Brian Hiatt
October 20, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

”The Real World”: The house outcast is chosen

In the primitive society known as The Real World, the natives have a few mandatory rituals: in-house flirting, on-camera emotional breakdowns, hot-tub groping, and, perhaps most important, the annual selection of the house outcast. That final ritual is often a source of mild anguish for viewers who have spent the season making fun of the housemates — we know that we wouldn’t be too popular in the house ourselves and are tempted to side with the outcast, no matter how obnoxious or socially awkward he or she is. (Tonya and Frankie, that was a shout-out).

This season is no exception, even if the opaque Melanie is making sympathy for the house devil harder than ever. Mel, her housemates say, is ”opinionated” — and for once, they’re right. In fact, in the absence of romantic interests, hobbies, regional quirks, her bumptiousness is her only known personality trait — perhaps because all the producers have ever shown her doing is gossiping and disagreeing with everything her housemates say. (Remember her refrain to Sarah: ”I would never . . .”)

When the housemates were late for their Philly Soul-sponsored volunteer gig (they’re using their no-doubt extensive architecture skills to design a playground — sorry, kids of Philly), Melanie took to scolding them. ”Shut the f— up,” responded Landon, whose own traits — tons of muscle, no discernible brain tissue, and a hearty affection for alcohol — mean he’d never be the house outcast.

”I think too deeply into what people say sometimes,” Landon said afterward, and he was correct — for him, any amount of thought is too much. M.J. defended his twin, er, friend with a charming alpha-jock tirade that restored our waning sympathy for Mel: ”She just has to be set in her place,” he said. ”She needs to go with the flow.” He then ”joked” that Landon should ”’punch her in her nose, kick her in her teeth.” Southern gentility in action.

But it became really obvious that Mel was in trouble when even her pal Willie turned upon her. As the group planned a playground site, she made her disapproval known via the subtle mechanism of loudly repeating, ”I don’t like it,” while Landon talked. Refusing to accept Willie’s criticism of her obvious rudeness, she launched into a defense worthy of a Jerry Springer guest: I’m proud of my screwed-up self! ”People say I’m bitchy or I’m too opinionated,” she chirped. ”I like those things about me.” Well, as long as she likes them.

This episode’s other story line was less predictable — and more touching — thanks to this season’s saving grace, Karamo. He admitted that he’s uncomfortable acting romantic with a man on camera, but his new love interest, the gentle Dorian, gave him some sage advice that helps him get over it: ”You are who you are. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.” Funny, that philosophy sounded a lot less convincing when it came from Mel.

What do you think? Are the housemates being too hard on Melanie, or is she just too hard to take?

You May Like