''Real World''

Formula Won

The N word AND a rape confession -- and it's just the 2nd ep! You CAN go home again, says Josh Wolk, as he returns to the comforting sameness of the ''Real'' world

The Real World | BOAT MATES The ''Real World: San Diego'' crew
BOAT MATES The ''Real World: San Diego'' crew

The N word AND a rape confession -- in the 2nd ep!

After 11 loyal years of watching every episode of ''The Real World,'' last year I did something heretical: I missed an entire season. I was on a sabbatical, and there is an emptiness inside me that all the ''Real World/Road Rules Challenge''s can't fill. So when I returned to work and it came time to write about the ''San Diego'' season, it was with some trepidation. Had I lost precious ''Real World'' momentum? Would I be able to leap back into the Bunim/Murray mindset, or would I always feel out of step? How could I still call myself a ''Real World'' expert if the very mention of Ace or C.T. would cause me to stammer and desperately try to shift the conversation back to Trishelle or Tami?

I needn't have worried.

As I tuned into the San Diego crew (a week late, and I apologize for the missed premiere update), I realized that you can always come back. Watching any seven ''Real World'' roommates is like riding a bicycle. A bicycle built for eight… where everyone is screaming at you and you're the only one pedaling.

Sitting for Jan. 13's double shot of episodes was like slipping on a comfy pair of slippers. ''Ahhhh,'' I thought when that old chestnut of a storyline came on, ''the good old race argument. That's the stuff!'' After a black man insulted Robin and she called him a nigger (a word that MTV oddly bleeped out: Hasn't a show that prays daily for a threesome lost the right to pretend to have a moral high ground?), Jacquese was peeved. Robin's various wrongheaded defenses included that 1) he wouldn't mind if a black person used the word, and 2) that her white friends called each other ''nigger'' all the time. Holy crap, was Trent Lott her debate coach?

The argument continued into the night, with Robin crying the whole time. At one point, when a few of the roommates were surrounding her as she wept ''look at me'' tears, she wailed that they should be consoling Jacquese, not her. Next week will she dress up in a clown suit and smash pies in her own face and then get mad at everyone for laughing at her?

Finally, Robin exploded with a blubbering confession that she had once been raped by a black man. Boy, is the ''Real World'' getting efficient, combining the staple rape confession AND race argument into one episode! At this rate, this season can be done by February.

It's early in the season, but I'm reasonably confident that Robin will prove to be the season's chief annoyance, especially with her ''all party girl all the time'' attitude. Uh, Robin, you punched out of Coyote Ugly a couple of weeks ago, you can stop working for tips. Now that she's set her sights (and breasts) on Randy, we can count on many weeks of aggressive flirting that will make Amaya look coy by comparison. (See? Who needs Paris when you've got Hawaii to allude to?) She fawned over how smart and deep Randy was, but considering that her response to everything he said was, ''What does that mean, explain,'' the bar is not exactly set at Mensa. He could tell her, ''Milk, milk, lemonade, round the back, fudge is made,'' and she'd nominate him for poet laureate… once he explained the rhyme.

The ''Real World'' gang also got their jobs assigned: They'll be crewing two sailboats. Once again, the producers have picked a job where the inevitable screwups can cause the most damage. I look forward to the moment when the members of Boat No. 1 get in such a heated argument about leaving the seat up on the toilet that they run over a jet-skiier. (Editor's note: We at Entertainment Weekly do not, nor have we ever, condoned gratuitous violence against jet-skiiers.)

Though ''The Real World'' may be comfortably repetitive in its cast's problems, they do always manage to find one weird-ass quirk that keeps you watching. This year they've outdone themselves with Frankie and her fear of big boats. Not fear of being on them and them sinking, mind you; she's just afraid of seeing a big boat. ''The Love Boat'' is her ''The Shining.'' At just the thought of walking in between two yachts, she couldn't breath and fled from the docks. I can't imagine anyone from Paris matching that for weirdness, and that makes me even happier to be spending the season in San Diego.

Originally posted Jan 13, 2004