The pandemic has given us lots of things to hate — lockdown orders, learning what an “r number” is, Gal Gadot’s “Imagine” video, swab tests, Pfizer supremacy, filmed theater, hand sanitizer that feels like lube — but the thing that I hate the most, the absolute most, are clear plastic face shields. There are so many kinds to hate, and we see most of them during this episode of the Real Delta Variants of the Wuhan Lab-Leak Theory. The kind I hate the most are the ones we saw so much on RHOA, that are like a giant transparent visor that comes down over the face, providing about as much protection as a condom does against pregnancy during anal sex. (Think about it.) Those visors protect you from COVID like the sunbeds at Sizzle Tan protect you from skin cancer. The only thing worse are the partitions between tables at restaurants. Remember when there used to be smoking sections at restaurants? It’s very that.
Ramona introduced me to a new kind of see-through face mask when she showed up to have lunch with Bershan at the beginning of this episode. It apparently hangs from the ears and is sort of like a cage that goes around the nose, mouth, and chin. It reminded me of the time I wore a male chastity device but, you know, for your head. Considering it keeps particles both in and out, it seems to be effective, but it looks like Hannibal Lecter just showed up to lunch and he wants a whole lot more than an iceberg wedge salad. Also, in the time it takes Ramona to walk from the curb to her table, it’s already clouded up. It’s sort of like a terrarium for your skull, but the mist inside is your nasty Listerine Fresh Stripped breath.
The worst of all, though, are the masks the women wear when they finally get to Salem. I’m not even sure what this is. It looks like a macaroni necklace that a 6-year-old made at camp, but instead of dried penne they used plastic sheeting, cotton balls, and twine. Yeah, I get it, we want to see the women’s faces, but also, um, can’t we just wear regular masks? There are plain ones, cute ones, funny ones, campy ones, ones with dicks printed on them. I would rather see that than a clear one that makes Ramona Singer look like she’s trapped inside a submarine.
The only thing we saw more of than Crystal Pepsi masks this episode was fancy buses. The first is when Eboni and Sonja Tremont Morgan of the Mini Thin Gas Station Diet Pills Morgans go down to Philly to meet Eboni’s friend Devyn, who is a matchmaker. This bus is like the private plane of buses. I would ride anywhere in this bus, but I don’t see why we had to go all the way to Philly for this meeting. First of all, aren’t there matchmakers in New York? Can’t someone get Patti Stanger on the line for a house call? Secondly, this is the Zoom age. Is there anything this meeting accomplished that couldn’t be done over the phone? We hear about what Sonja wants in life — a French or Italian man, no one poor — and that she expects to get married again and quite soon. This is a meeting, three states away, that could have been an email.
The next bus is the tricked-out tour bus that Leah (and by Leah I mean production) booked for the women’s trip to Salem. This is a total rock ‘n’ roll party bus. I promise you the toilet in that mobile green room has seen more cocaine shits than Charlie Sheen’s bidet. The women, plus Bershan, all pile in for the four-hour drive to Salem and Leah kicks off the weekend’s “ghosts, ghouls, monsters, and witches” theme by having a cheeky nap in one of the coffin-like beds.
Most of this episode is just fun. It’s Sonja and Eboni having fun on their Philly trip. It’s the girls having a chat with Bershan on a bus that still can’t look at a can of Red Bull without getting triggered. It’s the women burning sage in their rooms and thinking about having sex with a ghost in the middle of the night. (Um, have you watched American Horror Story? Fucking a ghost, even one as sexy as Evan Peters, never works out well.) It’s Eboni and Ramona wearing matching leather catsuits for the “leather and latex dinner” and then Eboni twerking in the hotel lobby and Sonja calling it “tweaking.” It’s Sonja meeting a pair of twins who are supposed to be creepy, but she would rather flirt with them than be scared by them because, you know, who needs a matchmaker when you can live out your Children of the Corn kink all on your own?
It’s during dinner where things finally get dramatic. When Luann asks Sonja how her trip to Philly was, she tells them that she and Eboni were having a lot of fun together enjoying girl talk and that Eboni is not all “preachy teachy,” as Ramona likes to say. Yes, the conversation once again comes back to race, but Eboni didn’t bring it up, as much as some of the women want to pin it on her. (Eboni had some thoughts about how I discussed her discussions about race in my last recap, and they’re worth reading. I will give them the thorough and thoughtful answer they deserve in the next Housewives Institute Bulletin.) This time it’s Sonja who wants to rid Eboni of what she sees as a false label.
I found this conversation interesting because it is like so many conversations about race that we have all been having over the past year. Eboni says that, because she is new to the group, she wanted to make it clear where she stands on these issues, because she can’t have fun and kiki with the women if it’s an open question for her whether they are aligned with white supremacy. Luann immediately says, “I don’t know what made you think we were aligned with white supremacy,” as visions of hooded KKK sugarplums dance in her head. Luann is among the generation who grew up thinking that “white supremacy” means David Duke or someone who wants to live in an Aryan country. I don’t think she realizes that the term has evolved a bit. No one thinks Luann is burning crosses, but as products of a racist society — in particular white people who have benefited from that society — we all need to examine our role in perpetuating a system designed to keep white people at the top. I was relieved when Leah asked Eboni how she defines “white supremacy,” because as soon as people like Luann and Ramona hear that term, they immediately shut down, unable to imagine how such a label might apply to them.
But the way that Ramona handles the whole situation, and the way Leah handles Ramona, is not great. Ramona, once again, says that she doesn’t want to talk about this and just wants to have fun. Yes, that is very convenient for Ramona, who feels like conversations about race don’t apply to her life because she doesn’t think of her whiteness as an issue of race. Leah makes a good point when she says that when a new person comes into “this group” she gets shit on by all the women, and we see a montage of how Ramona, Luann, and Sonja all were snide to Leah when she first arrived. Leah points out that Eboni is not willing to eat shit for anyone, nor should she. (I think we all also need to recognize how this hazing hits differently when it applies to the only Black cast member in the show’s history. It’s like Garcelle explained to Kyle on RHOBH: It’s one thing to come for her like she would come for any other Housewife, but the way she does it and the way it is perceived is different because she is different from any other Housewife.) However, when Ramona tries to rebut Leah’s point, Leah starts screaming at her. “You’re a moron. You are what is wrong with this world,” she says, not even allowing Ramona to talk. This, right here, is how you radicalize people like Ramona. Fox News is already telling them that the “liberal elite” think they are stupid and their values don’t matter, and here is Leah, literally telling her exactly that.
What Eboni says she wants is for the women to declare that they aren’t for white supremacy, and I almost think she means Ramona specifically. We all know that Ramona is a Trump supporter, but for whatever reason she won’t address it. Eboni says that not everyone who voted for Trump is a white supremacist, but some of them are; she wants to make sure Ramona is not one of them, and I think that is very valid. I don’t see why Ramona can’t come out and talk about why she would support the man. Instead she just says, “I want a game. I want a game,” trying to force her way out of a conversation that is increasingly difficult for her because she won’t acknowledge the role she has played in making the world as it is for people like Eboni and her “friend” Bershan.
That’s when she says it, the thing that you would expect to hear at any Trump rally: “Am I supposed to apologize for being white?” she asks. “My mother was an immigrant. She came here with nothing.” This is not the same, Ramona. Yes, we all struggle, but we all struggle differently; some people’s struggles are a bit easier because those people are white, and Ramona needs to acknowledge it. Also, we don’t expect her to apologize for being white, but we do expect her to accept it and be willing to question a system where she always comes out on top. She’s not a moron, as Leah thinks, and to insult her as such won’t do anything to convince her that racism is as much her problem as it is Black women’s.
Downstairs, below the dinner table, June the catering manager slash witch stood in the middle of a pentagram drawn in blood. She was joined by a brunette and a redhead, because three is the witchiest number. They wore long, black robes with hoods pulled almost over their faces. They joined hands in the candlelit den, which looked just like the floor above, covered in animal skulls, crystals, cauldrons, and the other ephemera of the dark arts. “By the way of the crow may we fly,” she muttered. “By the way of the wolf, we hunt. By the way of the deer, we prance. By the way of the lizard, we dart. By the way of the Cohen, we interrogate. By the way of the Housewife, we seek to change. By the way of the moon, we rise. We rise. We rise.” Then all of the women joined in, their voices in unison, “We rise. We rise. We rise.” They all chanted as they began spinning in a circle. “We rise. We rise.” They all tilted their heads to the sky and the hoods fell off, revealing Jill Zarin and Carlton Gebbia, their hands still clasping, their hearts united, as a howl filled the room.