Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Confessions of a Southern Charm Newbie: Our New Business Mentality

Season 4, Episode 8

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, May 23, 2017 at 2:13 PM

click to enlarge TV’s newest sweetheart: Arthur Ravenel - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • TV’s newest sweetheart: Arthur Ravenel

Hey guys. We’re going to use this week’s episode to really develop that new business mentality you’ve always wanted. Forget the seminars, the self-help books, this is all you need. After this week, you’re business card will be a temporary tattoo of a QR code that automatically directs people to your LinkedIn profile. Your meals will consist solely of fresh sushi eaten off a live nude model or Soylent.

Once you adopt your new business mentality, you’ll make casual comments like “I just go where the market takes me” and “I’m a fan of Pitbull’s early work.” You’ll also carry a burning resentment for everyone you meet, but also clamor for their approval. It’ll be great — and Southern Charm can teach you how.

We start this episode with Cameran and Chelsea discussing her recent romantic evening with Austen. Cameran casually refers to intercourse as visiting “Pork City,” population: Why would anyone call it that?

Having ruined sex for everyone, the show then joins Thomas as he drives his daughter around pointing out all the structures in Charleston that bear the family name. This reminds me of when my father would drive me around middle Georgia and point out the family cockfighting ring and Waters’ memorial tire dump. Often we’d sit by the statue of Jimmy Carter riding a giant peanut into battle during the Great Legume Wars of ’79. Fortunately, the gas shortage limited the all-out warfare and everyone pretty much just talked about how J.R. from Dallas would never be shot. Oh, how little we knew back then.

We then join Craig and Naomie for couple’s therapy. The first question posed by the counselor is “What do you want out of therapy?” Naomie says respect. Craig says he wants someone who will swear their absolute fealty to him no matter the situation. This is what is referred to in counseling circles as “a rough start.”

The therapist then decides to play some form of the Newlywed Game, but instead of coming up with more euphemisms for “making whoopee” to share with a studio audience, the doc presents scenarios and Craig and Naomie are asked to flip cards revealing they “yes” believe their partner is guilty of this behavior or “no” they are not.

This is an incredible power play on behalf of the therapist. Learn from this. If ever given the opportunity, force people to answer questions using pre-written signs. This will work to your advantage unless you are debating Wile E. Coyote.

click to enlarge 'The key to communication is only speaking in one-word answers.' - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • 'The key to communication is only speaking in one-word answers.'

The couple’s first answers lead to a conversation about whether or not Craig yells during arguments. If you’re in a relationship, I highly recommend telling the other person to “Stop yelling” constantly. This creates a sense of uncertainty for the other person. After years of doing this, your partner will lose all understanding of how loudly they are actually speaking and you will gain the upper hand and an incredibly soft-spoken spouse.

Craig justifies speaking loudly due to his being from the North. Naomie says “being from the North doesn’t give you an excuse to be an asshole,” which someone has probably already written on a bumper sticker next to a picture of Calvin peeing on a pierogi or something. The therapist uses Naomie's comment as the perfect segue into the topics of name-calling and arguing in public. The producers smash cut to a clip of Craig calling Naomie a moron at a baby shower because they have the footage — they have the receipts.

This week’s therapy session ends with Craig explaining that he sees his and Naomie’s relationship as them “against the world,” which is probably a bit more aggressive than necessary, but I like it. More good relationship — and business — advice is to convince your partner that no one else can be trusted. You, of course, have to modify this tactic as you gradually welcome more and more people into your team, but all families grow. The important thing is to make sure that you don’t let anyone else eat protein and constantly wake them at random intervals. Starving and exhausted, they’ll soon be ready to accept the new names you’ve given them. Born anew, those loyal to the cause will make excellent workers in the embroidery mines, stitching cats onto every piece of fabric around to further the Craig brand.

We then jump to Landon and Austen meeting up at a bar to discuss relationship issues. Landon explains that her young kinda-boyfriend, Drew, texted her to ask if she loves him, to which she replied, “Are you drunk?” I imagine Drew looking on as Cyrano de Bergerac commandeers his phone.

“What’d she say, Oregano CheeseBurgerRack?” Drew asks, the two crouched in the bushes outside Landon’s apartment.

“Oh, umm, nothing, my good man. I am most certain that there are booty pics on the way,” responds de Bergerac.

Skipping ahead, we find Thomas visiting his father, Arthur, who would be the first choice for voicing a wise leather belt in an animated movie about accessories of the Old West. Judging by the collapsible easel and posterboard that Thomas is carrying, this seems like more than a friendly visit. We are then shown a brief scan of Arthur Ravenel’s office, which features a portrait of Robert E. Lee across from a painting of Thomas during his days at The Citadel as well as a big sticker that says “Confederate Museum.” Arthur seems like the type of person who believes you can tell a lot about someone by the shape and dimension of their skull. Between the Civil War general and black-and-white family photos, this scene feels like it was shot by Ken Burns after he took too much allergy medication.

click to enlarge Just a totally casual conversation between father and son - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • Just a totally casual conversation between father and son

Thomas begins his presentation, which I think is a pitch to renovate and sell his dad’s office. This is fantastic. Never forget to bring an easel and large photos of wood rot when speaking with family.

Thomas’ dad eventually asks a few questions about his grandkids before inquiring as to when everyone is going to “get a break” from Thomas. I’m not really sure what this means, but it sounds rather cold. Thomas follows this up with a direct aside to the camera to say his relationship with his father is complicated, which sounds about right.

Jumping into a date with Austen and Chelsea where they visit some sort of children’s play facility for adults, it quickly becomes apparent that Chelsea responds to everything like Mae West. Seriously, everything Austen says is followed up by Chelsea just naming a sex organ and laughing. She’s the master of the single entendre. It’s like if you were paired with Jessica Rabbit for a high school project and she just kept comparing everything to penises while you worked on the diorama. It’s frustrating.

Apparently, their date is at an obstacle course factory. It all looks like a training facility for American Ninja Warrior, but instead of preparing for Mt. Midoriyama, everyone is just excited that they can finally dunk a basketball on the trampoline court.

click to enlarge Chelsea struggles for 45 minutes to think of a way to make trampoline sound sexy - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • Chelsea struggles for 45 minutes to think of a way to make trampoline sound sexy

Saddened that he never got to attend mascot school, Austen says he is going to do a Vince Carter-style “between the legs” dunk. Not one to miss an opportunity, Chelsea reminds everyone that sex happens between the legs. Wink, wink.

Austen bets Chelsea one kiss that he can make the dunk, and met with success, he claims his prize and aggressively points to all the children bouncing around. Chelsea says, “You have a boner,” and it is, admittedly, very hilarious. Nothing is funnier or more relatable than the idea of having an erection in a Discovery Zone.

We then skip over to Patricia’s house to meet her friend Georgette, who apparently came over to take a shower for reasons that are never explained. Prepare for excitement with these two. This whole scene feels like you came home from school in the middle of the day only to find your aunt and her friend with wine stains on their teeth. Georgette is the type of person your mom would describe as “a trip.”

Patricia explains that she and Georgette became friends after talking about guns at a party in New York. Patricia jokes that talking about guns is the best way to clear a room in New York. This isn’t so much a North versus South thing. When I hear wealthy people casually discuss their “favorite gun” I immediately go to “Most Dangerous Game” territory and make sure my back is to the nearest exit.

It quickly becomes apparent that Patricia and Georgette have a reverse Grey Gardens thing going on, where they hang out in a very fancy house and no one chases a raccoon.

When Michael, Patricia’s butler, shows up to take their drink order, Georgette asks for a vodka tonic with lots of ice in a stem glass with “as much lemon as you’ve got.” Sensing this as some sort of game of chicken, Michael ups the ante and says there are fresh Meyer lemons growing on the piazza. Don’t think Michael won’t go snatch up every damn lemon in the yard and squeeze them into your drink. He will be the last man standing in this citrus arms race.

Patricia announces that she is throwing an India-themed party in honor of their trip to India and the launch of their caftan line. Apparently the two friends thought it would be cool if you could have a caftan made with the image of your pet emblazoned upon it. For most people, this is the sort of idea that two friends would agree upon and share a mutual acknowledgement of what could have been. Like when you and your buddy say “We should make a comic book” or “We should drop the facade that is this friendship and act upon our romantic feelings for one another before it eats us up inside.” That’s not the case for Patricia and Georgette.

click to enlarge How many lemons can you smuggle in caftan? - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • How many lemons can you smuggle in caftan?

Then things get a little weird for us, the viewer. It isn’t often that we see traditional literary devices pop up on Southern Charm, but when Kathryn walked into Chelsea’s salon for a hair appointment it appeared that we might have a moment of pure dramatic irony. As a bit of an explainer, dramatic irony is when the audience is aware of something that the characters have yet to discover. Along with verbal and situational irony, dramatic makes up the third type of irony — really, there are four types of irony if you count people who criticize that Alanis Morissette song to seem clever. That is ironic.

Anyway, dramatic irony is so popular in theater and film because it breeds an incredible amount of tension. As Alfred Hitchcock explained when talking about the difference between surprise and suspense, surprise is when two people are talking at a table and suddenly a bomb goes off. The audience is surprised — the equivalent of a jump scare in modern horror movies — but there is never really any tension. Suspense, on the other hand, is when our characters are gathered around a table and we know about the ticking bomb, but they don’t.

Now, we see Kathryn walk into the salon and greet Chelsea who explains that she’s the last appointment of the day, so they are all alone. We know Chelsea is friends with those in Kathryn’s social circle, but we don’t know if either Kathryn or Chelsea are aware of this. If Kathryn knows that Chelsea is the newest member of the Southern Charm clique, could this be some beauty parlor espionage? A fact-finding mission? I mean, there are probably people on the show’s crew who could cut your hair for free so what is happening?

Clearly having built this moment up way too much in my mind and forgetting that people know each other, my hopes for a bomb-under-the-table moment are expertly dashed when Kathryn and Chelsea casually talk about everyone they know. Having completely subverted my expectations of what an entertainment program should do, Southern Charm instead displays a perfect example of situational irony. It would be verbally ironic for me to say I enjoyed this moment.

Over at Thomas’ office, he receives a visit from JD. When asked what he’s been up to, JD says, “Running around. Taking care of business. Paying people.” This is super on brand. You know that famous urban legend about Hemingway being dared to write a six-word story? Well, JD is the Hemingway of not answering that question. Seriously, everyone could describe their lives with the eight words that JD shared with Thomas. The human experience is basically running around, paying people, and taking care of business. Add a few more lines and you have a eulogy written by a stranger: “He was born. He ran around. He took care of business. Then, he died. The people he paid will miss him.”

click to enlarge This is what my mother would call a ‘Please hit me over the head’ diamond - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • This is what my mother would call a ‘Please hit me over the head’ diamond

Thomas explains that he received a letter from Kathryn expressing regret about the divide that exists in their relationship as parents. Back in the beauty salon, Kathryn elaborates on Thomas’ emotional issues regarding validation and acceptance. Kathryn’s letter says she is ready to make amends. We are then treated to a brief montage of everything that has gone wrong in their relationship. JD tells Thomas that Kathryn has extended an olive branch, but Thomas worries it is a trap. This is another important lesson. In business and in life, construct all your traps out of olive branches. They’ll never see it coming.

Everyone then begins getting ready for the India-themed party, which is some cultural appropriation nightmare. At one point, Patricia stops the conversation around the dinner table to draw everyone’s attention to the massive diamond on Georgette’s finger. It’s is literally the size of a monkey paw.

Also an “Indian healer” arrives after dinner to read everyone’s energy and predict the future. She predicts that Cameran will have three children, Craig will pass the Bar exam, and Shep is afraid of being alone. Then everyone asks the psychic about Kathryn, before starting to argue and swear at each other. Appalled by the repeated use of such language, Georgette covers her diamond’s ears and retires to bed — as should we all.

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