Hey everybody. Welcome back. I wish I had good news for you, but we are still in the grips of the Hilton Head vacation. Entering week three, supplies are running low and moral has faded. This has become the Andersonville of vacations, but a reprieve may be soon in sight.
Picking back up where we left off last week, Austen’s girlfriend is on the phone and she is very upset about a picture online of he and Chelsea locking arms. I wonder now if social media has ended more relationships than war, death, and being born of two warring families that have opposed each other for centuries. I’m sure they’re all about eve at this point.
After that call finishes, Austen pulls Chelsea aside to discuss the situation. This conversation ends on a cliffhanger, with the audience left to wonder if Austen’s fledgling relationship will survive Hilton Head. Will any of us survive Hilton Head? Is this Purgatory? Why have all the clocks stopped working and where did all these unbaptized babies come from?
The next morning we are treated to a quick montage of empty champagne bottles and our cast slowly rousing themselves from drunken slumber. Danni discovers Kathryn in bed surrounded by candy wrappers and a bag of marshmallows. Kathryn, chocolate smeared across her face and bed sheets, explains that she eats in her sleep. The fact that the show doesn’t immediately hard cut to night vision footage of a zombie-like Kathryn gorging herself on a trash bag full of circus peanuts is a crime.
Anyway, everyone packs their things and staggers away from the vacation house. Breaking off from everyone else is Shep, who is stopping to visit his family. Good on you, Shep. If nothing else, you’re a considerate son.
Hoping to squeeze a meal out of his visit, Shep is shocked to find the fridge not fully stocked. Apparently Shep’s parents have been away from their home for five months. If you’re like me, that’s a stunning amount of time to be away, but then I remember that there are people who have multiple homes. This is great. As for most people, five months away from home means you were in jail. Then when you get home, you find someone has stolen all the copper pipes out of your house.
Shep continues to have the most stream-of-consciousness conversation with his mother. First he says he wants a French bulldog, then immediately segues into his upcoming knee surgery and relationships, I guess. I don’t know.
Catching back up with the ladies, we find Chelsea putting on a depressing tour of her hometown. Danni, Kathryn, and Naomie are treated to such highlights as “This is where my parents got divorced” and “This is where my mom and I were taken in by Jerry.” Seriously though, I do the same exact thing when I show people around my hometown. It’s all just “Here’s the ATM where my momma’s fingernail lady drove over that carjacker” and “This is the storage shed where we could buy liquor on Sundays. Oh, and there’s a trolley.”
Chelsea was apparently not kidding about stopping by her childhood home. This is a we-all-get-out-of-the-car-and-walk-up-the-driveway kind of visit. That is until Chelsea bursts into tears and flees. This is the point where everyone else on the trip just continues to stare down at their laps, wondering who’s going to be the person to say, “Oh, please tell us what’s wrong.” Chelsea explains that her stepfather-figure died when she was eight and her family lost everything. I imagine this scene juxtaposed with cutaways to the guys traveling back to Charleston, their heads thrown back, cackling on some Zoolander-esque joyride.
Back in Charleston, we see Craig cutting out pages from magazines and making what appears to be a serial-killer’s dream board. The show cuts away from him silently wandering through his house, staring at this madman’s collage he’s crafted to show Austen sorting his hat collection. What are you doing, show? I don’t care about Austen’s housekeeping. Show me why Craig is making a hostage note out of old issues of Esquire. This is what happens when you take a man’s cat away. You give him no other options.
Since we don’t get to see what the hell Craig is doing, we follow Shep and Kathryn to his big knee surgery. Shep acknowledges that his body is breaking down with age, just like everyone else. Forget what Jack LaLanne taught you about being able to pull boats with your teeth when you’re 65. Just try to live your life so that you don’t need a specially-made coffin when you die.
Anyway, as Shep weighs his own mortality, Kathryn explains that Thomas’ new girlfriend Ashley is not invited to the birthday party Kathryn is throwing for her and Thomas’ son. This lack of an invite was the reason behind Kathryn and Ashley’s heated argument in Hilton Head and major evidence of Ashley’s lack of life experience. Children’s birthday parties are terrible. Ignoring birthdays is the best idea Jehovah’s Witnesses ever had.
Three hours later, we see Shep being wheeled out of the hospital in a comical hospital gown. He’s still pretty drugged up and Kathryn is tasked with driving him home. There is perhaps no greater show of trust than asking someone to drive you home after surgery. It basically means you trust that person not to record all the weird xenophobic and sexually deviant rants that slip from your drug-addled mind.
Instead of actually showing Shep’s ride home — or showing WHAT IN THE HELL CRAIG IS UP TO — we join Austen and his girlfriend Victoria for a nice dinner in her home. Cool. How interesting.
An apparent master interrogator, Victoria breaks the silence by simply asking Austen “How was Hilton Head?” followed by silence. This is a KGB-level inquisition. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Victoria was a former Spetsnaz agent or something.
Austen, completely out of his depth, begins to ramble on about how he pulled Chelsea aside and told her that he was in a serious relationship. Victoria continues to remain deathly silent as Austen digs the hole for himself deeper and deeper. With the noose firmly secured around Austen’s neck, Victoria then says that the picture of Austen and Chelsea together was disrespectful to her. As Austen tries to respond, Victoria chastises him for trying to defend Chelsea’s actions. Austen foolishly says he’s not going to throw Chelsea “to the wolves.” Terrible wording, Austen. Victoria, several moves ahead like a chessmaster, responds “I’m not a wolf.” The conversation ends with Austen completely shaken and Victoria confidently pouring another glass of wine like she’s in a Shonda Rhimes series.
Moving on, we find Shep in recovery and he calls up Cameran. So here’s something. I shit you not. Cameran’s name is spelled incorrectly in Shep’s phone, and it is the funniest thing to me. That is gold.
Anyway, Cameran had her baby. We learn this unceremoniously on a phone call from Shep’s couch. Way to gloss over that, TV show.
Cameran explains that she was in labor for 12 hours, but luckily the baby came out cute. In what is the best line of the show so far this season, Cameran tells Shep, “You’ve got ice on your knee and I ‘ve got ice on my vagina.” Not really much I can add to that, so let’s move on.
Finally, we learn why Craig was making an American Psycho collage. It’s his “self portrait” that his life coach told him to make for their next session. Craig took that to mean “Bring me the physical representation of man’s darkest thoughts.”
From what we see of Craig’s “self portrait,” there are crudely cut-out pictures of a luxury sailboat and the phrase “The Power of Influence.” There is also a headline reading “Your Plan: Happiness” and multiple photos of men without heads. Like, Craig intentionally cut the heads off of the pictures.
While we should see the life coach slowly backing her way out of the room, she remains seated and tells Craig that he is too scattered in his thinking. Craig explains that he has been offered an incredible pillow-making opportunity by Patricia, but he is having some creative block. Oh, and he’s been on vacation. He doesn’t mention that part, but we literally watched Craig be on vacation for multiple episodes. The life coach then tells Craig that he is “bullshitting” himself, which I think is a clinical term.
Craig then begins to brag about his supernatural ability to lie to people, as if he were the next Frank Abagnale, Jr. and not an aspiring pillow designer. Cutting to a one-on-one with the camera, Craig goes on to state that he knows the human psyche so well that he can bend others to his will like some real life Hannibal Lecter. Although, if we are judging things solely by Silence of the Lambs, Craig’s sewing skills make him much more of a Buffalo Bill.
Skipping ahead, the day of the big birthday party is upon us. Kathryn readies the children to depart her home, as Thomas and Ashley start the day at his place. Awesomely, Thomas subscribes to the print edition of the Post and Courier, something which Ashley lauds him for. It’s the Sunday edition too, some good coupons in there. Please support your local print publications people. All of them.
Anyway, Ashley says she is staying home today because of all the emotional stress she has suffered. Also, she wasn’t invited to the party.
Here’s the thing about Ashley: Whenever she speaks, she sounds like a former child star auditioning for a new role as an “AD-ult.” Her pronunciation is super stilted and she really seems to be playing to the camera in a way that must be exhausting. Basically, she’s the Jenna Maroney of Southern Charm.
Thomas responds to Ashley’s complaints about Kathryn by saying, “Too bad” and advising Ashley to toughen up her skin if she wants to continue their relationship. Ashley fires back by saying that she’s not dealing with a normal person; she’s “dealing with darkness and evil.” It’s difficult to discern if she’s talking about Thomas or Kathryn. Thomas tells Ashley that he thinks it would be good if “they had a little space.” She asks for his hand, which Thomas refuses to give at first before he’s made some point that only he can understand. Thomas continues to exhibit the sort of fragile masculinity that you’d find in a guy who barks at his mail carrier every day. Thomas is the personification of Truck Nutz.
I will say this about this season of Southern Charm: It’s been great to watch two unpleasant people terrorize each other through what could be called a romantic relationship. It’s really the Schadenfreude Olympics with Thomas and Ashley, and it’s fantastic. It’s basically the final scene of There Will Be Blood every day with these two.
The cast then begins to assemble at some sort of children’s play zone. I think to myself, “There is no way we are going to have to sit through an entire child’s birthday party,” but guess what? The producers are like “If we had to sit through all of this, everyone else is gonna suffer along.” The only upside is that we get to see Craig with his face painted like a lion. Thanks for small favors.
Skipping ahead, Ashley brings lunch over to Thomas’ house. He mixes together some cocktails, so clearly he doesn’t plan on operating any heavy machinery this afternoon. Ashley inquires about the birthday party and asks, “Was I thought of?,” which is a crazy thing to immediately go to regarding a child’s birthday.
Thomas, not to be outdone in terms of who can be the most egotistical, explains that Kathryn doesn’t like Ashley because she still has feelings for him. This, of course, irks Ashley and the whole conversation spirals out from there. The best part of this whole scene is that Thomas and Ashley punctuate their heated exchange by biting into comically large Jimmy John’s sandwiches. Also, the sandwiches create super obvious continuity errors. You can see how their conversation was edited and rearranged by how much of the sandwich Thomas has eaten. He goes from a full sub, to the last quarter, right back to a full sandwich by the end of the scene. Some script supervisor owes me their paycheck over that one. I’ll let you know next week if I win a prize.