First things first, Nene is still wearing that wig; that was not a one time thing. Now that that’s out of the way, a question: Has there ever been a television villain as terrifying as Mama Joyce? I’m trying to recall… Wile E. Coyote was pretty conniving, right? I think Vince McMahon is a bit of a nuisance. Mr. Burns has that menacing finger thing. I’m positive King Joffrey was kind of a twit, but when I hold any of these bad guys next to Mama Joyce, with her mood swings, hatred for all things not her, haunting “low voice,” and ability to manipulate even the smartest of business women into cowering piles of “that’s just how my mama is” goo, all the TV villains that came before her seem about as threatening as Nene by Nene Leakes is to Marc by Marc Jacobs.
Tonight was about more than just Mama Joyce and Kandi, of course; as the title will tell you, it was mostly about squashed beef, which sounds disgusting. So, family manipulation (Kandi), family neglect (Phaedra), and the conference room meeting held between Nene, Porsha, Cynthia, and Kenya—where all the titular beef was squashed into a mincemeat pie as effective as that accidental one Rachel made on Friends—all fit right in.
But even among all of that skin-crawling, beefy narrative, no scene can ever trump a Mama Joyce scene when it comes to pure terror. When that woman hits the screen, my tongue somehow starts to feel like it’s wearing a sweater and I swear I can smell toast; and yet, I’m horrifyingly fascinated by…
The Degradation of Kandi Burruss
What has happened to Kandi? I can confess, even as your trusty (biased, snarky, often wrong) recapper that I was a little late to the RHOA game. By the time I hit the scene, I had watched a few other Real Housewives series, and assumed Atlanta would be much of the same. I was surprised to find that the women of the Atlanta incarnation, more than any other group, seemed to be chosen because they had careers, drive, and if nothing else, an entrepreneurial spirit about them. These women could turn a weave line out of a paper bag in between being lawyers or models, and none more successfully than Kandi Burruss. I mean, the woman wrote “No Scrubs” and has a sex toy line that’s a play on her own name—that’s some American dream shit. Or, it was.
Beginning with last season, when Kandi’s mother first began to reveal her true colors, Kandi also began to reveal hers: a smart woman who simply cannot say no to her mother, a woman who deserves the word “no” more than any other on a show full of women that frequently bring their own props to dinner parties and wear high-water, wide-legged pants. Out of some kind of destructive gratefulness that alters her ability to hear reason, Kandi just can’t help but let her mother walk all over her in the same shoes that she occasionally threatens to beat Kandi’s best friends up with.
That understandable, but ill-conceived respect will likely be her demise, as made clear in this episode. It kicks off with Kandi and Mama Joyce arriving at her Aunt Nora’s to have lunch with the Old Lady Gang after Kandi has just spent hundreds of thousands of dollars buying Joyce a second house after she let her boyfriend play Whack-a-Fixture in the last house Kandi gave her, and then told her she didn’t like it anymore.
Mama Joyce seems just on the edge of not totally irritated by this purchase, but insists that Kandi can’t have a key to the house because she doesn’t have a key to Kandi’s (presumably for fear that she’d melt down her candlesticks and skin all of her pink velvet couches). One of Kandi’s aunts—who aren’t psychopaths, but also constantly force Kandi to make up with Mama Joyce, so yada, yada, by proxy, yada—says, “Let’s eat before y’all start discussin’ ‘bout the keys and the mens and the walkin’ nekkid,” which is kind of an OLG play on the actual mission statement of this show: “Let’s drink before we verbally eviscerate one another and start pretending like we don’t know the word “apologize.”
NEXT: Keep your mother-in-law’s thoughts to yourself, Kandi…