By Jodi Walker
September 14, 2020 at 01:30 AM EDT
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The Real Housewives of Potomac

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  • TV Show

The Real Housewives of Potomac continue to conquer uncharted territory, and I don’t just mean that they live in a fake town and seem to able to down nine shots of Fireball and wake up the next morning with full lashes, not an undereye bag in sight, and ready to eat a rack of ribs. Karen has truly never looked better than waking up five hours after losing the ability to move her upper and lower jaw in synchronization. It was utterly surreal.

Still, nothing could have surprised me more than seeing a Real Housewife do something never-before-seen in Real Housewives history. It happened when Candiace pulled one of her co-workers to have a private conversation about a hugely sensitive matter that could have very easily fueled the rest of the season’s dramatic arc if she had chosen to discuss it in a group setting, as every Housewife before her has done for generations.

But in the end, it just goes to show that there is no right answer when it comes to our most cherished groups of reality TV women. Because even though Candiace went through multiple avenues to be respectful about delivering the news to Ashley that her husband is the philandering swamp creature we’ve all long understood him to be, someone else in the group still found a way to be mad at her about it. Because the Real Housewives of Potomac stay (as Robyn said) livid and lit — and we simply have to respect them for it.

But let us not forget another group of people who have earned our respect over and over again this season: the producers, camera people, and editors of The Real Housewives of Potomac.

Time and time again, we hear Housewives discussing how drunk they were the night before on a group trip, but we don’t get to see it because…the cameras have a bedtime or union rules, or something? But on RHOP, those producers will fire up their iPhone, strap on a handheld tripod and go the extra mile to make sure that we get to see Karen be drunker than any Housewife I’ve ever seen who I wasn’t simultaneously worried about in a RHONY-sort-of-way. On this particular occasion, Karen was simply ready to get slammed and tell everyone that her husband won’t look her in the eye anymore, and they all need to have a secret bank account and a go-bag, JIC.

Then, of course, there are the camera operators, also working in real-time to make sure we see that when everyone was downstairs singing “Happy Birthday” to Monique, Candiace was upstairs hovering in a doorway, waiting for the celebration of her current enemy to be over so she could go back downstairs.

But no one works harder (or at least smarter) than the RHOP editors who have been seeding this Monique/Candiace feud like an actual horror story all season long, and who — when we needed them most — gave us the evidentiary screenshots and video footage of Michael being a nasty little hobbit all over the District of Columbia on the very same weekend that he pressured his wife to take their infant with her on a girls trip, even though said evidence came from a website so unreliable it doesn’t even seem to exist anymore. For these most generous producers, and more…we give our heartfelt thanks.

So, let’s get into it: something is up with this relationship between Ashley and Michael. I know that’s not stating anything new, and I know it’s not technically any of our business beyond wanting Ashley not to be in a relationship with a reanimated sphincter who tripped his way into some money, but…

Ashley’s reaction to the news that Candiace’s friend sent photos of Michael being at a strip club, touching on “several strippers,” talking about having “a wife AND a husband,” and soliciting someone to come back to his hotel room was…unnerving, to say the least. After Candiace shared those messages with Gizelle last week, Gizelle and Candiace decided to pull Ashley aside and give her the news, rather than expose her at dinner, even though they had every opportunity to when Michael’s “boys weekend” casually came up organically in conversation. “I have learned how to be a better friend to Ashley,” Gizelle says, unbelievably, in her testimonial. (Much more believably, Gizelle exclaims, “I would love that,” when Monique suggests that they get in comfy clothes after dinner, even though she’s already wearing a giant zip-up athleisure jacket and leggings.)

Back at Monique’s lake house, antics ensue around killing bugs and building a bonfire, all the while, Gizelle and Candiace bide their time waiting for Ashley to come back downstairs after putting her baby to sleep. Finally, she does, and once the three of them sit down to talk, Gizelle attempts to soften the blow with some prefaces about respect and friendship, but Ashley is basically just like: spit it out already. So, Candiace hands over her phone, and Ashley scrolls through the friend’s texts herself, reading that Michael was allegedly with several strippers, telling people he had a wife (her) and a boyfriend (unknown), and trying to hook up while his wife was competing in fake beauty pageants in the woods.

Ashley’s face stays very still, she hands the phone back and asks Candiace if her friend is a credible source. Candiace confirms that she’s a very good friend she’s known for years, and asks Ashley how directly she questions Michael about his actions. Ashley tells Candiace she doesn’t just ask him questions, she’s “reading emails, text messages, I sniff underwear, everything.” Apparently, Michael came home smelling like perfume a few months ago, which Ashley didn’t like and was feeling particularly sensitive about while pregnant, so he said he’d stop going to strip clubs.

And now, Ashley is very calmly receiving this information that Michael was wildin’ out at a strip club while she tried to keep their baby, her job, and a group of crazy friends all under control. So, either Ashley is covering up her real feelings about the allegations against her husband because she doesn’t want any of these women to see her sweat…

Or she’s truly unsurprised by this news because she and Michael have an arrangement that makes his going to strip clubs and sleeping with other people okay — and she also doesn’t want the other women to know about that. Either way, Ashley’s brand is and always has been crisis, and she does not even flinch in the face of hearing that Michael is out here in these streets embarrassing her on a seasonal basis. She says she’ll talk to Michael about it when she gets home, and that she really appreciates Candiace delivering the news so respectfully.

But all that respect is for naught because the whole time this private conversation is happening, Monique is outside getting big mad, and big passive-aggressive. She keeps coming back inside while Gizelle and Candiace are waiting to talk to Ashley to tell them that she built this beeeeeautiful fire all by herself, and they’re not even coming out to enjoy it. But by the next morning, Monique’s annoyance has turned to indignation over being disrespected at her own fire pit.

Gizelle has already left early that morning for her literary awards ceremony, which conveniently leaves Monique just being angry at Candiace. She says to the group at large, “I don’t disrespect people when I go on y’all’s trips, and I don’t need to know about the conversation, just tell me about it.” So Ashley attempts to nip it in the bud (and probably to get ahead of her own narrative) by telling the whole group that Candiace very respectfully pulled her aside to tell her about some allegations regarding Michael, and that’s why the private conversation needed to happen.

Monique, however, is not assuaged. “Haven’t we been down this road before?” she asks. “Like, when are we gonna wake up and realize that certain roads are not good to go down. This is déjà vu of last year — we saw that didn’t work, and then we do it again?”

It’s possible that Monique is suggesting that they not air rumors about each other’s personal lives on camera when the source of said rumors happened off camera…but when it comes to Michael, I would like every possible disparagement exposed, so I simply cannot agree with Monique on this one. It’s also possible that Candiace and Monique clearly and constantly trigger something very raw in one another, and in this particular instance, Monique is all over Candiace’s small offense like white on rice (or Michael on people who aren’t his wife, as it were), but Candiace is letting it go because she’s at Monique’s house and doesn’t want to get in a fight with her.

Luckily, the husbands start arriving soon for their couples day at the lake, and Candiace decides to soldier on with Monique in order to not make it awkward for the Chrises, who remain good friends even when their wives don’t. Wendy’s cute husband Eddie also shows up, and remains cute when he responds to Robyn’s question about whether Wendy is good at apologizing when she’s wrong with an emphatic “No!” but then quickly adds, “…but she’s never wrong!”

Eddie and Wendy also share with the group at large their complicated dynamic with Eddie’s parents, who did not approve of him marrying Wendy because they just straight up did not like her family. I thought it was nice how the others shared their own stories of struggles with in-laws (which abound in the RHOP community) and encouraged Wendy and Eddie that change and forgiveness could still be possible.

Of course, some of that wisdom was coming from Karen, who told Ray she missed him when he arrived, and he responded, “It hasn’t been that long.” So, marriages are a forever-kind-of-journey, I guess.

The husbands do some funny little impressions of their wives, and then it’s time to head back to Potomac (or D.C., or Baltimore, or wherever the hell these women live). Ashley says she’s excited to get home and address this strip club rumor: “I just need some reassurance from him that there’s nothing to this.”

And then those editors hit us with the first timestamp: 24 HOURS LATER.

Ashley is driving in her car with Baby Dean and makes a very awkward Bluetooth call to Michael where he keeps saying that he’s “eating lunch and reviewing a document,” which seems to mean he can’t be bothered to speak to his wife. Then Ashley gives us some background on the tension in her testimonial. Apparently, in the 24 hours that passed before this phone call, Ashely asked Michael about the allegations in Cadiace’s texts. Michael told Ashley about a woman at the casino that night who was very touchy-feely, and “he didn’t tell me the full story, he just told me it was something that he regrets, that he shouldn’t have done.”

I’m sorry, he DIDN’T TELL HER THE FULL STORY???

Did she not ask?! Was he not willing to tell it?? Is it somehow understood that he doesn’t have to tell the full story of doing things he regrets with touchy-feely women??? Or perhaps they never got to the details because Ashely also says that the conversation got too heated, so they had to stop and sleep in different bedrooms. But even if Ashley isn’t getting the full picture, we’re getting plenty of mental images to add to our nightmare anyways because…

1 HOUR LATER

The editors flash headlines across the screen all surrounding allegations of Michael Darby cheating on Ashley, scored by a phone conversation between Gizelle and Candiace saying that there’s “photographic evidence of Michael at a hotel…Michael at the strip club…and Michael at MGM.” As Candiace lists off the photographic evidence, we see it in real-time: a photo of what appears to be the back of Michael, standing in a hotel room in only his boxer briefs…the sketchy photo of Michael at the strip club we were introduced to last week…and a video of Michael and a woman at the MGM bar looking rather touchy-feely, indeed.

But that’s the last image we’re left with before the episode fades into a preview of next week that looks absolutely bananas, including but not limited to Ashley confronting Michael on camera, and whatever is going down between Monique and Candiace that ultimately scatters crudité and wine glasses all over Maryland. See you back here next week for aaaaall of that!

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The Real Housewives of Potomac

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