You know that feeling when you’re hanging out with a couple and they start fighting, and you feel deeply uncomfortable, but for whatever reason you can’t leave? That’s the best way I can describe the experience of watching Jax and Brittany Take Kentucky. With only three days left in the Bluegrass State, Jax has reached the I-need-a-vacation-from-my-vacation stage of this trip, taking everything out on Brittany and, indirectly, anyone who chooses to watch this show.
Things are tense on the farm. Brittany is furious because of Jax’s drunken misbehavior at a local bar, where he drank an entire “fishbowl” by himself, nearly started a fistfight with a “white trash” stranger, yelled at one of Brittany’s friends, and generally behaved like an extreme weirdo in his interactions with her ex. (It bears repeating that Brittany peacefully co-exists with the many, many women Jax has slept with on the West Coast.) The next morning, Brittany reports that Jax apologized, then retracted his apology, then starting screaming at her, then drove off into town. Apparently, he’s been throwing in Brittany’s face the $12,000 he donated to her brother and sister-in-law’s IVF fundraiser (which Jax took it upon himself to offer, mind you), calling Brittany “ungrateful.” This is to say nothing of him telling her loved ones that she’s worryingly depressed, which she is not. “You can always come back home,” Brittany’s sister reminds her. We are all Brittany’s sister, gazing awkwardly into the middle distance and wondering if there’s anything we can or should be doing, or whether we might flip to TLC to check if a 90 Day Fiancé rerun is on.
Jax comes back to the farm having purchased coffee only for himself, a classic we’re-in-a-fight move. But the caffeine does nothing to brighten his pissy mood. He tells Brittany she isn’t working enough and that she needs to do something with her life, then threatens to leave for a hotel. “Don’t put the waterworks on,” he snaps when she begins to cry. “It doesn’t work for me.” It’s an ugly, real fight (albeit a fight that seems to be entirely Jax’s fault), one I take no pleasure in watching. He insists that he did at one point apologize, so everything is therefore fine — like the relationship equivalent of Michael Scott shouting, “I DECLARE BANKRUPTCY.” Um, no. I’m sorry to see Brittany so upset, but at the same time, it’s also a relief that she is making an attempt to hold Jax accountable for his bullshit.
In the distance, Jax aimlessly swings a large stick he found, like a small child who’s bored on a hike. Mamaw advises Brittany — who is embarrassed and upset to be fighting in front of her family — to wait to discuss her differences with Jax until they’ve both cooled down. Unfortunately, the chores still need doing. Jax and Brittany feed the chickens and clean the coop while acknowledging one another’s presence as little as possible, which is an only-in-Kentucky relationship milestone I can’t say I’ve personally checked off yet.
Jax and Mamaw have a lunch date, during which the matriarch asks if Brittany’s going to hear about that engagement ring Jax showed off or what. (Again: Have we confirmed that Jax didn’t just Google a random photo of an engagement ring to show to Sherri and Mamaw and shut them up? Is he Dumb Keyser Söze?) Jax tries the same “lost her spark” line with Mamaw, who is not buying that crap, no, thank you. Also, did he mention that Brittany gained weight? I would not put it past Jax to complain about their sex life to her grandmother, too.
Brittany and Jax go for an ATV ride at Don’s house. She explains that off-roading is the perfect activity for when you’re mad at your boyfriend — with your helmet on and the engine roaring, you can neither see nor hear him. Smart. Partway through what looks like a genuinely fun ride, they pull over and talk. “Let’s address how you acted yesterday,” Brittany says. (+3 Adult Relationship Skills points for Brittany!) “It takes two to tango here, sweetheart,” responds Jax (-5 Adult Relationship Skills points). He wants her to say “thank you” more; she wants to be treated with basic respect. “There’s going to be some changes when we get home,” Jax says. “I’m enabling all this.” (All this … what?) With great consternation, Jax agrees to maybe, possibly try to change — if she does, too, okay?! — and they kiss and make up. Jax is significantly less fun to watch when we are forced to reckon with the massive emotional labor that living with him requires.
After the couple meets Mamaw’s piglet, Bacon Bit — in a scene that would be forgettable, except for the fact that it features a piglet with the amazing name of “Bacon Bit” — Brittany heads to her dad’s house for a father-daughter cookout and chat. (Jax was invited, too, but he says he needs a night off.) Brittany and Don say a two-person grace over their hot dogs. Meanwhile, alone at home, Jax reconsiders the décor of the bedroom he’s sharing with Brittany. “I need, like, a picture of a naked chick up here,” he says of his view from the top bunk.
Though Don expresses his appreciation for his daughter’s boyfriend’s generous donation to their family, he feels compelled to (calmly, gently) tell his daughter the truth: “I’m not 100 percent on board with Jax Taylor.” And you know what? Brittany gets it. Jax has made an effort around the farm, sure, but he’s also been acting like a huge, stinking jerk. (Those are my words, not hers, but still.) “I couldn’t be with somebody who my family hated,” Brittany says in a confessional.
There’s only one more episode of Jax and Brittany left. I think it’s safe to say we’re a long, long way — longer than the 2,000-plus miles from L.A. to Winchester, Kentucky — from a proposal.