Tool Academy (season one)
It would be tempting to say that MTV keeps a special time slot for trashy reality programs, but that would be to deny the bulk of their programming. It’s more accurate to say that the 1.30pm trash timeslot is the only one I’m able to stomach, although I’m sure that Tool Academy is set to test that theory1.
Channel 9 first gave TA a go when it emerged that one of Tiger Woods’ (many) lovers had been a participant with her “tool” boyfriend. Classy of 9 to think that screening this would rate on the back of the golfer’s scandal. It’s surprising, but heartening, that it didn’t.
I’m joining TA a few episodes in. I’ve no idea what the structure is, what the reward is, what the entertainment value is… but I’m determined to get something of value out of it.
The Tools (and their laydeez)
M.E.G.A. (aka Playa Pimpin Tool) and Margo
Josh (aka Tiny Tool) and Ashley
Shawn (aka Loud Mouth Tool) and Aida
Matsuflex (aka Naked Tool) and Jenna
Rob (aka Power Tool) and Karine
The therapist: Trina, a starchy English woman who looks and sounds like Sister Clarice from Caprica, and who will therefore (in the nicknamey spirit of TA) be referred to as such.
This weeks lesson: maturity and growth
A couple of our tools recognise that this is important.
To kick off the challenge, the Tools’ previously recorded 5 year plans are revealed. And revealing.
- Matsuflex: “I wanna get more experienced in the realm of sex, like… let’s have a foam party with like 3 bunnies”
- PPT: “I plan on having some crazy sex with girls that, you know, my girl could be incorporated with”. Margo seems shocked. Shocked! Has she forgotten that she’s on Tool Academy not, like, Snag Academy?
- Josh: “I want a Lamborghini door with Lambo doors”. Ashley is pissed off because she wasn’t included in his five year plan. All the others are splitting their sides because they have no idea what he means (I had to check Urban Dictionary just to check that this didn’t have a more special meaning). His expression shows that he doesn’t have a clue, either.
- Rob: “I’d like to further my relationship with Karine and make something work instead of just what we have going on right now.” Okay, he’s gotta go right now – he’s at a completely different evolutionary stage than these other tools. Naturally, Karine is thrilled. He’s a keeper! (He is sporting a shiner, though, so perhaps he’s not as sweet as this makes him seem.)
- Loud Mouth: “I want to own a couple million dollar homes, a bunch of really nice cars, and a yacht and be kind of set for life”. Aspirational. Given that the accompanying photo shows him in a red boa, jockeys and a pair of handcuffs, his plan is surprisingly coherent. Sister Clarice’s reading of this seems to alert him to the fact that it’s a very immature list, so he backtracks a bit, to Aida’s satisfaction.
- Tommy (who looks like a cross between Derek Zoolander and Chas Tenenbaum in his shot): “I’d like to have a child”. Girlfriend Krista is as shocked as ANYONE at that. “Are you SERIOUS?” She’d settle for him having a job, which brings him back down to earth.
The couples retreat to work on a joint five year plan. Of course, they are being watched by Sister Clarice.
- Ashley wants Tiny Tool to go back to school, which Sister Clarice interprets as “Josh wants to go back to school!”. Oh, denial – so much easier to stay there if your therapist is right there with you.
- Tommy wants to get into “some sort of biology? Marine Biology? Sports Management would be cool”. What do they teach these kids at school? Krista tries to guide him towards being a high school basketball coach (which, really? Having a photo of you in a headband with a basketball qualifies you for that?) but he tries to wriggle back towards his Jerry Maguire fantasy.
- PPT and Margo are talking, but I’m not sure what they are actually planning. Sister Clarice thinks they are having difficulties on the subject of marriage, which… Do you think? He’s known as Playa Pimpin Tool, after all. In fact, it seems that PPT is upset that Margo is holding out on the marriage thing. He’s hurtin’.
Having completed their plans, the couples are called back into Sister Clarice’s study to present them to others. Josh and Ashley are first up, and we see that Josh’s “back to school” is… ART SCHOOL! He’s putting his dreams of being a professional bowler “in perspective”. Ah, when fantasy meets the cold, hard surface of reality, Tools are reduced to downsizing their Dude dreams to “starting my own business”. This breakthrough pleases Sister Clarice so much that she fails to ask any follow up questions, like “What kind of business? What sort of capital would you need? Experience? How will you go about this?” because a five year plan means never having to say “details”.
Loud Mouth makes incredible money but sometimes he loses it. So “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” seems to mean “I’m not currently broke so fuck off”. Sister Clarice thinks this shows that he’s moving away from his materialistic ways. Whatever.
Rob and (I want to say Ambuh!) Karine have really gone to town with their five year plan, although perhaps it would behoove them to take fertility cycles into consideration since they envisage being “happily married with 3 or 4 kids”. There’s a worrying lack of emoticons or exclamation marks, so I am left thinking that they must be… serious. They need to learn the difference between “positive” and “wishful” thinking. I need to know what Rob did to land him in Tool Academy, because he seems pretty together here.
Now we have Matsuflex, who has also decided that marriage and four children is achievable in a five year period. He has gone so far as to specify “3 boys, 1 girl” so clearly he takes a “letter to Santa” approach to future planning. He acknowledges his historical toolishness, going so far as to say that he was “crossing the line into douchebag” but that he’s learning what matters to him, and that is Jenna. Awww. Still, I feel I need to see a Venn diagram that explains what the intersection between tool and douchebag is called.
Tommy never had a father growing up, so he wants to be a father. I never had a pony growing up, but I don’t want to be equine. Sister Clarice thinks his heart is in the right place, but is still worried about his lack of career ambition. I’m with her – he tries to explain his plan for a job and can’t even articulate “I’m NOT a brain surgeon”.
Last, it’s PPT and Margo. Margo explains that it’s her feelings that are holding back from marriage, which seems to shock everyone. Surely all a woman wants is to be married, right? Loud Mouth (I love that it is written as two words) thinks that they are making “a fool of everybody” with their crazy thoughtfulness about getting married. Huh, what’s with the “just best friends” thing when “everybody else here is progressing towards marriage” muses Josh, with his banzai bandana.
Apparently all you really need, if you’re mature, “is each other, and the basics to survive”. Whoa, there – maturity doesn’t sound like much fun. Oh, wait, they’re looking for food (“killing” a “mastodon”), shelter (building a shelter) and water (self-explanatory, except that they will need to use coconut shells and banana leaves), “caveman style!” (note, not “cavecouple” style. Also note, this hierarchy of needs leaves out “clothing”). The guys are happy! There’s chest-thumping! Fist-pumping!
Karine and Rob are first to knock over their mastodon icon and move on to water collection. PPT and Margo are second. Our other tools are still hurling spears at their mastodons. Loud Mouth runs out of spears. The Mastuflex is thirsty, in the third person.
Tommy’s bucket is filled first. Sister Clarice thinks this shows he’s developing the attitude he needs to “step up”. Ashley is losing her breath and Josh comes over to support her. He gets two thumbs up from Sister Clarice as they withdraw from the challenge.
Final stage is “building a cave”, because, of course, caves aren’t found in nature. Margo and PPT win. They are very happy! Matsuflex thinks they are hustlers and reveals… that there is a $100K prize at the end of all this. Well. That puts quite a different gloss on things. You mean these people aren’t here to “grow”? To nurture their relationships? The prize for winning this challenge is a romantic picnic – all the other teams will enjoy a “mixer”, because apparently this is Young Rotary.
Loud Mouth thinks PPT and Margo are faking it and is rallying support for this view from Tommy and Matsuflex. I’m not really sure why – it’s not as though the status of their relationship is reliant on the majority view. Sister Clarice watches PPT “pouring his heart out” to Margo and realises that it’s Margo that has the maturity problem. If they are faking the relationship, then Margo didn’t get the memo that they should try to maintain the illusion.
The date is over and it’s “mixer time” or time to “party like a Matsu”, in the third person. There are high spirits and amusing japes. The one that gets most play is when Loud Mouth tries to imitate Matsu’s penchant for “getting around in his man panties” and accidentally exposes himself. The pixellators are right onto it, however we do see that Loud Mouth waxes – ahem – aggressively, and has a tattoo that reads “Kung Fu Hero” that acts as a frame for his wang. Classy.
Now that the mixer is over, it’s time for Loud Mouth and his crew to “confront MEGA [PPT] over the fact that he’s completely faking his relationship with Margo”. I hope they are gentle. Loud Mouth gets right in there and accuses PPT of never having had sex with Margo. He goes further: “I also think you’re here to hustle $100,000.” PPT looks taken aback. “I’m just being real!” LM adds, to soften the blow. PPT decides the best course of action is to clear the air, which Matsuflex interprets as “being called out”. Fortunately he’s in a kitchen, so there isn’t much around to do any damage. Oh, except for glass, beer cans, knives… I hope he’s faking the rage, but if he is? He’s a good faker. PPT explains that he’s not going to be all lovey dovey with Margo just to make the Tools feel more comfortable with his relationship and this ENRAGES Matsu even further. He tears of his T-shirt and starts screaming and thumping walls. And tables. I think there are some tool/douchebag lines being crossed here.
Reveille! The hangovers awake. I’m now guessing that Matsu might be responsible for Rob’s shiner. And that Rob might have provoked him by being… sober? Quiet? Who knows.
It’s time for “school”, apparently, and they all dress in uniforms – chinos, white shirts, baby blue sleeveless sweaters (with crests). We’re definitely in douchebag territory now. It’s the Tool Academy Glee Club! (No, really – that’s what they’re calling it. I wish I’d made it up.) They have to learn their “school song” under the tutelage of David, a “vocal coach” who is wearing a bow tie, of course. “David was very intimidating, even though he is a very flamboyant little guy”, is Loud Mouth’s assessment. Professor David’s assessment of their heartfelt performance? “Magnificent!”
Elimination time! Matsu is nervous because he “got too passionate about [his] feelings. For Jenna”. Of course! You were showing your passion, for Jenna! Rob’s been trying his hardest and doesn’t want to go. Those who’ve passed will get a maturity badge. There are six tools! Five badges! You know what that means, right?
Josh is the first to get his badge. Sister Clarice liked the way he stuck by Ashley during the challenge. Rob gets his badge for communicating his feelings. Tommy gets his for… being mature, which seems like a gimme. Matsu? Sister Clarice threatens him with expulsion, but recognises his progress in committing to Jenna. Jenna!
Loud Mouth and PPT are asked to step forward. One of them… will be expelled. Loud Mouth thinks he’s a target because he showed immaturity in “getting into a fight with MEGA” (ahem, starting a fight, dude). PPT honestly doesn’t know why he’s there. Sister Clarice tells Loud Mouth that Aida brings out the best in him, but the guys bring out his immaturity. PPT is “probably the most mature guy here”, but it’s Margo’s commitment that’s being questioned. The problem isn’t PPT, it’s Margo! Loud Mouth gets his maturity badge. He’s doubly pleased that MEGA’s out, since they were both the “alpha dogs” and now he’ll be able to rule the roost alone. Because that’s what it’s all about.
MEGA, “I’m sorry, you’re not that much of a tool, but your girlfriend is.”
Them’s the breaks, buddy. PPT has to hang up his jacket. He’s unconvinced that Sister Clarice’s professional opinion is on track.
On the next Tool Academy? Lie detector tests! And it’s all too much for some to handle! (I’m not sure that the visual of a body being taken out on a gurney will be strictly related to that VO, but… we can hope!)
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1. Jersey Shore might be the other exception that breaks the rule, since I’ve already series-linked it in IQ without having seen more than the odd video clip.
This post has been cross-posted from blahblogblah.