Back To School

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Lesson Seven: If You Can't Say Anything Well…

Adam: "Speaking about first dates…you know what's great about dinner is that you have great conversation, but I have to feel really comfortable with the person, and I also have to be willing to spend the money [unhealthy, uncomfortable giggle signifying he's never been on a date of any kind]."

Clay: "But remember, he's the shy, tight [slight pause because he knows there's something wrong with this sentence] Jewish boy."

Adam: [uncomfortable giggle; long, long silence] "Okay…"

Now, I think every single week I've mentioned Clay's inability to read a room, his tiny little skips in emotional logic that derail moments and make everything weird. He's socially awkward at least once, it seems, every episode. Never anything large, never anything heinous, just a little crack in the moment that snaps everyone out of the pleasant vibe of intercommunication. He chose the precisely wrong moment to question Randal during the milkshake task, he ruined the team-building moment with his Lamborghini comment during the Best Buy reward, et cetera. I think in social dynamics and I get pretty ugly about it -- it's why Markus ticks me off so bad -- and you've figured this out about me by now, and Clay sets off my awkward-dar at least once an episode. But come on, Clay. Work with me here. The "tight Jewish boy" comment is many things at once: hideously regrettable in this sexual context; regrettable coming on the heels of the "willing to spend the money" thing; stupid to try to riff on Adam in front of this audience of old people who probably think Adam's cute as a button; and regrettable as a joke, considering that Adam has already run it into the ground in the footage we've seen, and I'm sure he said it a few more times in what we didn't see, because it's code for his entire response to this task: I am deeply motherfucking uncomfortable with talking about sex, people. All of these are trouble, but they're not the main thing. The main thing is what Adam's wrong about, because he's right about it in the end:

"I cringed...basically Clay called me a tight-ass Jew. I'm not sure if, word for word, that was what he said, but [he said] Jew, and somewhere, tight-ass [was] in there, and implying that Jews are cheap." Now, Clay didn't actually say "tight-ass," although it would have been more to the point if he had, but not in a racist way: Adam is anal-retentive in a classic way that goes beyond racial lines. He's Portnoyishly weird about sex, true, but it's not because he's Jewish. Most importantly, though, you don't put tight and Jew in the same sentence, because you don't want those lines drawn. There are a thousand other non-Jewish examples I could give you, but I'm not going to, because I'm not Clay and I'm not a fool, and I know better, but this is what the show gives us to work with. The human brain -- such as Adam's very excellent brain, for example -- will connect the dots and go to the place that they're always on the lookout for. I don't know what it's like to be Jewish in Atlanta, and I'm okay with that, but I do know that the "bitch" and "insecure woman" and little girl stuff that happens with Clay pushes a lot of people's buttons, and the same thing applies here. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

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