By Karen Valby
September 04, 2009 at 12:15 PM EDT

The altar-ego shoot was upon us which meant we were treated to an episode of bizarro America’s Next Top Model. NeNe was in charge and the theme of the night was hood. What is it with this Housewife and her obsession with all women ghetto. She accuses Kandi of being ghetto, seconds after inquiring after the status of her coochie hair. (And ewww, Sheree. We didn’t need that mental picture.) No, no, Lisa is ghetto. Kandi wonders if NeNe is the ghetto-est of all. “Ummmm, I’m not from the hood,” NeNe informed us. “I’m from Athens.”

Just when I thought I had lost all patience with NeNe—tired of her ghetto accusations, her goofy desire to paint Kim black, her bossy meddling—she went and charmed me a little. Maybe it was her easy camaraderie with the always delightfully calm Gregg. Maybe it was the fact that she was a surprisingly relaxed and productive director. Or maybe it was her genuine excitement about the photo shoot and her respectful treatment of the other women. All except for Kim perhaps, who was peeved that her Stepford wife costume didn’t come with a porno wig and didn’t involve a prop bottle of Chardonnay and a Parliament Light.

At least NeNe finally stopped baiting Kandi and allowed the woman to work through her grief and anger in her drunk driving photo shoot. The woman was rocked from a recent accident that landed her nephew in the I.C.U. What a thing to watch actual emotions expressed on this show. Kandi was in tears describing the accident to Sheree and I dare say Sheree had a genuine human response. The moment was so unusual for a show that is primarily concerned with gossip-slinging and hair-pulling. Before the mood could get too deep, we were plunged back into the Zolciak household where Kim was hard at work finding her kids a reliable nanny. “I love your boots,” one prospective candidate said. “You do!” said Kim. “Okay, I don’t need to see your resume.” The only rules of the house are no vegetables, no judgments when Kim plugs in her chardonnay drip and blows cigarette smoke in her kids’ faces, and for God’s sake, use a courier to make a tampon run.

Kim and Lisa made peace before the waiter could even bring the wine to the table. It turns out the whole crack whore insinuation traced back to Kim’s self-google alert. Google started the rumor! So the two were friendly at the photo shoot. Even Sheree made an effort to play nice. Of course, behind Kim’s back they were all sneering to the camera about the woman’s unfortunate choice to play a mistress in her photo shoot. And by play I mean she dressed up as herself and stood confusedly next to an open washing machine about to run a load of delicates. The symbolism of the moment was over my head.

Nothing mysterious about NeNe’s shoot. Her stretch was wearing pearls in the square role. Certainly we all—except for Gregg and Dwight—could have done with a little less tongue flickering and breastesesses. I suppose I’m all for NeNe embracing her past choices, but I’m not sure what the takeaway of this moment was supposed to be. Hooray for melons? Hooray for cash? Hooray for women’s lib? Oh NeNe, go put some clothes on.

Scenes for next week! Uh, right, duh: NeNe teases Kim for being a whore and Kim rolls her eyes while she sips her wine. Anyone out there wondering just why it is they find themselves watching this show? Were Sheree’s tears evidence of an actual beating heart? Dwight? Love him or hate him?