Nature Calls

Before delving into Episode 10, I have a bone to pick with AOL's "TV Squad" blog. According to this entry, The Real World is eyeing Sydney for its first international outing since London in 1995. Wikipedia has already confirmed that Sydney will be the next city ravaged by reality television, with the first episode to air late this year. Whether this rumor is fact remains to be seen, but "TV Squad" blogger Julia Ward dissed Westword big time when she wrote, "The alternative newsweeklies in American cities, like The Stranger in Seattle, have made it harder and harder for The Real World crew to shoot without interruption and open hostility from the locals."

For those who didn't watch it, the Seattle season aired in 1998. I'm a little puzzled as to why Ward mentioned The Stranger and Seattle without even bothering to do a little research on the current season. The Westword prank is mentioned on The Real World: Denver's Wikipedia page, not to mention a July 2006 New York Times story titled "Reality TV, The Unwelcome Guest." And you would think that local hostility would be much higher today, after seventeen previous seasons of vapidity and debauchery. In fact, Seattle is considered to be one of the last "good" seasons by old-school The Real World watchers. So, Ward: What gives?

Okay, end rant Back to Episode Nine, which was an exercise in torture for me. Watching whiny city kids camp in the sunshiney mountains was more than my snowed-in, cabin-fevered ass could handle -- but I sat through the episode for you, oh blog readers, even those who accuse me of wasting my time and giving the show "props." Uh, hardly.

As the episode dawns, the cast members are standing on top of Turtle Rock, which they have just climbed. Their Outward Bound instructor tells them they now are going to rappel down the rock. Everyone is nervous -- it's windy, and they all think Chris is crazy for even suggesting it -- but he tells them he's never had anyone get hurt or regret rappelling down the rock.

I bet you can guess what happened next. Everybody makes it down except for Brooke, who refuses unconditionally because she just can't fight the fear. Tyrie even bursts into tears at the bottom. "I was crying because I was happy, and I really feel like God touched me, my great-grandmother touched me, and I wouldn't want to say I conquered my fear, but I made a hell of a step," says Tyrie. I really can't believe this. Will Chris and Outward Bound actually provoke some depth into this show instead of the rampant shallowness we've become used to in recent seasons? We can only hope.

The next day, they're going on an overnight backpacking trip. Jealousy rears its ugly head in me -- I love backpacking and only got to go once last year. For the first and probably only time in my life, I wish I could join them.

Colie does, too, because her mono-infected self is staying behind. But she'll make do since her kissing-happy self will be kept company by Adam, the logistical coordinator for Outward Bound.

Meanwhile, Alex and Brooke are assigned to clean up together. As Alex washes the dishes, Brooke stands behind him impatiently. When Alex asks her what she's doing, she says she's waiting on him. He suggests that she perhaps help him wash the dishes and Brooke storms away, fuming and "extremely offended that he's ORDERING me to go scrub dishes."

Chris comes along to see what all the fuss is about. He asks Alex what's going to happen if he and Brooke are paired together when they're trying to teach the teens. Alex says that's what he would call a worst-case scenario. "I'm not going to say 'pretty please with a cherry on top' every time someone's not doing their job."

I'm not sure how Chris and the other Outward Bound instructor are going to reason with him, but they gently suggest that Brooke doesn't understand where Alex is coming from unless he tells her -- she needs to know how he sees the world. And Alex takes the very adult step of deciding to try and make up with Brooke; he figures he has nothing to lose by sticking his neck out a little bit. The Vatican should seriously consider nominating Chris for sainthood -- I don't care if he's not Catholic. The man is instilling thoughtful, reasoned, considerate behavior in Alex, of all people.

But the Outward Bound sainthood nominees still have their work cut out for them. The next day, they give a lesson on how to take a shit in the woods. Brooke's input: "It's absolutely absurd. They should have given us Port-A-Pottys." I hope she's on birth control; I don't want to see how she reacts to dealing with womanly issues in the woods.

The hike continues and Brooke is tired of hiking, tired of carrying a backpack and tired of wearing pants. So she strips down to little boy-short panties. Everyone is a little freaked out by this, and Brooke simply can't understand why.

The ever-gentle Chris asks in a quiet voice, "Are you going to hike in your underwear? Why? It's a little weird, don't you think?" Clearly, the other roommates agree. But Brooke just sniffs, "It is incredibly rude of Chris to call me out in front of everybody."

None of her buddies are at all sympathetic. "If you're not going to be able to do it in front of the kids, then you better get used to it," Tyrie opines. I really think the cast is growing up and learning some life lessons about responsibility -- except for Brooke, naturally. "It's all about my comfort," she says. Alex, meanwhile, is watching these events unfold thinking that "Chris is about to open Pandora's box." I myself have to wonder if Brooke will cause Chris to lose his cool for what would have to be the first time ever in his life.

"Well, this is what I'm wearing," Brooke concludes. "If you don't like it, don't look at me."

Not looking at Brooke is one thing. Averting your eyes while she relieves herself in the middle of camp is another. "Wiping yourself in the middle of camp -- not okay!" Chris actually has to explain to her.

For her part, Brooke cannot believe that this whole camping thing is such a big deal. She realizes that they will have kids with them at some point, but says she hopes that her roommates "would have enough faith in me to know that it's different." Well, she can't expect people to think she's all of a sudden going to follow the rules and wear pants when she's surrounded by hormonally charged fifteen-year-olds. But she continues to try to explain herself the next day to Chris.

Saint Chris tells Brooke: "There is a line. That last night, it was over the top. If I stood up and a male was wiping himself in front of females, that could be grounds for firing a person." For the first time, Brooke seems to grasp how inappropriately she's been behaving, and becomes worried about her job.

The crew reunites with Colie, who doesn't understand why everyone is making a big deal about Brooke. She seems to get the picture when the Outward Bound instructors sit everyone down for a big talk about professionalism. This is a 24-hour job, Chris explains, and they need to keep it PG-13.

Then he hands them their paychecks, and they joyfully flee back to civilization, agreeing that although the mountains are beautiful, the house is even prettier. Colie reveals that she has a big crush on "crunchy granola guy" Adam, they cuddled the night before, talking all the while, and she's thrilled. Brooke declares that she's never been happier to see "something that's not trees," squealing with delight.

Brooke dismally predicts that she's not going to last in the woods: "My chance is already shot to hell," she complains. "My boss thinks that I'm an oversexed freak."

To which Alex responds with a true gem of wisdom, the likes of which have probably never, ever been heard on MTV: "You can change yourself," he tells Brooke earnestly. "You control who you are."

I'm flabbergasted -- but, for the first time since accepting the obligation to watch every last second of The Real World: Denver, it's in a good way. This cast is growing and possibly even trying to change themselves for the better. Color me stupefied. Brooke just wants to be happy, she says, and Alex encourages her, telling her that she can do it.

I really, really hope I'm wrong, but I suspect that next week will be a return to the shallow antics we've had to sit through during the past eight episodes (we can't blame Chris -- the poor guy is an outdoorsman, not a miracle worker). Episode Ten appears to include more hot-tub makeout sessions, Stephen flirting with girls and screaming at Brooke, but most shockingly, we'll see this exchange between Brooke and Davis...

Brooke: "I cannot have sex with you, Davis."

Davis: "Why not?"

Brooke: "Why not? You're gay, you have a boyfriend and we live together."

Lord have mercy.

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Amy Haimerl