Matt Lauer shuns Bob Costas’ vodka-shot therapy, fills in on NBC’s Olympics coverage

“We’re back now with a good opportunity to welcome in our Mary Carillo, and she’s about to bring us our nightly dose of Russian culture and no vodka tonight – please. You saw what happened last night,” Matt Lauer joked  as he filled in for Bob Costas on NBC‘s primetime Olympics coverage.

He was referring to the previous night’s primetime coverage when Costas abandoned NBC doctors’ treatment for his ever-worsening eye infections, and went instead with vodka, telling Carillo during one of her Russian-culture segments as he downed what was billed as a good-ish dose of  the Russian booze: “My eyes can’t get any redder.” Polishing off his drink, he predicted, “Tomorrow morning I’ll be lying on a curb in Minsk.”

Lauer kicked off his surprise hosting gig with some more jokes.

“I’m Matt Lauer, in for Bob Costas tonight. If you’ve been following along the last several days you know Bob’s been battling — and that’s an understatement — an eye infection that’s traveled a little bit,” Lauer said at the top of Tuesday night’s NBC primetime coverage of Tuesday competition. ” I saw him in the hotel this morning — he looked a little like the loser in a prize fight.”

Walking up to the primetime coverage, NBC’s evening newscaster Brian Williams told viewers “Bob Costas took himself out of the lineup for tonight as he deals with that eye infection” ending a “Ripkin-like Iron Man streak of 157 straight primetime Olympics broadcasts that goes back to Barcelona in ’92.”

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NBC’s challenging day started when Costas became the latest casualty of treacherous conditions at the Sochi Olympics, announcing on Today this morning he was sitting out the night’s coverage after the infection in his left eye spread to his right. Costas had kicked off his Olympics coverage last Thursday with his left eye inflamed and sporting glasses. Five days later, Costas’ now double-eye infection had become one of the Sochi Games’ talking points — and a Twitter trending topic during last night’s broadcast. “Bob Costas appears to be having a problem with both of his eyes now,” Fox Sports reported last night.

Costas phoned in to Team Today to announce he would not host the network’s coverage because his eyes had gotten even worse than last night, when they looked plenty bad enough.

“I’m walking around and I might as well be playing ‘Marco Polo.’ I have no idea where I am,” Costas told Lauer by phone.

Later in the morning, NBC issued a news release in which Costas said he bowed out tonight because, “as a practical matter, I simply couldn’t do my job because my eyes had become so blurry, watery and sensitive to light.” He added: “I’m hopeful the symptoms will improve in the next couple of days and I can return to the broadcast. Also, the last thing I want is to go through the rest of my life owing Matt Lauer a bunch of favors.”

“I’m happy to keep his chair warm. Although I might Purell it before I sit in it!” Lauer said.