Dave Karger
June 11, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Inside a plantation-style Honolulu beach house, a 22-year-old man steps out of the shower, disposes of his towel, and — for no apparent reason — throws his naked body on top of a fully clothed sorority girl lounging in the next room. She pushes him off and yells ”Don’t ever put your d— on my ass again!”

Thank heavens — The Real World is back. Building off last year’s rejuvenating Seattle-based season (the series’ highest-rated installment ever), MTV’s peep-a-palooza returns June 15 with 22 new episodes of well-edited dysfunction.

But after seven seen-it-all seasons, can someone please tell us exactly why we should still care? Let’s ask 22-year-old Worlder Kaia, a UC Berkeley student who changed her name from Margaret (kaya means ”a small community” in Swahili): ”The cameras are basically a forum for an outlet for a very unique type of expression that gives you the freedom to be honest about who you are and help others do the same thing.”

I’m sorry, was someone saying something? When it comes to The Real World, we don’t give a hoot about who’s getting in touch with themselves. All we want to know is who’s trash-talking whom (like Kevin and Becky in New York), who’s bitch-slapping whom (as Seattle’s Stephen did to Irene), and, above all, who gets kicked out (a la that yahoo Puck). So will this season — in which the seven roommates manage a Waikiki cafe when they’re not getting on one another’s nerves at home — push the already-frayed-at-the-seams Real World envelope? To find out, an EW reporter (disguised as one of the 30-plus crew members) infiltrated the gang’s beach pad. And now, for your voyeuristic pleasure, we uncover the four major sources of new World disorder:

Part soap opera, part public-service announcement, The Real World manages to highlight a new Gen-X issue every year (abortion, homophobia, AIDS). This time, it’s alcoholism. During her second night in the house, Ruthie — a 21-year-old bisexual native-Hawaiian foster child and Rutgers University student — drinks to the point of passing out and is rushed to the hospital after lapsing into seizures. No one was more shocked by the dire turn of events than the show’s producers, who failed to uncover Ruthie’s habits during their intense screening process. ”We were chagrined that we didn’t know,” says cocreator Mary-Ellis Bunim, who rejected an admitted alcoholic for this season because she thought The Real World wasn’t the best environment for a 12-stepper. ”She has a serious problem,” says supervising producer Matt Kunitz. Ruthie’s take? ”I don’t think I’m an alcoholic at all, but the phase I went through in the show seems to look like I am,” she says. ”I got labeled. It’s not fair.”

Problem or not, the cast intervenes, and Ruthie becomes the first Real World participant to take a 30-day leave of absence from the show (her break comes halfway through the four-month shoot). ”I really missed the crew a lot when I was gone,” Ruthie says, adding that her housemates didn’t keep in touch during her time away. ”Didn’t miss the cast at all.”

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