By Karen Valby
Updated September 24, 2010 at 01:53 PM EDT

The show is working a Jedi mind trick on me. Try as I might to hold onto my standards, I dare say I’m coming around to enjoying myself on Thursday nights again. I think it’s because Mary is such reliably fluffy company, and Cat wears ridiculous hats, and Lynda, that sexy leprechaun, pops up every now and again to throw down. It’s so oddly interesting to watch the main dramas play out—the growing tension between Cat and her bags-packed husband Charles, the Salahis’ ridiculous delusions of grandeur and entitlement—when we know the endings already.

When Michaele and Tareq met with their buddy Matt to talk about their tell-all book, the blonde incense stick gooshed about their incredible story. Describing their adventures: “We’re going to meet President Obama, we’re going here. I could never have imagined!” Bring it, scenes for next week. (Poor Matt had the neato idea of putting some of his own voice in the book, maybe even his name on the cover too? Michaele’s eyes narrowed. Tareq fingered the pearl handle of the knife strapped to his fat calf.) “We’ve come up with a name we know we unquestionably love,” sweated Tareq. “War, Wine and Roses.” (Matt started reconsidering wanting his name on the jacket.) Michaele, who made clear that she liked yapping but she didn’t want to ever be expected to actually put pen to paper, had just one demand. “No matter what I would just love to see it have a happy ending,” she said. And then President Obama told Michaele Salahi that she was pretty. Tareq shot his mother in the thigh. Everybody giggled! Michelle Obama clinked her glass of Oasis wine with a lollipop to make a toast.”Salahis, Yes We Can!”

Back in reality, the saner among us gathered at a D.C. politician’s office to discuss the subject of gay marriage. This is why we came to D.C., right? To actually get a taste of people wrestling with subjects of national importance. It was a surprisingly interesting conversation, all the more so because the most likable and reasonable members of the cast Stacie and Jason are hand-wringers on the subject. They want equal rights for everyone, but they get tripped up on broadening the definition of marriage. The idea of separate but equal clangs in their ears though. But their church wouldn’t approve and so their hearts are stuck on the matter. Paul had no patience with them, warning in a private interview that he couldn’t be friends with people who would deny him such a right. Jason very gracefully continued though, saying that it could be intimidating to express a more conservative view lest you get written off as a homophobe. Paul snorted. But folks were civil, and the conversation seemed in its own way necessary and productive, if only because Mary realized what a boob she sounded like when she shrugged that the issue didn’t have any urgency in her own life. She may have had trouble quoting the Constitution later—thanks Lolly for tagging off!—but her heart was in the right place.

I’m starting to think mean old Cat might secretly be a bit of a tender heart. I couldn’t help but feel for her when Charles recited his week of far-flung assignments—photographing kiwi Peter Jackson, Bill Clinton, best not forget Nancy Pelosi, General Petraeus—and how he might be home for 12 hours on Sunday night. Cat’s face looked like it was bruising before us as she listened. Couldn’t he hang around for the day so they could talk shading on her book cover? Off she went with her girls to Stacie’s house for ice cream. No matter how badly you’ve thought the woman has behaved in the past, Erika was looking for a fight. She pounced at the first hint of Cat’s sneer, and called her a mean girl. “Just because I don’t like Tyra Banks, bless your heart darling,” snapped Cat. (Tyra Banks is loving being a pivotal source of tension on this show.) The fight was a non-starter really, as Lynda smoothly stepped in and declared Erika out of line. Cat whimpered into her scarf, and pronounced herself annihilated. Then she cried some more into her daughters’ necks in Stacie’s foyer. Erika came around and tried to wrap her up in a hug. Her stab at reconciliation got muddied though as she continued to suggest that it’s not her fault Cat is so awful.

In a bizarre subplot, Michaele made like she’d once been a cheerleader in front of a stadium of 90,000 Redskins fans. Last night she relived those manufactured moments of glory on a CVS parking lot, her eyes crossing as a cheerleading coach counted numbers in the air and expected movement. “Hi hottie,” Michaele said to the woman next to her and raised a russet-colored pom limply in the air. As she cheered, the world mourned.

What do you think politicos? Has this show grown suddenly more bearable? Do you kinda sorta like Cat now, especially after her game appearance last week on Watch What Happens? How badly did Mary want to slap that girl for declaring that she was the oldest Housewife of them all?