The season 5 reunion begins with a binder, and will almost definitely end with a bang.
RHOP: Reunion Part 1
Credit: Bravo

The Real Housewives of Potomac

S5 E20

The Real Housewives of Potomac reunion gowns? Yellow. The tatas? Highlighted to the heavens. The hair? Flawless, with the exception of one wig that appears to have gotten caught in a printer (you know the one). The receipts? Collated, color-coded, and three-ring hole-punched within an inch of their lives. And our Bravo lord and savior, consummate professional, and always-prepared host, Andy Cohen? Stunned into complete silence by the contents of Monique's Binder O' Fun, which is selling out at Staples as we speak.

That's right, the Real Housewives of Potomac reunion has begun, and I'm as nervous as I am thrilled — because there are some real issues to be addressed in this three-part reunion. Over the course of season 5, two of these Housewives got into a physical altercation, sued one another, and eventually dropped those suits, but still very much hate each other. The last time all these women were together, two of their husbands got into a physical altercation and threatened suit against one another, and I very much hate at least one of them.

So what's wild, given that description of the season, is that throughout Sunday's episode, I kept marveling at how polite the RHOP cast was. Sure, their dedication to the etiquette that Maryland's most famous census-designated, unincorporated region is known for has waned over the seasons, as a montage of Karen talking about coochies and slamming Fireball shots was quick to point out. But much of the original diplomacy remains. The Potomac Housewives may occasionally raise their voices, but they rarely shout over one another like in most other franchises, which means you can actually hear the eviscerating reads these women are doling out.

That makes for fun exchanges like Karen and Gizelle calmly going back and forth about their businesses and personal home décor…

And more terrifying moments like everyone silently listening to Monique read texts from Gizelle's alleged boyfriend Jamal's alleged girlfriend. It's made all the more terrifying by the fact that we've barely heard Monique speak in the last 10 episodes, and now she's arrived with a bob that appears to have been sheered by samurai warriors, décolletage shaped by Victoria's very own secret, and a binder full of color-coded dividers that read: Former Friend, Post-It, Wendy, Robyn, and Last Lady. So let's get right down to it before she Amazon one-clicks another binder to fill up with whatever nicknames she has for us…


After Andy walks from room-to-room elbow-bumping everybody, and getting appropriately starstruck by T'Challa, the reunion starts in earnest with a montage of the RHOP Housewives over the last five years. Monique has clearly had the most consistently fabulous testimonial looks, and everyone agrees that Karen has changed the most and that Gizelle has changed the least. Naturally, this leads to the topic of Gizelle's oft-maligned fashion choices, which Gizelle says she's not surprised has become a topic among fans because "it came from Karen."

To which I say: Oh, honey…

We can all see the patchy fuchsia statement wall in your home! We can assume that Karen did not force you to wear a crewneck T-shirt bedazzled with "PARIS" in a curly font. Sure, Karen gave the average RHOP viewer a voice when she asked for an Excedrin to deal with the headache that Gizelle's fashion choices have given her. But I don't need Karen to tell me that a backless vest, a cap-sleeved fur jacket, a baseball cap with a built-in tiara is hideous. I'm proud be able to recognize Gizelle as the worst-dressed Housewife currently on Bravo all by myself, and I personally thank Gizelle for all the entertainment her bedazzled tees and even more bedazzled baseball hats have provided us through the years.


I was stunned — absolutely stunned — to hear that Wendy is still teaching at Johns Hopkins University. Have they watched this season where she talks about how much she doesn't want to teach there anymore? It's the only thing she talked about more than talking about her four degrees! Which are, of course, a topic of discussion at the reunion.

Ashley says that as impressive as Wendy's education is, it feels like she uses her degrees to put others down, like when she told Ashley that people like her should refer to her as Dr. Wendy. But no one really seems to have any bad blood against Wendy or her degrees, even Karen, who I certainly believe started off the season trying to get Wendy out, just like Gizelle says she did. But who I also believe will respond well to Wendy jumping in to say that Karen never really called her a "freelancing floozy," as Gizelle reported. (Gizelle admits that, yes, she added "floozy" to Karen's quote, which Andy informs her is a pretty big addition.)

I like Wendy. Sure, she touts her degrees a lot, but that's just a fun little annoyance, like any one of these women have. But beyond that, she's funny, she has an adorable family, she often exclaims things like "Karen, you can't leave your own party, we still wearing wigs and s---!" and per her four degrees, she's smart. I very much appreciate Wendy's willingness to give voice to issues that are often discussed among Housewives fans but not very often discussed on the Housewives stage…

Such as colorism. Jermaine from New York City asks if the Housewives think colorism could be to blame for why Candiace and Wendy are always being targeted by fans on social media for being "aggressive." Many of the other women jump in to say that they've been called aggressive too, and Monique says, "It has nothing to do with color, it's about judging the actions at that particular moment."

But Wendy points out that there "is a history of certain words that are inflammatory," and often targeted toward women with darker skin. She says that when Ashley uses words like aggressive or ferocious toward her on camera, she begins getting even more derogatory messages from fans: "Understand that it's a nod and a wink to certain people to say, 'Okay, this is what we're calling these women.'" In this moment, Wendy isn't saying that Ashley intended those words to target her skin color, but she is saying that they can act as a dog whistle for people who have prejudices against darker-skinned Black women.

But Ashley and Monique aren't willing to accept that calling Wendy aggressive might carry a different weight than calling, say, Gizelle aggressive. Monique says something that I totally don't understand about putting other populations on a pedestal, and Ashley just keeps repeating that Wendy's behavior was aggressive when she called her that. Finally, Robyn speaks up and says, "We have to be aware of the weight our words carry… I will never refer to a brown-skin or dark-skin woman as aggressive because of her skin tone."

Listen, it wasn't a perfect conversation. But it's a conversation that, five years ago, I never could have predicted that we'd be having on an RHOP reunion stage.


Okay, I know we're all excited about that binder, and figuring out what's going on with the Househusbands during this reunion — but I think we can also appreciate that here in the calm before the storm, we got to see our OG frenemies go at it once more.

Andy gets things going by once again informing Gizelle that the viewers think her style is trash, including her home décor. Gizelle says she just likes the things she likes, and it all works together.

"Or not!" Karen chirps. And then it's off to the races: Gizelle saying Karen doesn't live in her home, and Karen saying hallelujah. Karen saying the Ronald McDonald colors don't work for her, and Gizelle saying theres no orange in her house, so Karen must need her Geritol to kick in. Karen crying out, "Praise the Lord, let's do the age-e-ist thing," Wendy correcting her that it's "ageism," and Karen revising her previous statement: "Whatever it is, your old ass is 50 years old, so stop acting like you're 25 or 30!"

Following their back-and-forth, Karen brings up multiple words on the street, including that Gizelle's makeup line, EveryHue, has been liquidated. It's all as delicious as it is dirty, so do remember these happy times during the next segment, as chills race up your spine and a hush rolls over the crowd.


Karen brings ups Jamal's rumored infidelity first, but Monique steps in to take it home… and then take it around the block… and then kick it to the curb while Andy recovers his jaw from the floor.

As previously mentioned, Monique has arrived at this reunion with an Arya Stark-style list of all the other women, each with their own collated tab full of dirt in her Very Special Binder. And while Monique has said she'll only use the binder if she has to, in Gizelle's case, it seems like she's ready to bust out her dirt the moment the opportunity presents itself.

That moment is Karen saying the word on the street is that Gizelle's relationship with Jamal this season was all a ruse to save her job, and that he's had yet another baby with yet another woman while they've been "dating." Gizelle says that's not true, so Monique asks why Jamal was telling his girlfriend that "it's just for reality TV" when Gizelle announced they were back together. And then Andy utters those fatal words to Monique: "How do you know that?"

Monique unclips her three rings with a quickness, whips out a stapled document, and begins reading texts between Jamal and his alleged girlfriend. Monique says that the woman sent her the screenshots, as well as pictures of herself in bed with Jamal a long time ago, but she didn't pay attention to it at the time because she doesn't play dirty: "But since Gizelle likes to play dirty, I'll go ahead and return it right now."

Returning it means going full scorched-earth, and not only reading texts from Jamal telling this (alleged) woman that his relationship with Gizelle is just for reality TV, but reading Jamal's phone number out loud to prove that the texts are real.

"Is that his phone number?" Andy asks Gizelle. And after a long pause: "Yeah, that's his number."

"Well, that's unfortunate," Candiace says under her breath, before coming to Gizelle's defense, trying to get everyone to stop listening to Monique read the texts. But Monique has a fire inside her that is palpable. It's a fire that will probably burn her presence on this show all the way to the ground by the time this reunion is finished — but a fire that I'm on the edge of my seat to keep watching. See you back here next week for the next tab in Monique's binder.

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