. The first rule of Swan Club is you do not talk about Swan Club. The second rule is, no mirrors! As with many FOX reality shows, the women will live in a giant house together, equipped with ballroom and exercise room. In their respective bedrooms they read their letters, which say that they've entered a life-changing training. The program begins now.
The plastic surgeons specify their plans. Dr. Terry Dubrow mentions he wants to "enhance Kelly's facial features" and "define her face." Kelly responds that she will be a "new person" in three months. The women visit Sherri Worth, the dentist, who has to hook up an IV to Kelly, scared of dentists. Next, Greg Comeaux, fitness trainer speaks about the women's respective weight goals. For Kelly, he notes that "39 pounds is a lot of weight to ask for." After their liposuctions, the women will still have to lose weight and get in shape. Rachel is weighed prior to surgery. The scale reveals 190 pounds, and she gasps like a codfish. She is taller than Kelly, and her goal weight will be 145.
The night before surgery, the two women spend an evening together; they talk and chill out near the ocean water. Then we see the sun come up. It's the day of surgery, and the women sport purple dashes all over their faces. Rachel talks about saying goodbye to her face, that it will be a "nice memory." She phones her
old ball and chainhusband, and he doesn't answer. Dr. Randall Haworth explains that he plans to "maximize Rachel's femininity." Randall and Rachel sip their apertifs near the fountain, their eyes glinting in the light of the crescent moon. "Oh, Randall," moans Rachel. "You can maximize my femininity right here, right now."
The clouds whirl and orange glitter spins through it. We wake up back at the medical offices. Randall gives us a reality-check. He states, "I can make improvements, but there aren't guarantees." So far the show hasn't covered any of the ethical and medical concerns of cosmetic surgery, but at least here there is a statement of risk.
Kelly gets through to her husband, Bob, on the phone. Unlike Rachel's husband, he isn't tying up the line with all those calls to RonCo, no doubt ordering an appliance which will shrink-wrap his jerk jerk jerk-y (sorry--a bit of a stutter there). Ever-gracious Bob answers and tells Kelly, "I'm with you. I love you." She's nervous. Her cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Terry Dubrow, jokingly mentions to Kelly that he's nervous, too. Kelly, then, does the unbelievable. She pulls out a drawing of a stick figure self-portrait of herself.
"You want to look like this?" Terry asks. Kelly laughs. Actually, the stick figure isn't her ideal at all. It's a very complicated diagram illustrating each part of her anatomy she is dedicating to her friends. Matched up to each part is the name of a loved one. When Terry liposuctions Kelly's derriere, he says to the camera, "Jerry, this butt's for you." Terry's assistant, Heidi, comes around to check out one finished buttcheek and happily exclaims, "Woah, baby."
Before we cut to commercial, Terry offers his own brand of reality-checking. He tells us, given Kelly's emotional personality, she's at risk for post-operative depression.
Gonna Fly Now
The sky, the sun, the surgery area. The surgeries are complete, and Kelly is an emotional wreck. Nely, the "life coach," offers her concerns about Kelly's depression. Terry tells Kelly that "this is the beginning of the end of recovery." The team worries about Kelly's attitude, for the sake of her own physical and emotional healing. For both Kelly and Rachel, they are completely alone for these three months, without loved ones, save for letters and phone calls.
The bright full moon swerves overhead. It's two weeks after surgery. Rachel sits by the phone, talks to the inanimate device: "You lie. I know you're there....He better answer today." Finally, her husband picks up the phone, and he's unresponsive. Rachel attempts cheeriness and lets him know how she's doing. She asks if he received her letter. He says that it was "nice."
Here the therapist makes an appearance. I'm not sure to what extent patient-client confidentiality comes into play on a reality show, but we're treated to a few clips of Rachel with Dr. Lynn Ianni. On the proverbial therapy couch, Rachel tells Lynn of her marital troubles. Rachel says that for five years, she's the one who has taken care of everything. She is resentful that her husband isn't holding up his end and being supportive. We cutaway to Lynn, who tells us that Rachel's "emotional transformation is as profound as her physical [one]." To Rachel, Lynn offers, "If you let yourself acknowledge it, you can start to work on it."
We see the women get ready as the weeks progress, as they weigh themselves and work out. Kelly notices the disappearance of, as she calls it, her "turkey gizzard." She says she's feeling better, but she's still surprised about her weight. She knows the doctor removed eight pounds during the liposuction treatment, but she still weighs the same. Wondering if her breasts weigh eight pounds, she disbelievingly hoists up the scale to her midriff and leans forward: "It's not registering my boobies!"
Rachel, in the fitness room, shows us the energy of Rocky Balboa running up steps. She tells us she's giving it her all and that she wants to make it to the pageant.
Randall comments on these women's prospects, that how they heal will be determined somewhat by science but also by genetics and luck.
Even the Dentist Cried
We return from commercial, and Kelly and Rachel are in the final stages before the "big reveal." Amanda walks through to the ballroom and informs us that, while we haven't seen Kelly or Rachel in a month, they haven't seen themselves in three months. After their seclusion, they'll enter the ballroom and be able to view themselves. Rachel is the first to be revealed. Beforehand, Randall mentions that the "end result is greater than the sum of individual parts," with respect to Rachel's transformation. We're reminded of Rachel from the first day, her feelings of being average and even saying "Why do I bother? Why go on?" Amanda introduces her as a "self-confessed average girl" who has "blossomed into a bombshell."
Rachel emerges, and she is stunning. She wears a long black dress with no sleeves, mesh on her midriff and the same meshy material for the bottom half of the skirt. She swishes the skirt around, her shoulders pulled back, and she meets Amanda in the middle of the room. Amanda says, "Look at you!" and confesses to being as overwhelmed as Rachel. "You look unbelievable." Rachel perhaps has too much caked-on make-up, but she looks slender and happy, and she saunters over to the large mirror, now behind a red curtain. Amanda relays the instructions: Whenever Rachel says she's ready, the curtain will pull back to reveal her image. "Ready."
The curtain pulls back and Rachel inhales sharply, cups her face in her hands. "I don't look anything like that girl." The dentist is in tears. The plastic surgeon laughs. Amanda asks Rachel, "Remember when you called yourself average?" Indeed, Rachel is far from average. She is poised, proud, and elegant, a far cry from her previous form. What has carried through is her fun-loving quality and her smile. But beforehand her lack of confidence showed in her face and in how she carried herself. Her eyes drooped as often as her shoulders did. "How would you call yourself now?" asks Amanda. "I'm beautiful," responds Rachel. The team claps for Rachel. Greg mentions Rachel's blossoming confidence. Randall says he is "proud, shocked, emotional."
Next we see Kelly's transformation. Amanda warmly mentions that "Our Kelly is a very emotional woman." Terry, Kelly's cosmetic surgeon, mentions Kelly's post-operative depression and her struggles after surgery. Greg adds that Kelly didn't meet her fitness goals, but one thing came out of the program: "Kelly found Kelly again."
Kelly emerges from the double doors; she is a blond beauty in a long, sleeveless black evening gown with a plunging neckline. Amanda ambles toward her and says, "What have you done with Kelly?" Kelly tells Amanda she had always found ways to criticise her outer self. Not having to view herself for three months, she was given the opportunity to attend to her internal life. She confesses fear about viewing herself, asks if Amanda will walk with her to the mirror. Amanda declines. Finally, Kelly traipses over to the mirror, her blond curls swooshing. "I'm ready."
She is stunned. She cries. "I look beautiful."
"You look amazing," replies Amanda.
"I feel beautiful."
"And you are."
Nely Galan compares her to Marilyn Monroe, and Terry is astounded at the difference. The team claps and walks forward to congratulate and acknowledge Kelly.
A Winner, a Reunion
We return to the ballroom. Amanda explains that the judges, along with other "experts" (whoever they are), have determined which of the two women will move on to compete in the beauty pageant (which will air on Monday, May 24). The two women grab each others' hands. Amanda says they are judged in terms of "beauty, poise, and overall transformation." Rachel smiles at Kelly and wishes her "good luck."
Amanda, then, announces Rachel as the one who will move on to the pageant. Kelly congratulates her. Kelly says, "I just want to thank everyone for changing my life. Rachel's going to do really good."
The team discusses the reason for choosing Rachel over Kelly. Greg, the fitness trainer, adds that Rachel lost exactly the amount of weight she aimed for. Nely, the "life coach," contributes with "[Rachel] surrendered to transformation the most."
Amanda requests that two men open the outside doors, and Kelly's family rush in. Bob appears in a suit, and he gasps: "Oh my God. You're beautiful." He really looks breathless and taken with Kelly's beauty. Her family cries and hugs her. Kelly's older brother seems very proud of his little sister. Kelly's mom says that the cocoon finally opened. She looks at her daughter's boobs and says, "Look at all of you!" The dentist and surgeon did succeed with those kissable lips, because Bob asks Kelly if he may kiss her. The episode closes joyfully with the loser seeming even happier than the winner. Kelly reiterates her dream and that the Swan Program fulfilled her dream. The cute buxom blond seems genuinely happy, and I think, "Is this FOX?" Were it not for the mansion and the cheesy Joe Millionaire music, I wouldn't think so.
Thank you for joining me on the viewing of The Swan's premiere. I'll see you on Monday for the second episode.
I welcome your e-mails, comments, and suggestions. To contact me, write to firstname.lastname@example.org