Whoo. What a wait it has been this past seven days. Last week's episode of Southern Charm ended on a "To be continued" while the cast was all on vacation in Hilton Head. If you've spent the past seven days languishing over what fate will befall our crew, just remember that the biggest threat in Hilton Head is dying under the weight of your third wife.
I assume that Hilton Head is a great place to visit if you've run out of interesting places to get drunk and want to study your own alcoholism in a vacuum. If Hilton Head had a mascot, it would be a mummified insurance adjuster explaining how Jimmy Buffett is the Perry Como of his time. As far as South Carolina is concerned on the Van Halen spectrum, Charleston is David Lee Roth, Myrtle Beach is Sammy Hagar, and Hilton Head is Gary Cherone.
Anyway, the beauty of this week's episode is that I watched a portion of it alongside some friends who were completely unaware of the show. As a respectful guest, I informed my hosts that I would need to do some recapping later in the day. To my surprise, they were willing to put on Southern Charm for a bit and do their best to understand what the show was about. In the original spirit of this column and our general perception of human beings, my hosts and newfound Southern Charm viewers could not tell the difference between any of the cast. This makes sense for so many reason.
To simplify things, I began to describe the cast using something other than their names. Craig became "fake lawyer in gray shirt." Thomas became "Old drug dealer." And Austen became "Fake beer salesman in green." But even this wasn't enough to explain who was who among the nearly identical cavalcade of white ciphers. It was then that I realized that all the men on Southern Charm are ham-faced clods in hyper-specific seasonal ware. Other than Whitney, who dresses like he's auditioning for a high school production of Grease, all the men on Southern Charm look and dress like mannequins that someone saved from an abandoned department store in a dying steel town. For this reason, the thickness of their sweaters remains the best way to identify the main cast of Southern Charm.
Anyway, let's get this episode started. To catch you up after last week's cliffhanger, everyone on the show went of vacation together, which is exactly what happens every season. This includes ex-girlfriends, -boyfriends, -wives, -husbands, etc. The dumbest portion of this vacation plan is that you should never invite this many people on a trip together. Nine or more adults — or a Slipknot, as it is known in Iowa — is too many people to include on a single trip.
Picking back up from last week's episode, we find Kathryn and Ashley in the midst of a terrible argument regarding Kathryn and Thomas' children. Everyone begs Thomas to intervene, but he appears to have drank his way into achieving the "Smooth Criminal" lean, defying all laws of god and man. Thomas finally manages to pull Ashley aside. Hopefully he can calm her down by explaining which point on the floor he's chosen to stare at to prevent the room from spinning. Thomas seems like he's driven a car or two into someone's living room. Seriously, if Thomas Ravenel had not been born into a wealthy family, he'd be the guy in your home town who died after passing out on the train tracks.
Moving on, everybody acts like Kathryn is a champion for putting up with Ashley's ugly nonsense. No one at any point stops to ask why all these people who constantly antagonize each other were all invited to the same trip. Maybe yell at those people? I have spent, like, four Thanksgivings and seven Christmases trying to avoid a complete blow-up. Maybe don't invite perfect enemies on the same vacation.
Since we all live in Hell now, the show joins Ashley and Thomas in the parking lot of an oyster shack. Ashley is performing some deleted scene from Steel Magnolias, acting like she's so offended by Kathryn's words. Thomas does his best to focus on one of the three Ashleys he's currently seeing — it's the middle one — as his new girlfriend rips into the mother of his children.
This discussion continues to percolate, meanwhile Austen pulls Chelsea aside for a heart-to-heart. Austen reveals that he and Chelsea's former friend are once again seeing each other. Since everyone has been drinking, this revelation goes over super well, and Chelsea cries and apologizes (?) for Austen dating her friend (??)? The English language doesn’t allow for all the necessary question marks to portray insecure woman nonsense.
Going back to the Thomas and Ashley situation, Shep decides to sidle up to the wonder couple as Thomas forks mouthfuls of random bar food into his gob and Ashley continues her crusade to never stop talking. Ashley manages to spout all of the tired metaphors she's learned from fortune cookies over the years, both breaking the camel's back and keeping her friends close and her enemies closer. The conversation ends with no real progress made, other than Thomas shoving mounds of cheese fries into his bedraggled face like a bloodhound that's decided to eat itself to death.
Consti-toxi-pated, Thomas stirs from his booze- and cheese-induced stupor and manages to accost Chelsea after she questions whether Ashley should be allowed back in the beach house. Thomas lashes out verbally as everyone rides home on a ferry. Whitney goads Thomas on because Whitney is a producer of the show and needs more animosity to fund his shuttle to Mars.
The cast arrives safely back at the Hilton Head beach house. Everyone goes their own ways, while Thomas, Kathyrn, and Danni (The Inconsequential Woman) gather on the back porch. The argument between Ashley and Kathryn continues on multiple fronts, but the best thing to remember is that Danni was listed in her senior yearbook as "Not Pictured." I've been watching this show for three seasons now, and I still squint my eyes every time Danni is on the screen and flip through my notes like there's been a mid-season time jump. Who is this woman and why is she around?
Weighing in on his own significant other, Thomas "defends" Ashley's actions by first saying that he's not racist and then alluding to her fiery Italian heritage. Maybe later in the episode, he slaps a tomato out of someone's hand and warns them not to feed on the fruit of the dreaded nightshade.
Starting the next morning, everyone wakes up early and immediately begins recounting the events of the prior evening. Why is this a thing that is happening? Craig and Austen get on breakfast patrol, whipping up whatever they can. This is cool. But everyone else is just explaining to the camera exactly what happened mere hours before.
Moving on, Shep, Craig, and Kathryn head out to go out deep-sea fishing with a man named Michael, who is old running buddies with Shep. Meanwhile, Chelsea takes another group out on a boat with Chris, who carries the mystique of most Southern Charm supporting characters: They all are real people with difficult jobs who are sunburnt and look like they've spent considerable time underneath a boat. They are the barnacles of the Southern Charm world.
Anyway, everyone's on a boat. In the words of T-Pain, "Arms spread wide on the starboard bow. Gonna fly this boat to the moon somehow." In the end, Craig catches a rock chunk. Somehow the sea still represents man’s insignificance on a global scale.
Back at the beach house, Ashley paints Thomas' toenails as he splays for the camera. This turns out to be the correct arrangement of words to undo reality, and our existence crumbles in on itself. In the outskirts of Wyoming, a little-known doomsday cult that just happened to declare May 31 as the Armageddon remarks on just how lucky they were. That is, except for all the members who unnecessarily castrated themselves.
Skipping ahead to dinner, our cast brings home a bunch of fresh crab that they hired someone to help them catch and now a professional chef is going to prepare the food for them. This corresponds with everyone talking about how much they love getting back to nature and being super folksy. A great example of this is Chelsea fawning over Austen as he hoists in a few crabs, saying she'd like this situation better if he had some dip and some camo. By this, Chelsea means she really likes the most superficial aspects of the stereotypical white Southern male. All I can say is that there are plenty of guys who dip and wear camo, but you sure as shit ain't going to find them in Hilton Head. Also, unless you are ready to do some mud boggin', vacations are going to be a bit more Spartan than a weekend stay at the beach house.
After the hired chef and staff serve the cast, everyone divides up into manageable chunks. The most notable subsection of which is Shep, fresh off an exchange with Ashley, talking about how garbage she is as a person. Everyone finally gathers for dinner, and Shep credits the evening to Hilton Head and the culture sprung from the island. I don't want to be mean-spirited about all the culture surrounding a paid chef preparing fish that you purchased from a nearby restaurant, but strip club breakfasts have more culture than whatever these people are enjoying.
To close things out, Austen receives a call from his girlfriend, Victoria, who spotted him and Chelsea holding hands in an Instagram photo or whatever. Since everyone is still in middle school, this Inta Story leads to a very real break in their relationships.
Also, and I'm not joking, the episode ends with another "To be continued." It shouldn't. The people who make this show have clearly misunderstood what the "Cliffhanger" is for. Now they are just using it anytime the cast isn't in the same zip code.