December 22, 2015
SVU #48, No Rules: $5,000 Is Not Nearly Enough to Put Up With This Insanity
Summary: A TV network called ICSN is hosting a cross-country competition for college students. The prize: $5,000 scholarships. The method of travel: RVs. The stunts that must be performed along the way: INTENSE. The competitions will be filmed, but the rest of the trip won’t be. So it’s like Road Rules without the interesting parts. The twins, Todd, and Danny (who only makes a brief appearance in the book) are all chosen to compete. Tom is passed over and named an alternate, but he pays off a guy who made it so Tom can take his place. He wants to spend the trip with Elizabeth in hopes of getting back together with her.
Everyone gathers at the starting point in San Francisco; the trip will end four weeks later in Florida. Dana’s upset that Todd will be away for a whole month. Todd thinks she’s really just nervous that he and Elizabeth will get back together. She tries to convince him to drop out of the trip, but fortunately, he refuses. And fortunately, we’re done with Dana for the book.
The competitors check in, and Richie Valentine, the Intense Coast-to-Coast Road Trip Challenge’s very own Ryan Seacrest, gets things started. The students, who are from three different schools, are randomly sorted into teams, then sent to do introductory interviews on camera. Todd meets Sam Burgess and isn’t impressed. Jessica meets Neil Martin and is VERY impressed.
Jess and Neil are on different teams, but Neil’s with Elizabeth, so Jess switches with Liz. Tom finds out that he and Elizabeth are on different teams, so he finds someone to switch with. But he doesn’t realize that Liz and Jess have already switched. He also doesn’t realize that Todd is on his team, which means, Jessica, Tom, and Todd are going to be stuck in an RV together for the next four weeks. Their other teammates are Neil and a super-annoying couple named Pam and Rob.
The teams’ first instructions send them to Vegas. Well, this trip is off to a good start. I mean, except for the fact that Tom and Todd keep fighting, and Pam and Rob are practically attached at the hip. At least Neil seems like a nice guy, and much easier to live with than anyone in Elizabeth’s RV. She’s with bad-boy Sam, aspiring singer Ruby, meek Charlie (a girl), Swedish exchange student Uli, and unremarkable Josh.
Liz is relieved not to be stuck with both Tom and Todd, but she soon realizes that Sam is just as bad. He’s sexist and full of himself. Ruby plays an original song for her teammates, and Elizabeth has to pretend she likes it, even though Ruby doesn’t seem to have the talent to become a professional. She doesn’t know that Ruby doesn’t think very highly of her either – she thinks Elizabeth is a shallow snob. Ruby fully admits that she’s only in the competition to get exposure.
Sam tries to sleep, thinking about how Elizabeth is too perfect, which makes her annoying. He’s surprised to hear her talking to Charlie about sex. Speaking of Charlie, she seems to have a secret – she’s seen a guy on a motorcycle following their RV, and she’s wondering if she should tell Liz about it. Also, she has a boyfriend but doesn’t want anyone to know. I think you all are smart enough to do the math on this.
Everyone gets to Vegas without incident. Elizabeth sees Sam in just his boxers, and he’s surprised that she doesn’t get all flustered. She takes a nap instead of going to breakfast, since she drove all night, and Sam tucks her in. This whole thing is dumb. Clearly they’re going to end up together! Just get there already! Anyway, the teams learn that their first challenge is to get as many winnings cups as they can from casinos. (Wow. Intense!) The competitors quickly realize that many of them aren’t 21 yet, which means teams with over-21 players have an advantage.
Sam has a fake ID, but it turns out not to be necessary. He and Josh tell a guard that they’re with a TV show investigating underage gambling. They pretend the ICSN cameras are with this show, and that other people in the casinos have hidden cameras. Security should keep an eye out for any college-age kids trying to get in, even if they have IDs saying they’re 21. Word spreads down the strip, and Tom and Todd are unable to get into any casinos, even though Tom’s 21.
Ruby just wants to hang out and have fun instead of worry about the competition. She and Charlie split up, and Ruby goes to a bunch of shows. Elizabeth and Uli team up and get a dozen or so cups. Neil pretends a random guy is someone he knows, so the guy will do him and Jess a favor and get them some cups. Todd decides to call it a day, even without any cups, but Tom doesn’t want to quit because then Elizabeth will think he’s a loser. (Insert joke here about how that message has already been received.) But then the guys spot a Dumpster full of cups and realize that, even without gambling, they hit the jackpot.
Meanwhile, Sam plays blackjack, and Elizabeth yells at him when he gets some money from an ATM to keep gambling. Chill, Liz. Don’t tell people how they can or can’t spend their own money. He’s clearly rich anyway, so it doesn’t matter. Also, you’re supposed to be getting cups. Jessica’s team does very well with that task, but Elizabeth’s team almost completely fails. Liz misplaces her, and Sam’s own winnings cup is the only one they’re able to turn in at the end of the task. Good job, guys!
Next the teams head to Idaho. IDAHO IS SO INTENSE! Pam and Rob start fighting, and I don’t know how the rest of their teammates manage to not shove one or both of them out of the moving RV. Hatred of Pam and Rob is basically the only thing Todd and Tom can agree on. But then they start talking about Dana and Elizabeth, and get all competitive, so maybe they’re the ones who should be jettisoned on the highway.
Over in Liz’s RV, Sam has made Charlie cry by complaining about how she can’t drive stick. Elizabeth gives her a driving lesson, which endears her to Ruby, so the three girls are now a lot friendlier with each other. Then Sam picks a fight with Elizabeth and makes her cry, which just makes him even more sexist about frail girls and their stupid emotions. But he still cares about her, because he’s falling in luuuuuuuuuv with her (of course).
In Idaho, the challenge for the day is whitewater rafting. Charlie freaks out, even though she can swim, and everyone will be wearing protective gear, and there’s a guide with them. I get being nervous about the task, but she really overreacts. At least she’s going to participate, though, unlike Pam, who wants to sit out because she can’t swim well. Since Rob is basically her conjoined twin, he’ll be sitting out, too. He starts going on and on about delicate women, so Todd turns it around, getting Pam angry enough to decide to raft.
Everyone goes in the water. Ruby falls out. Elizabeth saves her. Sam realizes he would be totally devastated if anything bad happened to her. JUST HOOK UP ALREADY. Tom sees Sam being protective of Liz and gets jealous, because of course he does. Once he’s sure Liz is okay, Sam yells at her for jumping in to get Ruby, since it left the team with only four competitors, and they were disqualified. Elizabeth doesn’t understand why he’s more concerned with the competition than the fact that Ruby could have died.
In Jess’ RV, Pam suggests a game of truth or dare. Who plays truth or dare past the age of 13? Neil’s terrified that Pam has found out his secret and is using the game to reveal it to everyone. No one wants to play, though, so Neil’s safe for now. The teams are next sent to Wall, South Dakota, where Rob thinks they’ll be doing something involving jackalope. Shhh, Rob. Tom and Todd get competitive again, basically fighting over who was more worried about Elizabeth during the rafting challenge. Shhh, Tom and Todd. Shhh, everyone.
Pam again suggests truth or dare, and this time everyone agrees to play. Jessica smartly makes a rule that no one is allowed to ask Tom or Todd anything about Elizabeth, so they won’t start fighting again. (Jess is actually pretty likable in this book.) Jess gets the first question, being asked if she would ever consider kissing one of Elizabeth’s boyfriends. Todd starts coughing because he knows it’s already happened. Hee.
Jessica dares Neil to let her braid his hair and paint his nails. Weak, Jess. Then Pam dares Neil to kiss Jessica for a full minute. Jess is super-excited because she keeps falling more and more in luuuuuuuv with Neil. She thinks something’s a little off, though. Todd can’t keep quiet like I told him to, so he asks Tom how his kiss with Jessica was when she was pretending to be Elizabeth. He gives it a 7 out of 10. Neil says his kiss with Jessica was better than that.
Charlie gets some practice driving the RV, but Sam complains about it enough to make Charlie decide she wants to stop. Elizabeth yells at him, and he retreats to the bathroom, make Liz worry that she really upset him. When he comes out, he says he was just using the bathroom for its intended purpose. Yeah, right, he was probably crying. That night, as Liz is driving, the RV blows a tire. Sam helps her pull over safely, then complains about women sucking at driving. As the others fix the tire, Sam goes off alone to cry, admitting to Elizabeth that he was scared for her. See, it’s okay that he’s mean to her, because it means he likes her! As soon as they’re back with the others, he acts like a jerk again.
Jessica’s team makes it to Wall, and everyone enjoys some nice, cold, free water. There’s a lot of mentions of how it’s free. I’m not sure why that’s important. I guess they want to make everyone drink a lot of it so the next challenge is even more fun. Liz’s team is almost too late for the next task, because of the tire, but they make it just in time for a water-drinking contest. Thanks to being so hot and thirsty from their tire adventure, Liz’s team wins. Everyone who’d already arrived is too full from already drinking plenty of water.
The next stop is in Missouri, but no one makes it there in this book. Instead, they all find themselves in Wonderlust, South Dakota, and decide to spend the night drinking and singing karaoke at a bar. Tom spends the night drinking and being mad at Elizabeth for introducing him to her team as an “old friend” instead of her ex. Sam’s also mad at Liz for having the nerve to dance with a guy who isn’t him. He cuts in and forces her to dance with him, then kisses her. Liz likes it. Liz exhausts me.
Jess can’t believe that she’s not the twin making out with someone at a karaoke bar, so she tries to remedy that by flirting with Neil. He’s confused, though – didn’t she know that he’s gay? Here’s where Neil makes no sense. He was desperate to hide his sexuality back when they were playing truth or dare, but when Jessica shows interest in him, he acts like she should have known he doesn’t like girls. Jess is shocked that her gaydar never went off, so she runs out.
While Ruby wows everyone with her musical talent (I guess she’s better on stage than in the back of an RV), Elizabeth goes to the RV for some time alone to think about how awesome her kiss with Sam was. She sees Charlie heading out somewhere on her own and thinks she’s going off with a guy. Charlie admits that the guy is her boyfriend, Scott. Her parents sent her on the trip to get her away from Scott, but he’s been following their RV on his motorcycle and meeting her at every stop. Whatever.
Liz overhears Sam talking to Josh about a hot girl who’s a good kisser. Naturally, she thinks he’s talking about her. But he’s not: He has a girlfriend back home, and she’ll be waiting for him in Florida. Yikes. Neil goes to his team’s RV to try to talk to Jessica, but he thinks she’s asleep under a duvet. He’s wrong – Jessica’s somewhere in Wonderlust, on her own. As everyone gathers back in their RVs, she goes back to the now-empty bar and falls asleep. When she wakes up, the RVs are leaving without her. Oops!
Thoughts: If they’re driving from California to Florida, why are they going north to Idaho and South Dakota? Plus, they’re already hading to Missouri be the end of the book, which is the first in a trilogy. That’s already more than halfway there.
Dear all SV series ghostwriters: You are barred from naming any more characters Sam or Scott.
Cuzin Chunky’s Fried Chicken is a horrible name for a restaurant.