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"I Am Not Above Hidden Cameras": Jeff Lewis About CameraGate on "Flipping Out"

Oh. My. God.

I knew that there would be major fallout from Jeff's decision to install a hidden camera in his office in an effort to catch Chris Elwood slacking off, but even I was ill-prepared for just how much absolute drama this would create.

For a series that has always been a hotbed of drama but has couched it in some hysterical set-dressing, I was pretty surprised by the gravitas of this week's episode of Flipping Out ("Tear Down") for a number of reasons.

Jeff Lewis has always been a control freak who has had a hard time keeping his anger in check and, well, expressing emotion in a sympathetic and encouraging way. So I was surprised by how calm Jeff was when he took Chris Elwood into his office and told him that he was going to be fired, permanently this time. Jeff could have screamed and ranted and raved about violations of trust and turned this into the Spanish Inquisition but instead he calmly told Chris that he had installed the camera and had caught him using the computer (apparently, he checked Facebook 151 times in three days, which must be a new record), which was strictly forbidden. For his part, Chris admitted that he had done wrong and accepted Jeff's decision with a sadness and vulnerability I didn't think he had in him; he said that Jenni didn't know that he had been on the computer or had been slacking off and sadly drove off.

What happened next was truly shocking. Rather than see the scene between Jeff and Jenni, in which he told her about the hidden camera and about Chris' firing, play out on-screen, we instead witness this scene via the hidden camera footage, a decision which made the innate tension and emotion of the scene even more patently real, despite the narrative distance from the audience. Seeing Jenni break down (and Jeff casually point to the camera, hidden in a smoke detector on the wall) literally made my heart leap into my chest. She was completely and utterly undone, betrayed by the two men in her life whom she thought would have her back.

For his part, Chris moved out that day of the adorable little house on Finley which they shared (and which was owned by Jeff) and they split. It wasn't due to the hidden camera that Jenni and Chris' marriage fell apart but it certainly didn't help matters either and must have dragged out a host of other problems to the surface. Personally, I think it's perhaps a good thing. Chris clearly wasn't happy working for Jeff and had been given multiple chances to prove himself worthy of something better; he lied to Jenni about what he was doing at the office and let her defend him to Jeff time and time again. For Jenni's part, I can understand why she wanted to leave Finley and think it's likely for the best: besides for the many bittersweet memories she has of the place where she and her estranged husband lived, it's probably a good thing that Jeff isn't her employer and her landlord. It's definitely a Good Thing that she constructs some barriers between her personal and professional lives as she tries to regain some balance in her life, sans her husband.

Jenni posted a blog entry at BravoTV.com, entitled "I Move Forward" about her marital situation:
"The truth about a marriage is only known to the two people involved and sometimes it is a mystery to them.

My husband said he did not want to be married to me. I had no choice but to respect his wishes.

I am learning all I can from this ... surrounded by my family and friends and with God's help ... I move forward."
Sad but to the point.

While Jeff tried to get things back to normal as quickly as possible (even promoting new Chris to house manager/trainee creative assistant), it was absolutely clear that Jenni wasn't coping very well to the fallout from the hidden camera situation and began making mistakes left and right, which wasn't like her at all but also displayed just how much her marital problems had shaken her. I don't really understand why at Jeff Lewis' office there are no paid vacations, which seems absolutely criminal to me, but Jeff should have given her a few (paid) days off to get herself together, especially as the entire incident (i.e., hidden camera) occurred at the office and directly involved him as well. It was entirely foolish to think that the Hidden Camera Affair only involved him and Chris when Jenni clearly had a vested interest in its outcome.

To make matters worse, Jenni stepped on a rusty roof tack at the Encino house and had to have a tetanus shot (ouch) and, after a series of small blunders, accidentally gave a blank check to a vendor in front of their client. Jeff's freak out was a little much, however. It's not as though she knew the check was blank and a quick call to the bank could have stopped any payment on it immediately if he was that concerned. As it was, they got the check back, Jenni apologized profusely, and she even offered to call Lorie to explain the situation.

Jeff doesn't really know how to deal in situations involving complex human emotions; he claims that he wasn't held as a child and so abhors hugging and that may be true. It's clear he cares deeply for Jenni and doesn't know how to console her at all. Paying for a massage for her is a nice gesture but sometimes you do have to show some real emotion. And if Jeff does love Jenni as much as he says he does... then sometimes love means having to do something when it's inconvenient for you to do it: in this case, to reach out to her emotionally.

That said, I do think Jeff has a wickedly funny sense of humor and managed to make Jenni laugh with his Tijuana comment at her most vulnerable moment. In that moment, despite his many flaws, I really did see that Jeff does have a heart, even if he doesn't know what to do with it most of the time.

All in all, an episode with very little actual flipping out, given the circumstances, and a glimpse into Jeff's efforts to change the way he reacts to things and people. But at the end of the day, I'm worried about Jenni and hope that she finds the strength to persevere and find herself, post-Chris.

Next week on Flipping Out ("Looks Like New"), Jeff makes Chris take the bus, leading to a teary breakdown; Jeff and Ryan return to work for Courtney but discover that she may only want to employ Jeff and not Ryan.

Comments

Asta said…
I'm not sure which was more shocking to me in this episode - Chris walking out on Jenni or Jeff showing as much understanding and compassion as he did. I expected Jeff to make this 'all about me', as he usually does, but he truly seemed to put Jenny first, as much as he is capable of doing. I just hope Jenni realizes how smart, funny, and attractive she is and that there is some guy out there who would be lucky to have her in his life and won't take advantage of her trust as Chris did.
I was really surprised about Chris' decision to leave Jenni. He definitely seems to have a Peter Pan complex and just can't grow up. Hopefully, Jenni will be able to move because she deserves better!

And Jeff truly does care about her and it was nice to see him trying to comfort her, in his own awkward way. You could tell he was totally freaked out when she got that tack in her foot. He couldn't even be near her. Thank goodness for Frank! And, as inappropriate as it was, Jeff's Tijuana comment was hysterical!

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