problem solved !! [6 months later]
totally friggin weird!! On the source-end, I set all files to be readable (744) and that solved the problem!! So if I rsync that .avi file once, it flies right thru the second execution. Sweet.
This is how I figured out the problem. Upon closer examination, I found that the destination files all contained a timestamp of whatever `date` prints outs, or today. For a mirroring tool like rsync, this didn't make sense. So set readability for a sample file and as a result, the timestamp on the destination reflected the timestamp on the source. And on the 2nd execution, rsync was able to determine that the file should not be sent.
As for why this happens, I have no clue!! I'm so curious because I spent 6 disappointing months scratching my head. -Tim