The Real Housewives of Atlanta Recap: Mama Joyce Is the Worst

Photo: Bravo
The Real Housewives of Atlanta
Episode Title
The Old Lady and the Shoe
Editor’s Rating

When was the last time your mom took off her wooden sandal and threatened to beat your oldest childhood friend with it? If my nana stays up past her bedtime she will start spilling family secrets, like why she’s held a 30-year grudge against one of her cousins (“Well, she’s a crazy bitch”), but she only raises her shoe to squash spiders, unlike Kandi’s mom, whose Godzilla-stomping, shoe-slinging antics seem to be her own personal calling card. I have had it with Mama Joyce, but I’m also really surprised at how disappointed I am with Kandi. 

In the weeks before Mama Joyce made it her mission to positively ruin her daughter’s wedding, Kandi was excitedly flipping through wedding magazines for the first time in ages. Carmon, her assistant and longtime friend, saunters in like she’s holding a beach ball between her legs and asks Kandi, Hey, why is your mom spreading rumors all over town about me sleeping with Todd? Kandi half-defends her mom per usual, saying that Mama Joyce will find something wrong with anyone who gets close to Kandi. Carmon then says something that Kandi desperately needs to hear but seemed to go in one ear and out the other: Your mom will not be happy until you have no one around you but her. Kandi swatted that thought away like an irritating fly, and instead chose to alter the picture wall Mama Joyce was complaining about last week to include more pictures of, you guessed it, Mama Joyce! This is the first of many times we’ll see Kandi roll over and acquiesce, even though Todd told her outright, “You have to stand up to your mother.” Kandi admitted, “She’s been this way forever, attacking my friends,” but she couldn’t admit that she had to do something about it, so she curled up into a ball and rolled away from the conversation like Sonic the Hedgehog powering up for a big jump.

NeNe took her family to visit some of her normal friends, just to prove she still has some. That’s how we got to meet Mynique, which is the kind of name you get when two pages of the baby name book are stuck together, and her husband, Chuck. There’s nothing wrong with them, and they are completely lovely, which NeNe tries to disrupt by mentioning the fact that Chuck once dated Kandi. Chuck said they were a “one hit wonder” and Mynique seemed unfazed by the news, so NeNe went for the uppercut and insinuated that when they were in high school together, Chuck probably got a BJ from Phaedra, the “head doctor.” I definitely chuckled when she said, “I took head doctor to mean not a brain surgeon … but a dick surgeon!” I like NeNe more than any other cast member, but really, what did she think the outcome of this conversation would be? What was she trying to do here? And if she went to high school with Phaedra, why does she routinely treat her like they are perfect strangers? Chuck gave his most Clintonian response —“ I never had sexual intercourse with Phaedra Parks” — and Gregg twirled him away from the conversation before NeNe could remind him of the last time he crapped his pants on the playground or some other embarrassing event.

Phaedra bored the tears out of her nanny for a minute to tell her that she is allowed to embalm in Alabama now. When was the last time Phaedra asked even one detail about someone else’s life? She sees every interaction as a chance to talk about herself, and I’m surprised her staff doesn’t just roll around the house saying “Mmm hmmm” with earplugs jammed so far in their ears they puncture their own eardrums. Apollo came around to offer a half apology since Phaedra has been icing him out for a few days. Apollo got over the text message thing with Kenya, so he naturally thinks Phaedra should be over it, too, but he’s sorry he hurt her feelings. This is basically the “I’m sorry that you felt hurt” non-apology used by people who are not at all sorry about what they did, but it seems to be good enough for Phaedra and she forgives him. Apollo wants them to “be better to each other,” and Phaedra, in truly admirable Ice Queen mode, says, “I’ll have time for you in four months when I’m done with school.” Then he says, “Remember when you used to bend over and let me do it to you in the bathroom?” and God bless the editors that cut to their baby.

Cynthia shows up in a mirror-ball suit to do something called Cardio Cabaret at the Kandi Factory with the rest of the ladies — all except Porsha, who is in the hospital because she fainted. The best part of Porsha fainting was that she said, out loud, “The doctor thinks I have some kind of condition where the BLOOD SUPPLY TO MY BRAIN ISN’T THERE, SO MY BRAIN SHUTS OFF.” Finally, a medical reason for her stupidity! Porsha is really taking this Jane Austen–y, woman scorned thing a bit far, right? As soon as her mom said she wanted to pamper her, Porsha threw out any vestige she had of being a capable adult and started slouching around, waiting for people to do things for her.

NeNe calls to make sure Porsha is okay, and then invites everyone to Savannah for a girls trip. The silence in the room speaks volumes as they all remember the trip to Las Vegas last year, including the bus ride from hell and NeNe turning everyone away from her house when they were late to dinner — remember that trip, where someone actually asked to be shot in the head to get away from the exhaustion, boredom, and fighting? — but everyone sort of cautiously says yes, they’ll go to Savannah. I imagined Bravo execs standing behind the cameras, each holding a knife to the throat of one of the ladies’ family pets until they agreed to go. The workout was boring but gave Kandi a chance to remember some of her XScape moves, and when no one pays attention to Kenya, she starts literally pirouetting around the room.

How much did we love the scene with Leon, Noelle, and Cynthia? Everyone is still on Noelle Boyfriend Watch 2013, but Leon reinforced that “his job in life is to raise her the right way,” so he’s less frantic about it than Cynthia, who can’t even say the words boyfriend or girlfriend (“It’s his first girl who is a friend”). Leon says lots of great, rational stuff, like he’s been prepping himself to handle all of this since the day Noelle was born, and that he knows she will have lots of boyfriends, a husband one day, and even sex, which gives Cynthia a healthy dose of the vapors. They’re super cute at co-parenting, and I wonder if Cynthia doesn’t kick herself a little when she sees who she had and who she ended up with, because I WOULD. I would be the solo contestant in an ass-kicking contest against myself if I had to wake up next to Peter every day.

Kenya met with her Aunt Lori to fake cry about her choices in life and lie about her “African sweetheart.” She insists she doesn’t want to pressure anyone into marriage, but then says she wants to have a baby with her invisible, made-up ghost boyfriend, prompting her aunt to say, “Just get a baby first, and then try to find a man.” I do feel terrible that Kenya’s mom pretends she was never born, but then she orders a salmon BLT without the B and I wish she was never born, too.

Finally, Kandi decides to shop for wedding dresses since looking at them in the magazine was so fun, and she feels back on track. She invited two friends, Carmon and Kwame, her mom, and her two aunts, Nora and Bertha. Mama Joyce arrives — LATE — with her two sisters and they float in like the embittered Witches of Eastwick, mean muggin’ everyone and everything. Mama Joyce does that incredibly rude thing that I hate where she refuses to say hello to Carmon, and you can just feel that she’s looking for a fight. When Kwame innocently asks if she’s excited to see the dress, Mama J says, “She’s not going to wear it anyway,” prompting Carmon to ACCURATELY tell her how terrible that is to say, which is when Mama Joyce gets up and tries to beat Carmon with her shoe.

I’ve moved on from my theory that Mama Joyce is an alcoholic, and I’m sliding right into the theory that she’s just a bitter old bitch who wants to ensure her meal ticket doesn’t float away. I’m actually astonished that Kandi can’t see what’s happening here.

Why did Mama Joyce show up for this dress fitting when she doesn’t approve of the marriage? Why does Kandi feel so beholden to this mean old sour-apple doll, especially at the expense of her own happiness?

When Kandi comes in wearing her dress, the first wedding dress she ever tries on after years of marriage proposals and dead fiancés, she’s greeted by Kwame physically restraining her mother, who is waving around like a windmill, and her Aunt Nora lying through her damn teeth to say Carmon started it. Who are these sour bitches? I just want someone to tell Kandi she looked pretty, or give her some hope that the adults in her life could pretend to be happy for her without thinking of their own pockets for once.

Carmon eventually had to sit in the front of the store after Mama Joyce tells her to leave and again tries to assault her with her Dr. Scholl’s. Kandi is ready to call the whole thing off, but agrees to try on another dress to “cool the room down.” When she comes back out, her aunts and mother tell her they hate her dress, and then Aunt Bertha squawks, “I don’t want you to marry!” It’s clear that Mama Joyce has influenced her sisters — have they even met Todd? — and I keep hoping Carmon will come around the corner, windmilling her arms, and knock all of them out in one fell swoop. Kandi says she’s done, and goes to talk to Carmon, who tells her what her mom said about her never wearing a wedding dress and that Kandi has to choose to not put up with this anymore instead of riding the fence. Kandi’s response is not, “Hey, you’re right – my mom is a crazy bitch who poisons my child against my fiancé and is ruining the happiest time of my life,” but that she has learned to deal with her mom and the people she loves just haven’t had time to figure out how to deal with her yet. Um, Carmon has known you for almost 30 years — I’m pretty sure the problem here is not that she hasn’t figured out how to settle for abuse like you, but that your mom is a legitimately unhinged weirdo who doesn’t want her personal ATM to dry up. Carmon says what we’re all thinking — “I feel sorry for you, because she’s going to be running your life forever.”

Next week we’re heading to Savannah, Mama Joyce is trying to bring her I Hate Todd campaign into the group by talking to Phaedra about his tiny head, Kandi breaks down, Kenya becomes the principal of their bus ride to Savannah, and Kandi finds her voice — just not with the right person.