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Recap: Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars, The Real Work Begins

trista ryan boot camp
Recap: Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars, The Real Work Begins

Last week’s “Marriage Boot Camp” on WEtv made me wonder if the celebrities who had signed up for this televised relationship counseling show had really agreed to participate for the right reasons. Tonight gave me new perspective on quite a few of them.

As usual, I’m going to write this out of order and highlight the most important thing I caught in tonight’s episode. While Roger may be right that Jenni becomes “JWoww” and isn’t the same woman to him, there’s some serious stuff in her background that we just don’t know about. Maybe we never will. But I’m hoping we find out. I’m fascinated.

Despite the fact that we’ve seen her literally grow up as an adult on television from “Jersey Shore” to “Snooki and JWoww” and a whole bunch of other entertainment endeavors, I’ve never really heard a “poor little me” story out of her in any of them. Unless I missed it. What don’t we know about Jenni’s childhood? Everything.

There was an exercise where the campers had to share something traumatic from their earlier lives that impacts their behavior now, and Jenni told a story about how she’d been fired from a job at a pizzeria at age 13. And how after that experience “it’s like I’m waiting for that negative comment” all the time now.

Methinks it’s something bigger than that. Let’s evaluate what we know.

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Jenni became “JWoww” for “Jersey Shore” and has turned it into a wildly successful business enterprise. However, she’s been working since her tweens. I wonder what a 13-year-old was doing working in a restaurant and if she had to do it to support her family.

Just speculating here, but I think the financial rug was pulled out from under Jenni when she was very, very young and the way she works constantly now – taking every gig that comes her way and pissing Roger off in the process – is a result of her being terrified of ever being back in that kind of place. Maybe I’m totally wrong here, but losing that job did something more than hurt her self-esteem. If she was really just afraid of a negative comment, she would never have been able to do what she’s done with her television persona. She is one hell of a business woman.

I think I took this a little personally because when my parents’ split up, I suddenly had to pay my own college tuition and work full time while I went to school. The credit cards and allowance were shut off overnight. I’m not saying that compares to what Jenni feels if she’s battled poverty since childhood because I grew up in a fortunate household. But I know the feeling of losing your financial footing, all of a sudden, and setting out to make sure nothing like that can ever happen again.

By the end of the show, Roger is getting super mean and ready to quit. And after evaluations, they have a private session with Jim and Elizabeth that goes really badly. Through all of it, I just wanted Jenni to open her mouth and tell him to shut the f*ck up and explain what’s really going through her head. But look at the shows and networks she’s been on, they weren’t exactly spill-out-your-heart-and-guts kinds of shows. Unless you were shitfaced and babbling into the duck phone and then actually puking your guts out later on.

This sort of deep digging with a camera in her face is obviously nothing she has ever experienced before – or if she has, she was always in a position to shut down and ignore it. Remember how she handled the first press conference exercise? She just laughed while Tanisha was flipping out at the same sort of intrusive questions. The whole point of “Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars” is to get to the bottom of things and that’s why Roger is so frustrated.

“If you’re not going to give this 100 percent, we should leave because I can’t do this anymore. This is a paycheck and we should have never done this,” Roger says to her when they are sitting down for evaluations.

I gotta ask – did Roger really think that she would put JWoww out to pasture because he got tired of her entertainment career? Did he come on this show with her just to bust on her for her television aspirations? This is the guy who proposed during an orchestrated television stunt, right? Why now? Is he just jealous of her time and what are all these lies he keeps accusing her of? I can’t believe the way he threw her under the bus a couple of times tonight.

We know she’s already preggers in this episode so you’d think he’d be more concerned about her stress level, not acting like a really big jerk. He blames her constantly for getting them into this mess, but I’m pretty damned sure he had to sign a contract to participate and get paid too. It wasn’t just her payday, Roger.

“I feel like I’m being honest and I know that Jenni isn’t,” Roger complains in their session with the boot camp directors. He says she has much bigger issues than that pizza story and is critical about which childhood trauma she chose to share.

“I don’t even buy this one,” Roger tells Jim. He’s basically saying that everything Jenni is saying on the show is fake for the cameras.

“This is a payday, this is a paycheck for Jenni. Coming here. She can bullshit everybody I’ve seen her do it – saw you do it with another show, did you not?” he asks her in front of Jim and Elizabeth. And she admits it.

“I don’t think we should be here. So don’t anybody tell me that isn’t true.” And he gets up and storms out because that is definitely the way to solve a problem. Groan.

“Roger is in robot mode and that scares me the most because I know he’s capable of doing anything.” Jenni seems honestly afraid Roger will leave the mansion and that’s where Thinkfactory Media screws us all in the head for a week by ending the episode. Boohiss!

I doubt he’ll quit because we would have read about it in the tabloids during filming but I’m still not satisfied we have any clue what’s really go on. And inquiring minds want to know. If growing up poor is the reason that she wants to stay JWoww, then Roger needs to be more compassionate and understanding and they need to put together a REAL five-year plan for their lives. If hers includes staying in television and his does not, they don’t belong together. Baby or not.

I may not understand Jenni’s reasoning, but I respect her work ethic and drive. I actually admire it. I’ve done one season of one show and I know how hard it was – this woman has been on television for years now and she’s still standing. With a smile on her face.

Okay, now back to the other campers because I’ve talked wayyy too much about this particular couple for one blog. Another couple surprised me tonight – Tanisha and Clive.

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Tanisha’s story about how her parents left her in the care of someone whose teenage children forced her to fistfight at age five was heartbreaking. She literally never knew any better. And when she finally told her father, at age 10, what was going on, he had his first heart attack! WTF? No wonder she communicates with her fists – that’s all she was ever taught.

Clive got props in evaluations for giving good feedback during the exercises. He definitely had the best line of the night during the poison gas drill when he didn’t give Slade a gas mask to save him (they could only choose three campers to save).

“You have something to hide, Boo. I mean, that’s what I feel,” Clive is just too funny. In interview, he said Slade’s facial expressions remind him of the Grinch.

“I actually learned that I actually need to step up to the plate to actually bring me and her closer,” Clive explains what he got out of the day’s counseling exercises. I was glad that somebody was really listening. And he’s the one who is deaf!

Tanisha’s reaction to the drill was really funny and despite a lot of negative criticism, she really did behave herself.

“Hold up are they about to kill us in this motherfucker?” she asks when she enters the tent. “I don’t like this game.”

When Gretchen says, “Tanisha, I honestly think you have a chip on your shoulder about life,” Tanisha didn’t hit her. Or even lunge in her direction. That’s progress!

If the first exercise had been real, I’m not sure who would have actually lived or died except for Trista and Ryan. Pretty much everybody gave Ryan a mask – who doesn’t love a firefighter, right? And Trista got more than her fair share, in the other camper’s opinions. Gretchen and Slade are bitter about it in interview.

Gretchen actually gives her own mask away during the exercise and catches hell from Jim who says it’s a sign of low self-esteem. She’s always trying to make everybody else like her.

“Stop trying to make yourself look good,” he chastises her.

“What kind of jerk says that?” Gretchen rants in interview. She thinks Jim should see how “selfless” she really is. Okay, pause. Go ahead and belly laugh. Now return to reading.

Gretchen and Tanisha had this bizarre heart-to-heart during the break where Tanisha turns the advice tables on her and ask her if she’s ready to face the truth about her relationship with Slade. I was dying. If Gretchen knew what Tanisha says about her in interviews, she wouldn’t be spilling her emotional guts.

I mean it was funny – but not really. Just another example of Gretchen desperate for ANYONE to like her and validate her. What would Oprah think?

The purpose of the survival drill is to actually get “brutally honest” and “negative” feedback from the other campers about your weak spots. But that’s not easy for everybody. When Tanisha tells Jenni what’s wrong with her, it almost gets ugly. Almost.

“Everything is not made for broadcast,” Tanisha says to Jenni – OMG, that’s the pot calling the kettle black. Jim won’t let Jenni respond because that isn’t how the drill works.

“I am stronger than the average woman – what’s going to happen is I’m going to hit someone and then I get arrested,” Jenni says afterward.

Funny, I didn’t pick up the bad blood between those two until tonight. I don’t think they’ve done a show together before but they’ve shared the same production company many times over the years. Is there history between them we don’t know about or has this all happened since “Marriage Boot Camp” began?

“You’ve known us three days… get the fuck out of here,” Roger says in interview, leading me to believe it’s a new friendship. Or the birth of frenemies. That would suck. Tanisha and JWoww joined together would be a scary powerful force.

But Tanisha has approximately the same thing to say to Roger as what he said about her. “You don’t know me, and that’s Mr. Steroids talking.” Damn, she’s funny when she’s not being a bitch.

Of course, everyone loves Trista and Ryan but Jim warns her “when you’re nice all the time, it’s hard to build real intimacy because you can’t be the real you.”

Trista revealed during the second exercise that her friend slashed her wrists in her bathtub when she was in high school and she’s always trying to take care of everybody and control every situation so that nothing like that can ever happen to anyone again. Trista feels responsible for the world.

Slade didn’t even want to come out of the bedroom. I think the guy is genuinely depressed about his son’s health and slim chances of survival. Makes me think that if his kid is dying, he probably has better places to be than filming reality television. But then again, this is his job, right? And lots of parents with sick children have to go to work. So I’m not sure I can actually judge him on that.

I do, however, judge him for not cutting Gretchen loose. Whether or not their BravoTV relationship was ever real or not, he’s clearly not in love with her now and he doesn’t belong in marriage counseling with a woman he never intends to marry.

It’s revealed during the trauma exercise that his parents treated him as a go-between during their own acrimonious divorce, and this is probably why he plays both sides of the fence and doesn’t take a stand on much, according to the boot camp directors. He’s a people pleaser. But he’s not pleasing Gretchen.

“Slade’s been shut down since last night’s exercise and that means there’s a deeper issue here,” Boot Camp Co-Director Elizabeth Carroll says at the beginning of the day. If she could have heard what was going on up in the bedroom while the directors were having their morning meeting, she would have gotten more insight.

“This exercise fucked me up,” Slade explains to Gretchen about his depression following the morgue drill. He’s feeling “completely wrecked based up on what I’ve experienced…” But Gretchen isn’t getting that Slade isn’t talking about them as a couple. He’s talking about himself.

“Do you understand the ramifications of that one fight?” Slade asks her. “The problem is that if you’re with me, there’s going to be a struggle. I just want you to be happy, and don’t think I’m going to be able to give you what you want,” Slade sounds like he’s trying to dump her nicely. Oh wait, he does that like three times a day. Does he not really mean it, or is she just a glutton for punishment with low self-esteem?

I didn’t SEE any “breakfast vodka” this week, but I sincerely doubt Traci has gone cold turkey or we’d be seeing DTs. Kevin was more the focus of things. A number of campers told him that he wasn’t getting a gas mask in the survival drill because of his cheating. But we learn that he didn’t have the best role model growing up either.

Kevin’s father was in and out of “the penitentiary” when he was growing up and now that he’s a husband he feels like he’s missed out on a lot in life.

However, Ryan gave Kevin a mask because he has “a rare combination of compassion and wisdom. It doesn’t have to mean that you are a failure because you have failed once.”

Excellent point. I screw up something at least once a day and that doesn’t mean I’m a failure. That said, Kevin needs to learn to keep his pants zipped or Traci will never be able to stop drinking. Oh wait, that’s the elephant in the room nobody talks about, right?

So this week they DID actually start talking about some of the real stuff – and then they left us hanging when Roger really challenged Jenni to reveal her drive to maintain JWoww. Despite what are clearly underlying financial worries she seems to still have (even though I bet she could be set for life now if she invests wisely), it could be as simple as she LIKES her chosen career – a lot of couples split over job choices.

There are spouses who can’t handle their husband or wife’s commitment to their jobs all over the place. The divorce rate is exceptionally high for military and cops. Wonder why? They’re never home. Same with soon-to-be doctors in their residencies and famous actors and musicians.

The sad truth is that you spend more time at your job in life than you do at home with your spouse anyway, so if you really do love what you’re doing, why would you want to change careers so you can be miserable most of the time? Especially when you haven’t been the one to change your career. It’s your partner who has changed HIS OPINION about yours.

I’m not sure that “Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars” is following the same path as the first two seasons with the former Bridezillas, but we’re definitely seeing something new here as of tonight. Most of these couples have relationship issues that center around their television lives. And now they’re finally starting to talk about it. I am so glad I don’t have a wedding next Friday night because I will definitely be watching.

Sandy Malone is a reality TV star, expert wedding planner, and internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast's BRIDES and The Huffington Post, in addition to Monsters... read more
Sandy Malone

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