The women were on the verge of bonding, until Sheree of all people retracted her claws.

By Karen Valby
Updated February 20, 2012 at 04:25 AM EST
Credit: Bravo
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Back at the heavenly Shamwari guest house, the reinvigorated Housewives sat down to dinner. NeNe looked weirdly adorable in her baseball cap, Cynthia as relaxed and regal as we’ve ever seen her. The women, united by their tremendous experience in the village and at the orphanage, seemed lighter, individually and as a group. They spoke about the lack of resources they just bore witness to, and the warmth and gratitude of all the people they’d met. “Uh, this shrimp is raw,” said Marlo. “Excuse me waiter. I need the waiter please.” The Smalls—and Cynthia too, of course—shot quick, confused glares at this most confounding woman but didn’t skip a beat. Phaedra pointed out the pettiness of their beefs with one another, what with their blessed lives and labelicious wardrobes back home. “For the first time during this trip I think that we are really truly bonding,” she said. “Here’s to giving!” announced NeNe, which is as unexpected a Real Housewives battle cry if I’ve ever heard one.

Off to the museum for some culture. Sheree and NeNe looked all kinds of adorable laughing and sitting next to one another in the back seat, admiring their view of zebras. How I wish these two were friends again. (Wait, were they ever friends?) A museum tour guide whisked the ladies inside to share with them some local Xhosa culture. I’m going to risk being offensive by daring to suggest though that the pride of Xhosa looked like a well-used mannequin modeling an old school Britches Great Outdoors rugby. To add insult to injury, the poor thing was in a holding position, waiting for some man to come fetch her and drag her home.

Herbalist alert! (Would that the hilariously innocent scene of the Housewives trying to understand his accent—”hep artist?”—went on longer.) Don’t look directly into his sunglasses or you’ll be fetched. He had a little jar full of twigs and sardine juice that he wanted the ladies to smell. Time to read the mysteries of the bones. And by that he meant it was time to spread some souvenir seashells atop a Hefty bag and tell tales. Marlo hasn’t yet found a real man. (Burn, Charles Grant!) Sheree is too old for anyone to love. NeNe is not happy. Oh, and Cynthia’s going to get married. “She’s happy this one,” said the medicine man. “You can tell.” Refund!

That night Marlo invited the women over to the antique wing, that she’d transformed into a showroom of conspicuous consumption. Here was her Coco Chanel section, here Louis Vuitton, over there were 29 pairs of shoes arranged like creepy porcelain dolls watching over the place. Oh yeah, there’s her Holy Bible. Once the women had properly acknowledged her stuff, they indulged in a little slumber party conversating. “What’s your favorite position?” Marlo asked, before demonstrating hers on Kandi. Poor Phaedra clutched the lapels of her silk leopard robe tighter. Nothing bonds a group of women together than a good old-fashioned tea bag conversation. Just as the ladies were relaxing into their giggle, Kandi suggested to Marlo that at first she found her to be little more than a label whore. Hold up, hold up, said Marlo, who didn’t appreciate the idea of being thought of as more than just that. “I love fashion!” she cried hoarsely. “I bleed this s—. I love it!” “You’re screaming,” said Cynthia, fumbling for her camera so she could show everyone pictures of them dancing with the children.

NEXT: Oh captain, my captain.

It turns out the smell alone of a raw shrimp is powerful enough to penetrate Marlo’s immune system. She woke up the next morning with a bad case of the runs. Could NeNe possibly ask her makeup artist to ask her wardrobe person to check with the manager about whether or not he could fly in an American doctor that morning? She didn’t trust the idea of an African doctor. (You do know they’re not all herbalists right, child?) NeNe used her buddy’s bug to beg off from another safari. She donned a pair of latex gloves and then as soon as the cameras cleared out went downstairs to the den to see if the TV got the E! channel. Out on the safari tour, the guide diligently tried to point out some impalas but the Smalls were too excited by the prospect of a defector in their midst. Soon the conversation turned to the notion of Kim on their African adventure. Cynthia and Kandi were having a hard time picturing the Big Z embracing Africa, let alone spending an afternoon dancing and playing and cuddling orphans.

It was almost like NeNe could hear the laughter from Marlo’s sick-bed, so she hopped onto a van to reclaim a Tall. At lunch Kandi started in again on Marlo’s exaggerated personality and NeNe leapt to her defense. Oddly Cynthia was quick to piggy back on Marlo’s behalf, even though she’d spent the earlier part of the day rolling her eyes over Marlo’s tackiness. The Talls were once again firmly separated from the Smalls. NeNe to the left, Captain Kim to the right. Who what now? Why is Kim being spoken about for the second time this episode? “She boss honey,” NeNe told the skeptical Smalls.

I’m guessing the producers put the Smalls up to calling Kim to somehow rope her into this episode. Eww, Sweetie. The conversation was pleasant enough until Sheree took it upon herself to tell Kim that Kandi couldn’t picture her in Africa holding little black babies. What in the…? Kandi and Phaedra looked on in disbelief, flabbergasted by Sheree’s thoroughly unnecessary move. “Of course I would’ve gone,” said Kim. “I would’ve had a blast.” (Orphanages are such rocking parties, y’all. Don’t be tardy.)

And so the stage was set for a tenuous last supper in Africa. Marlo still had the squirts. NeNe had that looking-to-cause trouble in her eye. Sheree looked defensive, and Kandi thoroughly ppeved. They’d barely sat down before Kandi turned to Cynthia asking the woman if she’d said Kim wouldn’t have wanted to go to the orphanage to hold black babies. NeNe’s eyes glinted with delight. “So you all had to get back to report to your all boss?” smirked NeNe. Kandi had had enough of this boss talk, but NeNe’s high horse had already left the barn. If Kandi wanted to reject the boss talk, then NeNe demanded she stop calling Cynthia and Marlo her puppets. “You guys make your own decision?” NeNe asked her Talls, who immediately nodded in agreement. Kandi held her own as best she could against the Talls, and without the help of the disinterested Smalls. Phaedra looked like she wanted to go back upstairs and catch the end of that alligator movie. “I was hoping we would continue being positive and thinking about how blessed we are and being appreciative of all the wonderful things we have back home,” she said, “but that would be too much like right honey. Too much like right with these wrong girls.” Preach.

Next week: Come on now Sheree, you’re cooler than this.

Were you too surprised by Sheree’s dirty move? Does NeNe really buy her defense of Marlo or is she just reflexively siding against the Smalls? What was more depressing—Sweetie’s white-pink lipstick or Kim’s uncombed wig? What did that little baby elephant ever do to NeNe?

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The Real Housewives of Atlanta

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