Have you ever watched a show like Succession where someone gets up at a birthday party and makes a wildly tone-deaf and inappropriate speech, and your short and curlies feel like they’ve just been electrified, and you will cross your legs about 17 times in a row just to make the humiliation stop? You ever think, God, that never happens in real life. Why do they always make that happen in dramas? Well, Emmy voters, let me give you exhibit A: Kyle J. Cooke’s awful speech about how mean his friends are about his relationship with his fiancé at his very own birthday party. It was like something right out of HBO’s Sunday lineup, minus the twerking teens tweaked out on drugs.
There is a lot to cover before we get to that questionable oration, a whole lot of filler that we have to wade through. The episode starts off with the end of the bondage party when Amanda, once again, kicks everyone out so that she can get in her jammies and eat Cheez-Its in bed and then yell at Kyle for doing the exact same thing. At the party, Paige texted Craig that they were playing a blindfold make-out game, and she kissed Andrea “for like a second.” Um, sister. We saw the tape. If that wasn’t a full seven minutes in heaven, I don’t know what it is. The call upsets Craig, who tells Paige that he can’t come to visit her in the house again because she’s hooking up with Andrea.
After this phone call, Paige starts crying in her closet. I am not one to tell women (outside of reality TV shows) how to live their lives, but I am going to issue an official edict for all women: do not waste your time crying over Craig Freaking Conover. He’s a dime store Ben Affleck without the awesome back tat and a pillow empire instead of a mantlepiece full of Oscars. He is not worth your time. We also learn that Craig was the one who asked that they not be exclusive. I was under the impression that was Paige’s mandate, but now that I know that Craig wanted to flit all around South Carolina without being held accountable and then got mad when Paige frenched one dude, I have placed him on my own personal death row. It’s execution time for Craigy.
All of the girls are in Paige’s room, comforting her, talking about Craig’s texts, and parsing them like they’re some kind of Dead Sea scroll or a Game of Thrones appendix. They are deep in engaging in emotional labor. Meanwhile, the guys are all downstairs housing some Burger King that they ordered off of Postmates at 12:57 a.m. and talking about the last season of Ozark. This is why I’m so happy to be a dude. The amount of work these ladies are putting into a guy who doesn’t even matter when they could be getting intimate with a Whopper Jr. and some onion rings. What is even the point?
The next morning more emotional labor must be performed, and this time it is around the pool and Amanda is the subject. Danielle starts talking about whether or not she and Kyle are in sync. Then Paige starts asking if she’s happy. Then Ciara says that Danielle heard something Kyle said. Then Paige tells her what he said. Then Danielle fills in the color for the comments. They all tell Amanda that they don’t want to look like they’re gossiping about her, but when three different people tell her that Kyle said the only thing they have in common right now is the business, well, it looks like you were all gossiping about her.
Amanda is naturally upset by this, but I can’t tell if she’s mad that Kyle said something or she’s mad that they were all talking about her relationship like it was a bad elimination on RuPaul’s Drag Race. To Amanda’s credit, she doesn’t reflexively get pissed but instead tries to explain to the ladies why he would have said something like that. She’s sad, she’s crying, they’re all crying, and I probably would be too if one of my friends were basically like, “Are you sure you wanna marry this dude?” What perplexes me is that nothing Kyle said about Amanda is any worse than anything she says about Kyle to the ladies behind his back. Kyle’s only mistake was telling Danielle rather than grunting it to the boys over some drunken Burger King. That would have died with their last slice of Oreo pie and everyone would be chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool and all shootin’ some b-ball outside of the school. (When a couple of guys … Sorry. I will stop there.)
The biggest dunce in this situation, though, is Kyle. He says a circle of women in the backyard with tears in their eyes, and he thinks, “Oh, I should go see what they’re chatting about.” No Kyle. Avoid! Avoid! Avoid! Go order your second round of Burger King and shelter in place with the boys. “Hey ladies, what’s going on?” he sheepishly asks the group, knowing that he is about to have each of his toenails ripped off in public. Amanda immediately tells him what is up, and he half-assedly defends himself, knowing that nothing he says is going to sway the already made-up minds that are bikini-ing around him.
When they leave, my poor, lovely Kyle gets teary trying to talk to Amanda about what happened. “I love you, and I want to marry you and be happily ever after,” he says. Amanda tells him that everyone wants them to be happy, so some adjustments will have to be made. Here is the trouble. What Amanda means is that for them to be happy, then Kyle will have to change. Amanda thinks that all of the problems in her relationship are Kyle’s fault when we have seen her treat Kyle just as poorly as he sometimes treats her. But because all of the girls are rallying around her, she sees nothing wrong with what she does and just with Kyle. If their relationship is going to survive for a lifetime, they both need to realize that when adjustments need to be made, they need to be made by both parties.
Next, we check in with everyone in the city, and, for some reason, this is one of my favorite features of the show. I need to see how our crew is doing mid-week. I need to see them pretend to have jobs and normal lives. I need them to act like they aren’t just full-time reality stars, even though that is essentially what they are at this point. We see Carl go on a date with the human embodiment of vocal fry. Her name is MacKenzie, and even though her name doesn’t have a capital K in the middle, it just feels like she does. She was on Love Island (the inferior USA edition), and the dude she was paired with could basically be Carl’s identical cousin. I already hate this girl, and I can’t wait for Carl to dump her for Lindsay.
Speaking of, Lindsay goes to see a fertility doctor who was somehow infected with Kyle’s stye from the past two episodes. He tells her that she has the eggs of a 28-year-old, and that is the last thing that our Lindz needed to hear. I can just imagine her slurring drunkenly to some i-banker at Southhampton Social, “I haaaavve the Eggggggggs of a 28 years-ol,” and him running in the other direction so fast that he ends up in the Jersey Shore hitting on Teresa Giudice.
Later that week, at Kyle’s birthday party in the city, Lindsay runs into her ex-boyfriend Everett from season one of the show, and we get to enjoy a montage of their red-hot dysfunction. Wow, they are the exact worst type of people for each other, and I am so glad that there was a camera there to catch it all. Everett looks good, though, and is engaged to someone else. Now can we get a where are they now on the Wirkus-es and their little dog too? (Yes, I’m talking about Stephen.)
At the party, Kyle is talking to his best friend Brett, and you can tell that he’s resentful over what the women in the house were saying about him. He says that he and Amanda had a chat about it and went over it in couple’s therapy. You can tell that he’s sort of annoyed that he has to take relationship advice from Paige, a 29-year-old who is crying herself to sleep over Craig Freaking Conover when he is actually working very hard on his own relationship and just needed to let off some steam.
This is when he finally gives the speech. It’s his birthday, so he gives a, “Okay, everyone. Listen up.” You think he’s going to say something like, “Thanks for coming, it means so much to see you all here. You’re so awesome. Here’s to another year of sending it. WHOO-HOO!!” Instead, it starts like this, “There have been a lot of opinions and judgments about our relationship, and there have been questions and some doubt,” and ends like this, “I need people rallying, not questioning.”
He uses a speech to a deck full of people (many of whom are not on the show) to really address four ladies (who he didn’t have the decency to talk to individually rather than mansplain it to them with the microphone of his birthday speech). That is bad enough, but otherwise, this is totally off for the occasion and not the kind of thing people want to hear when they’re having a good time celebrating another year of life. Even Amanda tells him that this is not a birthday speech, and she’s right. Kyle, read the room. And if you can’t, just go hide in a grease-stained Burger King bag. You’ll be a lot happier there.