It’s fair to say that we’ll never experience a reality-TV phenomenon like the #Scandoval again. And yet, it’s hard not to find parallels between the characters in that sordid love triangle and certain cast members of Southern Charm at the moment. Mainly, Taylor is giving off major Raquel—who now goes by her birth name Rachel after being bullied to death over it—vibes, particularly in tonight’s riveting episode.
Fresh off a devastating breakup, Taylor’s clearly desperate for love and acceptance and looking for it in all the wrong places, including the waste bucket that is Austen and—in a surprising development—the ancient grandfather clock that is Whitney. Like Ms. Leviss, she also doesn’t seem to have much of an identity or plan for her life outside of being a man’s significant other. (Are we supposed to believe that Day Chaser sponcon is a real passion of hers?) Nor does she understand basic fuckboy math: If Austen was shitty to her buddy Olivia and every other woman he’s courted on TV, then he’s eventually going to be shitty to you!
That happens sooner than later as Austen completely throws Taylor under the bus amid this unfolding investigation. We pick back up in the middle of Shep asking Austen whether he’s hooked up with his latest ex. And Austen eventually “reveals” that they kissed, which everyone seems to think is just an ounce of the truth. Shep is irritated, but not so mad (yet) that he’s ready to throw a punch. In fact, they do whatever the white man version of dapping each other up is before going back into Patricia’s kitchen where Craig, Whitney, and Madison are eavesdropping. A part of me is glad Shep didn’t completely explode on Austen during that conversation, given how early we are in the season. Rest assured, there’s still plenty of lies and excuses to be spewed from Austen’s giant, Muppet mouth.
The next day, everyone—besides Olivia, who hasn’t heard the latest bombshell—is losing it over this news. Craig is, of course, beaming with excitement over some new drama. JT is still inordinately upset on Shep’s behalf and clearly jealous of Austen. Venita and her perennial screen partner/dog, Charles, are gagged. And Patricia is mostly just disgusted with Taylor, considering that she sent a nude picture to her 55-year-old son, Whitney.
Whitney clarifies that the photo was just “a joke.” But he definitely knew what he was doing by snitching to his slut-shame-y mom! Listen, any sort of sexual engagement with Whitney (particularly when you’re a beautiful 28-year-old with plenty of age-appropriate romantic prospects) is inarguably gross. However, are we really supposed to believe that Taylor sent this photo “out of the blue,” and that it wasn’t encouraged by Whitney at all? I have a feeling that his equally barf-worthy fling with Naomie last season gave him a confidence boost, and he fully sought Taylor out after her breakup with Shep. Either way, this flirtation with Whitney is yet another entry in Taylor’s giant book of L’s.
Speaking of L’s, Taylor is shocked to discover that Austen completely undermined the lie they agreed to tell Olivia by informing Shep that they kissed. From the beginning, I predicted that Austen and Taylor would be too dumb to sustain this cover-up story. But Austen makes it known that he’s only interested in protecting himself from everyone’s rage. “I’m sorry if that hurts you,” he tells Taylor at her house. “But I’ve never felt more liberated.” All Taylor can do is sniffle and reckon with her choice to stand by yet another selfish man. It slowly dawns on her that relationship with Olivia is officially over.
All this tension comes to a head at a pheasant dinner Shep has planned for some of the cast. Venita is absent for unknown reasons, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t receive an invite—just like Austen’s friendsgiving last season. And Leva seemingly hears about this gathering for the first time from Olivia and quickly asserts that she has plans. (Sure.) I get that all reality show casts have inner cliques. But these frequent exclusions wouldn’t be as glaring if they didn’t involve the two women of color, who’ve also been notably outspoken about racism on this show. From the cast’s “good ol’ boys” club, in particular, it feels pointed.
Anyway, Paige is also in town and is forced to eat Shep’s hunted birds like everyone else. I was fully expecting to hear 20 minutes of her “I’m a New Yorker, Southern people are weird!” standup set, but she manages to enjoy herself—probably because there’s a simultaneous feast of gossip to partake in.
Before everyone is seated, Taylor corners Olivia to poorly explain why she lied to her about (not) kissing Austen. I don’t know who’s advising Taylor on these terrible excuses. But her main defense is that she only lied because she was trying to protect Austen. Olivia promptly responds, “Why aren’t you protecting me and my feelings in this?” Meanwhile, Austen is hiding in the kitchen with the rest of the guys and like he’s the victim in all of this. Before Olivia and Taylor can come to any sort of resolution, Shep tells them it’s time to eat.
So everyone sits down for some surprisingly delicious-looking pheasant. Although, one of Shep’s friends informs the group that pheasants have basically no fat. (Of course, Shep consumes the driest poultry!) Shep gives a pointedly ironic speech about how everyone at the table is an “intrinsically good person,” despite the recent drama that’s occurred. And Craig and Paige are getting turned on by everyone’s awkwardness. These two may not ever live less than 700 miles away from one another, but they really are the perfect couple.
In the middle of everyone trying not to swallow tiny pheasant bones, Austen starts fidgeting and groaning because neither Taylor nor Olivia are paying him any mind. This is typical Austen wanting his cake and eating, too. Last week, he bailed on Taylor’s party because he didn’t want to face her and Olivia in the same room. Earlier in the episode, he said he felt “liberated” from all the drama. But now, he’s mad that Olivia and Taylor aren’t behaving hysterically over him, which is his ultimate turn-on.
So he starts pestering Olivia and convinces her to come outside for a talk. I normally don’t experience any excitement when Olivia comes on-screen. I actually really didn’t like her last year after she had a meltdown because Venita uttered the word “racism.” But she’s really good at not taking people’s shit, particularly Austen, who’s clearly used to manipulating women with his “innocent doofus” schtick.
That said, he keeps reiterating that he really cares about Olivia and apologizes that they “didn’t work out.” (This is a hilarious way to say, “I offered to be your boyfriend before pulling the rug out from under you.”) Olivia reminds him that she’s not pissed about their former relationship anymore, and that it comes down to a matter of respect.
“It takes a lot for me to genuinely want nothing to do with a person,”and that’s where I’m at with you,” she says. She then adds that it’s “baffling” to her that Taylor doesn’t see Austen for the villain that he is. Unless Olivia had never watched Austen on television prior to her joining the show, you could technically say the same thing to her, but I digress! Regardless, Austen is stunned that he didn’t get the reaction that he wanted. I can’t wait to see him try and fail to break women down the rest of the season.