On ''The Real World,'' Rachel and Nehemiah debate America's involvement in Iraq, then Danny and Melinda fight over her fake make-out session with Wes
The Real World: Austin (Season 16)

”The Real World”: Battles of the sexes

In episode 4, MTV brought out the big guns by highlighting the war in Iraq, an issue that, having received its seven-minute spot on The Real World, will now command the minds of American youth for months. Nehemiah (”I don’t like war”) and Rachel (”I was in the war”) had a bit of a tiff about the war, which, apparently, Rachel fought all by herself, subsisting on water and Starburst jelly beans and crapping in holes she dug.

Not really, but I think that’s what Nehemiah thinks Rachel thinks everyone should think. And so much thinking on this show just feels unnatural, so would you mind showing Wes walking into a wall again?

Neh and Rachel engaged in a classic left-wing-vs.-right-wing debate, except neither of them made any convincing political arguments. Their discussion over lunch ended up turning into a round of ”Would You Rather?” — (a) be thrown in jail or (b) get deployed in Iraq? At this point, I expected Melinda to try to turn the focus on herself and jump in with ”I got one! Would you rather (a) watch me flick my tongue against Rachel’s or (b) zoom in slowly on how my butt cheeks oh-so-delicately smush up against my pink shorts when I crawl into bed?” But there would be time for that later.

Nehemiah’s response to ”Would You Rather?” was to suggest finding someone who has been both in jail and in Iraq to tell the world which was worse. I thought to myself that this idea made a lot of sense, until I envisioned Saddam making a guest appearance in the confessional wearing nothing but his briefs. Maybe Nehemiah could lure him in with promises of Doritos and body shots, and then Rachel could give him tough love, although not that tough because remember, she’s only a nurse. Right, Neh?

Eventually, after a few minutes or a few days, depending on your concept of Real World time, Neh wrote what I assume was an apologetic note (although it’d be funnier if it just said, ”Psych!”) on the back of an envelope. What is he, like, against the United States Postal Service now, too? That anti-American bastard! In typical non-resolution style, Neh and Rachel neglected to acknowledge each other’s sides in further debate. Now that they’ve hugged it out, they’ll probably avoid the topic for the rest of the season. Whew.

After sitting through the so far relatively angst-free season (Danny’s face and Mel’s fabricated drama don’t count), I appreciated the conflict between the peaceful dude and the aggressive nurse-warrior. Having a female soldier on Austin was a cool (albeit cliché) idea, and type A+ Rachel, despite her bossiness and obsession with punctuality, doesn’t bug me that much. There are people like her everywhere. I almost like having them around because they make me feel more relaxed. If I were her roommate in Austin, she’d probably insist on keeping our barracks a substance-free territory, but it wouldn’t even matter because I’d feel perpetually stoned. Maybe that’s why Mel never seems to get out of her bed.

The episode’s other major event, which I can’t even handle calling ”major” or an ”event” because the whole thing was just so contrived, was Wes and Melinda’s meaningless, camera-friendly (even though we mostly couldn’t see faces, come on) make-out session outside a bar. Melinda complained to Danny, ”If you could see it, then you’d understand,” and I had no idea why Coldplay’s new single ”Speed of Sound” (which contains that line) wasn’t blasting in the background. Probably because then they’d have to do a dramatic pull-away shot of Danny’s face and right now Danny still looks like the Phantom. Too bad.

Danny and Mel had their own version of the let’s-fight-then-make-up routine, except I’m guessing theirs involved a happier ending than just a hug. Hey, did you guys gather that Melinda likes to have sex? It’s like she wants everyone to know it or something. I’m not sure if it was when she told Rachel, ”I wanna go f—” (Rachel was like, ”Who, me?”), or when she told Danny, ”I wanna f— you so bad,” but at one point I began hoping that she could boost her subtlety a bit. She answered my prayers while making up with Danny. After he plaintively said that her fooling around made him worry that he might get ”screwed,” she replied, ”I don’t want to screw you. I mean, I want to screw you, but I don’t want to screw you.” Now there’s the complexity I was after! Of course, Danny’s sensitive-guy act would have worked better if he hadn’t been wearing that ”Beer Sports Women” T-shirt.

I particularly loved how Lacey tried to pass off her tattling on Wes and Melinda as something anyone could have done. Yes, anyone could have, but I’m guessing one of the producers suddenly remembered Lacey, assumed she wouldn’t do anything interesting that day, and told her to go deliver the gossip to Danny. Later, in the laundry room (they do their wash themselves, just like real people), Johanna asked Lacey who leaked the news, and instead of ‘fessing up, Lacey cagily mumbled, ”It doesn’t even matter — he won’t even say.” Ha! Watch out for this one. It’d be great if she turned out to be delightfully evil.

Oh, and for a minute there, film advisers Jenn and P.J. showed the roomies how to creep around a concert venue with video cameras by taking them to practice shooting at a club called the Velvet Spade, which looks 20 times cooler than any place they’ve visited in Austin so far. There is hope yet.

What do you think? Did Nehemiah take his argument too far? Is Mel just playing to the cameras? And how do you think Leo feels now that his on-screen description has changed from ”bartender and manager” to ”Johanna’s crush”?

The Real World: Austin
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