Shae suspects her cheating boyfriend might be cheating on her; licking ensues in terrifying places

By Darren Franich
Updated January 18, 2013 at 04:58 AM EST
Credit: MTV
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Nothing on Buckwild really makes any sense. That’s true of most reality shows, and may in fact be true of reality itself, but it’s remarkable just how randomly thrown-together the whole universe of Buckwild feels. Its third episode threw out three or four huge plotlines that seemed momentous, and then disappeared into vapor. Shae broke up with her boyfriend and hooked up with Joey. She seemed radically unaffected by both events. Meanwhile, Joey seemed to grow a goatee between commercial breaks, and then lose it, and then grow it back. The main characters on the show seem to just randomly appear at each other’s houses, usually just in time to engage in what feels like a purposefully-accidental game-show stunt. It’s also still not entirely clear who, precisely, the “main characters” are. Salwa is a walking Breakout Starlet — she run in high heels in braless slow motion and then fires a shotgun with perfect accuracy — but she’s not in the opening credits.

The show runs for an hour each week, but MTV has weirdly decided to advertise it as “Two Back-To-Back Episodes,” instead of just one hour. Also, nobody seems to particularly care if they hook up with anybody, or fight people, or get kicked out of their house and become functionally homeless. Also, some dude named Blue Foot, who we had never met and would never meet again, randomly dominated a minute of the episode when he engaged in an activity called “Sissonville Surfin’,” which is a funny way of saying “Throw a Board in Mud, Then Jump on It, Then Fall Off, Then Be In The Mud.”

I can’t decide if this is just reality-TV magic — by which I mean, if this is all just one big elaborate game of Catfish, and everyone on Buckwild is secretly a French-Canadian method actor doing an imitation of Young America. Or maybe most of these people genuinely don’t care what happens to them. Midway through the episode, Shae got a tattoo on her inner lip. Nothing we had learned about her gave any indication that she would do this. The show seemed to think it was liberating, which I guess it was, in the sense that it’s always liberating to know you can’t possibly make a worse mistake in your life. Unless you lick apple butter off a dude’s chest. That would be worse.

The episode began by picking up the whole Shae/Jesse thread. Shae said that she didn’t believe that Jesse was cheating on her. Then Ashley said, “Actually, Jesse tried to hook up with me.” Suddenly, Shae was convinced that Jesse was cheating on her. They had a fight while she moved out, and the camera very carefully caught Anna awkwardly trying to fit Shae’s clothes into her car while they fought in the foreground. It’s moments like this that make me fascinated and doubtful about the whole Buckwild enterprise; I wonder if the cameramen told them to fight in front of the car, or I wonder if the kids of Buckwild are already so savvy that they can arrange themselves into an artfully-constructed mise-en-scéne without even being asked. (The appeal of this show seemed to be that it was rougher and less obviously plastic than Jersey Shore, but half the cast looks like they walked out of a make-up trailer before every take.)

They had a party at Jesse B’s house. Jesse B was introduced last week as Jesse J’s bowling buddy, but now he was introduced as Ashley’s friend. He invited everyone over to his house, without informing them that he lived in an unclean bachelor-pad meth dungeon, rife with doors that did not close and a complete lack of beer pong tables. Jesse B. popped up the next evening, at a party at the girls’ house. Or maybe it was two nights later, or a month later; maybe it all happened before, and will happen again.

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Jesse was in Ashley’s car, slumped in the shotgun seat, covered in vomit and blood, his feet sticking out of the car. He was covered in bruises. Hours later, he crawled upstairs and told Salwa he loved her. Salwa accused him of being Patrick Schwasted. He said, “You’re the only person that I love!” Then he started drunkenly ranting, and he got into a fight with Tyler, which ended with him bleeding on the ground, while Joey screamed: “Get out of here, Jesse!” Not one bit of this was coherent in the least. It was like watching a Denis Johnson short story filmed by a crew of high schoolers for their English Class. Jesse B walked off into the night, a rough beast whose hour had round at last, slouching towards Methlehem. To celebrate his departure, Ashley and Joey ran naked around the house, and everyone laughed. Katie said that she would never recover from seeing that terrible fight. I have no idea who Katie is.

I’m not ragging on the show, by the way. I’m a little bit fascinated by the whole mood they’ve conjured up with Buckwild. It feels like memories of a summer from childhood, except with all the alcohol and firearms and automobiles that five-year-olds aren’t allowed to use. Which, by the way: Sometimes Buckwild is just plain stupid. The show celebrated a sequence with the gang firing a shotgun. Slow motion. Raucous music. Shae, learning to shoot a shotgun. Salwa, shooting a shotgun in heels. Ashley, shooting a bottle of orange soda, and the camera catching it explode so beautifully that it looked like a squib in a spaghetti western. And then, when it cut to commercial, MTV explained: “The misuse of guns can lead to damaging consequences. To learn more about this, head to”

Bullplop. Have your cake or eat it, MTV. If you’re going to make a show whose whole appeal is based around completely bad and immoral behavior and stupid behavior, don’t pull back on our account. But the ham-handedness of that PSA might imply something deeper about this particular cultural moment. Buckwild had big debut ratings, but those ratings dropped off last week; to judge purely by the show’s absence from last night’s Twitter Trending Topics, I’m betting the ratings fell even further. It could be that, quite understandably, TV viewers want something more substantive out of their reality TV than pure anarchy.

Then again, maybe TV viewers just aren’t that interested in these kids. Joey celebrated his birthday last night, and all anyone could talk about was whether Joey would get his birthday wish of hooking up with Shae. This wasn’t a tense situation; Shae admitted pretty early on that she was interested in Joey, and she showed up without a bra on, and she offered to let Joey lick her belly before agreeing to lick apple butter off his bare torso. I kind of like Shae. When she smiles and when she frowns, she has the same look in her eyes, and it’s a look that says: “I’d like to tear your skin off and wear it to the Prom.”

So Joey hooked up with Shae, and everyone had a chat about the surprising size of Joey’s Little Joey. “I totally can’t see him having a big d—,” said Salwa. “Yeah, it’s surprising,” admitted Shae, sounding cold and dead and robotlike. Joey called her later that day and was all like “Sup sup, girly-girl, let’s you and me hang-hang sometime, yeah?” Shae gave him her best Betty Draper impression: “No.” Joey explained, “You gotta fail to succeed, sometimes.” Truer words? Never spoken.

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich

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