The kids hate bossy Tonya -- big surprise. Despite Cara's attempts to mediate, says Josh Wolk, Keri and Kyle's continued flirtation blurs into the background
The Real World
Credit: The Real World Chicago: MTV

The kids hate bossy Tonya — big surprise

If your holiday-fatigued fingers are too weary — either pinched from too much strenuous egg-dyeing or stinging from matzo shrapnel caught under your fingernails — to scroll through a whole synopsis today, I’ll make it easy for you with a Cliff Notes review of the April 2 episode:

Keri and Kyle continue to annoy. Theo shows a sensitive side. Tonya is in crazy-bossy mode, not crazy-kidney-stone mode. Cara finds a way to meld nosiness AND horniness. Aneesa is virtually non-existent. Chris is literally non-existent. Then ”The Osbournes” start. Now rest your hand, ”Real World” fan! You’re all caught up!

I’ll also give a more detailed analysis for the rest of you with more time on your hands (and watching the ”Real World” every week is the very definition of having too much time on your hands). But before I do, let’s all acknowledge that it took a whole paragraph to sum up the Real Worlders’ adventures, a tribute to their complexity. After all, encapsulating any episode of ”The Bachelor” would only take two words: Ladies sad. So the Chicago septet are quite multi-faceted…well, maybe they’ve got three facets…or two… Okay, I estimate that when you combine all seven roomies, you get a total of 10 facets. Well, that’s more than you get when you tally up all 26 folks on ”The Bachelor.”

Surprisingly, Theo has two of these facets. We’ve seen the homophobic, stubborn, party boy side of Theo, and we’ve grown to love it, or at least to mock it. And at first, when Theo announced his brothers were coming to visit, this episode looked like it was only going to further illustrate that side, especially when he said, ”When my brothers are here, it’s like, thank God, I get to be even more stupid.” Ask and ye shall receive, Theo: The brothers arrived and quickly took off their shirts to run around the airport gate.

But this episode also revealed his sensitive side, as he embraced his job supervising the kids working on the mural. It was actually quite touching to see how seriously he took the project, befriending the kids and explaining how important it was to keep them off the streets. He was especially impressive in his protectiveness of Nelson who, I might add, bears a startling resemblance to Forest Whitaker. In fact, the only difference I could see between them is that even at age 14, Nelson would have known that co-starring in ”Battlefield Earth” was a bad idea.

Keri and Kyle share one facet between them: their never-ending flirtation. Every damn week Keri parrots something to the effect of, ”Kyle has said he’s attracted to me, but that he can’t act on it because of his girlfriend outside the show.” It’s always the same thought, in slightly different words, which means that the ”Real World”’s brainwashing producers keep asking her about it over and over again, until that’s all she can say. When Keri tries to start life in her post-show world, when job interviewers ask her what her weaknesses are, she will likely answer, ”Well, Kyle has said he’s attracted to me, but that he can’t act on it.” Chris didn’t appear in this episode at all, but the omnipresent Keri and Kyle seemed just as invisible: Their same-old same-old struggles have become so redundant that they’re turning into reality white noise.

Tonya showed a new facet to her, although technically it’s the same facet, just manifested as bossiness as opposed to whininess. Snapping at all the mural kids, she showed that her soft side is about as pillowy as a kidney stone. Perhaps she boned up for this job by watching ”The Great Santini” as a training film. She did add a new twist to the ”tough love” school of thought by following up all her snapping and ordering around with the threat that ”you guys are gonna make me cry.” Fear and pity aren’t usually an effective manipulation one-two punch, but darned if she didn’t make it work. Now, if she really wants to get things done, she should kindly offer to buy all the kids ice cream, and then burn the Baskin-Robbins down when they get there. Then just watch that mural get done lickety-split!

The truly fascinating revelation in this episode was Cara. Her buttinski and hand-on-your-buttinski lifestyles had up until now operated independently: She could give unrequested advice, and then sleep with John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, and never the twain would meet. But when Keri left the house, Cara started telling Kyle that she thought Keri was too possessive. Sure, it seemed like the usual Cara help-me-help-you psychology, but it turned out it was more help-me-help-you-off-with-your-clothes.

The two went out for margaritas. (I might add that Cara’s margarita was as big as her head. I know that people use that expression as an exaggeration — ”He ate a steak as big as your head,” etc. — but this margarita was literally as big as her head. It was as if she had told the waitress, ”I want a margarita as big as my head. And that’s not a figure of speech… God help me, I’ll measure it if I have to.”) This cranium-sized cocktail emboldened her to ask Kyle why he and she had never hooked up. After all, she said, they were both attractive, so why wouldn’t they? (However, this all was according to Kyle. Suspiciously, there was no footage shown, so we can’t know the specifics, but it sure is fun to go with the most scandalous version, isn’t it?) This survival-of-the-hottest query seemed like more of a Theo theory, odd coming from someone who pretends to be the mistress of sensitivity. It was less Dr. Phil than Dr. Feel.

Kyle was a bit shocked, and happily related it to Keri when she got home, which only seemed to bring them closer together. Considering how unhappy their allegedly ”platonic” relationship makes Keri, he’s not making it easier by gossiping, meeting her at the airport, putting his arm around her all the time, and laying his repeated bulls-eye kisses on her forehead. If this keeps up, Keri will have to keep repeating her mantra to the confessional, and the couple may be downgraded to half a facet.

Is ”The Real World”’s new depth fleeting?

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