There's no NeNe, but Cynthia is throwing yet another launch party for herself, and Kenya is starting random drama, so all is as it should be with the Real Housewives of Atlanta.

By Jodi Walker
November 09, 2015 at 03:05 AM EST

The Real Housewives of Atlanta

S8 E1
  • TV Show
  • Bravo

With NeNe (and NeNe’s wigs) gone, it quickly became clear who the producers have cast as the new RHOA anchor in season 8: meet your new star, Cynthia Bailey of The Bailey Agency School of Fashion and Probable Money Laundering, everyone!

Now, this is a terrible decision. An insane decision. Every part of Cynthia’s personality has been crafted like a fine pair of her luxury eyewear to adapt to whoever she happens to be sidekicking for that season. And Cynthia is a great sidekick — she’s beautiful, she nods like a champ, and she has a terrible husband, so that makes for perfect girl talk. But, as discovered last season, when given the chance to shine on her own, it turns out that Cynthia is just kind of mean, while simultaneously being a total pushover.

So, yeah, terrible decision for the narrative of this show. But — but! — if you’ve ever read my coverage of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, you know there’s hardly anything I love more than watching Cynthia Bailey try to act (maybe watching Kandi eat chicken fingers while the world blows up around her, but it’s close). I was near giddy as I watched Cynthia in her new Joan Collins eyebrows try to adopt the emotions of a woman scorned like she was the lead on a Shonda Rhimes show. But without the smart trenchcoat and ability to emote and speak words at the same time, the glare of the producers’ cue cards in her pupils was simply too distracting to find her anger believable.

Here’s the deal: A video surfaced that features Crusty Peter chatting up a woman, his face smushed against hers and his hand on her neck, eventually traveling down for a boob graze. All I can notice during this video is that Peter and the woman are wearing the exact same button-up blouse. But all Cynthia can think about is the shit she’s going to have to take from the other women (considering she spent all last season running her mouth about Phaedra’s marriage) about her philandering husband. Atlanta’s No. 1 catalog model/sunglasses mogul doesn’t seem nonplussed by the boob graze itself — Peter can fondle as many women as he wants (Gross. Gross, gross, gross, I’m so sorry I said that) — just don’t let it end up on Instagram.

Clearly Cynthia’s rocky marriage to Peter will own her story line this season, but it felt a little like the editors were trying to throw in some drinking drama too — that fishbowl of oaky chardonnay barely left her hand the entire premiere. It was like a damn episode of Cougar Town (RIP) up in there. Speaking of perfect segues…

Porsha has a new boyfriend of one month, and this is what she tells Phaedra about him while they snack on a tray of Kroger’s finest prepared foods: He’s 24, she met him on social media, he contacted her through her “booking” email, and she claims not to have seen his penis. Modern romance! Since she lives an hour outside of the city (what the hell, this is not The Real Housewives of Kennesaw), she rents a hotel to see his penis for a little romance when he comes to visit. Which brings about my favorite scene of the premiere: she tells him that she asked the hotel for the finest bubbly they had and then holds it up and says, “I think it’s called Cupcake.” Y’all. Cupcake. What fresh Holiday Inn Express hell is this?

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Not all life changes can be as exciting as Porsha macking on a recent college graduate (okay, okay, he plays for the Bills), but a few other milestones are also occurring: Kandi and Todd are having a baby, and Kenya has just bought a house.

Or rather, Kenya has bought something in the shape of a house. She bought it in foreclosure, but it looks like the house just kind of gave up and went ahead and foreclosed on itself. It looks more like a modern construct you’d see in the hills of L.A. than the suburbs of Buckhead, but Kenya sees promise in it and thinks it will only take three months to fix it up. But we know there is only one reason Kenya bought this house: It’s just down the street from Château Sheree, unfinished home of season 8 returning cast member, Sheree.

Cynthia may be the producer’s pet, but Kenya has always been their favorite mistress. Not only will she do anything they want, but she’ll do it with conviction, as evidenced by her upcoming display at Cynthia’s sunglasses party.

NEXT: Sunglasses by Cynthia, Outbursts by Kenya…

Have I mentioned Cynthia Bailey Eyewear? The logo looks like a butt, but everyone seems pretty into the frames. Mal comes into town for the brand’s launch party and to have a frank pre-party discussion with her sister about how revolting Peter is. Mal asks Cynthia if she’s attracted to Peter, “even with his clothes off.” Cynthia responds no, she’s not, and wonders if “loving someone is not the same as being attracted to them” with all the sincerity of a toddler who’s still trying to understand why the dog can poop outside but she can’t.

You know what, this premiere is kind of gold. And Kenya almost makes it through all two hours without ruining the bliss that comes along with bashing Peter.

Cynthia wonders if Peter will make it to her party because apparently Peter is hand-battering every chicken wing himself over at his Charlotte sports bar. But he does make it to the rooftop party, the Atlanta skyline reflecting gloriously upon his noggin. Kenya has been manning the door of the party with all the dutifulness of a second cousin tasked with handing out the programs at a wedding, and while all of the ladies seem to be on friendly terms this season and get through it without a hitch, Peter does not. He approaches Kenya in a defensive tizzy, joking about the incriminating video and cursing all over his wife’s event, so I don’t really blame Kenya for being annoyed. I do blame her for what comes later.

Mal and Kenya relay the weird Peter confrontation the other women, and Mal adds on that her sister is utterly revolted by Peter’s naked body, and even the women who signed on to air their dirty laundry on national television are like, “Uh, that might be a little too much dish on your sister, girl.” You might be wondering where Cynthia is during all of this. She’s wandering around her walk-in closet like Mariah Carey on Cribs. When she finally makes her grand entrance, descending down the staircase into the crowd, she does at least look fabulous. She then sweeps her sparkly caftan over her shoulder to reveal she’s wearing a bikini underneath, and while there’s no denying her ass, there is denying that this is any kind of pool party, or that anyone else in attendance is wearing anything even remotely resembling resort wear.

No, the thing everyone is wearing is white. What we have here, is some very subtle symbolism that becomes perfectly clear when She by Sheree enters the party in all black. I’ll be honest, I was a much more casual viewer of this show when Sheree was on it — a time, it should also be noted, when Kenya was but a glimmer in Bravo’s pocketbook eye — so I don’t have a lot of background feelings on her. (Feel free to school me in the comments on any Machiavellian scheming I didn’t pick up on.) But it seemed to me like Sheree came in, greeted everyone with enthusiasm, was cordial as Kenya — a stranger — informed her that they’re “neighbors” now; was confused as Kenya started talking about how everyone in the neighborhood hates Sheree because she’s been building her house for four years; and was understandably angry when Kenya started screaming about how Sheree’s “bitch ass can’t move in yet.”

Yes, Sheree floated out a few “bitch asses” herself, but she didn’t know she’d come to this party to be judged by her ineptitude at house-building immediately upon arrival. (It seems like the other women were also a little thrown by the random escalation, if their dramatic straw-sucking is anything to go by — all those lipstick-covered cocktail appendages deserved a “friend of the housewives” credit by the end of this fight.) I guess we’ll just have to wait three months to see if Kenya is really the HGTV-style renovation master that she claims she is. Until then, she should probably be a little nicer to Sheree, because she might need to borrow that air mattress.

So, what did you think of RHOA‘s season 8 premiere? Are you confused by the addition of Sheree? Do you miss NeNe’s presence? Are you attracted to Peter in the nude? And, given the chance, whose unfinished McMansion would you rather squat in? Plus, next week: TOOTIE.

Episode Recaps

The Real Housewives of Atlanta

NeNe, Kandi, Cynthia, Phaedra, Kenya, and Claudia keep the ATL just peachy.
  • TV Show
  • 10
  • In Season
  • Bravo