Settle in folks, we’re in for the full two hour exchange extravaganza, starring two families who both wear bigger blinders than the horses that pull the buggies in Central Park.
Trouble is apparent when the families look crazy from the start.
First up, we’re introduced to the Parodi family of Hayes, Virginia. ( Mom Sue loves horses, and lives in the barn more than the house. She says she has to take care of everything with the horses and cleans morning and night. While horses are costly and time consuming, they are her life. As an aside, she’s got super-long hair and the only person I’ve ever known who had hair that long also was obsessed by horses. How weird is that? She has been married for 21 years to Mike, a major in the Army. Either he’s got leave or he’s retired, because he later tells says his job is that he’s a medieval reenactor. Sue told Mike when she married him that horses would come first. He was cool with that because reenacting comes first for him. They’ve got a daughter Ariana, who is 21…the same number of years they were married, so I’m guessing that medieval cart came before the modern day horse. They also have a son Marcello, a.k.a. Marc, who is 17. Ariana is into the medieval stuff but also likes to dress like a pirate, and is engaged to a guy who does the same. Marc is into Japanese sword fighting, as is Mike, and wants to be a surgeon. He says he does the medieval stuff just to hang out with his family. Mike is apparently a bit of a tiny tyrant.
Next up is the Solomon family from Thousand Oaks, California. Vered, the mom, and Aaron, the dad, met and married in India. They got their degrees and came to the US, and got further degrees. Vered has a degree from Harvard, likes everything to be perfect, and wants to always dress in fashionable clothes and look sexy. Looking good is a top priority for her and her family. She and Aaron have been married 18 years and have a 13 year old daughter called Tal. They’ve instilled their belief in looking good into Tal. Unfortunately it didn’t work on her hair, because she had two broad chunks of bleached blond hair framing her face, while the rest of her hair is dark, in a very Kirstie Alley in Veronica’s Closet kind of way. Vered is a research scientist and Aaron is a businessman. They believe that having high-end consumer goods equals having class; having a Hummer is part of this so-called plan to exhibit class. Aaron does admit that he judges people by what kind of shoes they wear; this is a philosophy I can get behind.
On the morning of the departure, Sue worried about the horses. Mike says he’ll miss her, but he’s capable of taking care of the place on his own. Meanwhile, Vered obsesses over her wardrobe and Aaron says he will miss her, because without her, he will not be complete.
Aaron and Tal go to the airport to pick up Sue. They’ve both packed bags because they are not taking Sue to their house, but to a resort in Palm Springs to have a nice vacation. This is a shame, because I really wanted more footage of the Solomon house. From the glimpses we got, it looks like it’s got great electronics, but the furniture is uber bland, as though they never made the wrong design choice by simply avoiding making choices at all. And another thing, while I’m being petty….Aaron is clearly obsessed with how he and his family looks, and he’s got a nice income. So why in the hell doesn’t he get his teeth fixed? It looks like he’s missing a few in the front.
Over in Virginia, Vered wanders around looking for Mike. She’s sporting some truly killer boots, and my feet hurt just looking at them. Mike says he hopes the new mom can get with the program and step in and do the job that Sue does. They meet up and drive back to the farm, and he tells her he’s a re-enactor and she tells him she’s a research scientist.
Arriving at the house, Vered comments on the horses, which she never really wanted to see. She says the house looks really cheap, and Mike shows her to her room. He instructs her to put the lid to the toilet down because, when it is flushed, it emits a nasty smell. It should be noted that Mike has installed one of those toilet seats that look like a jousting shield. Seriously. Vered is disgusted by the whole affair. The kids comment that she obviously is into how she looks and Marc notices Vered’s huge rack (which I’m 99% sure is an after-market add-on).
Aaron and Sue finally meet up, and Aaron has flowers for Sue. He informs her that they are going on a vacation to Palm Springs to do a lot of shopping. On the ride down, he quizzes Sue on the shopping areas in her town, and she says there’s a strip mall with a WalMart. Aaron is not impressed, and looks visibly disgusted. Sue asks Tal what she is in to, and Tal, in typical SoCal girl speak, talks a mile a minute and says she wants to be a plastic surgeon and guitarist for a Japanese rock band. Sue then, apparently, talks incessantly about horses for the remainder of the ride. Aaron, ever the great reaction shot guy, yawns and looks bored to tears. They finally arrive at the hotel, which Aaron tells us is very expensive, and they examine the three bedroom, two bath suite. Aaron and Tal are disappointed, and Sue is impressed. I’m kind of on the fence; depends how much he paid. The space was big, but the design was blah and the couch looked lumpy.
Manual labor vs. Shopping
On the first full day of the swap, Mike wants Vered to get up early because he’s got a load of hay coming on a flatbed truck and needs help stacking it in the barn. This is a task that Sue would normally help out with, and he expects Vered to do the same. He gets testy when it looks like she may be dawdling getting ready. Vered isn’t happy about the hay situation; she says she’s an intellectual woman, and not one to work with hay. She does do work in the barn, but doesn’t like Mike bossing her around; her husband would never do that. She then has to clean the horses’ stalls, and is truly disgusted by the volume of horse manure. She says the smell alone is enough to kill. After a while, she’s had enough and leaves the stable.
Over in Palm Springs, breakfast is delivered to the suite, and Sue doesn’t know how to handle being catered to. They are planning a day of shopping, based on Aaron’s assumption that Palm Springs has very unique and elegant shops. I thought it was a very hot area where retirees lived, but I could be wrong. Sue thinks the shopping is going to be boring, but she’s going to try to experience the Solomon’s way of life. The shopping goes on for hours, and Sue gets bored. Pretty much anyone would be bored with Aaron and Tal and their way of shopping—wandering through stores, making snarky comments on all the clothes, and Tal’s whiny Valley Girl diction droning on and on. There is some key factor left out though; the Solomons either never bought anything, or they did so only off camera, because there is nary a bag between them. Also, at some point on this trip, it appears that Sue acquired a Tiffany necklace. She wasn’t wearing it when she arrived, but she has it on for the remainder of the episode.
Depends on how you define “fantasy.”
Mike is planning a big medieval reenactment party. Vered is not impressed, saying that she has lived in USA for 10 years and not a single person she’s ever met has this kind of party. She thinks that educated people do not believe in fantasy, and that people who do medieval stuff are either country or blue collar. She is completely blind to the fact that she lives in a fantasy world where consumerism equals class and expensive clothes equal style and beauty.
Vered spends some time getting to know Ariana, and finds that the 21 year old is heavily into Disney, horses, unicorns and dressing like a pirate. As Ariana not in 4th grade any more, Vered rightly points out that Ariana appears immature. Vered is also surprised that Ariana is getting married, to another pirate impersonator whose day job is a construction worker, no less. Vered said she’s never let Tal marry a construction worker or have a pirate wedding. Vered is disturbed by the fact that the Parodis live in a constant fantasy world.
It’s not the size of the tortilla, it’s how you use it.
It’s time for lunch in Palm Springs, so Sue suggests Mexican food. Aaron hates Mexican food because the presentation is always so messy. He’s further freaked out because the restaurant uses paper napkins. Tal starts whining about how the chips for the salsa are too big and her virgin strawberry margarita tastes like a smoothie. Then Aaron goes on and on about how the word “guacamole” is just not as classy as “avocado”. Aaron is quite the weird dude, isn’t he? Sue, unlike the other two whiners, liked the food but could have done without the complaining.
For being as well fed as he looks, Aaron has some food issues. Later on for dinner, Sue decides to make sushi and miso soup. He says he’s not the kind of person who eats at home. Tal says she’s scared of Sue’s sushi, and she and Aaron completely disrespect Sue and her food preparation and eat some ice cream. That is so not classy, Aaron. Buy a clue, ‘cause we know you’ve got the cash.
Where are the turkey legs?
It’s time for the medieval party. About 20 or so people come out to the Parodi abode and set up tables, tents, armor and other medieval stuff. I don’t see any turkey legs, which is always the highlight of my trip to the Renaissance Fair every fall. Vered gets decked out in a medieval outfit, but then changes her mind, finding the whole thing ridiculous. Vered chooses this moment to confront Mike, saying that he needs to stop the dream world at some point and let the kids live in the real world. He starts shouting at her that it is important to the family. Vered asks him why he can’t speak in a normal voice and discuss it like adults. He clearly can’t, so he storms off. Vered was rude, but Mike was just plain juvenile. Why is it that none of these people are all that likable?
The one likable guy in the whole show.
Just before I’m ready to write off both families as irretrievably goofy and/or rude, we get some time between Vered and Marc. Vered thinks that Marc shouldn’t spend time sewing, jousting, and doing the Japanese sword fighting. She asks him about his studies, what his favorite subject is, and generally about school. He says he really likes biology and wants to become a surgeon. He’s applied to VCU because they have a good medical school. Vered is surprised that he has goals this lofty, and she wants to help him out and give him some guidance. Marc appreciates the guidance, because, he says, his parents never help him with plans for the future. That’s just kind of sad. After a disappointing discussion with Ariana about education, Vered makes arrangements for Marc to have some one-on-one time with a surgeon at the Walter Reed hospital. Marc is completely taken with the possible opportunity to do a brief summer study internship with this doctor, and is really grateful to Vered for hooking him up.
Medieval Times Outing
Over in Palm Springs, Sue decides to take Aaron and Tal to a place called Medieval Times to expose them to her way of life. Tal thinks it’s boring, stupid and pointless. Aaron thinks the place stinks of horses, and is completely put out when he finds there are no utensils for dinner. The battle reenactment bothers him even more, proclaiming it too violent, and, after a while, he walks away. Sue takes this as a personal attack and gets further perturbed with Aaron. After the show, she confronts Aaron and Tal, appalled that Tal doesn’t do anything physical, like riding horses. Aaron says that horses are boring, and spending time with them is not spending time with the family. When they shop, they actually talk, rather than ride some enslaved beast. Sue takes offense, saying that the horses love being tamed and ridden, and that it is no different that teaching Tal to like homework. Aaron points out that horses can’t talk, and that Sue is just anthropomorphizing horses.
Meeting of Moms
It is time to write the letters and divvy up the money. Sue has issues with giving family who boasts how much money the have more money. Vered wants to give money to encourage a desire to succeed, not for fantasy living. Then it is time for the moms to leave and exchange the envelopes.
At the undisclosed location, Sue and Vered meet. Sue wants to talk about how money is making Tal grow up with a bent on materialism. Vered wants to talk about the fantasy land where the Parodis live. Having learned her audience, Sue compliments Tal and Vered on their beauty when they meet. Sue then says that they did a lot of shopping and eating out, which Vered interprets as having a good time. Sue then brings up that Tal complains a lot and Aaron encourages it.
Sue then asks Vered what she thought of all the games and medieval stuff going on at her house. Vered says it was “interesting” but she would not let Mike do all the fighting and sword stuff. She also said that Ariana stopped growing as a person because of all the fantasy living, and it is a shame. Things get awkward and they exchange envelopes.
Back home, where the weirdness continues.
Sue arrives back on the farm, and is greeted most enthusiastically by Marc, who carries her back in the house. She’s very happy to see her horses and her family…in that order. Aaron and Tal get back home from Palm Springs and are put out that the house is dirty, which is difficult to grasp, since they haven’t been there. Vered arrives, and they present her with flowers and Ferrero Rocher chocolates. This choice surprises me, since, while they are good, Ferrero Rocher are pretty damn common and you wouldn’t expect them to be defined as “classy.” Vered reveals Mike made her cry and Aaron gets all sorts of bent out of shape. But seriously, who’s going to take a pudgy middle aged business man who has to overcompensate with a Hummer all that serious of a physical threat? He opines that Mike was an ass because he doesn’t have a degree, but as far as I know, a degree is needed to be a commissioned officer in the Army, so Mike must have some kind of degree.
The most important part—who gets what.
Finally this episode is nearly over, and the money is divided up. Vered gives the Parodis $10,000 for debts, $10,000 for Ariana’s education, but not her wedding, $5,000 for Sue’s career development, and $25,000 for Marc’s education. Mike is put out because the $10,000 is not enough to pay off what is his apparently enormous debt. Sue doesn’t understand why Vered would think she needs career development. Ariana is o.k. with not using the money for her wedding, because she can save for it now that her education costs are covered. Marc is thrilled with his money for college, and is empowered enough to just say no to archery practice for the afternoon.
Sue divides the money up for the Solomons by designating $1,000 for saving a pound animal, $9,000 for any debt, $15,000 for Tal to take a vacation to Japan, and $25,000 for Tal’s education. They are thrilled with the money for Tal and her education, but not so much with the idea of getting a pound animal. Vered says her yard is too itsy-bitsy for a pet, which may be the reason why they spent the week in Palm Springs and not at home. They also don’t know what to make of the $9,000 for debts, because they pay their debts. All in all, they are pleased with the money, and Vered is glad to be home.