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The Real Housewives of Atlanta Recap: Too Many Ding-a-Lings

I’m all over the place this season — the cast members I usually love are acting like lunatics, and the ones I tend to make fun of are making me cry tears of unbridled sympathy!

NeNe was wrong to go after Cynthia about Noelle having a boyfriend. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Everyone was having a great breakfast, talking about old pastimes like Skype sex, tattooed vaginas, post-miscarriage piercings, and the Million Homophobic Moms who don’t want their kids to watch Glee, when Cynthia innocently mentioned that she likes being the kind of parent who takes a journey with her child, particularly through the recent revelation that Noelle has a boyfriend. NeNe is more vitriolic about someone else’s child having an age-appropriate boyfriend than she was about her own failed marriage, and didn’t miss a chance to tell the world that the young, fast girls are the root of all social problems! Teenage girls with boyfriends cause spontaneous pregnancies, cancer, and the housing crisis, and teenage girls definitely killed Nelson Mandela.

Cynthia got properly heated as the conversation devolved into a slut-shaming fiasco, with Kandi shouting that raising daughters means you have to worry about pregnancy and Phaedra calling out that “with boys you have to worry about one ding-a-ling, but with girls you have to worry about every ding-a-ling!” Cynthia, remarkably the only person at the table standing up for teen girls everywhere and Noelle specifically, said, “Girls who are too sheltered are the first ones to be turned out,” as a way to explain something that, in normal company, doesn’t need to be explained or defended. If you replace the word “girl” with “hyena” throughout the conversation, you would think the nation was under siege, when in reality one kid is going through puberty and trying to spend time alone with another kid going through puberty. They’re not even mashing their parts together yet, or awkwardly smooshing their faces against one another in the hallway before Mr. Sattler’s earth-science class lets out! Cynthia, unable to believe that she’s hitched her formerly well-respected wagon to this grip of dummies, starts crying, says she “just wants her child to be happy” and she “just wants to be a good mom,” and runs upstairs, Kenya and Porsha scurrying along in her wake.

NeNe was wrong, and protesting a little too much, considering her oldest son, Bryson, was a lazy, slack-jawed teenage oaf for most of the time he was featured on the show, was in trouble with the law a couple of times for stealing razors, possessing marijuana, and violating probation, and fathered a child when he was 22 years old. Which is all fine, and no one judged her for it, making it very strange that she’s so weird about Cynthia letting Noelle have a completely normal in every way boyfriend. For all of her faults (like ever letting Peter’s turgid phallus near her), Cynthia is actually a great mom. She’s not buying booty shorts and taking her to clubs in matching outfits to suck down Jell-O shots — she’s trying to communicate with her kid, and be a source of support while also being protective and authoritative. The thing that set off NeNe was Cynthia telling the crew that she was chaperoning their dates — what does she think is going to happen, and why is it any of her business? I think NeNe’s grown too accustomed to Cynthia being her “do you like me, yes or no?” easy-to-manipulate friend, so any pushback at all is disturbing to her. Let’s stop vilifying teenage girls for no goddamn reason, okay?

While NeNe crowed on downstairs about how completely right she was to say something that made her friend run from the table in tears (she wasn’t, she was very wrong), Kenya and Porsha were blowing my mind by being supportive and caring to Cynthia upstairs. I mean, of course Kenya tried to make it about her, and told Cynthia that she never had a mom, but it was sort of on topic since she said that Cynthia was doing everything right and was the mom Kenya always wished she had. Cynthia, who tearfully said that she “always thinks about what that little girl needs,” and, “I have to let her live,” seemed to really need to hear that, and even Porsha had good advice about “knowing when you’ve done a job well.” Kenya sort of broke the spell by saying, “I always think about my puppy!” as a way to try to commiserate, but since she wasn’t stirring shit or rubbing her but on anything I’ll let it slide.

Porsha and Kenya went off to talk while Cynthia called Noelle and fixed her smoky eye, and had a surprising heart-to-heart about the one thing they definitely have in common — wanting a child, but not having one. They talked about vulnerability, and Porsha — with her nineties baby hair laid flat and on point! — said that even though the Wedding Cake Mansion is spooky, it’s sort of a safe haven. Then they hugged and seemed to make up! Like, make up forever! It was weird, and I was so wrapped up in the emotion of the moment that I want to trust it, but I bet they will be holding knives at each other’s throats again before the end of the season because Andy Cohen demands high drama the way Mesopotamians demanded ritual sacrifice.

NeNe comes upstairs dressed as Daisy from The Great Gatsby and makes fun of Cynthia as a way to offer an apology while Phaedra and Kandi start prepping a great southern feast downstairs. NeNe goes to check on Porsha after she hears her crying, but then offers literally zero support when Porsha reveals that her conversation with Kenya and a quick look at Thumb’s Instagram account made her feel sad because she missed her family. Why did NeNe see this as a chance to rip Porsha up for being a “one-sided friend?” No matter how selfish Porsha is most of the time, she’s clearly reeling from her divorce, so maybe you can pump the brakes on the friendship performance reviews. Somehow NeNe convinces Porsha that it’s a good idea to try to contact Thumb, even if she just wants to put the divorce on hold because it’s “moving too fast.”

TAMMY JO! is nowhere to be found — if she was smart, she snatched that check from Bravo, put that house up for a short sale, and spent the weekend in the Caribbean.

Throughout this entire episode, Mynique just sort of hangs in the background, grinding her teeth into a smile and walking from room to room like a cipher. Her housewife tour of duty is done. She serves only as a reminder for the rest of the group to make racist jokes at her expense while she white knuckles it and thinks about a Sliding Doors scenario where NeNe asks her to go on this trip and she musters up the balls to whisper, “Fuck nooooo.”

The high drama at the house is the excuse NeNe gives for taking everyone out to a drag show, but they had front-row seats that were clearly arranged ahead of time so I call multiple levels of bullshit. Kenya’s dog had diarrhea so she had it flown to Savannah instead of a vet, which makes perfect sense when you are a camera-hungry sycophant with no pertinent storyline. NeNe thinks Kenya should use this time to make amends with Phaedra, who is not so happy to see the diarrhea-laden dog pop up (“The dog! Oh, don’t come in here.”). Kenya starts an insincere apology in the third person, and Phaedra is like, “Yeah, we’re cool, whatever.” Kenya won’t shut up, so Phaedra pops out a titty and starts pumping milk to put a definitive period on the end of her “we’re done here” sentence, which is the baddest bitch move in the history of bad bitch moves. I have never wanted so much as a whisper of a pregnancy, but I wish to god I could look someone dead in their eye and bust out a milk pump when I wanted them to shut up. Kenya, unable to read clues or context, keeps talking over the WHIRR, whirr, WHIRR, whirr of the pump! Phaedra finally says she has “children to feed, people to bury, and cases to try,” so she really has no time for any of this nonsense.

Everyone heads out to see veteran drag performer Lady Chablis, and NeNe gets very, very drunk almost right away. Like, embarrassing-aunt-at-the-family-picnic drunk. Everyone is a little tipsy, actually, and there are lots of jokes about NeNe being a man (Kenya), trying to get Lady Chablis to teach Mynique how to read and throw shade (everyone), and Porsha asking the flamboyant drag queen where the “straight club” is. Getting drunk and slurring all over each other is how NeNe defines bonding, so, as Lady Chablis says, “Two tears in a bucket, motherfuck it.”

They finally wobble home to eat the meal they started cooking at 10 a.m., and Porsha reveals that she sent a text to Thumb asking him if he wanted to “chat.” Thumb was like, “Uh, yeah, what do you want to talk about? I am divorcing you, and you should really be marveling at a talking, texting thumb.” For some reason, Porsha was acting as giddy as a 12-year-old nervous about texting a boy for the first time, so while everyone was talking about how she should reply, Kandi sent him a text saying “us,” which freaked Porsha out. I liked how everyone was like, “Girl, we got this, just leave us your phone.” 

Kandi wants all of the girls to be involved in a musical she’s creating that’s “loosely” based on her life. It’s about a girl in a group who gets a record deal, and used to date her manager, but her mom doesn’t like the guy she’s with. It is literally, not loosely, the story of Kandi’s life, but it gets interrupted by a bug. Everyone was screaming "cockroach," but I think it was a palmetto bug, which is southern for cockroach. I stayed with a friend in North Carolina a few years ago, and thought it would be quaint to sleep on his screened-in porch. I woke up at dawn to serious chittering and what looked like hundreds of cockroaches clinging to the screen, as if it was scripted by George Romero himself. I backed into the house and sat on the couch with a flaming torch while I waited for him to wake up and casually tell me, “Oh, those? Those are palmetto bugs.” North of the Mason-Dixon we call those motherfuckers cockroaches and you cannot tell my born-in-New-York ass any different just because the constant exposure to the sun makes them grow to twice the size. The best part of this scene was Porsha sneaking a tray of food away from the table and the bug while everyone else was shouting. Her instincts are on point, and I commend her.

Everyone ran and screamed while Kenya and Porsha tried to kill it with a roll of paper towels, not knowing that you can’t kill them for all the paper towels in the world, and your only hope is to burn your house to ashes, salt the earth, and start over. They smushed it a little and freaked Cynthia out when they pretended to toss it at her, but NeNe ruined the mood by complaining about how much Kenya and Porsha seemed to have bonded … on this trip that she created … to force everyone to bond. Porsha sincerely thanked everyone for “sharing their heart with her,” but NeNe wanted to hang onto her stank face a little longer, telling Porsha that she takes support but doesn’t give any, and she never answers when NeNe calls. Kandi was right to ask what are the requirements of friendship with NeNe, and do they all need a contract? Because everyone is seemingly fucking up. Porsha just hugged NeNe until she was quiet, and the trip ended with gratitude and people hoping they wouldn’t have to hear anyone cry for at least a week.

Next week, Mama Joyce goes to a doctor of some kind (hopefully a chiropractor will give her an attitude adjustment), Chuck and Phaedra get into whether or not they were dating all those years ago or friends with bennies, and Cynthia and Peter fight about money when he seems to buy a car without her knowing.

I hope your New Year’s celebrations are lively and safe, and that none of your friends act like any of these women. Happy New Year!

Photo: BravoTV