Monthly Archives: December 2006

DwtS Offseason Update: 12-21-06

Tour News
The San Diego Union-Tribune featured a review of the first show on the Dancing with the Stars
Tour. According to the reviewer, the professional dance routines were
the highlight of the evening. And the celebrities made several
references to the weight loss benefits of dancing, since the tour is
sponsored by Slim-Fast.

TMZ.com was able to procure a copy of the list of tips on “touring life” given to the cast of the DwtS Tour, and it reads like the instructions handed out by your Social Studies teacher before the Junior High School ski trip. If you’re not on time, we will leave you behind, and doggone it, no #2 in the bus toilet!

Appearances
Fans in the Sarasota, Florida area can mingle with Tony Dovolani on January 20 at the Florida West Coast Symphony’s annual gala and concert, titled “Gotta Dance! A Symphonic Night at the Movies.”

Gossip
Willa Ford says she’s glad she gave up her career as a pop singer and avoided becoming another party girl. “That’s not the career I want,” said Willa. “You don’t see Angelina Jolie hitting someone in a bar.”

Speaking
of people who hit other people in bars, Shanna Moakler offered her
thoughts on Tara Conner’s recent troubles as the reigning Miss USA, suggesting that most girls who wear the crown are unprepared for the pressure that goes with it.

Other News
Vivica A. Fox has been keeping busy with a variety of projects, including her duties as editor-at-large of the fashion magazine Jolie. She and Mario Lopez will be on hand for the January launch of GM’s new vehicle models. Although I’m not sure that standing on a rotating stage in front of a Buick counts as a positive career move.

For a special holiday treat, enjoy the video of Edyta Sliwinska, Alec Mazo, and Maksim Chmerkovskiy dancing in a commercial for Jared Jewelers. Edyta even gets to deliver the company’s tag line: “He went to Jared.”

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Cook Islands: Reunion Show

Survivor reunions are always a mixed bag of amusing
exchanges and bloated exposition, and the Cook Islands Reunion Show was no
different. Here are some of the highlights…

Yul on his winning strategy
“I think the key to winning the game is maximizing the good luck and mitigating the bad luck.”

Jeff Probst outs Yul as a nerd
“Out on the show, Yul was constantly going, ‘We have a 33.3% chance of this happening.'”

Yul confirms his nerdiness
When
talking about convincing Jonathan to flip back to Aitu, Yul said, “I
came up with this whole argument where I said, ‘If you don’t switch
over to our side, probability-wise, we’ll be able to execute a strategy
in which you’ll be out in the next two rounds, so really you have no
choice.'”

Did Becky ever consider a romance with Yul?
“No, it didn’t enter my mind.”

Yul on his inclusion in People’s Sexiest Man edition
“I
think this is a little silly. I think my mom would be happy. I think
she just wants me to get married, and she’s hoping this will help me
find a wife.”

Jeff and Yul discuss Yul’s naked dip in the hot tub with Parvati and Ozzy
Jeff: “I couldn’t tell if [you thought] ‘Wow, this is great,’ or, ‘This is my worst nightmare.'”
Yul:
“I think it was more the latter. I wanted to get the hell out of there,
but I didn’t want to give them the opportunity to strategize.”

The first thing Yul did when he got home
“I
got a Costco membership, and I went crazy. I bought so much food, it
wouldn’t fit in my fridge. And I just sat there… ‘Well, gotta eat it
now,’ and chowed down.”

How did Ozzy feel upon returning to civilization?
“Honestly, I think I fell into a deep depression. The concrete jungle kinda got to me a little bit.”

Was Jonathan playing a villain?
“There’s no villain in Monopoly. I was playing to win one million bucks.”

Jonathan on watching the show with his family
“I
warned them that I was going to be called some fantastic names. They’re
like, ‘What do you mean, Dad?’ ‘Oh, like cancer and rat and weasel.’ So
that sucked. So you get called names, so what? We don’t call people
names.”

Send him back to the island, please!
Sekou
wrote a ridiculous, Lionel Richie-esque song about Survivor, and he
performed it as the Reunion Show went to commercial. As Sekou sang, he
actually yelled, “C’mon, everybody, sing along!” — even though this
was the first time anyone had ever heard the song.

Yul on the success of his racially diverse coalition
“I’m
hoping that in some small way, we’ve shown that it’s not the color of
your skin that determines who you are, but what’s inside… who you are.”

Jeff and Stephannie discuss why she called Nate a “race traitor” after he voted for her
Jeff: “Did you trust him because you’re both from the same ethnic group?”
Stephannie: “Absolutely. I expected him to have my back.”

Brad, on pressure to positively represent his ethnic group
“I
think a lot of times in media, [Asian] men are portrayed as these
WASP-y, thin, nerdy, bookwormish type of guys, and I think Yul and I
did a fantastic job of breaking the mold, breaking the stereotype that
a lot of America have today.” (Hey, Brad. Yul’s a lawyer who did math
problems on the island. But at least he’s ripped.)

Adam on the status of his relationship with Candice
“Candice is a great girl…” Enough said.

Jeff and Parvati discuss her profession
Jeff: “We labeled you as a boxer on the show. What kind of boxing do you do? I don’t even know.”
Parvati: “It’s called ‘model boxing.'”

JP hops on the reality show carousel
He revealed that he’ll be on the Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency, starting January 10, on Oxygen.

Billy on his professed love for Candice
“You’re
in the heat of the moment. How many of us haven’t stuck out foot in our
mouths in our lives? I just happened to do it on national TV.”

Coming this spring… Survivor: Fiji.
Jeff
revealed that, this time, there will be 19 contestants. One tribe will
live in luxury, while another lives in poverty. There will be two
Hidden Immunity Idols on Exile Island — and, of course, another twist
or two. Plus, one Survivor will make “a controversial decision that will
have all of America talking.”

Cook Islands: Finale

After dominating much of the game through social strategy, Yul was narrowly able to beat Nature Boy Ozzy and win Survivor: Cook Islands. Yul’s victory proves the old adage: Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Get another man to catch fish for you, you win $1 million.

After a thorough recap of the season, viewers joined up with the Aitutonga tribe at their camp. Adam, the last remaining member of the former Raro tribe, sat alone in the shelter, essentially having “given up,” in Ozzy’s estimation.

The tree mail that heralded the next immunity challenge included a spider web and a note about a kind of “directional test.”

“Sounds like another one for Ozzy,” said Yul. The other contestants groaned inwardly, knowing that he was right.

The challenge was a rope obstacle course that looked, in Yul’s words, “like a big jungle gym.” Survivors raced around the course to eight different stations, collecting bags of puzzle pieces, one at a time.

The pieces created a three-dimensional, eight-pointed compass rose. Jeff Probst described the challenge as “the most difficult puzzle we’ve ever had.”

Elements of the challenge included a rope net, bridge, tunnel, and a giant spider web that hung several feet above the ground. The two most time consuming obstacles were a set of wobbly rope steps, and two parallel knotted ropes that had to be crossed using only two wood planks, which contestants picked up and moved as they went across.

Ozzy struggled more than usual, starting off on the tricky wood plank obstacle. By the time he finished it, Yul had already retrieved three bags of puzzle pieces, and Adam had two. Sundra and Becky also had at least one bag each.

Then, Ozzy raced more aggressively, bounding across the rope net and somersaulting through the tunnel. He quickly closed the gap between himself and Yul, taking the lead when Yul got hung up on the same plank obstacle that had slowed Ozzy.

Ozzy was first to start on his puzzle, followed (in order) by Yul, Adam, Becky, and Sundra. Everyone’s hands shook as they set down piece after piece, and Adam made swift progress. But he wasn’t fast enough to catch Ozzy, who won — just as Yul had predicted.

Adam looked dejected as they returned to camp, with little he could do to save himself. In an effort to keep the game interesting, he approached Ozzy and Sundra about voting for Yul to force him to use his (Not So) Hidden Immunity Idol, but they weren’t interested.

At Tribal Council, Adam refused to go quietly into the dark jungle night. He pointed at Becky and Sundra and said, “I’m not sure what these two do. They’re boring people.” He said that Becky wasn’t going to force Yul to use the Hidden Immunity Idol, because, if Yul wins the next Immunity Challenge, he can give the Idol to her.

Adam was generous in his final comments, after the Aitu tribe members voted him out. He said, “You guys got us good. All I can say is congratulations.” Though he acted as though he took some things personally while on the island, this showed that he did understand that it was just a game.

Back at camp, Sundra, Yul, Becky, and Ozzy celebrated their victory over all the former Raros. Tree mail informed them that they’d all be taking the traditional “Fallen Comrades” tour together, during which they would reminisce about their defeated competitors, and then participate in the final Immunity Challenge.

They were stunned by this last bit of news, since it meant that there would be a Final Three — instead of the usual Final Two. But they decided that it was only fitting that all four of the former Aitus would be able to take part in the final challenge together.

The final Immunity Challenge relied heavily on balance and endurance, as it usually does. These challenges typically favor women. But this season, all challenges favored Ozzy.

Out in the water, the Survivors had to stand on a small steel perch that had been individually proportioned to their foot size. Every 15 minutes, a section of each small platform fell away. After one hour, they’d be standing on a piece of metal less than half the size of a postcard.

Everyone made it successfully through the first two rounds, as a portion from the front and then the right side of the platform fell away. At the 45 minute mark, when Becky released a part from the left side of the platform, she fell into the water.

After one hour, everyone survived the release of the final removable section of the platform. Yul balanced on the tiny square in a squatting position, while Sundra and Ozzy stood upright. When Jeff asked Ozzy which of his body parts was most uncomfortable, he answered his sweaty, itchy “nether regions,” causing Sundra to laugh and briefly lose her balance.

Eventually, Yul tried to stand up, and he fell into the water. Sundra and Ozzy lasted a total of 2 1/2 hours, before Sundra’s knees buckled and she fell. Ozzy’s winning streak remained unbroken.

At camp, Yul and Ozzy talked about that evening’s vote. Ozzy had the Immunity Necklace and Yul had the Immunity Idol, so they were both assured spots in the Final Three. Yul wasn’t about to vote for Becky, and Ozzy felt that in the interest of fairness, he should vote for Sundra and force a tie.

Yul consented to allow the women to battle for the final spot with a tiebreaker challenge, but he had a backup plan. He pulled Becky aside and said, “If you want the Idol, I’ll give it to you.” But she was afraid of how a “sneak attack” on Sundra would look to the jury, and she declined.

The vote at Tribal Council ended in a tie, and the women prepared for a fire-building tiebreaker challenge. It proved to be an embarrassing display of exactly what you could manage to avoid learning while stranded on an island for 38 days.

Becky and Sundra built pyramids of kindling and, using flint and steel knives, furiously tried to catch sparks on some coconut husks. They worked up a sweat, but after an hour, they had no fire, and the jury was fighting to stay awake.

At that point, Jeff said, “Stop where you’re at. We’re gonna go to matches.” The first matches caught the husks on fire, but they didn’t last more than a minute. Both women had to restart from scratch.

After 30 more minutes, Sundra ran out of matches. She watched as Becky took her time, carefully cultivating a fire that was able to burn through a rope and raise a flag. She joined Yul and Ozzy in the Final Three.

During her parting comments, Sundra said, without a hint of irony in her choice of words, that getting this far in the game had “ignited so many things in me.”

The next morning, the Final Three watched their last Cook Islands’ sunrise, and then Becky went for a walk. While she was away, two native women arrived in a canoe with breakfast. After screaming Becky’s name in vain, Ozzy and Yul dug into the chow.

Ozzy felt it was fitting that he and Yul share breakfast alone, since it was likely they wouldn’t be sharing any of the votes that night with Becky.

Yul and Ozzy asserted their dominance at Tribal Council that night by giving great opening statements. Yul was pleased to have taken his entire alliance to the end and said, “I’ve done more than anyone else to affect the overall course of the game.”

Ozzy mentioned that he was a provider who had “embraced every aspect of the game.”

Becky elicited eye rolls from Jonathan and Adam when she said that she knew she wasn’t the fastest, strongest, or smartest competitor, so she had played a social game. It was funny, considering it came from someone rarely seen talking to anyone but Yul.

Nate began the Jury questions portion of Tribal Council by giving “props” to the remaining contestants. He asked Ozzy in what way he’d played a better strategic game than Yul, and Ozzy replied that he’d been the mastermind behind throwing the challenge to oust Billy in the season’s second episode.

Nate then asked Becky why she deserved to win instead of Yul or Ozzy. Becky said that Nate hadn’t been privy to many of the conversations she’d had with Yul, and that Yul hadn’t been directing the game by himself.

Jeff asked Nate if he was satisfied with Becky’s answer, and Nate said, “No.” Becky then said that part of the reason she deserved to win was that she’d turned down Yul’s offer of the Idol. With that juicy disclosure, Nate took his seat.

Jenny was up next and asked Yul if he thought the game was more physical or strategic. Yul didn’t hesitate to reply “strategic,” giving the example that he’d let Ozzy’s prowess in the challenges deflect the attention away from him so that he’d be seen as the lesser threat.

Parvati was up next and said, in the light of learning that Becky had turned down the Idol, “Beckers, convince me that you want to win.”

Becky said, “I’m not a sneaky person,” and that if she was going to win, she wanted it to be in a way she could be proud of.

Rebecca told Yul and Ozzy that she was torn between them, and she wanted to know something that would help her make her decision. Yul eloquently said that he felt that “minorities are underrepresented in the media,” and that he hoped to be an advocate for more realistic and fair portrayals of minorities.

Ozzy followed Yul’s speech, saying, “I have very similar interests and goals.” He also was eager to help people with their racial questions: “‘Hey, what’s a Mexican?’…This is a Mexican right here!”

Adam took the floor next, and he told the Final Three that they were all “painfully boring,” so he wanted Ozzy to “talk trash” about Yul and Becky. Ozzy obliged, accusing Yul of not working as hard as he could’ve and reminding Adam of Becky’s embarrassing fire-making display the night before.

Candice told Yul she had a question for him, and she wanted a straight answer, not political doublespeak. She said that, in order for Yul to get her vote, he could respond only “Yes,” or “No.” Any elaboration would lose her vote for him.

Candice then asked her question. She asked if Yul had been “shamelessly working the Jury” at Tribal Councils past and present.

Yul put his chin in his hand and thought for a few seconds, before answering, “Yes.”

Candice thanked him, saying, “I know that was hard for you.”

Yul shrugged and replied, “Well… shamelessly?” Candice pointed at Yul and said she would have to reconsider whether he’d just violated her yes-or-no-only condition.

Brad was up next, and since he’d had virtually no time to get to know Ozzy before being voted out, he asked Ozzy what his most challenging life experience had been. Ozzy broke down in tears as he said it was his troubled relationship with his father.

Sundra then asked what each of the Final Three had learned about themselves or life during Survivor. Ozzy gave the dippy reply, “Pure love,” Becky said she’d learned to live without a schedule, and Yul said he’d gained self-confidence.

The Jury questions came to a close with Jonathan. He confronted Yul, asking him to defend his telling of half-truths throughout the game. Yul responded, “What you’ve said is absolutely true,” admitting that he had lied, but only in the context of the game. It’s not how he would’ve acted in the outside world.

Then Jonathan asked Ozzy how giving him $1 million would make his own, and Jonathan’s, world better. Ozzy said he’d love to have the chance to go back to school without worrying where the money would come from, and then “try to change the world for the better.” He didn’t specify how he would do this.

After that, it was time to vote. Parvati cast a vote for Ozzy, calling him the “ultimate competitor.” And Jonathan wrote Yul’s name, saying of the other contestants, “Yul outplayed you all.”

Host Jeff picked up the votes and disappeared into the forest. Seconds later, we cut from filmed footage on the Cook Islands to the live feed from Hollywood. In the studio, the finalists and jury sat, as Jeff walked onstage with the votes.

Before Jeff read the votes in the studio, he said this 13th season was “one of the most enjoyable seasons we’ve had in quite a while.”

Jeff then read the votes. After eight votes, Ozzy and Yul were tied with four apiece. Jeff announced that the ninth, and deciding, vote went to Yul — making him the winner of Survivor: Cook Islands.

While Yul had looked prepared for a loss, Ozzy looked positively devastated after the final vote was read. After hugging Becky and Ozzy, Yul went into the audience and celebrated with his family.

I’ll be recapping the Reunion Show in a day or two. Check back soon!

DwtS Offseason Update: 12-16-06

The rumor mill is churning out plenty of gossip regarding Dancing with the Stars 4. And a couple of familiar faces are slated to join the DwtS Tour.

Tour News
Dancing with the Stars alums Jerry Springer and Sara Evans will be joining the Tour for select performances.
Jerry will perform at the shows in Chicago, Columbus, Cleveland,
Cincinnati, and Nashville, where he’ll be joined by Sara, for that show
only.

Season 4 Rumors
Earlier this week, it was reported that Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson had been cast for DwtS 4. But representatives at ABC say that quotes attributed to show producer Conrad Green were “completely fabricated,” and that no final casting decisions have been made yet.

Apparently Joey Fatone didn’t get the memo from ABC, as he announced on a radio show that he will be a part of DwtS 4. The former member of ‘NSync would follow a storied tradition of ex-boy banders on Dancing with the Stars, including Joey McIntyre, Drew Lachey, and Joey Lawrence (okay — Joey was only a solo artist).

At E! Online, Ted Casablanca dished that one member of the Dancing with Stars family will be axed before the start of Season 4.
He didn’t say who’s being replaced, but since the only permanent
members of the family are the hosts, judges, and band, the pool of
candidates is pretty limited.

Gossip
Shanna Moakler announced at a party that she’s dating her DwtS dance partner, Jesse DeSoto. I think that makes their relationship the first, and only, confirmed romance to come out of the show.

Other News
More new TV shows for former DwtS contestants. Stacy Keibler is joining the cast of the ABC drama What About Brian. And Jerry Springer will be a part of a new reality series on VH-1 entitled The Springer Hustle, about the backstage drama that takes place at The Jerry Springer Show.

John O’Hurley recently became a dad for the first time. On December 6, his wife Lisa gave birth to a baby boy, named William Dylan.

Dancing with the Stars was the 10th most searched television show on the internet in 2006. Lycos released its lists of most searched terms in 2006, and DwtS was only bested by American Idol, Smallville, and seven other shows.

Cook Islands: Episode 14

Parvati got naked in a hot tub with Yul and Ozzy, and it still wasn’t
enough to save her. She was eliminated at the end of the penultimate episode of Survivor: Cook Islands.

The
episode began with a Reward Challenge that promised to be provocative
— Survivors writhed in a muddy pit and ran to a mat, where they rubbed
their skin and wrung out their hair to get a much mud as possible into
a bucket. The three survivors to collect the most mud won the reward.

How
the challenge actually transpired was less than provocative. As the
swimsuit-clad contestants squatted over their buckets and rubbed their
muddy bottoms, the image was more reminiscent of toilet activities than
sex.

As host Jeff Probst put it, it was “like watching bad performance art.”

The
rules of the challenge stipulated that contestants could not carry mud
in their hands or arms. Yul got creative and loaded mud in between his
shoulder blades. He transported a total of 22.5 pounds and finished in
third place.

Parvati was slightly more successful, piling mud into her cleavage. She finished with 24 pounds. (of mud, not cleavage)

And
by sheer force of will and superhuman mud-carrying ability, Ozzy
finished in first with 45 pounds. He had the honor of sending Adam to
Exile Island for his third cold, stormy stay of the season.

For
their reward, Ozzy, Parvati, and Yul were flown to an island spa for a
night of relaxation. The plane cabin was layered in plastic, as all the
reward winners were still caked in drying mud. Parvati’s head looled
from the weight of the dirt in her hair. And Ozzy looked like a clay
statue with white teeth.

On the island, the contestants showered, had their clothes washed, enjoyed massages, and feasted.

During
dinner, the storm knocked out power at the spa. That didn’t stop a band
and a group of hula-style dancers from performing for them.

It
also didn’t stop the Survivors from drinking. A lot. Parvati initiated
a threesome skinny dip in a hot tub, where she flirted strategically
with Ozzy. Ozzy dove around the tub, claiming he was imitating a
humpback whale. Parvati laughed and said, “I just peed in my pants —
and I’m not wearing any!”

When the gang returned to camp the
next day, Becky immediately pulled Yul aside for a conference. She and
Sundra were concerned about Ozzy’s totally lopsided victory at many of
the challenges, and she wondered if perhaps he should be the next
person voted out.

Yul shared some of their concerns, and
divulged the flirting between Ozzy and Parvati on the Reward trip. “I
definitely underestimated her,” said Yul.

Later, at the Immunity
Challenge, Parvati’s hair looked extra clean and shiny, especially when
the bedraggled Adam returned from Exile. The restful stay she, Yul, and
Ozzy had enjoyed at the spa had obvious benefits; the three of them
were the only people who even had a chance in the challenge. By the
end, nobody else was even close.

Survivors had to carry four
bundles of wooden puzzle pieces one-at-a-time across four ascending
balance beams. Once all for bundles had reached the other side, they
could be untied, and the pieces fit together to make a tabletop maze.

From
there, survivors had to maneuver two small balls through the maze —
avoiding occasional “decoy holes” — and the drop the balls through two
pits as the end. It was like an oversized version of the game Labyrinth.

As
Ozzy ran gracefully across the balance beams, his competitors fell off
into the sand on either side of him. Adam grumbled, “C’mon!” as he
futilely tried to get even one bundle of puzzle pieces across the
beams. Sundra fared no better. Of the Reward Challeng losers, only
Becky got any bundles over the beam.

Yul and Parvati both
managed to get all of their bundles across, but they still weren’t even
close to Ozzy. His Aitu pals offered half-hearted congratulations on
his third consecutive victory, as they realized that they might not
ever get another chance to vote him off.

Knowing either he or
Parvati would be voted out that night, Adam approached Yul at camp and
asked if it was him. Yul said that if Adam wanted to stay, he’d do what
he could to steer the vote toward Parvati.

Adam said he’d like
to stay, and only felt a little bad about offering his pal Parvati up
in his place. He mused, “If it’s benefiting me, I’m okay with it.”

Parvati
also approached unofficial puppet master Yul about the evening’s vote.
He admitted that they considered a bigger threat than Adam in balance
and agility challenges, so she was some danger.

But things
looked up for Parvati when she was idly discussing strategy in the
shelter with Adam and Ozzy. As she and Adam debated whether to vote for
Sundra or Becky, Ozzy casually mentioned that he wouldn’t mind seeing
Sundra go.

Adam and Parvati immediately perked up, asking Ozzy
if he was seriously considering turning on his old tribemates. He said
probably not, as that could lose him their jury votes.

But Adam
cautioned that Ozzy’s current alliance would turn on him as soon as he
lost an Immunity Challenge. Ozzy admitted to having had the same
concern.

Yul also had the jury on his mind, and he brought
Jonathan’s hat with him to Tribal Council. Jonathan’s parting words had
been a request for the return of the hat he’d left at camp, and Yul
hoped the gesture might make up for his voting for Jonathan.

It
looked like the gesture worked, as Jonathan beamed upon his reunion
with his hat. Parvati suggested that, “Yul has been playing this game
to win votes from the beginning.”

After a discussion of the hat,
and whether Yul was just kissing up to the jury, Jeff steered the
conversation toward Adam. “You seem to be the biggest physical threat… on paper.”

Adam chuckled and told Jeff that he hasn’t
delivered because, “I’m just not all there, physically — and mentally
— anymore.” (Were you ever, Adam?)

Votes were cast, and they
split down the usual alliance lines, with Parvati earning four votes to
Sundra’s two. In her farewell confessional, Parvati said, “I could’ve
worked it more in the hot tub if I wanted to.”

Survivor: Cook Islands
wraps up on Sunday night, with two hours of competition, followed by an
hour-long reunion show. Jeff Probst promised three more Tribal Councils
(including the final face-off with the jury), which should make things
interesting, considering there are still five competitors left. Will
one of the Councils be a double-elimination, or will we have a final
three?

My prediction is that Ozzy wins a car in a Reward
Challenge, becuse Ozzy wins every challenge. He then becomes the next
victim of the Survivor Car Curse, as Yul earns enough jury votes to win
in a landslide, regardless of whether he faces one or two competitors
at the end.

TAR 10: Finale

If you placed a hefty bet before the season started that the youngest, fittest all-male team — Tyler & James — would win The Amazing Race 10,
you have a lot to smile about. And you’re the only one, because the
rest of us had to suffer through a boring and predictable finale.

Teams began the leg in Barcelona, Spain, where they found their first clue in a park behind the impressive Sagrada Familia basilica. The clue contained a photo of the Eiffel Tower, so teams were off to the airport, to catch flights to Paris.

Since
they arrived at the airport late at night, teams had to wait until 4
a.m. for the earliest ticket counter to open. Rob & Kimberly were
the only team to get on the first flight to Paris: a 6 a.m. flight to
Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Tyler & James boarded a 7:05
flight, also to Charles de Gaulle. Lyn & Karlyn, however, got a
7:25 flight into Orly Airport.

Lyn & Karlyn’s strategy
worked. Orly is much closer than Charles de Gaulle to central Paris, and they
were able to take a taxi to the Eiffel Tower, while other teams went by
train from Charles de Gaulle. The Alabama moms reached the Tower at the
same time as Rob & Kimberly.

The clue teams found on the
Tower’s third floor instructed them to take the train to the town of
Caen and then by cab to a nearby airport. All of the teams traveled on
the same train.

In Caen, Tyler & James’s cab arrived at the
airport first. Rob & Kimberly arrived last, but they also arrived
most spectacularly, as Kimberly nearly toppled the cluebox in the
process of falling on her can.

In a Roadblock entitled “Storm
the Beach,” both team members would ascend in a small plane, and one
team member would skydive with an instructor onto Omaha Beach, a key site in the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II.

The
other team members would endure a surprise nosedive in the plane before
reuniting with their partners at a train station near the beach.

Tyler
took the leap for his team, and Karlyn did so for hers. Her instructor
insisted that she was lucky to be with him, in part because he’s
“crazy.” I know that’s the most important quality I look for in a
skydiving instructor.

Race rules limit the number of Roadblocks
each team member can perform over the course of the season, and Rob had
already exhausted all his opportunities. So, Kimberly did the skydiving
for her team. But Rob was not happy about it, and he pouted, “The one
thing I wanted to do on the race…”

After everyone was safely
back on the ground, teams got their next clue, directing them back to
Paris. All teams got tickets for the 5:23 p.m. train to Paris via Caen.

As
teams waited for the train, Rob & Kimberly walked to a post office
to change their money from dollars to Euros. An early train to Caen
arrived at 5:10, and the two other teams hopped on.

Rob &
Kimberly were surprised (and scared) when they returned to an empty
platform, but their ticketed train arrived at 5:23, and they caught up
with the other teams in Caen.

Back in Paris, teams found their
next clue: a Detour called “Art or Fashion.” In Art, teams would carry
a large painting from a gallery to a street artist. But none of the
teams even considered this task.

Instead, everyone opted for
Fashion. At the Anatomy fashion studio, teams followed a jacket
pattern, cutting out pieces of fabric and properly pinning them in
place.

The task was made for models Tyler & James because,
as Tyler said, “We’ve been fitted a million times.” They finished their
jacket as Lyn & Karlyn and Rob & Kimberly struggled to make
proper pleats.

On their way out, Tyler gloated, “We’re good. We’re models.”

The
next clue instructed teams to fly to New York and retrieve a clue at
the Daily News Building. The models took a cab to Charles de Gaulle
Airport, as did Rob & Kimberly, while Lyn & Karlyn went back to
Orly.

Unfortunately for the ‘Lyns, Orly doesn’t have direct
flights to New York. So, the moms headed to Charles de Gaulle, and they
wound up the last team on the standby list for seats on the first
morning flight to New York.

During the night, Rob found a
manager at the airport and was able to get confirmed seats for the
morning flight. As passengers began boarding, he and Kimberly were the
only racers with seats on the plane.

That’s when Tyler &
James began to pray. Really hard. It must have worked, because they
went from “standby passengers” to “confirmed passengers” just moments
before the plane departed.

I assume that God convinced a couple
devout French people to skip the flight, so that the Models would have
a shot at the Race’s million dollar prize. Finally, after countless
generations of oppression, God felt that good-looking, young, white
male Americans have suffered enough.

(If you’re a conspiracy
theorist, you might suspect that the show’s producers had bought a
number of seats on the flight in advance. Then, they would have the
option of releasing them later, if it would help keep a couple teams neck-and-neck until the end. If the Models hadn’t
caught the early flight, Rob & Kimberly would have won, going away.)

Lyn
& Karlyn prayed, too, but obviously not as hard, because they
didn’t get seats on the flight. That meant they were out of the running
for first place. It also means that God plays favorites.

Once
the teams landed in New York, it came down to a classic duel of wits
and skill. Just kidding; the result was decided by cabs and dumb luck.

Rob
& Kimberly’s cab driver didn’t know exactly where the Daily News
Building was, so he followed Tyler & James’s cab — until they
reached a toll booth. Rob & Kimberly’s cabbie was stuck in the cash
lane, while Tyler & James’ cabbie sped through the toll, thanks to
his E-Z Pass.

The race was effectively over for Rob & Kimberly at that point.

The clue at the Daily News Building sent teams to find a sculpture called The Alamo
in the East Village. The models had no trouble running the two-mile
distance to the sculpture, and it helped that they were both familiar
with Manhattan.

The clue at the sculpture told them to find a
cabbie willing to drive them over 50 miles to St. Basil’s Academy in
Garrison, New York, where the finish line awaited. The first cabbie
Tyler & James found agreed to take them, and the Models jogged to
victory.

Phil Keoghan had another surprise for the boys, on top of their $1 million. They got to make a phone call — just like in jail!

Phil
handed Tyler a cell phone, and he called his mom to tell her he was a
half-millionaire. James’ dad (and his massive eyebrows) just happened
to be hangin’ at Tyler’s mom’s house, so he got to hear the good news
as well.

As Rob & Kimberly ran to the mat, they noticed the celebrating models. As he ran, Rob muttered, “Damn, the boys won.”

At
the mat, Rob & Kimberly confirmed that they still wanted to get
married, even though $1 million would’ve paid for a much nicer wedding.
Phil said to Kimberly, “I know you were very keen on having a big rock
on your finger.”

Kimberly looked over at Rob and said, “Now he’s just gonna have to work for it.”

Then Lyn & Karlyn arrived and they cried, proud of finishing in the top three.

Tyler
& James’s victory made this the fifth season won by a pair of
strapping young lads. Such an outcome also occurred in seasons 1, 2, 4,
and 9 (which had all-male teams finishing in both first and second
place). Considering that three of the other seasons didn’t have any
real alpha male duos — 5, 6, and 8 (the Family Edition) — the odds
often seem to favor these teams.

It’s silly then that several of
the tasks on this leg seemed designed to further benefit the Models.
They’ve had lots of experience being fitted for clothes, they’ve both
worked in New York, and they were certainly in fine shape to run two
miles.

Viewers already expect the young, fit, male teams to do well. Those teams don’t need to be given any extra advantages.

And
because the audience expects these teams to do well, it makes it less
exciting when they inevitably win. Everyone loves an underdog. But, as TAR
history shows, the underdog loses more than half of the time. And
that’s even when the underdog teams outnumber the alpha dog teams by a
ratio of ten to one.

It’s time for the producers to stop casting
these teams, and not just because they have the best shot at winning.
These teams also often make for the worst TV. As in Seasons 1 and 2,
the latest winning team was actually one of the season’s least memorable. (Maybe instead of casting ex-addicts/current models, they could cast some ex-models/current addicts.)

An unsatisfying ending tends to sour one’s view of the season that preceded it. Let’s hope next season — the long-rumored TAR All Stars — lives up to its potential.

Cook Islands: Episode 13

On this week’s Survivor: Cook Islands,
Jonathan’s stay at Exile Island gave the other Survivors a taste of how much more peaceful life was without him. At Tribal Council,
his former alliance-mates decided that, sometimes, comfort trumps
strategy, and Jonathan was voted off the island.

The morning after Candice’s ouster, Parvati, Becky, and Sundra were preparing coconut, when Parvati
nearly chopped off the end of her left thumb with the machete. The
paramedics gave her a few stitches to hold the end of her thumb on and
bandaged her up.

The paramedics’ instructions to keep the
bandage mostly dry went unheeded at the Reward Challenge. As soon as
the Survivors’ family members showed up, all bets were off.

Jonathan was reunited with his wife, Parvati with her dad, Sundra
with her mom, Becky with her sister, Yul with his brother, and Ozzy
with his mom. Adam enjoyed a reunion with his father, George, who looks
exactly like Adam will in 30 years. Both Adam and Dadam already have the same hairdos and gape-mouthed grins.

The
Survivors partnered with their loved ones for the challenge, which, in
its simplest form consisted of transferring the contents of a pail of
water into a larger bucket, until that bucket was full enough to lift a
counterweighted flag.

The
Survivors had to wear blindfolds as they scooped water from the ocean.
Then, they tossed the water from their pail. Their loved ones, standing
about ten feet away and not wearing blindfolds, tried to catch the
water with another small pail, which they then emptied into the large
bucket.

Relying only on vocal directions from their partners,
the Survivors launched pail after pail of water at their loved ones,
drenching them in the process. After each toss, Jonathan’s wife wrung
out her shirt and hair into her pail, maximizing her efficiency.

Jonathan and Ozzy had the early lead. But Parvati and her dad were able to make up ground and squeak out the win. When asked to pick someone to go straight to Exile island, Parvati didn’t hesitate to send Jonathan.

For their Reward, Parvati and her dad would spend a couple hours at the Aitutonga camp, before being ferried over to a ceremony and feast with a local tribe.

And they wouldn’t be going alone. Two other Survivors and their relatives would be joining them. Parvati’s dad, Mike, had to pick who would be joining them — with no help from Parvati.

First, he selected Sundra’s
mom, whom he referred to as the “beautiful island lady.” Then he chose
Adam’s clone, George. Because she’s closest with Adam and Sundra, they’re probably the two Parvati would’ve chosen, too.

After
a short stay at camp, the reward winners joined the women and children
of a native tribe in a ceremony on a nearby island. Following the
tribe’s religious ritual, the castaways entered a sacred cave, anointed
a freshwater pool with scented oils, and dove in.

Then Parvati, Adam, and Sundra feasted on meatloaf, fried chicken, corn on the cob, and biscuits with their relatives.

Meanwhile,
at camp, Yul, Becky, and Ozzy decided to hide the coconuts they’d
collected, so that they didn’t have to share food with Parvati and Adam. The trio wanted to keep their enemies from being too well-fed for challenges.

But when Parvati, Adam, and Sundra
returned from their reward with a bag full of meatloaf, corn, and
biscuits, Becky said that she, Yul, and Ozzy felt too guilty to carry
through with their coconut embargo.

The Immunity Challenge the
next day was designed for Ozzy to dominate, and he did just that. It
was a floating obstacle course, requiring the Survivors to run over
planks, rowboats, and floating barrels to reach buoys with two bundles
of sticks attached.

After completing two passes through the
course (one pass to get each bundle) the Survivors tied their sticks
together to form a long pole, which they used to reach two hanging
rings, suspended about a dozen feet away.

As Ozzy was “doin‘ it all with the pole,” as Jeff Probst
put it, his competitors were falling off of barrels into the water and
moving with all the accuracy of drunken coeds. Ozzy later said, “It was
certainly quite hilarious seeing people just eating it all over the
place.”

Upon returning to camp, it became obvious that no one
was happy to have Jonathan back from Exile Island. When joined the
group at the fire, he got the silent treatment for a few minutes,
before everyone just got up and walked away.

He chased his supposed allies Becky and Sundra
into the forest to talk strategy. But he had to yell, “Guys? Guys?
Ladies?” before they would even give him the curt response, “We’re
getting firewood.” At that point, Jonathan knew he was in trouble.

Yul
told Jonathan that he’d do what he could to convince the group to vote
for Adam as originally planned. But Jonathan wasn’t hopeful: “Are they
going to sacrifice everything they’ve worked for because Parvati’s smiling at them?”

Jonathan was right to be worried. He received six votes at Tribal Council and became the next member of the jury.

In
his final words, he was mostly disappointed that his former allies
didn’t have the courage to tell him he was going. “These people are
terrible liars,” he said of the Aitu Four.

It
was a bad strategic move to get rid of Jonathan, especially for Yul and
Becky. Jonathan was in no position to turn on them, and it’s unlikely
that he’d win any Immunity Challenges from here on out.

More
important than that, there was absolutely no chance that the jury would
award him the $1 million, so he was the perfect Final Two candidate.

Instead, Yul and Becky will now have to work extra hard to keep Adam and Parvati from winning Immunity or convincing Ozzy or Sundra to switch sides.

In fact, it looks like that’s exactly what Adam and Parvati try to do in next week’s episode. When Ozzy starts spending too much time with the former Raro members, Becky and Yul consider turning on Ozzy.