There comes a day in many a dog’s life when a crazy rich lady decides you should wed. And today is that day for Patricia’s dog Peaches and Shep’s dog, Little Craig. The lavish display is both a representation of how starved for content this season is and a way to highlight the show’s overarching theme of fearing commitment — particularly as it pertains to Shep, the father of the groom.
He and Whitney take their future newlyweds for a walk while talking about their own aversions to marriage like a scene from a gender-reswapped revival of Company (Shep is Bobby and Patricia is Joanne, obviously). Shep digs deeper into his fear of marriage, linking it to a fear of failure because nobody in his family has ever gotten divorced. But Shep shouldn’t fear getting divorced; he’d be so great at it.
For years now, Shep’s whole deal has always been treated like an affliction, but to be fair, he’s been entirely consistent from the day we met him. How can anyone act shocked that he doesn’t want to settle down when that’s all he’s been saying for eight seasons (plus his short-lived spinoff RelationShep, which you cannot prove I watched in full)? Sure, the point can be made that Taylor shouldn’t be led down a dead-end street if he doesn’t want to get married, but doesn’t Taylor have basic cable? If so, she’s surely aware of this because he talks about it on television all the time.
As a testament to how low on footage this season is running, there’s a random digression from Austen while he’s on the phone with his sister, whose glasses remind him of Harry Potter. “Harry Potter had broken glasses — like, fix ’em, bro; you’re a wizard,” he says. And it simply must be said that Austen is an idiot because if you’ve ever seen Harry Potter, you know that as soon as he becomes a wizard, he famously gets his glasses fixed with magic. “Oculus Reparo,” you absolute fool! But no, he continues to embarrass himself by claiming Harry Potter is the only character in the wizarding world with glasses (literally not true, jester, but go off).
I simply can’t believe these are the kinds of brainless musings he makes that girls pretend to laugh at over a glass of Trop Hop on terrible dates all across Charleston. Anyway, the important part of this scene is him telling his sister he likes Olivia but wants to continue having fun. Let’s remember that as we watch on.
Meanwhile, Olivia and Taylor (whom I cannot tell apart) are getting lunch with Kathryn to fulfill their contractual obligations. We find out Kathryn wasn’t invited to the upcoming dog nuptials, which doesn’t make sense to me because she’s on this show, but nonetheless it gives us some breathing room from her antics. Plus it allows Kathryn to make me cackle as she drags the whole thing in her confessional by mockingly saying, “Oh, let’s have our dogs marry each other. You can come over to my house. I’ll host a lavish event!”
We also find out at this lunch that Olivia will be bringing a date to this wedding — a date who is not Austen Kroll. Then a choir rushed into the restaurant singing “Joyful, Joyful” from Sister Act 2. I might have imagined that part, but she definitely has a new date that Shep’s cousin Marcie set her up with, and nobody sees any reason to give Austen a heads-up ahead of time.
I’m obsessed with Marcie. Her presence on this show brings me such joy because she is simply just some lady. Marcie does not have a glam squad; Marcie has a ChapStick next to a half-finished can of Diet Coke in her Toyota RAV4 cup holder. Marcie wanders into the frame every week with her sunglasses on her head because she happened to be around and drove past the cameras. Marcie will FaceTime into the reunion from a Target that has a Starbucks inside it. Marcie offers you a beer, wine, or Sprite when you enter her home. Marcie will sneak a cig outside the local Tricky Tray the second she pops that baby out. And best of all, Marcie has brought us the best thing to happen this season, both visually and story-wise: Olivia’s blind date, Zach.
Now, before we get to the action of the wedding day, I must acknowledge the editors’ interesting creative decision to break the episode into chapters with title cards featuring famous quotes about marriage. I must acknowledge this, but I will not engage with it because I do not need my reality shows to pretend to be books. That’s gaslighting.
To the surprise of nobody, Patricia didn’t hold back. The event features a full wedding cake with a Peaches and Little Craig cake topper, a vet officiant, Whitney playing the wedding march on his electric guitar, and best of all, Austen and Madison as the groomsman and bridesmaid, a construct implemented solely so someone will make a joke about the two of them walking down the aisle together after all. And to make Austen — who has refused to look Madison in the eye since she got engaged — squirm.
And if whining about this arrangement weren’t enough for Austen, in walks Olivia with Zach, which makes him visibly short-circuit. I know this is shocking, but remember before when he said he didn’t want to be exclusive and she should date other people? He was lying. Can you believe?
Craig arrives with Paige, and right away everyone freaks out because she doesn’t have a jacket, and by the looks of everyone, it is sub-zero in Charleston. Naomie takes it upon herself to shame Craig into giving Paige his jacket, which is an annoying thing to do. Imagine if someone butted in and told Kevin Arnold to give Winnie Cooper his Jets jacket. All the magic, gone — let Craig be chivalrous on his own. And why is nobody worried Craig will be cold now? But the absolute worst, most unforgivable part about this is Naomie messed up Craig’s outfit. And being the fashionista we know Craig to be, that was surely the deepest cut.
As the ceremony begins, everything is going wrong — the rain starts to come down, Peaches bolts from her leash, Venita’s dog, Charles, leaps down to the object, but all the while Shep is having the time of his life, beaming with joy as he carefully adjusts Little Craig’s top hat.
On the flip side, Austen drowns his sorrows at the reception, where Madison finally confronts him with a dog pun, saying she has a bone to pick with him. “What could you possibly dog on me for?” he retorts. These dog puns are too good to be true. Is somebody feeding them these lines, or has the ceremony just altered their brain chemistry? While they try to have a fight about him being an asshat after her engagement, the cast swarms around them like bugs to a lamp, some listening in, some just resting their feet, some having fully separate conversations like Patricia making Craig talk about marrying Paige in front of Naomie. Ultimately, it’s a “too many cooks” moment, and nothing goes anywhere.
Austen continues to cry “Woe is me” about having to sit on the altar with Madison and the fact that Olivia brought a date, but he sure perks up when Paige lets it slip that his Summer House fling, Ciara, happens to be in town. For those unfamiliar, Ciara is yet another victim of Austen’s douchebaggery, and now he plans on hooking up with her as revenge. He tells Shep he wouldn’t if it weren’t for the fact that Olivia showed up with “lumberjack chic,” a.k.a. Zach.
The thing is, Zach is not even dressed like a lumberjack. He’s not wearing plaid at all but rather a nice sweater and jacket. That’s how dumb Austen is, and he had all day to come up with this burn. If you’re going to just be mean to somebody for no reason, at least make sure your insults make sense. I simply cannot believe that Zach has to put up with this kind of tomfoolery, not just from Austen but from his own date, who calls him by the wrong name in her confessional. This is abhorrent, and Zach deserves better.
Meanwhile, Craig finds himself stuck in his own personal horror movie, where every time Naomie comes up to make pleasantries, it’s a jump scare. After spending the entire episode looking over his shoulder for Paige to come save him from her clutches, Naomie finally convinces a very reluctant Craig to have a conversation with her. She wants to get to the bottom of the awkwardness between them and clear the air, but she makes the mistake of drawing a comparison between their current situation and when she was dating Metul and Craig was the odd one out. Craig says this is a wildly false equivalency since Paige is great and Metul was terrible — which is true, but then he storms out, so we don’t get any kind of resolution.
Southern Charm — or Escape at the Kellie Pickler Factory, as I call it — poses an interesting sociological question: What if when people broke up and went their separate ways, we made them still film a television show together? Thus far, the answer to that question is you get a bad television show.