Tonya is becoming the illest housemate! Josh Wolk feels her pain (kidney-stone-wise) and applauds Tonya for giving 110 percent to her character development
The Real World

Tonya is becoming the illest housemate!

I should hire myself out to MTV as a ”Real World” coach, so I could hang around the various houses, giving cast members pointers on how to be the best damn reality-TV stars they can be. There would be pep talks (”I knew a girl who once said, ‘I can’t whine anymore.’ And you know what? She reached deep inside herself and she found that extra little bit of complaining. You know who that girl was? It was Los Angeles’ Tami! And I see a little bit of Tami in you, so let’s get bitching!”), and there would be drills (”Okay, it’s the first day, you’ve just arrived, I want you people to do three laps around the house, screaming ‘This pad is off the hook!’ I’m timing you, so go, go, go!”).

But as the Gipper of griping, my key bit of advice would be that practice makes perfect. If you want to be memorable, find your one specialty and work, work, work at it. Puck hasn’t been shorthand for ”freaky roommate” for 9 years by having only being obnoxious 70 percent of the time while in San Francisco. Which is why I would commend Tonya this season: She has taken her role as the psychosomatic kidney-trouble queen and she has worked it, baby! When others are napping or goofing off, she’s out there clutching her side and hurting till it gives.

The March 19 episode found her all aquiver because her beau Justin was coming to visit. Tonya once again decided to put her love into words we can all understand… by which I mean words that we can all feel belittled by: ”People spend their whole lives hoping for one minute of what Justin and I share,” she said. Well, within a few minutes she was clutching her side in agony. So, blinding pain is our lives’ hope? Because I’ve been punched in the stomach before, and frankly, it wasn’t all that romantic. Oh well, maybe next Valentine’s Day, Cupid will kick me in the groin.

Yes, we’ve all seen Tonya do the sick thing before. Yet she never stops striving to be the best sicko that she can, and this was her Doug Flutie Hail Mary moment, except instead of throwing a pass, she looked like she was going to pass out. It all started with her pulling Cara aside to tell her that ”It’s kind of scary, but I’m still peeing blood.” There you have it, Tonya’s lone instance of understatement. And know this: Some people spend their whole lives trying to be that understating for a minute.

As Cara drove her to the hospital, Tonya tried to get comfortable by taking a tour of the back of the van. Every single time they cut back to her, she was in a different seat, face down. One minute she was in the back moaning about the bumps, and then when they pulled up to the hospital, she was suddenly in front, where she tumbled out and knelt facing backward on a wheelchair. This scene was a lesson on how powerful musical choices can be: the gritty rock tune MTV played under this drive gave it a harrowing edge. Yet, had they played the theme from ”Benny Hill” under her bopping from seat to seat and riding backwards on a wheelchair, that would have been zany fun!

I don’t mean to belittle Tonya’s pain. I’m just not convinced it’s real, what with it only popping up when she misses her boyfriend. The only problem was, this time she got her own game plan wrong. Silly Tonya, you’re supposed to get the surprise attack after Justin leaves, not before he comes, you mixed-up little minx! That’s like if Theo were to come to accept homosexuality BEFORE he called Chris a crime against God, or if Aneesa were to break up with her unbalanced girlfriend BEFORE she started picking fights out on the street! Crazy kids! (No, seriously: crazy kids.) But I forgive Tonya because she was giving 110 percent, spitting out kidney stones like a slot machine. She deserved the reward of Justin arriving, even if he didn’t have the engagement ring her roomies hoped he’d have. (Their hope for a proposal was likely wishful thinking, perhaps out of the assumption that he would then legally have to take her home with him.)

Now, my game plan of having ”Real World”ers practice one move does have a caveat: Make sure your move is interesting. Keri and Kyle need to understand that their whole flirtation thing is not working. They can run the plays of ”Keri tucks Kyle in” and ”Kyle stares at Keri’s ass while singing ‘Bootylicious”’ all day and night, but this storyline will not get any more gripping. Even having Kyle’s longtime girlfriend Nicole — ostensibly the only barrier between Kyle and Keri getting it on — break up with him didn’t make the two K’s scenes any more than a monotonous interlude between Tonya convulsions. Learn from Ed and Carol’s failings on ”Ed”: you can only milk sexual tension so long before viewers just don’t care whether a couple gets together, they just want them to stop flirting. If Kyle and Keri want to make the next ”Real World/Road Rules” all-star teams, they’d better start developing a new shtick. Anything but ”house sickie”: that position is already taken by the MVP.

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