Summer House Season-Premiere Recap: Love in the Time of COVID

Summer House

Kiss and Don’t Tell
Season 5 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

Summer House

Kiss and Don’t Tell
Season 5 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Bravo

I don’t know if I doubled up on my Lexapro this morning or if it’s just a sugar buzz from the start of Cadbury Creme Egg season, but I am irrationally excited for the new Summer House. I will always be partial to the Real Housewives, but somehow this show crept up and became my favorite program on Bravo. I think it’s is going to be just the thing we need to get us through the sleet-covered doldrums of third-wave coronavirus. Actually, I think this is exactly the time for Summer House.

While watching other programs that filmed at the start of the pandemic, like The Real Housewives of Orange County and Southern Charm, I hated reliving those early days of anxiety with a bunch of reality-TV numbnuts. This is different, though. When Summer House filmed, obviously in the summer, we were trying to rebuild our lives and find a sense of, if not normal, at least the “new normal” that is not a Ryan Murphy sitcom co-starring NeNe Leakes. I feel as if we’re in the same space now, which lends this show perfectly to our moment.

The format also seems purpose-built for filming during a pandemic. Take a bunch of people, test the hell out of them and make them quarantine and then stick them in a house for six weeks straight. Bam! We get our reality-TV fix, and we don’t have to worry about the morality of people trying to live normal lives or make a trashy show in the middle of a pandemic.

I think this arrangement will be even better for Summer House. Usually, the show shoots only on weekends for six-to-eight weeks, and that approach has given us all the deliciousness of the past few seasons. What will it be like when the cameras are on for the whole week? And what will happen when these people not only have to live and party together but also have to work in the house? Kyle already thinks Paige and Hannah, whose jobs are as wispy as one of the 73 cover-ups Paige packed, don’t really do anything all day. What happens when Hannah never takes out the trash, as she promised to, or Paige doesn’t lift a manicured pinkie to contribute to the housework? Oh, and they have to cook for themselves. They already tried to make their own pizza, only to end up with a coffee table full of pizza delivery boxes by the end of the night, so things are going about as well as adding too much water to your Hamburger Helper.

I think this COVID-based filming solution will work even better because this is a group with some history. I loved when Danielle and Lindsay were unpacking the food and Danielle says, “Don’t worry about it too much because Amanda is going to redo it all when she gets here anyway.” These are people who know one another and have their own self-appointed roles. There’s a pattern of behavior we can expect, but it will be heightened and exacerbated because of the pandemic. It’s like our real lives but with more beautiful people in a much nicer house and with much more trivial problems. That is the essential premise of everything on Bravo.

I was so excited to see everyone: Carl and his furry chest, too-large ears, and perennial problems committing to adulthood; Danielle and her winning basicness; Lindsay, activated or otherwise, being the most New York PR girl who has ever done PR in New York. And, of course, there are our dynamic duos: Amanda and Kyle bickering their way right into our hearts, and Paige and Hannah being the attractive goofsters we love (even though some recent comments they’ve made are, um, not so great).

Then, of course, there are the new people. The first is Lindsay’s boyfriend, Steven-slash-Stravy, which I hope is his last name and not some awful frat-boy nickname he never got rid of, like a Coachella bracelet still strapped to a wrist on Labor Day. Lindsay says that she lights a fire under Steven’s ass and that he picks her out of the ceiling fan, which is the best description of a relationship I have ever heard.

It may be hard to pick her out of the ceiling fan, though, because, well, Steven is short. He sure is fit, but with his peaked eyebrows and ill-advised man bun, he sort of looks like Khal Drogo if he were struck by a shrink ray. I would like to see him in a competition for Shortest Man on Television alongside Ryan Seacrest, those jacked real-estate twins from Selling Sunset, and the Ewoks we will be sure to see in season three of The Mandalorian. He’s so short GameStop stonks want to squeeze him. Okay, okay, I’m done. That’s it for the season, I promise. I won’t stoop so low again, unless I need to whisper a secret to Steven.

This season starts like every season of Summer House starts — with a bunch of Amazon packages sitting next to the front door. But whereas in a normal season, we’d have three-to-five packages every week, this time there are about 40 packages just chilling on the stoop waiting for everyone to arrive. It’s like there’s a whole shantytown of Amazon boxes. Throughout the episode, as Kyle and Amanda unload their U-Haul and Paige brings in about eight rolling racks of Fashion Nova outfits, there is just a Mortville of boxes in the vestibule.

Strangely enough, all the conflict in this episode centers on Hannah. I think she is actually way more drama than we think she is. She always seemed like the easy one, the one you would want to be friends with, but ten minutes after her arrival, she’s already talking about how Lindsay gave her a “cold hello.” Later, at dinner, Hannah goes straight for it and says, “I didn’t see you all winter because you didn’t invite me to anything.” Well, I’m with Hannah. Why be passive-aggressive when you can just clear the air? This isn’t Cold Glares-terpiece Theatre.

Hannah is mad because Lindsay invited everyone in the house but her to a New Year’s Eve party. Then, at the party, Lindsay tried to get Danielle to make out with Luke, whom Hannah was “dating” or “having feelings for” or whatever nebulous definition she gives for their relationship, which is almost as nebulous as the definitions she and Paige give for their jobs. Lindsay says she didn’t invite Hannah because she was on a podcast talking about how Lindsay treated her like “a minion.” The best part of this whole fight is when the editors give us this amazing montage of the tirade Lindsay goes on to explain how upset she was to be called a “minion user” on a podcast. It was the visual equivalent of the 18-page email (front and back) Kyle sent to the house at the beginning of season three.

Speaking of Kyle, he makes the keenest observation about the pair: “Hannah loves to piss off Lindsay, but Lindsay loves to be pissed off.” As I have said before, Lindsay’s love language is conflict, and she propagates it wherever she goes. My love language is Kyle J. Cooke with a mustache, and if you subscribe on Patreon, you will receive 50,000 slash fiction stories a week about the life we are starting together on Kyle’s imaginary home world, where all the blondies can drink 92 alcoholic beverages a day while pushing 40 and still have visible abdominal muscles. It’s called Chromatica.

Anyway, Hannah and Lindsay have a more mature conversation later, in which Hannah tells Lindsay that she never talks about her maliciously, though she does make jokes at her expense. She apologizes for it, but maybe Lindsay should make herself a little less easy to parody. Lindsay’s side of the argument is much more succinct: “I didn’t do what you accused me of, and don’t talk shit.” Well, there we have it. That’s simple.

Things are a lot thornier with Hannah and Luke, who shows up a day later than everyone else because he wasn’t feeling well and had to get another COVID test before entering the bubble. Turns out he was with “his friend,” which everyone is pretending they didn’t know about. Come on. They all knew Ciara was cast on the show. How are they going to act all shocked that Luke is showing up with someone?

Luke is playing a very dangerous game bringing Ciara along (but kudos to the show for adding a touch more diversity). He has been talking to Hannah every day of quarantine but either was or is currently hooking up with Ciara. Also, we learned that he and Hannah have never had P-in-the-V sex, which is shocking to me. How do they have so many feelings and how were they dating for so long when he hasn’t laid down the hammer? And he’s putting both of these women — one whom he’s banging and one whom he denies it to — in a house together with him and thinks it’s going to go fine? Girl …

Hannah is trying very hard to seem accommodating, even coming off like a “try-hard,” as Amanda and Paige say. She wants to show that she’s cool with it; she just wants to have a good summer. She’s totally over Luke and doesn’t mind if he has another girl there, just like she doesn’t mind his quarantine beard, which looks like four dead hamsters superglued to his under-chin area. The episode ends with Luke texting both of the girls from his room, talking about how excited he is to spend the summer with each of them, as the camera, ever sly and all-knowing, like a love god with a ketamine problem, focuses on the megabox of condoms sitting just on the rim of Luke’s closet shelf. Oh, it’s going to be a great summer, indeed.

Summer House Season Premiere: Love in the Time of COVID