‘Summer House’ Scholarly: Season 4, Episode 1—The Fingering Heard ‘Round The Hamptons

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Over the past few months, I’ve become friends with a few cast members of the Bravo show Summer House. However, I’ve never seen the show before. So I decided to start watching, and recapping, the episodes. We’ll pick things up from the season premiere of season 4….

Summer House is back.

We open on the castmates as they shed their Manhattanwear to brave the pilgrimage east. Kyle and Amanda stagnate in traffic, their nerves fraying from the stop-and-go logjam. Amanda laments the lack of Vitamin D in her life, to which Kyle says he can provide all the Vitamin D she needs—playing on the “D” in Vitamin D to refer to his penis. I looked this up and, as it turns out, “D” can serve as a colloquialism for dick. Given that Kyle and Amanda are engaged, it worried me that Kyle felt the need to remind Amanda about his penis. Has Kyle’s typically playful machismo taken the hue of a more boorish toxic masculinity? Or does his quip reflect a deeper frustration over their lacking love life? Every engaged couple experiences a rollercoaster of bedroom activity. For many, the initial thrill of a promise to intertwine two lives manifests in elevated sexual activity: a frenzy of groping, hair-smelling, co-showering, etc. When this fades, as it inevitably does, some couples struggle with what they feel as a loss. As Kyle says, “the last ten months? Brutal.” So many questions to ponder within the first six minutes of the episode.

Luckily, these simmering foibles are placed on the backburner when Kyle reveals a humongous development to his betrothed: Crazy Carl and Lindsay spent the previous weekend in the Hamptons, where Carl “fingered” Lindsay. Now either Carl picked Lindsay out of a lineup at the local precinct (unlikely), or the two engaged in the sexual act of fingering—whereby a male (or female, or anything with fingers) will stroke, strum, and/or beckon a female’s genitalia, often as foreplay. Kyle adds that Carl called him and told him “I might have fingered Lindsay,” which could mean that Carl isn’t entirely sure what he was touching. It’s a puzzling sidenote, given that most people have a good sense whether they have or have not fingered someone. The act often leaves a gelatinous residue or the faint musk of woodland mushrooms upon the hand of the provider, either of which could be used to clear up the confusion. It’s possible that Carl did not perform a smell test out of respect for his castmate. More puzzling still is the fact that as Carl fingered Lindsay, they did not kiss. One pictures the two locked in a staring contest, not a word between them, intensely focused and silent. Hannah and Paige struggle to imagine the particulars as well. Strange times.

As Kyle is spilling the bean-flicking, we cut back to Carl and Lindsay, already in the house, as they unpack groceries. Lindsay tells Carl that she feels “like you’re my non-boyfriend boyfriend.” Carl replies, “or brother and sister who occasionally…” and then Lindsay finishes with “likes to have sex?” to which Carl laughs and says “that’s never happened.” Of course, we can’t exactly trust Carl’s record of sexual activity, given his confusion over the whole fingering thing. But the exchange does suggest that Lindsay is a fan of incest pornography, and for that, I love her. Same, Linds.

Hannah and Paige arrive, goofballs that they are. Hannah carries her tennis rackets loose and aloft, like a soldier of the Vietnam War wading through a snake-infested river holding his M-14 overhead. Everyone hugs and dishes about the new layout of the house. Just then, A NEW CASTMATE ARRIVES!! It’s Jules, Hannah’s friend who “loves to have a good time.” She is Jordanian, but she makes no mention of her stance on the Arab-Israeli conflict. It’s a curious omission given Jordan’s pivotal, peacekeeping role in the geopolitical landscape of the region. Perhaps we’ll hear more on this in later episodes (a boy can dream).

And finally, Amanda and Kyle arrive, and the house is whole again (or so we think). Out comes the rosé, up comes the music, and everyone starts to dance. But will the whole fingering mystery drive a stake through the evening? We’ll have to wait and see, as a fucking commercial break rips us from our reverie just when things are getting spicy.

We pick up the action on Luke, a new castmate who looks better than I thought people could. His face is disorienting. He says he just got out of a three-year relationship, but he looks more like he just got out of a slab of granite at the hands of an extremely skilled sculptor. I struggle to find the words to describe Luke. Cowboy, ejaculation, and wolf come to mind, in no particular order. Hannah appears to catch the Luke bug upon first contact, and who could blame her?

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At the dinner table, the topic of Kyle and Amanda’s wedding takes center stage. Paige and Hannah continue their mischief-making, to the chagrin of Kyle who seems extremely anxious about the nuptials. Tempers flare and voices rise as Luke and Jules look on in growing discomfort. This is a trial by fire for the newcomers. They’ve both been in the house less than two hours and already they find themselves in the thick of a vicious, snarling, bare-knuckle cage match. I want to reach through my screen to stroke Luke’s face and let him know that he need not sink to the level of his pugnacious peers.

The crux of the disagreement is this: Kyle is furious that Hannah and Paige and even Amanda would hold sidebar conversations; Paige tells him that at a table of eight, there can be multiple conversations at once. Let’s stop for a moment and ask ourselves this: is it impolite to hold side conversations at a dinner table? I phoned my mother for input, but she is from a different era. She said that no, there should only be one conversation at a time. But I posited that if there are more than five people at a table, side conversations can, and should, spring forth. Five or less and it’s rude. Six or more and you’ve got to let people catch up with their neighbors. We didn’t get anywhere, but she wished me a happy Valentine’s day even though it’s not until tomorrow. If I had to guess, I would think that Kyle’s mother and my mother are birds of a feather.

The argument grows. Paige and Hannah paint themselves as the victims of Kyle’s irrational reactivity while Kyle and Carl see their interruptions as a product of their age gap. “Different gen,” says Carl, abridging generation. Carl loves to truncate words. I suspect he is a terrific texter. But thanks to the housemates’ familiarity with each other, everyone is able to retire to their quarters. But not before Carl confronts Kyle about the whole fingering mystery. Carl knows that people know because Hannah said “I heard you fingerbanged Lindsay.” It’s a can of worms that will surely explode open tomorrow.

The next morning, Carl and Lindsay head off to Barry’s Boot Camp while the rest of the house stirs. Luke, mercifully, does not wear a shirt as he makes the morning rounds. It’s our first glimpse at a body that will grow tauter and more defined the more Luke dehydrates himself with alcohol. Hannah and Luke take to the tennis court and boy are they fun to watch. Hit after hit, deep ball after deep ball, looping forehands and grunt-shuddering backhands. I struggle to think how any of those Vanderpump dimwits would rally with these two. But I don’t watch that show; it’s so contrived.

Over at the pool, Amanda and Paige recap the night. Amanda tells us that living with Kyle has been “a lot,” though how much that means, exactly, is impossible to measure. Any illusion she had that cohabitating would result in “sex on the counter” has been replaced with the reality that it’s more like “living with my dad.” This strikes a similar note to the incest fetish that was planted by Lindsay. Can we assume that all the castmates harbor some fantasy about engaging with a relation? I’m going to assume it.

As everyone packs up for a beach day, Kyle buries the hatchet with Hannah and Paige. Thank goodness. I was worried they were going to fight all summer. On the way, the guys stop at a local grocery store for supplies. In the meat aisle, Carl tells Luke about how Kyle divulged his “fingerblasting” of Lindsay to the other girls.

Let’s pause for clarification: at first, the story was that Carl had only fingered Lindsay. Then Hannah called it fingerbanging. And finally, Carl elevates it to fingerblasting. For those familiar with digilingus, there is a substantial difference between banging and blasting—mostly in the speed and ferocity of technique. Nobody seems concerned with exactly which setting Carl used for his handiwork, but I personally wish they would clear it up because for Carl and Lindsay to have fingered together without kissing is one thing. But for Carl to have blasted without kissing… it has the feel of construction work. The mind reels.

At the beach, Carl is forced to clear the air with Lindsay. He struggles to get the ball rolling because he is terrified of her wrath. But to her credit, she is super cool about the whole blasting/banging thing. The even-keeled languor with which Lindsay receives the news turns Carl on, and one can almost see his fingers start to twitch.

At dinner that evening, the gang is all cleaned up and sparkling. As Hannah asks Jules to tell the group about herself, I sat forward in my seat. This, surely, would be the moment for Jules to open up about Israel and Palestine, going back as far as she’d like. Is she an advocate of the two-state solution? Does she feel that the ruling Hashemites should take a stronger stance one way or the other? Does she agree or disagree with Kennedy School Professor Stephen Walt’s controversial theory that the Israel lobby in Washington wields too much influence on our government’s foreign policy initiatives in the region?

And just when Jules was about to answer all these burning geopolitical questions, Lindsay brought up the fucking fingerblasting again. Unbelievable. It’s as if Bravo didn’t want them to talk about anything else. Sure enough, Carl and Lindsay get up from the table for another personal pow-wow. As they struggle to voice their feelings for each other, Carl drops a bomb: “I love you,” he says, as the episode cuts to black. To be continued… scrawls across the screen, leaving the viewers with balls so blue you’d want to cheer them up. But for that, we’ll have to wait until next week.

This episode was all about Crazy Carl. And if we learned anything about the gentle giant, it’s that he wears his heart… on his finger.