I was a little worried about what this season of Southern Charm would be likw. Would we just be stuck in this quarantine zone dealing with everyone being sick? Well, yes, a little bit. But it was nice of the show to get rid of all the COVID stuff in the first half of this episode so that the end of the hour could deal with two vicious (and by vicious I mean amazing) and very necessary breakups.
As the episode starts, Leva and her sister Mona are sitting in the park watching the statue of Kathryn’s not-so-great great-great-great-grandfather John C. Calhoun being taken down because he was a notorious slaveholder. Pringle is throwing the football with his two sons in a park nearby, and the hot dad tossing the pigskin and being responsible gave me all sorts of wonderful rumbles in the undercarriage. He is sure to let his boys know that his family has been in town for eight generations, but there is some part of his past he’s not willing to cop to, saying he doesn’t know if his family owned slaves.
“That doesn’t have to be my legacy,” he says. He is right; it doesn’t. But before that can be not his legacy, he at least has to acknowledge and disown the past. I mean, come on. If his family was in South Carolina that far back, they owned slaves. People owned slaves back then. It happened. Accepting that it’s a part of your history is the first step toward getting past it and disavowing it. Like a COVID-19 test, it is incredibly uncomfortable, but we all have to do it.
Leva says something very telling when watching the statue come down: “The silence in Charleston is deafening.” Yes, keeping quiet about it is just the same as condoning it. Pringle should have taken his sons to watch that statue come down, explained to them that his family owned slaves, and then told them why that is bad and that everyone should have the same opportunities. That is the way to make sure that slavery and institutional racism is not your legacy, but before you do that, you have to own that it existed.
Shep calls Pringle and tells him that he is basically the only person in the whole cast who is negative for SARS-CoV-2. Craig, Austen, Craig’s new girlfriend, Natalie, and Shep’s girlfriend, Taylor, are all positive. Because Taylor has the virus, Shep ships her off to live in Craig Conover’s home for wayward COVID partiers so at least she’s not alone while she gets over what seems to be a very mild case of the coronavirus. Taylor wants Shep to come over and get through it with her but, um, really sister? That’s the crazy thing about COVID-19. She might be fine, but she could give it to Shep, and then he could end up in the ICU. Having the virus together is not a relationship milestone, it’s stupidity — especially since Shep dodged this particular bullet in an almost miraculous way.
Shep is treating his exposure pretty seriously. When Danni comes over to have a little chat with him and have her dog run around in his backyard (which is amazingly not a euphemism for pegging), he stays indoors and he and Danni talk through the window on their phones like they’re in prison.
There were actually a lot of really great moments this episode. I love that Madison and Pringle brought their boys, who are all about the same age, together at the batting cages so that they could flirt while the little sluggers whiffed at a baseball on a tee. (Been there, done that, quit the T-ball team.) I’m going to be honest: I stan Madison and Pringle hardcore. They just seem like such a good match. They’re both mature and attractive; they both make a decent amount of money; they both have reasonable skills — even though Pringle’s skill seems to be that of a gambler who wears a bathrobe all day. But, hey, a dude’s gotta make a living.
Then, we see Craig pitching his pillows (again, not a euphemism for pegging) on HSN. At first, when his very dreamy business partner told him they would be going live on Skype from his house, I was more worried than a Netflix executive opening an email from Prince Charles. “Just make sure it’s clean,” Jerry, the dreamy partner, tells Craig. That’s sort of like asking Gritty to just make sure that his hair is brushed before a big meeting. You know that shit has about a 3 percent likelihood of happening (which is still a better chance than we have of Pringle’s ancestors not having owned slaves). But Craig kills it on air, is a handsome and captivating host, and sells out of 4,000 pillows. I couldn’t have been prouder if it was June and I was wearing a rainbow thong.
But for all of those great moments, there is some brutality as well. After he finally gets a few negative tests, Austen goes over to Madison’s house, and she is not holding back. I would just like to say that Madison is pretty much the only reason I keep watching this show. (That and the sweet Vulture paycheck I get every week.) She’s even friends with Venita, Leva’s friend from last episode who definitely needs to be a full-time cast member. She’s already an influencer. That’s basically like a reality-TV star without a speaking part.
Anyway, Madison just tells it like it is. When Austen comes over, she starts with, “Why do you keep fucking up?” Where do you go from there, Austen? She then tells him that she doesn’t want a six-foot-five man on her back treading water for the rest of her life. Shablam! Shablozzle. Shaffenfeffer Incorporated! She starts to get angry with Austen, but then she dials it back, falling into her tears like she’s tripping over a curb. Austen says he doesn’t know how to live without her and asks for another chance. “I’ve learned my lesson,” she tells him finally. “You’re not the one for me long-term. And with that said, you should go home.” Austen skulks out of the house silently, like a closet door shutting and just tapping against the door jamb.
Hopefully this is the wake-up call that Austen needs. What Madison really did was set him up for the next girlfriend. He will get his life together. He will do everything to prove her wrong. He’ll shave, start working harder, go back to the gym, and by the time all of the edges are buffed off and he’s grown up, someone will come along and snatch him up, and she better send Madison a big fat check for the maintenance she did on this fictitious woman’s future husband.
The other crazy breakup is between Kathryn and Danni, and this was a long time coming. It’s presaged by Kathryn’s conversation with Leva. Kathryn wants to connect with her to ask how she can make reparations for her racist attack against someone on Instagram. Leva does the right thing — something no one has had the guts to do — and tells Kathryn that this is her own fault. She lets Kathryn know that what she said was wrong, unequivocally, and that it is not a person of color’s job to walk her through the steps of apology. There are plenty of books for her to read. There are plenty of resources for her out there to learn her mistake and how to fix it. (An easy one would have been to show her face as her ancestor’s statue was taken down in the park.)
But Kathryn is not doing any of that. That is because Kathryn, much like Pringle but in a more egregious way, won’t even acknowledge the past. “I’m obviously not racist,” she tells Leva. She tells her that she didn’t mean the monkey emoji, but Leva explains to her that it’s more than that, that there is so much about her speech in that incident that was wrong.
Let me just say it flat out for Kathryn and everyone else out there: You are a racist. Yes, you. I am a racist. My husband is a racist. So is my mom, and so are the people down the street, and so is just about everyone reading this now. We are all the products of a racist society. We are socialized, from the minute we are conscious, to behave in ways that perpetuate white supremacy whether we know it or not. Some people accept that. We learn how to deprogram that racism. We learn what we need to do so that we don’t perpetuate that racism, and we try to do better. None of us will be perfect. None of us will do exactly the right thing all the time, but we can try, learn, improve, evolve. We can accept responsibility for our part in it and how we benefit from the current world order. Kathryn is completely incapable of all that. Kathryn can’t do it because she doesn’t even try.
This is most obvious when she goes over to Danni’s house. Kathryn has been treating Danni like an over-chewed dog toy for years now. (Remember when Kathryn locked herself in her house and wouldn’t answer the phone or the door, and Danni and Naomi stood out in the rain wondering if Kathryn had killed herself, and Kathryn wouldn’t even come to the door and tell her friends she was okay? Yeah, that’s the kind of asshole friend Kathryn is.) Kathryn is always the victim and can’t see how she could possibly be at fault. As soon as she walks in, she tells Danni that she’s more than 30 minutes late because she broke her high heel. Why was she wearing heels? She’s otherwise dressed for a workout class. If she had on sneakers, this wouldn’t have happened. Every calamity in Kathryn’s life — from her relationship with Thomas to her racist incident — is entirely preventable.
When Danni (who has one eye that is clearly less open than the other one to the point of distraction) says that Kathryn never reaches out to her or responds to her, Kathryn then says, “You don’t respond back to me either. Is that my fault?” See, everything is turned back around on Danni. Kathryn did nothing wrong. When Danni responds, Kathryn rolls her eyes. Danni asks if Kathryn did, in fact, roll her eyes. “Well, if my face did that, my face did that. If that was an eye roll, then I’m not an asshole.” Kathryn can’t even say, “Yes, that was an eye roll.” She is using her own face as a scapegoat. Even her bodily moments aren’t under her own control.
Then Kathryn tells Danni, “You’re always putting it on me like I’m the only person not putting any work into our friendship, and that’s not true.” It’s like the same with the racist language. It’s not her fault. She didn’t do it. It’s someone else’s problem. She’s being oppressed. Kathryn needs to listen to the great words of Heather Dubrow: “If everyone is saying you’re dead, it’s time to lie down.” Kathryn is dead. She is deader than her ancestor John C. Calhoun. She is deader than the enslaved people owned by Pringle’s family. She is deader than Patricia at seeing Craig succeed on HSN. She is deader than the stack of sticky tissues piling up under Austen’s “beat seat” now that Madison left him. Once she figures that out, and only then, will she be on her way to being reborn.