Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Quest episode 1: "The Quest Begins"

“The Quest” is what happens when you admit that all of those challenges on your reality show are fake anyway, so you might as well make your entire reality show “fake” and have a story and actors. I’ve been watching this show on ABC for a few weeks. I started a little late, but then I thought “You know, I should at least say on the blog to watch it” but then I forgot. And then they started burning off two shows a week and it’s almost over. But you can watch all the episodes on Hulu or on ABC’s website. Mostly all of them; they take a week to be available (unless you have Hulu Plus). Clearly this is just me recapping something for fun instead of being timely, because if all I ever write about is “Project Runway” I will lose my damn mind. But I think this show is great and I hope the two-episodes-each-week is because of poor planning and not poor ratings. (click for more)

This show has challenges, just like any other show, but every challenge is tied into the story somehow. The very beginning of this episode is the producers talking about how they came up with this concept and how they cast people who would be willing to live in a fantasy world. Like if you wanted to work at the Ren Faire. In addition to that casting they had to find actors and do monster makeup and all that stuff.

Each person (in the real world), finds a small box made out of a hollow piece of wood, with an actual scroll inside. The scroll addresses the paladin and says “the Fates” have chosen them to save “Everealm” from “Verlox”. I mean it already sounds like a video game. All 12 paladins end up in some underground tunnel somewhere.

Lina talks about her competitiveness and older brothers. Andrew has ADHD and is “down for whatever”. Shondo is an MMA fighter. His name is Shondo Blades. I am already rooting for him. Ashley is a horse trainer which should come in handy? Or she’ll fail spectacularly. Jim is nerdy and adorable. Somewhere in the tunnels they all meet up and then get led somewhere else by some random extra. There’s a river and a raft and this is pretty elaborate. Actually it reminds me of a Disney ride. You go down the river and then stop here and there to see things. So off to the side are the Fates. Are they supposed to be the Greek Fates? Who knows. I will tell you, though, that the Fates are one blonde woman, one Asian woman with an accent, and one tall black woman with a bald head. They stand in the dark and tell the paladins that “our brother Verlox” is laying siege to the lands that resist him, etc. It’s pretty standard RPG fare. There’s a bad guy, he threatens the kingdom, someone with magic brought you here to save it because you are the destined hero. I do like the idea that this might be “live-action Zelda” as Kmanpat put it. Only the Sunspear will defeat Verlox. So each paladin will get one piece of the Sunspear since there are 12 pieces. Once they find them, Crio will also find them. Crio I guess is the Fates’ helper or whatever. So they’re finding these pieces now? It sounded like they would be a gradual thing. I mean, in a video game they’d put one in each dungeon. You know what I mean.

The group exits the tunnels in the woods somewhere and find the Sunspear pieces. Just sitting out on a log or whatever. They don’t even have to hunt for them? Dig up leaves or climb trees? They just pick them up off the ground? I wanted this to be a task. Anyway, once everyone takes a piece, they find Crio, who is labeled “The Dreamer” on the chyron onscreen. Everyone gets a holster, but Crio is in a super hurry to get them moving. Enemy spies and so forth. As the whole group traipses through the woods, they hear noises and then an ogre busts out of the trees to drag off the extra that met them in the tunnels. As everyone runs, they try to figure out if they should do anything, but of course this is part of the script so there’s nothing to be done. Shondo gets upset and says they should never let that happen again. No one gets left behind. Up until now people have been into the story, asking Crio if they can trust him and so forth, but this is the point where I knew everyone was totally into it. It’s been 5 minutes and already someone is concerned enough about that random extra he’s berating the rest of the contestants. Also this is where I decided to root for Shondo.

Montage of everyone walking all night through the woods, smearing themselves with mud for some reason and climbing over logs and stuff. I wish I had seen what they told them to make everyone put mud on themselves. That seems like it would be good. At the edge of the woods, everyone sees Castle Saenctum across the field and they are almost about to cry about it. But then the enemy soldiers find them so everyone has to run.

Inside the castle courtyard are a gang of actors working and being background action. It’s actually pretty impressive. Especially since these people are covered in mud, wearing random canvas tunics over their street clothes. They are really out of place. A soldier escorts them to another courtyard, I think, and says the vizier ordered everyone locked up. It’s not a room because it’s open to the sky but there’s a door and a high wall. The paladins freak out, especially because Crio gets removed from the room right away. He promises they’ll be fine. Some of the boys start looking for escape routes and trying to climb the walls. Shondo says they should give Crio some time but then escape if he doesn’t return. The group tries to decide if they should let Crio handle it or if they should start climbing walls. On the one hand, they might get into worse trouble if they break out. But on the other hand, they are supposed to be saving everyone and they’ve been locked up in jail. Everyone is in character, discussing the motivations of an actor. I love it. Andrew, I think, wants one person to escape because he doesn’t think anything bad will happen. But the group in general decides to wait and everyone agrees to wait.

Patrick is a math teacher. Katie likes him because they are both from Chicago. Math FTW! Katie tells everyone she didn’t fit in anywhere, so she’s used to making up worlds and stuff. Bonnie was a super nerd. She still seems nerdy, like she’s the girl I used to know who wore a cloak around town instead of wearing a coat like a normal person. But cooler than that, I hate that stupid cloak girl. Leticia used to watch the WWF, but is now into superheroes. Partially because of the characters but also because that’s a way a woman can beat a man.

The door finally opens and the vizier walks in. You know he’s the vizier because he has an ornate cloak and a tall staff and he looks sketchy. The vizier is always evil, right? I mean…it’s pretty standard. He says they’re all Crio’s responsibility, and then he walks away. Crio has to ask him to tell the paladins about the quest. 8000 years ago the fates found 12 heroes and they created the Sunspear, and then one of them defeated Verlox. Now he’s reappeared, and that means the Fates find 12 new paladins. But they don’t have the Sunspear! Good day sir! In a very dramatic moment, which I liked, Crio says to show him, and everyone gets out their piece and holds it up. Actually the part I really liked was Ashley asking Crio if he’s sure. This is so clearly a moment where they prove to the evil vizier that they’re worthy, and Ashley made sure to play along. So the vizier (I’m pretty sure they didn’t state his name) is like, fine, the Fates will test them. Evil vizier reluctantly admits the heroes might help, check.

They end up inside in the dorm area, with bedrooms and a common room with a big round table with everyone’s names. Awesome. Everyone pairs off to find roommates: Lina and Katie, Andrew and Christian, Leticia and Jasmine, Jim and Shondo, Adria and Ashley. Patrick and Bonnie get paired up because Patrick admits he snores, Bonnie admits she is a heavy sleeper, and Adria shoves them together and bails. Immediately Patrick declares her as his kid sister so no drama. Everyone hides their Sunspear pieces.

In the morning some guy busts into all the rooms and yells at everyone to put on their training gear. Hee. He’s hot though. Jasmine calls him “Mr. Tightpants”. Bonnie has put her hair in several braids tied with a thick piece of rope. Now everyone has leather tunics and pants and boots. Hot guy says it’s his job to turn them into warriors and he doesn’t care about the quest. Verlox has defeated all the other kingdoms and they need to be ready.

Everyone heads for the training field, which appears to have several rows of scarecrows, watchtowers, a tall brush fence, and several soldiers on horseback. Mr. Tightpants introduces himself as Sir Ansgar, head of the royal army. They must learn teamwork. So they will learn to work “scorpions” which seem to be giant crossbows. There will be one person running to get arrows, one to aim, and one on the watchtower telling the other two where to aim. Also there are mud cannons for extra fun. This is so much a Survivor challenge but I like making it have a story and a purpose. The team with the least hits will “face the consequences”. They pick arrows for random teams. Jim says he and Shondo and Lina are on a team, and since he and Shondo are roommates he feels pretty good. Jasmine, Adria, and Leticia are a team and Jasmine is happy to have an all-woman team. Bonnie, Andrew, and Ashley. Patrick, Christian, and Katie. Christian has already said he doesn’t know what Katie can do, but he does it in such a way that you know he thinks she can’t do anything.

The brush wall is so high they can’t see over it, which is why the watchtowers are there. The mud cannons are not really doing anything but being annoying. I’m not sure it is preventing anything from happening. At least everyone appears to be hitting things. Patrick thinks he should have been aiming instead of Katie, because math. Also probably because Katie is saying things like “I’m not even kidding you like, barely tap it so it comes less.” Lina is telling Shondo he’s made hits that actually were not hits. She thinks it is helping his attitude, which it probably is. He’s really getting into it. I think “pimp juice” is mentioned.

As they are counting the arrows, you can see from the wide shot that someone has drawn frowny faces on some of the scarecrows. Hee. Christian worries about being in the losing team. Ansgar tells them they all suck ass. Ha! The team of girls only hit 6 targets. That sucks. Shondo’s team got 10, Bonnie’s team got 13, and Christian’s team only got 4 targets. 4?! That is horrible. Ansgar yells that he could have killed more people chucking arrows by hand. Bonnie, Andrew, and Ashley must decide who showed the most leadership. Ashley and Andrew quickly say Bonnie was the eyes, and they couldn’t have done it without her. Bonnie tries to argue but they insist. Wait, no one is trying to win? Everyone is eager to reward others? This show is crazy. Bonnie wins a medal, the Mark of Leadership. She’s so proud that his means she could be a hero.

Back at the castle, Christian says Katie and Patrick aren’t “mentally there” so he is not worried. He’s the only one who is super competitive about this. Katie’s pretty upset. Everyone is sitting at the round table when Crio collects them. They wander off into the woods and find a temple. Or some ruins. I don’t know, it’s pretty impressive. The Fates are up on the altar behind a podium, with broken window frames behind them. It looks like a ruined church. Whatever, it’s awesome. The Fates will test the losers again, where one of them will win. The last two will be judged by the other paladins. So there’s voting. The Fates speak as if they share a brain and everyone finishes each other’s sentences. The three losers voiceover about how they need to win.

Each paladin has a bow and arrows. There is a rotating circle, with three dummies. The person whose dummy has the fewest arrows will survive. Christian says he works with weapons, and he seems the most confident, so maybe he’ll choke. Patrick thinks he can’t beat Christian in shooting, but he might be able to beat Katie in the final vote, so he makes sure Katie is going to lose. When Christian sees which way the wind is blowing he nails Katie’s dummy also. In the end Christian’s dummy had the fewest arrows so he is safe.

Everyone but Patrick and Katie go off into the woods to a convenient table to discuss the vote. Christian doesn’t see Patrick as a threat but as a friend so he’s going to vote that way. Jasmine thinks Katie has an inquisitive mind, while Patrick has “protectiveness”. Andrew admits he was going to get rid of threats, but now he thinks he wants to keep strong players around to help him when he gets to the end. The people on the quest will either be the hero, or they’re supposed to help the “one true hero”. So people maybe will not get rid of threats? You know, like it should be? All those clichés you see from trying to watch “Survivor” and so forth are not here and I kind of like it. Normally when I’m watching Survivor and people start talking about playing “with honor” and all that nonsense I hate it. But here people are trying to be honorable, and the way this is set up it might actually be a requirement so I’m totally fine with it.

Each paladin will stand behind the person they think should continue. Oo, public voting. Everyone just sort of wanders up and in the end only two people vote for Katie. Aww. Everyone leaves Katie in the ruins. She puts her Sunspear piece into the altar and then walks through an archway to “meet your fate”. They do a cool effect as she walks through like she evaporated into smoke or something.

So really if you like the challenges on “Survivor” or “The Amazing Race”, but don’t really like the interpersonal drama, this is probably a show you would like. The only person really trash talking other contestants is Christian. But the fantasy aspect of it keeps it from being super boring. Also I love that everyone is totally into the story.

Next time: horse tournament and meeting the queen.

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