‘The Real World: St. Thomas’ Recap (Episode 8): “Hurts So Good”

Marie toys with Robb until he punches himself in the face repeatedly. I watch Trey and Laura, and follow suit.

The episode opens with the gang meeting a local tour guide. He’s a genial guy named Phillipo (Fylleapo?), who is some kind of high society big shot, a Rolex retailer who actually used to live in the ridiculous Real World house. Marie is immediately entranced by his plush allure: “You never know when you’re gonna meet your sugar daddy.” Weirdly, this kind of quaint character flaw endears me to her more, not just because she’s so brazenly open about it, but also because it neatly sets up the stakes for this week’s drama.

Before we get to that, though, the house’s other troubled couple has some hand wringing to do (Because how else are they going to fill forty minutes?). LaToya and Brandon tut as Trey and Laura do their awkward prance of affection around the island. Toya: “I care about Trey, but what he’s doing is not right.” A sage conclusion. Speaking of Toya’s wisdom, she seems to have guessed Trey’s biological dilemma with his back-home-girl. Not that it matters, as said girl seems to have taken care of it, admitting to going out and drinking, although things remain cryptic because of the phone tap (They seem to think if they don’t state anything explicitly the network just won’t bother to air footage of the conversation. Hey, good try!). Trey, predictably, flies into a rage and hangs up on her when she merely alludes to being tempted to go out with other guys.

Meanwhile, Robb presses Marie about their status: “Am I what you want? I’m not. You’re here from a different background… Parents take care of you, I take care of parents.” On another night, they go to a club where Marie flirts openly with the owner; when they get home, Robb laments his situation to Brandon, who is alarmed by marks on Robb’s person. “I’m a bitch,” he says. “Not one bit of me fits into her life. She wants money… I’m so damn tired of being not good enough. Smack me in the face or hit me?” As Brandon looks on agape, Robb puts his cigarette out on his own arm. Brandon: “You gotta take that tattoo on your leg a little more seriously.”

The next morning, Toya scolds Marie for acting like a fool and continually making Robb feel bad while she is blackout drunk. In the confessional, Marie resolves to clean up her act while slurping down a Bloody Mary. A clock shows us it is quarter to 10AM.

As the gang head to Señor Frog’s for some day drinkin’, Brandon tries to convince Robb to take his bouts of self-violence more seriously. But Ol’ Red ‘n’ White isn’t too concerned: “When I burn myself, I stop thinking about what’s pissing me off and start thinking, ‘ooh, that stings a little bit.’” I use The Real World in much the same way.

Anyway, they’re having a good time at the bar—Marie is shocked when Laura beats her in a chugging contest—when Trey again shows up abruptly to admonish his doe-eyed companion for drinking too much. As Trey leaves with Swift, he vows to end things with Laura: “I just haven’t gotten to it yet.” Swift applauds the inherent maturity in claiming that he will eventually get around to not hurting his girlfriend’s feelings any more, you know, when he gets a chance. Laura and Robb bond over their status as their significant other’s “things.”

Back at the house later, Robb punches himself in the face in the gazebo. He asks Brandon to play pool with him but refuses to let him address the huge bruises now swelling on his face: “My life is perfect. I have nothing to complain about.”

Elsewhere, as Laura pulls a sighing, eye-rolling Trey aside for the Serious Chat he had sworn to himself initiate, the muscley fellow makes a case for the poignancy of his situation: “It’s extremely difficult being the guy that has to make the decision between two beautiful, nice girls.” As the crocodile tears flow, he continues with the routine: “When I wanna stay in, it’s”—“it” being Laura—“someone that’ll stay in with me… if I’m not feeling well, it’s someone that’ll take care of me. You think that’s easy for me to give up?” I forget what Trey actually does or studies—Urban Planning, maybe, who cares–but he should take up acting, as he is a genius method performer, actually exuding some real pathos here. I’m not inclined to suggest that there’s some grey area between sympathetically struggling with one’s emotional needs and actively treating two women like objects, but man, he gives good cry. Do I need to tell you Laura agrees they should stay together?

Marie and Robb also sort of resolve their stuff and she convinces him to stop hurting himself and then we get one of the best endings I’ve ever seen on this show. For all its plodding repetition, I’ll never say the Real World isn’t a master class in reality programming that occasionally offers some magical moments, like this convergence of spontaneous action and editing as we watch Brandon and Trey gravely discuss Robb’s self-harm and how Marie is bad for him.

Trey: “He lets Marie walk all over him. He lets [her] talk to him like a piece of shit.”

[Laura walks into the room to hug Trey goodnight.]

Trey: “Hey, I found half your eyelash in my bed, thanks a lot, it was gross. Bye. Um… I forgot what I was saying…”

Image courtesy mtv.com

Ezra Riemer lives in Western Massachusetts. ...read more


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