Heading into the airing of tonight's episode of Celebrity Wife Swap on ABC, the talk around here focused almost exclusively on Pastor Ted Haggard, who had to leave his mega New Life Church in Colorado Springs five years ago after "the scandal."
But when the show aired at 8 p.m. Colorado time, "The Buser," as he's just now been dubbed from this couch in Denver, proved the most entertaining.
Soon after the swap in L.A., the devout Gayle Haggard asks Busey in his home, "Do you go to church?" to which Busey replies, "I am a church."
Busey has long been a punchline -- but in this sad-sacked, feelings-soaked genre of network TV, his non sequitur nuttiness is most welcome.
"I love life and I love love, and I tell God that every day. I haven't told you this, but in the '80s, I was severely addicted to cocaine."
He also asks Gayle Haggard twice what "athletic sports she played when she was young." He doesn't ask her any other personal questions.
Meanwhile, Busey's life partner, Steffanie Sampson, brings out her whiteboard full of "new rules" for the Haggard family, which has to be spiritual spring break for the fam. Gayle shows Gary her "Gayle-isms," which are high on consistency and use of acronyms.
Pastor Ted Haggard
Finally, something resembling drama arises around the thirty-minute mark, when Pastor Ted gets into it with his thirty-year-old daughter Christie, over him spending too much time on the new St. James Church in the Springs.
"Sometimes it is so consuming, this world of the church, that other things get neglected," she goes on, until her brother Elliot jumps in to defend Dad. Scratch that -- it's not drama, it's just annoying. Get back to Busey!
Busey only briefly mentions "the scandal" -- network-TV code for gay-sex-for-meth -- with Gayle, and only then after a cute walk with Busey's toddler son, Luke, in a stroller.
Meanwhile, back in the Springs, Steffanie and the Haggards go on a hike and really seem to be getting along! It's too bad he's gay and always will be, or else he could divorce Gayle and fight Busey for Steffanie's love. It's not to be, though.
In the limo en route to the spousal rendezvous, Steffanie says that she hopes Gayle has gotten her husband exercising, to which Haggard respond only with a static super-grin that we've seen for most of the preceding 42 minutes.
Finally, they reunite at a picnic table in an L.A. suburb by Busey's house. The hugs between the reunited couples are really nice, actually. The only awkward scene comes when the cameras stay on Haggard as he kisses his wife on the mouth.
"We've not allowed the haters to dominate our life," a preacherly Haggard later says to the Buseys at the 45-minute mark. "I was crucified because of my own faults in Colorado Springs; I have to resurrect in Colorado Springs. If I resurrected in Atlanta or L.A., it wouldn't work."
That's why he's back.
Hearing line after line from Pastor Ted, Busey is floored with childlike wonder. The guy is so impressed -- blown away, even -- by Haggard's words.
Indian Bob, on left.
After the commercial break, Steffanie delves into writings from Gayle's book, Why I Stayed, and mentions something about Satan, which feels like a reach at drama. Luckily, the Buser quashes it quickly.
In turn, Gayle brings up her encounter with an amazing character named Indian Bob, one of Busey's pals. Bob said he needed to cleanse Gayle's soul earlier in the episode. That potential fight goes nowhere as that beef is also settled as only the Big Bopper could settle it:
"I feel like this wife swap has been a miracle and a blessing to both families," he says, and the almost argument stops.
Well said, Buser!
Finally, Haggard offers to marry the couple, who have long been engaged.
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Next week promises more drama and at least one thrown skateboard as Public Enemy's Flava Flav swaps fams with Twisted Sister's Dee Synder. '80s cliches return!