This week on "Chains of Love," Jennifer, a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader -- now apparently reduced to cheering for the mirror -- moves into the mansion.
Jennifer is "pretty crazy" and "pretty open," though "not always open about what I'm feeling." And we'd hoped she share everything.
Each of her four chain-mates represents one of the masculine attributes she most cherishes.
David, whose job description is "all-American," is a jock. Says David, "Staying in shape and competing are all about who I am."
If you're bothering to watch, you already know that these minibios are intercut with scenes of the intended -- this week, Jennifer -- in the back seat of a limo, making preliminary selections. Instead of giving gifts, a two-week-long "Chains of Love" tradition, tonight's suitors leave phone messages for their unseen beloved. Perhaps these, in our morally impoverished times, are considered the most rare and exotic of gifts.
Back to the minibios: Clinton is a "bashful bartender" who is also -- uncanny coincidence! -- "addicted to gym." Clinton is furthermore a "nice person" with "a lot of energy." We've noticed that few of the show's participants admit to having a cruel streak, or to suffering from sloth.
Wade, a "country boy," is an outdoorsman and a Southerner reduced to pimping his provenance in an effort to win Jennifer. As for him, he's not picky. "If it walks, crawls or digs holes, it's good enough for me," he says, saving us from having to make any jokes about Southerners who screw farm animals at his expense.
Finally, there's Chris, who grew up on a chicken farm in Arkansas; he likes to dress up as a longshoreman and lists his occupations as troublemaker. Chris is "really goofy" and "an OK-looking kid."
Like many Southern California Eskimos and heroin addicts, Chris wears a heavy, wool-lined overcoat during all his waking hours.
The five participants meet in the courtyard of the mansion, where they hug, squeal, giggle and rush off to heed the call of the "distant bell."
Speaking of dingbells, here's our host, Madison Michele, who reminds us of Chen Julie. With Michele we are unimpressed hugely.
She goes over the instructions one more time. ("Everybody gets chained. Then a fat guy shows up. Then Jennifer sets somebody loose and gives them some money.") Wade and Clinton win the prime Jennifer-flanking spots for their excellent messages, and soon the kids are enacting the obligatory "difficulty of moving in chains" scene.
One boy's observation:
"Being chained? To four people? Three of them guys? I mean, that's kind of a weird situation."
In the living room, the group is "surprised" with a video of Jennifer's ex-boyfriend, Jim. Jim is there to tell them everything they'll need to win his ex over.
"I'm gonna tell you everything that you need to know to win her over," he says helpfully.
Apparently, Jennifer is best seduced with a cocktail of veiled insults and backhanded compliments, as evidenced by this ringing endorsement from Jim:
"Jennifer has to be the center of attention. Jennifer comes off as this strong, egotistical maniac. But she has a really big heart."
This makes Jennifer weep, though not for the right reasons. Why aren't that Jim guy and Jennifer still together if they love each other so damn much?
Love -- we'll never understand it!
For some reason, creepy Southern boy Wade identifies so strongly with Jim's story that he begins to weep and share as though he thought it were somehow expected of him. Wade, it turns out, was "in a relationship with someone like that" back in college.
We assume he means someone like Jennifer, not someone like Jim, but based on what we hear later about Wade's sexual adventures we wouldn't put anything past him.
"I got married -- my wife was pregnant -- and we had a little girl," he sobs. The child is now 8, Wade says, lip quivering violently, "and I haven't seen her since she was 4."
Our erstwhile presidential namesake looks somewhat bemused. Is he thinking what we're thinking? Or does he just not understand language?
In either case, the whole scene leaves us wondering why Wade has not managed to visit the poor waif in four years. Did he abandon her? Is he legally prevented from seeing her?
These are questions we'd ask a guy we were chained to. Jennifer doesn't ask, and after a quick consultation at the trusty reference shelf we see why. Emily Post's Dallas Cheerleaders Etiquette Guide says plainly that when chained to more than one man at a time it's impolite for a girl to inquire about past marital, paternal or legal indiscretions.
So instead Jennifer just makes sympathetic noises and snuggles Wade as David flicks eyeballs in his general direction.
Next, it's time for the part where everybody talks about each other while the others wear protective headsets.
Jennifer says that Chris was the first boy she actually noticed, because of his "rugged and sexy" qualities. She just doesn't think she knows enough, on the other hand, about Clinton. (It's rather amusing to reread that sentence.) David "has an amazing body" and reminds Jennifer of her dad. We know this is not unusual, but it disturbs us nonetheless.
Finally, Wade -- "What can you say?" she asks. He appears not to know. "He is just something else." Another stellar recommendation. We ourselves will be rendered speechless about Wade before the end of the episode.
The chain gang then sets out on a restaurant adventure. Unbeknown to our heroes, UPN has planted "two flirtatious young ladies" at a nearby table. Chris and Wade -- "Let's see if they take the bait" -- do at least one double take apiece as they sit down.
Jennifer grills David about "himself," and David, who has unwittingly seated himself with his back to the flirtatious girls, launches into an impassioned monologue about himself.
But the camera has eyes only for the ladies.
David: "I played three sports in college ..."
Bored already, Chris and Wade casually let their eyes take a little stroll over to the spectacular vistas at the next table. Flirtatious girl No. 1 slowly peels off her jacket to make the view better. Flirtatious girl No. 2 teases a maddened french fry.
"... I'm still training in swimming; I taught school for a little while ..."
The women continue to preen. Wade appears to be levitating out of his seat. Chris caresses his own thigh.
"I have this bag that my grandfather taught with and that's what I use as my bag to teach with ..."
Chris -- who didn't get hired as a troublemaker for nothing -- cuts David's rhapsodic soliloquy short by calling over, "You ladies are doing some super stuff there."
(Nothing is subtle -- OK? -- on UPN.)
David turns around and sees what's going on. His smile fades, but he soldiers on, bravely resuming his boring story. The camera, oblivious, ambles back over to the flirtatious blond in the halter top.
David: "The kids knew that I loved my bag ..."
Jennifer's not even paying attention anymore. She waves her hand in front of Wade's electrified face.
"... and a friend of mine, that they'd never seen, runs into class ..."
This time, UPN cuts him off. The blond in the halter top stands up, swings her hair around and saunters over.
"I'm sorry, guys. I just had to ask, but what's going on with the chains?"
Hussy, can you not see these are chains of love?
Lo, she cannot, for she leans down and whispers her sweet digits into fair Chris' enthusiastic ear. Jennifer laughs and pokes at her Coke with a straw. "She's cute," she mutters darkly to the table.
To the camera, later, she says, "I think that she's a rude bitch for coming over there and doing that." Then she laughs, hoping it'll come off as a joke. Which it doesn't.
The keen, indefatigable UPN editing team then goes to work, dropping all discussion of or fallout from the restaurant flirts from the rest of the show.
The meat string then heads out to the pool to drink margaritas. As always, there is seated dancing, rather coarse sexual innuendo and screaming. And it's all so sharp and cutting edge that we're covered in tiny pieces of toilet paper.
The shackled kids assemble around the dinner table and toast their good fortune. Clinton feels "truly blessed" to have enjoyed the company of his chain gang, as, indeed, who would not?
Chris asks, "OK, at any point today, did you think, 'I'd like to have sex with this guy'?" Wild!
There's Wade saying he once pulled down his pants to impress a girl! David, cringing at the idea, gently asks if it got him anything, hoping, no doubt, to deliver a homily to Wade, explaining to him that grown-up boys don't need to resort to such schoolyard antics to woo a fair maiden.
"It got me a threesome," Wade says.
Then David shares a compelling story about the time he was challenged to play an entire round of golf naked.
Chris, as it happens, was once offered $1,000 to bowl naked. "You had to see me."
Sniffs David, "You had to see me out there playing naked golf."
"Really," says Chris with a haughty toss of the chin.
"Oh yeah," retorts David, chinning him back.
"I'd like to see yours," says Chris.
We are in a reverie of gallant knights and gracious ladies, the preux chevalier and scintillating mot.
Jennifer then admits that she slept with a married man -- and not just once. The boys unanimously disapprove, except for Clinton, who barely speaks. As they all get ready for bed, Clinton reiterates his commitment to being himself and Jennifer admits her well-founded fear of Wade. Chris lets fly this shocker: "It probably sounds like I'm all about the money, and I am."
The next morning, as Jennifer showers, the boys fill out some questionnaires at the request videotaped of Madison Michele.
The tension between David and Chris is escalating at a worrisome clip. Wade cleverly deploys a classic fart joke as a tactical diversion. Clinton laughs at the fart joke, unaware of its ironic subtext.
After filling out the questionnaires and finishing breakfast, the boys are subjected to a polygraph test. In a shocking reversal, we learn that Chris lies about being bad and David lies about being good. We also learn that Wade has paid for sex, but he doesn't say how much.
"You paid for sex?" the group asks, aghast.
"It was my first night in Hollywood," he says, by way of explanation. This works for us.
He doesn't say if he purchased a transsexual.
Then the Locksmith, big and looming, shows up. This means Jennifer must set one of her posse free.
This is of course a hard decision, considering she has Wade, a confessed child abandoner, prostitute patronizer and orgy participant, to choose from.
Jennifer chooses Clinton. She explains that she felt they never "connected" and cuts him loose for $500. She hopes he'll learn from the experience and grow.
That night, because Jennifer has expressed an interest in "spirituality," the remaining four contestants are dropped off in an oh-so-spooky cemetery, where they are met by a "renowned seer and FBI profiler."
We didn't know descriptions like "renowned seer and FBI profiler" were used outside of shows like "CSI," but that's reality TV for you.
The renowned seer is a vision in sequins. She sees that Wade has had "a lot of negativity and depression in the past two years." Wade nods. Her "guides" also tell her he is trying to find himself. "Yes," says Wade.
Chris, on other hand, reminds the noted FBI profiler of "a little leprechaun, hopping from place to place with nowhere to go." This elfin behavior is at the crux of his problem in relationships. He needs to be entertained, she says, and needs someone as eccentric as he is. Someone who wears hats.
David has a brother, they are close, he'll be OK.
Jennifer, lastly, has sadness about a man who has "passed over." The man died suddenly and died angry. "He is still angry, Jennifer," says the seer.
Jennifer blames herself. She weeps salty tears. The FBI profiler wants to give her "healing and closure." She does not offer us, the viewers, any closure on this episode.
Then the Locksmith shows up, and Wade, belatedly, is toast. As he is escorted off the premises, Wade takes the opportunity to tell "the American people" he loves them, and to apologize to the good, hardworking people of Arkansas for letting them down.
We think he's done quite enough for the image of the Southerner in the big city, thank you.
Finally, it's time for the dates. Chris and Jennifer's date involves painting each other and then getting in the tub to scrub it off. Chris tries to plumb the emotional depths of Jennifer, and barely gets his toes wet. Also, he never shuts up.
"You know, it's not just that I don't want to say things," Jennifer explains. "I think it's that I just don't know how sometimes."
David's date is a "romantic dinner" at a restaurant. They taste caviar, talk about rock climbing and blink vacantly at each other while Chris hunches 10 feet away, at the end of his leash, drinking.
Finally, the fat man comes, and -- in a stunning reversal -- Jennifer boots Chris. She thinks he's "amazing." It really hurt her to "release Chris." She gives him $2,300.
As Chris drives away, he says he's "bummed and hurt."
He thinks Jennifer chose David because she "can't open up" and "wanted to go the easy way out."
She thinks, "We're both too nuts."
She may be right. Chris determinedly lapses into the third person: "I don't think it's over between Chris and Jennifer."
Aside from this somewhat ominous pronouncement, Wednesday night's episode of "Chains of Love" ends on a sweet note -- so we'll skip the boring blow by blow. Jennifer and David decide to reach for the brass ring of "Chains" and "pursue a relationship together." David, in a moment of rare, cliché-free inspiration, likens the past days' events to a fairy tale.
The coda: "Several days later, Jennifer returned to home New York ... She has now moved to Los Angeles where she and David are continuing their romantic fairy tale" -- and taking meetings.
-- Carina Chocano