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Episode Guide

Episode 15:
“Roughin' It”

A wilderness odyssey results in some not-so-happy campers, as Anna Nicole panics over wiley coyotes, Howard wishes he could patch things up, and Daniel just wants to get away from it all.
(Aired March 9, 2003)

The Anna Nicole Show

"What do I think about campfires in the desert?
I don't think you could find any wood!"

— Vickie Smith
Playboy video interview, 1992

The first proper episode of Season Two introduces some format changes that will presumably carry through to the next eleven episodes. Word has it that the producers are trying to give each episode a single storyline this season, instead of two or three different things jammed together. It looks like they've also done away with the recap interview scenes, relying on voiceovers from the cast to provide linkages and essential information. I was never a huge fan of that MTV's Real World confessional convention, although I will miss seeing Anna Nicole's expressions and outfits in those scenes.

Anna Nicole's introductory remark to the camera has been replaced by a cold opening dialogue scene that establishes the episode's plot. That's not a bad move, since the opening one-liners were getting kinda old, but what we get here is a lame, contrived set-up: as if reading from cue cards, Howard bets Anna Nicole she wouldn't last a day on a camping trip. Hasn't E! learned that the essence that makes this show interesting and entertaining can't be scripted out beforehand?

And it looks like we're in store for another dramatic change this season... well, semi-dramatic, anyway. After the opening titles, Daniel and Howard are walking on the beach having a heart-to-heart discussion. Daniel tells Howard we doesn't want to be on the show anymore. He doesn't say he hates the show or he's embarrassed by his mom, he just says he doesn't want to be famous. He just wants to be normal. I figured Daniel might be dropping out, and I was actually surprised to see him in the promos for this episode. Howard proposes that they let Anna Nicole know his wishes on their camping trip together.

The Anna Nicole Show Cut to the gang on the road to the campground. Anna Nicole is in an excited and adventurous frame of mind, raising up her sweatshirt to flash her breasts (bra-covered) out the window of Howard's SUV. A voiceover from Howard reveals what will prove to be the wacky sitcom plot-twist for this episode: he's been trying to quit smoking by using the nicotine patch, but for this excursion he forgot to bring any cigarettes or his patch.

We arrive at Lake Cahuilla, a state recreation park in the Santa Rosa Mountains near Palm Springs, about 40 miles east of Los Angeles. The campers are greeted by senior park ranger Steve Wooten, a portly, genial fellow with his graying hair tied back in a long ponytail. Ranger Steve escorts them to their campsite, and Anna Nicole immediately starts stressing about the local wildlife. "There's gonna be spiders and snakes and all kinds of s**t over here," she intones with trepidation.

Anna Nicole selects their campsite herself, trudging across the dirt in a shiny pair of heels. When Howard, Kimmie, Daniel and Anna Nicole set about pitching their two tents, they discover they have greatly underestimated the size of their sleeping accommodations. Ranger Steve advises them not to position the tents too close to the campfire, since the fire will attract "our desert dwellers." This elicits an exaggerated squeal of dismay from Anna Nicole. Their visitors could include scorpions, tarantulas and coyotes, Steve says: "If you're lucky, you'll hear them chorusing through the night." When the ranger asks if they need help getting their fire started, Howard assures him they can handle it.

But guess what? Howard struggles to use a lighter on a little pile of kindling, and it just refuses to catch flame. Anna Nicole (now wearing sensible sneakers) takes control of the situation and sends Howard and Kimmie back into town to buy some Duraflame logs. She also orders them to get some folding chairs "so we can sit by the fire, so I don't have scorpions crawling up my ass." I can't believe they forgot to bring any damn chairs on a camping trip. You'd think Anna Nicole would have packed some kind of frilly pink chaise lounge. But she did bring her own toilet.

"I've never made my own f***in' potty before, but I'm gonna try," she says. In an all-time classic Anna Nicole Show moment, she single-handedly assembles her tiny folding port-a-john and gives it a test drive -- with her sweatpants pulled up. With great pride in her resourcefulness, she gives the makeshift commode her approval. All in all, it's commendable that the gang undertook an attempt at real camping, instead of staying at some cushy KOA campground with electric-powered cabins and running water and all mod cons. You know, for wimps.

Anna Nicole decides she's not going to wait for Howard and Kim to come back with the Duraflame logs. "I'm thinking, starting a fire can't be that hard," she says. She splits some logs and she and Daniel forage for sticks and dried brush, which she arranges in an intelligent-looking firewood configuration that suggests she really does know a thing or two about the outdoors. Before long, the fire is roaring. Jubilant, Anna Nicole raises her hands above her head and issues a sort of spiritual exaltation/Tarzan yell. Truly, she is an earth goddess.

Alone at the campfire with Daniel and Sugar Pie, Anna Nicole raises the big subject that has been weighing on her son's mind. "So Punkin, how do you feel about doing the show this year?" she asks. "I mean, do you want to do it, do you want to not do it, do you want to halfway do it? Tell Mommy what you're stinkin'."

When Daniel admits that he doesn't want to be on the show, his mother assures him that whatever he wants is unconditionally fine by her: "Okay, Punkie, all you have to do is open your mouth and tell me." We might see him back for some special occasion, and I doubt he'll be deleted from the animated opening titles, but I imagine this camping adventure really is Daniel's farewell.

The moment of mother-son tenderness is interrupted by a visit from Ranger Steve, who drops by to see how everything's going. Anna Nicole proudly indicates they're fine now that she's got the fire going, but Steve has to inform her that it's against park policy to gather surrounding brush and shrubs for campfires. He's not a dick about it, though, and it's pretty clear that Ranger Steve has a soft spot for his famous blonde guest.

The Anna Nicole Show After he leaves, Anna Nicole tends to the fire while singing, "Put another log on the fire! Fix me up some bacon and some beans!" I wonder if she appreciates the post-feminist irony of a woman singing one of the all-time great male-chauvinist anthems. Suddenly a coyote howls in the distance -- or maybe not so much distance. Anna Nicole freaks out and fears that the coyotes are going to come and eat them. Sugar Pie barks in response, causing Anna Nicole to yell her most urgent "Sugar Pie, shut up!" ever.

Howard and Kimmie return with the needed loot, and Anna Nicole forgets about the coyotes in favor of bragging about her fire-starting prowess. The gang roasts hot dogs and marshmallows, and then Anna Nicole decides it's time for a sing-along. Howard jokingly suggests "Kumbaya," and she gladly commences warbling the campfire standard. The others' voices gradually fade out or turn to laughter until Anna Nicole is the only one left singing. "F*** y'all!" she bellows. "Why ain't y'all f***in' singin'? I ain't f***in' jokin'! What's wrong with the Lord?" Most likely, the problem is that she's the only one who knows the melody of the whole dreadful song.

The next morning, Ranger Steve arrives to rouse the slumbering campers. He invites him to come fishing, but there's not a peep from the tents. Steve just keeps on making his announcements, talking about the Lake Cahuilla fishing tutorial and asking them to tidy up their garbage. Still no answer. Poor, neglected Ranger Steve.

Kim, Sugar Pie, Howard and Daniel finally emerge from their tents. Her royal highness obviously takes a little longer to rise. Howard tells Ranger Steve they had a hard time sleeping with all the animals making noises, and he is in a very pissy mood. It's the nicotine deprivation getting to him.

Later that day, Ranger Steve hands out poles and takes everyone fishing. Anna Nicole charmingly names her rod "Sparky" and contentedly sits lakeside singing "The Crawdad Song" ("You get a line and I'll get a pole, honey..."). Howard sits with his teeth clenched in a grimace, moaning that he needs a cigarette. I don't know why he didn't pick up some smokes when he and Kimmie went back into town, unless he had chosen not to fall off the nicotine-patch wagon by lighting one up. A night of withdrawal has clearly eroded any such noble resolve.

The Anna Nicole Show After a time, Daniel reels in a fish, which turns out to be just a baby trout. They want to throw it back, but none of our campers seems to know how to release a fish from a hook. Ranger Steve isn't around to help, and Howard wastes time fumbling around for the pliers the ranger left for them. Anna Nicole gets very emotional about the little fish, apologizing for the ordeal they're putting it through. Finally they just toss the fish back in the water, still on the line, where it floats motionless. Anna Nicole despairs that they've killed the poor little fishie. But then it starts swimming, and she rejoices: "He was fakin'! He was playin' possum! Look, he's alive, Punkie! Yay!"

Back at the campsite, Howard is a complete mess. He anxiously paces back and forth, pathetically searching the grounds for cigarette butts. They're supposed to stay at Lake Cahuilla one more night, but Howard wants to go now. Anna Nicole says she's having a good time and she's staying. Howard questions how much fun she's really having, and alleges that Kim said she's also ready to leave. When Anna Nicole asks her, Kim crumbles and says, "I want to stay if you want to stay." Howard keeps on bitching until Anna Nicole gives in. "C'mon, Kimmie, let's pack! 'Cause ignorant-ass with no patch wants to go!"

Ranger Steve is disappointed to see the tents coming down a day early. Anna Nicole bids him a pleasant farewell and apologizes for her attorney being such a weak-willed city slicker. As they depart from the campground, she tells Howard he needs to get hypnotherapy to get his mind off his addiction, and needs to get laid so he can lighten up.

And there you have it: a zany camping adventure in which Anna Nicole and Howard grapple with the hardships of the wilderness until one of them cracks, proving who's really the toughest. But is there more to this episode? Daniel's decision to leave the show lends it another layer of meaning, and there's something about stories set in the great outdoors that invites symbolic interpretations.

I think Lake Cahuilla is a microcosm for The Anna Nicole Show itself. Anna Nicole, Daniel, Howard, Kim and Sugar Pie have left behind the comforts of home and civilization (their private lives) to stay in this place where they are exposed and vulnerable (a reality TV series). The campfire symbolizes the essential, indefinable energy that will sustain them in this inhospitable environment. Howard is incapable of lighting it. Only Anna Nicole herself possesses the power and charisma to get the fire burning. The wildlife attracted to the fire represent the viewers of the show: watching the campers but themselves unseen, howling in the darkness. Although Anna Nicole is frightened they might eat her alive, their presence ultimately proves to be only an empty threat.

The dynamics of each cast member's role on the show is clearly spelled out here in symbolic terms. Kim loyally suppresses her personal desires in order to serve Anna Nicole's will. She'll want to keep doing the show as long as Mama wants to. Howard, on the other hand, is more concerned with his own interests. His nicotine addiction represents his overriding lust for material comfort and wealth. If Anna Nicole's withheld inheritance is the tobacco, the hopeful greed that tides him over in its absence is his nicotine patch. Howard is perfectly willing to play his part in Anna Nicole's little comedy, but if the money were removed from the equation, he'd probably be hitting the road.

Most dramatic of all, the baby trout symbolizes Daniel, caught up in this crazy show despite his youth and innocence. Anna Nicole dearly wants to let him go, but none of them has the ability to get him off the hook right away. With their poor handling of the situation, she fears that Daniel may be permanently scarred or hate her for this treatment, left floating lifeless after he's belatedly thrown back. But when the fish springs back to life, Anna Nicole's joy reflects her knowledge that her loving relationship with her son remains unscathed.

And Ranger Steve? Well, he represents me. Protecting Anna Nicole from the wilderness, holding back the vicious nocturnal predators, patiently accepting her mistakes, grateful for her sweet company, and quietly admiring her from a distance. Maybe she's no nature survivalist, but Anna Nicole has proven that she can last longer in the wild than any of her companions. And like Ranger Steve, I'll regret the inevitable day when she pulls up the stakes and goes home, leaving only the smoldering coals of her campfire behind.

Anna Nicole Says...
"I didn't think our campground would be in the middle of f***in' nowhere."
"This tent's a piece of s**t."
"Look right here, it's a ant hole or a snake hole. Oh my God, I'm allergic to fire ants."
On hearing the coyotes: "Oh my God! They can't come and eat us! Sugar Pie, shut up! They're gonna eat you!"
To Daniel: "If you have to pee pee in the middle of the night, here's my toilet."
"This is ol' Sparky here. A nice little pole. It's gonna catch me some great trout. Me and Sparky."
"I used to fish every day when I was pregnant. I remember just catching this little bitty tiny fish. That's all I catched the whole time I was pregnated."
"I can cook 'em but I ain't cleanin' 'em."
"Get this undone, Howard, please! I got cereal in my lap!"
To Howard: "Put that stupid cigarette butt down, you idiot."
"Maybe you just need to f***in' get laid, Howard. Why don't you just go get a -- I'll pay for the f***in' whore to come over and s**k your d**k so you won't have an attitude problem. I'll get you a hypnotist and a f***in' whore."

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