The Real Housewives of Potomac recap: Grace under fire
I can’t imagine how anyone might find themselves reading this recap if you haven’t already arrived here specifically to relive the arresting hour of RHOP that Bravo unveiled to the nation Sunday night. But just in case, let me say this: if you’re not watching The Real Housewives of Potomac right now, you are missing out on cinema. Cinema, I tell you!
Last week’s physical altercation wherein Monique treated Candiace’s wig like a stuffed animal inside an arcade claw machine for 46 straight seconds demands that we take a more nuanced approach than the Real Housewives typically requires. With the dust settled, and the scattered crudité swept up, this reflective episode forces those of us outside of Karen’s living room (so if you’re counting, that’s: me, you, and KB the security TaskRabbit) to consider that multiple things can be true at once. Monique’s anger over being provoked by Candiace can be warranted…while her ultimately violent reaction to said provocation can be completely unwarranted. Candiace can be at fault for some of her problems with Monique…and still not deserve to be physically attacked for it.
No matter where you land though, I think we can also agree that the fallout from Monique’s physical attack has been riveting. Because unlike similar instances from other Real Housewives franchises, this sticky situation among a group of contractually obligated friends is being worked through in real-time — right in front of us and a giant platter of croissants from Le Pain Quotidien.
Like an underfunded one-act play, almost this entire episode is spent inside Karen’s house as the women listen to Monique try to explain her violent outburst at the wine bar. And even though we’re dealing in highly dramatic material, the day still starts in RHOP’s traditional genre: an absurdist comedy of errors. When Gizelle got out of her Mini Cooper in Karen’s driveway, only for the camera to pan over and reveal that a giant security guard wearing an itty bitty skull cap has also unfolded himself from that clown car, I nearly screamed. Karen, however, is much more accustomed to Gizelle’s antics (having also been a purveyor of antics herself, at times). When she sees a large man named KB trailing behind Gizelle into her house, she merely responds, “Security?” and offers him a seat with a view.
Robyn and Wendy arrive without incident, but then, as if Karen allowed a plus-one exclusively for bald-headed individuals, Ashley shows up with baby Dean in tow. I totally understand not being able to get a babysitter for an unexpected morning summit over a hair-pulling incident, but it’s still hilarious every time they come back from commercial with the women talking over each other, and a shot of Dean’s alarmed face and title card: “DEAN, 4 months.”
In the brief moments that we’re not at Karen’s house, we were experiencing a new television trope that I’m stunned took this long to make its way onto the Real Housewives franchise. Game of Thrones brought us sexposition (unloading a bunch of plot information while two people have sex in order to keep the audience interested), and now RHOP has brought us therapy-splaining, wherein Candiace explains to her therapist what happened last week, as the editors flashback to the coordinating scenes.
Flashbacks have always been integral to the Real Housewives experience, but this season, RHOP has truly turned them into an art form. When Monique tells her side of the story to the women, and the editors flashback to Candiace mouthing the words “you gonna drag me,” we’re actually hearing Monique quote those words in the present…again I say: cinema.
Now, about Monique’s “side of the story.” All of the women were at the wine barn, so it’s not like they need a recap from Monique of what happened. It’s actually more of the opposite: Monique claims she needs some gaps filled in because she blacked out as soon as she grabbed Candiace’s hair, and really doesn’t remember anything else until the producers pulled her off. A later flashback to her car ride from the wine barn contradicts this, however, as we hear her give a producer a pretty accurate play-by-play of what happened, and in what order.
But I could believe Monique had an emotional blackout of sorts, leading her to attack her former friend. It’s not an excuse, but it is an explanation of how all the talk of dragging over the seasons actually turned to real dragging in this instance. Monique snapped. And acknowledging that she snapped to the women, and promising to get the help she needs to make sure it never happens again, is kind of the only way that she could continue being a part of this dynamic…
And she’s almost able to do it — but not quite.
When Monique arrives at Karen’s (looking utterly chic in a color-blocked balloon-sleeve blouse, I must say), she barely even glances at the other women’s solemn faces before starting in. She says that she’s ashamed and embarrassed “for ever letting anyone get under my skin to the point that I would react that way,” and that it’s not who she is, and she doesn’t want to be defined by one bad choice. She apologizes “for even putting y’all to be in the position to be in harm’s way.” And it’s going over pretty well! But then Monique makes the mistake of saying that this could happen to “any one of us” because “we’re human, and any one of us could completely go berserk.”
That’s when Gizelle whips out her phone and starts taking notes, and you know things are going downhill fast. By the end of this conversation, I actually felt Robyn was coming from a place of just wanting Monique to tell the truth and stop acting tough on social media, and Wendy was looking for some vulnerability and accountability that Monique is not yet willing to give…
But Gizelle is so clearly just there just to shame Monique. Before Monique arrived, when the women discussed the implications this physical altercation has on them as Black women, Gizelle exclaimed, “We have been able to hold ourselves above the stereotype, and in five minutes, she took it all away.” I generally assume that Gizelle thinks exactly zero thoughts about the outfits she wears, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she showed up to this conversation in full First Lady regalia (headband, high neck, Jackie O coat). She is sitting on the highest of horses all episode, throwing around the dangerous idea that Black women have to be perfect in order to negate a stereotype that was created specifically to belittle and oppress.
Later, after Monique is done speaking, and Gizelle consults her meeting minutes, she says that Monique is acting like this violent behavior was a one-off, “but the year I met you, you said you would punch me in the face.” Monique looks confused, and then the editors flash to Monique saying in a testimonial that Gizelle was “one step away from getting her face punched.”
Gizelle — no one wants to fight you!
Finally, Gizelle says that despite what Monique is telling them, this is exactly who she is. She says she went home and discussed this with her daughters, “and the first thing out of their mouths was, ‘Do not be around her.’” And listen, I really hate to say it, but we’ve actually heard Gizelle’s daughters say the same thing about Gizelle dating their dad again. And she managed to turn her ears off to that one with a quickness.
Now that I think about it, I actually don’t hate to say it considering what comes out of Gizelle’s mouth next. She says that she has zero respect for Monique, and she’s a liability, and by no means does she want to be anywhere near her, and then exits stage left in a moment that is much less dramatic than I think she thought it would be when she first called for her Uber Security Guard. But that’s not the bad part. No, that would be when she says in her testimonial: “Do me and Jamal — a pastor — have an image to protect? One hundred percent! So, hanging around someone who decides to fight women on national television, is that a good look? No!”
Gizelle, are you serious with this? Pastor Jamal does “not a good look” just fine all by himself, so why don’t you worry about that on the crowed ride home in your Mini Cooper.
I’m almost sure that it was Gizelle’s self-righteous energy holding this conversation back because the moment she leaves, some actual productivity begins. For all her concern over Monique’s behavior and how it affected her, Gizelle never mentioned the person who was actually traumatized by the event at the wine bar: Candiace. Once Gizelle leaves, Wendy asks Monique if she’s even apologized to Candiace.
“Apologized for what?” Monique asks.
Oof. Monique says a number of times that she doesn’t understand what she's feeling right now or why she reacted the way that she did and that she intends to speak to her pastor about how to move forward. But Wendy tells Monique that she’s got to cut the bulls--- about blacking out, because it’s a week later, and she’s looking her right in the face and still not seeing any remorse.
“No, not right now,” Monique responds.
Double oof! Robyn and Wendy cry out that this is the problem, and how can they believe anything she’s saying about how one mistake doesn’t define her if she’s not actually remorseful for that mistake. In her testimonial, Wendy says, “Embarrassment means that you’re embarrassed as an individual, but remorseful means that you wish you didn’t do it to the other person…she’s embarrassed because that’s a selfish reaction.”
And I found that to be a pretty astute take because while Monique is contractually obligated to figure out how to move forward as soon as possible, she is clearly dealing with the shame and guilt of her actions in real-time. In one moment, she seems prepared to admit that what she did to Candiace was unwarranted, and in the next, she’s grasping for excuses. Monique tells the women that she feels like she’s been acting out of her character, and then points around at the cameras saying, “I’m not putting on for anything…so, for me to get to that point is concerning for me, and maybe I don’t need to be a part of this anymore.”
When they showed this moment in the previews, I always assumed Monique would be saying this in response to the other women telling Monique they weren’t comfortable with her being around anymore. But in the end, both Robyn and Wendy end the episode saying they’re going to keep an eye on how Monique acts moving forward, and Karen and Ashely have promised to be there for her. So, it seems Monique is the one recognizing she might need to step away.
But the real star of this one-act play is its host, Karen. As she says at the top of the episode when Candiace expresses being a little hurt by how much grace Karen seems to be extending to Monique: “That is what I am — I am grace under fire.” She stands up for Monique’s right to express herself repeatedly, but she also tells her outright: “You f---ed up — you got so angry that you blacked out, and I don’t know if you can fix that by yourself.”
Karen finally brings this RHOP summit to a close by telling Monique that if she needs to take a break, that’s fine: “I don’t leave my friends. When they’re going through it, I soldier up…I will walk with you on this journey, but she didn’t deserve that, Monique.”
Monique concedes that she needs to “let the pride aside, let the ego aside, and figure out what is actually right and acceptable.” In the meantime though, it seems that this fight is far from the season’s climax. So, I’ll leave you with the words of Dr. Wendy that open an insane mid-season trailer, set to the horror movie sounds that the RHOP editors just cannot get enough of right now: “The fight between Candiace and Monique was an atomic bomb; it lit fires in pockets of friendships, and it’s like…who is your alliance to?”
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The Real Housewives of Potomac