Let's call the whole thing off

You say Moretty, we say Moretti! Plus: the case of the pilfered mint

Published May 12, 2001 2:31AM (EDT)

Sir, we're confused, sir!

There are four "Boot Camp" contestants left, sir!

And they all seemed to be named Moretti! Or Moretty!

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It's the final four. We have cute-as-a-button Moretty-with-a-y and the deceptively dogged Whitlow in the girl barracks, the anal Wolf and humorless Moretti-with-an-i in the boys'.

The game is slightly more complicated now. The women and Moretti ganged up last week on Jackson, a male recruit, who took Brown, a female recruit, along with him.

Wolf voted for Moretti-with-an-i -- his male compatriot. It was a cold violation of the show's gender wars.

This week, when the group chooses a squad leader, the stakes are high. If the group accomplishes its mission, the squad leader gets immunity. And since this is "Boot Camp's" penultimate week, that would automatically put the leader into the final two -- what the show calls "the gauntlet."

Seen another way, if the rest of the squad helps the leader pull off the mission and get immunity, it would automatically reduce their own chances of getting into the final two: To be precise, it would effectively lower them to one in three rather than one in two. So there's an impetus for the rest of the squad to throw the challenge.

On the other hand, if they do it blatantly, it could cost them.

Like we said, it's complicated, and the whole Moretty/Moretti thing just makes it worse.

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We open with an ominous night shot outside the barracks, which means that the D.I.s are on their way, and, indeed, a marching phalanx of drill instructors appears out of the dark: the sturdy, massive three guys -- D.I.'s Rosenbum, Francisco and psychopathic McSweeney -- and the relatively more demure D.I. Taylor, a woman.

The four slam into the barracks and start banging garbage cans around. Everyone staggers up, makes their beds, takes the sheets off their beds, get dressed and undressed at the whim of the screaming yelling D.I.s.

The diminutive Taylor leaps up on one cot and jumps up and down like an agitated troll.

This goes on for what seems like hours.

"It's time to test the limits a little bit," Francisco says.

It freaks everybody out. The boys meet in the bathroom to talk. "I can't breathe," Moretti says

The group tries to talk about what happened last week, but the implications of it all seems to have escaped them. They all agree that voting people off is a bummer.

Most importantly, Moretti-with-an-i doesnt seem to realize that Wolf voted for him last week. The women aren't telling him, apparently out of some misplaced ethical stance.

Moretti says he feels bad he betrayed his buddy Jackson the previous week. "It's so much easier if everybody's honest," he says. Tell us about it.

Next the four are dragged into the mess hall. It's eerily empty. No more meals at the mess hall, they're told. They're each told to pick out take out three "MREs" -- the modern military rations, freeze-dried food in a bag. (The abbreviation stands for "meals ready to eat.")

Rosenbum shows one off for the camera: "They sometimes taste really bad, and sometimes taste really good, depending on long since you're eaten," he says.

They recruits think they're getting three a day -- turns out they're getting three until the next dismissal. (It's not clear, but it appears this is two days away.)

The four slink down to a pier and whine about the food situation.

"I need energy to sustain my muscle mass," says Wolf.

"I need water!" Moretti says.

Francisco unilaterally makes Whitlow squad leader. Everyone's talking about whether it might be smart to not make the challenge, so as to deny her immunity.

"No backstabbers!" the D.I. says

The recruits are put through a daunting obstacle course. Moretty-with-a-y slips and falls down on a rail in exactly the way you don't want to slip onto a rail, if you get our drift.

She walks away from the fall bravely, a tear in her eye.

Next, D.I. Taylor takes the group out for some night training. They learn how to use a night compass, start a fire and estimate distances in the dark.

They huddle in a circle. D.I. Francisco comes up with a big bowl of food. I know you're hungry, he tells the group.

Turns out it's a bowl full of worms! This "Survivor" ripoff is handled relatively well. Francisco pulls an earthworm up out of the bowl, holds it up above his upturned face and slurps it in like spaghetti.

"Mmmm," he says.

Everyone has to eat a worm.

Wolf has to be shouted at to comply. Later he says he can still feel the worm moving about in his stomach.

Next the group hears about its mission.

McSweeney stands them out in the sand. He writes the word "Ritz" on the ground, then "pits."

If they get the mission done right, they get to spend the night at a Ritz -arlton. Otherwise, it's out on the sand.

"The Ritz or the pits, right?" he yells.

"The Ritz or the pits, sir!"

The mission sees the group going over five miles of terrain in the dark, finding checkpoints and then accomplishing tasks, like rappelling down into a ravine. We're worried when the "Boot Camp" producers pull out the old "Mole" helmet cam, but there are mercifully used only sparingly.

Turns out the group all seem to be helping Whitlow make the grade. Once they get to the end, the four have to find little glow sticks secreted around a big military yard. They find them, either with seconds to spare or seemingly with seconds to spare.

We're into the reality TV suspension of belief as much as the next guy, but we still think it's interesting how so many of these challenges come down to the last second.

"No pits -- nothing but the Ritz!" McSweeney says.

The group goes to the Ritz-Carlton (it's the one in Amelia Beach, Fla., north of Jacksonville) and stalk trough the halls in fatigues with their faces still painted from the march.

They can't watch TV or listen to the radio and can't eat anything beside their MRES. But they do get showers and nice beds to sleep in.

Whitlow likes the face paint. She stands in front of the mirror and flexes her muscles. She's happy -- she's not going home this week.

In the morning, the DI's come in to find the tiny troop ready. Rosenbum gets all teary eyed when he comes in and finds the beds all made properly.

The DI's surprise the recruits with an elaborate classy breakfast. As they dine on fruit, omelets and cappuccinos, Moretti-with-an-i tries to suck up to the others: "I'm happy I ended up here with the four of you rather than anyone else."

As they leave the Rosenbum tells the group not to take any food out of the hotel: "If you do I'm gonna tear you up like you wouldn't believe."

Once back at camp, the D.I.'s have somehow discovered that a mint was missing from the hotel.

The way in which the D.I.s investigate this high crime differs in some slight respects from the way, say, Hercule Poirot would look into the matter.

For the second time this show they rip into the recruits, and trash the barracks again.

They finally find Whitlow with the mint. Then all hell breaks lose. They make the whole group do exercises.

"I asked you if you had any trash in your bag! Why did you lie to me? You have no integrity!" Rosenbum hollers into Whitlow's face.

"I'm ashamed of you! Don't ever tell anyone that D.I. Rosenbum trained you. That would embarrass me."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

As the group does various chores they discuss Wolf. "He's 22 and self-centered and arrogant and a big man in a little man's body," Moretti-with-an-i concedes, but he won't vote for him.

He still doesn't know that Wolf voted for him last week.

Wolf is clueless in his own way. "I'm closest to Whitlow," he tells the camera. "She's like a sister. She'd 100 percent take a bullet for me."

The camera cuts to Whitlow saying, "I want Wolf gone!"

It's time for Dismissal Hill, called Dismissal Night tonight for some reason.

First a paean to Old Glory. "Some may come, some may go but that flag stays forever! You understand that?" McSweeney asks. He tells them the flag represents "the blood, sweat and tears you shed here."

We disagree. We don't think the Stars and Stripes has anything to say about reality TV.

But he gets the recruits all worked up. On Dismissal Hill, Whitlow gets to address the squad. She's proud as a peacock about winning the challenge:

"We are the final four. We are heroes!"

We reflect that it may be that an unseen side effect of "Boot Camp" is that viewers may end up unable to distinguish between the concepts of "World War" and "game show."

The group votes out Moretti-with-an-i. He's honest when he talks to them: "I can't say that I'm not surprised."

Who's he going to take with him? Whitlow has immunity. In "Boot Camp," men always takes women with them and vice versa.

The final show, two hours next Wednesday, we'll see the final two go against each other in what's billed as a grueling challenge. If Moretti wasn't a dope, he'd have found out that Wolf voted against him last week and take him along with him.

This way, the two women would have a chance to duke it out.

Instead he takes Moretty-with-a-y. It's going to be really difficult now even for the doughty Whitlow to beat back Wolf, who's a strong and athletic guy.

But at least there will be fewer Morettys or Morettis to kick around.

(Bill Wyman)

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By Salon Staff

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