''Joe Millionaire''

A Zora Spot

The bondage queen, the oaf, and more -- Just in time for Valentine's Day, Fox's reality hit turns seriously interesting, says Caroline Kepnes

Evan Marriott, Joe Millionaire | CRAZY FOR YOU As Evan's choices dwindle, the delusions are multiplying
CRAZY FOR YOU As Evan's choices dwindle, the delusions are multiplying

The bondage queen, the oaf, and more

I'm no psychic like Zora. And I've never been poised in the mercenary position while the sun setted (it's SET, Melissa!) in Cannes (sounds like Evan's can of worms -- or Melissa's way, as in James Caan), but I'd bet a supersize order of Evan's french fries that women everywhere who saw Monday night's ''Joe Millionaire'' were dying inside.

Yes, even Sarah's costars from her oeuvre of bondage flicks. After all, something changed: Everyone involved suddenly seemed, omigosh, human!!! Yes, finally there was less of Evan telling us what a doof he is and more of him just being a doof. Less gossip among the smoking sirens and longer dates. And all this magic just before Valentine's Day! Oh, Fox, you are so savvy, you network, you.

If Melissa is still wondering if Evan has flaws, she should watch Monday night's episode, which was positively flaw-full. When Evan is nervous, he talks about toenails and makes Freudian slips about medical trivia. There's Nervous-Because-He-Doesn't-Like-Her Evan, responding to ''Little Sister'' Melissa's display of cleavage and tightie-whities by discussing superglue's salve purposes. And there's Nervous-Because-He-Does-Like-Her Evan, asking Zora, ''Where did you buy your breasts?'' For all his talk about being unflapped, that was one of the first times I've actually seen Evan a little awed and unnerved. He was almost spontaneous!

Then there were the beautiful delusions. There was Zora's proclamation that she would not kiss Evan because she did not want him to be making out with all the girls at once. Zora, why do you think we Americans watch these shows? For the educational commentary from Paul the Butler? Melissa also seemed a bit deranged, describing herself as someone who doesn't make the first move and then, seconds later, practically pushing her way into Evan's pants. There is not enough room in this paragraph, let alone the world, to discuss Sarah's delusions.

Sarah creeped me out even before I saw her tied up on a couch with sorority sisters. I mean, she made that hotel seem like the damned Overlook from ''The Shining.'' She says she's not a big seductress. Yeah, I guess unless she has her masking tape on hand. She says her type is not ''rough around the edges.'' Perhaps it's just sex she likes that way. My favorite was when she said, ''You don't have to think somebody's really fabulous all the time.'' Of course you don't, especially if you feel at home at the hotel and practically have the word GOLDDIGGER branded on your forehead.

Yet, flaws and delusions are just great. Especially when they're detailed. Zora's dream that Evan was telling her his name was ''John C.''...well, let me read into that: Zora fancies herself Charlotte from ''Sex and the City'' and has repressed anxiety about Evan's lack of brains. So she was granting an unconscious wish that Evan was more like John Corbett, whose heart was broken on ''Sex.'' Or maybe she was thinking of John C. Reilly, who has made a brilliant career out of playing average, intensely likeable guys in film. Whatever.

In the end, Evan isn't a white knight. He's just a guy who is naïve enough to go crying to the producer at 3:30 in the morning. And Sarah isn't some crazy porn star. She's just a 330-population-town girl with no qualms about putting out if it means getting to ride in a jet again.

And Zora. Now I agree with Evan that she's a mystery. One second she's like this Amish fairy princess, and the next I don't blame Melissa and Sarah for being annoyed with her. But now that there are three people here, instead of two warpath singles and an oaf, I care. Sure, I have laughed before (oh, the sexy subtitles!) and I have rolled my eyes (the early catfight over the gowns in episode 1), but now the game feels serious. Well, okay, as serious as a ratings-driven reality TV show can really be.

Originally posted Feb 04, 2003

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