There have been moments throughout the years when events so questionable transpired on reality television that they caused me to question whether or not there could possibly be a God. Does that sound harsh? Well, you watch someone named Snooki get punched directly in the face on camera and then go ahead and take a gander at the allegedly sane people on Ex and the Beach who cavort like hedonists celebrating successful lobotomy operations and tell me such displays did not prompt you to wonder if 1) You were staring at the literal dismantling of society’s mores or 2) God had grown tired of locusts and instead created a brand new plague that anyone blessed with basic cable was able to watch in high-definition. I’ll admit that there have been a few incidents shown on Floribama Shore that caused the God question to creep menacingly into my head. Those incidents involved Kortni squatting in corners, extreme close-ups of chunky vomit, or Candace referring to her boyfriend as “GatorJay231SouthsideGawd” with a straight face. Still, for all the Gator-pissing-puke moments that propelled me to wonder if crawling into an underground bunker so I could eat canned goods and pray for absolution was maybe a wise idea, there have also been some truly heartwarming moments. Floribama Shore doesn’t cause me to fear the End of Days like many reality shows do on a regular basis. There is an inherent goodness inside the cast members of this show. True, that ingrained goodness tends to dribble out when they are hammered – and they are usually hammered – but as sober people, they often illustrate kindness and empathy and they exhibited both last week when Jeremiah found out his grandfather died.
The overcast weather of the day just heightens Jeremiah’s sadness. His roommates are quiet and understanding as he cries and Candace leads them all in a prayer. These praying sessions happen often on this show, and though I am not a burst-into-prayer kind of girl, I think all of it is rather sweet. These prayers bring the group together. They offer comfort and strength. There’s actually something very lovely about these brief pious moments. Gus realizes that sitting around and repeatedly asking Jeremiah if he’s feeling okay all day will surely drive the kid mad, so he asks him if there’s anything he’d actually like to do and Jeremiah decides he wants to go out with his roommates and drink a beer in honor of his grandfather. They immediately agree to join him and they head off to get themselves ready. This preparation includes Kortni inexplicably spritzing her crotch with perfume, though perhaps she does have a reason to do so because she sits on the couch beside Jeremiah, rubs his arm, and then says – in front of everyone – “I’ll always be your sister even though I’m attracted to you.” Um, would anyone like to start another prayer group real fast where the motivation of the particular prayer will be that I stop rolling my eyes so quickly out of derision that I spontaneously end up in a coma? Seriously. I’m concerned for my health.
They arrive at a bar and make a toast to Jeremiah’s grandfather. It only takes a minute for Jeremiah’s eyes to fill with tears, but his friends are there to comfort him. The night seems to be very calm – or it was calm before Nilsa ran into a guy who used to work with her ex-husband and just a reminder of that ex causes Nilsa to down some shots and proclaim that there’s no way she’s heading home tonight without some guy who will validate her, at least until the sex ends. I get that an encounter with someone who reminds you of a past relationship can send you psychologically spinning, but Aimee has a point when she says that Nilsa is being kind of selfish right now. It’s supposed to be a quiet night out for Jeremiah’s wellbeing, not an evening when Nilsa – dressed in her Librarian-chic finery – chants “Shot, shot, shot!” in a half-empty dive bar. Then she turns from a sad desperate woman into a total asshole like she’s a superhero who will never land a franchise. There’s some random (but very friendly and very polite) guy in the bar and he’s making conversation with some of the roommates. Nilsa takes one slurry look at him and just sneers, “Bye!” into his face. “She’s hammered,” explains Codi quietly, and he seems truly embarrassed by her cruel behavior. “Why are you being like that?” Kirk asks when the man walks away. “He’s a super nice guy.” “Please,” Nilsa answers while sucking on her fingers because she’s really fucking classy and that guy is just a peon in her drunken eyes. Her actions are flagrantly unkind, and after the bonding that occurred during the last episode, watching it feels shitty.
Once they’re back at the house and Jeremiah heads upstairs to go to bed, Kirk tells Nilsa once again that she was rude for no good reason to the man at the bar. “Which one?” she has to ask, because see, Nilsa is actually WAY too good for MANY men and it’s hard to remember who she disparaged for sport thirty short minutes ago. After asking again what Kirk is even talking about, she then denies she would ever say such a thing to anyone even though everyone on the couch beside her tells her she did in fact behave that way. “You know I don’t like it when you hurt peoples’ feelings like that,” Aimee tells her friend, but Nilsa is still on her I’d-never-hurt-anyone kick. She’s also on her how-could-you-possssssibbbbly-say-I’m-drunk kick and that means it’s time for her to throw down the half-eaten wings she’s been gnawing on and declare the others jerks for having the audacity to claim she would be nasty to someone – which she was – or that she might just be intoxicated at the moment – which she is. She then proves how very rational she is by stalking upstairs so she can call her friend to come pick her up because she’s sick of being in a house with such terrible people. But remember: these are the actions of a sober woman.
These are also the actions of someone behaving like a total and complete asshole.
“I’m leaving!” Nilsa screams at Kortni and Candace. They’re trying to calm her down. They’re also baffled by her batshit crazy reactions. Every single person who has spoken to Nilsa – even Kortni! – has been completely calm while she continues acting off-the-rails psychotic and this particular psychosis concludes with her leaving and slamming the door because who cares that Jeremiah is deep in mourning upstairs? It’s all about Nilsa in Nilsa’s sad little mind right now.
Also: Kortni telling Nilsa “Fuck what everybody thinks” is sort of terrible advice.
Also: Not a bit of me is shocked that this is Kortni’s advice.
Nilsa doesn’t end up leaving. She’s like a child who runs away from home by sitting on the front lawn with her arms folded defiantly across her chest in a lame effort at making a nonsensical point. Kortni absolves her of her guilt and leads her inside where she heads straight to bed and probably sleeps far more soundly than anyone born with a conscience.
Jeremiah is leaving for the funeral early the next morning and Gus wants to send him off right. He gets out of bed, wakes up Codi, and prepares a nice healthy breakfast so at least his grieving friend can know his friends care about him enough to make sure he gets the proper amount of daily protein in his system. Kirk sets the table, Kortni writes Jeremiah an I’m-always-here-for-you-and-maybe-one-day-we’ll-bang note, and Codi takes Jeremiah outside to chat. These two haven’t always gotten along, but Codi wants to help him through the coming stages of grief and Jeremiah appreciates the gesture. But in the non-Jeremiah related areas of the house, Aimee is still appalled by Nilsa’s behavior the night before. “They were hurting my feelings!” Nilsa says about how people were nasty enough to tell her the truth about the cavalier way she had just hurt someone else’s feelings. “Instead of learning from it, she plays the victim,” Aimee gripes, and the mermaid-goddess-princess is absolutely correct. She cannot abide by the idea of so callously wounding some nice person’s ego without experiencing remorse and Gus agrees with everything Aimee is saying. I mean, it’s hard not to agree that Nilsa has behaved like a fucking shithead all episode long. She targeted a sweet man in a bar, denied she behaved in such a manner, and then projected her own guilt on everyone around her. So if Nilsa thinks Aimee is just going to pretend none of this ever happened, she is kidding herself.
Also: Jeremiah stops on his ride home to eat and finds the letter Kortni so symbolically stuck near his lunch meat. He’s touched at how heartfelt her words are. He’s also beginning to wonder if he can mentally downgrade Kortni from a fake sister to a fake distant cousin so he can feel better about wanting to sleep with her.
Also: He hasn’t been around for an episode or so because he’s been very busy purchasing night-vision goggles, but we all know Logan will reappear at some point. His presence will turn the Jeremiah-Kortni thing into something even creepier than it already is.
Back at the house, Nilsa – wearing several layers of makeup – climbs into bed. Her voice quaking with guilt disguised as emotion, she tells Kortni she will not be made to feel like a bad person. What the fuck is wrong with just saying you behaved disgracefully the night before and you vow to never again be that much of a dick? Are there no thigh tattoos that define “accountability” in a bold Helvetica? The bullshit drama of all of this is needless and it’s fucking exhausting. The entire house crowds into Nilsa’s bedroom and then Aimee wanders in and just flat-out tells her that if she had been mourning her own grandfather’s death when Nilsa decided to storm out of the house for no reason, Aimee would have been furious and Nilsa’s gross behavior has caused Aimee to look at her a little differently. I almost feel badly at how hard I laughed at Nilsa’s shocked face when Aimee leveled the truth directly at her, but I don’t really want to laugh at such a sad woman. Instead, I’d like that woman to stare at her own behavior – the kind she so willfully broadcasts on television – and then I’d like her to grow the fuck up because the fact that there even has to be an entire episode devoted to such infantile bullshit sucks.
Also: Nilsa decides if Aimee is going to make her feel responsible for acting like an asshole, well that asshole will just cut Aimee out of the fraying polyester fabric of her life! So there!
Also: Candace thinks she and Kortni should do something to bring Aimee and Nilsa back together and Kortni suggests they all embark on a road trip to Tampa where there’s a school that teaches human ladies how to pretend to be mermaids.
Also: I’d rather take a road trip to a Trump rally that’s being held in the hottest and spikiest corner of the Underworld in a vehicle with no air conditioning and a radio that only plays Shania Twain songs on a loop than be in a car with Nilsa when she’s in one of these entitled moods.
While they’re perfectly amenable to shoving them into the backseat so they can fight there instead of in the middle of living room, Kortni and Candace realize it would probably be a far more enjoyable trip if they can get Nilsa and Aimee to reconcile before they get in the car. Their first move is to tell Aimee she looks beautiful – mermaid-goddess-princesses love compliments – and then they tell her about the Mermaid Academy, which apparently hands out certificates when the program is over so you can prove to anyone who demands to see documentation that you’re now a “legal mermaid.” Then they drop the bomb: to become a mermaid who is recognized by law, Aimee must consent to riding in a car for six hours with Nilsa. She’s not ready to talk to her quite yet, but Aimee would probably ride in a car with Satan while he’s clutching a full colonoscopy bag if it meant she could earn her fins, so she agrees to the terms of the trip. The way they approach Nilsa is quite a bit different. They offer her no random compliments. Instead, Candace decrees that she will get in that car, that this is a girls’ trip, that Nilsa has a vagina, and that’s all there fucking is to it. I tell you, if Kortni and Candace banded together more often – and if Kortni developed some bladder control – they could rule the fucking world.
Before leaving the house, Nilsa tells the guys that she knows she has things she needs to work on and she appreciates them guiding her on this new journey of Becoming A Decent Person Even When She’s Drunk. The guys acknowledge that they all have things to work on so they can eventually evolve into better people and then they all but shove the girls out the door so they can finally have some calmness in that beach house. Their plan is to do some day drinking, and since Gus’ gym dreams got dashed by Codi and Kirk, Gus compromises by making himself a vodka-fruit-protein-powder cocktail that I predict will directly lead to the next close-up pile of vomit we’ll see on this show.
The guys leave the house and head to a completely empty bar. Before downing their next round of drinks, Gus leads them in another prayer. This one is to ask God to keep Nilsa and Aimee from killing one another. And since they’re appealing to a benevolent Lord who apparently wants them to get all sorts of laid, Gus throws in a prayer that some “beautiful babies” come sauntering into the bar. Amen. Meanwhile, the entire road trip went by without Aimee and Nilsa saying one solitary word. I’m not sure why Nilsa can acknowledge her flaws to the guys but not to Aimee, but the whole thing is idiotic. It’s actually the best kind of friend who can tell you to your face that you’re behaving like a fucking moron. It’s unfortunately the worst kind of friend who reacts by fleeing into the night to escape the dirty truth. But wait! Nilsa has slipped a note into Aimee’s bag that concedes how much Aimee means to her and how Nilsa knows she needs to improve as a person. Aimee is touched. She does make sure, though, to take Nilsa aside and tell her that maybe it’s time to work on her capacity for sensitivity. Aimee’s words make sense. Look, I suppose “extra” is a quality that makes a watchable (or fucking hateful) reality star, but “sensitive” is the kind of quality a real live human should master. They end the conversation with a hug and everything is resolved, at least for now.
Back at the empty bar, Gus is opening up about some seriously sad and dysfunctional childhood history he had to muddle through and I’m once again stunned that someone so damaged has turned into such a kind person. Both Kirk and Codi emotionally support Gus as he tells his story and they validate his feelings and it’s possible I just hallucinated it – I did put some of Gus’ protein ice cream into my bong earlier this evening – but I think they may have also joined hands to sing a rollicking version of Kumbaya. There’s a genuine connection between the people in this house when they’re not fighting over nonsense and this scene illustrates those positive relationships.
And just when everything seems like it’s going well – just when we’re feeling thankful that nobody puked up a protein vodka shake – the guys are awakened at three in the morning by incessant knocking coming from the front door of the house. Codi toddles down the stairs, opens the door, and realizes the knocker is gone but a bouquet of daisies is there on the stoop. Yes, Logan delivered these flowers. He also delivered a note – I, too, was surprised the note wasn’t fashioned from cut out newspaper letters! – along with a bunch of pictures of Kortni’s face. The note remarked on her beauty and on his raging love for her and it concluded by wishing the woman who now flees from bars the second she sees his face a very happy four-month anniversary.
Maybe we all should start saying another prayer right about now.
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