If reality television is good for anything other than serving as a safety net for pop artists between albums and allowing us all to feel comfortably superior to poor white trash, it’s good for allowing us to be there when semi-ordinary people crack under the glass dome of TV pressure. Limiting our list of most spectacular reality freak-outs from the past year to just ten entries was a tall order, as we probably could have populated it entirely with various Housewives personalities, but in the end, we found the ten biggest and craziest. Pop a Xanax and enjoy!
Big Brother: Dan’s Funeral
Generally speaking, a meltdown on a competitive reality show happens once the competitor in question has already lost the game. Which is initially how it looked for Dan, whose 24 hours in isolation was surely a precursor to his eviction. But he emerged with a fantastic act of bald-faced deception and pure theater, holding his own “funeral,” viciously torpedoing his closest ally, Danielle, in front of the whole house, and setting the stage to align with his enemy Frank, in order to get rid of his former ally, the super-popular Britney. On a show that is 90 percent lying around and complaining, Dan’s willfully deceitful spectacle was equal parts cunning game play and knowingly good TV.
Survivor: Toothless Dawn
The obvious pick from Survivor’s slow-starting “Fans vs. Favorites II” season would be Brandon Hantz’s flip-out on Phillip, when he dumped his tribe’s beans out into the sand. But (a) we’re reluctant to give the Hantzes one more moment of recognition, and (b) there was an even more consequential meltdown later in the season. That’s when Dawn — fragile, fragile Dawn — went for a dip in the lagoon and lost her partial dentures. She screamed for help, and when Brenda came to her aid, she hyperventilated that she would quit the game before having to play on without her bottom teeth. Yes, her vanity is understandable (especially after seeing her flash her empty mouth), but it’s hard to take seriously threats to leave a game with a prize of a million dollars. Still, Brenda found the teeth and seemingly forged an unbreakable bond with Dawn in the process. Of course, unbreakable bonds, like denture adhesive, can prove surprisingly weak, as Dawn betrayed Brenda, and Brenda made Dawn take her teeth out at the final Tribal Council.
RuPaul’s Drag Race: Raven and Jujubee Lip-Synch for Their Love
The All-Star season of Drag Race was by and large an abbreviated bummer, but the one positive byproduct of the competition’s team construct was this showdown between BFFs and teammates Raven and Jujubee. Faced with a sudden-death lip-synch battle that would send one of them home, the ladies eschewed all sense of sass, shade, or werk, and instead decided to embrace their inner Anne Hathaways and just weep it out. To Robyn. As you do.
Real Housewives of NYC: Ramona Versus Aviva Versus Xanax
This fight is even better than we remembered it. First: Ramona’s bug-eyed deer-in-the-headlights stare when she gets called on for shit-talking. Second: LuAnn’s barely contained glee at the chaos about to unfurl. The gist of this one is that anxiety-ridden Aviva needed her husband to escort her to St. Barts, where the other women were having a “girls’ weekend,” which, to Ramona, is a sacred bacchanal of feminine bonding that no man must ever sully. So they had words, with Aviva insisting that the other women throw themselves at Reid’s feet for bringing their dear friend (uh, her) on their vacation, while Ramona cut to the point most spectacularly. We never did find out if Aviva TOOOOOK A XANAAAAAX and CAAAAALMED DOOOOOWN.
Catfish: “Mike” Is Actually Mhissy
The final reveals on MTV’s Catfish often turned out to be pretty sad. No one is ever who they say they are online, and confrontation is usually avoided as both parties feel sheepish about their lies. Any anger also tends to quickly fade when the Catfisher’s sob story heavily outweighs his or her betrayal. However, things did get heated when single mother Jasmine’s mystery man “Mike” (whom she had been chatting with for over two years) turned out to be Mhissy, a smug and vengeful Facebook friend of her ex-boyfriend. Talk about putting effort into a long con!
Real Housewives of Atlanta: Kenya’s Gone With the Wind
Kenya Moore is a certifiable lunatic, and that remains true whether she was genuine on the show or simply playing the character she knew she had to play to get a foothold. Either way, Miss I-Get-Called-“Beyoncé”-Six-Times-a-Week made the most of her Anguila-set argument with fellow newbie Portia, whirling herself into a hurricane of hollering and self-aggrandizement, to the point where Portia didn’t even have to be there for the fight to continue. The freak-out culminated in Kenya’s unfortunately caught-on catchphrase, “I’m Gone With the Wind Fabulous.” Twirl it over that way, Kenya. No, farther away.
Kitchen Nightmares: Amy’s Baking Company
To agree to be on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares is to already admit defeat, so when Amy and Samy Bouzaglo asked for help with their failing Scottsdale restaurant, we were expecting to see the usual hapless mistakes followed by a redemptive turnaround. Instead, Amy and Samy are so awful and defensive that Ramsay (himself a pretty fiery dude) ends up having to walk off the show and take his lights and cameras with him. The owners do various things like pocket their wait staff’s tips, pick fights with customers when they complain about the food and the long wait and then chase them away with swears and threats to call the cops. Finally the show follows through on its titular promise and gives us a true nightmare! It didn’t take long for the Internet to get involved, flooding the restaurant’s Yelp and Facebook pages with harassment, and causing (presumably) Amy to fight back in the comments. Despite it all, Amy’s had a grand reopening on May 21. A portion of their proceeds promise to “benefit a charity organized to bring awareness to cyber-bullying.” Consider us aware!
Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Eric Quits on Camila
Picking just one freak-out from The Real World/Road Rules Challenge is not easy, especially when one drunken nonsense fight literally bleeds into another. But Battle of the Seasons gave us something truly special when volatile Brazilian Camilia teamed with beleaguered “Big Easy” Eric for an elimination challenge. Eric’s appearances on the Challenges have been characterized by a near-constant stream of abuse directed at him for his substandard physique and conditioning. In a whirlwind of self-fulfilling prophecy, Camila’s constant browbeating of Eric finally led to him quitting the game mid-challenge, which then led to a pathos-ridden display from Camila, crying and wailing and attempting to finish the competition on her own. (Note: For all those Bunim/Murray-philes wondering why Nia’s Real World hairdryer flip-out didn’t make the list, it came after the June 1 cutoff. See you next year!)
Mob Wives: Love Blindsides Carla
The best thing about the fights on Mob Wives is that they come after weeks and weeks of anticipation and yet still they manage to start out of nowhere. One minute, new-ish cast member Love is convening an airing of grievances with the heretofore non-battle-tested Carla, and the next minute, all ten of Love’s fake fingernails are up in Carla’s face. The best part of the Love-Carla brawl is that unlike, say, the Drita-Ramona battles of season’s past — amped up by years’ worth of bad blood — Love and Carla had never met before this fateful night. Rather, they’d just talked shit about each other through third parties. Classic example of the Staten Island Rumor Mill as fight promoter.
The Bachelor: Tierra LiCausi’s Raised Eyebrow
Hey, you can’t fault poor Tierra for having a face that looks upset 24/7! She’s got a sparkle and you’re going to have to take her word for it. It’s really too bad that none of the other girls can handle her raised eyebrow — because, as you expected, she’s here for Sean. But here’s what should happen on The Bachelor (and only sometimes does) when none of the other girls like you: They gang up, talk shit, eventually rat you out (ever-so-delicately) to the star suitor and you become so dramatic that you get sent home. Sounds reasonable, and actually worked against poor Tierra when AshLee told Sean that she just wasn’t being honest with him, and that he ought to beware. He arrives just in time (after this blowout) to see her lose it and decides there and then that it’s time for her to go. His sister warned him that a woman who can’t get along with other women is trouble! Tierra is let go, but her raised eyebrow will live on in infamy.