The Real Housewives of Atlanta recap: 'Tea With a Side of Squashed Beef'
Mama Joyce's crazy rings craziest in another episode full of all kinds of other crazy.
First things first, Nene is still wearing that wig; that was not a one time thing. Now that that’s out of the way, a question: Has there ever been a television villain as terrifying as Mama Joyce? I’m trying to recall… Wile E. Coyote was pretty conniving, right? I think Vince McMahon is a bit of a nuisance. Mr. Burns has that menacing finger thing. I’m positive King Joffrey was kind of a twit, but when I hold any of these bad guys next to Mama Joyce, with her mood swings, hatred for all things not her, haunting “low voice,” and ability to manipulate even the smartest of business women into cowering piles of “that’s just how my mama is” goo, all the TV villains that came before her seem about as threatening as Nene by Nene Leakes is to Marc by Marc Jacobs.
Tonight was about more than just Mama Joyce and Kandi, of course; as the title will tell you, it was mostly about squashed beef, which sounds disgusting. So, family manipulation (Kandi), family neglect (Phaedra), and the conference room meeting held between Nene, Porsha, Cynthia, and Kenya—where all the titular beef was squashed into a mincemeat pie as effective as that accidental one Rachel made on Friends—all fit right in.
But even among all of that skin-crawling, beefy narrative, no scene can ever trump a Mama Joyce scene when it comes to pure terror. When that woman hits the screen, my tongue somehow starts to feel like it’s wearing a sweater and I swear I can smell toast; and yet, I’m horrifyingly fascinated by…
The Degradation of Kandi Burruss
What has happened to Kandi? I can confess, even as your trusty (biased, snarky, often wrong) recapper that I was a little late to the RHOA game. By the time I hit the scene, I had watched a few other Real Housewives series, and assumed Atlanta would be much of the same. I was surprised to find that the women of the Atlanta incarnation, more than any other group, seemed to be chosen because they had careers, drive, and if nothing else, an entrepreneurial spirit about them. These women could turn a weave line out of a paper bag in between being lawyers or models, and none more successfully than Kandi Burruss. I mean, the woman wrote “No Scrubs” and has a sex toy line that’s a play on her own name—that’s some American dream shit. Or, it was.
Beginning with last season, when Kandi’s mother first began to reveal her true colors, Kandi also began to reveal hers: a smart woman who simply cannot say no to her mother, a woman who deserves the word “no” more than any other on a show full of women that frequently bring their own props to dinner parties and wear high-water, wide-legged pants. Out of some kind of destructive gratefulness that alters her ability to hear reason, Kandi just can’t help but let her mother walk all over her in the same shoes that she occasionally threatens to beat Kandi’s best friends up with.
That understandable, but ill-conceived respect will likely be her demise, as made clear in this episode. It kicks off with Kandi and Mama Joyce arriving at her Aunt Nora’s to have lunch with the Old Lady Gang after Kandi has just spent hundreds of thousands of dollars buying Joyce a second house after she let her boyfriend play Whack-a-Fixture in the last house Kandi gave her, and then told her she didn’t like it anymore.
Mama Joyce seems just on the edge of not totally irritated by this purchase, but insists that Kandi can’t have a key to the house because she doesn’t have a key to Kandi’s (presumably for fear that she’d melt down her candlesticks and skin all of her pink velvet couches). One of Kandi’s aunts—who aren’t psychopaths, but also constantly force Kandi to make up with Mama Joyce, so yada, yada, by proxy, yada—says, “Let’s eat before y’all start discussin’ ‘bout the keys and the mens and the walkin’ nekkid,” which is kind of an OLG play on the actual mission statement of this show: “Let’s drink before we verbally eviscerate one another and start pretending like we don’t know the word “apologize.”
NEXT: Keep your mother-in-law’s thoughts to yourself, Kandi…
Kandi resists telling her mother about the heated conversation in New York with Todd’s mom for about two seconds, before she directly tells Joyce that Sharon said she wanted to punch her in the face. Because, apparently, Kandi is now a completely self-destructive person who can’t resist repeating every single thing ever said to her and will stop at nothing to shred the already tenuous bonds of her marriage. Mama Joyce takes the news well and concedes that she should indeed apologize because, while Sharon has otherwise proved herself to be a reasonable person, she herself has been acting like a greedy, happiness-hating lunatic for at least the last five years of her daughter’s life, and certainly the entirety of her relationship with Todd.
Aw, I’m just kidding y’all. She says, “She better not come like no cabbage,” and her sister clarifies: “Don’t come all head and no ass.” This is a family of pod people.
Later, at the Kandi Factory, Kandi explains to Todd that not only is she trying to ruin their personal lives, she would also like to be seen as a shoddy businesswoman from now on, if at all possible. She decided to take her play, A Mother’s Love—which I don’t think was critically panned or anything, but that was likely mostly due to it being a two-night Atlanta nonentity—on a 26-city tour, outsourced the promoting, and is now faced with not even half of the seats being sold. That’s the buffer she offers before telling Todd that she told her mother about the punching threat, and I think Todd speaks for all of us when he says, “But really, do you think you should have told your mom that?”
She’s immediately defensive in the way that 5-year-olds explaining why they put the cat in the dryer are, but Todd is over trying to work out the drama between their two families. And that’s just the thing…they don’t all have to be one family. They’re two families. So, your mothers don’t get along? Just split the holidays. But Todd goes on to explain that the lingering problem is that, given a preference, he’d like a restraining order, a guard dog, and Kenya’s scepter between him and Mama Joyce at all times, and Kandi should be able to understand that. Spoiler alert: She does not, and likely never will.
“Goodbye… get your mama together.” – Todd
In less doomed storylines, Cynthia takes Claudia to get a makeover with Derek J while unapologetically wearing a pastel pink golfer’s cap and talking about how sad it is when pretty girls don’t contour their faces within an inch of their lives. Poor, pretty Claudia. Her mother and paternal grandmother come to town tonight, so he takes them and her new ‘do to Lips, a restaurant operated by drag queens, and of everything that happens there, I am most shocked by her 90-year-old grandmother cruising up the steps of the restaurant like Rocky Balboa. Perhaps Cynthia should trade fashion tips (“I know it feels wrong, but use as much of the metallic blue on your eyes as possible”) for walking tips from Claudia’s grandmother (“Why are you walking like that? Just walk faster. Don’t you teach people how to walk for your livelihood? Walk faster!”).
While Cynthia was forcing Claudia to get her hair curled, she got a text from Nene—and she is up to something. Earlier we saw her telling Porsha that she wants Porsha, Cynthia, Kenya, and herself to all gather together to squash their issues, but she conveniently leaves Porsha’s name out of the text she sends Cynthia, simply telling her to “bring [her] girl, Kenya.” Cynthia gets that warm feeling in the pit of her stomach that can only come with Peter saying, “I’m going out of town for a week,” and the prospect of a storyline she doesn’t have to create herself.
Her girl Kenya is busy searching for an office space for her flourishing empire. What empire, you ask? Why, the empire she’s created in her head after just one meeting with Roger Bobb where he told her, sure, they could work on something together, without actually establishing any real ideas, projects, timeframe, or voice inflection that would imply he actually had any intention of working with her. So, that’s totally grounds for thinking you need a huge office space and two new assistants, and not at all a sad delusion of being a “mogo.” And neither is Cynthia calling Kenya and telling—not asking—Kenya to come to what’s sure to be a beautiful reunion between herself and Nene. Kenya is not a lot of things (subtle, quiet, capable of wearing a decent pair of pants), but she’s a fearsome combination of smart and shady, and she knows a set up when she hears one. She’s prepared for Porsha to be there. Waiting. Smugly waiting.
NEXT: Squashed beef soup with a side of vodka…
As all of this nonsense happens for show, Phaedra is still going through the very real drama of her husband waiting to be issued a prison sentence and not using every second of his remaining free time with his two children who happen to be two of the most precious little nuggets around. We can all say what we want about the way that Phaedra entered her marriage or the things she’s lied about in the past, but we can’t possibly presume that she intended for Apollo to show this much disregard for his responsibility as a father. However, while I agree with the sentiment, I do wish she would stop saying “love is a verb, not a noun.” Because, well, it is a noun.
Finally, Nene gathers the four housewives of the apocalypse at a restaurant they all think is beneath them, which is ridiculous, because anywhere can pour tonic into vodka, and that is really their only requirement for a food establishment. Well, that and giant conference tables where they can conduct the business of their friendships. Right now, business relations are tense. Nene and Porsha arrive first and seat themselves on one side of a rectangular table; when Kenya and Cynthia arrive, everyone screams “Heeeeeeeeey,” and “Yaaaaaaaas,” like they simply could not imagine anything more fun than what is sure to be two hours of pointless arguing, and then seat themselves on opposite ends of the rectangular table instead of across from the other two. Everything is absurd.
And it just gets more absurd as they pair off to squash all of their beef. I wish they would fall over like that reporter who tried to squash grapes, but instead they kind of round-robin it. You may remember that a few episodes ago, Cynthia and Nene established that they could forgive each other and move on to being friends who forever lament that they once loved each other like sisters, but Nene would need some time (to torment Cynthia with the dangling carrot of her friendship), while Cynthia was ready to snap back into her rightful home like one of those birds that lives on top of cattle… well, they have that exact same discussion tonight and it once again ends with Nene permitting Cynthia to give her kisses. Friendship!
The whole time they were conversing, Kenya was annoyingly butting in with comments, and when she attempts to do the same thing while Cynthia and Porsha squash their pretend beef over the time Porsha was late to lunch and Cynthia was dressed like the beatboxer in a collegiate a cappella group, Porsha snaps and tells Kenya she’s “rude as a mother f–ker.” Nene tells Porsha to settle down and asks Kenya if she can have good energy while going about an attempted squashing with Porsha. Kenya says she’s already forgiven Porsha, to which Porsha responds, “Was I asking for forgiveness?” because Porsha is a seventh grader in a wig. Kenya says they all have things they’ve said that they should be ashamed of, and they need to acknowledge that, and dammit, no one makes me feel forced to side with Kenya quite like Porsha.
Porsha says that she acknowledges that her actions at the reunion were a choice, which is basically like saying, “I acknowlege that at some point every night I fall asleep,” but that’s enough for Kenya to get up, walk the football field to the other end of the table and ask for a hug like the fake bigger person she is. She then proceeds with the squashing in the name of a paycheck: “I’m over this, I forgive you, I take full responsibility for my part…and I’m willing to move on.” Porsha says, “If you’re accepting it, I can,” and for goodness’ sake, please let that “I can” mean that she can also accepts responsibility, and not that if Kenya accepts responsibility, she can give her hug. Either way, she gives her a hug. And with all the beef sufficiently squashed into a fine, meaty powder, the restaurant owner walks over to see if they have any interest in dancing on the bar later.
They laugh and laugh, and slurp their vodka tonics like they simply couldn’t imagine ever being classless enough to dance on a table at a bar… that’s where they do all their best screaming, after all.
Next week: Ladies Love Roger Bobb; the Mean Girl Hazes the New Girl; and the Bailey-Thomases Expand Their Empire to the Dump
The Real Housewives of Atlanta