The idea that Kathryn Calhoun Dennis, a human whose personality is akin to the extinction of the dinosaurs, thought that she could fool anyone with her outfit to her son’s first birthday party is laughable. She dressed like the worst mannequin at J.Crew in an untucked oxford shirt, a camel sweater, and a pair of jeans. It doesn’t read so much as “I’ve gotten out of rehab and am now a respectable mother of two” as much as it reads “My sponsor made me buy this outfit because she said the bedazzled sundress I picked out on the RealReal was completely inappropriate.”
Man, this is a sad little first birthday party in the park, isn’t it? The “petting zoo” that Thomas advertised is pretty much just a playpen where they tossed in a few small critters, a baby goose or two, and three earthworms that Patricia’s butler Michael dug up from the mulchy patch under a tree. It isn’t there to delight the children; it is there to keep them amused in the pen while the adults gather around and whisper gossip about Kathryn and Thomas getting along. It isn’t a “petting zoo” as much as it is the world’s lowest-security prison. Thomas should know a thing or two about that.
Kathryn, as crazy and sad as she is, is not stupid enough to screw up being invited to her son’s birthday party. She shows up with arms full of gifts and a heart full of remorse and she’s prepared to be the model of perfect behavior. But it all seems completely unsustainable, doesn’t it? Her taking the high road is like Paula Deen promising to cook Whole30 recipes. Sure, it might last for a bit, but sooner or later it’s all going to end in a crushing heap of biscuit dough and soft racism.
The most poorly behaved person at the party isn’t Kathryn, though. It is Patricia, of all people. When I first met her, I was like, “YAAAASSSS, QUEEN! Wear all of the caftans and order the butler to make your drinks. You better work.” But now I’m like, “You know what? I’m good.” I get her point that she knows that Kathryn is a disaster and doesn’t want to be around for it, but then don’t go to the party. Don’t show up, completely ignore her without even saying a civil hello, and then call the butler to pull the car around in the middle of the “Happy Birthday” song. For a woman who thinks she’s skating on charm, that surely is gauche.
There is one really cute moment at the party, which, ironically, we see when Thomas is talking about the party to Patricia. Kathryn runs over to give Thomas one of the baby’s bottles and he has his hands full. He instructs her to tuck it in his back pocket, which she does with a bit of a cringe. “Be careful,” he jokes. “You might get pregnant.” Not only is that kind of funny, but it’s the kind of sexy, knowing jest that a couple who has worked through all of their former sexual tension and relationship issues can make without anyone getting mad. It’s the sort of flash that shows even Thomas and Kathryn, two people who are more injured than retired crash test dummies (or anyone who listens to the Crash Test Dummies), can actually find some common ground and peace when trying to raise two children.
It’s enough to give you hope for other couples, like Chelsea and Austen, whose highlight is that they go catching crabs with an intricate “hillbilly” system that involves low tide, poles, twine, and something called “chicken backs” that I don’t understand at all. You know what? I’m good. I have very little hope for Naomie and Craig, who went to Mickey D.’s and then to see Craig’s new rental property. They just never seem to be happy together, even for a second. I think I’m going to start actively rooting for the two of them to break up. #FreeNaomie.
The one couple that the show really wants us to root for is Landon and Thomas. This scene of them going for the walk with the dog and blinking their modest assertions as the sun set over a manmade lake is how the whole season started. This is what we were supposed to be working toward. Still, I am unmoved.
I get why they would want to get together, because it seems like an alliance between neighbors. It’s like Thomas’s father and Landon’s father live next door to each other and got together and decided that they should get married so that their grandchildren’s farm will be one huge farm and not just two big ones side by side. Thomas came by Landon’s plantation one day and took her on a walk around the veranda and they didn’t absolutely hate each other, so they decided to tie themselves together for eternity and pop out a few spawn because everyone thought it would be best and it just seemed easier than actually putting up a fight. That’s how I feel about this couple and it is completely uninteresting.
Has either of these two really thought this out? I mean, I think Thomas has, but I don’t think that Landon — who wants to change the name of her site from Roam to “Gallivant” because that isn’t already an incredibly robust web site — certainly hasn’t. It doesn’t seem like she thinks about much. “I don’t want to keep blaming him for Kathryn,” she says about Thomas to Jennifer, who is shockingly advocating for Thomas. Well, maybe she should, because if she gets in a serious relationship with Thomas, Kathryn will be a part of her life forever. It’s not like she’s some ex that Landon can forget about once Thomas stops following her on Instagram. They have two children together. She isn’t going anywhere and neither is her hatred for Landon. There are plenty of other dumb, rich guys in that town, so she could surely save herself and find another.
Speaking of dumb rich guys, Shep shows up at Chelsea’s apartment seemingly unannounced and it is really creepy and I don’t like it. The whole thing had the vibe of the first reel of a horror film starring Shia LaBeouf. He tells her that he’s going to move out of downtown to stop partying and that he wants to be in a place where he can start a serious relationship. Then, as if he weren’t being creepy enough, he asks how things are going with Austen like he still has a chance to creep in there and get things started with Chelsea again. “You know what?” she said. “I’m good.” She explains to Shep what we already knew: He treated her like he treats every other floozy and she didn’t like it so she dropped his ass.
He doesn’t respond like a reasonable human, though. He responds like the beer-soaked ping-pong table in a fraternity basement that he is and goes out and gets absolutely wasted, totally blowing off a meeting he had with Cameran at 11 a.m. the next morning. She shows up to his house to find the door open, Shep passed out fully dressed, and every surface covered in full ashtrays, Natural Light bottles, and masculine tears.
Now, we’ve all had those nights and those mornings of dread. You know the feeling: You realize you’ve slept through the alarm, it’s way too late for you to make any reasonable excuses, and your life might come crashing down hard around you at any moment. We’ve all had that pit in our stomach at noon when we know we’ve messed up really bad. But this happens to us in our 20s, before all of the landmarks that Shep has experienced, like starting a 401K, being referred to as “daddy” unironically, and finding his first gray pubic hair. It’s all sad and awful and (dot, dot, dot) somewhat predictable and maybe a little bit staged for drama? I don’t know. It didn’t make me love or hate Shep. It just made me want to go eat some McDonalds and hope to God that no one I ever date forces me to catch crabs.