My condolences to the Kathryn-Shep shippers, and to the Kathryn-Whitney shippers, if there is such a thing as a Kathryn-Whitney shipper: KCD has found herself a man. The good news is that he isn’t Thomas. The bad news is that he might as well be.
“His name’s Joseph, but I call him Joe,” Kathryn explains. Joseph — excuse me, Joe — is a “senator” (a state senator, in point of fact) from Florida. At 38, he is 12 years older than Kathryn, but still young enough that 56-year-old TRav could be his father. He is handsome, like a young, narrow-faced Stanley Tucci with neither the actor’s facial hair nor his charisma. So concludes the list of positive things I am currently prepared to say about this person.
Joseph Abruzzo is, as Craig puts it, a “disgraced politician,” accused of domestic violence by his estranged wife. (A rigorous statistical analysis of six seasons of this television program has led me to conclude that one in every five people in the South is a disgraced politician.) Then again, he’s been endorsed 14 times for “Government” on LinkedIn, a legislative legacy that speaks for itself. The senator isn’t technically divorced yet, but on the bright side, he hasn’t been to prison.
Kathryn — who also may or may not have just purchased and subsequently repainted a Rolls-Royce, but I’m afraid I only have the emotional capacity to unpack one incredibly inadvisable life decision per cast member, per episode — is smitten, despite the visceral alarm her new love interest causes everyone around her. It’s meant to be! They both wear sunless tanner!
But there’s another relationship that, according to my battlefield-tested recap triage system, we must attend to first. Rumor has it that Madison, Austen’s much-despised (by Shep anyway) girlfriend, has continued the couple’s already impressive infidelity streak. Updating third-grade dating etiquette for the digital era, Madison supposedly enlisted a friend of hers to DM Danni’s boyfriend and tell him that Madison thinks he’s hot and wants to meet up.
Shep and my sweet li’l baby boy Craig — who’s driving a brand-new Jeep he purchased as a “breakup gift” to himself, specifically so that he can give any girls who might stay over at his place a ride home — invite Austen out for an intervention unconvincingly disguised as lunch.
“Uhhh, so,” Craig opens, strongly. “Hold on. I’m trying to … I don’t know why I’m so fucking spacey right now.”
“Craig, tell Austen the information that you have, please,” Shep demands. This entire scene is some of Craig and Shep’s finest work as Charleston’s premiere comedy duo, part Abbott and Costello, part Vladimir and Estragon.
CRAIG: So, unfortunately, like, we came across some shit that like, we were like —
SHEP: We’re telling you because we love you.
CRAIG: Obviously, just as friends, we’re not being —
SHEP: This gives us no joy, but —
CRAIG: Obviously have to portray this information to you —
SHEP: This isn’t, like, a Deep Throat Watergate situation.
AUSTEN: Sorry, what?
Austen’s immediate talk of a “witch hunt” and “fake news” sounds like a transcript of any given episode of Fox & Friends, but once Danni recounts the story clearly and credibly over the phone, his Kübler-Ross journey levels up from Denial to Anger. Shots of Jameson are poured. Shep reassures Austen he shouldn’t feel compelled to break up with Madison in person. “Tuesday,” Craig suggests. “It’s always got to be a Tuesday.” I would love nothing more than for Craig to deliver me a detailed explanation of why, in fact, it has to be a Tuesday, but there’s no time. For one thing, as Austen points out, it is Tuesday.
Austen channels his distress into action, marching Craig and Shep to the bar across the street. “I kind of need you to take this journey with me,” he pleads, as the other men consent to shotgunning booze-spiked cans of Red Bull alongside him. “I’m shaking in my knees because Austen’s going to be single,” Craig muses, as if shaking in my knees were an expression on this or any planet.
The three friends are celebrating a breakup that technically hasn’t happened yet, when who should call Austen’s phone but Madison? He refuses to pick up at first, naturally, but the other two talk him into calling her back and ending it.
“I just got pulled aside by, you know, Shep and Craig tonight about … things,” he tells his for-now girlfriend.
“That’s not a thing,” Madison insists.
“That is what I know to be a fact,” Austen insists right back.
Madison mounts a half-hearted defense about her friend having hooked up with Gentry herself, but Austen is unswayed (please assume that this and all drunk-talk contained herein is [sic]): “Nothing that’s actually happened but what you’re telling me is that that’s true.” Finally, she admits he’s right.
“Congrats for hitting on Danni’s boyfriend,” Austen zings Madison as he hangs up, riding that wave of righteousness back into the bar, where he offers Didi and Gogo an ambiguous, high-energy, vaguely sports-y hand gesture that sort of combines the washout and pass-interference signals. Then he starts crying, as one does in these situations. Who among us?
Shep comes in for a hug. Craig toasts to the three of them. Austen, wounded, is not having any of it. “I just had a fucking conversation with the person that I thought that really mattered in my life, ’kay?” he says. “So, please, have a little bit of fucking compassion.”
Given that Austen and Madison are seemingly still together in time and space, I guess she’s still the person that he thought that really mattered in his life after all.