Cara battles Keri and Tonya -- The play is the thing, says Josh Wolk (and William Shakespeare), but the real drama is behind the scenes
The Real World
Credit: The Real World Chicago: MTV

Cara battles Keri and Tonya

I practically suffered whiplash at the speed with which the June 18 episode established that Kyle was friends 4-eva (in appropriate sororityspeak) with Cara. Did I miss something? Sure, we knew that he and Keri were on the outs, but who knew about his new friendship, which he subsequently mentioned had been growing for six weeks? This ”Real World” time-lapse editing is getting out of hand. They should make every cast member carry around a potted plant, so we could judge time frames by how much it had grown.

Kyle said that both Cara and Keri were attracted to him, which must be quite stressful for him. Perhaps that’s why he’s too distracted to shave, hence the odd, too-long-for-Crockett, too-short-for-James-Lipton beard. But Cara took the high road in this competition: Instead of acting rude to Keri, she remained a polite, caring roommate, giving good wishes and then methodically dooming Keri’s play. (Cara would like to make it in Hollywood, and after her ”All About Eve” Machiavellian maneuvers, I would say she’s got quite the future.)

Cara decided that out of the three skits they would be presenting for the children’s Halloween festival, they should cut Keri’s ”Bloody Mary,” since it wasn’t ready. Judging from her explanation to Keri — ”I feel bad you did all that work and it’s just not ready. You would tell me if it bothered you, wouldn’t you?” ?- if passive-aggressiveness were fudge, Cara wouldn’t be fitting into those bikinis anymore.

Then things got really uncomfortable. I think all of us in our younger days have experienced that insidious, insecure feeling that your friends are talking behind your back, and you reassure yourself that it can’t possibly be as bad as you imagine. Now picture finding out that it IS that bad…and that it’s being broadcast on TV. Well, welcome to Keri’s life. In the midst of Kyle griping endlessly in the confessional about how he didn’t want to be around her anymore, Keri came in and sat down.

Granted, it was weird of her to come in, but it was clearly motivated by some desperate, misconceived desire to reconnect to someone she used to be close to. And it was just as painful to watch as it sounds. Kyle sat behind her, mouthing ”go away” and putting his finger to his own head like a gun while she talked.

Leave it to Tonya to break the tension by adding even more tension. When Cara mentioned to their boss, Lara, that there were many reasons for ”Bloody Mary” being canceled, one being that Tonya had an operation coming up, Tonya overheard this and began yelling that she was tired of her sickness being a reason things can’t get done. (Granted, she’s the one who has consistently made it a reason, but no time to dwell on that — there’s a catfight a-brewin’!)

Suddenly, Tonya began ranting that Cara didn’t have the backbone to admit that she was the one who wanted to cut the segment. They all stomped onto the elevator, because vicious arguments are better in closed spaces, and Cara called her a bitch. It is an endless mystery why people keep opening up their places of employment to ”Real World”ers. One minute you think you’re getting free help, the next thing your workplace has turned into junior high school.

Keri later said she didn’t like Tonya’s outburst, but she did like her honesty, perhaps making her the only ”Real World”er in history who appears to have crept toward the epiphany that there is a difference between ”keepin’ it real” and being a jerk. Granted, she didn’t make it there, but it’s a creep in the right direction. ”Real World”ers who claim that telling people just what’s wrong with them is far better than talking behind their backs are forgetting that there’s a third option: tact.

The episode ended with faux reconciliations so phony that they left as bitter a taste in the mouth as Cara’s passive-aggressive fudge. Tonya apologized to Cara, saying that ”her nervousness comes across as being pissed,” and Cara accepted, saying, ”I need to accept that scariness turns into bitchiness for you, and that’s fine!” You can put both of these statements under an electron microscope, and I defy you to find any traces of sincerity or remorse in either of them. Then Keri talked to Cara, who refused to cop to the fact that she didn’t like ”Bloody Mary,” even though she did head straight home to share conspiratorial eye-rolls with Kyle about the play.

Then came the show: With all their drama, you’d think they were mounting a production of ”La Boheme” rather than kiddie theater in a tiny tent that would soon be passed on to Rodentus, Half Boy/Half Rat, when the circus next came to town. The show went fine, and the episode ended with Keri giving quite the girl-power epitaph: ”If I have to separate myself from Kyle and Cara, so be it. They can be friends, and then they can make out, and I don’t care.” Eloquent, no, but it could be worse: They could have just run the first segment again.

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