the hills season 3, episode 14, “forgive and forget”
November 13, 2007
[splashcast MJCC5217BT HNRX3551CR]
- so remember a couple of weeks ago when i commented on how authentic it felt when lauren mentioned sean kingston, how i thought it was genuine and didn’t think it was product placement but how i thought it was a good model for how product placement could work in fauxreality. and then i reiterated in discussion with hannah in the comments last week how real it seemed. well, guess who was a featured guest in tonight’s episode? sean kingston! wow. because, of course, his label is the label that audrina works for and where audrina has now magically been given a promotion. coincidences are fun!
- this episode was actually really big on product placement-y gestures. the sean kingston thing, of course, but also the way that the “declare yourself” party was dealt with, how it was introduced in that weird opening scene with lisa love, in which she deigned to descend into the intern pit and carefully enunciate who was throwing the party and the cause celebre. after that, it seemed like there were a requisite amount of times that the girls had to say “declare yourself” and that the cameras had to flash shots of the logo. what does it all mean?
- a paean to whitney and lauren’s backs. well, not their backs, really, but seeing their backs in that opening scene. it’s like what i’ve said before about the rare appearances of the moving camera: “the hills” style is so defined, so rigid, that when a shot comes along that maybe doesn’t fit exactly right, it feels interesting. like when lauren and whitney are looking at the invitation to the declare yourself party and all of a sudden we cut to a shot from behind them, of their backs as they face the computer, it redefines the space, it reminds us that we’re in a 3 dimensional room and not just this narrow shot line between lauren and whitney’s desks.
- heidi’s nondescript work friend kimberly bores me. it seems that there is nothing to her. i am more interested in audrina’s nondescript work friend chiara, who seems to have some modicum of personality, like when she told audrina that she was “at work” so not to invite justinbobby to the set. she could be at least a second-rate lo.
- the way that film and TV celebrities are handled on “the hills” is interesting. i noticed this a little bit last week, like the way that hilary duff was shown so briefly, in a long shot that swept over her in the blink of an eye. this week, a very similar thing with justin timberlake, who we see briefly. in any other show, it seems like these shots would be important, they would be made into a focus, they would be a kind of pop capital, but here they’re just woven into the fabric of the show like clear thread.
- yet there is a definite contrast between this nonchalant attitude towards celebrity and the portrayal of sean kingston, who gets a hell of a lot of screen time. whether you think that’s because of some epic bankroll or not, i dunno. his discussion of urban slang with chiara and audrina was cute.
- the “devil wears prada” reference that lauren made was gently meta. let’s pause for a second to imagine whitney and lauren eating cotton candy and watching “the devil wears prada” together and singing along to “suddenly i see” and constantly interrupting the audio of the movie to compare their personal lives to that of anne hathaway’s character. if i could have a high definition recording of this from multiple angles, my brain and heart would explode at the same time but it would be such a happy death.
- i loved that heidi and friend’s entry was taped from the same camera set-up as lauren and whitney’s. of course, it makes sense, it’s the main entrance of the party, but it makes the cynic in me think of the four of them waiting on the far side of the building together and then going in one right after another so that the director can wrap that setup and use the camera somewhere else.
- the first lauren-heidi confrontation was kind of weak, i thought. i mean the initial stare down from lauren was good and i liked the trifecta of silent looks that made up the climax the climax (lauren’s “are you seriously that full of shit” smirk and steely head shake THEN heidi’s open-mouthed, chin-jutting ” THEN whitney’s “omgthisisawkwardbutiloveit” gum chew and head turn with the hair falling over her face). but, really, the meat of the thing was kind of weak. could the reason be that they were in a very public place with a ton of people around with camera phones and everything just waiting to expose “fakery” and thus they could only do the scene once or maybe twice without attracting attention, instead of working it up in successive takes to its full potential?
- how bizarre was that erin fetherston adutainment thing that covered the first commercial break? her bangs really creep me out. all the scenes with her in them made me imagine her hanging out with bjork and matthew barney in like iceland and the three of them playing in a replica of a mcdonald’s play place covered in vaseline.
- the way audrina says “d’you want some vegetables” and then there’s a decent length shot of lauren staring down, drooly, at a plate of vegetables and rooting around for a good carrot or something. and then she doesn’t eat and the idea of vegetables disappears because it’s monologue time!
- at the end of the lauren-audrina scene, after lauren says “people change,” audrina, with her newfound power, tries to take over the scene with this loaded, pregnant pause/look to the side/breathy, resigned “yeah.” this would be the obvious place for the scene to go now, for lauren to say, “what’s wrong, audrina?” but she doesn’t, because remember, bitch, lauren is the main character. lauren rolls her eyes and physically shakes off the thought of audrina controlling the scene, shifting the power back to herself to ask a bullshit placeholder question about audrina’s job. and what’s great about this is that you can read it in the meta way that i just did, but you can also read it in a totally natural human way, like lauren had to have picked up what audrina was trying to communicate but chose to ignore it, the way people do sometimes when we are prompted by others to care about their problems and just don’t have the energy at the moment.
- continuing the thread from the bar scene last week, this episode was like audrina’s coming out party as a major character. this is underscored by the presence of that little filler scene after audrina and chiara hug sean kingston goodbye. the main purpose of the scene is some more advertising for how great sean kingston is, but it’s also a sign that we’re supposed to take audrina more seriously now, because, earlier in the season or in earlier seasons, she never would have warranted a bullshit little scene like this. she wasn’t important enough.
- and then there’s the next scene at epic records, the triumphant audrina scene, when the pop gospel piano kicks in and audrina says “i feel like everything is just…different now, like i’ve got my own cubicle next to you and i get to work with a huge artist, like, this is good.” amid all the obvious mediation and bitterness about people having jobs they don’t deserve blah blah blah, you have to admit it was a little touching.
- of course, by now you may know that audrina and justinbobby’s break-up has already been filmed. i wonder what the lead time of the show is, i wonder how much longer we’ll be graced with his fascinating visage and his powerful belches?
- i love the IM scene, i think it’s my favorite part of the episode. it is so banal and at the same time so great because it’s so banal and it gets the im experience way better than how hollywood movies stumble whenever computers are involved. like how lauren is so fixated on the screen that we don’t see her face for nearly the entire scene, and even better, the way whitney is constantly having to get updates “what are you saying…that’s what you said…is that what she just said?” because whitney is operating as the stand-in for the audience, just like she was earlier in the episode, at the party, when she spotted heidi and said, almost gleefully “oh my god, she’s like right there, is this horrible for you? this is horrible for you.” and now in this scene she’s asking to be updated on how the plot is progressing and sitting there giggling and smiling and holding her head in her hands. then it becomes all the more powerful when heidi writes that she wants to meet and lauren all of a sudden stops giving a running commentary. and whitney is saying “is that what she just said?” and “what’s going on?” and “what’s, what’s happening, fill me in…” and lauren is so in the moment she’s completely blocked out whitney and whitney finally gets kind of annoyed and says “lau-ren!” and then lauren snaps out of it a little and whitney’s like “is everything okay, i just want to help?” because, like the audience, like us, she’s empathetic. when she encourages lauren to go meet up with heidi, she’s just following everyone’s impulse, which is the desire to know what happens next.
- it is scary/good (not scary good, but both scary and good) that it is completely natural and okay to heidi that spencer is reading her private im conversation.
- i imagine hisham abed and jason sands really getting off on the wide shot shot where heidi talks a long walk by the pool, across the frame and up to lauren’s apartment. it’s a pretty beautiful shot, with the midnight blue glow of the swimming pool in the foreground and the steam rising off the hot tub in the background.
- the final scene between lauren and heidi more than made up for the lackluster showing earlier. great details, like lauren looking out of the peephole even though she knows it’s heidi, heidi talking about how the flowers have thorns that might prick lauren, walking slowly and surveying the room, speaking heidi dialect by saying “did a maid come,” instead of a “does a maid come,” awkwardly rubbing the coffee table before getting into the actual conversation.
- intriguing that heidi doesn’t deny anything about spencer’s actions.
- if i was watching a scripted drama and i heard a character say “i want to forgive you…and i want to forget you” i would cringe so hard that i’d probably pull a muscle, i would think, oh god, that’s such horribly cheesy writing. but because this show is at least in some ways real, i can’t do that, because that’s what lauren really said! and so instead of being like, ugh, what a bad writer, it kicks off all these interesting tangents, like, was it spontaneous or was it something she prepared, like she’d been thinking about this conversation and playing it out in her head for weeks (like rehearsal for a scripted drama, yes, but also like the way we all practice for moments in our lives) and when she thought of it, what level of it is completely genuine feeling and what level is playing to the camera and what level is thinking that she’s clever and what level is trying to be like a character in a movie, to use cinematic drama to fuel real life drama and on and on and on.
- what i think is genius about the scene, whether it’s producer driven or scripted or completely authentic or any combination of the above, is the way that it could shift the narrative. because, excepting a few of lauren’s freakouts about relationships, we’ve been set up to totally identify with her, that this is her story, that she is who is important. yet in this scene, lauren is so intense and emotional and kind of mean and all heidi is trying to do is be rational and be friends again. will this shift some ranks from team lauren to team heidi? i think there’s a definite chance, because, excepting that scene at ketchup where she was so horrible, heidi’s been basically a sympathetic character all season and we’ve seen how much trouble she’s having with spencer and feel bad et cetera. at the same time, if there’s another information payload about the sex tape, things could totally shift again. either way, it’s definitely the spice the plot needed.
- but hold up, did you hear about this? is it true? is it false? what does it all mean!?!?!
in the player is my cover of the song “tell me when to go” by e-40. the keyboard riff was originally for a song about going to the bahamas with barack obama and then it was for this song called “i went to the narrative convention” which was about barthes offering me ecstasy at a marriot near the airport (“james wood got wood in the middle of his own speech / he said it was absurd, we said practice what you preach / we were all hysterical, it was near unbearable / zadie smith screamed that his bulge looked terrible”) but neither of those songs worked out so instead i did a cover of this e-40 song from a couple of years ago. i left out the keak da sneak verse because even with the lyrics written out i still don’t understand what he’s saying. my favorite song off of that album is still “white gurls,” which uses clever wordplay to conflate caucasian women and cocaine and features the line “i ain’t talking bout lindsay lohan / i’m talking bout that sniff, that blow, man.” prescient, really.