The Real Housewives of Potomac
Fellow Real Housewives of Potomac fans, the time has finally arrived. The Eileen Davidson Accords have expired on Mia Thornton, and my verdict on the newest housemate: I think she’s good for the show! Mia is chaotic neutral — she is endlessly in the mix in a way that would rankle in IRL-friend dynamics, but you need someone willing to put their foot on the gas to make for interesting reality television, and our usual horseman of chaos Ashley has been a bit sidelined so far. She is absolutely playing the game of reality television, and they’re hammering the girlboss narrative a little bit too much, but I think what throws Gizelle off about her is that they both approach taking digs with a breezy nonchalance that belies the scale of the insult, which First Lady Bryant isn’t used to getting in return. My main criticism is that while I get that her personal story of strife is something that she’s sharing to make her more accessible to viewers, estranged family narratives almost never translate well on shows like this. It’s been attempted by NeNe Leakes with her family, Kenya Moore with her mom, and Ashley Darby with her dad to middling results. Drew Sidora hammered that in even further on the last season of Real Housewives of Atlanta — fraught family dynamics are often more uncomfortable than entertaining or illuminating. That said, we haven’t seen Mia and her mom interact yet, which I believe will come later in the season, so we’ll just have to see how it all bears out.
Let’s pivot to Gizelle a bit. This episode really hammered in for me what has long been a bubbling undercurrent on this series: the Hampton AKA has remained laser-focused in protecting her position as the resident beauty queen in the group (never mind that there are two pageant girls in this ensemble). Her coded attacks on both Mia and Wendy seem to come from a place of insecurity that she is projecting onto them, instead of admitting that it makes her uncomfortable to have a newcomer who is clearly not threatened by her light eyes and fair features or understanding that Wendy would choose to try to elevate her aesthetic appeal after being on the wrong side of a 4K camera for a whole season. Even the oft-discussed incident with Ray that Karen is holding over Gizelle’s head reinforces that — while wishing for Ray’s demise is the definition of making a mountain out of a molehill, the reason why she reacted so harshly was because Ray made a valid, albeit coarse, point. Beauty fades, and leveraging that as the main thing you have to offer is an increasingly risky gamble as the years progress. The jabs she tries to take to keep people in their place over their remarks about her — insinuating Mia is some sort of cautionary tale or hammering back on a joke she has made since Season 1 over Ray Huger’s finances — almost always come back to bite her in one way or another because they are all rooted in the false assumption that people envy her. This pattern seems to continue this season: Mia ends up detailing her upbringing in an abusive household with an absent mother and what she survived in foster care, and Karen is on the internet taking shots at Gizelle and her ex-husband’s significant alleged tax debts. Gizelle needs to heed the lesson that Karen had to learn early: pride comes before a fall, and she doesn’t need to end up with a face cracked at a second reunion in a row.
Despite her flawed reasoning, Gizelle does have a point that Wendy is pulling a full 180 in the image that she’s been trying to put forth. She’s trying her hardest to be a bit more approachable, but it doesn’t feel natural. There’s nothing subversive about being an academic who listens to trap music. Anyone who has been to a rap concert in the last five years knows that the audiences are overwhelmingly Caucasian, and we’re not talking about the Travis Kelce types either. So I mean, congrats, you’re about as nuanced as Ari Melber. Additionally, she’s a Black professional in the greater DMV — well, Baltimore — area, where official Congressional Black Caucus afterparties are held at The Park at 14th and Bliss. Her tastes are far from anomalous, she simply dug herself a hole by spending a season placing herself on a pedestal at no one’s behest but her own. Naturally, that leads to a bit of surprise when she walks into a party bus dressed like when Kim Kardashian used to let Kanye style her. Personally, I like a good athleisure look, but the PVC mule trend could die tomorrow and it still wouldn’t be soon enough.
The thing is, Wendy is not only focused on getting her groove back, but she is also trying to be every woman, and despite what Chaka Khan said, it is just not all in her. The hot professor-slash-commentator-slash-lifestyle influencer-slash-all around bad-bitch and supermom is quite a mouthful for a multi-hyphenate. If I were to assume, I suspect that her reality TV presence is affecting her professional endeavors, leading her to lean into this pivot as a result. Regardless of the reason, it was alarming to see what little thought she had put forth into the launch of Onyi Candles outside of the design, failing to do so much as file for a trademark or registered business license when she is labeling her essentials line with a not-uncommon Igbo name. Eddie is clearly frustrated by her lack of follow-through, and I am sure that tension will be used as fodder to help blow up the rumor of an affair that Gizelle — who spent the latter part of the episode attempting to berate Karen for spreading falsehoods on her — brings to the group as plausible explanation for her attitude adjustment. Gizelle knows full well that the rumors are not the reason yet can’t help but to carry the bone to Ashley, who is fighting to stay relevant this season as a young mom of two; as the kids say these days, she understands her assignment in this dynamic.
The show is doing its best to make Candiace indispensable, so she coordinates the next group trip to Williamsburg, VA. Gizelle is right; there is nothing to do in Williamsburg, as evidenced by the fact that Candiace’s grandparents have settled into retired life there. Are they going to go catch a football game at William and Mary (whose team is called “The Tribe)? As a group of Black women, I can’t imagine they want to spend time in Colonial Williamsburg (despite it being featured in the B-roll) — a tourist trap partially sponsored by the Daughters of the Confederacy that has been criticized for both perpetuating the Lost Cause myth of the American Civil War and minimizing the existence of slavery and segregation — unless Bravo is trying to brace us for yet another teachable moment. The Kingsmill estate where they’re staying at, however, is quite lovely; ever committed to the narrative of Black Excellence, they all squeal at the idea that they are swimming in the same sheets Barack Obama once laid in.
The season isn’t slowing down anytime soon: Next week, Michael revels in the fact that Juan Dixon still isn’t here right now, and we finally get to the showdown between Wendy and the green-eyed bandits. See you then!
• For someone who has such a quick mouth, Candiace has really been struggling with delivering shade lately. Her declining to invite Ashley to two events in a row isn’t witty or conniving it just … is. Meanwhile, Ashley dropped a perfectly timed “the record reflected that” in response to Gizelle bringing up her calling Candiace’s old townhouse Dorothy’s property.
• Fecal matter played a surprisingly strong supporting role in this episode. Newborns relieving themselves, the cast talking about dropping deuces on the delivery table, to people just talking shit — I just hope everyone washed their hands properly. It was all worth it, however, for this quote from RHOP producers: “Is the real reason why you and Jamal divorced because he freaked out when you pooped during labor?” What other TV show is giving you camp at this level?!
• If Bravo goes in and edits Michael, the Rumpelstiltskin of the Outback, out from the rest of the season, I promise I will actually pay for Peacock TV and not just rely on screeners.
• I have no verdict on whether Mia has worked pole before, but the threshold of what these women are impressed by is embarrassingly low. Did they not see J.Lo in Hustlers? A carousel around the pole is like, entry-level stuff. You would have thought she did an inversion the way that the ensemble was carrying about. They are just not good dancers, and we, unfortunately, have way too much footage that reinforces that. It was great to see Robyn upbeat and having fun, though, and I would be 100 percent unsurprised if Karen had a pole in her bedroom in an earlier life.
• The women continue to comment on the fact that Wendy and Karen have mended fences, yet they all (save Candiace) have reconciled with Ashley’s messy self. These ladies need to accept that they are all flip-flopping hypocrites and move on; this is not a show where you hold the higher ground on principles.
• The second Candiace places that microphone in her hands, I knew we were in for a long trip. Can you imagine being on a 3-hour bus ride with someone who needs to turn everything into a karaoke moment? My Airpods would have been in my ear so fast.
• I am really trying to keep my Candiace digs to a minimum because I do recognize that she is trying to bring a different approach to the collective this season, but I can’t help to call out one more thing. I know that Candiace has been a campaign and White House staffer, but calling former President Obama your boss is like me calling the CEO of my last day job my boss. That’s technically true, but they still wouldn’t know my last name if you asked.
• Robyn dancing on the pole and letting loose about sex was genuinely refreshing to see, and I hope we get more of that. Depression is not linear and comes with many peaks and valleys, and it would be unfortunate if the show exclusively homed in on her low moments.
• Is Askale going to step up to the plate at some point? For a self-described “Ethi-Oprah,” she sure does a hell of a job at being able to fade into the background.