Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Southern Charm Newbie, RelationShep edition: A Sickly End

The RelationShep Finale

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, Jan 16, 2018 at 2:50 PM

click to enlarge The first major television dilemma since “Who shot J.R.?” - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • The first major television dilemma since “Who shot J.R.?”

Here we are, the final episode of RelationShep. To start out on a personal note, I am currently in the grips of the flu. My blood feels cold, but that is balanced out by how much my bones hurt. My head feels like I've been snorting corkscrews.

At least I think I have the flu. I could just be instinctively encasing myself in a cocoon of dirty tissues and mucus from which I'll emerge in my final form, a genderless ur-beast from a time when language had not yet formed to describe such a terror. Suffice to say, I've spent the past 24 hours suckling at a bottle of maximum strength NyQuil Severe. This means I'm in the perfect mindset to watch the RelationShep season finale.

If you're just tuning in, RelationShep is the reality dating show that begs the question "Did they print too much money this year and forget how to burn it?"

Of course, I'm joking. For those who look at shows such as RelationShep and have nothing but negative comments, please just for a minute consider all the talented crew members who earned a paycheck during the making of this show. Dozens of people worked long hours to make this show as good as it is, and that doesn't even count the local police officers who were paid off to ignore all the public indecency charges. Anyway, let's take a look back at how we arrived to the end of the season.

After speed-dating his way around a few of America's largest cities, Shep selected five women to return to Charleston. Aside from the case of ringworm they all picked up at the beach house, these women all share a mutual affection for Shep. From this group, Shep was supposed to whittle down their numbers until he arrives at the woman of his dreams.

Arden was the first to leave, after realizing that things weren't going anywhere with Shep. Of all the women on the show, Arden seemed like the person least likely to have a tequila-stained Harley Quinn costume hanging in the back of her closet from last Halloween.

Bella was the next to leave, returning to New York due to professional obligations. Kylie, a very young beauty queen from Texas, is the only contestant thus far to be sent away by Shep. This leaves Peyton and Priscila.

Priscila seems like an amalgam of every person who has ever asked to speak to your manager. She has the demeanor of a negative Yelp review and could probably make a killer spreadsheet.

Peyton on the other hand has the stature of Barbie, but the credibility of Skipper. She comes across as the least famous person to have ever been kicked off a domestic flight. Peyton is the type of person to corner you at a party and reveal that she's a flat-earther.

Moving on with the episode, Cameran shows up to visit Shep. He catches her up on how things are going with the show, and Shep reveals that he is taking each of the remaining contestants to his family homes. By "family homes," I mean extra houses that they own and occasionally visit. My gut reaction to this is to complain about Shep having all these beautiful properties to visit when I do not. But I don't begrudge Shep for having multiple vacation homes. That would be petty and, worse, easy. What we should really focus on is exactly how terrifying this all seems on a base level.

To start things out, Shep takes Peyton to his family home in Camden, S.C. As the camera waltzes from room to room, we see that ever flat surface is graced with a mounted dead animal. I grew up with the fruits of my father's hunting hanged about us, but this is a house filled with every kind of dead animal.

I remember when I was a kid, my dad took me to a taxidermist's home. His blind dog ran out to meet us when we arrived. There was a clothesline weighed down by fish carcasses that stretched from his workshed to the front porch of his house. The inside of the shed smelled of copper and chemicals that I couldn't quite place at the time. I’ve never been more glad that a dog was blind.

Now, imagine bringing a woman to an isolated cabin full of dead animals. Unless she is an extra from Evil Dead, she’ll probably become a bit apprehensive. Shep and Peyton then ride four-wheelers across the property. He points out the rumored pit of quicksand, and then they arrive at what would be best described as a murder cabin. Seriously, it looks like a set from season one of True Detective, but a little more dreary. This cabin looks like Johnny Cash’s cover of "Hurt" was given shape. Jason from Friday the 13th would look at this cabin and say, "Maybe we shouldn’t."

click to enlarge All animals are flesh-eating if given the chance - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • All animals are flesh-eating if given the chance

After touring Carcosa, Shep and Peyton sit by the fire and she explains that her love of animals started when she was a very young child. Peyton reveals that when her parents divorced, she was forced to get rid of all her dogs, which she loved.

Damn. That's grim. That's like telling a kid that Christmas is canceled because Santa was murdered by the Easter Bunny. This is like instead of telling your kid that the divorce isn't their fault, you say, "All your damn dogs convinced us to split up" like you're the Son of Sam going through a divorce.

Shep then calls in his neighbor Dawn to bring over her boykin spaniels and this proves incredibly charming to Peyton. One of the puppies then pisses on a rug that is probably a family heirloom, but everyone is super chill about it because puppies.

Shep and Peyton then go to dinner where Shep's parents met. This should be very romantic, but Shep excuses himself to go talk to Producer Sarah about how he should proceed. Watching this scene develop through a NyQuil haze reminds me that my body is undergoing a real orgy of maladies. The night ends with Shep and Peyton making out by the fireplace until they ask the camera crew to leave. The next morning, as Peyton is sent away, Shep informs Producer Sarah that nothing serious happened, saying he did not gain "carnal knowledge" of Peyton.

Moving on, Shep arrives at his family's other vacation home in Linville, N.C. This place is also super nice. Touring Priscila around to see all his family's property, Shep takes her to the scariest fucking church you've ever seen. I mean, it's beautiful, but it looks like the set from the Wicker Man. The church is made completely out of timber, and if you went there, Jesus would be depicted as a wood sprite and the Lorax would be included among the prophets.

click to enlarge ‘Yeah, but also like the last place an outsider would ever see.’ - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • ‘Yeah, but also like the last place an outsider would ever see.’

Returning home from the horror church, Shep and Priscilla cook chili. Shep augments Priscila's chili recipe while she's outside only to learn that she is super serious about her chili recipe. They discuss what their relationship should be, but Priscila is surely upset that her designated chili recipe was adulterated on national television.

Moving on, Shep sends Priscila off as he meets his mother for lunch. Shep's mom, Fran, reveals that they bought a golf cart. This is funny in the way that parents can sometimes share their recent highpoints, and it proves to be boring and cute. Meanwhile, my mom hasn't slept in a week and my flu-riddled brain asks "What day is it?" every time I wake up, afraid I've missed a deadline.

Back in Charleston, Shep stops by Peyton's apartment to tell her that she is off the show. He starts by telling Peyton that he really cares about her but then severs all ties before leaving her temporary apartment.

The next day, Shep drives over to Priscila's apartment, and we're meant to think that he's going to finally accept her into his life. Then a massive swerve arrives, as Shep says he's going after Bella.

With these final moments, Priscila can return to ruling her local HOA with an iron fist, while Peyton can get back to drunkenly insulting her Lyft drivers.

With just five minutes left in the episode, Shep heads to New York City, saying he's never done anything so impulsive and compares the situation to a Woody Allen movie.

Surely if this scene had been filmed today, Shep would have referenced a director who is a little less controversial. And by "controversial," I mean a well-known molester who was revealed decades ago to use his power to abuse women. Allegedly. Yes, allegedly.

One interesting thing about people who have trouble acknowledging the crimes of their heroes, it that they fail to recognize that there are plenty of other profound talents who have not sexually assaulted anyone. As far as comedians are concerned, I offer up Sinbad. Sinbad is hilarious. Instead of deifying Bill Cosby and Woody Allen, remember that Sinbad is funnier and the true star of Jingle All the Way.

Back to the show, we find Shep arriving in New York, purchasing some flowers, and calling Bella from outside her apartment. He manages to coax her from her apartment. Accepting the flowers, Bella agrees to pursue a relationship with Shep. As the credits role, they begin scheduling how they'll spend their time together, and the season ends with a title card advising viewers to watch Southern Charm to see how it all turns out.

click to enlarge Other than that time Richard Gere didn’t abandon that prostitute. - BRAVO SCREENSHOT
  • Bravo Screenshot
  • Other than that time Richard Gere didn’t abandon that prostitute.

Wow. What a twist, which was completely given away by the trailers from previous episodes. Anyway, we end with Shep and Bella pursuing a relationship. If you enjoyed these recaps, please write your Congressmen and ask that I be enlisted to continue writing recaps for the upcoming season of Southern Charm. Meanwhile, I will fall back into my flu. Only through suffering can truth be revealed, I think to myself as my body becomes a symphony of discomfort. I've quarantined myself to an isolated corner of the apartment until I overcome my illness, but maybe health is just a narrow lens through which one truly experiences life.

Either way, it's been fun walking you through this first season of RelationShep. It's been great to hear from those of you who have enjoyed the column each week. Please know that I'll be around much more than I'll be a square. That's the coolest joke I can come up with at this point. Later.


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