Kandi's play finally opens to a full house; Kenya deals in less happy fare as she buries Velvet with Cynthia by her side.

By Jodi Walker
Updated April 14, 2014 at 11:48 AM EDT
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  • Bravo

I don’t want to paint The Real Housewives of Atlanta as more than it is (I would never!). This isn’t Chaucer, I get that. It’s not even Nora Roberts. That said: The writers and editors did mess with some interesting themes this season, my favorite being the forced dichotomy of our main women. All at once, we’re asked to take them supremely seriously and laugh at like the court jesters they are.

That the show may have done this on purpose is probably more continuity than it should be given credit for. Still, the fact that it was able to bring that contrast to a thematic head in the finale — I’m thinking specifically of the Kenya scene, which had my emotions and conscience on a Juan Pablo-level roller coaster ride — did make me wonder if there might actually be more to making this show than just sitting down with a bag of Baked Cheetos and a ¾ Ocean Spray, ¼ Moscato cocktail and thinking, “All right, what do simple ladies like to watch on the TV these days?” and “How can we make Atlanta look like a city full of industrial warehouses turned into temporary restaurants?”

Eh, probably not.

The season finale opens on the prom king and queen of RHOA, Kandi and Todd, gearing up for the big opening night of A Mother’s Love. Todd walks in on Kandi rehearsing her vocals, and I just cannot get over the men on this show wearing backpacks in everyday life. As if Todd didn’t already have a baby face, he needed to throw in an accessory that goes with a Scooby Doo thermos. Of course, I find it entirely endearing on him because I love Todd. Once Kandi spots her little guy, she starts singing the lyrics to him – “Oh, we gon’ last forever.” It is just precious, and considering the marriage retention rate of the Housewives franchise, entirely foreboding. He tells her ticket sales have been a little slow because “I guess people like ratchet more than what you think.” Honestly, how has this man been on this show a full season and still kept his childlike wonder? I would like to see the world the way Todd does. (This will break him. Andy Cohen has his ways.)

Soft music starts playing, and I already know I’m about to be six different levels of uncomfortable for the next 10 minutes. It’s time for the funeral of Kenya’s dog, Velvet. Cynthia arrives with a funeral-appropriate hairdo and her own very much alive dog, which is either sweet or highly insensitive, depending what Kenya asked her to do. In addition to Aunt Lori, there’s only one other friend there; I think it’s less that Kenya wanted to keep it a private affair and more that not a lot of people are willing to put on their formal Uggs and trek out to a vacant field to go to a dog funeral. Kenya arrives with a tiny urn, wearing what can only be described as a formal version of Carrie’s opening credit tutu outfit from Sex and the City. I guess she only had one black mourning suit, and she used that up last episode.

Here is where things get weird. You could watch this scene one of two ways — or, as I did, with a very emotionally confusing combination of both. The editors have put together the funeral to cut between Kenya — weeping, falling apart, professing her love for Velvet and hope for God’s plan — and Cynthia, who is physically manhandling her dog for the entire dog-eulogy. There are just so many shots of Cynthia comically wrestling that dog that the editors must be trying to detract from the gravity of this dog funeral, which we’re also supposed to take seriously. I can’t be the only person who felt the urge to laugh here…but I also can’t laugh in the face of a beloved dog’s death.

If you think the producers are taking any part of this seriously, note how they air the part of Cynthia’s prayer where she accidentally calls Velvet a “he” and sounds like she’s totally winging it — and maybe even get a little high before delivering it. Velvet does get a sweet video montage, and it is clear she will be missed.

NEXT: All Ayden, all the time…

Official RHOA Poll: Is Ayden the cutest child to ever exist or just the cutest child to ever be on television? If I could just be promised that next season will include one Learnin’ Words with Ayden segment, I would feel so much more confident that Atlanta isn’t going the way of every other Housewives series.

But for now, I’ll take what I can get, which is Ayden (and Apollo, ugh) presenting Phaedra with a congratulatory cake for finishing mortuary school. He wrote “CONGRATS MOM” in icing himself because not only is he a 3-year-old who can read and write, but he also likes to dabble in the decorative culinary arts. (When I was three, I stuck a Tic Tac up my nose in an act of defiance so it’s like, same thing.) Phaedra says, “People who doubted me…look at me now — I have embalmed almost 100 bodies,” because Phaedra is good at a lot of things, but bragging ain’t one of them. Apollo throws out some garbage about her hopefully being able to chill out and return to her old self now. In her confessional, Phaedra responds that men just don’t understand the stress of being a full-time employed person and a mother.

OK, let me stop you right there. First, Apollo doesn’t even understand the stress of being an employed person. I feel like he just goes to the public library and uses free internet all day to do unsavory things. Second, perhaps this is the root of the problem here. Phaedra is under the impression that all men are the worst, when really it’s just most of the men on this show. There are men outside of Apollo Nida and Peter Thomas, and many of them value women as smart, capable human beings, rather than just a bag of boobs. Take your precious children and go forth and find them! Phaedra thanks Ayden for her cake and he says “Just doing my job,” because he is Michelle from Full House if Michelle from Full House hadn’t been evil and a figment of Danny’s imagination.

I realize that I just talked about a toddler for quite a long time, but that’s because I’m pretty uninterested in Porsha finalizing her divorce. I am at least surprised that she decided not to go to court, therefore giving up any spousal support. I guess it’s a respectable move, but her mother really does not seem concerned enough, given her daughter’s proven inability to support herself, make adult decisions, have a third grade understanding of current events, and not touch the stove when she tells her it’s hot. She drops her ring from Kordell into a glass of champagne, and in an unaired scene, immediately dives in after it and sells that sucker on eBay.

NEXT: Basic Instinct…ew.

There is a scene with Cynthia and Peter that may contain adult language, partial nudity, and themes not suitable for human people. I really don’t want to talk about it, but feel a professional duty to inform you that it is horrifying — and again, extremely confusing as to what the editors want us to think about Cynthia. She is trying to put together a romantic surprise for Peter because he’s always giving her fun surprises (Surprise — foreclosure! Surprise — I only value you for sex and I don’t care about your health!). The only good thing is this gives us another chance to see what Cynthia thinks is an appropriate snack spread for an event. (You may remember the 17 bags of Tostitos when she had Arthur and his mother over.) This time, it’s strawberries on a plate with a pile of cheese cubes in the middle, un-iced oysters, a smattering of individually wrapped Ghirardelli squares, and champagne glasses full of cranberry cocktail.

Even that little feast of gems is not enough to remove the brain scarring brought on by Cynthia trying to sexily sit “like Sharon Stone” (Cynthia is sexy; I’m just not sure a vagina flash while being interrogated is the best romantic reference point), and her husband coming in and promptly making fun of her Spanx. She has to coerce him upstairs with all of her best trick,s including waving strawberries around while saying “good and juicy and wet.” It is implied that they will be doing the nasty, and if anyone had been watching me watch this scene, they would have assumed I was being forced to watch a snuff film at gun point.

Finally, the opening day of A Mother’s Love is upon us. It’s especially fun to see Kandi, a woman who is already highly successful and established, so giddy about her new project. Todd is going from crew member to crew member asking, “And how does this work?” while wearing his Gucci Backpack of Power and Curiosity. A few hours before the show, the stage director, lark, tracks down Porsha. Porsha pronounces her name “Lark,” so I guess that is a lower-case “L” and not a capital “i”. I am both confused and impressed.

lark tells Porsha, “If you mess up the songs, you just do what you’ve got to do to make you look right…because otherwise you’re going to look wrong. And we don’t want you to look wrong.” It’s something even a 5-year-old could understand as “Don’t f— this up,” but Porsha manages to construe it as an apology for lark not trusting her. lark, next time, might I suggest some helpful explanatory pictures?

Cynthia and Phaedra arrive with their husbands in tow, and Phaedra makes me wish she hadn’t totally disappeared in the middle of this season: “I would never taser anyone’s parents!” Of course not. There are also a few big names in attendance, including Tyler Perry, whom Kandi lists as her hero. Perhaps her next musical will be about her relationship with him. This one is about her main maternal antagonist, Mama Joyce, and Kandi is feeling nervous for her mother to see a play that’s basically about how crazy she is.

But as MJ wishes her luck, she’s still sporting her new monk-like serenity, probably achieved through a strict regimen of medicine and waking up and watching that clip from the time she almost beat Carmon with a shoe in a bridal salon every day. That might make even Mama Joyce realize that she needs to change her ways.

NEXT: Yada, yada, yada, let’s get to that reunion…

Right before the curtain goes up, Porsha tells us, “Some stars are born, but I was made for this.” Because no one insults Porsha quite like she insults herself. The show has lots of jewel tones and pleather leggings and the music sounds good. Watching a play on TV is never a natural affair, but for a first try, it seems pretty fun. Porsha gets a solo and, boy, does she try hard. And she looks pretty. You can certainly say that she tried and looked pretty.

There are a lot of meaningful shots to the audience: Riley (taller than her mom now!) and Kandi’s dad look proud, the other Housewives look impressed, Todd’s mom has a number of facial impressions that I enjoy but cannot read at all, and Mama Joyce looks like she’s about to poop in her pants, or possibly already has. Nonetheless, after curtain call, she calmly tells Kandi that she loved the play and understands that it wasn’t an attack on her. At this point, it’s Kandi’s decision; they’ll just agree to disagree. Kandi says that’s all she can ask for, and I never thought I’d say this about one of these shows, but I think these women could stand to ask more of other people.

The play ends, and everyone gathers to close out a very, very long season. Well, everyone except Nene, who has had to miss most of this episode because her lung collapsed (we now know that she’s OK). This is how the RHOA producers send their spawn into the Great Off-Season Beyond:

– “Phaedra plans to open a crematorium in Athens, GA. Out of her many ‘jobsssss,’ representing Apollo in his fraud case will not be one of them.” Shaaaaaade. Also, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Will representing herself in her divorce be one of her jobsssss?

– “Porsha received no alimony in her divorce. Rumor has it she’s dating an African tycoon. Not to be confused with Kenya’s!”

By “dating,” does she mean giving an “African tycoon” money because his father was a very wealthy cocoa merchant in Abidjan and he just needs her bank account information to help transfer his fortune to the U.S.?

– “Bar One is still in limbo. Peter is talking to investors about buying the property. Cynthia isn’t one of them.”

There is plenty to not like about the RHOA producers, but I will always appreciate how, above all else, they don’t blink an eye at shaming these women’s shameful husbands.

– “Kenya and her African “prince” are planning to undergo in vitro fertilization in June…unless she gets inseminated the old-fashioned way first.”

1. “Prince”

2. Inseminated

3. I had to watch Kenya go to a sperm bank and now I find this out???

– “Nene is recovered and back onstage Dancing with the Stars. She has no plans to throw a couples night soiree for her Dancing with the Stars castmates.”

I like how that first sentence’s phrasing makes it seem like she’s not one of the “Stars,” but does get to dance with them.

– “A Mother’s Love sold out 5 Atlanta performances. Kandi and Todd are in pre-production on their next big project…an April wedding!”

That they didn’t list the wedding’s air time and date is a level of restraint I didn’t know anyone at Bravo had.

And just real quick: THAT REUNION, WHAT IS HAPPENING, OH MY GOSH. I had heard rumors that Porsha started a brawl on The Blogs, but I just thought it would be something silly. There was nothing silly about that quick glimpse of hair dragging. What do you think will happen on next week’s reunion and can you believe that this season is technically still going?

Episode Recaps

The Real Housewives of Atlanta

NeNe, Kandi, Cynthia, Phaedra, Kenya, and Claudia keep the ATL just peachy.
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