''Real World'': Is Tonya crazy? Yes, says Josh Wolk -- yes, she really is
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”Real World”: Is Tonya crazy?

I have long fluctuated on my opinions about Tonya. Is she crazy or misunderstood? Is she really sick, or did she just buy that blood-clot-in-a-cup from a discharge scalper who caters to hypochondriacs? While I had recently ventured into the ”misunderstood” and ”really sick” camp, after the June 4 episode of ”The Real World,” I’m convinced that she is crazy… and more. She’s a character type we’ve never seen before on the show: a meld of nuttiness, manipulativeness, hypochondria, and, uniquely, sociopathy.

The Chicago roomies were sent to Salem, Massachusetts, to research ghost stories for their upcoming Halloween fair. Looks like they got the one non-profit city job that sends its employees on extravagant trips to do work that could easily be done on the internet. On the list of things I’ve never heard my friends who work in the public sector say, I think, ”Enough with the lavish business trips! A man can only take so much room service!” comes in at number one.

But Tonya could not go. She woefully told Cara that her doctor forbade her to, although fortunately her beau Justin would be coming to stay with her. Just in case anybody thought she was faking (which everybody did), she illustrated her woe by curling up in a ball and sleeping in the corner of their office. I’m surprised she didn’t stick a foot-long thermometer in her mouth and a giant ice pack on her head like they do in comic strips.

Well, she certainly needed an ice pack after her subsequent verbal tussle with Theo, who lashed out at her. Among his cogent criticisms was that she should ”shut the f— up,” that she ”blew up her sickness,” and that she was just staying at home so she could ”bone” her boyfriend. He accented many of these statements with two fingers on his left hand, bending them as he spoke; at first I thought he was making finger-quotes, but then I realized that Theo isn’t much for irony. So perhaps he has the same powers as that kid in ”The Shining” whose finger said, ”redrum.” In short, if Theo starts riding a Big Wheel around the house, I’d start hiding the axes.

The argument ended with Tonya weeping and the other roomies telling Theo to shut up, even though he told them he was only saying what they all said behind her back. ”It’s one thing to be honest, it’s another thing to be insulting,” said Cara, a battle cry soon to be adopted by backstabbers everywhere.

Tonya then told Chris that she was going to go back to Walla Walla, because ”I sure as hell don’t need to live with a black guy who calls me bitch every time he feels it’s necessary.” (Hey, kids! Parse that last sentence yourself for bonus racist overtones!) Luckily, the cavalry arrived in the form of Justin. You could tell he was steamed when Theo offered to knock fists with him as a greeting…and Justin declined with a somber head-shake. No knocking of fists? The ultimate snub!

The true Tonya weirdness surfaced when she started getting calls from her mysterious ”employer” Darren. She whispered on the phone (in her best scared, weak voice) that she needed him to send her more money, and fibbed to him that she was all alone. She then told the camera that she’d been lying since childhood, and she was good at making people hear what they wanted to hear.

So is anything she has ever said true? Things just got weirder when Justin got suspicious of her relationship with the mysterious Darren, who, with his phone-only appearance, is like the Angels’ Charlie. When will he start telling Tonya to get in a bikini and go fight crime? She maintains that he is just a father figure… albeit one who calls her a dozen times a day and takes care of all of her money. There are two meanings to the phrase, ”Who’s your daddy,” and I think we’re dealing with the creepier one here.

After Justin left, she discovered that he had gone into her email and deleted a couple of messages from Darren. Granted, this was an invasion of privacy, but she masterfully was able to get him to feel horrible while carefully evading the question that led him to go into her email in the first place: what the deal was with Darren. Let’s see: woman with phantom pain, mysterious acquaintance, and confused boyfriend… am I the only one who saw the Nicole Kidman movie ”Malice” and sees where this is going? As Theo might diplomatically say, ”Justin, I see that you’re in love, and I respect that. But I think you should run as far away from this crazy freak as you can before she kills you for the insurance money. We cool, bro?”

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