Not to get overly dramatic in an fantasy epic sense, but it’s done. After 12 often grueling episodes, Real World Seattle: Bad Blood has reached its conclusion. While the journey was anything but world-saving, thank you for being the loyal Samwise Gamgee and helping me survive this hellscape.
As the final episode begins, the roommates are already gearing up for the end. Robbie sketches out his plans to hit the town every remaining night, the girls chat about how it’s going to be like saying goodbye to friends you made at a childhood sleepaway camp, and some cast members even grow introspective. There’s a sweet, good-natured obviousness when Jordan says, “I’ve definitely learned to be more empathetic. Being less self-centered. You know, the world doesn’t revolve around me,” as a camera team literally revolves around her to pick up her every word.
But before things wrap up, the increasingly upsetting relationship tension between Peter and Jenn must reach its conclusion. This time the drama starts when the crew heads out to a club and Jordan gets way too drunk. Jenn finds Jordan puking in the bathroom and her mama bird instincts kick in. She carries the inebriated roommate out to the transport van to take her home. Peter comes out to the van to see what’s happening, and Jenn tells him that she must get Jordan back to the house. He’s incredibly indecisive about whether to go or stay (Jenn says she’s fine either way), but eventually decides to run in to close out his tab before going along. By the time he returns outside, the van has left. They didn’t wait for him (because... you know... puking woman on board), and this sets off his rage.
As Jenn cares for Jordan back at the house, Peter vents his frustrations to his silent roommates on the ride home. He’s freaking out to the point where Katrina even gives the Real World equivalent of a “Jim from The Office looking at the camera” take to one of the van cams mid-ride. Keep in mind, he’s irate because his girlfriend is helping out her drunk roommate. According to Peter, “Jenn shouldn’t even be taking care of someone she’s not even friends with.” It underscores not only his desire to control Jenn's actions and social circle, but also conveys a complete lack of basic human empathy. Since no one in the house responds to his rantings, he resorts to calling his sister to complain.
As he’s storming around the house on his phone, Jenn sees him and attempts to cozy up to him with a smile (oblivious that she's the reason he's upset). He immediately asks where she was, which legitimately shocks Jenn. Taking care of Jordan, obviously. But Peter isn’t hearing it and begins another round of close-quartered yelling at her. Katrina (who rode along with Jenn and Jordan) tries to intercede on Jenn’s behalf, but that only escalates things, with Jenn having to hold him back from getting in Katrina’s face. When the yelling doesn’t dissipate, Anna intercedes, causing Jenn to divert her frustrations towards Katrina’s sister. The two square off over last episode’s Googling incident: Jenn puts her hands in Anna’s face, Anna pushes back, and Jenn shoves Anna hard to the ground. Suddenly the house becomes a full-blown brouhaha with security guards grabbing Jenn, Anna, Katrina, and Peter (who looked like he might legitimately try to fight the sisters if not restrained). All parties end up being sent to hotels for the night while producers sort things out. Suddenly, the apartment for 14 only houses seven occupants. (Props to Kim and Orlana for finding the silver of glee and delighting how quiet things are when “nobody’s here.”)
After the incident, Jenn expresses fear that she’ll be sent home. It remains unclear why the threat of being forced to leave is such a massive deal, especially in this case. She’s made it to the final episode and is literally days away from having to go home anyway. It may be cutting your time with some new pals short, but if you’re really friends, you’d stay in touch afterwards regardless. And it’s not like being kicked off Real World is a black mark on one’s resume (no more than appearing on Real World in the first place). Do they get some monetary bonus for lasting the whole time? It really doesn’t make sense.
Jenn’s fears prove unwarranted when she sits down with a producer to discuss the incident. He tells her they’ve made the decision to send Peter home for instigating the situation and his continued wall-punching outbursts. Jenn can choose to stay or leave along with him. Both Katrina and Anna are allowed to stay as well, with the producers essentially siding with the logic Orlana expressed about their involvement, “It’s literally just a domino effect of women just trying to stand up for women.” Jenn and Anna agree to sit down and hash out their issues. Perhaps surprisingly, this goes over smoothly with Anna expressing her concern over how Peter talks to Jenn, and the two end up hugging it out. Anna urges Jenn not to leave with Peter—to “take Peter out of the equation” when making her decision—a phrase that’s literally echoed when Jenn calls her aunt for father advice (cut to Real World producers fist pumping for the perfect parallel falling into their laps). Jenn decides to stay.
Things don’t turn out as well when producers bring in Peter to let him know they’re kicking him off the show. He seems stunned by the notion, and denies most of what they claim he did to force their hand. This leads to some wonderfully precise The Daily Show editing cuts (i.e. having someone say something and immediately cutting to video where they contradict their own point): “you pushed Jenn away from you several times in an effort to stop restraining you” (check), “you got into Anna’s face in an imposing and physically threatening way” (check), “you antagonized Anna” (double check). It’s by far the strongest editing moment of the series (though not exactly the highest bar to clear).
For some reason, Peter decides to cope with the situation by calling his exiled Bad Blood/garbage human being, Mike. (Baffling decision even for you, Pete.) The pair proceeds to take turns broing out about how much Jenn sucks, how she’s “not even that hot,” how “she’s so dumb,” etc. Peter even mentions how he might want to fight Robbie, which just seems patently absurd and totally out of left field. (Also, if you fought Robbie everyone in the house would turn on you, bro.)
When Peter arrives back at the house, Jenn informs him that she plans to stay and finish her time in the house instead of leaving with him. He responds by giving saying that if she doesn’t leave, their relationship is over. But Jenn isn’t having that, “I don’t believe in ultimatums and bull$#!&.” And thus, the pair is thankfully broken up. (YOU’RE FREE, JENN. CELEBRATE.)
But the breakup doesn’t cool down Peter. He continues to yell in Jenn’s face in an attempt to get her to back down and change her mind. The tirade gets to the point where even Kassius seems like a voice of reason, commenting from the balcony, “He crazy as $#!&. That’s my boy, but that @#!$%&$#&@!# crazy. He controlin’ as $#!&. Daaaaaaamn!”
When everyone gathers around the now-former couple in an attempt to diffuse the situation, Peter complains about how the whole situation is disconnected from reality because it’s a TV show. In response, Robbie delivers down the most cogent speech of the entire series: “This is our real life right now. This is always gonna be our real life. This isn’t fake. We might be monitored by cameras, but these are real emotions, real feelings that a person has. Things are a little bit more magnified in this house and they sting a lot harder.” Kudos for summing up Real World on the spot better than any offical tagline does, Robbie.
Peter’s departure turns out to provide a happy ending for Jenn. Sure, she might have burned through two relationships during the show, but she finally stood up for herself. In the face of continued verbal abuse, she grew stronger. The idea of her moving in with Peter—a totally P.O.S. who was happily taking idiotic selfies on his ride to be flown away from Seattle while texting her “I’m a @&$#!@& wreck Jenn”—really would’ve been a deeply troubling place to end the series.
Instead, the final nights are spent with the remaining 10 roommates enjoying their new friendships. (Even Anna and Katrina seem to be finally on the same page, brought together by their battle against Peter. I mean, they’re still generally terrible and I would hate to encounter them, but they still look better when compared to abusive bro scum.) Fittingly, the final night ends with DJ Maserobbie holding court at Tia Lou’s (bonus points for him busting out a fog cannon, which I did not know was a thing).
Before heading out, the housemates write notes to each other and place them in envelopes bearing their names. Tears flow. Once everyone else is gone, Robbie delivers a “goodbye note” monologue touching on all the expected troupes: how it was the experience of a lifetime, lessons were learned, they had to move on from the past, and that friends, love, and family is all that matters.
So what can be taken away from Real World Seattle: Bad Blood? As my first dive into the pitch-black rabbit hole of reality television, many things stood out.
There are so many ways which the fakeness of the “reality” manifests itself on a show like this. It was always tricky to determine any sense of linear time when producers craft these narratives (there’s a reason why I’d refer to things in terms of “last episode” instead of “last week”). Even when events happened within a single day, it was never totally clear if things were occurring in the order in which they were presented via editing.
But nothing spoke to the shaping of narratives like the cutaway interview segments. These could be believable and authentic ways of having the cast explain their feelings behind certain situations if not for one major flaw in the production—they never had the housemates change their outfits. You could see Jenn in the same dress and makeup explaining things that happened in early episodes and the final one. So either they never do laundry at the Real World house, or MTV wasn’t getting these thoughts in real time—it recorded them after the fact. Honestly, it speaks a bit to the acting of the roommates; if you’re not paying attention to the surreality of their never-changing outfits, you might actually believe them. But everything expressed in interviews as if it were in the moment—from sorting out feelings to hot-headed outbursts—was recorded after the show had concluded. They knew where things were headed and played dumb.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the show was the lack of Seattle flavor. Considering the small rotation of night clubs the cast frequented and the inability to venture almost anywhere else expect for a bite to eat, the show really could’ve been staged anywhere and still came out the same. It’s hard to fathom how things would’ve been any different if you dropped the same people in Denver or Los Angeles or Austin. Instead of showcasing the city of Seattle, Real World merely existed in it.
There also seemed to be a pretty clear inverse relationship between screen time and likeability. As a viewer, my loyalties drifted toward the roommates involved in the least amount of on-screen drama (see: Anika). Laying low and being supportive background character always seemed more endearing than the unhinged leads driving the plots. And given that’s the case, I don’t think reality TV is for me.
FINAL HOUSEMATE LIKEABILITY RANKINGS
Flawed But Possibly Redeemable
Inconsequential But Grew Nicer As Things Went Along
Seemed Fun But the Whole Mike Thing Was a Red Flag
The Two I Like and Wouldn't Drive Me Crazy If We Were Roommates
Episode Space Needle Count: 6
Final Space Needle Count: 126