I’m pretty hard to shock at this point, but a lot of reality shows I’ve seen have seriously stunned me. Like, there was once a show where some woman dated men wearing Phantom of the Opera type masks to prove she was looking for love instead of looks. Do you remember it? The masked men would only get to remove their bizarre facewear in the pitch black darkness of a cellar where the woman would take them to go make out and, while they were down there, the woman would all but feel up the guy’s face to assure her obviously-terrified mind that no, this man who willingly donned a mask for twenty hours a day did not have boils growing off his cheekbones. Another show I watched involved two strangers marrying each other after a mock beauty pageant and it only came out later that the groom had restraining orders out against him for stalking. So yes, much of the reality television that’s come out has been (at the very least) mildly grotesque, but it was the first installment of Temptation Island that was on back in the day that freaked me out entirely – and now that nightmare is back.
It’s all come down to this, my friends. An episode MTV has chosen to call the “Summer Finale” of Floribama Shore – a term that seems more than a bit optimistic considering the fact that my tan has long since faded – is upon us, and we all know full well that there’s no way this group would ever enter a mini hiatus without experiencing and inflicting a heap of carnage first.
So here’s what’s been happening:
Nilsa and Gus are hooking up, but she swears she’s only looking for fun, that not even a dash of her prototypical brand of jealousy will rear its heavily-contoured head the very next time she spots Gus feeling up some girl at a bar.
(The only person on the planet who believes Nilsa about any of this is Nilsa.)
Kortni has a legitimate crush on Jeremiah, incest comparisons be damned.
(The only people who think such a pairing would actually be a wise idea are the always-hammered people who live in that filthy house. Perhaps the fumes of kitchen mold have driven them clinically mad.)
Logan now creeps around the streets of Panama City Beach in the dead of night to drop bouquets of cheap flowers and close-up photographs of Kortni’s face onto her doorstep.
(The only people pleased about Logan’s nocturnal strolls are the producers of Dateline.)
Candace publicly dates a man who made the conscious choice to randomly insert a set of numbers into his name.
(Not even her mother can get behind such a moronic decision.)
Codi insists on wearing a cropped tee to work out. He ends every single set of burpess by chugging a minimum of two cheap beers.
(Not even the founders of Coors view this guy as a role model.)
In other words, everything is going exactly as expected down at the Floribama Shore.
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.
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.
A few of the men I’ve dated have had some flaws. One had severe commitment issues. One’s favorite hobby was telling me complicated lies. One thought it would be totally normal if we eventually had separate bedrooms. And one was a clinical narcissist who should really be studied by a team of very brave experts who do not scare easy. But not one of them ever grabbed a phone out of my hands when a male friend called and blubbered, “Who is this?” in a manner that required both subtitles and a straightjacket.
It’s either love or desperation that’s brewing in the Floribama Shore house between Gus and Nilsa. Fortunately for us, neither driving force is ruled by the desire for privacy. It appears their entire courtship — from Nilsa’s bold flirtations to Gus eventually giving in to the imminent sex recorded by night vision cameras to their subsequent alcohol-fueled drag out fights — will all be televised, and I suppose I should be concerned for the mental wellbeing of all the other roommates as they become forced spectators of this probably doomed relationship, but really? I’m just one person. I can’t afford to expend energy worrying about everything that can go wrong in that house, especially since I’m far more apprehensive about the moment Kortni decides to break someone’s nose for doing something unbelievably egregious like moving her contouring kit. Still, a romance between housemates cannot possibly be a good idea, so I think it wise that we organize – that we benefit from this madness in some way. Here’s what I propose: we set up some sort of bracket wherein we place bets on all the crazy shit that will eventually transpire in that house, including how and when things between Gus and Nilsa will eventually crumble beyond reason and comprehension. And I think this bracket should involve money, as I have recently decided to redecorate my living room and the hammered stainless steel block coffee table I have my eye on doesn’t come cheap.
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.
There are certain actions so egregious that one cannot ever adequately atone for having participated in them. This assortment of garbage behavior runs the gamut, from eating the very last bakery cookie – the one I was saving to nibble while watching Southern Charm, though I swear this is a purely fictitious example and I didn’t recently go ape-shit on anyone – to locking children in cages, right here on U.S. soil. Yes, there is a wide range of misdeeds on the YOU ARE NOT MISTAKEN; I REALLY AM THIS DISGRACEFUL OF A HUMAN BEING list, and somewhere smack in the middle of said list is the choice to willfully hock a gigantic loogie onto someone’s head from a balcony.
I saw a quiz on Buzzfeed this week that allows you to, through a series of questions, determine which Vanderpump Rules character you happen to be. I didn’t take it. I mean, what if my answer to one of the questions veered to the sociopathic and I came back a Jax or – horror of fucking horrors – what if the questions reveal I’m a closeted lunatic and I subsequently get deemed a Kristen? But a quiz I probably would be brave enough to take would be about which Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor I’d be, and though I fully expect the answer would be Half Baked, I’m also fine hearing I’m a Karamel Sutra.
I bring up the concept of ice cream now for two reasons:
1. I think it wise that your mind embrace something sweet before watching this installment of Ex On the Beach because this is a straight hour of people behaving like the kind of hot garbage a cat with a bladder infection just pissed directly on.
2. Alicia yammers away at one point about flavors and I’ve already decided she is the walking manifestation of Ben & Jerry’s Fairly Nuts.