I don’t know why this is part one of a two-part season finale. Is that because they knew this episode was a giant nothing burger so they wanted to make it seem more interesting by making it the separated conjoined twin to next’s week’s more conflict-filled episode? Seriously, this episode was like a fried chicken sandwich when you finish all the meat and all you’re left with is a quarter of a bite-marked bun filled with some pickles and cole slaw juice.
The episode starts with Shep leaving his trainer and calling his girlfriend, Taylor. He tells her that his trainer gave him some Cialis. “He said it helps with blood flow,” he told told Taylor. Girl, if your trainer is giving you Cialis it is not to help with blood flow. He is trying to see you get a boner in your gym shorts. I can’t believe Shep fell for that old trick. It’s like his trainer is basically Bugs Bunny dressed up as a woman trying to make Elmer Fudd fall in love with him. After that call, Shep calls Pringle, who tells him that his kids just left after spending the summer there and he’s sad. Shep says he has a way to get over that.
His solution is to take him to a “break room,” one of those places where you pay to smash dishes, old appliances, and obsolete electronics like they’re the fax machine in Office Space, except that Jennifer Aniston and her flair will be nowhere to be found. Do these things even exist in the wild? I have only seen them on reality television programs and I have never actually known one person to go to one. Is this a myth that has been perpetuated on us by the Bravo Industrial Complex? Is this like Priv, but installed in a mini-mall somewhere near you? Anyway when that doesn’t work they decide to throw a pool party to get everyone together at a friend of Pringle’s house. Well, either that or the producer told them they needed a finale party and they rented out an AirBnB and are saying it’s Pringle’s friends house. (Doesn’t the house look remarkably similar to the house where Cameran had her first post-baby wild party last season?)
Across town, Madison goes over to Austen’s house. Why? I don’t know. This all seems messy, but at least we go to see Madison in her new confessional look with it’s deep-yellow glow, like a bottle of Grey Poupon buffed to perfection. Madison is there to talk about their altercation the week before at the private island party. Madison says, at least in her confessional, that she acted like an asshole and felt bad. But their conversation is just nuts. Austen says he doesn’t want Madison dating other dudes because he’s not over her and still in love with her. Madison says she’s over Austen, but also tells him that she doesn’t want him dating other girls. “If you’re asking for my permission to date another girl, you don’t have it,” she says. Um, then how do you expect him to get over you? Either you two need to really break up or just get back together and torture each other until you throw yourselves into a volcano of your unhappiness and burn up into a little, tiny Pompeii cinder. I hate to say it, but Craig is right. Craig is right about all of it.
While they’re squabbling, Kathryn is at home opening a can of Coke with her front teeth and it is singlehandedly the most disgusting thing I have ever seen and I have seen every single Love Island challenge where the couples have to spit food from one mouth to the other. She’s talking to her friend Jackie about how unfair it is that people are issuing death threats against her online after she went on a racist tirade against a black radio host. “I’m really hurt, man,” she says, and she’s upset that none of her “friends” (i.e. castmates) defended her and said that Kathryn is not racist. Well, that’s the problem. What Kathryn did is racist and she’s refusing to take the blame or accountability for it.
She says the only person she needs to apologize to is the radio host and she’s done that. Well, I’m sorry, Kathryn. When you engage in racist behavior in a public forum or as a public figure, you not only need to apologize to the victim, you also need to apologize to the public. Until that is complete and until you try to learn from your mistakes, you will never be forgiven. And, I’m sorry, I have a hard time drumming up sympathy for a woman getting death threats for doing something awful when there are black people walking around this country scared for their lives every day for doing absolutely nothing. Maybe if she tried to understand that she would be in a better place.
I love something Leva said later in the episode when talking to Shep about how he won’t hold Kathryn accountable for her actions. She said, “I don’t believe in cancel culture, I don’t believe there’s any room for growth there.” I found that really insightful. Just demanding that she get out of public life isn’t going to rehabilitate Kathryn, it’s actually just going to harden her against the good work the cancellers are trying to do. But, like Leva says, Kathryn isn’t being held accountable. Rather than losing her job at Gwynn’s, which she doesn’t seem to miss very much, all of the men in the group keep defending Kathryn.
Leva leaves the conversation with Shep with him basically saying that he doesn’t want to bring this up around Kathryn because he doesn’t want to cause drama. She says that is the very definition of white privilege, where he sticks his head in the sand and does nothing because it doesn’t affect him. I also think that Leva is getting a lot of heat this season for standing up for what she believes in, but she is put in that position because no one else will do it. She was nothing but nice to Kathryn and really went out of her way to have an honest conversation with her about why what she did was wrong and how to fix it. Kathryn is repaying her by going around town and telling people that Leva hates her and is trying to turn people against her. That is more emotional labor that she doesn’t need. Ultimately racism isn’t a problem that people of color need to solve, it is a problem that white people need to solve, and the more they pretend like it’s not an issue the worse it gets.
This happens again when Leva is talking to Craig — who is looking hotter but dopier than ever — and Pringle, who tells Leva he doesn’t think that coming at Kathryn again and again is going to change her, like Leva did on the boat the week before. I see his point, but Leva tried talking calmly to Kathryn and it didn’t work. People have tried to confront her all sorts of different ways and she’s just entrenching herself in being wrong. Then we find out that the guys didn’t even know the extent of what she said to the radio host, including comments like, “Do you even know who your father is?” They were both like “WHHHHAAAAAATTTTTTT???” and their jaws hung open and Craig’s caught 14 flies which he put in his pocket to use for bait later. Yead, dudes. Exactly. Maybe it’s time to be like, “Kathryn, this is bad and you need to do more.”
Madison and Venita seem a bit more skeptical of Kathryn and her motives. They bring up an article that came out claiming that Kathryn orchestrated dating a black guy to rehabilitate her image. This came from very well-known journalistic bastion All About the Tea, the winner of five Pullzittzer Prizes. They’re both standing in the mirror doing their makeup in front of a ring light and looking at the side of their eyes at each other saying, “Girl,” “Girl,” “Girl,” “Girl,” for about 192 minutes straight because, girl. Then we see Madison put on a Missoni-inspired, multicolored-stripe bathing suit with a fringe that goes around it and it is the best thing I have ever seen on television and, for a minute, I want to be a woman just so I can wear it and I can go into that pool party and tell Shep and Craig, and Austin and Pringle, and even that ugly friend of theirs who shows up at the party that I have a little bit of Cialis and it’s really going to help with their blood flow after working out. That, right there, is science people.