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A short side note before we get into Episodes 8 and 9. Talking to my brother, who was in from out of town, I realized that he knew the guy who was dogging Davis for wearing eyeliner in Episode Four -- he's my brother's best friend's little brother (got that?). So a shout-out to Rio for making fun of the Real World cast in real-time -- although it would have been nice if he targeted someone besides the gay boy, who has now risen in my estimation to the Reasonable One. I just can't tell you how excited I am that I know somebody who knows somebody who actually talked to Tyrie. And scared Tyrie, even. (Remember how he couldn't wait to leave the club because he was afraid he was going to get hurt?)

Moving on: How cool was getting two brand-spanking-new episodes back-to-back last night? Answer: Pretty cool, although not nearly as entertaining as previous episodes.

It all starts with a recap of Jenn's one-night stand with Alex. She's not attracted to Alex at all, Jenn asserts -- he's not her type, and she wouldn't sleep with him sober. This is building up toward Alex making the top of Jenn's shit list (not dick list -- thanks for the clear audio, MTV), so remember it for later.

Meanwhile, Alex is empathizing with poor Colie's mono-tastic situation. He had mono for three weeks, so he can totally understand where she's coming from. Probably dangerous, seeing as Colie has already requested a sponge bath from Alex.

Then the cast finally gets the job assignment. It's about freaking time. And it's not Outward Bound as we were led to believe. They're going to be working at Amphitheater Rock -- doing what, they don't yet know. I experience relief that the producers didn't put these people in charge of youngsters (or so I think at the time). They also finally got their cars -- two of them, likely to be divided up as the boys' car and the girls' car (that is, if one of the girls becomes proficient at driving a stick -- they are all so terrible that I almost got carsick just watching them pull out of the parking space). Also, it's going to be a 45-minute drive to work, so these girls had better figure out how to uphill-start posthaste.

Colie is left at home to get better while the others head off to their first day of work. The cast members speculate which one of them will have the hardest time in the wilderness; Brooke and Jenn get the most votes.

Then, in a segue that is nonsensical in a way that only The Real World can achieve, we are all of a sudden dragged into Jenn's sex life. She's been hooking up with this guy John, who works security at Monarck. "He's kind of got this I-don't-care attitude, which is kind of different from the people I'm living with, which is cool," Jenn gushes. Although she does have another love interest waiting in the wings -- Jared, her paramour from back home. For this reason, Davis expresses disappointment in Jenn. She told him at one point that she's cheated on every boyfriend she's ever had, and he really thought this time would be different (why, I'm not sure).

John comes back to the house for the obligatory gratuitous-sex scene, and Brooke gets upset -- she doesn't want to be next to them, listening to them, while they get intimate. Understandable. But then Brooke gets a little snarky: Jenn hooks up with "everyone," Brooke opines, because "she drinks too much." Downstairs in the kitchen, she tries to commiserate with her not-having-sex roomies: "I could be getting ass, too," she declares. Jealous, much? Maybe Brooke isn't bothered so much by the fact that Jenn is hooking up with someone, as by the fact that so far she hasn't hooked up with anyone.

John leaves, and Jenn is downstairs talking to the boys in the kitchen. "I didn't have sex, all right?" she responds to their teasing. "I didn't do anything dirty." After further provocation, Jenn elaborates: "Oral sex was performed. I was not the one performing. That's all I'm going to say." Well, what else is there to say? "First we started kissing, then he moved his hand to my breast ..." Ew! Maybe Jenn's under the impression that they're dying for a play-by-play, but I must say I was relieved she didn't provide one.

Interlude here: Tyrie says, "Jenn is the most defensive person in this damn house." Interesting conclusion. It's leading up to Alex putting his foot in his mouth when he asks Jenn why she doesn't fuck him again.

And yes, Jenn gets very defensive. She calls Alex an ignorant asshole. "I had sex with you -- not willingly," she fumes. "The bottle spoke for me. I don't find you attractive. I will never fuck you again. Fuck you, fuck yourself."


Alex's take on this explosion: "I feel like I say just one little thing and then -- boom! She just wanted me to hurt as much as she could." The only thing wrong with that statement is that Jenn would have to care enough about Alex to want to hurt him. And I don't think that's the case.

The boys are all laughing as Alex says, "That is the most nonsensical, pissed-off woman in the house." They find this very amusing. I'm wondering what kind of person starts laughing after someone essentially accuses him of rape. Or is Alex (and are the rest of the boys) too stupid to realize exactly what Jenn was saying? Oh, the humanity.

The next morning, Brooke -- with the tact of a seasoned diplomat -- asks Jenn, "So are you all not talking today?" This is the point at which Jenn declares that Alex is "on my shit list, at the top, in bold letters." Hey, at least she's honest about holding a grudge. Alex talks to Tyrie and considers apologizing, but Tyrie talks him out of it. My heart sinks. Alex was maybe going to redeem himself by showing some maturity and some responsibility for his words and actions -- but then he went and took Tyrie's advice. The men in this house should be banned from listening to each other.

Back to the start of the job: "So do you guys think we're going to be rock-climbing instructors?" Alex speculates. "Oh, hell naw," Tyrie responds. Little does he know ...

They get to Amphitheater Rock and begin to hike into the wilderness, freaking out like any good city person would. Tyrie sees a mountain lion sign and says, "Man, I don't want to be the first one killed just by a mountain lion." We probably shouldn't tell him that he wouldn't be the first -- far from it, in fact -- because perhaps going down in a blaze of glory and notoriety is the only way he can cope with the concept of a mountain-lion mauling. As it turns out, Tyrie just doesn't like anything that's bigger/more powerful than he is, including bears. "I don't like grizzly bears, I don't like polar bears, I don't like Paddington Bear." Poor Paddington.

Stephen is excited to be out and about: "We're in the middle of the mountains, we can't see any civilization anywhere." Clearly a new experience for Stephen. Then ropes drop from a cliff above, indicating the roommates are to climb up for further instruction. As the rope descends, Tyrie mutters, "If y'all think I'm gonna just start shimmying up this rope, y'all out of your damn minds."

The roommates meet Chris, their boss. Chris is one of those super-nice people who's a gentleman in every sense of the word -- gentle voice, gentle words, gentle spirit. I'm horrified. These kids are going to eat this poor, nice man alive. I have to wonder how far they will be able to push Chris before he finally snaps.

Chris tells them that they're going to be teaching kids from New Orleans how to camp, backpack and rock-climb. My heart sinks yet again -- they are going to trust these people with the lives of children. To prepare, they're going to take a five-day jaunt into the Great Beyond. Some of the inane questions asked at this point (in shocked tones): "How do we go to the bathroom?" "We're not going to shower?" Do they really think that they're going to find plumbing out in the middle of nowhere? If so, then these people are even stupider than I thought -- and that's saying something.

Brooke is the most upset at the loss of running water. "We're going to blow up the mountain," says Stephen in a worried voice. Um, not unless your backpacks are made of dynamite -- but I guess it's the thought that counts.

Jenn, the other girl who everyone thought would have a hard time, is excited. "This is going to be a really big, purifying experience," she says. And as we all know, if anybody needs a purifying experience, it's Jenn.

They go back to the house and enlighten Colie, who is thrilled. "This is the best job ever!" she squeals.

Back to Jenn and John: Brooke, in a rare moment of lucidity, says, "I don't think that Jenn necessariliy really likes John. I think they get drunk, they hook up, and they regret it afterward." Judging by how Jenn and John interact on camera, that's probably true. Jenn is convinced that John is a nice guy, but she cares more about Jared, so she presumably breaks things off.

"I think the hottest part about him is his tattoos," Brooke says in consolation. What a catch this John must be!

And then Jenn and Alex start to patch things up -- well, almost. Alex starts to apologize and then says he doesn't want Jenn to judge his whole character and everything that he is based on one incident. Jenn lets him have it again: It's not just one incident. It's Alex's sense of humor, way of speaking and personality.

"I regret hooking up with Alex," Jenn confesses to the camera, "and that's one thing that if I could, I would take back and change, and I have never said those words. Ever." Cue the heartbreaking violin music.

The thirty minutes of inanity otherwise known as Episode Eight open with the roommates going to Sports Authority to pick up some gear. "I need to get, like, baby wipes for my face and for down there, and then other stuff," Brooke says. Davis starts cracking up. I shudder.

In fact, the girls are being suprisingly crass: "My armpits are going to be very hairy by the fifth day," notes Colie. "And my legs, and my vagina, and I don't even give a shit."

Brooke is also upset that she won't be able to look at herself in a mirror for five days. Now, I'm about to say something really mean about Brooke's appearance, and that's something I try not to do, in general. It's one thing if a woman plucks her eyebrows into oblivion and then slathers her makeup on with a trowel (cough, cough, Jenn) -- that's a personal choice. But I don't think Brooke is missing out on anything by not being able to look at herself. Brooke has what some of my meaner male friends would call "butterface." Actually, the more I have to look at her, the more she reminds me of my bulldog. I know, I know -- I told you I was going to be really mean. I'm not sure if it's her cheeks, with the appearance of jowls, or the shape of her face, or what's going on there, but if Marshall were a human, he could have sired Brooke.

Okay, on with the show: Colie gets all introspective about her opportunity to make up for past sins. She lived in New Orleans and was evacuated during Katrina. "I do have guilt in me that I left New Orleans," she confides, "because I wanted to stay there and do everything I could, and getting to stay here and work with kids from New Orleans is like having everything all at once."

The group sets off on its five-day trek. Brooke is hiking up by Chris (trying to score brownie points, perhaps?), and she says, "I like it so far. What's the hardest it's going to get?"

"For some people it's physical," Chris responds. "For some it's mental, and for some it's emotional." Brooke thinks it's going to be all three for her. Then Chris says, "Let's pause here for just a minute." Again, I think about the innate gentle nature of Chris, the fact that he used the word "pause," and I feel sad for the man who's stuck in the wilderness with these yahoos.

Chris explains the game plan: Wake up at 6 a.m., stretch, go for a run, then go for a dip in the lake. "Thanks for a great day, and I look forward to tomorrow," Chris says. He wouldn't be looking forward to any tomorrows if he knew what this journey was going to be like ...

Brooke immediately starts complaining. "We have to get up at 6 a.m. and run and jump in a cold lake. Not my idea of a good morning."

Chris sits down with Colie to discuss how she's going to fit in with everything -- he wants to be conservative with her, but not to the point where she can't be part of the training. Then the cast goes to sleep in a humongous tent -- I have never seen one that big. It even looks like it has hardwood floors! I wonder how much it weighs, and if they have a hidden pack animal that we can't see to carry it.

The next morning, everyone jumps up to implement Chris' plan. And irony rears its ugly head: Colie has to stay behind, and she really wishes she could go. Meanwhile, Brooke is hating every minute of the forced exercise.

"Poor Brooke just doesn't like this kind of stuff," says Davis. Well, no shit. I start to wonder how she maintains her sticklike physique -- eating only lettuce, perhaps? Clearly, there is zero muscle tone in her body.

When the time comes to jump in the water, Stephen is the gamest. "I'm from the suburbs, not from the mountains, but if that's what they do here, then when in Rome ..." I'm proud of Stephen. Tyrie has to give himself a little pep talk before he jumps in. Pretty soon everyone has gone except for Brooke.

Brooke approaches the water. She sticks her toe in. She starts howling -- I'm thinking, did they just replace that water with boiling oil when we weren't looking? Every time her toes touch the water, she screams as though someone is slicing them off her feet. Finally she gets in the water -- only to stand there pathetically, whining and crying and babbling and complaining, much longer than she actually needed to.

Is anyone surprised when Brooke freaks out on the high-ropes course? Poor Tyrie has to carry her ass while she's being absolutely hysterical. After this day's fiasco, Brooke is feeling embarrassed and moans that some people are just naturally able to be outside, but she isn't. Now, I get that some people aren't the hiking-and-camping-and-rock-climbing sorts. But pretty much everyone is able to do those things, barring a disability of some sort. We're human beings. We live on this planet that includes outdoor areas. We have been living inside buildings for a relatively short time in our evolutionary history. So the idea that Brooke just isn't hard-wired to spend any time at all outside is, well, idiotic.

Chris, being the person he is, sits everyone down at the end of the day and tells him that he's very proud of everybody. "And remember," he adds, "there is no failure. There is only success."

The next day they go rock-climbing at Turtle Rock. Chris explains the general concept behind rock-climbing and lets the roomies go at it. Jenn monkeys up right away, not scared at all; Tyrie, meanwhile, is frightened (does Turtle Rock count as something bigger and more powerful than he is?). He asks God to help him out, adding, "Nobody wants to be the first guy to die on a mountain." Again with the firsts, Tyrie? When will you learn?

Even Colie, the girl with mono, does well. Brooke is eventually the only one left at the bottom. "I do not want to have another failure like I had yesterday with the high ropes course," she states (guess she wasn't listening to Chris' failure-success speech), "so I'm going to really give it my all this time." And after much crying and complaining, she makes it to the top and her roommates are all very proud of her.

Is Brooke going to turn into the outdoorsy type? Not likely: Next week, we can look forward to Brooke doing some hiking. In her underwear. Why, we can only speculate, although Jenn offers these sage comments: "When our boss is here, you can't walk in your underwear," Jenn points out. "She is on the verge of being fired." Maybe that was the whole point...? Whatever the case may be, rest assured that we will be seeing more of Brooke's pasty legs and contorted facial expressions than we ever wanted to. -- Amber Taufen

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts