Josh Wolk
April 20, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

It was Frankie’s guy vs. her fling — or was it?

I hereby dub the San Diego season ”The year of living anticlimactically.” Week after week there’s a huge setup portending something big — BIG! — going down, and then, after a cliffhanger commercial break, it turns out it was all one wet, slimy red herring, and viewers are left with the entertainment equivalent of blue b—s.

And so it went on the April 20 episode, where last week’s preview led us to believe that we would be witnessing some violent stand-off between Frankie’s fling (Adam) and her steady thing (Dave). Surely silver would fly as Adam’s ear plates clashed against Dave’s mighty lip stud! It would be like a ”Lord of the Rings” swordfight, if the orcs were disaffected skate-punk wannabes.

The show began with Frankie vehemently denying that anything was going on between her and Adam. She felt that he had gotten shady, what with his ”lingo and clothes and hats.” Yeah there’s nothing that a straight-shooting gal who wears wigs and owns a pet snake hates more than someone who tries to be a hipster. Now if you’ll excuse Frankie, she has to go ride her Charlie’s Angels skateboard to stock up on Hello Kitty merchandise.

Dave agreed to come to visit, but on the day he would arrive, Adam called to ask Frankie to breakfast. Thinking quickly and poorly, she didn’t tell him that Dave was coming, her logic being that Adam might then snap and do something foolish; instead she abruptly acted apathetic and cold. Because as everybody’s junior high diary can attest, nothing solves a romantic problem better than mixed signals!

And it worked like a charm: Adam showed up at the Hustler store, where Frankie and Jamie went shopping for Dave’s welcome gifts. How classy: Was the bong store closed? Now, I don’t want to take stalking lightly. For all I know, Adam slept outside Frankie’s window every night in a blanket he knit out of her used Kleenex.

But he could also very well just be a guy with a crush, and through the magic of MTV editing and a soundtrack of ominous techno, he’s made to look like Charles Manson. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time the ”Real World” producers took some sap who wandered into their cast’s life and edited them into a buffoon. Even Karl Rove would watch this character assassination and say, ”Now that’s not fair.”

Frankie was worried that Dave wouldn’t get on his plane. Apparently, he believes in signs, and if he overslept and missed his plane, he would take it as an omen that he shouldn’t come, which is the biggest rationalization for laziness I’ve ever heard. But he arrived, the young couple embraced with a giant CLANK as their piercings bumped, and the camera swirled around them as they smooched. It was so romantic, just like ”Sid and Nancy” — without the drugs or charisma.

And just when we thought they would truly find happiness, along came evil, evil Adam. He called when Frankie and Dave were out, and, when Jamie told him that Dave was visiting, he said that maybe he’d come by to meet the beau. Oh, no! Stalker Adam is coming! Lock the doors and call the cops! Frenzy ensued? the roommates wondered what was going to happen: Would there be a fight? Would Frankie cry? Would somebody go out and get more beer?

And then? and then? nothing happened. Adam didn’t show up, Dave forgave Frankie, and then flew home. Adam’s stalking was a complete nonevent. This would be one thing if we were watching the roomies worry about nothing in real time, but this was purposefully edited to build to a climax that it could never fulfill. It’s like the episode of ”Seinfeld” where George lies to his late fiancée’s parents about having a house in the Hamptons, and drives them all the way out there until he gets to the ocean and only then, when he geographically has to, he confesses that there is no house. Week after week, MTV takes us to the ocean.

I suspect there’s a motive for this whole season of false plots. As we all know, there was an alleged rape at this ”Real World” house, and who knows, it could lead to a trial that MTV would likely be involved in. So by carefully churning out episode after episode threatening huge drama and danger in this house that never actually comes to pass, the producers have built up a reputation as the Show That Cried Wolf. If they ever come to trial, a multiply burned jury will say, ”Oh, sure, they just WANT us to think there was a rape, but we’ll come back from lunch break and find out that nothing happened. We’re no suckers: Not guilty!”

Or, on the other hand, maybe it’s just boring.

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