Sorry I’m late, Boot campers — I promise it won’t be an ongoing problem in our Marriage Boot Camp Reality Stars relationship. I swear.
When we check in on Day 3 — hence, episode 3 — we learn that Slade does not know the difference between green and beige, Tanisha and Gretchen are having outfit issues, Trista and Ryan like to start the day with a workout and Traci likes to start the day with vodka. Which Roger thinks falls somewhere between weird and admirable.
Meanwhile, Jim, Elizabeth, Bobby and Ilsa review some of what we learned in last episode’s Burning Ring of Tabloids. Which is this: Traci and Kevin have the most marital junk to work through. Gretchen and Slade are the most tormented in the tabs — but Elizabeth herself isn’t even sure if they’re a real couple or not. And today’s drills are especially perfect for Roger and Jenni.
Then it’s time to slam the last of your breakfast bevvies because the Boot Camp Room beckons. Trista spots podiums and buttons and is tickled because she loves game shows. I’m guessing probably not this one. But maybe.
This game is called Hot Buttons and it’s about hot-button issues which escalate disagreements from “bickering” to “ballistic.” We’re going to learn to recognize each other’s hot buttons … by purposely trying to tick them off. Most spouses employ this tool about 4 days into matrimony — but this time, it’s apparently going to be useful. When Purposefully Mean Spouse lands on Target Spouse’s hot button, Target Spouse’s hand should land on the buzzer button. Simple.
Kevin and Traci go first. Traci will take the role of Purposefully Mean Spouse. She gets buzzed on ‘always spending time with the fellas.” Then again on ‘spending money you’re not supposed to be spending” without asking Traci first. Then Kevin gets a turn. Traci buzzes every word that comes out of his mouth, then takes back the role of complainer. Kevin treats her like a child and always tells her what to do. Kevin tells her what to do: Stop drinking so much. Traci folds her arms like a child and protests that she likes her breakfast beer. After ascertaining that both of them are pretty hopelessly uncomfortable, Jim sends them back to their seats.
Slade tells Gretchen that no matter how they go about this, the show folks are going to edit it to make them look bad. Naaawwwwwww!
Tanisha and Clive are called up next, but Clive stays firmly rooted to his seat. He says he doesn’t think he could deal with what Tanisha would tell her, but he agrees to be the talker if she does nothing but buzz.
First buzz goes to “gold digger.” Tanisha takes out a nail lunging for the buzzer. Then Clive revisits the “you don’t cook, but you can eat” situation and Tanisha goes to town on her buzzer again.
In an aside, Slade says he guarantees that Tanisha smacks Clive the same way she smacks the button. Gretchen smacks Slade. But Tanisha leans into her podium and challenges Clive to keep going. For example, the part where she hasn’t given him a baby, maybe? Clive refuses to go there. Jim and Elizabeth excuse them and tell them they did a good job.
Roger and Jenni are called next. Jenni says she, too, has no interest in going up there and disrespecting each other for the amusement of the editors. She’s too savvy for that. Jim says they have to aim specifically for hot-button stuff — not vent willy-nilly — and if they’re going to get anything out of being here, they have to trust the process. They head for the podiums. Jenni asks Roger if he’s with her because she’s famous. Buzz. Likes the fame, but isn’t helpful with her career. Buzz. Roger says she always puts herself first. Buzz. It’s all about money and career. Jenni doesn’t buzz in, but says Roger does the same thing. Roger says he hates it when Jenni becomes JWoww, because that is fake and he can’t stand fake people.
In an aside, he tells her she hides behind JWoww and he prefers realness all the time. One might argue that she was JWoww when he met her … but whatever.
Jim and Elizabeth excuse them and I am completely amazed that sex didn’t come up at all, since it’s all Roger ever talks about. Apparently their hot buttons are not Hot Buttons.
Gretchen and Slade go next. Gretchen joins the protest, saying that she doesn’t want people to get the impression that Slade would ever disrespect her outside of this exercise. Roger chimes in that he’s starting to resent boot camp because it’s not what he was told it was going to be. And you were just boasting about how savvy to the ways of the media you were, Roger. Pshhhh.
Elizabeth says if they’re not going to make this easy, she and Jim can make it hard. But they give the campers a break from the exercise anyway.
In the kitchen, Traci — who is one hell of a bad mood today — tells Kevin that she’s not even sure what she is doing there because she’s also not sure if their marriage is worth saving. “Because I said I think we drink too much, it triggered this?!” Kevin says incredulously before storming out. Traci decides to do him one better and leave the whole damned show.
The White Oprah decides to intervene, followed by Jim and Elizabeth. Jim peeks his head into Traci’s room and tells her that even if she does decide to end her marriage to Kevin, the stuff she learns at boot camp can help her in future relationships. Then he turns it over to Liz to talk her out of throwing in the towel on 17 years of marriage. Traci says everything was fine until he told this “grown-ass woman” how much she can drink. Not fine.
Elizabeth gets her to agree to staying long enough to work on Kevin’s control issues. Then she whips out her best g-droppin’ Texas drawl to convince Kevin to stop treating his wife like a child and say he is sorry. We do a lot of “what I heard you say is,” and Kevin says he was just being protective.
Time to go back to the Boot Camp Room, where Jim and Elizabeth have given up on the Hot Button game and moved onto something new, in which the campers will be divided into two teams. Team Bobby and Ilsa is Ryan, Tanisha, Kevin, Slade and Jenni. Team Jim and Elizabeth is Trista, Clive, Traci, Gretchen and Roger. Roger says nothing good can come of this. Roger is correct.
As horror-movie music plays, Team J&E heads through some hefty curtains and discover themselves in a makeshift morgue. Jim tells them they are in here because their spouses need to have a serious emotional breakthrough. The exercise is not about being morbid; it’s about tapping into the most gut-wrenching emotional response there is. Grief.
Meanwhile, Bobby and Ilsa are, er, killing time with their team, making small talk about learning from one other. Then Bobby says it’s time for some one-on-one work, Kevin first.
Kevin is led to the curtains and told to shut his eyes whilst they tell him a little story about a future fight after which Traci drives off in a huff and doesn’t come back. Then a stranger calls. Open your eyes, Kevin. Oh good God. There’s Traci in deathly make-up, wrapped in a sheet and lying on a slab in a pretend morgue drawer.
“What do you want your last words to be?” asks Elizabeth. Kevin genuinely tears up and apologizes for various offenses. A silent, motionless Traci is wheeled back into the drawer.
“What could you have done to make the relationship better?” Jim wants to know. “What do you regret?” adds Elizabeth. I’m going to say “going on this show” ranks right up there, but Kevin says he regrets not being patient. Not listening. Then Traci walks out and the two have a genuine moment.
Slade’s turn. Same story. Slade makes cry-face, but his eyes don’t redden and no tears appear He apologizes for this and that and makes more cry face, but doesn’t bend down to touch Gretchen one final time. Swiping at the unflattering makeup on her face, the “revived” Gretchen says she wants to see this much emotion from Sladey all the time, not just when she’s pretend dead. She seems happy enough with the outcome, but Elizabeth says Slade not reaching for his beloved during or after the exercise is a major red flag. She thinks he might be hiding something. I’d say they both are.
Ryan’s turn. Oh boy. Poor Ryan. Actually loves his wife. Least enthusiastic about here, because See Point No. 1. Going through with it because Trista wanted to. And now we’re making him do this.
Because we all know the story, we just skip right to the part where Ryan is marched over the drawer. Trista’s nicely manicured, lifelike hands are out of the sheet, so the effect isn’t quite as creepy, but maybe that’s our concession to what a decent guy poor Ryan is. Plus, he is a firefighter, so he’s seen this sort of thing before. And what families go through when this really happens. It’s no surprise when he looks quietly stricken, bending down and clasping Trista’s hand and pressing his face to hers. He gently tells her he should have told her loved her first thing every day and how sorry he is that he doesn’t have the chance to do it over. I well. Elizabeth looks heartbroken. Jim mercifully ends the exercise and Ryan wipes his eyes. Trista heads straight into her husband’s arms and he lifts her off of the ground as both cry with relief and catharsis and gratitude. Gulp.
Back in the Team Bobby and Ilsa room, Tanisha is having an honest moment, telling them that realizing that she lost her dad and now she’s losing her husband, too, is frightening. “I have nobody,” she says, welling up and looking down. “I have no one left.”
Wait till you see what comes next, blossom.
Just walking into the darkened room scares Tanisha enough. I’m not sure that they even told her the accident story, since she’s freaked out enough as it is. “Mmm-mm. Mmmm-mm,” Tanisha protests, shaking her head and walking away from the slab. Jim asks her if she wants the last words she says to Clive to be fighting words. Tanisha loses it, making a break for the front door, where she loses her dinner in the bushes. Elizabeth goes after her; Jim asks a still-prostrate Clive if he thought that would be how she reacted. He did.
Jim and Elizabeth say now maybe Tanisha will take this seriously.
Elizabeth ushers Tanisha back into the room to see that Clive is still alive. She collapses into his chest … until he starts telling her that maybe this could make her stop saying bad things. Such as “Who the hell told you to play dead?! Don’t you know that’s bad luck?” Which is what she says, walking away from him in disgust.
So much for that.
Let’s see how it goes with Jenni.
Backing away from Roger’s slab, Jenni says she feels nauseous. She tears up, but can’t find words, even when Elizabeth and Jim encourage to her at least says something. At least hold his hand. She stares at Jim and says she can’t. Roger has something to say. He says she was the one who wanted to do this and he doesn’t know if she’s taking this seriously or not. She says she doesn’t want to know what life is like without him, but the experience has clearly touched a nerve in this tough cookie.
In an aside, Roger says he is sad for their relationship and Jenni protests that she was in shock, not emotionless.
Before dismissing them to prepare for evaluations, Jim and Elizabeth tell the assembled couples that this needs to serve as a collective wake-up call to take boot camp and their relationship seriously.
Left to their own devices, Slade tells everyone he was crying so hard that he couldn’t talk. Yeah, no, Slade. You weren’t. Gretchen says she’ll hear Slade crying alone in the bathroom about his son Grayson who is 13 and battling brain cancer, and that he needs to start verbalizing his emotions.
In an aside, Slade says he likes internalizing. Gretchen says if that exercise can’t bring his emotions out, nothing will. Without much emotion, Slade says he is pissed. In front of the group, he tells Gretchen to stop pushing.
Roger breaks the tension by saying he hopes tomorrow entails Marco Polo in the pool.
When he and Jenni are alone in their room, Jenni asks him if he’ll tell the others that she is skipping evaluations and going to bed. He says she signed them up to do this so she has to do everything that “this” entails. He would support her if she said she wants to leave, but he can’t support her picking and choosing in what she participates.
Jim and Elizabeth tell Kevin and Traci that their rough start to the day led to some really good communication. Both look exhausted.
Trista and Ryan need to work on their take-for-granteds. Ryan says him especially and he knows that now.
Elizabeth tells Tanisha she’s proud that Tanisha came back in to complete the death exercise after throwing up. Tanisha looks deflated.
Elizabeth tells Roger that it’s obvious that he feels like he’s way more committed to the process than Jenni is. Roger says that’s because the end result is worth it. Ilsa chimes in that she feels like Jenni minimizes her pain.
Gretchen struggles to keep her composure when it’s her’s and Slade’s turn. She says she hoped the exercise would make her feel closer to Slade; instead it made her realize that she might love him more than he loves her. Slade looks at her and says nothing. “You’ve given him five years,” says Elizabeth. “Can you give him six more days?” Gretchen can. Slade looks blank. After they’re dismissed, everyone but Slade comforts Gretchen.
In their room, Gretchen says she’s been fighting so hard for this relationship and Slade says maybe it’s time to stop fighting. Ouch.
Next time. More death … and honesty.
New episodes of Marriage Boot Camp Reality Stars air Fridays at 9/8CT on WE tv.