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I Survived A Japanese Game Show: Season Finale

What started as 10 would-be reality show stars shipped off to Japan to compete in a staged game show of Double Dare challenges is now down to four would-be reality show stars, facing off in their final Double Dare challenges, for the chance to win 250,000 and the fastest media obsolescence in history. Sorry guys, where you’re going you will still need roads, because you will have to drive to work, because there’s no such thing as a Real World Road Rules I Survived A Japanese Game Show Challenge. Your time is up. Auf fiedersehn. Please pack your jingoism and go. You are the weakest reality show stars, goodbye.

It’s down to Justin, Donnell, Meaghan, and Bilenda, who have one final night together before getting picked off one by one in a series of every-man-for-himself elimination challenges. They come back to the house to find a note from Majide’s host, Romu Kandu, saying “congratulations on being so crazy.” The letter is accompanied by champagne. For the record, Mr. Kandu, crazy is decapitating someone on a Greyhound bus and performing minor acts of cannibalism on their face before asking a judge to kill you and explaining that the reason you performed such a horrific act is because you “have to stay on this bus forever.” What these people did was mostly just sell off a piece of their dignity for the chance to win 250,000 highly taxable dollars. It is lame, and sad, but not crazy.

Up until now, the show has been quirky, often delightful, with a light-hearted, playful air. The contestants have been mostly receptive to their experiences in Japan, eager to explore a foreign country, and relatively respectful of the cultural differences. But the two hour finale put an end to that. SPOILER ALERT it turns out this show is kind of racist and Xenophobic in the end. The first elimination game is called “Making New Friends in Japan,” and it involves the four contestants leaving the studio and heading into the streets of Tokyo to yell at people. So much yelling. Whoever completes five ridiculous tasks (get someone to draw a moustache on your face, get someone to take a picture of a Japanese person kissing your cheek, get a business card, get someone to dress up like the Statue of Liberty, and get three people to join you in the wave) and gets back to the studio first wins, whoever returns last will be eliminated. And it’s clear that after however long they’ve been in this country, they’re still completely indelicate and unaware. It’s a desperate race to see who can be the most frustrated that people in a non-English speaking country don’t speak English. Donnell wins that one, but comes in second. Meaghan wins, Justin just squeaks in a third, and Bilenda is eliminated. As a surprise for the final three, Donnell’s wife, Justin’s girlfriend, and Meaghan’s best friend (aw), are all waiting backstage. There are tears and hugs. Fair enough. But the reunion only lasts a few minutes because the final three must immediately compete in what is, ultimately, my favorite game, “Squishy Squishy.”

The conestants put on giant Michelin Man looking sponge suits, and have to soak up water in a wading pool, make it through a maze, and squeeze the water out into a bucket. Whoever gets the most water wins, etc. It’s the best game just because the narration was five minutes of “LOOK AT ALL THAT SQUISHY JUICE,” “BETTER SQUISH IT OUT,” “SHE SUIT IS SO HEAVY WITH SQUISHY JUICE,” and my personal highlight of the whole show, “SQUEEZE UNTIL YOU DIE.” Meaghan dies. Donnell and Justin are the final two.

The next day, they are greeted by a roaring crowd of fans and the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs. What? First of all, the fans are all unbearably staged and fake, so that part is just weird. And second of all, must have been the slowest day the Japanese Department of Foreign Affairs has ever seen, because no. Donnell and Justin can’t believe what an honor they are receiving…and I can’t believe what Donnell and Justin consider an honor.

Before the final elimination round, Romu and “Judge Bob,” the racist caricature of a stern and stoic Asian man who barely talks and never smiles, have a fake karate fight for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON. Woof. Karate’s not even Japanese, it’s Chinese in origin. Anyway, the game itself is just a combination of a bunch of different games we’ve seen before, spinny chairs, tricycles, pits of flour, Velcro walls, “Big Chicken Butt Scramble,” mochi balls, and swinging on ropes through breakaway doors. I don’t know how to say “anti-climactic” in Japanese, but it’s that. Justin wins. Donnell is clearly angry and sad but puts on a brave face for his huckster opponent. The world does not care.

The winner and the loser walk away from Toho Studios with their arms around each other, as uninformed about Japanese culture as they were before the show started. Because in the end, Majide doesn’t even exist, and Japan is a very old country with a long history of proud traditions, not some half-hour long fart party. I’m not even sure this show reinforced stereotypes so much as it created new ones. Congratulations, ABC.

Of course the real winner of the show is this guy.

Love that guy.