The Real Housewives of Potomac
For two weeks while Andy Cohen was running around with poppers on Fire Island, Bravo put Watch What Happens Live on hiatus and gave Bravo’s Chat Room — a show where Porsha Williams and Gizelle Bryant get drunk and judge other people — a limited second-season run, with a solid queue of powerhouse guests. On the fifth episode, the Grand Dame Karen Huger made an iconic appearance, and I tuned in, fully prepared for a Battle Royale between the two titans of Potomac. What I got instead, however, was campy sparring between the duo, which gave me an inkling as to the direction of the season: Karen and Gizelle may frequently be at odds, but they always end up coming to some sort of peace accord.
This episode certainly doesn’t start on that tone, however. Gizelle makes no bones about emphasizing that Karen and Ray will be six feet under before they ever receive another apology from her, which I find a little bit overboard, but reality TV is pretty much a telenovela with real-life consequences at this point, so make of that what you will. Regardless, the Desperate Housewives conclude Robyn’s birthday dinner, where Ashley astutely points out that Candiace was quick to defend Wendy over remarks made about her body but immediately went to jabs about Ashley’s to cut her down. I get that Ashley is far from a sympathetic figure to many, but she truly has Candiace’s number, and I think the unspoken issue is that Candiace won’t ever forgive her for the character statement she gave Monique. She gives a feeble rebuttal, and an even feebler apology, because Candiace, as we all know, has a very serious issue with holding accountability for her behavior, and according to Askale, she was the one to get to Candiace to apologize, although it was unaired. As Ashley mentioned, this schtick is old and tired; either grow or don’t, but you don’t get to have it both ways. Standing in your mess means ceding the higher ground, which applies to multiple women on this show.
In the B block, Karen fulfills her ambassadorial duties by filming her video for the Surry County Tourism board, and production has a ball with the lower third chyron, pointing out that she was filming in Potomac and not in Surry County. Now, far be it from me to defend all of La Dame’s shenanigans, but I felt like Bravo’s production team was putting a little too much dramatization on this plotline. It is not uncommon for a few scenes of any tourism ad to be shot in a nondescript location while the rest of the film is accumulated B-roll footage. Surry County is a nearly four-hour commute away from her, after all, so this is an understandable compromise. Bravo does it for their own shows and transition scenes within the Potomac series (the locations shown between scenes are anywhere from Potomac to DC proper, to Arlington and Fairfax, so pretty much anywhere that you can plausibly find a cherry blossom), and that is all that is happening here. You can even see the final ad here, so it really is an easy way for them to make a mountain out of a molehill for those who don’t know how a commercial or TV is made. That said, I don’t know what on earth Karen was doing careening down that playground slide. Unless she was simultaneously launching a campaign advertisement to become the next State Delegate for Maryland, it was a completely incomprehensible shot.
Later in the episode, Messy Mia gets the girls together for a goddess party, which, to her credit, looked lovely, although the ladies had to go over the river and through the woods to get there. Askale, a walking reaction meme masquerading as a friend, arrived looking fabulous in traditional Ethiopian clothing, looking like a Habesha (which Wendy hilariously garbled) goddess. Ashley teetered across the creek with a baby carriage in tow, which made me entirely too uncomfortable, and I felt that production could have cut and helped her out with, considering she is caring for a newborn. Candiace came sporting a pixie cut wig that was supposed to harken back to Diana Ross’s Supremes era but gave me Gladys Knight at Verzuz vibes instead (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Robyn sported a feathered hair look, and well, she tried, but it’s no Farah Fawcett.
Mia asks for everyone to go around and share what they like about each other, which happens to both be the exact purpose of goddess party — supporting each other’s feminine power or what have you, as my cursory Google search has informed me — and a perfect reality trope for guaranteeing conflict. It goes about as predictably as one can expect. Candiace and Ashley share compliments about each other through gritted teeth, Askale is the most amicable to everyone, Robyn and Karen are able to find common ground, and Gizelle, Karen, and Wendy find themselves at odds. Mia, to her credit, works to rectify the situation between Gizelle and Wendy after previously muddling it, and they come to an uneasy détente that will inevitably fall apart the second Wendy realizes that Gizelle made her the word on the street. No matter how often Gizelle says that she owns her mess, which she often does, she is operating in a land of delusion if she genuinely believes that the repeated conversations she was having onscreen were coming from a place of love. She was playing producer for the season, as several of the OGs do on each franchise, and just like Kyle Richards on Beverly Hills this season, she overplayed her hand and is trying to double back. The problem with “understanding the assignment” is that it is very difficult to be the one to push storylines forward and simultaneously maintain multiple strong friendships with the cast when you are generating ratings at their expense. Kenya Moore on RHOA, to her credit, has long accepted this and embraced the villain role without looking back.
However, Gizelle does make an unexpected pivot in admitting that she already knew about Jamal’s indiscretions well before the binder moment on the reunion and that he had made her aware of the situation months prior. Now, the surprise isn’t that she already knew; there was no way she didn’t. It was on every blog, discussed all around Baltimore, everyone on the cast knew, Wendy knew the details of her business from working in the Baltimore area; hell, even Stevie Wonder knew. The surprise stems more so from the fact that (1) she implicitly admits that all that was revealed was true; (2) by proxy, she admits that her relationship with Jamal was over well before she admitted it publicly, and she chose not to admit so out of pride; (3) she somehow believes that allowing Monique and Karen to speak their piece uninterrupted embarrassed them and not her when she had alleged up until that point that she and Jamal were still together as a unit and unbothered by the rumors of their coupling being just for show. It shows a very dispiriting side of her persona that fills me with nothing but pity. She spent so much of the last season attached to the narrative of her working out a relationship with her ex that nearly everyone in her life didn’t want her to reconcile with, only for her to reverse course and admit that she was already aware that it was a nonstarter but didn’t want to confront the inescapable public embarrassment that was doomed to repeat itself, and instead of blaming the man who she continues to call a lifelong friend, she blames Karen for hurting her daughters (who, to be clear, certainly played a part). For someone who wants to raise her daughters not to rely on men for anything, one would hope that she would help them understand that their father is accountable for his choices, given that they already seem fairly perceptive to his character. Ultimately, Karen makes the correct choice and apologizes to Gizelle’s daughters, and hell has frozen over, though it is sure to thaw again soon enough.
Next week, Grace is still learning to drive, Wendy resumes her journey as a candlepreneur, and we find out whether Chris is a husband-ger or a house husband once and for all.
• This is just a general observation, but I have yet to see these women attend an event where they have adhered to the same dress code. Is it not being made clear on the invite? Like what is going on? I even factor in the fact that Gizelle will always ruin the curve. Maybe the girls need a hyperlink to a style guide with each invitation, but something needs to be done.
• Speaking of attire, let’s all put one in the air for Robyn finally getting rid of those braids because they were giving a “just came back from vacation in Jamaica” vibe, and not in a good way.
• Chris and Candiace have been fighting for a week about whether his work matters outside of her career. I still don’t know what his work actually is outside of the golf course, so I guess that’s his answer.
• We’ve remarked a bit on here about Wendy’s news hits, so I feel I should acknowledge that Zerlina Maxwell is a known entity in progressive news, as part of HRC’s campaign team, an MSNBC news analyst, and now a show on Peacock — which is what Wendy appeared on — one of a slew of new proprietary streaming networks I am just too overwhelmed by to pretend to understand or attempt to navigate. That said, I do know legitimate DC comms strategists and power players who have appeared on it who are friends of mine, so it’s a good look for Wendy’s reel.
• Michael, an extra from a Quentin Tarantino movie, was nowhere to be found in this episode, just like my ancestors prayed for.
• In her birthday toast, Gizelle said that Robyn’s best trait is that she sees the best in everyone, which is just another way of saying that she enables Gizelle’s shenanigans.
• Robyn finally sees her life coach, who quickly realizes that she needs to approach her sessions with Robyn like therapy. She feels unsupported, structureless, and untrusting. That’s where I was in my last relationship, and I thought we were going to get married as well; yet here I am, on Bumble in the middle of a pandemic. Robyn needs to cut her losses, reset, and work on becoming the best version of herself for her children.
• I guess this is a bit of a hot take, but Bravo has been heavily overcompensating for its years of racial insensitivity with these very special moments of racial reckonings in every series, and I frankly don’t care for them. They have to toe the line between addressing The Moment™ and still not being so aggressive as to alienate advertisers, so it’s all useless and also largely preposterous when it exists in the same reality universe as Ramona Singer. We know what this is; let us continue the escapist fantasy and stop pretending we are doing anything else than severe cleanup duty after Vanderpump Rules had to fire half the cast for being racist bigots. Just my opinion!