‘The Real World: St. Thomas’ Recap (Episode 10): “Of Vice And Men”
Marie and LaToya fight over a guy, Brandon fights with temptation and I fight my growing apathy about all of them.
I wish I could do this recap as a reader poll, not because I really care that much what other people think about this show, but because I want to get a clarifying perspective on the emotional situation underlying this week’s major conflict. I think mild autism runs in my family, and it can be hard for me to decipher weirdness born of social expectations. So I’m honestly not sure which party is correct here. Maybe we’ll run through what happened and then whoever happens to read this can chime in. You too, spam robots!
As the episode opens, the gang is camping on St. John, having laughs and splashes in the sun (Is this their version of the traditional late-season “vacation”? I guess there was nowhere to go but sideways). Uneventful, though there are some genuinely beautiful underwater shots of marine life. We also get to see Marie and LaToya’s professed “besties” relationship illustrated in all its shrieky glory, as they bond over their shared distaste for the experience. Toya: “Camping is miserable. I’m a little bit country but I ain’t that damn country.”
Back on Real World island, Brandon calls his bro back in Boston to relate his sobriety and romantic drought. “I miss Boston girls. I’m not attracted to anything on this island,” he says. “I like the bad girls” (I think that’s code for “my constant strike-outs have me demoralized,” but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, I guess). He goes out one night to meet some locals, heading to a bar alone despite his newfound teetotalism, and meets a cute, sort of punk-y blonde chick. On Easter, as the others go out for a swanky dinner, she comes over and he immediately sets about granting her desire to get drunk, convinced of the inevitability of hanky-panky.
The lady turns out to be kind of a bad influence, insisting that they go drink for drink. “She’s not hearing ‘no,’” as Brandon puts it. In a neat little montage of the stages of substance abuse, he continually ups his willingness from one or two cocktails, to only shots of rum, to a shot of whiskey, until we see him thirstily pounding a drink in the Jacuzzi. “I’m in a spot where sex isn’t going to happen sober,” he explains. I suppose I should be dismayed by this stumble, as Brandon’s one of the more likable roommates, but do what you gotta do, buddy. The others come home earlier than expected and he’s alarmed at the prospect of their judgment,, but he manages to mask his condition and has a nice snuggly time with the lady. We might be in for another plodding intervention scene later on, though, as a few days later Brandon waves goodbye to the wagon and rages at Señor Frog’s. He seems cheerful, although the fact that he’s there alone—that is, without his roommates, instead pulling some random locals into a conga line—rather blatantly betrays his underlying shame. He says matter-of-factly, “I have decided to step back in the ring with alcohol and if I can keep it in moderation… I’m just awesome,” which isn’t actually a coherent reflection, but I guess extremes will do that to you.
Meanwhile, some crisp editing refreshes us on the dynamic of the Goon Squad, the gist of which is that Robb is a “care bear” toward Marie while she tends to walk all over him. Her acquaintance from earlier in the season, Max, is coming to visit. She convinces Robb that they should take some time apart for a few days. He looks inconsolable. “Hakuna Matata,” she reminds him, and he assures the confessional that if she sleeps with Max, they’re through, but I’ve always understood the basis of being whipped to be that there is no bottom line. What say you, spam bot?
Later, Marie prepares to meet Max, LaToya teases her, and Robb sits in the other room being very uncomfortable. Marie meets Max at the bar and immediately decides she doesn’t care for his bland handsomeness (or, in her parlance, finds him “corny”) and anxiously awaits Toya’s planned “spontaneous” intervention. When Toya arrives, Marie immediately leaves and Toya and Max decide to meet up with some other roommates at the club–while Marie gets home and, exasperated with disappointment, declares to Robb and Brandon: “you guys are boring.” Here’s where I begin to tire of her breezily dominant character, colorful earlier in the season but now sort of painful to watch. I can deal with people being jerks as long as they go about it with thoughtful complexity, but it seems that she is pretty straightforward about being a completely self-absorbed malcontent with ridiculous expectations of those around her—or, in layman’s terms, “spoiled.” But perhaps I’m being hard on the lass.
Robb and Marie re-encounter Max on another night, but Marie makes her position clear and leaves with her Red Prince Charming. We catch a telltale glimpse of LaToya goofing with Max at the bar. On another night, he calls the house and they make plans to meet up. Confidentially chatting with Laura, she clarifies that she “would never do that to Marie,” but then gives her a loaded glance. Marie comes across Toya speaking with Max on the phone later and is at first incredulous, then angrily chides her: “Over you, Toya.” Toya is unsure of why she has done wrong, and so am I, but here’s that confusion to which I alluded earlier: it seems Marie is disdainful of people who can’t interpret the very specific social rules she has inside her head, but perhaps there is some obscure regional custom she assumes to be universal. Her admonition of sweet LaToya is certainly cryptic: “You don’t know Max from a hole in the wall,” she says in the confessional. “I am your girl, and you should be playing on my team.”
Their disagreement blows up into a legitimate fight, as Marie scrabbles for grace while clarifying to Toya how speaking to somebody that Marie has dismissed constitutes the gravest of insults. “Put yourself in my position,” she says, and Toya replies, “Put yourself in my position.” Clearly we lack a surplus of empathy in the Real World house, but what’s really going on, anyway? Put yourself in my position, reader—do I sympathize with LaToya because she has innocently stepped into an interpersonal bear trap, or do I chalk it up to different strokes and their storied attribution to concomitantly different folks? Not that it even ends up mattering; as Toya points out, Max is more interested in bro-ing out with Swift than hooking up with her. Anyway, they predictably make up and all is well. Marie muses, “Me and LaToya are both very stubborn people who don’t like to admit when they’re wrong. However, in this case, I am right.” Marie is fortunate to be on a television show; there are lots of others like her who could benefit from a chance to re-hear the words coming out of their own mouths.
Image courtesy mtv.com
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