King of the Nerds, Episode 3: Ben and Sophie dish on flying craft, betrayal, and strategy
This show is on a roll! What I like about King of the Nerds is that, and I know we've said this before, King of the Nerds puts seemingly normal people into situations that seem fun. It's not like people watch Fear Factor hoping to be picked next to eat bugs. The only other reality show that comes close to making me wish I was participating instead of just watching would The Amazing Race. In this episode the contestants were asked to fly what looked to be a Parrot AR.drone around an obstacle course while the other team tried to shoot it down with Nerf guns, and holy shit it looked fun.I actually reviewed one of those things when I was writing for Ars Technica, and I'm going to brag by showing off some of my own maneuvers. The AR.Drone is a great toy, and I'd love to be able to play with one in the setup they had in the show, complete with Nerf guns. This is the sort of thing you and your friends would try if you had a nice budget and a warehouse to use as a staging area. As a challenge it was very tense, with a remarkable upset at the end.Let's talk strategy for a bit. First, Brandon laughing when Virgil referred to him as the “soul” of the team was amazing. It was also awkward, but mostly amazing. Joshua looked surprised when two people voted for him, and then Danielle seemed genuinely shocked to be sent to the Nerd-Off. This was pretty much the most drama we have seen on the show to date, and Danielle pulling off the win was a satisfying conclusion. I think she learned a lesson in this episode, although the reaction-shot when her third vote was called made the whole thing worth it. Every vote was a surprise to someone! Okay Sophie, was trying to bump Danielle off at this point a smart move?
I'm not much of a strategist. In Warcraft 2 I would build all the farms I could, max out on peons, and then when I had stripped the land for its resources, I killed off my own people so I had more food for warriors. So was it smart? I dunno. It was entertaining, but it made me angry, which makes for good television. In order to gripe properly I need to spoil who wins in the Nerd War, so skip ahead if you haven't seen or don't want to know.Danielle's bad luck with the drone and Brandon's inability to shoot down the enemy cost Orange the win, so Josh tells Danielle he's going to vote for her. Danielle starts to get teary-eyed and Josh says he'll vote for himself instead (which is a blatant lie, as he tells the audience). Danielle says to Brandon, “I feel really bad. I did not want the conversation to go that way” once Josh leaves. Yet in the confessional video, she tells the audience, “I'm brilliant. I got Josh to put himself in the Nerd-Off. Boom, headshot.” Josh may have blatantly lied, but manipulating someone via their emotions is just another form of deceit, so I can't really say I'm a fan of Danielle anymore. In fact, I'm not much of a fan of anyone on Orange Team—sorry, Team Servants of the Forsaken Orb - anymore. Josh lied, Danielle manipulated, Ivan was a cocky ass, and Brandon's gone. I guess I can still cheer for Moogega. She's still pretty awesome. What do you think Ben? Did you see an unfortunate side to anyone you've been cheering on?
I agree, shit got pretty meta in this episode. For all the solidarity the contestants may want to feign, someone is going to win, and everyone else is going to lose. This was the first episode where players began to really deal with strategy in a deceitful way. These games are almost never decided based on pure merit; someone has to get out the knives and start plunging them into people's backs. I'll admit that it's harder to take Danielle's surprise seriously when she was trying to do something very similar.And the Nerd-Off itself was pretty lame. Remote-controlled golf carts? Really? The last two episodes had some great moments, and required wide swaths of ability and knowledge for the players to come out ahead, but this week it was just a matter of who is better at driving the golf carts and getting the ball into the goal. The contestants have such a wide variety of skills and specialties that I'm let down when the event is designed in a way that it's hard for anyone to really shine. It's way more fun for me to see talented people doing things well than to have someone fail at a task, so I'd prefer way more Top Chef in the competition and a little less Kitchen Nightmares. For all the screen time that Danielle gets, I'm starting to think that Moogega and Genevieve are going to be stronger contestants than we assume. I'm a little disappointed that the rest of the contestants have so little screen time to really show what they can do, but hopefully that will be solved as the show goes on. It's harder to have any firm opinion on the guys, due to the annoying problem that two of the most interesting competitors were knocked out in the early episodes. What are we left with? Virgil being an ass, and the nice but bland guy with the sideburns? These reality shows are always edited so that there's a good guy, and a bad guy. Sophie, who do you think will finally clash with Virgil?
Sophie's final thoughts
We've already seen Virgil clash with Alana, and I think that relationship is going to stay contemptuous. Josh and Danielle are going to have a rocky road ahead of them as well. As for who lasts to the end, I'm not sure. It seems like the nicest people are going home first; maybe the next nerd on the chopping block will be Moogega? I know, I know, it's an unpleasant thought.Your comment about the Nerd-Off is interesting, if only because I want to play Devil's Advocate and say it may have been the most skill-based challenge yet. Each of the Nerd-Offs have taken something classically nerdy and twisted them into over-the-top, made-for-TV games. Chess got eye candy added to the mix for the first Nerd-Off, rolling a d20 was combined with bowling for the second, and this Nerd-Off took the concept of game controllers to a higher level. We can admire the stealthy, ninja-like skill of someone playing Johann Sebastian's Joust and recognize it as a game, but we criticize someone maneuvering a remote-controlled golf cart? I'm not sure I buy that logic. I think Danielle - and I say this fully acknowledging the sour taste I have from her “boom, headshot” confessional - pulled off a legitimate win. I think that is her shining. What also strikes me from this episode is that it's the first time we really get to dive deeper into the contestants' strategies for winning. As awesome as it would be to hang out with nerds like these every week, every day, playing silly games and competing in challenges, the contestants need to remember these aren't your friends; they're resources to be utilized and competitors to be beaten. That's the harsh truth of reality television game shows like this, and I'm curious to see who will stand by their principles, and who will give in to the Dark Side. I was thinking about this for awhile after I watched episode 3. I had been cheering Danielle on because she seemed pretty cool, but the crocodile tears really rubbed me the wrong way. I wonder, if I was in their shoes, would I do the same? Would I see that I was turning into someone I didn't like and voluntarily leave? Because on one hand… principles. On the other… money sure would be nice.
Ben's last word
You know how I roll.