Hey everybody. I want to start off this week’s column by discussing an interesting email exchange I had last week. At the start of what turned out to be a 14-hour bus trip back to Charleston, I received an email with the subject line “Your column is awful.” This, as you can probably guess, was not a good start.
This reader had happened upon my Southern Charm recaps and was less than pleased with the convoluted and unfunny nature of my writing. Since I was prepared to spend the rest of the evening trying to reconcile sleep with the permeating smell of a bus chemical toilet, I decided to respond to this critic, asking what she would have preferred from a column that outlines the adventures of the Southern Charm cast, which usually center on ornate dinner parties and arrested development. Should there be fewer references to ’80s Southern rock bands and French deconstructionists?
Anyway, after changing buses three times and washing myself in a bus station men’s room where the hand soap was stored in a Powerade bottle resting on the sink, I eventually received a response from this particular reader. She apologized for her somewhat harsh statements. She had a bad day, like we all experience all too often, and acknowledged that maybe my Southern Charm recaps just aren’t her cup of tea. She said she wanted things a little more straightforward, possibly with fewer fictional renditions of Thomas Ravenel’s magical khakis or Whitney’s alien birth. It was a rewarding exchange, and although I don’t think that reader will be returning, I want to thank her for her candor. She reminded me of one of the main reasons I decided to write this column.
I know not everyone who reads this column watches Southern Charm. That’s always seemed pretty cool to me because it means you are either here for the schadenfreude or the writing — either of which I fully endorse. But some of you watch the show and probably even enjoy it, and choose to check in to see what I have to say about each episode, even though a very vocal group of people exist who call Southern Charm and most reality television the bane of existence, fall of Western civilization, or other such hyperbolic threat.
This is perhaps the most absurd thing about Southern Charm. All too often the people who have never seen the show take it far more seriously than its actual fans.
And not only do you watch the show, but you also apparently have specific tastes when it comes to the style of each episode recap. This is great. In this world of uncertainty, the fact that at least one person knows exactly what they want in terms of weekly columns on a Charleston-based reality TV show is reassuring. As always, you do you — which is the theme of this week’s episode.
Starting things off, Shep arrives at Chelsea’s house with a mysterious oblong box, which proves to be a repeated thing in this week’s episode — mystery boxes. Chelsea answers the door and admits that she is eating jar of peanut butter, which is the culinary equivalent of a cry for help. Being the George Washington Carver of awkward late-night visits, Shep enters Chelsea’s home and immediately gets in on this peanut butter thing, even though Chelsea lacks crunchy peanut butter. Amen. There is perhaps no clearer sign that we have strayed too far from a caring god than creamy peanut butter. It is a monument to man’s hubris, and Shep understands this.
Shep tells Chelsea that he is there to apologize for making a move on her in last week’s episode. He partially excuses his actions by saying he was “blind drunk” and compares himself to a fish who spotted a shiny lure and decided to eat it. There is no better way to persuade a woman in your favor than to compare her to a hooked worm or chum bucket.
Shep clarifies that he doesn’t think Chelsea is “that kind of girl,” by which I guess he means the kind of girl who would be easily seduced by Shep in the back alley of a bar.
Meanwhile, Kathryn stops by Cameran’s house to discuss the big upcoming birthday trip to Key West, which Cameran sees as a last hurrah before she becomes a mother. There is no clearer sign that you are ready for motherhood than the compelling urge to leave the state. Maybe this will lead to Cameran checking more things off her pre-maternity bucket list, like pulling off one last bank heist or getting back into witchcraft.
Cameran then informs Kathryn that Landon will also be going on the big trip. Kathryn tells Cameran that her misgivings with Landon stem from a moment after she and Thomas broke up. According to Kathryn, she and Thomas had planned a trip together, but after Kathryn was out of the picture, Thomas took Landon on the trip instead. Cameran is shocked. Looking back on the trip, both women refuse to believe that Thomas and Landon slept in separate beds for the duration of the three-day vacation. Of course, we all know that Thomas sleeps standing up like a horse because it makes him feel closer to his prized polo steeds.
Also, every shot of Thomas sitting alone in his giant house makes me wonder what he actually does with his free time. I imagine him just hiding in grandfather clocks, waiting to jump out and scare the maids. Thomas is like the kid from Blank Check, if that kid had just used all his money to refinish the hardwood floors. If Pixar were to make a version of Inside Out featuring Thomas Ravenel, his sense of Joy would just be wearing a barrel with suspenders and be prone to crying fits.
Back at Craig and Naomie’s House of Silent Resentment, Craig is toiling away on a onesie for Cameran’s hypothetical baby. Naomie arrives home and is justifiably curious why her boyfriend is crafting children’s clothes in the middle of their living room. Craig is playing a dangerous game here. If you impose upon OshKosh B’Gosh’s territory, you run the risk of waking up in a romper.
In debating if their strained relationship can handle the pressure of a trip together, Craig argues that Naomie is much nicer when they aren’t at home. Naomie clarifies that she is only terse with Craig when she gets home from a long day of work because she doesn’t think he does anything while she is away. She calls this a phase, saying he’s in between activities.
Craig tells Naomie that he should never feel he has to do things to make her happy, which is the opposite of being in a relationship.
“Do I have to live the rest of my life with you questioning everything I do?” asks Craig.
Yes, Craig. That’s what relationships are: You each try to slowly grind the other person down into something you can begrudgingly tolerate for the rest of your lives. That’s why romantic relationships begin with a “crush” and end with your partner trying to back over you in the driveway.
Over at Patricia’s house, Whitney is disguised as Rivers Cuomo for some reason. He is summoned by his mother just as her butler Michael brings her champagne and a boxcutter.
“How chic,” Patricia says. “I just love a boxcutter on a silver tray.” “
Everyone does,” replies Michael, who has surely killed a man.
We are given very little explanation as to why Patricia needs a boxcutter, but maybe it is some innovative power move she’s trying out. Invite someone into the room to speak with you. As they take their seat, have someone hand you alcohol and a killing tool. Ask them about their day.
As with most things this episode, conversation quickly turns to the trip to Key West, which Whitney declares to be a “shithole.” He and Patricia then take a break from disparaging popular travel destinations to finally address the boxcutter in the room, which will most likely be used to open the massive package sitting on the floor next to Patricia. She explains that she purchased something at an auction.
We are then treated to a flashback of Patricia bidding on an item over the phone. She wins with a grand total of $32,500, which may as well be all the money in the world. Patricia tells Whitney that a lot of people may think that she paid a lot of money for the mystery item, but it is actually worth twice as much. I don’t think this is how money works, but what do I know? My biggest investment will likely be the Sam’s Card that I’m saving up for.
Patricia finally opens her mystery box, which contains a golden elephant clock thing, which are only known to appreciate in value.
Catching up with Chelsea and Austen, they are going to meet Austen’s parents for dinner. Recounting the incident between Chelsea and Shep, she begins to walk back her comments about exactly how aggressive he was with her in the bar. This proves to perturb Austen, who called Shep out on his behavior last week, endangering their friendship. Grilled on when she last spoke to Shep, Chelsea neglects to mention the peanut butter.
Arriving at the home of Austen’s parents, everyone sits down to dinner and Chelsea immediately starts mining for embarrassing stories from Austen’s childhood. First his mother says he liked to “push the envelope” which I have no idea what that could even mean. Was he a junior aviator? Did a prepubescent Austen break the sound barrier? Did he spend the family fortune trying to get the Spruce Goose off the ground?
We then hear the adorable story of how Austen tickled people’s feet in church on Palm Sunday, and how he once upset his sister to such an extent that she ripped out a chunk of his hair. These are two very different stories. One is an adorable anecdote about childhood antics. The other is assault.
Finally, the cast sets off for Key West. All the women folk gather on a small stretch of private beach and begin to have a conversation which will immediately lead to a fight. Listening to this conversation is like watching a group of people dare each other to stare into an eclipse. Cameran recounts Kathryn’s description of the fateful trip between Thomas and Landon that led to such great strife. Landon calls it all lies. Chelsea decides to take Kathryn’s side in this whole debate, while Cameran says they should treat Kathryn like a “wounded bird.” Nothing is gained from this heated chat, but we do eventually see everyone get into full vacation mode.
Landon declares herself queen of the beach. Shep finally arrives and immediately attacks the ocean like an eager cocker spaniel. It’s great.
Shep then shows up at Austen’s room with two beers he probably found in the ocean. He offers Austen a mea culpa following their last fallout. They settle their grievances, which Shep symbolizes by showing Austen the matching shirts he purchased for them. The shirts have huge fish on the back and they agree to wear them. It’s adorable.
Everyone then gets ready for the big dinner. It is very telling that the greatest challenge facing our cast is a large group dinner in Key West.
As everyone goes to catch the bus to dinner, we are introduced to Danni’s fiance, Todd. Apparently, we are all surprised that Todd was able to make it to the beach even though we don’t really know anything about Todd. He seems like a nice, normal guy, which means I want to send in Seal Team Six to rescue him from the shitshow that is about to ensue. Seriously, Todd probably has some interesting things to say about insulation and mortgage rates. Todd probably owns two movies: Mel Gibson’s The Patriot and Cannonball Run. Todd is the man you call when you need to fry a turkey. Please don’t include Todd among the casualties of this weird, passive aggressive dinner.
Arriving at the restaurant, everyone orders drinks. Fresh out of rehab, Kathryn decides she’ll order a margarita because she is “on vacation.” JD asks the waitress if they have his brand of bourbon because he manages to mention his bourbon brand in every single scene in which he appears. If you look closely at scenes in which JD doesn’t speak, you can see “Gentry Bourbon” written on his forehead.
To top it all off, Craig orders a beer glass of white wine. Get ready everybody. This is about to get bad.
Cameran kicks things off by turning down a shot from Thomas, informing him that she has to “prepare her body to get pregnant.” Sensing an opportunity to be disgusting, Thomas says Cameran should figure out when she is ovulating and have her husband “shoot it in ya at least three times.” Thomas is the posterboy for abstinence and locking yourself in a room away from all men.
Not to be outdone, Whitney asks what the odds are of Thomas and Kathryn hooking up again. Continuing his parade of assholery, Whitney explains that he’s been doing a lot of transcendental meditation, which has led him to the understanding that Landon and Kathryn should settle their differences. Tonight. During dinner.
Whitney grabs Landon by the arm, drags her across the restaurant, and deposits her next to Kathryn. Landon and Kathryn attempt to be civil and avoid a knock-down, drag-out, but Craig decides this moderate behavior isn’t real enough for a 33rd birthday party dinner in Key West.
Craig demands that these two grown women say what they hate most about each other because he believes this will settle things. Meanwhile, he rejects the notion that he can be in a relationship with someone who critiques him for sleeping past noon.
Danni tells Craig to remove himself from the situation because he’s not a woman, and everyone tells him that he’s ruining everything. Craig calls the rest of the group children for not fighting and returns to his seat. He has clearly won the day. Naomie asks that Craig chill out with trying to facilitate everyone’s personal growth, and he says if she continues to correct him they will need to separate for the evening.
Unfortunately, the bell cannot be unrung with this whole Landon and Kathryn thing. Landon begins to open up to Kathryn, saying that she believes that Thomas uses her as a weapon against Kathryn. Thomas is super hurt about this. His face registers betrayal. Either that or someone is shining a flashlight in his eyes. It’s difficult to tell with him sometimes.
Tears begin to well up in Landon’s eyes as she tells Kathryn she wants the best for her and that as women, “They are all they really have.” She punctuates this with the best hug ever.
As the cast assembles to set out for the rest of their evening, the camera quickly pans over to Todd. Good ol’ Todd’s been pretty quiet this evening. He’s probably just been thinking about which hammers are best and pontoon boats. Bless Todd and everything he stands for.
Jumping to the next morning, we find the gang gathered for breakfast. Everyone is beautifully hungover. They look like mannequins that someone rescued from a fire. We soon learn that Todd left for home first thing in the morning because Todd has never taken a day off work. And he’s had a full-time job since he was seven.
So I was mistaken in last week’s column when I wrote that this would be the final episode. We’ve got one more ahead of us, so join me next week as we see the thrilling conclusion to The Worst People to Go On Vacation With: The Series.
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