By Karen Valby
September 11, 2009 at 02:54 PM EDT

It’s been a hard season for NeNe fans. The woman, perhaps feeling the pressure of Bravo producers and her own sudden popularity, has seemed backed into a caricature of herself. At home though, around the calming influence of Gregg, NeNe behaves like the softer, sweeter, sillier version of her former self. The couple was worried about Bricen, her low-key and likable meatball of a boy who has dropped out of college, taken to laying around on the sofa and hosting club parties with 1000 of his closest friends, and, most painful for his mother, let his hair go. “He came back from school like a werewolf,” she said. “Bricen has his ethnic side. I can appreciate that. You just have to look neat with the whole ethnic thing.” (NeNe continues to have a problem with ethnic things, and even she doesn’t know what she means by that.)

What was so refreshing though was to see NeNe’s sincere side. I think the reason everyone fell in love with her last season was less because of any catchphrase or finger-waving than it was about her tender and vulnerable response to news that the flawed man who raised her was not truly her father. So it was with some relief that we got to see NeNe genuinely worry for her son’s future, and accept Gregg’s suggestion that they have not laid a proper foundation for the boy to want to work hard in this life. Perhaps the answer to Bricen’s floundering is not in fact a manicure from Dwight’s people. But it was nice to finally see a Real Housewife parent their child for a change.

Unlike Kim, who is raising Kim Teletubbies. If the recession has taught us anything, it is the dire need for Americans to live within our means and practice respons…”I shop and act like the bill is never going to come,” bragged Kim, after dropping $3000-plus at a children’s store. “I’m going to die in Dior,” said Mama, in a bedazzled jean jacket and white puff skirt. “I’m going to die in Juicy Couture,” said daughter, in a bedazzled jean jacket and white puff skirt. Countless humans are going to die so that their hair can be scalped from their heads, whipped into some porn muppet concoction by transfantastic Derek J., and sold as Kim’s wigs. She is willing to work hard to make her dream come true. (No she’s not.) She has a vision. (Not true.) She will make her own money. (By staging catfights on the street while the cameras are rolling.) She will never be a nurse again. (And by nurse she means that Big Poppa liked her to dress up in a little candy striper outfit and change his bedpan.)

Lisa acquitted herself well in the run-up to her fashion line debut. I appreciate that the woman makes no claims of artistry or vision when it comes to Closet Freak. She can’t sew, she can’t sketch, and according to the other Housewives, she can’t even dress. But she treated her designer with respect, as well as the event planners who staged her first show. The outfits were 8th place Project Runway designs. Dwight needed to shut his mouth about unfinished hems and lacking details. Lisa’s stylist friend Tracy needs a round of applause for his graceful yet persistent ribbing of Sheree when the bitch showed up two hours late. She claimed her boy had a recital that she couldn’t miss but it was shamefully obvious she didn’t want to witness anyone else’s minor moment of triumph. Tracy, by being so calm and cool, arching his eyebrow and refusing to let Sheree off the hook, fully exposed Sheree for the small and spiteful woman she is. Soulless by Sheree.

Next week: Kim faints.

What did you all think? Wasn’t it nice to be reminded of NeNe’s good side? Didn’t Kim look better in that short wig? What are you going to die in?