”Reunited: Real World Vegas”: Grown pains
The Real World: Las Vegas was a watershed for MTV. That was the season in which the network realized that it could abandon any pretense that the show was a valid experiment in social dynamics: Instead, why not just throw really slutty people with funny names into a suite and roll a few kegs in after them? The network got twice the nudity, and the arguments were even more explosive and foolish, what with them being completely booze fueled. And the series has never looked back.
I remember being mesmerized by that season’s first episode, when Trishelle cuckolded innocent Frank by making out with Steven not just in front of him but actually over his lap, leading him to complain with my favorite Real World comment ever: ”It’s not just ‘Why did you do this to me?’ ” he said. ”But I was actually supporting your weight on my legs.” When the hot-tub threesome between Brynn, Trishelle, and Steven occurred in episode 2, all I could say was ”You had me at ‘supporting your weight on my legs.’ ”
I had been watching the show since its first New York go-round and had been writing the Real World TV Watch for EW.com for a couple of seasons. When Las Vegas began, I was 33, and all the hedonistic groping started to make me feel like a very old man for watching. It was as close as you could get to watching underage porn without seeing braces. I stuck around for another couple of seasons, but finally, after Philadelphia, I tuned out, leaving the show for younger voyeurs.
Now I’m 37. Hell, I’ll turn 38 next month while this season is still on. I’ve got one kid, another on the way. There should be laws against me turning on MTV, let alone watching The Real World. I feel like they have some sensor that can tell when a creepy old dude has tuned in, and the entire network gets awash with buzzkill. And yet when I heard they were reassembling the Las Vegas cast for a six-week reunion series, I figured I had a loophole: The cast came back, so why couldn’t I? So here I am, out of Real World retirement, hoping that I don’t embarrass myself but at least confident that if I do, the cast will surely do it to themselves first.
The show began with a very blond Trishelle (who looked like she’d just had a Jenna Jameson makeover) saying, ”I always told people I will only do another reality show like this if I can live with my same six roommates again in Vegas.” Which is odd coming from someone who has done two Real World/Road Rules Challenges, The Surreal Life, Kill Reality, and The Battle of the Network Reality Stars. I guess she meant she wouldn’t do another reality show exactly like The Real World: Las Vegas. Way to stick to your semantic guns, Trish!
She made a star’s entrance, sashaying into the Palms, saying, ”Hi, boys!” to the doormen. It felt like an old perfume commercial, with the hot woman striding confidently through the halls while all the guys stop dead in their tracks and whistle. The part of the shot you didn’t see is the longtime cleaning staff seeing her and grumbling, ”Damn it! And just when we finally got all the stains off the furniture!”
Frank looks no different at all, but he is definitely overcompensating for his milquetoasty previous go-round. Screwing a woman in the confessional and stumbling around the casino drunk, he seemed absolutely determined to erase all memories of him as the nice guy, which is a shame, as he was the only one who didn’t leave a horrific taste in viewers’ mouths. While everyone else seems to have arrived wanting to prove how much they’ve grown, he just wants to prove how much he’s regressed. At this rate, will we see him on an Inferno in six years, drinking urine out of Tonya’s shoe?
Steven is as upbeat as usual. I really grew to like him on E!’s Kill Reality. That was a thoroughly icky show that I’m not proud to have watched, but I was impressed by how he came off like a fun-loving guy who had no illusions about his reality-TV reputation. He seems to be saying, ”Yeah, I was a dope, but what are you gonna do?” There was a time I thought he could be blamed for sullying Trishelle’s honor on TV and starting her down an ugly road, but after studying her later exhibitionist ”career” (and I’m not counting her starring role in the movie Ninja Cheerleaders), it’s clear that if it wasn’t him, she would have found someone else in front of a camera to lick. If she hadn’t gotten on The Real World, eventually you would have seen her dry-humping a Lhasa apso on America’s Funniest Pets.
But what of Brynn? How about that turnaround! Last we saw her, her hopes and dreams were to be a go-go dancer. And now she’s married with two kids? What’s next: the Miz, Ph.D.? Brynn’s husband, Austin, has to be the most forgiving guy in the world. I remember when we first saw him, when he came to visit her in L.V. back in 2002: She complained to him when a guy she’d fooled around with was dancing with other women. That’s valid grounds to have someone sterilized, not to make her the mother of your children. But they seem very happy, and it was kind of heartwarming. Let’s just hope something doesn’t snap in the next two weeks and we don’t end up seeing Mommy Brynn doing Jell-O shots out of her son’s sippy cup and getting dollars stuffed down her bikini by one of the Wiggles.
NEXT: Bizarre love triangle
As for Alton and Irulan: I went through a bunch of my old RW TV Watches to refresh my memory of the first Vegas season, and I was reminded just how much time was wasted on their endless flirtations and arguments. It looks like it took three years for them to get as bored with their togetherness as I did in one season, because they finally broke up. Alton is now running his own ”businesses,” which were mysteriously never identified. He’s just running businesses — that’s all you need to know. He has a briefcase and a laser pointer, and stop asking questions. Irulan, on the other hand, lives out in Queens with a boyfriend and takes pictures of things. And judging from her jittery, far-too-smiley entrance, she may be about one shutter click away from a complete nervous breakdown.
And Arissa. Ahhh, Arissa. In the earlier reunion casting special, she said she’d made some bad decisions after The Real World. And yet she was now living in an apartment on the beach and spending her time painting and cooking. I’m only sure of one bad decision that results in that outcome, and it involves being one of six wives and being hemmed into your paradise by an electric fence. She certainly acted like a prisoner when she arrived back at the suite; she was all nervous looks and awkward smiles. I wondered whether she was trying to blink, ”PLEASE HELP ME MY SULTAN HUSBAND WILL KILL MY FAMILY IF I MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH ANY OF THE BUSBOYS,” in Morse code.
Clearly, the producers had her marked for drama. For the first two-thirds of the show, everyone alluded to a mysterious split between her and Irulan and Alton, but it was the Scandal That Shall Not Be Named. Finally it came out: Four years ago she was so tight with the couple that they called themselves ”the Trinity.” (And don’t doubt that Jesus, God, and the Holy Ghost’s lawyers are preparing a lawsuit right now over that one.) But at one point, either Alton followed Arissa into a bathroom and made a move or vice versa, and no one has talked to Arissa since. But that’s the kind of problem that can only be resolved when there are cameras around, and now, four years later, they finally had their chance.
Alton maintained it was Arissa who came on to him. If you remember, in 2002 he swore to Irulan on his murdered brother that he didn’t have a threesome while on vacation, even though that very threesome was caught on tape. Alton has a tiny truth-telling problem like Tom Sizemore has a wee self-control issue. You would think that with all she’d been through with Alton, Irulan might have considered that he was lying, but instead she defended him in a screaming match with Arissa in the middle of the bar. I could swear I saw a bartender nostalgically saying, ”Just like the good old days…” and then sentimentally jabbing at his own eardrums with an ice pick to make it stop.
The fight resumed in the suite, with Alton and Arissa screaming at each other. ”Bone out, negro!” shouted Arissa. As I sat there confused as to what exactly that meant, I remembered five years ago how equally nonplussed I was when she yelled at someone that she was going to ”put you on shout.” She and I have both aged five years, and I’m still no more clued in to her slang.
And yet with all of this going on, it was Trishelle and Brynn who were home and in bed first. So they’re the only ones who have matured along with me? I don’t known what that means, but I think it’s definitely time for me to bone out.
What do you think? Do you believe Alton or Arissa? Do you think any of the housemates will grow through this experience? And are you going to keep watching?