Mrs Filthy's "Battle of the Seasons" Review


April 15, 2002

Stuck Gears

Those crazy Real World and Road Rules kids seem to spend most of their time in Cabo at the local Internet café. Sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs and palm trees just don't hold a candle to overpriced coffee drinks and the latest incarnation of the Dancing Baby, I suppose. It is here that we meet up with Real World Boston castmates Sean and Elka. While Elka coos to her long-time beau Walter, "I luv yooooooo! I miss yoooo," Sean appears less carefree.

The former lumberjack emphasizes that he's just like anyone else, with school expenses, tight funds and a burgeoning family to support. That segment, for all you reality tv veterans out there, means that Sean is going to win, and Sean is going to win big. Darlings, he needs this victory to save his family from the almshouse, to preserve his honor, etc. The story arc just wouldn't be the same if a nobody like Dan or Timmy won, and believe me, the story arc needs all the help it can get!

The night before the mission, each team receives a plastic puzzle, in which tiny cars are moved about on a grid until one car can be moved off the board. The contestants are told that this trinket is a clue to the next challenge. As much as some of the players (as well as members of the viewing audience) hope for a demolition derby, the mission is much more obvious- a life-size version of the automotive puzzle.

Sean spends day and night mastering the mental wizardry of this plastic toy, but most of the other contestants don't take the game as seriously, relying instead on pep talk and hope. However, Theo is proud to note that he went to a "special school" where they did puzzles like this all day, every day. To tell you the truth, mes amis, it is unclear whether he means some sort of upscale Logic Academy or merely a backwoods juvie. Or maybe he was some sort of psychological test subject? That might explain the star-shaped mark on his cheek.

On game day, the hosts sound just like the killjoy go-cart attendants at Lakeside with their eternal refrain of "No bumping!" Any cast member who bumps into another car will be disqualified, losing their shot at winning a Saturn vehicle. And, the hosts add with wicked glee, some of the cars are automatic and some of the cars are manual! Oh, the impossibility of it all! Suddenly, this prosaic little puzzle has all the death-defying drama of valet parking.

If any particular team has the mental agility to figure out the puzzle, they invariably lack the driving ability. I begin to think, my chickadees, that a prerequisite to being a reality television star is the inability to drive a stick shift. Sacre bleu, is it really that difficult? And even if a team has the driving ability and the smarts, they might lack the biggest component of a challenge such as this- keeping a cool head.

There's a lot of aimless flailing and yelling out there in the dusty Mexican parking lot. It seems like there's a general lack of good decision-making. For example, Emily already has three fender-benders on her driving record, and yet Timmy allows her to drive the cars. Soon Emily is up to number four, and that Road Rules team is disqualified. Mike and Coral also manage to burn up half a dozen clutches in the course of their trial.

Theo and Holly are the first castmates to put forward a strong performance, and it's not surprising that they get a little cocky. But, in television land, cockiness comes before a fall, and the next team up is Sean and Elka- Sean, of the Dickenesque need for a new Saturn. Theo and Holly might as well despair now.

Elka is another one of these stick-shift virgins, so Sean does all the driving. He also does most of the bellowing. Elka proves to be the more valuable team mate, however; she points and directs with the natural authoritative flair of the Texas debutante at a society tea. Between the two of them, they manage to win the competition. Even Theo, who thought he was a sure thing, cannot disparage the victors, a "class act guy" and a "dream girl" all the way. This, mes amis, is Bunim/Murray's version of Destiny.

Want to tell Mrs. Filthy something?

This Week, Mrs. Filthy's Reading:

Why Moths Hate Edison by Hampton Sides (editor)