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The Real World Homecoming: Los Angeles is an increasingly dispiriting watch, an unflinching look directly into the mouth of unprocessed trauma, and perhaps worst of all, a study of human behavior that refuses to jazz it up by licensing Bjork’s 1993 classic “Human Behavior.” Lord, have mercy on us. Don’t make us face this with catalog music.
Here’s how grim this show has become: as you may remember, last week’s episode ended with a conversation about race in America that was honest and vulnerable and halfway productive, and then two of the cast’s non-Black members used the N word in full. Not at anyone, not in anger, not as a direct slur, more to illustrate how they’d heard it used and why you should never use it. Yet they both violated the first rule of “Don’t say the N word,” which is “Don’t say the N word.” Just don’t! Cameras or no cameras, people: DON’T! It’s shockingly easy to DON’T.
Tami ended that episode frustrated and hurt, as you might imagine, and as we open our penultimate episode, her feelings have not changed. But she’s not frustrated with Glen and Irene, the sayers of That Word; she’s more upset with David for thinking that she’s over-reacting. It’s clear from the jump that this is episode going to be Tami vs. David, Round 2.1 (2.2? 2.1,000,000?), and I don’t know if there are going to be any winners.
So we will take our distractions where we can. Our first INCOMING MESSAGE is all about how LGBTQ+ representation on television was “nonexistent” in 1993, which is not completely true because Doug Savant’s Matt was in the background of several wide shots on Melrose Place that year. (Real talk, though: in 1993, I was young and in the middle of a coming-out process that was much longer than it needed to be, and just the fact of Matt on Melrose was a comfort, but even I noticed that when the male characters were together watching a football game or playing pool at Shooters or whatever guy thing they had them doing before the show went full soap, Matt was never there. Gay men can be boring beer dorks too, I remember thinking.) (I know I’m changing the subject. You would too.) Anyway, Beth A was a trailblazer back then, announcing her sexuality to her roommates, and the world, and apparently a lot of her family, via one of those I’M NOT GAY BUT MY GIRLFRIEND IS t-shirts you get at the store on the gay strip in your town that sells poppers and the mesh vests I’ve never seen anyone wear. Tami wasn’t super-down with Beth A’s sexual identity back then, even though she was progressive enough to work in HIV/AIDS outreach. But she’s changed; she has a bisexual daughter now, so as she declares, she is “Pride fulfilled.”
Beth A, in the meantime, divorced her wife of 9 years, then saw a psychic who said she’d marry a man, then met that man, then married that man, and now they have two biological kids and an unspecified number of fosters. She’s a free thinker, our Beth A. (Or human sexual identity is too fluid and complex to be explained fully on the front of a t-shirt. You pick.) Anyway, now her youngest child is planning to visit the house, so she wants everyone to be on their best behavior. OUTGOING MESSAGE FROM ME TO BETH: They won’t.
Okay, so, back to Tami and David. Tami is disappointed that David isn’t taking his opportunity to speak to his experience as a Black man in America, while David says he wants to “stay in his lane.” Tami tells him that they have a platform from which they can change people’s minds, David replies, “I just want to tell me some jokes and make me some cash.” Tami says “We can’t just say that we don’t care,” and David counters, “I can, that’s why I look so young.” Tami then accuses him of having a “slave mentality,” and David notes that she’s saying those words from under a wig and keeping her natural hair concealed.
So, okay, listen. It is not for me to say who is right and who is wrong here. It is not for anyone who isn’t in a specific oppressed group to tell someone who is in that oppressed group how to react to their oppression. Push back against it, ignore it and go for yours, subvert it from within, create your own world outside of it, hold onto a Melrose Place micro-aggression for 30 years, whatever. There are as many paths forward as there are people. We can argue about the most effective road forward, and we can even learn from one another if we keep it chill and respectful, but ultimately everyone is going to go their own way.
Of course Tami and David don’t keep it chill and respectful, because there is a third cast member right in the middle of the action, and that third cast member is the camera. I don’t doubt Tami’s struggle nor her commitment to the cause. I don’t mean to downplay David’s unique place in the culture, nor do I begrudge him the chance to repair his image. But there is no question that they are both playing to the audience. “That fell flat, like your career,” Tami tells David after a failed zinger. “You got the right one, baby,” David yells out of nowhere, quoting the 1993 Pepsi jingle and proving the theory that a person’s growth gets stunted in the year of their greatest trauma. David threatens to snatch the wig off Tami’s head, and Tami asks him if he’d like to have a conversation with her husband Reggie. It sounds like a threat, and it doesn’t really work; David keeps dropping semi-threatening one-liners about Tami into a cell-phone that I’m not sure is even on, so Tami does call her husband Reggie to tell him, “You may have to come over, because this man is doing the most.”
The producers bring David out of the house, split-screening the moment with unaired footage of his 1993 post-Blanket Incident removal. But in the present, they’re just trying to calm him down and also avoid a confrontation with Reggie, who is absolutely on his way to Venice. In the meantime, Glen, who one could argue set this whole series of unfortunate events into motion, is making an apology tray of Rice Krispie Treats with a nervous and single-minded intensity.
Reggie arrives at the house, and while I do believe he’s taken the producers and the rest of the cast by surprise, here’s where I think the story has stopped being polite or real: as Reggie searches the house, he asks Tami, “What’s his name?”
Hold on now. Tami hasn’t told Reggie David’s name? Tami, our Tami, this Tami, who’s been finding her light and dropping her catch-phrases at the perfect moment, who’s been doing an episode-by-episode YouTube series alongside this whole season, who was savvy enough about reality TV to game the system on the dating show STUDS back in 1993, before we even called it “reality TV,” hasn’t told her own husband who her cast-mates on The Real World Homecoming: Los Angeles are? They’ve never discussed the Blanket Incident, and she didn’t mention that there may be a special degree of tension with the cast member who was cast out because of it? David’s name never came up during that night Tami spent in the hotel while the rest of the gang was in the desert? Reggie doesn’t know David’s name? This does not track. This feels…produced. By Tami, who’s been trying to produce the show from within from the very first frame.
Anyway, David isn’t there, because he’s on the beach with the producers. Reggie says he’ll sit outside and wait for him, because “none of this,” the cameras and producers around him, “is real, but this,” she and he, “this is real.” In an interview, Tami acknowledges that the broader conversation stemmed from the reality that Black men are at risk in America, and by urging Reggie to come to the house, she’s put him in that risk. Reggie says “I have bond money, so whatever it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be.” All of this feels slightly rehearsed. It just does. It’s frustrating, and I need a Rice Krispie Treat stat.
In the meantime, Irene’s trans nephew was supposed to come to the house to meet Beth A’s visiting kid, who we have learned is also a trans male, which could have been an interesting Real World: The Next Generation moment. But now neither Irene nor Beth are comfortable having the kids come visit, as much as Glen and Jon promise to make the house a safe space. The producers make it clear to Reggie that until he leaves, they won’t bring David to the house, so he agrees to go.
David feels like he was being set up, and I don’t disagree with him. Back in the house, the rest of the cast wonders how they’re going to last two more days with David, and Tami says these words: “I think that the road we took the first time, when we voted him out of the house, maybe there was another way to handle that.”
Here is my prediction: David will return to the house, there will be a group discussion wherein Tami will take responsibility for having put David and Reggie in a potentially volatile situation, and Tami will then check out of the house — and thereby the show — a night or two early. It will mirror the Tami/David conflict in the original series, it will tie it up in a bow without really resolving anything, and it was plotted out beat by beat on a corkboard in Tami’s house weeks ago.
Meanwhile, the honest conversations this cast could have had about their real lives, and the real societal problems they face, will go…un-had. I hope I’m wrong, but that’s where my head goes. I am frustrated. I’m going to Shooters.
Dave Holmes is an editor-at-large for Esquire.com, host of the Earwolf podcast Homophilia, and his memoir Party of One is in stores now. He also hosts the Real World podcast Truu Stowray, available wherever you get your podcasts.
Source : https://decider.com/2022/01/05/the-real-world-homecoming-los-angeles-episode-7-recap/2097