Malik and Nicole, like Kevin and Lori, seem headed for an in-house romance, says Josh Wolk

By Josh Wolk
Updated July 12, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
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Love blooms on ”The Real World”

There have always been flirtations in ”Real World” houses past, but Hawaii’s Colin and Amaya are the only two housemates who did anything resembling dating while on the series. But the way things are going in New York, it looks like we could end the season with three married couples.

In week one, we had the endless exchanging of the sexual vibes between Kevin and Lori, and the promos for next week hint that they could quickly consummate their short-simmering attraction. But on the July 9 episode, we saw affection blooming between Malik and Nicole, and I can’t picture a cuter couple. First, Nicole is adorable and downright low-maintenance for a Real Worlder. So far she’s neither gotten in anyone’s face nor bragged about being the only one ”keeping it real.” Plus, she’s funny and smart; her shock at learning that her date had voted for President George W. Bush was priceless, especially when she bid him goodbye on the subway, saying, ”Don’t tell anyone you voted for Bush; you might not make it home.” (Side note: Who would be dumb enough to go out with a ”Real World” housemate? It’s bad enough just wondering if a date liked you or not, let alone then seeing your worst fears confirmed on TV. It’s like reading a girl/boyfriend’s diary and finding out s/he finds you pathetic — but you’re reading it aloud on ”TRL.”)

And Malik (or Mellowk, as I call him, supercool to the point of catatonia) not only makes a refreshingly low-key counterpart for her, but his sensitivity toward her low self-esteem was heartwarming. He obviously understands her issues (she said she showers three times a day and always checks her makeup — which, let’s face it, can get a bit Kabuki-like — because, growing up poor, she couldn’t shower often, so she was known as ”the dirty girl”) in a deeper way than the usual ”Wow, your way of life is different than mine! Let’s hug!” of most Real Worlders.

And then there’s Coral and Mike. Oh, sure, they seem like an unlikely couple, the way that Coral cannot make a single comment to him that hasn’t been double-dipped in condescension. But didn’t they say the same thing about Sam and Diane on ”Cheers”? And look at the sparks that flew there! Okay, Sam and Diane weren’t real people, but be honest: Real Worlders ain’t exactly real people, either.

You never know: One day, Coral could be excoriating Mike for not knowing who Frederick Douglass is, and then suddenly he’ll look up with big teary eyes and say, ”I want to learn!” Coral, obviously moved, will shed her armor and admit, ”And I want to learn from YOU! Teach me about your Ted Nugent! And tell me more of your fraternity’s ‘Elephant Walk’!”

In the meantime, their relationship is downright frustrating, with her constantly coming down on Mike for being racist, throwing the word ”ignorant” around like it was ”good morning.” It’s almost enough to make you feel pity for Mike, if he wouldn’t keep jumping in with statements like, ”I had teachers talk about Malcolm X, guys like that, I just never listened.” (But you know when they lectured on the cultural importance of ”Hee Haw,” he was taking notes aplenty! Seriously, could they make Mike look any hickier? With his buck teeth, wide eyes, and spiky hair, I keep expecting them to dress him in bib overalls and jam a stalk of wheat in his teeth.) It was quite exhilarating to see Malik’s friend suggest to Coral that perhaps Mike WAS willing to learn, and she shouldn’t be so judgmental. But then again, hyperjudgment is what keeps us tuning in to ”The Real World.”

What do you think? Are these in-house romances going to flame out or make this show hotter than Hawaii?

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