Hey everybody. Welcome back from a long winter break.

After halting the first season of RelationShep to allow for the Christmas holiday, we now find ourselves in the new year. Although traditions vary, I’m sure most of you who celebrate Christmas did so in a similar fashion – ignoring your family members’ casual racism and sneaking expired muscle relaxers from your parents’ medicine cabinet. What a joyous time.

As I’m sure many of you will agree, 2017 was not a great year. In fact, let’s look back on it in a similar fashion to how you remember your 12th birthday. You know, that time you invited all your classmates to a pool party, but your dad’s bathing suit fell off when he decided to show everyone how to do a “real Olympic-style dive.” It was an embarrassing time for us all and should never be spoken of again.

But, since it’s been a fortnight since we last checked in with Shep and the gang, let’s have a bit of a refresher.

After visiting a few major cities across the country, Shep’s five female suitors arrived back in Charleston to have an awkward, never-ending beach party and vie for his affection. Shep was warned by Producer Sarah that a sixth woman whom he had met previously had invited herself to Charleston. To start out this new episode, Producer Sarah explains that even though this mystery woman wasn’t invited, she thought it would be OK to tell her where everybody is staying in Charleston.

While this brand of persistence may be romanticized in the movies, most people don’t really consider it a turn on when you secretly trail them across the country. Here’s a quick one-act play on how this scenario works out in real life.

Wide-eyed Romantic: “I did it, dear. I quit my demanding office job and drove all night to tell you I love you. I have only that which I could carry with me, but I’m here. Standing at your door. And I’m finally ready to be the person you want me to be.”

You: “Is that a bag of human hair?”

Romantic: “Mostly human. And I wore an adult diaper, so I wouldn’t have to st…” [Words drowned out by the sound of a bear mace canister being emptied.]

With another woman on the way, Shep retreats inside the beach house to put on a shirt because no one deserves to be rejected by a man wearing only long shorts. Producer Sarah stops Summer, the Dallas woman who Shep met on a double date. Producer Sarah tells her that Shep wasn’t super thrilled that she decided to travel over 1,000 miles to ambush him. Also, Summer brought her dog. Summer seems like the type of person who would show up to your wedding and say, “I didn’t bring a gift, but I did invite your most recent ex.”

Back in the beach house, Shep is grilling pineapple with Priscila, the most assertive of his five suitors. They share kiss before returning inside. Joining everyone in the kitchen, Shep finds Peyton drunk and pouting over the fact that he is spending time with the other contestants. She questions whether or not he could see himself with a 21-year-old as Kylie, the 21-year-old contestant, looks on.

As a star of the Texas pageant circuit, Kylie says she has learned to be true to herself. In response to this direct attack on her person, Kylie explains that this means maintaining an unnaturally bright smile while exiting stage left.

Shep argues that he could have a meaningful relationship with a much younger person, while Peyton’s eyes roll back into her head to the point where she can see the tequila ponding in her frontal lobe. After their argument, Peyton leaves the room to cry for a minute, and Shep chats with Arden, who says she is leaving the next day due to a lack of chemistry. Of all the great excuses to leave an awkward situation, “I don’t think we’re in love” remains the most acceptable. Remember this the next time you’re called for jury duty.

The next day we find Arden packing her things, having gamed the show for a free vacation to Charleston. The other contestants clean up after the previous day’s party, which for some reason left the kitchen slathered in a pre-industrial era level of filth. Seriously, it looks sticky and greasy at the same time. If a movie theater floor had acne, you’d be close to what the beach house looks like at this point.

As everyone takes a flamethrower to the beach house, Shep meets with Cameran for brunch. Following her interrogation of the contestants, Cameran says she has a good feeling about Bella, who I can’t really remember anything about.

Back at the house, Priscila tells the other gals about her kiss with Shep, which leaves Kylie to wonder what her kiss with Shep really meant. Like all kisses, it meant, “I want to show you that I like you with my face,” but not in a third-date sort of way.

Clad in her indoor sunglasses, Peyton emerges from her bedroom in what is most likely a majestic sort of hangover. This is the type of hangover that feels like a legendary bird has its talons wrapped around your brain as its powerful wings beat against your temples.

Peyton says that she expects an apology from Shep, which is the exact opposite feeling you should have when you wake up from a night of heavy drinking. It is more appropriate that you awake to a mixture of dread and shame, check your phone to find that you proudly broadcast your most shameful moments the night before, and then slowly shovel fast food into your mouth until it’s time to go back to sleep. If you think you’re owed anything at this moment, call up your Uber driver from the night before and ask “What’s the worst thing I said at you?” This should breed the moment of clarity you’ve been looking for.

Anyway, Shep invites Peyton to lunch so that they can settle their dispute. Peyton apologizes for drinking too much. At first Shep apologizes, but then informs Peyton that “public confrontation is for rednecks.” I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Shep get punched in the nards while wearing a tuxedo, but what do I know about fancy? I do partially agree with Shep. In my experience, you should avoid all emotions until you turn 50. Then you can solemnly march into the desert and spontaneously combust. It’s the only way to lead a truly respectful life.

Shep then goes out for dinner with Kylie, the youngin’ of the bunch. Kylie informs Shep that she wants to win Miss Texas and Miss USA. As a part of the pageant circuit, Kylie stresses the charity portion of a competition winner, saying that she would focus on raising suicide awareness after almost losing her best friend. While this feels out of place on the show, I’m glad they took the time to acknowledge Kylie’s focus on suicide prevention.

I’ve dealt personally with suicide attempts on a few occasions, and I can tell you that it’s not spoken about enough in popular culture. I can partly understand. It’s difficult to be entertaining while dealing with heavy issues like suicide, but it’s possible. Here’s an example.

Someone I care about very much had just attempted to down a bottle of pills. They woke up in a facility to monitor their mental well-being. At a certain point they called me. They were hiding under their hospital bed. I asked why the hell they were hiding. Despite the circumstances – or maybe due to them – the answer was pretty funny.

They didn’t want to go to arts and crafts. They were doing their best to avoid making another clay ashtray. It was the sanest answer you could imagine. I’m sure you can all relate. And that is an example of a humorous anecdote that we can use to help dismiss the stigma attached to mental illness.

Back to the show, we find Shep taking Bella to get some sushi. As they order, Shep tells the waitress he is trying to impress Bella with his eating habits, which is exactly how PacMan met his wife – thanks to their shared hunger for ghosts and discarded fruit.

At the beach house, the other women question if they are ready to get physical with Shep. Kylie and Peyton say they could go for some cuddling, but Priscila says she would opt for some dry humping, because she is very old-fashioned and traditional. Remember teens, there is nothing more American than dry humping. The zipper-burn from a pair of Levi’s is a good as a passport in the United States.

As the gals discuss heavy petting, Shep and Bella make out in an alley after a meal of raw fish like two stray cats in a Disney film.

The next day, Shep goes to get a shave and then acts shocked that JD, Craig, and Austen from Southern Charm all arrive. Norm on Cheers was more of a surprise guest than these three.

As JD describes the formal party for his wife that everyone is invited to, Craig says he wants to get his eyebrows waxed. JD jokes that Craig should also get his nails done because JD’s sense of masculinity is fragile enough to bend in the wind. JD wears a sandwich board that reads “No Homo” because his forehead tattoo wore off. JD’s favorite movie is Fight Club, but for all the wrong reasons.

As Shep’s pals question him about his dates, we are treated to a brief flashback of Summer meeting with Shep and being told that she can’t just show up and date him. Summer thought that she had been shortchanged after sharing a double date with Shep, but thought that appearing unannounced to a beach house with five other women would be the surest way to his heart. Summer is somehow the Keyser Soze of this show and we haven’t quite figured it out yet.

Moving on to the big gala for JD’s wife, we find the whole Southern Charm cast gathered like they’re re-enacting the prom scene from Carrie. All of Shep’s dates are loaded up into a van, promising to help keep an eye on each other’s partially veiled breasts. In other words, everyone’s on nipple alert.

Arriving at the party, where Shep apparently got a plus-four, his dates have a painful encounter with Landon, Shep’s Southern Charm cast mate who previously showed him some romantic interest.

While Priscila says they she and her fellow contestants haven’t agreed to commit their lives to Shep, Landon informs them that they already “said yes” just by coming there. That’s a very dangerous attitude to have, Landon. By that reasoning, Survivor contestants could be relieved of their kidneys after being voted off the island.

The episode ends with Bella saying that her career has called her away from the show. She hasn’t quite shared this news with Shep, but what is the process for requesting vacation leave to be on a reality show? I know that that in America, maternity leave is a long weekend and a gift card to Red Lobster, but how long are women given off work to appear on a reality dating show? Where does the administration land on this? Find out next week on RelationShep.

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