''Real World''

Emotion Pictures

Does Steven really love Trishelle? Don't bet on it, says Josh Wolk, even though Steven lets the L-word slip

The Real World | WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT? Maybe Steven should take some antacids to deal with the feelings he claims to have for Trishelle
WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT? Maybe Steven should take some antacids to deal with the feelings he claims to have for Trishelle

Does Steven really love Trishelle?

Love was in the air for the Feb. 25 episode of ''The Real World,'' and we all breathed a sigh of relief that it didn't involve Irulan and Alton. Rather, we focused on the show's other great love depository, Trishelle, who was visited by a date named Brian.

Steven was anxious to get them together, believing he would be redeemed for using her for sex and then tossing her aside. This is the same Steven who said he would like a baby because it would give him some purpose. A little too much of Steven's emotional well-being depends on manipulating other people's lives, doesn't it? When will Steven decide that it would make him feel like a more caring person to dote on a wounded friend, and then push Frank out of a moving car for an Instant Patient?

Trishelle was initially wooed by Brian, and who wouldn't be? He gave her a single red rose, and showed he can tie a cherry stem in a knot with his tongue! This is the kind of Casanova who will bypass the ''BE MINE'' conversation hearts and go straight for the ''TO MY SWEETIE'' Mylar balloons.

Trishelle's interest grew, but that could have been because Brian was a Steven doppelgänger: They were both in the Junior Olympics, and they both spoke and looked a bit alike. Brian shouldn't have been surprised if Trishelle went totally ''Vertigo'' and asked him to wear Steven's tank top in bed and whisper such sweet nothings as ''Oh, yeah, Trishelle, I'm using you as we speak.''

Eventually Trishelle started to lose interest because Brian seemed too into her. (And by ''lose interest'' I mean invite him into her bed for the night. But, to be fair, she didn't bring her A game.) That sleepover might not have excited her, but it sure got Steven riled up. He paced the apartment and announced that knowing she was with another guy made him want to vomit. ''I didn't think I had feelings beyond friendship...[but] maybe I love Trishelle,'' he said. Or maybe he just had an upset stomach from eating at PT's Sports Bar: The way he makes whiplash emotional decisions, he likely can't tell the difference anymore between a romantic epiphany and bad mozzarella zingers.

But wait: As much as I enjoy judging Trishelle and Steven, I feel I should reconsider. Last week I actually received an unexpected phone call from Arissa's Uncle Robert, who was, in Boston-speak, wicked pissed. Someone had forwarded him my article about his visit to the show, and he was apoplectic that I had: A) mocked the way he unexpectedly showed up in Vegas; B) said he was a big whiner when she didn't go to dinner with her; and C) implied that he would hit someone over the head with a beer bottle if they badmouthed Red Sox pitchers.

He set me straight: A) He did not show up unexpectedly, he was there for business and had actually visited a few times. B) While the show made it seem like he was ruining her birthday, he had actually gone out with her and her roomies that night and had a great time. C) He does not like the Red Sox. He is a Patriots fan.

Uncle Robert's anger seemed less directed at me than at MTV, which he felt distorted his visit through editing. (Actually, ''They threw me under a bus!'' was his constant refrain.) Hearing his Boston-accented agony, I realized that perhaps I should account more for dishonest Bunim/Murray trims and rearrangements in my episode reviews, and allow that maybe the roomies aren't as pinheadesque as they sometimes appear.

Although frankly, I can't imagine any pre-editing scenario in which the Trishelle/Steven romance is not an unholy union. He has said that he looked at her as a piece of meat, and she pined for him while he continued to treat her like the aforementioned sirloin. If we're getting the director's cut of their relationship, I don't see how the real-time version could be any more uplifting.

I tried to give the same benefit of the doubt to Arissa and Irulan as they started their new jobs cocktail-waitressing at the poolside bar Skin. They were both excited at the prospect of ''getting to wear bathing suits and make great money.'' That's funny, strippers say the exact same thing on their first day on the job.

Maybe an editing trick came when Arissa and Irulan weren't too thrilled when they were asked to help unpack chairs. Perhaps MTV only showed the five seconds of footage with them harrumphing, but left out the eight hours of them lathering up their elbow grease and whistling ''Hi Ho.'' And maybe when Irulan said ''Skin is not what we expected,'' she was talking about how she had assumed they would be moving tables, not chairs.

Gee, once this doubt settles in, ''The Real World'' becomes an entirely different show, one in which all the roomies pitch in and have healthy relationships and are kind to each other and don't throw forks and...

Ugh. That kind of rationalization makes me want to vomit. Steven's right: the actions on this show can make you queasy.

Originally posted Feb 26, 2003