The Block All Stars – Sun-Fri 7pm, Ch9
This is my first time recapping The Block: All Stars, and I’m not super familiar with it, so you’ll have to bear with me. The Block is that show where people compete to see how many ordinary words they can replace with the word “block”, right?
So I tune in at seven o’block to check it out, and find that it’s really a show about people throwing things into skips and yelling at each other.
I quickly learn that there are four teams – Mark and Duncan, Josh and Jenna, Dan and Dani, and Phil and Amity. They’re each working on a house and have six weeks to get the thing done. Also, this is bathroom week. Do they compete to spend the MOST or the LEAST time in the bathroom? Because I’ve had Mexican twice in the last forty-eight hours, so I’m pretty sure that I could smash this.
A new day begins, and the “Blockheads” (really?) receive a message telling them that there’s going to be a challenge today. Josh and Jenna are completely unable to even competently drive to the Block headquarters to receive the challenge, so I’m immediately worried about these two.
But eventually they all arrive, where Shelley tells them that she knows they’re all “busting for the win” in this bathroom challenge. I don’t know who this Shelley is, but I’m pretty sure that she’s the cleverest person on Australian television. And YES, I’m aware of Shaun Micallef.
Shelley the Genius sets the challenge; the teams have to create a bathroom display in six hours with the team who creates the best display getting the tiling in their main house taken care of and five grand donated to a charity of their choice. Shelley then introduces today’s guest judge, Neale Whitaker of Belle magazine. He tells them that the winning bathroom display will be photographed and featured in Belle, because if there’s anything that sells magazines, it’s seeing what colour tiles reality TV contestants like to look at while they’re absent-mindedly playing with themselves in the shower.
“A well-designed bathroom with innovative layout and quality fixtures is key to fetching the highest price come auction day,” Neale explains, suggesting that he must be a massive hit at parties.
The teams hit up the bathroom showroom to get cracking on their designs. They enter to the strains of the song Little Green Bag; are these guys drug dealers? Is this entire show just a front for an elaborate dope-dealing ring?*
*No. But… possibly yes!
Look, Blockheads (I know, but I have to call them something), I don’t know about you, but I think that simple is always better when it comes to bathrooms. Bathrooms are a get in-get out sort of proposition, and I don’t want to be held up by needless distractions like artworks, or fancy tiles, or soap.
The teams start talking about how they’re going to hide what they’re doing from the other teams, by writing down fake lists of items, making sure they visit different stores, and that sort of thing. It starts to feel like a real military operation, conducted with surgical precision, and I’m almost impressed by the Blockheads’ keen strategic minds… but then Dan describes his design concept with the word “depthful” and I’m brought back down to reality.
Shelley meets them all in the showroom on a scooter that is also a toilet, and it’s honestly the best thing I’ve seen on TV since Breaking Bad went on hiatus. Honestly, people who watch The Block regularly; are there always people driving around on toilets? WHERE HAS THIS SHOW BEEN ALL MY LIFE?
It occurs to me as they ride around that these bikes are especially handy for long trips, especially if you’re drinking a lot of coffee to keep you awake. If you know what I mean.*
*YOU know what I mean.
So they loo-mobile it over to Reece to look at showers and whatnot. Remember guys, Neale wanted innovation, so install your shower upside-down! It’s unique AND functional! …in a sense.
Later, at the tile store, Dani is upset because she’s shown a tile that she likes more than the tile she’s been using. Is this… are you serious, Dani? You’re SAD because you found something you like? I’m starting to think that you might not be classy enough to deserve the toilet-bike (pooper-scooter? Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and go with “pooper-scooter”).
Phil and Amity, meanwhile, are scared that they won’t get the tiles done right. Phil tells us that he’s literally terrified, and I’m sort of concerned; dude, if you have a pathological phobia of tiles, maybe don’t go on The Block. Just a thought.
Meanwhile Josh and Jenna are excited about the concept of designing a bathroom that’s not for sale, because they can really get creative. Don’t go TOO crazy, J&J; you wouldn’t want to flush your chances of winning down the drain!
…that’s the only time I’ll use that, by the way. I swear.
Then there’s a twist in Dani’s story, when she realises that the crappy old (pretty good, really) tiles that she was using haven’t been laid yet, so she can go and get the amazing new (also pretty good) tiles and use them on today’s display AND on her actual Block house. Huzzah! I guess.
Josh and Jenna arrive back at the competition warehouse, in a stupid boring car that isn’t even shaped a little bit like a toilet. I know they had tiles to drag around, but come on. They couldn’t have a trailer shaped like a bathtub that they tow around behind the ol’ pooper-scooter? You have to COMMIT.
Meanwhile, Amity is trying to mix cement. She tells us that she’s confident that she can do it, because she’s frosted a cake before. Which is all well and good, but Phil might want to have the ambulance on standby, in case she tries to lick the mixer.
When Mark and Duncan get back to the warehouse, they immediately begin cutting their tiles down to size. By which I mean, of course, that they just smashed the things into multiple pieces. This is also how I often feel in the bathroom, incidentally, but I’ve never had the freedom to act on it (I rent). Smash ’em all, Duncan! I’m behind you!
Amity, meanwhile, has gone to fetch an antique mirror. Now, if there’s anything I’ve learned about old mirrors, it’s that there’s a pretty significant (say, 70%) chance that they are cursed. I’m not saying don’t use it, Amity, I’m just saying… don’t recite any Latin in front of it, okay?
While Amity unknowingly brings an ancient gypsy curse down upon her bathroom, Jenna and Josh are just going crazy on their herringbone-pattern tiles. If they keep going the way they’re going, they’re just going to have an empty room covered in black tiles, with literally nothing else in it. You may not be able to get anything done in it, but I’m sure you could do some very deep thinking. It’s like a Psychological Bathroom. I love it!
With less than an hour to go, Phil drops the bombshell on Amity that he won’t be able to finish tiling the wall by himself. She corrects him, telling him that he is going to tile the wall, showing an innate knack for problem solving simply by deciding that the problem will be solved. How useful/infuriating.
Josh and Jenna’s bath arrives, and it’s way too big, so they decide that they don’t even need a bath in their bathroom. This is fair; it’s not like every storeroom has a store in it (but think of the convenience!).
As their time draws to a close, Dani shouts “We’re not going to win, so what’s the point of any of this?!” She is getting pretty darn existential for someone who just drove to a plumbing store on a toilet with wheels.
Then, time is up, and Neale Whitaker returns to cast his judgemental eye over the serious business of pretend bathrooms that some game show contestants made.
He likes Phil and Amity’s, particularly their antique mirror. Don’t stare at it for too long, Neale; you may find yourself staring RIGHT INTO YOUR VERY SOUL.
Neale moves on to Mark and Duncan’s bathroom, and he’s surprised to find a urinal in it. Hey, Neale, it’s pretty handy. There’s the obvious use, and it also makes a handy place to keep some snacks when you’re going in for a long bath.
Neale is less excited about Dan and Dani’s bathroom, but he thinks that they’ve used good fixtures and fittings. I think that he’s just being nice; I mean, they chose a bath and a sink. It’s not rocket science (wait, do they have baths on rockets?).
Josh and Jenna are last, and as expected, they essentially have a whole lot of black tiles and not much else. There’s a stool by the bathtub, so that’s handy if you’re really tiny, I guess. Or if there’s a lightbulb that needs changing sort of near the bath (Q: How many The Block contestants does it take to change a lightbulb? A: 2. One to change the lightbulb, and the other to be just horrid and useless and argumentative about it).
Neale calls their bathroom “genius”, so I guess he’s just looking for something different in a bathroom than I am (I mainly look for a good selection of magazines).
The Blockheads are then gathered together, and Neale announces that Amity and Phil are this challenge’s winners. Amity is excited about getting to donate five grand to her favourite charity, but even MORE excited about her bathroom getting featured in Belle. So that’s where her head is at.
The next day, they’re all back at their main houses, where they have to design and construct their bathroom (FOR THE SECOND TIME IN TWO DAYS. Some people’s lives are very different from my life).
Amity is rubbing in the fact that she won the display bathroom challenge, and very excited about the fact that she doesn’t have to do the tiling on her front porch. I WAS excited for her when she won, but now I kind of wish that Neale had just stepped into her display room and flipped the bathtub over in a blind rage. Just tell me that wouldn’t have made for good television. You can’t!
Dan is worried about access to his house, as a lot of Bondek has to come through the site and no rear access. Bondek, it turns out, is a “formwork and reinforcement system for concrete constructions”. This is the magic of search engines! Had someone who was constructionally-useless (like myself) been watching this show in a pre-Google age, they’d have been stumped.
Soon, Dani’s tiles arrive, brought by a delivery driver who’s never done this before. Pointing this out and using it to seem like the tiles will almost definitely be damaged seems kind of mean to the poor delivery dude. How would you feel if it was your first day on a job like this and there were TV cameras everywhere, soaking in every moment of your nervous incompetence?! Unless, of course, this is all staged and this is actually an actor pretending to look incompetent. Hang on… Is that Daniel Day-Lewis playing the delivery guy?! He is just SO GOOD!
The tiles stay up there on the truck while Dani freaks out, and some rapid editing and worried looks create some good old-fashioned reality TV drama. But eventually, the tiles are off and ready to be used, and the poor truck driver gets to go off and tell all his friends about the time it was his first day and he was totally nervous and the mean TV people made him look bad. The magic of television!
So that was my first experience with The Block: All Stars, and I have to say, I am thoroughly confused but sort of intrigued. Thanks for reading! Now I’m off to create my very own unique bathroom experience.
Dan Hall watches a lot of TV and writes about some of it. You can find him on twitter @danieljohnhall, and read more of his TV-related writings at www.the-flack.com