We sent Television Without Pity’s Tracie “Potes” Potochnik into the hinterlands of basic cable to find herself, and share the lessons she’s learned along the way. In this edition, we find out what happens when you hold ’em, when you know you need to fold ’em… And when to get the heck out of a bad situation.


A wizened, twinkle-eyed, gray-bearded sage once uttered words so knowing, so sapient, so gosh-darn catchy that they remain branded in many a subconscious to this very day. These immortal words, sung with a winsome rasp, are as follows:

You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em
Know when to fold ‘em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run!

As humans (and as TV characters), we all occasionally make poor decisions. And it’s difficult to admit to a mistake and deal with the immediate repercussions, even when your gut is punching you in the throat and telling you that you royally effed up. And so, often we dig in and double down. But this only makes things worse! As evidence, please remember the following terrible televisual incidents:

“Nashville”

Rayna Jaymes CLEARLY knew that troubled-yet-appealingly-stubbly-bearded crooner Deacon Claybourne was her soulmate, but nevertheless agreed to marry huge chump Luke “Wheels Up” Wheeler after he proposed to her on stage (the grossest kind of proposal!).

Connie Britton & Charles Esten (Nashville)

Deacon was like, “Nooooooo!” and even wrote a tender love song to woo Rayna back, but she still chose Luke. Rayna finally got around to calling off their wedding…on the day of the wedding. The chairs were already set up! Tim and Faith had RSVP’ed! You can’t get a refund on that catering now! Awkward, expensive, and not a good way to remain on speaking terms with your ex.

“The Real Housewives of Orange County”

Literally everyone pointed out to Vicki Gunvalson that her boyfriend Brooks Ayers was a sketchy sleazeball but she stood by her man, even when Vicki’s daughter Briana claimed that Brooks hit on her while she was pregnant. When Brooks was “diagnosed” “with” “cancer” in season 10, the other ladies became suspicious. As evidence mounted against him, Vicki attempted to back up Brooks’ story… With lies.

You know what’s worse than being single, and garners you a whole lot less sympathy? Helping your boyfriend fake cancer.

“America’s Next Top Model”

Cycles 13-22. Sorry, Tyra.

“The Brady Bunch”

Bobby. You almost got killed by a giant wall hanging, one of your brothers almost died in a surfing accident, and the other one almost perished at the fangs of a tarantula.

Susan Olsen, Eve Plumb, Florence Henderson, Robert Reed, Maureen McCormick & Ann B. Davis

Get rid of that cursed Hawaiian tiki already! We should not have to tell you this.


"Six Fingers" - key art for American Horror Story: Roanoke

But perhaps there are no better examples of TV characters who don’t know when to fold ‘em – or, more importantly, when to run — than “American Horror Story: Roanoke’s” Matt and Shelby Miller. Sure, when escaping a life in Los Angeles that included traumatic events, a North Carolina country farmhouse sounds like a lovely setting in which to make a fresh start.

RELATED: ‘Roanoke’s’ biggest shock wasn’t a gory murder, but a shocking secret revealed

But one look at the sadistic drugged-up cannibalistic hillbillies who are bidding against you at the house’s auction, and you might figure that if this is the welcome wagon, the rest of the neighborhood is a doozy. (In fairness, they didn’t know for sure about the sadistic cannibalism at the time. But just by the dental context, they could have assumed.) A classic “know when to walk away” moment.

Instead of retreating to peruse the listings on Zillow, however, Matt decided to bid the couple’s life savings to secure the house — despite the fact that the opening bid was, like, ten dollars (another ominous sign! Fold ’em!). Shelby found this hot, because she’s the type of woman who finds idiocy hot. And sure, dumping a ton of money into something makes it really hard to then be like, “Oh, whoops, maybe we should try renting for a year instead? Or take a look at properties on the west side?”

But when a group of Puritan-looking motherchuckers tries to drown you in your tub, it’s time to repack your bags.

And when someone wearing a pig head is being burned alive on your property, it doesn’t really matter if it’s a ghost or the aforementioned cannibalistic hillbillies taking a rather unconventional “not in my backyard!” approach.

And when “MURDE” is painted in blood on your dining room wall, just waiting for a final “R”…well, you get the drift.

Get the heck out, dummies! Know when to run!

RELATED: ‘American Horror Story’ returns to ‘Roanoke,’ ‘Big Brother’ style

But no, Matt and Shelby stay just a little too long.

Then they HAVE to stay even longer, because 1) They invited Matt’s alcoholic sister Lee to hang out for a while at their awesome new pad; and also 2) Lee’s daughter Flora has been kidnapped by ghosts. And then 3) it’s the Blood Moon, which means even worse shenanigans.

Thanks to some murderous ghost in-fighting, Matt and Shelby (along with Lee and Flora) are able to escape. So at least NOW they’ll never set foot in that house again, right?

WRONG! AGAIN! For Matt and Shelby have told their story on this surprise basic-cable hit “My Roanoke Nightmare,” and the ratings were so high that the network wants a sequel. And then Matt and Shelby wrangle with a specter even more frightening than a blood-soaked, curiously-accented, colonial ghost lady nicknamed “The Butcher”….a devious reality TV producer. He’s bringing the Millers back to the house for three days, along with the actors who played them in “My Roanoke Nightmare,” for some Blood Moon “Big Brother”-esque hijinks.

Lady Gaga (Prashant Gupta/FX)

Now, you can’t fault the other cast members too much for agreeing to this scheme. They’re actors, after all — and Matt’s sister Lee has a name to clear, or so we’re led to believe. But Matt and Shelby should FOR SURE know by now to cut their losses.

Ostensibly, they have their reasons. They’re estranged, and Shelby wants to rekindle the flame in a setting where they were terrorized and almost killed multiple times. Romance! And Matt wants another chance to sex up horned Druid wood-witch Scáthach (Lady Gaga) in the basement. Obviously. But they had to figure the odds of one of them ultimately bludgeoning the other to death were pretty high. Know when to fold ‘em, people.

RELATED: Why we never talk about how violent ‘AHS’ is, compared to ‘The Walking Dead’

So the next time you’re faced with the short-term embarrassment of admitting that you acted rashly and with poor judgment, remember the potential long-term consequences of doubling (or tripling!) down. You could very well face a bloodthirsty Puritan ghost mob, or wind up eating raw slices of your friend’s leg, or actually find yourself supporting a narcissistic sociopathic despot like The Butcher, who doesn’t like foreigners setting up camp on the land that she colonized, has an unusually spotty resume, and displays a very suspect grasp of public policy. Not worth it.

Know when to walk away, said the wise bearded man. Know when to run.

“American Horror Story” airs Wednesdays at 10:00 p.m. PT/ET on FX. The finale for this shorter “Roanoke” season airs Nov. 16.

Posted by:Tracie Potochnik

Tracie Potochnik has written for sites including Television Without Pity and Gawker's Morning After. In her spare time, she writes moody folk songs and searches for her higher self.