The Real Housewives of Atlanta premiere recap: '50 Shades of Cynthia'
The pots, they are a-stirring, the bones have been collected, and the shade is in the midst of being launched with the subtle force of a T-shirt cannon — RHOA is back, baby, and the wigs are more bountiful and riper for throwing than ever before.
Listen, after nine seasons of something, any recapper could grow a little weary. But I got a thrill watching the season 10 premiere, like maybe this season could be something special. (Narrator: It would not be something special.) All the hallmarks of female friendship were there: mentally moving on from two friends accusing you of a made-up sexual assault while also trying to balance motherhood, a thriving career, and the revival of your ’90s girl group; questioning the validity of someone’s new marriage because of their George Glass-style tendency to make up boyfriends; and gossiping in kitchens over Prosecco I am confident tastes like a peach pit that got lost in some potpourri in between McMansion moves.
Indeed, Phaedra is gone but not forgotten, Nene is back but not the boss, Sheree has invested in an even larger duffel bag in which to collect her bones, Kenya has married an unnamed question mark, Kandi has gone full Annie-the-Chicken-Queen, and Porsha is…podcasting? Most importantly, Cynthia is throwing herself a 50th birthday party that is not only months after her actual birthday, but for which she has asked everyone to dress up as variations of herself. It’s an incredible power move by the only person on this show who is not constantly trying to grab power, which makes it all the more charming. I would like to immediately throw such a party for myself, but I’m afraid everyone would show up looking like a high school drama teacher in a Ronald McDonald wig.
My only criticism of Sunday’s premiere is: NO OPENING CREDITS??? We just march right into the Old Lady Gang restaurant with no warning that Li’l Todd is suddenly going to be carrying around every chair he can find to look busy while Kandi attempts to pull off bangs. As already mentioned, she’s trying to move past that whole thing with Phaedra and Porsha last year, and goodness, I hope that means we can stop talking about it at some point in the near future. In good news, we get to see a clip of Baby Ace, who seems to have turned into a 3-year-old in a matter of months. In terrible news, at the mention of Baby Ace, I realize that no Phaedra this season means no Ayden and Dylan this season. I wept.
Everyone else makes their entrance into season 10 in pairs. Nene heads to Cynthia’s new house on the lake to do what Nene Leakes does best: talk mad s— and say “hunny” every other word. Nene just looooves working in L.A., but it’s always good to be home in Atlanta because she loves the paycheck people. Nene and Cynthia immediately start talking about the news that Kenya eloped and we get our first mention of — DRINK! — The Blogs. Truly, season 10 has begun.
Cynthia seems excited for Kenya, but Nene wants to see a marriage license. Luckily, Cynthia informs her that Kenya is on her way over, “and she’s going to walk in here and produce some kind of receipts.” Kenya does not, in fact, produce receipts, but they do adjourn to the patio for a toast and a signature Cynthia Bailey spread, which is to say, two different plates of the same kind of grapes. That is somehow later outdone by a cup of Twizzlers and a tray of Ritz crackers in the dressing room at her birthday party — never change, Cynthia.
Kenya, who knows Nene will be looking for any excuse to doubt her, plays coy about her new husband’s name by refusing to call him anything other than “Baby,” which, ew. But calling mystery men exclusively by a gross nickname does have a longstanding history in this franchise. Nevertheless, Kenya swears that she’s married now, with her ring as the only receipt because she didn’t even invite family to the elopement, for fear that her father might say something to tarnish the happy day. And even though listening to Kenya’s dad speak is like waiting for the last drop of deep conditioner to make its way to the top of a bottle you forgot to leave sitting upside down, I did appreciate their honest conversation later in the episode where he expressed support and excitement for his daughter’s new marriage.
Kenya says that despite “cutting off half her nose,” Nene is still a nosy mess, which is actually pretty decent shade for Kenya, but I’m going to have to agree with Nene regarding Kenya’s speedy nuptials: “It’s the weirdest s—.”
And speaking of weird s—, people are asking Porsha for advice on a new podcast as the woman literally proves herself incapable of successfully drinking a glass of apple juice. In my nightmare scenario, we have to listen to Porsha pick at a fried chicken dinner with her hands while she prepares for her sister Lauren and their cousin to come over. After they record the podcast, Lauren asks what Porsha’s communication has been like with Phaedra since Phaedra was exposed for completely making up that Kandi wanted to sexually assault Porsha — a story line that Porsha refers to as “the events of last year with a very close friend of mine,” “the whole big situation with Phaedra,” and “the whole ordeal,” in an acrobatic avoidance of accountability impressive even for her. (Recap continues on page 2)
Porsha says that Phaedra texted her for her birthday, but they mostly haven’t communicated. As she understands it, “what she did to me is something she felt like she had to do to get back at Kandi,” which is simply an insane lens through which to view Phaedra’s lies. But perhaps more insane is that Porsha goes on to use the word “collateral” with 80 percent accuracy when explaining how Phaedra used her. As for Kandi, Porsha “had meant to call her,” but she knows that Kandi needs time, “and I’m ready to allow time to heal this whole situation.” Yes, Porsha. Time is definitely an even trade for the groveling apology Kandi is owed.
Nene thinks she might also be due an apology from Porsha, as she tells Sheree at her new boutique, Swag Boutique. After Sheree evaluates Nene’s new business venture, she says it’s cute but not as upscale as her own former boutique. And y’all, I am not exaggerating when I say that the wig She by Sheree wears while talking about how high-end she is rivals Nene’s life-altering tiki hut wig from two seasons ago. I don’t have a piece of tape over my laptop’s webcam because I don’t understand technology, so I would like to take this opportunity to say that if there is anyone out there cyber-spying on me, all will be forgiven and I might even pay you money if you can send footage of me seeing Sheree’s new wig for the first time. It looked like straw having a panic attack.
Anyway, Nene says that she and Porsha haven’t spoken for nearly two years, she thinks, because she gave Porsha the advice that she needed to stop physically assaulting people on their last reunion show together, and Porsha didn’t like it. Porsha never says what started her not being friends with Nene, but she says it’s Nene who’s out there currently talking mess about her, referencing a clip from Watch What Happens Live where Nene said that “Frick and Fraud” shouldn’t be on the show anymore for what they did to Kandi. Porsha explains this to Sheree as they shop for wigs to wear to Cynthia’s Cynthia-themed birthday party, and I don’t know, but I like to imagine it’s where Sheree bought The Wig That Changed My Life.
Finally, it’s time for the 50 Shades of Cynthia party, where Noelle rightly tells her mom that she doesn’t even look 40, let alone 50. She’s trying to rebuild Cynthia’s self-esteem a little bit after she hears from Peter that he’s not coming the party and then proceeds to awkwardly say, “I’m good, I’m good, I’m good,” what I would estimate to be 17,000 times in a row. But who cares if Peter isn’t there — everyone at this party dressed up like her, and they clearly had fun doing it. No one looks better than Kandi, who went as one of Cynthia’s modeling shots where she had her hair rolled with Coke cans. She wins the walk-off and sings the Marilyn Monroe version of “Happy Birthday” to the real Ms. Bailey. But no Housewives party can be all fun (actually, most of them can’t be any fun)…
Sheree insists that Porsha and Nene need to talk out their differences, and you can barely even hear the small producer she keeps tucked into her cleavage at all times. She literally marches Nene and Porsha over to each other and they prepare for battle. And in some ways, Porsha may have the upper hand on this one — she’s been on the show more recently, she’s pathologically incapable of copping to any wrongdoing, and Nene did say she should be fired just a few weeks ago — but there’s just no way Porsha ever comes out on the winning side of this. Porsha thinks she can play with big dogs, and she’s definitely had her share of rumbles, but she still feels like the sophomore who got invited to senior prom and is just barely keeping from vomiting up Arbor Mist in the back of the limo.
Porsha brings up the Watch What Happens Live clip and says she could roll it right now, but Nene says she never said the word “fired” (she technically didn’t — true big dogs always come prepared) and if Porsha isn’t prepared to go back to the beginning of their falling out, then there’s no point in having this conversation. Nene walks away, the episode ends, and I head to bed in anticipation of wig-filled dreams and drama-filled Sunday nights for the duration of this season, which is to say, the next 100 weeks.
What did you think of the season 10 premiere? Would you throw a you-themed birthday party? If you did, how would your friends look? Would anyone have a soda can in their hair, and how much boobage would be on display? Sound off in the comments!