TV Article

Special Education

On ''The Real World,'' Landon loses his Soul mate but learns some self-restraint, while Shavonda learns about tolerance, and everyone learns a new big word

FRATERNIZING PLEDGE Landon swore off office romance
FRATERNIZING PLEDGE Landon swore off office romance

''The Real World'': Landon loses his Soul mate

Everybody on The Real World wants to seem special. After all, there's no better way to get air time than to come out with some wild confession that makes producers say, ''Now there's something we haven't heard before!'' We've heard a lot over the years: Roomies have aired their drug problems and kinks and Lyme disease, and of course, every year it gets harder and harder to make audiences and producers sit up and take notice. Consider that when Norman announced that he was gay in season 1, it was a big surprise, but now, 12 years later, the interesting thing about Willie is not that he is gay but that he used to star on Ghostwriter. And, as we learned last week, Sarah's nymphomania is a big snore. Cara did the ''confidently easy'' thing in Chicago: Call us when you start screwing moray eels, Sarah — at least that's new.

The exponentially increasing difficulty of coming up with something unique provides a high risk/reward for Real Worlders. When they succeed, it's with something truly awesome. Consider Frankie from San Diego: When she confessed to a deep phobia of large boats, it made me gasp. That was a bit of lunacy I couldn't have dreamed up if I were doing hits out of a Carnival Cruise-shaped bong. Such outrageous revelations, however, can also go horribly wrong, by being so distasteful that they just make everyone look away. I think you all see where I'm going with this long windup: I'm talking about Shavonda's revelation that she is scared of special-needs kids.

Let's repeat: Shavonda is scared of special-needs kids. The very toot of a short-bus horn might as well be the shriek of the Grim Reaper a-comin'. And don't even get her started on that menace to society, Corky.

The worst part was her earnest explanation of this phobia: When she was little, the special-ed kids who came out for recess would push the regular-ed kids out of the way and hog the water fountain and generally ''scare the crap out of me.'' When she told this to her boss, was Shavonda waiting for her to nod empathetically and say, ''I know, they're terrible. And so violent! I had one hug me the other day a little too hard, and though his mouth said, 'I love you, best friend!' his eyes said, 'I'll see you in hell!' ''

Of course, this all led up to the usual Real World episode-ending epiphany where, after a day spent with Olivia, a sweet five-year-old with cerebral palsy, Shavonda had a great time and conquered her fears. Anyone want to applaud her for that? It's like an anti-Semite being forced to spend a day with a rabbi and at the end saying, ''You know, that wasn't so bad. Turns out they don't eat your first-born!'' Congratulations on realizing your indefensible position was wrong, Shavonda. Now call us when you realize that dwarfs aren't trying to steal your gold jewelry.

The rest of the episode worked incredibly hard to teach the MTV audience a new word: ''fraternizing.'' The roomies loved this new four-syllable addition to their vocabulary so much that they used it in every other sentence, and most times it was even used correctly! Although I'm sure the producers have a lot of unused footage of Landon saying stuff like, ''I'm hungry — I'd like to fraternize a hot dog,'' before he got it right.

At their internship with the Philadelphia Soul (otherwise known as the Philly Bon Jovi Tax Shelter), the roommates were warned that fraternizing with the players, cheerleaders, or team employees was a crime punishable by firing . . . and therefore being kicked off The Real World. But Landon found himself irresistibly drawn to Gina, the team accountant. And what Landon wants, Landon gets! Except for Shavonda, that is. And his old girlfriend. Come to think of it, the only thing Landon's gotten so far is a local bartender and bad advice on hair gel.

But never mind that! He pursued her anyway, and she seemed surprisingly wooable. I'm not sure how a professional woman decides to risk her job by dating an intern being trailed by TV cameras, but I'll assume it has something to do with arena-football fumes. Their forbidden love was quickly discovered, however, and Soul CFO Mimi convened a special meeting to remind them of their no-intranookie contract. But Landon's passion can't be quashed by simple threats! Oh, wait . . . yes it can. After a conversation with M.J. about how Gina had said she wanted to continue their relationship in spite of the danger (which clearly actually happened before the Mimi meeting, since he was seen subsequently calling her to tell her about the warning), he abruptly decided that he didn't want to risk being booted off the show. I mean, gambling a job catapulting T-shirts to drunk Soul fans is one thing, but to risk a career battling Coral and Mike on countless Real World/Road Rules Battle of the Sexes? That's just plain stupid.

Although that might work to his advantage with Shavonda: She may be afraid of people with special needs, but raw stupidity has always seemed to turn her on.

What did you think? Do you have more respect for Landon? And less for Shavonda? And what's your all-time favorite housemate confession?

Originally posted Dec 01, 2004