Unstapled, Episode 3: Carnie, denied.

By | February 1, 2010

Here’s a shocking confession: I don’t really watch much television. There are but a few shows I follow methodically. Mad Men. Sons of Anarchy (SO underrated). Also, So You Think You Can Dance, when it’s on (when is it on next?). And there are other shows I watch when I happen to notice them. Man vs Wild, because Bear Grylls is completely off his kit and I’m fascinated that someone gave him a television program. The Universe and those crazy Planet Earth series in HD, because they’ve practically got narcotic effects. Sometimes Family Guy. My husband is a huge fan of Metalocalypse so I wind up seeing lots of that — actually, I should say, I wind up seeing it over and over again.

I think that’s about it.

This is all to say that my lack of television-exposure is useful in writing these recaps, as I am able to point out and laugh at things that might blow right past those who watch this stuff on a routine basis. But it also has its drawbacks. By the end of the More to Love recapping extravaganza last year, the concept of spending another hour in front of the TV taking notes was almost unbearable. To give a sense of my so-called process: each episode of Unstapled is thirty minutes long, with commercials. Subtract the commercials and you get, what, twenty-three or so minutes of show. It takes me between 90 minutes and two hours to recap, with the resulting post being around 3,300 words. The hour-long More to Love was a horror of even more ludicrous proportions, requiring between three to four and a half hours of watching and writing for each recap (usually spread over two days), which averaged around 5,000 words apiece. I do this for free. Why do I do this for free? I have no idea. I am sick in the head. Also I love writing, for any reason, which itself may qualify as a form of head-sickness. It’s true that if I had an editor (and I’m sure some of y’all wish that I did) the results would likely be shorter, but I’d still write them first in their original long-ass state.

Also in meta news: Unstapled is repeated about twenty times in a single weekend, clogging up my DVR like a dead rat in a drain. It actually caused my DVR to delete a bunch of episodes of The Universe I was saving for the weekend, so to speak. It’s as if Unstapled is forcefully trying to take over my already-limited TV-watching life.

And because some folks have asked, we have confirmation that “the staples are intact”. On the Bonnie Hunt Show:

This short interview was very illuminating for me, not so much because it says anything earth-shattering, but because it’s broadly illustrative of Carnie’s appeal. For all of her random ambitions, the truth is that Carnie does nothing so well as she does being herself, which is an extraordinarily relatable, likeable, and sympathetic person. I’m not saying this to be mean; I think that possessing that indescribable human magnetism is a tremendous gift, and putting it to work for you takes a lot of smarts. But the only potentially high-profile careers it can net you are talk show host (check), reality TV star (check), and possibly life coach (I anticipate this will eventually happen, once Carnie discovers the internet, or more specifically, Twitter).

But enough procrastinating: on to the episode.

Previously: Carnie spends too much money. That’s basically it.

As the episode begins, Carnie and Rob are taking Lola to the park. Carnie confessions that there’s been a lot of tension between her and Rob and that it’s only going to get worse as she begins her Dallas Regimen, and her job on The Newlywed Game starts back up. Rob runs around on the grass, playing with Lola when Carnie’s iPhone rings (her ringtone is the one I use for my morning alarm, so for a moment I think I’m dreaming this… if only). Rob wants Carnie to come “do some stretches” or reinvent yoga with him and Lola; on the phone Carnie says, “Well, that means I’d have to bake tonight. I’ll do the best I can,” while frowning.

Carnie explains via the magic of confession: “Right in the middle of my precious family time, my manager calls with an order from Sweet Harts!” You know, even though “confessional” is the Reality-TV vernacular for these interjections, Carnie’s version is very much not your traditional version. She is styled and coiffed and made up. There is no crying. She talks like she’s doing a voiceover on The Wonder Years, only without the clever self-awareness. It’s all simple exposition and no emotional revelation. And the perk is way over the top. It is actually a perfect example of how this show fails: it’s too polished, too controlled, and it feels like we’re seeing nothing that Carnie is not explicitly comfortable with. This may not be the case, but it sure seems that way. Her problems and imperfections may be real but in this context, they feel scripted, like everyone already knows how this series is going to end, everything has already been written and they’re just playing it out. Television may be like that, but life is not.

Back at the park, Rob is trying to get Carnie off the phone, much to Carnie’s annoyance. Rob, who confessions more in the traditional vein, is pissed. When Carnie finishes her conversation and tells Rob she has to bake tonight, he’s even more pissed. They have some tense “family time” at the park and then it’s back home so Carnie can pull a bread pudding out of her bum. Not literally. We hope.

The following scene accomplishes the totally unexpected: in the space of about ten seconds, Rob takes all the sympathy and likeability he’s built up with me thus far and first sets it aflame. Then he casually pisses on it.

We cut to him and Carnie standing awkwardly somewhere in the house: a hallway? Again, it feels totally staged. Rob says, apropos of nothing, “What happened when I walked around the corner, the other night? I looked in the kitchen, and what were you doing?” Carnie responds: “I was eating cheesecake. I know.” Rob’s giving her a thinly-disguised guilt trip, and Carnie confessions that she was caught with her hand in the cheesecake jar at midnight. Yeah, we figured that out. So, as “punishment”, Rob is “making” her get on the scale. OHO, me hearties, you read that aright. Fuck you, Rob, and fuck your idiotic hair as well. Carnie climbs aboard the doctor’s-office scale and closes her eyes while Rob adjusts the slider-things. He says, “Oh my god,” which, seriously, if it were possible for me to punch someone though the television, Rob would be unconscious on the floor right now. Carnie says, “WHAT?” and opens her eyes. She’s gained five pounds. WOE. WOE AND MISFORTUNE. LET US REND OUR GARMENTS, MORTIFY OUR FLESH, AND WAIL AT THE UNTHINKABLE TRAGEDY. Carnie wails, at least, but moments later she’s back in the kitchen baking. Evidently they have a dog, which I hadn’t noticed before. It looks like either a Boston terrier or… that other breed of dog that sort of looks like a Boston terrier. A French bulldog?

While Carnie bakes, she trips that she’s only got a few minutes to finish and clean up (i.e. hide the evidence) before Dallas and his lady nutritionist friend turn up to begin the arduous process of whipping her into shape. “Wacky” Aunt Dee Dee is on hand to help, except she can’t figure out how to work the oven, and I feel justified at this point to note that I feel Dee Dee’s “wackiness” has been oversold. Carnie says “today is my last day for sugar” and she’s going to “milk it”. Then she tells us she’d bleep her bread pudding if she could. Again, she doesn’t say bleep, but this is what the show says, and frankly the thought of anyone fucking a bread pudding is distasteful enough to me that I’m just as happy to hold on to “bleep”. If you want to test Rule 34 you can do so on your own time.

Courtesy of the editors, they finish everything in time. Once finished, Carnie tells Dee Dee, “I’m going to pray, and then use my vibrator, and feed Lucy.” She can barely get “and then use my vibrator” out with a straight face. I can certainly appreciate the merits of battery-driven self-love, so I really want this comment to be charming but it feels weirdly exhibitionist to me. Plus, there is no word on whether it’s a Carnie-Wilson-branded vibrator prototype. (For the record: I would absolutely buy a Carnie-Wilson-branded vibrator.)

Dallas is in the front yard! Shit! And he is attended by a high-breasted woman who is also nine feet tall! When Carnie called her “hard-bodied” I didn’t know that was what she meant. Dallas tells us, “Today is phase one of Operation Carnie.” Wow, what with the dramatic music and all I’d expected him to come up with something more impressive than “Operation Carnie”. Dallas is sleeveless, in case you were concerned about the state of his upper arms. He and Nameless Nutritionist Lady enter the house with bags of groceries, and Dallas front-yard confessions: “You’ve gotta attack your opponent, and Carnie’s enemy is the empty calories that come from gluten.” OH, we’re going that way, are we? “This,” Dallas tells the front yard, with stock high-concept action-movie-trailer music raging in the background, “is what I call a Pantry Raid.” Dallas acknowledges this will be an attack on Carnie’s privacy, which he knows will be a problem for her, and the irony of this cannot be overstated. Oh what the hell: THEN MAYBE CARNIE OUGHT NOT TO HAVE A REALITY SHOW. Dallas tells us, “Gluten is the enemy, and especially for her, because she’s allergic to it.” I am not sure if Carnie is legitimately allergic or if Dallas is one of those people who thinks everyone is automatically allergic to gluten. If Carnie indeed has a legitimate gluten allergy and she’s not tending to it, then maybe she does need a ridiculous overtanned undersleeved nine-foot personal trainer to help get her shit under control.

The shots of Carnie’s pantry are… impressive. I try hard not to judge other folks’ kitchen stores, as that would make me no better than Dallas, and it’s possible they’re only showing us the “bad” food, or that the “bad” food is stunt food added to the pantry for dramatic effect. There are donuts and cookies and lots of candy. Dallas tells the front yard Carnie wants to “ease into” this change, to which Dallas says, “I used to be a professional wrestler! I don’t ease into anything!” I would love to say my response to Dallas is something constructive, like I want to punch him in the groin, but he just makes me sad. All of this makes me sad. Carnie has a pantry of forbidden foods because she’s spent a lifetime half on restrictive and punitive diets and half as a nutrition-damning free for all. Dieting doesn’t teach us how to eat appropriately and healthfully; it teaches us to ignore our natural hunger cues. And we learn it so well that many of us spend the rest of our lives with food as an enemy, and not as a pleasure, and with no appreciation for its use as fuel for the awesome things our bodies can do, and how different foods make us feel. Carnie may feel like shit all the time because she’s subsisting on food that makes her feel like shit, but she can’t even see that because her concepts of hunger and craving are so very fucked up.

Dallas is going to put a lock on her pantry. PSYCH! Okay, no he’s not, so long as she doesn’t “cheat”. Commercial.

It’s morning, and Lola comes into the kitchen for breakfast. Whenever Carnie sees Lola she puts on this super-happy high-pitched talking-to-children voice that is totally insane; it’s the voice some folks use when they don’t spend much time around kids. Lola wants chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. Carnie explains they’re “going to be eating a little healthier right now,”—right now?—and proceeds to ask Lola what foods are healthy. Lola responds with egg whites, and vegetables. Carnie makes her egg whites for breakfast, with some fresh strawberries on the side. It looks really delicious, though I’m imagining the yolks and all their yolky goodness have not been wasted. Lola’s not particularly interested, and both Carnie and Rob are surprised when she tries repeatedly to leave the table. Sigh.

Oh yay, Dallas is here, for Carnie’s first workout in “ages”. They meet in the back yard with some workout mats. First, though, Dallas wants to measure Carnie. Or, Rob’s going to do it. Carnie, aghast, says, “How many wives would let their husbands measure them?” Can I see a show of hands? Mine is up. I’d file that in the “Who Fucking Cares” department. Carnie fails to understand that it’s really mainly women who give a damn about numbers as applied to bodies, whether they’re inches or clothing sizes. In fact, most straight men have no idea what a women’s clothing size even means. It’s like a different language. Rob underscores this by telling Carnie, “I see you naked every day, so just relax. You think adding a number to it is going to make a difference?” This is sane advice, but I still hate Rob and his stupid fucking hair. Carnie threatens to “barf, then cry.”

Okay, let’s document some numbers, kids! Actually I’m going to make this a competition. Carnie’s bicep is 17″. Mine is 19″, so I win! Carnie is horrified. Moving on to her bust, she reminds everyone “I’m a D, and I have implants!” Uh, okay, so this is a situation in which bigger is okay? Her bust is 47″. Mine’s 52″, as a B-cup and WITHOUT implants, so I win again. I think I should get a bonus point for my bust-fatness being all-natural. Carnie calls her bust “the only measurement I am proud of”. Moving on, Carnie’s waist is 51″. Oh shit, we’re tied! We don’t move on to the hip or calf measurement, which is a disappointment. At one point during the measuring, Carnie says “I’m so brave!” and my husband, who can barely restrain himself from shouting in disgust whenever Carnie speaks, tells me, “THAT’S not brave! What YOU do is brave!” Aww. Good husband.

The workout begins with some vague stretches and proceeds to what looks like Tae-Bo. Rob is working out as well, as a gesture of support, so Carnie knows “she’s not doing this alone”. Ugh. Dee Dee is present but not working out, and as Dallas, Carnie, and Rob punch the air furiously, she wanders over the to trampoline (DUDES FOR THE RECORD IF I HAD A TRAMPOLINE I WOULD JUMP AROUND ON IT EVERY DAMN DAY OH MY GOD), climbs on, and bounces a bit. Eventually Carnie, with barely-restrained exasperation, asks her to stop, because it’s “distracting”. Dee Dee goes inside and the workout continues. Pretty much every movement Carnie makes seems to cause her pain, including lifting an arm, if her constant outbursts are to be believed. She grimaces and looks entirely miserable. Hey Carnie, lots of things count as exercise, you know. There is bound to be something that doesn’t make you look like you’re going to cry. Once the punishment is over, she’s quite cheerful and thanks Dallas profusely.

Dallas leaves and Carnie and Rob go back inside the house, only to discover that they have some free time. They plan to meet in the bedroom for some hot longtime-married-couple sex. Rob goes to check the baby, who is napping. By the time he gets into the bedroom, Carnie is sound asleep. SAD TROMBONE. NO SEX FOR YOU.

Commercial. Hey y’all, Nutrisystem turned Marie Osmond into a slightly-more-slender bewigged horror! Impressive!

It’s Carnie’s first day back at The Newlywed Game. She makes a big deal out of seeing herself in a mirror with no makeup, when, seriously Carnie, if you’re 40 years old and your skin looks that good, you get down on your knees and praise the deity that made you thusly. Later, they put a ton of bronzer on her. Must be a TV-makeup thing. Carnie gets a visit from her executive producer, who apparently is some kind of huge game-show bigwig. He wants Carnie to be more dynamic, which means leaving the podium sometimes, and he has higher expectations of her this season. Right before hitting the stage, Carnie has another fart announcement, and again she toddles off to let it rip and dramatically wave her hand around behind her butt, ostensibly to disperse the smell. Whoa, maybe this is related to the referenced gluten allergy? ALL OF THE PIECES ARE FITTING TOGETHER. This is just like the end of Pulp Fiction. We then get a montage of Carnie doing her job, over which she explains that even though it looks easy, it’s pretty hard work, having to be “on” for fifteen hours a day. This I believe. She claims to love it, though, even though she feels completely overwhelmed and exhausted.

Rob is at home taking care of the kids, which involves playing guitar and singing. He is concerned about Carnie. “She’s not in any shape to stand on her feet or think on her feet for five episodes in a row,” he confessions. “It’s kind of like I’m a dad to her, as well as to the girls.” Hmm.

Back in the studio, during her final episode of the day, Carnie is “getting physical” by leaving the podium, and while she feels like she’s really connected with the audience, she’s wondering if she connected with the executive producer, who’s watching backstage. Commercial.

Carnie’s boss is, in fact, impressed with how she’s stepped up to the plate. Carnie gets home and is happy and vibrant and tired but adrenalized. Rob wants her to rub his shoulder and it looks like we get a second chance at The Sex. Carnie is massaging away, and then the cameraman has a prescient moment which inspires him to swing the camera over to the hallway leading to the kids’ bedrooms. AFTER he does this, Lola comes around the corner complaining of a bad dream, though she certainly doesn’t seem like a kid who’s either a) had a bad dream or even b) just woken up. In fact, she seems totally wide awake and undisturbed. Even her hair looks unslept-on. BUT THIS IS NOT STAGED, YOU GUYS. Carnie confessions, “When your kid has a bad dream, your whole world just stops.” They take Lola to bed with them and read her a story. I think this is supposed to make moms everywhere go OH WOW IT’S JUST LIKE MY LIFE! The end.

Next week: Dee Dee tempts Carnie with candy; the original Mr. Sulu is on the Newlywed Game (I am VERY EXCITED about this); Carnie tells DanielBrian (looking more tanned than ever) that she and Rob need “help” in “the sex department”; Carnie sobs about something unspecified (FINALLY, we make with the crying!). No word on whether there is more farting, but let’s hope for the best. Oh hai, reality.

This week’s poll results:
The question was…
Publicly announcing and theatrically releasing intestinal gas:
Never, 53.2%
Sometimes, in the company of close friends or family, 35.9%
Sometimes, in circumstances not listed above, 5.9%
Hell yes! I do it all the time! 4.5% (bless y’all)
Sometimes, if I’m drunk, 0.5%

Comments are closed.