No kind words for Tonya on this finale -- It's finally over for the squabbling housemates now that the skinny lady has sung, says Josh Wolk
The Real World
Credit: Tony and Cara: Rudy Archuleta/MTV

No kind words for Tonya on this finale

Chicago is the Windy City, yet it has taken forever for this ”Real World” cast to blow out of town. But on the July 9 season finale, they finally packed up their grudges and gave Chi-town a respite from all their bickering. And they left their lives together just as they lived them: with a flurry of snippery quickly followed by insincere apologies.

On the roomies’ last night together, Cara was to sing at their local coffee hangout, which she refers to as their Central Perk. It’s an apt analogy, as Cara — who announced she will be moving to L.A. after the show to get into show biz ?- always seemed very aware that she was on a TV show. I’m sure she has compared their bathroom to that of ”Ally McBeal,” and I’ll eat my ”The Grind” promotional T-shirt if she has never uttered the words, ”Oh my God, Kyle and I are just like Jerry and Elaine!”

Everyone seemed clear that this was meant to be a group event, and yet Chris and Tonya decided to go to the gym instead. This maneuver was understandable coming from Tonya, but it was a surprise coming from Chris; perhaps his growing body obsession has taken over his life. It’s like those cautionary-tale movies in which the family man hooked on crack misses his child’s school play because he’s on the hunt for some drugs…except instead of sweet, sweet rock, Chris craves an ab-roller.

Cara claimed that she wasn’t so much angry at them missing her performance as she was about their missing the group’s last night together. (And if you believe that, I’ve got an uneaten ”Grind” promotional T-shirt to sell you.) But when they finally showed up for dinner, Cara admitted that she was disappointed they didn’t come to the show…although she didn’t want to hold a grudge. Unfortunately, while Cara’s guilt trip worked on Chris, it just bounced off Tonya, thanks to her Walla Wallan imperviousness to human emotion.

Cara had a point: After all, she had spent many nights at the hospital with Tonya, who then couldn’t be bothered to see her sing for one performance. Yet instead of bringing up this damning double standard, Cara resorted to Sorority Girl 101 tactics, asking Tonya to switch seats with Aneesa, ostensibly so the cool kids could giggle together and Tonya would be off by herself.

This was yet another example where there was no worthy side to take as the gambits got incrementally pettier. Their battle plans seem cadged from ”The Untouchables”: ”She pulls a lame excuse, you pull a cold shoulder. She sends you on a logic-free argument, you send her to sit by herself and laugh extra loud as if she’s missing something. THAT’S the Chicago way.”

By dessert, the tension had dissipated enough for some emotional toasts, where Aneesa said that she considered all of them family. This isn’t much of a compliment considering how she talks to her mother. Can all the roommates now expect whiny phone calls from Aneesa looking for money and bawling whenever an obstacle as minuscule as losing a sock befalls her?

The last segment was the typical pack-‘n’-hug finale that we get every season. They all gathered in the hot tub to talk about how great the others are, although many encomiums seemed tinged with unreconciled bitterness. When Keri had to say something nice about Kyle, only the hot-tub bubbles covered up the awkward silence. And the episode didn’t include someone having to say something nice about Tonya, perhaps because that would just involve 25 minutes of dead air with everyone whistling tunelessly and picking at their fingernails.

Then came the next day’s drawn-out goodbyes. While everyone else hugged and wept, Tonya looked like her cab could not come quickly enough. In sharp contrast to her first illness, when she wailed and could barely drag her suitcase out of the house, this time it looked like she’d balance her satchel on her head and run to the airport if it would have gotten her away from her roommates more quickly. And her departure was framed with an attempted kind eulogy by Cara who, after saying Tonya had a wonderful heart and soul, paused, then quickly muttered, ”I don’t know if you and I should ever talk again.”

But after that honest moment, it was all weeping, all the time for Cara, who was the last person to leave. She looked like she was hoping this episode would serve as her audition tape for soap operas, as she rotated through every clichéd ”touching farewell” maneuver ever seen. There was the furrowed, teary eyes, the bit-lip ”I told myself I wouldn’t cry!” whimper, and the throw-your-arms-around-you-and-clutch-for-dear-life hug.

She even said, ”There’s a little part of my heart on that train,” when Kyle left. And then in a final one-two sappy punch, she cradled Aneesa’s face in her two hands for a ”Farewell, sweet princess” move and then actually put her hand onto the subway glass as Aneesa rode away. I was waiting for her to pull a ”Midnight Express” and mash her bare breasts against the subway window, but I guess that would be for her Showtime audition tape.

Now the roommates are all gone, and on to their new lives. But considering they were all still bickering up until 12 hours before they said goodbye, I’m sure that any end-of-the-season epiphanies told in the Diary Room will be quickly forgotten. Now THAT’S the Chicago way.

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