October 2, 2001
By the end of last week's episode, the seven strangers were basking in their relative lack of animosity. The house no longer seemed gripped in an icy, if barely functional, détente between the boys and girls. But before we start tearing down the Berlin Wall in the bathroom, we should remember that there is still one active grudge, directed towards Malik, and it is the property of one Nicole. And she's about as likely to let go of her bitterness as she is her big purple eyebrow pencil.
Sacre bleu, doesn't that seem eons ago? Can you even remember the whole Nicole/ Malik mess? Well, darlings, the upside is that we are half way through the season. Anyway, tensions have eased enough so that Coral can posit that "Malik would talk to Nicole, if Nicole would talk to Malik." Nicole, however, is resolutely brooding in different lounging positions throughout the house. She broods on the sofa, she broods on the stairwell, she broods as she puts on her makeup. If she broods anymore, her face will stick like that forever. Maybe it already has stuck, hence the gobs of face goo.
This is not to say, mes amis, that Nicole is entirely unfeeling. In the absence of any real human attachment, Nicole has formed an intense relationship with the denizens of the house aquarium. She knows this is but folly, "I guess I shouldn't fall in love with little fish in tanks, they come and go." But she can't stop herself from admiring one fish in particular, a fish with big bubbles on the sides of its face and an attitude. It's name? Puff Daddy.
While Nicole is experiencing piscine love, Malik is finally getting a chance to meet the paternal side of his (human) family. When he was a baby, his father left his mom, his sister and himself, taking all the money with him. Needless to say, Malik's dad isn't exactly welcome at Thanksgiving dinner. The normally mild Malik even says, "He's taught me so much more with his absence than he could with his presence." Ouch.
But, Malik has a grandmother, uncles, aunts, cousins- family he's never even seen before. He longs for this connection, especially since he's only ever known his white mother and her relatives. However, he's put off calling for "weeks and weeks," out of sheer trepidation. Finally, his Grandma Ruby calls him on the phone, and Malik is relieved to discover that she wants to see him as much as he wants to see her. They make arrangements to meet. He's so relieved that he allows Coral to play with his hair- a very dangerous proposition, indeed.
Malik's not the only one experiencing a family reunion. Mike gets a phone call from his parents as well, notifying him of their upcoming visit. Now, a visit from the 'rents is stressful enough, but this visit has an extra twist. Mike's parents have been divorced since he was in 5th grade (Which of his attempts at 5th grade? He doesn't say.); now they seem to be headed towards reconciliation.
Which sounds great, sure, but in reality, Mike's just a little uncomfortable with all the cow-eyes and fanny-slapping between his mom and dad. Really, my cupcakes, who wants to see that sort of thing going on? The other roommates are rather surprised at the Ohioan splendor suddenly on their doorstep. Mike's dad sports a streamlined mullet, and his mom has big blonde hair and makeup to spare. Coral describes her as a "Dallas Cowboy cheerleader," but that's only because she was expecting a middle-aged hausfrau wearing a Scottie dog sweater. I think she suffers from low expectations, dearies.
But wait, the parents aren't done embarrassing the snot out of their snot-nosed son! Mike invites all the roommates to dinner with his mater and pater, but only Kevin agrees. It's probably a good thing no one else went, since they're barely past the appetizer course when Mike's dad opens his big mouth and shows us all where exactly Mike got his bone-headed opinions on race relations. Of course, by now, Mike is practically urbane and he cringes with embarrassment at his dad's musings. There's no Wrath of Coral, of course, only silent shame.
Malik's family reunion is a great deal sunnier and more relaxed. His aunt tells him how handsome he is, his grandmother feeds him, he hears all about family he didn't know he had. The biggest struggle he has is fitting his hair inside his uncle's car. Malik also invites the other roommates to dinner with his family, but the cold is keeping everyone else trapped in the house.
Well, that's the excuse they give, anyway. Malik could be right when he observes a degree of stir-craziness going on among the female residents. They seem to have camped out in the living room, with quilted comforters, candy bars and In Style magazines, and they're not leaving any time soon. The fish play a huge role in this narrow life, so when a Puff Daddy crisis occurs, it's positively traumatizing.
Puff Daddy, you see, has gotten himself stuck in the air filter. Nicole manages to gingerly pull him out, but it's too late. His puff is flattened and one eye is blind. It's not long before he's belly up, and the other fish follow in quick succession. Nicole is slow to lose hope. "Maybe he's alive," she says. Coral is more blunt, "He's stinkin'." Nicole and Rachel perform Puff Daddy's last rites in a potted plant.
Perhaps Nicole uses her grief for Puff Daddy as an excuse for aloofness, but when Malik's birthday rolls around, she's still not ready to whip out the olive branch. Malik's housemates, family and friends gather to wish their dandelion-headed friend a happy day, with elaborate cupcakes and amateurish Bob Marley sketches. It's a light-hearted, well-rounded group, and Mike marvels that "diversity can be so fun!" But Nicole's not having any of it. "I don't go to people's birthday parties I don't like, but I wish him a happy birthday. I think that's big because I usually don't wish people I don't like happy birthday." So, now that she's put out that Herculean effort, she can sit on the sofa and brood some more. Big surprise there.
Who's Shirtless: The weather's still cold, the kids are still sweater-bedecked. This category just doesn't work the same here as it did in Hawaii, non?
Who Cries: Nicole cries, mostly because she knows she's in the wrong. And, believe me, crying is a big commitment when you have makeup like that!
Most Annoying: Nicole is stubborn, negative, bitter, and then she gets upset because she knows that's how other people see her.
Best Quote: Well, this is the most cringe-inducing quote, anyway. Mike's dad whispers to Mike about his ex-wife, aka Mike's mom, "I hope I get lucky." Does this mean that Mike's mom is a panty-dropper? There are just some things that children should never learn about their parents, for heaven's sake!
Hint for Future Real Worlders: Now that it's TRW recruitment season, I thought I could offer some sage advice. It turns out that not a single Real World cast member this season has parents that are still married to each other. So, if you want to make it on the show, do whatever you can to drive your folks to divorce!
Next Week: Tune in, folks, it's The Dating Lame!