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Bluff The Listener:

BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We're playing this week with Adam Felber, Helen Hong and Roy Blount Jr. And here again is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.


Thank you, Bill.


SAGAL: Hey, if you've missed any part of this show or you want to listen again to your favorite parts, like this part here where I'm talking about re-listening to your favorite parts...


SAGAL: ...You should just download the WAIT WAIT podcast. It's the show you love whenever you want to love it.


SAGAL: Right now, though, it's time for the WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play our game on the air.

Hi, you are on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.


SAGAL: Hello. Who's this?

BROWN: Ryan Brown.

SAGAL: Hey, Ryan Brown. Where are you calling from?

BROWN: Oh, Charleston, W.Va.

SAGAL: Charleston, W.Va. - what do you do there?

BROWN: I'm a lavender farmer.


SAGAL: Oh, I've heard about it - those tough, hard-scrabble men who mine the lavender in West Virginia.


BROWN: Right.

HELEN HONG: You sound so chill. You sound like you've been, like, bathing in lavender.


BROWN: Pretty much.

SAGAL: Yeah. Well, welcome to the show, Ryan. You're going to play our game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. What's the topic, Bill?

KURTIS: We are looking for a few really, really good men.

SAGAL: Our armed forces are the best in the world, of course, and we all wish there were, you know, more wars in which they could prove it. They do demonstrate their excellence every day in other ways. Our panelists are going to tell you about a new kind of military achievement we just found out about. Pick the one who's telling the truth, and you'll win the WAIT WAIT-er of your choice on your voicemail. Are you ready to play?

BROWN: All right. Yeah.

SAGAL: All right. First, let's hear from Roy Blount Jr.

ROY BLOUNT JR: Used to be armies fought to conquer territory - so tanks - or to win hearts and minds - so bombs.


BLOUNT JR: Today, everyone's fighting for a different objective - eyeballs. Hence the U.S. Army's All-American Influencer Platoon. There's wisecracking Ernie (ph) from Brooklyn. There's Gus (ph) from Minnesota, who can fix anything mechanical. There's Tonga (ph) - she's extreme punk, but she'll come through in a pinch - and Daisy, the come-hither martial arts gal and all the rest. They're all over social media. And this week, as tough-on-the-outside Sergeant Task (ph) put it, we took a big hill - cover of Us magazine.


SAGAL: The U.S. All-American Influencer Platoon gets on the cover of Us.


SAGAL: Your next story of military excellence comes from Helen Hong.

HONG: There's a lot of reasons why people join the Army - patriotism, for instance, or a way to pay for college or to gain a sense of discipline. But never in the history of the armed forces has anyone joined because they heard the food was amazing.


HONG: But that may change. In stunning gourmet food news, the prestigious James Beard Award - the Oscar award for food - has been awarded to Scott Grey (ph), head chef at the Army. Now, mind you, Mr. Grey is not a fancy chef who's whipping up delicacies for the high-ranking hoi polloi. No, Scott Grey is in charge of creating shelf-stable MRE field rations. MRE, which stands for meals, ready-to-eat, must have a shelf life of at least five years and typically comes in a plastic packet, which includes a wet nap and a tiny roll of toilet paper.


HONG: Historically described by service members as absolutely disgusting and yuck and, honestly, I'd rather be shot than have to eat one more - all of that changed this past year when Scott Grey took the reins in the mess hall. His chicken burrito is sublime, raved the food critic at The New York Times - perfectly tender and comes with a side of rich, smoky, mole sauce, which one must squeeze out of a plastic sauce packet.


HONG: The meals have caused such a sensation there's talk that Mr. Grey may be up for a coveted Michelin star. When asked about how he feels about that, Mr. Grey responded, huh?


HONG: Like the tire?


SAGAL: The Army's chef wins a Beard Award for the excellence of his MREs. Your last story of fighters going far comes from Adam Felber.

ADAM FELBER: It was a clear, blue day in Washington state two years ago when a Navy pilot in an EA-18G Growler perpetrated one of the most notorious stunts in the history of aviation. With contrails, he drew a large and startlingly accurate depiction of male genitalia, forever after to be known as the sky penis.


FELBER: Well, now, after a two-year investigation, the Navy has indeed looked into what was at the bottom of it. The pilot...


FELBER: ...Was a prodigy, a lad commanding officers referred to as a whiz kid. But his act was goaded on by the electronic weapons officer, the EWO, in a recorded dialogue that we now know that is so historical that I must ask our voice of history, Bill Kurtis, to re-enact it. Noticing the optimal conditions, the EWO said - Bill?

KURTIS: You should totally try to draw a penis.


KURTIS: Dude, that would be so funny.


FELBER: Against his better instincts, the pilot agreed. After some maneuvering, the EWO noticed some problems and was heard to say...

KURTIS: Going to be a little lopsided.


FELBER: And, moments later, ecstatically...

KURTIS: Complete.


FELBER: Et cetera. Once they completed the full monty, they realized that, quote, "the contrails were remaining longer than predicted in the sky..."


FELBER: And they actually tried to fly a route that scribbled over it in vain. And now, despite their mighty achievement in aviation, the two perpetrators of the sky phallus have been discharged.


SAGAL: All right. Here are your three choices of military excellence - from Roy Blount Jr., the U.S. all-American Influencer Platoon getting on the cover of Us; from Helen Hong, the guy who comes up with the recipes for MREs winning a prestigious Beard Award for his cooking; and from Adam Felber, the impressive details of how the great sky phallus of 2017 was created in the skies over Washington. Which of these is the real story of military excellence?

BROWN: I'm going to go into the sky penis.

SAGAL: Yeah, well...


SAGAL: All right. Your choice, then, is Adam's story. To find out the correct answer, we spoke to a reporter covering the real story.

GEOFF ZIEZULEWICZ: So in 2017, two Navy aviators drew a giant sky penis across the blue skies of Washington state.


SAGAL: That was Geoff Ziezulewicz, a senior reporter with Navy Times, talking about, of course, the great sky penis. And if people are listening with their children right now, please address your complaints to the U.S. Navy.


SAGAL: Congratulations, Ryan. You got it right.


SAGAL: You won a point for Adam.

FELBER: Bill Kurtis deserves a point for that.

SAGAL: You won a point for Adam and, I think, a round of applause for Bill.


SAGAL: And, of course, you've won our prize - the voice of your choice on your voicemail. Congratulations.

BROWN: All right. Thank you.

SAGAL: Thank you. Take care.


ERIC BURDON AND THE ANIMALS: (Singing) Sky [expletive] how high can you fly? You'll never reach the sky. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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