VIP - Val/Tasha
By Della Street
VIP: The general story line
VIP was a guilty pleasure, a cheesy but frequently funny syndicated action series that ran for four seasons (1998-2002). The show was quite slash-friendly, especially between the two lead characters, Tasha and Val. The first season came out on DVD in 2006. (Note: some of the screencaps below are from old VHS tapes, so they aren't the best quality.)
Vallery Irons (Pamela Anderson) is "The world's Greatest Bodyguard," the beautiful and lethal head of an elite agency in Los Angeles. She is, however, a fake. In the pilot, Val is working at a hot dog stand when a movie star asks her out. That evening, the actor hides behind her when he is attacked, and Val instinctively takes out the gunman with her purse. To preserve his image, the actor says that Val is a professional bodyguard. Meanwhile, Tasha Dexter, Nikki Franco, and Quick Williams are real bodyguards whose ex-movie-star boss has taken off, leaving them with big debts and no marquee name to attract business. As they grouse about this mysterious Vallery Irons who is all over the news, the bodyguards happen to stop at the hot dog stand where Val is back at work. They talk Val into posing as the head of their agency, promising that she will never be in any danger. Of course, they are soon under siege by machine-gun-wielding zealots. Nevertheless, Val agrees to continue with Vallery Irons Protection.
The fact that Val isn't really a bodyguard creates many of the comic moments, such as an early scene in which the team is in Las Vegas guarding Erik Estrada. Under attack, co-worker Nikki calls Val, who is upstairs soaking in a bubble bath, and yells, "Val, go in my room, get an M-16, three banana clips and a grenade belt. We got action by the pool. Hurry!" Val replies, "Um, I really don't want to. Is that OK?" (Val on the Run)
Over time, the others realize that Val's unpredictability under fire is important to their success. As Nikki tells Val's mother, "Val gives great figurehead." But Tasha never lets Val forget that she is not what she pretends to be, with lines like:
The show never took itself too seriously. It was goofy eye candy, and knew it. Most of its best lines were intentionally silly. Val might decode an electronic lock, for example, by guessing "my shoe size plus my bra size divided by the price of my shoes."
The two leads have chemistry, exude subtext, and by the end of the series end up in bed together, albeit humorously. Yeah, some episodes are painfully bad, and occasionally they show an interest in men, but those are outnumbered by all the episodes where their main interest seems to be each other.
Vallery is originally from Vancouver. Although she seems flaky, she was a straight-A student in high school. Her main interests are shopping, partying, and bothering Tasha.
Val's father, Ned Irons (Lee Majors), was secretly a CIA agent. Her mother, Carol Irons (Loni Anderson), is an airhead. That combination explains why Val is both ditzy and yet has good instincts when she is in danger. Val gets along with everyone, much to Tasha's annoyance.
Val is single and has an eye for cute guys, but hints are also given that she is bisexual. For example, in the pilot, Val's luxurious dream includes being served by a provocatively dressed maid. More explicitly, Midnight in the Garden of Ronnie Beaman begins with Val dreaming that she is being caressed and oiled by women, murmuring to one of them, "Be careful. You know how ticklish I am."
Tasha Dexter (Molly Culver) is the real head of the agency. She is, as one reviewer put it, a "delectably butch" super-agent, in other words, everything that Val is supposed to be but isn't. Tasha is not her real name, but her background, which includes stints in the KGB, CIA, and the Assassins' Guild, is so classified that when VIP's receptionist tries to run her through a genealogy program, the computer explodes.
Tasha enjoys violence. Smiling contentedly at a painting she is working on in her spare time, we later see that it is a war scene with explosions and carnage. Val characterizes her as a "gun-toting sadomasochist." (Molar Ice Cap)
Tasha has been married four times. Her first and third husband was an assassin known as "The Owl." Her second husband was a dentist whom she married in an attempt at normalcy while recovering from six months in a gulag. Tasha occasionally uses her body to get information from men, but it's strictly business for her. As Val tells a client once after Tasha has seduced a KGB agent, "Don't go there, Dex, because if Tasha finds out she had sex for nothing, she gets really crabby." (Val in Space).
The Tasha / Val relationship
On the surface, Tasha and Val don't get along (much like Jo and Blair "didn't get along," for those who have seen The Facts of Life). Tasha is rule-oriented and disciplined; Val "tra-la-las through life." Nearly every show contains energetic Tasha/Val sniping, beginning with the second episode, which features the women's first big fight. Mid-argument, Val spins around and holds up a palm to Tasha, declaring, "You must be talking to my butt, 'cause my hand ain't listening."
The two are highly competitive. Tasha hates it when Val is right, and Val hates it when Tasha is right. In The K-Files, Val pauses in the midst of a dangerous situation to make a "very important call," which turns out to be a message taunting Tasha, "Found the mother ship we're right, you're wrong! Have a nice day, ba-bye!"
The fact that their attention is almost always focused on each other is reflected by episodes like All You Need is Val, in which Tasha, Nikki, and Quick accept work from a corporate client instead of a pro bono job that Val wanted VIP to take. Even though all three of her co-workers made the decision, Val fumes about Tasha's betrayal. Tasha, meanwhile, feels guilty about abandoning Val. Other indications are more subtle. When fighting breaks out at their favorite hangout in Millennium Man, Val complains, "Tasha's going to ruin my 2-for-1 drink special!" even though it was Nikki who started the fight. Likewise, in Val Cubed, when all of her co-workers have gone to a party without waiting for her, Val leaves a message complaining, "Obviously I've been blown off again, thank you, Tasha," even though the other co-workers have also left. Val often charges things to Tasha's credit card, drives Tasha's car without permission, and does other things to Tasha that she doesn't do to the others.
In spite of the constant arguing, the women begin to bond in their own way.
In Bloody Val-entine, Tasha's ex The Owl shows up on assignment, capturing Val and a photographer in the process. Warning him that "Tasha's never going to talk to you again if you kill me," Val offers her own life in exchange for Tasha's. After the Owl goes to battle Tasha, the following exchange occurs between Val and the photographer:
Val thinks that Tasha is still in love with the Owl, but in later episodes, it becomes clear that she's not really interested in him any more. In Return of the Owl, an implanted sleeper personality turns Tasha into an assassin. Nothing can break her programming, not even the Owl's declaration that he loves her "You and everyone else," Tasha sneers until Val starts annoying her. Only Val can evoke the "intense emotional counterresponse" needed to snap Tasha out of her trance. By the third and final Owl episode (Molar Ice Cap), he tells Tasha wistfully that he has been thinking back on their marriage, and she replies with a disinterested, "What is with you men? You think too much."
Val wants Tasha to like her. In One Wedding and Val's Funeral, she fantasizes about Tasha putting an arm around her and calling her "a great leader, a great woman, and more than anything else, a great friend."
Reality creeps in, of course, dissolving into a typical Val-Tasha spat as Val steps on Tasha's foot, causing a spill that she unsuccessfully tries to wipe off. Later in the episode, Val fantasizes about Tasha taking off her clothes and attacking the groom at a wedding in bra and panties. Over time, Val becomes more confident and often accuses Tasha of secretly caring about her.
Although she is impatient with Val's incompetence, Tasha is very protective of her. As Tasha summarizes their job functions to Val, "She (Nikki) blows things up, I cover your ass, and Kay makes coffee." (Kayus Machina) Tasha is genuinely upset when Val is in danger. After Val is kidnapped in Vallery of the Dolls, she berates herself, "She was my responsibility. I knew she shouldn't have been near any real danger." Questioning a suspect, she says, "Because of you, Vallery Irons is" but is unable to finish the sentence. In another episode, Tasha realizes that Val is in danger and tells her, "Val . . . be careful. I'm on my way," to which Val replies, "I knew you cared."
At the first sign of danger, Val's first instinct is always Tasha. Upon realizing that someone is shooting poison darts at her, Val squeaks, "Call Tasha!" (Val Squared). When a techno-building starts trying to kill her, Val whips out her pager to "send an SOS to the Tashanator" (A.I. Highrise). Another example is Good Will Hunting. Without a word being said, she automatically goes with Tasha when the bodyguards split up while being hunted for sport. In Loh-Down Dirty Shame, Val, about to be sacrificed, warns the villain, "My friends are gonna show up, and she's gonna kick your butt good!" We all know who "she" is.
Other recurring themes are more personal. Tasha is always irritated when men hit on Val, rolling her eyes and making snide comments. In Mudslide Val, when a spa-owner client and Val take a shine to each other, Tasha says disgustedly, "OK, I can handle it. We're a dating service for Val." (Fortunately, Val never ends up with the guy.) Tasha is the only one of Val's colleagues who expresses dismay about male attention toward Val.
Val, meanwhile, seems overly interested in Tasha's love life, or lack thereof . In ThunderVal, Val says, "I think somebody needs a date." In 48 ½ Hours, she tells Tasha that she has no sense of romance "When's the last time you had a date?" In Valley Wonka, Quick tells her, "You know, they say good chocolate stimulates the brain's pleasure centers. It's like having sex." Val then offers Tasha the whole tray. In V.I.P., R.I.P., Val draws a vibrator from her bag while looking for something to cut herself down from a tree. She claims it is for her neck, but then hands it to Tasha, telling her that she needs it more than Val does.
Val occasionally accuses Tasha of being jealous, although it's vague as to what she means. In Val Under Covers, Val goes incognito in suburbia, concocting a story that Quick is her husband and Tasha is a lesbian friend. Tasha is anxious to keep Val away from an attractive environmentalist who may be an assassin, and at one point Val says that she's just jealous. Tasha denies it, but seems awfully determined to keep Val away from Cute Environmental Guy, saying, "You know how I feel about him," and "You'd better start listening to me, missy!" In the end, Val rejects the guy, lamenting, "Why do I always go for the professional killer type?" You mean . . . like Tasha?
On occasion, Val and Tasha slip into spousal-type roles. In Three Days to a Kill, referring to their receptionist, Val turns to Tasha and says, "Our little Kay is growing up." In Big Top Val, they seem pretty Mom-and-Dad-ish while bodyguarding a little girl. Speaking of parents, the show lets us know that Carol Irons likes Tasha. In Ride of the Valkyries, Val glances over at Tasha while talking to her mother on the phone. "Yeah, she's here," she says. "She's unavoidably detained. She's . . . polishing her bullets or something." After hanging up, she tells Tasha, "My mom says hi, and you're her favorite." Tasha also bonds with Val's dad in Ride of the Valkyries, when she trails Val all day to keep her safe and pairs up with Ned to fight terrorists.
Val constantly pesters Tasha to open up and be warmer, ordering sushi for her because she's "an expert in cold fish" (Magnificent Val), or handing her a dish of Frogurt "Cold on the outside, cold on the inside, just like you" (Dr. Strange Val). In 48 ½ Hours, Val says to her, "Human beings have feelings. Not you, but other humans." In Val Cubed, Val proves to Tasha that she is not an imposter by reciting several personal facts, including, "You love me like the sister you never had, but you're too much of a scaredy cat to admit it." When Tasha's exes admit being envious of the other's time with her, Val says, "Hey, Tasha, maybe you and I could have a relationship breakthrough, too," to which Tasha replies, "What's the point?" (Molar Ice Cap) (At that moment, the women are tied back-to-back on rollaway chairs. As they maneuver the chairs to retrieve a tracking device, Tasha finally says, "I'll lead you follow.")
The "buddy" episodes and subtext
Some episodes are especially subtext-laden. The first is Good Val Hunting. The women are together for most of the episode, which means arguing, of course, and unconsciously mimicking each other, such as Val filing her nails and Tasha sharpening her knife using the exact same motions. This type of symmetry is shown in several episodes.
On the run from professional killers, they end up hiding in a piece of machinery, where they have their first real bonding moment. Tasha admits that she isn't always a good judge of character, and Val regrets that she doesn't really have any bodyguard skills. The scene ends with Tasha saying, "We're not going to tell anybody we had this conversation, are we?" Val hastily assures her, "No! No, no, don't worry about it." Tasha later makes Val happy by telling the cops that Val saved the day. The two pair up again in Escape from Valcatraz, when they are accused of helping a bride's father escape from jail and have to hide out with him while making their way back to the wedding. Interestingly, the fancy hotel room they rent has only one bed.
The show again plays on the Tasha/Val subtext in Val Squared, in which an evil doppelganger impersonates Val. Studying the team in preparation, EVal concludes that "Irons and Dexter have an interesting relationship," and decides to "play on it." Ignoring the other VIP members, she sets out to win over (seduce?) Tasha, finally reporting that she has "the tall one wrapped around my finger." Among other things, Tasha loves a set of knife earrings given to her by EVal, and eagerly accepts an invitation for the two of them to go shooting together. When they part, EVal touches her fingers to her heart and blows Tasha a kiss. Tasha later admits that she found the fake Val "charming," and Val worries that Tasha liked EVal better than the real her.
Further exploration of the relationship occurs in Diagnosis Val. Val, who has been injected with a slow-acting poison, is happy to hear that Tasha tried to reach her old KGB contacts to ask about an antidote. "You tried to reach them," she says. "You care if I die. This is my dying wish: Say it, say it, say it!" With their co-workers watching, Tasha reluctantly concedes, "You're not that bad." Thrilled, Val opens her arms and asks for a hug. Tasha starts toward her, but can't bring herself to do it. "Leave me alone," she growls, much to Val's disappointment.
The show played it somewhat serious in It's Val's Wonderful Life, in which the team deals with Val's apparent death in a yacht explosion. Although they are not in many scenes together, the obvious blow that Val's death is to Tasha and her acknowledgment that she cares about Val ("I never said I didn't like her") are illuminating. Along with Quick, Tasha decides to go on a suicide mission to avenge Val's death how romantic. When Val later turns up, she teases Tasha about being upset when she thought she was dead. "I missed you too," Val says.
The most direct subtext occurs in the "buddy" episodes that aired every season. In Valma and Louise, Jay Leno hires them to drive a car to Sacramento. What should be an easy assignment goes downhill fast after Val blackmails Tasha into picking up a stranded woman with a baby. Aside from the fact that they are together the whole episode, other visual cues are offered, such as Tasha fixing the car in her butchy pantsuit while Val changes into an ultrafluff pink outfit, etc. Nothing too subtle there, and then comes a bonding scene beside an open fire in which Tasha talks about her hard life. Afterward, Val is frightened by desert noises and curls up against Tasha to sleep. Tasha opens her eyes when she feels Val spooning her, but decides to let it go.
Ultimately, they hide out in a lesbian bar, where Val has a great time with the patrons while Tasha gets drunk with the owner. In the closing scene, the two women are alone in Val's apartment. Val tells Tasha that she thinks they've made some real progress in their relationship, and that she would like to go on another road trip together.
In the next buddy episode, V.I.P., R.I.P., Val accidentally hitches a ride when Tasha flies off on a secret CIA mission, then causes their helicopter to crash in Yosemite. Happy that Tasha is taking her along on the mission after the crash, Val tells her, "Wherever you go, I go." The two of them are like "Butch and Sundance," Val says (until she finds out what the mission is and tries to prevent Tasha from completing it).
Later, when the other bodyguards want to know where they went, in exchange for keeping quiet, Val makes Tasha pinky swear that they will be "best buds forever."
The final buddy episode made the implicit explicit. In the fourth season's The Sunshine Girls, Tasha and Val awaken 40 years in the future, after receiving an overdose of a drug that was supposed to make them reveal the hideout of a witness they were protecting. It is soon revealed that the women are not really old, but believe they are because of the drug. Cooped up in what they think are VIP's old offices, the pair argue like an old married couple from minute one, including in the flashbacks. ("Are you guys always like this?" the witness asks.)
Overt lesbian references begin when Val falls on top of Tasha and struggles to get off of her. A reporter walks in and assumes that he is interrupting something. "It's not what you think!" Val gasps, quickly removing her hands from Tasha's chest. Tasha exclaims, "We don't even like each other!" Later, under the influence of truth serum, Tasha finally opens up. She plays with Val's hair, tells her that she is "so pretty," says that Val is her best friend, that she is only mean to Val because she cares so much about her, and, finally, that she loves Val. Val freaks, saying, "I liked it better when you didn't!"
In the humorous ending, Val dreams that she and Tasha are in bed together until they wake up, realize they have slept together, and both start screaming.
She also dreams that Tasha asks her not to tell the others that she used the "love" word. After Val awakens, Tasha appears in the entrance of the bar where she dozed off. She waves, and is disappointed when Tasha turns away.
The Sunshine Girls was the third-to-last episode of the series. Nothing inconsistent happened between then and the final episode. So the last word on VIP is that Tasha loved Val, that Val imagined them in bed together, and that she hoped that Tasha would start treating her consistent with her real feelings. The hookup is a foregone conclusion, and a fitting end to four years of foreplay.
If you're looking for smoking Val-Tasha interaction, you can find it in most episodes, partly because of the sheer attractiveness and chemistry between the two actors. But if you're looking for a quick fix, these should be on your Do-Not-Miss list:
Beats Working At a Hotdog Stand - pilot that establishes the premise
Good Val Hunting - much sniping and bonding
Escape from Val-catraz - the first mini-buddy episode
Return of the Owl - Val's impersonation of Tasha is worth seeing in itself
Valma and Louise - bonding and spooning and a lesbian bar
Analyze Val maybe it's Val sitting above Tasha; whatever it is, this one has it
All You Need is Val - Tasha and Val stew about each other
Vallery's Secret Action clothes make Val assertive; Tasha doesn't like it.
Val In Space - Val knows that Tasha fakes it with guys
Val Squared - Val's evil twin wants to win Tasha over
Val Under Covers - Green-eyed Tasha
Molar Ice Cap - Tasha isn't interested in her ex-husbands any more
It's Val's Wonderful Life - VIP falls apart after Val's death
Ride of the Valkyries - Tasha bonds with her future father-in-law
V.I.P., R.I.P. - Butch and Sundance ride again
Diagnosis Val - Tasha cares if Val dies
The Sunshine Girls - the women wake up 40 years in the future, and in bed together
Sorry to include a self-pimp, but there are disappointingly few VIP stories out there:
"Gone," by Della Street
"Different Perspectives," by Cieux
"Life Isn't Fair," by Cieux
"48 hours series," by Keija
"Vallery's Secret," by Keija
"Last Temptation of Val," by Keija
"Surprise Visitor," by Keija
V.I.P. (A Titles and Air Dates Guide)
TV.com VIP episode guide
IMDb on VIP
Nitpickers.com entries for VIP (although nitpicking an intentionally goofy show like VIP seems a bit silly)
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