MTV's Siesta Key only makes sense if you've never heard of Florida
You either die as Laguna Beach or you live long enough to see yourself become Siesta Key. MTV’s latest stab at beachside hot-people drama, from the team behind Laguna, trades California for Florida, high school for college, and graduating seniors for retired seniors. Kidding! Siesta Key is erasing your grandparents from the narrative.
Siesta Key is pretty sure you’ve never even heard of Siesta Key, a “secret paradise” where the kids are wild and the pools come pre-filled with inflatable gold swans. (To be fair, as a local, I’ve never heard of that version of Siesta Key either.) Forget retirees, spring breakers, and James Franco in Spring Breakers; on this show, the Gulf Coast is frothy and temperate and packed with all the “local” 20-somethings you can squeeze onto a beach. New York was the fifth character on Sex and the City. Siesta Key is the 147th character on Siesta Key.
The first character is Alex, whose birthday brings the whole cast together for a bash at his swanky mansion. (He’s turning 22 and sounds like he only sort of cares that he’ll never see “like half of the people coming” ever again.) The pilot pivots around this party; it’s where the drama happens. The importance of pool parties to the local social order is the most accurate thing about this episode.
Our Lauren Conrad-esque narrator, if you want to pay her that much of a compliment, is Juliette, who, according to Juliette, is Alex’s girlfriend. Is she Alex’s girlfriend according to Alex? That’s unclear. He cheated on her last summer with his high school sweetheart, Madisson, who’s back in town after graduating from SMU. She’s got lingering feelings, and Alex leads her on, taking her to the beach and plying her with positive feedback like, “I can’t lie: I’m having a really good time right now.” He’s a regular Mr. Darcy, that Alex.
Alex’s best friend is Chloe, a no-nonsense go-getter with a crush on Brandon, a guy in their social circle who somehow manages to be borderline endearing even when Instagramming his appetizer. Juliette calls Brandon “so hot but so hard to read!” Brandon will later go out to lunch with his mom and regale her with stories of how everyone at Hooters was really into his hair, so I feel like he’s actually pretty easy to read.
Chloe bartends with the new girl in town, Kelsey, a model who moved to Sarasota to be with mom Debbie. Debbie has multiple sclerosis, and the emotional heart of the episode is a teary conversation she shares with her daughter, who says she’s just happy to be here to help out. Between modeling and caring for her mom, Kelsey didn’t get to have much of a childhood, so Debbie urges her to put herself first this summer — which starts with wearing her strappiest swimsuit to Alex’s party.
You already know how the party goes: Everybody thinks Kelsey is hot. Everybody comments on how hot Kelsey is. Brandon puts himself in a budget love triangle when he chats with Chloe’s friend Amanda, who knows full well how Chloe feels; after inviting Brandon to see her in a bikini contest, Amanda tells Chloe that Brandon was the one making moves on her. Girl, just go for a swim.
As for the love triangle we’re meant to care about (well, “care”): Madisson and Juliette cross paths at the pool party. Juliette keeps it real-ish, telling Madisson that she went on a date with Alex, like, two days ago, and Madisson promises to keep Juliette in the loop if her high school fling makes a move in the present. They act like this is an ovaries-before-brovaries peace pact, but Juliette was literally licking Alex’s face earlier, so it plays like she’s just rubbing Madisson’s nose in what she can’t have. A message for Madisson, who seems too good for this: Madisson! You’re too good for this!
In a last-minute twist, Chloe FaceTimes Alex the next morning with her nose in a cast and an ice pack on her head. Chloe, what happened?
- Alex has a cousin named Pauly who refers to himself in the third person as “Pauly Paul.”
- “Rainbows are pretty, but not as pretty as you.” Oh, okay, Alex.
- Kelsey’s boyfriend Garrett says it’s “starting to look a lot like summer.” As opposed to what???
- Brandon describes Siesta as “73 degrees year ’round,” fueling my suspicion that Siesta Key‘s target audience is “people who’ve never heard of Florida.”
- Nope — not a good enough excuse to play Lorde.
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