Editor's Note: We've asked writer Linda Holmes to focus on one weekly highlight — or, more likely, lowlight — from the world of summer reality TV.
The WB didn't get what it bargained for from "Beauty and the Geek," which ended Thursday. Promoted as a silly tangle of "academically impaired" women and "brilliant but socially challenged" men, the show betrayed those expectations — and its executive producer, Ashton Kutcher — by being surprisingly lively.
This week's finale pitted self-important med student Chuck and his partner Caitilin against hyperdrive nerd Richard and his partner Mindi.
Chuck and Richard were sworn enemies — Chuck's ego made Richard maniacally determined to defeat him, while Chuck resented Richard's twitchy embrace of pencil-necked stereotypes that gave geeks a bad name.
Before the competition, hobbies took center stage. Caitilin urged Chuck to cook without washing like a surgeon every eight seconds, and Mindi took Richard kayaking.
Chuck gave Caitilin a martial-arts lesson and was disappointed when her combat yell came out as a delicate "kee-yah," said the same way someone else might ask for another biscuit. Caitilin just isn't the board-breaking type. Richard blossomed while showing Mindi his piano skills, delighting her with a ragtime standard and an original ditty in her honor.
In fact, Richard and Mindi bonded so effectively that Mindi promised to make out with Richard if they won. The stakes? They were high. Money is one thing, but smooching is something else entirely.
The final round tested players' knowledge of their partners. Chuck and Caitilin grabbed the lead. Mindi and Richard forced a suspenseful tiebreaker. Richard sweated and dreamed of makeout sessions to be. Chuck dreaded the ostentatious celebration that would ensue if Richard won.
And then, after weeks of quizzes and eliminations, the $250,000 prize was ultimately decided when… Chuck knew Caitilin's middle name and Richard didn't know Mindi's.
There would be no making out. A contemporary tragedy, indeed.
Linda Holmes is a writer in Bloomington, Minn.