It’s a bold move from The Real Housewives of Potomac editors to first preview a dramatic moment at the top of the show, then show that same dramatic moment in an unprecedented mid-episode flash forward, then finally arrive at that dramatic moment in real-time in the episode…only to cap it off with a “TO BE CONTINUED” just as it’s about to get good.

But those RHOP editors know what they have on their hands, and this RHOP recapper fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Because to most of the RHOP audience, there is no more delicious bait than some damning evidence about Michael, who is exclusively tolerable in the moments when he’s being exposed for the nasty little snapping turtle he is.

So, while I was fully prepared for a “don’t let it be about Tom” moment between Candiace and Ashley in this episode, we only witnessed Candiace receiving the incriminating text messages about someone’s husband who she’s only recently made amends with and doesn’t want to have to deliver bad news to, just like Bethenny with Luann all those years ago. Although, I should probably hedge my expectations on getting a Luann-level freak out from Ashley. After all, it is always about Michael with her. She’s already far too accustomed to covering his ass.

The bulk of the episode was really just these women palling around with each other at a remote lake house, complaining about cell service. But I don’t care if Gizelle was bored — because my own entertainment seems to actually hinge on Gizelle being bored. The less activity Gizelle has going on around her, the more she’s going to try and stir some activity up, including but not limited to pancake competitions, beauty pageants featuring twerking with a torn booty hole, and casually planting intel in Wendy’s head that Karen called Wendy a “freelancing floozy,” when really Karen just said that she was a freelance correspondent for CNN, which is accurate. Long live Gizelle Bryant’s messy ways, and may they live long enough to get Michael’s whole ass at the season 5 reunion.

Despite the shenanigans to come, this episode does pick right back up in the thick of things, with Wendy and Ashley still yelling at each other at the dinner table. It’s a delicate situation because it is completely reasonable that Wendy would be upset that she left her newborn, premature baby back home to come on this trip, and felt her sacrifice was made light of by the other women telling her that she’s not a new mom…

However, Wendy deals with those reasonable feelings in the very unreasonable way of…calling Ashley a “fake ass bitch” for bringing her own baby on the trip and then not letting Wendy scream at her about it on two different occasions.

The editors offer up the shady title card, “MONIQUE’S LAKE HOUSE – NIGHT 1” as they fade back into Wendy and Ashley still yelling over dinner. Ashley pulls her phone out to mime calling a car to take Wendy back to Baltimore, to which Wendy says she knows Ashley can’t do that on a disconnected phone because she’s “brokey.” Ashley tells her that’s a dumb insult, so Wendy starts screaming about her four degrees, which seems to be more or less a filler phrase for Wendy, like “um,” or when people end a sentence with “right?” to make all of their statements a question you have to agree with…

All in all, it’s utter mayhem. Robyn tells Wendy that Ashley wasn’t calling her dumb, she was calling her retort about the phone dumb because “you said something about money, and like, her husband is rich, so…” As an aside: Robyn is really making me laugh this season. I also found it fascinating when she said that professional athletes are used to being catered to, but Juan’s financial hardship really humbled him, so she’s concerned for Monique wanting more help from her husband unless Chris also goes broke.

The whole table has to just agree to end the dinner there because no one is going to suddenly start thinking logically and stop arguing about who’s richer. Wendy goes back to Candiace’s room, they put on their hair bonnets, and Wendy pats herself on the back for holding her ground and not apologizing to anyone. And as much as I think Candiace is enjoying having the target off her own back on this trip, to her credit, she tells Wendy that maybe calling Ashley, whom she doesn’t even know, a “fake ass bitch,” was a little much. To which Wendy responds: “Was that too much? I really felt it in my spirit though.”

But if you can believe it, Wendy does apologize to Ashley during their fishing excursion the next day. I find the RHOP cast’s focus on apologies a little tedious considering how sincere those apologies often prove themselves to be, and in this particular instance, considering how Wendy won’t actually use the word “apologize” until Ashley apologizes first for keeping the argument going. But Ashley seems happy with it, and I want Wendy to fit in, especially considering how Gizelle is trying to sick her on Karen, literally telling her, “You and Ashley have no previous problems, so in my mind, I’m feeling like your anger should have been directed at Karen.”

I truly do not understand how these women fall for Gizelle’s nonsense. And yet, I also appreciate Gizelle, because when the women return from fishing and sit down to a silent lunch where everyone realizes they don’t really have that much to say to each other during this secluded trip where they’re supposed to be bonding, Gizelle just up and decides they’re having a mid-lunch “pageant-off” between Ashley and Candiace. Gizelle already organized a “pancake-off” between herself and Monique during breakfast because I guess she just cannot have a meal without a little entertainment.

So I can only imagine what dinner will hold…

Oh wait, I don’t have to imagine! Because the editors already previewed Candiace receiving the Michael texts from her friend earlier in the episode, and now, after she’s won Gizelle’s fake beauty pageant with a run-filled version of "Happy Birthday" (I find it hilarious that both RHOP and RHONY have a castmember who performs “Happy Birthday” too often for comfort), it’s time to see her receive them in real-time.

Monique informs everyone that they have plenty of time before dinner, so everyone can rest, take their time getting ready, and if any of their friends have run into any of their husbands at any strip clubs back home…well, they can handle that as well. That last one only applies to Candiace as she comes out of the bathroom (conveniently fully dressed and with a camera already on her) to discover that her friend has texted her about Ashley’s husband Michael being at a strip club the night before — a night Ashley has already told us in her testimonials that Michael was having a big dinner with a new client.

The texts from Candiace’s unnamed friend (we see Candiace confirm with the producer in her room that the friend’s name won’t be shown) read: “My girl is a bartender at the strip club and I came to see her! Chileeee he was in there to [sic] SEVERAL strippers! He was talking about how he got a Boyfriend and a Wife.” When we hear Candiace reading the texts aloud to herself she mumbles, “Your girl’s baby daddy was out last night at the strip club.” Then the text messages pop on screen again with a picture of Michael’s face at the strip club, somehow looking even sketchier than normal, almost like he’s been caught.

Candiace clutches at her stomach and rushes out of the room, all the way over to the guest house, and asks Gizelle to come outside. When she tells Gizelle what she’s heard, Gizelle asks her to read the texts verbatim. Candiace reads them out loud, adding, “He was asking who he could take to a hotel nearby,” which we didn’t hear in the original reading. So, to tally it all up, according to Candiace’s friend, Michael was: 1. At a strip club, 2. Interacting with “SEVERAL” strippers, 3. Telling people that he had a wife and a boyfriend, and 4. Asking women to come back to his hotel room.

Candiace asks what she’s supposed to do, and if you can believe it, Gizelle tells her they need to confront Ashley about it tonight at their casual crab shack dinner. Also, if you can believe it, the star-covered zip-up athleisure jacket that I thought were the pajamas Gizelle had been getting ready in, turned out to be the top Gizelle was going to dinner in.

“This dinner’s gonna suck,” Candiace says as they head out. Cementing her actual dread at telling Ashley about the texts, and also succinctly stating the actual thesis statement of most Real Housewives franchises. Dinner is simply not their meal. See you back here next week for a totally valid explanation of what Michael was up to!

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