July 3, 2001
Five weeks have passed since the finalists were selected, and the seven Real Worlders still don't know what their immediate futures will hold. Will it be the pleasure palace or the Winnebago for them? We first meet up with Mike, who describes New York City eloquently as "kinda scary but kinda exciting." On the same boat are Coral and Lori. Lori already confesses to a "harmless crush" on Kevin; she's not wasting any time, darlings!
The three comrades disembark and start looking for the subway route to their next destination, but when actual looking fails, they just follow Coral. She has an air of authority, I suppose, but an air of authority doesn't bring them any closer to the house. They end up tromping through Manhattan looking like lost German tourists. Surprisingly, no one preys upon their obvious naivete.
Group Two is made up of Malik, who gazes at the Statue of Liberty and thinks deep thoughts (See? New York is already adding so much to this season!), Nicole and Kevin. Nicole is looking forward to ditching her "trashy little apartment with roaches and all that" for IKEA-land, but she has a sinking feeling that she's Road Rules-bound. Unfortunately, there's not much suspense for us, dearies. After all, we know what show we're watching!
Group One finds the house first and runs about yelling "Phat!" and "Awesome!" They fling themselves on cushions and gawk at the free condoms and the shiny, shiny wallpaper. "The fish tank is off the hook!" explodes Mike, right before his Neanderthal brow clouds over and he asks, "What kind of place is this, anyway?" Turns out, mes amis, that Chez Real World is in a "trendy" and "eccentric" neighborhood. Mike's Howdy Doody grin fades as he realizes that this means that he might run into some actual gasp gay people!
Group Two barges in and there are cries of recognition all around. And, I have a problem with those very exclamations of glee, mes petites. In the good old days, there would be wary looks and awkward greetings, maybe some forced hugs. The first impressions would be formed on the spot. As it is, these kids have had five days at the Casting Special Day Camp to form relationships. Five days is like a lifetime to these people!
The six who have made it to Casa Real World house talk about celebrating, and they certainly have stuff to celebrate! They're on television! Everyone's single! The house is swankier than anything these kids have ever seen! Even though Nicole is actually sitting in the Real World house, she can't believe that she belongs; she's still "waiting for the RV to pull up." She's just overwhelmed by the elegant surroundings.
But, my bonbons, where's the poppet? Coral is convinced that Ellen, her nemesis, will be the final roommate, but meanwhile, Rachel is wandering the city, "scared to death" by public transportation and pale New Yorkers in berets (I would be too, dearies). When Rachel finally reaches her new home unharmed, I actually wondered if there would be any drama, everyone just seemed so tickled to be together.
But, I should've known that was a silly question, this being a Bunim/Murray production and all. Besides watching the guys get stuck with the "girliest" bedroom, complete with furbelows and gewgaws, we get a little taste of the story arcs for each cast member. Unfortunately, some of the cast members, such as Malik and Kevin seem utterly faceless to me still. They're like those inflatable dummies people use in the carpool lane, mere place holders to make the house look more full than it is. Malik's hair takes up the room of a couple people, just by itself.
There's a wee bit of story about tow-headed Rachel's yearning for freedom. She was grounded over the Christmas holiday when her overprotective mother saw her belly button ring. Her mother wouldn't even talk to her on Christmas day! So, Rachel, big surprise, is looking forward to experiencing a big city and the big kids to the fullest. Perhaps she should watch out for Mike, however. When he said, "I like the innocent one," shivers ran down my spine. It was a very Big Bad Wolfian line. I thought he was going to drool all over himself.
There's another thread that concerns Lori and Kevin. We really don't know much about either of them, except Lori is cute and sings and Kevin had cancer. In television land, that practically means they're perfect for one another! However, it's evident early on that this course will not run smooth. Lori leaps on Kevin at every opportunity and rubs up against him like a hungry kitten. "Give me my Tender Vittles!" she purrs.
But, Kevin isn't entirely buying. He advises patience, while Lori issues ultimatums like, "If we're going to hook up, we'd better do it tonight!" Kevin thinks Lori is pretty and fun and all that, but he's unsure about having to live with the dread consequences of dalliance day in and day out for five months. Lori is frustrated by Kevin's "chill," and whines that "he started making me seem all neurotic!" Seem?
It all comes down to Lori's love for conflict and drama, and Kevin's bland weariness. Kevin is willing to flirt, but in the end, doesn't really want anything more from Lori. And, it only took two days to get to this point, mes amis! Lori receives these mixed messages with mounting disappointment. She realizes she's on the "back burner," and says, "It's what happens when you have a crush. You get stupid." That doesn't mean she won't try again, however.
The primary story, however, should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the time-tested "Real World" model. Bunim and Murray are suckers for unenlightened kids from small towns, but I have to ask, did Mike grow up under a rock? If he had seen even one previous "Real World" episode, he would know better than to tell his African-American housemates that his uncle won't hire black people because "they just tend to be slower."
Just moments before, Coral and Malik were telling each other that Mike had a good heart, and that he couldn't be blamed for his unenlightened background. Now, however, they are faced with an example of his ignorance, and it isn't as easy to endure. Malik tries his best to turn the confrontation into a "teaching moment," but Coral fumes the rest of the episode. She actually says that she will never forget that comment, as long as she has to look at his stupid cowlick and buck teeth (ok, I made up that last part). "Next time something like that happens, he will hear my mouth," she declares. I think the entire solar system has heard your mouth, Coral!
The other housemates are just stunned that Mike could be so lame-brained, and they repeatedly tell Mike that he has to "think before he speaks." Then they all say that Mike stands to learn the most from the Real World experience, which must be pretty annoying to hear over and over again, even if you are stupid as Mike. Meanwhile, Mike wants to talk to "Mama Coral," but is scared away by her evil eye. He keeps sneaking up to her, and she keeps glaring at him. He wants to wait for her to be in a better mood, but that day may not ever arrive.
The first episode just couldn't end without a resolution, however. Mike finally works up the courage to say something to Coral, and she gives him sort of gruff absolution, while encouraging him to feel embarrassed by his own stupidity. Immediately, Mike's view of Coral transforms from the Wicked Witch of the West to "the coolest girl in the world." She knows how to use a shower curtain! And thus, Season Ten begins with a whimper.
Who's Shirtless: All three guys appear shirtless for the inaugural episode.
Who Cries: When Coral contemplates Mike's inadvertent insult to her educational accomplishments, her eyes well up but just a little bit. Not enough to make her feel weak, or anything, of course.
Most Annoying: Mike is the obvious choice. Most people would nominate him for his insensitive and bone-headed comments to Coral and Malik, but the real clincher is his cowardly avoidance of apologizing.
Best Quote: Mike describes his hometown of Parma, OH as, "It's all white people, and it's like really white." I guess you can't get much whiter than that, my loves!
Next Week: Everyone might seem lovey-dovey now, my
sweets, but the rest of the season promises yelling and finger-wagging
galore. We can only hope.