It's probably a good thing that the "Ghost Hunters Academy" portions are so small. I don't think even the most fervent of fans could stomach this show for much more than six episodes at a time. Frankly, I'm at a loss as to why there are fervent fans of this show. I have yet to read any defense or rebuttal of the show's litany of faults; the support just seems to amount to blind praise.
This episode amounts to more of the same. All the problems that I had with the show during Round 2 continue to plague the series in this installment. I will admit to being a bit surprised by the outcome of this elimination, especially since the reasoning was sound. That said, it's not enough for me to change my opinion or dismiss the many other shortcomings.
I said before that Vera was a dangerous choice for Jason, Steve, and Tango to praise, because they seemed to be overlooking the fact that she was credulous. There's nothing worse than an investigator who has one moment that appears to justify every little "feeling" they have during a case, and Vera has had a couple potential moments like that. I've seen it myself: investigators that start relying more on how they feel and less on what reality is presenting to them.
It's often hard to know if the editing is painting a complete picture; the hardline skeptics overlook this all too often when they claim that every little shred of "evidence" is obvious fabrication. Yet in the case of Vera, her own actions and words match what was seen in this case. As an investigator, she managed to convince others that she was more attuned to activity than they were. Even TAPS was nominally convinced, because they praised her for it.
But being an investigator (of any kind) means conforming to a sense of discipline and rational problem-solving. Leading a team requires planning and forethought. Vera had no idea what she was doing, and because she was relying so much on her "feelings", she couldn't overcome the weaknesses with technical strengths. In other words, Vera just wasn't much of an investigator; she was just someone with a passion to validate her beliefs in the paranormal. (Which is precisely why TAPS' embattled claims to skepticism would have been further compromised had she won Round 2.)
Vera's shortcomings as a leader were not solely her fault. Granted, a good leader knows that he or she needs to solicit opinions from the team and ask for suggestions, but credit should always be given. The lapse with Adam did her no favors, because it was something easy to use against her. Adam and Michelle effectively aligned against Vera from the start as a result, and Eric would have been foolish to go against the grain, knowing he would be the odd man out if he did.
However, some responsibility must fall to TAPS and the structure of the show. I've noted, on more than one occasion, that the training is woefully inadequate and, from a technical point of view, dead wrong. But that pertains to how they investigate, which is fair grounds for criticism, especially since they have an outline of what TAPS considers a good investigator to be. (In the "do as I say, not as I do" sense.)
But was there ever discussion about what TAPS is looking for a team leader to do? This ties back into all the criticisms we've seen thus far regarding the team leaders. The investigators chosen for that task approach it their own way, and all too often, that trips them up in a major way. I understand that TAPS may find that revealing (and it plays into the drama the producers clearly desire), but it's a bit unfair to the candidates.
Vera didn't really have a chance, as I said, because she was praised by Jason, Steve, and Tango more than once for essentially having good "feelings". The "evidence" was occasionally intriguing, but still debatable. The same was true in this episode. The EVPs were not at all impressive. And never mind that noise about the investigators missing evidence. That supposed missed EVP was garbage. At best it was pattern recognition based on background noise, and it was not nearly as clear as Jason, Steve, and Tango claimed.
Speaking of evidence, that figure captured in the FLIR footage was deeply questionable. I would have to go back and look at the exact temperature profile on-screen at the time of the "hit", but that looked just like a living human being. In fact, it's so obvious that I was expecting Steve or Tango to reveal, at some point, that it was another one of their "tests". I've never been convinced, from a technical point of view, that figures emitting thermal energy at the same temperature and intensity as a human being could be anything but a human being. (In other words, in the absence of definitive supporting data that a human being could not possibly have been there, the data does not support any other conclusion.)
For that matter, I was a bit taken aback by the lack of excitement and interest on the part of the candidates and TAPS when that footage was reviewed. Adam and Michelle were excited at the time, but they hardly went running to that spot to check for contamination of the site. Jason, Steve, and Tango seemed awfully disinterested, and that's odd, if they really thought it was potential evidence.
Right now, I would consider Adam the frontrunner. Out of the remaining candidates, he has been the most even-keeled, even if he has shown some weaknesses here and there in the leadership role. His actions in the final case for Round 2 will speak volumes. While he was initially one of those focused on winning at all costs, he's also been relatively good as an investigator. With some real technical training, he could be a great asset to a serious team.
I think Eric has fallen into the middle position now. That mistake with the FLIR camera should have gotten a mention, because that's not some minor glitch. Jane Riley was ripped to shreds during Round 1 for forgetting to take the lens cap off! How is this situation different? Also, his decision to turn on Vera reminded me that Eric wants to make a career out of paranormal investigation. That's only possible in the entertainment side of the business, so I question his motives.
That puts Michelle as the longshot to win. I think it was hypocritical for Steve and Tango to question Michelle's composure based on cracking a few bad jokes; they aren't called the Clown Team for nothing. And she is showing exactly the kind of skepticism that a good investigative team should promote. The problem is that she used to stand out by following the lead of others, and as those others have been criticized, she has played a more defensive game. That said, I would rather work with Michelle than Eric at this point, because she's not so obvious in putting fame and fortune at the top of her priority list.
Despite my criticisms, this was probably one of the most watchable episodes of the series to date. That had a lot to do with the location. If I recall correctly, this was also the site of one of the more entertaining and memorable episodes of "Ghost Adventures". While neither show is close to producing solid evidence, it is interesting to note that both teams recorded some similar noises and experiences. Paranormal or not, locations like that are just more fun!