The Tester 3 – Episode 5 Recap: Kwaja Has a Stick

TheTester3Episode5

We’ve talked before about the ways in which Brent Gocke, head Tester judge and Sony first-party quality assurance release manager, exudes likability and professionalism the way Emma Stone exudes comic timing. But if Gocke is the personable Everyboss, Todd Papy, the creative director at Santa Monica Studios—and the guy to whom the winner of this little contest will be reporting–is the stone-cold image of Death Incarnate, a merciless, steely-eyed tyrant who’d crush a minion with his index finger for failing to put crushed ice in his morning Mountain Dew. Okay, that’s probably a slight exaggeration, but the death stare and no-bullshit vibe Papy rocks in this week’s episode is more than a little unsettling. He may actually be a teddy bear, but let’s put it this way: You clearly don’t want to miss a beta deadline with this guy.

In a way, Papy’s the living embodiment of the middle stretch of reality shows like this, the whiplash point at which the fun blinks out like an unplugged PS3 and the clowns and screw-ups are unexpectedly put on irrevocable notice. We’ll see if Skyd1ddy gets the memo in time.

Synopsis: It’s like beach-blanket bingo, only with more entertainment value, clumsy flailing and sand in the toga: In blindfolded teams of two, contestants scrabble through the sands of Santa Monica Beach to find and match God of War-themed objects. The winning team gets to select one losing player to join them on a behind-the-scenes tour at Santa Monica Studios that includes a sit-down interview with Papy and his team. Bottles are lost, twigs are found and the shine finally comes off the show’s Golden Boy.

Dopey reality-show trope: Emotional moment overload. Kwajamonster and krystipryde weep over the loss of J-Tight and Ninjanomyx (really?) in last week’s double elimination. RealityPalez and Suzkaiden re-enact the cheer-me-up sequence between Cyrus and Amped from Season One. And this week’s loser unleashes a water works that rivals the wettest Bachelor farewell speech or Jersey Shore bartime bawl. The Tester Compound has beer, PlayStation Vitas and a king-sized Sackboy—where the hell are the boxes of Kleenex?

Jaw-dropping quote: In the season’s first episode, Kwajamonster displayed an almost innate ability to disconnect her brain from the words coming out of her mouth. We get a triple dose of that disconnect this week, reminding us how right she is when she tells us she didn’t think she’d make it this far. We didn’t, either. Let’s break down two:

“I’ve got a twiggy thingie!”—Kwaja, trying (and failing badly) to find items that match any of her teammate’s. It’s one thing to come up one set of matched items short of your competition. It’s another to fail on almost every conceivable level. In a challenge that’s based on verbal communication, Kwaja’s head is apparently stuck in the sand.

Her second quote is even more jaw-dropping : “I’m starting to realize I do want this.” Wow, seriously? So, um, what was going on the other four weeks? Were you just sort of sizing up the Ratchet & Clank console in the lobby, polishing your nails and working on building up your PSN friends list? That sound you just heard was 1,000 gamers collectively smashing their heads into their keyboards.

OK, not bad, actually: Gotta give credit to the producers for tossing some wicked curves into the immunity formula. Winning the challenge doesn’t guarantee it for the second week in a row; acing the sitdown interview with Papy and his crew does. Giving an opportunity to a rival who could potentially swipe immunity out from under you is also a nice twist, although it doesn’t end up being much of a factor. The producers also get credit for whiting out the screens so we can’t see the studio’s secret new project. Ladies and gentleman, that’s how you build buzz and suspense.

Also love the laser-like way the editors are capturing the reactions of the judges, and, this week, (the Santa Monica guys), to the contestants’ verbal missteps. Anyone who’s ever bombed a debate, job interview or pickup line can totally relate.

Leader in the Clubhouse: akilleezmight. Dude crushes the blindfold/communication challenge, then follows up by impressing the entire Santa Monica squad with his poise and charisma during his interview. Given that these are the guys he could potentially be working with/for, it’s safe to say he’s helped his cause tremendously.

On the Precipice: From luxury to heartache–so are the days in the Tester Compound. In the ten seconds it took him to toss off the Lamest Argument Ever for why akilleezmight and SkyD1ddy should pick him to go to Todd Papy’s pad (“Guy Code!”), RealityPalez, in true Boston Red Sox fashion, has gone from pole position to the brink of complete collapse. Kinda saw it coming, but that doesn’t dampen the Schadenfreude any more than his bitter tears dampen the Sackboy doll Suzkaiden uses to try to cheer him up. Unlike Hugh Grant and Robert Downey, Jr., something tells us there isn’t gonna be a redemptive chapter (or Sony job) in Reality’s story.

Next week: Yep, we’ve definitely hit the Lord of the Flies portion of the season—pass the conch, willya? Or rather, pass the surveys: Every contestant has to answer difficult questions about their housemates, then see those answers become public, Newlyweds-style, as part of a challenge that involves balancing and stacking towers of wood blocks. Clearly, somebody sucks at Jenga. And somebody really sucks at alliances.

Image credit: Tester-Season 3-Episode 5 – Blindfold Battle!

About the Author

Aaron R. Conklin has been writing about games and games culture for more than 15 years. A former contributor to Computer Games Magazine and Massive Magazine, his writing has appeared on IGN.com and in newspapers and alt-weeklies across the country. Conklin's an unapologetic Minnesota sports fan living in Madison, Wisconsin, home of the Midwest's most underrated gaming vibe.