Many moons ago (the year 2000), in a very different television landscape, Mara Brock Akil created Girlfriends, a show based around four Black women in Los Angeles navigating life while anchored by the strong bond of sisterhood. Two of the women, Joan and Toni, were childhood friends who had grown apart in their adult years, but rather than admit that they created a years-long cycle of toxic co-dependency and called it being “best friends.” One would try to sleep with the other’s man in their house out of insecurity, another would spend the entire season envying their friend’s pending nuptials, each was needlessly humiliating the other, and any attempts at therapy were dead on arrival. I say this all to say that Mia and Jacqueline are the Joan and Toni of Potomac.
The dynamic between Mia and Jacqueline is bizarre, yet I can’t look away. One second, Jacqueline is faithfully trying to smooth over the mess that Mia made of her own accord, getting the all-white dinner going while trying to gently remind Mia that she threw a tantrum as the first lady of chiropractic services proceeds to don an outfit that is decidedly not all-white. The next Mia is not only sharing with the class that they have passed exes around in their bedroom before but that Jacqueline privately told her that she found Ashley attractive. Meanwhile, despite knowing that Mia has no leg to stand on in arguing with Candiace about defending husbands, Jacqueline still feels the need to throw her feeble hand in the ring anyway, leaving the floor open for Candiace to dismiss her as “Mia’s representative.” The fact that Jacqueline’s sister and Mia’s former nanny is slapping on her bonnet and vaping to drag Mia for her behavior on Youtube and exposing inconsistencies while we still see this twisted relationship unravel throughout the rest of the season makes this all the more unsettling to watch.
This episode, however, is Ashley’s time to clock in and showcase her value to the show. Outside of the ruckus that Gizelle started at the outset of the season, she has largely sat back and let all other moving pieces take over. Ashley has taken the opportunity to step up to the plate and get the plot moving, especially since Robyn is too blinded by her rage for Wendy to commit fully. Ashley will eat the jokes on her husband to keep spirits lifted at dinner during a round of nostalgia for iconic Karen moments (including multiple references to Karen’s shifting relationship with her wig placement) to pivoting to playing clueless as to why Chris would express public frustration about Gizelle and Ashley’s allegations. It is no surprise that Candiace gave the table the blackest part of her ass to kiss.
What is surprising is that Robyn is using her frustration with Candiace as justification to stop defending the allegations made against Candiace and Chris. She is now pivoting to the offensive and planning to confront Candiace in public, using a clip of Candiace publicly ranting about how she is not getting along with her castmates as some deep indictment of her behavior. She chooses to forgo bringing it up during their pitiful pedal boat ride. Instead, she waits for Karen, Mia, Gizelle, and Jacqueline to return from test-driving Lambos (the closest thing to a luxury outing that has happened during this trip so far) so that all the cards can be laid out over yet another chaotic dinner.
The dinner scene is peak Housewives underhandedness and trickery at work. Mia attempts to Heisman Wendy out of yet another all-cast scene, only to be outmaneuvered by Ashley, who doesn’t care for Mia’s attempt at bullying (during a poorly executed trip, no less) and isn’t willing to sacrifice the progress of the storyline for a fictitious grievance. They finally make their way to a proper South Beach restaurant (albeit attached to a Hilton), and Mia throws a fit when Ashley reveals that Wendy will make her way to the dinner. Charrisse and Robyn insist that there is a moral position to be had over making decisions about Mia’s trip on the group’s behalf, but let’s cut the pretense: production paid for this trip, and very few frills have been added by Mia’s end — the budget is making that very clear. Robyn is carefully ignoring and disengaging from Candiace because she is preparing for a later confrontation; the readjustment of seats has Gizelle dangerously teetering at the precipice of the pool.
Wendy chooses to come in and apologize for her choice of words that escalated matters, even though Mia started throwing hands before any of the “slander” started flying. Still, it doesn’t matter because no one is interested in forgiving her outside of Karen, Ashley, and Candiace. Robyn then takes the opportunity to take out her Bluetooth speaker — as Karen remarks, “Robyn’s going tech!” — to blare out Candiace’s half drunk/sleepy rant from IG live, attempting to corner her for her behavior.
At first, Candiace stands ten toes down in her remarks, saying that she has consistently said how she has felt about everyone over the seasons, particularly with Ashley and Gizelle. This is true; we see a montage of emotional outbursts and insults over the years to that effect, even though she has taken a gentler approach with Gizelle before this season. She makes clear that she had thought it was evident that Robyn was out of that equation, but Candiace should have long known that Dixon would always stand tall with Gizelle. However, she missteps in attempting to make clear that she and Karen were on good terms, clearly forgetting that she had indeed gossiped about Karen’s marriage to Ashley on camera. Ashley starts grinning like a Cheshire cat and, in hushed tones, lets Karen know that Candiace has, in fact, claimed that she was talking to other men — a rumor she likely got from Charrisse, considering how cozy they are these days.
The heartbreak on Karen’s face is palpable. Karen and Candiace once did have a close bond in the earlier seasons that became frayed after the catastrophe of season five. Candiace is in denial that she ever commented on her relationship and continues to deflect back onto Ashley. Meanwhile, Karen fumes at the table about yet another attempt at discussing her marriage despite her pointed attempts at paying Charrisse dust. Ashley may not have had Karen’s best interest in revealing that information during Karen’s worst birthday weekend ever. Still, she is not lying, and production kindly provides the footage to show as much. But that doesn’t stop Candiace from drunkenly calling and crying to her husband. Right across the restaurant, a group is giving a proper birthday celebration to their friend, wrapping this birthday from hell in a chaotic bow.
Somehow, the group still finds a way to let bygones be bygones and take themselves to the club for their last night. Very quickly, the episode devolves from an episode of Real Housewives of Potomac to The Bad Girls Club. Girls are knocking back shots, dancing on each other and flashing areolas, and drunkenly declaring their love for each other — only for Candiace, Ashley, and Robyn to end up screaming at each other on the car ride back. Candiace argues that Robyn did that shit to hurt her, and she would have never done it in reverse; Robyn is unmoved by the allegations. It should be noted that this fallout likely drove a wedge between Robyn and Wendy, with Wendy feeling that they were friends in real life, only to find out that Robyn was willing to bring personal matters to the camera to serve her own purposes. As of now, the pair is done. We will see how long that lasts.
The mid-season trailer is out, and we have a lot more mess coming: Jacqueline and Mia’s ultimate fallout, Robyn and Juan moving towards an alleged marriage celebration, Karen going on the offensive, and Chris finally letting loose. This season is not letting its foot off the gas. Until next week!
• I have spent a lot of time roasting Gizelle and Robyn’s sartorial choices, but it is time for us to bring Charrisse to the pulpit. The “true grande dame” wore a T-shirt dress and kitten heels at the all-white dinner. What in the first communion hell was that??? Between that and her seven different eyebrow shapes, I am puzzled.
• Karen Huger getting hot in the pants over some fire eating was equal parts hysterical and befuddling. I shudder to think how dates with her and Ray at the Barnum & Bailey circus end up.
• When did Charisse and Candiace get close enough that Mrs. Bassett would gossip about Ashley’s divorce with her? Am I missing something?