The Boston Red Sox, the nerds on Glee, a good movie actually winning Best Picture at the Oscars — yes, everyone loves an underdog which is why Troy, a rather annoying "swimsuit photographer" with an idiotic nickname and bad fashion sense is now my favorite on this show. I mean, look at this guy. He looks like the kind of guy who would wear those really disgusting shoes that have individual pockets for each toe. You know those nasty toe shoes that make your feet look like a Gorilla's? Troy would wear those. Troy is probably wearing them right now. Or Tevas. And I am rooting for this guy. It says a lot about the power of an underdog.
The reason I love Troy is that he was smart enough to see the ladies were going to kick him out and used his hidden immunity idol to stay in the game, sending his yokel friend Jay back home to eat crawdads and work on his abs. Smart, Troy, very smart. But now he's carrying a boulder down a Slip 'N' Slide (which is how Floridian's say "fighting an uphill battle") because not only do the women clearly want him out of the game, so do Leif and Tarzan. If those two yahoos are plotting against him, then he doesn't have a friend in the world. Yes, it's Troy against Candice Bergen and her tribe of evil Amazonians. And he's not taking it well.
At the start of the episode Troy knows that he has as much chance making it through the next tribal council as a cupcake has of lasting a week on Kirstie Alley's counter. Instead of taking it in stride, he starts lashing out at the women. It's super annoying, but the women don't make it any better. They let him know at every chance they get that they're going to vote him out, so they're not really helping. Everyone is being annoying. It's like being at someone else's birthday party at Chuck E Cheeze.
They go off to the reward challenge and we find out that it is my least favorite of all the regularly recurring challenges on Survivor. It's the auction. Oh god. The auction. I hate it so much. They each get $500 to spend on items that are usually food, a call from home, something to help in the next challenge, some sort of gag, and something that is meant to divide the tribe. It's so incredibly emotionally manipulative and people play it wrong every time. The contestants are just given all this money but they're hoarding it like there's a Chanel boutique lurking behind a palm tree somewhere. Use it all! Bet on everything! Bid until you are out of money and got as much crap as you can! Just do it. (Speaking of which, why don't they ever have clean shoes in the auction? I'd pay $500 for Nikes without sand in them.) Do it all. Instead they plot and plan and some people don't bid on anything and they just waste it. Then someone cries about missing home and someone plots to get the advantage and it's all just so stupid and predictable. It's the producers tugging all the strings they know to tug to make these poor starving castaways dance like that stupid goat marionette in Sound of Music.
Ugh, stupid auction.
Next we find ourselves at the immunity challenge, because that is how these things work. Like sunrise follows sunset, like ebb follows flow, like heartburn follows a night at Hooters eating too many buffalo wings, so is the rhythm of Survivor. We know it as well as we know our own heartbeats. Leif did show up wearing some sort of skull face paint looking like a Misfits T-shirt or some other ridiculous article of clothing out of a goth store, so at least that was a little surprising.
It is a three part challenge. First they have to untie a bunch of knots. The four who do it the fastest go onto another round where they have to bounce a coconut on a trampoline and hit three targets. The two who do that fastest have to knock out squares on a grid Tic-Tac-Toe style with a coconut slingshot. They're all challenges that we have seen previously this season and hopefully our yahoos have had time to master. Thanks to the auction, Troy gets to skip the first round and go right to the coconut bouncing. He's joined, improbably, by Tarzan, the geriatric plastic surgeon who has proved himself good only at braying like a stranded sea cow, mustache growing, and throwing shitty drawers into a pot. However, he's also a good knot untyer and coconut bouncer. Candice Bergen was in round two as well. Also someone else that I'm forgetting. Probably that blond whose name I can't remember.
In the final round it's Troy(zan) vs. Tarzan — the kings of the jungle. Now this is tension. I haven't watched a reality TV showdown this interesting since Tyra Banks made her girls on America's Next Top Model grapple with a foreign language. Seriously, though, unlike the auction, there are real stakes here. If Troy loses, then he goes home, the girls run the game, and that is that. He just needs this one win to be a major disruptive force. If he can pull this off, he can cause enough commotion that, even if he doesn't get a new alliance this week, the seeds of discord will be sown and he will gallop his way toward victory. Either that or Candice Bergen will cast an evil spell on him and he will turn into a discarded bikini growing mildew on the beach. Whichever.
Anyway, Troy wins and goes crazy screaming about how this is his island and giving Jeff fist bumps and generally behaving like an ass. Yes, it's annoying, but the girls are sore losers and tell him to shut up. Yeah, I get that he's annoying, but you need to just roll your eyes and get on with it ladies.
Troy goes back to camp and does exactly the right thing. He does exactly what I would have done if I were playing this game, so you know that means it's the right thing. He goes to the people who are obviously on the bottom: Tarzan, Leif, Christina, and Alycia, who I think is the missing member of En Vogue. Troy walks up to her and says, "Listen, we know you're on the bottom. You know you're on the bottom. You need to team up with me and the rest of the misfits and vote out Candice Bergen, or else these girls are going to dump you. If you stay with them, you will be sixth. If you stick with me, you can get to fifth." She replies, "You want my vote? You're never gonna get it, never gonna get it, Neeeever gonna get it, never gonna get it, never gonna get it, never get it, woo whooo hooo!"
We know Troy isn't going to make his alliance work because there is no squabbling or bargaining at camp. There are no final three deals or hushed negotiations in the woods. That means he is doomed. We know this because, like that gross film in your mouth after eating Cadbury Creme Eggs, we know the rhythms of this game. If anyone was serious about flipping they'd say, "OK, I want [fill in person's name here] out. Can we do that?" But no one says that. I don't think anyone even seriously considers it. Tarzan even says, "I should have won the immunity challenge, because then I'd be safe." Know how else you can be safe, Tarzan? By getting the numbers on your side. Make yourself safe. God, these contestants are possibly the dumbest ever. If he wanted to be safe, he would work with Troy to get an alliance of five together because everyone knows that the girls are running the world (GIRLS! WHO RUN THIS MOTHER!) and you are done unless you make a move. But does he make a move? No. He just helps Leif wash off his ridiculous face paint.
When we get to tribal, Troy lays out his plan again for everyone to hear, and Christina and Alycia (who is still wondering where her residuals are for En Vogue's last album) give his plan lip service, but you know that they're going to vote with the ladies. Troy and his little effort is doomed. The best thing about the interaction between Troy and Candice Bergen's coven was when this blond ghost piped up and said, "Even if you get everyone together and vote one of us off, we'll vote you off next week." Don't you get it, blond one? If Troy is successful, you won't have the numbers anymore. You won't be in power. Then telling Troy to shut up at the immunity challenge and treating him like he's the burned rice on the bottom of the pan is going to come back to haunt you. Remember that.
Anyway, everyone votes and the girls split the vote between Tarzan and Leif, in case there is an idol, and Leif and Troy vote for Candice Bergen. Leif is kicked off. Christian and Alycia staying with the girls I can understand. Even though Alycia left En Vogue before, she's not going to leave an alliance where she has just as good of a shot as she does with Troy and Co. Leif flipping totally makes sense, because he knew he needed to break things up, even though he was really a lousy and inconsequential player the whole time. What really doesn't make sense is Tarzan. Does he think these girls are going to work with him? Does he think he has any part in their alliance? Whose side is he on? Does he not understand that, as long as he has a vote, he has power? He can shift the game. No, the girls tell him to vote for Leif, and he's their backup plan. Why would you work with a group of people that is willing to sacrifice you if their first pick doesn't get ousted? What is he going to do next week? Why don't you make yourself safe Tarzan! Yes, we're rooting for Troyzan, but it's going to take Tarzan, Christina, and En Vogue's missing sister to wake up and get their heads in the game if he wants to win a million dollars and be the king of the jungle.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
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The soldiers of Rome’s fabled Ninth Legion may have disappeared nearly two millennia ago but Hollywood’s fascination with them remains. The Eagle directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) is the second mid-budget action flick to involve the Ninth in as many years the first being Centurion a hack-and-slash B-movie from genre director Neil Marshall.
In comparison to Marshall’s film The Eagle is a bit classier in tone and considerably milder in content perhaps out of deference to its source material Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth a children's novel regarded by many as a classic. That little demographic detail might help explain Macdonald’s someone odd decision to cast Channing Tatum star of Step Up and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra in the lead role of a second-century Roman Centurion. Tatum has played soldiers of various stripes before but never a commander and never in an earnest period piece like The Eagle; he fits the suit nicely but I fear he might be in over his head otherwise.
As the film is set in the year AD 140. 20 years prior the 5 000-strong Ninth Legion marched into Northern Britain under the leadership of a general named Flavius Aquila and never returned. Flavius’s son Marcus Aquila (Tatum) arrives at a remote outpost on the island determined to restore his family’s good name via feats of gallantry on the battlefield. He seems well on his way toward doing so too until an ill-fated encounter with an enemy chariot leaves him nearly crippled and he is declared unfit for further service.
While recuperating from his wounds Marcus receives word that the golden Eagle of the Ninth the lost legion’s official emblem has been seen in the hands of the Seal People one of several savage native tribes that roam the wilderness beyond Hadrian’s Wall. Attempting to recover this potent symbol of Rome’s glory might be a virtual suicide mission Marcus reasons but it might also be his only chance to remove the taint that his father’s ignominious defeat left upon his family’s reputation.
And so he endeavors to find it bringing along his British slave Esca (Jamie Bell) a former prisoner of war whose well-groomed mane suggests that his Roman captors were not so cruel as to deny him access to conditioner and a blow-dryer. He seethes with resentment toward Marcus whose Centurion predecessors pillaged his tribe just a few years prior but he is nonetheless bound by honor to serve him after being spared from the gladiator’s blade through Marcus’s intervention.
The thrust of the film is Marcus’s relationship with Esca which begins as a prickly culture-clash but gradually evolves into a sincere brotherly bond forged by various skirmishes with local warriors amidst the cold and forbidding landscape of Caledonia (now Scotland). You’ll find very little indication of this in The Eagle’s opening act however. Macdonald devotes the first 25 minutes or so to setting up an entirely different film – a more conventional sword-and-sandals tale of an undermanned garrison fending off barbarian sieges -- before resetting the narrative and fixing on the bromantic angle that carries it through to the closing credits.
The prolonged dual set-ups disrupt the natural action-movie rhythm and The Eagle enters a somnolent phase at a point when it feels as if it should be building momentum. The lull gives us far too much time to contemplate Tatum’s shifting accent which sometimes resembles an Irish brogue other times a more contemporary Southern-American-Meathead intonation. For whatever reason Macdonald either didn’t notice the inconsistency or didn’t consider it germane to the film’s proceedings. It’s a shame because it pierces the layer of authenticity that the director so carefully – and convincingly – labors to create. If this is second-century Britain what's that kid from Alabama doing here?