Hello, Housewives stans, and welcome to Hotlanta. I’m Chris Murphy, and I’ll be recapping season 13 of America’s Funniest Housewives franchise, The Real Housewives of Atlanta. As the saying goes, when life closes a Potomac-shaped door, it opens an Atlanta-size window, and boy, am I ready to jump right out of that window and dive headfirst into the warm waters of Lake Bailey and Kenya’s mud-swamp with all of you.
But before we get into it, we have to address the elephant in the room: Linnethia Monique “NeNe” Leakes is no longer on the franchise. Yes, NeNe has left the show before, but this time … it felt different. This is in large part because before leaving, she accused Andy Cohen of being racist (and also kind of randomly called Wendy Williams a cokehead as well), so it’s unclear whether she’s even on good enough terms with Bravo to return for an episode or two in a “friend of” capacity. Look, I haven’t liked NeNe on the show for a while now. She’s felt too “above it,” and her inflated sense of ego and inability to be vulnerable was simply not fun to watch. Still, whenever a Housewives titan falls, whenever the face of a franchise, like Bethenny on RHONY or Lisa Vanderpump on RHOBH, leaves, it shakes us all to our core. I’m not gonna lie — I’m kind of scared for a season without NeNe.
But even without our GIF queen, we’ve got a strong, albeit small cast to ring in season 13 (wow, our little girl is now a teenager; I can’t believe it.) With only five peach holders, this Atlanta cast is one of the leanest we’ve had in recent memory, but by God are they all heavy hitters. We’ve got Kandi “Kashin’ Checks and Getting Sex” Burruss, Cynthia “Titty Cent” Bailey, Porsha “Hot Dog Queen” Williams, and Kenya “Twirl” Moore, and [checks notes] a new Housewife whom we don’t even meet in the first episode. Oh, that reminds me, I guess we also lost Eva “Top Model” Marseilles, but let’s be honest: She was kind of deadweight, so who really cares. So with our Gone With the Wind–fabulous five, we enter uncharted territory: a season without Nene and a season amid a pesky little global pandemic called the coronavirus.
Let’s take a bite of that peach, shall we?
We open with Porsha, which honestly feels right, as she gets ready for a confessional interview. From the beginning, you can tell that this is going to be a totally different type of episode and perhaps season. The ladies arrive wearing masks and talking to the producers about COVID-19 protocol. Cynthia Bailey has on a little pageboy cap because at the end of the day, she’s still Cynthia Bailey, but the tone is more somber and serious than what we’re used to. Instead of their normal decadent homes as background, the ladies are interviewed in front of a black screen. It’s all very intense.
And it should be. It’s June, and the women are filming season 13 in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the reinvigorated Black Lives Matter movement and protests sweeping the nation. It’s deeply personal to them as Black women, but also as Black mothers. This is not Kyle Richards having dinner conversations with her family about BLM in her Beverly Hills mansion. This is incredibly real, urgent, and painfully personal for them and has affected each of the women viscerally. “We’re automatically criminals just because we’re Black, and it’s just hurtful,” says Kandi. “Y’all want me to cry at the beginning of the interview day. This is terrible,” she adds, hitting the nail on the head.
We see personal footage of Porsha and Cynthia at protests, which includes some pretty harrowing footage of Porsha getting teargassed by the police at a peaceful protest in Atlanta. “I was just so offended at the blatant racism that was happening to my people,” says Porsha, and you can feel that something has changed inside of her. “We need to yell this from the rooftop. ‘No justice, no peace.’ We got to get busy.” We watch as Porsha leads a protest chant, shouting, “I said I love being Black. I love the texture of my hair. And I rock it everywhere,” into a megaphone to cheering crowds. She’s growing up and really coming into her own, that Porsha Williams, and the title card reveals she’s ascended to central peach holder. She’s come a long way from slapping the living daylights out of Kenya during that reunion. I’m proud of our girl.
We leave the BLM confessional and enter the show as we know it by wading into the waters of Lake Bailey. Cynthia is titty-first preparing for her driveway lunch date with Kandi. This is why I will always love Cynthia. She easily could have eaten out back at the lake, but no, Cynthia Bailey decided to move all of her Ikea lawn furniture and eat in her driveway and that’s the gag of it all. Speaking of gag, Kandi is already talking about sucking dick in the first seven minutes of her driveway lunch, saying she preferred the throat COVID test to the nose test because “she’s used to having things in the back of her throat.” Thank goodness her Kandi Koated Nights didn’t go away because of quarantine. I wouldn’t want to exist in a world where Kandi wasn’t getting off on the reg.
Like a bolt out of the blue, the one and only Marlo Hampton arrives in the driveway wearing a full face shield, leather harem pants, and a trucker hat. This isn’t a hot take, and I know I am not the only one who feels this way, but I will shout this till kingdom come: WHERE IS MARLO’S PEACH?!?! The only explanation I can think of is that she genuinely might be too much of a wildcard/liability to have on the show, but goddammit has that woman gone above and beyond to deserve peach status. I mean she literally came to Cynthia’s lunch with a temperature gun and a tape measure so she could make sure they were following social-distancing practices. We stan a CDC-compliant queen. Cynthia is so in love that her boobs are out basically the entire lunch, prompting Marlo to talk about her own nipples. “Mine are so big and black,” Marlo shares. “Why do we have big nipples?” Wow, I famously have pretty tiny somewhat inverted nipples (don’t worry, I pull it off), so I understand having nipple anxiety but from a different direction. Marlo also gives Porsha the nickname “Porsha Luther King” for her commitment to the BLM protests, and the girls talk about how proud they are of her. PORSHA. LUTHER. KING. God, Marlo is truly the gift that keeps on giving, and I trust that she is being paid handsomely for her work on this program.
While Marlo seems to be absolutely thriving, Ken(ya) Moore seems to be struggling. There’s no easy way to say this, but Ken(ya) is depressed, and that is very sad. Ken(ya) feels the pandemic is a prison. Ken(ya) has gained 30 pounds under lockdown and is not happy about it. Ken(ya)’s relationship with Marc Daly is still terrible. For all her faults, Nene did hit the nail on the head last season when she pointed out the difference between Kenya, a twirling, fabulous, confident woman who’ll read you to filth, and Ken, Marc Daly’s quiet and meek wife. These days, there’s too much Ken and not enough Kenya. She’s not the Kenya Moore we know and love or, more aptly, love to hate. You know, the Kenya Moore who crashed Marlo’s wig party with a marching band and sold her own line of hair-care products. Until that woman returns, I’m going to have to put the (ya) in parentheses. Ken(ya) needs help. Ken(ya) needs to get out of this marriage. Ken needs to get her groove and her (ya) back.
That being said, I am obsessed with Ken(ya)’s Afro-futuristic confessional lewk. Octavia Butler is shaking. We follow Ken(ya) as she meets with her lawyer to discuss her options with Marc. Unsurprisingly, Marc lives in New York and has seen her and Brooklyn one (1) time since the pandemic began. Ken(ya) says she’s “trying out a new nanny,” so be sure to pray for that woman whoever she is, and reveals that she and Marc didn’t get a prenup, which is honestly shocking to me. Has Kandi Burrus taught you nothing? You MUST secure the bag. I will say, a little sliver of Kenya popped out when she told the producer “that’s a loaded question and I’d rather not answer that,” re: Marc’s relationship with his other children. She’s still got that bite. She feels lost to me, and she feels lost to her lawyer, who at one point stops being her lawyer and fully becomes her life coach. “I know what Black women want,” he says. “Especially Black women celebrities. Y’all give up everything, you know, for your career and then you go and you say ‘Imma go get this family right? But his failure is not your failure. His failure is his failure. You gotta get your fight back dog.’” Hell yes to my man in the pink tie in the conference room spitting tea.
We then touch down with Porsha Luther King, who is actually not in Atlanta with the girls but traveling to Louisville, Kentucky, to protest the murder of Breonna Taylor. Porsha’s evolution in regard to race in America is absolutely incredible, given where she was a few years ago. She’s gone from thinking the Underground Railroad was a literal choo-choo train to crossing state lines to participate in BLM protests. It’s honestly inspiring to me. It’s also inspiring me that Porsha is finally engaging in a meaningful way with the legacy of her grandfather, civil-rights activist Hosea Williams. That black-and-white photo of her and her grandfather was so sweet and genuinely historic. Not to absolutely flex right now, but my grandmother and late grandfather were civil-rights activists in Montgomery, Alabama, and then Teaneck, New Jersey, and were friends with MLK (the real one, not the Porsha one). If you don’t believe me, check out my grandmother’s Wikipedia page! This is just to say that having a grandparent who is a civil-rights activist is such a cool legacy to be a part of, and it’s also one that you might not fully understand or appreciate until you get older. But it’s never too late! Just look at Porsha X.
We leave Porsha Parks in Louisville and head back to Atlanta, where Kandi and Todd are washing one of their gorgeous cars. Todd … I want to like him, honestly, because Mama Joyce is simply so insane, but there’s something about him that has always given me pause. I can’t put my finger on it, but the jury’s still out on Todd for me. But Riley, Ace, and the newest adorable edition to the Tucker crew, Blaze, are great. It’s fun to see the family wash their own cars and talk about money issues as if Kandi isn’t a rich-ass celebrity with a million side-hustle businesses. Babe, you were on The Chi and Celebrity Big Brother in the same calendar year. You WON The Masked Singer, which was a thing I didn’t think people could do. You wrote “No Scrubs” and “Shape of You” and “Don’t Be Tardy for the Party.” Methinks you can afford to send Riley to college. However, I do appreciate Kandi wanting Riley’s MIA dad, Block, to contribute on principle, and also because he owes her almost 100K in unpaid child support. Literally imagine someone owing you $100,000 and not talking about it all the fucking time. Her restraint is mind-boggling to me. But also, God bless the child that’s got his own.
Riley agrees that it’s time for her dad to step up and help her out. She’s going to NYU in the fall and has big-city dreams and a big-city taste, which requires a big-city budget. I don’t love that Block, Riley’s father, called Kandi a hood rat and said she was acting like a broke bitch when in actuality he is the one acting like a broke bitch. The clip package of Kandi getting choked up thinking about how Block wasn’t there for Riley definitely got me upset, and I am proud of Riley for being mature enough to accept that she may not need a relationship with this man but staying open to the possibility of one. Also, as a 27-year-old adult man who technically lives with his parents rn (hello, COVID!), I very much relate to Riley being like, I’ve got to GTFO of here even if classes are online. Assert your independence, and get that law degree!
Next, we get down and dirty in Ken(ya)’s mud pit, which, God willing, will eventually turn into a pool and a hot tub. Cynthia and Kandi get a little tour and put on those booties you wear at open houses so you don’t scuff the floors to walk through a pile of dirt and debris. I don’t know who you think you’re fooling with those li’l booties, Ken, but that’s not gonna keep any of these ladies’ feet from getting dirty. Kandi is dressed in Jessica Simpson Dukes of Hazzard cosplay, which is honestly quite appropriate for the occasion. Honestly, I’d be depressed if that’s what my backyard looked like as well. Cynthia and Kandi are so nice about it, though. “This is gonna be nice, I can see the vision,” Kandi says, narrowly avoiding falling into a sinkhole. “It’s huge right?” says Ken(ya), grasping at straws. Apparently, Marc never wanted a pool, so Ken decided to build a pool because she wanted one. This makes it the second best “Fuck you” pool of all time, narrowly losing to Patti LuPone’s Andrew Lloyd Webber Memorial Pool.
In Ken’s nice, clean, and honestly hollow and cold house, the ladies drink wine and gently try to convince her that she needed to divorce Marc, like, yesterday. Cynthia doesn’t like the way Marc talks to Ken. Kandi says you gave it your best shot but now it’s time to pack it up. Ken(ya), who’s effectively a single mother to a 5-month-old, just sits and cries and talks about options and vows and for better or worse. Honey, we’re very much in “worse” territory and it doesn’t seem to be improving anytime soon, but she’s not ready to pull the plug quite yet. It’s official: Kenya Moore is officially in her flop era.
Someone who is decidedly not in her flop era is miss Cynthia Bailey, who is doing her damndest to make sure she doesn’t have a flop wedding to the man of her dreams, Mr. Mike Hill. Now, I’m very happy for C.H.I.L.L., but there’s something about them that’s so not sexual to me, so hearing about their sex life makes me actively uncomfortable. Like, put my hands on my ears and go “La la la la” to drown it out. But anyway, now we know that Cynthia sounds like a car revving up while having sex, which honestly scans for me.
Cynthia is obsessed with having a big perfect wedding with Mike, even though literally everything in the world is conspiring to tell them that ain’t gonna happen. Yes, Cynthia’s last wedding to that scam artist Peter was bleak. It had an unfortunate slate-gray color scheme and also a round of hide-and-seek the marriage license. I understand why she’d want this wedding to be different. But we’re living in a pandemic. Some of our dreams must be temporarily deferred for the good of the public. Also, a wedding is just a party. Go to city hall and have the party when a disease that [checks notes] has killed 280,000 Americans isn’t still at large? Knowing that she fully went ahead and got married with over 200 people on 10/10/20 despite the pandemic sort of takes away from the drama of will she and Mike Hill make it. However, when Cynthia says she wants it all, I get it, because we all want it all, but I do agree with Mike Hill that Cynthia needs to C.H.I.L.L. about this wedding.
We end the episode back with Porsha Ann Robinson in Louisville, Kentucky. Now, I’m loving this new activism color on Porsha, but I do not love that Dennis is still in the picture. I thought we dumped the Hot Dog King a long time ago? But I guess I’m glad Porsha had Dennis there as her support system when she was putting her life in real danger at these protests. Porsha is arrested at a Breonna Taylor protest in Louisville and spends 13 hours in jail with 87 protesters. God, seeing the police on the screen is triggering even now, and although it’s scary, it’s incredibly cool that she’s doing this. Also, Porsha’s mug shot is cute and a little wacky, too. “As disgusting as that place was, being inside that cage with them actually changed my life,” Porsha said about her experience in that Louisville jail, and I believe her. We see photos of Porsha embracing Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor’s mother, and activist Tamika Mallory. “Biggest takeaway from this experience?” Porsha says. “Is that I’m gonna do it again.” You go, Porsha B. Wells.