Vacationing with strangers is something that, to me, is only done between the ages of 18 and 25, when you don’t care who the 20 people piled in the beach house ARE, as long as they don’t drink your liquor and don’t act all creepy when you untie your bikini top so you don’t get tan lines on your back.
Vacationing with strangers as an adult would be difficult, I think, and apparently the ABC producers agree, quite gleefully. Those wild and wacky people are shaking things up again, this week with Vacation Swap. I’m telling y’all, Parakeet Swap is next. That’s all.
The Hawns are a richie-rich family in Atlanta – the voiceover guy says mother Chelle is a multimillionaire. There appears to be no Mr. Hawn, and no mention of HOW Chelle is a multimillionaire, and I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate with absolutely no basis for it that that Hawns are new money. Old money is typically less ostentatious (or so I’ve been led to believe by a Hollywood full of old-money types living quietly in decrepit mansions.) The Hawns – Chelle and her four sons – live in a 30-room mansion. Chelle is proof that money doesn’t buy good hair, and her sons look like under-gelled Gottis.
The Hawns’ typical vacation is a trip to Aspen, where they stay in a $10,000-a-night house complete with a butler. I don’t know about y’all, but when I vacation I tend to save my money for things I can take home with me, which I’m assuming doesn’t include the butler.
The Hawns will be vacationing with the Orlandos, from California. The Orlandos describe themselves as “Sicilian trailer trash,” and it appears that everyone else who knows them describes them as “loud.” The family consists of mom Jackie – also known, even to herself, as “Big Mama” – husband Joe, and three kids who include a set of twins and a Joe Jr. (a name I can’t hear without thinking of “While You Were Sleeping”).
The Orlandos’ idea of vacation is going camping in an RV, which is perfectly normal, on a dairy farm, which is a bit odd. The Orlandos are a very tight-knit family who do everything together and share chores equally.
The Hawns dress for dinner and have servants.
The Orlandos are ready to try something different, while the Hawns hope to bond more as a family.
Jackie, aka Big Mama, is worried the other family will be snots, while Chelle is worried they’ll be slobs (I guess our old friend Foreshadowing doesn’t GET a vacation).
The two families will spend two weeks together, one week on the Hawns’ vacation and the other on the Orlandos. The Hawns get to go first, so the Orlandos traipse to the airport, where they – loudly – board a private jet and clamber all over it to inspect this new experience.
The Hawns wait demurely in their living room, and eventually the Orlandos arrive, rather like a tidal wave. Jackie must hug everyone at least once, and Chelle, looking a bit overwhelmed, calls her “very expressive.” A Hawn son calls Jackie a “bigger drama queen than myself,” which will later prove to be a high bar.
Jackie’s first impression of Chelle is that she looks great, and completely unlike she gave birth to four children. I think she looks completely like she has hours to devote to her muscle tone. Jackie feels a bit self-conscious of her own plump figure.
Jackie is also impressed with the house. She literally cries over the nice bedroom, which I think is a bit over the top, but then I can already tell that “restraint” is not in Jackie’s emotional repertoire.
Chelle Makes One of the Classic Blunders
It’s dinner time, and Chelle and her boys dress up for dinner, an affectation they always indulge in. They appear to have forgotten to tell the Orlandos about this quirk, however, as the Orlandos tumble in dressed more for Applebee’s. Jackie is clearly uncomfortable and apologizes. Chelle tells us they looked underdressed – although they wouldn’t have been if she and her boys weren’t overdressed. She says, lying, that she can’t judge them for that.
Ok, clothes are one thing. The Orlandos’ table manners, however, also leave something to be desired, and Chelle shouldn’t have had to print “no slurping” on the invitation. They tend to get rather … close to their plates when eating, and Joe Sr. decides dinner is a great time to grace the Hawns with his duck impersonation.
The next morning, Chelle lays down some ground rules. She says the days on a Hawn vacation are jam-packed (sort of a “keeping active so as not to have to talk to each other” thing, I think). The Hawns will be teaching the Orlandos to ski, and there’s to be no whining.
Now, I’m sure the producers told Chelle to make rules. I’m not so sure whether they told her to take it to the level of mean, as she proceeds to do. Chelle says the Orlandos’ attire at dinner last night was “unacceptable” and that they are to behave in a “refined fashion. And that means you, Big Mama.” Ouch! Zing! That’s gonna leave a mark. Not only is it mean, it’s rather pointless – Big Mama could no more tone down her boisterous personality than she could fly.
Faced with such a direct attack, the Orlandos circle the wagons. They gather together and cry, as Big Mama sniffles that they’re good people, no matter what they have or how they look, and that they’ll just do their best. I get the feeling Jackie’s one of those people whose emotions are intense and brief – she gets upset and gets over it. Or at least gets past it. I also get the feeling she might hold a grudge. After all, SHE said she was Sicilian. And, as everyone knows, you never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line. Or vacations.
The Loudest Bunnies On The Slope
Not surprisingly, Big Mama proves less than adept at skiing. She wants to prove she can do this, but she’s having trouble staying upright. Her cackles every time she falls echo through the mountains of Aspen. At least she’s having fun.
The Orlando kids pick it up a bit faster. I think skiing is one of those things that are best learned young, before you realize it could kill you. I, alas, didn’t try skiing till I was a teenager, and thus my primary method of doing it usually entails hurtling downhill screaming “for the love of God get the #$% out of my way!” I don’t think Chelle would consider me refined enough for her ski slope.
After skiing, the men get to enjoy one of the perks of living in luxury – a hot tub. The women, however, are dragged out shopping by Chelle, who wants to upgrade their look. She takes them to the fur store and slaps their hands when they try to look at price tags. Chelle says her theory of shopping is, “You love it, you get it.” Can she adopt me?
The Orlando women wind up with fur coats that could cover their house payment for a while. They also get dresses and accessories, and when they next show up for dinner, the drama queen Hawn exclaims that Stephanie (the Orlando daughter) looks “fabulous!”
The new and improved Orlandos are taken out to dinner, but unfortunately, it’s for high-priced sushi – something they’ve never had, despite being from California. They choke it down with varying degrees of politeness.
The Orlandos are getting better at skiing, which is good for the Hawns, who want to go on their annual backcountry adventure. This involve being dropped from a helicopter into pristine snow in an area entirely devoid of path markers. It reminds me of Playstation’s SSX game.
Unfortunately for the Hawns, only two Orlandos are deemed good enough to go – Stephanie and Joe Jr. (I think). Jackie’s certainly not skilled enough, as she has just spent a large amount of time falling onto the ground, whining, irritating Chelle, and feeling like a loser.
The Orlandos are not used to being more than five feet from each other, and Jackie watches her children head off to the backcountry with trepidation.
Once the helicopter leaves, Joe Jr. and his Hawn go snowboarding off. Stephanie, however, is having trouble staying on top of the deep snow. Her Hawn trainer, Brian, taunts her in a voice I think he reserves for reenacting the “No wire hangers!!” scene, till she cusses him. But a hurt ankle does her in, and they have to call for help off the mountain.
Having heard the emergency call, Big Mama is worried. But when her children arrive home safely, she thinks it was amazing of them to try, and says her daughter didn’t deserve to be treated that way.
Cows Are Where Fine Leather Comes From
We’ve finally skied in luxury for a week, which means it’s the Orlandos’ turn to be in charge. The Hawns have to pack up their Gucci suits, because it’s camping time. They get off the plane and see the RV and are not impressed. <---understatement. One whines that it isn’t humane. Further inspection reveals that it lacks enough beds, has no real tub, and smells odd. “This toilet looks like it came out of one of our boats,” says one Hawn son. One of our boats. A boat with a toilet. ‘Nuff said.
Luckily for all, each family gets their own RV. I’d hate to try to fit … (counts on fingers) 10 people into one camper. Much less 6 teenage boys. The downside to splitting up is that Chelle has to drive her own camper. Now, even for a seasoned camper, this can be daunting. It’s not the going forward that gets you, it’s the backing-up and turning.
Needless to say, this is not Chelle’s idea of a vacation. It doesn’t help that when they finally arrive at the campground, it reeks of cows. And the Hawns don’t know how to hook up a camper, leaving Joe Sr. to do all that work while they yawn. Finally, at midnight, everything is connected and the Hawns beat a retreat into their camper, where they complain about the nastiness of the mattresses. Chelle says she feels dirty.
Evidently the mattresses aren’t too nasty to actually sleep on, though, because the Hawns are still asleep long after the Orlandos bounce out of bed. Joe wakes them with his duck impression – yeah, that never gets old. Chelle announces she accidentally walked on the carpet in her bare feet, and hopes she doesn’t catch any “infectious diseases.” What, she didn’t pack any $800 Jimmy Choo feathered house-mules? My, how our standards have fallen.
I Want Me Some of That Clean Sewage
The morning also introduces Chelle to the wonders of the communal camp bathroom. She says she never thought she’d be doing her makeup in a trailer-park bathroom, and longs for her hairstylist. Why? She looks better now than she has the whole show. She was too overdone before.
The Orlandos – likely still feeling the sting of the “refined” comment – lay down their own rules. There are no servants, so everyone is to share in chores. The Hawns are on their own to empty their own sewage line, which horrifies the richies. Demonstrating a deplorable lack of understanding of the concept of a sewage line, Chelle protests that she hopes she doesn’t get dirty. Brian, the drama queen Hawn, says roughing it and fun do not go together.
The biggest protest is reserved for what I hope is a joke on the Orlandos’ part. Jackie announces that at night, they sit around the campfire and tell fart jokes. Um, what? Do they really have such an extensive repertoire of fart jokes that they can entertain themselves for an entire evening? Chelle fears this is so. She says she finds the concept of flatulence offensive, but Jackie says that’s just tough, she can leave. Chelle says she’s thinking about it. (Which is a load of bull, because for one thing she can’t find her way out of the campground.)
As it’s too early for campfire fart jokes, though, the Orlandos while away the time by fishing. As with everything else, this fails to impress the Hawns, on whom the concept of sitting peacefully and quietly is wasted. Grilling dinner is also a tense affair, as Chelle fears she’ll slice an expensively-manicured nail along with the potatoes, and Brian keeps an eye on the grill to ensure he doesn’t get salmonella from undercooked chicken.
Gas and Sass
But this quiet, flatulence-free idyll must come to an end. A fire is built, and the emission jokes start coming. What scares me most is when one Orlando boy starts telling a story about a personal horrific bowel issue, another family member shouts, “Oh, I remember this one!” in a tone of welcome familiarity that most of us would reserve for family tales about the time grandpa got caught making moonshine, or something. Anyway, Chelle flees to get coffee, and Jackie tells us Chelle is judgmental.
The next day, Chelle decides to confront Jackie about the low humor. She says fart jokes are offensive. Jackie says she has trouble believing Chelle could be that stuffy. Believe it, sister. Jackie goes on to say that Chelle thinks the Orlando family is gross, and that she doesn’t believe Chelle’s denials. (Well, I mean, fart jokes ARE gross. What does she want?) Jackie says they all fart, even the Hawns, and that Chelle’s family is not immune to moments of gas. I personally cannot believe we’re still talking about this. Amazingly, however, it brings about a bonding moment, as Chelle admits she doesn’t like feeling helpless, that she should probably learn some, you know, skills, and she and Big Mama hug and cry and all is well.
Does a Bear Sh*t In The Woods? Discuss.
It’s a good thing Chelle has come to terms with thinking about the gastrointestinal system, because it turns out her sewer line is broken, and it’s up to her and the boys to fix it. Well, up to her and one boy, as two of them huff off into the trailer and refuse to help. Say what? If I’d ever pulled that, my father would have dragged me bodily out of the camper and left me to fix the damn line alone. They remind me of one college roommate I had who, when a fuse blew and took out our microwave and television, shrugged and went off to her bedroom, leaving the rest of us to ransack the apartment in search of the fuse box (we had to call an RA in to help, and when it turned out to be behind a picture on the wall, we got busted for illegal nails in the wall. Thanks for nothing, beyatch.)
Chelle and Mark eventually fix the sewer line, and Chelle admits she’s learning something about herself and her own abilities. By the time the whole crew goes on a hike, she’s able to pee in the woods with a minimum of fuss, although she does require Big Mama to come watch out for critters while she drops her silk drawers.
At some point, the Hawns do seem to start having fun, fishing and paddle-boating and whatnot. By the last night, Chelle says Big Mama is making the Hawn boys step up to the plate, and that this was a very team-building experience. The team puts a worm down Stephanie’s shirt, and hilarity ensues. Ah, you know everyone’s bonded when they start flinging invertebrates at each other.
Brian, surprisingly, says that he finally has seen a “special, magical thing” about being together as a family. Um, is this the same drama queen who was screaming on a ski slope a week ago?
Home On The Range
Since the swap, the Hawns claim to have made some changes. Chelle says there’s a lot they can do for themselves, and says her boys no longer get everything handed to them. It’s just most things now. They cook dinner together (once a week) and eat it in casual clothing, and say they’re appreciating being together as a family.
The Orlandos have also changed – they’ve developed a taste for adventure, and are venturing away from their campground to go horseback riding. Jackie has a lot of trouble getting ON the horse, and says she realizes she needs to lose weight.
Our last sight of the Orlandos has them all on horseback in a line. “Next thing you know, the Orlandos will be skydiving!” Big Mama cackles, as we fade out. I think people who ARE skydiving heard that.
Next week, we have a preview for something entirely un-swap related. Woot, a break for me! Maybe the parakeets needed some extra editing.
Just say no to fart jokes. firstname.lastname@example.org