Phenomenon November 21, 2007  

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Welcome to the finale for Phenomenon. Writing these articles has been a challenge for me because I find it difficult to make the shows sound interesting. I'm not sure if my format has been very good. Perhaps I should try less dry detail and more commentary next time around?

This week's episode starts with another replay of Criss Angel (it's a bit embarrassing to learn that I've been spelling his name wrong for 4 weeks) and Jim Callahan's confrontation again. Really, it was interesting, but it really is starting to feel like the show knows that's the only thing they have going for it. I know we know that, but it's a bit sad when the show knows it too.

Criss got a chance to comment again and talked about his father's death and that he thought it was important to stand up for people that are vulnerable to psychics that use tricks to claim to be paranormal. Now that's something I can agree with. For as much as I've said I'm not a Criss fan, I do admire how he's championed the skeptic position.

Then we're shown the Deal or No Deal models sitting in the audience, who will play a part later in the episode. And our three celebrity guests this week are returning from prior episodes - Shandi, Ross, and Dana. What? No Raven? Where's the love?

Then the four finalists perform a trick. They call the three celebrity guests and the host up to the stage and ask them to pick one of four differently colored flags and then place one in front of each magician. Then the magicians pull off their black coats and reveal that they're each wearing a colored shirt underneath that matches the flag placed in front of them. Even though the trick was never rehearsed according to the magicians, they each had a little speech to recite. And Ross almost tripped over the other guests making a beeline for one of the magicians. I don't buy it.

After the commercial break we get the first of the five "unexplained phenomenon", which is a lousy excuse for a filler if I've ever seen one. I'll go ahead and list them all here since there's really no suspense involved.

5. Loch Ness Monster
4. Crop Circles
3. Stonehenge
2. Area 51
1. Bermuda Triangle

They might as well have included Big Foot and the JFK assassination in with the rest. At least they weren't tasteless enough to include a conspiracy theory like 911.

Then we get to our first elimination and find out it's Guy. It shouldn't be surprising since Guy was eliminated last week, but saved by the judges. Criss said that he was a wonderful practitioner of the arts. Uri breaks in to tell Criss that he's open minded and thinks Criss's father is watching from above as a response to Chriss's earlier discussion about psychics. Then he tells Guy that he loved his entertainment and wanted an Israeli to win.

Finalists Tricks
Then Eran performs his trick of the night. (Poor Guy, eliminated first doesn't get the luxury.) Eran first explains that his amulet protects him from harm, but that he's not going to risk his own life. He calls Ross up to the stage, who looks at him nervously. Eran then asks Ross to stiffen his arm and resist the pressure of two fingers. Eran, of course, pushes easily against his arm. Then Eran gives Ross his amulet to hold and tries again, this time pushing with his whole hand and he's not able to push Ross's arm down. Maybe Ross's arm is stiffer, but then maybe Eran is just not pushing as hard.

Eran then asks Ross to stiffen the rest of his body, which elicits some jokes about stiff members. Really, are these jokes funny? Maybe if they weren't so obvious. But then it's hard not to smile a little bit at Ross's nervousness. He has Ross focus on being stiff and then has two men lift him onto two chairs set up with their backs facing one another. I paused the recording a few times and Ross's shirt and pants are kept from hanging down, but do seem to be slightly draping over something. I'm guessing there was a board that couldn't be readily seen by the camera or the audience that they put him on.

Shandi tests a concrete block at Eran's urging and I can believe it's real. It sounds real. It looks real. It's convincing, at least. Eran places it on Ross's chest and then breaks it with a hammer. And that's the trick. It's not very good.

Then Eran says a few things that surprise me. He takes his amulet back and mentions that he sells them at his store. But he says that if people want to use it for strength they should fill it with dirt from their back yard. He pours out the contents and it looks to be salt or something that looks for salt. He tells the viewers that strength comes from the inside and it's all about believing in yourself. Nice. Maybe Chriss isn't the only skeptic.

We got to break, crop circles, and then each of the kicked off contestants performs.

Eliminated Contestants Tricks
The tricks are all performed with the Deal or No Deal girls assisting.

Wayne has one of the girls take quarters from a cup. He has her hold out her hand and he says he'll guess how much change she's holding. He then writes something down on a piece of paper and hands the pencil to another girl standing next to her (so we know he's not cheating). Then she reveals that she's holding 6 quarters and his paper has $1.50.

Likely he had a pencil on his thumb or some such and wrote the number as she revealed the change. He didn't give the paper away, just the pencil. I was hoping he'd show his arm so we could see if he still had the tattoo, but he didn't.

Jim was next an he played the human lie detector. He had one of the ladies take a card and then asked her yes or no questions about the card, which she was instructed to always answer no to.

"Is it a heart?"
"Is it a club?"
"You shook your head. It's a club."

He asked a second lady the same set of questions and again knew when she wasn't telling the truth. I can believe it was simple psychology.

OK, this trick was just bad. He pulled out a razor blade and pulled off the wrapping. Then he had one of the ladies hold it by the sides (safe side) and tried to show that it was sharp. He had a piece of paper, but it wouldn't cut, so he pulled it against the blade until it tore. It might have been more convincing to the audience that was further away, but it didn't stand up to the camera very well. I wasn't at all convinced the blade was sharp.

He took back the blade between his thumb and finger and smushed it in half. Yeah, that would be easy with a fake aluminum blade.

Gerry had one of the ladies pour soda into a plate. Then he showed a board with the five ESP symbols that Uri used for his trick in the first episode. He had the other lady circle one of the symbols. Then as the first lady and Gerry held their hands over the plate the wavy line symbol showed up in the bubbles of the soda. And that was the symbol that the second lady had circled. (Names would make this a lot easier to write, but I didn't write down any of the Deal or No Deal guest's names.)

OK, the plate was sitting on a podium and I bet the plate was vibrated in some way that made the wavy lines show up by someone who knew what the second lady circled could be one explanation.

Ehud had one of the ladies turn on a lamp to show the light bulb worked. Then had her unscrew it. He held it with the metal part between his thumb and forefinger and had the ladies concentrate bad energy on the light bulb as they put a hand on each of his arms. Good energy is light, but bad energy is destruction, or some such. With the camera close up it was easy to see that he squeezed his thumb and forefinger, causing the light bulb to shatter. One of the ladies even had a unbelieving "OK" response as the cameras panned away. She probably felt his arm tensing.

But Jim's trick had to be the worst of the night. He performed a rope trick. First he turned to the side and put the rope trick behind him and acted like he thought it was going through him. Then he showed the audience the rope was just up against his side and said something snide like that was how a magician did a trick. But then he did it again, putting the rope under his vest and pulling it out where the buttons were so that it looked like it was actually going through him and said that's how paranormalists do tricks. Whatever man. You're so obviously a hack that I could hardly believe that people really believe in you. Until I read they believe in 911 conspiracies too.

Finalists Tricks Continued
After the break Mike performs his trick for the audience. It's another, here's a list of things I already have written down and look, people match up to them on a whim.

Mike has Dana shuffle some cards and then put eight of them face down on a table. At one point after she's shuffled he grabs the cards and straightens them because she's being sloppy. Did he switch the decks?

Then there's a Dana then get in a fan box that blows the dollar bills around and has her pick a dollar bill from the bills floating around. Then he he pulls out an envelope and has her put the dollar bill in and seal it. He takes her back to the table and places the envelope on a stand.

Then he has her reveal the cards and it's a number - 8 digits. Aces stand for 1's and the face cards stand for 0's. Then he takes the envelope and cuts it open, but it looks like he cuts it open on the opposite side that Dana sealed. Could it be a trick envelope with two sides? And reveals the dollar bill has the same serial number as the cards.

Then he asks her to name a sweet and she asks if a cookie is OK and he asks her what kind and she says chocolate chip. And he pulls a chocolate chip cookie out of a bag sitting on the table. Something he purchased earlier in the day, but she didn't know what it was. Then he shows the USA Today and he has an ad in it with the serial number and the chocolate chip cookie.

The only thing I'm not sure about is how did he get her to guess that it was a chocolate chip cookie? I don't think he'd risk that it was a popular sweet on national TV.

Angela performs another dangerous trick. She has Ross and Shandi come up. Ross's mouth is taped shut and she asks Shandi to bind his hands with a nylon zip tie. Then she pulls a curtain between herself and four upright boxes with doors and asks Shandi to put Ross in one of the boxes. As Shandi does that and closes all of the open doors, Angela explains that there is a camera inside each box that will enable the audience to see the inside of each as she cuts them with a chainsaw.

Then she asks Dana to pick two boxes. Dana picks #1 and #3. Angela goes over to #1 and cuts through it with a chainsaw. Wait a minute. Why ask her to pick two boxes? Unless Angela knows what box he's in already. Then she asks someone in the audience randomly to pick between #3 and #4. Of course he's not in either, so it's a safe gamble. The audience member picks #3. Angela saws it. Then she focuses on Shandi's energy and cuts #4. Amazing, she didn't saw Ross in half!

Eliminations Continued
The three finalists line up on the stage. And Eran is eliminated. That leaves Angela and Mike.

Criss's Challenge
The host turns to Criss to talk about what's in his envelope, but first mentions that America got involved and the guesses ranged from a lock of hair, the name of the person who would win the competition, or nothing at all.

Criss turns to Uri and offers to let him guess. Uri starts talking about how his birthday and Criss's birthday are a day apart (December 19 & 20) to which Chriss says, "didn't I tell you that?" or something like that. I think he thought Uri would claim he had discerned it magically. Uri started to talk about how Criss was born when he was already bending spoons basically saying, "be respectful of me, I'm your elder and don't challenge me like that".

Criss cut him off and opened the envelope. Inside there was a smaller envelope and then a paper with "911" printed on it. Criss mentioned that psychics could have done some good if they'd predicted 911, but no one had and it was a "travesty." I've seen all kinds of complaints about Criss using the word travesty. I'm sure he really meant tragedy.

Eliminations Continued
Mike and Angela return to the stage. The show is almost out of time and I'm sure it's going to cut off before they reveal the winner, but it doesn't. The winner of $100,000 and the title of "Phenomenon" is Mike.

Related Posts
Phenomenon October 24, 2007
Phenomenon October 31, 2007
Phenomenon November 7, 2007
Phenomenon November 14, 2007

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