Cynthia, with a straight face, is calling herself a “mother agent” now. She doesn’t spend any time unpacking that; she just expects us to accept that this is her new role, which, dear reader, I do not. With only my family as proof, the colloquial “mama” is reserved for black women who have risen to a certain station in life. They might not be your mother — they might not even have any kids! — but you call them “Mother” as a sign of respect, which Cynthia has not earned. [Oprah voice, wide arms] You. Have. Not. Earned it, Cynthiaaaaaaaaa!
Hi. I’m Danielle, I’m a writer, and I look forward to Real Housewives of Atlanta the way some people look forward to celebrating their birthday. I’ve been recapping RHOA for three seasons (along with a ton of other shows for Vulture), and I’m enough of an adult to admit that it’s my one of my favorite shows without bringing in academic arguments about reality TV being a reflection of zzzZZZZZzzz … IT’S GREAT, and you’re great, and there’s a reason we start each season so close to Christmas.
This entire season is going to be about Apollo and Phaedra the way New Jersey was all about Teresa and Joe Guidice. Phaedra is a lawyer who married a felon, a felon that went on to commit more huge felonies, so there’s no way we’re going to get around it. This episode puts us square in the middle of their drama, but let’s catch up with everyone else first, starting with their new taglines.
NeNe: Why be so nasty and rude when I can be so fierce and successful?
Well, you got to be fierce and successful by being nasty and rude, so if you’re going to ask and answer your own question ... NeNe burned through all of the goodwill I had for her last season. Every last drop. Her ego has overshadowed her sense of humor, and her open contempt for every other cast member makes me wonder why she’s still hanging on. I’m prepared to hear her case as she moves through the season, but for now, she’s officially on my shit list. She must have been feeling the heat in Atlanta because she chose to spend the summer in sweltering-ass Las Vegas, emceeing a circus-themed orgy. Just like your grandma used to do! Her makeup artist at Zumanity (which definitely sounds like a venereal disease) said, “We’ve never had a celebrity emcee before!” Guess what, motherfucker — you still don’t. She chomped and spit through her lunch while she told the makeup artist how professional she was, and then donned Karg’s Masters of the Universe wig and rehearsed. Gregg is still 100 years old and talking about his “britches,” but I did enjoy the part where they tried to figure out what an orgy actually is. (“A threesome!” “No, more than three people!”)
Kenya: People get exhausted trying to figure me out, and I just let them.
No one is as invested in Kenya as Kenya, and this tagline proves that her delusion bone survived the “attack” just fine. She spent the summer traveling the world, looking for her next mark boyfriend and making sure to perfect her victim face for when she got back, which Cynthia ate up with a spoon. Kenya raises a good point, though: Everyone did run to Porsha at the reunion instead of her, even though she was the one who got hit. She feels “humiliated” and “ganged up on” and wants to know “why do people treat ignorance like it’s some kind of handicap,” but she should first examine how wildly she provoked every single person in that room before casting aspersions on how they reacted. I’d bet you $20 that if you had waved a wand in Gandhi’s face for an hour, Gandhi would have beaten your goddamn ass, too.
Kandi: I’m not about the drama — don’t start none, won’t be none.
If only you took this tack with your mom, who is 40 pounds of drama in a ten-pound sack. Kandi and Todd got married (hooray!), so now he thinks he has license to jokingly call her Anna Mae while she gets the house ready for his daughter Kaela to move in. Listen: I wake up and genuflect to my Beyoncé shrine every morning the same way you do, flexing my “put a ring on it” wrist instead of making the sign of the cross, but I will never forgive that woman for making people think it’s cool to joke about Ike Turner. As retribution, Tina Turner should be given federal license to donkey-kick anyone she hears taking her given name in vain. You too, Jay Z! You might actually be first.
The biggest problem in Kandi and Todd’s life right now is that she’s been spoiling her daughter Riley rotten, while Todd has had a more measured approach to his 18-year-old, so they’re trying to figure how to even things out when Kaela arrives. They had enough drama to last a lifetime last season, so if this is what you’re bringing to the table, I’m fine with it. They’re at odds over Apollo and Phaedra but seem to be mature enough to just not talk about it. It’s fine! LET THEM LIVE! Mama Joyce will be showing up soon to ruin everything, like Rumplestiltskin demanding rings for spinning straw into gold.
Cynthia: Life is about choices, and I choose Cynthia.
This … just … okay. Okay, girl. You choose you, even if saying so makes you sound slightly divorced from reality. I’m fine with Cynthia so far, but I call ultrabullshit on her claim that her marriage is better now that she and NeNe broke up, especially since Peter hit her up for money almost immediately after she said so. He asked her to be his partner! In his spectacularly failing business! After all of the money problems they had every single year since they got together! And she’s actually considering it! GIRL, BYE.
Porsha has been demoted to part-time cast member and did not get a tagline, so she dusted off her new tits, put on a bikini, and took pictures “for summer.” Is that a thing? Seasonal photos? It’s literally the only thing Porsha has happening for her, so cheers. Did you cry laughing when she said “I don’t know law” with regards to her mug shot? I will weep tears of blood over the loss of the comedy Porsha unintentionally brings into my life.
Phaedra: When it comes to my family, I’m the judge and the jury.
Nothing solidified this fact more than Phaedra taking the kids to Augusta on the day of Apollo’s sentencing, and that’s all anyone can talk about. Apollo balked at the fact that she didn’t want the kids to be subjected to paparazzi, but he also said the verdict had gone viral before he even left the courtroom, so it’s like he’s not even listening to the words coming out of his mouth.
He was sentenced to eight years in prison, though he thinks he’ll only have to do five years. It’s not even worth arguing whether Phaedra was right or wrong to abandon him in his time of need: She’s right. She’s right to keep her kids out of the public eye during a criminal trial even though they are widely featured on a reality show because the implications of each are very different. She actively struggled with how she was even going to explain what was happening to them, and I think it’s smart for her to take them out of the action. Apollo kept saying that if he was remanded into custody that day, he wouldn’t get a chance to see his kids, but he never once said, “If I get taken to jail today, that would be really hard for my kids to see.” You can’t pull the family-man card when it suits you, Apollo; if he was so concerned with family, would he have committed those crimes in the first place? Phaedra staying at home to “keep the bed warm” wasn’t an option, either; first of all, ew, crawl back to your cave, and second of all, they’ve been having tons of problems for a while now. Based on what we saw last season, Phaedra and Apollo were headed for a split anyway, so the fact that he wants a divorce now isn’t really shocking.
What is shocking is how much of a giant, pants-crapping baby Apollo is. “I built this house! This is my stuff, it’s mine!” Is he sincerely saying that pointing out where a gutter should go is the same as building a house with your bare hands, or contributing anything to paying for it? Like, can someone check to make sure the man doesn’t have an embolism about to pop in his skull? It was appalling to see him talk to Phaedra about money and selfishness at a time like this, that he wanted to be sure he would come out of jail with an apartment and a new car. Like that’s what mattered! He’s passing the buck all over the place — he got caught because of a “co-conspirator,” not because he was committing a crime. He wants credit for not including Phaedra in the $2.3 million case against him, as if he personally set out to protect her. He told anyone within earshot that his wife wasn’t there with him during his sad-sack apology tour after court, seemingly without considering why she wouldn’t want to be there in a million years. I think his tears are real and that he will miss his kids, but he shows very little remorse for his actions when it comes to Phaedra and the way he could have jacked up her whole life. He barely shows remorse for his crimes!
One thing is clear: Phaedra is not going out like Teresa “I didn’t know what I was signing, I didn’t understand my plea deal” Guidice. She slipped into lawyerspeak REAL QUICK (“we found ourselves at this juncture”) and reminded Apollo that as an officer of the court, his actions affected her good name. She was also quick to note that she did pretty much everything for her kids:
“I’m the heart and soul of my kids' lives; I’m sad he won’t be there to SHARE these moments, but I’ll do it alone and well.”
It’s hard to argue the merits of who did what in that relationship, but the bottom line is that Phaedra isn’t afraid to be alone. She’s intentionally distancing herself from him. She’s done, and I don’t blame her.
What do you think? Was Phaedra right to leave Apollo on the day of his sentencing? Were you amazed when he said, “I helped you earn that paycheck,” or that he became sentient enough to recognize that she might have just wanted him to give her her kids? Is this a “stand by your man” moment, or was she right to bounce?
See you next week!