At its deep, Dixie-fried core Southern Charm is a show about asshole men and the women that choose to love them for some inexplicable reason that most likely comes from generational trauma. Thomas and Kathryn, Craig and Naomie, Austen and both girls from his three-way that was caught on social media. It is, as the great philosopher Mrs. Potts sang, a tale as old as time, and it is really on display in this episode.
Just look at Shep and Taylor. Actually, just look at Taylor, don’t look at Shep. Imagine Shep in his season one greatness walking out of the surf in a bathing suit before he got the body of a guy who sells Whip-Its out of the back of a van at Dave Matthews concerts. Shep meets with Pringle, who popped into being a dad and now can’t stop. Shep tells him that Taylor had a pregnancy scare, but he’s thankful she ended up just being late.
The fact that he doesn’t want kids but neither of them are using protection is the first of all the mixed signals and perhaps the dumbest thing I ever heard. It’s like having a Weight Watchers meeting next to a Krispy Kreme. The other mixed-signal is that Taylor is talking about getting married and having kids and Shep is like, “I want to move to Australia for six months.” Even Austen, voted one of the ten slimiest guys on Raya by Toxic Bachelor magazine, says that Shep is reaching a “shit or get off the pot” moment with Taylor.
What Shep wants is a non-monogamous relationship where he doesn’t use protection but also can’t have kids and can just take off whenever he sees fit. There is one solution to that: Be gay. That is your only choice. Open relationships (at least among gay men) are so common that they almost seem regular; no one will pressure you to have a child, and you can raw dog it as much as you like and your little swimmers will just jumble around in confusion looking for an egg but just run into last night’s curry. Get Shep a PReP prescription and some gay conversion therapy because a Friend of Dorothy is the best place for him.
I don’t think he wants to give up the ladies, though, which means he will either have to marry Taylor and have a kid with her or grow into a gross old man entrapping 21-year-olds like Thomas Ravenel. Every relationship is about compromise, but Shep wants it all on his own terms, like the spoiled tapped beer keg that he is. The funny thing is, I bet if Shep married Taylor and had a couple of kids, he would settle into it and never understand why he resisted for so long. Instead, he’s like, “I don’t know where I’m going to be in six months.” Yes, you do, dude. You’re going to be in Charleston wearing the same grimy long-sleeved T-shirts with shorts filming this here reality show. Your life isn’t as wild as you think it is; you’re just being stupid.
There are some toxic bachelors in good relationships, though. Just look at Whitney humoring his mother by chauffeuring her to the vegetable stand and serving her warm champagne in the back of the Rolls. This was just a nice, sweet scene and possibly my favorite of the episode. There is one thing I’m calling bullshit on, though. Whitney cannot be a vegan. I have had dinner with him, and while I don’t remember what he ordered, he did not bring up being a vegan even once. That is the least vegan thing I have ever heard. Usually, the line they lead with is about how they can’t have that kind of beer because it has honey. “You know I’m vegan, right? Just look at my glowing skin but don’t taste my disgusting spunk.” Whitney never said anything of the sort, which means he’s lying or the only tolerable vegan on earth.
Strangely enough, the most toxic relationship might be between Craig and Austen. Craig gets on the phone with his girlfriend Paige in New York to talk about their friendship problems. (When did this become a show about people sitting in traffic talking on speaker while they hold the phone in one hand?) Paige tells him they need to sit down and talk about it before it festers and blows up. Yeah, that is such a female way to handle this situation. Boys don’t roll like that. They don’t talk about their feelings at all for like a decade, and then one day they go to see Black Panther 7 together and one of them gets up to get popcorn and then just never returns and they never talk again.
Our Craigy knows he’s on a reality-TV show, so he gets Austen to cancel his busy afternoon of sandwich eating to meet in a park and talk about what is going on. Craig ultimately feels like Austen is out to get him and keeps betraying his trust, which seems on full display not only here but also on Summer House. Austen is mad that the two of them were basically in a relationship together, and now that Craig has Paige they’re not hanging out as much. Well, yeah, dude. Craig also says, “Why would I want to hang out with someone who keeps throwing me under the bus.”
But I can’t be all #TeamCraig here, as much as I would like to stan for a man who is so normcore he doesn’t even realize he’s dressing like a manager at Best Buy. Craig is throwing him under a bus too. When he finds out that Madison will announce her engagement to the world’s hottest frat boy on Amazon Live (I refuse to let this be a thing), he pulls it up on his phone and forces Austen to watch. That is not what a friend does. A friend distracts him from it, and when he finds out, he says, “She’s awful. You dodged all the bullets. Let’s go to the strip club and not talk about it.” That is how guys roll, but Austen and Craig seem to be on the path to mutually assured destruction. Well, I feel like they were always on that path, but before, it was like them getting wasted and accidentally Thelma and Louise-ing into a South Carolina swamp. Now it just seems like they’re in some sort of social media stalemate.
The final relationship we need to revel in like a gravely puddle in a Publix parking lot is Kathryn and Chleb, two people whose abnormality is right there in the spelling of their names. It’s hard for me to judge what this breakup is really like because we know so much about Kathryn and so little about Chleb. I think he’s right when he says that Kathryn only wants things her way and she doesn’t make room for him to have his own feelings. But then again, we’ve watched Kathryn get out of so many bad relationships, is it any wonder that she wants to be the one in control now?
But we’ve also seen enough of Kathryn to know that she will never be happy and that no matter what Chleb does, he will never meet her needs. I think this is one of those situations where neither of them is equipped to be in a relationship — or they’re at least not equipped to be in this relationship — and they’re doing the right thing by calling it quits.
It is horrible to watch, not only because I was mystified by whatever toggle was keeping Kathryn’s half-caftan by Vivienne Westwood Gold Label (that’s a Chloe reference). I also felt bad for those poor, lonely, half-assed meatballs. Kathryn calls Chleb’s mom and asks her what to do, and Debbie says that Kathryn should make a nice dinner and they should try to make up. But this is not a nice dinner; this is a breakup meal. She lights candles. You do not light candles for a breakup. You light all of his shit on fire in the bathtub and try not to Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez the place.
After they decide to end things and Chleb goes upstairs to pack 12 pairs of workout shorts into one of those free Nike backpacks, Kathryn gets up and scrapes all of her uneaten meatballs into the trash. What a waste! She’s going to be so mad in about an hour after she has a good cry, watches two episodes of The Sex Lives of College Girls, and her appetite finally returns. Then she’ll go down to the kitchen and there will be nothing to eat, nothing to even warm up. She’ll just stare into the trashcan, her mini sweatshirt holding onto her bust for dear life, and wonder, just wonder, how she ever got into this situation and how she can get her meatballs out of it.