Phaedra and Apollo deal with his prison sentencing and everyone else's self-pity and self-congratulations kind of pale in comparison.
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Hello, my peaches. The Real Housewives of Atlanta is back, and even though I watched Derek J and Miss Lawrence’s car tour through the “shade”iest parts of Atlanta (it was only missing a trip to the actual neighborhood where The Bailey Agency for Models who Model Good formerly resided) in preparation, at the beginning of season 7, I still can’t quite remember who’s friends with whom, which marriages are on the rocks, and how many cycles of best friendship Kenya has been through.

Like most, I can only remember that reunion… THAT REUNION. The reunion that took it there, and made the entire Bravo-viewing audience—or according to Kenya, the world—question their previously steadfast moral standing on violence and megaphones. Luckily, as is it is with the majority of RHOA conflict, the answer to “Who was wrong in that situation?” is easy: everyone!

The theme of tonight’s season premiere seems to be that those naughty actions have consequences. Remember when Porsha thought the Underground Railroad came equipped with a conductor and a dining cart? Well, she’s lost her title card this season, as a result. Okay, that was probably more due to the time she physically assaulted Kenya, but that misconduct also came with a mugshot. And like Season 2 of RHOBH before it, and the current season of RHONJ, it seems like a dark cloud has passed over Atlanta‘s season 7, and that cloud is raining mail fraud, jail sentences, and really sad lingering shots of family photos.

But just because this season starts out on a pretty emotional note dealing with the Nida-Parks’ legal and familial issues, doesn’t mean we aren’t still treated to absurd new opening credit soundbites:

“Why be so nasty and so rude when I could be so fierce and so successful.” I feel like Nene is just setting herself up for “so” much failure here.

“I’m not about the drama—don’t start none, won’t be none.” From anyone else this would be utter fallacy, but from Kandi, it’s mostly true.

“Life is about choices, and I choose Cynthia.” Oh Cynthia… when have you ever chosen Cynthia?

“When it comes to my family, I’m the judge and the jury.” Phaedra, I… don’t know what this means.

“People get exhausted trying to figure me out, and I just let them.” THIS IS TRUE, KENYA, I AM ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE.

Even though a man is sentenced to eight years in prison tonight, the drama is low in comparison to the subject matter; the human emotion, however, is high, and it’s mostly about checking in with what everyone has been up to since we last saw them (lying in a pile in front of Andy Cohen).

Over at the Real Performers of Las Vegas set, Nene is gearing up for her role as the emcee of Cirque du Soleil: Zumanity. It’s a pretty risqué show and she says she’s okay with the nudity, but she’s not really comfortable with talking about sex, which seems counterintuitive to the time last year when she made all of her friends go in a windowless room full of bean bag chairs and talk about sex. But she’s doing what she loves—performing—and what I love her doing most—wearing wigs that are two-parts Martha Washington, one part Ursula from The Little Mermaid.

Kandi is at home, living the newlywed life, getting ready for Todd’s 18-year-old daughter, Kayla, to move in with them. They’re realizing that having their two daughters under the same roof means they’re going to have to meet in the middle on their parenting style, and judging by the guest room with the dresser-that-used-to-be-grandma’s, versus Riley’s quarters that look like the room-version of a Pimp My Ride car, that is going to be a difficult task. But Kandi and Todd have a reasonable conversation about it, which is a nice little strike in the “pro” column for Real Housewives marriages, until…

We check in with Phaedra and Apollo, and I swear, a funeral organ starts playing. But then, comes the best sound and most welcome title card in RHOA existence: “Ayden, 4.” That little nugget is the best, and his severe cuteness, only makes the conflict between his parents more disheartening. Apparently, Apollo gets his own velvet direct-to-camera confessional chair now (I mean, how jealous do you think Peter is?), and as soon as you’re able to pull your eyes away from his statement beard, you’ll realize that he’s explaining his most recent criminal charges: pleading guilty to wire, bank, and mail fraud, and being three hours away from his court hearing where he’ll be charged to up to 30 years in prison for all three.

NEXT: Should she stay or should she go, now…

In what I imagine might be a pretty divisive choice, Phaedra decides not to attend court with her husband and takes herself and the boys to a hotel, she says, to avoid the paparazzi. Apollo says that’s just a cover because there’s no paparazzi outside (confirmed), and I almost feel for Apollo every time he almost admits that he’s wrong, but then he tosses the blame for his crimes on being caught. When he says, “Did Phaedra stop for one second to think that I might not come home,” in complaint about her taking the boys away, it’s really hard not to think, “Did you stop for one second to think that you might go to jail while you were committing crimes?”

At least, that seems to be Phaedra’s argument for not feeling too bad about getting Ayden and Dylan away from the situation for a few days: that Apollo’s actions were selfish, and she needs to protect their sons. But after Apollo has been sentenced to his prison time, and Phaedra comes back to the house, and all he can talk about is how she asked him to pay the mortgage after they got married even though she said she wouldn’t, and how he hasn’t touched any of the money he made (illegally), and a lot of other confusing statements about money and lifestyle, it’s clear that this marriage was doomed way before his criminal activity became public knowledge. Kiss your hope for a follow-up Donkey Booty: Return to Donkey DVD goodbye.

It mostly seems like Phaedra is standing by her man in the barest since exactly until she feels like she has to, and then, as we all know now, giving her “bon voyage.” She says that no one sees her when she’s emotional, or when she cries at night, because if there’s anyone around to see her, they’re only getting her patented pursed lips and clipped statements; as a consummate southern belle, she’s stoic in the face of judgment. It’s a little terrifying. It’s all very sad.

So of course, the cut between these scenes and Porsha in a mono-kini with random people rubbing her body at a photo shoot for her weave line, and Kandi asking her if she’s been letting anyone, ahem, suck on her new, ahem, body parts. The answer is a cackle and a quick derailment to talk about last season’s drama with Kenya. Porsha says she understands that she has to own up to her actions, but she will not be apologizing to Kenya, which either means that Porsha does not understand that she needs to own up to her actions, or she doesn’t understand what “understand” means.

But the most misunderstood Housewife of all, of course, is Kenya, and tonight she has a new BFF: always-the-sidekick-never-the-star, Cynthia. Kenya brings out her signature whisper-voice to tell Cynthia that “being attacked in front of the entire world was humiliating,” not realizing that it’s slightly more humiliating to think that entire world watches three-part RHOA reunion specials. But Cynthia, in violation of her friendship contract with Nene, BFF-less, and confused, is there for Kenya. She took Cynthia’s side during Porsha’s anger-rage-blackout at last season’s reunion show, and says that if Porsha had attacked any of the other women, everyone would have gone to see about the attackee and not the attacker. That is all totally true, and probably a respectable stance, but this best friendship is false, false, false, child. Just because you recognize that someone has been wronged doesn’t mean you should show up with a nice Pinot and exchange poop jokes:

What did the man say who pooped himself on the elevator?

I’m gonna take this s— to another level.

And a few more choice quotes from the premiere:

— “I’m a performer: I act, I sing, I dance, I run businesses—I’m a mogul! Honey, I run everything.” —Nene, without commentary

— “I mean I don’t know law, but she had a warrant so I had to turn myself in.” —Porsha, shockingly not a law expert

— “I am living for this Cynthia. She was so far up Nene’s ass she had her own wing” —Kenya, on Cynthia’s new allegiances

— “We’re still here, we’re still standing.” —Cynthia’s parting words after a very casual lunch with her husband

—Not a quote, but the dramatic footage of Apollo entering his court hearing, coupled with even more dramatic courtroom drawings, capped off with a WetPaint article was quite the editing trifecta.

—“I haven’t brought her no grief.” – Apollo… seriously, Apollo.

So, with Apollo’s final verdict that he’s filing for divorce, and Phaedra’s conspicuous look of relief, it’s looking like this season is going to be a bit of a doozy, with no let-up on the stocky sitations. Hopefully the others will be able to pick up the slack with the puns and reads that RHOA is known for. What did you think of the premiere? Are Cynthia and Kenya going to be the best of pals? Is Nene even technically still a part of this cast? If Phaedra was as unaware of Apollo’s crimes as she says, was her detachment from his sentencing warranted? Finally, was it harder to enjoy with the darker themes, or are you just glad to have the Peach State ladies back in your Sunday night schedule?

Episode Recaps

The Real Housewives of Atlanta
NeNe, Kandi, Cynthia, Phaedra, Kenya, and Claudia keep the ATL just peachy.
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