We’ve spent a lot of time this season examining Candiace’s attempt at a reboot — her HGTV home-improvement project, her faux-ABC Family pilot–slash–real-life blended family, and her foray into being the Black Elle Woods: MBA by day, burgeoning R&B star by night (by the way, she is formally submitting her album for Grammy consideration). We’ve already beat this poor dead horse and sent it to the glue factory at this point, but there have obviously been fits and starts here, and her temperament has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory despite her best efforts. That said, she is not the only woman attempting a rebrand this season. As the cast has been unable to stop reminding us, Wendy has been on a second-season journey to find the new “Zen Wen” — and 16 episodes in, I am concerned that a woman with a Ph.D. is unable to understand what the definition of “Zen” is. Ashley, on the other hand, has been on a season-long “mommy and me” rebrand to take the bite off of her known status as a chaos agent — and a few days without her children on this couples’ trip seems to have her spinning off her axis, which the producers have maximized as much as possible.
Ashley already seemed to come into the trip with bizarre energy, like, why are you coming to this trip with a framed photo of your family? We already know that vampires’ faces show in iPhone screenshots, since we have to put up with Michael being exposed in a scandal every season, so truly what was the reason? What I find most peculiar, however, is how triggering she finds Gordon. Now, please don’t take this as me excusing his behavior throughout most of the trip. He absolutely needed to be cussed out day one and have boundaries established, and as far as personalities go, he seems to be a cross between Michael Darby and Peter Thomas from RHOA. However, the fact that Ashley seems to find Michael’s behavior somehow less reprehensible is operating on a level of delusion that is not backed up by litigation or camera footage.
The ultimate tipping point between the two of them is more perplexing to me than anything. Gordon joked about her … napping on the bus? Maybe it’s because I came up in the New York City public-school system, but I need to have why this is inappropriate explained to me slowly. I agree that you need to respect people’s boundaries in general if they don’t like being discussed, but I just don’t understand what was being said that was inherently offensive outside of the fact that Gordon had been jabbing at people all weekend and should probably stop. If I recall correctly, people joked at him napping earlier in the trip on the way to the seafood dinner from hell, so color me confused.
Regardless, Ashley does not care for his color commentary, or his lack of recollection of it, prompting him to ask if he has Alzheimer’s — or, as Mia likes to call it, All-timers — during the (quite lovely) crab boil. Mia finds this in poor taste, since they both have older husbands. Everyone knows full well that Michael has left their kids with the nanny to abscond to whatever King Street haunt tickles his fancy. At the same time, Ashley defends his honor to people with whom he would rather be caught dead than sit next to ever again (Ray Huger, the oldest one of the elderly trio, has smartly chosen to mind his Black-ass business in this debate). Ashley becomes visibly agitated in this back-and-forth in a way that Candiace rarely manages to accomplish in their disputes; with Candiace, you can see that she enjoys the back-and-forth, winning the upper hand and getting Ashley to lose control. She doesn’t have those buttons to push with Mia to just cause a commotion and watch the destruction from the background. Mia is content to volley back and forth with Ashley until someone either holds their serve or breaks the point — and this is why, hate her or love her, Mia makes a good housewife. She just needs to keep her husband at home.
Inevitably, we find out on our return that Ashley and Michael are still having nagging intimacy issues, so they grab some Coronas, Karen’s three-wick candle, and stay in … the Watergate Hotel, which sounds way sexier than it is because of the history attached to it, but is in the middle of nowhere between Foggy Bottom and Georgetown (also Georgetown as a neighborhood is just a dud unless you like Baked & Wired cupcakes or those waterfront restaurants). Why that anthropomorphic toad could even fathom having any sense of judgment of what is or isn’t sexy enough for him is beyond my comprehension, but hey, capitalism and white male privilege, amirite? I can’t wish more for Ashley than what she wants for herself, but I am glad they cut off that scene before we had to endure any more; we have seen enough of Mr. Darby’s sexual proclivities for several lifetimes.
Next week, it’s the season finale, with the Huger renewal, some white-on-white crime, and the semi-annual reminder of how much Juan Dixon does not want to be here!
• Wendy’s candle business is live, you guys! If you are inclined to spend $45 on a candle, the time is now. We saw her do the photo shoot with her mom, and while I did think it was a valid point to discuss how first-gen parents can often be very restrictive in the futures they want for their children, speaking from experience, I don’t know if the dream of creating a home-essentials line and becoming a public figure (I guess ?) was a valid counterpoint to, you know, being a professor. I do think that parents can be very defensive about the fact that they were figuring it out as they went and didn’t have many tools, but … mama, it’s $45 candles and diffusers that your husband had to help you budget for — and if this is the financial plan he gave you, I have questions.
• Speaking of the Osefo family, I am cautiously optimistic to hear that the door is cracked with Eddie’s family. Hopefully, there is a path forward for all of them after so many years of pain there. Hearing just how many memories were lost just further cements why Wendy was so reactive to the extra rumors about their marriage.
• Even though I was raised to instinctively respect my elders, nothing sends me spinning the way that Gizelle’s children put her in her place. In short order, they saved her from turning her driveway into a life-sized chia pet, reminded her that their house used to be what Candiace once called a “900K tear down,” and told her that she is so emotionally stunted that she may end up alone forever and also has given them no guide as to how to find romance themselves. I’m stunned that she has just realized the latter point recently. Still, I am also frustrated that the advice she is given involves reconciling with Jamal, instead of being honest about her pain and finding personal healing for the trauma she has endured.
• The Honorable Surry County Ambassador Karen Huger imitating Gordon licking his lips at her is SEARED into my cerebellum. Someone make that into a GIF immediately so that I can spam all my group chats forever and ever.
• Karen’s wedding-renewal invites weren’t nearly as bad as the women made them out to be, but my main question is whether or not they were same-day delivery. Otherwise, how else do you transport animals? That said, for once, I agree with Robyn Dixon: Butterflies are just moths with good PR.
• It is unfortunate to hear that Mia and her mom seem to be in a tense space once again; it furthers my conviction that I don’t think she should bring her mom back next season. This is clearly a very delicate dynamic that they are still working through, and I wouldn’t want them to have it threatened by whatever the group ensemble lobs on TV.
• Michael’s commitment to his bromance with Juan must be one of the deepest levels of a comical lack of self-awareness I’ve ever seen. “I get to spend time with Juan; why would I want to take a second to spend time with people I don’t want to spend time with”; all I want to know is, have they spent time offscreen that we haven’t seen yet this season?
• Speaking of Juan, what is it with Bravo cast members and the face-roller bit? First Sutton on RHOBH, now Juan. Maybe I’m hustling backward here on the skin care.