What is reality? This is a question best posed by philosophers and the stoner kids at your high school. But also by producers of reality shows, who love to toy with our expectations. This week, we look at a few scripted shows that filled us with real emotions. And, more amazingly, reality shows that did the same. (Not that all these emotions were good: Looking at you, Real Housewives of New Jersey.) Welcome to Top Moments, Reeling in Reality Edition.
13. Worst Decision: On Entourage, an obviously concussed Vince unilaterally decides to cut off his signature curly locks. (You can imagine Keri Russell sitting at home and saying with a sigh: "They never learn.") We hope he's not going to have to do any re-shoots for that Cassavetes movie.
12. Most Chilling Image: After answering 35 calls in one day, the boys of Rescue Me's 62 Truck return to the firehouse to chow down on some pizza and give Tommy his welcome-back gift. But the fun is cut short when Lou, who's spent much of the hour not feeling well, collapses in the garage. The episode ends with a haunting close-up of one of his glassy eyes.
11. Weirdest Reveal: On The Bachelorette, Ali gets an eyeful when Kirk's dad asks if she wants to see his basement, and unveils his extensive taxidermy collection — and the frozen animal parts he keeps in his freezer. Um, at least they share a love for animals?
10. Best Cliff-hanger: The girls of Pretty Little Liars think they know who the mysterious "A" is, so when Emily comes face-to-face with Toby, their prime suspect, she runs. Next we see her fall and hear a girl scream, and a mysterious figure changes a sign to reduce the town's population by one. Will there be fewer pretty little liars from now on?
9. Most Surprising Development: At a Human Rights Campaign event on Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, Griffin meets with a group of gay soldiers serving their country in silence. When she asks them why they're confident that the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy will be repealed, one soldier responds, "Because of people like you." For once the loud-mouthed comedian is teary-eyed and speechless.
8. Well, That Didn't Take Long Award: Big Brother 12's Mole-inspired twist totally deflates when the houseguests unanimously vote to evict Annie just moments after Julie Chen reveals her to be the Saboteur. Um, now what?
7. Best Kiss: After nearly two yawn-worthy hours, Spain beats The Netherlands to win its first World Cup championship (just as Paul the psychic octopus predicted). This sets up the best play of the post-game: Spanish captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas plants a big kiss on his reporter-girlfriend, Sara Carbonero, in the middle of her attempt to interview him.
6. Best/Weirdest Musical Guests: Just a day after M.I.A. and an army of doppelgängers treated us to the relentless, percussive "Born Free" on Late Show with David Letterman, performance artist Laurie Anderson slowed things down a bit with a meditative spoken-word rendition of "Only an Expert," which — if our art-interpretation meter is calibrated — is a sharply worded, buoyantly delivered message for BP.
5. Best Allegory: On Kate Plus 8, Kate buys 16 hens for her kids and a rooster for herself. "The poor thing got henpecked," she says, drawing a comparison between the bird and the guy who used to be in the name of the show. It wasn't subtle, but we laughed anyway.
4. Plainest Truth: This week's Louie features lots of comic brilliance — from his accidental date with a fellow single parent (Pamela Adlon) to his hookup with a 26-year-old (Elisabeth Hower) who's turned on by older guys. ("You smell weird," she says. "Like dying. It's sexy.") But nothing is as laugh-out-loud funny as a PTA meeting where over-involved moms and dads theorize about why their kids get tired at school. It's because they're demoralized, says one parent. No, says another, the school is too competitive. Or maybe the kids need time to dance. More guesses pour in, until Louie explains all. "Isn't it just — it's school, right? So, I mean, school sucks."
3. Worst Breakdown: When Teresa seems ready to hit Danielle on Real Housewives of New Jersey, Danielle spins on her heels (breaking one of them) and tries to hot-foot it away. But before she can escape, Jacqueline's daughter, Ashley, grabs and yanks out a clump of Danielle's fake hair. "Light and love, b----!" Ashley shouts. This is totally how Gandhi would have handled the situation.
2. Best Self-Awareness: The series finale of The Hills ends with Kristin and Brody saying goodbye in front of the Hollywood sign. But then the backdrop rolls away to reveal they're on a studio set. It's a nice nod to one of the biggest thrills of the Hills: trying to figure out if any of it is real.
1. Best Choice: The producers of Deadliest Catch had quite a dilemma: how to show Capt. Phil Harris' death without sensationalizing it. In the end, a poignant conversation between father and son in the hospital sets the respectful tone. "I'm sorry," Phil says to his son Josh. "When you were growing up, I should have been a better father." His apology reduces his son — and the audience — to tears.