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The reunion brings tears and jeers

The reunion brings tears and jeers — Tonya breaks with her boyfriend, Cara almost stands up for herself, and Keri takes the high road with a ”who cares?” shrug, says Josh Wolk

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The Real World
The Real World Chicago: Rudy Archuleta

The reunion brings tears and jeers

After sitting through the July 16 ”Real World Reunion,” I will never complain again about one of my college or high school reunions. No matter how many yahoos may be there, still making the same jokes they were making 10 years ago, at least we’re not all sitting around awkwardly rolling our eyes at each other and barely restraining our mutual contempt, like the Chicago septet were.

For the most part, they all seemed very, very ashamed of what they’d done. The special’s producers were intent on provoking them by showing endless clips of the most brutal moments, but no one took the bait. Instead, they just winced, rolled their eyes, and occasionally mumbled something, which could have been, ”Oh, that bitch,” or, ”When can I go home?” or possibly, ”I wonder if they’ll let me be a presenter at the VMAs?”

Keri seemed especially intent on keeping her cool, considering the endless montages she was subjected to of Kyle complaining about her. She did finally crack at one point, voicing irritation at Kyle and Cara’s secret chats, but then she dismissed the issue by saying it was just a matter of people being different. It would have seemed like a well-adjusted comment, had it not been said in the kind of icy tone that makes you want to back out of a room slowly.

However, Keri should be given credit for the most well thought-out response of the night: When Kyle asked her something about the never-ending ”Bloody Mary” controversy, she replied, ”I don’t know. I don’t even care anymore.” Bet that one really riled the show’s producers! The entire ”Real World” ethos is based on people carrying a grudge until it’s pried from their cold dead hands.

Tonya was a revelation, announcing that she had broken up with the love of her life, Justin, because she realized that she couldn’t love someone until she learned to love herself. She was on the verge of tears as she said this, and stayed that way throughout the show, tossing out heartfelt apologies and going on about learning to change. Her transformation was so profound that it sounded like the work of heavy therapy. Frankly, I worry that she’s seeing Dr. Eugene Landy.

At one point Chris said that she may have herself to blame for how bad she came off, considering how mean she was to the editors and producers during taping. I’m used to hearing that celebrities who seem so nice in public are actually bastards to their crew. Now I hear that someone who was bitchy on camera was also bitchy behind the scenes. Here’s the lesson I’ve learned: Everyone you ever see on TV is a bastard. Hope you enjoy sweeps!

Kyle announced that he was out in L.A. pursuing his acting dreams, although he had turned down a role on ”Passions” because he was a serious thespian and the soap wasn’t Shakespeare. MTV will rerun this series until the tape disintegrates, so Kyle can stop worrying about doing something else that will embarrass him: ”The Real World” will do the trick just fine, thanks. But his other passion — politics — just might work as a career, considering how diplomatic he was during this special, apologizing profusely while accepting just enough blame to be considered sensitive, but not enough to be considered at fault for anything. Look out, Congress!

Cara is also out in L.A. trying to be an actress, and she seemed visibly perturbed that she hasn’t yet gotten a big break. She seemed to be treating this episode as her comeback special, a chance to rehabilitate her image in one hour, kind of like Hugh Grant coming on ”The Tonight Show” after being caught with a prostitute. However, her downfall was the same as it was on the show: Every time she seemed on the verge of standing up for herself and making a cogent point, she’d chicken out, splash on a ”Please like me!” expression, and start admitting maybe she was wrong. On the reunion special, she began a logical and insightful lecture about how she shouldn’t have to suffer a stigma just for being a sexual 22-year-old woman, just as a man wouldn’t — and then suddenly she panicked and said, ”I didn’t say ‘Land the deal, did I?”’ So close, and yet so far.

The others were similar to their show personalities. Chris was just as mellow; is it just me, or does he barely even move his mouth when he talks? It’s as if he’s trying to make it easier for Bunim-Murray to dub his voice into different languages when they start selling the show internationally. Aneesa also lived the reunion special as she lived the series: She began with professions that she had learned and grown…but by the end of the hour she was laughing about her vibrator and saying that she wouldn’t have changed anything she did all season.

Theo was the only one who surprised me. During the series, he pretty much vanished after his initial Tonya battles and homophobic lectures, and I was always suspicious of his absence. But I never considered the explanation he gave on the reunion show: that he was trying to stay out of people’s business. Hence, whenever Keri and Kyle would enter another tiff, Theo would sacrifice camera time in favor of escaping to blissful silence. Not a bad strategy at all. Then again, if every ”Real World” housemate learned that lesson, we’d have no show. Here’s hoping next season’s Las Vegas seven weren’t watching this reunion.