Tonya and the housemates have a master catfight! On a road trip to Cara's house, the gang exchanges petty insults worthy of a ''Real World'' highlights reel, says Josh Wolk
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Credit: The Real World Chicago: MTV

”Real World”: Tonya and Cara catfight!

When the ”Real World”ers announced they were going on a road trip for the May 28 episode, I had my doubts that it would be the exciting diversion that years of frat-based movie comedies had promised me. After all, the last time the Chicago gang loaded up the van and drove, drove, drove, it was to Kyle’s summer house, and all we got was the usual dose of Keri/Kyle flirtation, only on a pool deck.

But this time, as they all headed to Cara’s house, we got everything I wanted in a ”Real World” episode: bitching, trash-talking, and overdramatics. Thank you, interstate highways! Those AAA guidebooks and Stuckey’s placemats are right: You truly are the gateway to adventure!

The ostensible visit to see Cara’s roots was just an excuse for her to visit her ex-boyfriend, Jared. We knew that was going to be a big scene, but before we dug into that we were offered a Tonya-versus-the-house segment as a delightful drama hors d?oeuvres. Consider it a pig in a blanket, except with catty nitpicking where a cocktail weenie should be. And instead of a flaky-pastry blanket, it would be wrapped with hypocrisy. Mmm, that’s good eatin’! Bring on the stuffed mushrooms… but stuff them with Aneesa’s incessant bulls—!

Tonya couldn’t come on the St. Louis trip because she had to work all weekend to pay her medical bills, but many of the roomies didn’t think that was a valid excuse for breaking house solidarity. (Chris couldn’t come either because his grandmother passed away, but that was excused. So remember that next time you flake on the Chicago house: dead relative, fine excuse. Giant blood clot floating in a cup: laaaaaame!)

As soon as the fivesome got in the van, the Tonya name-calling started. The beauty of this segment was that just when you started to feel bad for her, she got on the phone with boyfriend Justin and tore apart all of her departed roommates equally. The producers intercut between the two bitch sessions, and — new metaphor alert — it was like watching John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors volleying in their prime… except instead of hitting tennis balls, they were hitting EVIL!

First came Theo’s accusation that Tonya had fake breasts (not slander, by the way; Tonya herself has confirmed the enlargement on Then Tonya said Kyle was a dumb jock nose-picker. Advantage Tonya! But then Aneesa hit back with a random accusation that Tonya was weird for not knowing the first name of the birth mother who abandoned her. And when Keri stuck up for her, Tonya slammed back by calling her protector a spoiled brat! And when Cara also defended Tonya, she as called a slut with an eating disorder! Now that’s Wimbledon-worthy pettiness!

Then it was on to the Cara storyline. Apparently Cara was supposed to have moved to New York with Jared three months ago, and she called him to back out two days before they were to leave, apparently to join ”The Real World,” but also because she decided she wanted to be an actress, and didn’t want to be tied down.

Her goal, as she told Kyle, was to get her own sitcom like ”Will & Grace.” Of course it would be that easy! Just look at the other ”Real World” alums who have made the leap to series TV, like London’s Jacinda, and, uh, I guess Hawaii’s Colin was on that show ”MYOB” that lasted a few episodes. And then there was, um, uh….

Anyway, her acting bug was an important bit of information, because it made me realize that every time she has a dramatic moment, she always applies facial expressions copped from countless made-for-TV movies. After her singing duet with Aneesa, I was expecting her to say, ”Thank you! And now I will perform a scene from the Tori Spelling classic, ‘Mother, May I Sleep with Danger’!”

So many times during this episode, a scene would end with Cara hugging Jared, eyes closed emotionally, and I wanted to cry out, ”and, cut! That’s a wrap!” It seemed like what she was actually feeling came secondary to her acting out what she thought a character should be feeling in that situation.

After many joyous moments of Cara’s family entertaining the housemates (including one scene where Kyle commented on the big meal Cara’s mother made, and she replied, ”Oh, Cara ate like this three meals a day growing up!” Yep, there’s nothing to see here, no eating disorders at all, keep it moving!), Jared told Cara he needed to have a big talk. He brought her back to his old dorm room, which confused me. I thought he was supposed to have been on the brink of graduating and moving to New York… but instead he moved back into his old dorm? Can a college take away credits from you for getting dumped?

The whole confrontation ended with a bunch of lines cribbed from Lifetime love stories. Cara trotted out the old chestnut that he deserved better than her, but that she needed to be selfish now ”and that feels good!” And then he gave a long speech about how someday they might still end up together, but until then, she was just ”a memory.”

Frankly, that seemed to me like he was saying he didn’t want to talk to her anymore, but she seemed in a pretty good mood when they said farewell, so perhaps she just thought that would make a more dramatic coda and ignored the real subtext of his words. Wait until Tonya watches this episode… then she’ll really have something to make fun of!

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