A wild season ends, not with a bang—and not with a binder—but with a whimper of hope for new beginnings and a future where the Househusbands can all be friends again.

I would love to open this recap by paraphrasing a quote from my good friend (and hopefully not the future recipient of a vow renewal, given the Housewives track record), Karen Huger: "I would not have taken time out of my [Christmas holiday] to come and support [The Real Housewives of Potomac] if I didn't want to be there — because I'm not a fake, and I'm not a phony."

And yet, once I found myself in attendance for the third and final installment of the RHOP reunion, I was a little dismayed. Because the very best thing about the Potomac franchise is that even in the midst of utter chaos, they can have fun with another. After Michael kamikazed Robyn's engagement party with his general terribleness (and because he's almost definitely in love with Juan), everyone still got trashed and had a dance party. When Karen fled her own launch party after being accused of staging a run-in, Wendy called out into the empty distance, "Karen, you can't leave, we're still wearing wigs and shit!" And during a tense dinner where Monique and Gizelle briefly became friends in order to force Candiace to make various apologies, Ashley eased the tension by telling everyone about her torn bootyhole.

But the Monique and Candiace fight is one agenda item they've never been able to make light of. Because real friendships have been (almost certainly) destroyed, real lawsuits were filed, and real wigs were pulled to a very real breaking point. That is not the type of REAL we want from our Housewives. So, it was nice that in the very final moments of this reunion that has been dominated almost exclusively by this one immovable topic, we got to see a few Househusbands hug it out, and all the women do the Wendy slither all the way into season 6, which will hopefully bring us many more T'Challa captions, and absolutely no more mysterious plots against infants.

Let's get to breaking down only the most necessary instances of bodyguards-replacing-husbands-as-plus-ones, and extremely-suspect-Andy-Cohen-activity:

Monique and Candiace for[n]ever

Just when I was about to lose my mind, I think we actually got to a decent place with Monique and Candiace. And the bottom line is that if this fight existed in a vacuum, I think these two women could move on and becoming cordial coworkers and allow their similarly named husbands to continue being best friends like those two little boys who sprinted to hug each other on the sidewalk after months apart.

We know this because when Monique finally explains herself and apologizes, Candiace listens. Monique says that her therapist helped her to understand that her father used to bully her by putting one finger right in her face to check her, so when Candiace waved a finger in her face to taunt her at the winery, that triggered Monique to stand up for herself like she was never able to do as a child. She tells Candiace directly onstage: "That fight wasn't about you. Nothing that you said in that moment warranted the response you received, and I offer you my apology. I'm sorry for the pain that you're still going through, and I hope you're able to heal and move forward."

So that sounds good, right?! Candiace even receives this information calmly. She has, after all, already fled the stage once, gone fully Kandi Burress, screaming "THE LIIIIES!", and been calmed down by the dinkiest iPhone fan you ever did see. She responds that she can understand how her hand in Monique's face could have triggered a response…

However, this fight that can be explained away with triggers and hair-flipping doesn't exist in a vacuum. It came from what happened before it — perceived betrayal — and it keeps on going because of what happened after it: lawsuits, social media bashings, and one particularly ill-timed song release. Monique and Candiace are never going to find some common ground on which they suddenly agree about everything that's transpired between them. And I don't think they're going to be able to agree to disagree because the eye around which this storm spins is just too monumental.

So, let's just thank the Bravo gods that they didn't fully Clash of the Titans this reunion warehouse into the ground, and move onto something a little more interesting…

Dear Andy Cohen, what is happening?

Though it ultimately leads to many dark moments, when Andy says, "As you can see, Gizelle is accompanied by a security guard, at her request, because of something that Chris Samuels said on Instagram Live," and then the camera pans over to a single man who is visibly much smaller than Chris Samuels, it is genuinely one of the funniest things I've experienced on this franchise.

And while Gizelle's antics are as superfluous and antic-y as ever, I think it's fair for her to feel threatened by the aforementioned Instagram Live from August, in which Chris says he wishes he "could turn into [Caitlyn Jenner's deadname] and slap the s--- out of y'all right now — y'all are lucky I'm a man because I will stomp the shit out of y'all." That is offensive on 10 different levels, and I'm appalled that Bravo not only ran the clip of Chris deadnaming Caitlyn Jenner but that Andy Cohen proceeded to quote the full monologue again, quoting the deadname himself. To Chris' small credit, he does go on to immediately apologize for what he said, saying that he's embarrassed by his own comments, but was lashing out in anger at a few of the women "for plotting on my child."

Now if you're wondering what on earth he could mean by that, I'm afraid you'll never get much more detail. It is all Monique and Chris Samuels want to talk about, but Andy Cohen, who asked Robyn upward of 30 questions about her line of hats, simply won't let them. 

We got a very brief segment last week where Monique explained that her ex-friend GiGi was trying to infiltrate their show with a rumor that Monique cheated on Chris with her trainer, and that their youngest baby is actually the trainer's son. Monique says that following Andy Cohen's baby shower in 2018, Robyn and Gizelle sat around a dinner table plotting how to get that rumor onto the show, and she knows this because Candiace was also there, and reported the plot, though not directly, to Monique.

And thus, "the plot against Monique's family" was born. In the last episode, Monique said that when Gizelle talked about the alleged trainer affair early on in the season, she also talked about the paternity rumor, but it didn't air. And for some reason, Andy keeps latching onto this idea that "it didn't air on the show" as the reason that Monique and Chris should just let it go, even though it not airing doesn't mean that Gizelle didn't try it. When Chris comes out and wants to talk about what he feels was a plot against his child, Andy huffs that they already talked about this for 30 minutes.

Again, I say: we talked about Ashley's torn bootyhole for longer than that!!!

It's all very weird. For her part, Gizelle says that early on in filming, she went to Monique's house, and Chris made a sly comment about how much their baby looked like him, so she took him bringing it up to mean that the rumors were part of their "personal story" (is this Housewives-speak for "storyline"?). Which is basically her way of saying she did talk about their child on the show, but Chris started it.

We never get to the bottom of it, but I think we can all resolve to keep our eye on Andy when it comes to his weird Gizelle favoritism, especially given that she looked like she was sucking on a lemon for the entire back half of this reunion.

Chris & Chris & Michael & Juan & [leave] Eddie [out of this!]

The segments with the Househusbands onstage were the best of times; they were the worst of times. During the confusing argument about defending their families, Chris Bassett says that Chris Samuels supports a blogger who goes after his children, so how can he get mad at the other women for plotting against his children. At this, Chris rather non-aggressively rises out of his chair to speak to someone who is 30 feet away from him, and everyone starts losing it — especially Gizelle, who looks at her security guard panicked and says, "Please tell him to sit down!" like this private security guard is going to be able to say something to Chris Samuels.

But the Chrises remind themselves that they agreed not to disrespect each other, simmer down, and let it go. This issue of mutual respect between men comes up again when Andy raises the topic of what went down between Chris Bassett and Michael at Robyn's engagement party. Chris says he simply can't tolerate Michael's constant disrespect of women, and when Ashley tries to defend her indefensible husband (who isn't in attendance) by saying that these women have also disrespected Michael, Chris says it's different with the husbands.

For example, while Candiace and Ashley weren't getting along, he never got in the middle of their feuding, which Michael has always been happy to do. Chris says that if he had an issue with Michael, he would have gone to him at a separate time — "not at someone else's party, and not if I'd been drinking" — just like he's done with Chris Samuels. He references how furious Chris Samuels was with Michael for talking about Monique being drunk in the last season, saying that Michael came at Chris sideways, rather than addressing the issues straightforwardly: "Michael doesn't do anything in a way that is conducive to having a conversation with people."

I've never really gotten Chris Bassett, but I do appreciate this succinct summation of exactly what makes Michael so intolerable. Robyn also says that Chris called to apologize about getting into an altercation at her party, which Michael never did.

The husband segment ends with the Chrises saying they hope they can be friends again one day, but that they're prioritizing their wives at this point. Chris Samuels emotionally declares that Monique is stronger than he ever realized, and then departs the stage after some final words to Gizelle: "I release you from it, and I forgive you — hurt people hurt people, go get some help, I'm out."

In closing

I'd kind of like to make Chris's words my closing on the fifth season of RHOP as well, but perhaps Karen says it better when she tells the other women that though they've broken each other to pieces over the last year, over the course of 11 hours today, they were able to hear each other out: "This is a new beginning if we're willing to do it … moving forward as the friendship sister circle that I know we're capable of being." And with that, I wish a Wendy slither to all, and to all a goodnight.

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