Luckily for all of us, Kathryn’s parade of vacation fashions continues like a Mardi Gras float that refuses to go home long into the last days of April. The best of this episode’s outfits is the one she wears to the hot springs, featuring a pink Muppet-skin jacket with a matching hot-pink hat, pink heart-shaped Lolita sunglasses, and a pair of white Moon Boots that the ’80s is happy to relinquish to our timeline for fashion purposes. What makes this outfit even better is that once she strips down to get into the restorative water, there’s a hot-pink bikini underneath.
Of course Kathryn packed a bathing suit for this trip. Okay, kiddos, let me offer you some real adult travel advice here: Always pack a bathing suit. It’s obvious if you’re going to a tropical beach location, but every time you pack a suitcase there should be some swim trunks or a one piece in there. You never know what’s going to happen. Even if you’re in Copenhagen for Valentine’s Day, you don’t know if there is going to be a hotel pool, a co-ed hot tub, or a trip to some sort of luxury spa in your future. Usually I think the Boy Scouts are assholes, but they’re right about that always be prepared nonsense.
Know what happens when you’re not prepared, like Shep? You end up going to the hot springs and having to borrow a bathing suit out of the abandoned bathing-suit box, which is like an orphanage for crabs. If any of us are wondering how Shep might have gotten chlamydia, it is from borrowing someone’s swimsuit. Can you imagine putting your private parts in the compromised mesh where someone else’s have been first? And not just anyone’s junk, someone so dumb, drunk, or scatterbrained that he left his swim trunks behind in a public locker room? I need to remember this for next season of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills because there is definitely a “PK, a box of abandoned swim trunks at the Strawberry Park Hot Springs” in my future.
Gross swimming togs aside, the final lap of the Colorado vacation is quite a thing to behold. The morning after the weed party, the houses — which honestly look identical to every single ski condo that I have ever stayed in — have been ravaged by hordes of drunk and stoned southerners. There are empty beer cans and half-ravaged bags of Chips Ahoy everywhere. This makes me sad because of all the supermarket cookies they went for Chips Ahoy? I mean, did the Safeway not have Fudge Stripes? Was there not a Chips Deluxe with M&M’s?
Cameran and Whitney choose to leave the trip early. Cameran says it’s to spend more time with her daughter, and, honestly, the footage of her and Palmer at the aquarium where Cameran realizes that maybe she is cut out to be a mother after all made me cry even harder than when I watched Real Steel on a plane. Whitney is leaving for less pure reasons. I think the real reason is because he hates being on this show that he created. It is also coupled with something Craig elucidates quite succinctly: “It’s infuriating that Whitney is leaving because he’s embarrassed he had sex with Kathryn because it doesn’t fit into his vain idea of himself.” That is the harshest, truest read I have ever read, and that it comes from addled wildebeest Craig Conover (who believes that bears are a type of “ferocious cat”) makes it that much more harsh.
At the hot springs, Austen and Madison — who woke up in bed together that morning — have a discussion about the future of their relationship. Austen says they have been having so much fun on the trip and he wishes things could always be like this for them. She tells them that it can be, but that he needs to stop sleeping with all of Charleston and not expect her to make dinner for him but sit around waiting until midnight while he goes out with his friends. This sounds like an exceptionally rational request.
We also learn during this conversation that Madison is a single mother, something that, if it has been brought up before, has completely eluded me. Austen says that he is not ready to be a stepdad, which makes this whole thing with Madison make so much more sense. She wants a nice, stable environment for herself and her son, and Austen wants to have three-ways with girls who will record him for their Insta Stories. I mean, replace girls with boys and same, so I get it. But also, Madison is looking for compromise, and that is what one has to do to have an adult relationship. She finally says to him, “I think you love me, but not enough.”
It seems like they aren’t getting back together after all, which upsets Madison. She then decides that she is going to start shit with Shep, which, really, is a bad idea. Their argument starts in meta fashion, with them arguing about who is a better arguer. Madison then says, “You want to deal in facts?” as she raises one eyebrow and gives him the kind of glinty smile that is usually reserved for an eel about to feast. She then tells everyone that Austen told her that Shep gave Danni chlamydia.
This devolves into an insane fight and I’m not quite sure how to parse all of it. First of all, let’s attack the claim itself. Both Shep and Danni deny that he gave her the clap, but no one ever denies that they slept together, so we can take that for a statement of fact. And while they both initially issue denials, we’ve all been around enough political and reality-TV liars (ahem, Jax Taylor) to know that a reflexive denial does not mean it’s not true. When Danni is talking about it with Kathryn she never says, “Why would she lie?” instead she says, “Why would she say that?” Also, when Austen and Naomie are talking later and Austen recounts the story to her, she says, “Shep will forgive you for telling his secret.” It’s not a lie; it’s a secret. That means, to me, Shep really gave her the clap.
To me, that’s no big deal. I’ve had it. I’ve given it to people. That’s just the way the world works. To quote an early Girls episode, all adventurous women have gotten it. No big deal. But of course, to them, it’s a big deal. It’s also a big deal that Madison used something in an argument that Austen told her in confidence. It’s also a big deal that Madison would go so far to flatten someone in an argument.
Shep finishes by saying, “Now you’ve hurt me, Danni, Austen, and yourself. I told you I could argue you into the ground.” It’s sort of a victory by self-immolation because he is absolutely correct. She has gone way too far to win. That is what drives Austen away again. All of this is going down, with Madison sulking on the couch as everyone else swans around her in an opera of outrage, before they all have to get on a bus and spend four hours driving back to the airport. And if we needed further proof that Eliza Doolittle is a waste of space, she literally sleeps through this entire fight.
Once everyone is back in Charleston, this fight creates two interesting conversations. The first is between Madison and Kathryn. Madison, who seriously needs to be brought back as a full-time character instead of Breathe Right Nose Strips spokesperson Eliza, says, “I used the only thing I had and I hurt Danni,” and wants to make things right with Kathryn’s help. Kathryn seems onboard because she’s pleased that, unlike everyone else, Madison is not afraid of Shep and is willing to stand up to him. Hard cosign on that. Then she says, “Guys around here are so quick to jump on the girls … I think us girls should stick together. That’s the only thing that is going to make men change is if none of us accept the bullshit.” Even harder cosign.
This is the weird thing about this whole episode: I still don’t get what everyone’s problem with Madison is. Yes, she shouldn’t have said that about Shep and Danni on camera. Yes, she shouldn’t have betrayed Austen’s confidence, but why did everyone hate her in the first place? To me she seems like a smart, confident, and articulate (as well as gorgeous) woman who has made nothing but valid points about her relationship with Austen who, need I remind you, got caught on Instagram having a three-way while dating her.
Shep, on the other hand, is a bully not just to her but to everyone around him. Shep is such an odd character because it seems like he’s such a good-time guy, but he will also level anyone like ten sticks of dynamite. We also see his awful relation to women when he has a conversation with Austen about what went down. “Did you ever think about telling her to shut the fuck up?” he yells at Austen.
“Maybe you should learn not to,” Austen rightly retorts and reminds Shep that is why he’s never had a girlfriend. These two conversations illustrate that this show continues to be about the tensions of old-minded men in a world of women’s empowerment. Austen seems to be trapped between the two worlds, trying to please his good-old-boy friends but also be caring enough to have a relationship with a modern woman.
Austen is going to have to make a choice between one side or the other. Once Shep makes it about class by saying, “This is what happens when you bring someone in who just don’t belong, who belongs in a honky-tonk bar sitting on a stool that’s a saddle talking to Tonya at the end of the bar,” I feel like Austen’s choice should be relatively clear.