Welcome to the first recap for “Playing It Straight”. I’ll be your recapper this season. I hope that we will all find a better understanding of unfair stereotypes, love, and the human condition. Oh yeah. This is Fox. Well, I guess we can at least look forward to booze, hot tubs and lots of tongue wrestling.
As the show begins, Fox displays a disclaimer, accompanied by alarms and flashing lights. The purpose of this subtle notice is to let us, the innocent viewer, know that the contestants may be lying or misrepresenting themselves at any time during the show. I am really glad they told us. I would not want to have my illusions of the integrity of Fox and reality show contestants to be tarnished.
We learn through a dramatic voiceover that, Jackie, a wholesome-as-apple pie Midwestern gal, has signed on for what she believes is a regular dating show. She hopes to have her chance at love with fourteen men who have been brought to a ranch where they will try to win her affections. Little does Jackie know that some of the men are actually gay, masquerading as straight men. Once told of the ruse, her mission will be to sniff out and eliminate all of the gay men throughout the course of the show. If she is successful, her and the straight man of her dreams will be awarded a half-million dollars each. If her final choice is gay, that lucky gentleman will receive a full million and she’ll be left with no money and no man.
Now I would not normally do this, but the theme song that follows was so cheese-a-licious, I had to share. Imagine if you will, the hokiest “Rawhide”-esque tune imaginable as cows, men square dancing with one another, and a dog named “Gaydar” flash across the screen.
Fourteen Cowboys came a- riding
Each more handsome than the rest
Said, “We’ve come a-wooing Jackie
We’ll submit to any test.”
Oh, they came to Sizzling Saddles
But the thing she didn’t know
Some of these rugged riders
Like a different rodeo.
If Jackie wants to find a mate
She’s got to figure out
Who’s play-un it straight.
Oh, yeah. Quality programming here we come.
Down on the Dude Ranch
As we are shown sweeping panoramas of the ranch in Nevada, we find that the men have already arrived at Sizzling Saddles. In the continued narration, we learn that the gay men know of the twist, but none of them has any idea who else is gay. They have to do their best impression of being straight throughout the duration of the show. They appear to be doing a fine job as all the men joke around and drink beer and try not to sit too close to each other on the couches. The Hostess, Daphne Brogdon, soon joins them.
Daphne explains that some of the men are not what they appear to be. She breaks the news to the entire group that some of them are straight and some of them are gay. Some of the men laugh, some glance around suspiciously, and some sit in stunned silence as they try to increase the size of their respective couch space. However, all the men seem to take it well. Based on the fact none of them ran screaming from the room, I think it’s safe to assume that they are all at least mildly comfortable with homosexuality.
They start to fire off questions at Daphne, including the brilliant, “As in homosexual?”
Yes. For anyone else still using the 1940’s definition of “gay,” we are indeed speaking about homosexuality.
A blonde guy (who we later learn is Ryan) more sensibly asks how many men are straight and how many are gay. Daphne laughs that she doesn’t even have the answer to that. There could be any amount of either orientation. Daphne then explains that if Jackie ends up choosing a straight man as her final choice, they will split a million dollars. The men all whoop and clap wildly. She goes on to say that if the winner is gay, he will get to keep the million to himself. Hoping to smoke one out early, the men all glance around quickly to gauge their competitor’s reactions to this news. The suspicious looks are met with a stubborn silence.
Values and the Nature of Pink
Soon, we jet off to Jackie’s hometown in Wisconsin. As we watch her walk down the street smiling and waving, we hear Jackie describing her background. She says she was raised with small town values. She was taught to go to church, act like a lady, and live the Golden Rule. She thinks that she is fun to be around and down to earth. If she meets Mr. Right on this show, she thinks that would be fantastic. She does admit to being gullible and generally believes what she is told. I am sure that has nothing to do with why she was chosen to be on this show.
Back at the ranch in Nevada, the men are acting upset that they have been deceived. As for myself, I would assume that par for the course when signing up for a Fox show, but whatever. They begin to question whether it is worth a million dollars. I am honestly trying to figure out if they mean that the idea of being mistaken for gay is so appalling, that they would rather not take the chance, or if they mean helping to deceive Jackie isn’t worth it. I am hoping the latter.
Gust, a real estate agent, admits to being mad about it. He claims to be in his worst nightmare come true. John, a bartender by trade, also admits to reservations and feels a bit freaked out. The other men weigh in on the subject with comments ranging from insightful to ridiculous. Eddie, a schoolteacher that looks more like a skater-dude, jokingly decides his own strategy will be to walk up to each of them and say, “Are you gay? Are you?”
After they mingle a little, the fellows go upstairs to divvy up bedrooms. Bill, an Event Promoter, is troubled to find they have to share rooms together. As they head upstairs, a blonde guy named Ryan says that no one wants to share a room because they are all worried about being perceived as gay. I have to wonder at this point if none of these men ever stayed in a dorm or had a sibling. It seems a bit over reactive. Anyway, Eddie unluckily ends up in the dreaded pink room. He shrugs it off and states unconvincingly, “Pink doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a color.”
The men continue to scramble for the best room, when to their horror, they suddenly realize they are a bed short. Pink and ruffles no longer matter and the men trample each other in their haste to stake their claim on any bed that they can have to themselves. Out of the melee, Bill and Ryan emerge to find themselves facing the lone remaining bed. They bicker over who will get rights to the bed and finally decide to flip a coin. Ryan wins the coin toss, and is impressed with Bill for not being upset about it. The not-upset-Bill is shown later on offering a few bleeped words to describe his take on Ryan and the bed situation.
“Sizzling Saddles, Here I Come”
Meanwhile, Jackie arrives in Nevada and drives out to the ranch. She confesses she loves everything about dating and romance and can’t wait to begin. She is a hopeless romantic just waiting for someone to sweep her off her feet. Her high expectations make me wonder if she has ever even seen a reality dating show. As she reaches the gates and sees the name, she giggles, blissfully unaware of its hidden meaning.
“Whoohoo! Sizzling Saddles, here I come!” she exclaims.
Jackie is welcomed at the front of the house by Daphne, who tells her she has 14 great looking guys waiting on her. In a confessional, we see that Jackie worries about whittling the number down to one, because she isn’t good at decision-making. The two tour the ranch while Jackie gushes about how wonderful it is and how excited she is about meeting the guys.
As she explores the house, we are offered the guys own views about why someone might assume they are gay. A fellow named Lee insists that there is nothing strange about being able to bake a mean cheesecake while Banks, a software consultant, defends his right to landscape. Gust once considered a career in hair design and Eddie thinks that singing Spanish ballads could be his downfall. The others have a variety of stereotypical “gay” interests including Sharif, who is a musician who believes he has a keen grasp of fashion. Besides admitting to a plethora of effeminate qualities, Ryan is afraid his love of toiletries will be his undoing. Luciano, however, decides he’s too straight to even play this little game and insists there’s nothing that could be perceived as gay about him.
Girl Meets Boys
Finally, Jackie stands in front of the Ranch House to await the men. They ride up one at a time on horses, with varying degrees of success. Poor horsemanship aside, Jackie doesn’t think there is a bad apple in the bunch. She gushes about how they are all so hot that she can barely believe it’s true. Um, Jackie? Ever hear of that old gem, “Too good to be true?” That’s about to come into play here, dearie.
After Jackie leaves the introduction ceremony, the guys gather with their obligatory beers and their just-one-of–the–guys banter to discuss their impressions of Jackie. Some offer innocent comments about her dimples and smile, while others go straight for the chest department. Talking about her breasts is not necessarily an indicator, as it could equally fit as the desperate ploy of a gay man, or the crass observations of a straight man. Either way, the men are happy to be talking breasts and legs and laugh merrily with each other.
At a barbeque later that night, the men pounce on Jackie the moment she arrives. They begin to paw and kiss at Jackie in a strange primitive way. I suspect that not only do the gay men want to hide their orientation, but also the straight men are feeling frazzled and want to remind themselves that they are indeed women-lovin men. Jackie loves the attention regardless of motive and she seems to have a great time getting to know the guys. She spends so much time at one table that Bill finally arrives to kidnap her and hauls her off cave-man style to his own table.
He Dries His Wet Hair? You Know What That Means
The morning after the barbeque, the men are all a-twitter over an incident that happened when they were getting dressed. Apparently, Jackie needed a hairdryer and Bradley loaned her one. In one of the most ridiculous moments of the show, the other men are aghast. No straight man they know would ever dry their hair. Personally, I have lived with many straight male roommates, and they all used a hairdryer at some point. However, they might be in the minority, because the other guys act as if Bradley has accidentally shown his Gay Man Membership Card. They are convinced that Jackie will remember this tidbit of information and eliminate the well-groomed Bradley.
At dinner that night, Jackie is enjoying a beautiful dinner with her suitors when Daphne arrives. The time has finally come and Daphne breaks the news that some of the men are actually gay. Based on Jackie’s facial contortions, and seeming inability to digest this information, I think Fox has finally found an innocent lamb to take to the slaughter. Her mind begins to stumble around clumsily, and it lands on Bradley’s hairdryer. Suddenly she is wondering aloud about the gay connotations of owning a hair dryer.
Jackie’s mood is lifted slightly when Daphne mentions the cash prize that could await her. However, not wanting to let that rug stay under her feet for too long, Daphne informs Jackie that after dinner she must choose three men for a Swing Date, where she will get to talk to them one on one. Then, she must choose two men to eliminate that night. Jackie laughs nervously and calls for a little more liquid courage to take her through the end of the meal.
Which Way Do You Swing?
After agonizing in her room for a while, Jackie finally chooses three men for the Swing Date. She takes Bradley, Ryan, and Gust one at a time out to an old-fashioned wooden swing to chat. She decides that she will watch their mannerisms and how they react to her to decide if they are straight or not. She is convinced that no gay guy could act straight. She must not realize that some gay men spend years perfecting that very deception until they come out. She also apparently never heard of Rock Hudson. We really don’t learn much more about any of the guys on the Swing Date, anyway. She rehashes the hairdryer incident with Bradley, Gust reveals that his prior relationship lasted for three years, and Ryan admits to having effeminate qualities, but insists that he is straight as an arrow.
After the Swing Dates are over, the men head out for the elimination ceremony. Looking as if they are going to a shoot out at the OK Corral, the contestants approach the Elimination Barn. Um yeah. A barn. That appears to be decked out for a barn dance.
As the guys settle in for the elimination ceremony on their respective hay bales, Jackie expresses her feelings in a voice-over. She claims to be hurt by the notion that some of these guys are deceiving her in their attempts to win the money. She says that there is no way that they are there for love, because they are gay. Maybe she hasn’t firmly grasped the concept of gay, because I cannot think of a better place for a gay man to find love than in the company of fourteen gorgeous men.
The elimination ceremony begins and Jackie is visibly nervous and shaken. Her voice trembles as she begins to call the men forward individually to tell them her decisions.
Banks- Although some of the other men question his orientation because of his leg-shaving habits, Jackie likes Banks and wants to get to know him better. –Safe
Eddie-She loves Eddie’s accent and thinks he is hilarious. –Safe
Sharif- She doesn’t think Sharif is outgoing and wonders why. She decided to keep him around to find out. - Safe
Bradley-The hairdryer comes back to haunt Bradley again, as Jackie chastises him for having such a girly appliance. She has doubts about him and his hairdryer usage, but she wants to get to know him anyway. – Safe
Gust- Jackie says that she feels she has gotten to know Gust pretty well on their Swing Date. She noticed some mannerisms and patterns of speech that she believes are indicators that he is gay, so she decides to eliminate him. She asks him the vital question and everyone is shocked when Gust reveals that she has reduced her chances at winning because he is straight. –Eliminated/Straight
I’m sure Jackie is popular at her friends poker tables, because he face reveals every thought that crosses her mind. She is stunned and shaken by Gust’s revelation and faith in her own gaydar is fading fast. She quickly composes herself, however, and we are quickly led through clips of her letting several of the other men off the hook.
Chris, Bill, Lee, Alex, Chad, Luciano- All Safe
Ryan- After calling Ryan up, her eyes search his face intently. Apparently satisfied that none of his freckles spells G-A-Y, she allows him to stay. - Safe
Louis- Out of all of the guys, Jackie feels that she has gotten to know Louis the least. She thinks a straight guy would have tried to get to know her better by now and assumes he must be gay. Louis wishes her luck, but reveals that he is also straight. -Eliminated/Straight
John- Obviously in the clear, John runs to comfort the stunned Jackie. He says that she gave him a panic attack and he’s glad he’s staying. - Safe
When the Dust Settles
Back at the Ranch House, some of the boys are gathered around, drinking beer and waxing philosophical about the events of the evening. Bradley tells the group that his preconceived notions have been shattered. The gay stereotype may have taken a blow, but the guys seem to decide to stick with the straight stereotypes a bit longer as they raise their beers and grunt in agreement.
The men all give “Closet Confessionals” to end the episode. They are shown inside a literal closet, giving their views on the show. None of them says much of interest. Just your basic, “this is only going to get worse” reality show rhetoric.
Thanks for joining me for this episode. Come back next week as the contestants ruthlessly try to “out” each other and Jackie makes some adjustments to her gaydar.
Want to tell it to me straight? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org