December 20, 2020 at 11:05 PM EST

The Real Housewives of Potomac

  • TV Show
  • Bravo

I am truly fearful for the final installment of this Real Housewives of Potomac reunion. Not only because 90 minutes is a harrowing length for any Housewives programming, and not only because the Househusbands will be slithering out from their hidey-holes — but mostly because this week’s Part 2 was a lesson in building tension. And we can only assume it’s building to something bad. For each new comment Candiace or Monique whispered under their breath about the other, it was just another chip away at the dam that’s bound to break next week.

So, what if, just for a moment, we remember all the fun we had last week when Monique first whipped out her binder o’ receipts. Remember all those tabs? Remember how each woman she doesn’t like had a nickname like “Former Friend” and “Last Lady”? Remember the thrill that ran throughout the collective viewing body when we first heard the newest iteration of “don’t let it be about Tom” “it’s about Tom”:

Andy: “Is that Jamal’s number?”

Gizelle: “…it’s Jamal’s number.”

Well, that fun is over, it’s canceled! We’re back to mitigating the ins-and-outs of the Candiace/Monique fight for almost this entire episode: who did what, when they did it, and who has a right to feel which way about it. It is tedious! And if you can believe it, we get nowhere. Monique still shows no remorse for attacking Candiace, and Candiace still takes no ownership for consistently baiting people. But that’s how this episode ends…

The episode begins with a brief and glorious media res introduction back into the aftermath of Monique deploying Jamal’s texts from her binder. “Your past boyfriend is swinging his big D all around his congregation, even in Atlanta as we speak, and you know it,” Monique hollers across this giant warehouse that’s been dressed up to look like an Oliver Garden.

But Gizelle still has nothing to say in response. Andy tells her that it seems like everyone thinks Jamal cheats on her, and she just says that the show has put a magnifying glass on them and she’s “fine.” Has anyone who offers up that they’re fine unprompted ever really been fine? Finally, Andy releases the women for lunch, and when they return after an hour, Ashley’s hair has been curled for her turn in the hot seat. This can only mean one thing: we have to talk about The Grinch If He Never Grew That Heart and Lost All His Charm…a.k.a., Michael Darby.

I think Andy sums Ashley’s whole deal up well when he struggles to begin his questioning following her clip package, full of clips of her husband embarrassing her for yet another season. “I gotta tell you something, I root for you,” he says. “I feel for you, and you’re sitting here, and you’re pregnant, and I hate to have to talk to you about this again, but I feel like year after year you have to defend your marriage and your husband.”

That should be a tough thing to hear! Even this man who has made his empire on women’s shame is embarrassed to have to point out the new ways that your husband finds to make a mockery of you and your marriage each year. But poised as ever, Ashley just blazes forward like we all haven’t watched the exact same footage. I mean, this girl will lie through her teeth, and I don’t even think she considers it lying. When asked about Michael getting caught on candid camera mostly nude in a hotel room with a stripper while Ashley was away with their baby on a girls trip, Ashley says that she’s understanding of Michael’s mistake, “because I’ve had my own discretions in the past.”

Ashley goes on to say that when she and Michael were separated, “I had some fun and he forgave me; we moved forward, and that’s how I can move forward with him.” To which I say: If Ashley thinks we haven’t noticed that she’s gone from saying that it’s okay for Michael to cheat on her because she made out with a girl while Michael watched at a Jason Derulo concert once… to saying that it’s okay for Michael to cheat on her because she cheated on him first… then she thinks we’re as stupid as we think Michael is. And if Ashley thinks that we don’t know a man like Michael would hold any sort of infidelity over her head at every chance he got, especially in defense of himself, and yet this is somehow the first we’re hearing of it… well, please see above.

It is so hard to watch someone as (otherwise) smart and beautiful as Ashley constantly bring herself down to defend a sewer troll. And it’s even more upsetting when other people get pulled into his sewer who never asked to be there. Andy brings up the recently unearthed clip of RHOP, where eagle-eyed Bravo watchers spotted Michael Darby appearing to pinch the bottom of a producer in the background of a season 1 party. The exact thing that Ashley and Michael have sworn up and down was a libelous accusation coming from other RHOP crewmembers.

Ashley says that the missing context of the clip is that the particular producer is “very flirtatious with Michael,” so Michael would have just been pinching him in a playful way. To which Andy says that they asked the producer about it and he said it wasn’t consensual, and that he was very embarrassed by it. “That’s funny, because he also calls my husband Zaddy, but okay.” Oh sure, Ashley! Anyone who uses a playful nickname by all means deserves to be physically touched by your husband in whatever way he deems appropriate! Can Ashley hear herself? I have said “heyyyy girrrrl” to every woman whose name I can’t remember for the last 12 years, but that doesn’t mean they can pinch my ass afterward if they want to.

I’d love to believe Ashley when she says that she would leave Michael if he ever cheated on her again… Unfortunately, there’s absolutely no reason to believe that statement has more validity than any of the other things she said about Michael on this Cheesecake Factory set.

As for the Monique and Candiace of it all, frankly, there was not nearly enough interference from The Binder. I would have loved to get some new facts — or better yet, some new feelings! — about this fight and its aftermath, but instead, we were mostly relitigating the same things we’ve heard all season long. Except now, Monique has had more time to watch the fight footage back, and build a narrative around the slow-motion details.

Monique, we know what happened at that wine barn — you were just big mad, girl! And you had good reason to be. That doesn’t mean you should have made a sandwich out of that table and Candiace’s face. But we also know that at the time of the incident, you weren’t clocking little clues from the broken glass on the table that told you to keep fighting. Candiace asked you to drag her, so you did. There’s not much more explanation needed than that. And for every little Beautiful-Mind-style clue that Monique uncovers in the footage as to why she attacked Candiace, the guiltier she makes herself look.

Monique does at least say clearly that Candiace didn’t physically attack her first, she was simply “triggered” by Candiace’s actions during the preceding argument. But Candiace is upset that Monique allowed rumors to be spread before the footage aired that Candiace was the one who started the fight by throwing a drink…

Like, she’s really upset. Candiace can barely keep it together during this segment; she basically has to fold up a Chinet plate to dry her tears rather than her usual tissue. Candiace says that she’s still very traumatized by what happened, but even more so by what came after with people attacking her on social media, and believing that she initiated the fight. “She saw it, and she went to sleep at night, and she allowed it to be!” Candiace cries out at Monique. To which Monique responds: “I don’t understand how she developed these narratives in her head, and it sucks that she’s doing it because she’s actually making it worse for herself.”

Which I think is the first time in my Housewives recapping history that a Housewife said something I had written in my notes verbatim — except I wrote it about Candiace and Monique. They’ve both got to get past trying to make sense of any of this, take accountability for their part, and move on. So that we all can move on. And while I usually dread the introduction of husbands to a Reunion stage, I hope bringing out Chris 1 and Chris 2 next week might at least bring a new — keyword: NEW — perspective to this feud. Plus, Michael won’t be there, so that makes it a much safer space for everyone involved. See you back here next week for the final installment of Monique Samuels and the Binder of Secrets!

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The Real Housewives of Potomac

  • TV Show
  • 5
  • In Season
  • Bravo