King of the Nerds, Episode 4: Ben and Sophie talk reconciliation, and what it means to be an outcast
When we last left our heroes, Team Blextrophy had finally broken Team Servants of the Forsaken Orb (SotFO)'s winning streak, a-dork-able nerd Brandon had been exiled from Nerdvana by Danielle, who was in turn experiencing drama with teammate Joshua. Episode 4 picks up right after the teams return from the Nerd-Off, and it's clear the wounds are still fresh. Throughout the episode, tension remains between Danielle and Josh, which makes for some just plain good TV watching. As much as I hate the manufactured drama of most reality television shows, the fact is that without conflict, a story is very boring. Notice how there's no Halo 3.5 which has you just sit in cryogenic slumber for four years? No Call of Duty: Modern Everybody Gets Along And Has Reasonable Discourse? That's because you need an antagonist, you need someone to root for, and you need something to look forward to. Thankfully, this episode delivers all of the above.Almost immediately upon return to Nerdvana, Josh tries to congratulate Danielle and get in her good graces. It's kind of like watching a child walk toward a kitten and you can see fur bristling. Kid, that cat wants nothing to do with you. It is warning you to back off. Josh persists though, acting as though nothing is wrong. In preparation for the Nerd War, a live debate about superheroes, Josh offers to help Danielle. She puts her hand out towards him and calls him a lying piece of shit. Josh leaves and Ivan tries to placate a clearly-distressed Danielle, who warns that Josh is a terrible person. The tension is high, and it looks like this strain could break the team's morale. After the Nerd War, Team SotFO hang out back at Nerdvana and get a little tipsy. Naturally, this is the perfect time for Josh to try and make peace with Danielle. His proposal: One hard slap to the face so Danielle can feel like she got even. It's all executed and edited together wonderfully; the proposal is absurd, the contestants are feeling less inhibited, the build-up to the slap is hilarious, and when it comes, it's satisfying. Look at Josh's cheek and how red it is! I don't think Danielle held back! The two then show up in the confessional booth together, and pinky promise to be BFFs and that they're going to rally together to win. It's like watching your favorite sitcom pairing get back together after a fight. This was my favorite King of the Nerds episode yet. I love it for the same reason Ben and I were drawn to the show from the beginning: this episode showed us nerds just being normal, everyday people. Yes, nerds get drunk and act silly! Yes, they get upset with each other! Gasp! Ben, what did you think of the way the contestants were portrayed this time around?
Danielle got all of that slap. It was amazing. It was even better because it seemed like everyone was best buds directly after. Let it never be said that physical violence never solves anything! I liked this episode quite a bit. Being given arguments about superheroes to debate in a formal setting was great, as was having Director of Debate and Forensics of USC being one of the judges. Again, that's not something you're going to see on many reality TV shows. I also think Kevin Smith flubbed the judging on this one; Genevieve nailed her subject and deserved the win. I call bullshit on that decision. Bullshit!The Nerd-Off consisted of superhero trivia, and Genevieve again proves she's a fierce competitor. They are given a little bit of time to prepare, and she instantly hits the books to learn about the various Green Lanterns. She nails the trivia competition, gets to crash through some walls both literally and (groan) figuratively, and takes the win. I don't think any members of the attending contestants or the home audience were pulling for Alana, who refused to study and then complained that the questions were too hard. To be fair, I didn't know any of the questions either. I think everyone knows an Alana. She has a point about being an outcast, and you feel bad for her, but it also seems like she's uncomfortable to be around. You feel bad that they don't have many friends, but not bad enough to invite them to your birthday party. I don't think anyone expected her to win, so knocking her out of competition didn't do much for the playing field. We're kind of back to a happy place. Everyone seems to be friendly, someone got slapped, the nerds got drunk and had some fun times, and a weak competitor got served. So… what's next. Sophie, how much do you dislike Alana?
It's true: Alana is very nerdy and has some definite cred, but she also made things very hard for herself. I'm not saying she's a bad person, but she wasn't a particularly strong competitor, nor did she make a strong case for herself in social situations. From what we saw on television - and yes, it's edited to tell a story, so take this with a grain of salt - she was awkward and quiet, didn't seem particularly knowledgeable even in her area of expertise, and as we saw during the cosplay competition, even a bit of a bully. In the clips available online, she comes across as downright inappropriate, flirting with contestants and touching them when they clearly don't want to be touched. Her “meet the contestants” video was full of her bragging about how she could sex up anyone she wanted, and during the debate she complained that her polo wasn't allowing her to use the superpower of cleavage. Alana seemed to want it both ways: for people to feel sorry for her, and to see her as a maneater femme fatale.Sorry, but that doesn't work and frankly irks me as a woman, because here's someone blatantly admitting they want to use sex appeal to win, not their mind. Alana rubbed me the wrong way from the start, and I'm glad she's gone. In fact, I think her absence portends a chance for Team Blextrophy to rally. With Alana gone and Blextrophy practically on life support, I think Geneveive will rise as leader - even more than she already has - and Blextrophy will be able to work more cohesively and productively. I also have to agree with you on the Kevin Smith thing. What the hell, man? I like Josh and he gave a good answer, but Geneveive came out swinging by publicly correcting him, and her answer was full of well-argued points. She totally should have won that. Kevin Smith, you were supposed to be cool! I have to say I also really liked this episode's Nerd-Off. The person who studied - you know, like nerds do - won, and was rewarded with getting to act out a nerd fantasy. The chess game was similar, but here the contestants got to participate in the action instead of just watching from the sidelines. No gimmicks, nothing that seemed unrelated or overblown, just good old trivia with the reward of awesome destruction. We've seen cosplay, gaming, roleplaying, and now comic books all have their 15 minutes of fame; Ben, what do you think is yet to come?
Ben's final word
I think it's funny how often we repeat how tasteful the show seems. You shouldn't get a medal for treating the contestants like human beings! Going indoor skydiving is a blast, by the way. I've done real skydiving and the indoor variety and both are great fun. Every time I watch an episode it seems like the producers of the show go out of their way to show the contestants a good time.So what's next? I'm not sure. The Joshua/Danielle team may be nearly unstoppable, although Genevieve really showed her stuff this episode. She owned her superhero outfit, she busted down those walls, and she told kids about the power of studying. I damn near cheered during the last minutes of the show. It was neat to see someone having so much fun excelling in trivia and getting to act out that role. Virgil is still out there, like a prowling, but nerdy, tiger, and if I were in the game I'd be scared of him. I loved the scenes with Danielle and Joshua. She had no problem saying how she felt, and he very quickly came up with a solution to the situation and made it right, even if he was the victim of a righteous slap to the face. He's a cagey guy, and once his play failed, he realized that he's stronger with Danielle than without her. That's a smart play, and they're now the two players I have my eye on. I can't wait to see what happens next.
Sophie's final thoughts
They'd make such a cute couple.
Ben's finalest thought
If they were soldiers in Fire Emblem, I'd make them fight next to each other.