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Canada’s Handyman Challenge, Episode 6 recap

By Matthew Pioro February 15th, 2012

Canada's Handyman Challenge

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Wow. This episode is packed with revelations, missed opportunities and a lot of drama. The remaining six contestants continue the handy showdown in Steel Town. It seems with so few people in the game, the handy folks are under even more scrutiny from the judges.

The first challenge is to knock off a few chores that could be on any honey-do list. It’s as if the contestants each have a slice of a starter home to work with. Each one needs to fix some holes in drywall, put up some wallpaper and some trim within two hours. Judge Bryan Baeumler says that these tasks are simple handyman fare.

Young Andrew (or Young Buck Andrew as he is called in the opening sequence) confesses that drywall is not his thing and he has never hung wallpaper.

“It seems nowadays everyone is trying to strip drywall not put it up,” Andrew says.

Maggie (Never-Say-Die Maggie) feels confident about this challenge. She’s put up 200 sheets of drywall in her house. She’s glad that this task seems suited to her skills. However, she struggled with the mudding in the sun and heat. She prefers fibreglass tape to paper. Maggie also addresses the gender divide that is associated with putting up wallpaper.

“Wallpaper, they say, is something that women do,” she says, “but I think it’s about what wallpapering brings out in people. You need patience. You need to pay attention to detail.”

Dana (Gentle-Giant Dana) seems to be full of ambition. He tries to mimic some wainscotting and to build a simple shelf. If he can’t pull of everything, his ambition may notch up some strikes against him.

Mark (Funky Mark) takes the other approach: he keeps things simple and foolproof. He only puts up one sheet of wallpaper, which he frames nicely with trim. It’s nice, but…the judges might not find it a real display of handiness.

Greg (Easy-Going Greg) learns a valuable lesson about wallpaper and wind: the two don’t mix.

“That’s why you do it inside with the windows shut,” he says.

Brad (Straight-Shooting Brad. What?! Like a brad nailer?) struggles. He admits he wouldn’t have been satisfied with his repair job in his own home.

At judgment time, Andrew gets it in a bad way. Twisting the knife, Mike Holmes does a whiny impression of the contestant.

The Professor of Code lectures Brad about the orientation of the wallpaper: “The problem is you used a plumb line on a wall that’s not on level ground. You know that’s a mistake.”

Many of the contestants are getting flak not only for their handy work, but also their artistic abilities.

“Part of being a handyman is evolving your skills in design a little bit. Clearly there are no designers left in our top six,” says Scott McGillivray, who seems to have forgotten that “designer” (although I don’t think it’s “interior designer”) is Funky Mark’s job. Burn.

Greg ends up putting up his wallpaper upside down and confesses that he doesn’t like the stuff.

“What are you going to do when a homeowner says ‘I’m going to hire you to do wallpaper’?” Holmes asks. “You gonna say you don’t like it?”

This is an odd question from Holmes. By the judges own admission, they are looking for handymen on this show, not contractors. I’m sure a handyman would say, “I guess my friend will make me buy the beer if I wallpaper his place like that.”

What was supposed to be a simple challenge creates much disappointment among the judges. In the end, Dana, Andrew and Greg are the worst performers in the challenge. Ultimately, Andrew gets the boot. He does receive encouragement from the three judges to keep learning and practising the handy arts. He could be a stellar contractor someday.

“I’d rather work for Bryan,” Andrew says, “because he’s younger than Mike and would have a longer time to employ me.”

Now that’s horse sense.

The next challenge is building a set of stairs up to a 4′-high platform. With stairs, you need to know the math and the code. They can be really tough. Dana is not keen. Maggie has never done stairs before. To add to the challenge, the contestants are given just enough wood to complete the project. There’s no room, or extra lumber, for mistakes.

Before we see the contestants tackle the challenge, one of the judges shows us how it’s done right. Holmes declares that building stairs is kids’ stuff, strips down to his tank top and get to work. In roughly 35 minutes, he’s done, despite the crummy wood that Baeumler and McGillivray set him up with. The contestants get 60 minutes for their challenge.

The thing the judges don’t know is that the contestants have all done their homework—from the same book. As the contestants get building, the judges see similarities. I say good on the contestants for having a group study session. For the judges, it just means they’ll be pickier.

As with any test, even one you studied for with friends, there are mistakes. Many don’t pay attention to the grain orientation of the treads, which means they could be prone to cupping. Even though Dana had time at the end, he forgets to screw down part of a tread. Greg does a really good job and even plans for the railing. Despite her fears, Maggie’s stairs are good; however, she takes the longest to complete them.

As the judges examine Brad’s stairs, Holmes points out that the stringers aren’t braced properly at the base. The brace lies between the stringers. Holmes says the stingers must be notched so the brace spans their width as well.

“The brace at the bottom was not in the ideal place,” Baeumler says to the camera, “according to some.”

Now, dear readers, I find Baeumler’s statement rather telling. That innocent little phrase at the end—“according to some”—speaks volumes. I sense Baeumler doesn’t necessarily agree with the Code Gospel According to Holmes, at least on this one point. Usually, we only see the judges disagree about contestants, but here is a chink in the unified front that the judges present. Will there be more?

Mark over cut his stringers. Holmes takes away points for that, but returns some for Mark’s repair. But, something isn’t right with Mark.

Or, as McGillivray puts it: “You in particular today were having a couple of extra brain farts so I was just wondering what was going on in your head?”

When pressed, Mark reveals he’s been having a rough day. He’s missed his father’s funeral to continue with the competition. His dad died before the Vancouver auditions, about a week before the day the episode was filmed. The judges are shocked and one of them utters a bleeped out expletive. They give their sympathies. Mark, who is tearing up, says it’s not excuse for his poor performance. McGillivray agrees but says it at least explains the contestant’s performance. Not an excuse!? I’d say that is a pretty legit excuse. Mark’s dedication to the contest is astounding. Remember, the prize is simply the title of Canada’s best handyman.

The judges wrap up with the other contestants and are off to deliberate. Both McGillivray and Baeumler think it’s time for Maggie to go. Even though her stairs were quite strong, they are taking the long view of her performance throughout the competition. Recall how, in the last episode, she struggle with the electrical work. Still, it seems unfair to single her about for her overall performance, especially since she did well with the task they are ostensibly judging.

The pun-loving judges seem so focused on their job that they miss many opportunities with their favourite form of humour.

“[Maggie] was always one step behind everyone else,” McGillivray says.

“We told them to step it up and they did,” McGillivray deadpans. What? No wink-wink delivery?

“You guys just stepped up to the plate,” Holmes says to the final five contestants.

They didn’t even rise to the punny challenge and run with the zingers. Why did they fear to tread on the stair-nomenclature puns? (And why am I taking up the slack?)

Brad gets singled out for some not-so-great stairs. Greg learns he had the best set of stairs that day. Dana is reminded of his mistakes. McGillivray brings up Mark’s rough day. Maggie is recognized for pulling things together. McGillivray points out that she has struggled more over the competition than others. Bauelmer bemoans the difficulty of their job judging. McGillivray doesn’t want to cut anyone. Holmes cuts to the chase.

“Dana, we love you man,” Holmes says, “but you gotta get your belt.”

“It was so, so close,” Bauemler says. “We sent home a very strong competitor today.”

So, Andrew and Dana, both of whom were roommates, are out. Last week, Frank and Todd, also roommates, were sent packing. Now that means two rooms have been cleared out at the hotel. Do the judges also have an eye on the accommodation budget for the show?

The final four are Maggie, Mark, Brad and Greg. Next week, one if them with be declared the winner.

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