“CordCutting.com Watches” is a recurring feature in which the CordCutting.com staff watches and reacts to a streaming show or a movie.
STEPHEN LOVELY, Editor-in-Chief: So here we are, for the last time. Anyone feeling nostalgic?
SHARI WEISS, Editor: Yes! I loved the clips from throughout the season that kicked things off. One of them was particularly priceless: Ariel starting the show thinking Lance Armstrong was Neil Armstrong.
DEANNA NGUYEN, Streaming Editor: Top 10 “Stars on Mars” Moments, for sure (also, article idea?)
ANDREW COLE, Internet Editor: She was so stoked in that first episode. We’ll never get that back.
SHARI: It's even more hilarious now because she ended up absolutely hating him.
STEPHEN: I wonder if she would’ve liked Neil any better.
ANDREW: Unrelated, but did anyone notice how they had Bubble- and Saran-Wrapped almost everything in the hab? Like, the show isn’t even over; don’t make it look like a Martian estate sale.
SHARI: I did notice that, Andrew! It was very bizarre. Then again, it's a very bizarre show.
DEANNA: Guess it was time to wrap things up, eh?
SHARI: So, it was revealed pretty early on in the episode that the big prize was getting to transmit a message to Earth. For the approximately seven people that would care. How lackluster. You could tell they wanted to hype it up by having that countdown clock in the top-right of the screen, but this was no New Year's Eve!
STEPHEN:Loved the “COUNTDOWN TO MESSAGE” timer. Very important stuff.
DEANNA: Countdown timers make me anxious. That would’ve done the opposite of hype me up.
ANDREW: My favorite part was William Shatner seemingly waking up in his leather jacket in his room. Like, he went to sleep with it and just got up that morning ready to go. Then, he can’t work the doorknob. I guess “Stars on Mars” couldn’t afford the practical effects of sliding doors from the USS Enterprise that he used for so many years in the ‘60s.
STEPHEN: I loved when he said the message from Mars “could be the biggest and best thing you’ve done with your life.” Just an unbelievably cutting line to put in Shatner’s mouth on this reality show for washed-up C-listers. Credit to the writing team for that one.
DEANNA: This final episode felt more like a competition than previous episodes — especially once we were down to the “final three,” when they were against each other instead of being put on teams to complete a mission. Why couldn’t we have this for the whole show?
STEPHEN: I felt that same way about the cut from five to three, when we got that group therapy session with Shatner and then a vote. It reminded me of the point one of you guys made about how the base commander voting should’ve been more “Survivor”-like. They structured this show in a Survivor-like way, where playing politics and winning votes really matters, but they haven’t always leaned into that as much as I would’ve liked. Here, they finally did.
SHARI: To reduce the crew from five to three, they had to come up with questions to ask each other about their time in the game before voting for the three most mission-critical team members. I don't think anyone's questions or answers swayed their votes, though.
DEANNA: I thought it was underwhelming, but I get that they needed to cut people fast to make this episode the last one. I just find it hilarious that there was a clear divide between the OGs and newbies even to the end.
SHARI: Tinashe had the “mic drop” question to Paul: “Do you feel you deserve to win over the people who have been here longer?” BOOM. In response, Paul told a sob story about being stabbed at 23 years old. What the hell did that have to do with whether he deserves to win over the people who have been here longer?! Stick to the program, Paul!
STEPHEN: Hahahaha! “‘Oh, boohoo, you got stabbed,’ BIG DEAL, get over it” – Shari
SHARI: Pretty much. It had nothing to do with Mars!
ANDREW: On Mars, only laser altercations count for sympathy points.
DEANNA: Paul bringing it up now is just a last-minute effort to gain everyone’s pity in the hope that they vote for him. Which they did not.
STEPHEN: He got STABBED!
SHARI: Anyway, the vote wasn't actually a vote per se. It was actually a ranking. Each celebronaut had to rank everyone on a scale from 1 to 5, most critical to least critical.
STEPHEN: It’s ranked choice voting! We have this in New York. Nice to see “Stars on Mars” instituting progressive voting systems.
SHARI: Ranked choice voting is too complicated for dumb-dumbs like me. Give me a straight popular vote, please.
ANDREW: Wow, Stephen, using any chance to point out you live in New York — nice.
STEPHEN: Only CordCutting.com’s generous remote-work policy stands between each of you and having to live in The Greatest City in the World.
SHARI: Did Shatty Daddy really tally the rankings to determine which three were deemed the most mission-critical — or did a voice in his earpiece tell him who to say?
ANDREW: Can they just put up a graphic with the votes? How hard can that be?
SHARI: In the end, our three finalists were Adam, Tinashe, and Porsha. Shatty Daddy also claimed that they all received the same score. Hmm.
STEPHEN: Team Tinashe finally voted properly as a bloc, precisely at the time that they probably should not have. Wouldn’t you rather face Clumsy Cat in the finals than a literal Olympian?
SHARI: Fair point, Stephen. I initially thought it was smart to pick Adam over Cat because I feared Cat's “win at any cost” strategies would take her to the end. It felt right, though, that the OG three were the final three, as they said.
DEANNA: I agree, Shari. I couldn’t see anyone else but those three in the endgame.
STEPHEN: Any fond farewells for Cat or Paul?
SHARI: I did appreciate Paul's farewell: “Alright, Mars, I'm out of here. I'm headed to Jupiter. I'll catch you next time.”
STEPHEN: Very well. Let’s move on to the finals.
SHARI: So now it was sol day 20, the last day of the experiment. Porsha went back to her long hair.
DEANNA: Loving hers and Tinashe’s hair changes!
STEPHEN: Tinashe even changed her hairstyle between the discussion period and the vote in the first elimination round. I loved that.
SHARI: The final mission in a nutshell: In the Martian desert, there were two satellite towers. The players had to answer trivia questions, and the first two players to get enough questions right got to race to the satellite towers and repair them. The first to finish would broadcast their message and win.
ANDREW: So, they’ve had like three weeks to study facts about Mars and Porsha completely blows a rigged question about the moons of Mars? Maybe it’s because I’ve played the game “Terraforming Mars” before, but these Mars facts were pretty basic. At least we got a flashback to Marshawn telling everyone, “I’m your daddy.”
STEPHEN: Porsha did not do well, but let the record show that she is the only one of the three who knows what rust is.
DEANNA: I maybe got like three questions right. Was proud of getting the Galileo one right, though that’s probably “basic” as Andrew said.
STEPHEN: I love that Adam read the stupid manual thing. Way to go, king.
SHARI: All the questions felt appropriate except for the Marshawn one. What does “IYD” stand for in Marshawn speak? Uh, that has nothing to do with Mars.
ANDREW: It has everything to do with Mars. Shatty Daddy, IYD, daddies are a big part of the Mars lore.
STEPHEN: I loved the trivia answers. What on earth did Porsha choose as the names of Mars’ moons?
SHARI: Adam was the first to answer enough questions correctly and got to jet off in the rover.
STEPHEN: Nobody has ever looked more cooked than those two dummies did as they watched the Olympic medalist sprint out of the hab to claim his head start on the physical portion of the challenge. I bet they wished they had voted for Clumsy Cat!
DEANNA: Or Paul. Paul would’ve failed that quiz section right off the bat.
SHARI: Tinashe finished second shortly after. But what would've happened if Tinashe and Porsha both answered that last question correctly? Would they have kept going sudden-death style? There wasn't much time left before the hab wouldn't be safe anymore.
STEPHEN: If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would say that they had them take the test on pen and paper and then staged the whole iPads part. They could have read the questions off in whatever order they wanted, already knowing who would get points and who wouldn’t, which would allow them to build the drama with ties and comebacks. And they’d also know for sure that they could ask that final question with 40 seconds left, because they’d know they’d get exactly one right answer and no overtime.
ANDREW: Having seen the entire season now, I don’t know if they would have the foresight to pull off such a complex scheme.
SHARI: Unsurprisingly given his head start, Adam got to the satellites first. He (and later, Tinashe) then had to complete a three-phase process to make his respective satellite function. I was glad it wasn't just a matter of who could get there the fastest. There were further tasks to complete — namely, connecting five cables, patching six wires, and raising the satellite.
ANDREW: Commence the super-slow rover race!
SHARI: Adam didn't take the time to read the instructions before starting. Tinashe did. That hurt him and helped her. Tinashe was even set up for a come-from-behind win — unless Adam could turn the tables with his own comeback. And he did!
ANDREW: Adam at first, “In my entire life I've avoided all instructions. And I thought, why would I start today?” Adam when he starts losing, “Should’ve read the directions!”
STEPHEN: Adam choking away a commanding lead in the physical part of the challenge had me absolutely dying. Poor Tinashe was half the size of the stupid cables. How do you mess that up, man?
DEANNA: “Here comes the consequences of my own actions!” Except he actually got over them.
STEPHEN: He did! Tinashe promptly blew her own lead during the super challenging “plugging in wires” portion of the challenge. These competitors are so elite.
SHARI: Adam revealed in this interview some interesting BTS details on how the final moments really went down
STEPHEN: WOW, so it was RIGGED! That’s too funny. Even funnier that he felt the need to admit that later and really rub her face in it. “Yeah, I tried to help her win, but she was just SO bad that I couldn’t even manage it and she begged me to put her out of her misery.”
ANDREW: Welp, I guess I need to listen to your conspiracy theories more often.
SHARI: But it also feels like #JusticeForTinashe that even he thought she deserved to win based on her season-long performance.
DEANNA: Final missions are always rigged, that’s all I’ll say.
SHARI: I expected “broadcasting the message to Earth” to be a matter of Adam being filmed right then and there in the Martian desert. In actuality, he basically inserted what he called a CD-ROM to play a recorded message.
ANDREW: They don’t have flash drives on Mars?
SHARI: The supposed audience: Crowds in Times Square, Red Square, St. Peter's Square and Sydney Harbor. That was an awful combination of archive footage with CGI.
DEANNA: Wow, Shari, did you actually recognize those places right off the bat? Maybe I don’t go outside enough.
SHARI: They put the location names on screen.
STEPHEN: Any thoughts on our champion, Adam Rippon?
SHARI: Can we flash back to our week 1 roundtable? Who was rooting for Adam to win it at all? THIS GIRL.
STEPHEN: I would also like to note that I had Adam in the top spot in our power rankings heading into the finale.
ANDREW: Rub it in! I’ll forever and always be Team Tinashe. No regrets.
DEANNA: Same, Andrew!
SHARI: I love the photos Adam posted on Instagram in celebration. I do not love the fourth-wall-breaking with the shot of Natasha Leggero getting her makeup done.
STEPHEN: I like Adam. He’s been pretty funny the whole time. I think I initially underestimated his entertainment factor, but he got pretty into the hab politics as the series went on. I was rooting against some of his goals — mostly because he wanted to eject the people who were even messier about the drama than he was, and I always want the messiest people to stay on my TV screen. But his machinations were pretty fun in and of themselves, and that’s much more than you can say about some of the more boring people on this show. I’m glad he pulled this off.
ANDREW: Beyond his personality, Adam Rippon is a true champion and fighter. Before we set sail on this “Stars on Mars” venture, take a moment to watch his performance in PyeongChang in 2018.
DEANNA: I came across his TikTok account and he seems like a friend you’d want to have in your circle. Just not on Mars.
SHARI: Let's invite him to our next team get-together.
STEPHEN: One last prompt, folks: Let’s take a moment to reflect on our whole “Stars on Mars” journey.
ANDREW: Look, I’m no reality show expert or anything, and I would say it’s one of the least common types of shows I watch regularly. That said, I think there can be magic through “Stars on Mars.”
SHARI: So, did we really need this to be 12 episodes? I think six might've been better.
STEPHEN: I think this show had a pretty genius elevator pitch, and at its best it was pretty wonderful. But I also think it couldn’t always decide what kind of show it wanted to be. It too often felt like a harmless celebrity game show, but it was at its best when it was a ruthless reality TV show.
SHARI: I noticed FOX called this the “season” finale and not the “series” finale. Would you guys watch a Season 2? I think I would just to see how it compares to Season 1.
ANDREW: I agree with Stephen that the show needs to figure out what it wants to be. Bigger stars, better challenges, and more intensity would make it more watchable.
DEANNA:I agree that the show has a lot of potential and this one being their first season would be a blueprint for what they can improve on in Season 2 (if that happens). That said, I’m ready to “extract” myself from the show.
SHARI: Bon voyage! Mission complete!