In episode 5 of TLC’s The Spouse House, shit starts getting real. Last week saw Danny and Naya married, the first couple to do so. To say it arrived with a wake-up call would be an understatement. The contestants are feeling the pressure more than ever as they realize just how close they are to the possibility of realizing their closest-held desires.
Danny and Naya will continue to stay on in the Spouse House, working with the relationship experts as they prepare to re-enter the ‘real’ world, learning the skills necessary to combat all of the sly idiosyncrasies and inconveniences that contribute to the discouragingly high divorce rate in this country—(something like 50%.) In short, they’re being domesticated. I mean, it would be a pretty cruel joke if they rushed them into getting married, only to throw them into the street barefoot and overwhelmed, wouldn’t it?
Spouse House Engagement Ceremony
Once the quick briefing on Danny and Naya is finished, we are once again invited to the Engagement Ceremony. But this one has few twists up its metaphoric sleeve. The spotlight falls on—(or is tackled by)—Missy. Immediately, she comments on Chris’ display of paternal affection towards Lance—(who, if you recall from the previous episode, he sort of acted as the mouthpiece for Lance’s ventriloquism)—that he exudes that parental instinct, which is why Lance felt most comfortable with him out the hundred-odd others in the room. She described it as ‘fairytale’. Chris, for his part, agrees, indicating that if their time in the Spouse House is any indicator at all of their future, their future looks bright.
But not everyone’s feeling Cupid’s Novocain-tipped arrow. (It’s gotta be tipped with some kind of anesthetic, otherwise it would hurt like hell…) Bri, whose infatuation with Chris is about as easy to surmount as the Great Divide, is above the tree-line and finding it difficult to catch her breath. Emotional hypoxia sets in, and she starts crying. She ‘knows’ she and Chris would be together if Missy wasn’t there. Which provides little comfort, since Missy is there. When asked what she wants to do, she wrestles with the prospect of proposing to Chris… but ultimately opts to leave the Spouse House instead.
Chris does his best to remain the neutral ‘good guy’, offering up those deflated-soufflé platitudes and blandly encouraging prevarications which, in his defense, is about all he has left to offer. His only other real option is aggravation and being a dick—laying down those hard truths—which may sound more sincere, but are not. Missy, speaking loudly enough to be heard but not so loud as to overshadow, observes that Bri’s departure may have been what was holding her and Chris back, and that “Chris is mine” and “I win”—something that didn’t exactly endear her to some of the others in the house (Ah-hemm, Naya…)
Bri disembarks amidst tearful good-byes and hugs from well-wishing new friends, leaving Ben—her exploratory marriage partner—in the lurch.
Engagement Or Eviction?
Eviction. It’s eviction. Ashley T. and Ben, the newest members of the Spouse House, are evicted. Along with Bri’s departure, that opens up three new spots in the house: Scott, a Captain in the U.S. Army; Ashley K. (yes, another Ashley), an Associate Media Director; and Isabella, a Yoga Instructor.
With Tom and Ashley Lauren at a traffic-jammed crossroads in their relationship, the decision is made to remove them from their exploratory marriage, allowing them some time to figure out what they each want, and to engage with new people in the process.
Jimmy and Kelli Jo, meanwhile, are inching ever closer to the precipice of proposal. When asked what’s holding them back, Jimmy says that he needs to speak with her father before he would feel comfortable proposing. Very befitting of Jimmy’s character. We also learn that Kelli Jo’s dad—just like Jimmy—is also a firefighter/paramedic, albeit a retired one. And while he doesn’t know her father, he does know the ‘fireman’s code’, something that he has no intentions of breaking. And so plans are put in motion for the two of them to journey to Arizona.
Ashley Lauren and Tom
Things between Tom and Ashley Lauren—already not great—take a resounding downward turn when Tom votes to evict Ben. Ashley Lauren, believing Ben to be there for the right reasons, had expressed her feelings to Tom prior to the eviction, and his vote for Ben was an emotional slap in the face. Frustrated to the point of tears, Ashley Lauren—who’s been receiving unwarranted and undeserved shit-talk from Internet assholes (who’d better watch their backs)—feels Tom ‘doesn’t care’, that he provides little of the emotional support she’s looking for in a husband. Tom, still feeling like Ashley Lauren hasn’t really ‘put herself out there’, is equally frustrated. Tom responds to her accusation that his lack of support is hurting her, saying that she’s hurting him by saying that he’s hurting her, and thus it continues in that ubiquitous, Catch-22 death-spiral—you can almost hear the relationship flushing down the toilet.
It reaches its boiling point with Tom walking out of the room, muttering, “I have no clue what she’s talking about […] I can’t take this.”
They meet with Dr. Isaiah Pickens and Christine Hassler to discuss their issues and the decision to remove them from their exploratory marriage. After all, it isn’t conducive to the show’s mission to keep two people who aren’t meshing in a relationship. For Ashley Lauren, its “where expectation meets reality.” For Tom, their relationship has been the “epitome of a rollercoaster”—I don’t think anyone would disagree with that assessment.
Jimmy And Kelli Jo Head To AZ
Jimmy and Kelli Jo arrive in Arizona amidst a swirl of palpable trepidation. Like Danny before her, Kelli Jo cares deeply what her family thinks, unsure of what she’ll do should they not like Jimmy. Head over heels in love with her, Jimmy similarly worries what will happen if the impression he makes is left wanting. Apparently, her family feels over-protective of her, due in large part to her past relationships.
Over a large family dinner, Jimmy meets his possible future in-laws. Prompted with the question, “What are your intentions with our Kelli Jo?”, Jimmy, in a moment of silver-tongued sincerity, says, “Every day I try to make sure she’s smiling and having a good time. And that she’s, you know, comfortable, so—” before a flurry of sobs from around the table interrupt him. Kelli Jo’s father, dabbing at his eyes with a lime-green napkin, manages to choke out, “Marry him right now.” An obvious boon for Kelli Jo, she remarks that they are like “best friends” but that Jimmy still has yet to speak with her dad.
Later on, Jimmy and Mr. Kelli Jo retire to the porch for a discussion, man-to-man. Taking the temperature of the room, Jimmy begins by relating his biggest fear is that if he and Kelli Jo don’t get engaged, they’ll be evicted and lose what they’ve built thus far. Receptive, her father seems to know where the conversation’s heading. And when Jimmy finally asks, respectful and voicing his intention that he will respect his decision, Kelli Jo’s dad highlights, more or less, the same misgivings shared by Danny’s family, namely that it seems rushed for such a life-changing decision. After suspenseful contemplation, her dad says Jimmy seems mature and possesses good morals, and gives him his blessing. He bestows this blessing with slight hesitation, but it’s a green-light nonetheless.
Tom And Ashley K.
With three new people entering the Spouse House, we hearken back to those early days where the contestants were still feeling each other out, forging bonds and creating connections. Tom and Ashley K. had a mutual attraction from moment she was introduced to the surviving cast, with Tom likening her to a more ‘conservative’ version of Ashley Lauren. Ashley K. is here, like everyone else, hoping to fall in love for the first time. She and Tom embark on a date at a painter’s studio, sharing a blank canvass in a fuzzy, trope-y nimbus redolent of animated Disney romance. Tom concedes that she’s ‘exactly his type’. (Although I think it would be difficult to find someone claiming she wasn’t his (or her) type—particularly at first glance.)
Tom compliments Ashley K. on her use of the word ‘gradient’; Ashley K. tells us viewers that they’re really ‘complimenting’ (or ‘complementing) each other—I know it confusing: I can’t discern with any certainty if she’s saying they’re compatible (i.e. ‘complementary), or if she was saying, in the more literal sense (i.e. ‘complimentary), that they praise one another. But I’m probably overthinking it.
Tom leaves the date wondering if this was why he came here, that his and Ashley Lauren’s falling out is some sort of predetermined catalyst to ultimately meet the woman he will marry.
Back at the Spouse House, Tom and Ashley K. continue their date, and Ashley K.’s true colors leak out like witchy sieve. Compelled to make a move, based on gut instinct, she launches a disinformation campaign targeting Ashley Lauren’s and Tom’s bond. “You and Ashley Lauren, it’s not meant to be,” she pontificates, though the source of her ineffable omniscience remains confidential (or merely unsubstantiated). Little do they know, Ashley Lauren happens to be outside the door, privy to what’s being said—and what I’ve related is only a fraction of the most palatable maledictions levied against Ashley Lauren.
What follows is an unexpected confrontation that leaves Tom momentarily dumb-founded. Ashley K. argues that if their relationship isn’t working in the immediate vicinity of two relationship experts, then it couldn’t possibly work in the ‘real’ world. This attitude continues in a frenzied slur-blur that culminates with her calling Ashley Lauren a ‘crazy bitch’. Which is all fine and well, seeing how that seemed to be just the right motivation Ashley Lauren needed.
In front of an increasingly disillusioned Ashley K., Tom and Ashley Lauren begin the process of making up. Tom felt Ashley Lauren had finally shown she cares by fighting for him. It took a lackluster date with Scott and the prospect of losing Tom for Ashley Lauren to realize that Tom was ‘her man’, and that she wasn’t interested in pursuing a relationship with anyone else in the house.
Darren And Isabella
Darren, whose presence on the show has been little more than peripheral up until this point, finds himself on a date with Isabella at the batting cages. Both were instantly attracted to each other and are getting on famously. When Darren goes up to bat, Isabella—self-proclaimed ‘wild-child’—proffers a wager: If Darren hits five in a row, he wins a kiss. Darren, more than up to the challenge, channeling his “inner Barry Bonds,” stepped up and connects with the first five. Princely, he claims his prize.
What makes this match-up interesting is that Darren, by his own admission, usually dates black women; Isabella states she’s never dated “someone outside her race” before. Somewhat discouragingly, she’s unsure how her family will feel about her dating an African American. Similarly, Darren understands perfectly the difficulties inherent to interracial dating (yes, even in this day and age). The fact that it can still be an issue is certainly disheartening, but by being up-front, open, and honest about the impediments they’re almost certain to face from one side or another, they’ll be able to move past those cosmetic insignificancies. Ignoring or disregarding these very real possibilities can only carry them so far, but through honest dialogue and a simpatico outlook they should be able to overcome any petty obstacle in their path.
Chris And Missy
Chris and Missy—what’s there to say? Since the day Chris chose to stay with Missy rather than Bri, everything’s been sunny days and cloudless nights. Chris’ amenable, nice-guy routine pairs perfectly with Missy’s overwhelming, gung-ho personality. Content with taking their time, certain that they will be married as soon as they’re ready, Chris turns the discussion to children. (I know, I know—cart-before-the-horse. But what can you do…?) Strangely enough, they even both agree that they wouldn’t want to know the gender of the baby. Hell, they even both want a boy.
And then Missy drops the BIG ONE (and I mean BIG): How does Chris feel about vaccinations? Doing my best to remain nonpartisan on the issue, let’s just say I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole smeared with smallpox. And I’ve been vaccinated. Well, chances are Chris wouldn’t either. Missy—holistic, anti-vaxxer, determined—finally finds herself in a position from which she can’t talk her way out. Chris is steadfastly anti anti-vaccination, an issue he refuses to budge on. It’s his deal-breaker. He even goes so far as to say he wishes it weren’t, but it is.
Missy, somewhat taken aback by Chris ‘showing some fight’, she argues that she’s done her research, and Chris counters with the fact that she’s a chiropractor, and not a virologist or a doctor specializing in immunizations. Having spent her whole life thinking she’d never immunize her children, she grapples with her indecision, oscillating between “looking weak” and the probability of losing Chris, since they both adamantly want kids. (Remember: Missy put in vitro on hold for The Spouse House.)
With the Engagement Ceremony looming, Chris says he wouldn’t be surprised if Missy proposed to him. Missy, drawn into a mental tug-o’-war situation, looks frailly human: indecisive, a raging war between her emotions and her reason, the picture of tortuous confliction, self-doubt gnawing bitterly. She wants to be loved. She wants to be loved by Chris, wants to marry Chris. And, in a truly shocking twist, decides to leave the Spouse House. But not without first telling Chris that, whether he stays or leaves with her, she still loves him.
The trailers for tomorrow’s episode intimate that shit’s going to get even realer tomorrow (10/9 Central on TLC), with more than a few shots of Ashley Lauren in tears, which also means money for charity. (So tune in to your schadenfreude and watch as her misery brings joy to many.) And remember, if you miss an episode, you can watch it for free at TLC.com.