The Bravoverse is not equipped to deal with things like, oh, real human pain. The beginning of this episode is heartbreaking when we relive Carl getting the phone call that his brother, Curtis, has died of a drug overdose after a year of being sober. Red-faced and soggy-eyed, Carl tells the assembled group of sympathetic housemates on the front steps that he wanted his kids and Curtis’s kids to play together one day, but that’s not going to happen now. We learn about how Carl idolized his brother and how they both wanted to rekindle their relationship now that Curtis was sober, but time and the coronavirus got in the way.
It’s terrible to watch a person struggle through the initial stages of mourning, sitting in his bed talking to his mother and neither of them knowing how to process the hurt. Danielle and Luke try to empathize since they both have family members who struggle with addiction, and Kyle comes in to try to bro-hug Carl’s pain away. It’s so touching that he wants to help, but it’s a little sad that the limits of masculinity won’t let these two best friends be totally vulnerable in front of each other, with Kyle dampening Carl’s T-shirt with rivers of his tears.
Ciara, who continues to stun me with both her looks and personality, talks to Carl like a nurse who is used to dealing with death, and it’s one of the most touching and real things I’ve heard a person say to someone who is newly confronting a loved one’s passing. I’m tearing up again just thinking about it, and there are not enough cans of Loverboy in the world to make it go away (the lack of cans of Loverboy is actually a problem, though).
It was already hard packing all of this truth and sadness into the confines of a modern-day reality-television program, but it becomes even worse when Carl is isolated in his room, trying to figure out how to join his family in the middle of a pandemic, and he has to be haunted by the raised voices and slamming doors of the one thing this type of project is built for: drama. Oh yes, this episode went from low to lower. Or maybe it went from low to status quo? Or maybe low to high because, as far as drama goes, we got it, and in spades.
(But before we leave Carl, my heart goes out to him and his family because having to go through this has to be a real knife in the gut, and to endure it so publicly and then watch it again while still processing that grief has to be horrible. Thank you, Radkes all, for your public service.)
So yes, the drama. Nearly everyone in the house had it except Paige, whose biggest drama seems to be that she doesn’t sleep in the room that is her closet but instead in a bed with Hannah because her clothes take up so much room they need their own Zip Code. The Luke-Ciara drama is slight. It’s mostly that she doesn’t want to mess with him anymore after seeing how he talked to Hannah; he gets her flowers to get back into her good graces, but he seems to be in the worst zone of all: the I-Totally-Would-Have-Boned-You-Before-You-Slagged-Off-Another-Girl-Wearing-a-Fedora Zone.
As for everyone else, it’s real drama. Heavy drama. So heavy it’s like a cement mixer full of facial fillers, or a baby’s diaper full of last night’s mushy peas. Let us start with Hannah vs. Kamanda (Amyle?). In the first half of the episode (which takes place over the course of a day so exhausting it makes even crystal meth need a pick-me-up), Amanda and Hannah are ignoring each other because of the fight the day before that Kyle and Hannah had started over Hannah not taking out the trash. Hannah behaved so erratically that even Paige admits she is #TeamAmanda, and Paige is Hannah’s sister from another blister. (They shared a pair of really treacherous mules.)
Finally, Amanda goes down into Hannah’s Den of Sulk to talk to her about her problems while they sit, cross-legged, on her messy bedspread. I’m not sure what this fight is even about. I think Hannah hates Kyle and thinks Kyle and Amanda are out to get her. I think it’s unfair to Amanda to lump the two of them together. While Amanda had Kyle’s back in his argument against Hannah, Amanda didn’t say anything bad about her. Hannah is unfairly holding Kyle’s actions against his girlfriend. If she is angry over what Kyle said about disinviting her from their wedding (which, hah), then take it up with Kyle; don’t pout around Amanda all day.
Amanda’s problem seems to be that Hannah is withdrawing from her and not talking to her about her problems because of her hatred for Kyle. Amanda has been faithful to Hannah and even defended her against Kyle, but she hasn’t seen that loyalty reciprocated. The worst part of the fight is when Hannah tells Amanda that they’re not friends and that she wants to end this “toxic” friendship. (Can I start a Change.org petition to ban the word toxic except when talking about the oeuvre of Mx. Britney Jean Spears?)
Hannah continues to lump the two of them together, saying, “Kyle and Amanda don’t like me, and I don’t like them,” which sends Amanda into tears because she sees herself as a good friend to Hannah. Hannah says she thinks she’s taking crazy pills because Amanda didn’t apologize for “throwing a drink at her for no reason.” Okay, the reason she threw the drink was that Hannah was talking shit about her relationship. There was a reason.
What seems to be angering Amanda is that Hannah can take no responsibility for her actions. She sees her outsize reaction to Kyle bringing up the housecleaning as no biggie. Also, Amanda threw an empty plastic cup at her. It’s not like she made her read the collected tweets of J.K. Rowling. It’s not like she tried to get her to ride down a cobblestoned street on a Citi Bike without a helmet. It’s not like she made her watch all of Emily in Paris in one sitting. She’ll recover.
In her final move of immaturity, Hannah throws Amanda out of her room while Paige tells Hannah she’s behaving like a bitch. The other problem I have with Hannah this season is it seems like she’s amping everything up. Her delivery both with her housemates and in her confessionals is like she’s trying to become a human meme. She’s no longer behaving like a person; she’s trying to play a character. And it’s a character who seems as divorced from reality as a pet rabbit who got into a stash of edibles.
The fight doesn’t really conclude as much as it fades into the air-conditioned chill of the early evening. I will give props to Ciara, though, whom Kyle tries to turn against Hannah while the rest of the housemates all stand around the living room listening to the voices rise up like a bag of microwave popcorn set to explode. Ciara tells him everyone gets a clean slate with her, but then tells us in confessional that they both seem crazy and that Kyle should really stay out of it because he is part of the problem. (1) Amen. (2) Don’t come for my ultimate crush object like that.
This drama dovetails nicely into Lindsay’s birthday dinner, which is a big deal to her. A few days prior, she says, “I don’t need a grand gesture, but I’m seeing a boat in my future.” A boat? In this economy? How are you going to get on a boat when the two of you are in this production bubble and can’t really leave the house? As she’s talking about what she expects for her birthday, I can tell this is a trap. No matter what Steven does, it’s not going to be enough for Lindsay. He could have gotten fireworks and a plane to fly over the house saying he loves her and had Andrea Bocelli deliver her favorite aria while standing up out of a limo sunroof because he can’t come within ten meters of the house, and still Lindsay would say, “I can’t believe you served this wine I don’t like. How did you not know I don’t like this kind of wine?”
As the birthday dinner unfolds, Lindsay is outside wearing a dress that, like Idina Menzel’s best song, is defying gravity, and while she should be enjoying herself, she can’t, like Idina Menzel’s second-best song, let it go. Steven tells her he ordered food from Claws, the restaurant where a year ago he asked her to be his girlfriend. “Oh,” Lindsay says, in a vocal utterance that sounds like she actually said “gross.” Then she tells him everything is very nice, but you can smell the disdain like you just got attacked by a department-store fragrance-counter worker with a new sample. (Oh! Guys! Remember department stores?)
Lindsay, putting the aggressive in passive-aggressive, keeps saying, “Oh, this dinner is lovely. Fish and chips.” You can feel the mood curdling. Finally, Steven says, “Is there a problem here? I worked hard on this, and I want you to be happy.”
Lindsay, an AK-47 that fires complaints, responds, “I have higher expectations of my relationship than going through the motions.” This is Lindsay’s problem. She has been saying all day that she wants Steven to bring more romance to their relationship, like in the early days when he took her in helicopters and on trips to Italy. Um, sister, you have been trapped in an apartment for four months while the world burned down around you. How do you expect him to book a table at Per Se when the restaurant is literally (not literally because I made it up) lying under a pile of rubble?
Steven wants credit for what he’s done for her birthday, but Lindsay says she wants consistency. She wants this romance all the time, not just for her birthday. After a tense back-and-forth, she says one of the worst things I have ever heard on reality television: “What you think is good is not good enough for me.” You can see the penny drop as Steven walks past the pool and struggles with the sliding glass door to get back into the house. He finally sees it: He was always set up to fail. No matter what he does, Lindsay is always going to want more, and their relationship will be a long road of strife, because as much as Lindsay says her love language is quality time, her love language is really conflict. He tells the housemates he’s not going to be continuously “kicked in the dick” when he’s trying to please Lindsay. Instead, he gets out his suitcase and packs his bags.
In fairness to Lindsay, when she said he would never do things well enough for her, at least she was expressing her needs and expectations. As Steven is packing, she goes to Danielle’s room, where she continues to complain. “I want to not have to train a man for once in my life,” she says. “I don’t want to have to tell him what I need. I want him to anticipate what I need after a year of dating.” Yes, it’s only been a year. He has no idea she expects her birthday to be this huge fucking deal with flowers, a catered menu, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and a virgin sacrifice to our dark lord Andrew Joseph Cohen.
What Lindsay wants, apparently, is a telepath. She wants someone who can read her mind, and she is never going to get that. Kyle tells Steven he has seen Lindsay sabotage relationships in the past, and the reason for this is that she can’t accept someone with flaws. She can’t accept that a relationship is a give-and-take and that sometimes she’ll have to swallow her disappointment or adjust her expectations based on what her partner is able or willing to deliver. Lindsay thinks she is a person undeserving of love, so every person who ever tries will never love her quite enough. The Mariana Trench of her needs will never be filled.
Lindsay thinks this is worth breaking up over and lets Steven pack his bag, call an Uber, and leave the house. I think this is the right call for Steven, who didn’t seem to want to be there in the first place and finally came to the ball-tenderizing realization that he’s never going to be enough for Lindsay. (Alright, everyone, here’s one for the road.) As he huffs through his mask and settles into the back seat of an Uber on his way to the train station, his elbow propped on his overnight bag, Steven finally realizes that in this relationship … he would always come up short.