The original Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was a Reality TV 1.0 success, where five gay men proved that they were worth being accepted because they could come into any straight person’s life, spout some catchphrases and creativity, and leave it better than they found it. It was activism as gentrification, or at least gaining a begrudging tolerance because gay people are magical fairies whose only value is flipping their wrists and helping straight people.
Queer Eye, the Netflix reboot which hews very close to the original formula but with an entirely new cast, comes out of the gate swinging at the original notion of the series. “The original show was fighting for tolerance. We’re fighting for acceptance,” one of the Fab Five tells us in the first seconds of this episode. Another one tells us, “My goal is to show how similar we are, not how different we are.” Um, great. Thanks for the platitudes, but none of that seems to have any real impact on the show. Then we’re thrust right into the first makeover with the new Fab Five without even a “Hey, how are you?” to start us off.
So, who are these guys and what makes them qualified to be giving anyone advice? Who knows? And their only qualifications, at least from what we’ve learned so far, is that they are all card-carrying homosexuals. So, yeah. Meet the new boss, honey. The same as the old boss.
Eventually, we learn that Jonathan is the designated funny one and you might know him as the hairdresser on Gay of Thrones. He is in charge of grooming. Antoni is the designated hot one and, boy, is he hot. He’s the sort of nonthreateningly handsome that is every single person’s type. If he came up on Rob Gronkowski’s Tinder, he’d be like, “Yeah, I’d hit that.” Bobby is blond and does design and has a husband. That’s all I know about him. Tan is in charge of the fashion, is not as funny as Carson Kressley, and he has a very posh accent. Finally, Karamo dresses well and he does Jai Rodriguez’s old job, which is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
There first subject’s name is Tom, who lives in a town in Georgia where skunks carry the corpses of small dogs across Confederacy Boulevard, which is an actual name of a street in the town where they are. Tom looks sort of like a guy who got fired from being Santa Claus at the local mall because he spent too much time telling the kids about the war.
Tom lives in the basement of a Georgia McMansion. He has a little backyard, but otherwise lives in one room behind someone else’s house. He goes to the same Mexican restaurant in town for margaritas every night and then he returns home, where he puts his recliner in the backyard so he can watch TV through the door and smoke cigarettes. This is, he says, his absolute favorite activity. This fills me with such existential dread that I needed to put on an ascot while watching the rest of the episode just to make sure I wouldn’t end up smoking myself.
But Tom is a swell guy and a very good sport. From the moment the guys show up to make fun of his jorts, his redneck margaritas (made of whiskey and Mountain Dew), and the crusty hand towels next to his bed, Tom just laughs off all the criticism and rolls with it. When Jonathan tells him that the shampoo he’s using is drying out his hair and skin, he says, “But it says ‘hydrating’ on the label.”
“She’s a liar,” Jonathan hilariously drawls at him in a bit of gay-speak that might put many a butch man on his hackles. Tom just laughs and agrees to throw it away. He’s really trying to make himself better for these guys. The only time it gets uncomfortable is when Tom asks Bobby who in his relationship “is the husband and who’s the wife.” Jonathan stops him and says, “Let’s unpack that,” before explaining that we all have feminine and masculine energy and that’s a good thing. I think he just wanted to know if Bobby was a top or a bottom.
Jonathan is clearly the star of the show. Not only is he hilarious — like when they go bed shopping and he’s in the background playing around with an adjustable sleeper like they used to advertise during daytime television — he also has some of the most touching moments with Tom. He takes him to get his ZZ Top beard trimmed and give him a new haircut. Tom keeps calling himself “ugly” and Jonathan tells him that is the ugliest thing about him. Jonathan lets him know that he can’t control many things about his appearance, but he can control his confidence, and nothing is sexier than confidence. Damn, how is the Gay of Thrones guy making me cry during the Queer Eye reboot? I’m way too cynical and heartless for this!
When Jonathan is done, both he and Tom think that Tom looks like Ulysses S. Grant, which is a strange compliment, considering they’re at a barber shop on Confederacy Boulevard. Tom is now wearing a flat cap instead of a trucker cap, a new pair of glasses, and some khaki shorts instead of jorts. He looks like the oldest dude at a singles mixer in Austin, Texas, and he couldn’t possibly look better. Bobby shows off his new house, and like on all of these transformation shows, Tom now lives in what appears to be a bland hotel room at a Four Points by Sheraton in Asheville, North Carolina. But Tom really likes it, so that’s good.
Oh also, Antoni shows him how to make homemade guacamole. He stands in the kitchen, cuts some things up, and everyone bursts into spontaneous orgasms, like it is an Herbal Essences commercial or something. After cleaning up the mess, they eat the guacamole, which looks good. Then Karamo does ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and collects his paycheck and goes back to his trailer, not to be bothered again.
Tom is clearly happy with his new life, and the Fab Five are all happy with how he does without them, as they watch from their Temple of Taste (brought to you by Absolut and Crest White Strips), located somewhere in an abandoned factory in Atlanta. The real sleeper story of this whole episode is Tom and his ex-wife, Abby. He asks her to go with him to his car show and they are, like, totally on a date. He uses the redone dungeon as an excuse to bring her back home, and they’re totally going to smash. But why did they break up in the first place? Are they finally going to get back together? Is Tom ever going to get a moment’s peace to bust into some jorts again, for old time’s sake?
Who knows, because that is all in the past — and this new Fab Five, they’re only about the future.