"I'm a very broken man right now," Matt told Danny -- before venting to producers on a hot mic that the show was "ruthless against the church kid"
The original season of "The Real World: New Orleans" was a watershed moment for gay representation in pop culture, thanks to out star Danny Roberts and his love story with a closeted Army boyfriend during the era of Don't Ask Don't Tell. But while it his storyline was something to be celebrated, his conversations at the time with religious costars Julie Stoffer and Matt Smith also highlighted the pushback he got for simply living his life.
22 years later, they're having those conversations again on "The Real World Homecoming: New Orleans" -- and, when it comes to devout Catholic Matt, it seems like not a whole lot has changed.
Last week's episode ended with Danny bringing up a conversation he and Matt had back in the day, in which Roberts felt he was being told by his roommate that he should be "asking God for strength to change who I am" and shouldn't "be acting on my natural inclination." Back in 2000, Smith made it clear he believed sex was something that should only be between a man and a woman "with an opportunity for human life."
When pressed about it further in a confessional, he told producers, "I think we're done with this topic" and the episode came to an end. But his conversation with Danny in front of all the other housemates didn't -- and picked up on Wednesday's new hour.
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"My sexuality, it made you feel uncomfortable. It doesn't feel good to be shut down. That was like crazy hurtful," Danny told him. "You turned around and went on your way, that's pretty f---ed up."
"I'm sorry Danny. I was trying to be consistent with my beliefs. I guess that's what's so hard. I feel a complete conflict inside me right now. God created each of us and I'll never understand how God created you. And it breaks my heart ... I'm trying to smile, but we were created different and it's a hard thing," Matt responded, adding that he wanted to know if they could make things right between them.
"I'm a very broken man right now and I acknowledge that I'm really sorry," he said to Danny -- who responded by saying he didn't have any "responsibility to take that weight off Matt," but that Matt had to "unravel" his own belief system in his head.
"Groupthink is the most dangerous thing in the world," Danny continued. "I think Matt thought he was saying the thing he genuinely thought he should be saying and that's why it never crossed his mind it was hurtful, because Matt thought he was doing the right thing. Groupthink is bad juju."
In a confessional, Danny exclaimed, "Wow, really?" before saying there "are still some shocking things to hear" all this time later. "Out of all of us, Matt has changed the least, he has stayed to his core value system and it hurts," Roberts continued, criticizing Smith for living under a "love the sinner, hate the sin" mentality.
"It's where a lot of the world stands right now and it's where a lot of our family stands and I call it our very own Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy," he added. "People who get trapped in these really rigid belief sets end up choosing those belief sets over people they love. Madness."
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Though Matt tried to apologize again, Danny said that wasn't what he was looking for. As Smith spoke with Julie -- who has come a long way from her Mormon beliefs, going so far as to leave the church -- she explained what it was Danny did need.
"I heard you when you were apologizing to Danny. I've said that apology so many times," she told Matt. "He doesn't need my apology because he just needs it to change. He just needs the system to change."
After that pair of conversations, Matt was then seen walking outside and talking to a producer off-camera. His microphone picked up the audio as he complained about some of the situations he's been in so far during the reunion. In case you missed it, Matt bailed on going to a gay club for a drag show and sat out on a tarot card reading. He's also been very uncomfortable during conversations about sex.
"Dude, what is this? I feel like this whole thing is like, it's like ruthless against the church kid," he vented to production. "That's where this is going. I've got too much going on, I don't need this drama. This was enough. I want a reunion and healing with my friends. I'm not dealing with more of this, you know?"
In a confessional, he explained his frustrations a bit more -- calling the show a "hyper-environment" where he's put into situations he wouldn't be at home. He also said that when dealing with "hurt" between friends, it's usually something you can handle in private. "I'm almost getting to that point where I go, hey guys, this is all I can do," he added, making it pretty clear he forgot what it was like to be on a reality show in the two decades since his last go-around.
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He was later seen talking with Kelley Limp -- one of Danny's closest friends -- about the situation and explained why this was just a complicated issue for him.
"Religious people end of being held accountable for or having to offer answers for every question. I do not have all the answers. I'm a simple man. I'm not a theologian," he said, before breaking down what he believes about sex in particular. "My understanding is really just based on that simple teaching of the two meanings of sex. The first one is that it brings together a couple for intimacy and love and number two is to be open to human life."
"But Catholics famously don't like contraception, which is extremely controversial and most Catholics ignore it," he then pointed out. "But when it comes to same-sex relationships, there's no conception as a possibility. Danny was the closest example I had seen that was in a meaningful relationship that had all the things that were a signal of an awesome relationship. That changes my simple narrative. It leaves him on the outside. That's the part that's hard."
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At the end of the hour, Matt and Danny went on a walk together to talk everything out. While Danny said he was not a religious person, he explained that he was a spiritual one and believed nearly all religions in the world "really revolve around the simple, pure message of love, loving each other and how to love each other."
"I think the more we stray away from that message in any of our religions, the more we stray away from the ultimate core truth in life," he said, something with which Matt agreed.
"For me, I'm very religious, I wrestle and I stay there. Believe me, you got six or eight beefs with my religion, I got 10 or 12," Matt added. "Living with you and getting to know you then, that's no small thing. I validate how you feel because my words did hurt you and I take ownership over that."
Danny then said he appreciated his roommie's "heartfelt sincerity" and acknowledged that "people do wrestle with frameworks," especially religious ones.
"I genuinely do see that you have been on a journey with it. That stage in my life, I had been through so many layers of rejection from family and community, especially the religious rejection ... this is the struggle I have with my parents to this day," Roberts continued, saying that with his family, it's still a "conditional love" situation where they don't talk about his sexuality.
"It really means I don't fully embrace you. It's really, really hard," he added.
Matt stressed how important it was to interact with people who hold beliefs different from your own, saying that "if we all stay in our ideologies and never come in the middle, it doesn't go anywhere" -- with Danny saying that he knows Matt genuinely wants good for people. Roberts also said he "felt bad" for raising his voice during their initial conversation -- noting that it was a rare occurrence for him, but it really "had nothing to do" with Matt personally.
New episodes of "The Real World Homecoming: New Orleans" drop Thursdays on Paramount+.