My biggest complaint about ABC’s Claim to Fame was that it spoiled itself, revealing the celebrity relatives of some of the cast members before other contestants—and before I!—had a chance to figure it out.
But the third episode used that against me, and ended up with a sort of blindside that followed a thrown challenge and some interesting alliance-based strategy.
Between the cheesehead-liked cheese wedge on the clue board, and an actual clue, some of the players have figured out Brittany is Brett Favre’s daughter, and she/the editing revealed that to us on the second episode. Between her and Simone Biles’ sister Louise, there are two relative easy targets, it seemed.
The real game play didn’t start until the challenge, for which team captains were picked at random, and then chose their teams.
The winning team’s captain would get immunity; the losing team’s captain would automatically be in the bottom two, and choose another person from their team to join them in the bottom two. As usual, the house would vote for which of the two was forced to make a guess.
Lark and Louise were team captains, and that’s when the strategizing began.
Dominique and X wanted to target Brittany, because of their confidence in Brittany’s Favrelousness. So Dom encouraged Lark to choose X for her team.
“I feel like I have the power to persuade people to go my way,” Dominique told us. She then told X to throw the challenge, saying it’d be a “benefit to be on the losing team.” She added, “I think you’re safe if you’re the guesser.”
So why try to get in the bottom and be the guesser? That seems like a curious strategy, but one born of the fact that everyone (except the winning captain) is vulnerable.
On Claim to Fame, the person in the bottom two who’s chosen as guesser actually has all the power, because they can choose anyone in the house to guess.
The X and Dominique alliance and plan was not exactly secret, though we didn’t see all of the machinations on the other side. “Their plan is to make X the guesser,” Brittany said, and Lark told Brittany that she was the target.
Meanwhile, Louise, who looks exactly like her sister Simone Biles, knew she needed immunity to not be an easy target.
Throwing a poorly constructed challenge
Spelling challenges are all the range this summer—The Challenge: USA just had two in a row—because it’s a relatively safe bet that pressure and reality TV contestant intellects equal funny spellings.
This one delivered several of those. For example, wee got:
- DOPPLEGANGER and then DOPPLEGANGAR for doppelgänger
- RYTHEM for rhythm
- HYDROLIOS for hydraulic
- SUFLET for soufflé
Alas, a bunch of the misspellings were just montaged into “no”s and buzzer sounds. I suspect that’s because it was hard to actually see the misspelled words; since the letters were on balls, they rolled around and the players didn’t or couldn’t line them up to be perfectly visible to the cameras.
Even with a super-low-end budget like this, can’t we just make choices that guarantee all the people watching at home can—and I know this is a crazy idea—see what’s happening?
Anyway, X’s attempt to throw the challenge was right out of an infomercial, as he over-acted his struggle in the pool and on land. It worked, and/or his team was worse at spelling than the other team, so Lark landed in the bottom.
But then! Instead of choosing X to be in the bottom two with her, Lark chose L.C.
What?! That came from Brittany, who told Lark that L.C. wanted to be in the bottom.
Lark was crushed by this, and in a fascinating moment for a competitive reality TV show, she and Brittany and L.C. all had a conversation together to hash it out.
“I thought you agreed to it. I thought you did!” Brittany said, putting her hands to her face while Lark cried.
L.C. said “nobody confirmed anything with me,” and then told us “Brittany is an actress.”
While Brittany insisted “I didn’t come up with that” and “it wasn’t my idea,” the damage was done. Lark said, “I just feel so played.”
But it was Lark who was about to play everyone, or at least some of them, and definitely me. We saw Louise share her clue with Lark, and with all of the Favre talk, it seemed like Brittany was heading out.
Poolside—because the house Claim to Fame rented has no other spaces—the house voted between L.C. and Lark, and selected poor Lark to be the guesser. Hadn’t she suffered enough?
With confirmation that Brittany was related to Brett Farve, and a look on Brittany’s face that said I am more defeated than the Packers*, all that was left was the reveal. (*I am from Wisconsin. I am legally allowed to say this.)
Then Lark announced whose relative she’d guess: X’s.
Many in the house seemed shocked. “I’m going to throw up,” Pepper said.
Lark correctly identified X’s relative as Laverne Cox, who is X’s twin and actually acted on two episodes of Orange is the New Black.
While we saw that Louise got a clue and shared that with Lark (“feel better?”), we didn’t see who it was for or what it said. After she guessed, though, we saw that the clue was for X and very clearly identified “Orange is the New Black.”
So there was another alliance working against the Dom/X alliance, and it certainly seemed to blindside them.
On Claim to Fame, X has been quite an amazing reality TV character, even staying in goth costume for the swimming challenge.
And his persona provided a lot of humor. “I was able to do my naked exercises in the bathroom—with the bathroom door closed,” he said in one interview. Then he asked the crew: “Are there cameras in there? … Maybe edit that out. Or maybe not.”
The episode began with Dominique dressing in “a tribute” outfit to X, and then explaining to us that she knew who X was related to because “I’m pretty much obsessed with his celebrity relative.” X knew that she knew, saying, “if anyone does, it’s her.”
Besides having an Emmy-winning sister, X is also a critically acclaimed artist. His bio describes him as “a composer who works across opera, metal, performance, video, sculpture and installation to craft sprawling narratives of radical becomings.”
But he didn’t talk about his own work after being unmasked. He didn’t even reveal his own name until prompted by a Jonas: M. Lamar.
Instead, X, aka M. Lamar, said this, which got everyone teary and was another surprising and wonderful moment in an episode full of them:
“I am very emotional tonight, not because I am leaving, but because I have so much respect for my sister. I’ve never really spoken about her, but since she’s the reason why I’m here, I want to say, in front of the world, I love her so much. I think she’s the most extraordinary person I’ve ever met. She’s endured all kinds of insanity—and continues to.
She continues to stand with so much dignity and pride, and go forward and be an inspiration for so many people. Her success is so much bigger than her. The number of Black trans actresses who are on the covers of magazines, who are starring in television shows—all of that did not exist before my sister, and I just want to thank her and praise her.”