Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Confessions of a Southern Charm Newbie: The Pain of Memory

Season 4, Episode 5

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, May 2, 2017 at 2:00 PM

click to enlarge All our lives, we search for that which is ROAM-worthy - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • All our lives, we search for that which is ROAM-worthy
Hey everybody. Welcome back. This week’s column is going to continue a thematic thread we started last week, but instead of examining growing older, we’re going to be taking a look at nostalgia.

Now, when I shared the focus of this week’s recap with those who know me best, the general response was “But Dustin, you live every day racing furiously from your past. What do you know of nostalgia?”

This is a good point. When it comes to remembering the past, I tend to have a bit of a negativity bias. This is why I discarded all my yearbooks and only maintain a few pictures from my youth, which I keep in a Ziplock bag. I balance this all out by having a rumbling anxiety over the future and reluctant acceptance of the present. I am a very fun person to be around.

To be honest, I find nostalgia to be a bit dangerous. It’s an easy way to sell things. People want to recapture whatever that made them happy in the past, but what is often forgotten is that you’re not that person anymore. You never will be. And even worse, now you’re an adult who owns every season of Clarissa Explains It All on DVD, but haven’t made it past the first few episodes. Now those plastic-wrapped DVD cases stare back at you from the shelf.

“Was it always this bad?” you murmur to yourself. “Explain that, Clarissa. Explain that.”

Now to this week’s episode of Southern Charm!

As with every episode it seems, this week we start with another montage of everyone’s daily routine, which is in no way tied to the rest of the episode. Thomas is picking up his daughter from dance class. Landon, for some reason, is just shown sitting on her couch, drinking wine. Craig is ... getting something out of his refrigerator. What is happening? Did they forget to turn the camera off? Why are we seeing this?

The montage wraps up with a brief stop at Patricia’s. Back from her time abroad, Patricia attempts to lift her pug, but I guess it’s gained some weight in her absence.
“He’s about four pounds overweight,” says Michael, her butler, as Patricia struggles to hoist the animal, a product of generations of inbreeding, its very existence an affront to God’s plan and a mascot to man’s hubris.
click to enlarge 'Kill. Me.' - SCREENSHOT
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  • 'Kill. Me.'
Also, four pounds is a pretty specific estimate in this situation. What untold talents does Michael possess when he can just size a dog at a glance? Truly remarkable.

Finally, the episode begins in earnest as we find Cameran and her mother meeting up to visit Larry, who I don’t believe has ever been on the show before. Larry kind of looks like baseball legend Harry Caray, so that’s cool. Then we get our first taste of nostalgia by way of a confession from Cameran.

Apparently, when she was younger, Cameran wanted to be a white witch. She dyed her hair purple, bought spellbooks, did weird stuff in the woods — the whole nine yards. This, of course, is fantastic. But what does it have to do with Larry? Did Cameran summon him from a the netherrealm? Is he her familiar? They mention dolls before walking upstairs. Larry’s doll room appears to be right off of his hallway of crucifixes — awesome. Walking through Larry’s suburban Sanctum Sanctorum, he then casually explains — I mean super casually — that he makes voodoo dolls. We quickly learn that the dolls appear creepy because they scare away all the evil things that try to come into your life. At this point, I am just going to copy and paste the notes I took while watching the episode.

“Larry is the partner of a guy Cameran works with. Larry makes voodoo dolls with potions and poems affixed around their necks. Larry is the best damn thing that has ever happened. Why is the show not about Larry?”

Yep, that pretty much sums it up.
click to enlarge Doll room, just past the chamber of secrets - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Doll room, just past the chamber of secrets
Anyway, Cameran picks out the doll that speaks to her — the doll is named Mama Estella, naturally — and says she’s been looking for answers or guidance, which Mama Estella will provide. So here we see Cameran, looking for answers of some sort, return to the old mystical ways from her youth. But the danger is what happens next. Cameran contracts Larry to construct a love doll to bring the right person into Shep’s life. Larry has never done this before. He is weary of dabbling with such powerful majicks, but Cameran persuades him against his better wishes.

Now, it was announced last week that Shep would be getting his own TV show, Relationshep, where he travels around the world looking for love. Having seen none of that show, I’m going to go ahead and say it all has something to do with this doll.

When first introduced into his life, Shep sees the doll as a cute novelty from a superstitious friend. Then the voices started. Disturbed by the doll’s lifeless button eyes — like a shark’s eyes — Shep stows the dolls away in a closet. Locking the door behind him, Shep laughs to himself, embarrassed by how far his imagination has taken him.

He opens the closet door, but the doll’s gone. Racing panicked through his home, Shep finds the doll resting in his favorite chair. He grabs his coat and wallet and takes a cab to the airport.

“Put me on the next flight out of here,” he says as he slams his credit card down on the counter.

“Where to, sir?” the airline employee asks.

“Anywhere but here,” Shep responds. “Anywhere where the doll can’t find me.”
click to enlarge Larry and his dolls - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Larry and his dolls
Anyway, as we wait for all that to go down, Shep meets up with Austen to play some hoops. The two begin some Game of Thrones-style back and forth, Shep unwilling to divulge his knowledge of Austen and Chelsea’s relationship. They then begin a game of one-on-one, and Shep proceeds to go hard in the paint. A point counter pops up in the upper left-hand corner of the screen to track their progress. After bringing things to 2-0, Shep is so winded that he can no longer function. This scene is less White Men Can’t Jump and more just White Men Can’t.

At this point, it registers for Shep that he may die the next time he has to change the channel quickly and deems the moment a “wake-up call.” Shep then questions Austen about his relationship with Chelsea, and Austen immediately loses all grasp on the English language.

“Like, like, like, like we’re hangin’ out. Ya know, planning to do things together. I guess that’s hanging out. The definition,” Austen says, immediately excusing himself from ever being called to testify in court on anyone’s behalf or provide an alibi.

Sheps says Austen should have checked with him before pursuing Chelsea. This sets off an awkward war of words, their caps turned backwards to such an extent that it can only be seen as an act of aggression.

Shep says Chelsea probably wasn’t his type anyway and reminds Austen that Chelsea is older than him. Shep then compares Chelsea to Demi Moore, Austen to Ashton Kutcher, and he becomes Bruce Willis in this analogy. In the grand scheme of things, this makes me Cybill Shepherd from Moonlighting.

Meanwhile, as Shep and Austen discuss romance, Larry dispatches of another escaped chimera from his laundry room. Unbound by the laws of man or nature, Larry begins to assemble the items that will become Shep’s love doll. He knows that he is playing with powers beyond his understanding, but Larry can’t help but be pulled forward into his work.

We then find Whitney ordering a drink for Thomas as he sits alone in a restaurant. Unaware of our earthly customs and stigmas, Whitney tells the waitress that his friend is an alcoholic and will be in dire need of libations upon his arrival. Thomas finally appears and apologizes for being an hour late for dinner. Attributing his tardiness as a symptom of fatherhood, Thomas refers to himself as “Mr. Mom.” Unless you are Michael Keaton, this is just called being a dad, Thomas. We are then treated to a flashback of Thomas changing his child’s diaper on what was once his home bar. There has never been a more apt visual metaphor on this show.

Thomas begins to lament the fact that he feels like an old man, saying there was a time when he could wear a “certain pair of pants” and walk into a room and own it. Whitney, in dire need of clarification, repeats, “Because you were wearing these pants?” Thomas explains that they were khakis that accentuated his ass in a certain way that, I guess, could stop time when he entered a room — like a teen starlet descending a staircase in slow motion or Zack Morris freezing reality to provide exposition. Below the table, Whitney plunges a salad fork into his thigh, hoping that the pain will distract him, if for only a moment, from Thomas’ pants story.

Can you imagine if the line of delineation in your life was a pair of khakis? If that was the tipping point? Just picture Thomas returning home, his arm outstretched as he walks down the hallway, his fingers grazing family portraits and images of a better time. Finally, he reaches the end of the hallway, a glow creeping out from under the closet door. Inside Thomas reveals his prized khakis, encased in Lucite and lit from all angles. Like a desperate pilgrim, he kneels before the khakis and weeps.

“My ass,” he says through the tears. “My ass.”

Next, we see Craig — in the throes of unemployment — hanging out at home when his packages arrive. Apparently Craig has ordered a new sewing machine because he loves sewing and has decided to fall back on his Home Ec training. He immediately calls Naomie for some reason to let her know about the newest addition to their home. She is disturbed by the arrival of this new distraction/hobby, but Craig informs her that the machine can also embroider. Naomie is unmoved by this, even though Craig is partaking in one of the five original industrial arts.
click to enlarge 'I'm going to set this sewing table up in the middle of the room, so that everyone is inconvenienced' - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • 'I'm going to set this sewing table up in the middle of the room, so that everyone is inconvenienced'
We then visit Kathryn and her estranged pal Jennifer. They haven’t spoken in six or seven months, and in that time Jennifer has given birth to a new child. It would seem that the introduction of a new baby into the world would take up most of the conversation, but Kathryn refuses to waste any undeserved words on a newborn.

The show continues to soundtrack every scene involving Kathryn like Elliot Ness and the Untouchables are soon to arrive. There are trumpet stings as Jennifer shows up to lunch for what is either their date or a mob hit. I can’t tell.

Lunch immediately goes to shit because Kathryn is angry that Jennifer and Thomas made up during a reunion episode that I did not watch. At a certain point, Jennifer asks if Kathryn wants to hear about her new baby, which needed emergency brain surgery after he was born, but Kathryn is suspicious, calling the whole situation “fishy” because of how things went down with Jennifer and Thomas.

Cutting back to Shep’s house, he’s lying in bed and calling his parents. Also, we see that Shep has a bobblehead doll of himself. No doubt, the love doll bequeathed to Shep will murder his bobblehead in a first act of aggression.
click to enlarge Shepple Head, a Bobble-Shep - SCREENSHOT
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  • Shepple Head, a Bobble-Shep
He recounts his basketball court epiphany to his father before later paying a visit to the doctor. Before describing his actual concerns, Shep makes it clear that he was winning the basketball game before his body shut down on him. Whether this is medically relevant goes unmentioned. The doctor recommends that Shep consider not drinking alcohol for a week. Little does the doctor know that Shep is being hounded by an unblinking hell-doll.

Next we find Austen and Landon having lunch together because lunch dates are mandatory on Southern Charm. You are paired off with lunch partners like reluctant detectives in a Lethal Weapon movie. Landon begins an arduous ordering process because she is building her online travel media empire, ROAM. Landon says she is reluctant to tell people that she is from ROAM because not everywhere is “ROAM worthy.” I can relate to that.

All too often, people recognize me from my writing and insist upon giving me free meals, shelter, or internal organs. But now that everything is divided into “ROAM worthy” and “non-ROAM worthy,” life is much simpler. I can’t imagine a moment before ROAM. But one question remains.

The show hasn’t explained how these two — Landon and Austen — know each other. What is happening?

Anyway, they complain about Shep being upset with Austen stepping out with Chelsea. Landon says that in Aspen they have a saying: “It’s not your girl. It’s just your turn.” Austen says they have the same saying in Vail. These both seem like horrible places since Landon and Austen are so adamant about these local expressions.

Landon then brings up an interesting point: learning about people from traveling, whether or not they have their documents, a dinner jacket or ski clothes, etc. Her last three relationships ended because they went away over a weekend, she says. This is a fun comment because I actually made a rare trip outside of Charleston recently and spoke with a few travellers interested in the Holy City. They had travelled to North Carolina to play golf, but when they learned that I was from Charleston, their question was “What kind of drugs do they have there?”

Well, the same kind of drugs they have everywhere else. Is this a section on ROAM? Where is the drug section on Landon’s travel website because there are some Midwestern golfers looking for a thrill.

Looking back at the inexplicable lunch date between Landon and Austen, we then learn that Landon’s boyfriend Drew has never been to New York and should be looked down upon for it. Austen asks where he is right now and Landon answers “At work” — because yes, everyone should be.

This is where the show goes off the rails in a beautiful fashion. Cameran, sat next to her voodoo doll, calls someone about a house she is hoping to secure for Craig. The house appears to have been snatched up, so Cameran calls Craig who is sewing with his cat. Craig is doing a really good job. Let the man sew.

Thomas then calls Landon to ask her on a date, but finds she has plans to go to a Phish concert. This, of course, should be the end to their interactions. After you find out that someone is going to a Phish concert, there is no real need to continue the conversation. Thomas, mesmerized by his own pants, equates seeing a woman during the day as being placed in the “friend zone.” Since he believes in the enchanting powers of khakis, Thomas probably equates women to werewolves or vampires.

Next we find Landon and Thomas meeting up for dinner and they order the two most elaborate off-menu margaritas, which by description sound very different, but are surely full of spit.

Thomas, drinking his spit margarita like a champion, says he has been considering a serious relationship and has been thinking about what is important “above the neck.” While this sounds like he’s talking about corpses or beef, he’s actually referring to live human beings. Back at home, his enchanted khakis glow brighter.
click to enlarge 'Life is pain filtered through the prism of time' - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • 'Life is pain filtered through the prism of time'
Asked what she wants in life, Landon says she been going out with a guy, but again reminds us that Drew has committed the cardinal sin of never having been to New York. This, she equates with not being interested in what’s happening in the rest of the world. In this modern day, it apparently remains difficult to understand what is actually happening in New York City without going there. I mean, all important news spreads across the world, but there’s no way of really knowing about the true extent of all the free live comedy shows taking place in the city without stepping foot in Times Square.
Back at Craig’s house, he says he’s a big “rom-com guy” and is cooking dinner for Naomie. He is unemployed, so yes, cooking dinner is the least he can do. Craig stages their fantastical dinner by the pool at Naomie’s parent’s house. It is here she learns that Craig wants to be a rental owner and Craig’s dream to start a clothing line.
Naomie warns Craig that he’s going to lose everything if he tries it all at once.
Craig counters, “Did I lose anything? Did I lose anything?”

“Not yet,” Naomie replies.

Naomie asks Craig if he wants to be a lawyer, and he says she is acting dumb and ignorant. This is the same man who moments ago said he hopes she recognizes how good a job he did cooking dinner.

It is at this point that Craig closes up. He says the conversation ends when he finishes his meal. At an impasse, the episode ends.

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