It’s a sad fact of life that if you do anything the same way too many times, you get tired of it. Walks along the same path get boring, repetitious work gets old, even sex in the same position gets a little stale. The same concept applies to TV shows. How many times can you watch the Coyote get smashed by a rock before it gets tiresome? Ok, infinite. Bad example. But we do get usually get tired of watching the same old thing over and over – hence some good ideas, like introducing the Bachelorette concept when the Bachelor got stale, and some bad ones, like that whole three-tribe thing during a Survivor season.
Operating under this Boredom Principle, the producers of Wife Swap have decided to shake things up. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Husband Swap. Just the same, except a little different. Before your eyes light up and you start putting in for a Husband transfer, though, ladies, I’d suggest you check these fellas out. You might not think you’re trading up.
Our swappers this week are the Davis family, of Colorado, and the Paiss family, from elsewhere in Colorado, although as we will see, it’s possible the Paisses live on the moon.
The Davises are a blended family comprised of Kenny and his two teenage daughters, and Sandy and her one teenage daughter. Kenny and Sandy only “hooked up” about a year ago, and I’m not clear on whether this means they married a year ago, or just started shacking up then. Both they and all the daughters go by the last name of Davis, though, so either some sort of legal document has been signed or they just really lucked out having the same last name already.
Kenny is pretty much your uber-biker, and comes complete with long, grizzly head and facial hair, a plethora of leather attire, and a laid-back approach to the mundanities of yard maintenance. He runs a bike shop, and says motorcycling is like a religion (and that his bike is like a woman, and can do *almost* everything a woman can for him). He owns 17 motorcycles, six cars, and a boat. He does not appear to own a lawnmower, however; the yard looks like a vacant lot, and neighbors unknown have complained. Kenny has also been having conflicts with Cara, Sandy’s daughter, who isn’t real thrilled with their relationship and hasn’t really bonded with Kenny. However, the family is able to join together over a nightly ritual – hours of watching television.
Less than 100 miles away physically, but light-years apart in lifestyle, is the Paiss family. Zev and Neshama live with their two small daughters on a housing commune called Nomad. Their lives are focused on community and ecology – they bicycle almost everywhere, they eat communal meals with their neighbors, they share commune chores with other residents, they recycle everything possible, they compost food. They’re your basic hippy-dippy lot, playing bongos to mark the changing of the seasons, doing yoga, and talking about their relationships with the earth, the trees and the sky. Neshama is anal about the house being clean, but not so much that she insists on doing the cleaning herself. She is adamant about getting an afternoon nap, and while she does that, Zev does the chores. Their kids, by the way, aren’t allowed to watch TV. And Zev looks like Richard Dreyfuss.
The commune name “Nomad” is a bit misleading, as the Paisses are anything but – they rarely even leave the commune. There’s no mention of how they earn a living. But it doesn’t look like they wove their own clothes, or built their bikes out of tree branches (branches that fell on their own, and were not ripped from a living tree), so there has to be some cash-flow coming in to La-la Land from somewhere.
As it happens. Zev and Neshama weren’t always commune-dwelling hippies with weird names. Once upon a time they were Bill and Kay, and Kay was a P.R. agent in New York. Wow. Quite the turn-around she had. I’m betting Bill and Kay’s families occasionally speak in hushed tones about how Bill and Kay ran off and joined a cult.
And don’t whine to me about how not all environmentalists, nor even all commune-dwellers, are hippy-dippy weirdos. There is a very clear line between being environmentally conscious and being strange. That line is not in the recycling, nor even in the compost. It’s the bongos that tip the Paisses over that line.
A Hundred Miles Never Felt So Far
Kenny and Zev will be switching places for two weeks. Zev hopes to bring his earthy awareness to the other family, while Kenny hopes his absence will make Sandy’s daughter appreciate him more, and make her realize that he’s not taking her mom away, he’s taking them as a package deal.
Zev arrives at the Davis household with flowers, while Kenny travels to the commune on a Harley.
As with the wife-swapping, Kenny and Zev get some time alone in their new homes. Kenny notices that the Paiss house smells nice, while Zev’s nose wrinkles upon encountering the odor of cats. Kenny notes the yoga mats, while Zev recoils from a large snake curled up in an aquarium. Eying mounds of junk stacked haphazardly, Zev notes that his own home is more organized. Kenny, meanwhile, steps outside and is greeted by a plethora of communal neighbors.
Both men left a manual describing their lives for the other to read. Kenny gives the same dumbfounded, bug-eyed reaction to most things in Zev’s manual, including the communal workday and Neshama’s naps. However, a recounting of Zev’s walk on the wild side – sneaking bags of chocolate-covered peanuts, which Neshama doesn’t mind too much since he’s so good about helping around the house – prompts a more strident response from Kenny, who terms the dynamic in that household “a bunch of crap.”
Zev, meanwhile, is made nervous by a line in Kenny’s manual that the neighbors have complained about the yard, and now the authorities are involved. “What the hell does that mean?” Zev asks. Well, it doesn’t mean the neighbors and Kenny are sitting down in a circle and holding hands and talking about their feelings, Zev.
Green Acres is the Place to Be, Commune Living is (not) the Life For Me
The two families meet their new husbands, and as always, it is a polite 30 seconds of introductions before people get down to the business of finding out just how hellaciously different they are.
Zev, for example, seems to waste little time in telling Sandy and the girls that in HIS family, they eat healthy, they recycle, and living an environmentally-friendly lifestyle doesn’t have to be hard. Is he trying to sell them a time-share in the commune?
If so, he’s lost this sale by letting slip that his family doesn’t watch TV. The Davis daughters are appalled and mystified as to WHY someone wouldn’t want to watch TV. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating – how the hell do these people who don’t watch TV wind up on a TV show?! Someone please explain this to me.
At the Paiss house, Kenny seems to hang back a bit, but then again, it’s not like he has to proclaim “I am a biker” out loud. The beard and the leather (and the Harley parked outside) pretty much say everything for him. Any poker face he might have been going for, however, breaks down into a deer-caught-in-the-headlights look when Neshama starts singing some long-winded prayer over the dinner table. Kenny informs us that that’s “just not my bag.”
Oblivious to Kenny’s bag, Neshama thinks living with her for two weeks will open up his mind to a whole other realm of spirituality. Listen, girlfriend. A guy like Kenny, you don’t open anything he doesn’t WANT opened, got it?
No “Easy Rider” Here
Zev continues his Birkenstock barrage of environmental lecturing the next morning. He’s supposed to help Sandy take the girls to school, which will involve both of them driving separate vehicles. Zev launches into a sermon about the evils of gas pricing, which Sandy finally cuts off. She says she’s not a morning person and isn’t going to have this debate. Chastened into silence, at least for the time being, Zev dutifully gets into a vehicle – an SUV, actually, hehe – and does his part of the school run.
Kenny has his own issues with the morning school run. No separate cars for the Paisses, oh no. Here the school run is a communal bike ride with the kids. By the time they get to the school, Kenny’s sweating. This isn’t his idea of being a “biker.” I think he’s jonesing for his hog.
If he is, too bad. Little Zev is on it. (or on someone’s). Well, by “on a motorcycle” I mean “on the back of one someone else is driving.” You know those shirts that say, “If you can read this, the bitch fell off”? Yeah, Zev’s the bitch.
He’s also the dork, waving his arms around during the ride in a manner that totally negates the coolness factor of the hog, and which I would think would overbalance the bike. No one smacks him, though, and by the end he says the ride was exhilarating. I guess while composting is nice, it really doesn’t do much for the old adrenaline.
Which is now Kenny’s problem. He’s got to participate in community work day at the commune. He’s first put on hauling rocks, and says while what the group is doing with the rocks – i.e. putting them in rows to decorate something – is nice, he couldn’t live like this. He values his privacy too much to give it up for communal living.
Kenny is then taken to the compost area, which consists of a wooden boxy composter thingy, and lots of rancid food scraps. “To me that’s garbage,” Kenny says, adding that living organically is all well and good but saving food till it’s full of fruitflies is taking things a bit far.
The Bad Boys of Suburbia USA
These little outings were fun. But the men have to go back to the houses sometime, and tensions are rising when they do. Zev points out to the Davis women that their basement smells like cat pee, a statement which Miss Manners clearly states is a no-no when one is a guest.
The ever-observant Zev has also noticed that the Davises don’t interact with their neighbors. Sandy says she’s never been neighborly, and explains the ongoing situation vis-à-vis the yard, the anonymous complaints and the involvement of the authorities. “We’re the bad boys of the neighborhood,” she says.
Meanwhile, Kenny is doing the dishes and the laundry while Neshama/Kay has her nap. Looking every inch the menacing biker (apart from the dish towel in his hands) Kenny growls into the camera that he’s tired.
He’s not too tired, however, to quiz the Paiss kids, asking if they’ve ever been on vacation (no), ever been to the zoo (no), watched TV (no) or know who Yogi Bear is (no, no and no). Other than the commune, Kenny says, the kids have no experiences. He says the Paisses aren’t going out and experiencing any of the myriad things life has to offer.
And he’s so troubled by the restrictions this places on the kids that he brings it up with Neshama (when she gets up from her nap, presumably.) Kenny asks why it’s not ok for her kids to watch TV, when she and Zev both watched TV growing up and turned out ok (which, given their communal bongo-drumming, is debatable). Neshama says she doesn’t want to hurt their brains with TV, and is afraid they’ll see something that scares them.
Kenny says she’s overprotective and too restrictive. “Is the word we’re looking for … ‘killjoy’?” he asks. Rhetorically.
Quick, what’s a synonym for killjoy? At the Davis house, that would be “Zev.” He’s pushing the recycling thing, and telling the Davis women they’re wasteful and that it hurts him to take out 14 bags of trash – 14? What? How long did it take to accumulate that? – when so much of it could be recycled.
His more-environmental-than-thou spiel upsets Sandy, who says he makes her feel bad and unworthy. She tells her daughters this, and they rally around mama bear, confronting Zev about it. They say he’s judging them and they don’t appreciate it. Zev says they need to care about their world at large and not to be so selfish.
Did These Pants Come From an Organic Cow?
After what is seeming like a very long time (at least judging from the length of this recap already) we’re down to the switch. The men have played by the house rules for a week and now they get to impose their own rules. Kenny says he’s been pushed around and has done everything he was asked.
Zev begins by removing all the TVs from the house. Ah, if only he had stopped there. But no. He continues with a song. Yes. A song. About peace. This is not me making a joke. Alas. As he sings, and sings, the Davis women’s faces look about as mortified as mine does.
But even bad songs come to an end, although they are always, ALWAYS longer than good songs. Zev shuts up with the singing and starts with the insulting (in the Davises eyes, at least). He says they live a wasteful life and must take responsibility for themselves. Ixnay on the TV-watching, and on the car-driving – they’ll be riding bikes to school. Zev also decrees that the family will clean up their yard, apologize to their neighbors, and then invite the neighbors over for a party.
The sum result of all this? “Five hundred pounds of pissed-off female,” Sandy says.
Kenny says Neshama is too uptight and too isolated. He decrees that they’ll cook steaks and eat them in front of the TV, like other families. And because Neshama needs to get in touch with her wild side, Kenny hands her a “non-organic” leather outfit and says she’ll be working in a biker bar.
The Paiss girls do too much “artsy-fartsy” stuff, Kenny says, and so they’ll all be going to an amusement park to spend way too much money having fun, like normal families. The little girls are delighted at this, by the way, primarily by the idea that there will be cotton candy at the amusement park.
Neshama screeches when Kenny says her naps are a thing of the past, but gamely tries on the leather duds to show to the neighbors (who appear to be all hanging out right outside her backdoor). She’s got pants, and a vest, but CLEARLY no bra. Oh dear. I KNOW those come in leather too. I will not say HOW I know.
The More You Wiggle …. The More You Need a Bra
Zev’s new regime gets off to a rocky start. He insists that the family eat together around the dinner table, without the TV, but this simply emphasizes the lack of conversation this family has during dinner, because there is …. silence. No one even drops a fork. It looks pretty uncomfortable.
Then Cara refuses to ride a bike to school, even though it’s only a mile away. Sandy stands behind Cara, even though she had at some point promised Zev that she’d try to support him in his new rules. She winds up driving Cara to school. Another daughter does take the bicycle, but is not thrilled with the experience.
As a side note, WHY do we keep getting people on this show who refuse to play by the rules? Why are they bothering to be on at all? It reminds me of when I was a kid and some snot would always say they wouldn’t play if they had to be It, or whatever. Ever wonder what they grew up to be like? Now you know.
Things are going MUCH better at the Paiss household. Dinner was eaten in front of the TV, to Kenny’s delight. And Neshama has put on her leather, possibly along with a bra, and headed off to work at the biker bar.
It is 11:30 a.m. at the bar, and the joint is rockin’. It looks more like 11:30 p.m. What kind of crazy town do these people live in, that you can have bongo-beating hippies who never leave the commune in the same area as a biker bar that looks like Friday night before it’s even lunchtime? And where is this early-opening bar? Detailed directions would be appreciated..
Neshama is nervous, but the bartender advises her, “the more you wiggle, the more you make.” Ain’t that the truth. Neshama soon gets into the swing of things, by which I mean she gets drunk. She’s drinking about as many shots as she serves, it seems, and having a grand time. Kenny says it’s like she’s a totally different woman. Neshama marvels that she felt like a babe in the leather. Well, honey, that’s why women wear leather pants. It’s hard to feel like a babe in Birkenstocks.
Smells Like Teen Spirit
How many times can I say “things are going from bad to worse at the Davises”? Multiple, it seems. I don’t know who to feel sorrier for, the women, Zev, or me.
Zev has apparently ordered the Davises to clean out their cat-pissy-basement. He’s even found them a new couch. But Cara refuses to sit on it. Zev calls her an ungrateful teenager – is there any other kind? – and her fuse is lit. All it takes is Zev saying one vague thing about “be honest with me” and Cara takes that ball and runs with it.
She informs Zev that he stinks. Literally. I’d have to watch the tape to be sure, but I believe her quote is, “You smell like butt.” Now, if I had *ever* mouthed off to an adult like that, even if I was right, my mother would have knocked me into next week. Sandy chastises her mildly, but it’s clear that her heart’s not in it. Zev says he’s been sweating, because he’s been working, so naturally he would smell … sweaty. I’m thinking he probably smells a little bit earthy-crunchy/organic patchouli deodoranty at the best of times anyway.
Zev says he does want honesty, but would like it tempered with respect. Sadly for him, Cara says he will not ever be getting respect. The Davis women storm out, and Zev vents his rage by kicking a bean bag and yelling that he’s feeling “PISSED OFF.”
Family Bonding, Biker Style
Zev is afraid that Kenny will gather his biker friends and come up to the commune for some good old-fashioned Zev-kicking. The Davis women say that Kenny’s not like that. In fact, Kenny’s a good guy. They’re really realizing, now that they’re stuck with Zev, what a good guy Kenny really is. They’ve decided to give Zev credit for this revelation. Cara says she thinks of Kenny as a father-figure now, and Sandy says that they’ve become a family now because of Zev. He cries.
Kenny, meanwhile, is taking the Paiss girls to the aforementioned amusement park. I think of amusement parks as big places with rollercoasters and $50 gate prices, but what Kenny has in mind is a bit smaller-scale. We’re talking go-karts and the like. Still, fun. The little Paisses love it, and Kenny reflects that he’s missing out on his own girls growing up, because soon they’ll be out of the house.
Now that the Davises have bonded as a family, they can put up with Zev much more easily, it appears. They go along with his plan to clean up the yard and invite the neighbors over for a party, which attracts more than 50 people and is considered a success, and even the anti-neighbor Davis women admit they enjoyed it. You know those neighbors were calling each other and saying, “Oh my lord, Susie, the bikers have invited us over. Are you going? Should we go? I’ll go if you go. Is it ok if I don’t have anything leather to wear?”
On the last day of the swap, Neshama finally goes on her own bike ride, of the motorized kind. Like Zev did, she loves it, and says it’s just what she needed. She wants to “hold on to this lightness” of spirit.
I’ve Lost Interest in Being Even Mildly Amusing
Ok, this recap is getting past even my own attention span, so I’m going to rush on through it. Everyone misses their own family and Zev has had a glimpse of what it will be like when his girls are teenagers. I.e. hell.
For once, the swappees do not travel in limos for their reunion; Zev and Sandy come in a car, and Kenny and Neshama ride his bike. (and how will Zev and Neshama get back home, I wonder?)
Everyone hugs, kisses, cries, etc.
Sitting down to talk the experience over, Kenny says he first thought Neshama was controlling. But when she put the leather on, “all hell broke loose.” Zev looks nervous. Is hell organic? Is it going to break all at once or in acceptable increments? Can hell be recycled? Will the commune neighbors be put out?
Neshama says she learned to be more fun and spontaneous.
Sandy says she did not have an excellent time. She felt her family was being judged, and that Zev’s rules were too much.
Zev points out that the Davis family bonded together over their hatred of him. Sandy agrees, and tells Kenny that his daughters called her mom, and her daughter called him dad. He tears up. Aw.
Since the swap, Neshama has been more relaxed and less controlling. She even lets the girls have more ice cream once in a while. And she wears the leather outfit on occasion, much to Zev’s delight. Evidently it makes him more “amorous.” Ok, too much information.
Kenny likes the cleaner yard, and the new closeness with his family.
Country puritans versus Goths. Wicked.
Send me a Harley. Seriously. I always wanted one. firstname.lastname@example.org