Hurricane Ashley Hits Hilton Head Island

Bravo Television Commentary

Believe it or not, I spent last week in a place without Wi-Fi. It’s hard to imagine but it explains why I’m just catching-up on last Thursday’s episode of Southern Charm. The intense drama not only begs an article but dissecting the violent storm called Ashley provides enough material for an entire website – (preferably put together by a team of talented psychiatric professionals). Ashley’s erratic personality looms over the whole vacation to Hilton Head but the episode illuminates other interesting moments as well.

The thing I like most about Southern Charm is, unlike most reality shows, it features more friendship and less hatred. Maybe its structured this way because of geography. Southerners are, by nature, gracious, hospitable and there has always been a palpable chemistry among this group. The cast’s mostly friendly interactions are light and enjoyable. I appreciate that producers allow for only one villain at a time (first Kathryn, now Ashley). I would prefer less villainy and more lifestyle stuff but the general public demands outrageous behavior.  Although I love a few of the Housewives groups, I often can’t keep their layered arguments straight and end up changing the channel to a re-run of Seinfeld. 

I’m the first to admit I go all swoon-ey in the heart for Southern gentlemen and there have been moments (I cringe to reveal) I have been charmed by Thomas’ deep drawl, impeccable wardrobe (minus those white jeans) and gorgeous, historic homes. Obviously those moments are eclipsed by two sexual abuse charges brought against him, not to mention the convicted felon thing (that his loving girlfriend loves to point out), plus all the gross, creepy, misogynistic icky-ness he oozes this season. Remember his outrageous declaration at Pat’s dinner party? He says “I have all the money. I have all the power” when the conversation turns to his romantic life.

Thomas is more arrogant than a Tesla driver in Los Angeles. He has an archaic, intensely offensive philosophy regarding women he dates and is inappropriate with female friends too. In this episode he scolds Chelsea with such venom and aggressive body language she looks as if she’s been physically assaulted when he’s finished with her. I think we all have a better understanding of the power dynamic Kathryn lives with.

The episode opens with Friday night dinner on Daufuskie Island and a tirade so explosive, it feels like a night terror you can’t wake up from. I wonder if  Hurricane Ashley has realized she can’t possibly re-gain work as a Hospice nurse after all this monstrous aggression has been documented on TV. Can you imagine Ashley caring for you as you lay dying? That image makes me think I would rather be on Faulkner’s treacherous trail of darkness with the fictional Bundren family than allow Ashley near me in my final stage of life. When Ashley’s blatant and intense gold-digging proves fruitless, she’s going to need a job. Hospice is an organization dedicated to human dignity. Ashley is to Hospice what Roseanne is to ABC.

Ashley goes berserk over an un-vitation to a two-year-old’s birthday party and  screams unthinkable insults at Kathryn – ironically, in an attempt to score an invitation to said birthday party. Additionally, she needs both a history lesson and an etiquette class dedicated to utensils. Apparently, she’s never eaten crab and thinks Hilton Head Island is a mountainous destination. Oh, and can’t you just see her grubby little hands rubbing together in her mind’s eye when she wonders if Thomas owns the town named for his family. Her behavior at Saturday’s dinner can only be described as bizarre. When naturally benevolent Shep extends an opening for polite conversation Ashley’s weird, hostile attitude bewilders him. Shep is slow to anger (unless Craig’s around) so making him mad really registers. Good for Chelsea for standing her ground when Ashley tries to create another opportunity to trash Kathryn at bedtime.

The Chelsea situation is noteworthy. Chelsea is funny, warm, gorgeous and best of all, so authentic. Shep makes comments about how much he likes (like, likes) her but doesn’t seem to want to put forth any effort into dating her properly. I guess he’ll know if he’s found a potential match when he feels organically motivated to pursue a woman like a true gentleman. Austin has a slightly longer attention span for relationships but he’s not ready to commit.

Chelsea is so cool, mature and full of pure goodness. She rises above Austin’s indecisive romantic yearnings for the sake of their friendship. He dates Chelsea’s friend Victoria, breaks things off with Victoria due to unresolved feelings for Chelsea then re-establishes a relationship with Victoria. I’m going to be disappointed in him if, next episode, he immediately cozies up to Chelsea after being dumped by Victoria via phone call. It’s no surprise that relationship crumbles before it (re-) starts. Austin’s let’s get back  together speech delivered to Victoria over drinks is so lackluster and unsubstantial its shocking she takes the bait. Austin has the integrity to be honest with Chelsea about his wavering feelings which is admirable. Still, Chelsea deserves better than his teeter-totter-ing between friends.

Meanwhile Craig and Naomi continue to throw out both aggressive and passive aggressive lobs at each other. Someone needs to remind them that public snitty-ness is unbecoming. Sadly, living with each other and without each other makes them unhappy. On a career note, I do hope Craig has the courage and vision to pursue a design career. Although I find the way the Housewives use their Bravo-lebrity to shamelessly peddle their wares exhausting,  I make an exception for Shepgear, Pat’s kaftans and would love to see Craig find his professional bliss by creating a fabulous pillow line. I don’t know why everyone wants to pigeon-hole him into law when his passion is clearly design.

Whitney is a little absent this season. My husband and I both laughed out loud when Whitney stays in bed (watching Netflix?) instead of joining the group’s boating activities. He hides out in his room to escape the overt PDA Ashley lavishes on Thomas in pursuit of a big diamond, expensive luggage and a credit card. Maybe Whitney is tiring of the party-fueled life and is looking to find the right girl. Hopefully we will see him find someone special next season. Whitney, like Shep, is fundamentally decent, smart and has the makings of a good partner/husband. He just needs to find that someone who is smart, sophisticated, beautiful and understands his unique lifestyle.

I think the Southern Charm audience collectively misses Cameran but she’s been in the baby cave. I think every mother feels connected to Cameran as she edges toward the birth of her daughter. Those last days of  pregnancy are torture. Too big for my maternity clothes, I remember sitting lethargic and alone in my underwear the day before my first child arrived. Cameran handles her pregnant body with extreme grace right up until we see her, ready to burst, eating pickles and cheese puffs at her kitchen island which is actually cute given how beautiful she is.

I know I won’t be alone this week as I anxiously await Thursday’s continuation of the Charmers excursion to Hilton Head. What will I do with myself to pass the hours?

Thank you, thank you to the entire cast. You open your lives so the rest of us can have a laugh, pass a judgement and have something to talk and write about when our own lives bore us a bit. You are all good sports. Your bravery does not go unnoticed.




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