WE tv’s new Marriage Boot Camp spinoff — Marriage Boot Camp Reality Stars — is the product of the most solemn vow of reality TV stardom: Extend those 15 minutes of fame till death do you part. And for at least one of the fair-to-partly famous couples taking part, that last part may happen sooner rather than later.
The first couple to arrive at the fabulous mansion that serves as home base for camp directors Jim and Elizabeth Carroll — the press release carefully calls them “experts” but doesn’t mention exactly in what, and neither sports any professional suffixes after their names — is former Bad Girls Club time bomb Tanisha Thomas and her husband Clive Muir. Clive gets right to the root of the duo’s problem. The first thing out of his mouth is: “I married the craziest bitch from the Bad Girls Club.”
The first step is admitting you have a problem, Clive. Gold star.
Clive and Tanisha have been married for two years and they’re already in trouble. Trust issues. Fidelity. Communication. The usual trip-ups. What Tanisha would like to communicate right now, though, is how much she loves the boot camp mansion, with its burbling fountain, free booze and see-through fridge that she wants everyone to know is “a celebration for big girls everywhere.”
Clive says he knew his dainty bride was loud and aggressive when he married her, so he’s used to it. Happy? No. Used to it. Yes.
The next couple to arrive is Real Housewives of Orange County cast-offs Gretchen Rossi and Slade Smiley, who aren’t actually married yet, but whatever. Before they’re even out of the limo, Slade tells his giggling beloved, “So whatever happens, I’m telling you I’m sorry right now.”
So we can pretty much guess that whatever happens on-camera with these two hereto forth is B.S. carefully honed over Slade’s multiple RHOOC adventures and Gretchen’s adventures both with Real Housewives and with Slade. Don’t get me wrong — I find the Gretchen half of this pair hilarious and I’d totally have about a hundred drinks with her. But, like the rest of the world, I’m not sold on the validity of this union. Especially after stuff like this.
Or this: “I’m Slade Smiley and I like to sleep with Housewives,” Slade beams in the pair’s first aside. “That is so inappropriate,” giggles his betrothed. “That’s true … right?” Slade adds.
These little charmers have been “dating” for five years and engaged for 5 months, which was captured for the Bravo cameras before the ax fell. Both have been married before. Gretchen says if the relationship doesn’t keep moving forward (say, by continuing to bear fruit in the form of reality television opportunities) — she is going to have to walk away.
“Oh my God. Barbie is here!” Tanisha exclaims when the pair come through the door. To Gretchen’s face, Tanisha says that she looks good … in person. Gretchen laughs and, privately, says she was never afraid of any of the Housewives, but Tanisha could possibly kick her ass.
Tanisha gives the Smileys-to-be the details of her own union: She and Clive have been together for 8 years, married for 2 and separated for … 2. Marriage math: 2 years of marriage – 2 years of separation = 0 years of marriage. Gretchen find this very interesting and informs Tanisha that she is like the white Oprah — curious about every last little thing and bubbling over with questions. Tanisha does a bangin’ job of imitating Gretchen imitating Oprah.
Let’s meet Couple No. 3. That would be former Jersey Shore star Jenni “JWoww” Farley and her fiancé Roger Mathews, who have been together 3.5 years and engaged for 1.5 of them. Roger – who is wearing a t-shirt bearing the subliminal message “EA$Y on it — says the relationship in on life support. But he still calls Jenni “m’love” on the way into the mansion and their body language is intimate and easy.
Or maybe just easy, because Roger says their primary issue is intimacy: “The general rule is sex stops after marriage — somehow ours stopped after Jersey Shore ended, really.”
Gretchen says that she only knows JWoww from Jersey Shore, but she’s probably going to be “drunk and stupid the whole time.” Slade says he’s going to be nice to Roger the whole time, because buffed up Roger is really big.
As for JWoww’s take on these particular costars, it goes a little something like this: “Slade and Gretchen are as real as my boobs.” JWoww for the win.
Where Tanisha and Clive’s relationship is concerned, Roger says it’s obvious that Tanisha “wears the shoes and runs the pants.” That is not a typo. Also I’m totally cribbing i and using it in a sentence every single day.
Then everyone wonders who might show up next.
Which would be Traci Braxton and Kevin Surratt from Braxton Family Values. These guys have been married for 17 years and both calmly admit to infidelity. But they agree that the real issue is that they’re just not each other’s best friend anymore.
Tanisha is familiar with this pair. She says Traci may be loud like her, but the Braxton-Surratt’s problem is that Kevin “cannot keep his ding-a-laaang between his legs.” Sounds more like Kevin cannot keep his ding-a-laaaang from between other people’s legs. But perhaps I nitpick.
Gretchen tosses her White Oprah shtick out there again, and it turns out, Traci can do a pretty solid Gretchen imitation, too. Slade says he’s a fan of Traci’s because he knows Toni Braxton. Gretchen wants to know if Slade knows knows Toni or just knows of Toni, because his thingie has been in a lot of other women, too. Slade admonishes her not to talk about Toni like that. Dream on, Sladers. Dream on.
Time for the last couple to make their appearance — and it’s one that might give fans of The Bachelorette a little pause, for it’s the franchise’s poster children for happily ever after, Trista and Ryan Sutter. They’ve been married for 10 years and are all too aware of their aforementioned reputation. Trista says she feels like if they got divorced, it would let the fans down. Count White Oprah among them. Gretchen says that she feels like she and Trista are already friends because she’s a Bachelorette watcher. Tanisha, not so much. She says Trista should have kept the Bachelorette’s hair and makeup team on speed dial, but her teeth are good though.
Traci says the Sutters “look like they only do it in one position.” Tanisha will drink to that. And everything else. The phrase “double fisting” gets thrown around a lot.
With everyone in place, here come the Carrolls. Elizabeth explains that their methods are like surgery: They’re going to cut the couples open, pull out the damage and sew them back together so they can heal. Jim adds that if anyone thinks they’re not tough enough to go through the boot camp, now’s as good a time as any to leave. He doesn’t really mean it, though, because when Tanisha makes a break for the door, he orders her to halt.
Now our Bad Girl’s just drinking right from the bottle of bubbly. Or maybe that’s a big beer. Anyway, let’s call it anesthesia for the surgery to come. Jim tells everyone that they’re going to take this stuff seriously, effective immediately.
Let us begin. OK, one hour of free time to eat (and/or climb out the window and make a break for it) first and then we’ll begin. JWoww and Roger jump in and start cooking. Whatever might be going on (or not going on) in the bedroom, these two appear to be good friends and a good team.
While everyone else busies themselves in the kitchen, Tanisha pulls Clive aside for a confab. Clive says Tanisha not liking to cook is one of his main beefs. Tanisha says she’s the boss and therefore, she doesn’t do plebe crap like that. The White Oprah shows up to call them to dinner and tell them she doesn’t want them to fight. They fight some more.
Dinner discussion revolves around the evolution — or devolution — of reality TV in the ten years since Trista and Ryan got married. And also of reality TV stars. Trista offers Tanisha a hug. Tanisha tells her to shut the @#$% up.
Let’s take it to the boot camp room. Sex-starved Roger says he hopes the first night involves a swingers party. JWoww just looks amused.
Jim and Elizabeth introduce the campers to the Carrolls’ co-directors Bobby Davis and Ilsa Norman and then we talk about the one affliction shared by everyone in the room: The Reality Curse. Which essentially entails the notion that if you were already a little much to begin with, being on reality TV is going to make your muchness much much worse. Or something like that.
Let’s undergo the first diagnostic test of The Reality Curse: A mock press conference. That’s because in celebrity relationships every single detail of your personal life — and therefore your partner’s personal life — becomes public fodder. This is also true of every single marriage in which at least one partner is on some form of social media.
Also, I’m pretty certain every single one of these people could stop being a celebrity immediately if they stopped doing reality TV shows. But I digress.
Let’s roll some video, which turns out to be of Tanisha and Clive staring into the camera, individually discussing what is wrong with their partner. Real live Tanisha and Clive seem surprised to find out that those cameras were actually, you know, on.
Turns out everyone took their turn in front of those sneaky, sneaky cameras. Slade admits that there are plenty of lovely fish in the sea, so if Gretchie bails, big whoop. This doesn’t seem to bother Gretchen one bit.
JWoww says cleaning up dog poop does not constitute romance. Roger says the cameras don’t have to be everywhere … such as the birth canal. Time to leave Jersey Shore behind.
Trista made her own home video, in which she confesses that the fact that she always has to be the person to say “I love you” first makes her nuts, because what if Ryan is only saying it back out of reflex.A And that’s the sum total of her complaint.
Traci says their wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am sex life makes her feel like a prostitute. Kevin says Traci shows more love to her family members than she does to him. Traci wants to poke him in the eye. Kevin says the low point in the relationship was when they both poked other people. And not in the eye.
First question from the “reporters.”
What’s with JWoww’s obsession with having everything filmed? JWoww says until she fades into obscurity, Roger’s just going to have to accept that.
What is with her obsession with plastic surgery? If it’s not right, make it right, shrugs JWoww. She’s good at this game. So is Roger. I think they’re my favorite.
Question for Tanisha. Possible anger issues? Possible that people are stupid and don’t understand boundaries, answers Tanisha. Angrily. I’m starting to suspect that Tanisha and Clive were brought on to make everyone else feel like they are going to be juuuuuust fine.
How long has Tanisha been an alcoholic? For about as long as the question asker has been a piece of @#$%. Sister was not a part of Good Girls Club, people.
Next question is for Clive: Does he always let his girlfriends walk all over him? Wife, lady. Not girlfriend (even though they’ve been together for 0 years of marriage). Sit down.
Another one for Clive: What kind of man lets his wife sleep around? At least she got the “wife” part right, so that should count for something, yes? No. Tanisha’s on her feet, demanding security and that the cameras be turned off and that Clive get up. Get up. Up, Clive.
Clive was apparently stung by that whole “walk all over you” thing — or else he’s afraid to be alone with Tanisha — because Clive does not get up. Well, not immediately. He waits till Tanisha rages her way to the front door and then kind of moseys in that general direction.
Unfortunately for Clive, he does catch up to Tanisha, but only after he has Elizabeth in tow. Tanisha wants to know why on earth Clive would tell people that she slept with someone else. She doesn’t specifically say that she didn’t sleep with someone else. But she’s pretty ticked that Clive happened to mention it. While Tanisha freaks out on Clive in the kitchen, Jim suggests that someone ask nice, calm Ryan a question. Which is what does the fact that he’s the only person who didn’t make a video say about his commitment to Trista? I’ll tell you what it says to Lori. It says that Ryan knows there is nothing wrong in his marriage and he isn’t about to commit something to video — even a fake one — that says there is.
Ryan keeps his mouth shut and lets the rumble in the kitchen draw people’s attention away. The question asker — if these people are actual reporters, I’m an actual tree branch — tries again, and Trista retorts that he was putting in a 72-hour shift at the firehouse and didn’t have the time to make a video. Ryan admits that perhaps he is the least enthusiastic about being here. Trista squirms a little. Ryan says that since he’s here, he’ll try to make the best of it.
Next question asker wants to know why they chose now to come back into the limelight and a newly uncomfortable Trista — who perhaps just now realized that putting a decent marriage on a show called Marriage Boot Camp was not the best idea after all — says its because they feel like, you know, anyone can work on their relationship. It’s not totally about being on television. Even she looks like she doesn’t believe herself.
The Clive-Tanisha battle — OK, the Tanisha battle in Clive’s direction — rages on with Elizabeth leaning on the kitchen island and observing quietly. When Tanisha storms out, Elizabeth asks Clive why he thinks his wife is so upset. Clive says they’ve been separated since a month after their marriage and he doesn’t really know what the hell is going on, infidelity or otherwise. He still loves her, though. He thought maybe this show would fix things. Tanisha, on the other hand, has left the building.
Back in the press conference, the next question asker wants to know how Gretchen feels about being the third notch in Slade’s Real Housewives bedpost. Gretchen says she never looked at it that way. She doesn’t expound. Say to the part where this might possibly be a handy-dandy business relationship designed to keep both their mugs in front of the camera for as long as humanly possible.
Next question. If they’ve only been engaged for 5 months and are already looking for relationship help, what does that say about their relationship? Gretchen says that, having one failed marriage on the books already, she’ll do whatever it takes to make sure the second one takes.
… and in the meantime, you know, more TV!! Hurray!!
Next question asker wants to know why they haven’t set a wedding date yet. Gretchen says she’s 36 and wants to focus on having babies first. Er, Gretch? You can actually have babies after you get married. In fact, back in the day, that’s how most folks went about it. Also, you could go get married right now at your local O.C. J.O.P. and get that little obstacle right out of the way. Except I’m guessing you may want a TV camera or two to be there, huh? And possibly the price has not been right or there’ve been no takers a’tall?
Slade says he’s certainly ready to wed right now, but that’s why they’re here, to work out little quagmires such as this. Gretchen wants to be a shotgun bride and the gun’s aimed squarely at him.
How long is this press conference, anyway?
Let’s turn our attention back to Traci and Kevin. Traci says she will deal with whatever secrets Kevin might have — and he better not have many, because his wife is crazy. Kevin may not have been faithful, but he never left Traci. Never. Left. Her.
Outside, Elizabeth and Clive manage to talk a smirking Tanisha back into the mansion … and into the press conference. Not risking another blowout, Jim calls it as soon as she sits down and explains that the whole exercise was designed to see how each person handled themselves in the public eye individually and as a couple. Then he shares the utterly stunning news that these are not actually real reporters. Nuh-UH!!!!
Tanisha feels bad that she almost killed a woman who was not a real reporter. Apparently she only almost kills real reporters. This is good to know. In any case, school is over. Go find your bunks and settle in.
Except one more surprise awaits. The doors to their suites are decorated, teenybopper/Tiger Beat style, in their least flattering tabloid headlines. Slade wonders if this was actually the place to come for actual help. There’s TV cameras here, dear. You’re fine.
Meanwhile, Jim, Elizabeth, Bobby and Ilsa have themselves a postmortem of the fake new conference.
They decide that JWoww and Roger handled it beautifully and that their main issue is their difference of opinion about how much of their lives to make public.
As for Gretchen and Slade, they were cool customers, but having the authenticity of their relationship questioned yet again clearly touched a nerve. Jim says if their relationship is a ruse, there is no way that will hold up in boot camp — and if he finds out they are fibbing, he will kick them to the curb.
Traci and Kevin need to confront the issue of infidelity and move on instead of continually sweeping it under the emotional rug.
Elizabeth says that the fact that Trista jumped in to defend Ryan for not making a video leads her to suspect that their marriage is not completely untarnished. Sooooo … having his back is actually a sign of trouble? At the Marriage Boot Camp, being a team is bad? I have so much to learn about the Marriage Boot Camp.
Let’s move onto something everyone can agree on: Tanisha is not stable enough to handle this process (or much of anything else). Until she gets a grip on her anger and the hurt that lurks behind it, there is no way anybody here can move onto working on their marriage.
Speaking of which, let’s check in on that. Currently Tanisha is peeved that Clive carried her luggage up the stairs, but did not wheel it all the way into the room. White Oprah finds this 60-percent emasculating and 40-percent funny. Tanisha tells her to “cease,” but grabs the handle of her moon and stars suitcase and wheels the damned thing in her room.
Gretchen isn’t sure she wants to close her eyes in the room next to Clive and Tanisha. No worries about that. The argument travels on through out the house.
New episodes of Marriage Boot Camp Reality Stars air Friday nights at 9/8CT on WE tv.
Photo/video: Copyright 2014 WE tv LLC. All rights reserved.