Thursday, February 25, 2016

Survivor Kaoh Rong Episode 2: Take One Foot, Insert into Mouth

I guess there was a reason Jennifer Lanzetti was not put on the Brains tribe.  Having formed a solid alliance with Scot Pollard, Kyle Jason and Cydney Gillon and successfully uniting to vote out the personable Darnell Hamilton on Day 3, Jenny had nothing to worry about even if her tribe lost another challenge.  Alecia Holden was firmly at the bottom of the totem pole and would be an easy vote out, guaranteeing Jenny what every Survivor player covets most - three more days.  Instead, the insect that had crawled in her ear had apparently done some damage to her cerebrum and she lost all rational thought.  She managed to talk herself out of her alliance and out of the game in what would otherwise have been a pretty boring, predictable episode.

Coming back from the first tribal council, Alecia was appreciative that her tribe kept her and she promised to step it up.  Now, despite having said in the premiere episode that she "is a mental giant," Alecia seems to be confused about where she stands with the tribe and whether the three votes against her meant anything.  But, God love her, she takes the setback and the confusion with good cheer.  The next day, as her tribemates lay around, she works that flint over - for hours - trying to make fire for her lazy, ungrateful, non-allies.  What she lacks in smarts, and fire making skills, Alecia more than makes up for with a positive attitude and determination.  Grudgingly, I'm starting to like her. Especially when after her malapropism - calling an ember an embryo - Alecia gives us the quote of the night: "Me and my words."

Over on the Beauty tribe, everyone except for Tai Trang is in the ocean, discovering the oversized clams which in Survivor 31 Kimmi and Monica butted heads over.  Tai finds himself in a bit of a Catch 22 - he went looking for an idol because he worried he was at the bottom of the tribe and his looking for an idol has put him at the bottom of the tribe and so now he has to find the idol while his constant searching is only going to further separate him from his tribe and keep him on the bottom.  Either the rest of his tribe is oblivious or the Survivor producers really wanted him to find the clue, because as he looks around there is a bright neon sign pointing towards a clue jutting about five feet out of a tree with a myna bird on a twig above it chirping, here's the clue, Tai, here's the clue.   But there's a twist.  First he has to dig under the tree to find the box containing the idol and then he is instructed to climb a four hundred foot, smooth sided and well oiled, tree to get the key that unlocks the box that has the hidden immunity idol.  Bonding with the tribe may have been easier.

This looks so much easier on TV
Tai tries to channel his inner Ozzy, but he does not have a muscular, agile 20-something inside him (much to his great sadness) and so he fails in his attempt to fetch the key.  Somehow, with all this going on - and his body being cut up by the effort - his tribe has no idea that Tai found the clue to the idol.  But today ended up Tree 1, Tai  0 and he will have to (1) hope no one looks up and wonders why there's a  box attached to the top of a palm tree and (2) grow wings overnight so he can fly up to grab it if he wants this idol.  Or his team can continue to not lose.  That would work too,

Speaking of non-losing teams, we next go over to the Brains tribe where the gift that is Debbie Warner just keeps on giving.  Every word out of her mouth is pure Coach-ian gold, all full of bravado and a startling lack of self-awareness.  She gets into a dispute with Elisabeth Markham over the wisdom of boiling water before you drink it.   Debbie is, after all, the chemist and if she says the chances of their being any organic chemicals in the water that they need to boil out is "virtually slim to none."  Liz is unconvinced and worried about parasites and pathogens to which Debbie scoffs.  She has the "immune system of a horse" she tells Liz.  Unfortunately, according to, 
"When a horse is stressed, lacking in proper nutrients, or old, he says, the immune system can't function appropriately and pathogens are able to breach the defensive lines."  So if a horse were on Survivor, say around Debbie's age, it would probably want its water boiled as well.

What's interesting in the battle between the two Brains is actually how Thanks, Obama handles the dispute.  Peter Baggenstos knows Debbie is nutty cuckoo crazy in the head out of her mind, he listens to her and gives her positive feedback and does not at all signal that he thinks she's stark raving mad.  Then he turns to us in the confessional and asks the million dollar question - does she have thirty cats at home or forty.  That's how you play Survivor.  You coddle and nurture the crazy lady and stay out of her way, while bonding with your fellow sane tribemates about her litany of accomplishments. 

We go back over to Beauty and someone has replaced Big Brother's bombastic, stalkerish Caleb Reynolds with this sweet, tolerant, cuddly guy who agrees to keep Tai warm at night.  I don't know why being out in the oppressive heat and humidity of Cambodia, sleeping on logs and having virtually nothing to eat or drink has brought out a completely different side of this guy than we saw living in the comfy house built in the parking lot at the CBS studios in Burbank.    Michelle Fitzgerald and Julia Sokolowski each provide small sound bites about the Southern hunter and the San Francisco gardener being an unlikely pair and it's either the start of a beautiful friendship or it may end up putting a large target on both of them.  But right now, it's just fun to watch especially as Tia tries to wrangle a kiss from his fellow Beauty.

While some people are good at either getting along or at least not being a pain in the ass, Joseph Del Campo is showing how not to win friends and influence people.  He is stubborn, bossy, opinionated, and condescending.  He fights with everyone (except his pet, Debbie) about everything and he's right and they're wrong.  He's either never seen Survivor before or he's watched it in reverse.  He manages to bring Liz to tears simply because she wants to do what every Survivor contestant has done since the beginning of time, or at least since 2000 - boil the freaking water.  This shouldn't be a contentious idea.  If the water doesn't need to be boiled then all the charities bringing fresh water into impoverished areas can refocus their efforts.  According to Joe and Debbie all water is good and safe to drink, so guzzle up!

So you hit this do-hickey with this thingamajig?
Over at Brawn tribe it's scrape, scrape, scrape as the tribe tries to get a spark with their flint to get fire so they can boil their water so it's safe to drink.  Too bad they didn't get the memo from Debbie that all they have to do is channel their inner horse and drink all the fresh water they want.  So after the big, brawny guys give up on making fire, Alecia decides she is going to make fire no matter how long it takes her.  And even with her teammates all sleeping, she keeps at it until miraculously she makes fire!  Not only does that get them clean water to drink, but they can now cook one of their chickens and feast.  Her hard work pays off and Jenny can't help but be impressed with Alecia's tenacity.  Unfortunately, this will shortly come back to bite her.

At the immunity challenge it looks like Brawn will prevail this time as they go out to an early lead, but Scot was not up to the slingshot part of the challenge, which is understandable.  The guys is built more like Goliath than David, what experience would he have with a slingshot?  So Brawn is headed to another visit with Jeff Probst at Tribal Council, but Scot is not worried.  He has a solid foursome with Cydney, Jenny, and Kyle.  "I would be shocked if one of us turned."

Prepare to be shocked, Scot.  Kyle tells us, and probably anyone else who will listen, that Alecia is a ditz and a half.  She's dumb.  She's an ostrich.  She's useless.  We get it, Kyle, she's the blonde bimbo on the tribe.  Telling us you think she probably has a good heart doesn't take away from the fact that you are totally disrespecting her.  And it's not just we the viewers who see this, it's your fellow tribemates.  So sweet, goodhearted Jenny hears how Scot talks about Alecia and she's not happy about it.  She's having buyer's remorse with her alliance and the more she hears him put down Alecia, the more she wants to defend the girl.  But what Jenny forgot is there is no heart in Survivor.  You have to play with your head.  And you don't shake things up unless you can close the deal and showing any sympathy towards Alecia and trying to change the vote is very dangerous.

Kyle's lazy, entitled, gross and boorish attitude grates on Jenny, burrowing into her like a small insect in her ear.  And she can't take it any more.  So she goes to Alecia and asks her a question.  What's the best thing you can do in this game?  Alecia did not know there would be a test or she would have studied first.  So she tries her best to answer.  Be honest?  Nope.  Win a challenge?  Nope.  Soon, Alecia wishes it were a multiple choice test rather than a fill in the blank.  So Jenny gives her the answer - get out the strong players while you can.  Alecia loves this idea and Jenny comes up with the idea of a girls' alliance to target one of the boys (Kyle).  They tell Cydney they're idea and from what we saw she did the exact right thing - seem receptive and don't raise any unwanted attention.

The guys see Alecia and Jenny hanging out together and Kyle is a little suspicious but Scot assures him that he is 100% sure the two girls aren't teaming up and he is absolutely positive that their four-person alliance is rock solid.  What Scot doesn't realize is that being almost 7 feet tall means it takes a lot of time for information to float up to him and a lot is lost along the way, such as the fact that  the two women are thick as thieves, whispering together and hanging out much more than they should if one were voting out the other.  After allaying Kyle's fears, Scot goes to his ally Jenny just to confirm that they're good and she says they are but inside she's waffling.  She wants to make this big move and blindside Kyle, but she doesn't want to alienate Scot whom she does like.  What to do?

Jenny decides to second, third and fourth guess herself and flip flop back and forth  over and over again.  Vote out Alecia, vote out Keith, original four person alliance, new all girls alliance, safe easy vote, big move.  She drives herself and Cydney crazy as she can't make up her mind and they head off to tribal not having locked down the decision because deciding on the fly is always the best move.

Accio immunity idol
At tribal, Jeff does his usual.  He gives each contestant a little rope and sees if anyone wants to wrap it around their necks and jump into the abyss.  He asks Alecia a question and she gives a pretty good answer - how she knows she's on the bottom but she's tried to make a contribution to the tribe.  Then he asks Jenny how to approach tonight's vote -- go with the obvious totem pole approach or consider a girls' alliance now that they have the majority of votes.  Jeff is not a federal prosecutor, you're not under oath,  you don't have to give away all your secrets or answer truthfully to his question.  His job is to poke and prod and ask probative questions, yours is not to say something that will blow up your entire game.  But Jenny missed that memo and she answers Jeff truthfully telling him the vote and how to handle it was up in the air to which Kyle, Scot and Cydney each provide very GIF-able reactions.

Jenny tries to back track but the damage is done.  She tries to pin the strategy discussions targeting Kyle on Alecia, but "Blondie" is not dumb enough to take the fall for this.  She pushes everything right back on Jenny's lap.  That was your decision, your idea, your strategy.  I was just minding my own business, trying to remember how to get back to camp, when you came up with this whole idea.  Kyle had his suspicions back in the shelter and now they were confirmed.  Scot had gone to bat for Jenny and now he finds out she really was plotting behind his back.  This is no bueno.  Meanwhile, Cydney sits as quietly as she can hoping no one notices her or asks her any questions.  She lets the guys grill Jenny and lets Jenny and Alecia take turns pointing fingers at one another while trying to stay out of the crossfire.

Jenny, forgetting the first rule of holes, continues to dig deeper and deeper and the more she talks the less her now former allies like of what they're hearing.  She broke their trust and there is no going back.  Could she at that point have tried to rally the girls to go back to her first plan of voting out Kyle?  Perhaps.  But instead she tried to patch things up with the two people who thought they could trust her and just learned they couldn't.  That was her second and final mistake.  No amount of standing on top of the bench and pleading her case was going to save her at that point. She was a dead woman walking.

Wasn't this supposed to be "Blondie?"
So Jenny Lanzetti becomes the second person voted out of Survivor Kaoh Rong, aka Brains, Beauty and Brawn 2.  Pre-game is said of her that "her only problem on the tribe may be that she's not used to fading into the background and not giving her opinion so she has to worry about butting heads.  But if she lives by her "semper Gumby" motto (always flexible!) she might be okay."  Jenny was too flexible, going back and forth between two alliances and failing to commit to just one.  That and her insistence on actually answering one of Jeff's questions honestly rather than strategically were what brought her down and not the creepy crawly that had briefly taken over her life in Episode One.

Want more on Jenny?
CBS The Day After Interview
Exit interview on RHAP
Interview with Josh Wigler/Parade
Interview with CarterMatt
Interview with RealityTVWorld

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Survivor Kaoh Rong Episode 1: The Battle of the Scape Goats

As Tacitus famously said, Inquissima haec bellorum condicio est: prospera omnes sibi indicant, aduersa uni imputantur.  For those of you who aren't Latin scholars, this translates to: the injustice is that victory is claimed by all, defeat by one.  In the premiere episode of Survivor Brains vs. Beauty vs. Brawn part deux, the Brawn tribe's loss fell squarely on the young shoulders of postal worker Darnell Hamilton.  It fell like the goggles from his face as he dove into the water, etching his name in the pantheon of first boots.  We barely knew you Darnell, but we will miss you nevertheless.

In the introduction to the season, Jeff Probst is his usual understated self.  "This will be the most grueling 39 days in Survivor history."  And from what we've heard, for once Jeff is not being hyperbolic.  While the producers must have known something when they cast an ER doctor, from what we've all heard, they should have added a priest and a medical examiner.  We see glimpses of what's to come and it's not pretty and for a moment you wonder why the heck anyone would put themselves through this even for a million dollars.  Before taxes, as Richard Hatch would tell you.

The premiere gets off to a rousing, if reminiscent, start as the eighteen castaways were given two minutes to take as many provisions - from live chickens to machetes - as they can.  Just from the first shot of the boat, you can start to see the various personalities come through.  Nick, my pre-game pick as the biggest jerk, reclines with his leg dangling over the edge like he's in a men's wear catalog in the "sporty" section.  Peter Baggenstos the ER doc looks serious and supercilious as his confessional tells us it's not that he's arrogant, he's just smarter than everyone.  And Debbie Warner comes up with the weird quote of the night telling us that "puzzles lay down for me like lovers."  Now, does that mean that she's good at puzzles or that since no lover has ever laid down for her, she's actually bad at puzzles?

We meet some of the Brawn team.  Scot Pollard, who looks like a bigger version of the Mountain from Game of Throne and sounds like Andre the Giant, tells us his claim to fame is pushing people around for money and he's not going to put up with failure.  Kyle Jason Bounty Hunter is single-minded in moving aside everything that stands between him and the million dollars.  So they're taking their tribe designation to heart.

The Beauty tribe intros start with poker player Anna Khait who says she's more than willing to use her attributes, both of them, to her advantage.  And Nick Maiorano cribs from the old, don't hate me because I'm beautiful ads from the '80s while guaranteeing his victory.  What I'd like Nick to win is a mirror and a book on learning to grasp reality.

Beast Mode Cowby v. Feast Mode Chicken

The scramble to gather provisions has the castaways quickly deciding what they need and how to get it onto their float before time runs out and so you see some go for the immediate gratification (bananas) while some plan for the long haul (fish traps).  We have runaway chickens which leads to a great moment where Beauty tribe member Caleb Reynolds uses the head of fellow tribemate Michelle Fitzgerald to help him dive into the water.  Objects small and large are launched overboard and we get a few near misses but somehow no one is seriously injured in the melee.

The tribes get to know each other and the Brawn tribe feels good about themselves and their chances.  As long as there isn't a counting competition (I'm looking at you Scot "there are five of us" Polard) they should be golden.  They have a bounty hunter, a former pro athlete, a pro body builder, a construction worker and a postal worker and Malibu Barbie.  Two of these things are not like the others. Let's put a pin in this.

The Brains talk about how smart they are until Debbie decides to discuss the three hundred pound donkey in the room - what is the president doing on our tribe.  Well, Debbie, Obama went to Harvard so that should entitle him to be on the Brains tribe and he is a lame duck so what else does he have to do with his summer.  But, wait, no, it's not Obama (as the massive jaw should have alerted her), it's Peter the ER doctor who says he has to deal with this every damn day.  You could grow out your hair a little or try a goatee, maybe pin those ears back, but yeah she is the one who says what everyone else was thinking.  But there's more from Debbie. Not only does she blurt out the obvious, she decides to tell everyone her life story a la Coach and go on to boast about all her mad skills that will make her invaluable to her tribe.  And by invaluable, I mean not at all having any value and a complete annoyance that they will vote off the first chance they get even if that means throwing a challenge rather than having to hear her go on about all the things she does so amazingly.

Neal Gottlieb - the first person to use the word "dandy" on broadcast TV in the last thirty years - knows just how to deal with know-it-alls like Debbie.  Patronize her, let her do her thing, and watch as she implodes.  It does no good to argue with her or even make little suggestions.  She will do it her way until the bitter end.

It's hard to believe that Nick (of the Beauty tribe) has not only seen past episodes, he's blogged about Survivor.  So why he would give the "nothing can go wrong" soundbite is beyond me.  But he is full of bluster and confidence.  Michelle has her eyes on Nick, but strategically is building a alliance with her fellow female tribemates.  The women think the men will be easy to break up as the three of them could not be more different.  Well, that's not entirely true.  Both Tai Trang and Caleb Reynolds questions Tai's inclusion in the Beauty tribe, so they have that in common.  While the girls try and figure out which of the guys they can bring over, the three guys are doing the same thing, trying to find their foothold among the girls. Eventually, the three girls (Michelle, Anna and Julia) decide to team up and maybe bring in Caleb who one of them recognized from Big Brother.  What they realized about Caleb is that he is loyal to a fault and a great alliance member, so long as he doesn't fall in love with someone on the island.

Back at Brawn, Kyle is already over Blondie, aka Alecia.  She's not doing anything around camp and she's doing that girly, giggle, I'm so dumb bit that is not at all cool as she claims not to remember how to lace the palm fronds.  Everyone else is living up to their tribe name as they work to build the shelter, but she's looking for the best possible light for her time on camera.  She's the first boot (just like I predicted in my blog, what a genius.  Oh wait.).  He locks up Scot in his alliance (with Jennifer Lanzetti) and their plan to get rid of Barbie seems solid.  But Kyle, is hedging his bets and also joining up with Cydney Gillon who has her own alliance with Darnell.  So everyone's playing Survivor.

Brains tribe has a generation gap, with "old folks" Joe and Debbie on one side and the other four far, far away in their own group.  The four younger tribemates immediately target voting out Joe, dubbed most likely to be medevaced, and "Chatty Cathy who has done it all and is perfect at everything" Debbie next.  Despite his grey hairs, Peter is safely ensconced in the younger four and he's fine with going after the ones who will slow them down.

While we know that everyone with half a brain is looking for a hidden immunity idol, the focus is on Tai Trang's obvious, unsubtle, and completely haphazard scorched-earth attempt at finding an idol.  He decides that there are some trees planted on a path that look suspicious, so the gardener who loves all living things and cherishes trees, starts pulling up the trees, yanking them out of their home, like the giant in a fairy tale.  Probably concerned about reaction from the pro-tree lobby, Tai tweeted today that he carefully, gently, and with great love replanted all the trees.  Regardless, his efforts to look for an idol made him look sketchy to his teammates and  moved him from being in the best position in the tribe to the bottom of the beautiful totem pole.

The heat is braining my fries.
Well, Jeff did promise us the most grueling Survivor ever, so it should come as no surprise that we have our first meltdown halfway through the first episode.  Prep school grad and Boston girl Aubry Bracco had said in her pre-show interviews that her name meant leader of elves.  It's secondary meaning is girl who cannot deal with suffocating heat as she has a complete mental and physical collapse on Day 2 under the punishing Kaoh Rong sun.  Her tribemates are helpful and supportive and we'll see if she continues to join with the young 'uns against the oldsters after Debbie was the one to give her the most comfort in her time of need.

While Aubry was dealing with the demons in her head, Jennifer was dealing with an actual creepy crawly thing in her head.  The poor girl had a small bug that was building a small home in her ear and the combination of pain and the freakiness of having a living thing crawling around out of reach was almost too much.  She got no sleep and, sadly, not much sympathy from her tribemates who probably thought it was all in her head until they actually saw the damn thing crawl out of her bloody ear.  Finally, after the camera person spent enough time focused on her ear to get her oblivious tribemates to finally take a look, the guilty party came forward and was finally removed.  Jennifer literally did a 180, feeling completely better the second the evil thing left her body.

It's time for the immunity challenge and the tribes get a moment to strategize about who should do what part of the challenge.  Note that Alecia says she's not good at puzzles but Cydney tells her not to focus on what's she's not good at but be positive.  Me, it'd trust someone when they tell me they're bad at something.  Trickier is whether to trust someone when they tell you they're good at something.  The Brawn tribe goes with Darnell who says he's positive, he should be the one to dive.  LATER, Scot will tell us that he's an experienced snorkeler, but he fails to mention that - or the fact that at 6'11" he can get to the paddles faster than anyone else.

While all the divers go in head first, without their hands on their masks, only Darnell has the misfortune of his mask flying off the second he hits the water.  He climbs back in the boat, unable to see in the murky water without the mask.  Meanwhile, over on Brains, Aubry completely redeems herself by single-handedly gathering all the paddles for her tribe.  She then takes over the puzzle duties along with Liz and the two of them smoke the puzzle, giving Brain the first win of the season - more than making up for Brains' poor showing back at Caramoan.  Beauty tribe is cheating as the two they send to do the puzzle, lawyer Anna and college student Julia, could just have easily been on the Brains tribe.  Brawn almost catches up, despite their initial setback, but in the end they lose by one piece.

Alecia had to sub out for the Brawn tribe after a few idle minutes staring at the puzzle while Jenny worked fast on her part, so you would think the blame for the loss would be spread equally between her and Darnell.  But Alecia isn't worried, since she's not a puzzle master - which she told them in advance - so really it's their fault they lost, not hers.  Regardless, both she and Darnell do an apology tour of the camp as they each realize that their challenge blunders make them easy targets and when there are so few players and so little to go on when deciding how to vote, blowing a challenge is as good a reason as any.

While it seemed the obvious choice was to vote off the skinny girl who sucks at puzzles, for some reason unknown to me and not shared with us the viewers, Scot instead wanted Darnell out.  This despite the fact that as he was explaining to Alecia why he was saving her she waved huge red flags in his face repeatedly.  But he was dead set on getting rid of Darnell.  Cydney was as firm about saving Darnell and getting rid of Alecia, but she made the correct Survivor move of not fighting it when the majority in her tribe told her the vote was Darnell.  She'd do what she could at tribal council, but if he was going, she wasn't going down with him.

At tribal, Kyle showed little concern for making enemies as he told "Darnell and Blondie" that neither lived up to his standards and one would be going home.  Lost in this was the fact that the other one - either Darnell or Blondie - not only would not be going home, but would be heading back to the shelter with a huge chip on their shoulder.  But Kyle was caught up in the hubris of having the numbers and did not think of the future.  Speaking of hubris, Alecia explains that she should be saved because she's a mental giant.  If mental giant is someone who "isn't a puzzle god" and can't figure out how to weave palm fronds, then she's right.

So they kept the skinny girl who couldn't do the puzzle?
During tribal council, Kyle has second thoughts about his decision to vote out Darnell after hearing him talk about overcoming hardships.  He voices his idea about switching votes to Jenny, who is choking up herself  listening to Darnell's plea.  Yet, she stays united with Scot and their two votes, along with Alecia's, results in a 3-3 tie at the end of the first vote.  From what we can tell, there is no further discussion before it goes to a revote.  This time, Kyle goes back with his original alliance and votes off Darnell, keeping a useless Alecia and a disappointed Cydney heading back to camp.


Those of us who saw Caleb on Big Brother may wonder if he had a complete personality makeover.  He came off tonight as sweet, sensible, hardworking and loyal - none of the over-the-top posturing we remember from the other CBS reality show.

The game was Tai Trang's to lose.  He was the fun, personable, non-threatening guy that neither the men nor the women on his tribe would target.  He could have coasted to merge and probably well beyond.  But then he makes the most awkward stab at finding an immunity idol by leaving his five tribemates alone for over a half hour and literally uprooting trees.  And he went from lovable to sketchy in about three seconds.  And after he was caught red handed, he hand deep in the cookie jar and melted chocolate chips all over his face, he asked for five more minutes to finish off the rest of the cookies.  He has a lot of ground to make up.

Debbie could not possibly have ever watched Survivor before if she thought coming in so aggressively, touting all her mad skills, and promising the world would make her popular.  You don't come in and tell people you can make fire if you can't. make. fire.  Better to set the bar low and exceed expectations that promise the world and deliver less.

Perfect contrast to Debbie is Neal, who keeps quiet about his accomplishments, is more a follower than a leader, and draws little attention to himself.  There is no reason to be on anyone's radar early in the game, so you get along and you go along and you don't put a huge target on your back.

Want more Darnell?

RHAP podcast
Interview with Josh Wigler/Parade
Interview with Dalton Ross/EW
CBS day after interview

Monday, February 15, 2016

Survivor Kaoh Rong Cast Preview

It's almost time. Season 32 of the best reality show in the history of TV will premiere this Wednesday with a whole new cast, a less than new tribe division, promises of the most brutal, punishing experience ever, and a hidden immunity idol twist that may shake things up.  Let's meet the new cast:

These eighteen new castaways will be broken up into three tribes based on shoehorning them into one of three categories:  beauty, brains and brawn.  The last time we had a BBB season, the diabolical, crazy-like-a-fox, cunning and completely original Tony Vlachos controlled the game wire to wire with a dominating performance.  The "Brawn" out-thought the brains and sent the beauties packing on his way to what he made look like an easy victory.  He lied about his profession, built a spy shack, spoke llama, backstabbed allies and foes alike and found idols like he had hid them.  Will another member of the brawn tribe be able to live up to this?

Brawn tribe - To Tang.  Members:  Kyle Jason, Darnell Hamilton, Jennifer Lanzetti, Alecia Holden, Scot Pollard, and Cydney Gillon.

Kyle Jason is a freakin' bounty hunter.  How cool is that?  The much tattooed 31-year-old from Detroit claims his biggest accomplishment was becoming a non-commissioned officer in the army in just three years.  Looking at that facial hair, the earlobe plugs, and those tattoos, my guess would have been rolling the fattest joint at a Phish concert or holding a mud wrestling title.  The guy is impressive.  Sergeant in the army, fighting in Iraq, then working in Afghanistan doing security at Blackwater.  Now he runs his own private investigation aka bounty hunting company.  So he's cagey and quick on his feet, but to look at him with his ratty beard and man boobs, you won't think of him as much of a threat.  That can help him sneak by, especially as he seems pretty easy going and chill. He's also a dad, and he can play that card if he gets deeper in the game.  He's playing to make money for his family, which Jeremy recent showed to be a good strategy.  Kyle is a longtime Survivor fan who may have that right combination of game knowledge and life experience.

Darnell Hamilton is a 27-rear-old postal worker  from Chicago.  Hopefully, Darnell can undo the damage to Survivor-playing post office employees caused by Survivor One World's Dan Foley.  Darnell's proudest accomplishment is finishing college (which he did while working full time) after having a pretty mediocre high school career.  I wish I had taken his approach of doing better in college than high school, maybe I wouldn't have ended up at Loyola Law School.  Ah, life regrets.  Anyway, Darnell thinks he'll be different from the other castaways in that he's bringing street smarts not just book smarts, the kind of street smarts which he used - to sneak out of the house at night.  Very Ferris Bueller of you.  He's a personable guy who'll probably provide good confessionals ("hateration is my motivation," he says in his video). He says he's overcome a lot of adversity so he's not intimidated by Survivor and thinks he can use positivity and hard work to go far in the game.

38-year-old Jennifer Lanzetti is a construction worker from Salt Lake City, Utah.  This is the first person who I can see belongs on the Brawn tribe.  She is a physical speci(wo)men.  Jennifer has been in construction - a noted man's world - for twenty years, so your initial impression is that it's unlikely she's going to be intimidated by anyone or anything on Survivor.  Then you read further into her bio and find out she's overcome endometriosis, cancer and drug addiction on top of getting her engineering degree and starting her own company.  Her only problem on the tribe may be that she's not used to fading into the background and not giving her opinion so she has to worry about butting heads.  But if she lives by her "semper Gumby" motto (always flexible!) she might be okay.  She did mention that she's somewhat concerned about the weather and as we saw on Survivor Second Chance (filmed at the same location), weather can be hellish on Kaoh Rong.  So the unknown is whether her drive to win will overcome her desire not to be wet all the time?

Alecia Holden is a 24-year-old real estate agent from Dallas.  She's a bit of a daredevil and thrill seeker and rattles off a list of things that I have not done and have no interest in doing because I don't have a death wish: bungee jumping in Indonesia, hang gliding in Rio, skydiving, jumped off the stratosphere in Las Vegas, face to face shark diving in Australia, and interacting with uncaged tigers in Thailand.  She is quite clearly on the wrong tribe unless Brawn means having no muscles whatsoever and doing risky things that involve no physicality.  She's just as clearly a "Beauty" and proof that the whole construct of the BBB is arbitrary and built on a flimsy base.  But she does share the "I'm not a girly girl" attitude of the other women on her tribe and they each have a background in non-traditional fields (she was a boxing promoter).  She says she knows people will underestimate her and think of her as another Barbie, but she plans to fool them.  Being a skinny blonde is a great disguise.  Pre-merge boot.

Scot Polard is a 40-year-old former NBA player.  I had to look that up.  I haven't watched the NBA since Magic Johnson was battling Larry Bird, so it's been a while.  Scot, all 6'11" of him, is not going to try to hide his pro-basketball days the way his parents hid that second "t" from his name.  It never works and it only makes you look untrustworthy and a bigger threat.  Instead. he should admit that according to Wikipedia his biggest accomplishment as a player was his ever evolving hair style.  And the one time on air he turned to the camera and said, "hey kids, do drugs" not realizing the camera was on.  Scot gave the shorted bio of any Survivor contestant and so there's not much to go on. He wants to win for the money and thinks his being a great teammate is his ticket to success.  He doesn't play b-ball anymore because it hurts too much, so I'm not sure he's going to live up to the "Brawn" description.  But if the challenges involving reaching for things on a shelf, he'll be golden.

Cydney Gillon is a body builder, so no question whether she's on the right tribe.  But the 23-year-old from Douglasville, Georgia she's also gorgeous and would fit in well with the Beauties.  Oh and she's pre-med, so she could be on the Brains tribe.  Yes, Cydney is a triple threat.  She's says she has trouble getting along with most girly girls, but she likes the assertive girls, so maybe she and Jennifer can band together and kick some butt.  Just when you start pegging her as the winner, she brings up her alter egos and visions of Austin  aka "Judas" from Big Brother flood your memoriy and you want to run far away.  Please, just bring the one personality, not Rebecca the refined, polished girl or Storm the superconniving Kassian player.  Cydney studies enough psychology to understand that this is pretty strange, but not enough to realize she probably shouldn't have told us about them.  She knows she's a physical threat and is going to have to use some of her southern charm to keep her safe.

Brains tribe  - Chan Loh.  Members: Peter Baggenstos, Neal Gottlieb, Debbie Wanner, Aubry Braco, Joseph Del Campo, and Elisabeth Markham

Peter Baggenstos is a 33-year-old n ER doctor from Minneapolis, whose claim to fame is that he thinks he looks like Barack Obama.  I would have thought making it through med school and getting your license would be more noteworthy than sharing a close-cropped hairstyle and slightly larger than average ears with a lame duck president, but that's just me. Possibly because both his father and brother are brain surgeons, Peter feels like the failure in the family and so he spends his spare time working out at the gym and tattoo parlor to feel better about his career choice.  With rumors swirling about how this was the most physically punishing season ever, maybe we'll see Peter makes some extra points by saving a life or two.  He claims to be a fan and plans to be flexible and unpredictable, but I don't see him having any clear strategy going in other than dazzle his fellow castaways with his complete lack of a personality.  Stay in school kids and you'll end up with a great salary and the ability to put people to sleep with your Survivor video.

38-year-old Neal Gottlieb, from Sausalito, introduces himself as an organic ice cream entrepreneur which is another way of saying douchebag.  He wants you to know he has a PR team, had $70K in savings in his twenties, and that he worked in the Peace Corp, so he's that guy.  And he's not at all on the show just to advertise his Three Twins Ice Cream business, no, he's here to do that and win a million dollars on top of all that free publicity.  He's the nerdy Survivor superfan who always wanted to be on the show but figured he was too boring to ever get picked which resulted in the aforementioned trip to the Peace Corp.  There are worse reasons for do-goodership than trying to get on a reality TV show with a million dollar top prize.  I will give Neal credit for not dropping the name of his Ivy League college (Andy Bernard's alma mater, Cornell), though it might be because it is the lowest ranked of the ivies.  He does seem affable and non-threatening, so I can see him going far so long as he can hide that he's strategizing even in his sleep.

Debbie Warner is a 49-year-old chemist from Reading, Pennsylvania.  She's pretty bad ass, with a background in the military and an animal one-piece wearing body that looks like it takes a lot of work to keep up.  She has survivalist training - she can make fire! - and is looking forward to the challenge of being on Survivor.  She's in the "tough old broad" category that, sadly, does not usually win.  She will have to hide her repulsion towards Kardashian fans if she wants to make it post-merge.  Also, the fact that she says in her bio that, like Hannibal Lecter, she can be pleasant company, is not at all comforting.  And the Survivor she identifies most with - Coach - is also a huge red flag.  So she identifies with a cannibalistic serial killer and a oblivious, self-aggrandizing buffoon.  But wait, she juggles!  And we know how much the castaways love when their tribemates bring their talents from home, like playing the ukulele (Borneo's Sonja Christopher being the first of many booted rather than praised for their entertainment value).

Aubry Bracco did manage to work the name of her Ivy League school, Brown, into her CBS bio.  The 29-year-old social media marketer's claim to fame is that her name means leader of the elves.  Unless she's heading for the North Pole, I'm not sure what that will do for her on an island in Cambodia.  I've checked, none of her tribemates have pointy ears.  But if Will Ferrell is dropped onto the island, she'll be in good shape.  She tells us she's going to be quirky and funky and fun and do off beat things like make a coconut phone a la Greg Buis in 2000.  But using as your example of something quirky and different, something already done probably means she's all out of ideas.  She'll probably start swiping right on a rock pretending to look for a match on the other tribes. She also cares a lot about her astrological sign and what it means about her and how she relates to other people, which seems pretty un-brainy if you ask me.  Aubrey is a super fan, of the Shirin Oskooi kind, and if she doesn't hide that fact she could face an early boot.

72-year-old Joseph Del Campo does not look like any septuagenarian grandfather I'm used to seeing.  This former FBI agent is BUFF,  He lives in Vero Beach but does not give off the retired old guy vibe.  I don't see him sitting on a rocking chair, yelling at the neighbor kids to get off his lawn.  He seems pretty focused on staying young and in good shape and that should help bridge the age gap at his tribe.  After leaving the FBI, Joe worked in private investigation and security, which makes him the heir apparent to the ultimate people-reader Tony Vlachos.  He also can built a shelter with one suntanned, toned arm tied behind his broad back.  He seems to have the right attitude going in, understanding that he's probably much older than most of his fellow castaways and that he'll have to adapt to survive.  He seems pretty affable for someone with an FBI background; maybe his role was good cop?  I couldn't tell how much of a Survivor fan he is, but he mentioned Tom Westman, another fit, nice guy, older man, as the castaway he's most like.  Good call.

Elizabeth Markham, 27, could as easily as Joe have been placed in the Beauty tribe and no one would have questioned the placement.  But the New York based "quantitative strategist" is on the Brains tribe.  Anyone who has to explain their job  - I write computer programs that forecast stock prices and trade automatically - probably belongs on that tribe, so I won't quibble. Plus, Elizabeth is also part of a card-counting ring that preys on the poor defenseless casinos, taking advantage of them by using intelligence, strategy and data.  Those monsters!  She claims her main inspiration is her bad ass grandma, so maybe she'll ally with oldsters Debbie and Joe?  She's very into strategy and claims to be a Survivor fan, all of which bodes well.  But the player she says she's most like is Parvati, so points off for lack of creativity.  Finding out from her video that she graduated from MIT with a minor in game theory, however, immediately propels her back up to one of the players to watch out for.  Smart, pretty, personable and strategic?  Dangerous.

Beauty Tribe - Gondol.  Members:  Tai Trang, Nick Maiorano, Anna Khait, Michele Fitzgerald, Julia Sokolowski, and Caleb Reynolds.

Tai Trang is a 51-year-old gardener from San Francisco.  I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it's what's on the inside that matters, and  everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it and all those other old sayings, but, really?  Maybe if he ditches the glasses and get a hold of Andrew Savages' beanie and gets someone to tame those eyebrows, then maybe.  Ooohkay, moving on.  Tai is an outdoor kind of guy who loves climbing trees and fishing and all things nature, so that part of Survivor appeals to him.  If he is able to provide for his tribe, that will help make him invaluable early on. He grew up in Vietnam them moved to the US with his parents and 10 - count 'em 10 - siblings.  He is the middle child of 11 and Jan Brady thought she had it bad?? He has a lot of interests that he loves to talk about and claims he can talk for hours about bees.  You want to know how to guarantee you don't make it to the merge?  Talk for hours about bees.  He must have the most patient boyfriend of all time.

Befanged personal trainer/life coach Nick Maiorano is also a stretch for the Beauty tribe.  Maybe if he gets those Dracula-esque incisors filed down an inch or two that would help.  The 30-year-old from Redondo Beach either shows amazing honesty or stupidity immediately discrediting his career as a bunch of hokey.  Life coaching he tells us is just common sense and it involves pretending like you're interested in what your paying clients are telling you.  I imagine Nick's business will be booming after this!  He says he has no hero, he is his own hero, so I think we have our delusional out of touch player for the season, Coach 3.0.  He is a one-time Survivor blogger (for RHAP) and so he obviously has given a lot of thought to his strategy going in.  But then, so did Stephen Fishbach and we saw how well that worked on Survivor Second Chance.  He is here to bring the arrogance and the superior attitude and it will be interesting to see him clash with other bigger than life personalities who think they will be running the show.

Anna Khait is a 26-year-old poker player from Brooklyn, New York.  I've been a poker writer for ten years and I've never heard of her, and a quick check of the Hendon Mob database shows that her lifetime winnings are around $10K, so she's not exactly Vanessa Rousso.  Still, playing poker does give you many skills that can translate well to Survivor - reading people, patience, strategy, risk taking.  And a woman poker player has an added advantage of having experience being underestimated by men and outnumbered by them all of which can help her on Survivor.  She's aware that she's playing a social game and promises not to push too hard, to flirt if she has to, and to work hard and be an asset to her tribe.  She seems mature for her age and pretty level headed for someone who wants to go on national TV and have people watch your mind and body break down over 39 days for their amusement.  I think she can go far.  My only fear for her is getting "Ambered" by Caleb - i.e., having her game sabotaged because he falls in love with her.

Michelle Fitzgerald is 24-year-old bartender, cast because it is in the reality TV rules that each episode of Survivor contain at least one bartender.  This Freehold, New Jersey native has tan lines which completely confuses me as I thought you go to the spray tan place and take all your clothes off. Her inspiration in life is a fictional character - Harry Potter - but it could be worse, she could be a fan of Mr. Potter, the evil guy in "It's a Wonderful Life."  Her claim to fame is working with Rock the Earth, described on its website as "a not-for-profit, national public interest environmental organization dedicated to protecting and defending America's natural resources."  You lost me at "not-for-profit."  Michelle is another superfan, not a recruit, and has experience living in Southeast Asia which she hopes will come in handy.  She is positive and upbeat and will most likely drive people crazy with her unbridled enthusiasm as they are dealing with bug bites, hunger and heat stroke.

Julia Sokolowski 19-year-old college student.  Nineteen. Joe was in his fifties when she was born.  She goes to school in Boston but we can be pretty sure it's not Harvard because she didn't (1) drop it offhandedly into the discussion as they are trained to do or (2) get put on the Brains tribe which contractually Survivor has to do.  Yep, it's Boston University.  From her bio, it seems Julia was expecting to be on the Brains tribe as she talks about how quick she is and how good she is at doing puzzles.  But when she's walking down the street, my guess is people don't immediately think, man she looks smart.  You're pretty, Julia.  Deal with it.  But there is more to this beauty as we find out she did Habitat for Humanity (totally not to give her something to write her college essay about) and that she' has "killed cows in Africa, worked on a farm, and know how to make fire."  So pretty, smart and outdoorsy.  She's another die hard Survivor fan who applied the second she turned of age.  Her strategy is to take the skills she uses in her sorority to connect to people.

Caleb Reynolds is a\28 -year-old former Big Brother contestant from Hopkinsville, Kentucky.  Caleb is also an Iraqi war veteran so huge kudos to him for that.  But those of us who watched him on Big Brother also remember the love-sick stalker who wouldn't take "She's not into you" for an answer and basically cost Amber her game.  Caleb was dubbed "Beast Mode Cowboy" in that game and has done his best to live up to the moniker, "judy chopping" his way into our hearts.  He is a made for reality TV character - over-the-top, quotable, accidentally funny, and full of himself.  But he has a secret weapon that could help him get far.  He was extremely loyal, to a fault, to his alliance on Big Brother and anyone who knows that could use Caleb's puppydog like fidelity to their advantage.  He looks like a physical threat but I doubt he could solve a three piece puzzle if the first two pieces were already in place.  He will definitely go big or go home and he is least likely to fade into the background and try and slip quietly to the end.

Who will be the first boot (cough - Alecia - cough), who will be the most hated (Nick?), and who will be one of the twenty or so evacuated for medical reasons?  How will the new super immunity idol work out (where two separate immunity idols can be joined together at tribal to be used after a vote)?  We're so close to getting those answers.  Survivors ready?  I am!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Mad Men Season 5, Episode 6 Recap: Far Away Places

"Stay where you are."

Peggy is nervous.  She has her Heinz beans presentation today and last time it did not go well.  She's scouring her bedroom looking for a lucky packet of violet candy that Don once gave her before a pitch and Abe just wants to relax, make plans, and act like a couple.  He feels like he's not appreciated; she feels like she's not understood.  She immediately goes for the nuclear solution - let's break up.  Abe doesn't want that, he just wants to have a fight, let her know that he's hurt and angry, and then hope she pays him more attention in the future.

At the office,  Peggy is late, not as late as Stan, and psyching herself up for the pitch.  She finds her lucky pack of candy and is momentarily relieved.  Just then, Don comes in with some news.  He and Megan won't be at the Heinz presentation as they have to go up to a Howard Johnson.  Megan looks absolutely thrilled at the idea of leaving work and not helping Peggy with the pitch she helped create and instead rush off with Don because he said so. Megan is not that good of an actress so it's clear she does not want to go, but Don misses the signs because he's apparently really truly excited about the prospect.  Peggy is now sure that the meeting will be a disaster.

Peggy shows herself to be prescient.  The meeting is a disaster.  Raymond does not like her presentation and, having had her fill of men arguing with her for the day, she takes her anger at Abe and her frustration at his impossible demands of the client and blows up.  You know those private thoughts you have in a business meeting that you keep to yourself?  Well, Peggy says all of them out loud to Raymond.  He hates everything she suggests, he loves nothing more than telling her that her ideas are crap, and he'll never be satisfied.  While it's true that her job is to present ideas, not schmooze the clients, this outburst was its own special disaster.

Peggy had complained to Dawn that she was worried she was acting like a man, that in order to succeed in advertising she had to lose part of who she was.  She fights back with the client, but that's not a masculine move.  Plenty of male ad men go along with their client's unreasonable demands, many smile and nod at whatever comes out of their client's mouth, most would not tell the client that he's lying about hating a pitch just to be argumentative.  No, Peggy wasn't being "like a man," she was just showing her frustration and it was unprofessional.  Not surprisingly, she was pulled off the account.

So Peggy leaves work to go see a movie, Born Free, and she takes a hit off another movie goer who then joins her in the darkened theater.  Now high, she watches the movie with grave concern over the young lioness, worrying that she won't be able to "make it out there on her own."  Does Peggy see a little of herself in Elsa - thrown into the wild by Don today, without anyone there backing her up?  Peggy manages to reassert herself and take control of at least part of her day as she brushes off the young man's moves in the theater and instead bestows upon this stranger a hand job, no strings attached.

She goes back to work to see Ginsberg arguing with an older gentleman that we have been introduced to as his father, but who is a mystery to Peggy.  They're fighting, it may be a continuation of a discussion Ginsberg was having on the phone in the morning when Peggy walked in. He's exasperated that he can't get any time to hmself or any privacy.  He escorts his dad out of the office , seemingly embarrassed.  Peggy goes into Don's office, and falls asleep on the couch.  Hours later, Dawn comes in to wake her.  Don is on the phone.

We haven't seen or heard from Don since he left in the morning with Megan to go to the HoJos upstate.  It's 8:30 at night and his hair's a mess - a clear sign that something is amiss.  He's at a pay phone and a bit frantic, asking Peggy if she's received any calls.  She hasn't, but she wants to explain and apologize to Don about the Heinz fiasco, but he hangs up.

Peggy goes back to her office and is working; Ginsberg is there too.  She mentions that when she had interviewed him, he said he didn't have a family, but he quite obviously has a father.  "He's not my real father," Ginsberg tells her.  He says he's from Mars, and being the funny, quirky guy that he is, she thinks he's spinning a yarn.  He continues to talk, his back to her, the words now pouring out faster.  He spins a tale all right, but it's no fantasy.  If it's real and it feels real no one would ever come up with such a story.  He was born in a concentration camp, his mother died there, after the war he was sent to an orphanage where Morris later adopted him.  The timing is right and there were stories of babies born in the camps but this sad horrible story of some far away place at some far away time is too hard to accept.  As Ginsberg said, "people don't understand."  How could they?

Peggy calls Abe after this.  Her head is reeling and it's been a strange day.  She needs him and he's happy to be needed.

We then start out our Groundhog Day adventure as it's the morning again and everything is still hopeful and fresh.  Roger wants to play hooky with Don like the old days - which Don remembers once ended with Roger in the hospital with a heart attack.  But Roger just wants to two amigos to spend the weekend without a care, or a wife, in the world.  Unfortunately for Roger, Don is still in the throes of newly wedded bliss and he doesn't want to run away from his wife for the weekend.  Instead, he thinks the fact-finding mission at the flagship Howard Johnson's would be a great weekend getaway for him and Megan.  Meanwhile, Roger is forced to spend an evening with Jane's pretentious friends at a gathering he'd much rather miss.

The dinner conversation is what you would expect if a professor and a psychiatrist invited their rich Upper Westside friends over for a night of Proust and Nietzsche.  A lot of talking in circles, a lot of flowery prose and a lot of "deep thoughts."  But there is more to the evening's festivities - the aperitif for the evening is a tab of LSD.  It's time to "turn on" as the young people say.   Jane had told Roger that this was what the night was all about but he never really pays attention to anything she says so he had no idea.  But he's game - it is a mind-altering substance after all and when has Roger Sterling ever said no to one of those.  And so Roger has his first acid trip.

I turned 7 in 1966, so I never dropped acid then or since, so I can't say how realistic the depiction of Roger's trip is, but it feels right.  The disconnection, the anachronism, the juxtaposition between the mundane and the fantastic.  As depicted, it highlights truths for Roger. His fear of growing old, his fear of the future.  He has a full on psychedelic experience with vodka bottles that play music and magazine ads that come to life.  He sees people and things that aren't there.  His mind is expanded.

The next morning, he and Jane are doing a post mortem on the night before.  Their minds have been expanded and their eyes have been opened.  The clarity leads to an epiphany, at least for Roger.  They are not meant to be together.  Roger feels relieved that it can end so calmly, without raised voices and harsh words.  But Jane is nonplussed, she had no idea that during their mutual acid trip they had reached the end of their marriage.  Then Roger tells her what she had said under the truth serum of the drug and she had to admit that she knew the marriage was over and had been waiting for Roger to see it too.   While the actual decision to split up was painless, Jane did let Roger know that it would cost him.  All things considered, Roger seems happy to buy his freedom.

The third story of the episode finally plays out.  We again see Don tell Megan that they'll be going away this weekend for a business trip/vacation up to visit a Howard Johnson's not far from the Canadian border.  Megan is not happy - and Don entirely misses this obvious fact - that he is pulling her awar from work away from her responsibilities, because he's the boss/husband and what he says goes.  It's not 1956 and she doesn't have to jump when he says jump.  Don doesn't see this at all and thinks she should be thrilled that her boss/husband wants to squire her away from the drudgery for a fun weekend.

This awkward domestic scene is simmering with underlying tension.  Don is forcing the happily married man role onto himself and, honestly, he doesn't wear it well.  He seems creepy and controlling and says the wrong thing at every turn.  He thinks Megan should be thrilled that one of the perks of being married to the boss is getting to play hooky whenever he wants.  But she takes her job seriously unlike Don who is just phoning it in these days.   She feels a responsibility to her team, to the client and Don treats her like a silly child.

His controlling and demanding ways continue.  Not only did she have to leave work and have to come on this trip (where all of a sudden it's too far for her to at least get to visit with her parents) she has to be excited.   She has to order the orange sherbet because he wants her to experience it for the first time.  Despite telling Dale that she "likes everything" when he offers to give them a taste of everything on the menu, one thing that Megan Calvet Draper does not like is orange sherbet.  It's not the orange sherbet per se (though she complains it tastes like perfume, I think no sane person would actually not like orange sherbet) it's what it represents.  Don literally and figuratively forcing what he wants down her throat.  So she fights back, taking a quick bite than shaking her head, pushing away the neon orange dessert out as a rejection of all the ways he's been controlling her all day.

Or at least that's how Don chooses to interpret the simple fact that she doesn't like the artificially colored, artificially flavored frozen dessert.  Megan is not simply stating an opinion, she is embarrassing him.  This and the whole day is her fault.  She didn't speak up about not wanting to leave (which she did try to do but he wouldn't listen).  She didn't appreciate that he wanted to show her a good time (ignoring that what she wanted to do was stay at work and support Peggy).  She didn't enjoy their trip to Howard Johnson's and the orange carpet treatment (which considering she lives in Manhattan and is used to the best, this kitschy getaway is not exactly a treat).  She didn't gladly forget her plans and responsibilities and drop them because he husband told her to.  What a bitch.

So they do what couples do when they're not capable of sound thought and consideration, they lash out at each other.  He says something and she says something and we have hurt feelings for two.  Don storms out of the restaurant and demands Megan get in the car and she's tired of all his demands so she refuses.  He doesn't understand how she feels like he is always telling her what to do and she doesn't understand how he thinks that she wants what he wants and they're yelling at each other but not hearing each other.  In a fit of pique, Don drives off leaving Megan behind.  He eventually comes to his senses and goes back for her, but it's too late.  She's not there.

He waits there for hours, but no sign of Megan.  He calls Peggy (we saw her end of the conversation earlier and now can put it into perspective) and he calls Megan's mother Marie, but no one has heard from her.  He finally decides to drive home and along the way he thinks back to another time in the car with Megan, this time after their trip to California with the kids - the trip where he proposed.  It was a happier time and only a year ago.  How did things turn so bad so fast?

Don gets home and is momentarily relieved to find the door is chained from the inside.  Megan is home.  But jsut as quickly he is furious.  He demands to be let in, she yells at him to stay out.  He kicks in the door, they fight and scream and it's ugly.  It's just a sadly typical domestic battle pitting two people who said I do and I will and made promises to each other now almost literally at each other's throats.  How could he leave her there, how could she not let him know she was all right?  She was scared and alone and abandoned, he was scared and alone and thought she was dead.  How did it escalate so quickly, how is it this bad?

Lying on the floor of their apartment, physically and emotionally spent, Megan speaks some hard truths about their marriage:  "Every time we fight, it just diminishes us a little bit."  You can make up, you can apologize, you can even try to forget, but each of these little battles is like a small explosion underground beneath a skyscraper, damaging the foundation little by little until the whole thing comes crumbling down.  They will carry the scars of this fight and it will lessen their bond and there are only so many of these they can withstand before the marriage comes crumbling down.

Don pulls Megan to him; clutching her tight he reveals his great fear.  He thought he had lost her.  She is important to him and he doesn't want to lost her again.  And so they clean themselves up and go back into the office, the gorgeous power couple, and he smiles his beaming smile at her and she returns it, but there is still a few watts short of the usual amount of light comes back his way.

As Don deals with the reality that his marriage is not as happy as he had hoped he also hears from Bert Cooper that his new marriage is interfering with his work.  Don may think he's blissfully in love and that everyone is joining him on this extended honeymoon, but the reality couldn't be farther from that.  As he has to face the fact that he is out of step with everyone around him, Don sees one final example.  The previously miserable Roger Sterling comes in with a big smile and a big announcement.  "It's going to be a beautiful day."


Abe:  You want to take me to work with you and stick me in a drawer and open it whenever you get bored.

Stan:  All I can think of is I'll never be able to draw as well as a photograph.

Raymond:  Stop writing down what I asked for and try to figure out what I want.

Raymond:  I'm not a word person like you people.
Peggy:  Sure, you are.  And your words are always "I don't like it." And I think you're right.
We don't understand you. Because you do like it. I think you just like fighting.

Peggy:  It's young and it's beautiful.  And no one else is gonna figure out how to say that about beans.

 Pete:  You're off the business.
Peggy:  What'd he say?
Pete:  He said you're off the business.

Bert:  Everyone has somewhere to go today.

Peggy:  She's not going to make it out there on her own.

Ginsberg:  Actually, I'm from Mars.  It's fine if you don't believe me, but that's where I'm from.  I'm a full-blooded Martian.

Peggy:  Are there others like you?
Ginsberg:  I don't know.  I haven't been able to find any.

Roger:  So how about a completely debauched and unnecessary fact-finding boondoggle to the flagship in Plattsburgh, New York? Just an hour from scenic Lake Placid.
Don: Are you kidding me?
Roger:  Did you ever hear the one about the farmer's daughter? This is where it all takes place.
Don:  No.
Roger: Don, come on. Alone, I'm an escapee from some expensive mental institution. But the two of us, we're a couple of rich, handsome perverts.

Professor:  Your mistake is that you're assuming that because something is true that it's good.

Catherine (Psychiatrist):  This is an experience of self-fulfilling prophecy.  You have to enter into it with a spirit of optimism.  It's like a boat trip.  You don't cast off thinking about sinking.

Roger:  Well, Dr. Leary, I find your product boring.

Roger:  You're beautiful.
Jane:  You always say that.  It's all you ever say.

Professor:  All absence is death if we let ourselves know it.
Jane:  I feel like that when Roger goes to work.

Jane: You don't like me.
Roger:  I did.  I really did.

Jane: Are you leaving me?
Roger. No.  We're leaving each other just like you said.

Don:  It was a fight.  It's over.
Megan:  No.  Every time we fight, it just diminishes us a little bit.

Bert:  It's amazing things are going as well as they are with as little as you are doing.
Don:  That's none of your business.
Bert:  This is my business.


Peggy tells Abe that Don gave her that pack of violet candy.  Back in Season One, Bobby asked Don what his father was like and he mentioned the violet candies his father fancied.

Peggy has come a long way from Episode 3.03's "I'm Peggy Olson and I want to smoke some marijuana."  She is channeling Don more and more, from her emotive presentation to her combative reaction to a client's disapproval.  She is struggling with what it means to be a woman working in a man's world and she doesn't have any role models.

"Born Free" was based on the true life story of a couple who raised a lion cub after having shot and killed her mother and eventually helped successfully reintroduce her into the wild.  "The Naked Prey" was also set in Africa and is an "inspired by true story" wilderness adventure.

The first song playing during the acid trip is The Beach Boys' "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times."  The lyrics fit Roger too well.  "Each time things start to happen again, I think I got something good goin' for myself but what goes wrong."  The second song is "I Should Not Be Seeing You" by Connie Conway.  I should not want to be around you, nor should you want to be around me, the singer croons.  The lyrics tell of a couple who should not be together despite their love, "If you knew how blue, how lonely I've come to be, you'd do your upmost to destroy that feeling for me."

Don comes to Roger in his LSD enlightenment and tells him "You are okay."  That is what Don says in the first episode, during the Lucky Strike pitch, and it stuck with Roger all these years later.

How long would Roger and Jane's marriage have lasted had Roger gone away with Don this weekend instead of going to the dinner party with Jane's therapist?

In Don's mini flashback, he was whistling "I Want to Hold Your Hand."

Spoilers!  Don't read until you're caught up!

Stan has doubts about his artistic talents later in the series and it is a photographer who makes him question himself.  He tries his hand at photography only to be told he's not that special.

Peggy and Abe seemed well suited for each other and perhaps they were, but he still could not handle playing second fiddle to her career.  In his mind, she was more in love with work than she ever could be with her.  But Peggy eventually did find love - at work - with Stan.

Ginsberg's mental health problems are again hinted at pretty strongly, still his complete break in Season 7 was a surprise.  Still, with this backstory, it is quite understandable that a young man would take an absurd, horrific reality and try to turn it into something that make sense no matter how bizarre.

Don whistled some Beatles in his flashback but never does come around to enjoy the music of the lads from Liverpool.

Megan was right, this and later fights continued to chip away at their marriage until the whole thing crumbled.  Rather than an explosive denouement, however, the marriage finally ended with more of a whimper as the two came to a mutual understanding that the love was gone.  Don could not be faithful and could not stop searching elsewhere for love and validation.  Megan did not want to be just someone's wife and wanted to pursue her own passions and interests.  They were doomed from the start of that rash decision to marry

She says to Don, "You care more what some truck stop waitress thinks than what I say."  As fans, and some detractors, of Season 7B will say, Don pays too much attention to what one waitress thinks.  That woman sparks the journey that takes Don across the country and through a zen-like rebirth that culminates in him finally finding happiness in, of all places, being an adman.