T Shaw: Keeping Kleenex in business since Episode 1.
As the show opens, we see both T Shaw and Nicole, and (separately) Tyler and Shea talk about how making it this far means that they’ve won the show either way, no matter who gets the money. Good thing this isn’t Liar Academy, or this show would have just spontaneously combusted.
Trina unveils a cage that will be used for the final therapy session.
This cage is supposed to represent the guys’ fears of being trapped inside a relationship. And then, they get inside their fears…
…thus turning themselves inside out, if we’re to believe the visual metaphor. This is perhaps the most theatrical therapy session this show has ever presented. It’s theatripy. Anyway, Terry talks about the fact that he keeps Nicole away from his friends. They live separate lives, except that unlike whomever Phil Collins sings to, Nicole does have a right to ask him how he feels, since, duh: this is therapy. It, in fact, behooves everyone to speak so kind. Sorry to go on: it’s just so crazy when you realize that life is not a Phil Collins song.
Also: I forgot all about this problem of theirs. I guess repeated infidelity has a way of dwarfing things. I’ll just assume in good faith that he’s been working on this issue diligently since we last saw it mentioned. Trina encourages T Shaw to get out his frustration and so he rants a little…
He doesn’t want to be trapped in a horrible relationship, and he doesn’t want to be afraid to love Nicole. He ends up apologizing for not committing more before.
Tyler takes the opportunity to use the cage as a vertical set of monkey bars…
…which seems appropriate, considering the level of civilization in these parts. His catharsis goes: “Get off my back! Leave me alone! When I’m ready to get married, I’ll get married!” Great! At least we know where he stands. The whole freaking show could have ended here, but that would have left, like 50 minutes of dead air, so we press on.
The challenge finds the couples having to clean an extremely dirty minivan…
…these are supposed to represent their futures as couples. All this symbolism! But it makes sense because, after all, what is a minivan but a cage on wheels? Anyway, the couples must do this (somewhat predictably) tethered together…
Nicole and T Shaw end up bickering a little, but he resolves to take some time out so that things don’t escalate.
Tyler kind of drags Shea around, but it ends up working for them, as they win the challenge.
At their victory dinner…
…Tyler apologizes for yanking Shea around during the challenge. For every action there is an apology on this show. They don’t call it Apology Academy for nothing.
Oh, and then some dude with a violin comes out and they dance…
…and it’s weird and kind of awkward, but she cries anyway, since this show is also called Tears Academy.
Meanwhile, back at the Academy, Nicole asks T Shaw to get rid of his porn…
…because it makes her feel insecure. I don’t know, a little insecurity is a small price for staving off another man’s misery. But whatever — it’s their minivan-driven future, not mine.
The final showdown arrives…
Helping Trina and Jordan are some old faces:
Tyler points out Charm’s “I (Heart) Charm” shirt and Charm says, “Thank you, I love myself.” Well, that makes one of us! These guys, being tools, seriously add nothing and are gone within three minutes, though not before Charm can refer to T Shaw as “T Shawn,” and ask Tyler, “You feel like you could beat my ass still?” He’s supposed to be asking Tyler questions about his relationship, and once again, Charm finds a way to make it about him. Great. So glad we were able to share this last bit of time together.
Trina asks T Shaw how he’s changed. He says he’s different. He was afraid to be fully committed. He went deep with this therapy. Tool Academy yanked out his fears and put them on the table (not to mention his porn stash). That said, Nicole is the only girl that he wants.
She asks Tyler how his outlook on commitment has changed. He used to just be worried about himself. He thought therapy was a joke, but now he feels more committed. He’s falling in love with Shea again. The guys are then shuttled to a jewelry store to pick out engagement rings — the winner will get not only $100,000, but a ring for his girl, should he choose to use it. T Shaw has never looked at an engagement ring before in his life. Indeed, they are rare — they’re the unicorns of the tool world.
Then, it’s time to graduate.
Trina’s concern regarding Tyler is that being in love is something that should come naturally — it isn’t something you should have to work on. Ideals, ideals. T Shaw has progressed, but can he maintain commitment once Tool Academy is over? He’ll get the chance to find out because, despite him being “not that much of a tool anymore,” Tyler is not graduating.
He tells Shea that he wants to make it work with her. He asks that she trust that he’s in love with her and that his old ways are done. Of course, she gets in the car with him and the last thing we hear her say as he begs to give her back her promise rings again is, “Let’s go home and see how things go.” That’s the most reasonable thing anyone’s said all season. Even without the money, you win, Shea. The prophecy comes true.
…victory gives T Shaw the excuse to cry again. I think he might have a nine-episode streak of tears, but I’m not going to check because this show is OVER. Still, few would deny that T Shaw is impressively sensitive. But this is a joyous occasion. It’s not everyday that you become the second person ever to graduate from Tool Academy!
As the ANTM finale music plays, T Shaw rushes out to see Nicole. They share an exchange that goes:
T Shaw: I graduated!
Nicole: Tell me what happened!
T Shaw: I graduated!
OK, so it isn’t Vocabulary Academy. But it is, for this lucky couple, Engagement Academy:
She says yes, of course.
To a porn-free future!