Lauren goes to Paris, Spencer and Heidi break up, and Hills’ third season isn’t even done yet

On the third season finale of The Hills, Lauren got a second chance to go to Paris–and took it this time–while Heidi and Spencer broke up, or at least postponed their wedding and gave each other some space even though neither of them needed any space. But more about that in a moment.

The Hills, even more than Laguna Beach before it, is the most compelling weird show ever. Let’s stop pretending that MTV doesn’t play music any more, because there’s more music than dialogue. Hell, there are more words in the credits than words spoken by the cast. And every single scene is like a version of The Real World that’s high on marijuana and drifting through space. The series feels like watching a reality show with your head under water; you may be drowning, but everything slows down so much that you don’t notice or care because it feels so pleasurable.

Before the actual show started last night, there was the live pre-show. I thankfully caught only about 30 seconds of it, as Lauren stood awkwardly in front of a tiny audience and stumbled over a question posed by two ridiculous hosts, long haired Jessi and bowtied Dan, who looked like they’d been pulled out of the middle of a Mad TV sketch and asked to host the worst-produced live segments in MTV’s history. They appeared to have been costumed at the funeral of a blind couple who shopped at a store that makes costumes for pets, and they were wearing Madonna-esque headsets because holding microphones and talking was apparently too challenging for them.

At last, they went away, and the real drama began. Here is a breakdown of the final episode’s major moments, which is difficult because there weren’t really many major moments, because again, everything feels like some kind of tripped-out fantasy land:

  • “And now Whitney and I were both about to realize that when you least expect it, everything can change,” Lauren says in her introductory voice-over. Her definitely-not-botoxed boss Lisa Love appears and talked to Whitney, telling her that she was going back to Paris and “you may come back a princess,” because apparently Teen Vogue is going to pimp her out. Just to rub it in, Lisa tells Whitney, “I think Lauren had her chance to go to Paris.”
  • Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten” officially opens the show, and that’s an ironic theme song for a show that’s so staged.
  • From the opening credits we go right into another song, The Last Goodnight’s “Pictures of You,” which was iTunes’ free single of the week back in October, and now is used over lots of establishing shots of Los Angeles and Heidi at work, where she talks about fighting with Spencer. “I feel like I’m in a relationship with a five-year-old,” she says. “I just need some breathing room for a minute.”
  • More music–Maroon 5’s “Nothing Lasts Forever”–and establishing shots of Lauren driving around Los Angeles and arriving at Teen Vogue. Lauren stares at her Mac after learning that Whitney is going back to Paris. “I shouldn’t have passed the first time. … I’m just. When am I going to have a chance to go again? … Stupid Jason,” she says, and wipes an invisible tear carefully from her eye.
  • Now we get James Blunt’s “Same Mistake” and establishing shots of Spencer sitting outside at a table meeting with his sister, who’s absolutely terrible at pretending she’s hearing the news of his conflict with Heidi for the first time. That, or she’s about to break into laughter because she’s so giddy that she’s on The Hills. Spencer furrows his brow.
  • More establishing shots of Los Angeles. Hmm, I kind of think this show is set in L.A. I also think there is no footage for the editors of anything besides b-roll so they have to keep reminding us that it’s L.A. Although now, with Paolo Nutini’s “Rewind” playing, we learn that it’s nighttime. At last, substance.
  • Lauren cuts things out of magazines with scissors and sighs a lot while telling Audrina that Whitney is going to Paris again. Audrina does her best to conceal her teeth.
  • Back from the commercial to Good Charlotte’s “Beautiful Place,” and establishing shots of Spencer trying to visit Heidi at work, and learning that she left. Spencer looks annoyed that he just spent a bunch of time shooting an entirely useless scene.
  • Lifehouse’s “Broken” plays as we see Spencer leave, looking forlorn; Heidi sits at a desk, looking forlorn; and Lauren takes Polaroid pictures at Teen Vogue while, yes, looking forlorn. At least she has a reason, which is that she’s sharing a scene with her self-centered co-worker Whitney, who makes Lauren remind her that Lauren’s never been to Paris, and then Whitney acts shocked that Lauren isn’t intimately familiar with Paris’ weather.
  • Lisa Love calls Lauren into her office, and as if we didn’t see this coming, tells Lauren, “They needed some additional help, so you’re going to Paris.” Oh, surprise! Lauren’s eyes raise and she smiles for the first time all episode. Lisa confesses that she ran away to Paris when she was 15. “It changed my life, and hopefully it’ll change your life, too,” she says, and no one cares. Lauren tells Whitney, who says “that just made my day.” Lauren says, “Uh, made my life, try.”
  • Suzie McNeil’s “Believe” plays over–yes! establishing shots of Los Angles at night!–and a restaurant where Brody, “Lauren’s friend,” learns that she’s going to Paris and makes it all about himself and how sad he is that she’s leaving and how culturally insensitive he is. “There’s a lot of single people in Paris, too. Stinky people with hairy armpits. The guys, stinky,” he says. Damn, what a catch. Lauren and Brody stare at each other awkwardly, and start talking, sort of, about their relationship. Lauren tells him, “Nobody’s had the best relationships in the past; that’s why they end.” You can’t write this shit. Or if you did, you’d be fired from your job as a writer.
  • More music–Jordin Sparks’ “Tattoo”; “Just like a tattoo/I’ll always have you”–over shots of Lauren and Brody looking at each other and smiling coyly.
  • Back from the break to Ingrid Michaelson’s “Breakable” and the very apropos lyrics “and our cracking bones make noise” over establishing shots of Spencer and Heidi’s apartment, where Heidi is packing and Spencer arrives home. Here is there actual conversation, the longest conversation in the entire episode: “Where were you? “Giving you some space.” “I’m going to give you some space.” “I don’t need space.” “I don’t need space either, but now I do. So you think I can think about what you want, I’ll think about what I want.” “I know what I want.” “I just don’t know what else to do.” “When are you coming back? You can stay here and have the place to yourself.” “I need to go home.” “So I assume the wedding isn’t going to happen anytime soon?” “It’s not working. I need some space.” “Hokey dokey.” They hug, Spencer leaves, Heidi tears up.
  • Establishing shot of Lauren’s shoes and shittily packed suitcase. Audrina and Lauren talk about Paris and practice French words. Audrina reminds Lauren to take her passport, which she forgot despite having packed what appears to be 75 pairs of shoes.
  • Brody pretends to try to prevent Lauren from going to Paris. They hug. Lauren says, “I love you.” I think that was significant but because it’s played with the exact same emotional intensity as every other scene, it just sort of drifts away.
  • More music and establishing shots of Los Angeles and the airport intercut with shots of Lauren and Whitney being driven to the airport and getting on the plane, and Heidi driving around, and Spencer sitting around. The credits roll and remind us who’s responsible for crafting the preceding 22 minutes.
  • Fearing that I’d have a stroke watching those two pre-show hosts, I fast-forwarded through the after-show until Lauren appeared to make her announcement. “I’m allowed to announce it now?” she said, so used to being prompted that she can’t even spontaneously be spontaneous. “The big announcement is this season of The Hills is not over, and we will be picking up soon, and you will get to see our whole trip to Paris, and everything that follows afterwards. It’s some fun stuff,” she says, the world rejoices, and striking writers everywhere die a little inside knowing that this is a top-10 show on cable, and is really what people want to watch.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.