Is the sun a little brighter today? The birds bursting with song? Villains extra dastardly and heroes that much more super? Iron Man 3
is in theaters, all’s right with the world and don’t think MTV’s unaware. While scheduling issues prevent the likes of A Real World Christmas
from warming hearts come yuletide, the effective holiday surrounding Tony Stark’s third assault upon the forces of evil—as endlessly advertised throughout online airings of Real World Portland
the past few weeks—has brought new life to the franchise. This sixth episode seems expressly edited to feature the battle royale between “Hurricane” Nia and “Fucking Prick” Jordan, and, however lamentable those recent attempts toward framing the scarcely believable exploits of outsized personalities inside horror and romantic comedy traditions, an action blockbuster context works a treat.
The first half of the season certainly spared no expense building up Jordan as arch nemesis, and opening clips rehash the tortured origin story (militaristic upbringing, taskmaster father, cover identity as semi-pro wakeboarder) and past crimes against humanity (economic dogma shouted whilst springing atop couch, garishly printed shirt unbuttoned to navel, Fireball upon Fireball to stoke a raging asshole-ishness). Like all truly memorable cinematic fiends, there’s even the physical abnormality to blame for a twisted psyche. Born with only half of his left hand, Jordan ordinarily laughs away concerns over the missing four and a half fingers—were the hand replaced, he protests, maybe it wouldn’t tan right—he later admits to newly introduced love interest that the grossness haunts him still.
If Jordan was indeed destined to play the villain, casting Nia as hero seems altogether inspired. We’ve previously learned of the sexual abuse that perhaps sparked her reflexive manipulation of powerful men, and, though something other than mild-mannered, Nya also turns out to have aspirations toward journalism…. of a sort. Isn’t writing a book entitled “How To Play The Game” about successfully dating professional athletes the new media equivalent of reporting for a major metropolitan newspaper? The literary cachet alongside financial reserves from modeling and, ahem, friends in high places allows her license to skip out on her newly acquired cocktailing shift at Pizza Schmizza with a blithe aplomb (asking for directions to the nearest liquor store while feigning illness) that astounds even her none-too-especially careerist roommates, and with limited responsibilities comes great power of scheming.
From the start, Nia has boasted of her Machiavellian strengths with all the heedless glee of a girl newly empowered to cartwheel, and, confronted with the implacable douche, she visibly thrills to play unbearable bitch and wield her newly acquired moral purpose. After continually insisting his miserable personality and burbling aggression ensued from another diminished appendage, she delights to learn Jordan’s first date with new friend, um, Molli has been unavoidably postponed—“I left my debit card in Troutdale” less an excuse than cry for help, really—and unleashes a torrent of jibes till he flees to the bar only to follow along once sufficient Fireballs have been lit. Drunken shitheads are a cowardly, superstitious, horny lot, and she takes full advantage through soft arm and softer words as the loftmates stare disgusted.
With melodrama heightened to blood sport, there’s not much left for the remainder of the cast save exposition—Anastasia, say, describing Nia’s “mindfuck” intentions as if learned phonetically—and half-hearted stints as mediator by Marlon (whose constant eye-rolling threatens to become a tic) and Johnny (farmboy frustrations perhaps boiling over as he demands Jordan respect the locals, which surely led to confusion among Splash Bar patrons over who those locals would be). Joi’s departure for specious cause now appears prescient, and, although dog Daisy cannot so easily leave the program, a compromise appears to have been reached via an Elizabethan collar explained away as consequence of bandages following her own off-camera fracas in the park.
More importantly, the sight of a genuine injury (and irritation over the feminine response) further illustrates the gruesome depths of Jordan’s childhood torment—“I’ve been stapled by my father! I’ve been superglued!”—that, were he not metaphorically kicking a wounded puppy, would provoke some degree of sympathy from the viewer, but some unerring instinct for awfulness always shines through. Even after acting every bit the gentleman with latest Splashmate Vanessa, the points won are squandered instantly by the subsequent trip to the Go Kart track. Yes, Jordan takes the contest far too seriously. Yes, he tears the skies asunder with victory whoops. Yes, Go Karts, frat bars and five-dollar footlongs are evidently the cultural highlights of this Portlandia-writ-Fresno hellscape.
Confronted with such an enemy, how can we fail to root for Nia’s efforts to avenge the presumably manifold wrongs committed against her once upon a time? This episode’s final bout, though, goes a bit differently. Home and shirtless and happily soused, Jordan has no reason to fear Nia’s taunts, nor does he have the prefrontal capacity to decipher her underlying threats when she invades his fortress of solitude. Somewhat panicking once her usual arsenal fails against deadened emotions, she escalates. Straddling and choking him upon his bed, brandishing clock and then lamp as weapons, she slaps and shrieks and loses any semblance of calculated pose while Jordan, all lizard brain, seethes unmoving behind calcified smirk.
After yet another aggrieved stretch of peacemaking from Marlon—who desperately needs his own cone of dignity and may well suffer a breakdown by show’s end—the combatants retreat to their own corners, and the breathless clips promising more of the same next week seem wholly perfunctory. Against all odds, the season (and, quite possibly, franchise) is saved, the city itself blissfully forgotten, and the game, albeit one Nia never could have imagined, very much afoot.