On ''The Real World,'' halfway through a lighthearted Valentine's Day episode, Danny learns of his mother's death
The Real World: Austin (Season 16)

”The Real World”: Danny suffers a real tragedy

Well, the thousands of promotions on MTV this week for the Real World episode unlike any other were, sadly, absolutely correct. Danny’s mother, who struggled with substance abuse and was estranged from him, died of a heart attack. I at least hope that all those juicy Danny close-ups on the commercials were worth it and pulled in some good ratings for the little network that could…n’t help getting all up in the poor kid’s face the whole damn time. Jeez.

Then again, I cried along with Danny both times I watched him react to the news. It may be wrong, but I like shows that bring me to tears, and I think MTV knows I’m not the only one.

Even though the circumstances sucked, on this episode the roommates finally did ”start getting real.” Melinda, Nehemiah, and Danny exposed different sides of themselves. I thought Mel did a great job supporting her new boyfriend in an understated way that wasn’t all about her, and Neh showed extraordinary patience and understanding with Danny both before (all that painful clothes shopping) and after he learned about his mother.

I liked how the news came right about halfway through — it exposed how wildly the concept of a ”real problem” could change in an instant. What’s a $112 bouquet of long-stemmed red roses and having to wear a tie one night in your life compared with a suddenly lost parent? I truly feel horrible for Danny. (So bad, in fact, that I’m willing to overlook his telling Neh that if Mel didn’t show up for their date, he’d ”punch her in the ovaries.” What? [Thanks, readers, for pointing out that this was an Anchorman reference.])

Even though it’s probably too intrusive, I don’t mind that the cameras will be following Danny home for the funeral as much as I mind that MTV chose to air Danny’s last phone conversation with his mother during this episode. I’ll admit that I suspected she was under the influence during the call, and judging by his standoffish responses to her, so did he. Of course, when he sees it again on television, he won’t remember what he suspected, probably rightly so, at the time. He’ll just feel even more guilty for not returning her final ”I love you.”

That adds to the tragedy — he simply couldn’t have known what would happen so shortly after his self-protective hang-up. Of course Danny loved his mom, deep down, but now that one selfish moment will haunt him way more than it already has because it’s going into eternal reruns on MTV. He’s probably sitting there right now wondering how many viewers are judging him even though they don’t know the first thing about his relationship with his mother. How awful for him. I don’t like it. I hate to imagine the producers scrambling for the footage from February 10th as if that phone conversation was some sort of gold mine of a reel. It’s just so sad. I can only hope that Danny has found some way of dealing with his loss since it happened and that maybe watching the events again has been in some way therapeutic for him.

I think it’s time for some positive points, since I’m starting to depress myself. Wes wasn’t shown trying to mack on girls by loudly asking them if he could mack on them, so that was super. Neh’s MasterCard joke to Danny was pretty ”priceless.” Is he that funny all the time? Why don’t they ever show it? Johanna earned major points by not expecting anything for Valentine’s Day — it made her surprised reaction to the flower and bottle of wine from ”Leo, Johanna’s crush” seem much more genuine and sweet than Rachel’s stomping through the house waving around three dozen (expected) roses from her ”on a break” boyfriend, Eric.

Mel received a Valentine’s Day card from ex-boyfriend Jason with the original love note blacked out, word by word. That was great. I loved Lacey’s ”Just buy a new card!” even though I find it hard to believe that a guy would actually compose a greeting card weeks ahead of time. I smell something not that real, which might be even funnier. Looks like the joke’s on Jason, because Mel seemed entirely amused by the whole thing instead of filled with aching regret about the one who got away.

The most shocking part of the episode of the sort that didn’t leave me in tears was Lacey’s phone conversation with boyfriend Ryan, She was speaking in this whacked-out little-kid voice that she never uses away from the phone, saying things like ”I’m taking your Valentine virginity?” and ”Don’t worry, I’ll ease you in slowly.” Uhhh. So this is how the virgin hairdresser gets off, on sexually suggestive language instead of sex itself. Good to know. The extreme close-up of her forefinger snaking through the tightly wound phone cord was also key. Well done, Bunim/Murray Productions. Now get your prying cameras out of poor Danny’s face when he goes home.

What do you think? Did the show take it too far by not leaving Danny alone right after talking to his dad? Is there a good chance Danny won’t return for the rest of the season? Should he?

The Real World: Austin
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