Surviving Episode Seven

Ever since last week, we've known that Brooke was going to have a freak-out party in Episode 7. But that didn't make it any less painful to watch last night.

In most seasons of The Real World, the producers tend to include one person who is relatively normal and relatively reasonable. This person inevitably gets fed up with the antics of his or her roommates and, sooner or later, the Reasonable One has a meltdown. Generally, the meltdown is caused by something understandably upsetting.

But then there are those seasons -- few and far between, fortunately -- where the Reasonable One seems to be totally absent. Austin was the most recent season like that; not one of those roommates had his or her head screwed on straight. But so far, Denver is in the running for this description as well. (I have to wonder whether this is a new thing that MTV is doing with the show: one season with a Reasonable One, one season without, etc.) And this cannot bode well for Denver's national image.

As noted before, Brooke is the one roommate who has managed to more or less keep herself out of trouble up to this point (minus the make-out session with Jenn in the hottub). Episode Six opens with her explaining her anxiety issues -- well, depression and anxiety issues. "I understand that Brooke is a very stressful, worrier sort of girl, and everything seems more problematic than it is," says Davis (who could be this season's Reasonable One, if we count Episode Three as his get-out-of-crazy-roommate-status-free card). Brooke's problems are serious enough that she's on medication for them. (What kind, I wonder? Lithium?)

"People have to be really sensitive about that stuff," Brooke explains to Davis, adding that her brain chemistry is not like other people's, and it's not her fault that she wigs out sometimes. "If you're insensitive about it, it makes it even worse," she adds. As we shall see, the problem seems to be not that other people in the house are insensitive (for a change), but that Brooke is sensitive to a fault.

Meanwhile, Colie reiterates her affinity for making out: "Making out is one of my hobbies," she tells the camera. I wonder if she's included "making out" in her resume as one of her interests -- that's bound to impress any employer. She and the rest of "the girls" -- which, as you should know, include the not-really-male Davis -- head out for a night on the town, sans Tyrie, Stephen and Alex (and who can blame them?). But Colie starts to feel ill, so the night is cut short and the party people head for home.

When Colie wakes up the next morning, she has a headache and immediately starts throwing up. "I think I have strep and a fever," she moans. (Let's not tell her that fevers are a major symptom of strep throat -- she was doing so well with that self-diagnosis.) "I honestly feel like I'm dying. I feel like I've never been in this much pain in my entire life," she adds. At this pronouncement, I notice two things:

*Colie might be in more pain than she's ever felt in her entire life, but she still managed to put some makeup on before the camera caught her nature-made sick-face.

*If this statement is meant to elicit sympathy from viewers, my feeling is that it will do the opposite. She has a fever, a headache and an upset stomach. No broken bones, no burst appendix, no missing limbs. Somehow, I don't think anyone who has ever experienced pain more excruciating than the flu is going to feel a whole lot of empathy for Colie.

Colie gets on the phone with her mom and proceeds to bawl out her symptoms. Her mom tells her to go to the doctor and assures her that if whatever Colie has is worse than strep, she'll fly out to Denver. So Colie calls Lindsy, a sorority sister (who would have guessed that a make-out queen like Colie would ever have set foot in a sorority?), and Lindsy and her mom pick Colie up and take her to Rose Medical Center.

This is about the point where I lose the last dregs of respect I had for Colie. She says she's scared of hospitals; well, most people who don't work in hospitals tend to not like them very much. They tell her they're going to give her an IV and Colie acts like they just broke her nose or cut off a finger when they set up her drugs -- she starts wailing and sobbing, "It hurts, oh, it hurts so much. I just want my mom."

I'm thinking: Is this some special kind of super-painful IV that they only give at Rose? Or is Colie just a complete wuss with zero pain tolerance? I end up leaning toward the latter deduction. I don't think I've ever seen such a scene in any hospital I've had the displeasure to visit -- not from car-accident victims, people recovering from surgery or anyone else. Just Colie and her IV.

Then Dr. Ryan comes in and informs Colie that she has mono, which is a virus, so antibiotics won't get rid of it. Oh, and it's extremely contagious, adds Dr. Ryan, so don't go sharing drinks or -- drumroll, please -- making out with anybody whatsoever. "Everybody in the house could come down with mono," says the doctor in a warning tone. Oh, if only.

Colie is slowly coming to grips with her illness. "I kind of feel like this is not really happening," she says. You might have felt that way, too -- if you've lost a loved one or been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, that is -- but I think most of us would be able to wrap our brains around mono without having to resort to a surreal, this-can't-be-happening-to-me mindset.

Back at the house, Alex is on the phone with Colie's mom. She gives him instructions on how to make a sick couch, so Alex procures Colie's pillows and blankets and goes to town. "That is the lamest but nicest thing I've ever seen you do," notes Tyrie. Aw.

Then Colie gets home and tells everyone what's wrong with her. She is thrilled over the sick couch: "I really think that making a sick couch is a sign that Alex cares about me," she says. Not in a sexual or romantic way, she adds, but as a person. This can only mean that we haven't seen the end of the Alex-Colie drama yet; she's reading way too much into a friendly gesture.

Once Colie is out of earshot, everyone starts freaking out. "Can you die of mono?" asks Brooke. They speculate on whether Colie accidentally brushed the phone with her mouth and decide to invest in some antibiotic wipes for the house. But Brooke's anxiety levels keep rising, and she wants to leave the house.

But first, she decides to get her nails done, and it's the first time she's left the house by herself. She doesn't exactly have the time of her life: "I don't know where I'm going, and I'm getting hit on by bums and drunk people off the street," she says. (I'm thinking, if they're drunk people off the street, what's the problem?) She's frightened and heads back to the house -- just in time for us to hear Colie babbling something inane about how great her immune system is. I guess she doesn't really worry about facts too much.

Brooke walks in with a pained look on her face and Colie asks her what happened. "The directions were either wrong, or too long, or something," Brooke whines, "but I walked for a very long time, never found the place, went through the ghetto, was dealing with guys yelling at me."

Tyrie pipes in with this gem: "How come every negative place you go has got to be the ghetto?" To give Tyrie credit, he sounds more curious than confrontational -- it's hard to imagine that he intended any harm with this statement. But apparently, it's the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

"I thought I could say that without it being racially consuming," Brooke fumes. Huh? We can hear Tyrie whispering to Colie in the background, "I was just playing!" As Colie and Tyrie watch Brooke's meltdown, they try to understand what set her off. But Brooke ain't talking.

"I am just so fed up with anything! Just don't talk to me, if I can't even talk normally! Just leave me the hell alone! I hate this place!" she sobs, and runs into the phone room, where she calls her mom.

After she flees, Tyrie turns to Colie and says, "Okay, no matter what, I am not taking the blame for that." And for once, it seems that Tyrie is actually not being a giant psycho.

Meanwhile, Brooke is trying to explain to her mother why she's so upset, but her mom can't understand a word she's saying, due to the unending sobs pouring from Brooke. After she finally manages to choke out the reason for her state, her mom tries to soothe her: "Don't get upset that other people are being jerks," she says sagely.

"I just literally cannot stand anybody at this point," rants Brooke. "I have never been more miserable in my entire life. This is hell. This is not worth it. This is not worth that I have to pay my rent, $700 a month in California, while I'm living here."

Unfortunately, some reality is going to intrude on Brooke's little pity party. Her mom asks how she got the figure $700, because her rent is only around $300 or $350. "No, Mom," Brooke snipes. "On top of that, utilities."

"Well, I'm paying those," says Brooke's mom.

"Whatever," Brooke snaps. "Throw me a bone, Mom." In other words, don't interrupt my woe-is-me monologue with pesky things like facts. At this point, I crack up laughing -- it must be nice to still consider your parents' money your own, but I don't think you can call yourself an adult if that's your situation.

Anyway, Brooke feels better now that she's been able to vent to her mother, despite the ugly wake-up call about the utilities. She and Jenn grab some pizza at Two-Fisted Mario's and Jenn says, "I live in low-income housing and I use food stamps. I'm not offended." This reinforces Brooke's notion that Tyrie's statement was racially motivated.

"I was just trying to tell him a story, and the fact that he uses this as the opportunity to get mad at me," complains Brooke nonsensically. Then she calls Tyrie "selfish, immature and annoying." Because you are clearly none of those things, are you, Brooke?

Well, Brooke comes to the conclusion that she needs to adopt more of Jenn's devil-may-care attitude, and speculates that perhaps a trauma in middle school made her overly sensitive. What kind of trauma? Like coming to class in shorts when you forgot to shave your legs? That kind of thing is really damaging to a thirteen-year-old psyche, you know.

Back on the mono couch, Colie, Alex and Tyrie are discussing the finer points of her illness. Jesting, Alex says, "Colie, can I have a kiss?" (If you happen to see this scene in the near future, please refrain from screaming, "Alex, what are you doing? You're giving the girl false hope!" at your television screen. Alex can't hear you; I know, cause I tried to warn him, too.)

"Do you want me to just lick your entire face? Or spit down your throat?" Colie offers. Yum. "The doctor said the only way I'm contagious is if we share saliva," she adds. See what you've done, Alex? Now she'll be clamoring for another "sleepover party."

"So if we fuck, I won't get mono?" Tyrie asks. What happened to Jazalle, I wonder? Did he dump her because she wouldn't put out? And was it too low-key to include in the season? No one knows.

Enter Brooke, who is going to attempt to patch things up with Tyrie. "I don't know if you quite understand what it's like to be a female and getting catcalled all the time, and that's what I was trying to explain, and there was a lot of other things that happened beside that, I didn't finish and I freaked out." This crystal-clear explanation is followed by Brooke telling Tyrie that she really thought he was mad at her. "I was smiling," responds Tyrie.

"I overreact a lot because I am so highly emotional, so highly charged," summarizes Brooke. Oh, goody; does that mean we get to see more of Brooke babbling senselessly to her mother on the phone this season? I can't wait. Then Tyrie and Brooke bump elbows and the Real World returns to normal.

And how exciting is this: Next week, in Episode Seven, the crew finally starts the job. Also, Jenn makes this pronouncement: "Alex is on the dick list, on the top, in bold letters." Whatever could have prompted that statement? Stay tuned for more, including the most up-to-date tally on the Worst Roommate for Your Liver Contest. -- Amber Taufen

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun