Okay, so this season we've seen a spoof of The Bachelorette, an outdoors adventure that was kind of like Survivor, and a tongue-in-cheek variation on the E! True Hollywood Story. Now this episode is a straight ripoff of Trading Spaces. It is distressing to think of this show turning into nothing more than a parody of other programs, but at least this particular homage is a nicely effective one. It's thematically appropriate, since interior decorating has always been a prominent element in the show. After last season's explorations of tacky extravagance, it's natural to wonder what it might be like if Anna Nicole was on that show where neighbors decorate each other's homes. This gives us a fresh new angle to return to the subject of home decor in the post-Trendy era.
But what really makes this episode work is that it's real... mostly. This is the right way to do a "high concept" Anna Nicole Show: come up with the gimmick, do the little scripted intro, have Anna Nicole read her cue cards for the linking segments, but let all the rest of the action be spontaneous and genuine. The producers wisely borrowed TLC's slogan along with their show: "Life Unscripted."
I've never watched Trading Spaces very much, because the participants always seem too arrogant and obnoxious. I can't stomach the thought of people redoing a room in my house without my input, so I don't relish seeing such deeds inflicted on other people. But if Anna Nicole's the one doing the damage, I'm all for it! She agrees to trade spaces with her neighbors Kris and Wes, and I feel no sympathy for them at all. They know Anna Nicole and they willingly consented to this, so they damn well should have realized their room is going to turn out wacky.
The arrangement is fairly similar to the format of Trading Spaces, from what little I know about the show. Anna Nicole lets Kris and Wes redecorate her computer room, and she gets to take on a spare junk room of theirs, with the aid of Howard and Kim. Each team gets a budget of $1,000 and an expert consultant, but here they get just one day to do the work, instead of two. Appropriately, the professionals hired to help out aren't the typical designer types like you see on the original show.
Kris and Wes work with a "feng shui consultant" named Antigone Vastakis. I respect the practice of feng shui, with its legitimate psychological underpinnings, but Antigone is also deeply into all kinds of silly New Age shit. Kris seems to be mostly in tune with Antigone's metaphysical flim-flam, even though she mentions having a career in science. Wes just goes along with everything, nodding and smiling. You get the impression Wes is accustomed to doing whatever Kris says.
At the outset, Kris tells Anna Nicole their plan is to make her a soothing and spiritual oasis, oozing with positive energy and whatnot. Kris says her goal is to "take you from a princess to a goddess." I think she already is one, but hey, I'm always pleased to hear anyone discussing her in deified terms. Anna Nicole is very enthusiastic about their proposal, but she's much less forthcoming with her objectives for Kris and Wes's house.
She introduces them to her design consultant, but neglects to apprise them of Matira's professional credentials. She's not really a decorator, she's Mistress Matira, a kooky S&M advisor and fitness guru who claims to have been sent here by alien beings. Anna Nicole has secretly decided to create a sexual playroom for Kris and Wes. Kris says she wants an inviting room where she can express herself, and Anna Nicole promises to give it to her.
What follows is, to say the least, a fascinating study in contrasts. Here are two distinctively Californian subcultures -- fruity mysticism on one hand, kinky sex on the other -- and we're left to wonder, which one is weirder? It's not an easy question to answer. The two even start to blend together. When a voiceover muses, "I want people to feel that they can get lost in this room, that it's a womb for nesting," it's easy to forget whether the speaker is Matira or Antigone.
Anna Nicole goes shopping for sex toys at the Topco manufacturing plant, along with Matira, Kim and Sugar Pie. "I want a bunch of dildos on the table," Anna Nicole says. "I want a p***y, I want whips, I want chains, I want a sex table... I want a love swing. I want all of it." She also reprises a familiar line that any fan of this show will recall from Episode 11: "Where are the strap-ons?"
Meanwhile, Antigone takes Kris and Wes to The Bodhi Tree bookstore to buy some trinkets and trash for their project. While Anna Nicole is browsing the glow-in-the-dark dildos and vibrating cucumbers, Kris's crew is picking out statues of Hindu gods and chakra-cleansing incense. Wes is captivated by a figurine of a frog with wings, which must represent the inner spiritual goal of not bumping your ass a-hoppin'.
With all the supplies purchased, it's time to get down to business. The process of decorating Kris and Wes's room mainly consists of painting all the walls black. Mistress Matira takes a hike for this section of the job, and Howard joins in. The team starts out by breaking out a decorating accessory that is probably seldom used on Trading Spaces: several bottles of white wine.
While pulling out a cork, Howard asks if they are also going to paint the ceiling black. Anna Nicole and Kimmie answer "Yeah" at the same time. There is a tense moment as they realize what has occurred, then Anna Nicole bounds over to Kim in a flash and they start furiously tagging each other: "Jinx! Jinx! Double jinx! Triple jinx! Triple dipple dipple jinx!" Kim flubs the last one and is therefore forced into silence. But she chooses to break the jinx by complaining about the lack of a "triple dipple jinx," so she has to take her punishment. Kimmie obediently offers her bare forearm and Anna Nicole administers a vicious Indian burn. "The master!" Anna Nicole says with satisfaction in herself. After putting away a few Dixie cups of that wine, though, her jinxing skills will shortly be severely impaired.
Ceremonies even more arcane and juvenile are commencing back at Anna Nicole's house. Antigone does a Tarot card reading and walks around the room waving a smoking clump of sage to detect negative energy and stuff. "Isn't that interesting?" Antigone asks of the magical smoke fumes. "Isn't that interesting?" Um, no.
A little while later, Anna Nicole is getting right tipsy, smudged from head to toe with black paint. She starts flirting with a couple of locksmiths who are there to install special locks on the "dungeon door." When she introduces herself to one of the guys, he says he knows who she is: "You're one of the great ones." Delighted to receive such praise, she gives him a swig from her wine bottle and a kiss.
At this point, certain of our team members start getting nervous about the time limit. Kris is worried because Antigone still has them ringing bells and farting around instead of getting any work done, while Kim shows concern about her lollygagging teammates. Alcohol and horniness have overtaken Anna Nicole, who has now started fooling around with Howard. Then she grabs hold of another locksmith guy and plants a huge hickie on his neck. The idea of making a sex room has really gotten Anna Nicole all hot and bothered. Unfortunately, that leaves Kim as the only one doing the work.
Anna Nicole sends her over to the house for "more supplies," by which she means more wine -- and that's the last thing this project needs. Kimmie returns from the errand to find her boss and Howard rolling around on the floor again. For a couple who swear they're "just friends," those two sure do have a tendency to go at it whenever they get liquored up. Kim says "Here's your wine," and it sounds like E! failed to bleep the preoccupied Howard when he says "Fuck off!" Kim can only look on in mute disapproval.
Ultimately, both teams get their asses in gear and do some decorating. Kris's team chooses three different colors to paint Anna Nicole's walls for optimum spiritual energizing, as Wes attempts to explain: "Red, I guess, is for power, and then... something else. Purple is for something, I forgot. But the green part is the money part. A totally different power room for Anna to have."
Kris anticipates that her neighbor's stylistic choices may not be so uplifting. "I'm fearful to see my house," she admits. Wes has no worries. He guesses they're going to have a pinball machine and Nintendo, "some sort of game room."
Game room, indeed. Mistress Matira arrives to oversee the arrangement of sexual apparatus in Kris and Wes's den of sin. After Anna Nicole suffers a minor crisis trying to mount phalluses to the walls, everything gets sorted out and completed to her satisfaction. It's a spectacle like nothing I've ever seen outside of a Dark Brothers film. Kim offers the best articulated appraisal of their work: "What's totally cool about it is totally you can tell it's like a homemade bondage room." She's right, it's nothing like those cold, commercialized, store-bought bondage rooms you see nowadays.
We get to review the finished projects with the requisite before-and-after camera pans: the pastel-colored sanctum of serenity vs. the dark and lurid love dungeon. Then it's time for the big Trading Spaces finale with the double unveilings, where everybody always hopes to see one of the players get pissed off or cry.
Anna Nicole gets to see her room first. Even though she's drunk as a skunk, she seems enchanted with the feng shui makeover. "I love my new room!" she gushes. "It's colorful, I got red and green and purple, all my favorite colors. I cannot say one bad thing about it." I don't know how much Antigone's supernatural crap actually had to do with anything, but the office does look nice and cheerful. It's unmistakably annanicological in style, while tastefully free of pink fur and leopard. The flying frog really ties the room together.
Then it's Kris and Wes's turn. This moment should be worth a million Trading Spaces meltdowns, but Kris and Wes are too cool and laid-back to go ballistic. Although she's obviously not thrilled to find a bondage chamber in her home, Kris is able to laugh and have fun with it. And as for Wes, well, good ol' unflappable Wes likes just about anything. "It's different, I'll tell you that!" he says.
Kris gets to offer a more honest reaction in voiceover: "I was really shocked. I felt like I'd fallen into a hole in space and I might was well keep falling, because it was all black and foreign and confusing."
Anna Nicole guides them through all the various toys and equipment, helpfully illustrating the mechanics of the love swing. "Y'all can like f*** in it together," she explains with vivid hand gestures. "Y'all f*** in it, and it's like y'all f*** together."
Kris is more receptive when Anna Nicole shows her the strap-ons. "Oh my God, I've always wanted to do that!" Wes does a take, probably wondering where exactly Kris is planning on putting that thing.
In the end, Kris says she might let Wes recreate the sex parlor elsewhere in the house, but it's not staying in that room. It's in a visible spot on the first floor and she's worried about what visitors might think if they wandered in... but isn't that what the dungeon locks are for? Most likely, Kris just doesn't like all that smutty stuff, and she's too polite to come right out and say so.
Was it wrong for Anna Nicole to put a black-walled sex room in her neighbors' house without knowing for sure if they're into that sort of thing? Yes, but it's no worse than some of the spiteful tricks people pull on Trading Spaces, like decorating a living room in brown after the homeowners carefully specify that they want anything but brown. It's a dumb premise for a show, and Anna Nicole didn't make it any dumber.
Considering the effect its construction had on her, she seriously ought to think about putting one of those rooms in her own house. I'll volunteer to install the locks.