‘The Real World: St. Thomas’ Recap (Episode 6): “Smells Like Green Spirits”
Brandon kicks the bottle, and the sweet nectar of budding romance turns to ashes in Laura and Marie’s mouths.
This week, Brandon makes good on his promise to sober up–although as it turns out, another of the roommates could use an intervention. Before I get ahead of myself, though, let’s set the stakes for the action. Brandon, determined to stop drinking and accompanied by an encouraging Swift, attends AA, where Real World cameras dare not enter. He gets a 6-month chip after one visit, so, well done.
Temptation looms, however: a few days later, they seaplane over to St. Croix for St. Patty’s, a holiday known to Boston natives like Brandon as National “What Liver?” Day. After clowning around in some historic fort for awhile, they take a bus to the bar while chanting “To the bar! To the bar!” as Brandon looks despondent. Things seem dire, but they have all have a ball dancing with traditional stilt performers called Moko Jumbies while the other, non-reality-show-cast-member folks in the room look on ambivalently. So far, so good, right? (Well, not good, but you understand.)
The next morning, most of the roommates go to the St. Patty’s parade while the Goon Squad—plus Brandon, acting in his best interests, clearly—just head straight to the bar. While the parade-goers have fun obnoxiously inserting themselves into the local revelry, Brandon looks on as Robb and Marie get tanked and then wanders off, shivering and contemplating breaking his couple days of sobriety. No, don’t do it, I guess. We’re left on a cliffhanger of a commercial break, but fortunately, Marie helps B get into the St. Patty’s spirit and they all bounce in the crowd to Flogging Molly or whatever. “You won,” says Marie, who doesn’t know what’s happening anymore.
Crisis averted, but trouble brews elsewhere in the group. The Goon Squad are, we’re made to understand, pretty attached at this point: Marie admits she is “falling in love.” The situation is clearly weird, however, as Robb still intends for his back-home-girl to visit the islands. (This, you might recall, is after she admitted to him that she has been with others since his departure, causing him to break the house phone against his body in anger back in episode 3.)
Trey and Laura’s thing is also approaching a critical mass of discomfort. Here’s Trey’s general attitude toward the fairer sex: “I like having a woman cater to me… I know that sounds bad, but it’s just what makes me feel comfortable.” Marie watches with disbelief as Laura cleans up after feeding Trey while waiting for him to get off the phone with his back-home-girl. Like a seesaw giving way to gravity, though, the pair’s dynamic can only get more twisted: at a bar on St. Croix, Laura flirts with some locals and Trey refuses to speak with her for the rest of the evening. As Robb puts it, “Trey has no right to be mad at Laura what in the so ever.” I’m glad—both in that reality show sense of voyeuristic catharsis and also from the human sympathy I occasionally manage—that the flagrantly exploitative nature of this relationship is finally coming to light, although I wish Laura didn’t have to be so goddamn annoying about it: “I try to go up and talk to him and he gets mad at me and tells me to leave him alone—nooo! I don’t like this hide and seek game.” Ok, so… stop playing? I ask you, TV Recap Gods: is it in poor taste for me to deride Laura’s irritating self-sabotage, when her codependency hinges on her lover’s borderline emotional abuse? At least the song they have selected for the scene thoughtfully dramatizes Laura’s anguish: I’m broken, I’m soaking up all the tears I’m choking on/You’re like a drug I’m coming off. This is professional work, guys.
Back on Real World island, Trey gets a ring from his back-home-girl and Laura is thrown: “I can’t believe this. The first time I talk to a guy, he gets jealous. But he’s been talking to Chelsea the whole entire time we’ve been here.” Very good, Laura! It only took you several weeks longer than everyone else to realize how fucked up it is, but it’s not a race, I suppose. (Sorry, Recap Gods.) Anyway, things get trés complexe when we surmise that said back-home-girl is with child. (In a rare moment of organic drama, neither of them says the words out loud during the call, so I’m generally assuming here.)
Needless to say, Trey is shell-shocked, and as he putters around frowning and remaining silent on the matter, Robb calls his back-home-girl, who is, fortunately, sans oven-bun. As Marie overhears them discuss the lady’s impending visit, she asks Laura, “Do I have the right to be mad right now?” Maybe not the person you should talk to about such matters, but hey. As Robb describes their St. Croix jubilee to the unseen rival, Marie throws it down: “That just changed everything. Game over.”
As Lee the Salty Boat Captain takes the ladies to get their nails done, they discuss their boy problems. Marie: “Even though he’s not trying to play me, he’s still playing me in a sense. And I don’t get down like that.” As Laura describes Trey’s mysterious phone call the previous night, Marie takes her to task: “Hello? Girl power. You’re not giving us a good name right now.”
Finally, the weight of such admonition makes a dent and Laura brings Trey outside for a Serious Talk at dusk. Trey’s input: “I kinda thought it was wrong and awkward from the beginning.” Of course you did. He remains tight-lipped throughout about the most pressing aspect of his current dilemma, and it creates a genuine, dramatically ironic tension that we don’t often see on The Real World. Good job, life?
Speaking of mature decisions, Marie’s plan for dealing with the emotional fallout of her beau’s romantic caprice is to reconnect with Max (the guy she blew off to flirt more with Robb in episode 2), screwing around in kind in order to make the ginger Romeo feel bad: “I’m not gonna get played. And if I’m gonna have to go through that with Emily, I’m gonna make damn sure Robb has to go through that with me… I know the games guys play because I play them too.” Sounds like a country song.
Meanwhile, night has fallen on Traura’s tense council, and unsettling power plays surface in the guise of progress and compromise. Trey: “I would rather slow down than stop it completely, for what it’s worth.” He relinquishes any accountability for this situation in which he objectively has well more than half of the power: “I don’t know what to tell you. I’m still torn. I really feel like the ball’s in your court.” Laura decides to let the relationship continue, just real nice and slow-like, but implores Trey to inform her when she’s going too fast. I believe the technical psychoanalytic phrase for this move is completely fooling yourself into thinking that you’ve just made any change for the better, for God’s sake. Maybe it’ll turn out fine, though! Laura: “I hate you.” Trey: “I hate me, too.” Fade to credits.
Image courtesy mtv.com
Lugubrious lyrics from “Let Our Love Burn” by Suzi Oravec
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