HOT TAKE: Teen Mom OG – Bye Farrah

We need to address the elephant in the room straight away – Farrah Abraham is no longer filming with MTV. Sigh. We will no longer have the privilege, and IT IS a goddamn privilege make no mistake, to witness the successes of Farrah – wonder woman of teen mom who made MTV what it is today. She has respectfully began a Trump-style lawsuit against Teen Mom/MTV claiming abuse and harassment. GOD SHE IS THE FUCKING WORST. I’m sure MTV would much prefer to just settle with her out of court and be done with her but honestly, I have to fault MTV here. They encouraged this monster to grow and blossom into the harpy that she is today. When you see a weed in your garden you pull it, you don’t water it. MTV, this is yours to own regardless of how awful Farrah is.

Farrah crying
Protip: Don’t google Farrah gifs at work. You’re guaranteeing an uncomfortable conversation with HR.

With that addressed we can dive into last night’s action. We start off with Maci because you need to start off a good story with a positive note. Maci and Taylor are seemingly the most stable of the Teen Mom relationships outside of Chelsea and Cole. Side note: I just looked up how to spell Cole because I am a miserable speller and accuracy is important and I just discovered that they (Chelsea & Cole) are having their third kiddo! They’re more like Maci and Taylor than I thought! Each with 3 kids! Let’s be fair to Maci and Taylor and refocus on them now after that brief tangent. Taylor and clan welcome Maci back from Nicaragua with one of those heartwarming airport welcome scenes – think love actually (RIP Alan Rickman – Always). Apparently their clothing line TTM Lifestyle has been growing so much that Maci and Taylor needed to open a distribution warehouse in Jacksonville, FL. Really? I mean good for them. I want their business to succeed because they both seem like decent people but how does a company that makes different colored pocket squares with a super lame-o name grow that fast? Who wears this stuff outside of Tennessee? I don’t get it. Maybe I don’t get today’s fashion but I mean really? Taylor and Bentley are going to have a boys’ trip to Jacksonville to see the new facility and give Maci some time alone with Maverick and Jade.

Every time we see the goings on with Maci we need to visit Ryan to see what he’s up to for comparison. Ryan and Mackenzie are in the kitchen talking about their future and suddenly Ryan starts asking ‘Kenz about the possibility of another kid. STOP IT. Seriously? Ryan is recently sober and needs to make up for lost time with Bentley and he’s already braying about another kid? Mackenzie has a kid of her own, too. That’s two kids he needs to be a better father to right now! I get the desire to have a kid with your partner but maybe they should think about timing? There’s no such thing as good timing but I mean…maybe there is a such a thing as better timing? You think Ryan has gray hair now, just wait. He’s gonna go full Henry Bowers post seeing IT if he has another kid. The best laid plans of mice and men…

Henry Bowers
Ryan, after having his 3rd kid (technically 2nd but also sorta 3rd)

Back in Michigan Tyler is trying to keep things together while Catelynn does another stint in therapy to deal with her anxiety and depression. In the last episode Catelynn reveals that she considered every way she could kill herself and that scared her so badly that she knew she needed additional treatment. I’m glad she can recognize when she needs help but I also sincerely feel for Tyler at this point. Dude is always left holding the bag and it seems like his feelings are rarely considered – and it might be coming to a head.

Shifting to Amber we learn that Gary gave Amber permission to take boo-boo (Leah) to Florida for winter break with her new beaux, Andrew. It’s crazy to see how responsible Gary has become over the years, right? This is the same guy that spent their last $400 on a PlayStation 2 because he felt like it. Never mind he had a small family to take care of – dude wanted to game! I can’t imagine being in that position and making that decision but it looks like Gary has figured out this whole parenting responsibility adult thing. Amber wants to introduce Andrew to her brother Shawn “Bubby” Portwood. When you write the name out like that it sounds like a worse version of Puffy. I have an important question before I continue: Does she refer to everyone by some little kid jargon b-word? If so I vote we she call Andrew Beaux-Beaux. But really I couldn’t handle that. I can barely handle that on the show. If my sister called me a pet name like that I would stop shit immediately. NO MORE! I digress, during this segment we are also treated to a Matt being a piece of shit flashback. He is the very definition of a masshole and MTV seems perfectly happy to remind us at every corner that dude was a loser. Seriously, fuck that pill-popper.

Meanwhile in the other corner of Florida we see Taylor and Bentley at the driving range. Let’s stop and acknowledge that Taylor is probably replacement father of the year – get that man a mug that says so. Honestly, he loves Bentley so much and it seems so genuine that you know Taylor sees Bentley as his own kid. I don’t watch this show to feel feels Taylor, thanks a lot. Back home in Tennessee Maci is taking Jade, their middle child, big-girl bed shopping. It’s a pretty routine kid-in-furniture store scene but one shot has me asking another important question – How are the bottom of Jade’s shoes so clean? Unless they are brand new, which is possible, how does a 2-3 year old girl have clean white soles on her shoes? I call BS production – where are the real shoes?!

Back to back to back Florida scenes reveal that Andrew is about to meet Bubby Ports. They sit down and have a nice little chat (interrogation) and Bubby does not hold back. He’s seen Amber burned in the past and also knows his little sister better than most suiters do. After a hilariously candid question about how much it must suck to move from Cali to Indiana Shawny-B gets down to brass tacks. Basically he asks what Andrew’s intentions are for his sister. He says he’s not judging Andrew but let’s be honest, he’s definitely judging Andrew. During their conversation Andrew offers up some really profound wisdom – he thinks everyone should write. Wow. I mean that right there would win me over but the jury is still out for Bubby.

Remember how we started this episode in an airport? We’re going back to the airport – but this time in scenic Michigan. Tyler and Nova are traveling to visit Catelynn at her therapy facility. FAMILY VACATION THAT IS NOT A VACATION, YESSS! There’s a brief phone call in the car where I scold Tyler for using a phone while driving without a hands-free device (MTV completely whiffs an opportunity for a PSA here. They’ll intervene with Ruthie trying to drive drunk but being a distracted driver with a child in the car is apparently cool?) and then we’re back to view Ryan and the ‘Kenz. With Farrah gone MTV needs to fill a that hole (pun intended) with new footage – enter Kenzie. Kenzie confides in her friend about the conversation she had with Ryan concerning their futures and the possibility of adding another child into the mix. This is all well and good until she says something that makes me nearly spit my frosty Coors light out – SHE THINKS RYAN IS GOING TO BE JUST THE BEST FATHER. Hold the fuck up. WHAT ARE YOU THINKING GIRL?! I know you’re married to the dude and should be his biggest fan but there is reality to deal with too. Unless you’ve somehow forgotten that Ryan is already a father to Bentley you should already know how capable of a father he is. Now I’ll give you that Ryan was addicted to painkillers (Not Xanax, MTV. I’m sure he was abusing Xanax, too, but let’s be real and confront what he was actually using. Be the educational program you set out to be) but that doesn’t excuse his recent absentee-dadism. Everyone should get a second chance but maybe time this second chance a bit better? SIGH.

Ryan

Sick of Florida? Good, because we’re back with Amber and bro again. Bubby is still grilling Andrew and decides it’s time to up the ante. He point blank asks Amber if she is going to do a prenup with Andrew to protect her assets. Cue awkwardness. She meekly says she would with the other men in her life but not with Andrew – he’s different. Amber…Thankfully we cut to commercial and return to Maci who is chatting with a friend at her home in Chattanooga. Maci is gushing about how wonderful of a dad Taylor is (we already gave him a mug!) and how lucky she is. WE GET IT! Taylor, outside of his fashion label, is perfect. Right before we check in on Catelynn’s therapy I notice Maci’s tongue is Tennessee Volunteer orange. What the fuck has she been eating/drinking? The answer shortly reveals itself…

I have another important question after watching this episode: Did anyone eat raw onions as a child? Because it seems raw onion may be Nova’s favorite food. Is this a Midwesterner thing? Do they serve raw onions with stuff in Michigan? I NEED TO KNOW WHY THIS IS HAPPENING. It happens twice – and she practically has a fit over not getting one the first time. While this is happening Catelynn’s mom is recapping some of the strategies she learned to help Catelynn deal with her depression and seems like she may not be buying the education theory behind them. Catelynn’s mom seems like she learned how to deal with life the old fashioned way – if you get out of line you get corrected via a nun’s ruler. She seems to be a proponent of tough love, and that’s fine for certain people, but for other’s maybe a softer touch is required? Perhaps maybe with Catelynn? I’m not totally sold that her mother thinks Catelynn’s therapy is worth it, but hey, she’s not paying for it so she’ll play along! As she discusses the lessons learned with Tyler it becomes apparent that Tyler may not be fully grasping the lessons either. He is thinking a bit more reactive – “When you do this then I am going to do this!” Not quite, Tyler.

Quick update on Ryan and Mackenzie – they made spaghetti for dinner and are continuing to discuss adding a child and going back to school. Ryan eats like a prisoner and thinks it’s appropriate to feed the dog a plate of leftover spaghetti. RYAN, NO!

Towards the conclusion of the episode we finally learn why Maci’s tongue has an orange hue – her beverage of choice would appear to be Henry’s Hard Soda…gross. I know Maci and Taylor used to be a Bud light family and I am all for keeping it simple with domesticos but switching over to such a sugary malt beverage is no bueno in my book. This actually might be one of the few decisions Maci has made that I disagree with – and I know this from experience. I have tried the Henry’s Hard Soda – it is not good. Ryan probably wouldn’t even give it to this dog – it’s honestly that bad. Maci, can I tempt you try Coors light? It’s at the same price point as both Bud light and Henry’s Hard Soda but it doesn’t have the sweetness that those other guys do. It basically replaces water in a balanced diet. TAP THE ROCKIES, MACI. Is Henry’s a sponsor of the show? That’s fine if that’s the case but be more transparent about it – labels need to face the audience. The case of the orange tongue has been solved and now Taylor is bugging Maci to have more kids. This dude is kid-crazy. I have a friend who couldn’t wait to be a dad and I thought it was just about the strangest thing I have seen. If you’re reading this you know who you are…

Taylor
and give me another kid

What do you guys think? Should Maci and Taylor have another kid? Is it okay to feed your dog spaghetti? Do you already miss Farrah? Let me know what your thoughts on last night’s episode are.

HOT TAKE: Master Chef Jr. Chicken and Waffles

Let’s get this out of the way before we dive into the recap – the narrator opens the episode by letting us know that the judges are going to “foam” themselves over this next challenge. EWWWW. I am sure it was meant to sound innocent but whoever wrote that line is either a) pulling off a hilarious joke because s/he lost a bet, or b) just mailed in this week’s assignment and thought “foam themselves” was appropriate. Not cool writers – this is a kid’s show! Get control of your writing room!

Now that we’ve addressed that bit of unpleasantness we can focus on Friday’s episode. On set is a humongous milkshake. The detective in me thinks we are going to be making milkshakes in a timed competition – a Master Chef Jr. challenge staple. Whoever can make the most and best milkshakes will win the challenge and be safe from tonight’s elimination. Hilariously Mikey remarks that the giant milkshake on stage is the size of his family’s minivan and I think that is pretty great unit of measurement. Does Mikey measure everything in terms on his family’s van? WOW! That building like 12 of my family’s van! You see where I am going with this. Anyway, the kids all draw straws to see what team they’re on: red, blue, or yellow. There is also the possibility of drawing a blank straw which means you will not be in the challenge and are automatically placed into the elimination round. This seems like sorta bullshit to me. If I was on that show and I drew a blank straw I would lawyer up. Why the hell do some kids, by pure chance, get an opportunity to dodge an elimination and I don’t? Is the cost of dairy just too high these days? Can the showrunners not think beyond the color boundaries of blue, red and yellow? What is going on here? I’d boycott, but the kids on this show are clearly better sports than me and accept their fate determined via straw.

With the teams settled we dive into the competition and sure enough it is a timed challenge to see which team can make the most picturesque milkshakes. Milkshakes that don’t cut the mustard will not be counted. Snap Judgement: The red team is all boys. Sammy thinks this is an advantage because boys just “get” each other and girls can be bossy in the kitchen. Sammy predicts an easy win. My prediction? No chance Sammy, no chance. I’m amazed at how young the gender biases are ingrained into kids. I’m positive I was the same way at Sammy’s age but still. I wish I could impart some knowledge on Sammy here – but it would probably fall on deaf ears. Girls stink, per Sammy.

Each team adopts a different strategy. Yellow employs an assembly line mechanic where each team member has a specific job. It may not be the fastest method but it will allow them to create beautiful, movie-quality shakes – quality over quantity. Red is going the opposite approach – they are all about speed. They are going to make as many as possible and not focus on the details so much. This will haunt them. Then there is blue, who adopts a sort of middle of the road strategy. They have specific jobs but are also going as quick as they can. With only 10 minutes to create as many milkshakes as possible the once pristine Master Chef set quickly devolves into messy ice-cream covered pandemonium with our tiny chefs running to and fro, hands covered in sticky. It doesn’t take long before Olivia slips and eats shit. There’s a pause and Gordon asks if she’s alright. Yep! She’s good. She can’t focus on whatever pain she might be feeling she’s gotta make those shakes.

Yellow team
Slow and steady wins the race. Even after falling.

As time expires the pint-size chefs line up their shakes and it seems pretty obvious who won even with the creative camera angles and aggressive panning. Yellow wins by a country mile – all of their shakes look straight out of a postcard from a 1950’s café – I would drink all of them. So the real competition here is who performed worse – blue or red? Any guesses? Christina was the judge for blue and she does not hold back letting them know that their shakes do not have nearly enough whipped cream on top. I mean she really lets them have it for the whipped cream slip up. You know when you get in trouble at your friend’s house and their mom is the one who is telling you what you did was wrong? That’s how I felt with Christina and blue team’s shakes. I wanted it to be over as soon as possible.

As for the all-boy red team…they did not do great. Their shakes were predictably awful. Turns out going as fast as you can and focusing on quantity over quality may not have been the best strategy. That attitude is fine for say Arby’s, but not for a potential future restauranteur. Red loses and will be cooking with the rest of the kids that did not get to participate. But before we get to the elimination round the kids get one more treat: Gordon, Christina and Joe are drawing straws to see who will be dunked into the large shake in the center of the room. Secretly I am hoping to Christina but in my heart I know it’s going to be Joe and you know what? It’s Joe! Joe dutifully slides into the large chocolate shake as the kids squeal. He slowly submerges his head and I get a real Apocalypse Now vibe from the scene as Joe rises from the shake completely covered in chocolate shake. Oh but there’s more. Every shake needs whipped cream so the kids push a button and accent Joe with a nice whipped cream topping. Poor Joe and poor $3000 suit. Why does Henry know how much Joe’s suit cost? Is he an Arrested development fan?

apocalypse_primary
Joe Bostianich in a giant milkshake

After our favorite trick editing sequence Joe is magically cleaned in an instant and we are ready to go for the next round. Side note: How many takes do they need to get this editing sequence right with the kids’ reaction? I envision them standing around for like an hour while Joe gets cleaned up, or maybe they stand around and film it before the competition with all 3 judges. Either way it’s a lame mechanic that they do every season and I wish they would stop – but I am sure I will see this “magic trick” at least 7 more times this season. Sigh.

For the challenge tonight the kids will be putting their own spin on a southern classic – chicken and waffles! Coincidentally I am making chicken and waffles this week at home so when they announce this challenge I am hoping to be inspired. Each chef will have 45 minutes to personalize their own version of chicken and waffles for the judges. For example: Gordon says to make chicken and waffles more British he would embrace England’s imperialistic past and make the dish more Indian – What?! Are British people really that flippant about cultural appropriation? Can you imagine an American chef saying something similar on national TV? I get that Indian cuisine is popular throughout Britain but that would be like me saying I am going to make my chicken and waffles more American by making them more Mexican. Sigh.

The kids race to gather their ingredients as the competition gets under way. Quani, the young baker from Georgia, confesses his love for chicken and waffles stating that he has the meal 1-2 times per week. If that’s actually true Quani you better enjoy your metabolism while it lasts because you won’t be eating that at the same rate when you’re older. Youth truly is wasted on the young. Enjoy it now, Quani. We flip to Grayson who is making tie-dye waffles. Hmmmm. Gordon is curious about the dish but before he can even get to the waffles’ color scheme and flavor he notices a problem straight away – Grayson has swapped his flour for powdered sugar without realizing it. He almost made an all sugar waffle!!! Can you imagine if he could actually get that to set what that waffle would taste like? It would be an explosion of cavities. Luckily this is early enough that Grayson has time to dump the mix and start over. I’m legit impressed Gordon can discern the difference between powdered sugar and flour just by looking at it. They look identical to me.

tie dye waffle
No one is going to eat this over the age of 5

Our next preview is Arianna.  She tells us that she will be making a Belarussian style chicken and waffles dish. I don’t know what Belarussian cuisine is or what it tastes like so I believe whatever Arianna says it is. Apparently that means creamy mushroom sauce? Mushrooms are not my favorite so this dish would be a hard one for me personally, but I know many people like the earthy sweetness mushrooms can bring to a dish. The judges are intrigued and I would make a bad Belarussian.

Soon we get to see what my current favorite, Ben, is cooking up for his version of chicken and waffles.  Surprise surprise Ben is looking to spice things up with a little bit of…WHITE CHOCOLATE! Dude really likes his white chocolate. Ben figures that the one thing wrong with his dish last time was that it clearly did not have enough white chocolate. He needs to give the judges more. Ben, I love you but I am worried you may go home due to your love of white chocolate. At least you’ll lose on your own terms, and that is something I can respect. As we near the end of the challenge we see that Camson’s waffle is not so much a waffle as it is just a huge mess that production is going to have to scrape from the waffle iron. With little time left Camson is forced to get a new waffle iron and try and turn out 1 more waffle otherwise he will be serving chicken and waffles minus the waffles and guarantee his ticket home. At the same time this is happening Pierce, safe on the balcony, has the most hilarious and exaggerated expressions on his face. Someone get this kid into theatre. And with that it’s judgement time!

Up first is Avery who hails from Texas. She has made a Texan-inspired chicken and waffles with her very own gunpowder sauce. It sound spicy so automatically I think it is good. Joe agrees. When he asks her if she hunts she tells him yes. He probes further. What does she want to hunt? Avery tells Joe that she wants to shoot a bear. WHAT? Ughhh, come on Avery! Leave bears alone, they don’t need to be shot. You want to hunt elk or rabbits or whatever else, fine. I don’t agree with it but fine, I get it. Some people like to hunt, but a bear? What the hell is wrong with your parents? Why do you think it is okay to shoot a bear – this isn’t the Oregon Trail! I’d send you home just for that comment, gunpowder sauce be damned. The judges disregard this and she’s probably safe (I’m watching you Avery – you’re on thin ice).

Remy is up next and showcases her Italian chicken and waffles. She’s made a parmesan encrusted fried chicken to compliment a tomato waffle. Intriguing. That sounds pretty pretty good. I might even order that in a restaurant if I saw it on the menu. The only slip up here is the sauce she made. Maple syrup won’t work with this combination so she’s made a cilantro yogurt to pair with the dish. That doesn’t sound fantastic. I don’t think cilantro is even Italian so the inspiration seems off. I might have served it with a classic red sauce – just a simple tomato something. Despite the sauce pairing it looks like Remy has proved Joe wrong – you can make Italian chicken and waffles. She’s good. Quani faces Joe with his version of chicken and waffles and right away it’s clear he’s made a critical error. In place of using the maple syrup provided Quani has decided to make his own syrup to impress the judges. In the words of Gordon Ramsay, “Oh dear.” Joe tells him that this syrup better be really damn good to use over a prized ingredient like maple sugar otherwise it could be “the anchor that drags him to the bottom of the lake”. It’s not good. It’s a brown sugar, water and cinnamon mixture that sounds pretty bland. Joe rightfully tells him he should have focused on the dish itself and not trying to outsmart the judges by crafting his own syrup – Joe cuts deep when wronged.

Baby Aaron Samuels (Cade) uses his southern background to create a Cajun-inspired chicken and waffles. I’ll put this out here now: I love Cajun food and will voraciously devour anything Cajun-inspired. Christina is the judge for Aaron-Cade and she loves what’s he has put on the plate. If Christina, who claims she grew up eating breakfast for dinner, says it’s good then you know it’s gotta be real good. Does this mean I attempt my own version of Cajun chicken and waffles this week? Maybe. Will it be as good as Cade’s? Doubtful since I’ve never cooked Cajun anything in my life.

Grayson’s waffles look like “play-doh”.They are a soggy sad mess and look terrible. Gordon takes a bite, basically tells him they are awful and that his chicken is bland. Maybe tie-dye waffles shouldn’t be a thing Grayson? Also, don’t cook for Master Chef the same way you cook for your little sister. I don’t know how old your little sister is but I imagine she’s at an age where things, sometimes food and sometimes not food, just get jammed in her mouth. The sweeter the better be it tie-dye waffles or a toy fire truck. Moving on to Ben and his white chocolate…wait…where’s the white chocolate Ben?! You told us there would be white chocolate and I know how liberal you can be when using white chocolate. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE WHITE CHOCOLATE WE WERE PROMISED BEN? Ultimately this is a good thing – he’s learning to edit himself based on feedback from the judges. Ben has a big hill to climb based on his presentation but he’s learning. His dish seems underwhelming but again, he’s trying to take in what the judges are telling him. Give him another week guys!

Camson somehow makes a waffle and is able to serve a complete dish to the judges. They like the jalapenos in his waffles and everything seems to be coming up roses for Camson. Looks like he’s safe. We move on to Arianna and her creamy mushroom waffles taste amazing, apparently. I’m skeptical of anything mushroom but most chefs go gaga-gaga for well executed mushroom dishes. Nice work Arianna, you’re definitely in one of the top spots after this challenge and moving on. Finally, we have Mikey and Lindsay. Mikey’s presentation is killer, per Christina. Honestly, I think his presentation is enough to get him through to the next round because I don’t remember much about his chicken and waffles. I think he used potato chips to create the crust for the fried chicken? Sounds nice. We end with Lindsay’s chicken and waffles and well – she’s delivered exactly that, chicken and waffles. Minimalist presentation is pretty in right now at top-tier restaurants but there’s a big difference between minimal and bare. Lindsay’s plate looks bare. Oh and her chicken? It’s raw. I don’t know if she actually understood the challenge because she made literal chicken and waffles, no spin. This shouldn’t be a hard one for the judges because it’s quite clear she is going to make an exit with this effort.

Lindsay
Lindsay is in a spot of trouble with her under-cooked chicken and waffles

After the tasting the judges gather and debate the merits of each dish. After a short session the judges break and announce our winners. Arianna’s herb chicken and mushroom sauce topped waffles are good enough to get her a 2nd place finish. Our overall winner tonight is Cade and his Cajun waffles – yep, I’m gonna try to replicate this, wish me luck. For winning both Cade and Arianna will be a captains in the team challenge next week. Calling it now, this is usually more a liability than an advantage.

As for our losers – Ben, Quani, Lindsay and Grayson are all called to the front of the kitchen. Recalling each kid’s chicken and waffles I know who is going home. Ultimately I think the kids do, too. Tie-dye Grayson and plain Lindsay are going home sparring Ben and Quani. Phew, Ben is safe for another week. I think the two kids sent home deserved to be sent home but maybe you don’t. What do you think? Who had the best dish of the night who wasn’t named Cade? Should Ben or Quani have gone home over Grayson or Lindsay?

FASHION FRIDAYS: Jersey Shore

So last night was a bit of red herring concerning the Jersey Shore – we did get some new footage of MVP + Deena but MTV still hasn’t shared much of the upcoming Miami trip. That’s okay. I understand these things take time. So what to do on Thursdays while we wait for the new Jersey Shore: Family Reunion? CLIPSHOWS! Yep. The old MTV standby. MTV aired the first of what I can only guess will be a series of clipshows centered on different themes highlighting our favorite Jersey Shore memories. Clipshows usually serve two functions:

  1. They cheaply provide material in the absence of new material
  2. They build hype for an upcoming event

Last night’s theme was the 15 hottest hookups on the Jersey Shore. Woof. I had forgotten how horrible most of these encounters had been; particularly the hookups between Pauly D and Jwow/Vinny and Snooki. And while a proper recap might rehash these fleeting encounters I am going to go a different direction. Let’s talk a little bit about the elephant in the room…MY GOD THE CLOTHES! Now I did not consider the Jersey Shore cast to be especially well clothed when the show originally aired in 2009 but oh man! Their duds did not age well at all. Fashion is dangerous. That’s often the risk when you dress on-trend. At the time you don’t notice why your Jennifer Aniston hair might not look too good 5 years out – you’re too busy living your best life as the impossible cute girl next door. But look back at that hairstyle in a few years and you realize just how big of a tool you were. Trust me, I know. I’ve regrettably been dressing on-trend for decades. I hate old photos of myself for this very reason. No fear? Check – I had zero fears. Abercrombie and Fitch? Check, check – I was just a casual beach boy who occasionally played LAX and rowed crew? Bleached tips? COUNT IT! Bowl cut? Guilty. I wear tend-proof neutrals and flannel now. I DARE YOU TO DATE MY STYLE! Flannels are timeless, right…RIGHT?

In order to feel better about myself let’s do what the internet was invented for: Breaking down others from the safety of your keyboard! It’s time for Fashion Fridays y’all!

First up we have Vinny

Vinny
Vinny circa 2009. He probably hates himself for dressing like this.

Oooof. Before we go for the jugular it’s only fair to mention that Vinny has addressed his sartorial faux-pauses and now dresses like a normal C-List celebrity. That being said, this look is fairly representative of the Vinny we knew back in 2009. The shiny patterned tall-tee shirt (Afflicition?) with the XXXL chain + cross is vintage 2009 for the Jersey Shore. It would be a mistake to say Vinny was the only one rocking it – we’ll get to more examples shortly. Vinny always looked like he was wearing someone else’s skin when he played Jersey Shore dress up – I’d wager this was probably never his personal style – it’s a manufactured look. Now this look is missing 2 prominent features of going out at night Vinny; crazy-angled flat bill cap and sunglasses. Somehow Vinny got it in his head that it was actually very cool to wear sunglasses in the clurb at night – but my question is how the fuck do you see anything with those bad boys on? Was it more to not see your own reflection? Does it make everyone look better at 2AM? YOU LOOK LIKE A GODDAMN MORON WITH THOSE ON! TAKE THEM OFF BEFORE YOU HURT YOURSELF. Sunglasses are for driving automobiles home from work in the afternoon.

Pauly D

paulyd_300
Yea buddy, I dress like a goon.

Wow. Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Let’s start with the obvious: The hair: It’s hurricane proof. The amount of product that dude applies to his hair has to cost him (or MTV) a literal fortune. And guess what…aside from his tan it is his most recognizable feature so he still rocks the exact same hair today! Poor guy. You know that one day all his follicles are just going to sigh en masse and fall out in unison. As for clothing – he doesn’t deviate from the pattern Vinny follows. It’s all bright colors, gold and silver accents, wild patterns, etc. He may be more Ed Hearty than Affliction, but that’s only a guess. So what separates him from the pack? His tattoos. It’s like he walked into the first Seaside Heights tattoo parlor he could find and asked for one of everything. Seriously have you seen his tattoos up close? These are the type of tattoos tattoo artists can rely on to keep the lights on in their shop – they come straight from the book. No need to draw an outline for this nautical star, dude can do it from memory. And unlike clothing, Pauly will have a hard time getting rid of those eyesores. At least he’s funny.

Ronnie

Ronnie
Who needs a shirt when you have muscles?

Ronnie doesn’t wear clothes. Skin never goes out of style. Just ask JWow.

Jwow
One of her more reserved looks

See description for Ronnie

Deena (Meatball 2)

Deena
Pretty sure she borrowed the boots from Snooks

Deena is your basic, basic girl. She’s also a copy of a copy of Snooki. As you can see from the photo above, she loved boots with the fur. Overall she was one of the lesser fashion-offenders on the Shore. More than anything I think her clothes just weren’t up to the task of staying on and in the right places when she danced – wardrobe malfunction city. She gave many a peep at her “golden ticket” unintentionally and never really seemed to mind. One of Deena’s best features is her ability to laugh things off which is a good thing because after revisiting how she dressed I’m positive everyone is probably having a laugh at her expense. Deena, now married, seems to have cleaned things up and dresses appropriately for her age, but I think we might see the old Deena “peek” out during the reunion.

Mike “the Situation”

Situation
Rare siting where the Situation dressed his age

Everyone has that older friend that still hangs out and talks shop. You know the guy I am talking about. The guy who is too excited about happy hour and starts talking about how gone-zo he was over the weekend. He dresses down for his age and tries to fit in but no matter how hard he pretends to not be 38, he is still 38. The Situation is the guy forever running from actually being himself – so much so that he created an alter ego, “the Situation” that is younger and more successful than his actual self, Michael. Today Michael is wanted for Tax evasion and facing possible jail time. But the Situation is having fun in Miami without a care in the world because he just finished undergrad and is excited to move back in with his parents while he gets his club promotion/bottle service business up and running. He mimics his younger peers, be it shirts, no shirts, tattoos and swagger. Dude is still 38.

Sammi “Sweetheart”

Sammi
“I fell in love with the girl at the rock show…”

Honestly – there aren’t really any fashion no-nos with her. She dressed pretty typical for the time. During the day she looked like she was about to go to a punk/pop show. At night, she got dressed like she was going dancing with the girls. But she never really danced. She fought. With Ronnie. ALL THE TIME. So she cried a bunch and her make up ran a bunch. Mascara has come a long way since 2009. The waterproof tech that can be found in today’s mascara will undoubtedly come in handy when we inevitably revisit the Ronnie + Sammi relationship in Miami.

Snooki (Meatball 1)

NICOLE POLIZZI AND JWOWW OUT IN FLORENCE
A good outfit is all accessories

I mean just look at that. THAT IS FASHION. This is the best “I don’t give a fuck what you think” look I have ever seen. Snooki wears what she likes and she likes what she wears. Does it have to look good? Nah. Does it have to make sense? Nope. She is the person that does all her shopping in those tourist stands inside the airport. She’s the reason luggage stores sell clothing. This is runway editorial high fashion at its finest. It’s bold. It’s experimental. It’s timeless. Its 100% Snooki. Why? You can’t really date this look because this look shouldn’t even exist – it’s brilliant. I sincerely hope that for the reunion she returns to this look. She’s a mom 2-times over now and dresses a bit more conservatively so her time away from the kids could give us a chance to revisit this statement – her magnum opus.

We Got a Situation Here; Welcome back Jersey Shore

Parting is such sweet sorrow. When the original Jersey Shore crew signed off after 6 long seasons it seemed like it was time to let go. The jokes had worn thin, the cast could barely tolerate one another and Snooki had really dialed back her indecent behavior. The series finale was a far cry from when we were first introduced to our Jersey Shore summer share crew. We watched these kids grow up before our very eyes – and as they did their drunken antics become less and less entertaining. So, it was with a heavy heart that we finally heard Pauly D yell “Cabs are here!” one last time and we said farewell. Jersey Shore/my life was over.

Cabs

You can try and fight it but time oppressively marches on and obscures the memories of those we’ve loved and lost. Like you, I learned to replace the Jersey Shore with various different MTV reality shows. Each show looked to capture the bottled lightning that was the Jersey Shore, but each show couldn’t stick the landing. Buckwild introduced us to a rowdy bunch of rednecks hailing from a hollow in West Virginia, but the showrunners stopped producing after a tragic accident took the life of one of the co-stars, Shane “Gandy-Candy”. Undeterred to fill the ratings void left behind by the Jersey Shore MTV tried again with a show centered on eclectic Alaskan youth called Slednecks. I’m not sure what happened here but after one season MTV pulled the plug – probably a result of low ratings.

Slednecks
MTV’s Sledneck crew – where are they now?

Still there were other shows that tried to replace the Jersey Shore such as Big Tips Texas and Scrubbing In, but each show failed for the same reason. There is just no replacing the personalities on the Jersey Shore. How do you expect to find another Mike “The Situation”? Situations aren’t just lying around growing on trees waiting for a hungry producer to come along and pluck them. No. Situations are like diamonds – only years of extreme pressure experiencing forces beyond comprehension (tax fraud?) can produce something like Mike. Our situation.

I had accepted that MTV would keep throwing different casts from different backgrounds my way and that none of them would ever be as good as the Jersey Shore. How could anything possibly reach that level of excellence? Jersey Shore is a like a first love; there will be another after love later in your life but you’ll always compare that love to your first love.

So what happens when your first love inexplicably comes back into your life? In our case, the Jersey Shore; Family Reunion is just such an occurrence. WELCOME BACK TO JERZDAY! MTV, tired of reinventing the wheel, decided to dig the old wheel out of storage and give it one last spin. No, this isn’t some fever dream where you suddenly wake up drenched in sweat, wondering why you’re in bed when but a moment ago you were at the shore house slamming Ron-Ron Juice. MTV is gracing us with a new season of the Jersey Shoret!

18-jersey-shore.w710.h473
Prepare for Jersey Shore to take over Twitter once more

We learned that we won’t be in our beloved Seaside Heights this season but we will still be visiting a familiar locale: Miami, baby! The last time we were here things did not go especially well for our group of Italian Stallions. It was mostly just Ronnie and Sammie Sweetheart fighting and breaking up and getting back together and breaking up again. Still, that experience was so visceral you felt like you were the third leg of that disastrous tripod. If MTV can bring even a tenth of that feeling (cue to “Cut to the Feeling” by Carly Rae Jepsen) to this new season of Jersey Shore than it is going to be a run-away hit once more. This is going to be so good there is no possible way this latest installment of Jersey Shore won’t deliver. I have no idea what we are in store for this season but I gotta say – after saying goodbye to my dear friends so long ago it’s fucking great to see them again. Especially Vinny. There’s so much to catch up on and so little time. Savor the flavor on this one folks – we’ve been gifted a bonus-Jonas season of the Jersey Shore seemingly out of nowhere – right when we needed it the most.

HOT TAKE: Survivor, Trust Your Gut

Holy shit. This is the 36th season of Survivor. Can you believe how long this show has been on? Some perspective: The first season of Survivor aired in a pre-9/11 world where Bill Clinton was still the President. Bill “Slick Willy” Clinton. America was killing the game in 2000. The internet tech boom was making everyone an overnight millionaire (Hello Mark Cuban). Contrast that with the 2018 world Survivor: Ghost Island airs in now and it will make you long for days gone by. We have Trump as a President, 2 active wars in the Middle East, and an exploding national debt that tops itself year after year. We need shows like Survivor to remind us that things weren’t always quite so bad. We need Survivor to show us that when you strip away all the luxuries we are accustomed to in modern western society we revert back to our basic animal instincts. We form alliances with some, and distance ourselves from others. Survivor is as much an experiment on human psychology as it is entertainment. I haven’t watched Survivor for years but since starting this blog I knew it had to be on my must-watch list. What did I discover in my time away from the tribe? When it comes to Survivor the more things change the more things stay the same.

This week’s episode “Trust your gut” is all about intuition. It’s a very in your face metaphor that foreshadows several key situations our tribes face this week. Let’s start with the Naviti tribe. After a very political tribal council meeting Morgan lost her flame and was sent packing. Domenick and Wendell emerge from the jungle licking their wounds having played too strong a hand at the council meeting as they voted to oust Angela over Morgan. We see them alone on a beach strategizing about how they can survive another week with all their cards out on the table for the rest of the tribe to see. Oh, and Chris will be coming back from Ghost Island, and when he does he will be gunning for Dom. Luckily, Dom mentions to Wendell that he has a “real” immunity idol and I’m immediately skeptical. Why use the word “real” when describing it to someone? People always overemphasize a lie – just saying. I like Wendell but he seems easily manipulated by stronger personalities like Dom. Is this part of his game? It’s too early to tell.

This week’s reward challenge is high stakes – not only will a member of the losing tribe be sent to Ghost Island to exist in solitude (minus production) but the winning tribe will get…PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY SAMMIES! And a cold glass of milk to wash it all down. Let me ask you – when is the last time you had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? It’s probably been a while, yeah? Let me tell, after a long hiatus, much like Survivor, pb&j sandos are so fucking good! For me this reward seems significant. As for the challenge itself: 2 teams of 2 will need to swim 100 yards or so to grab a ring and bring it back to their post, scoring a point. Best 2 out 3 wins. This is basically water polo but you are allowed to mostly drown your opponent. Tangent: who comes up with these challenges after 36 seasons? How many different variations of “get the ball in the goal” are there? I’d love to be a fly on the wall in that room and just listen to the various producers work out different scenarios. The well has to be running dry at this point, no?

There’s really only 1 key takeaway from this reward challenge and that is don’t fuck with Laurel – just like in MTV’s The Challenge. Can we put that in the reality TV competition handbook? If there is someone named Laurel on the show you should not fuck with them because they will grind your bones to dust. Laurel is a tank on this challenge, going full beast mode and dragging the other contestants, IN WAIST HIGH WATER NO LESS, down the field, ring in hand. It’s really impressive. Later I will learn she is a division 1 athlete who went to Yale (Sienne? I miss you. I hope you’re doing well) so the fact that she can throw tiny white girls around like rag dolls will make a lot more sense. The Naviti tribe wins the sandwiches and the Malolo tribe is up to send someone to Ghost Island – PS they really need some kind of sound effect every time Ghost Island is said out loud. Speaking of sound effects, who is the dude that does the generic guttural tribal noises when we return from commercial break? I want that job.

Leaving things to chance, the Malolo tribe drew rocks from a bag to determine who will go into a brief exile. Before drawing Kellyn, a career counselor from Denver, states that her worst fear is being sent to Ghost Island. Guess what happens next? She draws the white rock out of the bag and punches her ticket to Ghost Island. Congratulations Kellyn – enjoy your time away from the tribe! Production shoos Kellyn into a small boat and they set sail for an all expenses paid vacation to the fabulous Ghost Island. Kellyn is now surrounded by the “ghosts” of past survivors and their on-show errors that cost each former contestants the game. Upon her arrival Kellyn is presented with a decision – she can risk her tribal council vote to play a challenge game and win a huge advantage, or she can sit tight and do nothing on the island. Kellyn chooses to do nothing but not before explaining how in her life she follows her gut (Title reference!) She tells us how she left a brief marriage because the relationship didn’t feel right. She left her job to get an MBA because she felt it in her bones. And now she is doing nothing because risking her vote is no good in this moment. You know what also doesn’t feel right? Kellyn telling us how everything she has done has lead her here – Survivor. On this show if you’re not active making and plotting moves you’re going to lose.

Case in point: Chris is back from Ghost Island among his Naviti people and already politikin’ to get Dom out. The Dom versus Chris war is coming. While Chris is trying to sell everyone on the idea that he would make the better leader Dom is doing his part to solidify his own position. More vaguely tribal guttural noises sound and it’s time for the immunity challenge.

For the immunity challenge we see another variation of a tried and true reality TV contest – get heavy object from point A to point B via an obstacle course. At Point B there is a physical challenge to win the game. The idea here is to use teamwork in order to complete your objective because of course it is. Reality TV shows always try and force feed the audience these nuggets of wisdom. Trust your gut, teamwork works, don’t fuck with people named Laurel – there are lessons to be learned if you’re willing to be a good student. The challenge starts and right away it looks like the Malolo is going to pick up an easy W. To win, the tribe must swim out to a sunken chest, open an underwater gate and carry it back to the beach where each team will have to navigate an obstacle course. Once at the end of the obstacle course the team needs to open the chest and find 5 balls. These balls must be thrown onto a narrow ledge in order to get the win. This is variation #42-A on game 4C. Oh to be the fly on the wall.

The Malolo tribe is already out of the water and on the obstacle course before the Naviti tribe even has their underwater gate open – it’s going to be a massacre, folks. Sebastian, who doubles as a hook and ladder assassin for hire, somehow manages to connect a metal ring to the missing obstacle course piece on his first try and the tribe is able to pull the missing obstacle course piece into place. By the time the Naviti tribe is trying to connect their obstacle course pieces together the Malolo tribe is already tossing their balls onto the narrow shelf. Malolo manages to get 3 out of the 5 balls up on the shelf before the Naviti tribe even throws their first ball. Reality TV lesson time – never give up. Even though it looks like the Naviti tribe is sunk they don’t stop trying. And by some miracle then end up balancing all 5 of their balls before the Malolo tribe and get the win! It’s amazing! It’s the most epic comeback of the season (we’re on episode 3) and Jeff Probst hammers home the importance of never giving up no matter the odds. That’s what survivor is all about: Outwit, outplay, outlast.

As the Naviti tribe celebrates their legendary come-from-behind victory the Malolo tribe is left to pick up the pieces and figure out who they are going to sacrifice to the CBS gods. Bradley, the stereotypical looking and sounding law student, is mustering his troops to stage a coup. For the record, Bradley is every young republican I met in college. He’s the Devin of the survivor except he actually knows how to manipulate people. He has a core group of former Naviti tribesman that he has banded together and with their superior numbers he wants to vote out either Michael or Brenden. NO ONE WILL EVER SEE THIS MOVE COMING. Or so Bradley thinks because Bradley thinks he has all the answers and is the only one with a developed strategy. Bradley is wrong. Bradley calls Brenden docile and in that moment I know that I hate Bradley. Things are going to implode on him – smug little bastard.

We cut to Michael and Brenden who know that they are both up for elimination – See Bradley! How in the hell can they avoid certain departure when Bradley and co. have the superior numbers? Well, it just so happens that Michael has an ace in the hole – he’s managed to find a relic from Survivor: China. He can use this relic to save him or Brenden during the Tribal Council. But wait! This is a special relic, or at least it can be in the right hands. Each relic comes with a note and story behind it and Michael decides to bend the truth a bit here. He is going to announce his relic mid-tribal council and instead of using it to save 1 person he is going to use it to save 2 people. Wait, what? Can he do that? Is everyone stupid enough to believe that? It turns out the answer is yes.

Before we get to the council it’s important to note Stephanie’s powerful #fitmom hope sequence. She meditates on the beach and traces out the word hope in the sand. She knows she’s on the chopping block but if Instagram has taught us anything it is that the power of positive thinking can change anything! All you have to do is yoga. And eat clean. And spread love. Be positive!

At the tribal council Bradley’s coalition spares with Michael’s and each makes a case for voting the other side out. Michael lets us know that Bradley cannot be trusted because he’s using the others to save himself (duh, everyone is) and when he gets the chance he is going to put a knives in the backs of Chelsea and Sebastian. Vote Bradley out – Michael & Brenden 2018. Bradley says his side cannot trust the Malolo tribesman because they are not native Naviti so don’t vote Bradley, or Bradley. Only he can see the remaining Naviti-now-Malolo people to liberty and prosperity. A classic law and order strategy. With both sides dug in Michael reveals his relic and spins his web. He tells everyone the back story behind the relic (key to making everyone believe it is worth 2 lives and not 1) and that he will be using it on himself and Brenden…no wait…not Brenden because they wouldn’t throw docile Brenden in…let’s use the relic on Stephers instead. Come on, really?! Why the last minute change? Oh shit, this was Michael’s plan all long wasn’t it? Clever girl.

The votes are counted and its 4-4, Bradley versus Brenden. Jeff reaches into the bag and reveals the final vote it’s Brend-o. Congratulations Brenden, you just played yourself. This was Michael’s play the whole time – get docile Brenden out of the way so he can focus on Brad. He’s instilled significant FUD in Bradley’s coalition and I’m thinking he’ll look to push this further next week. Jeff gives Brenden the iconic Survivor sendoff, “The tribe has spoken,” and Brenden extinguishes his flame. Stephanie’s yoga/meditation/hope session has worked, for now.

The Challenge Recap: Devin’s Big Dumb No Good Plan

Challenge vet Johnny Bananas is out – a fact that Devin reminds us of right when the episode starts. After squaring off against Bananas in a literal lights out elimination Devin sends Johnny packing. With such a big personality gone there is a black-hole-sized power void left behind that needs filling and Devin fancies himself just the guy to fill it. I get how MTV shows work – particularly the Challenge _ I’ve watched this show religiously for like 15 years. We need each cast member to play a certain role and with Sarah out the competition for good (courtesy of Bananas) Devin is now the resident “schemer” of the show. The only problem is that Devin isn’t very smart. Like not even a little bit smart. He’s like the Devin Nunes of the Challenge; he’s an idiot who thinks he’s playing 3D chess when he’s actually playing checkers. Devin ain’t outmaneuvering anyone.

Another result of Johnny being gone is that Leroy finds himself on an island without an ally. Poor Leroy. I love this dude because every opportunity he has to do the wrong thing he ends up taking the high road. And each and every challenge some combination of bizarre circumstances combine to force Lee out sooner than expected. This just proves that you usually have to play dirty if you want to be in the money at the end of the show. Speaking of dirty, Big Brother’s Natalie also finds herself without a powerful ally now that Johnny is gone. Her strategy of cozying up to Johnny seems to have backfired. She’s playing the no one should put me in the elimination match because I have powerful friends game but that game only works when you have powerful friends. Is this how she handled her stint on Big Brother? My guess is she starts hanging around Zach and Tony…

After a brief mention that it is Nicole’s birthday we are ready for today’s challenge. HI TJ! Has TJ Lavin been the host of the Challenge longer than Jeff Probst has been the host of Survivor?  I feel like TJ’s retirement coffers have been absolutely stuffed courtesy of MTV/Viacom. Dude has been on this show so long and he still seems like he’s enjoying himself. He’s part of the challenge family and I’ll be devastated when he eventually leaves. Remember Dave Mira? That was rough. Who is going to replace Lavin when he finally hangs up his beanie? Only two candidates come to mind: 1. The Miz. 2. Johnny Moseley. The Miz is probably way too famous to come back and host the Challenge now, but he has been known to do a special here and there. He’s like the record setting high school QB – he’s sort of obligated to come back every now and then and let us know how he’s doing. As for Moseley, he’s hosted the Challenge before – 3 times actually. If, and when, he does come back to the Challenge I need him to come back with the intensity I saw during the big air competitions at the Pyeonchang Olympics. OHhhhhHHH MAaaanNNn! DID YOU SEE THAT GNARLY DOUBLE BACK GAINER MCTWIST?! THAT WAS…OH MAN THAT WAS SICK! WHOA. We need that Moseley.

Anyway for today’s challenge TJ explains that the cast will have to run across a beach, move pallets and stack them to form a tower where one team member can raise the Spanish flag and declare victory. Seems straight forward enough. Since Devin-not-Nunes won the last elimination he gets a coveted grenade. Grenades are a new mechanic introduced on this season of the Challenge that allow the owner of a grenade to fuck with the rest of the competitors during the day’s challenge. Devin, grenade in-hand, chooses to pick the teams for the Challenge. He’s definitely looking to stack the odds in his favor by making his team the super team while at the same time putting the people he most wants to see in an elimination event on the worst team. Since we are about mid-way through the season at this point there aren’t enough people left to form 3 equal teams of 5 so the worst team only gets 4 people. If you remember nothing else please remember that Devin made these teams:

  • Too Big to Fail team: Devin, Kam, Nelson, Kailah and Brad
  • Weak team destined to lose: Leroy, Jemmye, Kyle (“I’m not smart”), and Cara Maria.
  • Leftovers/Actual Super Team: Nicole, Natalie, Zach, Tony, and Britni

This is Devin pulling the strings all by himself. THIS IS HIS PLAN. Oh, and TJ mentions that tonight’s elimination is a double-elimination so that means potentially 2 people are going home tonight. Why the hell would anyone looking to save their own skin not put Zach and Tony on their team if you have the option? WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU THINKING DEVIN! You released your ultra-top secret memo and nothing happened. America is laughing in your face now – you deserve to lose. You’re going to lose.

Let the pallet-stacking begin! Even though the weak team only has 4 players they seem to be keeping pace with the other 2 teams. During the competition Kyle admits that his fitness routine of drinking too much and loafing around the house has not prepared him for such a strenuous challenge but he’s making it work as best he can. Him and Leroy end up pulling more than their fair share of the load – they have to compensate for Jemmye – Jemmye always looks like she is just about to throw in the towel. Why does she keep coming on these shows? Everyone know if she makes it to a final she’s going to roll over. She’s going to be the new Vanessa; mark my words.

When the whistle blows it shouldn’t be a surprise that Zach, Tony, Britni, Nicole and Natalie easily beat the other two teams. What is a surprise is that the team Devin picked for himself, what should have been the safest place for him, ends up losing to a team that has 1 less person. This is an endurance-based challenge. Let that sink in for a moment. Ready? Good. Devin should teach a master class on how to royally fuck things up but present yourself as being extremely talented and successful. Did he go to the now defunct Trump University to learn these skills? How does this happen? Nelson figured out why they lost – they used the wrong strategy: muscles. See, the thing about muscles is that over time they don’t work so good when performing the same action over and over again so you actually want to have a strategy to conserve energy when you’re…I don’t know…RUNNING IN FUCKING SAND?!

So now Devin’s team has to cannibalize their own team and throw 2 members into the elimination challenge. Amazingly Devin’s team doesn’t throw Devin into the elimination even though he is without a doubt the most deserving person to go into the elimination. He’s the captain that got into the Titanic’s lifeboat dressed as a woman. Throw him in! Instead they pick Kam and Brad. Sigh. Kam gets picked because she’s a rookie. This is not the first time Kam has been thrown in for being a rookie and it probably won’t be the last. Kam could be the new Laurel. Brad gets thrown in because Brad is in a relationship with Britni and the house wants to split them up. The only thing more common than throwing a rookie into an elimination is splitting a couple up via elimination. Rule number 1 of reality TV competitions – no showmances! The heart is always your enemy. Brad, you know this. You’ve been here before but somehow you ignored this lesson so here you find yourself facing another elimination. Come on bro, get a clue.

The other two players going into the elimination will be decided by the Troika. The Troika is another new device developed by the mad scientists at MTV where 3 players from the winning team are selected to form a tribunal of sorts. Being in the Troika has one advantage – you’re safe from elimination that night. But it also has a cost – the Troika’s job is to select the players who will be going into the elimination that evening. This puts a big ol’ target on your back so you might be safe tonight but tomorrow is a whole different story. Zach, Tony and Melissa (I knew she would do this!) form the Troika after ensuring Britni that she’s safe and promise to not put her in the elimination match. The Troika begin their deliberation over who to send into the elimination and it doesn’t take long to determine that they are going to fuck over Britni. Duh. Also Nelson is going in because no one likes Nelson. His Challenge photo alone is reason enough to send the dude in each and every elimination until he goes home.

Like TJ said, tonight’s elimination is a double elimination so there’s at least two people going home tonight between Brad, Britni, Kam and Nelson. Like a kitten with a ball of yarn TJ toys with us. TJ says he’s going to take it easy on the players after such a brutal challenge earlier in the day – psych! Of course he’s not stepping off the gas. TJ only has one speed – elimination. So what will it take to stay in the competition? Not much, you just have to beat…THE CHAMPIONS! In walks Laurel, Darrell, Frank and Ashley read to bust some ass. Now I’ll give you that neither Frank nor Ashley are really champions but hey – CT is probably busy being a dad. On the other hand Darrell and Laurel are not be fucked with. Darrell has not only won the challenge 5 times, he’s now a boxer. Instead of aging gracefully into retirement Darrell may actually be in better shape than when first appeared on the Challenge back in 1992. As for Laurel – well she made a name for herself as a rookie continually going into eliminations and continually sending Challenge veterans home, one after another. She’s an absolute beast. She’s not losing. To decide who is playing who we flip a coin. Laurel will face Britni, Frank is up against Brad, Darrell versus Nelson, and Laurel will square up against Britni. Bye Britn, you ded.

The elimination itself is more medieval torture device than challenge. With a rope connecting the contestants back-to-back each will run around a circle and cross a platform to ring a bell on the opposite side. The rope is only long enough for 1 contestant to successfully ring their bell so you’re forced to drag your opponent backwards and further away from their own bell. It’s like reverse tug of war, sorta. We lead off with Brad and Frank. The whistle blows and Brad bolts towards the platform – where he easily disposes of Frank. This was no contest and no amount of editing is going to make it seem that way. Frank should not have been a champion. MTV, do better!

Next up we have Kam versus Ashley and we see a similar contest. Ashley is absolutely no match for Kam. Kam is physically bigger and stronger than Ashley. Ashley, despite her appearance, plays a more cerebral game. Physicality ain’t her thing. It doesn’t take long for Kam to drag her back far enough to reach her bell. DING! Kam is safe, again. The play to put Kam into the elimination is a Devin level fuck up because she has now twice-over proven she is here to compete. Killa Kam is coming y’all! With the 2 gimme matches over it’s time for the main event. We start with Nelson and Darrell. TJ blows the whistle and they’re off – Sisyphus meet rock. Nelson may not be the smartest competitor but he can always rely on brute force to get him out of a jam and it’s on full display against Darrell. Nelson sounds like he’s in labor, moaning and groaning making these guttural noises (think dude at the gym attempting a new max deadlift), but he doesn’t move. He can’t get to his bell but Darrell can’t either. They stay there, locked in gladiatorial combat for over 20 minutes before TJ demands blood. They reset and TJ blows the whistle once more. Even with the reset we get the same result. Darrell and Nelson are too evenly matched and we watch them struggle for an additional 40 minutes before TJ, empty-handed, calls it a draw. Nelson has survived hurricane Durrell.

Our last match is between Laurel and Britni. Britni talks a good game about how she is going to beat Laurel…and no one believes her. Laurel has absolutely nothing at stake in this competition except to remind her now-ex, Nicole, that she is a bad bitch and Nicole fucked up and Laurel is totes fine without Nicole. Shit. That’s a way better motivator than money. Britni’s screwed more than she was before. After TJ blows the whistle they’re off and it doesn’t take too much effort for Laurel to ring the bell and eliminate Britni. Britni is not back. Britni is going home. Immediately after losing she starts running her mouth about how she’s coming back and when she does Zach, Tony and Natalie are all gonna pay…blah, blah, bah. No chance. Britni is not a threat. Britni will never be a threat. Britni, say goodbye to Brad and go home.

Britni makes her exit and Laurel makes her way towards Nicole. They share an embrace and for a moment I start to think something might wonderful might happen. The challenge and This is Us share a timeslot on Tuesday evenings so maybe some of that Pearson magic is carrying over to the Challenge? Well if it did Nicole kills it because Nicole opens her big fat mouth and tells Laurel that if she really loved her than Laurel would have tried harder to make it work. NICE. It’s always good to blame the person you love for your own shortcomings, smdh. Nicole, you’re such a bro, bro. This line has never made anyone feel guilty about anything ever.

So the Teej promised us a double elimination but instead we only saw Britni leave. I’m okay with this but I was hoping for more carnage on this episode – I want the carnage I was promised! It looks like I will have to wait till next week to see how much longer Devin survives. Speaking of survival, will Nelson’s muscles hold out till the final? Can Leroy finally get a chance at glory? Will Tony drink too much and fuck everything up like he always does? Most importantly, will Kyle remember that Cara Maria’s name is Cara Maria and not Cara Marie? Tuesday seems so far away.

Fresh Take: American Idol Auditions, Part 2

Just as ABC promised, we are back for night two of American Idol auditions. Let me ask this question – do we really need a second night of auditions? Couldn’t ABC have just cut some of the personal asides for each contestant and made, like, a 3 hour special on Wednesday to kick things off? I feel like ABC is not respecting my time. When the Bachelor has a special Tuesday night 2 hour follow up I know there is a reason for it. DRAMA. For American Idol, I feel like it is just a poor job editing that necessitates 2 nights. I get that each potential contestant has a unique story and situation but, like math class, I just can’t learn everything at once. I need it to be incremental. Ease me into the personal bios – maybe highlight one extra special person and then mention some neat nature facts about the others? I don’t know but I feel like I’m being bullied. Also, when did the auditions night become everyone who gets more than a minute of airtime gets a ticket? Also, most everyone they introduced tonight made it through to Hollywood. Where are all the rejects? THAT’S THE BEST PART, ABC. I demand less talent. And with that out of the way…

Our first singer tonight is Mara Justine, a 15 year old girl who opens up with Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain.” So, because she chose to sing Rihanna, I instantly compare her with Noah – and as good as Mara is, and she is good, she is no Noah. She has this very clenched look to her when she sings. Everything is stiff and she moves her head and body around very geometrically. Think lots of right angles. She sorta of looks like she is voguing at points. She just looks uncomfortable but luckily her voice sounds pretty-pretty good. It’s like a Lady Marmalade voice?  Katy Perry tells her she is a top 10 talent and I’m immediately skeptical. Is she a top 10 talent based on what I’ve seen so far? Yes, but that’s because I’ve only seen 2 other singers thus far that I would consider top 10. She’s going to need a lot of coaching to succeed but I think it’s possible we see her towards the end. P.S. when did everyone on Idol get so young? I’ve seen about 1 or 2 people north of 20 years old so far.

Next up we have Andrew Weaver who looks and sounds like the guy who brings an acoustic guitar to a party and subsequently ruins the party. His version of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” somehow garners him a ticket to Hollywood and I gotta admit I was significantly underwhelmed with his performance. Is it because he chose to sing Ed Sheeran? Maybe. Anytime I hear Ed Sheeran I think of a car trip I took with my parents while visiting AZ. We drove out to Sedona from Phoenix and my mom told me I would like this fun Irish guy’s music. It was Ed Sheeran. I don’t like Ed Sheeran. I was trapped in a van listening to the entire Divide album in the middle of the desert. When we stopped for gas I seriously considered buying malt liquor and slamming it in the bathroom stall to make the remainder of the journey more tolerable. Anyway, climb aboard Andrew – you killjoy.

Christina Jones is on after Andrew. Christina is neat because she has synesthesia – a condition where music has colors. I try to wrap my mind around what that is like but I don’t get very far. I have a hard enough time thinking of music being “soft” or “mellow”. I don’t know what I would do if music appeared as different colors to me. Panic maybe? I like her story and I think she has a lot of potential so I am okay with the judges moving her along to the next round.

Next we have Griffin Tucker…and yes, that is apparently his real name. I can’t really get past his name before he dives into a rendition of “Lady Madonna”. Griffin sounds like he is trying to be good at singing. The voice that comes out of him is just like Katy says it is – somehow 7000 years old. You could tell me he was a wizard who discovered the secret to ever-lasting life that waited for this moment and I would believe that over Griffin’s signing voice being his actual authentic voice. It fools Lionel Richie though – he’s practically ecstatic over this dude. What’s going on here Lionel? I agreed with your decisions last night but it seems like something has changed since last I saw you. What’s that drink in your cup? So it looks like someone named Griffin Tucker is also going to Hollywood. He’s going to have a very eclectic fan base if he makes it far into the competition. I envision a whole group of people in Gryffindor gear cheering him on – because he is a wizard.

William Casanova appears on stage next and…I don’t know what to make of this dude. He’s full of swagger and hails from metro DC where he sells women’s shoes. He comes off real skeevy to me – Demario from the Bachelorette skeevy. There’s something about him that sort of makes my skin crawl because I feel like he is trying to sell me something. But then again, his charm, if that is what you can call it, is also sort of working on me? I’m definitely interested to hear this dude sing and when he finally does I gotta say he has a pretty silky voice. However, I find myself wishing I could separate the voice from the dude. He’s like a creepy Big Earn. This all culminates when ABC decides to throw a soft-ball out there for all the foot fetish people in the world and Katy starts talking feet with Casanova. She throws her right foot on the table and tells ‘Nova to come over and claim his ticket. It’s between her toes. Did this guy even sing? I don’t recall but I do suddenly need to take a shower.

Our next audition takes us back to the city of Angels where we meet Michelle from Venezuela.  VENEZUEELLLA. Luke asks how to pronounce the country and Michelle eagerly obliges. In fact, she’s way too eager about everything. It’s her moment and she knows it. She begs the judges to get up and dance while she sings – and for some reason they do. My ass would have stayed rooted in my chair – ain’t no one going to tell me what to do. Michelle dances with Katy. Katy falls. Her dress is too short. Chaos ensues. Michelle gets a ticket for being “not annoying”. Seriously?! Why is everyone getting a damn ticket? I’m about to go out there and audition if this is what I am signing up to watch for the next few months. I’m not saying she’s not talented, but she is not nearly at the same level as some of the other contestants. I get that ABC wants to appeal to the Latinx community but there wasn’t anyone who was more talented out there? Surely there was someone less annoying?

Mischa is a dude from the Ukraine and we get our first pass of the night. THE UKRAINE IS WEAK! He has some earworm worthy song that bips and bops but I agree with the judges – it sound entirely too foreign for American audiences. Mischa reminds me that at one point I had two Ukrainian roommates, Igor and other guy that was on the Ukrainian Olympic rowing team. Igor tried to make a frozen pizza one night and put the whole thing – pizza, cardboard box and plastic – into the oven to cook. I came home to smoke pouring out of the windows and when I ran upstairs to see if everything was okay there was Igor sitting on the couch like nothing was the matter. That was Igor’s last night cooking pizza unsupervised. And so it goes with Mischa, his first night was his last night.

Now we get to someone who I think will go extremely far in this completion – Brandon Diaz. Let’s get this out of the way now – I am supremely jealous of this dude’s flow. His hair is spectacular. It’s so good it makes Lionel long for the days when he sported a Jheri curl. The only problem is Brandon’s flow works in every way that Lionel’s did not. Sorry Lionel. So Brandon has the Hollywood look down but can he sing? Choosing to showcase his falsetto Brandon sings Allen Stone’s “Unaware” and I’m blown away. The falsetto is perfect. Like pitch perfect. He’s even more talented than my beloved Noah at this juncture and I think his ceiling might be significantly higher, too. I don’t care for the open-blouse-rockstar look but then again, I wear flannel and jeans all the time, so I may not be the best judge. Keep your eyes on Brandon Diaz ladies and gents.

Just like Sunday, things start to take a weird turning point with the next segment. On Sunday night Katy was not too subtle about her being single but here we have an entire montage dedicated to how single Katy is. I know ABC was just being playful but this segment just didn’t deliver for me. It was weird. This serves as segue to Trevor Holmes entrance. Trevor is the gee-golly-gosh perfect looking construction worker/crooner. Katy tells us that only the hottest guys are named Trevor and instantly I think of about 60 dudes that could instantly prove her wrong. Trevor confesses that he has a crush on Katy and Katy is simply smitten. She throws all objectivity out the window. She’s a yes before he even gets to strum his guitar once. I admit he looks the part of American Idol 100% but his singing leaves a lot to be desired. LIKE A LOT. We are back to the everyone gets a ticket train and after telling Trevor he’s going to Hollywood Katy sorta runs off stage? I know she’s wearing heels but she runs like I walk over black ice. The editors really should have played the Benny Hill theme song here – missed opportunity.  Now that we now Katy is single and available we’re on to our next contestant.

Laine Hardy from the deep-deep South is up next. You know he’s from the deep-deep south because you honestly need subtitles to understand what he is saying. He sings, he deservedly gets a golden ticket, and with that we turn now to what will become a recurring feature on my American Idol recaps…

LEARNIN’ BOUT LIONEL (LBL)

During the last episode I learned that Lionel Richie was in the Commodores – who knew?! Everyone but me. Tonight I learned that Lionel is from Alabama! ROLL TIDEI WAR EAGLE! I guess I never noticed that he had a vague southern drawl in his voice, but I do now. So now I know that Lionel Richie from Alabama. Neat.

After Laine we meet Gabbii Jones who only has 30 days to become a popstar or she has to go back to school. Yikes. She is wearing this sparkly black bodysuit that might just be more memorable than her. When she sings “Dangerous Woman” I keep getting images of James Brown in my mind. She has a lot of gravel in her voice and seems at war with the microphone as she belts out the impossibly high notes of Ariana Grande. It takes a lot of sand to sing Ariana Grande in front of 3 established musicians, so I give her credit where credit is due, but I found her performance a touch underwhelming. There’s something there but I really think the judges need to turn someone semi-talented away at this point. They don’t. Gabbii gets a golden ticket but her dad reminds her that the clock is now down to 10 days since it’s already been 20 since he delivered his ultimatum.

Next up is plucky Cameron Theodos, also from Louisiana. Cameron is from not as deep-deep south Louisiana as Laine, but still pretty deep south: Shreveport. He dons a “stylish” cap just like Katie from last night. If it isn’t apparent by now let me make myself perfectly clear: I hate hats like this. I think they are stupid. I think the people who wear them are stupid. I also think the people who wear them are presumptuous. Or they are hiding something. This knife only cuts one way – hats like this are the worst. He makes his way to the stage, he sings, and is awarded a golden ticket because why not at this point. Anyone who isn’t from the Ukraine is going to get one. Was it me or was Lionel tossing a lot of shade at Cameron as when they gave him the ticket? Lionel says his whole fan club is with him and they at least want him in the first round – sounds like Lionel maybe isn’t too keen on Cameron.

The next couple of contestants follow a familiar American Idol formula. We have Thaddeus who is returning to American Idol after an unsuccessful outing in 2010. He’s literally half the man he was. The last time America saw Thaddeus he weighed north of 390 lbs but he’s managed to drop over 160 pounds. That’s basically a whole me if I actually cut down on drinking and did more cardio! That’s insane. He’s a winner in my book for sheer determination alone. His song choice strikes me as super odd when he announces he will be singing “Don’t You Worry Child” by Swedish House Mafia. Isn’t this a techno song? Dude is gonna sing a techno song a capella? It’s definitely different but Thaddeus already has two memorable things before the song. He’s a returning contestant and he’s dropped a fuck-ton of weight. Now he has 3 things that make him standout! He’s definitely getting a ticket. You know who else is getting a ticket? Country girl Rissa from Woodward’s furniture. Instead of inheriting her family’s furniture empire Rissa is looking to chase down her dreams of becoming a singer. She’s a really fantastic singer with a pull yourself up by your bootstraps story that America loves so naturally she’s given a ticket so that we can see what this country girl can do. The penultimate audition is that of Garrett. He hails from Bossier City, LA which is the same city my cousin’s wife is from! He sings “A Man’s World” and I’ll admit I sound sexist when I say this song sounds better when a woman sings it. It’s just hard for me to get behind the lyrics when a good old boy from Louisiana is lamenting about how men run the world. Care to guess if he got a ticket? Me neither. It’s automatic at this point, the judges are on autopilot.

At long last we come to our final audition of the night, David. David has a really inspirational story that literally brings Katy and the rest of the judges to tears. He packed up his bags and moved to Nashville to pursue a music career only to be hit by a car within his first few weeks of living there and paralyzed from the waist down. Shit. He said he wanted to give up for months when a miracle happens – he begins to feel sensations in his toes again. Months of physical therapy later teach David to slowly gain control of his lower body. At the same time his body is healing he also manages to reconnect with an old friend. It’s at this point that David’s life morphs into a living adaptation of the Notebook. He falls madly in love with the friend who stuck by his side and together they get David to American Idol to pursue his dreams that were seemingly taken from him. Katy’s a wreck. She’s sobbing uncontrollably. It’s a really inspirational story that warms even my cold heart. After we hear all this David sings, but we didn’t need him to. The ticket was his all along.

The auditions are done. The stage is set. Who will be the next American Idol? What will I learn about Lionel Richie? We’ll have some of those answers next week on the next hot take.