There are a few people who you should never really question about their lifestyle choices unless you want your ear to be monopolized for the remainder of the party/barbecue/ice-cream social that you are attending. Those people include CrossFitters, anti-vaccine people, vegans, polyamorous couples, and new dog owners. But of all of these groups of horrible time wasters, the one at the very top of the list is Burners. Yes, that is what those who love Burning Man call themselves and, I’m sorry, they’re just kind of the worst.
That’s why I was shocked to meet Jason, the Altanta handyman who is the subject of this episode, because, well, he wasn’t the absolute worst. Maybe I’m wrong about Burners. I mean, he did have a flamethrower, a killer Leigh Bowery-esque blazer made out of mirror panels, and a collection of vintage ironic T-shirts that would rival any Williamsburg thrift store. I mean, what is not to like about this guy?
The crazy thing about Jason, who lives in the carriage house behind an amazingly gorgeous mansion, is that he actually didn’t really need a whole new wardrobe or furniture or anything. He didn’t need Tan to put him in better-fitting patterned shirts and skinny jeans and for Bobby to make his house look like the antechamber of an Elks lodge in Wilkes-Barre. He actually had tons of cool clothes and furniture lying around his apartment. He just looked like a Haight-Ashbury hoarder and needed someone to clean up all of the mess around him.
Jason’s biggest problem is that he seems stuck in his life. He’s pushing 50 and a life of odd jobs, messy apartments, and uncomplicated connections is making him think he wants to start anew. He’s decided that he’s going to move to Reno, Nevada, so that he can be closer to Burning Man. This plan, objectively, makes absolutely no sense. As the Fab Five pointed out, he’s going to move to Reno because he wants to be closer to Burning Man, even though, you know, he is already going to Burning Man every year from Atlanta anyway. That’s like Santa moving to New York City just to be closer to Christmas when he already drops off packages at every apartment tower, townhouse, and rent-controlled apartment in the city.
He does say at one point that he’s being priced out of Atlanta, which seems to be a legitimate concern, but restarting his life to be closer to his favorite festival seems foolhardy. Karamo meets with Jason’s friends and they all don’t understand the move at all. They don’t see why if he couldn’t get things started in good old Hotlanta, where he has a huge group of friends and acquaintances, how he could get it started in America’s second-favorite seedy Nevada casino town where he knows absolutely no one. Jason keeps saying that he doesn’t know what he wants out of life, but he sure does have a strange sense of confidence about it. It’s the kind of aura projected by a man who knows that he definitely needs Magnum-sized condoms.
I expected this whole episode to be kind of an intervention where the guys all try to convince Jason to stay, but I like that they respected his wishes and just got him prepared to move on. Jonathan had some easy work this week, just giving Jason a haircut and trimming off his LSD-dealer-driving-an-ice-cream-truck beard. It instantly made him look much younger and hotter than Antoni cutting avocados in a tight polo shirt and bandana.
Speaking of Antoni, he was wearing a Jude, JB, Willem, & Malcolm T-shirt, which he wore in season one as well. Those names are the characters from the celebrated gay and inordinately depressing novel A Little Life, which Antoni has expressed his love of before. Now I’m glad that he’s putting his superfandom out there but, girl, if you want to see a gay book club self-immolate in about three minutes, ask them their feelings about A Little Life. It’s almost as divisive as whether or not Antoni can actually cook.
This episode featured some points for both camps. Antoni wanted to show Jason how to make Indian food, since it’s his favorite cuisine. So he takes him to a restaurant to have someone else show him how to make it. But then, when a Fab Five member needs to assist, Tan steps in to show him how to make some naan. Shoudn’t he be buying print tops at Bonobos? Antoni, let this man do his job and stop trying to get him to do yours. But later Antoni does show Jason how to fry up some nuts, and we all love it, mostly because we can make more puns about that than about when Karamo told Antoni he can’t put everything in his mouth and up his nose.
I loved that Bobby got out of the house and got to show Jason something more exciting about design. He took him to the Neon Company to help Jason make some hubcap and neon artwork, which he already had the idea for but was struggling with the follow-through. (That seemed to be a recurring theme.) This actually turned out really cool and, honestly, I would pay at least double the $100 that one of Jason’s friends paid for it at the silent auction at his going-away party. The antique speaker that they turned into a neon guitar amplifier wasn’t really my cup of tea, but at least it was neat-looking and gave him the confidence that he could complete something.
Bobby also did a great job using all of the cool old junk that Jason had collected and turning it into various and assorted tableaux and sitting rooms in Jason’s house. It looked like the coolest Airbnb in San Francisco, which I say as a huge compliment. When Bobby doesn’t have to buy all new furniture, paint rooms, and install all kinds of crap, he can actually do wonders with a space.
Tan sort of did the same thing. While he put him in some droopy linen blazers, which are perfect for a 50-year-old who has probably been to more than his fair share of Grateful Dead concerts, he also tailored some of Jason’s existing thrift store finds to make them hip and wearable. A guy with a mirror blazer in his closet has to have some style, right? The sweetest thing at the end of his visit is that Jason gave all of the guys one of his old, paint-splattered T-shirts to take with them. I think that each of the men who is made over on this show should give these five a gift. They get a new wardrobe, a new house, a cooking lesson, a haircut, and whatever the hell Karamo gives them. The least they could do is offer up a token of their gratitude.
But, shockingly, the best bits of the episode happened after the Fab Five had all left. They set Jason up with a killer going-away party complete with the aforementioned silent auction, a fire dancer with two serious tickets to the gun show, and an urn of fire for Jason to burn all of his regrets in. Yeah, even after the makeover he’s still a Burner. What none of them didn’t imagine was that Jason’s friend Beth, who nominated him to be on the show, was going to take a shine to this new Jason, like a real shine. Like putting those Magnums to use shine.
We get our first Queer Eye Epilogue and learn that Jason has decided against moving to Reno because he decided he has everything he needs in his life right there in Atlanta — including his new girlfriend Beth! That actually brought a little tear to my eye. Here I was hoping there would be an intervention, but the brilliant thing about this show is that the Fab Five didn’t have to tell him what to do with his life. They gave him the tools he needed to make his own decisions. After they left, he had the insight, confidence, and renewed perspective to see that the life he had wasn’t all that horrible, he just needed to capitalize on some of the things that were already there. And I’m so glad he learned that from an Escalade full of homosexuals and not, you know, stupid Burning Man.