I like to imagine the producers of Ex On the Beach sitting in a large conference room somewhere. I can see it like it’s blaring in Technicolor: leather chairs surround a mahogany table that’s so shiny, the producers can gaze upon their own reflections when they collectively – albeit briefly – glance down in utter shame for what they’re putting forth into the world. Perched around the room are monitors displaying rough footage the imbedded crew has already captured of the spray-tanned human rats scurrying around that maze of a Hawaiian villa. Swigging coffee or some sort of detox juice blended into a green froth by a team of assistants, our producers watch the proceedings unfold and then high-five one another with glee because the audible they called just last week – the one that allowed the exes to do the voting – worked out exactly as they’d intended. Sure, they could have edited 1,600 more hours of Tor’i and Angela breaking up and then redeclaring their undying devotion to one another into several bile-inducing montages, but what the wisest of producers know is that people tune into these shows for conflict. And viewers constantly want new conflict. They want hefty conflict, conflict that comes with stakes and maybe even a body count. Viewers of shows like this one crave more than a woman storming into rooms and slamming doors while wearing white leggings that highlight her ass crack. They require more than a heavily muscled man’s dawning understanding that he voluntarily cuddled up to a lunatic. Though that sort of footage has certainly driven the storyline up until now – seriously, did anyone even remember Paulie was in that house until he showed up on camera a few times during the last episode? – we now demand a bevy of brand spanking new conflicts so the producers of this show are delivering them unto us like they are storks carrying basketfuls of teething babies who will one day pop Adderall for sport. And the first words these babies will say? Well, I expect to hear some version of “Derrick is seriously fucked” stated in unison.
It’s been said that a woman scorned is filled with all kinds of rage, so I’m imagining a hybrid creature/woman like Angela – she has the anatomy of a woman but the mental faculties of the broken stapler I still keep on my desk for exactly no reason – will bring new meaning to the concept of vengeance. Her beloved of almost two whole weeks was sent home, you guys. And to add insult to injury, he was sent home by her ex, a man who proudly refers to himself as “Mr. Chocolate.” (Last episode, Derrick actually compared himself to a Snickers bar and my guess is he chose Snickers because he wanted to make sure all the eligible ladies in the viewing audience understand that he has – and is – nuts.) With her contrived world turned upside down, Angela – who has never once experienced a feeling she didn’t wish to share with a camera lens – is out for blood, and I’m here to recap exactly where those platelets fall.
Tonight’s episode begins with Angela behaving like a very brave widow. She proudly declares she’s made it through the whole morning without bursting into tears and I’m relieved to report that she has managed to muster up the inner fortitude necessary to apply her muskrat lashes. This girl is a fucking survivor. She makes sure to walk by Derrick several times without making eye contact – the self-proclaimed Snickers bar doesn’t deserve to see her motherfucking retinas! – and everyone in the house knows Derrick is about to be in a world of shit...or, you know, a world of shittier shit. Paulie is the one who sums up Angela’s persona perfectly. He says she’s the kind of girl you bring home to your mother – but while she’s in the house, she will end up punching your sister. That’s a damn fine line, Paulie; I’m actually somewhat disappointed I didn’t think of it first, but then again, my mind has never so much as entertained the notion that anyone would willingly walk Angela through a family member’s front door. That girl’s entire brand hinges on acting batshit crazy, and as long as a network is willing to broadcast her as she screams each and every emotion she feels at the tippy top of her lungs, she will stick with this behavior without experiencing even a trace of remorse. Still, just to be safe, I think we should all probably go ahead and hide our sisters. After the shit I’ve written about this loon, I’m sticking my sister in a bunker.
While Angela feels emotionally bereft, Victoria is suffering from intense sexual frustration. She has to get some guy to have sex with her, but none of the guys she’s interested in rolling around with feel the same way. Luis could be a sure thing, but Victoria likes tall guys and, sadly, Luis is all kinds of wee. But it’s not just his height that’s the issue. Victoria has been keeping big secrets from the guy. Listen: I realize that anyone who’s even slightly normal is watching this go down and thinking some version of “Why should I give even a single shit about what some girl hasn’t told some guy about what maybe went down during a relationship that’s already over?’ but didn’t we all make some sort of tacit agreement just by turning this show on? I’m pretty sure that agreement requires that we pretend to find a miniscule shred of suspense in something not one of us truly cares about, so let’s just feign holding our breath until Itty Bitty Luis is slammed in the face with the already-expired truth.
Then there’s Faith. Faith is pissed. June would rather play ninja with the boys than speak faux metaphysical murmurings of nothingness into her ear as they recline in a bathtub. (And if you’re thinking this show tends to highlight the women whenever they’re behaving especially unbalanced and needy as fuck, congratulations! Good to know you’re watching this shit closely. I’d hate to feel like I’m alone here.) Before Faith can explain the insane thoughts running through her mind, the Shack of Secrets requests the presence of Victoria and Luis because this show is determined to make this non-couple a thing. They get down there, press play on an iPad, and we all get to watch what I’m guessing is Victoria’s audition reel for this show where she explains that sure, she had a boyfriend, but she was also hooking up with two guys on the side. Luis feels like he’s been punched in his tiny tummy, but Victoria doesn’t have many regrets. She’s an independent bitch, y’all! She can do whatever she wants! The saddest thing about all of this is not even the information Luis gets in that Shack of Fucking Sadness, but that he is absolutely gobsmacked that something unpleasant happened to him during the filming of an MTV reality show. That he didn’t expect to leave there humiliated makes me worry about his mental state.
Since no punches were thrown after the big reveal in that subterranean bit of Hell, flags announcing the arrival of new exes rise immediately. Cory, Jasmine, and Cameron are on deck this time. Cory sees the potential arrival of someone from his past as a mere annoyance at this point. He and Taylor are solid and the rest is just noise. First to crawl out of the ocean (in a swimsuit I kind of want!) is Shanley. She’s Cameron’s ex, she’s got a nose ring, she’s covered in tattoos, she appeared on Are You the One, and she apparently missed the heat of a klieg light hitting her face because she willingly decided to appear on another MTV dating show. She and Cameron got together after their last show, but it ended when Cameron ran away from his feelings. Shanley’s still interested in the guy, so rather than call him on the phone in the real world, she chose instead to sign up for this show and declare her feelings while wearing a microphone. Cameron is actually excited to see her. He thinks she’s sweet and it appears the two have a shot. And now that everything seems relatively delightful, it’s time to take a piss that smells like asparagus on everything by bringing back Alicia. Taking one look at her emerging again from the waves, Cory is furious and I am legitimately stunned that this girl thought it wise to reenter a scenario after her ex and his brand new girlfriend already unceremoniously threw her out. If anyone on that island legitimately cared for this girl in the slightest, they would immediately throw her back onto a floaty big enough to hold both her and a licensed therapist who is brave enough to delve into Alicia’s broken psyche while they battle the undertow.
To assure Alicia will stay in the house and not again be voted off after one day, the producers make her “an original” and the originals are not up for elimination this week.
Cory’s reaction to all of this is to stalk away.
Jasmine’s reaction is to decide Cory must still have feelings for Alicia because nobody gets that furious upon seeing an ex unless there’s still buried love there.
Alicia’s reaction is to shimmy and pose in delight because nothing is more fun than being locked in a house with people who fucking hate you.
And my reaction? It involved staring blankly at a wall for five minutes straight followed by making calls to every ex I’ve had since I was nine years old to let them know how very much I appreciate that they have never once intentionally sabotaged me on a beach.
Also: Romeo calls Shanley Cameron’s “former boo-thing.”
Also: This show should come with anti-nausea medication.
Shanley and Cameron are rather cute together and I’m all for watching something normal. Unfortunately, the editors of this show do not share my proclivities, so we cut quickly to Alicia and Cory fighting. It seems Jasmine may have been right. Cory’s not mad that her presence will derail what he’s got going on with Taylor. No, Cory doesn’t want to have to watch Alicia hook up with anyone else, even if she does it purely for retaliatory purposes. But girlfriend is not about to sit home, not when there’s a free Hawaiian vacation to be had, and if she has to be plunged into despair in the process, at least she’ll leave with a fucking tan.
Back at the house, Chris is beginning to feel nervous about his rekindled relationship with Hayley because she’s been spending a lot of time with Derrick. The conversations between the two are about as scintillating as you can imagine, what with them centering on how Derrick is so “extra” and how that factor is key to his amazing personality. We can return to such idiocy later, because it’s time to focus on the reaction each person has to Alicia’s arrival – and not one of those reactions is to scream “Welcome home!” Derrick’s very extra mouth falls open in astonishment. Taylor meanders around the kitchen muttering “Are you fucking kidding me?” over and over again. Chase can’t imagine why Alicia would want to watch Cory and Taylor “dig it out” every night. (And should Chase’s career in the Reality Arts not pan out, perhaps he can get a job writing poetry for douchebags.) As for Cory, he’s just lost. He doesn’t know which of these girls will make him happy in the long run, but he knows such musings will not make Taylor happy.
Also: Cory flings a decorative surfboard off the wall in a bout of fury.
Also: Shanley describes the house as “dramatic” and “terrifying,” so even though she chose to go on this show, I’ve decided she’s my very favorite one there because at least she makes good fucking sense.
Cory eventually leads Taylor outside and explains that he and Alicia still have a lot to work out, that there are still feelings there. Since he’s been all about her since day one, Taylor is understandably confused and she breaks down in tears. Cory deals with all of this rather calmly – you know, beside his earlier desecration of the surfboard – but Taylor is too shocked to hear his words of logic so she goes inside and pulls out her suitcase. Come to think of it, voluntarily leaving that house of insanity is probably the sanest thing anyone has done thus far on this show. Don’t believe me? Then listen closely to Angela’s response to Alicia’s arrival because it’s the very normal declaration of “She’s gonna get hit!” Before Taylor starts packing, Cory tells her that he has to go talk to Alicia. What he’s dealing with is pretty complicated. He had a long relationship with Alicia that was serious and he knows she loves him. What he’s got with Taylor is new and fun. He doesn’t know which woman he should be with, but he does know that he wants to be honest with everyone and I guess there’s something to be said for someone on this show exhibiting a modicum of decency.
The next morning, Cory hugs Taylor, Paulie makes breakfast for Lexi (the two of them are actually sweet together), and Chris confronts Hayley about whether they have a real shot. Hayley acknowledges to the cameras that there is an attraction with Derrick (which causes me to stare at that blank wall again while chanting safe words to myself) and Chris says he has real love for Hayley, but everyone – from her family to her friends to her dog –hates him. Dude. If even the Goldendoodle or whatever she’s got sprinting around her house can’t stand you, things are not looking good. Rule number one of life that I fucking live by? Win over a guy’s mother and his dog. Bring her some flowers. Bring that woofy thing a great big bone. But do not just sit on a veranda in Hawaii and complain while incessantly and idiotically using the word Gucci. In fact, maybe stop using that word all together until you actually own some Gucci.
As the elimination ceremony rolls near, it’s time to strategize. Chris wants Hayley out; her refusal to bestow buckets of devotion upon him on command has started to become annoying. Angela is certain Derrick is the devil and she’d like him to walk out the door and directly into a newly sharpened machete. (She carries one with her everywhere.) Realizing Alicia’s also gunning for him because he helped send her home the last time, Derrick takes her aside and asks if she’ll be kinder to him than he was to her by giving him a crush instead of a cut. Thrilled to finally have some power, Alicia doesn’t respond because making men who pride themselves on being extra sweat buckets is all kinds of fun. So the people in danger this week are Derrick (for being himself), Hayley (for not declaring her undying love for Chris at the very moment he wanted to hear it) and Luis (because he’s boring and his presence adds nothing to this show). It’s not Luis who gets eliminated; he is saved by Victoria’s crush vote, which she offers as an apology in a cute gesture. Derrick is safe also. Hayley is the one tossed out and she leaves the ceremony in tears while Chris watches her devastation with a smug look smeared across his face before declaring the events positively Gucci.
And now that this week’s show is over, you’ll have to excuse me. Tom Ford is coming over. We plan to spend the evening screaming bloody murder up into the heavens because of how far this society has devolved – and because of how unbelievably irritating it is when self-proclaimed International DJs use the name “Gucci” in vain.
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