Ugh, do I have to be nice to Raquel, a TikTok sea chantey about lip liner? I really don’t want to. Much like Katie Maloney, I hate when people make me not mean and shower everyone with hatred like I’m the acid-rain cover of Time magazine. The only difference is that, unlike Katie, I don’t have a Karen haircut, and if I did, I would not lie about not having one when I really did. But this whole episode is really making me reassess how I feel about Raquel, a piece of Away luggage that will only allow itself to be packed with Fashion Nova.
My shift starts as everyone is playing a game of Jenga where each block has an action for the player to do when they pull it out of the tower. The only thing worse than board games are board games that give you homework. What’s next, a game of Trouble where the Pop-o-Matic bubble makes you take a spelling test? Raquel has to make a toast, and she’s terrified because she’s always been bad at public speaking, which is a rare trait for a reality-television professional. It’s sort of like a figure skater with an acute case of Simmonsophobia. (That is the fear of sequins.)
Later, Sandoval, a grown man wearing Ben Affleck’s facial hair from Chasing Amy, directs her to give another speech. She fumbles once again, just sort of giggling her way out of an uncomfortable situation. She goes out on the patio with James for a teary chat. She talks about how she’s always been quiet and didn’t raise her hand in class as a girl. Yeah, same, sister, but that’s because I was plotting the death of every single person in that classroom for making fun of my Gremlins lunch box and was too busy to answer questions. She’s trying to change that, but she beats herself up about her deficiencies. “How are you not embarrassed by me?” she asks James. It is an absolute heartbreaker of a question, but this is also the man who unironically calls himself “the White Kanye.” I think he was born with a genetic mutation where he can’t feel embarrassed.
But no one should be embarrassed by Raquel. Yes, she is so painfully basic that even looking at her could turn you into a pumpkin-spice-latte candle in a SoulCycle bathroom, but over her time on the show, she has proved herself kind, loyal, and the only person who is capable of handling James Kennedy. After this little speech, my husband turned to me and said, “Are you going to keep making fun of Raquel? It’s kind of like kicking a kitten.” He’s right. I don’t want to kick kittens. I don’t want to make fun of Raquel. I think I’m done …
… But then she films a confessional wearing a pink and mauve dress with lace connecting various panels, and it is definitely Strawberry Shortcake’s original costume, and how can I not? Ugh! Raquel, you make it so hard on me.
Before we get to her big moment, I guess we should talk about all the other stuff that happened this episode, like the pickleball tournament. What the fuck is up with pickleball, and why is it everywhere all of a sudden? Is this something that people picked up in the pandemic but didn’t forget about? Is this like if Animal Crossing and banana bread just stuck with us for variants Alpha through Mu? First, we saw Erika and Kyle playing it on Rich Women Doing Things, and now here it is again.
This game is basically just tennis with a plastic ball and a wooden racquet and a lot less running. Randall, Lala’s main mollusk, orchestrates this tournament and then wins it, besting Tom Schwartz in straight sets, though nothing about Tom Schwartz is either straight or set. This rich guy (with an assistant named Sean who could quit that job and take a seat on my mustache any day) orchestrates an entire afternoon for a bunch of kids so that he could beat them at a game they’ve never played, but he spent the better part of his life mastering. It’s basically GameStop Stonks all over again.
Later Lala and Randall have Scheana and Brock over so that their babies — Ocean and Summer Moon, respectively — can have a playdate. This is where we learn a bit more about Brock. I am perplexed by Brock. He is exactly my type: a giant man who is willing to wear a tiny bathing suit. I blame this on the approximately 100 hours of the pandemic I spent watching Australian Survivor. (It’s on Paramount Plus and highly recommended if only for the budgy smuggler content.) But then he shows up in his confessional wearing a shiny satin suit that is so cheesy Julia Child would try to chuck it into a soufflé. It’s like I want him and I hate him at the same time, which just makes him even more of my type.
But what he tells the crew is very alarming. When he was 20, he got together with a woman and had some children. They got divorced five years ago, and he decided to move to America to make more money for his family, though it is still unclear exactly what he does outside of driving gay men to masturbatory distraction. His wife accused him of abandoning her, and he hasn’t seen his children for four years. Oh, girl, the red-flag emoji was made for this one. Scheana keeps telling us that there is more to the story than we know, and I hope she’s right, because, like Lala and Randall, my eyes went BOOOOOOIIIIINNNNNGGGGG out of my skull when he told us this. To make it even worse, he has a daughter who was born on the same day as Summer named Winter. I know. I know. I know. I know. I know. A whole mole of “I knows.”
Then he did a cannonball into the pool wearing a Speedo, and my pelvic floor went “ping!” and the whole thing was forgotten.
There is a whole story line about how Katie keeps telling Schwartz not to be weak and to let Sandoval run over him all the time. Sorry, “run over” is not the correct terminology. As they said a million times, Sandoval “steamrollers” Schwartz. They said it again and again and again as if it was about to conjure the actual machine, and it would just raze their Palm Springs rental and everyone inside. We see it in action with this bit of dialogue.
Schwartz: You steamrolled me.
Sandoval: No, I didn’t.
Schwartz: You’re right. That’s on me.
Sandoval: But if I ever steamroll you, let me know.
Schwartz: Nah, bro. We’re good.
I just shake my head. I guess we have to move on to OurChella/R Chella/RaChella, also known as the group’s sad music festival in the middle of the polo grounds where James proposes to Raquel. We see Sandoval and James setting up for it, and Sandoval writes $6,550 in checks to the taco truck, aerial artist, fire eater, margarita-bar truck, the photo-booth operator, and all the other vendors necessary for this day out. Um, checks? Was Venmo down? Did his goatee bring that checkbook back from the ’90s? And if that is a real checkbook, please let it be production’s, because there is no way any of these kids were shelling out this much (not to mention the rental fee for the space, the vans to get everyone there, etc.) for a proposal.
The party does look fun, but wouldn’t it be more fun, I don’t know, with some more people? It’s outdoors. Can’t they invite some friends down for the day to celebrate with them? Just a thought.
At 8:10 p.m., right on the dot to coordinate with the fireworks display, James asks Raquel to marry him at a Coachella-themed event where she is wearing a loose floral dress and a fedora, which is the most Coachella outfit you can imagine that does not include a flower crown and the gnashing of molars on MDMA. This is why, Raquel. I have grown to appreciate you, but then you do things like this, standing there like a poke bowl in heart-shaped sunglasses you bought at Target. I just can’t help myself. I can’t!
Neither can Schwartz and Sandoval. Everyone is facing the couple in a little arc of support. They are staring at them and up at the sky as the fireworks throw shadows across their faces like rain on a windshield. James picks Raquel up in his arms, and they kiss, and he swings her around, and it is like The Notebook if the Sway house made it. Sandoval creeps up behind Schwartz, his front pressed against Schwartz’s back, and rests the little Mogwai on his chin on Schwartz’s shoulder. “Don’t you wish that was us?” he asks. He pushes the hardest part of his crotch against Schwartz’s firm buttocks, rubbing it back and forth just enough for him to feel but for no one else to notice.
Schwartz reaches down and grabs Sandoval’s hands, crossing them over his chest, and they embrace each other just as the last roman candle lights up the sky with a decisive pop. “I do,” he says without looking back. “I do.”
Update: An earlier version referred to Randall as “Russell.” It has been corrected.