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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Joe Schmo Show: “An Actor Among Us!”

Illustration for article titled iThe Joe Schmo Show/i: “An Actor Among Us!”
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Last week’s cliffhanger was a bit confusing, as it wasn’t quite clear what had set Chase off when he spotted crew members walking outside the bathroom window at some point after the fugitive “P-Nut” made his escape. That mystery is solved early in tonight’s episode: “Surely one of these production people would have seen him,” Chase notes in one of his confessionals. But as Randy is quick to point out, it’s been an hour since the escape, and P-Nut only had to make it a few yards to the bushes without being spotted.

Chase still isn’t buying it, however; he wonders if this is still part of the challenge, or if “they’re trying to test me on a bigger level.” Well, yes, they are, but it’s way too soon for Chase to figure that out. It’s up to Jake Montrose to settle things down by claiming that one of the crew members had spotted P-Nut, leading to his capture. It’s a nice try at reversing Chase’s suspicions by pointing out how dumb is was for P-Nut to run with so many people around, but it’s still not quite good enough.


As Chase struggles with his suspicions, a strange dynamic overtakes The Joe Schmo Show. Our rooting interests become blurred. On some level we want Chase to figure this out: He’s our “hero,” after all, and the producers have basically cast themselves in the villain roles. Dramatically speaking, it would be satisfying to see him figure it out and turn the tables on the hoaxers. But for those of us who are enjoying Joe Schmo, that would be the worst thing that could happen because the show would be over. The more suspicious he gets, the less likely it becomes that the final reveal will have the same impact it otherwise would. In that sense, we’re rooting for the villains to push the unreality as far as they can without tipping it over the cliff.

Even Officer Wentworth isn’t distracting enough to shake Chase out of his funk, so it’s time for Plan C: Randy making a big scene about his missing urn. This snaps Chase out of it, but the seeds of distrust have definitely been planted, as we’ll soon see. For now, the producers go all out to make sure Chase stays distracted, including setting up another challenge (with no apparent prize): making a TV commercial for Jake’s bounty hunting company. I don’t know whether or not this event was originally scheduled as a later challenge and then hastily moved up in order to keep Chase busy, but either way, it does the trick. Chase gets so caught up in being the director, he doesn’t even seem to notice that the final product is (intentionally) badly edited and full of gaffes.


Finally it’s time for the eviction ceremony that never came last week. (It’s pretty clear at this point that Joe Schmo has abandoned the traditional reality show structure in favor of Chase-centric cliffhangers, which only make sense. It’s not like we’re watching this show in great suspense over who will be evicted next.) Chase’s alliance has targeted Chico, but the producers aren’t ready for him to go, so a tie vote is arranged. In a nod to Survivor’s infamous “purple rock,” the tiebreaker is a best-of-seven coin toss, which Allison loses—after which she promptly loses her shit. Literally, if Randy is to be believed, as his urn containing his beloved dead dog’s ashes turns up with a prize inside: allegedly a deuce dropped by Allison.

At this point, something fascinating happens: Chase goes totally silent, sporting a knowing smirk as Randy carries on. This freaks out the production team more than anything that’s happened so far, which is a delightful turn of events. They have no way of knowing what he’s thinking, which is much worse than the situation with P-Nut’s escape. When Chase requests a notebook from production, they go so far as to zoom in on what he’s writing and try to decipher it, which is the most Truman Show-esque development yet. It’s a little creepy, but it leaves us on basically the same note on which the last episode ended: Chase is questioning his reality, which is bad news for Team Schmo. It’s not too surprising that Chase would wonder if Randy was an actor, given that The Asshole’s Asian-specific insults all sound way too scripted. (“You talk about a Tet Offensive” landed with an audible thunk.) But it will definitely be interesting to see if, and how, the producers can reel Chase back in.

Stray observations:

  • What is the deal with Allen? He’s supposed to be “The Buddy,” but he’s basically been a non-factor to this point. I don’t know if there’s a big character turn planned for him, but so far he hasn’t brought much to the party.
  • “Montrose put the ‘FU’ in ‘fugitive!’”
  • If you were hoping to see a donkey take a dump on television tonight, congratulations!

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