Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Confessions of a Southern Charm newbie: Ep 11

Making an Escape

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, Jun 14, 2016 at 12:04 PM

click to enlarge WTF, forever - SCREENSHOT
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  • WTF, forever
Hey, everybody. I’m certain it comes as no surprise when I say it’s been a difficult week. Hell, it’s been a difficult year or two. I can’t even keep track anymore. The reason I mention any of these weightier items in the context of my reviews is I think a lot of people gloss over the importance of some television.

A lot of shows are meant to provoke thought or inform. But there’s an equally important portion of the television landscape that’s simply intended to distract — if only for a few brief moments — from all the sorrow and tragedy that piles on over the course of a day. Television catches a lot of crap for being a passive medium, but maybe sometimes that’s what you need. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to sit down and watch a show that helps you not think about real life for a minute. I feel like a lot of people push themselves to engage in all the most important things in life every minute of every day, but sometimes you just can’t.

Since I started writing this column, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people or reading comments about Southern Charm. And I’ve noticed that there’s an overwhelming majority that always qualifies their statements about the show or the column. You have the group who makes it clear up front that they’ve never watched a minute of the show. This is totally acceptable. Then you have the group who are regular viewers, but they preface their comments about the program by insisting that they are intelligent or educated or enjoy much more high-brow forms of entertainment. Now, this always worries me because it means at some point, somewhere, a line was drawn between enjoying certain things and being a quality human being. Let me tell you, that doesn’t exist. I’m probably not the best advocate for this cause. My dinner last night consisted of a tin of Smoked Hickory Beanee Weenee with Chex Mix poured overtop. I consumed this all while crouched in my underwear on the couch in my living room before heading out to cover another story. It was what my wife and I lovingly refer to as a “garbage person” moment.

The thing is, buying my dinner at a gas station doesn’t disqualify me from understanding what makes a great meal. Sometimes you just need something easy while you sort out everything else that is going on in the world. So whether it’s Southern Charm or anything else you might perceive to be a “guilty pleasure” — for lack of a better term — don’t ever let the cheapest thing you enjoy define you. You’re always going to be the best and the worst versions of yourself, so just be who you will be. I guess I’ll let that be the one uplifting thing I say this week.

Jumping into this week’s episode of Southern Charm, we briefly see Whitney deliver a puppy to Patricia’s home and say here’s Chauncey, your grand-dog. The show gives us no more information on this event because it hates us. I would watch an entire show about Patricia welcoming animals into her family.
click to enlarge Balling out of control at Patricia's - SCREENSHOT
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  • Balling out of control at Patricia's
Moving on, we find Craig paying a visit to Kathryn to see her newest offspring. He goes through the whole “He has your lips, but his eyes” nonsense before admitting that all babies just look the same to everyone who didn’t give birth to them. Craig later asks Kathryn when her newborn will “start to do stuff,” and I am again smitten with Craig. I’ve decided that this show would be much more to my taste if it focused on discussions of how all babies look alike and showing animals to Patricia.

Next, Thomas meets J.D. for lunch and announces that he will be inviting our cast of characters to a big dinner party to celebrate the birth of his son. Longtime readers will recognize this dinner party as the one that was foretold of in the season premiere. We were shown glimpses of a tumultuous night at T-Rav’s during the first scenes of season three, and it now seems things are finally going to pay off. I look back at the past 11 weeks of my life and think, “Has it really been that long? What has become of you?” I was so young when this all started. Now, as the season of Southern Charm nears its end, I begin to think about what it was all for.

Later in the episode, we find Shep (the term used when you bathe in a sink the morning after) lunching with Cameran. Shep is working through Landon’s revelation that she has feelings for him while Cameran eats a salad like someone who is truly hungry. It is refreshing to see someone eat a meal this shamelessly on television. This scene is intercut with Landon discussing her feelings with her sister. This is the most ambitious thing the show has done this season. At a certain point, they all start to talk about screwing and Cameran asks Shep, “Does she tickle your pickle?” Shep admits that he may have pulled Landon into a closet at some point. He says “spontaneity is his move,” which sounds like a line someone would deliver from the witness stand.

Moving past the frightening implications of those intertwining conversations, we see Thomas paying a visit to Kathryn to formulate a plan for his upcoming dinner party. Remember Southern Charm exists in a world where meals carry the same weight as international peace talks. This is also the scene where things start to unravel. We quickly learn that Thomas and Kathryn’s child has an awesome giraffe toy and the couple employs a day nanny and a night nanny. At this point in my notes, I write, “Damn, that’s a lot of nannies,” and I stand by those words.
click to enlarge 'Please get me out of here' - SCREENSHOT
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  • 'Please get me out of here'
While discussing whether or not to invite Landon to the dinner party, Thomas becomes upset by Kathryn’s objections and, naturally, tries to climb out of the window. You know, that thing where you disagree with someone and leave through the window — like Spider-Man would. This proves to be a cunning debate tactic, and Kathryn allows Thomas to invite Landon.

Next we find Cameran paying a visit to Craig to talk about a few things, but this scene highlights a common occurrence on Southern Charm. One of the characters will be sitting at their house and they’ll receive a call from someone, saying, “I’m in your neighborhood. I wanted to stop by.” This happens all the time on this show. Now, I may be in the minority here, but this seems really inconvenient. I don’t think I would be an ideal candidate to star in Southern Charm.

“Hey, Dustin. I’m in your neighborhood. Can I stop by?”

“I’d really rather you didn’t.”

“But... I’m in your neighborhood.”

“And I am watching wrestling videos on YouTube and working my way through some stuff. I turned off all the lights and hid when the mailman stopped by. I’ve been using a towel as a bedsheet, and I don’t really think now is a good time for you to ask me about a dinner party.”

“I have already climbed in through your window.”
click to enlarge 'This is just the way I do things now. It's fine' - SCREENSHOT
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  • 'This is just the way I do things now. It's fine'
Back to Southern Charm, we find Landon stopping by Patricia’s to have a talk about relationships. Patricia has on the most legit gold chain, and she tells Landon that no man is worth crying over. Patricia goes on to talk about how she disapproves of how women dress these days. I bet Patricia has plenty to say about people wearing sweatpants on planes. Also, in the grand spiderweb of personal relationships that is Southern Charm, I never would have guessed that Landon and Patricia were confidants. This isn’t an insult to either of them personally. I just assumed they were friends of friends. Does every search for guidance lead to Patricia’s door? Is she like some decadent tipsy Yoda? If I show up with an offering of vermouth, can I finally learn how to get a man? This city holds so many secrets.

Finally, we arrive at Thomas’ dinner party, which was first teased 11 weeks ago. Yep, 11 weeks. This better be the most amazing 10 minutes in television history. Walter White better walk in and say he’s planning to break into Fort Knox with Tony Soprano, The Good Wife, and the cast of Scrubs. Instead of this happening, we get a few more shots of place cards around a dinner table. The cast of Southern Charm is single-handedly keeping the stationary industry in business. Everyone’s life may be constantly shifting in and out of chaos and order, but the one constant on this show is that you will know where to sit.

As the guests arrive at Thomas’ home, the show continues to flash their names across the bottom of the screen. It’s at this point that we learn that the producers of Southern Charm support the Oxford comma. I call this a silver lining in what proves to be a difficult scene.

Gathered around the dinner table, Thomas proposes a toast for his guests. It is at this point that he begins to roast almost everyone at the table. When I first saw clips of this scene during the season premiere — in what I now call the “Before Times” — I had no idea what was really happening. I chocked this up to not being familiar with the show, but it turns out I was wrong. None of this feels like anything an actual human would do. Thomas calls Cameran a “self-righteous bitch.” She is seated immediately to his left. He had complete control over where she was to sit leading into his attack. These are what the place cards are for.
click to enlarge Pretty much this - SCREENSHOT
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  • Pretty much this
While Thomas goes around the table to insult his guests, I begin to wonder if they’ve already eaten or is this a pre-meal shouting match. How hungry do you have to be to sit and listen to someone insult you through a dinner? There is definitely a point where you tell yourself, “I’m just gonna wait for the appetizers, and then I’m out. Maybe the first course. I’ll stay for the first course, try to get an idea of what’s for dessert, and then go from there.”

As everyone begins to leave, I notice that no one is exiting through the windows, so that’s a bit of a surprise. That’s how I escape every awkward situation now. There’s no problem too big that clumsily hoisting yourself through a window mid-conversation won’t fix. From what I can tell, this was the penultimate episode of this season. Our time together is running low, but remember, I’ll always be here for you. Just never try to stop by my home without giving a full day’s notice.

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