I wrote a prologue to my review of King of the Nerds before I even watched it. I’m not going to share this prologue, though, because watching the show has changed everything. It’s changed me. It’s changed space and time. Nothing will ever go back to the way it was.
Re-reading my prologue before I set out to write an actual review put a couple things in perspective for me. First, I am pretentious as hell. I unironically used the word ‘ouroboros.’ Who does that? Well, funnily enough, that brings me to my second point: by writing an early critique of King of the Nerds, in which I listed my reality TV credientials and attempted to flex my critique muscles, I have perfectly aligned myself with the contestants on King of the Nerds.
I never expected to see my darkest reflection on a TBS reality show. And yet, here we are.
Let me boil it down to this: I was deeply worried that King of the Nerds would be a show that ridiculed nerd culture instead of celebrating it. That it would distinctly paint the nerd as an other for the audience to laugh at, and while I feel that there are a couple of those in the cast for the sake of drawing in a non-nerd audience, the show itself seems directed at us, the nerds.
I was not prepared.
King of the Nerds brings us 12 new contestants for season 3, seven men to five women. Last season’s King, Kayla, has apparently gone mad with power on Mars. Which, you know, happens to the best of us. So now, one of these new nerds must take her place on the throne.
Something to note, here. First, I noticed that when they were introducing the contestants to us, the women were what might be considered overqualified in comparison to their male counterparts. Heather and Kaitlin are highly successful women in STEM fields, a neurologist and a NASA engineer, respectively. Amanda, though marked as a “bookworm,” runs a successful business. Our two cosplayers, Lily and Raychelle, are professionals in their field. There’s no amateur hour with the two of them.
Our men don’t seem to have to meet the same bar. We have several contestants that meet the most stereotypical sense of nerdery, particularly Todd and Thomas, who seem to only have ‘consumer of mass media’ under their nerdery belts. Now, I’m not in any way calling anyone more or less of a nerd. We’re all nerds here. My point is that I think we should keep an eye on how advanced in their fields the women have to be to even be considered ‘true’ nerds. The bar that I speak of is automatically higher for them.
That being said, there is a scene in this episode where Heather immediately calls Ori on being sexist. Other shows might’ve considered it a passing comment and wondered why Heather felt the need to make a ‘big deal’ out of it, but King of the Nerds shows us Heather’s immediate reaction to it, and while Amanda didn’t think Ori was a misogynist per se, she also lauded Heather for quickly handling the situation.
We’ll discuss Kaitlin very soon, but I think it’s time to get to the episode.
This week, the challenge was for two teams to build opposing Rube Goldberg machines. The end point of the machine would be to display the team flags. This season, teams were pre-chosen, as future versions of our hosts (Curtis Armstrong and Lizzie McGuire’s father, Robert Carradine,) foretold great doom if the contestants were allowed to chose their own teams.
Again, while adding little sci-fi storylines to the reality show is cheesy, it does add some really cute charm to the show. It reminds us that this is a show for sci-fi fans. Mostly.
So, let’s talk competition. In terms of team dynamic, Kaitlin quickly took charge of the Blue Team (House Hooloovoo) and lead them to what seemed to me like a fairly easy victory. Not to discredit the work of the Green Team (Team S.M.A.S.H.), but I kind of pegged the team with the NASA engineer to make the better machine. Not that the Green Team didn’t work their butts off! It’s just hard to compete with Kaitlin’s brain and competitiveness.
I did promise to mention Kaitlin, so I will right now: she is my princess and if any of you hurt her, I will come for you. She is entirely genre-savvy, and fully aware of the fact that being a super smart, cutthroat woman on a TV show is not going to earn her a lot of points. On the other hand, she’s not going to dial back her own intelligence to make friends. Quite frankly, I was a little shocked when Raychelle called her ‘scary.’ Though I was pleased later in the episode when the girls minus Kaitlin had a meeting to discuss an inter-team ladies alliance, I hope to only see lady love in Kaitlin’s future. I’m on your team, tall goddess.
Anyway, it comes down to a battle between Ori and Jacob. Thanks to the magic of editing and foresight, Jacob appears rather comfortable in his position as team support beam. This is probably why the Blue Team took him down almost immediately, despite telling the Green Team they’d send in Jeopardy! champ Colby. I should probably mention that when a team loses, it appears that the final Lip-Sync for your life, so to speak, is between two members of the same team. One is picked by their own team (Ori) and the other is picked by the opposing team (Jacob.)
While most of the Blue Team seemed upset to have seemingly crossed the Green Team, Kaitlin remained stoic and amazing. Though she was a bit displeased that her entire team seemed to be made up of ‘tender-hearts.’ I feel you, girl.
The battle: anime/manga plus some Kaiju trivia. Beside me, my recovered weaboo friend weeps openly. It was a dark night for us all.
We get some pretty cool insight from Colby in the latter half of the episode, where he shows off his quiz-show knowhow. He teaches Jacob how to quickly memorize important parts of the episode (memorize characters, plot points, and themes in threes) while generally being really helpful overall. I’d probably call Colby my second favorite overall, after Kaitlin.
For the challenge, Ori and Jacob must don rubber monster costumes and answer trivia questions about manga and kaiju. For each correct answer, they will each get to destroy their own section of Little, Little Tokyo. While dressed as giant monsters. If each of the elimination challenges happen to be this awesome, then I’m not really sure why anyone would even try to not be up for elimination. But whatever.
I noticed that the questions asked of our two challengers were really base-level anime/manga questions. I guess the Power Rangers question could’ve thrown some people off. What got me, though, was the question about the star on the walk of fame. Colby called the question a ‘binary screw,” which is what happens when two out of four questions seem equally correct, if you don’t know the right answer. Suddenly, I understood why I did so poorly on so many AP exams. So many.
Ultimately, Jacob ends up going home, and Ori stays another week. This bodes poorly for the Green Team, who probably didn’t want to get stuck with the member they voted to get rid of. Especially since he now knows that he doesn’t have a single team member in his corner. That’s gonna be fun.
Next week is the cosplay challenge, featuring Yaya Han as a guest judge. I met her at NYCC. She was polite to my dad, even though she didn’t have to be.
Until next time!
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