Fellow friends and haters, before we get into the nooks and crannies of this episode, I have a public service announcement to make. Sometime in the last few seasons, Bravo chose to commit the franchise to drama over escapism, which has certainly made for good ratings but led us far away from the trappings of the luxury lifestyle (feigned or not) and absurdism that came along with it. I feel that RHOP — and in some respects, the greater Bravo-verse — is in a very delicate place, and depending on some choices made very soon, may wade down a path from which I fear there is no return.
Instead of low-stakes conflict over party invites and CBC drama, we have lawsuits involving cast members’ partners being accused, repeatedly, of sexual harassment, only for them to be still welcomed back on camera. Last season was what really shifted everything on its axis — the fight between Monique and Candiace established official camps and fanbases, and also an influx of new viewers who didn’t have context from the beginning (if you would like my read of that storyline: I do think Monique was excessively maligned and the conflict is entirely too drawn out for the season, but way too many of her defenders acted like she didn’t do anything wrong whatsoever. There’s a space between understanding why something happened and convincing yourself that someone is an innocent party or martyr).
Multiple franchises have had series regulars embroiled in damning legal allegations, which Bravo seems to be pursuing for infamy rather than taking a moment of self-examination. And the social media behavior has jumped the shark — I am sorry, but there is no world in which you will convince me that a (yes, misguided) jab at finances and family dynamics — which for the record, was Candiace’s storyline when she first came on the show — warranted such a harsh comeback about Mia’s history with her mother, no matter how much anyone may dislike her, and now this bizarre backtrack once Mia realize she lost social media momentum. Even at Kenya Moore’s most controversial moments, it was understood that her family issues were off-limits, and Marlo was rightfully pilloried for her remarks against her; similarly, as contentious as Candiace and Ashley get with each other, Candiace treads lightly on Ashley’s family life. Some things just aren’t worth it.
That is the ultimate disappointment for me with this episode. There are real concerns to be established about G’s behavior in the Eastern Shore — I don’t think the comparison to Michael is all that far-fetched, although he never bothered to be that inappropriate with the cast, as far as I understood — and perhaps they will be more thoroughly addressed next week when more parties are involved in mediating the conversation. He is boorish, lecherous, and entirely too comfortable for people he is meeting for the first time; I would have had immediate issues and expressed to the husbands a desire to address that, who instead chose to be conflict-avoidant the entire episode, much to my chagrin. But instead, Candiace and Askale jump immediately to inappropriate conversations and assumptions about their dynamic — the exact same sort of ruminations that Candiace said she found distasteful about her and Chris. The not-so-secret undertone is that she doesn’t believe Mia deserves any sort of discretion or deference because she was a stripper, a point that she chooses to hammer in repeatedly.
It’s unfortunate because it undercuts her ability to call out Mia’s immature behavior or build bridges to any mutual understanding. Candiace is disgusted by the mention of G’s penis — as was I, to be fair — but we certainly did hear Candiace discuss her husband’s brown dick, unsolicited and repeatedly, on her first season on the show. G fetishizing white women openly made my eyes bug out, but so did Chris openly admitting his preference for Black women! I am in no way making them comparable people here — I think G is the more aggressive party here by far, but I do think Candiace needs to tread lightly in interrogating other people’s relationships. There is plenty of fodder for people to lean into with her, should they so choose, which is what I think makes her so defensive and combative.
The material that Candiace picks, however, is unbelievably pedestrian. I know the show has built up this mythos of Candiace being known for reading people for filth, but honestly, when you go back through the footage, it’s a lot of tantrums and low blows with not a lot of actual meat inside. Take this episode, where Candiace (and, disappointingly, Askale as a supporting character) does the following: (1) takes cheap shots on Mia’s fillers, BBL, and clitoroplasty, implying that somehow it is busted up or makes her inferior; (2)continues to lay in on the stripper/nightwalker digs, calling her some version of an escort with daddy issues; (3) says she has big feet; (4) probably most offensively, (unless there was creative sequence editing done by production), continues to insult her mother after Wendy discloses that Mia has a significant situation with her mom that they don’t understand.
All of these insults are about as sturdy and substantial as Gizelle’s staircase to nowhere. Do I think Mia is an innocent party here? Absolutely not; she pokes and parries. She straps on her armor and gets into diva mode, and it definitely is easy to see why it may be off-putting to the rest of the cast, even if it tends to roll off her own back quite easily. But riddle me this: Askale was an educator in the DC area for ten years and doesn’t have an iota of understanding and empathy for the impacts of child abandonment, drug abuse, and the foster care system on young Black children? All my friends who were teachers in DCPS have horror stories of what their kids’ families had to deal with; I find it more than a bit jarring that they are just stuck on “this gross stripper who thinks she’s better than us when she just got picked up from the pole,” and yes, it reeks of classism and elitism, when if we are honest, the bulk of the cast is composed of women who were “kept” at some point in time.
The simplest way to parse it out is via this arc. Initially, they feigned concern that G used the phrase STFU in public in mixed company, worrying that it showed that there was more under the surface than what was initially presented about Mia’s marriage. Once tensions between the two escalated, however, Candiace throws this in Mia’s face; all of a sudden, it’s “get your pimp and have him tell you to STFU,” as if to humble her and put her in her place. It deflates any point she feels she has, no matter how valid it may or may not be. She only wants to engage people on her terms and dismisses the rest as people who somehow couldn’t meet her mettle, and now you’re just throwing lettuce at each other for no reason. The only advice I can offer to her is this: if Candiace wants to make it in the R&B/Hip-Hop world after landing this distribution deal, dissing strippers is not the way to go. Strippers can make or break your records, and some of them may end up being artists you can collaborate with. So perhaps, just watch your mouth on who you feel you are dressing down for the sake of a personal tit-for-tat in the interests of your own self-preservation.
Next week, G continues to stir up trouble, the Candiace and Mia situation continues to play out, and Ashley and Candiace have words over the hobgoblin known as Michael Darby. See you all then!
• I was a little worried when they announced Eastern Shore as the next destination because it does feel like they’re bouncing around tourist Lakehouses for COVID compliance — if I didn’t already know the season was ending at Karen’s vow renewal, I would assume that we were going to Ocean City next. But the house is lovely with a nice view, despite Wendy looking a bit ridiculous rocking Louboutins on a gravel road.
• Gizelle and Robyn threatened not to go to the Eastern Shore house, and nobody cared. It must have really ground their gears when they realized they needed that camera time to pay off their construction projects in the next year and had to pack their bags anyway.
• I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help but crack out laughing at G asking Chris for a loan because “white guys are supposed to get good interest rates and shit.” The unspoken subtext of Candiace’s marriage has been that of all the white men in all the world in the DMV, she found the one with multiple baby mamas and significant debt, and not like, a lobbyist off of K street.
• Karen saying, “I do not think Juan is coming, cuz Robyn is surely taking care of herself,” is a callback I didn’t know I needed. Karen is exactly the direction that Potomac should be leaning in. Absurdism, camp, and nonsense, with just enough legitimacy to buy into the façade.
• The RHOP group chat being named the Flossy Posse is a reference to Girls Trip, which in someway is fitting, as they are all past their prime peak years and trying to retain their youthful spirit; however, they were never the close sisterhood that the movie represents (save for Robyn and Gizelle, with Karen floating in and out), so it kind of defeats the purpose.
• Ashley’s commitment to the supermom soft reboot is amazing to watch. We all know full well that she has a nanny and can afford to leave her child with her whenever she wants, but yet here she is balancing her carriage on her hip wherever she goes and letting us know that whenever her baby is not with her, he is with Michael (as if Michael is not leaving him with the nanny). I think she thinks it smooths out her reputation for mess, but she is as much of a pot-stirrer as she ever was; she’s just nursing at the same time.
• I don’t know what to make of this yet, but Candiace seems to be constantly noting Chris’ drinking habits, and it seems too often for it to be happenstance. I know there’s an end-of-season conflict coming, so I’m just keeping an eye out for now.
• Michael, a failed Lex Luthor experiment, is in absentia for another week, gracing us only by matter of print photography.