The Real Housewives of New York City
Leah McSweeney seems to be entering into a phase I like to call the Terrible Twos. It’s when a Housewife has a killer debut season and comes back with a new apartment, a new nose, and a whole new lease on life. It’s when she starts buying into the hype of being a fan favorite, and because she got so much adoration for being herself in her first season, she is just that much more herself, which turns out to be, well, way too much. Just look at Leah’s new confessional look: the asymmetrical magenta blazer, the cascade of red hair, and a face that looks like it was borrowed from late-season Brandi Glanville.
Speaking of Brandi (say her name three times and she shall appear), she had a little bit of this shift herself. Dorinda Medley, Bravo rest her soul, suffered from this and it got worse and worse until it metastasized into a personality disorder the size of a Great Dane humping a miniature pony. Let us all pray that this disease does not affect Real Housewives of Salt Lake City standout Heather Gay.
Before we can talk about Leah’s Karen freakout from Ramona’s second-floor foyer balcony — oh, sorry, the “upper level” — we have to once again have a discussion about race on the show and in America. After being kicked out of Luann’s house last episode, Eboni returns home and tells Leah that Luann called her an “angry Black woman,” which Leah freaks out about, in what seems like a bit of a big reaction for someone who can’t even vote against a racist president. Oh wait, sorry, we’re putting that on hold.
Back at Luann’s Home for Wayward Artists, the women are sitting around listening to Heather Thompson give a seminar about race relations in America. Holla! She tells the women that the onus is on them right now, as white women, to fight the racism that we all grew up with and is a part of us whether we acknowledge it or not. She thinks that it’s the role of white women, and white people in general, to take a pause and examine their reactions to people of color and really examine what we could have done to upset people of color. She wants to show the difference between what happened with Leah, when Leah called everyone a ho and trotted off into an Uber, and what happened with Eboni. “What happened with you and Leah is silly and we can get through that … But what happened with you and Eboni is not,” she says. “You need to go in there with apologies.” When she hears the word “apologies,” Luann’s statement-necklace-honed neck shoots forward and her eyes bulge out of her head like someone just took a cattle prod to her labia.
Luann has her hackles up and says that she needs to have a conversation with Eboni, but Eboni needs to “meet her halfway.” The thing about racism, though, is that you can’t meet it halfway. You shouldn’t meet it any way. There are some Housewives fights where both parties are wrong. No, I take that back. In most Housewives fights, both parties are wrong. But in this fight there is only one person who is wrong and it is Luann, and she does not deserve an apology.
All the women sit down like it’s an episode of Red Table Talk, but Ramona doesn’t allow anything other than neutrals in her Hamptons home, so they changed the color of the table to lilac because Home Goods decided that lilac is a neutral. Eboni explains that Black women are not afforded a whole range of emotions and whenever they get upset or raise their voices, they are deemed “angry,” a stereotype that has a long and awful history. She speaks eloquently and passionately about the topic and how what Luann said affected her, and that is why Eboni is the only Housewife who could have possibly done the job of somewhat integrating this cast. Not that it’s her job to educate these women, as she points out, but she is.
Just as things are going well, Luann says that Eboni needs to apologize for making her upset, and someone once again has to explain to Ramona that White Fragility is not the shade that she made some day worker whose name she never remembered paint her dining room walls. Eboni explains how that goes against what she was just arguing. She is allowed to get upset, to have difficult emotions, and it’s up to the other women to process how they react to them without Eboni having to apologize for a reaction that was entirely natural.
Shockingly, the only person who really seems to get all this is Sonja Tremont Morgan of the Squirky Worm Bait and Tackle Morgans. She has Eboni’s back during this entire argument and at almost every turn says exactly the right thing. She already knows not to call a Black woman “angry.” Apparently, she spent all that time being trapped at a spa during COVID, working her way through the How to Be Anti-Racist Reading List. “The burden is on us,” she tells us at the end of Lilac Table Talk. “We’re white, privileged ladies. Nobody is turning the page and moving forward. We have to read the page, feel the pain, be a bit more awkward, and then turn a few more pages.” SMIFFEE (which stands for Sonja Morgan Is My Favorite Floozy for Ever and Ever), but what did they do with Sonja? This is the same lady who can’t figure out how to turn on her tub, but she can accurately and adroitly navigate a sticky discussion about race? That’s sort of like going to dinner at Madonna’s house and her not having at least one facialist chained to the radiator in her bathroom.
My favorite Sonja moment of the episode, though, was when all the women go fishing and they are clearly not into it, but Sonja is there with her waders on and her sensible outfit and her hair in kind of messy pigtails, and she looks so at home. She’s chumming around with Mark, the fishing instructor, who looks like a walrus of a man who lost his wife to consumption or scarlet fever or some other 19th-century affliction. She just looks like she’s meant to be there. For a minute I just wanted her to quit all this, to quit it with the Harry Dubins of the world, and just move to the Hamptons where she can live in a little shed in Montauk with a lovely man and they’ll go fishing every day, her hair becoming brittle with brine and her face settling into delicate wrinkles as her body slowly sheds the Botox like a dandelion sprinkling its seeds across a meadow.
When everyone returns to Ramona’s house, Boniva Cliffs, they’re getting ready for a ’70s-themed beauty pageant or something? I don’t know. That theme seems more strained than the thong on Lorde’s new album cover. As everyone is getting ready and Leah is dolled up like a beauty queen with her throat slit, she and Eboni are having a chat upstairs. Earlier at lunch, Leah said she probably won’t vote in the upcoming presidential election, because she’s mad at both sides. Heather wasn’t thrilled about that, and Eboni tells Leah why it upset her as a Black woman, because it felt like her life was on the line. As soon as Leah hears that Heather was talking about her decision not to vote she loses her damn mind. It’s bad enough she was expecting Heather to be patronizing when she initially brought it up at lunch, but it seems like now she doesn’t know what Heather said or why she should be mad, she’s just mad.
Leah comes out onto the upper-level balcony to give Heather a verbal upper decker. “Don’t talk about me, don’t talk about who I’m voting for,” Leah yells down at her as Heather calmly cranes her neck. “Why are you in everyone’s business like a Karen?” Then there’s the money shot, which we saw in the trailer, where Leah asks Heather if she understands what she’s talking about and Heather says, “Not really.”
There’s no reason she should understand, because I don’t think Leah is actually yelling about anything. Yes, she thinks that Heather is a know-it-all and is going to be dogmatic about her voting. The problem is that Leah decided before Heather even got there that she didn’t like her. Leah was upset that Heather was talking shit about the other women on her podcast and is now making friends. (Let’s be honest, Leah’s mad that Heather would do anything to get back on the show, but that’s the thing we can’t say out loud.) Leah hasn’t bothered to get to know Heather, hasn’t gotten to understand who she is as a person, she’s just reduced her to a type and is now lashing out at that type rather than taking issue with Heather specifically.
At the end of the fight Leah shouts, “My grandmother is dying right now and that’s all that I care about.” I am sympathetic to Leah. It must be hard to go through that, especially when you’re trapped in a house for a week with a bunch of unreasonable women. But she apparently does care about something other than that. If not, why even get into this fight in the first place? Why not just be like, “Heather is stupid,” and ignore her? I guess if she did that, she wouldn’t have been such a good first-season Housewife in the first place.
Leah gets on the bus to go to the pageant and a preternaturally calm Heather is hot on her tail. When Luann goes into the house to get something, Leah says, “Don’t leave me in here with her,” which is the kind of awful, petty, narcissistic thing that Leah would get all bent out of shape at Ramona for doing. Heather tells Leah, “Oh, calm down, bitch,” which is the only peevish thing that Heather has said to Leah all weekend, and she explodes, throwing the bouquet of roses she’s holding at Heather. She leaves the car and says, “I’m not going with her. She’s acting like a psycho.” Um, really? ’Cause she’s the one sitting there calmly and you’re the one ranting all over the house over the slightest provocation.
Heather just sat there, petals strewn all over the floor like nitrous oxide cartridges outside of a London nightclub. She folded her legs and balanced her crossed wrists over one knee, thinking about the birds she saw flying over the lake in Ramona’s backyard earlier that morning. Their graceful swoop as they skimmed so close to the water’s surface it was like two magnets repelling each other, an invisible force keeping them apart and aloft. Then they rose again, soaring off into the slowly thickening sky of late fall. Just as Heather thought her mind was at ease and she could take flight, she saw a peek of red hair underneath the chauffeur’s cap in the front of the bus. “You look calm,” Jill Zarin said. “But you want to get rid of her for good. Don’t you?” She smiled and pushed up on the brim of her hat so Heather could see her face. You could tell that she had a plan, just like you can tell that the moon is always yearning to be closer to Earth.
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