Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Recapping The Voice Season 7, Top 10: Will there be just one girl left after tomorrow?

All is right in The Voice world. Not only is there an all-star list of mentors helping out this week, but Pharrell Williams is wearing a hat again.  Please, no more sweat bands.

Group numbers highlight the weakest vocalists and in tonight's mini-medley of Rascal Flatts' "hits" ("God Bless the Broken Road" and "Stand") that would be Anita and Reagan.  Anita in particular hit some majorly clunky notes that proves, if nothing else, that they are singing live.  It's strange enough that we're down to ten and there are just three females left, stranger still that only one of them has much of a voice.

Last week's frontrunner Matt McAndrew from Team Adam is up first with his second turn with a Coldplay song.  He had wowed during the battle round with "Yellow," so tonight he took on "Fix You."  It was a great, if obvious choice (heck, I had suggested it on The Voice App).   Matt handled the high notes with ease and let the song build as he commanded the stage and, later, the whole audience.   He's a natural performer and has a great, versatile voice.  He may not belt out notes, but he interprets lyrics and conveys their message in a meaningful way.

Team Gwen's unexpectedly popular Anita Antoinette sang Passenger's "Let Her Go."  Had she sung "Let it Go" from Frozen I might have had no choice but to vote for her since I'm a big sucker for that movie.  Sadly, that was not her choice.  I don't get why The Voice fans love Reggae singers, but her success, like that of Tessanne Chin, show that they do.  Anita tried to put her Jamaican spin on the popular indie song and I thought it was a hot mess.  She was off key half the time and even when she hit the right notes, they fell metaphorically, if not literally, flat.  Her worst performance of the season.  I listened twice to make sure I wasn't exaggerating and I wasn't.  Just awful.

Damien has a nice voice, but nice is not exciting or memorable.  The second member of Team Adam to sing tonight, he was given the well-worn "You and I" by Stevie Wonder.  It's a pretty dull song and sounds really outdated in 2014.   The only thing it has in common with current music is the over-reliance on repeating the song's title interminably.  There was no passion, no feeling, just a succession of nicely sung notes.  Damien is a good singer, don't get me wrong.  But he does not have that special, indefinable "it" factor.  Zzzzzzzzzz.

Will Reagan James legally change her name to "the youngest member of the competition?"  Can Carson Daly come up with anything else notable about this girl besides her age?  Is there a requirement that her age be mentioned every other sentence?  I was really impressed by her youth until I found out that Lorde just turned 18.  So step back Reagan, you're not all that and a bag of organic popchips or whatever you crazy kids are noshing on these days.  The Team Blake young 'un takes on "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea. Uninspired is the word that comes to mind.  Breathless, shouty, and nothing that any other teenager couldn't have covered better.  She's giving Anita some competition for the worst performance of the night.  Reagan, please for the love of everything holy, never rap again.

"Try a Little Tenderness" by Otis Redding (and later covered by everyone) was an inspired choice for Luke Wade.  Guest mentor her royal highness the great, one and only, Diana Ross was able to give Luke some good advice about feeling the music, too bad she couldn't give him suggestions for that thing growing on top of his head.  But bad 'do aside, Luke does have an interesting, unique tone. Unfortunately, it's not a tone, nor a style of singing, that I find at all pleasing, especially on this tune.  I didn't like his phrasing of the chorus, I didn't find any moment of the song to be genuine.  The reliance on the "improvisational" part of the song made it all sound over-rehearsed and watered-down.  Check out another cover of the song, by Three Dog Night, to compare.   Luke didn't mess up on the intro like last week, and only left out one "don't," but this didn't hit me as a huge, memorable performance.   Maybe you had to be there?  I want to like him, but definitely not my cup of tea.

The only country singer left in the competition, Team Blake's Craig Wade Boyd, had some cojones to sing Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line" and even more to play at all with the speed of the song.  He slowed it down and totally changed the mood and disguised the melody.  It was almost unrecognizable.  But it was absolutely beautiful.  This guy has come from the back of the pack to be the one to beat.  He's got a great voice, with a rich tone that has genuine emotion.  You believe him when he sings.  And now that he's toned down his twang (and is pronouncing his "esses" not as "eshes"), I can see him having wide appeal for all country music fans, both retro traditional and nouveau bro-country.

I learned that Team Gwen's Ryan Sill was going to attempt "Straight" by Muse an hour before the show, not enough time to apply ex parte for a TRO or an injunction to prevent this injury to my ears from happening.  I'm not a huge fan of this song as the wheezing and lack of breath control on the recording makes me run to grab an inhaler to keep the singer from passing out.  But I'd take an hour of Matthew Belamy gasping for air over one minute of Ryan's atrocious performance.  His voice lacks the gravity to take on anything but boy band fluff and he was completely out of his league on this song.  Stick with light-weight pop songs and leave the real weighty stuff for the grown ups, Ryan.   But unless he's against cutie pie Matt in the bottom three, I suspect the teenagers will again vote him through on Twitter.

To reward us for not turning off the show after than horrible performance, we get the vocal angel DaNica Shirey showing that she's more than up to the challenge of a Whitney Houston song.  Team Pharrell's DaNica has the best pure voice on the show and her turn with "I Have Nothing" was inspired.  She nailed every note, every word, every feeling.  So confident, so powerful, so passionate.  And she makes me stammer compliments in threes.  I listened again as I was writing this and I'm still getting chills listening to her take that song and effortlessly beat it into submission.

In the unenviable, "I have to follow her??" position is cute, quirky Taylor John Williams.  I'm of two minds on this performance.  He took one of my favorite songs by my second favorite band and I'm very overprotective about their songs, especially those that John sang/wrote.  So hearing that Taylor was going to sing Come Together... and that he was going to be playing a role in different parts of the song and put his own spin on it.... caused some major concern.  You don't mess with such an iconic song.  But Team Gwen's resident heartthrob, who eschewed his trademark porkpie hat for a bandanna, has an undeniably strong voice and great musical instincts.  He sounded great and even had a few moments where he twisted the notes around (possibly thanks to some mentoring by major note abuser Christina Aguilera) and added something genuinely special to the song.

Final performance of the night was Chris Jamison who has moved from "how could Adam pick you over Taylor?" paraiah to contender for winner of The Voice in just one week.  Could he equal his standout performance from last week?  Actually, yeah.  He was blessed with a hot, current song, "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson (ft/Bruno Mars) and Chris showed that he fits right in there with current young male pop/R&B singers.  He's comfortable on stage, moves well and, if he grew out his hair a little, could be a favorite with the girls who are somehow keeping Ryan in the game.  Love his energy, love how natural he is with this genre of music.  He might be the best pure male singer left in the competition.

Bottom three performances, IMnevertobeHO were:
Of the three, Anita should probably be given another chance, but that Twitter vote may keep Ryan around for a few more weeks in which case we could have a final eight with just one girl left in the competition!

Tune in tomorrow to see who makes it into the Top 8!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Mad Men Season 2, Episode 13: Meditations in an Emergency

The second season draws to a close with a literal bookend from the debut episode, as the book "Meditations in an Emergency" comes back into play as the title for this episode.  That book, which the young diner patron thought would mean nothing to Don Draper, was his muse all season long.  The theme of the book's eponymous poem reflects Don's personal crisis.  He struggled with his identity not just as Don Draper ad man, but Don Draper father and husband.  Lost and unmoored, he traveled cross country to find himself as he sought comfort in the only person who knows the real person behind the facade.

Emergencies of one form or another proliferate in this episode.  Throughout the U.S., a crisis of another sort is brewing as the discovery of Soviet missiles sitting right off our border, in Cuba, has the Cold War era country on red alert.  On a far smaller scale, Betty struggles with the discovery that she is pregnant with her estranged husband's baby.  Her own ticking time bomb is growing inside of her as she contemplates the future, her future with a man she doesn't trust and doesn't really know.

While crises abound, the middle level employees at Sterling Cooper are abuzz with rumors and gossip.  The higher ups are asking for revenue figures (we know they're doing that because of a planned merger, but they don't know that) and Harry, Ted, Paul and Peggy wonder if it's at all related to Don's unexplained extension of his West Coast trip.  While others wait to hear what the President will say about the missiles in Cuba, our favorite pragmatist Harry worries that it will upset tonight's TV schedule. You gotta love Harry.  Peggy tells Pete he better fess up about losing the Clearasil account - sooner rather than later - and you hope he appreciates her candor and her tact.

Betty deals with the news of her pregnancy passive-aggressively by going horseback riding against her doctor's wishes.   She is surprised to find Don there, at the stables, watching her ride.  He comes literally and figuratively hat in hand, contrite, desperate to have his old life back.  He apologizes without revealing too much, enough to let Betty know that "she's not crazy" and he has been a cad, not enough to really let her know the true extent of his deceitfulness.  But Betty is emboldened and not willing to let a little thing like the child growing inside her make her run back into Don's arms.

Back at the office, Pete has his own crisis to deal with - telling Duck Phillips (who's his de facto boss while Don is MIA) that he lost the Clearasil account.  There is no good way to spin losing a client who is also your father-in-law, but Pete needn't have worried because Duck's mind is elsewhere. He is planning on a coup and if things go as he plans, Sterling Cooper will be taken over by the London-based Putnam Powell and Lowe.  That agency had a client in conflict with Clearasil, so they would have had to cut Pete's client loose anyway.

Duck offers Pete his position as Head of Accounts and tells Pete that he will be President of the new PPL-owned Sterling Cooper after the merger.  Pete is pleased, yet wary.  He asks if Don is on board with his promotion and Duck lets it be known that Don wasn't consulted and isn't part of any of this.  But, Duck tells him, Don will have to go along as he doesn't have a choice.  "That's why they put noncompete clauses in employment contracts."  To Pete's credit, he walks out looking dubious, as if he sensed that something didn't feel right about what he'd just heard.  Trust those instincts, Pete.

Don comes back to work and things have changed.  He notes Peggy's new office, right next to his (and he notices her new haircut).  The office is unsettled by the presidents speech the night before about the looming confrontation in Cuba, not realizing that big changes are on the horizon for them wholly apart from the international crisis.  Joan catches Don up on what he's missed and he drops a little dig at Duck's expense that further pits the two of them in the US v. Russia position with Sterling Cooper as their Cuba.

Pete comes into Don's office still angry at having been abandoned in California, but Don turns it around, spinning it so that his ditching Pete was "a test" that Pete passed with flying colors.  Note how rod straight Pete stands, getting the approval from Don for a job well done.  It's really sad how needy Pete is for that parental approval and while he got a taste of it from Duck, it's always been Don whose approval has meant the most to him.

Don goes to see Roger who fills him in on the latest, Roger's engaged and the firm's been sold.  The latter fact equates to $500,000 more in Don's pockets.  Don is suspicious when he learns how the deal came together, with Duck supposedly running into them at a bar (as the supposedly sober Duck should not have been hanging out in a bar), but Roger is too happy with his huge payday to question how it happened.

The Greek chorus of Harry, Paul, Ken and Sal know something's brewing at Sterling Cooper and they ask Lois if she has heard anything.  And has she! She gives them the complete scoop about the merger with PPL, even down to the fact that there will be certain "redundancies" - i.e., time to update your resume.

Betty drops the kids off at Don's hotel and them goes aimlessly window shopping, where we see her staring at bedecked mannequins.  She then goes to a bar (with some small bags, so she might have done some actual shopping) and she sits down and is immediately bought a drink by a young Don Draper lookalike.  She's in pretty deep denial about her pregnancy (she discussed back at the hair salon with Francine perhaps getting an abortion).  So it's not a surprise to see her there acting like a single woman, not a married mother of two with another on the way.  She flirts with the man who bought her a drink, then rejects him, then flirts some more, kissing him by the bathroom.  Its reminiscent of how she flirted with the guy who helped her when her car broke down (Ep. 2.01), but this time she goes much further.

It's such a startling contrast.  Don in the hotel, munching hamburgers and fries with the kids, Betty, legs wrapped around some stranger on a coach in a bar bathroom.  Role reversal, he's the dutiful parent, she's the errant spouse.   Well, one good thing to come from her dalliance.  Betty got her appetite back.

Everyone is still in a panic about the missiles in Cuba and what that means for the country's safety.  Everyone but Harry, who is more concerned about the upcoming merger announcement.   Pete is not worried, he already has the inside information from Duck about what's going to happen and what it will mean for him.  He decides to go to Don with what he knows.  Remember back to when Bert Cooper told Don to keep Pete around and that the loyalty he built might come back to help him some day?  That bit of advice is finally paying off.

Pete gives Don a bit of news.  "We stopped a ship today.  I bet the Russians will reconsider now that we've made a stand."  The metaphor is not lost on Don.  In the meeting with PPL, Don makes his stand.  The company that Duck describes is not one he will be working at.  Duck thought he had the upper hand, until he finds out that Don was not under contract at Sterling Cooper and is free to leave at will.

With everything seemingly going his way, Pete decides to go after one more thing that he wants - Peggy.  He professes his love, but it's way too late.  While he and Trudy were dealing with infertility and adoption issues, he learns finally that he fathered a child with Peggy that she gave up.  Peggy will not be the answer to his marital discord.  She paints a picture for him in painful detail.  She chose not to have a life with him, she chose to give away what they had created together.  She didn't want to have a future with him and she accepts that it will never be.  Pete is devastated when he discovers all that he lost and can never have.

But while Pete reels from this blow, there might be a chance for Don to regain what he lost.  The letter he wrote Betty while he was in the hotel with the kids may have struck a nerve.  Or she may feel she has no choice but to try and make things work.  Or with the end of the world looming, she is grasping on to whatever she has for safety.  Whatever her motivation, she asks Don to come home.  And she tells him about the baby.  He holds out his hand and she takes it and as the camera pulls back the two sit in silence.

Season 2 ends on a cliff hanger.  Will Don and Betty come back together now that there's a new baby in the picture, what will be the future of Sterling Cooper now that Don has walked out and Duck taken over?  What kind of a relationship can Pete and Peggy have in the future with this knowledge existing between them.  The threat of nuclear annihilation may have lifted, but the nuclear family is still under attack.

Oh how times have changed:

Betty drinking and smoking while pregnant would be a criminal act today, while she could much more easily get an abortion if that's what she decided on.


Don: The world continues without us.  No need to take it personally.

Betty: I'm pregnant.
Francine:  Congratulations?

Pete:  If I'm going to die, I want to die in Manhattan.

Harry: The loyalists are hung and you don't want to get caught in the fallout.
Paul: What's wrong with you? Aren't you loyal to anyone?

Don:  Without you, I'll be alone forever.

Duck:  It'll take a second to find a kid who can write a prose poem to a potato chip.

Saint John: He never could hold his liquor.

Peggy:  I could have had you in my life forever if I wanted to.

Peggy:  Well, one day you're there, and then all of a sudden, there's less of you, and you wonder where that part went, if it's living somewhere outside of you, and you keep thinking maybe you'll get it back, and then you realize it's just gone."

SPOILER-Y OBSERVATIONS (Don't read until you're caught up):

After Lois told the guys what she'd heard, she asked that if any of them survived the merger, to get her off the switchboard and back on a desk as their secretary.  She became Paul's secretary.  But her most memorable moment was atop the John Deere when she accidentally ran over the foot of Lane Price's replacement, setting the stage for the later creation of SCDP.  While Lois was fired off of her last desk job for incompetence, her incompetence on the tractor ultimately saved the day.

It has been noted, but I think it has to be a coincidence, that the mannequin on the left that Betty is looking at in the store window bears a striking resemblance to Don's next wife, Megan.

Pete is seen holding the rifle he bought with the money from the returned chip and dip, and seven seasons in Chekhov's rifle remains unfired, a symbol of Pete's efforts to reestablish his manhood whenever it comes under attack, but nothing more.

Clearasil comes back to Sterling Cooper years later, after its merger with Cutler, Gleason and Chaough.

Duck's repeated attempts to beat Don and come out on top are never successful, but he comes awfully close down the line.  The sight of him exiting the elevator at the end of Season 6 with Don's replacement as Don hops in "going down" is etched in my memory.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Recapping Survivor San Juan Del Sur Episode 9: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Oh, Jeremy!  You were my pick, my favorite.  You had this.  A strong two-person alliance with another savvy player, Natalie.  Physical strength, smarts, an affable personality.  Where did it all go wrong?

Reed?  Maybe.

He planted the idea in Jon's head days earlier that Jeremy would be impossible to beat in the end.  The nice firefighter with two kids, who wouldn't hand him a million bucks?  It was a smart seed to plant in the vast empty space that is Jon's head and it grew quickly to a mighty oak tree of worry.  Jon doesn't know much, but he knows he wouldn't win in the end if he were sitting next to Jeremy.

Jon is like an overgrown puppy, he's very excitable, is easily distracted, and is readily attracted to whoever pets him last.  He does not have a strategy, he makes his decisions impulsively.   He is unpredictable and while that may make for good TV, it does not make for a good alliance member.

Winning team before the switch
"I love you guys."  That's what Jon said right after Jeremy and Natalie gave up the reward to give it to Jon and Jaclyn.  A catered yacht trip along the coast was Jeremy and Natalie's gift to them for joining their alliance, voting with them to get out Josh, and having a final six deal.  As Natalie said, when someone does something like that for you, you show them love and respect.  That's what she and Jeremy were doing for their new alliance members.

Jon and Jaclyn were so appreciative until...

Reed?  Well, not exactly.

During the reward, Jon and Jaclyn were toasting their benefactors and praising their selflessness.  Reed had enough and made it his goal to make sure that Jon and Jaclyn know how the "gift" was nothing more than a strategic play.  He wanted to turn Jon against Jeremy, get him to realize how Jeremy was his biggest threat, how he had a perfect social game, how his gift was just another in an unending series of brilliant moves.

But - at least from what we saw last night - it wasn't Reed who sunk Jeremy's ship.  Nope, Reed had help in his plan to turn them against Jeremy.

Jon?  Yep, it was Jon that ultimately brought down Jeremy.

Jon, the pretty boy dimwit.  The goofy, clueless guy.  They guy who couldn't spell alliance let alone tell you which one he was in from day to day.  That Jon.  Jon, who doesn't do much thinking, had a thought.  He realized that if Jeremy went to Exile Island and received a new clue for the immunity idol, he'd figure out that Jon has the idol that had been hidden there.  Jon risked hurting himself by thinking about it some more.  If Jeremy figured out that Jon has the idol, he'll realize that Jon didn't tell his alliance about it and that he'll look bad.  Finally, and about twelve hours too late, Jon realized that sending Jeremy to Exile Island to find an idol that he already had was probably a bad idea.

Just that fast, Jon went from "I love you guys" to "I better get rid of you guys."

We're still good, right?
While Jon was starting to worry about Jeremy busting him for having the idol, Reed was scrambling.  He knew he'd be the easy next boot, so he had to do something to draw attention away from himself and onto someone else on his side.  So he digs into Keith's bag and lo and behold he finds that Keith has kept a souvenir to later sell on Ebay - the instructions that go along with the hidden immunity idol.  So he tells Missy, Baylor and Jaclyn (who he already knows do NOT like Alec, Keith and Wes) that Keith has the idol. His goal was just to get the votes off of him and onto somebody, anybody else.   So this plan gets everyone to turn their attention to flushing out the idol and/or getting rid of Keith, right?  

Nope.  Jon is now in full panic about Jeremy realizing he was withholding info about the idol.  So he hatches a plan.  More shockingly, the plan worked.  He told Missy that he had an idol, has had it for some time, and that Jeremy just figured that out.  He told Missy that he was worried Jeremy - who was in their alliance and had never wavered, never strayed from the alliance - might tell the others that Jon had the idol.  He convinced Missy that Jeremy had to go, sooner rather than later.  And Missy, who had been aligned with Jeremy since day one...went along with Jon and jumped ship.  Three days after telling Baylor to vote out her ally Josh, Missy voted out her ally Jeremy.

Missy is either playing the greatest game of Survivor ever - a mix of Tony's vote out your friends and Sandra's anyone but be strategies - or she is choosing allies the way she chooses husbands.  She didn't at all focus on the fact that Jon had lied to her, that a physical specimen like Jon with an idol is a dangerous combination, that Jeremy was loyal to her and would never target her.  Nope, she just went along with the idea of stabbing one of her closest allies in the back this early in the game and going along with the most untrustworthy player left in the game.

They get to the Tribal Council and the first question Jeff asks is about trust.  Of course, it's Jeremy who answers that one.  Poor Jeremy has no idea he's in his alliance's cross-hairs.  But Reed knows, as do Missy and Baylor and Jon and Jaclyn.  Keith, who asked to be told if he were going home so he wouldn't be blindsided (i.e., so he'd know to play his immunity idol) kept his.  Jon, who trusted that Missy was on board with blindsiding Jeremy, didn't play his.  While thinking he was in a tight, six-person alliance, Jeremy was completely shocked to see his name written down five times, enough to make him the next member of the jury.

Natalie asked what all us fans of Jeremy were asking, "What the ____, Missy?"  Everyone's favorite is out of the game, a victim of trusting too much and not recognizing a threat for what it was.  As soon as he realized Jon had the immunity idol and had kept that fact from the alliance, Jeremy should have gone to Missy with that information. Instead, he trusted that time was on his side, that Missy was on his side, and that he could deal with Jon later. He didn't realize that in Survivor, there may not be a "later."  

Jeff (on Jeremy):  "Two minutes ago he was on a yacht."

Natalie: "This will be leverage for me down the line."

Wes: "I just don't want to get hashtag blindsided."

Jeremy: "That looks like the yacht I'm supposed to be on right now."

Jon (on the yacht): "Here's to the best team Survivor's ever seen."

Missy: "You rock the boat too hard, one of us is going to fall out."

Jeremy (just before being blindsided): "Trust is huge in an alliance and hopefully that's what we've been building all season."

Reed (3)
Jon (5)
Keith (2)
Baylor (2)
Jeremy (4)
Missy (2)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Recapping The Voice Season 7 Top 12: Where Gwen discovers that this is a weird show

Yes, Gwen, The Voice is a weird show.  We're voting for singers based on how well they cover, whether faithfully or uniquely, someone else's song.  Weirder still, some songs they sing were already covered successfully by someone else (such as this week's "Take Me to the River" which had been a hit for The Talking Heads after Al Green first put his spin on it).  A good vocalist can sing someone else's song really well, while still reminding you of the original.  A great artist can sing someone else's song and, though it's cliche to say it, do something different enough with the song to make it their own.  Often, a song is reimagined so well that the new version exists outside of the world of the original as something completely new and different.  That's the sort of transformative moment we all hope for in singing shows like this and American Idol.

We didn't get any of those moments last night.

Instead, we had some good vocalists doing a solid job, some others stumbling, but not one goose-bump inducing, jaw-dropping moment.

Ryan Sill took Duran Duran's "Ordinary World" and gave a substandard performance so abysmal that the word "ordinary" would have been a compliment.  He was totally out of his depth, here.  He lacked any emotion, any connection to the lyrics, and when he strained to hit the high notes he went totally off the rails.  Horrible. If you must, you can listen to it here.

Sugar Joans did what she does. She oversang, screeching her way through "Take Me to the River."  It was what her coach wanted and he was clearly thrilled with her performance. What he hears is not what I hear.  I hate the growling and vocal gymnastics, it's forced and doesn't make me feel anything besides irritated.   Listen here.

I had high hopes for Jessie Pitts. She started out "Don't You Worry Child" on the piano and her breathy style worked well for the first half of the song.  But when she stepped away from the piano and took center stage, it all fell apart.  Her voice is not at all suited for the techno beat and she was swallowed up by the song.  Check it out here.

Damien was up next with the Hollies' "He Ain't Heavy" and there's no question that he has a great instrument.  His voice is crystal clear, strong, and piercing. A few times I started getting caught up in the sound of his voice and was close to being carried away, then he threw out a small grunt or two and it took me out of the moment.  When he goes all churchy or adds those guttural embellishments,  it's just too much and the sweetness of the song is lost.   Take a listen here.

What DaNica Shirey and her coach Pharrell did to Radiohead's "Creep" is probably a crime in seven states.  It was so very awful that I can't believe it was on a network show.  Someone should have stepped in to stop it.  She was pitchy and all over the place trying to find her way through that song.  But that wasn't the worst part, because DaNica really has an amazing voice. It was turning that anthem for the underdogs, into a dance song.   She took all meaning out of the song, stripped it of its twisted, painful expression of frustration and desire.  It's here if you want to hear it.

Taylor John Williams was given a song that is 43 years old and was old fashioned when it was first released.  "If" by Bread may hold the record for the shortest title for a number one song, and it is technically a beautiful song albeit with some crazy lyrics, but it is pretty much a lullaby.  It's snoozy in the Ambien sort of way.  But Taylor has a really pretty voice and he handled the falsetto very nicely.  He also played a bit with the melody, doing the best with this otherwise sleepy song.

I'd heard that Reagan James has been sick and maybe that's why her vocals on Lenny Kravitz' "It's Not Over Til It's Over" seemed pretty breathy and weak.  She has a great tone and she's certainly a trooper, but this was not her best performance.  She seemed winded and worn out by the end.  Check it out here.

Luke Wade had a rough time with Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud."  Right at the beginning, Luke started a couple beats before the band.  He recovered, but still seemed troubled by this misstep.  That's too bad because I thought this was his best vocal on the show.  Usually, I find him a bit fake but tonight I heard the Van Morrison-esque styling that everyone's been so crazy about.   He has a good sound and certainly emotes more than most of his competitors who usually come off too controlled.

Matt McAndrew has a great adviser who again gave him a song to connect with the god-fearing (and he hopes vote-giving) fans of The Voice.  This week it was the amen-filled "Take Me to Church" by Hozier.  I'm a fan.  Matt has the whole package. Great, identifiable voice.  Cute look.   He knows how to connect with the song while also connecting with the audience, which is not as easy as it sounds.   As Gwen said, even covering someone else's song, you can hear there's something special there.

I don't like old-fashioned country music.  Not a big George Strait fan.  But I like me some Craig Wayne Boyd.  He sang "You Look So Good in Love" and it's cheesy but I'll say it, he looks so good on stage.  This guy is just solid week after week.  He's a rarity on a reality competition show - he doesn't do too much (oversing, overgesture, overperform) just to show he can.  He sings like he's at a concert, not on a TV show.  You can see not a contestant, but the guy who will be playing the small club next week.  Great job.

So last week when I was stomping my feet and carrying on about how stupid Adam was for saving Chris Jamison?  Yeah, my bad.  Chris KILLED it tonight with Nick Jonas' "Jealous."  He out-falsettoed his coach and showed an amazing range.  Chris had a flawless vocal performance, yet never seemed studied, stiff or phony.  He was completely on point yet totally relaxed.  He could easily slot himself in the current void of young, cute male singers.  The standout of the night!

For me, they did not save the best for last.  It's not that Anita Antoinette didn't do a good job with "Redemption Song," but having the Reggae singer sing a well-worn Bob Marley classic was neither inspired nor surprising.  So, yes, she sounded great, but if you're, like me, allergic to that style of music, even a very good version of it is still something you don't like.  Like foie gras at a Michelin 3-star restaurant.  It may be the very best, but I still won't like it.  I can appreciate it...but not enjoy it.

My prediction for the bottom three:  Ryan, Jessie and DaNica.  If DaNica sings something from the Whitney Houston end of the musical spectrum, as opposed to the Thom Yorke, she should be saved by America's vote.  Tune in Tuesday to find out!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Recapping Survivor San Juan Del Sur Episode 8: Too fast, too strong

It's a balancing act.  If you aren't thinking strategy, if you aren't playing the game from minute one, you can make some serious missteps right off the bat.  It is never too early to remind yourself that Survivor is a game built on building alliances, planning for the future and positioning yourself for a deep run.  But you can also play too hard, too early and make yourself an easy target.  Val Collins learned that lesson episode two when she thought she was being strategic and inventive telling her tribe mate Jon Misch that she had not one but two immunity idols.  She overplayed her hand and ended up the second boot.  It took 21 days, but Josh Canfield learned that lesson as well.  As he told us in his post-torch snuffing confessional, "I just revealed a little too much of who I was out here and that sent me packing."

The tribe gathering for the reward challenge
Last week, Jeff Probst said that Julie McGee's decision to quit the game may have resulted in a "million dollar break" for someone.  Whether or not that check will be written to Jeremy Collins, we know that Josh was not the beneficiary of that rash decision.  He was at the top of an alliance that was ready to vote out his biggest threat, Jeremy, and solidify his position as the one to beat.  As Drew might have said, basically, Josh was a bad ass.  So what went so horribly wrong?

Josh had an early, solid alliance with Baylor Payne.  Probably always on the lookout for a guy she can trust (thanks to inevitable daddy and stepdaddy issues), Baylor had joined with Josh and agreed to vote out one of the women (Nadiya) and stand with the guy alliance. So how did Josh repay her?  He blindsided Baylor by putting her name down for no apparent reason.  Three days into the game.  He tried to justify it by telling her it was to remove suspicion that the two were working together. Well, it worked brilliantly because it certainly removed that suspicion -- from Baylor's mind.

The next time they went to tribal council, Josh knew that his ally Baylor was the target and switched his vote to Val to guarantee a tie vote, which ultimately led to Val being the next out and not Baylor.  But again, Josh failed to share his strategy with Baylor and she was left feeling alone in their two-person alliance.  Whenever they were together, Josh pushed their deal, but Baylor could never trust him.

Let's assume that Josh saw Tony's game in Survivor Caramoan and he thought that these wonky votes would not hurt him.  What Josh forgot was that by the time Tony was casting crazy, unexpected votes and having to explain himself afterwards, they were already weeks into the game. He had already built up trust with these people, had already trained them to believe him, so when he did something crazy, he could come back to them, tell them he did it for their own good, and they believed him.

Josh never had that level of trust with Baylor.  More importantly, because this season is a Blood v. Water season, he was also hurt by everyone knowing that his one true alliance was with his boyfriend Reed.

Baylor and Missy talking strategy
But let's be fair to Josh, who otherwise played a great game and was so much fun to watch.  He may have lost Baylor's trust and may not have been able to get her vote with the handy, "you owe me" but Baylor wasn't the reason he was the first person sent to hang out at the Ponderosa.  That honor goes to Jaclyn.  She and Jon were all ready to side with Josh and Reed, Keith and Wes and Alec to vote off Jeremy, swayed by Reed's statement that whoever ends up in the final tribal council against the affable fireman with two kids does not stand a chance.

The anti-Jeremy alliance was solid.  But give people three extra days to contemplate anything - especially food and sleep deprived people who are trying to win $1 million - and they will second and third guess themselves.  That's what happened to Jon and Jaclyn.  He was a bit on the fence about his decision to scuttle his alliance with Jeremy (remember when Jon vowed to protect Val?  Yeah, me neither) but it was Jaclyn who had a revelation.  She did not like the boorish frat trifecta of Alec, Wes and Keith and she did not like not being included in any strategy discussions when Jon was away from camp.

The more Jaclyn thought of it, why would she and Jon want to go up against all these guys now that individual immunity is so important?  Josh and Reed have balance and strength, Alec and Wes are pretty fit (Wes is a fireman, too) and even Keith has beasted some competitions. Wouldn't it be better to go to the end with Jeremy (who went out FIRST in the first solo immunity challenge last week), Natalie, Baylor and Missy??  And, though this didn't seem to enter into her consciousness, wouldn't it be better to break up the other pairs and be the last one standing?  And Jaclyn liked Baylor, preferred to hang out and talk to her than be ignored or disrespected by he guys.  It was an easy decision in the end.

I was sad to see Josh go.  He loved the game and came to play, but sometimes it's good to remind ourselves that playing and winning is not as easy as some people - *cough* Tony *cough* - make it look!

Josh gives his last Survivor confessional

Other highlights/lowlights:
For the reward challenge, the tribe was split in two groups, the winning group going to a taco (and beer and margarita) bar, the loser dining on snails.  Not escargot.  Snails.  As Reed noted, the split was not along party lines, so his winning team consisted of his allies, Wes and Keith, along with his nemeses Jeremy and Natalie.  The split left neither group in a position to strategize but those who feasted barely noticed, being distracted by watching Wes stuff as much into his mouth as he could before his body alerted him he'd gone too far.

Keith has absolutely no social skills or self-awareness.  It's one thing to complain about Baylor being lazy and privileged, it's another thing to do it in front of the self-described mama bear Missy.  And it's another thing on top of that to them blame Missy for stepping in and doing what he thinks Baylor should be doing around camp.  So, let's see, he said you're daughter's lazy and you're an enabler.  How far does he plan on making it in the game?

Keith is not a great liar.  He tried at the taco fiesta to sell the story that Julie had been his target and that he had no idea what he would have done had they gone to tribal after she quit. Jeremy is not buying one moment of that story and knows now that Keith is firmly with the other alliance.

Wes is young.  He knows not to wolf down large quantities of Mexican food (heck any food) and alcohol especially after not eating much for three weeks.  So what does he do?  Ask for double meat, double cheese for double the pain.  He will be paying for this mistake as well anyone in ear/nose shot of him.

Natalie should get a legal separation from Nadiya.  Together, they are annoying as hell.  Alone, Natalie is one of the most entertaining Survivors ever.

If you had trouble playing along with that memory test/immunity challenge sitting on your couch, after sleeping in your comfy bed last night and having a nice, balanced meal, imagine trying to remember all that in their condition.  Very impressed with Jeremy.

Jeremy walks a fine line between respectful and misogynistic (I bet Val gave him a good talking to about treating women differently, albeit with chivalry), Keith/Alec/Wes have obliterated the line and are some rude, crude, women haters.  Thank goodness Jaclyn woke up to the arrogance and rudeness of those guys. Unfortunately, instead of targeting one of those three sexist pigs, we lost Josh.  When he looks back on his game, maybe Josh will think twice about aligning with people like that.

Natalie didn't say much, but she made every word count.  She pointed out at tribal how the guys don't include Jaclyn in their decisions and she mentioned how nice it would be to get the old Hunahpu group back together (meaning, Jon come back!).  It was a nice play to get the power couple.

Wes: "I wish I had the will power to control myself"
Wes: "It was all fun and games until I felt like crap."
Keith: "As long as you're still burping I guess you're okay."
Keith: "Wes is a good kid. He ain't been to jail yet."

Missy (3)
Jon (2)
Jeremy (4)
Josh (3)
Baylor (3)
Jaclyn (3)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Recapping The Voice Season 7 Live Playoffs Part 2: Team Gwen v. Team Pharrell

The two newbie judges put their five-person teams up for America's vote tonight.  Gwen Stefani looked absolutely stunning tonight while Pharrell Williams disappointed by eschewing his usual behatted look for a Olivia Newton-John "Physical" look.  A few of the front runners faulted, some dark horses are about to be taken out and shot, and one guy seems positioned to take his hat straight to the finals.  Let's recap!

Being first up is never great.  Unless you give the performance of a lifetime or strip naked on stage no one will remember you by the end of the show when voting opens.  Team Gwen's Ryan Sill was in the unfortunate first up position and, if that weren't bad enough, he did an uninspired, by-the-numbers, totally forgettable rendition of "I Lived" by One Republic.  So unless the rest of Team Gwen recently travel to West Africa and are stuck in a 21-day quarantine, that's probably the last we'll see of Ryan.

I'm a huge fan of Team Pharrell's Jean Kelley and looked forward to her lasting a long time in this competition, but she made two rookie mistakes on the first night of the live playoffs. One, she changed her look. I know the show is called "The Voice" not "The Look" but let's be real.  Image is important as is branding, so if you're the curly red haired singer you don't suddenly become the straight haired ash blonde with too much eye makeup.  Second, she didn't balk when her coach saddled her with an obscure, schmaltzy song, "Piano in the Dark" by Brenda Russell.  She did her best but instead of coming off emotional and real, she came off as theatrical and rehearsed.  

The first great performance of the night was from Team Pharrell's Elyjuh RenĂ©.  I will admit (especially since I said in it a blog post that's only a week old) that I was shocked when Pharrell picked Elyjuh over Taylor Phelan during the knockouts and thought he'd been wearing too small a hat for his head and it squeezed all common sense out of him.  But Pharrell was right and I was wrong.  While Taylor faltered on night one, Elyjuh brought the house down on night two.  He sang the crap out of "Latch" by Disclosure (feat. Sam Smith, since the show can never get enough Sam Smith).  One point off for the "C'mons" during the song, but aside from that one glitch he showed an amazing range and ease on stage

Bryana Salaz was up next for Team Gwen.  She sang "Amnesia" by 5 Seconds of Summer and while she did a solid job, it was hard not to equate her performance with the talent competition of a beauty pageant.  Her voice is rich and powerful in her lower register but strains when she goes for the high notes.  The sweet Veterans' Day shoutout to her dad was the best part of her time on stage.  Unlike her past cover of Demi Lovato, which was filled with sincerity and passion, this seemed too studied.

If there's any song that should be retired from singing competitions, "Let's Get it On" by Marvin Gaye has to be at the very top.  Pharrell assigned Blues singer Luke Wade the Motown classic, I suppose to play to his style of choice.  But to me, it just showed the difference between someone who sings Soul and someone who feels it.  Luke sings all the right notes in exactly the right time, but it doesn't move me at all.  By the way, Luke it's "baby" not "bibbee." And as for his moves at the end of the song?  You're no James Brown, either, dude.  Get up off your knees, you look silly.

Kudos to Gwen for giving Anita Antoinette a non-Reggae song to sing.  "All About the Bass" by Meghan Trainor may be a really annoying, repetitive, meaningless earworm of a song, but at least it's something different for Anita.  Love her stage presence, love her moves, love her attitude, pretty much everything but the banana pants .  Her vocals are still not the best and I can't see me ever downloading a song of hers, but at least she's moved up on my list from "why is she on the show" to "I'll be sad to see her go."

Pharrell gave Sugar Joans one of the best songs to sing ever written.  I may balk at the hoary old songs that some of the judges have dug out of obscurity for their unwary contestants, but "Say a Little Prayer" by Burt Bacharach/Hal David is one of the most melodic,beautiful songs ever written.  It deserves the title" classic" and if you haven't ever heard Dionne Warwick's original, take a listen.  If you clicked and listened, you now know what was wrong with Sugar's performance. No heart, no passion, no genuine feeling.  Just a lot of screeching to hit notes out of her range.

I can't fairly evaluate DaNica Shirey's take on Joni Mitchell's "Help Me."  That is one of my all time favorite songs.  If DaNica didn't sing it exactly the same as the original, I would hate it because she dared draw a mustache on the Mona Lisa, if she did a copycat version, I would hate it because no one can be Joni Mitchell.  So she had a tall order.  How'd she do?  I'd give her a C.  I did indeed not love her take on the verses, the little changes were not good choices.  But her take on the chorus was different and I loved it.  I still think she has the best voice on the show, but she needs to work on arrangement and melodic choices.

Because it had been so long sing someone sang a Sam Smith song, Team Gwen's Ricky Manning was up next to sing "Lay Me Down" by,,,Sam Smith   Ricky continues his upward trajectory and had another really strong performance.  Love his voice, in full voice and in falsetto.  He really has a great instrument and has total control over it.  Next he has to work on his performance - he's still not fully connecting with the crowd,  I hope he has the chance to stick around long enough to learn how to work the stage.

The pimp spot tonight went to Team Gwen's Taylor John Williams who sang "Stuck in the Middle" by Stealers Wheel.  For any cinephiles, that of course is the song playing during THAT SCENE in Reservoir Dogs that is seared in our brains for all eternity.  For music fans, Stealers Wheel lead singer Gerry Rafferty is also known for some great solo hits, including one of my absolute favorite romantic songs, "Right Down the Line."  But back to Taylor.  Shocker,  he was great.  This guy is so consistent.  He has it all, the look, the attitude, the performance (silly dance moves for the win), and the voice.  He took a forty year old song, switched it up, played around with it, and made is relevant and very cool.

1. Taylor John Williams
2. Elyjuh René
3. Ricky Manning
4. DaNica Shirey
5. Anita Antoinette
6. Sugar Joans
7. Jean Kelley
8. Luke Wade
9. Bryana Salaz
10. Ryan Sill

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Recapping The Voice Season 7 Live Playoffs: Round one - Team Adam v. Team Blake

There was both a macro and a micro bromance battle tonight as Adam Levine's team was performing against his "man crush every day" Blake Shelton's team   Within Team Adam you had BFFs Matt McAndrew and Taylor Phelan each competing for votes.  So, how'd they do, which of the bros came out on top, and how did the under-represented distaff side of The Voice perform tonight?  I'm glad I asked.

First up was Taylor Brashears, playing to her strength belting out a sassy Dixie Chicks' song, "Long Time Gone."  It's always risky taking a song with a title like that in a competition show as you want to give bloggers like me an easy oneliner like, "after this performance, Taylor will be gone for a long time from this competition."  But I'm not lazy.  I'll say, to be kind, that she lived up to expectations - she's fun, confident and, as Blake noted, ornery. She started the song playing the fiddle like it was her Opry debut and she looked cute as a button.  But somewhere along the way, she forgot about her voice, which left the performance a screeching mess. She also seemed to lose the beat halfway through.  It was breathless, in a "I need to do cardio" not an "I'm feeling it" way.

Next was Team Adam's Chris Jamison singing "Don't" by current Brit obsession Ed Sheeran. Chris has an ease on stage that makes him fun to watch. Chris has solid, but not dynamic, voice.  I don't know if it was his mic, or the mix, but it was hard to hear him at some points in the song.   He looks good and moves well and this type of song suits him well, but there was nothing memorable about the performance.

Then it was Team Blake's Jessie Pitts' turn with "Holding Out for a Hero" by Bonnie Tyler.  Remember when the summer Olympics were in LA, when the first Ghostbusters came out, when we were all wearing padded shoulders?  Of course you don't, that was thirty frigging years ago, when this song came out!  And it's not an oldie but a goodie, not a classic oldie, just a slightly dated, totally grating song.  Why, Jessie, why?  Who hurt you?  It was Blake's choice?  Oh, well, then nevermind.

Now, after sharing just how much I hate the original, I have to say that Jessie did a great job by NOT being faithful to the original.  I enjoyed her breathy, gentle, slowed-down take on the song. It was delicate and sweet until a few wonky notes at the end brought it down a peg.

Since I was going back and forth between The Voice Live Playoffs and the final table of the WSOP Main Event, the next song fit my evening well - "Two of a Kind Workin' on a Full House" by Garth Brooks.  Team Blake's James David Carter has a good voice and delivers a straight forward, serviceable performance.  Nice little twang, nice yodels. But there's nothing new or interesting here.  I don't feel that there's a big gaping hole in country music that only he can fill.  This is supposed to be about discovering undiscovered talent, not giving a platform to someone interchangeable with dozens of others doing the exact same thing around the country.  I can see this anywhere - I don't go to those places for a reason.

God only knows why Adam Levine picked this sickeningly sweet, dated song for the talented Matt McAndrew.  The Beach Boy's "God Only Knows" sounded old fashioned when it came out in 1966.  To put that into perspective, The Beatles released "Tomorrow Never Knows" that same year, a trippy, sexy, song with Indian influences and an unusual drum beat that was unlike anything playing on the radio.  So, I hate the song choice.  I hate this song more than I hated Matt's battle round song "Yellow" by Coldplay.  The highest compliment I can give Matt is that he made me love "Yellow" and not totally despise "God Only Knows."   It was helped, too, by the fact that he sang to his teary-eyed, proud mom in the audience.  I hope next week he gets a better song... and never again scats.

Best performance of the night so far was Team Blake's preternaturally talented Reagan James.  She sang Colbie Caillat's "Try" and before reviewing her performance, let's contemplate that tomorrow is her 16th birthday.  That mesmerizing, self-posessed performance was by a 15 year old.  Let that sink in and try not to question your wasted youth.  So the fact that she exudes so much confidence on stage is shocking, until you realize that she has a real gift and she knows it. She gets down to business, sitting, strumming for the first half of the song, letting her quirky voice pull us in.  When she started moving around stage, she lost a little accuracy and strayed off a bit (sounding winded).  But perfection is overrated.  She has a great sound and makes even a relatively bland song really pop.  And you can't keep; your eyes off of her.

What's happened to Taylor Phelan?  I don't know if it's because he's been passed around from coach to coach, but the guy who burst into our consciousness with one of the best blind auditions ever has never equalled that first performance. Last night he had a great song, right in his wheelhouse, "Cool Kids" by Echosmith.  But the here we go's and awkward exultations to the crowd to sing along were really distracting and diminished the performance.  Worse, his voice was straining for much of the song.  He has so much promise but he may not last much longer if he doesn't get back on track.  Don't get me wrong, there were glimmers, some notes here and there that reminded me what pulled me in originally.  But the move from a performer singing what he felt to singing for votes has not been a good one.

Damien was up next for Team Adam, singing "I'm Not the Only One" by Sam Smith.  Damien, and his coach, knows what he can do and what he should sing. Great song choice, great performance.  Powerful, emotional, captivaing.  He's what Chris Jamison should aspire to sound like.  Damien has a great range and has so many tools available to him, from his beautiful falsetto to his well-controlled vibrato.  It was the first knockout performance of the night.  No breathlessness, no nerves, no amateur hour. It would have been easy to confuse Damien with a guest artist and not a contestant.

When did Mia Pfirrman come on the show?  She was not at all on my radar (yes, I know, I've blogged about her, but she wasn't that high on my list) and I had zero expectations going into her performance tonight for Team Adam.  She took on Lana Del Rey's "Young and Beautiful" and she was.  She attacked that song and gave us the first diva moment of the night with a note that she effortlesly beat into submission.  She has great power and yet was still smart enough to also show a softer, delicate side.  She was the surprise of the night.

Last up was Team Blake's Craig Wayne Boyd singing "Some Kind of Wonderful" by Grand Funk Railroad.  If you thought I hated that Beach Boys song, you should have checked my blood pressure when I saw that this was the song Blake had saddled him with.  It's such a grating, annoying mess of a song.  And Craig has this affectation where "kisses" becomes "kishes" that drives me to distraction.    But I have to give it to Craig. He sang the hell out of that song and worked the crowd like a pro.  He was cute (thanks to his Gwen makeover) and smiled, made eye contact and shook hands, bringing his energy and sense of fun to the stage.  He sold that performance.

So here's the deal.  My favorite bromance - Matt and Taylor P, aka McPhelan - fizzled, while the artists I'd barely noticed - Damien, Mia and Craig - soared.  The award for most consistent goes to Reagan, who was and remains one of my favorite singers.  I was disappointed with Taylor Brashears and James David Carter and pleasantly surprised with JessiePitts.

Rankings for the evening?

1. Reagan James
2. Damien
3. Mia Pfirrman
4. Craig Wayne Boyd
5. Matt McAndrew
6. Jessie Pitts
7. Taylor Phelan
8. Chris Jamison
9. James David Carter
10. Taylor Brashears

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Recapping Survivor San Juan Del Sur Episode 7: I Quit

How am I supposed to work under these conditions?  It's cold, it rained a week ago, my significant other isn't here and I'm out of trail mix.  And no one is telling me how pretty I am.  Why does everyone hate me just because I managed to sneak enough makeup onto the island to keep RuPaul happy?  Why do I have to watch other people be happy, what about me? Wahhhhhh.

Now that I'm done channeling the latest castaway to leave Survivor, "John Rocker's girlfriend" Julie McGee, let's look at what happened on last night's let down of a show.

Things started well enough, with the two tribes merging at twelve, having a feast which made Hunahpu's decision to forfeit their luxury items for rice even dumber.  Surprisingly, there was no clue to an immunity island stuffed in any of the buffs or underneath any of the food or, if there were, this group probably ate it.

After settling and and coming up with a creative new name for their tribe (insert eye roll).  Merging the two names together like they're coming up with a new showmance name may, and I'm going out on a limb here with the may, have been a cool idea once, long ago, but now it's just lazy.  What happened to creativity, like when Malcolm famously fooled his castmates on Survivor: Caramoan, telling them when he suggested a new tribe name of Enil Edam that it meant "new beginnings" when it was really his mom's name spelled backwards.

The survivors did some quick calculation and saw that there were four singles and four pairs.  Alec thought that meant there were eight people left, but everyone else grasped the math.  Keith, who had been odd man out on the Coyopa tribe, was reunited with his son Wes and was now in the majority.  Jeremy, who had been sitting pretty on Hunahpu, was now in the minority.  It would be very easy for the couples to eliminate the singles and then duke it out when it got down to the final eight.

Jeremy knew he had Missy and Baylor and that they would come back over to him, joining with Natalie and Julie. That was only five, so Jeremy immediately reconnected with Jon.  He warned him about how Josh is running things and that he and Reed had Alec and Wes and Keith.  If Jon and Jaclyn joined Jeremy's group, the seven could then vote to get rid of Josh, who is the biggest threat in the game.  Jeremy easily locked up Jon,

Jeremy was right to target Josh, because the only person playing harder than Jeremy this season is Josh.  He pulled Wes and Keith over to join Josh, Reed and Alec.  That was only five, so he went to his former ally Baylor and asked her to bring her two votes over to get rid of Jeremy.  Baylor was all for that - despite the fact that Josh had voted against her, despite the fact that Josh had lied/withheld information from her and despite the fact that she had already told us in a confessional that she couldn't trust Josh any more, he easily charmed her right back into his web.

When Baylor told her mom her intention of joining up with Josh's group against Jeremy, Missy shut that down.  Just because she's been married and divorced three times doesn't mean that her choices are in any way suspect or that Baylor shouldn't follow her decisions blindly. She's the mom and she knows best.

But have no fear, Josh fans.  All is not lost.  He doesn't need Missy and Baylor, if he can pull in Jon and Jaclyn.   Sure, Jon was allied with Jeremy since the start.  Sure they reconnected immediately following the merge.  Sure, Jon agreed to join Jeremy and vote off Josh. But all you have to do is wave something shiny in front of Jon and his memory is wiped clean.  He's then susceptible to whoever speaks to him next.  So Josh and Reed do that, and within seemingly seconds, Jon flips and flops his way over to Team Josh.

Meanwhile, the post-feast satisfaction is starting to wear off and people are looking for scraps and suddenly someone remembers that there was leftover trail mix.  Julie is sitting off away from the tribe, munching on some dried apricot, as she says in her confessional that she grabbed the trail mix and put it in her bag and possession is 9/10th of the law and hiding something so no one knows you have it is the other 1/10th so she's going to keep it for herself.

Only the rest of the tribe goes CSI: Huyopa and start to figure out the missing food must be in someone's bag and after eliminating all the other options of where it could be they zero in on Julie's bag.  Lo and behold, what do they find?  Not lipstick, eyeliner, a hair straightener, blush, conditioner, an eyelash curler, and tweezers, nope it's the missing trail mix.   Instead of getting a lynch squad to go after Julie, they scoop out all the munchable goodness from her bag and have a mini feast in her absence.

Julie comes back to the camp and she realizes that they discovered her stash (possibly it was their askance looks, possibly it was the fact everyone had nut breath, or maybe it was the fact that Alec actually mentioned trail mix out loud in front of her).  But whatever it was, Julie knows she's in trouble big time.

But first, it's time for the Immunity Challenge and it is not one that necessarily favors one gender over another.  It requires balance and strength and concentration and the most surprising thing other than old man Keith winning is that Jeremy went out first.  As he noted in the post-challenge confessional, it wasn't just that he went out first, but who outlasted him.  Julie, for goodness sake.  Julie. That hurt the most.

Keith, who had earlier forgotten it was his son Wes' birthday, was head to head against his son at the end and, with the chance to make that up to him he, like a good dad...held on and whooped his kid. Yep, no throwing the challenge to your son whose birthday you forgot and who doesn't have a hidden immunity idol.  Keith is playing to win.

It's scramble time and without immunity, and not knowing whether Baylor can get Missy to come over, Josh has some work to do.  He and Reed focus on getting one, if not both, of the other duos over to their side.  Reed strikes the right note by warning Jon that Jeremy is targeting the pairs.  Baylor also is softened up by Josh and it's possible she may convince her mom to vote against Jeremy.

Things are looking bleak for Jeremy.  He won't be able to go back to the firehouse having lost the first immunity challenge to an old man, a mom, and John Rocker's girlfriend.  He then makes the #1 mistake on Survivor, telling the camera that even though he doens't have immunity he feels pretty good about his alliance and is sure that Josh is going home.

At this point I'm getting ready to say goodbye to my favorite player this year, Jeremy, and tip my hat to my new favorite, Josh, who will now coast to victory.  Only, Julie has something to say about all of this.

She's tired, hungry, she misses "her boyfriend John Rocker," and what's worse, no one likes her.  No one ever likes her because she's pretty. Even sunburned, without any facial products or a professional blowout, they still don't like her because she's pretty. She's on the outs and probably the next one to go home, all because she's pretty.  And maybe because of the whole laziness/trail mix stealing thing.  But mostly, because of the pretty.

Missy tries to talk her into staying, but fails to appreciate what buttons need pushing.  Tell Julie that she wants to show everyone how strong she is, how capable she is, how more than two boobs and a pretty face she is. Tell Julie that "her boyfriend John" will love her more, put a ring on it, if she hangs in there. Tell her no one wants to date a quitter, even if they made the merge.  Nope, Missy tells her, basically, that if she quits, she's hurting Missy's game.

Surprisingly, that doesn't change Julie's mind.

Jeff comes over and tries to talk her into staying.  He does almost as piss poor a job as Missy.  He doesn't get incensed, doesn't insult her, doesn't tell her she'll be dead to him, dead to the Survivor family and a complete embarrassment as a human being.  He gives here a lukewarm scolding then, pretty quickly, accepts her decision to quit the game.

He then goes to tell the Huyopa tribe the good/bad news.  The good news is there's one less mouth to feed, Julie can rush back into "her boyfriend John's" open arms, and they won't have to help her through any rainy days or Mondays, which always get her down.  The bad news...there is none!  Because no one had Julie in their Survivor pool and no one is threatening not to watch any more if she is gone.

Jeremy thinks this is bad news for him, not realizing he was about to get his torch snuffed.  Josh realizes that it's not the best news for him, since he was well positioned to get rid of his biggest threat, but at least there is one less single and it now only takes six votes, not seven, to win the next tribal vote.  So he and his fellow successful Broadway star should be able to get rid of that pesky firefighter next time around.  Assuming, Jeremy doesn't figure out how to win an immunity challenge next time around, or at least beat the old guy and the mom.

Jon (referencing the famous Kat quote from BvW 1): We can still date each other, we made it to the merge.

Jeremy: I was out before Julie.  I was out before Julie.

Jon (about Julie):  She's selfish and she's awful.

Keith (4)
Jeremy (4)
Jaclyn (2)
Jon (4)
Julie (5)
Wes (2)
Josh (8)
Missy (2)