This was truly Karen Huger’s episode. While I may not be able to make heads or tails of her tagline — why are people riding her? Wouldn’t she rather be setting the stakes? Riddle me confused — this episode makes clear that Karen’s value to the franchise is her ability to navigate all the camps of the cast while they are at a stubborn impasse in an effort to keep the plot progressing. (Charrisse, in concept, could do this, too, but is just unable to be dynamic on-camera after multiple seasons of trying).
We begin by wrapping up Ashley’s aquamarine house party. Robyn has come fully charged, parroting Juan’s talking points on her girlfriend’s concerns about his behavior with a level of aggression that seems to surprise Gizelle. In her/Juan’s words, “I don’t care that the block is hot.” Everyone is watching her in pity as she lets her partner twist statements made to her out of concern into bad-faith peanut-gallery comments. Knowing the fuller context, I am wondering how long Robyn plans on holding guilt for the financial missteps she made early in their marriage; she is now the primary earner in the household and has been for quite a while (Coppin State coaches salaries are public). In any case, she at the very least comes to an uneasy détente with Karen, where they agree to not speak on each other. That cease-fire will last all of three episodes, but at least she uses that moment to confirm that Robyn is, indeed, in a traditional, closed marriage — and as in most traditional marriages, the key rule is to not publicly embarrass your partner.
Wendy is asked about her new show — which to my knowledge is not yet more than a working Google doc — and insists that it will have a high working intellectual level. It’s an inane idea if you are trying to make any money off a boozy talk-show concept, but she is too busy trying to stick it to a crowd of women who have been trying to ice her out to hear how ridiculous she sounds. The problem is that none of them care; they don’t want to engage with her. They don’t want to know more about her talk show — I’m sure there was some creative editing involved, but Gizelle looked physically ill at the idea of listening to Wendy speak further — they don’t care about not being invited to her kids’ first communion except for Ashley, and they only marginally care that Wendy calls them intellectually inferior at this point. She gets in a halfway-decent jab at Mia, who is willing to spar with her and ask “Why not uplift me, Wendy?” when she responds with, “Because you’re slow … I can’t uplift you. You’re too low-down.” As we know, Mia quickly latches onto that as an opportunity to speak on how ignorant Wendy is because of Mia’s son’s IEP.
When Karen goes to Mia’s condo, she has now evolved to giving her a church hug (tapping shoulders only, holy distance between bodies), but to her credit, she doesn’t make any remarks about Mia’s clear downsizing — no more nanny, visible clutter — instead complimenting the view. Karen tries to make peace regarding Wendy, but Mia takes the opportunity to launch into an explanation of the situation regarding her son’s IEP and how Wendy spoke insensitively. As Ashley says later in the episode: “Is Mia really hurt that somebody called her slow? I don’t think so. But if it’s gonna help prove a point for her and have some oomph, then by golly Mia’s gonna ride it off into the sunset.”
Ashley goes shopping with Karen at an off-brand Ann Taylor Loft for Wendy’s kids’ communion, meaning they sit down in the salon and don’t buy any of the conservative outfits from the perfectly lovely store. Karen brings up that Candiace wasn’t mentioned at all at Ashley’s housewarming and that Michael’s lawsuit is frivolous, calling it “Ice a Bitch Out 101.” Ashley admits that she may have misspoken to Wendy about the nature of her conversations with Nneka and made it seem more ill intended than their actual tone. This conversation is more about protecting the show from going off the rails too early; they all just started filming, and Candiace is already on an island filming B-story-line footage about her Deep Space tour dates and Ashley is manipulating a conflict that she does not want to be responsible for. The subtext here is, We need to take the reins and course-correct because we have a lot of weeks of filming ahead of us.
Wendy is already expressing her concerns. While she’s prepping her sons for their first communion — a bit of a bizarrely edited scene, giving us a Catholic practice soundtracked by a Baptist organ, with occasional glimpses of Eddie promoting hiss Happy Eddie weed strain — she speaks with Eddie about Nneka and what has been relayed to her. There’s already a lack of clarity about how or whether they truly know each other — is it in passing? Do their families know of each other? Have they actually met? — but Wendy is on edge from how Ashley has relayed information to her. At dinner later with Candiace and Keiana, who will end up as part of a physical off-camera confrontation later in the season, Candiace reminds Wendy that Ashley is far from a neutral party and to beware her intentions.
The first communion goes well, even if the girls have a very tenuous understanding of church attire; thankfully, the brunch is not actually at a church. The girls make peace, Ashley owns up to her mess, and Candiace agrees that, texts aside, she and Ashley can be in the same room. Karen invites the women to the next all-cast event, which is pickleball — a silly sport made out of boredom, but I am onboard if it frees the Bravoverse from the clutches of godforsaken sound baths — and all seems back on track for the collective.
Just when everything seems on the up and up, however, Robyn and Nneka have a sit-down where Nneka decides to unload about how Wendy’s sister and mother have been attacking her family with witchcraft and wizardry. Apparently it has been weeks of threats and intimidation from the master prayer warrior and her shrine, and Robyn has chosen to make this about her and Wendy’s vendetta. Now, I’m not saying there’s no truth to this story – clearly there are photographs indicating some kind of relationship between the sister and her family. But there is specific, coded language being played up here for sensationalism with Robyn already running to make claims of “voodoo.” For a spoiled diva princess and child of multigenerational wealth, she has handled this very oddly, and it is quite bizarre to speak to everyone but Wendy about this simmering intrafamily issue, simply to confront her about it in front of a pickleball audience. Until next week!
• The quick horror-movie sound cue that played when Deborah appeared on screen at Ashley’s party made me spit out my bubble tea.
• How much longer is Mia going to get away with shading other people’s things while clearly hustling on a budget? She was very comfortable dissing Ashley’s house when she is thisclose to openly wearing knockoffs.
• Can someone explain to me the “dad takes kid to prom” thing? That wasn’t my life experience, so I am just trying to understand. It’s a dance; does he need to fly in for that? Especially if he’s going to fuss over the dress? Regardless, I’m sure Gizelle’s daughter will look lovely.
• I won’t get into this too much, but we have seen Wendy’s mom on this show for several seasons now, and every season she is notably lighter except for her knuckles and elbows, which is hard to watch. It is yet another reason why conversations about colorism will remain relevant on this show.