Josh Wolk
November 02, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

”The Real World”: When exes attack

When Brian Hiatt asked me to sub in for him this week (not to panic, he’ll return for the next episode), I initially thought that it was because he had some sort of high-minded, pro-democracy Election Night responsibility. But now I realize the true reason: He couldn’t bear to see our fuzzy friend Landon so upset. It’s tough, like seeing Little Orphan Annie cry.

Look, I’m not heartless. We can all relate to Landon’s difficulty coming to terms with the fact that his first great romance is dead. But it was painful watching him cling to it with the old ”But why can’t we just be friends?” plea. I think we all know what he meant by ”friends”: He wants to be the kind of pal who happily helps his girlfriend move and then goes home and screams into his pillow knowing that the bed he just lugged up four flights of stairs is now providing support to her being boffed by his ex-roomie, but the next day he gets the call to come back to shlep the bed out again because she decided to get a futon, and as he stumbles down the stairs, his face pressed against the mattress, which is still warm and — though he tries to ignore it — somewhat moist from her previous night’s passion, the thought going through his mind is not ”What the hell am I doing?” but rather ”Be patient, Landon: It’s kind gestures like these that will have her running back to you. Stick to the plan, stick to the plan. . . .”

Too cruel an image? Sorry, Landon, my tender, softhearted, curly-haired tool: That’s tough love. And, frankly, it’s no tougher than what the producers at Bunim/Murray put him through. Think about this: All those times on The Real World when they cut from a scene to show him talking to the camera about how he is feeling at that exact moment . . . those testimonials were all shot much later. Just look at his varying hair lengths. It’s not like someone turns his ear and his mop grows like a Play-Doh machine. Which means that he is forced to relive those crushing moments, and speak about them as if he didn’t know how badly it was all going to turn out.

Picture a producer sitting him down, saying, ”Okay, Landon, this is for the footage we have of you going to meet Becky when she first gets to town. Can you talk about how you think there’s a possibility you’ll get back together?” Replies Landon, ”But . . . I know we won’t. Remember? It ended with her friend throwing up on me and me coming home, crying, realizing she will never love me again.” And the producer says, ”Yeah, yeah, I know, but we need this to tell the story. So can you just pretend that you still think you have a chance?” And so Landon is forced to act like he’s got a shot, knowing deep down that it all ends in tears. It’s as if CNN were to go to John Kerry tomorrow and say, ”Sorry, senator, we lost an old interview with you that we need for the archives. Can we just pretend it’s last week and tell Wolf Blitzer that you’re going to definitely beat President Bush in Florida?”

As bad as I felt for Landon, he really should have learned the lesson that college kids learn every day: Don’t base the future of a relationship on an argument you had while slurringly drunk. When having a third wheel throw up Hawaiian Punch all over your arm is only the second worst part of your evening, it’s time to forget the whole night. Instead, even after sobering up, Landon bemoaned the fact that dating his ex-roomie Jason had really changed Becky for the worst. That’s right, blame Jason, not the 32 Jager shots. Was Jason also responsible for her queasy friend’s impression of a fire hose? Because if so, he is 150 proof of trouble.

The other story line had Shavonda discovering that Shaun had secretly gone to visit his ex-girlfriend, the one woman she forbade him to date. Boy was Shavonda out of line. When you announce to your boyfriend — on TV — that you want a break from your relationship in order to pursue a flirtation with your own roommate, you pretty much forfeit all rights to dictate whom said boyfriend can or can’t date. Hell, Shaun could sleep with Becky, and both Landon and Shavonda would have to say, ”Well, we had that coming.” And yet Shaun was back, groveling for forgiveness. Something tells me we’re going to be seeing him moving Shavonda’s bed before this season is over, thinking, ”Stick to the plan, stick to the plan. . . .”

What do you think? Who looked worse — Shaun, Landon, or Shavonda? Will any of them find true love?

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