If the complete and utter destruction of my marriage with RHOA was eminent (it is), and I was asked to think pros and cons about the show (sure, why not), and was able to think of countless cons (the amount of breasts being strangled within an inch of their lives in interview outfits, “accu-lades,” contractually obligated group dinners, “textses,” Peter), but only one pro, that pro would be these women’s shameless ability to just decide to reinvent themselves and their social circumstances whenever the script calls for it. I’m no Steinbeck, but I know a bit about structuring a narrative, and never before on television have I seen such a complete disregard for it. It’s impressive.
Both the cast and the producers of RHOA have absolutely no shame in forgetting, for example, that Nene once took the lead on calling Phaedra “The Head Doctor” and claiming she never knew her in Athens in the name of Nene now being a wonderfully supportive friend to Phaedra, better than that jerk, Kandi. And with the end of tonight’s episode, it looks like we’re throwing every limp piece of story line noodle against the wall and calling it a fresh start. There’s no animosity we can’t get past here! Pack your bags for Manila, we’re all getting massages!
Everyone involved in RHOA is just telling whatever the hell story they want to tell, whenever they want to tell it, in whatever structure they think makes them look the best (thank goodness everyone has exactly zero self-awareness on that last front). That’s why the marriages born of RHO-pick-your-poison never work out: They’re the only story line anyone is legally bound to stick with. In tonight’s episode alone, we went from raging bull in a flapper wig berating a grown man for doing his job, to a therapy session montage about bullying, to a table read for a television show that involves Cynthia doing accents and me acquiring the evolutionary skill to turn my ears off, to a Skype therapy session, to the announcement that the group of women we’ve spent the past 10 episodes establishing would rather eat Porsha’s Hamburger Helper off of Peter’s bald head than spend a single second around one another ever again are now taking “healing their relationships” inter-continental.
And that is where we find our nonsensical league of Atlanta housewives, in their finest bedazzled jumpsuits and true-to-scale cross earrings, attempting to make up from fights that happened two years ago. Well… that’s what Porsha, Kenya, Claudia, and Cynthia are trying to do; Kandi is talking maaaaad smack under her breath about how useless this all is in between sneaking nuggets from the Chick-fil-A platter in her lap; and Nene has completely left the building because people were trying to tell her that she had done something wrong when she’s clearly never been wrong a day in her life, why can’t they see that?
But she doesn’t quite make it out of there before telling Dr. Jeff, the man who she hired to try and help everyone to work out their differences, that he should be worried about losing his license, because clearly, everyone was not supposed to include her. She says a good counselor “wouldn’t allow everyone to just dump their garbage in one person’s lap,” but Dr. Jeff can’t really control how much garbage is available for dumping. Maybe he thought at one point, one of those other women would have been like, “Oh no, Nene’s never done anything shady to me,” but no…it was Dumptown, Party of Five. I’m making Dr. Jeff’s final, defeated utterance of, “Nene, don’t do it,” my ringtone.
NEXT: Forgive, forget, and video message…[pagebreak]
And with Nene gone, suddenly everyone is ready to unload their emotional baggage and build some bridges in the name of a paycheck. They all talk about the specific psychological circumstances they’re bringing to the table and how those might affect the destructive relationships they have with each other. Everyone tries to get away with the standard “I’m sorry if” apologies that are more bountiful than Lycra on these shows, but Dr. Jeff isn’t having it. If you don’t know what you’re apologizing for, you’re not sorry, which goes hand in hand with Kandi’s claim about how everyone seems to know she and Phaedra are having issues except her: “If we have an issue and I don’t know, then we don’t have an issue, you have an issue.” With Nene gone and Phaedra off mixing up gallon-size vats of Crystal Light, the only two people left with a real issue are Kenya and Porsha. And they actually seem to come to some kind of understanding of why they’ve handled their confrontations so poorly in the past that has Dr. Jeff saying, “Maybe if you argue [in the future] it doesn’t have to be so damn ugly.” Oh Dr. Jeff, you innocent, bespectacled, kind of professionally inappropriate soul.
Dr. Jeff asks them how they can reach out to Nene and somehow everyone but Kandi ends up recording a video message to send to her, and I am in full agreement with Kandi that this is the reason Nene thinks she can get away with treating people like they need to kiss her ass… “Because they kiss her ass!”
And no one is kissing Nene’s ass more than Phaedra right now, but that might not be for much longer because Phaedra has drafted a new “sounding board.” That person is Sarah Jakes, daughter of Bishop T.D. Jakes, who’s been brought in from the real world and seems like a very lovely person. Phaedra relates to Sarah because she’s also a preacher’s kid who’s done some things that the church didn’t necessarily agree with, but has since come out a stronger for it. I wonder if Sarah also called a co-worker’s vagina dry on national television last week? Is that something Phaedra is equally not proud of, or is her shame strictly Apollo-related?
Of getting a divorce even when she felt like she couldn’t bear to make another mistake in the eyes of the church, Sarah tells Phaedra, “Marriage isn’t this place that you should feel like you need protection, it’s the place where you should be able to be vulnerable.” That is true and wise, and I don’t think anyone is blaming Phaedra for wanting a divorce after witnessing Apollo’s behavior over the course of this season, but she knows there are some other pressing questions about her decision-making process to address, so gird your loins, because here comes Phaedra’s redemption song. Over the course of talking to Sarah, and later, to her lawyer and mentor, Ronne Kaplan, Phaedra explains why she’s seemed so stoic as her husband was headed to jail (she doesn’t want to share too much with people who don’t have her best interest in mind); becomes much less stoic (multiple tears); and most importantly on the list of answers to everyone’s lingering questions about her marriage, explains why she would have married Apollo knowing that he had just gotten out of jail for five years (because Ronne asks her, possibly reading the question directly from Twitter).
Phaedra says that she thought Apollo was a changed man: “I married him because I knew that he loved me. Some people do change their lives and make a difference and I thought he was that person.” She says she loved him despite all the baggage he came with and chose to believe he wanted to be someone different, “and maybe he was conning me the whole time.” Do with that what you will. But Ronne—my inclination is to call her Dr. Ronne because there have been so many damn first-name psychologists running around lately and this whole thing read much more therapy session than legal counsel—is right about one thing: The biggest issue with getting a divorce will be creating a parenting plan that works for both parties. She advises Phaedra to take the process slow because, well, I guess she has eight years to figure out “the trail of madness” she says Apollo left her to clean up.
NEXT: My kingdom for a Life Twirls On behind-the-scenes web series…[pagebreak]
Speaking of madness, tonight we get to see the table read of Life Twirls On, the show that Kenya was trying to make with Roger Bobb, but is now just making herself with her own production company. It seemingly has no other writers, only bestie Brandon as a fellow producer, and none of the actors knew who else was going to be on the show judging by Leon’s surprised reaction at finding his ex-wife, Cynthia, at the table read. I wish this entire episode had been about Kenya being a producer. I don’t know whether Kenya is a good television producer/director/writer or not, but I do know that Kenya thinks being a good producer involves acting really stressed out and saying people’s names as many times as possible: “Brandon. Can we find out where Brandon is? Alexis, can you get on top of that?” “Zach, let me find Keith. Call Chet and see if he still wants to be in on this.”
Well, we can be sure Chet will want in after he gets ahold of this table read. Kenya reminds us that she wrote this script herself because she didn’t have time to hire professional writers and she’s concerned that no one will laugh at her jokes. One of those jokes:
Someone: “I had some work done.”
Someone else: “By who, Ray Rice?”
Well, then. (What Kenya doesn’t seem to realize is that the biggest joke at her disposal is Cynthia’s Jamaican accent.) At some point, even though there’s no distinguishable change in laughter or actors getting into character, Kenya decides that the jokes are landing and says what might be the least self-aware statement in an episode where Nene decided a counselor was being mean for trying to counsel her: “Move over Two Broke Girls, here come Life Twirls On!” Dear Andy Cohen, please let this story line last forever.
In a story line that’s threatening to never end, Claudia Skypes with Dr. Jeff (yes, Skypes!) because she wants to do a little one-on-one counseling. Good on ‘er. But she’s also wondering what she can do to help the group peacefully coexist after their mildly productive therapy session. And Dr. Jeff—I kid you not—tells her that they should go a trip together. He thinks some new surroundings might help them connect in new ways. Claudia doesn’t specifically tell him that the last time they all took a trip together Nene told her that her clit had left her body, but she does seem hesitant. And then the next thing you know, Kenya and Claudia are at Kandi’s boutique trying on cropped pleather jackets and telling her that they’re all going to the Philippines. The Philippines! Apparently, Porsha and Claudia had a one-on-one that is for some reason sliced into the current scene with the hazy filter of an A&E reenactment scene; they mended fences and decided that they should all go to Manila, and they’d each report back to their separate cliques.
Judging by the previews for next week, it looks like Claudia is slightly more persuasive in getting her team on the 18-hour flight than Porsha because I didn’t spot Nene. But it looks like Phaedra will be there, and she’s ready to make amends with Kenya with even more newly discovered tears. Is it all just a show, or can Phaedra really come back from the intricate web she’s been weaving? Could the trip actually be fun with Claudia at the helm? And will Nene use Cinderella as an excuse or is she finally evacuating this dysfunctional RHOA marriage for real?