Josh Wolk
February 15, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST

”The Real World”: Willie’s love games

For around five months, we have watched Shavonda and Landon flirt, Karamo ponder whether or not he wants to kill all or just some of his roommates, Melanie hone her passive-aggressive superiority skills, Sarah search for a leg to hump, and M.J. perfect his good-ol’-boy impression of Bo Duke. But whither Willie? Up until this week, he has existed only to roam the house, listening to everyone complain about everyone else. For all we knew, he could have only lived in the house one day and been taped sympathetically nodding in 14 different outfits, then left while the producers edited his enabling into conversations all season long.

Because he was such a nonfactor, I assumed the worst: that he wasn’t selfish. If you’re not delusionally self-involved and don’t live your life by the rule ”But how will this affect me?” you might as well take your ass to the History Channel, because MTV doesn’t want anything to do with you.

But this week, with the season almost over, Willie finally got his spotlight episode and proved that he can be completely careless about other people’s feelings with the best of them. His downfall is that he doesn’t do it very creatively.

He missed his boyfriend Dan, the globe-trotting flight attendant. There are many perks to dating a steward: When he pours you a soda, he’ll sometimes let you have the entire can; you’ll never want for pretzels; and after four demonstrations a day of how to inflate a life vest with one’s mouth, you know he’s got strong lips. But the drawback is that he’s never home.

Dan had told Willie that he wanted him to date around while he was gone, so as to not miss this opportunity. Opportunity? He made it sound like sleeping around in New York would not be cool but being promiscuous in Philadelphia was a special event that no one should miss. What makes it so unique? Is it the faint postcoital smell of Cheez Whiz? Is it because you get to make the pun ”cop a Philly”? Is it because some people nickname the split-Liberty Bell city ”home of the crack”?

Willie went out and met Neil, who sometimes had straight hair and sometimes looked like he had scalped M.J. With their identical blond curls, he, Landon, and M.J. could form a singing group called We Aames to Please. (Just a little shout-out for Eight Is Enough fans! Tune in next week when I weave a metaphor comparing the Philly Soul to Grant Goodeve’s motorcycle.)

All was going well with Neil, even if Sarah disapproved, saying the relationship was superficial. This from a woman whose sole hookup criterion is ”Are they breathing?” (And when things get really dry, I’m sure there’s some wiggle room on that dealbreaker.) But then Dan came back into town, and here’s where Willie got typically Real World. He made plans with Dan for the next night, when he had a preexisting date with Neil.

Okay, I can see the conundrum, what with Dan only being there for one night after six weeks away. But why did Willie wait until right before his date with Neil to cancel? What better way to say, ”I give the same amount of weight to your feelings as I would a hotel reservation.” And what better way for MTV to say, ”Valentine’s Day is over!” than by airing this heartless episode?

Willie wasn’t convinced that he had totally ruined Neil’s evening, so he brought Dan to a club where he and Neil hang out. Are there really that few gay clubs in Philly? Or was it just the pinnacle of heartlessly cavalier behavior to bring Dan where there was a better than even chance that he would run into Neil? This was monumental obliviousness, but it was obvious obliviousness, which is why Willie doesn’t get much camera time. His roommates are able to go that extra mile and add another pathology to their selfishness. When Shavonda tromps all over Shaun’s heart by cheating with Landon, she adds a hint of delusion by trying to make her jilted boyfriend feel guilty about upbraiding her. When Landon skips work, it’s after lecturing his roomies on the importance of working hard. Selfishness plus hypocrisy = more than one episode, baby!

Karamo tries a different tack for his screen time. He’s kind of an anomaly because he manages to get story lines while separating himself from the rest of the group. Normally the producers aren’t interested in that kind of lonerism, because it’s not cost-effective: Why follow one misanthrope when the same cameraman could potentially be filming three roomies arguing about who used up all the taco mix?

But Karamo has upped his hostility to the point where he can’t be ignored. He stays home only as long as it takes to calmly drop some psychotic revelation on his roomies, like this week, when he told Sarah that he had a ”very mischievous and vicious mind. But something comes over me that makes me do good.” How refreshing to know that all that stands between you and Karamo setting your bed on fire is some little whispering angel on his shoulder whom Karamo wants to throw into the Cuisinart.

I think the producers saw the end nearing and decided they needed their requisite closure on Karamo. After all, the next few weeks would need to be dedicated to the roomies trying to finish their giant erector set so Bon Jovi wouldn’t angrily take back their Philly Soul foam ”We’re Number One” fingers. And so Karamo’s boyfriend Ed persuaded Karamo to try a little harder to make friends. Karamo hugged Landon and then brought everyone out to a parking lot to play dodgeball. And they were all able to revel in the togetherness that can only be brought on by throwing balls at each others’ heads. Considering that Karamo’s ”mischievous mind” probably wanted to throw balls at their heads in the first place, it was unclear how this marked a sea change. But hey, at least it was a team sport. Anything that doesn’t involve each roommate thinking only of him- or herself is a step in the right direction.

What do you think? Can Karamo make it to the end of the season without melting down? Did you expect more of Willie? Are you disappointed in all of these people?

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