It's 6 a.m. on the fifth day of boot camp. Indistinct female recruit Coddington solemnly guards the barracks.
The seven other game show contestants take a break from pretending to be in the Army and slumber peacefully. Coddington looks out into the tenebrous woods.
Moss drips from the trees. There is mist.
All the while, the haunting sounds of a distant Casio foreshadow the approaching horror: drill instructor (D.I.) Taylor. Leaves literally crunch beneath her feet.
Taylor sweeps past Coddington and into the barracks. It's going to be another earsplitting day at boot camp. Soon the recruits are yelping and scurrying. Haar, the injured pig farmer, is instructed to stay in bed.
In the men's barracks, Yaney, the disoriented balloon sculptor, is told to return to bed after he fails to reach his locker in under 15 seconds.
The overly muscular Sgt. Francisco lovingly tucks him back in.
"Sit here and rest and close your eyes," he says.
But something tells us this paternal moment is insincere.
Yaney tries again and succeeds. So the sergeant lets him have it for still wearing socks.
Back in the women's barracks, Haar struggles to get her pants on.
"Are we feeling better today, Haar?"
"Pain medicine helps, sir," she yodels.
But the sergeant doesn't understand. "I don't speak Midwest, Haar."
Ah, but who does, really? The language of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and John Wayne Gacy is complex and labyrinthine -- but, oh, the honking musicality of it!
Anyway, it's just as well. Haar is from Georgia.
And so the subject turns to potty time and anal hygiene.
Recruit Wolf, the 22-year-old college student, says he refuses to "poop" because recruits are given only 10 seconds to go and, to top it off, there's no toilet paper.
This gives a whole new meaning to the term "evacuation drill."
"I don't know anybody that can poop in 10 seconds, period," Wolf continues. "It's probably not even in Guinness."
(A quick scan of the Guinness Book of Records confirms that while there is no category for speed voiding, in 1980, Mrs. Shakuntala Devi of India correctly multiplied two randomly selected 13-digit numbers in 28 seconds.)
Last week, we noticed that there was a shadowy 16th recruit named Pupo. She appeared in the intro, but in the show's theater of operations, filled with overemoting D.I.s and yelping recruits, she lost, decisively, the battle for screen time.
But this week, at a crucial juncture, she makes a memorable debut.
Somewhere in the background, a toilet flushes. Pupo -- no relation -- rises and pulls up her pants.
"If it takes me a minute and a half to make a sitting head call," she says, "and they're only giving us 45 seconds, I'm going to take a minute and a half.
"Because you know what? They're gonna yell anyway. You might as well go out there with a clean butt."
And on that note, it's chow time.
The laconic Sgt. Francisco drawls the morning's instructions:
"We are gonna go out there to a our happy little rec room, and we are gonna choooose amongst ourseeelves in a democratic faaaashion who our next squad leader is!"
The men then decide to elect a woman to make up for their behavior on last week's episode, when they ganged up on the girls.
Because they don't hate girls! They want the girls to have a chance!
"And if she fails, and she doesn't have immunity and we don't like her, we can boot her out," says Moretti-with-an-i, breaking into a grin.
"You have been appointed squad leader," D.I. Taylor is telling recruit Hutak a few minutes later. "You will be wearing the orange squad-leader shirt."
OK, that's just gross. But Hutak is thrilled. It turns out that she always wanted to go to boot camp. Some people go to Disneyland; most people like to avoid suffering on holiday.
For Hutak, this is a fantasy vacation.
Later, Francisco the funky D.I. commands his recruits to appreciate the beautiful sunset.
But the new squad leader holds back from joining in the high-decibel effusions.
Sunsets remind her of her sister, who died. Francisco doesn't know this.
There are a million stories in the naked compound.
And now, more chin-ups. Meyer can't seem to do a single one. It does seem a little strange considering he has biceps the size of cantaloupes, but we buy it. We think he's that lazy.
"This boot camp, physically, is a joke for me," he says later. "I surf every day. I do pushups. I run. This is all so easy for me. So I was faking it."
Last week we saw Meyer get the back up of most of the troop, only to quickly recover with a story about losing his dad, complete with tears. We learned later that he was faking that, too!
Meyer's plan: "We're gonna have people like me set the tone. And we're gonna have fun. Let's kick out the losers -- I mean not losers, people that are annoying -- and have fun."
That sounds fun, except we can't think of any other recruits who are remotely interested in fun.
What follows is more Pupo drama.
None of the girls like Pupo. She's whiny. She's rude. She has a bad vibe.
Even Pupo's description of Pupo is a little drastic. Her problem areas: attitude adjustment, impulse control, short temper, not very patient, a little bit high maintenance.
Then this: a little glimpse of Pupo's underwear as she discreetly changes behind some lockers, and a female voice calling out, "You need help there, Pupo?"
Later, the female recruits wait outside the male recruits' barracks, trying to keep a straight face as Yaney screws up.
When Sgt. Francisco instructs him to tell the boys to come outside, Yaney yells, "Come on, guys, let's go!"
We're the coddled sort who, when it comes to national defense, would probably always be leaving the metaphorical back door open for the Russians -- or the Chinese, or the North Koreans, we can never keep track -- but we found Yaney's enthusiasm infectious.
But to the delicate linguistic ear of D.I. Francisco, he wasn't speaking Marine.
"There's always a Gomer Pyle in the platoon," D.I. Francisco says. "There's always one."
Next is the requisite reality-show shocker -- as integral to the genre as sand, percussion, bonfires and zany sociopaths.
The recruits gather around a late-night bonfire and share their reasons for coming to "Boot Camp." Moretty-with-a-y says she joined to experience what her Navy husband has gone through. Haar says she did it for the discipline.
Brown, the wide-eyed, curly-haired actress, says she always wanted to go to boot camp. "But I never could. I literally am not allowed, because I'm gay."
Bass drum! Peer reactions, ranging from shock to skepticism, etc.
"I was bunking right next to her!" marvels Haar.
More on Meyer's evil plan, which now includes doing his exercises like a good recruit, follows: "I've been performing well and giving 110 percent and still being nice to the boys and girls. I'm set."
Meanwhile, the recruits are dropping like flies. Haar's in the process of a four-day clinic vacation after pulling a groin muscle. Pupo gets the same affliction.
Wierdest of all, hulking Thomson's hands and feet swell up like Sea Monkeys in water!
Finally, it's time for the mission. Having been imaginarily fatally poisoned, the squad must infiltrate an enemy town and retrieve a two-part antidote from two different locations.
Sewers and maps are involved.
The reward for successful completion of the mission: a beach party. The punishment: pushup city.
It's a debacle. Hutak doesn't make a good impression. "She was like a deer in the headlights," someone says.
Hutak lacks "the most essential quality of leadership," according to Jackson, "the ability to make decisions quickly."
So more pushups it is.
The test was a lot harder than carrying a boat, which was the recruits' mission last week, but that doesn't stop Wolf -- who masterminded that task and thinks so highly of himself he must get vertigo sometimes -- from undermining Hutak and crowing later about how everyone appreciates his mission in retrospect.
With the second trip to Dismissal Hill approaching, the women and the men separate to discuss strategy, which is strangely divided along gender lines, the sole wild card being Meyer.
Meyer tells us he has regained the trust of the men, but owes his survival to the women. He has to please everybody now.
It has been pretty obvious that either Haar, the game but physically weak pig farmer, or Pupo, the recruit with the bad attitude, was going to get it. Turns out it's Haar by a landslide.
Last week, one recruit, Katharine, dropped out in the first reel, so we didn't get to savor a "Boot Camp" reality TV innovation, which is to allow the bootee each week to take down another recruit with him or her.
So Haar gets to take someone down with her. We haven't really seen her interact with Pupo, but out of some dim desire to strengthen the troop, she yanks Pupo, without considering our fun and viewing.
Oh, well. Pupo happens.
-- Carina Chocano