No matter what you think about Stephen showing up to Say Anything Lindsay back into his life, there is one thing about his romantic display that was actually very romantic: That son of a gun Ubered out to the Hamptons. He didn’t reach her by railway. He didn’t reach her by trailway. He didn’t reach her by jitney. He didn’t reach her listening to Brit-a-ney. He didn’t reach her by caravan, cross the desert like an Arab man. I don’t care how he got there, but I do care that he spent about $700 to take a two-hour cab ride to surprise a woman that, let’s be honest, had no interest in him really being there.
Last episode ended before we could see her reaction and, of course, she’s smitten. But when Stephen asks her after his big reveal if that means they’re back together, she says, “Can we start with a date?” The look on his face in that second says, “Seriously? I took an Uber with a box of LED candles and that’s not even good enough?” But he says yes and they go in for a night of fond remembrances and period sex.
In her confessional, Lindsay says he has to “prove himself before I take him back?” Prove himself how? No. Wait. Hold on a minute. I was about to rail at Lindsay for having unrealistic expectations of Stephen. And she still does. But she has made her needs very clear. At this point, if Stephen comes back into this relationship, it’s his fault. He knows what she needs, and he should have figured out by now that no matter what he does, she will never be happy. The great lava crater of her need will never be filled, no matter how many virgin sacrifices and man bun hair ties he throws to its fiery depths. This relationship is no longer her problem, it is his.
Seemingly left out of their conversation about rekindling their romance, however, is Stephen’s reluctance to appear on television, which he seems to have gotten over. This is the unwritten subtext of what Paige and Perry, the Snuffleupagus of Summer House, are going through. Paige is upset that what she essentially has is a pen pal, someone whom she can only talk to on the phone for the six weeks that the show is filming, and it’s getting increasingly hard for her as more couples are infiltrating the house. (Not so hard that she’s slept with Carl yet, but hard enough that she’s drunkenly thinking about it. Sorry, but right now Carl is in a good enough place to sleep with him entirely sober.)
When she talks to Hannah about her sadness, she couches it in terms of he “doesn’t want to be in the house,” and he says, “I don’t want to keep you from hanging out with your friends.” What they mean by “in the house” and “hanging out with friends” is being on reality TV. Paige wants to be there so that she can continue having a nominal reason behind her Instagram influencer empire, and Perry doesn’t want to be there because he has a real job in the real world. Paige says her problem is that he makes her feel guilty for wanting to be there and not with him, which may be happening but, much like Perry, we haven’t really seen it.
Hannah, shockingly, gives Paige some good advice. When Paige says she can’t bring up her frustrations with this situation with Perry and hasn’t even mentioned it to him, Hannah says she needs to “knock out some uncomfortable things … and watch your life change.” That’s actually a really good mantra for anyone who feels stuck. But when Paige does that — sitting in a gorgeous floral dress that looks exactly like a set of sheets my mother had in the ’70s and finally retired last year — Perry shoots her down, saying, “I have a lot of things going on with work right now.”
This is actually a difficult and somewhat interesting (for the reality television arts and sciences) predicament. No one wants to get in the way of their partner’s career, but the funny thing about Paige’s career is that, for it to be expressed at its fullest, Perry needs to be actively involved. Since Perry isn’t getting paid to be there, all he gets in the bargain is her continued success and an immense potential to be publicly embarrassed in one way or another. It’s a strange calculus that most people don’t need to deal with.
I think it’s not so bad to have him come out for an afternoon of hanging out in the pool and drinking Loverboy. It’s an easy compromise and what employer could be opposed to that? But some are. So Perry is stuck in a position where he is allowing Paige her profession but, by doing so, also limiting her in it as well. Maybe he should just, I don’t know, sell one of his oil tankers or something and marry Paige so she can quit the reality game altogether and just be a rich lady posting on Instagram. That’s what we all really want for her future, right? Right.
Future rich woman and career gal Danielle is greeted by her boyfriend Robert, who shows up and is dot dot dot not what I was expecting. He looks like an Icelandic music producer with bad tattoos and limp hair. He’s cute, for sure, but I was expecting another Murray Hill frat bro and instead, she hit us with a guy who is working at the bar at Roberta’s, but only until his music career takes off. The energy between them seems a little bit like a snail on a Xanax bender. Maybe it’s the thing where you get too used to relating to a person online or on the phone and then when they show up in person, they haven’t quite figured out what the dynamic should be yet.
That said, I really like this for Danielle, a woman who is too real and honest for reality TV. I like that she’s around, mostly as a counterweight to all the insane personalities in the house, but this is not a world that she was meant to excel in. I think the same is true for Robbie the Rapper, which was the name of the YouTube channel that he launched in high school and still can’t figure out how to entirely delete from the world wide webisode. He seems like a real person and he’s just there to hang out with Danielle, have a good time, drink as much free Loverboy as one liver can handle, and maybe, you know, get laid.
Now we get to the last of our couples, Hannah and Des, who remind me of an episode of Married at First Sight that none of us wanted to watch. Yes, there is the fact that this 44-year-old (at the time of filming) looks remarkably like my once and future husband Kyle J. Cooke (the J stands for “justified”), but Kyle says he looks like “his father.” Um, he’s only six years older than Kyle, and while his hair may be significantly grayer, if anything he looks like an older brother. Kyle, you know I love you, but you’re older than the moldy cereal sitting in an unwashed bowl under Ciara’s bed.
That’s not what creeps me out about Des. It’s something about how he is just dying to be on television. Did he start dating Hannah to get famous? I doubt it, considering he’s big in Ireland. (That is sort of like Stravy being tall in Hobbiton. Sorry, but he came back. He’s asking for it!) I don’t think his fame is going to increase that dramatically from dating one person on a second-tier Bravo ensemble show. But there is something about both him and Hannah that is excruciatingly performative, like doing bar karaoke with a bunch of theater people.
Also like those theater kids in your high school, who were seeing if it was possible to get pregnant through two pairs of jeans while rubbing against each other in front of your locker, they approach sex in a way that seems somewhat juvenile. I’m not trying to be sex-negative; I once edited a homosexual pornography webpage. I love sex and I love people who have sex and I want them to have all the sex they can have. But there’s something about the two of them together where it seems like even their carnal desires are for other people’s amusement.
As soon as Des walks in the door, they’re downstairs banging, which the editors tell us clocks in at one minute. (Hey, one-minute sex can be great. Sometimes you just need to get ’er done and go back to your day.) At dinner when Luke brings up that they had mostly been talking on the phone and such, Des goes out of his way to say, “We didn’t kiss on the first date, and on the second date we fucked.” I mean, cool. But this is a table of people you’ve barely met. They know you’re banging. No reason to rub their noses in it. (But, to Luke’s point, the timeline of their romance and her thinking he was leading her on does seem suspect at best.)
Okay, so the two of them have been apart for months, sheltering with family, letting their hormones run overtime. This has to be enough boning, right? But when the rest of the cast goes for a fun day on a boat, things are really on. They go around the house trying to bang in every room, like they just got the keys to their chastity belts and the genital jailor is coming home in ten minutes. This leads to them boning in Kyle and Amanda’s bathroom and then, according to his confession later, him eating her out on their bed.
Now, come on. That is just gross and disrespectful and, as Paige says when she finds out, Kyle is going to lose his shit. I have lived with a lot of roommates over the years and I have totally blocked my ears or turned up the TV as they were slapping flesh behind closed doors. Good for them. It was never awkward for me, even when one roommate was sleeping with a porn star who used to pee with the door open. No, wait. That was awkward and I think I might have thrown the porn star out of the house? (If I did, sorry, past roommate, but I was still right.) As soon as your sex starts to impinge on someone else’s space, then you need to be put in check. Meanwhile, Amanda and Kyle are talking about how great Des is and how great they are together, and they’re giggling about getting their juices out of their always-soiled linens.
Both Hannah and Des confess that they have never fallen for someone like they have for each other. That makes me happy for them. But they’re one of those couples whose happiness exists in a heart-shaped bubble. They can see the rest of the world that they’re bobbing through, but they can’t see it through the soapy haze of their mutual affection and attraction. To them the bubble is the world; nothing comes in and nothing comes out and they think that being so intimate, so attached, is romantic. Lindsay thinks the same thing. She wants the same thing. (So does Joe Gorga, for that matter.) But the bubble is never sustainable. Eventually, it will pop. Either that or it will stay intact, forever isolating the two of them, their legs wrapped around each other in some Kama Sutra pose no one else would ever attempt, their faces pressed together, kissing, sucking, whimpering, breathing each other’s stale air. But, remember, nothing can get in or out of that bubble and, eventually, both of them will suffocate.