And so we arrive at the final episode of Ex On the Beach. Three years ago or so, I would’ve claimed this program was the newest sign signaling the imminence of the End of Days, but since the world we’re existing in right now is so terrifyingly shitty, this show has somehow morphed, almost magically, into escapism. Allow me to be very clear here: I’m not saying this show is comforting escapism the way a quality program like The Good Place transports me all too briefly to My Happy Place. (Also: watch that show.) Ex On the Beach really only serves to remind us that a large segment of the population believes any sort of exposure is good exposure. The cast and their actions promote a quest for notoriety and an absolute refusal of growth. The women on this show allow the men to get away with total garbage and the men just shrug when the women act like total garbage and not for one solitary second do I believe — or do I care — if any of these couples have stayed together. I feel zero investment for any of them and I’m flat out confused by anyone who feels differently. Still, there have been some very nice wide shots of the ocean (the ones when desperate people haven’t come crawling out of the waves) and, at the very least, watching this show for an hour each week has meant it’s been an hour I’ve been away from the actual news that confirms each and every day that this country is becoming rapidly similar to Gilead, the dystopian America that is the setting of The Handmaid’s Tale. (Also: watch that show, too.) I guess what I’m saying is sometimes an MTV dating show starring people who have been treated like trash (yet will undoubtedly continue to appear on the very next show producers wave in their faces) can momentarily feel soothing to a viewer. Sure, one of the stars of this show is a spitter, but it’s not like her loogie can break through a TV screen, so we’re safe. Praise be.
The episode begins with a message in a bottle ascending from the basement and Chase, for one, is concerned. See, he hates how his actions hurt other people and since there’s no way for him to stop engaging in bullshit actions – that would be way too hard – he’d really rather not be held accountable for any of it in a room decorated in red upholstery in a manner that is meant to illustrate Hell Done On a Budget. The producers of this show know what they’re doing, however, and Chase and Skyler are told to head down to the Shack of Secrets. This request is not only scary for Chase, but also for Victoria because she knows that any time her Pretend Super-Reluctant Boyfriend spends with an ex is time she can’t spend continuing to build a relationship that’s even less committed than the relationship I’ve built with a tub of fat free feta that lives in the cheese drawer of my refrigerator. (I can’t help my feelings. Sometimes I want goat cheese in my egg white omelet and, much like everyone in that house, I will not apologize for a thing.) As they get in the elevator, Skyler lets us know that Chase is the type of guy she would marry, and to anyone who nods at her moronic sentiment yet still decries the lack of sanctity of gay marriage, maybe it’s time for you to do a little reflection. Anyhoo, Skyler and her imaginary fiancé are met with an iPad with text that states: “Skyler you were always criticized for your hard partying ways but lets see what really happened once the cat was away.” I will admit that the lack of apostrophe in “let’s” made me want to claw my own eyes out, but I suppose my reaction to errors in basic grammar is not what’s important here. What matters instead is that Skyler is exposed to footage of Chase hooking up with Victoria after the guy slipped a note into her suitcase that claimed he loves her. What also matters is how Chase doesn’t feel great watching Skyler cry, but Victoria and Angela cannot wait for the girl to come back up to the living room with tears streaming down her cheeks because they are hateful bitches and that’s the kind of thing hateful bitches say.
There’s barely a reprieve before the Shack comes calling again. To nobody’s surprise, Angela and Tor’i are told to head down. In the elevator, Angela folds her arms across her chest like a petulant child who was just told that she is not permitted to slap anyone across the face during recess in the schoolyard today because she didn’t finish her broccoli last night. Tor’i sees her expression and remarks to us that she looks ready to turn it up at any second. Yes, Tor’i. Angela’s very being is defined by the likelihood that she will emotionally blow at any time, even when she’s the one who is guilty. Adorable, isn’t it? Angela’s vulnerability only comes out in forms of abject defensiveness and it’s all sort of gross, as is the way Tor’i declares his love for this lunatic when the only footage that plays off the iPad is a confessional during which Angela says she will move to wherever the guy happens to be once the show is over. Tor’i lives in L.A., but I’m absolutely certain she would just as happily move her suitcase of terrible lashes to a tiny town in Kansas because love is really all that matters.
Once it’s clear her relationship is secure for the evening, Angela heads into the bathroom to apply several more layers of makeup. As she stands at the sink with Taylor and Victoria, it comes out about the note Chase left for Skyler and Victoria immediately goes to confront him. He plays dumb for a moment – though, to be fair, I’m not really sure this is an act anymore – and when Skyler walks in, he asks her if anything he wrote in that note could have possibly caused her to think the two of them would ever get back together. Why, yes, Skyler responds. Lines like “I will always love you” certainly caused her to believe that he, I don’t know, STILL LOVES HER. I’m willing to acknowledge the weirdness that this guy signed a fucking love letter with his last name – that’s just weird – but this girl, terrible taste in men aside, had every reason to believe the guy still cared for her. Was reappearing on this show a wise idea? Of course not. Appearing on this show in the first place was not even a wise idea, but fuck this guy for gaslighting this chick. It’s disgusting, as is Victoria screaming at Skyler that she had “six cuts in the pineapple” – a sentence I cannot believe I just typed – because all Victoria gets out of this entire exchange is that Chase is still up for grabs and there’s simply no reasoning with this sort of desperation anymore and that means I refuse to fucking craft the sentence that lets you know that, even after all of this, Skyler still thinks Chase will be her future husband.
As for Hailey, she tells Chris her heart has been with him since day one and her feelings haven’t changed. Him sending her home didn’t change her feelings, nor did the way he reacted with horror upon seeing her again. Maybe she and Chris and Chase and Skyler can have a double wedding! Please RSVP at once! It’ll take place in The Land of Total Fucking Imagination and Victoria will be the flower girl who will sprinkle anthrax down the aisle instead of baby pink rose petals. Alcohol will obviously be served.
There is a conversation occurring that actually makes sense. Taylor and Cory are discussing what will transpire when they get out of this arsenic-lined TV bubble, and what Taylor needs is for Cory to meet her parents. They’re far better bullshit detectors than she is and they haven’t liked anyone she’s been with thus far and he needs to pass the parental test for this relationship to move forward. In return, Taylor will have to deal with the fact that Cory is not just a guy who can cuddle her at any hour of the day because he also has a child he needs to cuddle sometimes and, though I meant it when I said I don’t care a bit about what happens to any of these people moving forward, at least these two are attempting to deal with the reality heading their way.
And now it’s time for the Crush Ceremony and champagne is flowing. Everyone is really dressed up as though any of this shit actually means anything. Things go down as follows:
· Paulie crushes Lexi, she accepts, and one of the contestants says this couple will last the longest outside of the house. As they’re now broken up and Paulie has already cheated on someone new, I think we know all we need to about these relationships.
· Faith crushes June because she thinks being ignored for hours on end is an excellent foundation for a relationship. June accepts her crush because he would like to get laid later in the evening.
· Alicia doesn’t crush anyone, though she does contemplate crushing Cory just to further complicate his relationship with Taylor. Then, two seconds after saying such a thing, she announces she’s fully over Cory, a statement only a stupid person would believe and then applaud.
We now need to pause because all the stupid people are applauding.
· Cory crushes Taylor, she crushes him back, and everyone in the audience rolls their eyes.
· Jasmine chooses to crush herself, and it may be the finest decision she’s ever made.
· Chris also crushes himself, a decision that leaves Hailey and Chelsko looking incredibly forlorn. At least they have each other and some ring pops.
· Angela and Tor’i crush one another and he includes in his pronouncements how much he loves how she pops off all the time. Ah, uncontrollable rage really is an amazing quality…
· Derrick is still a fucking idiot.
· Victoria chooses to crush the man who has treated her like the sloppiest of sloppy seconds since the moment he met her. In return, Chase tells her to keep her crush, saying the two of them – who barely worked in the house – would never work outside the house. “You know, Victoria,” Romeo explains slowly like he’s saying something profound, “Sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to.” Someone get this man a raise…and a new cue card writer.
· Chase keeps his own crush and nothing has ever been more apropos.
With the ceremony over, the group heads back to celebrate their last evening at the house, and it’s not like anything could go wrong on the last night, right? Well, that all depends on whether or not you think Cory punching Cameron (all because Cameron made a joke about Taylor’s crush necklace falling on the floor) would be constituted as “wrong.” Personally, I find it revolting that there appears to be a never-ceasing willingness for some of these people to live by the belief that engaging in lowest common denominator behavior makes them awesome, but Taylor doesn’t share my feelings. She rewards Cory with a kiss and I’m left wondering two things:
1. What in the hell is wrong with all of these people? Seriously. Were they not read to as children?
2. Who, pray tell, is the cute production guy who was shown onscreen in the aftermath of the fight? That guy is cute.
The show ends with a few updates, so I suppose the questions I never had can finally be answered. Cory and Taylor are still together – and that one time Cory allegedly cheated on Taylor with Alicia after the show is totally inconsequential when it comes to true love. Cameron and Shanley have broken up, as have Paulie and Lexi. It seems Paulie texted some other girl ON HIS WAY BACK FROM THE AIRPORT after the show. It also seems that Paulie is a garbage person. June ghosted Faith the moment they got off the island and the cameras disappeared, Jasmine and Chris are still single, and Angela and Tor’i broke up after watching the very first episode.
And now that this series is over, I’m going to need a new bit of television escapism in my life. I’ve been thinking about watching The Americans – someone recently recommended that one – or maybe finishing Billions. What I do know is that I’ll be away from my TV and out marching on June 30th to show my resistance to this hideous immigration policy occurring on U.S. soil as we speak, and I think the sign I’ll carry will read “IF PEOPLE WHO APPEAR ON MTV REALITY SHOWS ARE WELCOME IN THIS COUNTRY, INNOCENT CHILDREN SEEKING ASYLUM SHOULD BE AS WELL.” So peace, you guys. And thanks for reading.
Nell Kalter teaches Film and Media at a school in New York. She is the author of the books THAT YEAR and STUDENT, both available on amazon.com in paperback and for your Kindle. Her Twitter is @nell_kalter