'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' recap: 'Drama Detox'
I don’t know what’s happening. I did not think this day would come, and I’m not sure if I’m willing to accept it. On a scale of sane to 10, the women of RHOA have been hovering somewhere around an eight (fighting about ass exercise DVDs) on their best days this season, and a 10 (scepter-induced anger rage blackouts) when under high stress. But tonight, with Nene safely tucked away in New York City, and the other women—including Demetria, who is a human that exists—operating under jet lag and the calming effects of whatever laxative teas they’re sucking down, they were operating at a solid five. They only broke anywhere from two to 18 glasses! I don’t know if it’s boring or not, but it is different.
Watching Nene walk out of that counseling session last week was a little bit like smacking myself in the face with a sock full of pennies. It was extremely frustrating, less because of the results, and more because I decided to inflict the pain on myself. Over the course of this season, I’ve come to expect a level of lunacy that has numbed me to the concept that any part of the Real Housewives’ reality is real, and yet I still get annoyed when everyone comes through on their contractual promises to act a complete fool. But tonight, the women employed the most typical of Housewives moves—a group trip with people you can’t stand—and actually managed to produce different results: Kind of being able to stand each other.
With new girl Claudia and her pocket-sized Zen for Dummies at the helm of the Philippines trip, it almost feels like we’re embarking on a new RHOA era (in the eighth season, I know, I know). Phaedra occasionally spoke words without icy steam coming out of her mouth in response to people constantly apologizing to her; Kenya’s laser focus while trying to mend bridges and be considered a good guy, in comparison to the flashback of her trouble-stirring Anguilla temper; Porsha only screaming for everyone to hush-up hushing her one time at dinner… I don’t agree with the harshness of calling Nene a “cancer,” but I do agree that once the ever present fear that she might show up to dinner in full Ronald McDonald hair and makeup is eliminated, there was a certain weight lifted off the staged, scripted, and contractually agreed upon proceedings of tonight.
The first night in the Philippines feels a little bit like maybe the RHOA cast can actually turn their rubber band ball full of disaster plot points around before the season is over. It also feels a lot like none of these women had ever heard of the Philippines before this. They keep using buzz words like “zen” and “hippie retreat,” which, yes, is specifically what they’re doing while they’re in the Philippines, but really makes me wish the producers would put these seven women and their notable asses in a jeepney in downtown Manila at rush hour and see how their Atlanta city girl status holds up then.
Since tonight was such a pivotal episode, but too busy setting up reconciliations from two years’ worth of fighting to actually facilitate any plot developments, let’s use our recap space as strategically as Porsha uses her arrival outfits at international airports: Ranking the least RHOA things that happened tonight from “I’m mad because that whore called me a whore, so I’m going to tell a large group of women that she’s a whore” to “United Nations Peace Summit/I swear, I laughed with them not at them twice”:
Why be so nasty and so rude in Atlanta when you can be so nasty and so rude in New York in two different accents? Nene’s story line is at the top of the list mostly because while everyone else was getting their peacemaking-via-enema on in the Philippines, Nene was getting the kind of reality check that only New York City can really supply. After all her nonsense last week, watching Nene’s disaster of a meeting with the creative director of Cinderella (and her seeming ignorance to just how much of a disaster it was) felt a little like vindication—for us, and Dr. Jeff, wherever he may be. I could almost hear him cackle as the creative director looked on in polite horror while Nene bumbled her lines in a mock-British accent and informed him that, in fact, she “would like to use two accents.”
It looks like the full pressure of Broadway won’t actually overwhelm Nene until next week, so for now, Gregg makes her close her eyes and walks her over to the Cinderella marquee that has “Nene Leakes” written on it in big, bold letters, because, well, that is actually very cool. Say what you will about Nene, she has taken everything she possibly could from this show and run to the best agent Bravo money could buy as fast as her Louboutin shuffle step could take her.
A Room Fit for a Frenemy Only The Real World equals RHOA in the amount of suspense drawn from who will get what room when out on a trip. But tonight, Claudia only goes out of her way to assign one room, the biggest, to Phaedra because she’s been having a hard time lately. And Phaedra is openly touched by the gesture. This was the first moment where I started to get nervous that I had lapsed into an alternate reality while taking my Sunday afternoon nap. (This is still high ranking on typical RHOA behavior due to the fact that I guess we’re to believe that Claudia’s radio host salary is paying for this trip… yeah, OK)
“I don’t drink coffee, but I’m sure my butt sure wouldn’t mind a sip.” –Phaedra
Forgive and Forget, And Once More With Feeling Going into this trip, just about every single person has some beef with someone, including the normally beef-less Kandi. I commend Kandi and Phaedra for valuing their relationship and talking it out like adults, but did they have to do it during what could have been a perfectly relaxing foot massage? Kandi is annoyed with Phaedra because after she thought they had made up (Kandi really only needs to hear “we’re cool” to move on) she’s still hearing that Phaedra is talking to other people about their relationship. Phaedra tells Kandi that when Nene and Porsha check up on her and ask her if she’s heard from Kandi lately, she just tells them the truth: no. Kandi says that’s the problem, that putting anything out into the group is going to be misconstrued into them having this huge issue. They don’t argue about who’s right and who’s wrong, they just decide they have to engage more and communicate better.
Side Note: Kandi has never taken a yoga class? That woman will go to the greatest of lengths to avoid expending any energy that doesn’t directly result in making money or having sex, and I really appreciate her focus. Her falling asleep in said yoga class also speaks to me on a spiritual level.
NEXT: The ladies sit down to dinner, no one leaves, and only one of them yells…
It’s like everyone was slipped a Xanax and a new personality tonight. I kid you not, this is a quote from Phaedra: “In any relationship, there’s going to be some moments that you’re disappointed and you want more than the other person is willing to give. That’s just life and… our friendship is strong enough to move past it.” Kandi reminds Phaedra that it also seems like she’s also been “strong enough” to move past Nene acting like a jerk to her for a pretty long time and become besties in her time of need, so doesn’t it seem like she should be able to do that with Cynthia and Kenya, as well? (See next slide.)
I’m so used to titling these “The Group Dinner from Hell,” I don’t even know what to say about this one… “The Group Dinner from a Manila-Induced Temporary Happy Place?” A lot of this episode is spent following the women from their 20-hour flight to getting over their jet lag to exploring the spa where they’re staying in pairs, which only leaves time for one group activity: the dreaded group dinner where everyone arrives late, picks fights, and acts like they’re “just putting things on the table.” But tonight, Claudia is in charge, and she seems to really have her sights set on helping everyone make amends. She mixes up the seating arrangements, she makes sure she’s in a good place with everyone before they get there, and she sneaks in some contraband alcohol and chicken so everyone can be at their most comfortable: eating chicken and drinking alcohol.
I don’t think that Nene has caused all of the problems among these women, but I do think it makes sense that they’re a lot calmer when she’s not around. Nene not only always wants to be the boss, she inspires people who don’t like her to not want to allow her to be the boss. And that just results in everyone trying to be the boss, even those who aren’t fit for it (ahem, Cynthia). Claudia took the lead at this dinner, and yes, she went a little a lot heavy on the “do the work” stuff, but she wasn’t operating with her own agenda (excluding the always present agenda to get screen time, another season, and a title, i.e., The Peacemaker). Everyone has a nice time in the beginning, joking around and using their absurdly formal outfits as something to talk about; the group actually applauds Cynthia and Porsha after they share a drink, but they probably wouldn’t be clapping if they heard Cynthia talking about how much more fun Porsha is when she’s “off her leash” in her interview. Cynthia, girl, please stop embarassing yourself like this!
Claudia takes the opportunity to say that she wants everyone to be able to go home from this trip and look back and pictures and remember it fondly, without having it tainted by bad blood. And then she—record screech—asks Cynthia and Phaedra if they have any tension they want to address. Of course they do. The last time they shared a meal together, Phaedra left before the saltines arrived, and the time before that, Cynthia told everyone that Phaedra was cheating on her husband and sexting with “some African dude named Chock-let.” So, I was really annoyed when Claudia decided to ruin their perfectly good time, but it ended up going not as terribly as these things normally do. I mean, yes, Cynthia apologizes to Phaedra and Phaedra offers no indication that she shares any desire to make ammends; and yes, Porsha giggles in the silence of Phaedra not forgiving Cynthia, gets shushed, gets mad that she got shushed, yells some, and shuts up in time for Phaedra to respond that she doesn’t have anything to say to Cynthia.
But—but!—that all leads to Keny earnestly (I guess) telling Phaedra that it’s been frustrating reaching out to her to try and apologize when it feels like Phaedra will never be willing to engage. There’s an excellent flashback to Phaedra pumping her breasts in the middle of Kenya trying to apologize to her in Savannah last season. Then Phaedra calmly expresses to Kenya that even if she wanted to make amends, she just can’t believe that Apollo was lying about all the Kenya stuff after everything she’s seen and heard. And that is a tricky place to be because I’m not even involved in these messy lies, and I don’t know what to think about Apollo claiming he was lying about lying about lying, or whatever. And in a very normal human response, Kenya says that she’s never going to be able to set the record straight if Phaedra won’t listen to her and that needs to be done in a private setting—and Phaedra agress that she would like to have that conversation. Phaedra! And Kenya! I’m not messing with you here, guys, this was some mostly-rational and human stuff
And then everyone applauds and toasts their glasses while screaming, “They did the work!” like you do when your friends/enemies agree to have a very normal conversation.
Women Talking Alone With Salads But the realest thing that happened tonight was Phaedra and Claudia, who admit they hardly know each other, sitting down over some salads, and sharing experiences. It’s mostly Claudia opening up to Phaedra about her own painful divorce, but Phaedra doesn’t act like a nightmare during it, which is saying something. When Claudia directly asks Phaedra something about her divorce, Phaedra says she’s not going to talk about it, but then she opens up ever so slightly about how hard explaining the Apollo situation to Ayden has been and even gets a little emotional. It’s (mildly, slowly, almost) moving stuff.
The RHOA Ass Bracket (alternate title: March Assness) Oh, scratch that, the realest thing that happened tonight, was that after everything was said and done—after Phaedra and Kandi decided to work on their relationship, after Phaedra opened up the tiniest amount to Claudia, after Kenya and Phaedra agreed to talk about every vile thing they’ve ever said about each other—these women sat around a dinner table, talked about their asses, and laughed over cocktails. Not a single pocketbook was waved.
What did you think of RHOA attempting to turn over a new leaf? Is it about time, too late, or is a redemption arc not something you’re interested in watching? As for me, I think I caught a glimpse of Nene actually showing a little bit of vulnerability next week, so I’ll see you then.