I hope you’re all well rested and recovered from your holidays because, over on Southern Hospitality, we’re resuming operations back at Lake Norman with a very poorly rested and very hungover gang. Considering I’ve now reached the age where one (1) cocktail sends me into a depressive episode for two days after consumption, watching these kids drink, drink more, and then drink again the very next morning is, to say the least, dizzying — so this week should be a fun one to watch!
To that end: Mikel leads the charge with an early-morning screwdriver, extra vodka, and Mia leads the conversation after being followed on Instagram by Ross Chastain, the NASCAR driver from last week. He’s the one Juhlilly — both a “woo-girl” and a “who?” girl — tried unsuccessfully to woo. It’s so good to be back!
Within minutes, Will earns an early MVP of the episode, using his phone camera to capture Juhlilly having an absolute meltdown on the bus ride to the gang’s party boat about, you guessed it, geopolitical issues and their ethical and moral ramifications! Just kidding, she ignites a fight when she rolls past Mia and calls her friend (a seemingly innocent bystander who’s dating a guy Juhlilly fancies) a slut. “There’s a part of her that’s crying out for help,” Mikel says of his friend, to which I say, Just a part? “It usually always is the man’s fault, though,” Maddi adds, to which I say, “Absolutely, bestie.”
The fallout continues on the boat with Juhlilly conceding she is looking for love, she does want a partner, and she would be a good mother and wife (to which Mikel demurs in a confessional as hard as anyone has ever demurred on-camera before). But what does love even look like to Juhlily, you may ask? “I need you commenting on all my Instagram posts and liking all my pictures,” she says with a sigh, adding poignantly (God, I love this woman and this show): “Love is a losing game … Amy Winehouse.”
I could spend the next two paragraphs writing about how totally over the argument Juhlilly says she is as she guzzles alcohol, how Mikel calls her “a bitch, but a nice bitch,” how Juhlilly turns to theatrics and crocodile tears to avoid having to meaningfully engage with her wrongdoings, but it’s 2023, and I’ve decided to leave mess and baggage behind. So instead, we’ll focus on Mikel hurling himself off the boat at an attractive male passerby (swimmerby?) to invite him to the house that night. Love always wins!
Back in Charleston, Leva is fretting about Martini Monday. The boss is worried that because her employees are taking their agreed upon and prescheduled vacation (important to note this! They all got these days cleared by her and production! To film! This! Very! Show!), Republic may not attract a crowd. “If the kids aren’t posting, I don’t have a business — and that is not okay by me,” she says, suggesting she hired them to promote Republic 24/7. Is she paying them 24/7? Are they on a monthly contract? Do they get paid per post? If so, hell yeah, call them up on the pontoon and boss them around! But are they actually getting paid minimum wage plus tips plus a reality show’s likely very slim first-season paycheck? Then leave them alone, please. And Southern Hospitality cast: Put your phones on “Do Not Disturb” when you’re off the clock and support your own healthy work-life boundaries, kings and queens!
Leva also somehow happens to catch the wind (courtesy of producers and a camera crew) that her employees are promoting their abs and beer-soaked asses (sorry, Mom, I write what I see) on social media. Two things here: First off, kids, this is a great lesson that, when you film things like this and when a crew for a major network films you filming those things, your digital footprint of that day lives forever. I’m all for posting ass on main! Go right ahead! But I also thank my ancestors daily that I didn’t have social media before my prefrontal cortex was fully formed because, good God, I know I would be mortified to see my past in living, breathing color. However, there’s a second takeaway: Log off and leave your employees alone, Leva! “It’s absolutely my business,” Leva says. Juhlilly posting coochie (her words!) on Instagram wasn’t a concern when it was to promote Republic, but Emmy busting it down on a boat is suddenly a five-alarm fire? Pick a lane, promptly log off, and let your employees enjoy their vacation.
We’re back at the house with everyone in a tizzy when Mikel’s boat crush, Dom, arrives for their Atomic Cowboy costume party. Dom’s presence and sexuality take over the night, leading to TJ taking Mikel aside to discuss how the other cast members are handling the conversation. It’s moments like these that make Southern Hospitality stand out, as does TJ’s confessional about the fraught nature of queerness in the South in general. The idea is that just because everyone in the house happens to be accepting of all sexualities doesn’t mean Dom should be forced to deliver his on a silver platter for all to consume. I’m officially Team TJ after tonight.
Sigh. We now must turn back to Juhlilly, rocking (…) a spangled hat Cheryl Cole once tossed aside during a “Fight for This Love” performance. She’s reigniting the fight with Mia, a beautiful, thoughtful, and levelheaded woman who’s been pushed to the brink and beyond this episode and still maintains her composure. “You date multiple guys!” the My Super Sweet 16 reject tells Mia mere moments after telling her no, she did not call her friend a slut again when she suggested said friend would be dating someone new within a week. Mia walks away instead of flipping the table, as I would’ve done had I been in her shoes. Self-awareness and accountability, thy name is as far from Juhlilly as they come. In the words of the legendary Eileen Davidson: “I can’t find one damn thing to like about you right now in the moment.”
Speaking of accountability, Juhlilly — the COVID rebound you don’t want to get after you finish taking Paxlovid — flips things around on the group and accuses them of bullying her. “Every single fucking one of you bullies me!” This, my friends, is what happens when nobody has ever held you accountable for your mistakes. It’s a misfire, it’s not fun, and it’s some low-base bullshit. We all have a good time poking fun at Grace Lilly because she’s playing a character on a reality show, but it is damn hard to find anything redeeming about her foul behavior this week.
Obligatory Joe Bradley reference: We cut to him pining over Maddi, pissing on Trevor’s social-media usage, nicknaming the hanger-on bestowed upon him (“Jerky Joe,” which, sorry, is great), and potentially sparking a flame with Mia, ending in them kissing off-camera. That’s a story line I’d like to see! Later, Mikel pulls Dom aside to apologize for his friends’ behavior, and Dom comes out as straight. Dom seems great, and I loved the conversations his presence sparked, so kudos to you, Dom!
The episode ends, as predicted, with Leva calling an all-hands meeting to discuss her employees’ off-the-clock, off-the-payroll, sanctioned-by-Bravo behavior. Listen to me clearly: I love a reality-show scolding. Lisa Vanderpump has historically ripped her employees delightful new ones on the regular over on Vanderpump Rules, and they deserved it! But much of Vanderpump’s disciplining was for workplace behavior, which, yes, that’s how work … works. But we’re making a reality show here, and in the absence of bad behavior at work, Leva has to work with what she’s handed, which in this instance is a boatful of ass.
“So how was the trip? … I’m gonna fire people,” Leva begins before we cut to the dreaded “To Be Continued.” I sure hope not because this cast is starting to gel for me, and I’d rather not lose any of them at this juncture — ass out or not.
• “I’m gonna get in there and shave my coochie in a little bit, okay?” — Juhlilly, delivering her version of the Sermon on the Mount.
• Mikel calling up his boat crush, Dom, to do a gaydar test on the poor guy is just a delight to watch. Even more delightful? Watching Mikel & Co.’s faces light up when Dom mentions running home to make jorts for the atomic-cowboy costume party. Very good, very good!
• I like Emmy more and more with each passing week. She’s so addictive to this show, a normie who also fits in with the group rather than floating above them. Watching her get plastered and then use grilled-meat metaphors to figure out Dom’s sexuality was peak television, if you ask me. Watching her drunkenly gnaw corn off the cob was, somehow, even better!
• I want the Snyder cut of Joe Bradley’s conversation with Dom because the snippet we get reads like another, far more heterosexual language than I’m familiar with:
Joe Bradley: “Where you from?”
Dom: “I’m from D.C., but I’ve been here for like, three or so years.”
Joe Bradley: “Fuck yeah, dude.”
• Lucía and Bradley (not Joe Bradley) are fading into the background. They seem great — I just wish we’d see more of them — but things aren’t looking likely to turn around in the home stretch.