Monthly Archives: December 2007

Survivor China: Finale

Amanda was likable, strategically sound, and she won the show’s last three challenges — two of them for immunity. So it should have taken a colossal choke job at the final Tribal Council for Amanda to finish the season in second place. She wound up in third.

The final episode of Survivor: China started off well for Amanda. She won a puzzle-laden Reward Challenge, and chose Todd to share a meal of pizza, brownies, and soda. It gave her a chance to lay a guilt trip on Todd and remind him that they’d promised to take each other to the finale.

Then she bested Todd, Courtney, and Denise in the final Immunity Challenge: balancing plates on a stick. Amanda must have been known for her poise during her beauty pageant days.

Back at camp, Amanda was torn between casting her vote against Todd or Denise (apparently, Courtney was considered such a long shot to win that she was guaranteed a spot in the final Tribal Council).

Denise told Amanda that everyone else had better opportunities to go back to than she did. "I’m gonna go back to making seven dollars an hour working as the lunch lady," said Denise, "doing the same things day after day like I’ve been doing."

Meanwhile, Courtney discussed with Todd how humiliating it would be to lose to Denise: "This isn’t, like, welfare. Like, she doesn’t deserve it just ’cause, you know, she sucks at life."

Courtney paused for a moment before adding, "I’m the biggest bitch on the planet!"

Amanda pulled Courtney aside to talk about their final strategy. Amanda observed that Todd, despite being widely considered the game’s mastermind, was also well liked by many of the jury members and had better personal connections with them than any of the three women did.

Ultimately, Denise’s guilt trip worked. Well, it worked at making Amanda feel guilty. Instead of following her instincts about Todd, voting for him, and forcing a tie, Amanda stuck with Todd and Courtney and whacked Denise.

The wave of guilt that had hit Amanda lingered long after Tribal Council. Upon returning to camp, Amanda declared, "I’m so over this." Thus, her smart strategic gameplay came to an end.

She went in front of the jury for the final time apologizing to everyone she’d wronged along the way. During the Q&A session, Peih-Gee told Amanda, "I’m sick of you looking at me with doe eyes, and every time you’ve opened your mouth to one of these people, you’ve sounded apologetic."

Courtney gave the best opening remarks, highlighting that she (as someone who didn’t come in as a fan of the show) had successfully learned how to play and thrive at the game as it went along, and that she surprised even herself by winning an individual Immunity Challenge.

But Todd’s mix of straightforward and flattering answers won the day. In his opening comments, he immediately copped to being deceptive, but hoped the jury would understand it was all in the context of the game. When Jean-Robert asked why Todd voted him out before James, Todd answered, "You started to strategically place ideas in people’s heads, which is what I wanted my job to be. I had to get rid of my biggest strategic threat, which was you."

James laughed raucously as Jean-Robert sheepishly returned to his seat on the jury bench. When Jeff Probst asked James what was so funny, he replied, "I ain’t never heard nobody shut him up before."

Their candid, unapologetic answers earned Courtney two votes and Todd four, giving him the victory.

After looking like a shoo-in to win, Amanda got one vote. It came from Erik, who was the only one who appreciated Amanda’s outward expression of the ethical turmoil which she should’ve kept internal.

At the Reunion Show, Peih-Gee looked stunning, and Courtney surpassed her pre-show weight of 93 pounds. Jaime and Erik confirmed that they are currently dating, although he said he remains a virgin.

Denise’s life after Survivor didn’t go exactly as she’d predicted to Amanda it would. It actually got worse. Because of her appearance on the show, the school where Denise worked thought she would be a distraction to the students. So, she was kicked out from behind the lunch counter, and she had to take a job as a janitor, working the after-school shift.

Show producer Mark Burnett offered to give Denise $50,000 to help her out. The money was nice, but it wasn’t quite as good as the $100,000 James got from Sprint for being America’s favorite player. And it certainly wasn’t as good as Todd’s $1 million.

In the end, I was a little sad Amanda didn’t win. Though Todd was the "schemer," it seemed he often wanted to make moves out of paranoia, or just for the sake of scheming. One of Amanda’s greatest skills was reining Todd in when necessary and leading the charge in making bold moves only when they made the most sense. If she’d been able to communicate that to the jury, she might have had a chance.

But Amanda had a few things working against her. First, it’s near impossible to get pity votes for being mopey and conflicted at the final Tribal Council. Nobody’s going to feel bad for you for beating them.

Second, though Amanda really was one of the season’s two masterminds, the jury never saw her as one. Part of me wonders if — when given the choice between two Survivors who, like Todd and Amanda, work in tandem for most of the competition — jurors may tend to notice the man as the brains of the duo. When Todd discussed moves, it was obvious to everyone he was plotting to further himself. When Amanda did the same, she was better at disguising her motives and coming off as just socializing or working on behalf of the entire alliance. In the end, I think her subtle, socially-aware methods may have worked against her.

Ox Notes: December 14, 2007

January 7 is rumored to be the date that the late night talk shows will return to producing new episodes. If they were hoping to wait until the writers strike is resolved, it looks like they might have to wait a long time. The Writers Guild filed a complaint that the studios have violated federal labor laws, which could lead to a lengthy court battle.

Variety asked some of the Golden Globe nominees whether they plan to attend the awards ceremony, in spite of the boycott by striking writers. Glenn Close will stay home, saying, "I would never cross a picket line." Christina Applegate, on the other hand, said, "Oh yeah, of course, I’m planning on attending."

While she’s at the awards show, perhaps Ms. Applegate could pick up an extra one of those expensive gift bags that they give to nominees for Charisma Carpenter. The former Buffy and Angel star says the writers strike has left her unemployed and unable to pay for her divorce proceedings.

When the new Knight Rider debuts on NBC on February 17, Arrested Development’s Will Arnett will be providing the voice of KITT the car.

The Futon Critic has a list of the Gladiators from another revamped NBC show, American Gladiators. The smallest male Gladiator is 6’3", 220 lbs., so I’m hoping the network has a sign somewhere near the contestants’ locker room that reads, "You must be THIS tall to compete in Gladiator Arena."

The judges for Bravo’s new show Step It Up & Dance are choreographers Vincent Paterson and Nancy O’Meara. Choreographer Jerry Mitchell will act as a Tim Gunn-like mentor for the competing dancers.

TV Guide interviewed Alex O’Loughlin on the set of Moonlight, where the stunt directors have to remind him why he can’t do all of his own stunts: "Dude. If you die, we don’t have a show."

Finally, here are interviews with Azaria & Hendekea of The Amazing Race 12 from People and TV Guide. Apparently, they "super dislike" Kynt & Vyxsin, but it just sounds like sour grapes to me.

Survivor China: Episode 12

Peih-Gee’s impressive string of performances at challenges had not gone unnoticed by her Survivor: China competitors. And it made them eager to get rid of her the first chance they got.

Denise, who’d made the fateful — and probably foolish — decision to stick with her original alliance last episode, got the chance to give her cohorts an advantage when she won this week’s Reward Challenge. Instead of repaying Peih-Gee for taking her on a previous Reward, Denise took Courtney and Todd along on a trip to the Great Wall of China, just to make sure that Peih-Gee didn’t get any extra food in her belly.

But that meant leaving the other alliance member, Amanda, behind to subsist on the (usually) meager rations left at camp. Amanda and Peih-Gee seized the opportunity to bond over a double helping of the tribe’s rice, as well as some fruit and all of the fish they’d caught over the last few days.

Peih-Gee and Amanda were even more pissed at having been left out of the Reward when Denise, Courtney, and Todd returned complaining that they’d had to cook their own food in a hot pot, instead of just being given pizza and beer. Survivor contestants should always keep in mind that it’s reward enough not to have to catch and gut your own fish.

As often proves the case, the extra nutrition from the Reward meal didn’t really make a difference at the Immunity Challenge. In a challenge comprising segments of past challenges, the Reward-goers Todd, Denise, and Courtney were the first three eliminated.

Todd scored the lowest number of points in the ninja star-throwing round (from Episode 10). Then Denise couldn’t bring herself to eat a balut after having already failed to do so in Episode 6. And Courtney was the slowest when it came to navigating an obstacle course while keeping a ball bouncing on a drum (Episode 9).

The two most nutrient-deprived Survivors, Peih-Gee and Amanda, were left to fight for Immunity. They revisited the rope-chopping challenge from Episode 3, in which Courtney had proved she has as much upper body strength as a woman 100 years her senior.

Both contestants hacked at the ropes and freed their puzzle pieces within seconds of each other, but Amanda was speedier at assembling her puzzle. She won her first individual Immunity Challenge, and Peih-Gee seemed as good as gone.

At camp, Todd and Courtney wandered off on their own, feeling confident that Peih-Gee had resigned herself to going home. Meanwhile, Peih-Gee was pitching Amanda and Denise on the idea of taking out Todd while they had the chance, and Amanda and Denise were certainly listening.

Ultimately, the two ladies decided that Peih-Gee had played well enough that she might have earned a few million dollar votes from the jury, should she make it to the end. That made her more dangerous than sneaky "backstabber" Todd at this late stage of the game. Plus, Amanda probably figured that — after befriending Peih-Gee while the others were at the Reward — she now had at least one jury vote in her own pocket.

Peih-Gee was voted out, 4-1, rendering the original Zhan Hu tribe extinct.

Sunday night is a two-hour finale complete with three Tribal Councils (according to the promo), to be followed by an hour-long reunion special. I think that Amanda may have the best chance to win, followed by Todd, Denise, and Courtney, in that order. And, since there’s always at least one person who actually looked better on the island than they do at the reunion show, I’m predicting Todd to be this season’s strangely puffy or oddly coiffed reunion show attendee.

Ox Notes: December 13, 2007

The Golden Globe nominations were announced today, as were the Writers Guild Award nominees for television. I think Transformers may be the only non-Bollywood film I’ve see this year, and it didn’t get nominated for anything. I would’ve liked to see a Best Actor list that read: "George Clooney, Denzel Washington, Optimus Prime…"

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the Writers Guild strike could save the networks money if they abandon the traditional pilot season and adopt the year-round development plan that cable networks use.

Thanks to her drama-filled tenure on Dancing with the Stars, Marie Osmond will get her own talk show in 2008. Her dolls will cohost.

TV Guide has Jeff Probst’s assessment of the remaining contestants’ chances of winning Survivor: China’s $1 million prize at Sunday night’s finale. And the most recent Survivor eliminated, Erik, told TV Guide that while he was starving in the Chinese wilderness, he kept thinking of "Oreos crumbled on peanut butter with chocolate syrup and Nutella with a cherry on top."

Tonight’s episode of Supernatural, which happens to be the last new episode of 2007 (same goes for tonight’s Smallville), is a "very gory" Christmas special.

MOIB reader TortoiseHill posted in the comments thread of Monday’s Ox Notes about the experience of attending a live taping of the new American Gladiators. The LAist features another account of a live Gladiators taping, and the author of this post was so frustrated that he walked out of the taping after 90 minutes.

If any of you are like me, you just realized that you haven’t purchased Christmas presents for anyone yet. This is probably a good time to visit to see what nostalgic bits of TV gold have been released on DVD. The first season of The Fall Guy for my dad? Check. But it looks as if my brother will have to go another year without Manimal.

Ox Notes: December 12, 2007

ABC, because the network just can’t help itself, has expanded the January 7 premiere of Dance War to two hours. Can’t we have one dance competition show that’s only an hour long?

NBC elected not to renew Journeyman, although it will air all 13 completed episodes of the show.

Masterpiece Theater returns to PBS on January 13, only it’s been renamed Masterpiece Classic and features a new host: Agent Scully from The X-Files.

TV Guide has an interview with Chris, the most recent designer booted from Project Runway.

Golden Globe nominees will be announced tomorrow, but will any of them risk alienating the Writers Guild and show up to the awards ceremony on January 13?

Joss Whedon and cast members from his shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly marched in the picket lines on Friday. Sarah Michelle Gellar brought the donuts.

Network ad revenues have been negatively affected not only by the strike but also by the slumping US economy.

Even when the strike ends and writers go back to work, Ray Richmond of The Hollywood Reporter speculates that many viewers may not return. He might be on to something, since viewers seem to be content spending primetime watching NBA games on TV or renting DVDs.

Finally, TV Guide has a list of the Top 5 Things We Love About Gossip Girl. I share their appreciation for "Leighton Meester’s broken-doll sadness" as Blair. Tonight, Gossip Girl will be preempted by Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants, so use this week to catch up on the show at iTunes if you’ve not yet fallen under its spell.

Ox Notes: December 11, 2007

Helio Castroneves didn’t get to attend the official Dancing with the Stars wrap party the night of the finale, so he threw his own DwtS reunion bash over the weekend. HollyScoop has pictures from the event.

MOIB readers Jamie and Lucy pointed out a news story in which Maksim Chmerkovskiy says he will return for the next season of Dancing with the Stars if he’s asked. He cited fatigue as the reason behind his earlier statements that he was done with the show.

Rachel Hunter, who finished in fourth place on the first season of Dancing with the Stars, is reportedly taking another crack at dance floor glory on the New Zealand version of DwtS.

Project Runway’s Tim Gunn is offering to give fashion-challenged Oscar winner Meryl Streep a makeover.

In other Project Runway news, Season 4 contestant Jack Mackenroth is doing his own crossover programming by dating Top Chef 3’s Dale Levitski.

The TV writers strike has forced the cancellation of the winter press tour, where new shows are presented to TV critics, since the only new programs in development are reality shows.

And NBC is performing so far below expectations this season that it’s refunding advertisers an average of $500,000 for failing to meet ratings goals.

Speaking of goals, I’ll be spending the afternoon on the couch watching Liverpool vs. Marseille in the UEFA Champions League on ESPN 2. How I love working from home.


Ox Notes: December 10, 2007

On Saturday night, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. retained his welterweight championship by knocking out Ricky Hatton. Floyd was accompanied to the ring at the start of the match by his fellow Dancing with the Stars contestants, Helio Castroneves and Wayne Newton.

Strike talks came to a halt on Friday, with both parties becoming more publicly vocal about their frustrations with the pace of negotiations.

The strike has already rendered as effectively meaningless network ratings numbers for the season. Late night talk shows seem to be suffering the most, with viewership of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno down by 40%.

TV Guide’s Matt Roush is concerned about enduring a winter with little new to watch, apart from reality shows.

I’m a little more optimistic, now that I know that The Amazing Race will be back for a thirteenth season. And, since I’m a sucker for obstacle courses, I’m looking forward to ABC’s Wipeout, which the network describes as "Fear Factor with none of the gross."