I’d like to begin this week’s recap with a bit of boasting. On Friday night, in a moment of cosmic convergence heretofore unprecedented on planet Earth, I attended a screening of the first episode of The Real World: New York, followed by a Q&A with none other than Rebecca Dekhta—the loftmate formerly known as “Becky.” I’m happy to report that Becky looks great, she still thinks the ‘90s rocked, and she hasn’t lost any of her attitude. In other words, I still want to be her when I grow up. But enough about the greatest night in my life. Sadly, this week’s episode was largely Becky-free, so I'll wait to unload all of her insights on you until a more appropriate time.
"Kevin and Eric Mend Their Relationship" is the reality-TV equivalent of a bottle episode, focusing almost exclusively on Eric’s backstory, and his fraught relationship with Kevin. Instead of spending a late night at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, or going on a perilous meth-cooking spree in the New Mexico desert, Kevin and Eric sit on their doorstep talking about race. Ahhh, the '90s. The not-so-implicit message of this episode is the Kevin and Eric have more in common than they might think. But is it true?
When last we saw the gang, a racially-charged fight was brewing in the loft after Kevin left Eric an angry, accusatory letter. Though we never hear the full contents of the letter or, for that matter, really know why Kevin left it (something to do with Eric’s sister…I think?) it was controversial enough that Eric had to share it with each of his roommates. This episode picks up right where the last one left off, with Eric, wearing fashionable headgear as always, sitting at the dining room table with his unnamed homeboys, stewing in anger over Kevin’s letter.
Eric rejects the idea that, as a white male, he might display a sense of entitlement. “I can't see where he's coming from when he says something like that,” he says. Eric’s especially rankled by Kevin’s suggestion that, because his dad is an NBA referee, he comes from a privileged background. Cut to the segment where we learn about Eric’s slightly checkered past: he dropped out of high school three months before graduation, then was busted for trying to buy steroids in the school parking lot (or, uh, something), and sentenced to a whole bunch of community service. As rap sheets go, he’s not exactly Scarface, or even Paris Hilton, but surely it’s enough to prove Kevin wrong. Eric’s not just and entitled white guy, he’s also a fuck-up!
For some reason, Eric tells Julie all about the steroid bust while sitting perched on top of some rocks. Your guess is as good as mine:
Anyway, Kevin eventually wanders back to the loft. His confrontation with Eric is made more awkward by the fact that he’s got Morris, one of his students, with him. Kevin leaves Morris upstairs while he and Eric go outside to air their grievances. As far as race-related Real World blow-ups go, this one is pretty mild. Eric truly does mean well, but he’s also not the sharpest tool in the shed. “I’m serious when I say I admire the black race, I really do," he tells Kevin. He’s so earnest, it kind of hurts. Then he gets a little hyperbolic in his praise, claiming that “black people are by far dominant over white people” in every field, including sports and entertainment. Kevin tells him to dial it down a notch and, hey, maybe ease up on the black-people-are-good-at-sports-and-rapping stuff. The race summit comes to a peaceful end when Morris, no doubt sick of being stuck inside listening to Andre whining about his cough, comes outside to fetch Kevin.
Later on, Eric and Kevin head to a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden for a little male bonding. The rationale? Kevin likes basketball because he is black and Eric likes basketball because he likes black people. Ha! Just kidding. The rationale is that Eric’s dad can get them some sweet courtside seats. After the game (the Knicks lose, proving that some things never change), Eric and Kevin head to the locker room where they both get a little starry-eyed over Isiah Thomas. Less warm-and-fuzzy is Eric’s stilted interaction with his dad, who doesn’t remember Eric’s childhood best friend and inspects his son's teeth like a judge at a dog show.
“I don’t see my dad that often,” he says, vaguely. Eric confesses to being a bit of a mama’s boy, which is not all that surprising, and his mom, whom we meet briefly, is kind of adorable. Kevin is sympathetic to Eric’s plight, but he's also willing to put it all in perspective. "If nothing else, at least they can be in each other's presence," Kevin says, explaining that his father, who was never married to his mom, has completely disowned him. Yes, there’s some misery one-upmanship going on here, but Kevin’s kinda right.
The final piece of the puzzle in this week’s episode is Missy, who’s the proverbial “one who got away” from Eric. If you recall, a few weeks back, Eric was on the phone with Missy when Julie, putting her new hip-hop vocab to the test, asked if Missy was “a skeezer.” This week we find out that it was Eric, not Missy, who was doing the skeezing. He’s loved her since the 7th grade, but their relationship status falls under the heading “It’s complicated.”
The details are sketchy, but it sounds like Eric broke things off, now regrets it, and is trying to win Missy back. "I ruined the most incredible relationship with a girl I’ve ever had," he says. Missy comes for a visit, and sweet, dumb Eric is lovestruck, with little bluebirds flying in circles around his head. "Every time I look at this girl and I see her smile, I feel like my face is lighting up," he says. They make goo-goo eyes at each other, and pose awkwardly on the beach--a sure indication of love. Side note: does this still remind anyone else of a bad karaoke video for, I don't know, "You Lost That Lovin' Feeling," or something?
The episode ends with Eric whispering sweet nothings to Missy on the phone. What will become of their relationship?! If only there were some way to find out!
- MTV’s captioning policy back in the day was pretty haphazard, wasn’t it? We don’t know the names of Eric’s friends, or even, really, that they’re “Eric’s friends.” Nowadays the network takes the opposite tack, labeling every single cast member and rigidly defining their relationship to each other, as if its audience suffered, Memento-like, from chronic short-term memory deficiency.
- Let’s talk mushroom hair, which was all over the damn place in this episode: Missy was rocking it, and so were Eric’s mom and sister. I wonder: when will this look make its inevitable comeback? I have to say, I’m kind of feeling it.
- Moving on to the subject of fashion, with Becky out of the picture, the path to victory was clear for newcomer Missy. The hair is fantastic, clearly, but the clincher was her enormous plaid jacket. How feminine.
- Speaking of Missy, who’s that baby she’s holding in the picture we keep seeing? Maybe she is a skeezer after all!
- One more thing about poor Missy, and then I'll stop: she reminds me of the woman from this Ogilvie Home Perm ad, which I might be the only person in the world to remember.
- Isiah Thomas also deserves kudos for his Cosby sweater (I’m not just calling it that because he’s black) and slacks combo.