The Block – Mon-Fri 7pm, Ch9
As it’s time for the renovations to start proper, this also means the return of The Block’s Bitch – Keith the site foreman. I really like Keith – who wouldn’t like a guy whose job it is to make sure that the houses are all built properly and to create a little chaos when things are most pressured by reminding people of their responsibilities? Class one shit-stirrer. Keith is the complacency killer. Every situation needs a little bit of Keith, just to spice things up. For the first time this season, “Here comes another one!” and roll opening titles.
Dan’s taking on himself to win friends and influence people by being this morning’s alarm clock for the other teams, bursting into the “bedrooms” of the other teams with a camera and a cheeky smile. If it were me, there’d be a punch in the face and a legal issue first up. After less than three hours sleep, Andrew sums up the feeling on The Block: “We’re all pretty emotionally attached to our houses right now”. This is why we watch The Block – we get emotionally attached to the contestants too, and thanks to central casting it’s pretty easy again this year.
Scotty reminds that the tension with this first room is that the decision of what it will be is key: A fourth bedroom; a formal sitting room; a flow through dining room; a study; a portal to another dimension. Whatever the couples choose to make it, it has to fit with the entire house plan and design decision, so no mistakes early! Brad & Lara are considering a fourth bedroom, so they visit a local real estate agent for some advice – what are local buyers looking for when shopping for a renovated Victorian Terrace? The Real Estate guy recommends making it a sitting room that could be a study as well, but furnish it as a sitting room. It’s not what Lara wanted to hear: “I’ve come out feeling ill because that changes everything for me again. For the fiftieth time,” she says. Decision time, kiddos – put up, or tell your story walking.
Dan & Dani know exactly what they want their room to be: a fourth bedroom/study, so they’ve called in Stegbar to measure up for the sliding door robe in the corner. “Too easy, fellas!” exclaims chippie Dan, who’s yet to learn the fine art of proper cross-promotion and sponsorship plugging (he really should have said “Too easy when we’re talking with the Stegbar fellas!”). He’ll learn. Andrew & Michael will be making a home office of their front room, but they’re including a fold out bed in their joinery to make it a fourth/guest bedroom too. They’ve also plans to swap the location of the kitchen and living/dining rooms, so they have to meet with The Block’s Architect (who, by now, must be 150 years old). The Architect is a pushover (and looks nothing like the guy from The Matrix: Revolutions, or Colonel Sanders) and the boys lock in their ‘secret weapon’. The boys are convinced the extra work will be worth it as they’ve got a large outdoor area and making the kitchen easily accessible will only add value to a house pitched at an inner urban yuppie lifestyle.Dale & Sophie FINALLY agree on their front room – it’s gonna be a dining room that flows through into the living area out the back. It’s no agreement. This is Sophie letting Dale ‘win’. “I guess I’ll have to let her win later on at some point then,” says a compliant Dale. Sophie’s overwhelmed with all the decisions, and she thought that the decisions could be easily split but there’s been none fall her way yet. Though the ‘conversation’ about the existence of a door from the hallway into their dining room shows the first signs of fatigue affecting the couple. Dale wants an open entry; Sophie wants a door, “Because I WANT a door”. They’ll learn soon enough fighting on camera and one of you walking away doesn’t soothe the situation, it becomes episode inclusion GOLD. Dale’s is ever-caring, pragmatic self: “Women – can’t renovate with ’em, can’t shoot ’em”.
“The fourth bedroom isn’t gonna add that much value,” says Lara, still confused after her Real Estate Agent conversation. Enter: Keith. “You’re gonna trust your design to a Real Estate Agent?” he says with a sly grin. Lara’s a little more confused but Keith is simply offering to Lara to be wary about where she seeks counsel. “It’s up to you, but run with what you think, I reckon,” he says not at all ironically. BANG! You’ve been Keithed (first one of the series).
Dan & Dani are running with a more modern style, but Brad & Lara are keeping some of the traditional touches. After a short negotiation that likely ended in “I’ll buy you a beer”, Brad is allowed to take down the original ceiling rose from Dan & Dani’s place to use in their front room (the one in place was a damaged replica). Brad’s plasterer is sure as it’s original it’s over 100 years old so an entirely worthwhile exercise. While this is happening, Dani’s carpet shopping – as are Dale & Sophie, not that Dani even acknowledges their existence when they say hi. Then Brad & Lara show up at the only Carpet Court in Melbourne and share a chat with Dale & Sophie (surely it’d be worth going to the one in the next suburb just to avoid your competition?). Relationships on The Block just got a little more confusing.
Three of the houses have already got their termite treatment done, but Dan & Dani are still waiting on the guy to show to do theirs. They can’t lay their floorboards until it’s done, and it’s Keith’s responsibility to organise it. “The termite guy will be here in about an hour, then the boards go down in another hour, and you’ll be away,” says the site foreman. FOUR HOURS LATER Dan & Dani have been Keithed – the termite guy showed up three hours late, which meant the floors didn’t get laid in time. Leaving Keith to install the flooring himself, Dan & Dani head off for some retail therapy at the Mitre 10 timber yard. They settle with SalesGuy to buy some MDF that’s twice as wide as they need it, but agree they can cut it down and they’ll have exactly what they need. Famous last words on The Block.
Sophie returns from heater shopping to find everything in their “bedroom” with a plastic sheet over it and lots of dirt and detritus everywhere. It’s heartbreaking for the school teacher who has never renovated before, and hasn’t yet realised that those flimsy plastic sheets have actually saved WAY more pain. As my Grandad used to say, “Better on the plastic than between the sheets”. Or something like that. Maybe he was speaking euphemistically.
Dan & Dani return to no floor. “You’re joking me Keith!” Andrew’s gone on the roof and is completely impressed with the view they’ll have from their terrace. And it is impressive, however it’s the same view every other house will have too. Chin up, Andrew. The next day Dan catches up with Keith to share his disappointment over the flooring not being installed as promised… and that he was up half the night installing it himself. “I don’t want to upset Keithy this early in the game to be honest,” says Dan, “I think he’s a good bloke to have on your side.” Understatement of the series.Sophie’s won the dining room door battle, and Keith is handballing Dale to the site engineer over the wall he wants to knock down to lead from the dining room to the living room out back. But all attention is focused on the dull, repetitive thumping noises heard by some of the teams last night. Dan & Dani heard it, as did Brad & Lara. Everyone’s sure it wasn’t possums, and given Dan thinks it was someone “on the workbench” last night, that hopefully rules out brothers Andrew & Michael. Dan thinks it was Brad & Lara (but we know better), which Brad counters with, “I think by know you’d know that Dan is full of shit.” The case of the thumpy-sex-noise goes unsolved, mysteriously with no comment from either Dale & Sophie or the brothers. Hmmm…
As soon as Dan can unload his oversized skirting board onto the footpath – which he knows he shouldn’t do and hopes that Keith doesn’t notice for half an hour as he’s waiting on the table saw – Keith somehow feels the need to take a wander out the front and see how things are. He directs Dan to move the boards as they can’t keep anything on the footpath, then he directs Brad to move the wheelbarrow he’s left out front as they can’t keep anything on the footpath. Apparently they can’t keep anything on the footpath due to council regulations. Nice work, Sheriff Keith. There’s some playful banter between Brad and Dan & Dani over who is playing by the rules and upsetting Keith the most. Dan’s lost count as with the arrival of his next delivery, Keith directs him to send his delivery guy around the back to drop off as it’s no standing out the front. Dan 3, Brad 1, the others 0 and Keith’s winning them all. What a guy.
This year, The Block is in the middle of South Melbourne (and right near St Kilda), and built over 100 years ago at the height of Victoria’s gold rush era. In removing their fireplace facade they find a pile of photos, letter and stuff from 1894. Surely this is something they’ll re-use as framed dressing around their home. Or it should be offered to the Victorian Museum. Either way, quite the find. Lara’s finally decided to go with a sitting room cum study for their front room, taking the advice of the Real Estate Agent and it’s put them behind a little with the purchase of feature items for their room. Lara knows she can’t make a decision without speaking with Brad, but I suspect the couch could be a casualty in the first ‘War of the Roses’ this year.
Keith wants the teams to fully insulate each room, and a truckload of insulation has arrived for the couples to use accordingly. Dan’s raced ahead and already installed the ceiling in his front room, which might be an issue given what’s just arrived. Cue Keith. He directs Dan that the ceiling must have insulation in it and installed properly. Dan offers he’s gonna be ripping the floor up above the room and is happy to put it in then as long as Keith’s happy – which he is, but he has to do it. Keith reminds him it’s an expensive proposition. Later, Dan offers that he would have been happy to put the insulation in when he put the ceiling up at 8am that morning, but it didn’t arrive until 11am. “I’m on a timeframe here, Keith, mate – if you get the insulation here on time I’ll do it on time,” says Dan. You’d never pick him for a tradie, would you?
MANDATORY WEBSITE PROMOTION.
This first week/room is going to be interesting for all to see, as it’s a real indication of how each couple are looking to style their entire house. Dan & Dani are presenting a bedroom/study, Andrew & Michael an office/study, Dale & Sophie a dining room and Brad & Lara a sitting room. At least for life on The Block those making bedrooms are winning as at least they’ll have somewhere to sleep to start with. Lara returns to The Block to show Brad her choice of couch and other selections and a debate ensues as to whether they have a three seater couch, a two seater and an armchair, or two armchairs. The revelation they’re both not on the same page this late in the work on the room only raises tensions a little more between the couple.Dani’s out shopping too, but Dan calls her to get get back ASAP and help to rip the skirting boys in half. “I’ll get back as soon as possible,” says Dani, who hangs up and blows a raspberry at her phone – “Well, that’s not gonna happen.” WOW. It would seem she’s of the opinion the shopping is more important than the skirting boards, so Dan will have to wait. Which he chooses not to, and gets Brad & Andrew to help him. It would seem he’s well aware of how Dani works already.
Dale gets the good news from Keith that the site engineer (if only we knew for sure his name was Thomas) has approved the opening from their dining room to the kitchen and Keith will supervise all the work closely so the job is done properly. That’s a good thing, right? Lara’s understanding of shopping is proving to be time-consuming: Go looking in a lot of shops, take photos, come back and show Brad (what – no MMS?), argue over what they want, go back out shopping and purchase something. It really only takes three to four times longer than normal. It’s also proving to be confusing while she’s away, and when she returns “the photos don’t do them justice either”. JUST TAKE THE BLOODY MAN SHOPPING OR GROW A SPINE AND MAKE A DECISION!!!
Council noise restrictions kick in at 5pm – no power tools used after that time until the next morning. At 6pm when Scotty comes by, there’s nail guns, drop saws and all sorts in use on Brad & Lara’s site. It’s not as simple as getting the tradies to stop, either (despite protestations that Brad was told 6pm is the noise cut off time) as Scotty advises them they have to pay him $3,000 as a fine for breaching the noise rule. Which he lets them off this one time only. “You’re a good man, we owe you a beer Scotty,” says Brad. “A couple of beers,” says Lara. “I reckon you owe me three grand’s worth of beers,” says a only half-joking Scotty. The point is well made, and Lara reflects on how much she hates on getting in trouble. “I’m such a goody-two-shoes,” she says.
The real reason Scotty is here is to set up for a new challenge, which the couples look bemused at as they tuck into an afternoon beer. Dale thought he’d be sized up for detention. It’s not a challenge – Scotty’s offering his first class to the contestants on surviving The Block, starting with some facts.
FACT 1: You’ve got some vouchers, and you’ve got some cash.
FACT 2: If you want to get ahead in the game, you have to roll up your sleeves and get as much done yourselves as you can. To help them all during the coming weeks they’ll be visiting Scotty’s Workshop where they’ll learn some much needed skills and win some desperately needed cash.
FACT 3: There is no third fact.
The teams will face their first Workshop challenge tomorrow, and Scotty wants them to design a piece of furniture that they can build that will go in their first room. Andrew & Michael are smugly confident they’ll be able to take best advantage of the challenge. The teams are all left with the homework of designing their piece that they have to reveal to Scotty in the morning. The sketching continues well into the night with lots of ideas from each team, though Dale & Sophie are most pragmatic about their chances: “We’ll probably still come last but we’ll get in and have a go,” says Sophie. These guys are the this year’s Katrina & Aimee… lots of enthusiasm, not a lot of idea/talent.To help relieve some of the tension (other than the alleged night time shenanigans from Dale & Sophie), Dale’s created a character who wreaks havoc and brings much needed laughter to The Block: Donga the Dorcas Street Derro, the tradie from hell. He’s “Keith’s brother” and stands to make many more appearances on The Block (thank God). Scotty even got to meet him – I wonder if Keith will. It’s a shocking wig.
Tomorrow it’s the first Scotty’s Workshop challenge and tempers flare between team mates. The prize is a good one (so we’re told) and with quickly edited gasps and stunned looks, all the pain might prove to be worth something. Immunity from fines? Keith-free day? A truck-full of tradies? Donga’s help for a week? Whatever it is, it’s another distraction from life on The Block.