The Husband:

It happens every year. Just like the film industry, ideas seem to come in packs of two or three. In 2004, Lost fever infected the networks, and three deep mystery science-fiction shows were unveiled for the 2005-2006 season. Two made it a full season before being unceremoniously canceled (Invasion and Surface) while one didn’t even make it to midseason (Threshold). The quality of these shows are unimportant, because they were created to either capitalize on a trend or a repair a hole missing from the schedule. This works in the film world, too. In 1998, we had both Armageddon and Deep Impact. In the same year, we had both A Bug’s Life and Antz. In 2005 we had both Capote and Infamous (one was pushed back to 2006, can you guess which?). And this is not a new concept in Hollywood. I can trace back to most years started with the studio system and can point out virtually identical films coming out within the same few months. But with television this year, two things happened:

1. CBS tried once again to give us their version of what they think draws people into Grey’s Anatomy, but on their own network. That show is called Three Rivers.

2. After a staggering 15-year run, ER finally came to a close last season, and NBC frantically tried to recreate its medical drama glory. But this time, they decided split the show in two to hedge their bets but take up too much room on a schedule already reeling from one man named Jay Leno.

If you don’t feel like listening to my half-assed television history lesson for the remainder of this article, let me just break it down for you. So far, NBC’s Mercy has aired three episodes, NBC’s Trauma has aired two, and CBS’s Three Rivers has aired one. And how do they rank in terms of quality? The exact order I just put them in, with Mercy almost head-and-shoulders above Trauma and Three Rivers, with only a single episode, drudging the bottom of the lake.

The title is probably ironic.

The title is probably ironic.

So about that splitting ER into two parts. It’s really not at all complicated. Mercy is the character drama, and Trauma is the action show. Put together, these elements apparently made some of the best ER episodes of all time, but on their own, it can be a struggle. So far, however, Mercy is a remarkably competent (big praise, I know) slice-of-life story about the unsung heroes of hospitals — the nurses. This year they have come back in a big way, and while I haven’t seen an episode of similarly themed Nurse Jackie and Hawthorne (two other nurse dramas, unseen because I don’t have Showtime and I avoid networks like TNT and USA like the plague), I can tell you that it’s a refreshing change of pace. Surgeons get all the glory, but nurses are the backbone of any hospital. Taylor Schilling leads the show as former army nurse Veronica Callahan, and she is in the top five best new characters on television this season. Tough and hard-edged but sympathetic, she seems like a real woman doing an unappreciated job, and her quiet energy is such a welcome respite from the outwardly emotional hysterics that populate Seattle Grace and Oceanside Wellness. She is a true find, and her personal life storylines (her troubled marriage, her drunk family, her affair with Men In Trees‘s James Tupper) help the very reality-skewing Jersey City-set show and are handled by the writers with what at least appears to be a great deal of honesty.

I haven’t been able to get a handle of many of the remaining characters, but Guillermo Diaz (he of Weeds and Half Baked) does well playing against type, and while the casting of Michelle Trachtenberg as rookie nurse Chloe Payne brings the wrong kind of tone to the character, casting a lesser known and more sullen actress would have made the character completely unimportant. My favorite element, oddly enough, seems to be the reversal of roles, as James LeGros’s doctor character, Dan Harris, is mostly seen on the outskirts of storylines, much how most nurses are treated on nearly every other hospital drama. (You know how Nurse Olivia was just let go from Seattle Grace at Grey’s Anatomy? It took me a good thirty minutes to remember that she was the one who gave George syphilis after getting it from Karev way back in the early seasons.) And, almost more than anything, I appreciate the fleeting comparisons the show finds between Jersey City and the warzone of Iraq. Both are lost places in their own way, and it’s haunting without being obvious. This is definitely staying on my Season Pass list, and I hope that its unfortunate placement Wednesday at 10 (it belongs later, but thanks to The Jay Leno Show, half of NBC’s schedule seems misplaced.)

HOLY SHIT THIS IS EXPENSIVE! AND ON FIRE!

HOLY SHIT THIS IS EXPENSIVE! AND ON FIRE!

Trauma, so far, is just a big, slick, expensive version of Emergency!, a spin-off of a spin-off (Dragnet to Adam-12 to…) which ran for several seasons back in the 1970s (six seasons plus a handful of TV movies). From the several episodes I’ve seen of that show (starring a young Kevin Tighe, a.k.a. Locke’s father on Lost), I really can’t see much of a difference between the two programs other than its location and its budget. I complained that I couldn’t get too much of a handle on Mercy‘s characters, but at least I can give you a general impression of their internal monologue. Not so on Trauma, which is as surface-level as one could get outside of a CW primetime soap. New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis is, so far, the only character with any personality (unfortunately, it’s a shitty one) and the rest get lost in the shuffle.

What Trauma has going for it, though, is a whole lot of money behind it, something that could cause it to be canceled very soon. Paired up with the fledgling Heroes, Trauma continues to represent how NBC is hemorrhaging money and viewers, and by not putting the show at a proper 10 p.m. spot, it’s getting crushed by the two CBS Chuck Lorre sitcoms. But oh man, does it ever get saved by its big action sequences. Nothing has been spared in the high-octane situations that structure the show, from the mostly unnecessary season opener that blew up part of a building to what can’t be cheap San Francisco location shooting. But with an HD DVR and a 52″ HD LCD Eco-Series Bravia television, I’ve never missed my old stomping grounds of the San Francisco Bay Area more. I’m staying to watch this show just from how much is shot there, how [mostly] accurate the set-ups are, and even its inclusion of mayor Gavin Newsome’s actress wife in the supporting cast. My wife can tell you more about the show’s focus on North Beach, where she worked for two years.

My issue, though, is seemingly contradictory. The action is what makes the show work, but it’s a chore sitting through a single episode. It’s fun to yell out “Trauma!” whenever something terrible happens, but in the second episode, we had four separate cases of trauma including the Embarcadero Street Fair getting pummeled by a car piloted by a man having a stroke. This is enough for three episodes on Grey’s Anatomy, but it’s almost a sidenote here. It’s too much action in a show that desperately needs it to survive. But goddamn, does it look expensive. And that expense kind of negates the verité style it’s going for, so I don’t know what to think anymore.

I would rather see Alex O'Laughlin do anything else.

I would rather see Alex O'Laughlin do anything else.

Three Rivers has only aired one episode, and this is after it was heavily recast (which happened to Alex O’Loughlin’s last show Moonlight as well) as it was decided to air the second episode first. No matter, because the show helped drop CBS to one of its lowest-rated Sunday nights ever, being paired up with Cold Case. (All the family viewers and young professionals pretty much abandon the channel after The Amazing Race is over.) It’s not long for this world, and for good reason. It thinks that we want to be preached to right off the gate, and so this drama about an organ transplant facility in Pittsburgh just doesn’t work. It’s unfair to judge it based on one episode (and one that isn’t the damned pilot), but when a show starts off talking down to us, it’s not a good feeling. ABC’s Grey’s started off as a much frothier show (I would even call it a dramedy) and only later fell into its soapy rhythms, but Three Rivers doesn’t seem to have time for that. A major problem: I understand its decision to include the story about where the organs are coming from in order to humanize the situation, but it’s mostly unnecessary and I hope they abandon it, because it makes the characters back at the facility complete ciphers, just going through the procedural motions. Even O’Loughlin, as famed surgeon Andy Yablonski, isn’t enough to draw me back for much longer, and I once again fear that Alfre Woodard is one of the most misused actresses of her generation. It’s not the worst new drama of the season, nor is it the most obnoxious (so far, that seems to be the tonally misshapen The Forgotten), but if it doesn’t pick up soon, it will be canceled before I even give up on it. (Remember CBS’s hospital drama 3 Lbs.? No? It was on less than five years ago. Still don’t remember it? Exactly. But I watched all three episodes.)

So give Mercy a chance, and I don’t think you’ll regret it. Its cases, while mostly unoriginal, are handled delicately, and the characters feel like actual people. The other two shows? If you’re not into high-definition cinematography of San Francisco or learning about the intricacies of putting new hearts into pregnant women, they probably won’t work for you, either.

The Wife:
I worry about Mercy‘s necessity. Fundamentally, I like the show. And I really didn’t think I would. When NBC was promoting Mercy, they almost entirely glossed over the fact that this show is a narrative about an Iraq war veteran struggling to reintegrate into civilian life, instead using its promo time to make it look like some slick, glossy glorification of nursing (which indeed deserves such glory) and the bonds of female friendship. Case in point: even if Veronica’s background as a soldier was included, what I remember from those promos is the shots of the girls at the bar together, drinking and smiling.

The hurt backpack.

The hurt backpack.

I do think Mercy, as a show about a female Iraq war veteran, an Army nurse not unlike my mother (who once made her non-military living as an OR nurse), is utterly necessary. It is important for us to experience narratives of soldiers returning from conflicts overseas and to understand what it’s like for them to try to carry on with all the horror they’ve experienced. And it’s especially critical that this is a narrative about a female soldier. For all the women who fight for this country, too many artistic renderings of soldiers focus on the men and their experiences. I even applaud the decision to focus this story around the life of an Army medic, a crucial military position I think many forget about. My mother never (thankfully) saw conflict. But when I hear Veronica talk about setting up field hospitals, I can’t help but think of my mother. She knows how to do that, and has done so many times in her life. I’ve seen what those hospitals look like, as we always went to the family day at the end of the Army Reserve’s two-week summer training exercises where her medical unit practiced setting up those hospitals. So this character is perhaps doubly unique to me. I know the women that she is drawn from, my mother and her friends, and that alone makes her utterly real to me.
But although I think Veronica is a starkly unique character and its important for us to have a narrative of a female Iraq war veteran, I do think that gets lost in the way NBC advertised Mercy and its inevitable pigeonhole as just another medical show. I don’t care so much about the cases Veronica deals with, but I care deeply about her inability to share her wartime experiences with her no-longer-estranged husband. Seeing her hold his head in her hands so that he cannot face her when she talks about losing her friend in the field was truly effective, and I hope those of you who watch Mercy continue to tune in for those stunning portraits of a soldier coming home to a world she no longer knows how to navigate.

As for Trauma, the best parts of the show are screaming “Trauma!” when something traumatic happens, and realizing that I probably walked through the set dozens of times when I worked in North Beach. In fact, there was a scene filmed on Green St. between Grant and Broadway in the second episode that I know I’d walked through during tear-down one day when my coworker and I were heading up to North Beach Pizza for lunch. (I was extra impressed that they got a shot of the new location of North Beach Pizza, which only opened in April or May . . . directly across the street from its former location.) This scene happened to feature a homeless drug addict trying to scam the EMTs into giving him morphine, and I frankly wouldn’t be surprised if the show stumbled upon some of North Beach’s actual colorful homeless people. I will keep watching simply to see restaurants I used to frequent and, hopefully, a glimpse of Knifey Knife (a homeless woman who once threatened my friend at the bakery across from my old office with a pumpkin carving knife) and Charlotte (a kindly homeless woman who enjoyed wigs and often sat outside my office, complimenting me on my shoes). Hell, if one of my couriers, Junior, made it into B-roll on Anthony Bourdain’s San Francisco episode of No Reservations, he might even turn up in a long shot, riding his bike down Columbus.

There is really nothing good about Three Rivers.

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The Husband:

While we, the children of Saint Clare, have found the time to write about many of the biggest shows on television (and even some small ones), there is only so much time and energy we can spend on this site. The truth is, we watch a whole lot more than what ends up on the site, and since I watch most of these on my own and yet never find the ability to write about them, their absence is mostly my fault. But no matter. For those that fall through the cracks, I have here a grab bag of the 30+ shows I watch in addition to whatever ends up on the site. These are the ones that slipped through the cracks. And hell, I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting (and also not even bothering writing about, which tend to fall under instructional/educational stuff like anything on Discovery), so if you think I’ve forgotten something, please let me know. (And no, I don’t watch any CSI or L&O shows, so don’t even try to get all up in my grill.) Here they are, the missing shows of the 2008-2009 television season, in alphabetical order.

24

I really should have written at least some criticism on this season, but work piled up and I simply didn’t have the time. It started off as the most intelligent season with some of the most compelling political questions being thrown around (welcome to the show finally, “debate on torture”), but by the fourth time Tony twisted his alliance and Jack was infected with the disease, I kind of stopped caring. Great first half of the season, though, and I think Renee is the best new character in a very long time.

Adult Swim (Xavier: Renegade Angel / Superjail! / Squidbillies / The Drinky Crow Show / Metalocalypse / Delocated / Robot Chicken / Etc.)

Thank you, young people of Adult Swim (who I have spent some time with, don’t forget) for freaking my mind week after week, and giving alternative comedy a major boost in America. And for freaking out my wife.

A beacon of normalcy in a world of wackiness.

A beacon of normalcy in a world of wackiness.

Better Off Ted

It took me a couple episodes to latch onto the tone, but once I did I simply couldn’t get enough from this latest product of the mad mind of Victor Fresco. Check out some episodes online, then watch Andy Richter Controls the Universe (his previous show), and I guarantee you some of the oddest network comedy in a very long time. I still think Portia DeRossi is trying to hard, though, and should take a page from the book of Fresco mainstay Jonathan Slavin.

Castle

Bring it on, Nathan Fillion. Hypnotize me with your nostrils and your addictive but borderline-stupid mystery writer-cum-detective series. (Although how weird was that Judy Reyes episode? What the hell, Carla Turk?)

The Celebrity Apprentice 2

So sue me, I liked Joan Rivers. And the addition of the phrase “Whore Pit Vipers” to the television lexicon.

Celebrity Rehab (Sober House) with Dr. Drew

So help me, I can’t stop watching. It’s just a disaster. I will say, though, that I like the drama in the rehab far more than the sober house, as the latter seems to exist simply to destroy any progress the celebrities made in rehab. And now having seen all three of his seasons of Taxi, Jeff Conaway’s fall from grace is fishbowl television at its finest.

Dating in the Dark

Really fun, actually. I hope it gets a second season. I also hope that more matches will be made, and that people stop being massive failures.

Dirty Sexy Money

Everything I needed to say about the failure of the second season of this show can be found on this blog, and it ended its truncated run by turning itself inside-out by revealing that the show’s central mystery, who killed Peter Krause’s father, was a bust since he wasn’t dead after all. What the hell, Dirty Sexy Money? Oh well, your cancellation made room in Krause’s schedule for the much anticipated (by me) adaptation of Parenthood coming to NBC mid-season.

The Goode Family

It took a few episodes to find its footing, but by the end of its sped-up summer run, I was a major fan of the latest Mike Judge effort. (R.I.P. King of the Hill.) Vastly misunderstood by viewers who only watched the first episode, it, just like KOTH, found a middle ground between conservative America and liberal America and found the ability to make fun of both without drawing blood, choosing to love instead of hate. Some of the voice cast was misused (why was my beloved Linda Cardellini in the cast?), but as a Berkeley native, I had a blast relishing in mocking the stereotypes of my own people while rediscovering what it is I love so much about them. The bull dykes were also two of the most original characters of the season.

One Earth isn't just a grocery store, it's a way of life.

One Earth isn't just a grocery store, it's a way of life.

The Great American Road Trip

Any show that has two contestants debating over which is more correct, “y’all” or “youse,” gets major points in my book. A nice and forgettable summer trifle after a long, way-too-hot day. Silly, yes, but I can’t say it was bad. And it was a definite improvement over the similar family-based season of The Amazing Race. (I’m sure The Soup is really grateful for this show, too.)

Heroes

Oh god, kill me now. Volume 4 was a marked improvement over #3, for sure, but I just don’t care about anybody anymore. And yet I feel that I need to keep watching. It’s too late to give up now. There was one great episode this season, though, and that was the flashback one surrounding Angela Petrelli’s stint at a mutant internment camp. Why can’t they all be this good?

Howie Do It

Yeah, I watched it. Shut the fuck up. About one-third of it was funny, and as I watched it on Hulu at work, it’s not like I wasted any of my own time. Howie Mandel is savvier than you think, but I wish he would return to his wilder roots.

How’s Your News

This Parker-Stone produced MTV show revolving around reporters who are developmentally delayed confused the hell out of me initially, but once I realized there wasn’t a mean bone in its body it became a warm bit of fun. I want a second season, dammit. These are some of the most joyful television subjects I’ve ever seen.

I Survived a Japanese Game Show

Better than the first season, but I’m still glad I only watch this online while doing something else.

In the Motherhood

Worst opening credit sequence of the year. Some pretty funny material hidden underneath unfunny slapstick. Horatio Sanz got thin. Megan Mullally couldn’t find a rhythm. I still think Cheryl Hines is oddly hot.

Lie to Me

I unfortunately didn’t start watching this until July, and I wish I hadn’t waited so long. While gimmicky to a fault and not nearly as intelligent as it pretends it is, this Tim Roth vehicle about an FBI specialist who studies the subtleties of the face (OF THE FACE) is clever, compelling and well drawn. I’m not sure about the addition of Mekhi Phifer’s character, but we’ll see how it works out next season, especially with Shield creator Shawn Ryan at the helm of season two.

Life

This cancellation reallllly hurts. One of the unsung gems from the 2007-2008 television, this, the smartest network cop show in recent memory, took its great season one energy and hit the second season with all it had and came up with a compelling, hilarious, devilishly clever and gleefully violent run that was only marred by a major cast shift during the final few episodes. (I’m looking at you, Gabrielle Union. Your presence was what I like to call a massive failure.) A Zen-obsessed cop recently released from prison after serving over a decade for a murder he did not commit, this show had the best cases of them all. It also gave me one of my favorite hours of television of the year in an episode that revolved around a seductive assassin, fertilizer and pigeon aficionados. And at least the major serialized storyline (who framed Damien Lewis and why) got paid off in a major way thanks to the ever-reliable Garret Dillahunt.

lifeshot

My Boys

Putting PJ and Bobby together was a great idea, but your nine-episode seasons are too short to gain any momentum, and the spring training season finale was a bust.

Nitro Circus

Moronic glee.

Numb3rs

Man, did they put Charlie through the ringer. First, he nearly gets his brother killed with a miscalculation on his part, he questions his own validity as a mathematician and then Amita gets kidnapped just as he decides that he wants to marry her. Otherwise, another fine, if somewhat uneventful, of this show that never captured the glory of its über-nerdy first season. Also, thanks for all the great guest star work, but sometimes it gets laid on a little too thick, such as in “Sneakerhead” which brought together Bruno Campos, Patrick Bauchau, Dr. Edison from Bones and Eve. (And points for making the Liz Warner character actually bearable. I fucking hated her in season 4.

Privileged

So apparently the CW thought that their best idea ever was to get rid of this show, the smartest show on the UPN/WB merger since the Buffyverse, one that was technically pulling in bigger numbers than 90210, one that was a delight to watch and deeply addictive, and make room for what is sure to be one of 2009-2010’s worst new offerings, Melrose Place. I gotta tell ya, this cancellation hurts. While I wrote recaps and reviews of the episodes way into its freshman (and only) season, the looming axe, as well as a more heavily serialized structure, turned me off from writing on the final stretch of episodes, and I told myself that I’d only recap them if the show came back. Lo and behold, another Joanna Garcia vehicle has gone down the tubes. I’ll miss you oh so dearly, Ms. Too-Smart-For-The-CW Palm Beach satirical melodrama known as Privileged.

I hate to say this, guys, but I think Robert Buckley might be a showkiller. And that's sad, because he's so damn pretty.

I hate to say this, guys, but I think Robert Buckley might be a showkiller. And that's sad, because he's so damn pretty.

Rescue Me

I thought it was a great season, and thanks to an extended number of episodes (it didn’t air in 2008 thanks to the writer’s strike), the show was able to focus much of its energy on pages-long dialogue-happy battle-of-wits in nearly episode, which to be is melodrama heaven. Gone is the maudlin tone, returned is all the comic energy, and the stories seem to actually progress instead of just flopping around like a dying fish. Leary and Tolan deserve major praise for bringing the show back up to snuff. And now having seen all of Newsradio, I love any chance I get to watch Maura Tierney, although I’m still not going to watch ER. (I am proud to have only seen three episodes of that show ever, being a Chicago Hope fan.) Special shot-out to the Sean cancer storyline, if only to allow Broadway actor Steven Pasquale (husband of Tony winner Laura Benanti) the opportunity to belt out some songs in a handful of hallucination scenes.

Samantha Who?

One of the biggest upsets of the last two years was the rise and fall of this light-hearted, occasionally gut-busting amnesia sitcom that started off the talk of the town, only to waste away its final episodes after the conclusion of the actual television season. Ending on a shitty cliffhanger (Sam’s parents are getting divorced, so Mom is going to live with you and your formerly-estranged-but-now-love-of-your-life lover), we nevertheless found out who caused the accident that brought about Sam’s amnesia, Jennifer Esposito finally made it with the towel boy, and Melissa McCarthy continued to be one of the brightest stars of the year.

Scrubs

Like Privileged, I hesitated to continue writing due to the threat of its cancellation, but now it’s continuing on into yet another season (albeit with some major changes), so I really have no reason to stop writing about it. But let’s just say that while the hurry-up to conclude its many disparate storylines often felt rushed (those two Bahama episodes felt especially odd), the conclusion to J.D.’s years-in-the-telling tale was a lovely way to conclude the season. (No props for the awful awful Peter Gabriel song that accompanied his final walk down the hallway, as laughably bad as it was when I heard it in the remake of Shall We Dance?)

The Shield

I don’t have to tell you how amazing the final season was. Watch it. Seriously. You owe it to yourself to experience one of the hardest hitting cop shows of all time. Like The Wire, a Greek tragedy hammered into modern-day policework with some of the most finely drawn characters around. And oh man, did those final three episodes pack a major punch. Ouch, indeed.

Southland

Quite a bit like The Shield, really, had it followed Michael Jace’s beat cop instead of the Strike Team. A little too dour at times for me to really give a crap, and the sprawling ensemble needs to be cut down (which is what I hear it’s doing for the second season), but this L.A.-centered procedural has a lot going for it, not least of which its pitch-perfect direction. (I especially dig the long shots, including my favorite, which involved a cabin and a K9 unit bringing down a perp.)

Way better than dating Marissa Cooper.

Way better than dating Marissa Cooper.

Surviving Suburbia

A sitcom in serious need of finding one tone and sticking with it, this sometimes-sweet-sometimes-brutally-cruel suburban comedy worked as well as it did because of Saget as well as G. Hannelius’ performance as the precocious daughter. Still, all the jokes about disabled people, pregnant teenagers and strip clubs really didn’t mesh together with the clichés of the genre.

Survivor: Tocantins

I love Survivor, but this was one of the most boring seasons in its ten-year run. I don’t think I gave a shit about one person, and I simply couldn’t find anything compelling to write about. A waste of a good location.

True Beauty

The right person won, the losers got (mostly) schooled in this trick show designed to expose the douchery involved in modeling, Ashton Kutcher made another heroin-like show, and I concern myself for months with how they can pull the trick off a second time in the next season.

The Unusuals

When grading a cop show, I tend to focus on three things — the tone, the characters and the cases. A bizarre, pessimistic yet comedic take on all those wacky cops we’ve seen throughout the years all thrown together (one is deathly afraid of…death, one has a brain tumor, one talks in the third person, one is a closeted socialite, etc.) pushed into some remarkably dark territory, The Unusuals had tone and characters down pat, but suffered at the hands of some DOA storylines. But oh man, did the tone ever make up for most of the show’s shortcomings. Great ensemble cast, too, although I would have recast Eddie Alvarez.

Rather unusual.

Rather unusual.

Worst Week

A breezy and often hilarious slapstick comedy based off of a British hit, it could never regain its momentum after moving away from the initial “week” of the title. Kyle Bornheimer is a true find and made the more unbearable misunderstandings and embarrassing moments of the show (of which there were many) all the more palatable. I’m not the biggest fan of comedy based around humiliations, but this show found a likeable ability to have its characters not completely despise each other at every moment. This was, to say the least, very refreshing. Big points for giving me the biggest network TV laugh of the year (when Bornheimer wakes up his brother-in-law only to be thought a murderer) but major negative points for pushing back a major character-based episode into a weekend spot months after the show had already ended its run.

The Wife:

And another season of The Amazing Race comes to an end, this time in Maui. Tammy and Victor would have had a pretty good lead, if it weren’t for the fact that the airport became the great equalizer for this leg of the race, as each team found out they had to line up at 6 a.m. to get tickets to Maui and not a moment before. Once on the islands, they hit the ground running to get to Beach Access 118, where each team had to prepare a pig for a luau and carry it 200 yards to the luau site, as well as properly prepare it for cooking.

I was really surprised at how difficult teams found it to carry pigs, which typically weigh about 230 lbs before slaughter, and presumably less without entrails. Now, I’m not saying I could do that on my own, but between two people, I imagine it wouldn’t be as hard as it looked like it was for these teams to accomplish. Margie and Luke were the only ones who carried theirs like anyone who has every carried a heavy object before (with the poles over their shoulders, as to better balance the weight on their torsos rather than in the limbs). Jaime, as expected, grew angry with Cara for dropping the pig repeatedly, whereas Victor turned his frustration into encouragement for his sister. Because encouraging people to do stuff usually makes them want to do stuff more than yelling at them.

Youre honestly telling me these girls were never in 4H? I am SHOCKED!

You're honestly telling me these girls were never in 4H? I am SHOCKED!

Once the pigs were delivered to the luau sites and the cooking scenarios properly prepared, teams headed out to McGregor Point, where they swam out to some waiting jetskis and searched a buoy field for submerged clues, which lead them to their Road Block at the surfboard fence along the Hana Highway.

There, one person from each team had to reconstruct the race based on pictures on vintage surfboards. Luke and Margie were the first to get there and Luke was very eager to do something for his mom for once. I wanted him to do well, too, because it was easy to tell that he had a lot to prove. He was also very prepared, as he said before the challenge that he’d regularly reviewed things they saw in each leg of the race when they got to the each pit stop. He did really well, actually, nailing every single leg in order . . . except for the last two in Beijing, which he had so much trouble remembering that it allowed Victor, who got there significantly later, to surpass him. (I appreciated both gentlemen stripped down to their undies to do the challenge, though, as television generally needs more skinny man thigh.) Victor also had a really good strategy of grabbing anything he knew he needed and piling it up before trying to discern the order, which ultimately meant less back and forth from the pile, thus saving a little bit of time and energy.

They may not have won, but at least they got to ride jetskis.

They may not have won, but at least they got to ride jetskis.

Once Jaime got there, she immediately freaked out and complained about not recognizing any of the images on the surfboards (which was the point, to throw in irrelevant things to confuse people like Jaime), but she eventually got the hang of it. She, too, had trouble finding one last surfboard and after Victor left and both remaining teams realized they’d lost, she and Luke worked together to solve each other’s missing piece problem. Jaime technically finished first when Luke showed her the St. Christopher surfboard, and Cara had to remind her huffy friend to help Luke, who spent so much time on his own trying to figure out that the Reflexology surfboard should have been in the 10th position only to completely blank on the fact that the last leg of the race involved eating scorpions on a stick.

Luke was visibly upset that he’d failed to remember everything on the race, and I was pretty sad for him as well. I know that he can be very needy and childish sometimes, but that’s what made me root for him in this challenge, because I wanted him to show everyone that he can do things on his own, without his mother’s help. Even Jaime was upset that she’d fucked up, and then she and Cara came in second place on the mat, she put all the blame on herself. Not on the taxi driver who got lost on the Hana Highway. Not Cara, who dropped the pig repeatedly. But on herself. And that’s pretty big of her.

Not required to win TAR: pants.

Not required to win TAR: pants.

I am very glad that Tammy and Victor won, though, as they learned how to communicate with one another over the course of the race and I think their relationship has only improved through their participation in a 3-week race around the world.

The Husband:

Don’t worry, friends. I’m pretty damn sure that Margie and Luke will be invited back for the next All Stars race. It’d be stupid not to. I would perhaps give them up to see Mike White and his father again, but I have a feeling that a.) Mike’s schedule doesn’t clear out very often, and b.) I don’t know if Mel could go through this again.

But no, do not invite Kisha and Jen. The Amazing Race does a good job of not rewarding assholes, for the most part, and that’d be sending out the wrong message. While Jeff Probst often tries to battle the network and his producers on making Survivor a more honest show, it’s still a competition of lying and backstabbing, so that goes with the territory. But TAR is almost entirely based on the effort and cooperation of two human beings, and that’s what makes it fascinating, exciting and, in the end, very uplifting. I was definitely pulling for Margie and Luke, but am 100% glad that such a positive team made it through to win the big prize. Not only were they great competitors, but they were good people. And that’s why this show works so well.

That, and Phil’s eyebrow.

And yes, keep making the final challenge related to the entire race. They didn’t really start doing this in its complete form until the Family Season (shudder) and is a great symbol to the show’s quest to make Americans less xenophobic. (See? The show is educational, too!)

The Wife:

With no time to enjoy their victory for coming in first on the last leg of the race, Jaime and Cara headed up the second half of this double-length leg. Teams were first sent to a local street mall to find heir next clue, which asked them to search through several stores to find the Travelocity gnome, which they would have to carry with them for the rest of the race. I sincerely enjoyed the gnome sitting atop a mannequin (where its head should have been) in a clothing store, as well as the gnome sitting in a bag of nuts, wearing a tiny paper chef’s hat.

Margie and Luke and Tammy and Victor were close on the girls’ heels, and with gnomes in hand the teams headed off to Gu Gon Xi Bei Jao to get electric bikes and transport themselves beyond the Forbidden City and through Tiananmen Square where they received their Detour. Teams could either take a stab at Chinese Opera or play Chinese Waiter in a local restaurant.

  1. In Chinese Opera, teams had to go to the opera house and paint each other with the traditional operatic facepaint for a princess and a gentleman and don the correct costumes in order to receive their next clue.
  2. In Chinese Waiter, teams had to go to a nearby restaurant, take orders in Mandarin and turn those orders into the chef. When the orders given were correct, the chef would then cook the dishes and teams would deliver them to their customers.
Mom, Im sorry Im not a girl, okay?

Mom, I'm sorry I'm not a girl, okay?

As any sane person would, any team that didn’t already know how to speak Mandarin chose the opera challenge and spent time putting on makeup and clothing. Margie got a little upset with the way Luke was doing her makeup (see title of episode), but the Chinese opera workers didn’t care that it wasn’t perfect and eventually Luke told his mother to stop fighting him just because he was never taught how to put on makeup as a kid. (Frankly, for all Margie’s coddling, I am surprised Luke doesn’t know how to do his mom’s makeup.) Kisha decided that she got to be the princess, because she sees herself as the least feminine of the two, while her sister wore the gentlemen’s makeup. Rightfully, Jaime also chose the princess makeup, because she is princess of people who yell at cabbies . . . especially cabbies who take her to the wrong opera house because the only instructions she gave them involved singing horrible scales in his general direction.

Meanwhile, Tammy and Victor took on the Chinese Waiter challenge and got through it faster than anyone working on the makeup challenge. They mispronounced one order, turning Good Luck Fish into Good Luck Squid, and had to restart, but still managed to make it to the U-Turn site before anyone else and U-Turned Kisha and Jen, which was totally the right move.

The opera teams all had trouble finding the U-Turn site, even though it was in the costume museum of the opera house all along. They wandered around for, if Jaime is to be believed, three hours trying to find the location before Margie and Luke struck off on their own and found it to see that they hadn’t been U-Turned. From there, it was on to a local street market where teams faced a Road Block in which they hate to eat deep fried Chinese delicacies such as scorpion, starfish, cricket and larvae. Victor totally powered through those less-than-ideal meals and he and his sister headed off to the Pit Stop at Niao Chao, The Bird’s Nest, long before everyone else, taking first place, a spot in the finale and a trip to the Galapagos Islands.

So, that was Monthly Use Taiwanese Chicken to go, right?

So, that was Monthly Use Taiwanese Chicken to go, right?

When Kisha and Jen found that they’d been U-Turned, they took it in stride and headed off to the restaurant to attempt the second half of their Detour. Let me just give you a list of reasons why this was my favorite part of the episode, watching people with no knowledge of how tone languages function woefully mispronounce things. Here are some of the dishes that would have been made if Kisha and Jen ran a Chinese restaurant:

Monthly Use Taiwanese Chicken (my next Guitar Hero band)

Good Western Heads Lack Fish (it’s true, at least they should lack fish)

Oil Comes Again to Please the Mouth (ummm . . .)

Good Doll Basket Drum

Light Competition Red Dishes I’ve Played Before (my next album)

But the most interesting thing here is that Kisha and Jen managed to succeed at this challenge before Cara and Jaime even found the U-Turn site, rendering a tense competition for last place, as Margie and Luke were well on their way toward eating yucky fried bugs and such. In fact, Kisha and Jen managed to get to the street market first, but Jen ate her share of the buggits so slowly that Cara was able to catch up by eating quicker. And then there was the problem of Jen’s bladder. In addition to eating slowly, she downed roughly four bottles of water during the process and by the time they reached the Bird’s Nest, she seriously had to pee, allowing Jaime and Cara to check in at the mat before them. Another contributing factor to Kisha and Jen’s loss was probably the fact that they were dropped off at a different part of the Olympic compound, rather than right in front of the Bird’s Nest.

Nonetheless, I’m glad they’re gone. I don’t care for Jaime and Cara, either, but even though Jaime’s mean to cabbies, she’s not mean to other players. And besides, Jen never would have made it through the variety of water challenges lined up for the Maui finale. So perhaps its best that her bladder did her in.

The Husband:

TARheads out there, answer me this: has anybody in the history of this show done themselves in as a result of their bladder? Because I can’t think of one. Bickering, poor communication skills, stupidity, bad sense of direction; these are all regular TAR excuses for ending up in last place, but having to pee might be the dumbest one so far. I know that terrible feeling one gets with an extra-full bladder, like you are about to explode. But this is for 1 million dollars, and no way in hell am I letting my bladder get the best of me. Even if that meant peeing as I ran and forever being known as “that guy who peed his pants on CBS primetime,” I would do it. And it’s not like she was in danger of getting a bladder infection within that, I presume, one hour between the food and the pit stop. (If it was less than an hour, then I’m even more confused.)

I also really hope that those were the actual translations for whatever it was Jen and Kisha were saying, and that Bertram Van Munster wasn’t just throwing in random words into the subtitles. Because it’s very likely that the pair weren’t saying words at all, like that homeless man on the sidewalk who wants your fingernails. But I still hope above all hope that the Chinese chef was seriously pondering the statements they were presumably making. “Why yes, oil does come, quite often, and pleases my mouth. Thank you for noticing.”

The Wife:

Wow. Just . . . wow. This episode of The Amazing Race was one of the most painful things I’ve ever had to watch. And I am not talking about that near-torture foot massage participants had to face for their Road Block once they got to Beijing, but because Kisha and Jen were so bad in the water. Also surprising: Tammy and Victor aren’t very strong swimmers, which I find hard to believe, because they’re from the Bay Area and I’ve never met a person up here that doesn’t know how to swim. But at least Tammy and Victor didn’t need to wear life vests in eight-foot deep water or drag themselves down the lane lines as a means of conveyance. Seriously, there is nothing sadder than seeing two grown women don life vests in a pool.

Why swimming? Because the most recent Olympiad was held in Bejing, where Michael Phelps won his eight gold medals and the folks at TAR thought it would be cool to dress the teams up in his special shark LZR Speedo and make them swim the very pool in which he swam. But that was only the “Swim” half of the “Sync or Swim” Detour. The other half explored something that the host country of China had more prowess at: synchronized diving, in which teams had to perfect a synchronized dive and score a 5 from both judges.

Tammy and Victor and Jen and Kisha tried the dives first, but no one could figure out that the reason they were never scoring higher than a four is because they couldn’t keep their damn feet together and pointed down when they entered the water. So, eventually, both teams gave up on the dives and faced the lap pool, in which they had to complete two legs of a 400-meter relay, switching off with their partner. No one had to beat Phelps’ superhuman time, but we at home were allowed to see a comparison between the racer’s time and Phelps. That dude can swim 100 meters in under a minute. It took Jaime and Cara and Margie and Luke – all pretty good swimmers – just under 3 minutes per 100 meters.

There’s no real point in counting how long it took Tammy and Victor, or Jen and Kisha, because failing at the dive put both teams really far behind and their own fears and insecurities only put them even further behind frontrunners Margie and Luke and Jaime and Cara.

Trust me, girls, synchronized diving is harder than doing the backstroke.

Trust me, girls, synchronized diving is harder than doing the backstroke.

I realize that Jen’s fear of the water is actually quite a paralyzing fear, and I don’t want to make fun of something that causes someone so much anxiety, but somewhere in her, she had to realize that no one would let her die on national television. Dude, Salome didn’t even know how to breathe underwater on Make Me a Supermodel and she worked it out. She even learned how to stay submerged for an extended period of time. And were there stipulations that said the swimmers had to do a certain stroke on each part of the relay? Why couldn’t Jen have simply done the backstroke the whole way down, thus completely avoiding putting her head underwater and negating any fear that she’d forget how to breathe (or, you know, not breathe the water) and drown?  I just have so much trouble understanding the thought process that leads to a paralyzing fear of drowning.

But, hey, she got through it eventually, and it’s a double-length leg, which means all the more craziness next week as Cara and Jaime fight to keep their top spot!

The Husband:

Jen had clearly seen this terrifying clip from Jaws.

Seriously, though, it’s a pool, not the ocean, and the only thing that’s going to make you drown is yourself. Human bodies goddamn float, so even if you have your face down in the water, guess what? You liiiiiiiiift your heeeeeeeeeeeead above the water. With underwater cameramen there for protection in only five feet of water TOPS, there is no way anything at all is going to happen. Anxiety is one thing. Losing your common sense is another. Water is malleable. That’s the whole damn point of it.

I. Just. Don’t. Get. It. Swimming is the easiest thing in the world. If, for instance, her brother died in the tub I could understand some kind of anxiety, but we were given no clichéd movie-style explanation of anything like that. So I just chalk it up to ultimate fail.

The Wife:

Even America’s Next Top Model knows that The Amazing Race is the best fucking reality competition program on television, and you should all tune in to see hunky Phil Koeghan tell you about the world while forcing teams of two to complete totally weird and random tasks that marginally teach both the racers and viewers about the cultures of the countries they’re visiting. Actually, I totally wish Tyra could have gotten Phil to pop up to announce ANTM‘s very, very easy version of TAR. Phil knows a lot about fashion. Here, listen to him talk about how much he loves Russian boots (complete with techno soundtrack!).

So after boarding that ANTM standard aircraft with the models’ heads photoshopped into the windows, the girls arrived in Brazil and were greeted by Fernanda Motta, host of Brazil’s Next Top Model, who would later appear on judging panel and prompt Tyra to proclaim that a version of ANTM appears in over 120 countries. When she said that, I expected one of the modelettes to pipe up, wide-eyed (but not as wide-eyed as the Lemur) and say, “Really, Tyra? I didn’t even know there were that many countries in the world!” Because that’s generally the kind of idiocy exhibited on Top Model. And, hell, with the way Natalie was acting in this episode, I am now completely shocked that such a statement didn’t come out of her mouth. But I’ll get to that later!

First, Fernanda told the girls about the origin of that ubiquitous piece of MuZak “The Girl from Ipanema,” heard in elevators and piano lounges across the land. It’s based on a real person, model Helo Pinhiero, and if the girls completed their shoddy version of TAR, they would meet the legend that inspired the song. Lemur did not disappoint me at all when she expressed her disbelief that she would meet someone who inspired a famous song, because that’s as close to actual fame as she’ll ever come. Other than Tyra, of course.

Fernanda told the girls to pair up, sent them to their cabs and made them race to a flower shop to find Helo’s favorite flower, which just so happens to be the Bird of Paradise. They then raced to a park where, once all of the teams arrived, a band broke out into an appropriately MuZak-y rendition of “The Girl from Ipanema” and Helo descended the staircase in some strange, swishy white terrycloth pants, dancing to her song – all to tell the girls in her delightfully Charo-esque accent that the song was inspired by the way she move her hips like zees and to give them the keys to their new home in Sao Paulo! Not like it really matters, but Fo and Natalie technically won the race because they delivered Helo’s flowers first, which won them the strangest prize I have ever seen: baskets of Swarovski crystal-encrusted Havania flip flips.

Um, what?

Look, I realize that ANTM apparently doesn’t have a budget this year, what with their sad confetti celebration last week where they couldn’t even afford a costume for that poor nude male model, and that whatever budget they did have went to getting a new ANTM travel map graphic for the photoshopped plane sequence (to make it look slightly more TAR-ish), but giving someone a basket of $30 and under shoes, “classed up” with garish bedazzling just to make them more expensive is not a prize. The phrase “polishing a turd” comes to mind. They’re in fucking Brazil, home of amazing shoe designers – why not throw some limited edition Gabrielle Rocha their way? Ah, because that would be a real prize, not at all befitting a totally perfunctory competition such as the Amazing Model Race.

Natalie expects their new house and spends most her time complaining that they don’t have a pool. Aminat then complains about her, because Aminat is a hater, but it turns out that pretty much no one likes Natalie, which is fine by me. The first Correlo de Tyra arrives, reading: “Fight or flight? You better give me both.” And the girls are ferried off to the location of their teach/challenge involving the Brazilian martial art of capoiera, a word I had been trying to think of since I saw the preview last week where Celia kicked Aminat in her hater head. Thank you, Top Model, for solving this mystery for me. I park near someone at BART that has a “capoierista” sticker on her car, and I have been wondering what that is for the longest time. Now I know to never fuck up that girl’s car, because she will kick me in the head just like Celia did to Aminat. Clearly, I find that action so amusing that I could watch it over and over and over again.

Celia, kicking ass and taking names.

Celia, kicking ass and taking names.

After the girls learned a few moves, they were taken to meet the Js and photographer Paschoal Rodriguez, who asked them to utilize the fighting skills they had just learned in their modeling. The winner of this challenge would receive 50% more frames in their next photo shoot . . . frames that would be stolen from another girl. Teyona kind of forgot there was a camera that she was supposed to model for and delivered a photo in which she actually looked like a turtle. Celia looked like she was doing well in the shoot, but blocked her face in every shot. Fo and Allison looked the most model-fighter in their shots, while Natalie basically did the can-can. Amina looked tough, but, unfortunately, can’t make a good face in a photo to save her life. Thus, Fo was awarded the win, and, in retribution for not being chosen for the Seventeen shoot last week, stole half of Teyona’s frames for their upcoming shoot, thus officially driving a deep rift between the two girls.

Corrello de Tyra Numero Dos appeared and informed the girls that “tomorrow, you will enjoy the fruits of your labor.” And that very next day they were taken to a favela, a poor neighborhood in Sao Paulo where they would inexplicably dress like Carmen Miranda and try to embody her in a fashionable way in the shoot. Natalie got all uppity about being in Brazil’s version of the ghetto, which made me want to punch the bitch in the face. When you are lucky enough to be able to shoot on location, you do not complain about what that location is. You work there, do your job, and go sleep in your comfortable hotel room at night. Furthermore, this favela was nowhere near as impoverished as any neighborhood visited on The Amazing Race. Every year, the racers end up in some off the grid part of India or somewhere in Africa where children play in mounds of trash and families live in shelters made of found materials. This favela was nothing like that. In fact, I’d say it was cleaner and nicer-looking than some low-income neighborhoods in the Bay Area. Racers on TAR are always moved by poverty, and it either makes them grateful for everything they have, or deeply sad that they’re around people who have nothing. Celia expressed that she felt this way, but not Natalie. All that girl could see was that the neighborhood she was in wasn’t nearly as nice as her cozy home of Palos Verdes, California.

You are not in the suburbs anymore, honey.

You are not in the suburbs anymore, honey.

Natalie’s complaints aside, I myself don’t really understand why the girls were dressing as Carmen Miranda in a favela. First of all, Carmen Miranda was born in Portugal and emigrated to Rio, not Sao Paulo. Secondly, I can’t find anything that indicates she grew up in poverty. Her dad owned a barber shop, which to me would indicate that they were pretty securely middle class. In short, this shoot didn’t really make any sense, but it looked pretty, and that’s the whole point, right?

Tyra stole two babies and a pineapple this week for her Guide to Finding Your Inner Fierceness commercial for nothing, and she rambled something to these adorable babies about pursuing your dreams and, when you do, your dreams will bear fierce fruit. So . . . like . . . a cherymoya? Or a durian? Those fruits are pretty fierce, and I definitely do not want my dreams or any other part of myself to bear them. I really think Tyra is rapidly advancing toward a point of complete deconstruction as each week she shows me signs of language breaking down. This show is turning into a David Lynch movie. Next week, I bet those tiny kidnapped babies will be dancing the samba across Tyra’s screaming, crying Naomi Watts-esque visage to a swing track about inner fierceness. Just you wait. It’s going to happen.

In other news, the Brazilian judging room hurts my eyes because it’s so goddamn bright, and I think I went completely blind in my right eye when Miss J’s plaid bowtie entered the frame. On to judgment!

  • Aminat: Paulina complimented her on how luscious her skin looked this week, which she said was because she got some sun, which prompted Tyra to immediately get into mommy mode and warn her against getting too much sun. Aminat interpreted this as Tyra saying that she didn’t want the girl to get any more chocolatey, but Tyra told her it was for her health. I’m glad Tyra cares about skin cancer, which is exactly why she should have me on the damn show! Or at least on The Tyra Show. I’d go on that, especially if I were sharing my airtime with a segment involving trannies. Anyway, Aminat’s picture was declared just okay because she was doing Black Girl Model Pose 101. She continued her stank-ass attitude, though, telling Tyra and the judges that she was doing more during the shoot than what she actually did, at which point Tyra rolled her eyes and Paulina informed her that she is beautiful, but boring.
  • Natalie: Totally blasé photograph in which she looks exhausted. Fernanda tells her she’s missing her spark, and Natalie proceeds to blame her bad photograph on Mr. Jay’s direction. This is a lie, because Mr. Jay actually knows what he’s doing, and Natalie does not.
  • Celia: Tragically, Celia’s photo was really flat this week. Her body looked great, but her face didn’t.
  • Lemur Allison: The Lemur totally and completely rocked this shoot. She was cute, fun, sexy and sassy. She embodied Carmen Miranda without being too literal and gave good face.
Baruch a ta ai dios mio!

Baruch a ta ai dios mio!

  • Fo: Mr. Jay’s take from the shoot was, “It was Carmen Miranda. On crack. As a drag queen.” Nigel’s opinion, on the other hand, was, “Very cute, but it’s as if someone’s done a remake of a Carmen Miranda film.” Either way, that means it’s an actressy photo, not a modely one. And that’s not great.
  • Teyona: Tyra hates the nightie she wore to panel, but thinks she looked sassy in her shot. It’s not very Carmen Miranda, but it is editorial. Tyra then reminded everyone that Teyona had 25 fewer frames than everyone else and delivered this great of a shot, which was impressive. Not impressive? That Tyra actually said Teyona had 25 less frames, further contributing to English speakers’ general confusion between fewer and less, and making me roll my eyes.


Callouts! Lemur, Teyona, Fo and Celia, leaving my two least favorite models in the bottom two. Stank-ass Aminat was given one more chance, although I’m not sure why, and Natalie was sent home, which is fine, because she’s a horrible person and a horrible model. She may have great legs, but I think she should look into a career as a porn star, because she constantly looks like she’s on coke already, so it really wouldn’t be that much of a stretch for her.

The Husband:

My wife told me I should write the following, as it relates to modeling shows on television, despite the fact that it has nothing to do with ANTM.

Two nights ago, I couldn’t get to sleep, so I rummaged through Comcast’s OnDemand function to grab some short three-minute segments. The best are usually provided by either MTV (they have a collection of Jackass short features, for instance) or G4, a channel designed for that ADD-ridden guy with a lisp and a penchant for anime who works a few cubicles down from you. I chose “Cutting Edge,” then “G4,” then chose the “Gears & Girls” section, because I thought hey, since I’m going to sleep soon, it might be a good idea to ogle some PG-13 bikini-clad women so I could have good dreams…uhm…of my wife! (Yeah…that’s the ticket!)

The three-minute feature was called “Superbabes” or something, which was pretty much just that week’s top 10 internet “hotties.” (Disappointingly, only one of them was actually dressed like a superhero.) When the countdown got to #3, I did a double-take. Why, it’s my beloved Lucia Dvorska.

Superbabe? Indeed.

Superbabe? Indeed.

Who is this gorgeous Slovak model? She was a contestant on the stellar TLC series A Model Life with Petra Nemcova, an eight-episode series that aired its final episode almost two years ago at the end of August, 2007. In it, Czech supermodel Petra Nemcova took six various models from around the world and put them through a bout of fashion model training. There was no competition, so technically, as my wife pointed out, there were no “winners,” but three got to do a final shoot in the Bahamas, and another (Angelika, obnoxiously pronounced with the emphasis on the “lik”) definitely ended up as the sole “loser” and was not allowed the final prize given to all the other models – representation by NEXT Modeling – because of her piss-poor attitude, her fighting with the judges and her complete hatred for the modeling industry.

Five of the girls were damn good in various ways, but Lucia, especially, was not only drop-dead gorgeous but seemingly a delight to work with. Despite some competition, especially from Beatrice (the Brazilian minor who was waaaay too young to look so sexy), Lucia was the obvious stand-out, even if some of the judges worried about her weight. (As usual, she didn’t really have weight problem…at all…but looked like an actual woman.)

The next day, I went through the IMDB page of A Model Life, chased a couple links, and found that not only was Lucia now represented by Elite, she was actually in the very Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition that was sitting on my coffee table. (I don’t read SI, and I haven’t really perused the issue, but my wife certainly has.) Lo and behold, there’s that beauty, nearly two years later, from a TLC show that nobody seemed to have watched, doing better than almost every single contestants on ANTM, completely rocking one of America’s most well-known photo shoots. And her online gallery is even better.

(This is where my wife will post a pretty ridiculous picture of Lucia with some wildlife, so I hope she can also find the “other” picture that we can both agree on. She knows which one I’m talking about.)

Nothing says Top Model quite like carrying an ittle wittle lamby wamby in a bikini!

Nothing says Top Model quite like carrying an ittle wittle lamby wamby in a bikini!

Success can come from modeling television shows, and it doesn’t even have to be from a buzzed-about Tyra product. Being a good model, listening to critique, having a good onset demeanor and being an all-around good person does pay off, so let that be a lesson to, say, ANTM’s Sandra or Natalie, who did nothing but hate and bicker. Despite what Janice Dickenson may seem to promote, being a cruel soul can only take you so far. And now, the pleasant Slovak girl, described as a “newcomer” by G4, is the envy of many.

I totally failed when I posted this before, because this is the photo my husband wanted me to post. He liked it because her boobs looked nice. I liked it because I thought she had nice lines. Either way, suck it, CW.

I totally failed when I posted this before, because this is the photo my husband wanted me to post. He liked it because her boobs looked nice. I liked it because I thought she had nice lines. Either way, suck it, CW.

Suck on that, CW.

The Wife:

I missed last week’s TAR because I was having my own mini-version in the Pacific Northwest as I took a two-night trip up to Seattle to visit my soon-to-be home for graduate study. The experience was not comparable to TAR in any way other than I saw a part of a city in a day and was shuffled from place to place competing tasks such as meeting with professors, getting coffee or sitting in on a seminar during which a fire drill occurred. That was probably the most TAR-ish part, actually.

While I was in Seattle, the racers spent another leg in Thailand, flying from Phuket to Bangkok, where they had to taxi themselves to a boat yard to get their first clue. Jaime cemented my hatred of her by being completely mean and insulting to cab drivers. I’m sorry, bitch, but not everyone on the planet speaks English, nor do they want to. Just fucking learn to be patient and stop adopting the attitude that someone is less intelligent than you because they don’t speak your language. Seriously, if I were traveling with Jaime, I’d have punched her pretty little face about eight times by now because there is never a part of the race where she isn’t mean to cabbies.

Once at the boat yard, teams faced a Road Block in which one team member must attach a propeller to a long-tail boat. If done correctly, they would get a clue that would lead them to sail across the lake to their next destination. And this is where everything got totally fucked up for two of the five teams. Only Margie and Luke and Cara and Jaime had the foresight to bring their bags from their cab to the dock, just in case they weren’t returning to their cab. Once Tammy and Victor realized they were going to motor across the lake, they took the time to redock their boat and grab their things. Kisha and Jen and Mark and Michael didn’t think to do either of those things, with Kisha and Jen even leaving their passport and money bag on the dock and not turning around to get it. The part that truly baffles me about this is that it was a Road Block, so only one person was aboard the boat attaching the rudder, while the other sat on the docks. Why didn’t that other teammate grab their stuff and bring it aboard? It’s not like they didn’t have the time!

After that set-up for disaster, the teams eventually found their way to a Detour:

  1. Broken Teeth, in which they would search through 50 sets of dentures to find matches for five patients
  2. Broken Record, in which they would join a party taxi with three local ladies and sing the same karaoke song over and over until they reached their destination.


Straight up, I would totally have gone to sing karaoke with Thai ladyboys. Oh yes, as Kisha and Jen realized but Mark and Michael never did, the Thai women they shared an intimate karaoke-fueled taxi ride with were, in fact, ladyboys, some of whom were much more beautiful and real than others, but all of whom were totally fabulous. I really do applaud the Thai for creating environments that welcome alternative genders and sexualities such as ladyboys. Recently, the government created a college just for them (similar to New York City’s Harvey Milk High School for LBGTQI kids) so that they could be themselves without feeling any potential pressure from factions of society that may not understand them. All of the teams seemed to be in agreement with me, except for Margie and Luke, who avoid things involving music and singing, for obvious reasons.

“I’m a bad singer, but he’s a really bad singer!” – Margie, on Luke’s inability to sing


So the mother and son decided to play with dentures, an activity described by Phil in the episode’s title as: “Rooting around in people’s mouths could be unpleasant.” Indeed. But Margie, being a nurse, was pretty fucking good at it. So good at it, in fact, that it got her and her son to the Pit Stop at Piya Thai Palace in first place, winning themselves a trip to Puerto Rico.

Mark and Michael got into some kind of row over whether or not to get their bags, and eventually decided to spend all of their remaining money to go back to their cab and get their bags before continuing on to the Detour. Sans cash, they had to barter their personal possessions to settle their cab bill. This would come back to bite them in the ass, as apparently you cannot barter your things for money on The Amazing Race? Surely, I thought they would have some penalties for not arriving at destinations by proper means (circumventing with cabs in place of feet or boats or whatnot), but apparently what I thought were mistakes weren’t and what I thought was totally okay totally wasn’t.

Jaime and Cara checked in in second place, followed by Kisha and Jen, who made it through on free cab rides from generous Thai people and, in Kisha’s case, without shoes. Phil couldn’t check them in, however, without their bags, so he sent them back to get them in a taxi. Officially, Tammy and Victor claimed third place. Mark and Michael then arrived and were penalized two hours for each instance of bartering, thus collecting a full four hours in penalties, which allowed Kisha and Jen to return and check in before them. Luckily, this was a non-elimination leg, so the wee stuntmen would have to wait out the remaining 3 hours and 10 minutes of their penalty at the beginning of the next leg, as well as complete a Speed Bump. Ouch. I mean, they made a really boneheaded move by forgetting their bags, but I had no idea you would be punished for bartering. Were Dandrew not punished in Russia last season because the cabbie decided not to take their shoes? I mean, where’s the consistency here?

For the next leg of the race, teams flew from Bangkok to Guilin, China and taxied to Qing Xiu Lu to find a hair salon where they would receive their next clue. Somehow, Kisha and Jen managed to get on their earliest flight out, putting them in the lead for this leg, while Cara and Jaime kept pace with Tammy and Victor by booking the same flight. I always end up liking the teams that have a second language in their arsenal, and it turns out that Tammy and Victor, like so many Chinese-American kids I know, were forced by their parents into Chinese school as children, and thus read, write and speak Mandarin. (Remember now much I loved Sarah, the Browbeaten Girlfriend of Terrance the Almighty Douchenozzle, just because she spoke Portuguese?) This definitely gave them a bit of an advantage on this leg of the race (summed up by Tammy as, “Now we know when our cab drivers don’t know where they’re going”), and smart teams stayed close to them to leech off of their knowledge.

Bitch, please!

Bitch, please!


In the previews for this episode, we knew that Jen and Luke were going to get into a major altercation at the clue box, and it was on like the break of dawn when Luke ran up to that clue box in front of the beauty salon and Jen slammed into him from behind. He put up his arm to block her, and she thought this was a “bitch move” so her sister said so, which really upset Margie and, when his mother later told him, Luke. What Jen has to remember is that Luke cannot hear her approaching, so when he put his arm up, it was just a natural reaction to someone you don’t know fucking grabbing you from behind. He wasn’t necessarily doing it to be mean or to keep her from the clue box. He was just doing what one does to protect oneself. So for Kisha to call Luke a bitch was definitely uncalled for in this situation.

From the salon, teams traveled to the #24 bridge, where they participated in a Road Block involving one of my fucking favorite things in the world: Cormorant Fishing. One teammate had to go out on the river and “train” the birds to retrieve thrown fishies. First of all, cormorants are ridiculous looking birds, and I love them for that alone. But I am also fond of cormorant fishing because there are so few people in the world that still practice it. In China, it used to be a profession that was passed down from generation to generation in the provinces where it is practiced. But as fewer and fewer children want to be fisherman for a living, there are now fewer and fewer cormorant fishers. I have some mixed feelings about the process used to train the birds (where their necks are tied with strings so that they can be brought back to the boat to deposit fish), but when the birds are trained, their handlers treat them very well and revere them. It’s kind of like using a hunting dog. And, like a hunting dog, the birdies might bite you, as they did to Luke. (By the way, props to the camera man who got the horror film shot of the bird approaching with venom in its beady little bird eyes. That right there deserves an Emmy.)

OMNOMNOMNOMNOMNOM!

OMNOMNOMNOMNOMNOM!


Before anyone could go out and play with the birdies, though, Jen had to go and be a bitch to Luke at the clue box again. He did run a little hard into her, but I think he was trying to beat her there and she just wedged herself in front of his momentum. She definitely pushed him away, though. And not defensively. And as though the bitch calling wasn’t enough, at this point Kisha announced that she planned to smile and laugh at them anytime the mother and son attempted to discuss the brewing conflict. Way to take the high road, Kisha.

After fishing with cormorants, teams headed to Ancient South Gate where they would face their Detour, involving two Chinese leisure pursuits of calligraphy and choreography.

  1. In Choreography, teams would join dancers in the park to learn and perform a choreographed ballroom dance routine. I immediately wished the local Chinese population did this in St. Mary’s Square instead of morning tai chi and afternoon games of go. It would be a lot more fun to watch, especially if random white people joined in and totally failed at dancing.
  2. In Calligraphy, teams had to visit four calligraphy stations in the park and copy the master’s brush strokes. If they copied them correctly, they would get a stamp. Four stamps got them their next clue.


Cheerleaders Jaime and Cara chose choreography, as learning choreography was basically their job for the entire time they were employed by the Miami Dolphins. Unfortunately, they totally failed at this challenge, leading Jaime to once again grow frustrated with people who don’t speak her language and flail her arms about screaming, “Does anyone speak English??” as though it were part of the routine she didn’t learn. Maybe you’re just losing your muscle memory, Jaime! Get your ass back to a dance class!

Luke being Deaf, Margie and her son chose to follow Tammy and Victor and Kisha and Jen to the calligraphy stations. I was a bit sad to learn that Tammy and Victor felt their Chinese writing was poor because, like every other Chinese-American kid I know, they totally didn’t pay attention in Chinese school. However, their spoken prowess was good enough to wheedle their way in front of the calligraphy master before all of the other teams and begged him to stamp them first. (Best tactic ever: “If we don’t win, our parents will cry themselves to death.”) It was smart of the other teams to follow Tammy and Victor in this case as each calligraphy station spelled out the Chinese name of their next location. All the easier to find those places with Tammy and Victor reading the names aloud, right? Much easier to ask someone for directions if you know how to pronounce the characters rather than trying to read the signs!

Once these teams completed all four calligraphy stations, they made their way to the Pit Stop at Banyan Lake, where they had to find the view depicted on the scroll handed to them by the calligraphy master. Kisha and Jen arrived at the mat first, winning a trip for two to Barbados, followed by Tammy and Victor and Margie and Luke, coming in third for the first time in the entire race. (Margie and Luke are always first or fourth, it seems.) As Phil ventured to ask these three teams about the pressure now that there are only a handfull of teams left in the game, Kisha and Jen smiled and pretended everything was copasetic, while Margie and Luke fiercely debated in ASL about bringing up their altercation with the sisters. I do not even fully know what to make of this situation, except that Kisha and Jen’s smiles and, yes, laughter at Margie and Luke really drove Margie over the edge. She took it as the sisters mocking her son’s strained speech. (Yes, when he’s angry, he does try to speak and, as you’d expect, it doesn’t go very well.) She lambasted them about how Luke has been made fun of his entire life for his Deafness and that they do not know what it’s like to be different. The girls rightly pointed out my astute observation that they have been Black their whole lives, and an angry Margie tried to explain how it was different to be disabled than it is to be non-white. Phil tried to ameliorate the situation by suggesting that, perhaps, the initial act of shoving at clue boxes had been misinterpreted (it had), but that didn’t really fix the problem.

Frankly, I do think Kisha and Jen are being dicks about the situation, and I feel for Margie. No mother wants to see her child hurt in any way, and I can definitely see that name-calling is especially hurtful to someone who isn’t hearing. But I really think the bigger problem in this situation is that, because of Luke’s Deafness and his bold refusal to learn to lip read, he has become completely dependent on and been overly coddled by his mother. He’s never really learned to fight his own battles or to simply ignore things that do not matter, like being called a name or accidentally pushed into something. This shouldn’t have been a big deal, but it became one.

Anyway, Cara and Jaime eventually figured out that their dance routine and checked in fourth at the mat, leaving super-duper behind Mark and Michael to be Phileminated.

Next week, Jen pulls a Salome and cries about having to swim! Will someone explain to me why water is scary? Because your body is, like, half water. So . . . yeah . . . totally not scary. Not scary at all. (Husband Note: More than half our body, woman!) (Wife’s Retort: Technically, yes, up to 60% of the body is water, but it varies from person to person. “Like, half” is accurate.)