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So I'm scrounging up some background on Minnesota-grown Reed Kelly because I'm curious about his "my family has 12 [horses]" comment, and "Gay Survivor Contestant Is Clay Aiken's Ex." At which point my head exploded. I mean I assumed he had some power between his politician father (presumably also attached to some kind of wealth) and now working on Broadway...but not celebrity-dating power. I don't know whether to high five because Clay Aiken, or grimace because post-2007 Clay Aiken.

But I do know that I have been one thousand percent more interested in Reed these past few weeks than I was before the merge, to the point where I have started wanting him to be in the finals and/or where he and Josh may or may not have made an entry in the Giant Story Document. Of course, because I'm me, it was violent and Stalker-themed, but...

And with that, I have a boatload of Survivor to catch up on.

Week Before Last:

Reward challenge = Survivor Ambassador, a/k/a the worst; I would give that reward away too (though I think Reed had better reasons for giving his spot to Missy). But at least Jon, Jaclyn and Missy all seem to be people who genuinely like kids/interacting with them and appeared to be having a blast. That was sweet to watch. (not that Alec looked uncomfortable per se, I just feel like he still acts more like a kid).

Also, holy hell, MRKH sounds like a real buzzkill. I am sorry about that, Jaclyn. Why doesn't this stuff happen to people who WANT to be child free?

My mom's first impression of the immunity challenge: "That looks like a crucifix!" Not far off, Mom. Part of me winces at these challenges, but part of me also marvels at the sheer willpower. And all of me loves watching people step off for reward treats (Baylor and Jaclyn bolting at a dead run for the shared milk and cookies while Wes swears at having missed his chance was great). Jeff always tries to shame them for giving up, but if you're not going to win and you're pretty sure of that fact (Natalie later said she was starting to see stars), you might as well get some food out of it. I LOVED that Jeff brought every single item Natalie suggested as a possibility. Definitely better than an immunity win.

More to the point, Reed looking zen-focused and comfortable -- then flashing that beautiful wink when assessed for any sense of exhaustion -- was a sheer joy to watch. As was his show-stopping split after he won. And Natalie's comment, while painfully crawling toward her food reward -- "Do you see this fool?"

Back at camp, I adored Natalie and Baylor's glee about finding the idol. They really have become cute buddies. BRB, editing my Glee!Survivor cast list to make sure Natalie = Santana.

Evictee #1: Wes (I still can't believe he lasted this long), in the world's most simultaneously awesome and devastating to watch idol-playing free-for-all. Awesome because Natalie's alert rabbit senses saying, "Dude, play your idol" -- note, where John specifically asked, "You think I should?", indicating to me he was NOT definitely going to do it until she said that (this will be important later) -- brought out the idol mania. Devastating because it hurt infinity amounts to watch Reed's face of barely-hidden despair as his surefire plan to advance went up in smoke. KEITH, YOU HAD ONE JOB...
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Last week, episode 1, a/k/a FIGHT CLUB, a/k/a 29x11, a/k/a favorite of the season

That reward challenge was the best possible reward. A comfortable night's sleep and a barbecue are just the icing on the cake of HORSEBACK TOUR THROUGH THE COUNTRY. (and getting to pet the horses! and also my favorite dessert ever: brownies) If I were out there, I know for a fact I would have broken down crying the minute I was chopped out of it, and Jeff would have been on me all, "Wow, RS, you just started crying! Tell me what this reward would mean to you." And despite the utter grossness of the crushed skulls spraying paint matter everywhere, the "prove your knowledge of your tribemates" challenge was fun until Jeff's temper tantrum about their failure to respect the spirit of the game.

I love that the best/probably most appreciative trio got to go on the reward, though (Missy, Baylor, Natalie). I really like all their dynamics, especially Natalie's offer to split a brownie with Baylor, which is met with "YEAH! ...no, I want a whole one." Also, there was totally a dog in the background of one of those shots at the resort! THEY GOT TO STAY IN A PLACE WITH A DOG?? Best. Reward. Ever.

This seems like a good place to mention that I LOVE everything Natalie wears. Especially that purple top with the uneven hem, because even though it's dirty as hell and ruined beyond belief, it is still the cutest and most flattering design for her figure. I want it! I'm also always impressed that Baylor made a smart choice in wearing a cheap yellow tank top, and that she's lucky enough to have the stick figure it looks good in. (she also looks really good in yellow) I also love everything Missy wears, from that bikini with all the subtly midriff-disguising tassels to the cool purple tie-dye thing she wore at this challenge.

Challenge Spat
I think both people were right. I think he meant "we still like [Jaclyn]" a joke, but if I were Baylor I'd be pissed at the implication that my mom disliked the person she didn't choose. I still don't know if Baylor meant to come off as sarcastic when she said "You like everyone," but it certainly sounded like an insinuation he was fake nice. And the "you're a little brat" comment? A fair knee-jerk reaction to that comment. Missy is not wrong in defending her daughter, but I also think Missy flares up more quickly and more excessively at the slightest perceived malignment of her offspring. Which either makes her the best parent, or a nightmare parent for school staff. (Maybe both.) We veered a little hard into "gay stereotype" territory with "guuurl,"

It was worth it just for Reed sounding genuinely sorry back at camp for letting his temper get the best of him. Awww! Also, my internet search to find out about the 12 Kelly family horses has turned up nothing. TELL ME ABOUT YOUR STABLE. Why is no one interviewing Reed about his family's horse background*?? Can you even imagine him in show gear, maybe with a hunter, and -- nope, shutting that thought down.
*Dan Fienberg of HitFix tried, but he bundled the question and Reed ran with the less interesting option:
-----
[spoiler cut]HitFix: And just a last question. Regarding that last Reward challenge, talk a bit about your horses and whether or not you regret the whole, "Oh I have 12 horses back at home" comment.

Reed Kelly: Well here’s the thing. It’s so funny because it came off looking so douchey. [I laugh.] It did! I was like, "Oh, Reed, that looks terrible." But the thing that we kind of didn’t see was that we were kind of bantering back and forth a lot with Jeff on the reasons why. You know, Alec was saying this and I was saying that. Like, "We don’t need to go..." because for this reason and that reason. So we’d been doing a lot of that like making up reasons why we didn’t want to go on the reward. So I kind of thought because it looks like I was just being a total douchebag right there. So do I regret it? No, because that wasn’t really the context that I felt it was set in but, I mean, do I regret the way it looked in the edit? Absolutely.

-----

Post-Reward Camp Dynamics
I really liked Jaclyn's Ultra Offended Rant ("think about it! It's not smart!"), where she's only vaguely self aware enough to realize, "Maybe it's just me being hotheaded and mad because I didn't get to go horseback riding." I also liked the guys transparently kissing ass with their quadruple-serving rice cup and being excessively empathetic.

Also, Alec should feel free to flirt with Jaclyn whenever, because somehow that's the least gross/annoying he's been to me since he started talking on this show. It's almost enough to make me understand why girls don't always recognize and sometimes even mistakenly befriend Jerk Popular Guys. If you only saw him like that, he'd seem like a decent guy worth talking to. I feel like Jaclyn is only even subconsciously flirting back. Like, that's just how people of The Beautiful Life interact, especially when you're a female member being approached by males.

Natalie's #bitchplz expressions gave me life, though. Even more than the saucy musical scoring.

Fighting [With] My Love
As for the Jon/Jaclyn fight: I really liked bearing witness to that, too. On the heels of the first sparks let fly the night before (Jaclyn was 100% the right person in that one), it struck me as painfully realistic to the point of being borderline intrusion of privacy (not that I'm giving up my front row seat). Such a small thing at first, but spiraling into a huge storm front that needed time to blow through.

I think she was super valid in her irritation about him shutting down what she was saying -- Jon is basically the first person I've ever seen who makes me visualize the words "straight white male privilege" with his total ignorance of doing anything wrong. But again, I also think he was valid in being tired and uncomfortable from Exile, looking forward to seeing a friendly face, and immediately being hit over the head with OMGBBQ GAMEPLAY, GAMEPLAY, ALL THE GAMEPLAY, WE NEED YOUR INPUT NOW. Basically, they needed to fight and let off that steam.

PLUS, this gave Reed the opportunity to come play mediator, which in turn gave me the opportunity to watch it. It's not always this way, but in direct comparison to Jon, his voice is like talcum powder, the smoothest and most calming sound. Talk more. I can feel my blood pressuring lowering and it's already at rest.

Plus Natalie played Girl Power counselor, listening patiently to Jaclyn's grievances, while Baylor made adorable shocked faces and looked generally delighted to be let in on the Big Girl discussions, reminding me of a preteen hanging on to her college-aged sister's conversations with friends.

Of course, I'm also A+ on Jaclyn's silent treatment/cold shoulder. Me! That is me! Right there. Leave me alone before I say something I regret EAT YOUR FACE OFF. Which is why I also appreciated Jon's puppy-dog nuzzling attempts to apologize. I recognize that look, too.

Evictee #2: Reed. Aaaand I'm devastated again. But at least maybe this will give me some delightful Ponderosa footage?

And I definitely get to read a million exit interviews now. Like this insight about the Baylor spat from Reality TV Magainze:
[spoiler cut #2]

Question: What sparked the dispute after the Reward challenge when you called Baylor a brat?

Reed Kelly: It was one of those points were I knew I was on the chopping block.  Was it my finest moment?  Absolutely not.  My mom raised me better and I felt bad because I let a 20 year old goad me into something and get a rise out of me.  What you didn’t see is she had been ragging on me for most of the challenge because she had been making off-handed comments under her breath.  It wasn’t as spontaneous.  There was a bit more development to it.  But at that point, I knew there was no reconciling that.


---
Or this comment from TV Guide: I was excited at that point, if I was going to go out of the game, then at least I'd be able to spend Josh's birthday with him the next day.[other things from them:]

You seemed to feel bad immediately after calling Baylor a brat.
Reed:
It was not my finest moment. My mother raised me better than that. However,Baylor had kind of been ragging on me through that whole challenge. And when you're out there with these people for, I think it was 26 days at that point, it takes its toll. You're hungry, you're exhausted, you're not sleeping. So, it was one of those momentary lapses in judgment where, as soon as the words came out of my mouth I was like, "Uugh, Reed, really?" Because I knew that I had not only attacked Baylor, but I had also in turn attacked Missy and her parenting style, and her cub. And so, that's when she came out. It happened and it is what it is. But yeah, I was mostly just disappointed that I let a 20-year-old get a rise out of me.
-

What kind of stuff was she saying to you during the challenge?
Reed:
I don't want to get into it, because it's over and it's in the past. But it was just one of those things. An example would be, I extended an olive branch when we got back to camp, after they got back from their reward. I said, "You know, it wasn't my finest moment. I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to attack you. It just kind of came out." Baylor looked at me and was like, "Reed, you need to learn to tame your tongue." And it was just one of those moments where I'm like, I'm speaking to a 20-year-old right now. I need to remember that. It's just age and stage. My granny always said, you can't put an old hat on young children. I just hope it didn't look like, Reed just randomly snapped on Baylor.

---
Or this delightful couple-y stuff from...Examiner? Or did Examiner just dig it up?
[spoiler cut #4]

Tom Santilli: In your Ponderosa Video, you mentioned that you did not want you and Josh to be the poster boys for gay couples, gay Christians, or gay Christian couples, but that you did want to represent those communities well. Talk to me about that and also about how reaction has been from fans.

Reed: We just really didn't want to be the poster boys for this cause, or that cause. But we knew that by doing Survivor, people are going to say, OK, so this is what gay Christian relationships look like. And that was a lot of pressure. I wanted to represent all of those communities well. But it's interesting. We have had an outpouring of support. We were a bit worried, because you are representing these communities and then you're out there backstabbing, and lying. Nobody wants that to represent them! But we just decided we were going to go out there and be authentic, and play the game for all that it's worth. And just try to be ourselves throughout the process. It's all been so positive, it really feels like the hand of God. We've gotten so many emails, from people saying that we've really changed their opinions on what gay relationships look like, or I didn't know there were [gay] people that were Christian. Historically, those are not two communities that get along well. So we knew that there was the potential to really alienate a bunch of people. You have gay people who feel like they've been maligned by Christianity for thousands of years. And then you have Christians who feel like being gay and being Christian is an impossibility. That has not been the response, primarily. It's been very humbling.

Tom Santilli: You definitely have a ton of fans out there, many of whom are now wondering about your relationship with Josh[*]. Can you tell us of any upcoming plans that you and Josh may have? What does the future hold?
[*RS Edit: HOLLA!]

Reed: (Laughs) Plans...you mean relationship? Professionally?

Tom Santilli: However you want to frame your answer works for me.

Reed: Currently right now we are seriously dating with intent on marriage. So I definitely do not think that it is something that is too far off. Professionally, we were asked to do a cabaret at 54 Below. It's a place where Broadway legends are asked to go perform, so we were asked to perform there and that's what we're getting ready for currently, and it's really exciting.




P.S. Finally found a working link to the Ponderosa vid and it's SO MUCH BETTER THAN EXPECTED. Holy cripes. The initial reunion and 85 kisses, the confessionals, the pouncing on the food, the birthday celebration for Josh/fishing trip... Although I must argue that contrary to his complain about looking like Grizzly Adams, Reed looks really good in a beard. Preferably a slightly more trimmed one, but it adds a nice contrast to his startlingly bright eyes. (as opposed to, say, Jon, whom I am so excited to see clean shaven again)
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Last week, episode 2: After the commerical break, Jon and Jaclyn make up and it's very sweet. Meanwhile, it's Alec's turn to go the broken-spirited cart horse route ("It didn't really hit me until tonight, I've literally got no one to come and talk to after Tribal"), looking despondent and lonely while waiting for the inevitable end. Much like when he was flirting, it almost makes me feel sorry for him. But at least I know it's only because I feel sorry for him, and would not actually want him to succeed. (Look, he's so sad he's trying to talk to Baylor!)

Reward challenge (balancing a ball with a rolling pin thingy against an overhead block): NATALIE IS AMAZING. That is all. I'm starting to really hope she wins the whole show. Baylor's super excited/hopeful face was pretty heartbreaking since Natalie chose Jon to share the bed with her and Jaclyn instead, but I think she chose wisely. I loved watching her explain to the camera how crafty and deviously her choices were designed establish trust with those two, the better to stab the more dangerous one in the back.

And then there was the immunity challenge. My soul was crushed when Jon won and Natalie, having waited one week too long to split up the golden couple, had to retreat into the shadows to plot her assassination of the king another day. She worked so HARD to get in position to blindside him, too!

Evictee #3: Alec, and I think everyone is relieved, including Alec. I also cackled at his comment that he beat his older brother, and that's a win for him. I couldn't tell them apart for the longest time, but I think Alec is the better one. Not as smolderingly model hot, but he seems somewhat nicer and less full of himself as a result.

Soon we will be at the end of the season, at which point I will get to do my favorite activity: watching the first four episodes of the season again so that I can go, "Oh, look what you guys were doing way back when!" instead of just watching strangers to whom I have no personal connection. I don't do it every year, but it's a cool feeling when I do. It almost makes them feel new again.

Ponderosa video: Jeremy exhibits a marvelous confessional take-down of Alec, who has a lot of growing up to do, "and even watching it, I don't think he'll get it. I don't think he's bright enough to get how this game was working." There is as much about Jeremy's disgust with Alec as there is about Alec's experience at Ponderosa. Bitterness -- love it.

But also, that place is a total frat house right now, and I feel sorry for the first woman who gets sent into that mix.

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