How far over the top is too far? At what point do the absurdities of “The Full Bounty” become too unbelievable for even the most trusting mark? Chaining your Schmo to a hulking man in an orange jumpsuit—supposedly a convict serving a 41-year sentence for, among other things, attempted murder? Staging that convict’s escape and bringing in a hard-bitten warden to reenact Tommy Lee Jones’ famous speech from The Fugitive? Or if somehow none of these shenanigans manage to set off any warning bells, will you instead be tripped up by an unplanned but seemingly innocuous occurrence, such as your mark spotting some workmen moving around outside the window through which the fugitive has just escaped?
At this point, it doesn’t seem like anything the producers can dream up will set off Chase’s bullshit detector. It’s as if he’s so laser-focused on winning the competition and becoming America’s next top bounty hunter, it never even occurs to him to question the process that will get him there. It would be interesting to know how much he was told during the interview process for “The Full Bounty”; if, for instance, he’d been informed that he might be placed in dangerous situations, such as interacting with criminals, that might help explain his willingness to buy into this week’s ridiculous scenario.
Of course, Chase isn’t in any real danger; it’s actually the production team that’s taking the big risk, not only by raising the level of unreality to new heights, but by introducing four new actors into the mix. Those would be the orange-suited gentlemen playing “Shiv,” “Eightball,” “Doc,” and “P-Nut,” the new playmates our contestants will be getting to know. Two players will be chained to each convict, but since there’s an odd number of participants remaining, one player will have to go one-on-one with a dangerous felon...and of course, by purely random chance, that happens to be Chase. He’s paired up with P-Nut, who seems like a nice enough guy for someone who supposedly tried to strangle his wife.
The inmates have been brought in not to only to impart the wisdom of their criminal ways, but to enjoy some lovely hors d’oeuvres (“Caviar, boss?”) and participate in the immunity challenge. If nothing else, this turn of events should have raised Chase’s suspicions. After all, if he’s a seasoned reality TV viewer, he should wonder why this challenge wasn’t scheduled for an even number of competitors. Instead, he is forced to choose between dragging around a 150-pound mannequin that’s falling apart or dragging around Stan the interpreter. For comedy’s sake, I wished he’d picked the former, but alas, it’s “Stannequin” in his nice dress slacks and shoes who gets manhandled through the obstacle course.
It’s all to no avail, as Randy and Allison are the predetermined winners. (The “twist,” in which they are forced to assigned their immunities to other players, is probably the most believable part of the challenge in the way it brings Randy’s inner asshole into direct conflict with Allison’s mounting rage over the unfairness of the competition.) With Randy wearing the immunity vest, Chase and his alliance will have to find a new target for the eviction ceremony. As it did a couple of weeks ago, however, The Joe Schmo Show messes with the expected format by ending with a cliffhanger: P-Nut’s escape, followed by Chase voicing his suspicions about the veracity of said escape.
This is one of those situations where I’d love to see a little more of the behind-the-scenes planning behind a stunt. For instance, was there a contingency plan in place in case Chase had expressed to the guard that P-Nut shouldn’t be uncuffed to use the bathroom? Would the producers have gone through with it anyway? At the very least, it would have been harder to put Chase on the spot afterward if he could just say, hey, I told the guy not to do it. I’m also a little unclear on exactly what set Chase off at the end. Presumably, he’ll explain in a confessional next week, but it seems to me that there must be crewmen walking around with ladders and such all the time on a show like this. That doesn’t necessarily mean they were there right at the moment P-Nut made his escape, does it? Whatever the case, the producers have now heard the words they never wanted to hear from Chase: “This is a set-up.” It certainly is, but we’ll have to wait another week to find out what he suspects and how, or if, the Schmo team will cover its tracks.
- Jo Newman as Karlee continues to be the weakest link among the fake contestants, at least as far as maintaining the fiction is concerned. This week, she goes into a laughing fit while forcing everyone to sing along with her and the ever-unnerving Mr. Wentworth. She manages to cover it up by pretending she’s actually sobbing, and it doesn’t seem like Chase picks up on the faux pas. (There’s no follow-up to last week’s accidental “hearing” incident, so it looks as if that’s forgotten for now.) Looked at another way, though, you could say Newman is actually providing the show with more than her share of drama so far. Maybe she’s a mole.
- Ralph Garman is really killing it as Jake Montrose. I enjoyed his explanation for the obstacles, each of which was based on a different bounty hunting case, particularly the mud pit inspired by the time he caught up to a very angry lesbian at an Indigo Girls show.
- “They are literally the walking, talking scum of the earth. All right, who’s ready to have some fun?”
- Loved Chase’s deadpan response to P-Nut’s request for pictures of his wife (or sister) in lingerie. “How about some cookies?”