After two painful episodes set in the drab town of Linville, the cast of Southern Charm—well, those who were invited on this woodsy excursion—have finally made their way back to Charleston. It’s nice to see the cast in their natural, pastel-colored habitat, drinking espresso martinis instead of blueberry wine. It’s even more exciting that the next group gathering on the docket is Patricia’s annual guys’ dinner, which always makes for a hysterical, sometimes dramatic episode.
Despite Season 9’s focus on Taylor and Olivia, tonight’s dinner proved—if it wasn’t already obvious—that the relationship between Shep, Craig, Austen, and even Whitney is really what anchors the show. I could honestly watch these four have tipsy, galaxy-brain conversations on Patricia’s porch for hours and be thoroughly entertained. I appreciate the series’ efforts to be more women-centric over the years. But these men are the true Real Housewives of the bunch.
First, let’s get Shep and Taylor’s makeout in Linville out of the way because I can’t bear to think about these two for another minute! I know I initially declared my hope for a healthy friendship following their breakup. (They had that nice walk on the beach that one time!) But who am I kidding? Shep and Taylor are two of the most emotionally unhealthy people I’ve seen on television. This was confirmed again when Taylor and Shep rehash their sleepover on the last night of their trip to JT and Patricia, respectively. While the two didn’t have sex—although, Shep claims Taylor tried to—they did kiss before falling asleep with their clothes on.
It’d be one thing if Taylor tried to rekindle her relationship with Shep during a moment where he’d been kind to her. But the fact that she ran to his bed, maybe in an effort to prove her worth to him, after he said he enjoyed cheating on her is pretty depressing to hear about. I’m starting to wonder why Austen was the one who got hooked up with a therapist and not Taylor. The obvious answer is that the producers want to capture this sad woman spiraling.
Now let’s move on to a less destructive but equally annoying couple, Craig and Paige. It’s Paige’s third visit of this season, and she’s still pointing out the differences between Charleston and New York every chance she gets. (This time, it’s the audible sounds of birds chirping.) I also noticed in this episode that she has a habit of describing every home or restaurant she and Craig visit as “kewwwtt” in a slightly patronizing way.
So Craig and Paige go to another “kewwwtt” bistro where they discuss the future of their long-distance relationship for the 500th time. Thankfully, Craig pivots from the marriage discussion to ask his girlfriend a more urgent question: Why doesn’t she want to hang out with any of his Charleston friends? Paige looks startled for a moment, like Craig wasn’t supposed to mention this on-camera. (We all know Paige has probably talked mad shit about Taylor’s awful fashion choices behind closed doors.) Predictably, Paige had a classically pick-me answer.
“Let’s be honest, girls are the worst,” Paige tells Craig. “And making friends in your thirties is so different.” First off, I’m glad we got this “girls are the worst” comment on the record after Paige spent the last two seasons of Summer House proclaiming she’s a girl’s girl every five seconds. Second, I don’t think it’s that hard to make friends in your thirties when you’re a reality star with a huge podcast. That’s not to mention that Taylor, Olivia, and Shep have been begging to get to know her. Obviously, Paige just thinks this cast is beneath her. There’s a reason the only person she’s shared a scene with this season is the one who had a fling with A-Rod.
Moving on, Austen is currently mad at Taylor for making out with Shep after everything he’s put her through. Apparently, Austen is the only man worthy of mistreating her. Venita and Madison have another boring scene together where they act like they’re the funnest duo on the show. Madison informs Venita that she and Brett are trying to have another child, and Venita recounts her time at New York Fashion Week. (We get it! She’s an influencer!)
Finally, we arrive at Patricia’s Buckingham Palace-inspired Guys Dinner—only Patricia’s bedridden after injuring her back, so Whitney’s forced to host the event. All the guys, minus Rod and JT, make their way over. They’re all wearing smoking jackets that looked like they were purchased on Amazon. And Craig, for whatever reason, is doing a Pauly D impression when he walks in.
Before everyone sits down to eat some mouth-watering beef wellington, Craig invites the guys on his and Paige’s trip to Jamaica. It’s hard to tell, based on the midseason trailer, whether Paige ends up making it on this getaway. I don’t know if it’s more difficult for me to picture Paige on a predominantly Black island or stuck at a resort with the cast of Southern Charm. But I’m hoping she ditches just for the drama.
During dinner, Austen and Shep rehash the argument they had in Linville, none of which Shep regrets given Austen’s makeout with his ex. Craig, trying to get another blowup going, starts scolding Shep for not being angry enough at Austen over the Taylor situation. And Shep, maybe because he knows it’s useless, just doesn’t have the energy to throw a tantrum.
Craig tries to stir up more drama after dinner when he, Austen, and Whitney smoke cigars on Patricia’s giant porch. Craig and Whitney joke over the odds that Austen and Taylor went all the way, which they (and most of the audience) think are pretty high. Austen does play-by-play for them of the night they kissed. He also tells the guys that it happened three weeks after the reunion, which stumps Craig. Craig thought Austen told him that they kissed while they were in New York for the reunion. But the editors throw in a flashback of Taylor telling Oliva that it was “after New York” without a specific timeframe.
At the same time, Olivia said that she spent a week in LA right after the reunion when she visited Taylor in Linville. This is apparently when Taylor and Austen contemplated dating. Is this when the kiss happened, or did it occur during the sleepover JT ratted Taylor and Austen out over at the beginning of the season? Does it even matter? I’m going to need Andy Cohen to dissect all of this real soon because Austen and Taylor are really botching this cover-up story.