Since the first episode of Southern Charm ran, the City Paper's Stephanie Barna has been right there in front of a TV. And over the course of the show's run, she wrote one snarky recap after another — much to our delight.
From the very beginning, Barna saw that the main focal point of the show would be Thomas Ravenel, which shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone. Ravenel was not only the only Chucktown native on the show, he was the only "character' with a compelling backstory: the scion of an old Charleston family who was elected to a statewide office but who fell from grace when he was arrested for cocaine possession. That arrest was followed by a conviction and later prison time, a threat to renounce his U.S. citizenship, rumors of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and, finally, an unfulfilled wish to buy the City Paper, fire us all, and spank our dear editor on her behind.
But despite Ravenel's hollow — and we have to admit, amusing threats to her derrière — what was surprising was how Barna's opinion of T-Rav changed from the first episode of Southern Charm to the last. Read the following recap excerpts below and delight in the redemption of an unrepentant cad thanks to the love of a young woman named Kathryn Dennis and the birth of their baby girl Kensington Calhoun Ravenel.
About halfway through my second viewing of the premiere of Southern Charm, in the cold sober light of morning, I realized that Thomas Ravenel's "friends" were hell-bent on getting him to see himself for the rube that he is. The show was more of an intervention than the political redemption story that T-Rav thinks he's starring in. And for that reason alone, it was hard to watch.
The way T-Rav sees it, he was arrested because of those stupid drug laws and not because he was a reckless drug addict throwing raging coke parties while he was state treasurer. He may have kicked his habit, as Whitney is clear to point out, but he still likes the smell of coke, you know.
He really likes women too, and he drawls cheesy come-ons without a drop of self-consciousness. This guy is confident of his own awesomeness. He just wants a religious girl who can cook and wants kids. Oh, and that one he so gentlemanly brought coffee to the morning after — Kathryn Dennis — she'll do just fine, because not many girls with candy red hair would be charmed by a guy asking, "So what color is that anyway?" Most modern women would roll their eyes and snort, "It's fucking green, asshole. What color do you think it is?" But in Charleston, certain girls do just what Kathryn did — giggle awkwardly and then just go ahead and take their panties off. You can't fight Southern charm.
T-Rav, the 50-year-old Peter Pan, serves as the ultimate example of where the younger guys on the show will end up if they don't get their shit together. Desperate to mate, he's on a diabolical hunt for a lady ready to procreate. As for Kathryn, the youngster his buddy Will Folks wants him to mate with? Too immature for him. But, of course, he means too young because surely this 22-year-old is his match when it comes to maturity.
As T-Rav makes a date to teach polo to the gorgeous Danni, he tells us that women want a guy who's daring, courageous, and athletic. Perhaps. But what about thoughtful, kind, and loving? Too much to ask for? Danni has got it going on. She knows her wine, she's a cunning linguist (awkward T-Rav joke), and she knows what guys like T-Rav are after. She later accepts an invitation to accompany T-Rav to his pal JD's house for an afternoon family luncheon. Perhaps she can bring out the big man in him.
Fast forward to JD's, and T-Rav is all charm and smarm, kissing babies and proclaiming his desire to procreate. "Find me the right woman, and I'm ready to impregnate her right now!" — I don't know about you but that might not be the right thing to say when trying to ensnare a woman. Oblivious to Danni's cues, T-Rav walks her to the car, grabs her from behind, and tries to lay a kiss on her. She protests. He says, "I thought we had a moment." She says, "Oh God," and then drives away. T-Rav is left deflated, muttering, "I blew it," and wondering how he misread that whole situation.
Thomas' biological clock continues to tick so loudly we can hear it all the way from Church Street to the top of the Ravenel Bridge. He and JD discuss ovulating and how to go about getting a girl pregnant. A leitmotif emerges.
Jenna throws a party and half of gay Charleston shows up. T-Rav is "in the cups" (ie. shit-faced) and finds his dreams coming true when Kathryn arrives (with — here's some foreshadowing — Whitney) and tells him she's two weeks late and might be pregnant because they had unprotected sex. She also boinked Shep, so there's that.
T-Rav takes Kathryn, that poised young Southern gal, to the drug store in a cab to get a pregnancy test, which they then take while hammered. It proves inconclusive. What? It didn't come up saying: Warning, warning, fetal alcohol syndrome?
There is more talk in this episode about women's periods than in all 54 seasons of The Facts of Life. Shep is consulted for advice and T-Rav admits his regrets: "I shouldna had sex wid 'er." Lots more basic reproductive lessons are laid out in the rest of the episode, like, don't be a fool, wrap your tool.
Kathryn is the wisest old soul that T-Rav has ever met. She's so wise that she encourages him to host a dinner party where he will give his friends some advice. She's pretty sure they'll be grateful for the opportunity to learn from him.
So dumb old T-Rav calls up his "friends," invites them to dinner, and warns them that he's going to be taking the floor for a few minutes to dole out some advice. Shep, the guy who's looking smarter and smarter every week, jokes that T-Rav and Kathryn "probably give each other terrible advice all day long." Truer words...
Cameran and Jenna are justifiably thrilled at the idea of this dinner simply for its entertainment value. Whitney thinks the dinner party sounds like a terrible idea, but he dons a slick suit and heads out despite his better judgment.
Over on Church Street, Thomas and Kathryn get ready for the party. She emerges from the bathroom looking like she's got tarantulas crawling out of her eyes.
JD arrives, dripping with Southern charm, serving wine, and dishing up compliments. Is he just getting a good edit, or does this guy really ooze gentility? You can see that he's everything Thomas wants to be. The jovial, fun-loving guy who knows when to leave the party and go home to his family. At least, I hope that's what JD does. I've idealized him, I know. He's probably a total douche in real life.
Thomas begins speechifying and the giggling begins:
"You see, I suffered a precipitous fall that had nothing to do with me or the drugs. No, indeed, it did not. It had everything to do with the glass menagerie, a fanciful world that trapped me in its web with beverage cart girls and other temptations. I was bewitched and confused and I loved her with all my heart. Days before the wedding, I ditched her. Of course, being a Southern gentlemen, I had to sue her to get my engagement ring back. But that's neither here nor there. What my point is, the wisdom I want to impart to you, my esteemed guests, is that don't let the glass menagerie explode on you or you will end up with a conviction on your record and a 21-year-old prima donna giving you bad advice. In the end, what I'm trying to say is if that beverage cart girl showed up here right now, I'd marry her in a heartbeat. Danni, see what you missed by passing on me? And Whitney? You're a judgmental jerk. With that, I'd like to conclude and raise a glass to good friends and smart choices."
Shep is stupefied by the awesomeness of the situation. "It's kind of brilliant. Monty Pythonesque. All these idiots sitting around the table listening to the head idiot."
Without her tarantula-eye installation, Kathryn proves to be quite pretty. She and T-Rav discuss an upcoming dinner with her family who don't drink because her great-grandfather was murdered over alcohol. How will Thomas, who's been drunk on every single episode, get along with teetotalers? Will he bring a flask? Please oh please, pack a flask!
Unfortunately, he leaves the whiskey behind, and we are treated to a lovely sing-song blessing, a pitcher of sweet tea, a darling grandma, and a pair of non-judgmental and loving parents. Shit is starting to get normal, and I'm starting to fall in love with her a little bit myself. What's happening here?!
Thomas is obviously falling for Kathryn and now Whitney must make sure to fuck this shit up. He drops the bomb on T-Rav: I hooked up with Kathryn. Oh dear. Now what?
This episode was a rather dull build up to next week's finale. Will T-Rav follow his head and dump Kathryn? Will he listen to his "friends" and realize she's an attention whore just using him for status? Or will true love trump all?
Southern Charm ended with a bit of a whimper. And by whimper, I'm referring to Thomas Ravenel and his shocking tears of vulnerability.
The whole season turned out to be a half-baked Shakespearean comedy with sexual intrigue, buffoonery, and that green-eyed monster — envy. Through the course of this comedy we watched T-Rav transform from a deluded dolt and political pariah into a man capable of genuine love and emotion and perhaps even a viable candidate. Color me shocked. Of course, this is probably the most boring Shakespearean play we've ever seen, but the character of Thomas Ravenel came out a winner in the end. And you probably don't believe me if you didn't watch the show.
In the beginning, he was a buffoonish playboy, deluded by his own awesomeness. His chorus of friends spent most of their time trying to get him to see himself for what he truly is, a 50-year-old man in need of stability, honesty, and an age-appropriate wife. Enter Kathryn Dennis, a fire-haired vixen looking to entrap him in her web of lies — and what? Steal his money? Her motives remain unclear as she jumps into bed with three different men in the course of three weeks. While she admits to boinking Shep, she's much less eager to 'fess up to getting boned by Whitney because, well, he's Whitney. A cover-up ensues as T-Rav rends his garments, gnashes his teeth, and runs to the church to get some perspective on his star-crossed love affair.
It's all about keeping your head in moments of passion, the man of God tells him, and T-Rav wrestles with his emotions as he admits that an impossible 29-year age difference isn't something he has ever had to deal with. And he knows in 10 years, he'll be 60 and she'll be 30. That's a big yawning gap and there might not be enough Viagra in the world to fill it. The preacher says as much: "You don't want to grow old and have this young woman you can't stay up — keep up — with." (Thomas' response: "Oh, I keep up pretty good.")
Still conflicted, T-Rav waits on Kathryn to get ready for Whitney's Fourth of July party and is taken aback that she has no problem going to Whitney's house. Indeed, as Whitney and Thomas discussed up at Shep's cabin, today's young women are liberated from the shame once heaped upon them for acting on sexual appetites. "Women these days are like us," says T-Rav. "They're like men."
And to his credit, Thomas refuses to judge Kathryn based on outmoded forms of social propriety, which is some seriously progressive shit for a Ravenel man born and raised in a place ruled by ancient mores. Instead, he is more concerned with questions of character. He's disappointed that she's blatantly lied to his face. He understands mistakes. He understands moments of weakness. But he demands honesty. And I have to admit, I fell in love with him a little bit myself when he proved to be loving and caring even in moments of pain and anger. What the hell is happening here!?
In his confessional, T-Rav shows just how clear his perspective on this age matter is: "I'm really torn. I have this bond. We've been through a lot in a short period of time. She's made mistakes and will continue to make mistakes. Perhaps I'm too old to take that ride with her."
It's hard to throw shade at that, people.
Later at the party, Whitney thinks breaking up with Kathryn is a no-brainer and is surprised that T-Rav is still with her. "It's an easy out," Whitney tells Thomas.
But it's not so easy for Thomas. You see, he truly loves this girl. Sure, it's been barely a month since they first hooked up, but this is Shakespearean stuff here. Romeo and Juliet fell in love at first sight, for crying out loud. True love strikes hard, and when it does, the people hit by it have a hard time believing that what they feel is wrong. The fact that Thomas can actually take a moment to analyze the situation, despite his feelings, proves he's not as dumb and reckless as we have been led to believe.
The party ends with fireworks, but the explosive conclusion still awaits us. Thomas must speak with Kathryn in person. He breaks it down for her in a gut-wrenching dialogue:
T-Rav: "I just want to tell you that I love you. I respect you, and I'll do anything for you. And I just think that no matter how much you love somebody, no matter how much chemistry, sometimes it's not enough. We're in different times. Different places. I'm 29 years older."
Kathryn: "You're just afraid."
T-Rav: "This can't last. I'm an old man."
Kathryn: "It doesn't matter. I told you that never mattered. We're in love. How is it not meant to be that way?"
T-Rav: "I don't trust the situation. It's not natural. I was in fantasyland, and I wanted it to last forever. But I can't live in a fantasy world anymore. I'm sorry."
Kathryn gathers her stuff up and gets in her car to leave. He chases after her, hugs her, and cries, "I love you."
She says, "I wish you the best. I hope you find what you're looking for."
He walks back to the house audibly sobbing. I mean, this is heartbreaking. This is as bad as Romeo drinking the poison when he mistakenly believes Juliet to be dead.
Fade to black and then "Nine months later" appears on the screen. Kathryn and T-Rav are snuggling their newborn baby daughter, and it's quite possibly the perfect ending to Southern Charm. The star-crossed lovers have beat all odds, overcome disapproving friends, and made a happy family. In the last scene, T-Rav coos to his baby: "I love my baby girl. Yes I do." And suddenly, all feels right in the world.