Monthly Archives: November 2005

Roasted Rhubarb. Ow! (Episode 1-10)

Somehow, Marcela survived another week on The Apprentice: Martha. But Martha did tell the petite chef to get a backbone, or at least look like she’s got one and stop slouching.

The highlight of the episode came early as Martha waited for the contestants to arrive at her home, Turkey Hill. Martha described the home in a voiceover of estate footage. The voiceover ended with Martha in her kitchen getting something out of the oven. She removed a casserole with one oven mitted hand and said, “Roasted rhubarb,” followed by, “Ow!” as she burned her unmitted hand on the dish. It’s comforting to know that even the great Martha can still injure herself in her kitchen. She’s just like the rest of us, only with an ankle bracelet.

Buick gave teams the task of creating a showroom display for the new Lucerne, a luxury car that sounds like it should be made of butter. Primarius placed the car in a gallery setting, with sleek leather benches, hors d’oeuvres, and stylized photos of the Lucerne. In the center of the display was a car on a shiny black platform. The concept was simple and sophisticated, and the lighting was great. There was only the smallest of chances that Dawna wouldn’t earn her third win as project manager.

Matchstick made absolutely sure that Dawna would get her win. Ryan developed Matchstick’s concept: the Lucerne is such a reliable part of your family, you might as well invite it to dinner. It was a goofy idea that could be a little cute if pulled off perfectly. Project manager Leslie wasn’t about to let that happen.

Instead of making the best of their original idea, Leslie listened to the advice of an outside PR professional and changed the video portion of their display. Then, while setting up the showroom display of a car parked next to a dinner table in a mock-dining room, Leslie decided that the table was too small. The team created a bigger table by stacking up some platforms and covering them with several mismatched tablecloths. It looked as elegant as it sounds.

When Matchstick convened in the conference room, Ryan got positive feedback for his concept and ran with it. He called Leslie out for changing plans and winding up with a sloppy final product. Leslie targeted Marcela who contributed little apart from running errands. But Marcela stuck with Ryan, and Martha agreed that Leslie was all talk and little action.

Martha’s send off letter to Leslie was very positive, encouraging her to pursue a career in marketing. Martha wrote that she and Charles sent their best wishes. Then, as a postscript, she wrote that Alexis sent her best wishes, too. First she burned herself and then forgot to mention her daughter in a letter. Two blunders in one night. What more could the rest of us mortals ask for?

Don’t Be Afraid to Ride Him, Lauren (Episode 8-9)

Phil pulled the old switcheroo on the teams tonight on The Amazing Race: Family Edition. Tonight’s episode was the first half of a two-part elimination leg. After next week, viewers will know which three teams will make it to the finale.

Half of the remaining teams are from the Chicago area, and if there’s one thing Chicago teams know how to do, it’s lose. Sure, there were the ’85 Bears, the Jordan Era Bulls, and this year’s World Series champs, the Chicago White Sox. But Wally Bransen is no Coach Ditka, and the Godlewski sisters yell at each other more than Ozzie Guillen does when asked about Magglio Ordonez.

Sources tell me that Wally isn’t able to complete the race and is replaced by Cubs’ legend Ron Santo and his two fake legs.

Tonight, teams arrived at a ranch where two team members had to herd cattle on horseback. Based on their riding skills, the only horses the Bransens or Godlewskis have ever seen were at Arlington Race Course. Fortunately for them, everyone had to wear the same ugly cowboy hats, making their riding look pretty by comparison.

A visit to Old Faithful split the teams into two packs. Teams had to witness an eruption of the geyser before receiving their clues. The front pack was lead by the Bransens, who were followed closely by the Weavers. The second group, comprising the Godlewskis and Linzes, just missed the first eruption and had to wait another 90 minutes before they could depart.

This setup puts the Godlewskis at a serious disadvantage. Not only are the Linzes younger, stronger, and faster, but they are still working well together. Christine is the Godlewski family version of Steve Bartman. Sharon and Michelle share the role of Moises Alou, throwing their metaphorical gloves of contempt onto the outfield grass. That leaves Tricia playing Dusty Baker, doing her best to stay out of it and reading the notes written on her wristbands.

Perhaps the 2003 Cubs don’t exactly parallel the Godlewskis, but the end results will be the same: the Godlewskis are going to choke. Fourth place may be as far as they’ll get before team chemistry breaks down and their winning season falls apart. Michelle, Sharon, and Tricia are reportedly offering to trade Christine to the Oakland A’s for Barry Zito because “Ohmygahd, he’s so cute.”

That would leave the Linzes, Weavers, and Bransens to fight it out for $1 million. If the Linzes and Weavers can’t control their feuding, the Bransens may just be able to sneak by both teams. Wally and the girls also have the advantage of being the only team with any navigation skills. And maybe when they win, the Bransens will celebrate with a few Superdawgs.

Never Discount a Gay Mormon (Episode 11-11)

Who would have thought that Rafe would be one of the power players on Survivor: Guatemala? He has crazy hair and couldn’t pull himself up a ladder in the first episode.

Yet he’s won three Individual Immunity Challenges and is part of a seemingly unstoppable alliance. He’s assured of a spot in the final four by sticking with his current alliance of Cindy, Judd, and Stephenie. But if he wants to take his fate into his own hands, he has options.

Rafe’s best chance to win is to give the appearance that he’s loyal to his alliance. He needs to direct them to get rid of Lydia next, which shouldn’t be a problem because of the animosity between Steph and Lydia.

Next, he needs assurances from both Cindy and Danni that, should either of them win the last Immunity Challenge, they will bring him to the final Tribal Council. Cindy and Rafe have a preexisting agreement, so he’ll need to make the deal with Danni on the side. He has to tell both Danni and Cindy that she’s his pick if he wins the last Immunity Challenge. It’s up to him to decide to whom he’s lying.

Then the trio of Rafe, Cindy, and Danni can take out Steph and Judd, allowing Rafe to waltz into the final two. Although Rafe is a Mormon and I can’t remember if they’re allowed to dance. Maybe it’s more of a respectful shuffle into the last Tribal Council.

I’ve got to hand it to Rafe, he’s really won me over. It’s fun to see a likeable, everyman character be a force in the challenges. And it’s smart that he paired with Cindy. She’s kind of buff, but her quiet temperament could lead people to overlook her. However, she won tonight’s Reward Challenge quiz, and she’s been competitive in a lot of the physical challenges. At this point, she’s just as likely to win a challenge as any of her competitors.

And as cheesy as it may be, I’d like someone who’s likeable to win. Lydia is a dud except when she’s doing The Pancake, and Steph and Danni will make lots of money as a result of having been on the show, so they don’t need it. As much as I like Judd, I don’t know if I could stand watching him in front of the jury. His answer to every question would be, “Hey, man, it’s a game, man. Don’t call me a liar, man.”

At least if Rafe wins, the money would go to someone who’s a good sportsmanship. Man.

How’s That Face Feel? (Episode 8-8)

Finally, we’ve got ourselves a race! With only a few episodes remaining, The Amazing Race: Family Edition just had its first exciting episode.

The tasks fueled much of the fun in tonight’s show. Racers got to ride in a helicopter, rappel into a canyon, and ski jump into a pool. On top of all that, everything took place in Utah, a stunning part of America that’s often overlooked. The show’s production staff made Utah look as inviting and spectacular as any foreign country they’ve featured on past seasons.

The Linz family had a banner night, including a predictible, yet still funny, misread of a clue mentioning Elephant Butte. Nick treated his siblings to a perfect run on the ski jump culminating in a face plant into the pool. Upon reaching the mat in first place and seeing a lovely young woman standing next to Phil, Nick exclaimed, “Is that Miss Utah? Miss Latin Utah…even better!”

The Weavers didn’t fare so well, as the emotional toll of being social outcasts weighed heavily on them. Bad directions and being Yielded by the Linzes put them in last place. Their only comfort came from Big Macs and McFlurries from McDonalds. Surely, it’s not the first time they’ve turned to food for comfort.

Although this was a non-elimination leg, the Weavers were hardly excited to continue with the race. Instead they said they’d rather just go home. If we learned anything from Flo on TAR 3, it’s never to say that you want to quit. Flo remains the most unsympathetic and unlikeable contestant ever to race (I refuse to even acknowledge the participation of TAR 6‘s Jonathan), but if the Weavers keep talking about giving up, they might be able to knock the queen from her throne.

Next week will probably bring more of the same complaining from the Weavers, although it should be an elimination leg. The other teams, and most viewers, can only hope that the Weavers will finish last and finally get the elimination they asked for tonight.

Deliver Us From Weavers

If the Weaver family from The Amazing Race: Family Edition is the new face of American Christianity, then America is about to become a much nastier place.

It’s hard to imagine how a widow and her children could be unsympathetic, but the Widow Weaver and her offspring are despicable. The Weavers are harder to relate to than villains from previous seasons because of their seamless transitions from prayer to name-calling. It takes a remarkable lack of self-awareness to be able to do that.

Viewers have been treated to the Weavers calling their competition “idiots” and “retards.” They ridiculed Tony Paolo for earning his living as a garbage collector. None of them seems to remember that Mr. Weaver was killed picking up debris on a race track, making him a garbage man of sorts, too.

But the Weavers don’t see their comments as name-calling. They simply describe the world around them. Acting as avatars of their god, they’ve given themselves the right to pass judgment on others.

After they’ve finished insulting their fellow racers, the Weavers complain that none of the other teams like them. 16-year-old Rachel cried as she said her family was the only one trying to live a Christian lifestyle. They don’t even use cuss words!

Clearly, Rachel the Avatar feels she has the final word on the proper way to live as a Christian. While she gets a pass because of her age, most teenagers have parents who would remind them that it’s not fair to pass judgment on other people, at least not while on national television. The Widow Weaver’s too busy asking for divine help with driving directions to correct her children.

So, if the Weaver family is what constitutes the new Christian family, what happened to the Christianity that gave rise to The Salvation Army? What about the story of the Good Samaritan? Most stories of Jesus’ life focus on his compassion and kindness for strangers.

Somewhere, the Weavers lost this part of the message. Their Christianity is based on lots of talk about God, but little action. In the first episode of the Family Edition, they told a stranger who helped them that they’d see him in heaven (not immediately, of course). Since then, they’ve described their competitors as heathens. According to their interpretation of God’s judgment, only those who help the Weavers will be rewarded.

The god of the Weavers is an inconsistent god. Their deity is fickle enough to kill their father in an untimely and gruesome fashion, but still grace them with directions to the Grand Canyon. Although their deity grants them the power to judge other mortals, their divinely derived powers don’t protect them from persecution by everyone around them. The Weavers seem to be the perpetual victims of this god’s whims.

Perhaps that’s because Weaverian god isn’t fashioned in the image of Jesus Christ; he’s fashioned in the image of a frightened woman and her three pubescent children. It’s no wonder that, to them, a holy life is blaming others for your problems and making fun of people. Prayer becomes a plea for direct assistance rather than and internal search for ways to be a better person.

All of the Weavers are too scared to look inside themselves lest they find themselves lacking. The Widow Weaver is afraid that she isn’t good enough to parent her kids by herself. But good parenting relies on reflection, and by not doing that, she’s being a deficient parent. Most teenagers are scared of who they are or might become, only the Weaver kids are afraid that they’ll have to figure everything out on their own. Until the Weavers get themselves figured out, they shouldn’t be touting themselves as a model Christian family.

Faith is by nature a mystery, but it’s difficult to see what benefit the Weavers are currently getting out of theirs. All they get is a sense of moral superiority and a bad attitude, devoid of any compassion for others. They believe they’ll be admitted into heaven even though they act like anything but angels. If they’re content with that, so be it. But, like any reward, isn’t heaven better when you’ve had to earn it? In the meantime, stop professing your righteousness until you’re able to act righteously.

Blindside (Episode 11-10)

Paranoia isn’t an attractive tendency. Jamie showed way too much of it, and he finally got voted out on tonight’s Survivor.

Despite being a part of a coalition of six people whose only opposition was two skeletons, Jamie never felt safe. It was after Jamie asked Rafe for reassurance for the seventh time in one day that Rafe finally decided he’d had enough. How ironic that all Jamie needed to do to keep Rafe’s support was to stop asking for it.

It’s too bad that Jamie started in with the paranoia weeks ago when a little paranoia would’ve been reasonable tonight. After all, Stephanie and Judd did get to share an overnight reward trip with the skeletons, Danni and Gary. Team Bones alone with the two most dominant personalities in the game seemed like the perfect chance to hatch some schemes and change things around.

But that’s not what happened. The four had a nice time getting to know each other, but Judd and Stephenie weren’t eager to mess with their well laid plans. Too bad, Danni and Gary. Nice to know you, but we’ve got a game to win.

Then Jamie couldn’t keep his mouth shut and the plans all went to hell. Rafe reached his breaking point, and since Stephenie and Cindy didn’t really care who went, they were happy to side with him against Jamie. Lydia reluctantly joined the coup, knowing that Jamie would be hurt by her betrayal more than the others. But since she’s unlikely to win any Immunity Challenges, Lydia had no choice but to follow the herd.

Besides Jamie, the only person who wasn’t in on the plan was Judd. That’s because Judd is a bad liar. (Recall the times Judd denied taking an extra beer or puking in the shelter. Last week, he lied poorly about never having lied in the game). The new voting block saved themselves the hassle of dealing with Jamie and instead chose to bear Judd’s wrath when he realized he’d been left out of the loop.

There are sure to be more blow ups next week, and they may lead Stephenie to reveal herself as the game’s mastermind. While players have willingly deferred to Steph, they haven’t realized how subtly she’s been directing the game. She knows which decisions aren’t important, so she lets the group decide what to do on those matters. But she’s been the one keeping the main voting block intact and the numbers on her side. Only a major shake up could get Stephenie out of the driver’s seat. Is there anyone left who’d be willing to take her on?

You’re The Mexican Martha Stewart (Episode 1-9)

There was no doubt about it; this was the night that Marcela would be going home. Even during the preview for this week’s show, it was obvious who’d be fired. Leave it to Martha to throw us a curve ball on tonight’s episode of The Apprentice.

Most of Martha’s candidates have avoided forming alliances, but with seven contestants remaining, personal relationships take on greater significance. Jim and Bethenny have been on the same team since the show began, making Dawna the outsider on Primarius. And Matchstick had its own interpersonal problems.

As soon as Marcela became Project Manager, Ryan and Amanda formed a bond based on a lack of professional respect for Marcela. Even if it was done unconsciously, they planned to work poorly under Marcela, thereby ensuring the team’s failure and getting her fired for being unable to lead them.

Ryan and Amanda were so successful at slacking off that even the Viceroys noticed something amiss. Charles and Alexis both noted Matchstick behaving weirdly, supporting Marcela’s claim that Ryan and Amanda went into the task half-heartedly. Leslie refused to lay the blame on Marcela and the usurpers’ coup was exposed.

Ryan foolishly accused Marcela of besmirching his integrity. If he’d really felt hurt, and wasn’t doing it for show, he would’ve talked with Marcela privately and not made a declaration in front of Martha and the Viceroys. That action alone showed that he’s not clever enough to ultimately win the game.

But the biggest fool of the night was Amanda. She’d worked diligently to not help Marcela, to the point of refusing to answer her questions. She criticized Marcela’s marketing strategy but never offered an alternative despite being asked repeatedly for ideas. In the conference room, Martha asked if Amanda had been withholding ideas. If she hadn’t, why not offer the ideas she had, or at least admit to not having any ideas?

When asked what skills she could bring to Martha’s organization, Amanda’s composed veneer shattered. She claimed to be an expert in public relations, even though she works as an attorney. She went on about her interests in decorating and gardening, telling some maddening story about her husband planting a flower bed.

Essentially, Amanda tried to say that she was Martha. But if she really was just like Martha, she’d want to become her own brand name, not work for the original. Amanda’s babbling took all of the focus away from what went wrong in the task. Instead, she put the focus on what was wrong with her.

The best part of the episode wasn’t that Marcela was saved from falling at the hands of Ryan and Amanda. It wasn’t even that Amanda slit her own throat. It was the brilliant way Marcela defended herself in the conference room. Bolstered by a pep talk from Jim, of all people, Marcela told Martha that she wanted to help Martha’s company reach out to Latin Americans, a group presently underserved by the company. Marcela said that she didn’t want to be the Mexican Martha Stewart; she wanted to help Martha be the Mexican Martha Stewart.

It was a simple, honest answer that changed the way Martha and the Viceroys thought of Marcela. We finally got a glimpse of the quiet force Marcela said she possessed. Even if she doesn’t become The Apprentice, Martha had best find a use for Marcela within her organization. Otherwise some rival network could have a hit by giving Marcela her own show. She just might become the Mexican Martha Stewart after all.

On The Apprentice: Martha, in two weeks:
Marcela returns to a hero’s welcome and Martha looks for thinkers among her remaining six candidates.

My Crystal Ball Is Broken

There’s a good reason why I try not to make predictions about reality shows: I stink at it. Take, for example, my predictions for Survivor: Guatemala. I came close on a few of my predictions as to when individuals would be voted off, but mostly I failed. Granted, this was before the show started and Bobby Jon and Stephenie hadn’t been announced as contestants. As if that would really have made any difference.

Here’s how I did:

Order Kathy’s Pick Vote Results
1 Lydia Jim
2 Brian Morgan
3 Rafe Brianna
4 Jim Brooke
5 Jamie Blake
6 Margaret Brian
7 Morgan Margaret
8 Blake Amy
9 Brianna Brandon
10 Amy Bobby Jon

I didn’t expect the contestants to whack the beautiful people as quickly as they did. You couldn’t know from looking at her that Brianna didn’t have an athletic bone in her body. And the only reason Jim went first was because he was hurt. Now I feel a little shallow.

From my list, Jamie, Rafe, and Lydia are still around, and Lydia’s sure to make the Final Four. She’s not a threat so people will forget about her until the end. Jamie’s annoying everyone, speeding his departure. But Rafe could be around until the end, unless his conscience gets the best of him and makes him a liability.

I still won’t be surprised to see Cindy and Danni go far. Danni’s always been my pick to win, despite the numbers being stacked against her. She’s still performing well in challenges even though she’s looked like an animated skeleton from day one, so there’s no reason to think Danni will be sent back to the grave anytime soon.

Martha Doesn’t Fit Into NBC’s Plans

NBC announced today that The Apprentice: Martha would not be renewed for a second season. The announcement is not surprising, as Martha’s Apprentice continues to pull in low ratings.

It’s too bad that the show isn’t living up to the high expectations network execs had. The tasks are interesting, and the contestants make up one of the most normal casts of any reality show. Viewers can watch without feeling guilty about it later.

But that’s also what keeps people from tuning in. Devout haters of reality programming won’t give it a chance on principle, even though it’s a surprisingly family-friendly show. And many hardcore reality fans expect producers to cast a bunch of crazies who will make fools of themselves. Apart from manic Jim, most of the contestants on The Apprentice: Martha are level-headed individuals.

Each season of The Apprentice takes on the demeanor of its host. Donald Trump is eccentric and pompous, and contestants inevitably display some of their own eccentricities and pompousness. Martha Stewart is focused and calm, and, most of the time, so are her contestants. Calm and focused works well when you’re presenting recipes and decorating tips, not when you’re conducting a competitive reality show.

Even though the show won’t make it to a second season, Martha may wind up with a competent employee for her company. Dawna knows how to get the best out of her teammates, which makes her a good candidate for an executive position. Leslie is similarly qualified, although she may want to see if she can cash in as an on-air personality at QVC.

But Dawna and Leslie exemplify why Martha’s Apprentice couldn’t last. They are hard-working professionals who want to portray themselves in the best manner possible, and reality fans hate that. What good is reality TV without a Jim, Omarosa, or Stacie J. to make you feel normal?

Maybe ‘Dos’ Kilometers (Episode 8-6)

Tonight, the families of The Amazing Race 8 drove to International Destination Number 2: Costa Rica. It’s not as much fun driving from one country to another instead of flying, but at least they’re still outside the U.S.

The shrieking Godlewski sisters carried all of their belongings in a plastic bag after surviving last week’s non-elimination leg. Since they started this leg with no money, they were forced to beg at the hotel where they’d slept. Instead of cash, the gents at the hotel seemed more willing to offer sex to the four buxom blondes.

Teams had to decide whether to take advantage of the first of two Yield opportunities on the race. Well, only the Weavers really had a decision to make. Every other team was determined to yield the Weavers. D.J. Paolo reached the mat first, and the Florida team was forced to wait.

While they waited, the Weavers kept their spirits up by ridiculing other teams. They called the Paolos “retarded” and accused the Godlewskis of having breast implants. Then the Weavers talked about answering to “a higher authority,” and said the Yield wouldn’t get them down.

I have a feeling that their “higher authority” wouldn’t have approved of their nasty comments.

Meanwhile, the other teams were completing a Roadblock that required one team member to search a pile of coffee beans for the one bean that was painted red. Megan Linz finished quickly enough that her brothers named her an honorary Linz Boy. In effect, Megan had finally earned her balls.

The Paolos were hung up on their way to the next task as Brian tried to get directions from a drunken American with a Southern drawl. Brian was told to drive “maybe ‘dos’ kilometers,” leading D.J. to declare himself official direction-seeker from that point on. For the second week in a row, the Paolos finished in first place, earning each family member the choice of a Segway, Vespa, ATV, or jet ski. Just what we need, Marion Paolo rolling around the Bronx on a Segway.

Tammy Gaghan struggled to find the red bean, and the team never recovered. Carissa’s tears at the mat were heartbreaking, as was the uncomfortable look on the Costa Rican lady’s face as she stood next to Phil. The Gaghans were a great example of how a supportive family can really bring the best out of each member. It’s too bad the Widow Weaver didn’t have more time to learn from them.