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Episode Guide

Episode 26:
“Live and Let Dye”

Well, they said she had dark roots,
In their story on Showtime,
With a choir of bluegrass coots,
Singin' real bad in worse rhyme.
But Anna's got a few clues,
The gal ain't dumb and here's why:
With both kinfolk and hairdos,
Best to just live and let dye.
(Aired June 1, 2003)

The Anna Nicole Show

This is the end. Although E! has yet to issue an official announcement as of this writing, it appears there will be no third season. In any event, this grand finale provides some measure of closure for this extraordinary series by bringing back one of its most memorable guest stars, cousin Shelly. Once again, Shelly draws Anna Nicole's tremendous accomplishments into sharp relief by comparison with her sorry redneck ass.

It's deja vu as the episode opens, with Shelly showing up on Anna Nicole's doorstep, quite unwelcome. The story is that Shelly is having relationship troubles with her boyfriend and she's come looking for emotional support. But Anna Nicole is pissed off about remarks Shelly has made about her in a televised interview. Presumably she's referring to Dark Roots: The Unauthorized Anna Nicole, the documentary whose production brought Shelly to her cousin's house the first time. Let's take a moment to sort out the tangled chronology of Shelly's appearances in annanicological TV programming.

In Dark Roots, Shelly makes accusations about Anna Nicole being on drugs and turning her back on her family. Shelly says she'd like to go find her in L.A., "grab her by the neck," and make her straighten out all her "issues." So the documentary makers flew her out there, and we saw what happened. The reunion turned out to be a happy one, and there were no attitude-adjusting confrontations, at least not on camera. By the end of Dark Roots, Shelly talks glowingly about her visit and how happy it made her. Shelly was on good enough terms with Anna Nicole to get invited back for her Christmas party.

Although Dark Roots was seen in Europe early this year, it didn't air in the United States until May 2003, on Showtime, when Anna Nicole likely saw it for the first time. The nastiest things Shelly says in the program were all filmed before their two reunions on The Anna Nicole Show. Would it make sense for Anna Nicole to be so furious over such dated comments? In her eyes, probably so. Maybe Shelly's words were so hurtful that she didn't care when she said them, or she was angry that Shelly had never confessed what all she had previously said to interviewers. Or it's possible that Shelly gave another TV interview after Dark Roots, and that's what Anna Nicole is reacting to.

Whatever the case, Anna Nicole comes to the door and tells Shelly she wants nothing to do with her, in light of all the bad things she's said about her. Shelly plays dumb and claims she doesn't know what interview she's talking about. Anna Nicole paraphrases, "Oh, 'I'm gonna go down there and I want to knock some sense into her.'"

Shelly could have simply apologized and said that was a long time ago, she felt different then, things have changed, she regrets having said that. Instead, she tries pathetically to lie her way out of it. She says she was actually joking about some "lady" and they told her the camera was turned off, blah blah blah.

The Anna Nicole Show "Don't bulls**t a bulls***ter!" Anna Nicole charges, not taking Shelly's crap for a second. She makes her case for all the things she has done to benefit Shelly without any show of gratitude. "I have done nothing but try to help you, since 1992. Have I not tried to get you in the business? Have I not taken you on trips to get you into modeling? Have I not done everything in my power to get you to be where I am today?"

This is an interesting revelation, that Shelly once entertained dreams of following in her cousin's footsteps. In fact, in the old E! True Hollywood Story on Anna Nicole, at a Guess? Jeans publicity event circa 1992, you can glimpse a teenage Shelly with platinum blonde hair tagging along at the side of the glamorous star model. I'm sure Anna Nicole gave it her best shot to get Shelly a career like hers, but of course, the major problem would be that Shelly has never been even the tiniest fraction as beautiful as she is. Not even when she had teeth.

Shelly tries to fend off Anna Nicole's fury by claiming ignorance about the mass media, sort of like Phil Hartman's Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer: "Look, I don't know how TV works or nothin' like that, okay?" She affirms that she has no reason to say anything bad about Anna Nicole.

"Thank you, why don't you tell that TV?" Anna Nicole says, pointing directly into one of the many cameras recording their imbroglio. We've seen her pitching countless fits on the show before, but this time is different. This isn't like one of her frivolous arguments with Howard. Here she is dead serious and in complete control of the situation. Shelly reels under the pressure and reiterates her vindication of Anna Nicole's character while the camera is trained on her.

"Don't ever do an interview about me again," Anna Nicole snaps, stabbing a finger at her, and makes a reference to some agreement that Shelly had previously signed. Shelly promises that she won't be talking to the media anymore.

"Okay, Shelly, why are you here with E!?"

Shelly is speechless in her bewilderment. Anna Nicole has made a stunningly astute observation that Shelly's puny redneck mind can't keep up with. This is actually the first time in the history of the series that Anna Nicole has ever referred to the ever-present cameras her as a third party, as E!'s cameras rather than her cameras. The show is an outside presence that Anna Nicole from which wisely maintains a level of separation, and Shelly's alleged "family visit" also constitutes a media appearance.

"I said no media," Anna Nicole continues relentlessly. "Why are you here with E!? Media! Media! You signed a paper. No media. Don't talk to nobody. E!'s here. Means you're talkin'." Shelly hems and haws that the E! producers told her it was okay and that Anna Nicole knew she was coming.

"Did you call me and ask me?" Anna Nicole rhetorically demands.

Stuck for any grounds on which to defend herself, the best Shelly can muster is, "I don't have TV, okay?" It looks like the problem, though, is that she doesn't have a brain.

"You don't know how bad you've hurt me," Anna Nicole pronounces.

Shelly's eyes well up with tears. "I'll leave," she chokes. "I'm sorry."

She goes away, and inside the house, Anna Nicole talks through her agitated feelings with Kimmie and Howard. "My whole family, all they do is talk about me. Why can't they just shut up? They don't know me anymore."

Anna Nicole tells how difficult it was to see her aunt Kay bad-mouthing her, which supports Dark Roots being the source of the offending interviews. Kay is Shelly's mother, and Anna Nicole grew up calling her "Mama" more than her estranged mother Virgie.

"You know, I tried to pull them out of poverty, and nobody wanted to come," Anna Nicole says. "It's not right and it hurts, and they say I'm a bad person, you know, I'm a 'bad seed' because I just left them."

In the end, Anna Nicole agrees to put Shelly up in a hotel for the night and talk things over with her tomorrow. Shelly returns to the doorstep, and the two cousins hug tentatively, whispering that they love each other.

One notable element about Shelly's first appearance was that the episode had virtually no background music, making it a sober departure for this typically noisy series. It would have seemed more like the show was ridiculing or trivializing the hick cousin if there were mood music playing over her scenes. Likewise, this segment with the doorstep confrontation and reconciliation runs without an added soundtrack, providing a stylistic consistency and a little bit of class. Kudos to the guys in the editing room also for not snipping Anna Nicole's suggestions of duplicity and interference on the part of the E! producers.

The next day, having called a general truce, Anna Nicole decides to spend a day treating Shelly to whatever she wants before she goes home to Mexia. "Shelly's had a hard life, and it shows," Anna Nicole says, truthfully if not tactfully. "I was more than happy to give her a makeover, because I believe there is a fairy princess inside of Shelly just waiting to come out."

Obviously, the logical first step for giving Shelly a makeover would be a dentist. At least with some teeth in her mouth she could look her age, instead of being a doppelganger for Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies. But there is no mention of dentures. Instead, they go to a fancy hair salon called Capella, where Shelly has decided to get her long hair cut off in a bid to win back her boyfriend's heart. She also wants to try giving it a daring new color: royal blue. In addition, Kim chooses to eschew her natural look and return to her Season One style purple hair. You have to wonder if Shelly is out to recreate herself as mini-Kimmie, at least subconsciously, to demonstrate a comparable level of loyalty and devotion.

The Anna Nicole Show "Since I can't dye my hair," Anna Nicole says. "I was so happy to see that Shelly and Kimmie dyed their hair for me." What a marvelously ironic statement. As the title of Shelly's contentious documentary indicates, Anna Nicole does dye her hair. What she means, of course, is that she can't spontaneously dye it some wacky color other than her customary blonde. It's important to understand why. Anna Nicole has free will, and she could perfectly well do whatever she wanted with her hair. But she is firmly dedicated to the mythological character she has created, and she knows that anything other than long blonde hair would destroy that persona. It's the same reason why she won't let herself get tattoos on her arms and upper body, as much as she would like to. She has to stay true to her myth.

To that end, Anna Nicole submits herself to a torturous hair-waxing treatment while Shelly and Kimmie get their dye painted on. Her tenuous threshold for pain is boosted significantly when beauty is at stake. "Thank you very much for hurting me," she tells the waxing technician after she's done depilating her legs and forehead.

With Shelly's hair still enclosed under a plastic cap, Anna Nicole trucks her over to 5150 Tattoo to get her belly button pierced. But there's trouble, since the procedure takes longer than they estimated, and the salon calls to warn them that the blue dye has been left in Shelly's hair too long. If she doesn't rinse it out right away, her hair could fall out. Anna Nicole and Shelly hurriedly retreat to the 5150 restroom, where Anna Nicole has a practical suggestion: "Just put your head in the toilet and flush."

Shelly wants no part of that, hair or no hair. "I was not gonna put my head in a toilet," she asserts, adding cryptically, "I did it once, and I'm not gonna do it again."

It would have been pretty cool to see all of Shelly's hair fall out, but it seems that they rescued her follicles from significant trauma. They return to Capella and Shelly gets her shocking blue locks trimmed into a short pixieish 'do. She is well pleased with the results, thanking the stylist for the "bad-ass haircut." An interview clip taped sometime later shows Shelly talking about how she lover her hair, and by that time the dye has drastically faded from brilliant sapphire blue to a drab and spotty gray that makes her look even more like an old lady.

Continuing their day of fun, Anna Nicole and Shelly stop by the Taco Bell drive thru and chow down on their Grilled Stuft Burritos in the back of the limo. You know, it reminds me of the time I visited L.A. and ended up eating Fattburger take-out in a big stretch limo, believe it or not. Now that's living.

Next, the girls ride over to Pol' Atteu's boutique, and Anna Nicole's fashion designer picks out the "perfect dress" for Shelly. It's an elegant pink evening gown, and wearing it makes Shelly look halfway nice. Even with blue hair and no teeth, this is probably the best she has ever looked in the course of her meager existence. Then Anna Nicole gets her own "matching" dress, but the only thing that matches is the fabric color. Anna Nicole's is many sizes larger, and her plush figure fills up every cubic centimeter splendidly. Seeing the cousins side by side, there can be no question as to why one became an international modeling sensation and the other did not.

So now they're dolled up and ready for a night on the town. Back in the limo, Anna Nicole and Shelly reminisce about their hard times growing up. "We've come a long way since then," Anna Nicole says in voiceover. "At least I have."

Shortly we'll get to see just how true that is. For the evening's entertainment, Shelly has chosen to go to an establishment called Fantasy Island Show Girls, where the feature attraction is female mud wrestling. Anna Nicole, Shelly, Howard and Kim venture inside to enjoy the festivities, and anybody can see a mile away what the outcome's going to be.

"I guess y'all know by now, if you have a bar, and half-naked women rolling around in a pit of mud, you're gonna get Anna Nicole in that pit as well," Anna Nicole admits in the third person. She has typically comported herself in a more straight-laced manner in Shelly's presence, but she's not going to deny that she's a hellraiser herself. There is, though, at least one crucial distinction:

The Anna Nicole Show "At least I had the decency to take off my dress."

Anna Nicole changes into a casual white top and jeans before diving into the muddy fray. But horrifically, Shelly plunges in while still wearing her beautiful Pol' Atteu original. The delicate fabric promptly gets soaked with brown muck, and the straps and stitching get torn where her fellow wrestlers manhandle her. "There goes a $5,000 dress!" Shelly howls with delight, as if this is her idea of supreme indulgence. It's a repulsive display. She has chosen to shit all over the kindness and generosity Anna Nicole has shown her today. Fairy princess, my ass.

Shelly leaves the mud pit and comes after Howard. From the disgusted glares of the other patrons, it appears that she is breaking mud wrestling protocol by walking among the spectators while dripping with sludge. Or maybe that's okay only for the hot, non-redneck girls.

"Hell no, Shelly!" Howard yells. "I don't want you to touch me when you're clean!" He manages to dodge her until some guy corners him and shoves him into the pit. Shelly pins him down with some rasslin' moves, and then Anna Nicole leaps in to tackle both of them. Howard begs her to protect him from Shelly.

After everyone cleans up, they pile back into the limo and head for home. Shelly is unable to see that she has done anything wrong this evening. "Why am I so bad?" she asks. "Because I like to have fun, that makes you bad?"

No, Shelly. It's because you can't have fun without destroying yourself and everything around you. Anna Nicole understands how to have fun and raise hell while preserving the things she values. She could never deliberately ruin an expensive dress for the hell of it, no more than she could dye her hair blue. She has too much pride in herself and the image she has created. Anna Nicole may be irresponsible and childish at times, but in the greater scheme of things, she has boundaries that carefully separate real life from fun and fantasy. Shelly has no such discipline at all. In her unthinking stupidity, she represents one side of Anna Nicole's character, an inborn wildness that could have consumed her if she hadn't found that higher purpose within herself, which drove her to become something more.

The episode closes with Shelly's boyfriend David arriving at Anna Nicole's doorstep, and on bended knee he apologizes to his lady love. Then he mumbles some ludicrous scripted line about getting evicted from their apartment, which means they're going to have to move in with Anna Nicole. It's somehow a fittingly fake sitcom cliffhanger ending to this second season plagued with fake sitcom scenarios, which Anna Nicole has valiantly made watchable despite the producers' misguided attempts to write her life for her.

And that's the end. But really, it's not. As Anna Nicole explained to Shelly, she lucidly views herself as being distinct from the show, and the show as being distinct from her. She will get along just fine with or without a weekly slot on the E! schedule. As Anna Nicole says herself, "I've never liked goodbyes. Never really cared for 'em."

Me either. So let's just say this ain't one.

Anna Nicole Says...
"I don't know how any dictionary would define the word family, but in Anna Nicole's dictionary, it means 'pain in the ass.'"
"That woman was waxin' me in places I didn't think I had hair. Thank God I wasn't wearing a bikini."
"Let's just say you can take the girl out of Mexia, but you can't take Mexia out of the girl."

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