Another reason the fake Joe Schmo Show is more real than almost any other reality series: I can’t remember the last time I felt so nervous watching an episode of television as I did with tonight’s series finale, “The Reveal.” As much as I enjoy a show like Survivor, I’m not really all that invested in the outcome anymore. I have my rooting interests, but in the end, it doesn’t much matter to me which dirty, starving person walks away with the million. But as tonight’s episode opened, I realized I was invested in Chase and what his reaction would be when the curtain was pulled back to reveal his entire time on the show had been a lie. I really didn’t want to see this guy get hurt, and as the big moment approached (and the editors expertly crafted the build-up for maximum tension), the pit in my stomach kept growing.
The producers were evidently nervous too, which is why they made the savvy—in fact, downright devious—move of bringing Chase’s wife into the mix. Essentially, they’re making Taylor an accomplice after the fact, assuring that she’s on hand in case things go very badly. Team Schmo lays it on thick about what a great guy Chase is, how he’s “passed every test” and so on, just to make sure she doesn’t get the crazy idea that her husband has been the butt of an extremely elaborate prank that will be seen by millions of viewers. And it works! Taylor even agrees to be slathered in gold makeup to play Lady Justice in the final eviction ceremony.
But first, Chase must complete his final mission, which is specifically designed to shake his confidence. And for once, a Joe Schmo setup works exactly as planned. Chase’s “sweepstakes” strategy for luring his skip out of his house is equal parts goofy and inspired, but as Ralph Garman points out, Chase doesn’t have quite enough Ed McMahon in him to pull this off… even if it had been real. Chase later laments that he didn’t have confetti and an oversized novelty check, which really would have baited the trap. The skip slips out the back door and is apprehended by Jake, which leaves Chase worried that he may have blown his shot at his dream job at the last minute.
This is another smart move on the part of the producers, because now the reveal will follow hot on the heels of Chase learning that he’s lost The Full Bounty to Lorenzo Lamas. The reasoning here seems to be that Chase will be so relieved to learn that he didn’t actually lose to Lamas, he won’t be as upset to learn the whole show was a hoax. It doesn’t quite work out that way, though; at least, not at first. The three finalists are brought into the final ceremony, where the evicted “losers” will serve as the jury. (Even Wanda is back, just to add a little more discomfort to the proceedings.) Jake eliminates Allen, leaving Chase to go head-to-head with Lamas in the final vote.
What happens next makes for some extremely uncomfortable viewing. First, Chase is clearly devastated to lose; he can’t even put on the show of being a good sport or pretending to be happy for Lamas. But it’s only when Garman and the cast slowly unveil the hoax that Chase’s world seems to completely crumble beneath his feet. It’s tough to watch Chase breaking down as Garman continues his spiel in a jaunty manner and the producers view it all with mounting horror from the control room. And it’s impossible to know exactly what he’s feeling, or even if he fully understands what’s happening in the moment. It’s to the production team’s credit that they let the moment play out without any editorial interjection; they could have downplayed Chase’s initial reaction to make themselves look better, but in letting it play out in such a raw way, they’re acknowledging the dark side inherent in the Joe Schmo conceit: that production and viewers alike are culpable in what could have been a very unpleasant and traumatizing experience for a good guy.
In the end, though, once he’s had a chance to collect himself, it does seem as if Chase is okay with it. Of course, it helps that his wife is there to help ground him back in reality (“Are you really Taylor Rogan? Do I know you?”), and that the cast seems genuinely affectionate toward him. (The hundred grand probably doesn’t hurt, either.) I do wish the episode could have run a little longer so we could have spent more time with the post-reveal debriefing. Little moments like Chase realizing he knows Randy from Super Troopersare great, but I would have liked to have seen more specific discussion of the season’s craziest events, just to find out what Chase suspected and when he suspected it. A full post-game/reunion show would have been welcome, but as it is, the finale made for compelling, if at times excruciating, viewing.
- Another reason I would have liked a longer finale: Surely the only jury question wasn’t Chico’s lame “How much will you give to charity?” That seemed like a missed opportunity for the losers to have one more moment to shine.
- Lorenzo Lamas is not in the Casual Pouch business. Another illusion shattered.
- Feel free to link to any post-show Chase interviews in the comments. I’d love to find out how he feels about the whole thing having watched it play out over the past few weeks, and also whether he has any intention of pursuing a career in bounty hunting.