I’m a big fan of horror movies. I’ve seen ‘em all. In some perverse sort of way, the stages of my life can almost be catalogued by which movie was scaring the living shit out of me at that particular moment in time. April Fool’s Day, with its Muffy/Buffy twins (trust me; they were terrifying) and that old rickety well filled with dark water and dead bodies tormented me during my elementary-school-sleepover days. Friday the 13th used to slip into my mind constantly back when I was a sleepaway camp counselor and I’d find myself creeping through the woods to my bunk in the dead of night after having sex with my boyfriend on the kickball field. I think about Rosemary’s Baby during every single gynecologist appointment I’ve had since I was seventeen and Goodnight, Mommy – with those creepy little boys who share a penchant for gluing together body parts – entered my life recently, meaning that even my adulthood is defined by having the bejeezus scared out of me. I guess I’ve always succumbed to the notion that there is a joy inherent in the embracing of vicarious fear. Part of that joy involves spotting iconic horror conventions in a piece of entertainment. You just know that the second you see a long narrow hallway or you hear a pronounced creak of a floorboard or a doorway is open just a tiny bit in the back of the frame, it’s time to actively prepare for some onscreen doom. When what you’re watching is fiction, the identification of those terrible elements of horror feels satisfying. When you spot the same tropes in the real world, however, all you are left with is dread. And it turns out that Logan, Kortni’s ex-boyfriend, is a fucking walking horror movie trope.
I fear there’s also a chance that he will one day become a stabbing trope.
Since he’s clearly psychologically unbalanced, it’s probably in Kortni’s best interest to stay as far away from wherever Logan happens to be. I’m therefore thrilled to tell you that this episode begins in Tampa. The girls are in Florida so Aimee can get schooled in becoming a “legal mermaid” –apparently that’s a thing – and Aimee has maybe never been this excited in her entire life. Her excitement to don fins is so profound that I feel like I should make a personal comparison to properly describe it. Here goes: Aimee’s enthusiasm for climbing into a dirty tank so she can pretend she’s a hybrid creature is akin to how I’d feel if I got serenaded by Springsteen while we stood alone in an amphitheater and he sang Growin’ Up before launching into a twenty-eight minute rendition of Thunder Road where he turned all the “Mary” lines into “Nell” lines and trillion dollar bills rained down upon me while puppies wearing tuxedos served me platters of no-calorie Twix bars. Aimee’s enthusiasm feels like that.
With the girls in Tampa, Gus, Codi, and Kirk have been bonding in Panama City Beach. Gus shared the sad stories from his childhood with the guys the night before and now the supportive shit is continuing with a group trip to the gym. Sure, Codi appears in a crop top and he’s still drunk from the night before, but he’s willing to participate, even if “participation” means puking next to an elliptical machine. Back in Tampa, the girls arrive at the Mermaid Academy. A grown woman who calls herself “Mermaid Amanda” greets Aimee and Aimee responds by introducing herself as “Mermaid Aimee.” It’s so sweet the way the members of this fake species are already connecting! What’s actually adorable here is how genuinely excited Candace, Nilsa, and Kortni are for Aimee to attain this bizarre dream of hers. Kortni lets us know she finds the entire thing ridiculous, but outwardly she exhibits nothing but enthusiasm and good wishes, especially when one of the swimming mermaids – let’s call her Mermaid Margaret – beckons Aimee to come join her. She eventually descends into the water wearing a bright blue tail while holding her nose and her friends explode into cheers and throw money at the glass like she’s a mermaid stripper and one of Aimee’s dreams has finally come true.
As the girls head back home, Kirk, Gus, and Codi prepare a taco dinner for their arrival. And I realize that there’s maybe nothing more exciting to see upon walking in any front door than a spread of fixings, but also sitting in that house are the flowers Logan dropped off along with the creepy set of photos he took of Kortni’s face and the SONG he wrote for her. The guys are now acutely aware that Logan is back on the radar and he could easily drop by the house at any second, so they’re less than amused when the girls decide to prank them by ringing the doorbell and running away, but all is quickly forgiven and the girls walk in to see dinner waiting for them. Kortni is soon shown all the presents Logan left on the doorstep and her reaction seems to be a combination of annoyance, bewilderment, and a dash of fear. She has no idea what he could be thinking; she hasn’t spoken to him since the night he barged into the house uninvited. But I suppose Kortni’s feelings aren’t what we’re meant to focus on in this scene, not when Logan left behind the misspelled lyrics to an original song! Logan is a frustrated songwriter, you guys, and one of the lines he wrote is about wanting to take off Kortni’s pants. “You must have some good cookie,” Aimee says after the entire group laughs their ass off at Candace’s performance of Logan’s newest masterpiece. “Either that or he’s just crazy.”
No offense to Kortni’s cookie, but Aimee’s second guess seems far more valid.
Even more frightening than Logan’s way with a rhyme scheme is the way Kortni feels flattered by his efforts and the way she feels badly for poor Logan. Poor Logan? Nilsa reminds Kortni that Poor Logan stormed into their house and lied to her mother and to all of her friends. Candace thinks the only thing worse than Logan himself is his shitty songwriting. Kirk stares at Kortni in stunned disbelief. How can feel badly for a man who is clearly very clinically off and has no respect for her boundaries? There is no way any bit of this will turn out well and watching Kortni reconsider her feelings for Logan leaves me with the same inner shakes usually reserved for the moment Michael Myers slips that white mask back over his head and then picks out the sharpest and the stabbiest knife from the kitchen drawer. And yes, I am aware “stabbiest” is not a word, but the combination of Logan exhibiting that he is both a troubled wordsmith and a sociopath in the same scene has inspired me to create some new vernacular. Perhaps the guy is incredibly talented after all!
The next morning, Kortni, Kirk, and Nilsa leave for work and Gus drags Codi outside so they can do a “prison workout.” While it’s endearing that Gus somehow believes he will get Codi to stop drinking beer before exercising and that he will help Codi lose sixteen pounds, I’m not sure Gus’ motivational skills are any match for Codi’s laziness. That boy wants to do anything besides a set of burpees, but if he must comply so Gus will eventually leave him alone, he will bracket those burpess with gulps of beer, rendering the entire thing a complete waste of time. Someone should maybe just procure Gus a blowup doll that he can pretend is his workout friend/spotting partner until Jeremiah gets back because Codi is all kinds of useless. But if Gus is looking for a buddy to get hammered with in the middle of the day, he wouldn’t be able to choose anyone better than Codi. Codi has getting-hammered skills! By the time the work crew gets home, drunkenness is abounding and the intoxication takes form in Codi flicking his own nipples, Gus grinning stupidly, and Nilsa and Kortni realizing they’d better start drinking fast so they can catch up. What could possibly go wrong?
The slamming of drinks continues at a bar that has its own collection of hula-hoops because why not? Kortni twirls that thing with ease around her waist. Codi almost knocks himself out when he takes a turn. Nilsa spins that plastic thing round and round while Aimee twerks for no good reason and it’s an easy kind of night all around. What’s that? Easy nights bore Nilsa? She’s sick of watching Gus sidle up to random chicks named Kelsey on a dance floor and then bending those Kelseys over because somehow there was a private vote and everyone agreed that bending over and shoving your ass into some stranger’s groin now counts as dancing? And Gus is just drunk enough that he might finally make out with Nilsa for real and ignore every warning he usually pays attention to on the days when his brain does not resemble a tequila slushee? Then now must be the exact right time for Nilsa to drag Gus on the dance floor, unbutton his shirt, and lob questions in his direction that he knows full well he is only permitted to answer in one way, lest he wake up tomorrow sans scrotum:
Are you only attracted to me when you’re drunk?
Do you still have a thing for me?
Appearing on the covers of those romance books taught Gus a thing or two. He responds correctly to Nilsa’s inquiries and then – after she gives him her fuck-me eyes for so long that she almost goes blind – the two finally kiss.
Also: Kirk, though supportive of his friends’ tongues becoming well acquainted, is concerned this hookup could perhaps disturb the dynamics within the house. That this is merely a concern instead of an understood certainty just further illustrates how wasted all these people are right now.
Also: Should someone check on Kelsey? Is she already rubbing her ass into another stranger on the dance floor? Oh, she is? Then she’s doing just fine.
Nilsa and Gus smooch the entire way home and he slurs to her that his decisions right now are being made in a very coherent fashion. Still, Gus wants this time in his life to be about fun, not about emotions, and he knows full fucking well that nothing with Nilsa will ever simply be “fun,” no matter what kinds of empty pinky swears she’s trotting out for his viewing pleasure. What Gus really needs is for Jeremiah to come walking through the front door right about now because the roommates who are actually there are being no help to him at all. Kortni asks – her mouth full of food – why he doesn’t just go ahead and fuck the girl who is all but presenting herself to him on a Styrofoam platter. Candace sits in the confessional room and jabbers away about how she hopes Gus and Nilsa become a legitimate item. Aimee tells Gus he should sleep in Nilsa’s bed. And then we have Gus himself, a man who wants to do the right thing – a man who wants to do the morally correct thing – even as he’s agreed to live in a virtual den of iniquity with a generic version of one of Odysseus’ Sirens.
Gus tries to be smart. He falls asleep on the living room floor, but Nilsa pokes him awake. Turns out her way of playing hard to get is to whine, “Just get in my bed noooooooooow,” and Gus reluctantly tells her he’ll be there after five more minutes of laying in the middle of the floor while contemplating if climbing into Nilsa’s bed will be the actual thing that eventually sends him straight into Hell. He manages to finally pull himself into a standing position, he totters up the stairs, crawls into his own bed, and is promptly tapped again by Nilsa because she was absent the day How To Play Hard To Get was taught in school. “If I have to come back in here, I’m never talking to you again,” she bluffs, but Gus stays in his own bed for the entire night. When he wakes up, he wonders if the odd smell on his breath is courtesy of Nilsa. He asks Kortni if she can maybe fill him in on the details from last night that he can’t remember – Kortni! Kortni is his “reliable witness!” That’s how messed up this entire situation is! – and she tells him what she can recall and then she goes upstairs to see what Nilsa is thinking. Nilsa is still playing her I-am-just-looking-for-fun-with-Gus-even-though-I-need-constant-validation-and-everyone-including-Gus-knows-it card and she swears she has no feelings for him. Pretty much everyone knows she’s full of shit, but she and Gus sit together for a moment and both of them swear they’re not looking for ANYTHING and so what if they hook up sometimes? WHO CARES?
Also: Someone swearing to not have feelings when every person with sight knows such a thing is a lie is also a horror movie trope – and it’s a trope that usually ends with a furry farmland creature boiling in a pot of water on the stove. Please, people. Hide your bunnies and your hamsters. Do it now.
The group heads out for another night of debauchery and Kortni proceeds to get trashed and then decided it’s time to give Gus a lap dance. What? You don’t give lap dances to all your male friends? That must mean you suck. Anyhoo, Kortni gyrating against Gus’ dick hurts those feelings Nilsa swore she didn’t have in the first place and they all decide it’s time to go home. Kortni can barely even walk and Codi knows he needs to get the thing he calls “a giant drunk giraffe” into bed before she can hurt herself. Once again, the residual exhaustion I feel just watching these people has actually become debilitating. Kortni eventually strips off her shorts and the entire house must work together like they’re on an assembly line in their efforts to drag her upstairs and into bed. The collective effort does not work. Since it’s dawning on them that maybe Drunk Kortni is a minion of the antichrist, Nilsa rushes off to light a Jesus candle because maybe it takes an act of God to get this slurring mess to bed. When slapping her across the face doesn’t compel the devil to ooze out of one of her nostrils, Gus finally just carries her ass-first up the stairs. And with his good deed now done for the evening, he allows himself to succumb to Nilsa’s request that he come cuddle with her.
If horror movies have taught me anything, dear Gus, it is that he devil comes in many forms.
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