The BlockMon-Fri 7pm, Ch9

"It's your NEW BACKYARD!!!"

Last week, eight teams battled it out in what the Geneva Convention describe as “the single biggest inhumanity to man since World War II”. It left us with our finalists in Dan & Dani, Dale & Sophie, Andrew & Michael and Brad & Lara. Tonight the couples select their house and hand back the deeds to their lives (well, according to Scotty, anyway). They’re moving into a disaster area – “the biggest, baddest block we’ve ever served up”. Given it’s 150 years old, the old girl looks like she needs a little TLC, not amateur competitive renovators ripping her guts out. We’re then shown out the back of this ‘renovator’s delight’ to see what resembles a half completed reno gone bust…these kids won’t know what hit ’em.

Brad & Lara arrive first and Brad is taken with the “massive bush”. Save many trips to the beautician for Lara anyway. Dan & Dani are next, and Dan’s keen as mustard to see what the houses are like. “They’re shitholes,” sums up Dani, ever the pragmatist. Andrew & Michael follow in third, and appreciate the exterior for what it is – a nightmare. Following up the rear are Dale & Sophie, and with Dale’s landscaping background he notes the bougainvillea has really taken hold on the corner end of the house. He also has tucked away in the back of his mind the name for their property come auction time – “Bogan Villea”. Sounds classy.

Scotty walks around the corner and welcomes the teams to Dante’s Inferno. Second take, Scotty walks around the corner and welcomes the teams to The Block. “If you think it’s shit, it’s probably because it is.” He points out all the areas of interest around St Kilda, and reminds them they won’t have any time to enjoy any of it so they should simply forget he mentioned it. What a lifestyle it will offer to the eventual owners. Eventually. Brad & Lara as challenge winners from Friday have to pick first, and after some host pressure, select the green door – House #3. Dan & Dani settle on House #4 (red), Michael & Andrew on House #2 (yellow), leaving Dale & Sophie with their dream home – “Bogan Villea” as House #1 (blue).

“Pretty bloody happy we didn’t have to pick, to be honest,” says Dale. “You can see it in their (the other contestants) face that they didn’t want to make the wrong choice, and this way we can blame everyone else.”

The houses are declared open, and the teams race to their 10 week fate. We’re served up a mega-montage of the coming weeks of The Block, showing chaos in challenges, renovation nightmares, strained relationships, twists that seems to piss off contestants no end, late nights, and glimpses at finished rooms. *THIS* is what we love about The Block and what we’ve been waiting for since the season started again. Bring it, bitches.

The thing I don’t understand about some of the sponsorships of The Block: You’re in Melbourne, with access to some of the best cafes in Australia, and you get a coffee partnership from McCafe? I shakes me head.

"Brad & Lara - welcome to your dream home..."

Given we’re now on The Block proper, it’s time to meet our teams properly. Dan & Dani met on an overseas working holiday and haven’t looked back. Dan’s a chippie by trade, and Dani reads a lot of magazines. They’re competitive at everything with each others, including their audition video. For the record, Dan won.

As for sussing out their new digs, Dale & Sophie (blue) are the first to enter their place, and Sophie is shell-shocked. “Where’s the floor?” she asks as Dale steps an extra three feet down to the dirt below where the floor would be. There’s a pole holding the ceiling up in their front room and it’s clear that doesn’t compute with the school teacher. Brad & Lara (green) are next, and Lara is as confused by the lack of floor as Sophie was. Then Brad sees there’s no back of the house. Nothing. “What a stitch up,” he says.

Dan’s excited to be entering his new hovel. More no floor, more gold reality TV understatement. “This doesn’t need that much work,” says Dani straddling the floor joists in their Week 1 bedroom (an excellent addition to The Block this year is that each room is marked on the wall announcing which week it is to be delivered in). Dan’s happy to see the upsides of the entire debacle noting at least he won’t have much demolishing to do. When Andrew & Michael (yellow) enter, all they can do is shake their heads and laugh in fear. “It’s literally one of the most decrepit houses I’ve ever walked into,” says Michael. “Yeah, it’s literally condemnable,” agrees Andrew. The brothers streak to the front of the literal stakes, literally showing you can overuse the word literal on a reality TV program. Thinking the rest of the house can’t be worse than the front room, Andrew & Michael head out the back to be proven very, very wrong.

As the couples explore their houses further, they all find the same thing – whoever worked onsite last was pretty messy. Oh, and the whole “we-have-no-roof-only-a-tarp” thing. Sophie’s overwhelmed. Brad thinks it’ll take 10 weeks to clean it. But there is light at the end of a messy, horrible tunnel. Each team is starting out with $80,000 worth of vouchers from show sponsors which, by my estimates, should be enough to deliver one third of their first room. At least they’ll feel better on the vitamin sponsor who’ve delivered them a bag full of supplies. Every team is at a loss where to start. Pop some pills and get to it, kiddies. “At least it can’t get any worse,” says Brad. Cue thunder and a storm rolling in, and Andrew noting that “It (the rain) is literally coming into the house”. DRINK!

It’s time to learn a little more about Dale & Sophie. Been together for 7 years, married for 7 months. Dale & Sophie think they’ve got the skills to be good renovators and the enthusiasm to be good renovators, but none of the actual talent or knowledge required to be good renovators. It doesn’t matter, as they’re in this together and know no matter what they’re confronted with they’ll survive it together. Yeah, right.

Dale & Sophie return home from shopping, having purchased only buckets and mops.

In case you weren’t sure who anyone was, Scotty reintroduces us to each of the teams again 25 minutes in to the episode. A quick site meeting reveals everyone is thinking the same thing – it’s time for a coup. Someone asks if the others have a toilet and The Block’s block is soon discovered, though the amenities are somewhat primitive – one toilet, hand basin and a couple of showers between the eight of them (and their helpers as they hire them). That has to be the biggest motivation to get your bathroom done EVER. With a little more exploring the contestants vanish down the rabbit hole in the back garden and into their very own Mitre 10 shop set up IN THE BACKYARD!!! This is taking sponsorship to an amazing new level, and the access for the teams will surely be a lifesaver. “This is gonna be the busiest Mitre 10 in Melbourne,” says Michael. “If I could put a plasma and a lounge out there, I’d never leave,” offers Brad matter of factly.

By the way, it’s literally raining, not that pesky figuratively raining they get so often in Melbourne. At least Dale & Sophie (repleat in her Zimmerman frock) managed to get down to their local backyard Mitre 10 and grab some cleaning gear before it shut at 5pm, like nobody else did. There’s a frenzy from the tool-less couples to collect whatever they can get their hands on from out the back to help them clean up their rooms so they can crash for the night. While Dale & Sophie have all the tools, they also have an awful lot of crap on the floor.

I don’t understand why, given the teams obviously got jumpers and stuff and that she’s wearing leggings, why she didn’t take her precious expensive frock off instead of wearing it and turning it into a rag. Rookie mistake. While ripping their carpet up, Dan & Dani discover what suspiciously appears to be a blood stain under the bottom. Like Ch9 need another cross-promotional opportunity: “UnderBlockBelly – this time, it’s French provincial.”

Brad & Lara show of Newcastle as we learn more of their story and Lara’s propensity to have things bite her in the bum. With Brad’s fitting & machining background he’ll be great on the… on the… he’ll just be great. At least these two have renovated a house while living in it before. Advantage, Team Green. Brad comes to borrow a mop and is amazed at the large pile of brick in Dale & Sophie’s bedroom. Proving the old adage that “you can’t keep a snooper away from snooping” Sophie comes for a visit to Brad & Lara’s place to see their room is almost clean, and that life on The Block is far from fair. Or simple. Or comfortable. Or clean. Or waterproof. Or well lit. Or practical. Or free of rubble. Or covered in Logies invitations.

After six hours – circa 11pm – the teams seem to have cleaned out their bedrooms and Dale goes down the back to have a nice hot shower before bed. No can do. Only cold water for The Block-heads to start with. Just before the teams tuck into bed (and Brad has his life organised – the bar fridge is but an arm’s reach away from his side of their mattress on the floor), a couple of them sneak some time for their first video diary. Dan & Dani are amazed with what they’ve got now they’ve walked through their house a few hundred times. Dale’s pissed off that there was no hot water, and at 2am(!) Andrew & Michael call it a night after cleaning and snacking on the only food in their “house”… Dulux jellybeans. I hope the flavours are like paint colours – “I’ve got Night Mist!”; “I’ve got Wet Dog On A Summer’s Day!”.

Everyone gathers round, as Scotty's got a tale to tell...

The teams wake from their sleep that had them deeply dreaming of ducks and puppies(?!) to the rude realisation they are: a) still on The Block; & b) the magic renovation fairy didn’t visit overnight and nothing is better than how they left it when they went to bed. Doesn’t seem like anyone is a morning person though once they get started Brad & Lara show they’ve a touching respect for each other than usually ends in Lara beating Brad. Andrew & Michael reveal their relationship as brothers is built on love and sibling rivalry. They’ve renovated two houses before so the advantage quickly shifts… or does it?

Dale & Sophie are already acknowledging they’ve no idea where to start, even though the Week 1 room is clear. They’ve just no idea what to turn it into – so perhaps they should seek some help. Andrew & Michael decide on a study/guest room “with one of those pull down bed things”, while Brad & Lara have determined it’s a bedroom but not much else. Dan & Dani are ready to start framing up knowing it’s a bedroom. As it’s a Sunday house (& council?) rules are no power tools whatsoever, so some teams continue cleaning while others progress to budget & planning mode.

Andrew & Michael perhaps reveal a little too much of their core nature by heading to The Block shop and pretty much trying to squirrel away every paintbrush possible. The store manager has to step in and suggest that perhaps they only need to take two of the things they’re after and not seven or eight like they’re taking now. Dan turns up to get some tools and makes a ‘quid pro quo’ deal with the brothers to share information, which Dani is decidedly and single-swearword-edly unhappy about. The deal was made off the back of Dan ‘discovering’ the first room is meant to be a study.

Scotty calls a site meeting to end all speculation. Like semi-enthusiastic rats scurrying out from their ruins, the teams are greeted by a chipper Scotty spruiking how good his hotel is. Nobody has any idea what’s going on with the houses, so Scotty proffers up plans for the finished houses and plays up that he has all manner of plans for the various houses. He notes that he loves the bi-fold doors a lot. “I hear they’re much better than French doors,” says Dani. “Nothing against the French,” says Dale. “Nothing against the Bi’s either,” says Scotty, revealing the tradie we’ve all come to know and hold in thinly-veiled contempt. The plans reveal a non-existent lounge/dining room out the back of the houses and an additional bedroom and bathroom above that. There’s some serious structural work to go on here, and there’s not many of them in a position to do anything about it.

Given the reveal of all these extra rooms, what of the front room? It could become a formal dining room, a study, a flow through living area if they were to bash a hole in the wall between the kitchen and it. AND THEN there’s a third storey – including a small terrace and an additional room that could be a wet bar or a sauna or a closet. The full impact of what has to be done is kicking in, and Dan (the only one with formal building experience) is finding it hard to see it being completed in 10 weeks. Mind you he hasn’t delivered an invoice yet so anything is possible. Bloody tradies.

That's some high quality renovatin' there, guys.

The additional information adds some tension to the build already for Dale & Sophie. He wants a nice dining room; she wants another bedroom; I want an indoor conversation pit, but nobody cares about what I want. Brad & Lara are torn as well – either a fourth bedroom or the ability to control the fourth dimension. They know they need help so are considering talking with an agent to find out what families purchasing in the area need. Dan & Dani, knowing work needs to be done, get straight into stripping the room entirely. “Breaking stuff is fun!” says Dani, who usually contents herself with breaking Dan’s balls. “I don’t think everyone realises how important this room decision is,” says Dan.

Monday is welcomed with great plans and complete lethargy. Andrew’s overwhelmed and can’t get out of bed for it; Sophie’s aghast but knows all she can do is all she can do. Everyone had plans to get into it for Day 3 and the first working day for the week, but Scotty calls a site meeting and the offer of some cash to help the teams. They have to earn it though, and the teams are sent off to a challenge with Shelley Craft, and the premise for Tuesday’s episode is in place. There’s some unhappy campers as there were plans to get started on their rooms, but there’s a distracting challenge to be completed first in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens! Hop to it!