“Someone knocks you down, you get back up with shade.” –Porsha, still not a cast member
Claudia may not have had much of a story line in her premiere season, but along with her addition to the cast has come a weird upswing in Bravo-level psychological analysis on RHOA. I halfway expected everyone to sit down in the middle of tonight’s episode to take a Myers Briggs test so they could better understand why they keep feeling the need to have group dinners where there’s zero percent eating and 100 percent screaming. Sure, it was Nene (an ENTJ if I’ve ever seen one) that enlisted Dr. Jeff for the most traumatic counseling session of his life, but it was Claudia who followed up with an entire trip to the Philippines to “do the work.” The “work,” of course being as many “drip drop in your butt” coffee enemas as Phaedra could handle.
Listen, if Nene had a real emotional breakthrough tonight, then I am happy for her mental health, and hopeful that Gregg can shuffle a little more confidently knowing that his wife might loosen up his leash now that she’s free of some of her baggage; but tonight, when Dr. Jeff said, “The bottom line is, we need to listen to what Nene has to say right now,” I about spit out the double whiskey I’d enlisted to help me get through the third reunion installment for this show’s most trying season. Is that what the bottom line is, Dr. Jeff? Making sure that Nene feels comfortable enough to find some sort of excuse for her frequently toxic behavior? No. They’re there to get their check, clear their names, and maybe open another sports bar in Raleigh, or whatever.
If you looked at season 8 alone, it might be possible to think that other cast members do come for Nene pretty frequently, and whether they were justified in that or not, that it might eventually bring Nene to a point where she just walks out of rooms any time a co-worker speaks to her. But in the last three Sundays, this is what Nene has told me about herself: She’s actively not giving money to Detroit Public Schools after promising to on national television, she made light of Kenya’s lack of relationship with her mother, and she won’t apologize to Claudia for calling her a “half-breed” because they “were in battle.” I’m all for Nene showing her vulnerable side, but she’s shown her ass one too many times for me to forget about it after one trip to the Bravo women’s restroom for a touch-up.
This reunion installment did its best to make “whore” and “some African guy” a little smaller on the RHOA season 8 word-cloud by replacing them with words like “sisterhood” and “respect,” but it’s all a little too late when you realize how much this season’s story lines have boiled down to showing off just how much these women can be ugly toward one another and still bounce back, as though strength of character is in the bouncing back. At this point in the series, the assembled cast has almost nothing in common beyond owning haircare/sex toy/HSN tent lines, so I guess it makes sense that the only thing left with which Andy Cohen can tie them together are their past traumas. Because we all started watching The Real Housewives of Atlanta for its deep, emotional impact.
Many of us did, perhaps, start watching RHOA (or any of the original Housewives programming) for its “real” look at female friendships. And in that way, RHOA has really shit the reality TV bed. I see nothing familiar in listening to episode after episode of apologies with more ifs and buts than Peter explaining to Cynthia how it’s totally fine than he bought yet another property with her money without telling her. I know I’ve had plenty of female friends for eight years and I managed to go all eight without calling a single one of their husbands’ a bitch, publicly judging their parenting on “the blogs,” or accusing them of adultery.
You guys—I think RHOA might just be bad for women. But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to listen to what Nene has to say at all costs. So let’s get on with it…
NEXT: The return of Dr. Jeff (spoiler alert: he still has his license)…[pagebreak]
Did Nene and Peter flirt in the past?
It’s nos all around on the lingering question from last week. They’re all wrong, but who cares, because Peter is busy saying that Kenya has been dealt a bad hand all along “because of her personality.” I’m sure he was just the ally she was looking for due to sensitive comments like this one: “If I’m gonna cheat on my wife, I’m gonna be hitting something big… it ain’t gonna be no waitress. I’d rather play with myself than do that.” Cynthia just laughs and laughs. Isn’t marriage fun?
Speaking of marriage…
Kandi and Todd have had a troubled one, and Kandi admits that maybe she’s been a little too open about their personal struggles on the show, but that’s just the type of person she is. The type of person Mama Joyce is? The type to wait to give Todd any semblance of a real apology for her mistreatment of him and his family until his mother tragically passed away. Although Todd still seems like he’s mostly saying he’s accepted Mama Joyce’s apology for Kandi’s sake.
Did Kandi get her boobs done?
No, according to her, she’s just gotten fatter. That we didn’t see a single nipple from any of these women is a miracle, but that it took Gregg an hour into his time on stage to make a “Got Milk” joke is simply unbelievable. He followed that Dad joke with some drunken PopPop wisdom: “Faults are like headlight on a car… you can only see the other person’s.” You do you, Gregg,
Dr. Jeff will be there for you (‘cause you’re there for him too)
With the husbands finally off the stage, Dr. Jeff makes his grand return to occasionally force these women to look each other in the eye. Nene starts the segment by keeping her back fully turned on the man and saying that he got their group therapy session off to a bad start by opening up the floor to everyone to say what their problem was with Nene in particular. And then… things really take a turn. As I recall, Nene had already left the building by the time the session turned toward montaging all of the women’s past struggles: bullying, abandonment, etc. But Nene is clearly very bothered that the other women got to express the way those things have effected their lives, but she didn’t: “It was so funny that everyone was a victim or something happened in their life. He never was like, ‘Nene, has something ever happened in your life?’” Something tells me that she doesn’t actually think it’s that funny, and that thing is that she’s shaking uncontrollably while the other women discuss what was or was not discussed in the counseling session.
“I can’t talk about my mom.”
It turns out, what’s happened in Nene’s life that Dr. Jeff knew about going into the session, and what he hoped would be able to be a thing that helped the other women understand Nene (and vice versa, I guess), is that Nene’s mother sent her and her brother to be raised by her aunt when she was very young, and she’s always been plagued by a sense of abandonment and unanswered questions as to why she was the one who had to be sent away. It is very sad. Nene has a full breakdown of emotions, and Cynthia, Porsha, and Phaedra, along with Dr. Jeff take her offstage to comfort her, tell her that she can still be powerful, “the devil is a liar,” and help her get her makeup touched up so she can go back and face the other women again.
“Pain is power.”
And the other women… are understanding. They feel for Nene—it is all really, very sad. Everyone speaks in hushed tones once Nene returns to the couches; they how they’re all respecting each other by finding common emotional ground, and that they’re proud of Nene for being vulnerable. And that is all very sweet and positive. But we don’t all bounce back quite as quickly as the “sisterhood” of RHOA. I, for one, will have a hard time forgetting all of the vitriol that’s been spewed throughout this season from woman to woman. Nene says that this reunion has taught her that, “It’s great to know that when something happens that the people you work with every day will at least be there for you.”
It’s kind of taught me that too… that the only bond left tying these women together is that they’re co-workers. As former-friends Cynthia and Nene screamed at each other about “taking the food off [each other’s] table” as a result of trying to get one another kicked off the show, I was reminded for one final time this season that these women have come more and more to see each other as meal tickets. Is that parasitic relationship enough to ink out a season 9 of RHOA? Are you interested in continuing to watch these women fight and sort of make up? What changes need to be made for you to tune into another RHOA season? Or was this one—with its anger rage blackout clit-accusations, adulterous text message printouts, and dissolution of friendships—perfect to you just as it was?
Sound off in the comments, and thank you for watching this (t)hot mess along with me this season!