What’s not to love about Outdoor Week? Shirts off and shorts on! Bark and beersies! Spas and succulents! The judges’ brief was ‘holiday’, but I don’t think they meant Madonna’s 1983 hit single. Regardless, let us be nurtured and restored by the top five moments plucked from the abundant wilderness that was Week 10 of The Block NZ.
1) The Great Outdoors
Alex and Corban are new to gardening. “Do you pat the plant, or pat the soil?” asked a bewildered Alex, before ordering a garden “brassiere” at Bunnings. In contrast, Jo knows her shrubs; turns out she was a florist and has “a bit of a green finger.” With so much to do this week– the teams needed extra help. Corban hired a doppelganger labourer who —according to Damo — could also build a rocket ship. “There’s some sort of freak show out the front. He’s got the same hairy back as Corban,” Damo reckoned. Damo also hired some help, importing trusty sidekick Paul from the Fielding Police. Did you include ‘must dress as superhero’ in the job description, Damo?
It was soil and fences that threatened the tranquility in the Garden of Eden. Corban loved being “on the tools,” whatever that meant, but others lacked his enthusiasm. They ignored his bespoke request to get fences done, like, today, and Maree resented his organisation of her. “I’m not one of your tradies, don’t talk to me like that,” she said, cross as a cut snake. Damo was too busy moving garden products to help. Stuck in one of the back houses, he spent all week moving wheelbarrows of soil into his garden. “It’s an absolute bloody debacle,” he said.
Quinn and Ben have $12,000 left to spend, not counting the $14,000 they owe their builder. “You’re about to go bankrupt!” Mark squealed in delight. To save teams scrounging down the back of their brand-new couches for spare change, Mark announced he has money to lend, with the debt added to house reserve prices. This was a relief to Ben and Quinn, who were low on both funds and inspiration. They kept going like the little train that could, fine-tuning their other talents. Ben showcased an uncanny Mark Richardson impression and we were ‘treated’ to another flatulence montage. Really? This was not the wind I was expecting in Outdoor Week.
2) The Wolf is Tane Mahuta
Like a garden – relationships must be cultivated and nurtured. The Wolf was lord of the forest this week, bringing teams together under his feathery branches for guidance and direction. He gave Quinn and Ben a not-so-gentle reality check over their plan for a spa. Tell them they’re dreaming, Peter — they don’t even have the budget for a couple of potted begonias! He later showed his softer side, patiently demonstrating to Ben how to level a lawn. Turns out you just use a rake.
Love abounded when Maree presented The Wolf with a ‘Team Yellow’ t-shirt. “Is it my colour?” he asked, free stuff obviously his weak point. Now, now, The Wolf: you are neutral. You are Switzerland! The love-fest disappeared during a barney over exterior pavers. The Wolf insisted Maree and James hire tradies to ensure the job got done, which made James really mad at being told what to do by someone other than his Mrs. “I’m sick of being nice,” he said, telling the cameraman to duck off somewhere. Gasp! Put your yellow t-shirt back on, The Wolf, and be quick about it!
3) Pedal Bikes of Death
The first of this week’s challenges was a strange event where teams tried to build a birdhouse by yelling instructions at each other through a sheet. “This challenge will show who is the Brain, and who is Pinky.” says Alex. What? All it did was encourage me to refill my wine glass; watching Damo move wheelbarrows of soil was more exciting. Thankfully the next challenge —Pedal Bikes of Death — held more promise. Mark assured us nobody would die, which is surely a missed rating opportunity. One person pedaled, the other stacked tin cans; when the bike slowed, the base holding the cans collapsed. “This is way better than a building challenge!” said Quinn, who reckoned she and Ben could win. Oh dear. I feel that’s ominous editing.
First up was Maree vs. Corban, or “girl power vs. brain power” according to Mark. “I could possibly lose to a girl,” worried Corban. No pressure Maree, but you need to kick arse for all womankind. Alex was completely incompetent at stacking cans, forcing Corban to pedal and give Alex engineer-approved instructions on how to stack cans. Mark was impressed at Corban’s never-say-die attitude. “He’s an athlete, and he’s got brains. People dream of that,” he told Alex. Choirs began to sing and love hearts flew out of Mark’s eyes as he asked Corban if he’d accept this rose…sorry, thought this was The Bachelor NZ auditions.
The next heat was Ben vs. Damo. “I used to cycle and I’ve won a few races,” said Damo. Is there no end to this man’s hidden talents? Damo outlasted Ben, who suffered badly from cramp. Ask Rigor about cramp, Ben, he’s an expert! The final was over in a matter of seconds, as Jo couldn’t cycle fast enough. “Not one of the greatest finals of all times,” said Mark. “Sorry about that,” muttered Jo, apologising to the country.
4) Unexpected Water Features
They say that gardening restores the soul, but it seemed to do the opposite on The Block NZ. There were tears aplenty; was it too much fresh air? Quinn cried after she and Ben lost the Pedal Bikes of Death challenge, feeling she’d let her husband down. Bless. Mark, can’t you award them a spot prize of a free Wild Bean coffee or something? Waterworks also flowed at Maree and James’, where their emotions changed like the Pacific tides. One minute Maree’s grinding steel and laying concrete, the next she’s crying over her paving stones. Even the awesomeness of her tradies made her weep, like our Scottish Builder who arrived bedecked in kilt and bonnet, carrying a haggis. It’s okay Maree – eating sheep intestines would make me cry, too.
Friday bought us the cruelest twist: news that Jo’s cat Noodle had died. Not even Batman could save this one, as we watched an obviously distressed Jo suffer through room reveal. I felt like bawling too, and footage of Damo’s holy shorts failed to lighten the mood (“the kiwifruit fall out of the shorts, and it’s just not a nice fruit salad,” commented Alex). Thankfully Jo and Damo won the judging, as I fear a low score from Judge Mark may have been too much for us all.
5) Mark Needs a Nana Nap
When my toddler is grumpy, I put her to bed. I think Judge Mark’s Mum needed to send him for a nana nap this week because he was really, really unhappy. He began in Quinn and Ben’s backyard, where he felt the poor planning in their garden meant parents couldn’t watch their children. Mark, you say that like it’s a bad thing. He scored harshly, and Ben struggled to describe his feelings towards his favourite judge. “He’s just…he’s just…a really nice guy,” he concluded.
At James and Maree’s backyard (seemingly five times larger than Ben and Quinn’s, so I’m not sure how fair this judging malarkey is), Grumpy Mark thought they’d failed to deliver a lush, tropical themed garden. Shelley contradicted him, saying she loved their choice of “lush and tropical” plants. “Oh yes, I agree with that,” says Mark, struggling to make up his mind. He thinks the garden lacks a strong wow factor, and Maree looks as if she’d like to take Mark to a lush tropical oasis and leave him to find his own way home.
The judges thought Alex and Corban’s plants added texture, colour and rhythm to their garden. Rhythm? Do the plants form a calypso band at dusk every night? Mark, however, was quick to point out the unfinished lawn. “Their meticulous planning has slipped,” he sneered. Over at Jo and Damo’s, their winning outdoor space had “everything that Kiwis love and want”. What, was Dave Dobbyn playing on the patio? Mark insisted they should consider providing shade, possibly “some sort of pergola structure”. “There’s always a brolly, Mark,” Shelley politely suggested, no doubt wishing that her Grumpy Mark would take James’ advice and duck off.
So, as we near the penultimate week of The Block NZ, the hopes and dreams of our teams flourish alongside the plants in their new gardens. Ben knows Shelley and Mark won’t buy their house, but reckons there are four million other New Zealanders who might. Perhaps, Ben, or perhaps we’ll just remember you as the man who farted a lot on national television. Either way, you’re onto a winner.