During her brief time on Southern Charm, Taylor has been a mostly sympathetic figure. You can call the girl foolish for taking on famous playboy Shep as a serious mate and, later, quitting her job for him. But the portrayal of their relationship—including when Shep called her an “idiot” in front of everyone, and she downplayed it—revealed a severe lack of self-esteem. That’s not to mention her deeply ingrained set of religious beliefs that included letting a man walk all over you. At the reunion, we also found out that her twisted family still loves Shep, despite his publicized mistreatment of her.
In tonight’s episode, though, Taylor emerges as the ostensible villain (as in the person fans will probably be the most angry with) in this scandal involving her and Austen. On the one hand, it sucks to see a woman, on this patriarchal nightmare of a program, be nailed to the cross—like when Madison was attacked for cheating on Austen after he had a whole threesome while they were dating. But as Raquel showed us throughout the Scandoval, low self-esteem is not an excuse to betray your friends. And this episode is arguably not a great look for this Jesus-loving woman.
This episode begins with everyone waking up from their hangovers from last episode’s bar crawl. Taylor goes over to Austen’s to get a liquid IV after her own wild night out with Olivia. She talks about meeting a guy at a warehouse party, seemingly to underscore her and Austen’s platonic-ness. But Austen quickly informs her that JT outed their sleepover to Shep and Craig the previous night. Taylor, at least, is much better at pretending like nothing went down between them than the marble-mouthed Austen in the last episode. It’s also likely that Austen prepped her for this scene.
Meanwhile, Craig and Shep, to viewers’ dismay, are getting pedicures, and we have to see a million closeups of their rough, pasty feet. Craig tries to get him worked up about the Taylor and Austen situation again, and Shep is arguably calm. It seems like he already knows what went down that drunken night, given Austen’s history of hooking up with Shep’s exes. But presumably, with enough alcohol in his system, the steel heir will pop off later down the road.
On the other hand, straight, male friendships are weird. Guys will forgive each other for literally anything. When it comes to Craig, Shep, and Austen, in particular, they have this odd dynamic where they’re extremely loyal in certain situations but will also trash one another behind each other’s backs. They’re also on a show that relies on them as a central trio, so who knows what the fallout from this will actually look like.
We get a much more solid depiction of friendship when Venita invites the girls to her backyard to give Taylor a much-needed intervention. They kindly lecture her about her behavior at Madison’s wedding event and warn her that none of the men on this cast will have her back over Shep’s. This conversation feels kind of delayed though, because none of them tried to rein her in when she was going at Craig. (I get it, they needed something for the premiere.) Ironically, Leva brings up that Austen should’ve jumped in. and Taylor immediately defends him by saying that, while he’s a crappy romantic partner, he’s a great friend.
Already, Taylor’s kind words towards Austen right in front of Olivia, whose heart he destroyed last year, is making me go, oof. To make things even more awkward, Madison blurts out that she thinks Austen is in love with Taylor. And Olivia’s natural Grumpy-Cat frown becomes even more pronounced. Taylor insists that she would never cross that line with him. But the producers send Shep over to Olivia’s house (with a bag of pheasants he just hunted) later on to deliver the sleepover news.
Before that, though, we learn that Craig’s pillow company Sewing Down South has enough inventory now that they need a warehouse. But with new obligations in Craig’s work life comes an even further divide between him and Paige. Craig “asks” Jerry if he’ll be able to spend the summer with his Manhattan girlfriend. (We actually don’t see Craig or his business partner Jerry’s faces as they talk, so it seems like an editing trick.) And Jerry “responds” that it isn’t feasible right now. Apparently, Craig does end up spending that summer with Paige in New York, as he’s gleefully stated that he got to witness Carl and Lindsay’s relationship crumble on Summer House.
We also get a scene between Austen and Rod at a bar to discuss Rod’s pursuit of Olivia. And I have to say that, despite the inherent drama of this situation, I’m not sure if this very polite, normal-seeming dude is a good get. In fact, Austen tells us that Rod is known as the level-headed, peacemaker in their circle, which is also what he said about Rodrigo—which is already twice too many aspirational men on this program. Anyhow, they both agree that their dynamic will be awkward moving forward.
Finally, Olivia meets up with Taylor at a cafe, dressed in a black Olivia-Pope coat and a very dramatic sidebang, to address the information she received from Shep. Taylor immediately shuts down any rumors of a hookup between her and Austen. But Olivia brings up that Austen looked nervous, according to Shep, when he was questioned by JT. Then Taylor goes into an ostensible lie that seems to make things worse.
She tells Olivia that she and Austen created a “bond in the midst of that vulnerability and absolute brokenness” following their respective relationship woes—as if Austen wasn’t the one playing mind games with Olivia! Taylor says, after the reunion, that she asked Austen if they were meant to pursue a romance but that she got guidance from her brother, who told her no. She starts crying that she used Austen as a crutch, instead of God. (It’s still jarring whenever this woman casually brings up God on this debaucherous show, but we are in the South.)
At this point, Olivia can’t stop fidgeting and looks like she wants to burst into tears. She tells Taylor that she should’ve told her about this conversation as soon as it happened. But she doesn’t even seem certain that it was just a conversation. I honestly think this story Taylor’s seemingly concocted is more painful than if she just said her and Austen drunkenly made out or something. But she’s a conservative, allegedly God-fearing woman, so I think any sort of sexual behavior automatically seems worse to her. But who wants to hear that your friend was about to get into a serious relationship with your quasi-ex, when the whole reason you guys broke things off was because he couldn’t commit??
Olivia, clearly upset, thanks Taylor for telling her before going to her car to sob into her steering wheel.
For the most part, it’s been hard to get riled up about the individual players in this scandal. Yes, Austen technically violated “bro code” by sleeping with Taylor. But who actually gives a damn about Shep’s feelings at this point? If anything, Austen’s being a bigger dick to Olivia, who he already embarrassed by offering to be her boyfriend before rescinding the offer after a week. And we all know he gets off on coming between women, as Winter House, Summer House, and this show have all proven.
Taylor and Olivia’s friendship is also pretty new, which doesn’t excuse
Taylor’s behavior. But it wouldn’t be absolutely devastating to viewers if they fell out. Either way, I’m hoping that, by the end of the season, everyone’s knives and pitchforks are pointed at Austen.
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