This week we've got Survivor, 24 & The Bad Girls ClubSurvivor: Heroes and Villains - "Preview, Part 1" by Martin Brown
The last time Survivor tried a pure all-star season, it was a complete disaster. Half of the all stars weren’t playing for keeps, and the other half were negligible personalities who had somehow managed to sneak through casting. A prime example of the latter, the winner, Amber Brkich, was one of the worst winners in the history of the game; the voting order was mostly predictable; and everyone lead with their egos, which made the atmosphere pretty ugly. But hen, 8 seasons later, when producers tinkered with the All-Stars formula for Micronesia: Fans vs. Favorites, which pitted 10 all-stars against a tribe of newcomers, they ended up with the best season since the original. So Survivor: Heroes and Villains, the show’s second pure all-stars season, which begins February 11, could go either way.
I don’t know anyone else, besides my girlfriend, who keeps up with Survivor. It’s easy to see why. There are legions of inherently goofy rules and rituals that structure the show—challenges, tribal council, torch-snuffing, immunity idols, exile island, merges, buffs, “the tribe has spoken,” the Survivor auction, the jury—all of which help prevent new viewers from investing. So, Survivor relies on its core audience for its success—and, for the most part, it works. Survivor regularly lands in the top 10 of Nielsen ratings, pulling somewhere between 11 and 13 million viewers per episode. Now, Heroes and Villains seems a lot like a move to see just how much core audience is out there. The inherent difficulty with the show is that it starts over every 15 episodes, with what could potentially be a great or horrible arc. Heroes and Villains might be trying to net viewers who dabble—tuning in one season and out the next—by luring them with stories about characters they’re already familiar with.
There’s the rub. Not only does Survivor: Heroes and Villains ask you to keep track of the shifting dynamics between 20 people on an island, it asks you to juggle the information about their previous seasons—because how well they did will most likely have an effect on this game. Survivor is a show that watches itself, and the all-star contestants have seen one another perform—so they know what to expect from each other, and they factor that into their gameplay. From a playing stand-point, this makes the more unknown quantities (like Amber from the original All-Stars, or Parvati from Micronesia) the most dangerous players, because they have the element of surprise on their side. From a viewing standpoint, it means that the more information you have, the richer your experience will be. And, though it’s what potentially keeps the most people away from the show, this is also why Survivor is the smartest reality show on television—because each season carries with it the history of every season before it, not unlike a scripted drama. Even when no contestants carry over, gameplay does. The people who have watched the show, tend to play the game better. That’s never truer than with an all-stars season. It also happens to be true of watching it. The deeper you go with the language and mythos of Survivor, the more enjoyable it becomes—which makes it more like, say, Lost than The Amazing Race.
Anyway, I’m pumped. Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be taking a look at the two tribes of Heroes and Villains. Then I’ll be here week-by-week for the recaps. I honestly have no idea if there’s even a single-digit cross-over between people who watch Survivor and people who read TV of the Weak, but if you want to get on board, now’s the time. It’s going to be fun.
24: "8:00-9:00" by Tucker Stone
While there's been some choice moments in the first five hours, the axe and body pinball scene the obvious choice for best, little of what's on display is very promising. There's plenty of new blood--two geek favorite Battlestar Galacticons, Mykelti something-something from Forrest Gump, the game-show host from Slumdog Millionaire (playing the leader of an unnamed Mid-East country) and, of course, Freddie Prinze, Jr. in the (really?) role of "Cole Ortiz"--but casting and acting aren't what anybody cares about in 24. After all, these people are just moveable meat puppets, existing so that Kiefer Sutherland has a warm body to bounce off of on his way towards other Things, People, and Explosions. On the effects front, there was a nice helicopter explosion, which was followed by a less impressive manhole cover explosion.
Overall though? It's pretty bad. The always difficult to tolerate domestic scenes have already reared up twice, once with India's Elvis Costello trying to smooth things over with his wife after an affair with a plastic surgery victim came to light, all under the watchful eye of a daughter who is written to be 13 but happens to be played by a 30 year old, and a second time when Katee Sackhoff did her best to destroy any memory of her as a female character capable of taking care of herself. (It's not Starbuck's fault that her 24 role has her vomiting rivulets of snotty tears while a hammy redneck spits insults into her gigantic eyeballs, but she is accepting the check that comes with this shitty, shitty role.) Thankfully, Agent Freckles' position as the nu-Jack seems to be playing out well--it's never that hard to point out how often 24 recycles plots wholesale, but the spectacle of Renee Walker and her magnificent freckles redoing the beginning of the show's 2nd season is actually working out quite nicely. Besides the sadistic severing of limbs and Renee's suicidal bargaining tactics, her childish "you should learn to trust me" attitude is exactly the same kind of shit that Jack put everyone through back when he was chopping off a child molester's head with a hacksaw inside the CTU offices. It's a repititon, yes, but it's a repetition being played out by an actor who has the range to play the scenes in a way that Kiefer, for all his yelling, torturing and kickboxing skills, never really could. Feeling sorry for what Renee has become, seeing how much pain she's dumped upon herslef--it's easy. Unlike Jack, Renee doesn't read as a character who is irredeemable; she's just busted, not broken.
Still, no apologies. 24 isn't as warm-blanket as Law & Order, it'll never be as good as The Shield, but occasionally, it can still "OWN". And if this seasons moments of said ownage will be at the hands of a suicidal ex-FBI agent played by an attractive woman who is good at crying and acting crazy, well, they'll probably be somewhat uncomfortable. That doesn't negate the potential for some high quality trash.
Bad Girls Club: "Friend? Frenemy?" by Tucker Stone
The episode opens at 4:30 in the morning, which was the period of time when the itching powder in Kate's bed caused her such discomfort that she woke from slumber to go and complain. Natalie, who put the itching powder in her bed, laughed and made snide faces until Kate realized it was her. (It also helped that everybody else was asleep in bed except for Flo, who was sitting on the floor listening to Natalie talk about putting itching powder in Kate's bed.)
The next evening, the girls go to a male strip club. They have a wonderful time putting money in the underwear of some well built dancers, and Annie even dances on a pole. Everyone laughs and is really happy. The happiness spreads to Kate and Natalie, who are discussing the argument they had in a recent episode. Natalie apologizes profusely to Kate for spitting in her face during the argument. As the girls conversation continues, the girls clutch each other's hands, swearing to become the closest of friends. After all, as Kate puts it, they "could have a lot of fun if they got along", and they're "the prettiest girls in the house." (While beauty is arguably subjective, any honest human being knows full well that Kendra is, by far, the most attractive woman in this particular cast.) Sealing their new friendship with a kiss, the two girls go onto the dance floor, where they again seal their new friendship by grinding their genitals into one another, and then to seal their friendship for a third time, they make out for a little bit. When the girls return home, Kate and Natalie become concerned that they have still failed to make their desires clear to one another, so they get in bed and hold each other. According to Natalie, Kate humps her a little bit. Then they refer to Lexie as Miss Piggy because Lexie likes to eat lots of unhealthy snacks covered in ranch dressing. Then they discuss whether they should take a bubble bath together.
Amber, Annie and Kendra are all taken surprised by the two girls behavior. Amber--no doubt feeling a bit betrayed--refers to Kate's decision as proof of a weak character, whereas Annie and Kendra keep most of their feelings to themselves. Annie is later busted making a few sarcastic comments about how pathetic the Kate's switching of behavior is, and Kate calls her out on it, saying she merely wishes to have a smoother relationship with everyone, including Natalie. (Kendra aptly observes that Kate has effectively ruined her standing in the eyes of everyone except for Flo, who hasn't been paying attention to anything, and questions whether Kate is just full of shit.)
The rest of the next morning is tied up with a bored Natalie, who has decided to pick on Annie for the time being. After a random string of insults, most of which are related to Annie's obsessive compulsive morning routines and her desire for cleanliness, Kendra pulls Annie aside and tells her that she has to start standing up for herself. In a later confessional, Kendra admits that she has grown tired of watching and listening to Natalie's constant bullying, but her irritation is now more directed at Annie for constantly taking it. When an oblivous Annie asks Kendra what she should do about it, Kendra snaps "get in her face, fucking yell at her."
That afternoon, the girls go to Malibu Speed Zone, which is a go-kart/drag race track. While at the track, Kendra overhears Annie and Natalie referring to Lexie as "Miss Piggy", and her disgust for the two girls grows. On the race track, Natalie picks on Lexie some more by bumping her go-kart. While Lexie notices the attack, she doesn't seem to care.
That night, Flo, Natalie, Kate and Kendra head out to the clubs, and Kate wears a dress so short that the blur effect is used to conceal her modesty. Kate brags to the girls that she has hooked up with the "number one pitcher, the number one race car driver" and the lead singer of Nickleback. Natalie gets excited and says "Nickleeeeeeebaaaack. I know what that is!" In a confessional, Natalie says that while she and Kate may not have originally got along, she now realizes that they "see eye-to-eye on a lot of things." At the club, Natalie and Kate make out again, and then they take pictures of one another. They also make fun of Lexie some more. (At this point, the show cuts back to the house, where Lexie and Annie are playing Go Fish while Amber watches.) On the way home, Kendra gets fed up with the constant stream of insults directed at Lexie and tells the girls to stop. When they don't, she pulls the car over and delivers an ultimatum: shut up or walk home. Natalie calms Kate down, and Kendra drives the girls home.
The next day, two more of Natalie's friends show up--their names are "Rogdrick" and "Mahershal", but they're only on the episode for a few minutes. Rogdrick plays basketball! Overseas! Natalie is getting her hair cut by a come-to-the-house hairdresser, and she decides to make fun of Annie for the entertainment of her gentlemen guests and Kate, but Annie decides it is high time for her to stand up for herself. She doesn't do the best job, snapping her fingers the way that Damon Wayans used to when he played a homosexual stereotype on In Living Color, but the mere sight of her shouting at Natalie seems to do the trick, and Flo is very excited at the prospect of Annie's newfound spinal column. Later on, Annie refers to Kate's recent behavior as her being like "trailer trash." At this statement, Lexie chimes in "I lived in a double wide when I was a little toooooooodler." Amber tells her that she will probably be the next in line to be made fun of now that Annie has stood up to Natalie, and Lexie says she will "choke a bitch" if they "give me shit." Amber looks very confused at this response, but Lexie doesn't notice.
That night, Annie flirts with a bunch of semi-unattractive men at the club, and Kate makes fun of her for it. Kendra immediately calls her on it, and all of the girls watch on as Kendra tells Kate to shut up. When Kate goes up to the bar, she pushes Annie and Annie immediately tells her to apologize, which she doesn't. Finally, just as Amber had predicted, Kate starts making fun of Lexie, Natalie joins in, and the words "Miss Piggy" finally reach Lexie's ears. Back at the house, Lexie immediately goes up to the girls individually and yells at them to say it to her face, they both back down. Kendra, sensing the opportunity for more confrontation, gets involved, and eventually she and Kate start having a spit fight, where the two of them spit into each others face and hair until they run out of available saliva. All of the other girls are disgusted. Kate keeps saying that she never called Lexie "Miss Piggy", which is a blatant lie, easily disproved. Amidst the argument, she notices that Amber is sneering at her, and when questioned why, Amber unleashes a torrent of complaint, accusing Kate of being a fake bitch.
On the lighter side of things, Natalie and Annie smooth over their various arguments, and Natalie promises to stop saying certain mean things to Annie. Annie smirks and tells Natalie "that's bullshit, but whatever." Natalie laughs and goes to sleep.
The next day, Kate has an out of town friend--a woman she claims is the most attractive person she has ever met--visit. Amber, Lexie and Annie had made previous plans to spend the evening at a quiet bar (as opposed to another night club), and Kate and her friend tag along, both willfully oblivious to where they are going before they arrive. When they realize that the girls are planning on spending time at a dive bar, they whine and complain, needling the girls about going to a club. Kate promises to buy a round for everybody. The girls eventually acquiesce. When they arrive at the club, Annie offhandedly mentions the whole "buy a drink for us" thing, to which Kate angrily tells her no. The two bicker a little bit, and then Annie snatches Kate's drink, which she pours out on the floor. Kate picks up some cranberry juice and throws it in Annie's face. Annie doesn't even respond, she just laughs and starts dancing in a cruel imitation of Kate. Kate then picks up a pitcher of orange juice, which she empties on Annie's head. Annie takes it, wipes the orange juice out of her eyes, and goes right back to dancing. Kate looks a lot like a fool.
On the way back to the house, Annie calls Kate white trash, and the other girls all laugh. (Except for Kate and her friend.) After they arrive, Annie tells Flo and Kendra the whole story, and Flo laughingly cries that it is time to make "Team Annie" t-shirts, probably by "going to the mall."
The episode ends with Kendra calling Kate a nobody. Apparently there is going to be more fighting next week.
-Martin Brown & Tucker Stone, 2010