I’ve said it before and I’ll say it 280,000 times again – these women are the best characters on television. Yes, I know they’re technically “real people” and yes, I know that they exist even when the TV program isn’t airing. But my god, if Tennessee Williams wrote Karen Huger in the stage play Grand Dame on a Hot Tin Roof, we’d all be in grad school working on Ph.D.s writing a dissertation “Patriarchy and Wealth: Colonizing the Bourgeois and Karen Huger.”
The depths of vulnerability and honesty that these women are showing is completely unmatched in any other franchise in the Real Housewives canon. I’m constantly floored by just how much we’re getting from these Housewives. Any other Housewife would be out there trying to keep everything together, but not the ladies of Potomac. Their messy-ass lives keep getting in the way and they just roll with it! Robyn owes $90,000 and she’s just living life. Ashley’s husband is full of trash but she’s out there twerking in the streets to a marching band. Can you imagine the levels of spin and projection we’d be getting on another franchise? That’s because these women are constantly giving us gifts and the gift is reality, the heightened, beautiful reality of drama. Let’s get to it.
We start the episode with Karen being invited to participate in the homecoming parade in her hometown of Surry, VA. I did some googling and Surry, VA is a town of 262 people. That’s it! You know a town is small as hell when their official census count doesn’t contain a comma. There’s only two sections on the town Wikipedia page. They don’t even have a “Famous Residents” section to include Karen in. This is somehow something they’ve decided to do now, and Karen is taking Ashley and Gizelle along. Ashley and Gizelle are mostly amazed that Karen has a farm-based backstory. I honestly would have guessed that Karen sprung forth fully formed from a Lord & Taylor dressing room.
Ashley is leaving baby Dean at home for the first time and she thinks two hours is a manageable distance to be away from her newborn child and her cheating Aussie husband. She’s convinced that Michael has learned his lesson, even though being left home alone without Ashley to supervise his penis was the problem before.
Speaking of awful husbands, when it comes time for Ray to put Karen in the car, she says “I love you” and he says “Take care” and doesn’t give her a kiss. Can you phone it in even for a moment, Ray? You’re in front of her friends. I guess you don’t care if they talk about you the entire car ride. Thankfully, Gizelle and Ashley are fully aware of how tenuous this whole thing is and just pivot the conversation to the Taco Bell Karen used to work at.
Meanwhile, back in Potomac, Candiace is still reeling from being pummeled into a rustic live-edge table by Monique. She invites Robyn over to sit down and chat about everything that’s been playing on repeat in her head. Candiace has such a fixation on being “fancy” (while living in a house that her mother once paid for), so she fixes a dessert board for her and Robyn. I noticed the following things on this dessert board: grapes, chunks of pineapple, strawberries, biscoff cookies, and Milanos straight outta the box. She put strawberries under a glass dome to serve to her friend. Never change, Candiace.
Apparently, Karen has given Candiace the advice that she should press charges against Monique and, yeah? She should? Yeah, do that. I’d love to see it. And Candiace smoothly transitions the conversation to asking Robyn about the $90,000 she owes to the IRS. Wow. Just wow. I love the video insert of Robyn talking to her accountant being like “Oh, so it’s bad? I should not have done this? And by ‘thi’s I mean filing bankruptcy for several years while doing my own taxes? That was the thing I should not have done?” All Robyn’s accountant can say is “Girl, I guess not!” Now there’s a federal tax lien on Robyn. I’m not even sure WHAT that means but it’s so incredibly not good but Robyn is just like “Whoopsie-doodles!”
The gals in Surry have made it to the farm and this is actually very sweet. Karen’s family worked as slaves on this land and were able to purchase it and have been there for over 100 years. It emphasizes just how close this history still is for so many African-Americans that their family homes are still artifacts to slavery. It also raises the question of what Karen’s real age is. She says she’s in her 50s but… is she?
They all head inside and sit down with her Aunt Carlene and her cousin Valerie. Is it just my family or does every Black family have a Cousin Val and an aunt with some name that’s a variation of the name Carl? My mom’s middle name is a variation of Carl and I have a Cousin Val. That’s what unites us all. Karen’s family starts sharing pictures and stories of lil’ Karen. She convinced herself at a young age that she was going to marry Michael Jackson. The delusions began so early. It’s really a sweet scene and Gizelle says it’s refreshing to see Karen drop the Grand Dame act. Karen as a real person who believed she was going to marry The King of Pop and in the words of Aunt Carlene “You couldn’t tell her nothing” is still an amazingly complex character.
While they’re busy harvesting corn with the combine, Monique calls Ashley just to tell her how on edge she feels and how drained she is. Duh, you haven’t long-rested after that boss battle, Monique. Monique is continuing her No Remorse 2020 Tour and says, “If it wasn’t me, it would have been somebody else!” This sets Karen and Gizelle off and they’re storming around calling Monique a liar and says she’s celebrating hurting people. Karen says she definitely gave Candiace the advice to press charges.
We only have a little time for Wendy this episode and again, there’s a whole lot of immigrant mother subtext that I’m not sure I’m equipped to handle. She’s planning to quit being a professor in order to focus on her po-LIT-ical commentary (read: going on MSNBC to talk about stuff). Wendy, I’m not entirely sure that’s a whole job. You could be an author and also a political commentator. Once you leave your professorship, what is it going to say in that little box on the TV? “Real Housewife. Political Commentator”? Obviously, she can’t be a professor and be a Real Housewife but she’s got to figure out how to tell her mother, who is reaping the Nigerian social benefits of having “two doctors” in the family. Okay, Wendy’s sister is a surgeon and Wendy has a Ph.D. Two doctors. She does a little roleplay with her sister as her mom and it’s mostly just disapproving noises.
Juan sits down at a bar when a tall, dark-haired Latvian beauty named Tatyana sits down next to him and tells him that she owes the IRS $90,000 and orders some skrimps. There’s nothing more to say.
We’re back in Surry, VA for the homecoming parade. Karen is going to be sitting on a Bentley waving at the denizens. Gizelle nails the Karen of it all and says that Karen is fighting so hard to not be the woman who came from this small town. She married well and was able to get out and now she’s discovering that she’s a person instead of just an aspirational figure and that’s difficult for her and for Ray. All of these women are just Betty Draper deep down. Gizelle and Ashley are very disturbed that candy is thrown at them during the parade and I thought this was standard parade procedure! Karen also picks up a random baby and just rides with it for a little bit. What a parade.
After the parade, they head to the church Karen grew up in and it’s a small, very cute church. Karen is reacting EMOTIONALLY to the church. She felt the spirit move within her when she was young and she’s been public speaking within the church ever since. I cannot relate because I mostly saw being picked to read prayers in church as an opportunity to wear my Victorian-goth 2000s outfits from the Gap. Karen hasn’t been to the church since she lost her parents and she knows her family is with her now but it’s still painful. She heads into the other room and breaks down in tears with the deacon. And her mic is still on. It must be exhausting to be Karen and she seems like the woman who does the most to preserve her image on the show. This show shows us so much! The peepshow of life! The tears of a Karen!
It is time for Monique to sit down with her pastor and his wife and I was NOT prepared for this man to gaze deep into her soul like he did. I was fully not expecting for him to tell her about herself in a way that completely crumbled all her bullshit. It was a beauty to behold. Monique tried to start off with the same “I completely blacked out” nonsense she’s been spouting and immediately her pastor tells her, “Our friends are a reflection of who we are and you’re dealing with what’s going on in your heart. You’re used to orchestrating and dominating.” I gasped. I GASPED. He breaks it down that she’s been in survival mode, she was bullied and had to look out for herself when she was a child and even now, she had to prove her worth as a wife to Chris. She says she’s tired of being criticized and nit-picked and her pastor says she’s disdainful that this group of women aren’t impressed with the image of perfection she’s presenting. He says that in her mind, she’s nonpareil. I thought immediately of the candy because I do not have the command of the English language and the vision into the human soul that this man has. I love him. I want him on every episode. “They are not impressed with your perfection and that causes you disdain”!!!! He clearly says that it’s not Candiace’s fault but something Monique has to reconcile. I have been waiting for this pastor. Monique breaks down and says, “It has nothing to do with her. I need to apologize to her.”
As a postscript: Folks, I have some medium news. This is my last recap of Real Housewives of Potomac this season. I’m moving over to cover THE MOST DRAMATIC SEASON EVER of The Bachelorette so please join me on Tuesday for the festivities!