Let’s start this week off with a story. I was in high school, living with my grandparents, and, like most youths from the 2000s, I had a weathered collection of used VHS tapes that I watched regularly. One day after school, I walked into my room and noticed my copy of the 1980 classic Flash Gordon carefully tucked under my pillow. Unsure of who placed it there and why, I asked my grandmother. She leaned in and said slyly, “You know why.”
I did not.
“It’s a dirty movie,” she said with a grin as if this were some inside joke between us two.
In that moment, I was struck by a number of questions. Am I in trouble? Is my grandmother conflating Flash Gordon with the similarly-titled erotic space parody Flesh Gordon? How familiar is my grandmother with 1970s genre-specific smut?
But one question, maybe the most important, is why — having thought she found campy space porn left out in my room — did she place it under my pillow? Did she want me to have dreams of sexcapades beyond the moon? Was it a threat, like finding a bullet in your mailbox? I’ll never know. But the best I can figure is that sometimes our best efforts to show people we care manifest in bizarre and embarrassing ways. As seen in this week’s episode of Southern Charm.
So we start things off with Shep going to pick up a puppy that he named after his friend Craig. Please for a moment take in the exquisite irony that in this situation involving the naming of a dog, that it is the human man who goes by “Shep.” Incredible.
That said, please also consider the next-level degradation that Shep has reached in his treatment of Craig. This is Reek-levels of conditioning. He named a dog after him. People who pay to be treated like human toilets receive at least enough respect not to have their credit cards held at the front desk. Even the doctor from The Human Centipede had the decency to put on a little PowerPoint presentation for his victims before he started sewing everybody to a butt.
Anyway, Cameran and Shep arrive at the home of the dog breeders, which appears to have been painted by Andrew Wyeth. There they meet Dog Craig. Though only a few weeks old, the puppy has already mastered Human Craig’s vacant, exhausted expression and inability to self-subsist.
Jumping over to Shem Creek, we find Chelsea mocking Austen for bringing the wrong supplies to their evening of casual fishing.
“I was taught to spearfish before I could walk,” brags Chelsea, retroactively alerting child protective services. Now I’m all for self reliance and everyone being the best Emerson they can be, but let’s maybe not give infants spears.
Chelsea begins grilling Austen about his friendship with Shep in light of Shep insulting Austen’s ex-girlfriend. Chelsea says that they seem to have a very surface-level friendship, which I guess is correct. I mean, Shep’s never named any animals after Austen.
Later we join Naomie and Kathryn as they visit a … soul studio … for hypnosis. Either the therapist is new to the studio or hanging pictures isn’t Feng shui because they just have all their shit sitting on the floor.
Now, I’ve never been hypnotized, but I did ruin a magic show one time, so I can only assume it’s a similar experience. Kathryn and Naomie rest on the floor as Phoebe Buffay talks them through a nap. To be honest, this seems great. I usually leave YouTube playing while I try to go to sleep, but I’m always awakened at 3 a.m. by some anemic former debate team captain claiming that his herbal supplements can help take down AOC.
The therapist steps out to allow Kathryn and Naomie to enjoy their “hypno-bliss.” Brought to tears by the session, Kathryn remarks about being exposed to such profound and intense positivity. This immediately changes as Kathryn and Naomie begin talking about how pathetic they think Craig is, because positivity is great for cleansing and all, but nothing beats the Big Mac-like high of complaining about someone.
At this point, the episode really takes a turn. Shep has enlisted the services of a professional photography studio to take portraits of him and Dog Craig. In the midst of the photosession, Human Craig arrives. He meets Dog Craig, and takes part in a few pictures. Then, speaking directly to the camera, Human Craig questions if Dog Craig is his namesake or if he is the dog’s. Now I see what Shep has planned.
It’s incredible that it began to take hold so fast, but this is all clearly some grand scheme to completely dehumanize Human Craig. First, it’s fun. You’re hanging out with a dog. The dog’s Craig. You’re Craig. It’s fine. Then the lines start to blur. You are afraid to go to the bathroom without Shep’s permission. A bell rings. Time to eat. Scraps make a fine meal now. But some nights, when the moon is full, you tilt your head to the sky and call out to all the other Craigs — hoping to recall the time you were you.
Reaching the party portion of our program, it’s Cameran’s 35th birthday celebration. Kathryn and Danni are ready to pick a fight with Eliza if she makes an appearance. Shep calling Austen’s ex-girlfriend “white trash” has positioned him and Craig against everyone else. And those are our fighters. Let’s see who comes out swinging.
Cameran gets her first drink of the evening and a little counter pops up at the corner of the screen. I hope this is an indication that she’s going to pull a Dawson Leery and drunkenly insult all her loved ones at her birthday party. And maybe steal a boat.
The Cameran Drink Counter reaches four as she grabs a custom beer from an arriving Austen. I like Austen’s business strategy as an aspiring brewer: Rely completely on the expertise and tools of others, create something that is too expensive to produce in bulk, and give away whatever limited product you have to your friends. Genius.
Soon Human Craig arrives to make trouble. Due to a falling out the night before, Austen begins to verbally dig at Craig and Craig responds in full. This erupts into the type of fight you would have right before calling your parents to come pick you up from the skating rink.
Chelsea and Naomie soon pile on and Craig is forced to retreat to the sitting area. Shep steps in to offer Craig some advice, but Craig storms off in frustration declaring his current situation to be the literal “mirror image of America right now.”
Let’s see if Craig is right about this: Is America a private oyster roast full of drunk dilettantes disguised as friends arguing who screwed over whom during their last failed outing?
Damn. Maybe Human Craig is onto something.
Social commentary aside, Cameran is now drunk enough that she is hysterically wrestling people in the yard, also known as a Texas Welcome Wagon. Revelling in being less drunk than someone else for a moment, Shep tells Cameran that they are all going on a trip together to Colorado. This is a terrible plan.
Naomie seems to be the only person who realizes that this group of people should not travel together. She asks why she would go on a trip with her ex-boyfriend with whom she is currently in a dispute. Danni tells Naomie that even though she doesn’t like Craig, he’s only one person going on this trip. Wow. If they were all traveling to the New World, I might think that would allow enough separation. Unfortunately, as touched on in Turner’s 1893 Frontier Thesis, there is no longer a “release valve” available to Americans hoping to escape to the unsettled Western territories. We are everywhere. We are stuck with ourselves now. There is no escape.
At the end of the night, Craig admits that he still has affection for Naomie. After everything, he is set to trail her around, snapping at the heels of anyone who comes too close. Love makes us do weird things, often unexplainable, often uncomfortable. As Iggy and The Stooges said, “I wanna be your dog.” See you next week people.