After last week’s farcical pheasant dinner, tonight’s Southern Charm features some heavy subject matter. In a shocking turn of events, the cast learns that Olivia’s brother Conner has tragically passed away. It’s one of those sobering episodes of reality television that puts all of the cast’s minor grievances and somewhat manufactured bickering into perspective. That is, until next week’s episode when, according to a preview, everyone starts screaming at each other over nude photos and bro code again.
But before everyone’s hit with this gut-wrenching news, Craig and Paige are still reeling from Shep’s gathering, where Taylor tried to apologize to Olivia for lying about kissing Austen. (I think it’s fair to assume that Taylor and Austen are still lying about not sleeping together, but there’s a .0001 percent chance that I could be wrong.) Madison goes to Craig’s house for a next-morning gossip sesh. And we learn some information about that nude photo Taylor sent Whitney that’s pretty gross. It also reminded me why Bethenny Frankel, in her own messy, self-centered way, is currently doing God’s work with this “reality-TV reckoning” stuff.
Last week, I forgot to mention that Patricia actually saw the NSFW photo Taylor sent to her son and didn’t just hear about it from him. In this episode, Craig and Madison giggle over the fact that they’ve seen the photo, too. It goes without saying (but apparently not for this cast!) that sharing an explicit photo of someone without their consent is gross and wrong. It could also be considered revenge porn under the law. What’s especially concerning about this situation, though, is that Whitney is an executive producer and co-creator on Southern Charm.
It’d be one—still awful—thing if Whitney was just a cast member. Ostensibly, a responsible production team would hand down some consequences or at least portray his behavior in a negative light. However, Whitney is in a huge position of power on this show and one of the people orchestrating the drama. So it’s disturbing that he’s fulfilling his duties as an EP this season by showing everyone Taylor’s privates.
It’s equally disappointing watching Craig, Madison, and Paige treat this as juicy gossip and not a violation of a woman’s privacy. Not that anyone on this series, including production, has proven they care about sexual misconduct before, but you know what I mean.
Thankfully, this creepy-ass conversation ends before my head explodes. And we move onto the few morally decent people on this show: Austen’s parents, Tom and Wendy. Austen goes over to their house and fills them in on the recent drama with Olivia, Taylor, and Shep, to their utter shock and Tom’s complete horror. I laughed every time he whispered “Jesus” to himself, as if he had just witnessed a horrific car accident. Austen also mentions that he started therapy to get to the bottom of his girl problems, which, in my opinion, aren’t that complicated. He’s a tall, white, semi-famous man with a bunch of women fawning over him and no one to hold him accountable when he treats them like trash. It isn’t rocket science!
Meanwhile, Shep’s dog, Lil Craig, is having a medical emergency and has been rushed to the veterinarian. I don’t think I’ve felt as much sympathy for a character on this show than I did hearing that this adorable French bulldog had a 108-degree fever and trouble breathing due to the heat. Also, why do the cutest dog breeds have the most issues? Luckily, a vet lets Shep know that his pup is okay but needs some close monitoring.
Then we go to one of JT’s Airbnbs where his interior-designer mother hilariously drags the entire decor of the house. JT opens up about his failed marriage again. Considering he got divorced more than a decade ago, I’m shocked that this is still a tear-jerking subject—as is his stoic mom. But I’m interested in getting to the bottom of it.
In another mother-son bonding scene, Whitney and Patricia FaceTime their former butler, Michael, who stopped working for them after he had a stroke. He virtually teaches Patricia how to make her own martini, as if she hasn’t replaced her with another butler who makes them for her. But their re-connection is very cute. And Michael manages to make the seemingly unflappable Patricia cry.
Then we finally get to the crux of this episode, which is that Taylor’s brother Conner has tragically passed away. In an Instagram tribute to her sibling, Olivia opened up about his secret battle with Lyme disease and the medical complications he suffered from being misdiagnosed. However, it’s still unclear what the cause of his death was.
Watching Leva, Venita, and Taylor discover his death in real time is heartbreaking. But it’s always comforting to watch the casts on these petty shows rally around each other during hard times. Likewise, Shep kindly allows Olivia’s family to stay at his house while they’re in Charleston, and everyone offers their condolences and various casseroles. Austen, having lost his sister as a child, becomes an unexpected person to lean on despite their huge argument in the last episode.
After some time has passed, Leva proposes that the women get together at Venita’s house to offer Olivia some emotional support. Venita doesn’t want Taylor there because she’s decided that Taylor’s essentially a nutcase in the wake of these Austen revelations. I mainly just think that Venita wants to finally execute some power, as she’s been either disinvited or not invited at all to several group events. However, Taylor argues that she’s the closest to Olivia out of everyone, and Leva very funnily invites her over. You were so close to a main-character moment, Venita!
So the girls meet up, and Olivia breaks down in front of them. It’s a touching scene that you’d think would close the episode. But of course, on this man-centric show, we have to see how Austen feels about all of this. So he goes to his therapist to whine about how he wants to be there for Olivia but can’t because of how he’s damaged their friendship. A part of me genuinely believes that Austen, having lost a sibling, wants to help Olivia feel less lonely in her time of grief. But I also think this man knows how to spot an in.
His therapist gives him some measured advice, which is to be there for Olivia but on her terms and without suffocating her. But Austen, who’s clearly blacked out during this whole spiel, comes to the conclusion that the only way he could make their already-broken relationship worse “is by not being there.” The long pause and dramatic music cue before Austen declares this makes it seem like it’s a threat, if not a choice that will negatively impact Olivia down the road. From Austen’s pathologically deceptive lips, it probably is.