My turn! You throw me the tape, I throw you the whip!
Sure I have a whip. Doesn’t everyone have a whip? Everyone I know has a whip. Why are y’all looking at me like…
…previously on Outback Jack: MTW wrote a summary which is around here somewhere and I’d really like you to go and read it right now before you do this one so you can laugh a lot and get certain things out of your head and then come back having completely forgotten about whips and never even consider thinking about them again!
We’re going to rejoin Jack and his group of Merry Women (rob from the stores and keep it for themselves) at the latest camp on the banks of Elimination River, where the boomerang has just landed. Australia, home to some of the deadliest wildlife on the planet, has just had all those crocs, dingos, poisonous spiders, and reality TV producers go running for the first plane off the continent. The #1 slot on the ‘this’ll kill you’ hit parade has just been taken over by a relative newcomer to the nation. Something bipedal. Something with sharp teeth. Something with a forked tongue. Something that, around three a.m, deep in our worst nightmares, speaks with the voice of Marissa.
Of course, this is reality television. Which means we’re never gonna wake up… Roll opening credits.
The nightmare picks up right where it left off: Jack is still hugging Marissa. Natalie looks shocked. Meri-De is a little confused. Maria is nauseous. I’m pinching every part of my body within casual reach. But it’s real. She’s returned. Did you ever think ‘graves giving up their dead’ would be an improvement?
JD explains the hidden definition of the women’s ‘elimination’ vote: they were told they could ask someone to leave, but not that they could send someone home. Only Jack has the power to permanently remove contestants, just as only Marissa has the power to permanently evacuate the contents of the viewer’s stomachs. No one leaves until Jack says so, which also means ‘In the event of a direct Marissa attack, please stand still and try not to spray blood into the camera lens.’ They were three: they are now four. (There’s a brief pause while the producers pull out a few charts, graphs, and flash cards, then go over the concept of three vs. four with Natalie until she can nail it one time out of twenty.) She Has Returned and We Are Stuck With It.
Obviously, everyone has a lot of catching up to do, especially in regards to their Ralph worship time. JD leaves them to it.
Meri-De introduces herself to Marissa, who gives her a handshake that probably didn’t last long enough to spread a contact poison before sitting down at the table and asking ‘Did everybody miss me?’ Yes, and if we can just get Jack to train the others in some traditional Outback weapons before your elimination, they won’t make the same mistake twice. As-is, dead silence is her only response, which she meets with a canary-eating grin.
Marissa’s naturally curious as to where her new victim came from, so the others take a minute to update her on the last few episodes. Marissa’s response is to turn her back and resume depleting the bird population. In confessional-tell, Meri-De lets us knows she could feel the cold front coming in across the plains as soon as Marissa arrived – and most of it was blowing off Marissa’s back, because that’s what they were all seeing of her. Every time someone tried to speak to her: turn away, look off in another direction, spit out feathers. Meri-De thinks Marissa is a little bit fake. And she figured this out within ten seconds of Marissa’s arrival. Not bad.
Jack c-t says it won’t take long for Marissa to win his heart back, but he’s not going to show his emotions over her return in front of the others. Hopefully, he can hold his agony back in the same fashion when she tears his heart out of his chest and shows it to him.
‘Interesting how the twists play out these days, huh?’ Marissa smugly asks the others.
(At this point, I pressed Pause and proceeded to go on a screaming rant about For Love Or Money, which I blame for all of this. A lot. For hours on end. In great detail. Pushing Play…)
Natalie can c-t feel the drama in the air and feels the game is about to become ‘more clawy.’ Or at least more toothy, which is the next point of attack on Marissa’s schedule. No, not more biting of the other contestants: everyone’s been sprayed down with bitter apple. Marissa just noticed Natalie wearing Jack’s croc fang necklace (given to her as a gift during their date), and that’s the cue for a minor c-t freak out – immediately followed by an interrogation session.
In rough paraphrase for Marissa and fairly mild paraphrase for Natalie:
Marissa: ‘Where did you get that necklace? What have you been doing to my Jack? Have you been sneaking out after dark to make out with Jack under the night vision lenses? Because that’s my trick, you scheming ditzy witch! Mine!’
Natalie: ‘Umm… this necklace?’
Marissa: ‘That necklace!’
Natalie: ‘Oh, this necklace…’
Marissa: ‘Did you win it? Did JD host the ‘biggest moron’ contest while I was out? Was Adrienne gone by then, because that would have been the only way you could have come in first – no, it would have been a however-many-women-there-were tie for first place and they decided to give you the necklace because they thought you’d look the dumbest wearing it!’
Natalie: ‘I didn’t win it.’
Marissa: ‘Then how did you get it? Did you steal it? Did you rip that from my Jack’s neck? I’m the only one allowed to remove dead or soon-to-be parts from his body! What have you been up to?’
Natalie: ‘I don’t know. I just have it now.’
Marissa (in c-t): ‘What’s the big deal? Tell me! I only kill people slowly when they don’t give me information I want!’
Natalie: ‘By the way, how can I be scheming and a ditz at the same time?’
Marissa: ‘Shut up!’
Natalie (in c-t): ‘It’s none of her business how I got the necklace and I don’t feel a need to rub it in. Does this make me the personality contrast opponent in the Final Two or what?’
Meri-De, who’s made more of a connection with the others in two episodes than Marissa managed over the entire series, notices how much Marissa likes to separate herself from the others. Natalie tells her to get used to it. Please make a check mark on your official Outback Jack Foreshadowing Sheet (available from SB for $2.95 plus shipping or as an Adobe download, no shipping cost) now, just in case.
Marissa c-t insists it doesn’t matter if all of the other women got necklaces from Jack. He’s glad to see her and part of that was his visible shock when she returned (or he was just trying to enter the denial stage at top speed), and she’s ready to go back to her plan: cuddle, kiss, and neck at every possible opportunity. Say, starting right now.
Fortunately for what’s left of my sanity, Jack cuts the session short. The tension in camp is getting to the point where he can feel the drama in the air, and his prescribed temporary cure for same is a good long hike, to let the women use their energy for something other than killing Marissa. Since it’s now very obviously Jack’s show, no one tries to point out what a bad idea this is – although it does set up the chance for someone to push her into a ravine while he isn’t looking – and they all set off for their next destination.
This turns out to also be the next stop on the Jack & Mates 2004 Tour: a nice little ranch owned by his good pal John. And what does John raise on his ranch, you ask? Does he perhaps take high-maintenance women into little cells and clean them up before the inevitable auction to the highest bidder? No, of course not: he knew Marissa was coming and no one’s going to voluntarily take on goods they can never get rid of. John raises crocodiles. And, as always, as long as the women are in the area, they’re going to help out a little. A species that has survived for millions of years with very little change had better figure out how to get a set of vocal cords in a hurry: the need to yell for help is coming…
This particular group of crocs (kept in an open-top pen with walls a little over two feet high) is fairly young: none of them are much over a foot and a half long. In fact, they’re so young that John hasn’t had a chance to properly sex them yet. (And before the board freaks out: ‘sexing’ in ranching means ‘finding out which gender they are’.) He’s got to separate the boys from the girls: the females will be kept for later breeding, while most of the males will be released into the wild. (Somewhere in America, a FOX executive comes with his very own completely original idea for a new dating show.) The women are going to help out, and the first stage will be the transfer of a few baby crocs to the examination table. (Somewhere else in America, two bald men named Kevin and Drew briefly wonder what all the fuss is about before enjoying another well-earned beer.)
John demonstrates the lifting technique: climb into the pen, grab the croc by the tail, pull it back quickly, place one hand at the base of the tail and the other at the base of the head, point the croc’s jaws away from you, lift. It’s not all that hard, although the baby crocs have a decent turn of speed and you always have to be careful not to annoy the one behind you while chasing the one in front of you. Natalie doesn’t seem all that reassured.
In c-t, Jack notes his high interest in the situation. ‘I’m very curious to see how my girls do in working with the crocs, because if you don’t like animals, you don’t stand a chance with me.’ This tells us more about Jack than anyone really needed to know.
Meri-De and Marissa go first, and get their crocs: Meri-De does so well with the approach-and-grip that her croc never even tries to move after she gets her hands on it, while Maria gets snapped at before landing a mild thrasher. They bring their catches over to the examination table.
Now: how does one sex a croc? You don’t do it by eye, because all the parts concerned are completely internal: as with birds, the young have no exterior signs of gender. The croc sexer has to turn the croc on its back to get access to the belly and look for a natural slit near the back legs, where – well, functions vital to crocodile existence leave the body. After that’s done, the croc sexer must carefully place one finger into the slit and feel around for – let’s just give these lines to John and Natalie.
John: ‘What you’re feeling for here is a willie.’
Natalie (in c-t, because this sort of explanation requires a private moment): ‘A willie is a pee-pee. A willie is a male ding-a-ling.’
John: ‘And just to make it easier on the croc, give your finger a little lick there. Give it a little lubricant. Lube it up, get it in there.’
There is absolutely nothing I can say to that which will not get me thrown off this board, so let’s just move on to Meri-De’s attempt. She’s understandably reluctant to go through with it, but steels herself and inserts her lubricated finger. Squelching sounds ensue. Shrieking sounds also ensue, as the other women aren’t taking this particularly well. The croc is stoic throughout. (Somewhere in the world, two bald men named Kevin and Drew realize just how lucky they really were and enjoy yet another well-earned beer.) Meri-De determines she’s landed a male and pulls out, c-t noting that most males would take her out and buy her dinner before expecting her to do something with their willie. Welcome to Australia, Meri-De.
Marissa apparently volunteers to sex a croc she didn’t catch (you can set up your own resemblance to her perceived romantic life if you want to: I can’t stop you), lubes up, and goes in. After a brief examination, she declares she’s gotten a girl and vacates the area as quickly as possible. Well, we’ve all seen how much she dislikes other women – or what she thinks to be women: John, who didn’t load the croc pen with pre-determined genders before the women showed up, really and truly, goes in for sloppy seconds and expertly identifies a male. Maria immediately gets off a potential all-time classic c-t: ‘I’m really surprised that Marissa couldn’t find that willie when she needed to, because she should be an expert.’ And I thought Mary had untapped basher potential?
Maria’s next up, and only needs a few seconds to make her call: she knows her males. Natalie, however, is in trouble. Her fingernails are a little bit long, and she’s going to have to cut one before doing the delicate work. Natalie doesn’t want to cut a nail, despite John’s insistence that fingernails aren’t important. These aren’t just ordinary fingernails. These are French tips. Wouldn’t any crocodile male approaching maturity appreciate just a touch of Frenching?
Apparently not: one nail is going to be being trimmed down. Natalie doesn’t quite have the stomach for it, and Jack volunteers to do it for her. Badly. While Jack’s used to slicing up a large number of things, fingernails aren’t one of them: the result is ragged with a number of pointy edges desperately looking for filing, snags on everything she touches (which presumably includes the insides of a croc) and is cut so close to the cuticle that Natalie gasps in pain at one point while John reminds Jack not to draw blood. Or, as Natalie c-t puts it, ‘Clicketty do-dah-dey.’
Natalie fetches her croc, getting a major thrasher (which sets off the expected amount of major screaming), brings it back to the examination table, and gets her newly-trimmed finger tip into place. With Jack by her side to calm her down and advise her on how to be gentle, she gets the job done and identifies the fourth male in a row before c-t swearing off crocs for life. Shortly after she finishes, a fairly large quantity of milky white fluid flows out of the croc’s belly slit and spreads onto the table. This probably means absolutely nothing for foreshadowing, although it’s interesting that the camera (and Jack, and the producers, and the other contestants, and a large portion of the viewership) chose to make note of it.
(Press Pause. Wait to be thrown off board. Realize that it’s probably not going to happen mid-summary. Pressing Play…)
All that croc sexing took a while – you just can’t rush that kind of thing if you want to do it right – and it’s getting fairly late. Jack realizes they’ll have to hustle to make their next camp before dark and gets the women back on the trail just in time to not make their goal: they arrive shortly after sunset, and head right into dinner preparations. In this case, it’s a barbeque, with Jack working over a double-sided firetop grill. All the croc sexing has put Marissa in the mood for meat: she looks over the contents of the grill, openly notes that there’s a lot of wieners there, and declares that she wants a sausage. Jack assures her that she’ll get her sausage. The show promptly moves over to Spike, leaving a three-second gap in the tape where I scrambled to follow.
Nothing important probably happened in that interval, because Marissa’s bored on the other side of it. Everyone’s enjoying dinner, the other women are happy to have familiar-looking food (with Maria c-t thrilled not to be dealing with crocodile, kangaroo, or dingo meat), and Natalie is being introduced to the joys of eating steak off the bone. This c-t bores Marissa, who declares that none of the other women are exciting and Jack will want someone who livens things up, like her. And how does Marissa liven dinner up? She throws food at Jack, which promptly falls into his shirt. Meri-De helps fish it out while Natalie looks disgusted and Jack, showing the influence the women are having on him, asks someone to pass the napkins before noting how cheeky an exceptionally smug-looking Marissa is being tonight.
But the party’s not lively enough yet, and nothing livens up a dinner like having someone put their bare feet on the table – so naturally, that’s Marissa’s next move. Meri-De calls her on it, only to be told that this is the Outback and not a dinner table: Marissa has been eating with her fingers and urinating in the woods, so what’s the big deal with having her feet up? Maria immediately c-t notes that Marissa’s probably been urinating on her feet, too. (FOX immediately creates a new show from an entirely original idea, to be called Who Wants To Date A Member Of The Boston Red Sox?) The Queen Of All She Surveys dismissively waves a hand and says ‘Go away. Be gone’ and manages to temporarily banish a small part of Jack’s interest in her, as he c-t notes that Marissa is seriously testing his patience, which means the massive Thorazine shot from the fourth episode is finally kicking in.
Three quick c-ts – Marissa believing the other women are only upset because she’s the biggest threat in the game, Natalie feeling Marissa ruined dinner, and Maria saying a prayer that Marissa gets eliminated because ‘she doesn’t get along with anybody’ – apparently the others are here to make friends – and everyone goes to bed.
Morning finds Marissa the first one out of the tent. (Most of the background noises from the native wildlife stop as she emerges, followed by the sounds of said wildlife making a break for it.) Jack, who’s normally the first up to make breakfast, scare the more hazardous animals out of the area, discover six new species, and look for any luggage that happens to be floating by (as they never did find Adrienne’s shoe bag) is nowhere in sight. His hat is: it’s resting on a pole and has a rolled-up note tucked under the band.
‘Where’s Jack?’ Marissa openly wonders. The hat has no opinion. The note reads:
I’ve gone ahead.
which means Marissa is now guilty of opening mail not addressed to her, although the laws may be a little more flexible in Australia. She heads back to the tent and tells the other women about Jack’s absence. The result is mass confusion. Why would Jack leave them? What did they do? More to the point, what did Marissa do that Jack would abandon all of them to get some time away from her? Maybe Jack doesn’t have a foot fetish and Marissa mortally offended him!
They search the camp, just in case ‘ahead’ meant ‘somewhere that Marissa’s feet aren’t visible.’ No Jack. They scream out his name. No Jack. They send the aerial camera through a few swoops over the surrounding area. No Jack. They give up and sit down in front of the fire pit to have a drink and figure out their next move.
They’ve been abandoned. Some of them are a little bit frightened (okay, mainly Natalie.) They have no idea what’s going to happen next. They’re more than a little worried. It’s an odd cue for JD, but he’s got to show up sometime. The women completely forget about their usual warding attempts – as Natalie c-t notes, ‘It was the first time ever I was happy to see JD’, which tells you just how scared she was – and hope the Font Of All Bad News has some information for them, which tells you just how well the rest of them are dealing with it.
In fact, JD does have the scoop on the morning’s events. The challenge for the day is to find out where Jack is. The women will be divided into pairs and sent out to look for him along two different trails, which will eventually unite at the same destination. There will be clues and challenges along the trails (marked off by pieces of cloth – mostly brown, so they can be hard to spot against the tree bark where they’re frequently tied on), and the women must figure out the hints and complete the tasks before moving on to the next station. The first team to find Jack wins ‘an amazing date’.
So. Let’s review. Two teams of two, each with a pre-existing relationship, are going to race across a foreign country, confronting clues that have to be solved, challenges to be met, and doing everything they can to reach a final destination with a prize at the end, knowing that the final group to check in may have someone eliminated.
What an original idea for a reality show.
The stream of fresh ideas continues as the contestants are divided into teams through the act of reaching into a bag with their eyes closed and pulling out painted rocks.
Natalie pulls out a red rock.
Marissa pulls out a purple rock. The other women jump to their feet and start dancing around the fire pit, giving each other high-fives while they scream with happiness and openly taunt Marissa, who’s sitting stock-still with a stunned expression fixed on her features. JD blinks, takes the purple rock back, hands it to a representative from the TBS legal department, and checks the contents of the bag to verify that there’s still three rocks inside: someone just planted an extra as a joke. The celebration dies out instantly, with the other women looking exceptionally mournful. Marissa then pulls out a yellow rock.
Maria pulls out a red rock.
Meri-De pulls out a yellow rock.
Meri-De is worried about being partnered with Marissa, but figures she’ll have to push through it. Marissa, on the other hand, is thrilled about being teamed up with ‘Miss Muscles’ and believes this guarantees they’ll reach the finish line first. Natalie and Maria have no problems with working together. (Surprise!)
Twelve hours have passed since the teams entered the Pit Stop. JD gives the teams their first clue – follow the path and look for a tree to climb, where the next clue awaits – and then the signal – and they’re off! They’re racing in opposite directions! Neither team is making any attempt to follow the other! For the first time in reality show racing history, this is a good thing!
Marissa takes the lead on the yellow team, forcing Meri-De to stay behind her and slow down to her pace while yelling for the more athletic woman to keep up. (There may be a career in politics brewing here.) Meri-De is worried about Marissa’s single-minded focus causing them to miss markers and clues – and it almost happens right off the bat: Marissa barrels by the tree they’re supposed to climb, while Meri-De spots the yellow arrow pointing up and has to call her back. Naturally, it’s also Meri-De who winds up climbing the thing and pulling the next rolled-up note away from the hanging lantern. And just as naturally, it’s Marissa telling her to ‘Hurry!’ the whole time. (Somewhere in the world, a woman named Charla glances up at another woman named Mirna, says ‘I would have done the whole thing faster without you’, and means every word of it.)
The next clue tells them to find an X and dig. Team Leadership Delusional takes off.
Meanwhile, Team Fashion Passion is having some problems. Natalie is still the least athletic person on the show, and Maria’s opened up a huge lead on her teammate, who protests with ‘My adrenaline hasn’t kicked in yet!’ (Apparently no one told her about the outlets waiting on the other side of the continent.) Maria c-t ponders dumping her partner and forging on alone, but sadly, the win doesn’t count until both team members hit the mat. So Natalie slowly, slowly walks along, complains about how hard the race is, and yells out ‘Jack!’ in hopes that they’re somewhere near the finish line. (Somewhere in the world, a woman named Flo has a moment of complete and utter sympathy, and doesn’t know why.)
Meri-De and Marissa reach the X: two bound sticks lying on the dirt. Meri-De immediately drops to her knees and starts excavating, while Marissa does a little trim work around the sides. The next clue is quickly uncovered – they’re now looking for a spiderweb – and race off. Team These Shoes Aren’t Made For Running is just arriving at the tree, where Maria takes care of climbing the tree and Natalie takes care of nearly shredding the clue in her attempt to get it open. They rush off (well, Maria rushes: Natalie walks) with Natalie now whining about not being able to spot the X, which must be only a few feet from the tree.
However, she may be able to take all the time she wants, because Marissa’s leadership skills have just exerted themselves again, with predictable results: Team Do What I Want, Not What I Say has lost the trail, and are getting farther from it with each step, as Marissa bullies on ahead with no idea where she’s going, but with absolute confidence that she’s going the right way. Meri-De knows they’re off the path and tries to talk Marissa into turning back. Marissa just insists that Meri-De keep up with her. (Definitely a career in politics there.)
This delay allows Team We’re Not Glad To See JD Anymore to reach the X. Natalie immediately declares Roadblock and assigns Maria to do the digging, as she still has nine intact French tip fingernails to worry about. They get the spiderweb clue (with Natalie alternately declaring her imminent death and hoping for a large spider, so it’ll be easier to spot) and move out, startling a snake on the way. No one stops to pet it.
Meri-De, justifiably fed up, wrests control of the team away from Marissa and takes the lead – predictably, running well ahead of the smaller woman while not yelling at her to keep up. Team Under New Management gets back to the path in a hurry – but Team I’ve Really Come Farther Than You Think has already reached the next clue, which is stuck to the spiderweb. Which is, in turn, guarded by Natalie’s odd wish: a very large spider. Amazingly, Natalie steels herself and, with the usual sound effects accompanying her efforts, plucks the clue off the web. They now have to look under a blue-tongued lizard. (The sound Natalie makes upon learning this could be reproduced here, but probably shouldn’t be, as the summary writer is just a tiny bit – an amount measurable against atoms – proud of Natalie right now, and wants to leave the paragraph with her looking good. This probably won’t happen again – but at least for that moment, y’all could have Next Action Star. Of course, that’s kind of true for any given moment…)
Team Just Because You’re In Front Doesn’t Mean You’re Leading reaches the spiderweb and retrieves the clue – Meri-De working under Marissa’s insistent tones – then goes after their lizard. However, Team This Is Going To Be Really Embarrassing After The Editing has already found theirs: it’s in a little circle of rocks, under a large piece of tree bark. It’s overweight, slow-moving, light on reaction time, and has absolutely no problem with having two high-maintenance women uncover it and immediately approach ultrasound. It’s so relaxed that it doesn’t even mind when Maria declares ‘Sorry, buddy, but you’ve got to move’, picks it up, and throws it about four feet away. It just sits in its new spot, apparently very comfortable, flicking its blue tongue in and out. It may be related to Lance and Marshall. There’s no way to tell without a blood test.
Maria starts to frantically dig in the dirt under the lizard’s original resting place. No clue is being exposed.
During this little delay, Team I Have No Idea How They Figured This Out Either reaches their own lizard, concealed under an identical setup. Both of them kneel down to move the reptile – and Meri-De either has a lucky sight angle or enough intuition to immediately be accepted into a much longer Race. ‘It’s under the lizard!’ As in ‘written down on its belly in henna paint. Not tattoos. Henna. No lizards were embarrassed in the making of this show, mostly because they don’t seem to be capable of it.’ Both women get a grip and flip their clue reptile over to discover their destination: a small bar in a nearby town. With the mat in sight and Phil’s borrowed sweaters pinging on Marissa’s fashion radar, there’s no way for them to lose the trail.
And finally, Team If I’m Clueless About The Last Two, This One Really Throws Me has a brainstorm: Maria realizes the clue is on the lizard’s underside, forces herself to pick it up again, has Natalie read off the words, tosses it to its new home, and goes for broke.
The camera’s moving back and forth between teams, showing them crossing identical locations. Will it be Meri-De and Marissa? Will it be Natalie and Maria? Will it be Bob and Joyce? Will anyone be able to spot the route marker flag this time? And, most importantly, who are the locals waiting to greet the racers at the mat?
And it’s – Meri-De and Marissa, racing into the Swinging Arm Bar to find Jack sitting there, enjoying a fine nuclear weapon with the locals, who display the usual charm of those assigned to wait by the mat. (To wit: bad hair, dirty clothes, not much in the way of personal hygiene, and severe fallout breath can be presumed in there somewhere.) After a couple of hugs, JD walks in after them and announces ‘Ladies, you are the first pair to make it here.’ (The CBS legal department can be heard cursing in frustration from three thousand miles away.) An edited moment later, Maria and Natalie reach the pub, only to be informed that they’re A. too late and B. getting a consolation prize: they get to stay at the bar and party with the locals during the date. One of the local men, who bears an exceptional resemblance to a genie down on his luck, winks at them.
Meri-De and Marissa get changed into more date-suitable clothes, and walk with Jack to a waiting helicopter, which is going to take them on a flying tour of the outback. There’s no need to go into detail about all the wonderful scenery they saw because I already took three cold showers during the initial play-through and I just coughed a couple of times, so enough is probably enough. (The CBS legal department was probably happy about the aerial tour, though.) The only notable moves occur in pairs: Jack is sitting between the women, and thus winds up the target of a territory war. If one is having a hand held, the other has to grab on as well. If Meri-De places a hand on his left thigh, Marissa is heading straight for the right. Luckily, no one goes after anything singular within camera view.
Meanwhile, back at the pub, Natalie asks if they serve pina coladas. No, Natalie, but they do love being caught in the rain, and if you keep talking to that sterling example of the local manhood, someone is going to propose making love at midnight. Try not to drink too much, okay?
The happy dating trio arrives at their destination: a beautiful cliffside that will not be discussed here because I don’t want to take Nyquil this week, where a dinner table awaits. As does JD, summoned by his more usual call. Neither woman will let go of Jack, so there’s no chance to try warding gestures, and the next piece of bad news is delivered with no resistance from the recipients. The dinner table is set for two. Someone’s leaving, right now. Not from the show, as giving a member of the winning team a 50-50 chance of going home immediately is a little sadistic even for JD, but back to the bar. Jack’s got to make another decision – and, without even the lightest touch of doubletalk – he just hasn’t been the same since the third episode – he asks Marissa to stay for dinner.
Jack’s reasoning is simple here: all the other women have had (public) alone time with him since Marissa left, and she’s the only one without a formal date. As such, and given that she pretty much had the lead when she left and came back to a level playing field – both openly admitted – he needs some time to ask her how she feels about him, and what she sees in him.
Marissa’s reply is ‘I just see this passionate, tender guy who’s respectful. And I just like how I feel when I’m with you,’ which probably would have sounded a lot better coming from just about anyone else.
It’s possible Jack’s realized this, as he c-t admits that ‘It’s been hard to get to know Marissa, with all the madness that’s happened around her’. He doesn’t know if he trusts her or not, and has to figure it out. Fast. (Y’know, when that Thorazine finally gets around to kicking in, it’s pretty good stuff.) And the dinner date ends with Jack saying ‘All I ask for is honesty, and the rest will follow.’ Please make a second check on your official Foreshadowing Sheet.
Back at the bar, Natalie makes a toast to ‘whatever the hell is in that cup’, with ‘the hell in that cup’ being the perfect way to describe Australian alcohol – just as Meri-De gets back and shares the news of her dinner dismissal. Maria and Natalie are shocked. They can’t understand why Jack would ever pick Marissa over Meri-De, unless Jack’s helpful side was just trying to fill Marissa’s mammoth need for attention. Maria in particular can’t believe that Jack can’t see how sweet Meri-De is, especially compared to – well, what Marissa’s been acting like. She’s disturbed that Jack can’t see through Marissa. She thinks Jack is smarter than he’s been openly playing things with Marissa, but isn’t sure. And she concludes the discussion with – and this is an almost-exact quote, modified only to fit it within board standards – ‘if he fricken winds up with flipping Marissa, I am going to come back here and kick his flipping All-Star Survivor!’
(At this time, I would like to extend Maria an invitation to join the website. There’s always room, especially since Webby’s going to kick me off forty paragraphs into this summary.)
Jack and Marissa return to camp and find it empty: the other women are still at the bar, and JD can’t be bothered setting up the clues to go find them. As such, Marissa is c-t glad for the chance to reconnect with Jack, and promptly does so at the lips. Jack c-t feels that he and Marissa don’t need to say much to each, because they ‘communicate through body language’. Yes, they do. In full view of the cameras. And you’d have to call it body language, because their entire bodies seem to be getting involved in the conversation. Apparently Jack feels that not fully trusting someone mentally is no good reason not to let your soma continue to have a vote.
Several nauseating subjective hours later, the other women return in a hitched ride, only slightly drunk on the local alcohol, which is sort of like saying The Four Horseman are only slightly full of themselves. Jack and Marissa hear the whooping from some ways off and separate before the truck pulls in. Marissa, listening to her rivals, declares ‘I’m running that way’ and points in two directions at once. (There was local wine served with the dinner.)
The women attempt to get some information out of Jack and Marissa, but Marissa only wants to talk about the scenery (which I can’t blame her for) and Jack’s openly on the defensive, c-t claiming it’s because he doesn’t want to kiss and tell while openly standing awkwardly with his arms folded and fending off questions by saying it’s too close to his bedtime. The non-dined (but wined) women mistakenly decide Jack’s hesitance is a sign that the dinner date didn’t go well (although Meri-De does feel they could have arrived in time to interrupt something), which puts them in a better mood. And after all that local color, it takes a lot to put them in a better mood.
Hmm. Good moods, more or less all around. The next morning dawns sunny and bright. No one seems to have a hangover. Jack is serving up breakfast and a nature lesson at the same time: he found a big spider roaming around the brim of his hat, and is showing it off to his companions – and they aren’t the least bit worried about it, because Jack is around. ‘The one thing I’ve learned,’ Natalie unfairly judges herself in c-t – it’s at least three, ‘is that you have to be careful in the Outback, because there’s deadly creatures out here.’
The spider tries to weave a defensive web, but isn’t quite fast enough: the host comes in through the gaps in the barrier and delivers his usual brand of news. There’s going to be another elimination – not immediately, but in an hour or so. Each woman will get some alone time with Jack in front of his tent to present their argument for staying, they’ll hike off to find their next mode of transportation, and for someone, that’s going to be an international flight.
Jack picks up his hat (which still has the spider on the brim) and heads for his tent. The women listen to JD’s speech about using sixteen hours of air travel to repeatedly kick themselves with feigned politeness, then follow Jack.
The arguments for staying, in very rough paraphrase:
Natalie: ‘I have feelings for you and they keep growing each day and it’s hard for me to express those feelings but you make it easier and I want to stay here with you and keep those feelings growing and at some point I will have to hit a comma but the show’s editors may save me from doing it on camera and isn’t that Maria coming up the path?’
Maria: ‘You’re very easy to fall for, I feel like I can do more with you around, you make me challenge myself, and I love it when you tuck us all in at night. You’re not just a man, you’re my new favorite blankie! Do you think I should use this old one to wrap up a snake and keep him warm? I know you like that sort of thing.’
Meri-De: ‘I have a lot of respect for you, and I respect the qualities I’ve seen in you. You’re a fun person to be with, and I’d like to hang around with you. And while I realize my athletic background makes me see ‘hang around with you’ as a near-ultimate compliment, I’m absolutely certain you won’t see it as a ‘I just want to be friends’ statement. There’s no chance of that happening at all. Besides, it’s not as if I had any potential foreshadowing moments or anything.’
Marissa: ‘You picked me for dinner, you picked me to make out with, deep down, you know this show needs someone for viewers to root against to keep the ratings up, and I don’t think the medical team has your Thorazine dosage regulated just yet. I’m not going home. Oh, and just in case all that medication makes you vulnerable to suggestions, you never liked Adrienne, you hear me? Never!’
Jack c-t feels the talks have made the decision harder. If it made things easier, Jack, JD wouldn’t have told you to do it.
A fast c-t from Natalie, who feels that no one is safe since Jack has something special with each of them – like a lot of the things Natalie says, it makes sense if you don’t think about it for a while – and the group hikes off until they find JD, who’s standing next to four horses. It’s the usual routine: only one person per horse, so it’s elimination time. (You have to wonder how many episodes this show would run with a larger travel budget.) It’s once again time to play Follow The Flow Of Jack’s Conversation, which has become a lot easier since he gave up doubletalk for Lent.
Maria: You’ve been honest with me, you’ve exposed your feelings, however – hang on! He just doubletalked! (The shock is quite visible on Maria’s face.) D’you think this recovery has anything to do with Marissa coming back? – decisions are hard and I have to make them, only so many horses, so get a leg up over one and continue on this adventure, giddyap! The horse does not take off at this last, although Maria does temporarily lose contact with gravity.
Marissa: I’ve already lost you twice, once to the sunstroke and once to the women’s vote, but I’m still not sure if your emotions are directed at me or towards getting more DAW time (and Maria’s face lights up), but recently I’ve been more at ease and things seem to be good on the outside right now, so pick a horse and get in the saddle. We have yet to lose our (one-third strength) equivalent to She Who Must Not Be Hired, and the producers sigh with relief as they get a little closer to an ideal Final Two face-off.
Meri-De: Even as a newcomer you’ve done me proud, I feel a
connection and the others have accepted you, not counting Marissa who can’t accept anything which gets camera time she would have otherwise had, we know what we both want, but I have to let you go now, and I really do care about you, please know that. Meri-De’s visibly upset – she c-t hadn’t expected to care about Jack this much, and wonders if her family will cry with her when they watch this episode – but holds off the tears until she reaches confessional.
(At this point, Meri-De goes over to say goodbye to Maria and receives a warm hug from her fellow contestant. Marissa just stands slightly back and stares at them, looking as if she has absolutely no emotional comprehension of what’s going on. Meri-De then receives another, equally sincere hug from Natalie – and Marissa’s still done nothing but look confused. This moment, on Maria and Natalie’s ends, is completely unbashable – and, as far as Marissa goes, happened right in front of Jack. Interesting…)
Natalie (temporarily bulletproof): Princess, you’ve shown me more of who you are inside, I know how hard that’s been for you, but you already saw Meri-De being dismissed and there’s obviously one horse left, so go ahead and climb on, because there’s only a minute or so left in the show.
Everyone mounts their horses: Jack onto a white (I know, I know…) one, the women onto three brown ones with white facial markings. Jack is c-t sorry to see Meri-De go, and feels that whatever man eventually finds her is going to be a very lucky one. He also has to ’decide what I see in these three girls and why they’re still there’ with his remaining contestant pool, which makes it feel like Jack’s been just a little behind in his romantic duties since the show began. (Too much time spent in saving Natalie, too little in self-analysis.)
And final c-ts, in moderate paraphrase:
Natalie: ‘This is like rounding the turn in the Kentucky Derby. The time to let Jack know just how I feel is now. Marissa seems to have the ‘hitting him with the quoit’ part wrapped up.’
Maria: ‘I’ve fallen for Jack hard, and I’ve already outlasted the two blondes who last left, so dealing with the two who’re left doesn’t bother me. Especially the angry one, in the dead of night, with no cameras around.’
Marissa: ‘This isn’t about making friends! (MTW check) This is about what Jack wants! No, it’s about me! It’s always about me! Keep that camera on me and don’t even think about taking it off for a second, not even when I go into the woods! If that BoSoxer can talk about it openly, I can do it on camera!’
Jack (in exact quote): ‘I might be spending the rest of my life with one of these ladies – and I have no idea who it’s going to be.’
We’re six episodes into the eight of the run. The tally:
Five horse’s rears.
For the sake of our collective ability to sleep at night and Maria’s frequent flier miles, let’s hope Jack’s down one woman and five backsides really soon. Peace, over and out – hey, MTW! Jack’s mom wants to talk to you!