Australia has always had a problem with the arrival of non-native lifeforms. From the original plan to send English convicts, outcasts, and transportees to the continent where they wouldn't bother Victorian England in the slightest (and the people who'd been living there for millennia? Let the Crown know when they had some pounds in their pockets to bribe with) to the ecological near-disaster resulting from some unsung genius deciding to introduce rabbits to an environment that had never seen them before, had no natural controls on the species, and couldn't figure out a double-back zig-zag jump, humanity has been shunting unwanted specimens to the smallest continent for centuries. But the species is intelligent. The species can learn. And the television-producing branch of the homid family (lotsa recessives) did not contaminate the fragile ecology with thousands of destructive invaders.
Instead, they sent twelve.
This was not an improvement.
Seven episodes ago, a dozen high-maintenance women were thrown out of a plane (unfortunately, parachutes were involved) and into the middle of Australia's Outback, there to meet, greet, and ultimately snare one of the acclimated locals. However, since the sudden presence of sixteen hundred cans of hairspray represented just a minor hazard to the environment, that native was told to gradually thin out the herd, sending them back to their actress/model lives in a city with no remaining ozone to worry about, until he finally got down to one final woman -- at which point, he would have to sign a contract swearing to leave the country if they ever decided to breed. (They have not forgotten the rabbits.)
But that was seven episodes (four by MTW, whose personal finale is still around here somewhere) and ten women ago. We're down to Natalie, who has been steering through the Outback using sonar -- at this point, I think the shrieks are just intended to bounce off nearby objects -- and Marissa, who is threatening to take over the crocodile's eon-old position as Australia's most deadly predator. That failure to identify the male two weeks ago? That wasn't an accident or lack of care. That was intentional. The more bad IDs she provides to the ranchers, the less her rivals will reproduce...
Who will win Jack's heart? Who will be bundled into a 'Danger: Ecosystem Hazard' box and shipped back to the States in an unpressurized cargo hold? Who will remember any of this four months from now?
A. No idea. B. No idea. C. Nobody. Roll opening credits.
We rejoin Jack and his 'We weren't trying for any sort of personality contrast, honest' Final Two in a hot air balloon, being kept aloft by the occasional burst from a high-powered burner and the flames which regularly emit from Natalie's mouth. (As TBS doesn't employ TAR camera operators, we also have the option to play a quick round of 'spot the person actually operating the burner'. There's no Outback Jack drinking game, but each appearance has got to be good for one shot.) The old-fashioned basket flier is traveling high above the Outback, giving the trio a look at some of the most beautiful natural lands in the world --
(Pause. Move TV and VCR into bathroom. Arrange screen to face tub. Get waterproof notebook and pen. Turn on cold water. Get in tub. Prepare to stay there for the entire summary, which already looks like it's going to make Survivor's coverage of the landscape look sick. Pressing Play.)
'I can't believe this is it,' Jack admits in confessional-tell. 'This is the final leg of the adventure.' (For the last time, Rupert Boneham, white courtesy phone.) 'It seems like just yesterday that I was being introduced to twelve beautiful women, and now these two girls have a place in my heart.' Yes, Jack. For Marissa, that would be the major aorta, where she's been blocking off the blood flow to your brain for the last seven weeks.
'It's very emotional', Jack c-t finishes as the camera moves to show Natalie gazing out over the gorgeous landscape.
'This is amazing. It really is,' Natalie gushes in c-t as the camera stays on the backdrop of the plains.
(Pause. Leave tub. Go to freezer. Get ice cube. Drop ice cube down back. Return to tub. Pressing Play.)
Marissa c-t admits to Natalie being her competitor, bestowing an honor she didn't grant to ten other women -- but feels that in the end, it's going to be Jack and her. More flames appear to leap up into the balloon, although this may have just been a burst of particularly hot air.
The balloon continues to glide over the Outback, I start to run low on ice cubes, and Natalie c-t wishes for them, citing fear of the burner. The flame being produced is hot, and she's just a little worried about her hairspray's residue igniting. Marissa's apparently thinking about the same thing, as she's now cowering against the edges of the basket every time the burner ignites. 'Hope your hair doesn't fry off!' Natalie c-t laughs, demonstrating the sense of humor that Jack claims is keeping her around, not to mention taking over the title of official on-site basher from Maria. She's really come far, don't you think?
Finally, the balloon sets down as well as they ever do -- a bumpy touch-and-go-and-try-it-again landing, assisted by Jack grabbing onto the branches of the few available trees and the women using pinpoint sound blasts to clear out the area after each bump -- and the trio heads for the last camp of the series, which is -- oh, no... It's on a beach overlooking Elimination Sea. A pristine beach, with beautiful natural rock formations, sand that (according to Marissa's c-t) is as fine as baby powder, and a perfect view of the thousand shades of blue which make up the West Indian Ocean. And I am now out of ice.
'It is the most gorgeous beach I've ever seen,' Marissa c-ts. Words can describe how much I hate Marissa right now: just not ones I can use in public without someone dropping a restraining order in my mailbox.
We get a good luck at the camp itself -- open-side tents with the occasional bamboo folding screen to provide a privacy block -- and the camera continues to roam around the beach as Natalie declares the setting to be the most romantic she's ever seen. Jack shows the women around the camp, everyone starts to unpack, I pre-emptively retain a lawyer and, just to add insult to injury, the sun glints off the water.
(Pause. As said many moons ago for Adam's desert scrublands mansion: I don't want the bachelor, I don't care about the bachelor, I want the scenery... The summary moves to the front of the air conditioner, sent to 55F, high blast, and with no drying before approaching it. Pressing Play.)
'The only thing that would make this better,' Natalie c-t considers, 'is if Marissa was twenty thousand miles away.' No, the only thing that would make this better is if you, she, and he were all somewhere in the Marquesas being eaten alive by little black specks and I was on the (censored) beach!