Survivor – Cause You Know I Love The Players, And You Love The Game

survivor worlds apart logoFirst things first: the Survivor pool. I did not fare well this time, kids. Seventeen names in a hat and I was drawn LAST. Last! I ended up with Dan. Dan. The guy who lost his teeny-tiny underpants in the ocean and had to fashion a replacement out of his only shirt. (He can’t wear his jeans, because no one wants to go commando in wet jeans.)

Welp. It’s unlikely that I’ll be winning this one. But, hey – you never know! Jenn and Joe were some of the first picks, and they were both on the chopping block this week. (More pool updates, for anyone interested: my mom has Sierra, my husband has Hali and my sister has Tyler.)

I could show you incredible things…

While Dan was going to great lengths to keep at least somewhat covered up around camp, over at the White Collar tribe people were shedding their undergarments left and right. Max kicked things off, strolling around in the buff as an homage to Richard Hatch. Shirin followed suit, strangely decided to keep her bra on but to remove her bottoms. I can’t say I understood the logic there. Tyler looked so uncomfortable. I don’t think her heard a single word of that conversation about washing pots.

At the Blue Collar tribe, Mike was making everyone so agitated that I began to think Dan might just have a shot in this game. Dan is older, overweight, and has an annoying personality. It seemed like a sure thing that he’d be the first boot for the Blue Collars. But not if Mike has anything to say about it!

Mike is military. Mike is a task master. Mike wants to retrieve firewood until the cows come home. Mike does not want to hang around playing makeshift basketball. The guy seems like a real killjoy. The impression I’ve gotten from interviews with former Survivor players is that there’s a lot of downtime. Time when you aren’t strategizing or surviving, you’re just hanging out and, like, playing blackjack with some banana leaves you painted numbers on. Is the Blue Collar tribe really that lazy, or does Mike just want to work 24/7? He is making enemies fast.

I get drunk on jealousy…

Over at the No Collar tribe, things were falling apart fast. Vince is so intensely jealous of Joe, it’s embarrassing. What was with the way he confronted him? “I just need you to acknowledge that you steamroll projects.” Ummm, no thanks? Joe was as nice as possible and handled the situation pretty well – he even told Hali and Jenn that Vince is probably smarter and more intuitive than they think. But the tribe has definitely split down age lines – above and below 30.

Nina is finding it hard to fit in, because of her disability. I felt for her – it cannot be easy to be hard of hearing on Survivor. So many conversations are whispered and discreet, or happen at night or while hauling firewood. When Jenn and Hali went skinny-dipping without inviting her, it was like a breaking point. She felt so miserable and left out, and just lost it.

“But Nina,” I thought. “They didn’t exclude you because you’re deaf. They excluded you because you’re old!”

I can be mean when I’m only talking to the TV/my husband. But it’s the truth – the hot twenty-somethings did not think the 50+ year old mom would want to come skinny dipping.

There was a right way for Nina to handle that situation, and she went the opposite direction. She was emotional and hurt, and confronted them with a mix of anger, sarcasm and martyrdom that just was not going to work. Jenn got all defensive, and escalated the situation. Let’s just be honest – Jenn seems mean.

I can make all the tables turn…

Challenge time! And LOL Mike, it involves basketball! The tribes had to maneuver buoys through a water obstacle course, and then shoot baskets. Dan told Probst that he’d surprise him, and he did. He surprised me! He made it through the course faster than Vince and Tyler.

The challenge had so many ups and downs. At one point the No Collars were quite ahead, but Will ultimately lost a huge lead for the No Collars. But the fact that NO ONE on that tribe could sink a basket was what really led to their loss. Joaquin led the White Collars to first place, and Sierra nabbed second place for the Blue Collars. Suck it, Mike! No more whining about leisure activities back at camp.

Back at the No Collar camp, there was a flurry of activity. Joe, Hali and Jenn are obviously a strong trio. Will and Nina are friends. Vince is… also there. Vince wanted to vote out Joe, saying “this is our one chance to get Joe out.” Um, no it’s not, dude. This is your first Tribal Council. Now is not the time. Other opportunities will come up.

Jenn wanted to vote for Vince, saying she finds him untrustworthy. Sure. But I think what she really meant was “creepy and annoying”.

Although there was some discussion around Will’s exhaustion and Nina’s age, I was surprised that their names didn’t come up more. Will sucked in this week’s challenge, and Nina sucked in last week’s. They are the two weak links on the tribe, but everyone’s already jumping to who they don’t trust or who the big threats are. Don’t come out so strong right out of the gate, guys!

Joe, Hali, Jenn and Will discussed splitting the vote between Vince and Nina, in case there was an Idol in play. I thought that was a very stupid idea, since they were not sure they had Will in their corner. And they didn’t – Will was playing both sides, and told Nina about the plan. Nina, Vince and Will talked about voting out Jenn, because she’s untrustworthy and mean to Nina. If votes were being split, that meant they’d only need three votes to get Jenn out.

And then Nina asked Will about his health. He said he was fine. Great! Let’s shake hands and walk away. Only, no. Nina didn’t leave it at that. “Vince is concerned about your health getting in the way of us winning challenges,” she told Will.

NINA. Nina. Nina. I’m sorry, but you’re a moron. I tried to cut Nina some slack when she super mishandled the skinny-dipping incident, because it was an emotional situation. But what was this? She totally bungled that conversation. Clearly, social skills aren’t Nina’s strong suit.

I’ve got a blank space baby, and I’ll write your name…

Will was angry, obviously, and started to seriously consider voting for Vince. Still, after all the conversations at Tribal Council I really thought it might be Jenn going home.

Nina and Vince voted Jenn. Joe voted Nina. And… everyone else voted Vince? What happened there?

So long, coconut man. I found Vince kind of annoying so I’m not really that sorry to see him go. Nina’s days are numbered now.

What did you guys think of the episode? Do I have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning with DAN???

Posted in Survivor | Leave a comment

Initial Thoughts on ‘Better Call Saul’

I was intrigued, though not necessarily enthused, by the idea of a Breaking Bad spinoff. After all, why mess with a good thing? I didn’t want the Breaking Bad universe to be tarnished by a botched attempt to keep the good times rolling.

The more I found out about Better Call Saul, the more I came around to the idea. Even though Saul Goodman was the kind of character that you could describe as seasoning – something that adds flavor, but can ruin a dish if you use too much – he was believable enough that it was possible he could carry his own show. The key to success, though, was making Better Call Saul a prequel.

Saul is not Saul yet, he’s Jimmy. He’s a struggling lawyer who runs a lot of scams. He’s yet to ascend (descend?) to the level of criminality we saw from him in Breaking Bad. And besides, he always seemed like a guy who was more greedy than evil. Walt was evil, not greedy. He was in it for the thrill and the power, not the money. Saul was always, always in it for the money.

The first episode of Better Call Saul was rough for me. I have a short attention span, and it has a running time of 53 minutes. With commercials. OK, OK – that’s not so bad. But there was a lot – I mean a lot – of exposition in that first episode. They lost me in the setup. I was straight-up BORED.

But I try to never judge a show by its pilot, and I appreciated that the writers needed to set up this new world. They had to introduce us to Jimmy, his situation, his friends and family. So I agreed to give it a few more episodes. The second episode was much more entertaining. The third episode hooked me.

Better Call Saul is not as twisted or violent as Breaking Bad, but has that same dark sense of humor. It also takes intrigue out of the equation. We already know how Saul’s story ends, so this show is more about the journey than the destination. It’s about hijinks (which I love) and how Jimmy eventually becomes Saul.

Posted in Better Call Saul | Leave a comment

The Bachelor – The Women Tell All, But Say Little

This week, the women tell all! Ah, this is the episode I live for. When everyone has to awkwardly face their poor behavior while trying to audition to be the next bachelorette.

Britt

Things started off with a lot of bickering, with Britt confronting Carly and many other women chiming in as well. Obviously, there are a lot of strong feelings about Britt. Jillian really, really likes her. Carly, clearly, doesn’t.

I’m sure there’s some merit to what the women said about Britt being contradictory. But damn, does Carly ever shut up? Britt seems like a flake, but a nice flake. Carly just seems petty and mean.

Whatever, though. Weren’t we all really here to see the women unite to take down Kelsey?

Kelsey

Kelsey got into the hot seat and sobbed “I feel…sniff…like I’m…sniff…grieving all over again.” Oh man, here she goes! Kelsey is so forceful in her act, I sometimes wonder if she herself believes it. She blew her nose in Chris Harrison’s pocket square and the other women were SO grossed out. This is how you know the handkerchief has officially evolved into a pocket square, useful only for fashion.

I thought it was strange how Chris Harrison let people basically have at Britt, and interrupt and harp on how much they dislike her, yet he kept the conversation with Kelsey so controlled. She was given much more of a platform to redeem herself than Britt was, and it seemed like Chris was trying to turn Ashley I. the villain.

I was right, though. I don’t think anyone stuck up for Kelsey. She was universally disliked.

Ashley S.

Man, that interview was just as weird as Ashley’s entire run on the show. I don’t want to comment on this much because, well, what is her deal? Is it a put-on? Is she on drugs? Or…something else? I don’t think I can comfortably point and laugh, the way I can at literally everyone else on this show.

Jade

Poor Jade. She’s being so harshly judged by the people who make this show, and well, it’s this show. No one felt like admitting that going on The Bachelor is like, only two or three steps up from posing for playboy. I mean, if you were going to make a Venn diagram of Bachelor contestants and people who’ve posed nude, would Jade be the ONLY one in both circles?

Jade was the most hurt by things Chris wrote in his blog the morning after her elimination episode aired. Fair enough, but do we think Chris is actually responsible for writing those? Or do you think Jimmy Kimmel writes them for him?

Kaitlyn

Around an hour and a half in (yes, this was TWO HOURS long, as always) we heard from the woman who will inevitably be the next bachelorette, Kaitlyn. I like Kaitlyn, but do I ever find listening to people talk about being “vulnerable” and having “feelings” boring. NEXT!

Chris

Chris hit the stage and shared the Longest. Hug. Ever. with Britt. There should have been a timer on that thing, or a trap door that opened when it reached peak awkwardness. Their conversation was bland and instantly forgettable.

I was more interested in Chris’s response to Kaitlyn’s question, which was “Why did you make me go through a rose ceremony?” The answer was, basically “Because that’s the show.” But we know that not everyone always follows the rules of the show – Kaitlyn pointed out that Andi did Chris the courtesy of a (semi) private breakup. So really, the answer was “Because I’m a dope.”

I think that sums up this episode.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Just Finished: Sister Mother Husband Dog (etc.) by Delia Ephron

sister-mother-husband-dogAfter so proudly reading fifteen books in 2014, I’m off to a slow start in 2015. I got stuck on a book of essays that I just wasn’t feeling, and rather than put it down for a while I just stopped picking anything up. This always happens. I suppose it’s the consequence of having a stubborn personality – I refuse to admit literary defeat. (I will return to the essay compilation eventually.)

But last week, I picked up this book by Delia Ephron, and it was the perfect thing to break my reading dry spell. It’s funny, sweet and short. Delia is the sister and often collaborator of the late Nora Ephron. They worked together on many things I’ve loved, including the film You’ve Got Mail.

Delia wrote this book of personal essays shortly after Nora died, and her presence is felt in every essay. Sometimes I relate more to Delia (like when she writes of her obsession with the character of Beth in Little Women, and, specifically, her death – me, too!) and other times I relate more to how she describes Nora. But I always relate to how she talks about being a sister, because I am one.

These essays aren’t just for women, and they aren’t just for siblings. If you’re a writer, or if you wish you were a writer, there’s a lot to love in this book. She has so many interesting insights about writing, collaborating, writing essays vs. novels vs. films, and much more. She has a story about losing her website domain that is so much more clever than it sounds. She also writes about growing up with alcoholic parents, ones who could be both difficult and wonderful, in an honest and accepting way that I’ve never encountered. She writes about her pet in a way that I intensely relate to – though she is obsessed with her dog, and I my cat.

It’s a lovely collection, and a refreshingly easy read (that’s a compliment, NOT a condescension) after struggling with something very dry for the last two months. I highly recommend it!

What’s up next: The Dinner by Herman Koch

Posted in Books | Leave a comment

Parks and Recreation: Saying Goodbye to a Favorite, Funny, Feminist Show

parks and rec toast

It’s late Wednesday night as I write this and so many great reviews, think-pieces, Q&As and nostalgic looks back have already been published about Parks and Recreation. (Not being able to stay up until midnight watching the show, and then even later to write about it, is the downfall of being an amateur blogger with a full-time job.)

I want to add my thoughts to the mix because it’s a show I love dearly, but I don’t want to be redundant.

The final season of Parks and Recreation aired at a lightning pace. Episodes flew by, without giving us adequate time to acknowledge  how great they were. I think the highlight was Leslie and Ron’s reunion. The decision to jump forward to the year 2017 for the final season was bold, and one that paid off both emotionally and comedically. Leslie and Ron’s falling out was handled so well, and the resolution was both sweet and hilarious.

There were so many other great things, like Tom winning Lucy back, April chasing her passion in life, Donna’s wedding, Leslie’s eloquent and hilarious take-down of “meninists” and the Johnny Karate show-within-a-show. This was an optimistic season, it was about these characters moving forward and finding success. So of course, that’s what the series finale was about as well.

Some viewers found the finale too sweet. I get it – everyone achieved a level of success pretty unimaginable when you consider the people they were back when we were first introduced. But here’s the thing: I couldn’t care less. So much of good television these days rejoices in the dark, the twisted, the anti-heroic. I like that Parks and Rec is warm, and funny, and sometimes edgy without ever being mean. I liked getting a flash-forward for all of our beloved characters, and seeing the wonderful things they do in life. I loved Leslie telling April that having kids is like adding people to your team, and that it’s not something you have to do, or should not do.

I will be watching the episode again. I might even write about it again. But for now, I just wanted to say, I love this show and I’ll miss it very much. Without Parks and Parenthood, Thursday nights just won’t be the same.

These photos are of me, posing a la April Ludgate, in 2012. I was 25 at the  time, worked in government, and related to her character very, very much.

Posted in Parks and Recreation | Leave a comment

Survivor: And So It Goes

survivor worlds apart logoSurvivor is back for its thirtieth season this year. Yes, that’s right – the big 3-0. People never stop being surprised that this show is still on the air. “Survivor is STILL on? And you WATCH it?” they gasp, with condescending and unnecessary surprise.

It’s still on. I still watch it. I still like it.

I still watch Survivor because I love the concept, and because human nature will never stop surprising me. Some casts in recent years have been better than others. But I’ll never stop loving moments were someone I like makes a really bold, strategic play, or someone I dislike gets outfoxed. Even in its thirtieth installment, Survivor has the ability to surprise me because humans have to ability to surprise me.

This season, the cast has been divvied up into three tribes: White Collar, Blue Collar, and No Collar. I can get onboard with these distinctions, though I could do without Probst’s constant reminders about who does what with rules. (Makes them! Follows them! Breaks them! Ugh.) So far, I think there are a lot of big personalities that could make this a fun season.

survivor season 30 castIf you’ve seen the episode, click through for more.

Continue reading

Posted in Survivor | 3 Comments

The Bachelor – Monkeying Around

We’re in the home stretch now, folks. The hometown dates are over and now Chris and the women are in Bali for the infamous Fantasy Suite dates. The drama! The sweat! Seriously, everyone was so sweaty.

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

Chris’s first date was with Kaitlyn. It was fun and relaxed, like two friends hanging out. They played with some monkeys, explored the town, and then had dinner. There was no doubt that these two would be hitting the fantasy suite, so most of the date felt like pointless lead-up. Poor Kaitlyn – at this point she seems much more into Chris than he seems into her.

Next up was Whitney – obviously the producers wanted to save Becca and the virginity-bomb for last. Chris and Whitney went sailing, and she talked about why her sister had been hesitant to give Chris her blessing. Don’t worry, though – Chris couldn’t have cared less! Blessing be damned, he will do what he wants.

Later that evening, Chris talked to Whitney about the struggles of living in Arlington. Does this mean he’s most serious about Whitney? He seems the most concerned about whether Whitney could see herself living there. Whitney said she is ready to give up her career to move to the middle of nowhere and make babies. Let’s all employ Amy Poehler’s wise words here, shall we? “Good for her, not for me.” I don’t want to judge Whitney for the choice she’s planning to make. I hope it makes her happy.

Finally, Chris had his date with Becca. Most of the day revolved around Becca’s nervousness about telling Chris she’s a virgin, and Chris’s nervousness about Becca having never been in love. Later that evening, Becca told Chris in order to be able to see herself living in Arlington, she’d have to be really, really sure about him and them together. She told him she’s “sorting through” her feelings, which was very different than the kinds of things Whitney had said.

When Becca finally told Chris that she’s a virgin, the lead-up was so intense that Chris seemed nothing but relieved. Off to the fantasy suite!

Caught in a landslide. No escape from reality (TV).

After the three overnight dates, Chris was facing a tough decision. Who should be runner up to Whitney? Seriously, it is SO obvious. “I woke up just terrified. I have to consider sending either her (Becca), or Kaitlyn, or even Whitney home.” EVEN Whitney = definitely not Whitney.

Chris was worried that Becca wasn’t as in love and ready to move to Arlington as the other two women. But, he’s falling in love with her! Like, is he? He doesn’t seem like he is. Chris sat and cried by the pool for a while. I don’t know why he’s got his boxers in such a bunch. It’s obvious that Whitney is the winner, Kaitlyn is the next Bachelorette, and Becca is a very nice girl.

Chris pulled Becca aside before handing out the roses. Becca told Chris that she’s crazy about him, and said a bunch of other right things. Hmm, am I wrong? Does Becca have more of a chance against Whitney than I thought? The one clear thing was that this conversation meant the demise of Kaitlyn. Poor Kaitlyn was sure Chris was dumping Becca, and said she felt “good and happy”. She was excited to meet his family. So obviously, she wasn’t thrilled when they returned holding hands. Meanwhile, Whitney just stood there like “Should I just help myself to the first rose, or what?”

Whitney and Becca got the roses. Chris did that crappy breakup thing where he talked about how hard it was on him while the person getting dumped cried. I hate that! You are doing the dumping. Later, tell someone else how hard it was. Let someone else comfort you.

Kaitlyn didn’t even get a rejection limo. Don’t worry sweetie, you’ll get a bunch of limos while you’re the Bachelorette.

What do you guys think? Does Whitney have this thing locked down, or is Becca a dark horse?

Posted in The Bachelor | 2 Comments