Ashley is a snake. Your neighbor with the Metallica posters and the marijuana “grow house” in his hall closet totally has one of her in the tank in his living room. We saw her fighting with Kathryn in last week’s episode (though that is still a few months in the future in the timeline of the season) and we learned that she moved from California just to be with Thomas, but it’s so much worse than I thought. What about that moment when she and Thomas are in the car headed to Shep’s birthday and they’re talking about getting a new nanny for Thomas and Kathryn’s kids because Kathryn hated the old nanny? “Or the other solution is you could marry me and I could become their caretaker,” she says to him with the faintest hint of a smile.
Once every neuron in my brain stopped screaming “Bazinga!” in rapid succession, like some supercut that your annoying nephew can’t stop playing on your sister’s iPad, I realized that what she did was absolutely genius. That hint of a smile is key, because it is hedging on Thomas’s reaction. If he laughed, she could play it up like it was a joke because, “obviously, we’ve only been together for months, we can’t get married. Ha ha ha ha ha. I’m so funny.” But if he took it seriously, she would get what she wants, which is to marry Thomas, be on a reality show, and be famous.
The need is obvious. Just look at how she behaves at the barbecue, making sure that Thomas is touching her and making out with her the whole time. When Kathryn walks into the party, she literally says to Thomas, “You better not let go of my hand.” She doesn’t need his support; she needs to exert her dominance. Even inviting Thomas to fool around with her in the bathroom is a power move – not only over Thomas, but also over Kathryn. That way she will always know she was foundling Thomas’s little Confederate flag the first time she met the mother of his children.
Even the editors know this, giving her the literal needle-scratch sound effect when she interrupts a rather sweet moment between Thomas and Kathryn. Before she does that, they are discussing the nanny situation and Kathryn finds out that Thomas hired a nanny without consulting her. Rather than chasing him down a pier wearing a dirty fur, she calmly asks that he include her in these discussions, let him know why, and makes her feelings clear. It is very wonderful, mature, and constructive.
But as soon as you think we are dealing with a new Kathryn, Ashley comes over and is like, “I’ve heard so much about you and you know nothing about me,” which is the worst opening line you could possibly go with. Then Kathryn pretends like she didn’t know Ashley had met her children or that Thomas has a girlfriend, even though we all know that her kids informed her of this development. She’s pretending to be cordial, but also all, “Sorry, I’m just thrown off because I didn’t know,” when she clearly did know. The only thing Kathryn is better at than passive aggression is actual active aggression.
Ashley needs to know that Thomas will always be more in love with Kathryn that he will ever be with her. It’s like the gravity of the moon pulling the waves or whatever that force is between Drake and Rihanna whenever they’re in the same room. It’s just natural. For all of you X-Men fans out there, Kathryn is the Jean Grey and Ashley is the Madelyne Pryor, just a pale imitation to appease someone who lost the great love of his life. The sad thing is, Ashley knows as much. When she’s at dinner with Thomas she’s like, “I want you to be attracted to me, just don’t ask me to dye my hair red.” She knows that what Thomas finds sexy about her is her proximity in looks and attitude to Kathryn. (Though I would say Ashley actually looks more like a younger, skinnier, less busty version of Alexis Bellino.)
However, as awful as Ashley is, let us not forget even for the briefest of seconds who the real enemy is this season. The real enemy is Shep Rose’s wardrobe of flip-flops, graphic tees, and and cargo shorts. Seriously, can’t we do a Netflix/Bravo crossover where the guys from Queer Eye come over and put him in floral printed shirts and satin bomber jackets and Antoni can show them how to actually smoke ribs in his underwear?
No, I’m just kidding. The real enemy is J.D. and the whole “good old boys” network that we keep hearing so much about. The grossest part of the whole night is when Ashely leads Thomas away to “help her find the bathroom” and someone asks where he is going. Thomas says, “Closing on site,” while they all hoot and holler like a bunch of 14-year-olds passing around a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. The same thing happens when he takes her to the bathroom in front of Shep, Cameran, and Whitney in the house. Now, I am no stranger to being one of two pairs of feet in a single bathroom stall, but did he really have to make a big, smarmy scene about the whole thing? This is just the boys egging each other on, protecting each other, and putting the women second. No wonder they’re so pissed.
The “Break Up Bunch,” as Thomas calls Naomie, Kathryn, Chelsea, and Danni (note to Paul Feig: this is a great idea/name for a movie), is really pissed at J.D. When he’s at the table and talking about his breakup with Elizabeth, he says that they’re both working through things and that they’re having a hard time while Naomie scoffs and chortles before she finally says something. She defends her friend Elizabeth, saying that J.D. won’t take accountability for what he did for them to have to “work through things.” When he notices they’re all upset he says, “Okay, I’ll be the bad guy,” in some sort of misconfigured gentility where he’s “protecting” Elizabeth. But saying he’s the bad guy and taking no account at all for his bad behavior is the sort of copout she’s exasperated by.
Of course Whitney and Austen just sit there tacitly and let J.D. go on. Then, when Austen says he’s heard the same rumors about J.D. that the rest of them have — Chelsea goes so far as to call him a con man at one point — he says that he needs “proof” before he believes them. See, that is the good old boy network in action. He’s protecting one of his own because women’s stories need to be proven before they’re believed. Maybe he should just take those stories at face value. Usually here there’s smoke, there’s some fat, red-faced dirtbag smoking a cigar and laughing about how he ripped off everyone around him.
The problem, however, is that none of us at home are privy to these rumors and allegations against J.D., other than the lawsuit against him for never paying rent on his now-shuttered restaurant. I would assume it has something to do with infidelity, but it seems unfair that they all get to talk about it and no one is going to fill us in a little bit. Heck, we haven’t even seen Elizabeth yet this season. Until we get a glimpse of her next week, it seems like the old boys have yet another victory.