‘You’ve been sucked into the black hole of my nonsense. All for some free oysters.’
Welcome back, everybody. It's the penultimate episode of this season of Southern Charm
, and I thank you for sticking around for the long haul. For that, I thought I'd do something a little extra for this week's recap. I hope you like it.
If you'll recall, last week we saw Craig fail to complete a few potential pillow design pitches for Patricia's company to manufacture. Although his deadline of two weeks was stretched to two months, Craig still came up short, and Patricia severed their business relationship. Although it's easy to judge Craig for this failure, I thought “How easy could it be to develop designs for a dog-themed pillow series?” And, since I am dumb, I took some time this past Sunday evening to try to succeed where Craig had failed so miserably.
Craig's first stumble was his reliance on clip art rather than original designs. To avoid this, I sourced all my designs from pictures of dogs from other people's social media pages – namely, the current editor
of this paper. Here's something for all you terrier fans out there.
No other recappers are putting in this level of work.
Pretty great, right? You want that design on your couch. On a T-shirt. Call me up, Patricia.
This week's episode begins at Craig's house of all places. He is staring at his sewing machine as if waiting for it to embroider the answers to the mysteries of life. There is no greater level of frustration in a man than when he gazes expressionless at an appliance that simply will not cooperate. You know at that point, when he is at his quietest, that he has run out of horrible things to yell at an inanimate object. This is when the crying starts.
With his injured hand still encased in a protective claw, a frustrated Craig calls on his roommate to help him craft a new line of patriotic dog pillows. Having learned nothing from last week's failure to deliver a pillow design to Patricia, Craig says deadlines are arbitrary and he only needed one more night to come up with a baller concept.
Predicting that Craig would likely lean toward the Red, White, and Blue for his pillow designs, I went ahead and mocked up a folksy, yet jingoistic pillow design fit for only the most patriotic of dog lovers. Behold.
Bam. Perfect. License to print money.
Next we join Cameran as she stops by Shep's newly redecorated home. Shep has just burned a bunch of food in a failed attempt to make meatballs. As with most things, cooking meatballs is more of an excuse to drink wine than set off on a culinary adventure. Surveying the smoking pan of breadcrumbs that Shep has just ruined, Cameran notes that Shep placed whole cloves of garlic into the mix. Perhaps the most troubling thing about Shep's attempt at meatballs is that whatever he's cooking is not shaped into a ball.
Cameran advises that they start over from square one, which is the correct decision. It's at this point that Shep, who is just standing around with a fistful of raw meat, begins to touch ever surface in his kitchen. While I'm sure we all have that one grandmother that liked to snack on uncooked hamburger meat, not all of us have this Old World immunity to tainted foods.
All that said, I would totally watch a YouTube cooking show wherein Shep attempted to prepare an elaborate meal, failed, and then drunkenly called his ex-girlfriends and tried to get the pizza delivery guy to hang out with him. I will produce this show for a small fee as long as we can advertise my pillows during each episode. This is an incredible branding opportunity.
Moving from one end of the housekeeping spectrum to the next, we pop over to Patricia's place. Upon hearing the news that Thomas will be visiting, Michael the Butler's immediate response is offering to poach some shrimp in butter. Not “Oh, I'll turn the porch light on.” Without hesitation, he offers to poach shrimp.
This is Shep’s first run at cooking meatballs.
I imagine every visit to Patricia's house is like stepping into a murder mystery party. Seriously, Patricia's first act upon Thomas' arrival is finalizing her guest list for the ball. Like, a real-life ball. Like, the things that happen in Disney movies and nowhere else.
The episode then takes a very serious turn. Prepare yourselves. Like all men, Thomas is reaching the age where he is being pressured to give up playing polo. Oh, the number of families that have been broken up on the polo field. It's tragic. A national crisis affecting millions. I will never forget the day that my father was forced to euthanize his trusty steed and bury his well-worn polo hammer in the backyard. He wept, knowing that he could no longer play a sport that no one understands or cares about.
Thomas and Patricia then begin to discuss his new girlfriend Ashley. Thomas wishes Ashley would bring more to the relationship, meaning he's tired of paying all her bills. Patricia then just calls Ashley a gold-digger. This is a tough break for Ashley because as goes Patricia, so goes the nation.
We then join Shep and Kathryn as they stand on a pier and eat corndogs. This a situation that people find themselves in when they have absolutely nothing else to do. This is the platonic ideal of listlessness.
Peace and tranquility being the fragile things they are, a bird flies up behind Shep and takes a bite out of his corndog. Shep, a real-life Brian Fellow, curses at the bird before trying to eat around where the bird made contact with the corndog. There's something so simple and pure about this moment. It's kind of a perfect metaphor for life. Aren't we all just out here, trying to eat around the parts of a corndog that a bird touched? Isn't that part of the American dream? Isn't that why I'm out here pitching dog pillows?
Shep and Kathryn then begin discussing Thomas' upcoming polo match. Kathryn, fresh off last week's struggle with falling off her meds, is reluctant to return to Thomas' plantation house. It was there, as a new mother at the age of 22, that she had her early struggles with depression. Of course, the prospect of watching her ex play polo is reason enough to despair, but Kathryn will be dredging up a lot of difficult memories. She could just not go to the polo match, but that scenario is never discussed. Forget you even thought of it.
That blur is the bird. A perfect moment. Frozen in time.
Later in the evening, Austen and Chelsea meet up at a bar to do that totally-only-friends thing where he talks to his ex-girlfriend about breaking up with his current girlfriend. Austen really seems to just leap from the nearest warm body to the next like the demon Azazel in that Denzel Washington movie Fallen
. A lot of readers may say, “No one saw that movie, Dustin. Why would you reference that?” My reply would be “Why did I design dog pillows specifically for a reality show recap column?” My wife had the same question.
Moving on, Chelsea is joined by Naomie for a bit of shopping. Naomie has an adorable kitten in her purse, but why? Didn't she get the adult cat in her split with Craig? Can you just bring animals into stores as long as they are in bags? Oh, and then Naomie says the kitten is paralyzed in its hind legs and wears a diaper. This will make sense later, if my conspiracy theory holds true.
As Chelsea begins trying on clothes, Naomie pulls out her kitten, which I'm still pretty sure is against store policy. The cat then appears to try to nurse on Naomie, something that amuses Chelsea to no end. This makes perfect sense because as we all know, a cat's meow is simply the animal trying to imitate the whine of a human baby. Coupled with the kitten's attempt to nurse, I'm beginning to suspect that the kitten is only wearing a diaper in some complicated changeling scheme to convince Naomie that it is her human child.
Cats are always plotting.
Skipping ahead to the most uncomfortable car ride since the third act of Se7en, we find Thomas and Ashley heading to his plantation house (ughh). Recounting how awful his relationship currently is, Thomas tells us that women have always “been attracted to him for the wrong reasons.” I would agree. Really any reason to be attracted to Thomas Ravenel is the wrong reason. Trying to think of something nice to say about Thomas is like trying to divide by zero.
I also get the feeling that this road trip included multiple instances of Thomas attempting to abandon Ashley at gas stations. There is a 100 percent chance that Ashley removes Thomas' spark-plugs every time they stop to use the bathroom and fuel up.
Ashley quickly turns the conversation to marriage, saying Thomas' plantation would be a great place for a wedding. Thomas says he is tired of being a “sugar-daddy” and tells Ashley that her getting a job would benefit their relationship. Ashley, a former nurse of some sort, responds with a pretty good point. She suspects that if she had a full-time work schedule, Thomas would continue his partying ways and she wouldn't be available to rein him in. This is a good point, but also she's saying, “I can't work because you have too much fun.”
This conversation ends with Thomas suggesting that maybe he and Ashley should break up, which is a weird thing to mention after escorting someone out to a remote location. Is Ashley just supposed to miracle herself home? Why couldn't this decision have waited until they got back to Charleston?
Finally, the day of the big polo match is upon us. Thomas continues to act like he's making some profound sacrifice for his family by giving up polo. We meet Buck the Polo Announcer. Buck says that there are only two ways that anyone ever gets out of polo: “Either dead or broke.” I don't know Buck, but I would still list “Not knowing Buck” among my major life accomplishments.
Is there something about polo that I'm not aware of? It's just soccer-golf on a horse, right? I can't imagine there are too many polo-related fatalities. Thomas says he's surprised polo is still legal in this country. He says this with a straight face like polo is akin to bare-knuckle boxing or whatever sport that is where Russian kids videotape themselves hanging from incredibly tall silos and skyscrapers.
With polo fever spreading across the plantation (ughhhhh), Ashley resumes her role as “woman you least want to talk to at the party” by cornering Shep and unloading about all her relationship troubles. Shep responds by pulling two fully cooked corndogs from his pockets. Ashley asks, “Is one of those for me?” only for the camera to cut back to Shep as he jams them into his ears.
Of course, this doesn't actually happen, but it is no further removed from reason than what really occurs. Evaluating her prospects, Ashley asks Shep if he might (hypothetically?) be willing to date her if she breaks up with Thomas. Shep diplomatically deflects this question. I picture Ashley later walking up to horses and scarecrows, asking “Will you marry me?” as a wedding cake slowly rots in the front yard.
Valiant polo athletes, playing an unnecessary game built upon wealth while decrying its risk.
Having consumed however much alcohol is required to sit through half of a polo game, Chelsea convenes a cast meeting, declaring that she has an idea. She suggests that everyone take their former sweethearts to Patricia's ball. With Chelsea and Austen paired up and Shep taking Kathryn, this leaves Craig and Naomie to patch things up for at least one evening.
Craig is reluctant about this. As we learned earlier in the episode, he recently kissed a lady, which is a big step after his breakup with Naomie. He has actually invited this new mystery woman to the ball.
Craig says going to the ball with Naomie would represent a step forward in rekindling their past relationship. He questions whether he would be able to successfully go back to being friends afterwards. This shows an incredible amount of emotional awareness and maturity on Craig's part. He's willing to acknowledge that attending a ball with Naomie may stir romantic feelings. For voicing this vulnerability and talking openly about his feelings, Chelsea calls him “the P-word,” by which I think she means “pussy.” Let this be a lesson to you, guys: Take all your feelings, press them down into a little ball in the pit of your stomach, and wait for them to kill you. Otherwise, nobody will think you're cool.
Later in the evening, Ashley continues to overshare with strangers and call herself an “alpha female,” while Thomas quietly pulls his friends aside to explain how miserable he is. Unable to accept the blame for anything, Thomas tells Kathryn that his relationships suffer because others take advantage of him. Also, he was complicit in getting his new girlfriend to quit her job and move across the country to be with him. This is the romantic equivalent of Kathy Bates' character from Misery
complaining that she and her most recent hostages don't go on enough long walks together.
Eventually Thomas begins to speak in nothing but cliche aphorisms and garbled lines from Shakespeare that have nothing to do with his current predicament, signifying nothing. This is all juxtaposed with Ashley, who resembles Hamlet's Ophelia after she was told to screw off to a nunnery. With the party waning, Ashley is walking around a large, empty house, talking aloud about how she is all alone.
Looking ahead to next week's season finale when everyone is going to act like asses at a fancy party, Ashley and Thomas ultimately agree to stay together at least until then.
Regardless of whether my new canine pillow empire takes off and makes me a billionaire, I'll be back for next week's season finale. I hope you will too.