At one point during the beach party formerly known as Austen’s birthday, Shep looks over to his girlfriend Taylor and says, “What if we got stuck here?” to which she quickly replies, “We are stuck here.” Yes, they were trapped, as were we, at what will go down, I believe, as the worst party in Bravo history. Yes, I am also including the Dinner Party from Hell in that list, because at least that was over quickly and the participants could, in theory, leave at any moment. The problem with a private island party, much like a party on a boat, is that one has to stay there for the entire duration of the event. You can’t just drop in and bounce when it gets tedious or multiple parties want to hold you accountable for something, like your history of racism. A private island party is like Sartre’s No Exit but with bar service.
Let’s start with the party itself, which looked gorgeous but we can all admit was poorly planned by Tara, the party coordinator. First of all, it’s outside, on the beach in July in South Carolina. Apparently it’s 90 degrees, which is why everyone spends so much time hiking up their flowing skirts and honey Dijon-colored khakis to wade into the water. Well, except for Shep, who didn’t get the memo and dressed in a trashy graphic T-shirt, a pair of bright green swim trunks with toucans on them, and a beach hat that your dad would wear to the beach when you were 13 and would make you shout, “But Daaaaaad. DAAAAAaaaDDD” the whole way there. Then he and Taylor, who also dressed scruffy per Shep’s instructions, go swimming and are left just dripping like a bunch of day-dunk crawfish on what was supposed to be an elegant summer affair.
What Tara should have done was have a tent big enough that all sides of the table would have been in the shade the entire dinner. That seems good. And maybe put up some sort of baffle against the breeze, which is whipping sand in the face of all of the guests. It gets so bad at one point that Danni starts picking it out of her teeth like she just ate a poppyseed bagel.
And can we talk about the food? It all looks amazing, but there is this giant table with only one sharesies plate in the middle and tongs? And some shrimp kebabs you’re supposed to pass around the table family style? Girl, it is too hot and sandy for all of this finery. Give me some gazpacho in a thermos and Klondike bar and call it an afternoon.
But what really made this party awful was all of the people who were there. The problems start early, when Madison calls up Austen and tells him that he shouldn’t come to the party that was supposed to be his birthday party before Madison dumped his ass for being a loser who can’t get his beer into cans. She tells him that it’s because Craig said she is leading him and told him it was best to stay away. After they hang up, Austen calls Craig to be like “WTF, broseph?” and Craig just grunts repeatedly into the receiver while trying to pronounce the name of a French wine that he’s running through the aerator in his kitchen. Then he switches over to Madison, who’s calling him repeatedly. As he switches we see that Austen’s phone doesn’t just have a crack in the screen, it is absolutely shattered and hasn’t been fixed, which of course is the way that Austen’s phone is. Madison then reinvites Austen and says he can come if he can stop being so “psycho ex-boyfriend” about it. Um, you’re the one who just called him repeatedly until he picked up. I think there’s enough psycho to go around. It’s like there is a kiddie pool of psycho lying there in the middle of the floor and the two of you are about to go psycho wrestling in it like it’s KY Jelly and you’re at an Orlando Spring Break Party.
Then, of course, Austen shows up at the party. At first I was like, “Oh, that’s really shitty. You already told her you’re not coming, you couldn’t give her a heads up that you changed the RSVP?” But later, Craig says he was on the phone with Austen and Madison all morning. Yes, Madison called and disinvited him the morning of the party. Girl, that is some ice-cold bullshit right there. That is even colder than the polar ice caps because that shit is melting and there is no way that behavior is going to melt ever.
When Austen gets there, Madison is floored even though not eight hours beforehand he was supposed to be there. She even had one of the engraved glasses that double as place cards made for him. When he gets there she says to him, “I think it’s silly that now you want to come and you want to have this big dick energy when you don’t.” Okay, we need to tease this out. Does she mean that he is showing BDE when he usually doesn’t have that energy, or does she mean that he’s showing BDE when she knows he has a small dick? Did Madison just insult Austen’s dick in public? I told you man, she is cold as ice, paradise.
Why he would want to be there makes no sense to me, though. The two of them spend the entire party needling each other. Austen doesn’t want to sit in his seat so he keeps moving around. Madison doesn’t want him near her and tries to keep moving him, but he won’t move even when other guests show up. Oh yes. Another problem with the party is that not everyone arrived on time, so there are these huge gaps in the table and no one there is friends with Leva’s guests Other Madison and Venita, and Austen and Madison are starring in a production of The Bickersons, so everyone just sits there picking sand out of their teeth and wondering if they could weave together all the dead seaweed on the beach to make a raft to make it to safety. And to make it all worse, Madison popped flirting with Pringle and then she couldn’t stop, even when Austen’s sitting in between the two of them.
When Craig arrives late with Kathryn, he and Austen and their matching outfits decide that they should have a chat about what he said to Madison. Craig tells him that the two of them together are awful and that they shouldn’t be together. They shouldn’t even hang out right now, even though they work at the same shop (and that shop is a reality TV show). Last season when Shep and Craig kept telling Austen he shouldn’t be with Madison I thought they should shut up and let him do whatever he wants. A season later, after seeing them together and how mean they are to each other, I finally get it. These are two people who clearly push each other’s buttons intentionally and really should not be around each other, for their own good and for the good of everyone surrounding them.
Then Kathryn shows up and half of the people at the table have beef with her, mostly Danni, who she continues to take advantage of, and Other Madison, who employed Kathryn until she went on a racist tirade against someone online. I’m seriously tired of talking about Kathryn this season, though she does have a “convenient Black boyfriend” now who also shares the last name of her abusive ex so, yeah, things are going swimmingly in Kathryn-land. It’s just the same story over and over with her. She does something awful, she refuses to apologize, she thinks everyone is against her, and when they try to talk about it she runs away. She keeps saying, “I don’t want to do this in a public setting,” but she won’t talk to anyone in private, so this is the only time they have to bring it up. The baseline is just this: Kathryn needs to do some soul searching and find her part of the blame in all of this — in every conflict she’s ever had — and until she does that she’s just going to keep having conflicts and hardships until the day she keels over in a townhome somewhere.
A more interesting problem that is new this episode is how the guys are treating the women while they are having arguments. This show has always been about jerkface boys and the wonderful women who shouldn’t put up with them (and Kathryn). When Danni and Kathryn don’t want to hash it out, Craig essentially forces them into a dialogue that Danni doesn’t want to have and that will be entirely fruitless. When Craig accuses an upset Danni of being irrational, Leva tells him to be quiet because she is being rational. “Guys and girls must have different definitions of rational,” he says. “Our arguments are actually valid because they fuck with each other’s lives but their shit is all emotional.” Oh god, shut entirely up, Craig.
Things kick off again on the boat ride home when Other Madison tries to talk to Kathryn, who insists, once again, that the people online calling her a racist are just “bullies.” She gets up and goes to sit on the “boys side” of the boat. Leva goes to sit in front of her to tell Kathryn something she’s needed to hear. “Your entire life you’ve felt like everyone is against you, and they’re not. I’m not against you,” she says. Kathryn and her victim complex need to take that in. It’s not that people are against her, they’re trying to help her, but that comes with criticism, something that Kathryn is afraid to hear.
That’s when Austen decides to get in on it and says, “But you have to see why she felt like that. She’s being attacked by every woman on this boat.” Leva, lit up by all the sand in her teeth and rose tells Austen three times to “Shut the fuck up.” What she was trying to say was that Kathryn was offensive and used racist language and still Leva had a calm, civilized conversation with her to try to help and Austen is construing that as “attacking her.” She is entirely right and people have done way more for Kathryn than they should, considering that she has never apologized or taken responsibility for her actions.
Pringle tells Leva that she’s “being aggressive,” which is classic tone policing, and Austen tells Leva not to tell him to shut the fuck up and can’t listen to the rest of her argument. Then Madison stands up and tells Austen to shut the fuck up and then he tells her to shut the fuck up and then Craig tells his pillows to shut the fuck up and Shep tells everyone to shut the fuck up and Venita tells the producers to shut the fuck up an make her a cast member already and the boat tells the water to shut the fuck up and the seaweed tells the shore to shut the fuck up and the moon tells the sky to shut the fuck up and the sky finally listens and turns the volume down on everything until it is a quiet, shushing static.