In 2005, Bronx icon Jennifer Lopez starred alongside Jane Fonda in the seminal TBS I’m-stuck-on-the-couch-on-my-period-and-stumbled-onto-this-while-clicking-through-channels classic, Monster-in-Law. The film follows a standard rom-com trope: Girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy, mother-in-law feels threatened and rains on the parade, high jinks and histrionics ensue, the mother is eventually won over, and everyone lives happily ever after.
That was 16 years ago: We still had iPod Classics, I was sporting straight back cornrows, and Britney was at the height of her powers. The world looks radically different now, but alas, the more things change, the more they stay the same: We are still beholden to our Apple products, I have moved on to knotless box braids, and the #FreeBritney movement has taken on a fever pitch. To that end, Candiace and Chris’s marriage — and all its ups and downs — is subject to the ever-watchful presence of none other than Candiace’s mother, Dorothy, who has opinions on everything from their sofas to Candiace’s upcoming music video, which she has apparently been preparing for since first grade. (I do agree with her on the sofa, however — I know that Candiace said earlier in the season that it had cost her almost a grand or something to that effect, but that tufted piece is a bit on the tacky side for my taste and is giving me Z Gallerie teas. I would have expected that in Gizelle’s house.)
Dorothy, by all reports, is an agitator who can’t help but interject with her stance on every topic. It doesn’t matter her level of knowledge on the matter; she’ll inject regardless. This proves to be a problem Candiace enables by declining to enforce boundaries between her parent and her marriage. As someone with a very invasive (and loving) mother, I moved a borough away to give us the space to have a healthier relationship; but from last season to this one, it seems that Candiace has merely replicated the same dynamic, but in a more expensive house with less income coming in. Now I’m not a chef like Chris — although I do know my way around a kitchen — but this just sounds like a recipe for disaster.
Mia notes all of this in her conversation with her husband, and I think she makes good points here, even though her business structure with Gordon is still clearly a little bit different than the one between Chris and Candiace. There are too many moving parts in Candiace’s life right now. She has her mom in the cut keeping score of everything going on, her MBA classes, her acting career (does anyone know where that pilot landed, or is that just in the ether/on a development shelf somewhere?), and this music career. And she is leaning on Chris to deliver on two of those at her specificity in a way that will only hurt their marriage and spill over into their personal dynamic. We’ve already seen them have fights that have bordered on disrespect between the two; even in this episode, Candiace says, “as my manager, you work for me, I don’t work for you,” in response to him saying that he has his ducks in a row.
Unfortunately, Chris indeed did not have his ducks in a row. The rest of the cast — who apparently has no idea what to wear to a drag race (and at this point, it seems particularly cruel to pile on Gizelle’s style, but come on, low-top sneakers???) — arrives in an abandoned parking lot with relatively no one on set and no heads up that the shoot was behind schedule. Candiace and crew eventually make it, but the cars are nowhere to be found, and in fact, will not be making it to the shoot location — only Chris can’t be contacted because he’s using his to teach IG cooking classes at home.
Dorothy uses the situation to get to work, quietly (Did she forget about the body mics?) venting her frustrations about Chris as a husband and a manager: He quit his job, the restaurant closed, he is a househusband, he isn’t getting paid. Karen, to her credit, tries her best to tread delicate ground and be conciliatory, considering her testy relationship with Candiace at the moment. On the other hand, Mia chooses to put her hard hat on and get to the root of the drama, which Wendy and Askale find off-putting and expect the Green-Eyed bandits to in kind, only to be yanked back into reality. The fact is, everyone had questions about Chris’s capabilities as a manager, and Dorothy vocalizing her misgivings as someone with more direct access to the ins and outs of the situation only adds fuel to that fire. Candiace can choose to be mad at Mia — which she already has, and has selected the tack of lobbing transphobic insults at her on social media — or realize that she either needs to reassert boundaries with her mother or end this business relationship in favor of salvaging her marriage.
Ultimately, the girls band together, bringing their own cars out to be part of the video before they lost the light — which honestly was probably the more optimal choice because it sounded like they were going to bring out a fleet of Camrys for the shoot. As Whodini asked, friends, how many of us have them? Ones we can depend on? Chris finally arrives, sporting an apron and a scowl but no food, as his number one fan Gizelle pointed out. Two strikes as far as I am concerned, but Candiace is happy at the moment, and that’s all that matters.
Next week, Mia’s gossiping spills over at an all-cast event thrown by Robyn and Gizelle — and the quality reflects the hosts. Until then, stay safe and get vaccinated, folks.
• This plotline of Gizelle teaching Grace how to drive is duller than Robyn and Gizelle’s podcast. Find a halfway decent driving school, fork over a couple hundred dollars, and let your daughter terrorize an adult who has a Toyota Camry fitted with a passenger-side brake as every New Yorker does at the age of 25 instead of risking your camera crew’s lives for a storyline.
• Congratulations to Robyn for finally getting her hat business out of her mother’s garage and into a warehouse. I am left with so many questions, however. She said she’s had 15,000 pure sales of those hats, which are $29 a pop? That is almost $450,000 gross. Then she said she is grossing $60,000 a week? That would be like seven weeks of sales by the figures she gave. Is she not counting unfulfilled pre-orders in her sales calculations? Was this filmed like three weeks after the reunion? Did she shut down the site at some point? Sorry to nitpick but again, numbers are kind of my thing, and judging by her going significantly over budget for her new house, it seems not to be hers. I would be dumbfounded by the number of people buying her hats, but I just finished watching people sell leggings with hamburgers on them on LulaRich, so truly, anything is possible.
• Michael, the man with a lifetime ban from the cookout, was nowhere to be found in this episode, something that brought both me and Uncle Lump great pleasure. What did not bring Ashley’s family joy is hearing her explain her uterine prolapse in detail; you can almost see her brother fight not to retch on the spot. If there’s one thing Mrs. Darby is dedicated to delivering this season, it’s the good, bad, and the ugly pictures of motherhood.
• Candiace was stressed over landing that Darrin’s dance grooves choreography. Perhaps she should have swallowed her pride and cast Ashley after all since she seems to be the only one who has a natural sense of how to hit a basic eight count. In the video, you can tell they did some hard edits to make her look as sharp as possible, but it came out fairly decent after all is said and done.
• The more we get to learn about Mia, the more I understand her as a person. She’s a hardshell with a soft inside and profound abandonment issues. That doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be held accountable for her chaotic actions, but I get why reality TV — a place built on smoke and mirrors — is where someone like her would flourish. She’s used to making artifice out of emptiness.
• We get to see a bit more of the “battle of the candlepreneurs,” which is really not much of a battle, as Karen pointed out on the show and earlier on Instagram. While the three-wick versus one-wick comparison was a bit nonsensical to me, Karen already had a roadmap, design, and infrastructure plan, which was quite clear, even from her brief conversation with her brand manager. Wendy researched a business plan and came back to her husband with a mission statement with zero budget, facts, figures, or projections. It sounded like a job requirement for a start-up company. I am beyond confused because you can literally just select a business plan template in Microsoft Word and fill in the blanks. I have no idea why Wendy is committed to leaning into the airhead aesthetic, but this is dragging on entirely too long.