I want my two hours back

After weeks of foreplay on "Joe Millionaire," Fox promised us a twist -- but gave us a Hollywood ending instead.

Published February 18, 2003 4:46PM (EST)

Like the rest of America, I was expecting something juicy from last night's season finale of "Joe Millionaire." But after all these delicious weeks of catfights, lies, bad boob jobs and lots of wink-wink editing, all I got was a lackluster recap of the show so far, different from last week's lackluster recap of the show so far because that one aired last week. I was expecting a bloody showdown at the Colosseum, but instead I got the senior prom.

The show began slowly, with plodding interviews with memorable castoffs. Brassy Mojo confided that she thought Evan was "not really looking for a soul mate" and was then inexplicably shown riding a mechanical bull in a bar. Alison, the redheaded graphic designer who rejected Evan in part because of his aversion to goat cheese, insisted: "There is no amount of money that would make me want to date Evan." Then Heidi, the bitchy contestant with thin angular features and permed curls that made her look like a femme fatale from "Falcon Crest," introduced us to her boyfriend, who lifts weights. In other words, at half a million dollars for a 30-second commercial spot, we were treated to the insights of a guy who goes out with a girl who didn't make it to the third round of a reality show that we won't remember next week anyway.

In the second hour, the plot finally kicked into gear. First, there was a recap of Sarah's history. Sarah, in case you didn't know, has a Philosophy of Life: "It's better to regret the things that you have done than the things you haven't done." (All Salon readers who regret never giving Evan Marriott a blow job in the back woods of a rented French Chateau, say "Aye.") She explained that posing for a couple of fetish movies is really No Big Deal -- she had silicone implants, I mean college loans, to pay for. Then Good Girl Zora's history unfolded. We learned that in fact she really does provide assistance to the elderly. Then her best friend Marcy called her a "miracle of a person." And a 12-year-old named Holly (also billed as a "friend") lisped adorably, "Zora took care of my grandmother when she was sick! She was there for her every day!" Most touching was when Zora, asked what she would do with the rubies, pearls and emeralds she received as survivor's booty, said that her "first thought" was to sell the jewels -- get this -- to help out an aunt in Yugoslavia who was dying of cancer.

We were never told her second thought.

Finally, after 90 minutes, the moment of truth. In one of the show's most false and scripted scenes so far (and that's saying something), Evan met Zora on the love seat where so many women had been eliminated before her, and delivered what at first looked like it was going to be a let-her-down-easy speech. But no. "I've chosen you," he confessed.

She smiled, radiantly of course, but before she could dimple too deeply, he dropped his bomb, and told her he was broke. Then, impervious to irony as usual, he tried to explain himself: "I'm sorry I lied to you, but I wanted a woman who would love me for who I am."

Zora -- enigmatic, virginal, frumpy Zora -- didn't bat a single mascara'd eyelash. Evan told her he'd be waiting for her decision in the ballroom.

After a Balkan republic military budget's worth of commercials, it was Sarah's turn. When she glided onto the same love seat wearing a classy black suit dress and high leather boot ensemble, complete with a Grace Kelly upsweep, we couldn't help but wonder if she was too well-dressed for a rejection. Maybe this was the much promised twist, that he'd get them both, like that guy in the beer commercial!

But it was not to be. After articulating that the time they spent together was "really, really, really neat," Evan admitted both that he didn't have the goods, and that even if he had, Sarah wouldn't have gotten them anyway. Sarah met the news with expected icy aplomb, summing up their nonromance as an "adventure." They hugged, and Sarah was effectively dispatched upstairs, where she was greeted with the ultimate consolation prize: a smoke and dish session with dingy Melissa.

Meanwhile, back at the ballroom, Evan paced nervously, awaiting Zora's decision. She showed up in a god-awful, waistless, royal blue dress and '80s prom queen side-part bouffant. Haltingly, and with many qualifications, she accepted him. Then the two participated in a stilted "no commitment" ceremony in which they promised each other, well, nothing.

Finally, the twist. Which was more like a bend. Paul the Australian Butler brought out a mysterious silver dish. What could it be? A contract for next season? A misordered prop from "Fear Factor"? No, just a check, made out to Evan and Zora, for (read this with the Dr. Evil accent from Austin Powers) $1 million. This was their reward for caring more about love than about money. God bless Evan and Zora. God bless America.

By Sheerly Avni

Sheerly Avni is a freelance writer living in Oakland.

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