Our resident The Block enthusiast Tara dissects the week in Kitchen and Dining, and draws more than a few parallels with the upstairs/downstairs dynamics of Downton Abbey. As Mark Richardson says every five minutes, it’s all drama on The Block.//
Tuesday – Episode 25
It’s Kitchen and Dining Room week – and wait for it, exterior painting week, too. Team design their kitchens, which all include sculleries – what is this, Downton Abbey? Perhaps, as it seems there’s quite the divide between the Haves and the Have Nots. The two back houses – Quinn and Ben, and Jo and Damo – are feeling hard done by, as they’re yet to win a room challenge. No wins + no moolah = spewing!
Quinn and Ben’s new strategy is to Be In Charge. They’ve bought the latest in project management technology: a whiteboard. Just as well, because here comes HCBI™, and we mustn’t let him down. Maree and James get the thumbs up from HCBI. “We’re the only ones to pass!” says Competitive Maree, and to celebrate she whips up some ‘wee willy winkies’ for the Scottish Builder. As you do.
Jo and Damo go to a Warehouse of Wood to find beams for the dining room. Their wood was sourced from an armory that made bullets to kill people. Great story, guys! Ben and Quinn are off to Bunnings to buy paint. Just when they thought they’d made enough decisions for one day, now they have to choose between gloss and matte. Where’s the whiteboard when they need it? Meanwhile, Jo wants to paint the fascists on her house exterior, which should make for excellent television.
Back to Downton Abbey, where the minions are jealous of the aristocrats’ good fortune. Together, Quinn and Ben and Jo and Damo decide to turn the wheel of fortune their way by forming an O for Awesome alliance. By giving each other full marks, they hope to take the cash in the room judging competition. The deal’s been done: Damo feels guilty, but Quinn couldn’t care less. It works a treat, and Jo and Damo take the win. “Oh my gosh!” says Jo, whose fake surprised face needs more practice. Nothing gets past that lot upstairs, though: “there’s something fishy going on,” muses Lady Grantham Alex.
Maree’s got bigger issues: choosing an exterior wood stain. It’s even more thrilling than it sounds – hours pass, tides change, day turns to night as we watch Maree’s growing frustration with James who refuses to agree with her choose a colour. Finally – worn down by fatigue, hunger and the relentless ringing in his ears – James chooses Maree’s preferred colour. “Yes! I won!” says Maree.
Wednesday – Episode 26
Damo uses his gas heater to dry the gib and nek minnit, he’s melted a pipe. First his pants, now his pipes. “Just don’t freak out about it, Jo!” he says, followed by a startling Frank Spencer impression. It’s so unexpected I have to watch it again – twice – just in case I dreamt it.
Quinn and Ben continue their Gap Year at The Block, relaxing in the sun on deck chairs. “We hate painting,” cackles Quinn. The Wolf’s protégé The Pup (human name: Scott) visits Alex and Corban to lay down the law about painting their house exterior. No matter what, they’ll learn that nobody messes with The Pup. They really, really, have to paint their house, like today, or possibly at the end of the week, or maybe just soon would be nice. Alex and Corban are like, whatevs; we’ll paint when we’re ready. Nice one, The Pup – you really showed them.
“I could really do with a day off,” moans Quinn on the way to the Challenge Warehouse. Not doing anything is like, soooo tiring! It’s the Your Home And Garden cover challenge. Teams must include a dog in their cover shot – yes, a dog – and are given room themes: Maree and James get Relaxed Hamptons, Jo and Damo Modern Nordic, Ben and Quinn French Provincial, and Alex and Corban Balinese.
In the words of the great Steve Parr, let’s go shopping! “These are absolutely disgusting,” say Ben, holding up some artwork. “I know they’re ugly, Ben, but that’s what French Provincial is,” replies Quinn, ever on trend. There’s an imaginary stoush in Freedom when Maree uses one of Quinn and Ben’s cushions. Fight! Fight! “She’s definitely holding a grudge against us,” says Ben, who takes cushion theft very seriously. Either that Ben, or Maree took a cushion that was just sitting on the shelf.
Maree has a hissy fit over the styling – “we’re so rubbish! Everything is wrong!” – while James remains calm and gets shit done. The dogs arrive and are bribed into not peeing on the loan furniture. So who’s the winner? Congrats to Undercover Stylist James and Maree! Maree cries tears of pure joy.
Back at The Block, Ben shows The Wolf his futuristic ceiling paint, which goes on pink and dries white. The Wolf is amazed and decides that with Ben’s superior knowledge and Whiteboard Skills, he should be Site Foreman immediately* (*this never happened). “Come and see me tomorrow, and I’ll teach you something else,” Ben tells The Wolf. Tomorrow’s tutorial: how to use a whiteboard pen. Jo and Damo go to a plant shop to buy a ‘living wall’. Hang on, where’s Damo gone? Look at that crazy fella, pretending to be in the jungle. That was hilarious! Yawn.
Thursday – Episode 27
Lord Grantham Corban hires a butler labourer to ‘help out’, i.e. do the jobs he doesn’t want to do. With no money to hire a butler, Jo and Damo are forced to go shopping together. There’s tension bubbling between these two lovebirds: Damo’s over the shopping, and Jo’s over shopping with Damo.
It’s the Planks Build a Plank Challenge, where teams build a board over a swimming pool that will hold their weight for 30 seconds. The prize is a whole lot of long words worth $12,000. I think it may be solar panels, but I can’t be sure. Cue Ben whining about how he’ll lose to Corban, which is good because it’s been about eight seconds since Ben had a little inferiority complex tanty to camera.
Maree’s strategy is to Build It Long And See How You Go, while Quinn’s design plan is slightly less intricate: “let’s do something chunky, and nail it,” she suggests. Quinn and Ben seem to think they signed up for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and decide to phone a friend – Pete from The Block 2013 – for advice. “You’re on the wrong show if you can’t build,” says Alex, summing up the sentiments of a nation.
Tools down, and Corban tests his plank, which promptly collapses. Alex and Corban are first, and I notice how Alex’s leggings have a geometric print that matches their kitchen tiles. Do these two plan absolutely everything? Theirs is the shortest plank but Alex lasts 30 seconds without falling in. Jo and Damo are up next, and despite Damo offering Jo a pie if she wins, there’s a creak, a pop and a splash and Jo’s in the water.
Maree and James are next. Maree’s heart is beating in her throat and then she gets cramp in her toe, a battlefield injury that sends her into the drink. Finally it’s Ben’s turn, with the longest plank in the competition. He does a Spiderman crawl until the board breaks and he falls in. “It was a massive crack,” says Quinn – I hope she meant the plank. Congratulations to Alex and Corban who win $12,000 of something solar-ish.
Back on site, Damo’s so tired he’s slurring his words like a crazy drunk and Corban reckons he looks like a bulldog eating a mintie. Maree and James discuss their mirrored kitchen splash back, as Maree hasn’t fallen in love with the mirror. Don’t you like the reflection, Maree? Their fancy stone bench arrives from all the way from somewhere called Australia and thus is far superior to anything made in Nuw Zild.
There’s a standoff in Freedom as Jo and Alex try to out-crockery each other. “I’m struggling,” says Alex, but it’s not hard – knife on the right, fork on the left. Jo reckons it must be interesting in Corban’s head with light bulb ideas all day long. “What does IQ stand for?” Jo asks. “Intellectual quabilities,” replies her husband Stephen Hawking.
Ben’s picking his teeth with a bit of flooring – which is disgusting, yet entertaining. Speaking of entertaining, Mark takes the judge from The Block NZ 2012 around the houses. “Haii, gaiis,” she says. “I rally lark the wark-araund islahnd,” she tells James and Maree, and she just loves the “tailes” in Jo and Damo’s kitchen.
Friday – Episode 28
It’s the usual last minute paintathon. Jo’s surrounded by mess – and we don’t mean Damo, although he has just painted the ceiling green. Alex and Corban are missing their fancy schmancy booth seat, and will instead invite their guests to sit on silver poles. Mmm, comfy. Ben’s wearing Quinn’s jim-jams while choosing where to place the artwork. “This is probably the best bit of art I’ve ever seen in my life,” Ben says of the technicolour zebra, but reckons the other print looks like “sperm travelling up the uterus”. “I didn’t say that about your tree last week,” sulks Quinn, and whoa, are we reliving the moment of conception?
“Get those kitchens ready!” yells Mark, just in case the teams got distracted checking their Facebook. Maree arrives with three kitchen stools, which aren’t the right height. “I don’t think Damo’s big thighs will fit under there,” she worries. Has Maree designed her entire kitchen around Damo’s Giant Man Thighs? Mark reassures us Damo won’t be coming to test Maree’s stools any time soon. The mind boggles.
The judge’s verdicts are in. Alex and Corban have a great dining room but a sad kitchen, and an unusual layout means it is not one of their best rooms. Gasp! Quinn and Ben have learned a lot since they arrived and the judges give many positive comments, but the room is let down by inadequate lighting. Mark says Jo and Damo’s kitchen has very strong buyer appeal; it’s warm, friendly and functional, but needs colour, while Shelley loves the natural textures and botanical features. James and Maree have created a sophisticated space with great artwork and the judges love the Scottish Builder’s hand crafted table.
And the winner is… Jo and Damo on 16 points. Happy days! Maree and James come second on 15.5, Alex and Corban 14.5, and Quinn and Ben on 12.5 – a rough score considering the praise they received. “It’s just crap!” says Quinn. Everyone’s thrilled for Jo and Damo. “I feel like it’s our win as well, we’re so happy for them,” says Alex. Calm yourself, Lady Grantham!
The Spinoff Daily gets you all the days' best reading in one handy package, fresh to your inbox Monday-Friday at 5pm.