By Jodi Walker
December 07, 2020 at 01:11 AM EST

The Real Housewives of Potomac

S5 E19
  • TV Show
  • Bravo

It’s hard to believe that this was the season finale of The Real Housewives of Potomac. When season 5 of RHOP arrived on our screens in August, five months into a global pandemic, it felt like a salve for our quarantined existences. For all the life we haven’t been able to live for the last nine months, these women were able to experience it for us onscreen without the confines of masks and distance — just good old-fashioned wine barn brawls and dominatrix parties.

Does it sound pathetic that I was living vicariously through Housewives who regularly forget to pay their taxes and romantically pair almost exclusively with dumb-dumbs? Well, sure, maybe a little. But I don’t watch The Real Housewives of Potomac for my pride — I watch it because it’s grade-A entertainment. And I dare any Oscar-winning director, any prestige television producer, any political speechwriter to bring one nation together with a single scene like RHOP did with the events that transpired tonight.

Because much like the best relationships, the best Housewives franchises aren’t built on liking the same things — they’re built on coming together to hate the same things. And I’d love to hereby move that we replace that toxic old saying “nothing tastes better than skinny feels” with a much healthier version: Nothing tastes as good as despising Michael Darby feels.

In the end, being disgusted with Michael is RHOP's greatest, longest-standing tradition. While other beloved pastimes like Karen’s slipping wigs, or Katie’s chaotic energy have faded away to the sands of time, despising Michael Darby has stood strong. And in season 5’s finale, we got an episode-long reminder that just because he may be off our screens every once in a while, or just because he occasionally cowers at the sight of Uncle Lump, doesn’t mean that Michael isn’t the same meddling hobgoblin he’s always been, hopping around Robyn and Juan’s party like Puck from Midsummer Nights Dream, minus any of the wit or sexy stuff.

Given his general impishness, I guess I was able to find this go-round with Michael entertaining rather than infuriating because it was just so fascinating to watch him spiral over Juan proposing to Robyn…instead of him??? And to do it so transparently!

Oh right, I should mention at this point that Robyn and Juan are engaged. And I don’t know if I trust it, but I’m rooting for these two. We see them go to a therapy session with a therapist who actually pushes Juan and Robyn to express why they’ve felt the way they’ve felt, and made the decisions they’ve made in the past, and how they could prevent those same missteps in the future. (Also, quick question: is RHOP the most therapy-positive show on television???)

Whether I’m rooting for them or not though, I was concerned when I heard that Juan and Robyn were hosting an open-bar holiday party at a club, and I have a feeling the IRS was too. But I’m sure the bill and furious texts from Robyn’s accountant were worth it when Juan got down on one knee and surprised everyone with a proposal.

So let’s get to breaking down how that happy moment could possibly lead to Michael flying around this party like Igor on uppers…

It all starts when Ashley tells Michael that she thinks Juan is planning on proposing at the party. “It’s not possible,” Michael says. “Someone is pulling your leg because that man will not do that.” It’s a position he will not let up on, right until the moment that Juan literally proposes to Robyn. Because what seems pretty clear once everyone arrives at Juan and Robyn’s party is that Michael is under the impression that he shares a very special connection with Juan. And I’m not saying that connection is romantic or sexual, but I am saying that Michael is driven mad by the thought of Juan proposing to a woman that he’s dated for the entire time they’ve known each other and who he also used to be married to.

Absolutely mad, I tell you.

Michael is talking trash about the other women, peppering Juan with compliments, ignoring Ashley, and slamming Coronas from the moment he walks into this party. He’s rude to Eddie when Juan first tries to introduce them, but later when they’re alone, he tells Eddie that he’s the “second best” “good-looking guy.” After Juan proposes to Robyn, Michael sulks around in the background for a bit and then grabs Juan to take a shot (even though he promised Ashley he wouldn’t drink liquor), and while Juan tries to toast to friendship, Michael toasts to a bachelor party in Vegas, “Just you and I, without no cameras or nothing.”

The way that Michael bleeds his insecurity about wanting to be accepted by other men all over everyone within a 100-yard radius is difficult to watch. Because you want to have empathy for people who are that insecure. But when that insecurity drives him to… constantly disrespect women… randomly say that his infant child is well endowed in order to imply that he is also well endowed… tell a man who overheard him calling Eddie good-looking that he “better not f---ing assume” he’s gay…

Well, that’s the kind of insecurity that ruins engagement parties, embarrasses wives, and rains toxicity down on the end of a season that’s already battling some demons.

So, before we lay out the full timeline of Michael’s tantrum, let’s address where things stand with Candiace, Monique, and all the other gals who won’t stop acting like Karen was the one pulling weaves in that wine barn all those months ago.

Karen sent two important group texts this episode: the first was a screenshot to prove that she wasn’t trying to get Candiace and Monique to arrive at her wig party at the same time. And the second was to tell them that her plane back from HSN (where she was hawking La Dame Fragrance, natch) was having mechanical issues, so she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to make it to Robyn’s party. So, the other women spend the whole party talking about how Karen is running away from having to deal with what happened at her wig party…

And then when she does show up to Robyn’s party after rebooking her flight, they have to find new ways to call her a coward and a fraud. For Gizelle, it’s just complaining that Karen is “the worst” for showing up at all, and for Candiace, it’s saying that just because Karen told her to show up to the wig party at 6:30, she has previously told her to show up at 5:15, so she must have been trying to set her up for a run-in with Monique, who Karen’s texts show she invited to come by at 4:00.

“What if I had come earlier?!” Candiace exclaims. “You wouldn’t have done that,” Karen says, correctly. Who gets a later call time for an event and still decides to come early, and without any warning?

Listen, I obviously have a soft spot for Karen, but I just don’t think she’s a person who would try to manipulate a situation like that. Karen is, historically, pretty straightforward; she once handed Gizelle a framed list of etiquette rules and held a press conference for her financial troubles. Not to mention, she was pushing Monique out that wig party door with a glass of champagne still in her hand, trying to avoid anyone seeing her there. I think she lied about not inviting Monique at all because she thought she could slip through under the radar, but I don’t think she lied about purposefully trying to make Monique and Candiace run into one another.

But I’m alone on that island. The other women are sure that Karen has been setting Candiace up and siding with Monique all along, and they’re having none of Karen and Ashley saying that Monique is remorseful for her actions now. (In her brief appearance in this episode — also in therapy! — Monique carefully says, “I am remorseful for my actions, but I am not sorry for defending myself when I felt I needed to.”)

Karen says that the truth will come out soon, which really pushes Candiace over the edge. “You know the truth, Karen, you were there!” she screams from the booth they’re all seated in, right in the middle of the party. “YOU SAW WHAT HAPPENED, that’s the only truth!”

Karen tries to say that she just saw two friends who went too far, and Candiace cuts her off: “You saw a BITCH GET MAD AND ATTACK ME BECAUSE SHE HAS NO SELF-CONTROL!”

I really cannot explain to you the gargoyle-like lope that Michael takes off with when Candiace starts screaming — and it’s soon revealed why. He sidles up to Chris Bassett who is minding his own business at the bar, claps his shoulder, and hisses in his ear: “Brother, you need to control your wife, she’s out of control.” Chris whips his head around and tells Michel he needs to get out of his face, and Michael snaps back, “Shut the f--- up, and listen to what I’m saying.” Chris hops out of his seat, and suddenly Michael is flying through the crowd, with his arms pinwheeling, weirdly yelling at Chris who seems to be pushing him, “YOU’RE TOUCHING ME? YOU’RE TOUCHING ME?”

Moments later, the editors helpfully replay the same clip for us from a different angle so we can see that Chris has one hand — the back of his hand, actually — on Michael’s chest in what appears to be a soft touch, and is pushing him backward. But more than the physical evidence, I’m inclined to think that Michael is purposefully making a big ol’ show of this by what he starts screaming once others have separated them: “You’re going down you stupid motherf---er! I’m calling my lawyer right now, you’re going to jail!”

It gets much worse when the wives make it over to the hubbub. Ashley hears that Chris pushed Michael (or, in Michael’s words, “that guy f---ing hit me, he touched me, he pushed me”), and starts screaming across the bar at Candiace about how she’s accused Monique of having no self-control, but now look at her husband. Michael starts screaming and fighting against the people restraining him, so Candiace screams back, “Do you wanna touch me, Michael? I motherf---ing dare your ass!”

And if Candiace wants people to believe that she doesn’t invite people to beat her up, then I think she needs to stop… verbally inviting people to beat her up.

For his part, I’ve never been the biggest Chris fan, but after the initial push, he stays calm during all of this and allows security to escort him out of the party (unlike Michael, who’s screaming at everyone to get off of him, including Ashley). And then Chris nails Michael perfectly with this one line: “Every chance he gets, he talks down to a woman, but he will never do it to a man… Disrespect your wife all you want to, but you won’t do it to mine.”

After the fight is diffused and Candiace and Chris leave, the party briefly resumes with everyone heading out to the dance floor to celebrate Juan and Robyn. Well, everyone except Ashley, who looks sadly on at her friends dancing with their husbands, and then turns around to go find Michael…

Who has gone into the production area, started screaming at producers about casting “low life” people on the show, and hissing at everyone around him, “Did you just touch me?” and then squealing as he gets physically removed from the room: “Security guards are touching me all over, it’s disgusting!”

It’s all wild. And it’s not great. I don’t want RHOP to turn into a franchise that’s so volatile they can’t have any goofy fun, which is what Potomac has always been best at. Sometimes it’s satisfying to despise someone and not have to feel bad about it because they have no redeeming qualities… but then you see the finale caption that tells us that Ashley and Dean went to the Bahamas with Michael the very next day after he humiliated her, they’re pregnant with a second child, and say they’re “stronger than ever.” And it’s all a little less fun.

But at least the Monique and Candiace drama has a peaceful resolution since a judge decided the fight was “mutually consented,” and they both dropped their suits against one another…

Just kidding! That is what the judge ruled, and they did drop their suits, but this resolution is not peaceful at all. And for the first time ever, I think we can be thankful that there will be at least 6-feet of distance at this reunion. May God have mercy on Andy Cohen’s eardrums. See you back here next week for some desperately needed T’Challa content!

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The Real Housewives of Potomac

  • TV Show
  • 5
  • In Season
  • Bravo