The Real Housewives of Atlanta
Joining a long-running franchise late in the game is tough stuff. It’s probably tougher if one of the franchise’s most recognizable stars unceremoniously exits the show the season before you arrive. Imagine if on season nine of Friends, Rachel disappeared and some new girl named Cheryl joined the principal cast and just started hanging out with the titular friends at Central Perk. Chandler Bing would probably say … “Um, could this BE any more random?” That’s how I feel about Drew Sidora, our new housewife, after her first episode. It’s not that she is a bad addition to the show (she seems fine!), but she’s simply not enough to fill the gaping hole left by NeNe’s absence.
Enter LaToya Ali. It’s almost as though she were dreamt up by the Housewives gods to be the most chaotic “friend of” possible: an extremely outspoken former stripper with a large vocabulary who is currently separated from her husband and looking to have a good time. We meet LaToya at Ken(ya)’s depressing house for a lunch with Cynthia, and before she even arrives a flashback clip package reveals that LaToya is Trinidadian and into “bomb-ass Nigerian men,” so RHOP’s Dr. Wendy better watch out. LaToya is originally a friend of Kandi’s, but Ken(ya) likes her so much she’s decided to steal her from Kandi, leading to LaToya’s chyron, “Kandi’s Friend That Kenya Stole.” Within moments of arriving at Ken(ya)’s, LaToya says, “I have a sweating problem,” and promptly sniffs herself. Apparently, LaToya hasn’t had 12 surgeries to remove her odor glands like Miss Mary Crosby over on RHOSLC and I’m okay with that. LaToya straight up asks Ken(ya) what it’s like being with a Trinidadian because “we’re crazy,” and teaches us two new Caribbean words: “Horner Men,” i.e. men who can’t keep it in their pants, and “Tabanca,” i.e. a “love that isn’t rewarded or returned thereby causing a shift in everyday behavior,” which is literally exactly what happened to our girl Kenya. A self-described “crazy” housewife who’s actively expanding our vocabulary and not afraid to smell check on camera? A woman after my own heart.
But, LaToya doesn’t have a peach. Drew Sidora has the peach. And Drew is nice! At dinner with Cynthia, we learn that Drew is an “actress and a songstress” and a successful one at that! She played herself in The Game and starred as T-Boz from TLC in the made for television biopic CrazySexyCool, and not to be this person, but she says the word “biopic” wrong, to me. Is it biopic or biopic? Please sound off in the comments below. Anyway, not only is Drew talented but she’s very pretty and personable! Drew has three children and a husband named Ralph who is very hot! Drew tore her Achilles (which she also says weird to me) while performing in a play with Cynthia’s daughter Noelle’s father, Leon. Drew is figuring out to have sex while wearing a boot.
On the surface, Drew’s life seems more or less perfect, and we flash backward eight hours to watch that perfect life unfold. To celebrate their anniversary, Drew’s husband Ralph goes the traditional route and serves his wife breakfast in bed while his mother-in-law, Pastor Jeanette, sings the “Happy Birthday” song but with the words “Happy Anniversary” instead. We learn that Ralph DAVID Pippin is an tech entrepreneur (i.e., we don’t know what his job is) and that Drew and Ralph have been married for six years and have been together six and a half years, and that timeline makes me go “oh” and makes Drew laugh hysterically. They met while she was on the CrazySexyCool press tour, went out to lunch three months later, and got married six months after that. The wedding was just the two of them, Drew’s son Josiah from a previous marriage, and their pastor, who was not Drew’s mother, even though she’s literally a pastor and probably wanted to be there? IDK, the whole thing definitely gives elopement vibes, but Drew and Ralph have made it six years and things seem to be goings smoothly, even though Ralph got into a fight with Pastor Jeanette two months before their anniversary that we see a bit of via flashback (Pastor Jeanette was going to “go off”). Why we aren’t seeing that whole footage is a mystery to me, but despite that little blip Drew and Ralph seem very happy together … almost, dare I say it, too happy …
While we met the two new housewives, two of our old housewives (not in age, but in tenure) were spending quality time with their daughters. Porsha, a day after her arrest in Louisville, Kentucky, FaceTimes her li’l PJ who’s at home in Atlanta with her mother and sister. She describes her experience in jail, saying it was disgusting and the “floors were hard,” before speaking about being inspired by both her grandfather and the strength of Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor’s mother. It’s really poetic how Porsha’s motherhood journey has dovetailed with her social-justice evolution. Before PJ, all Porsha really had to think about was Porsha, but now she’s got adorable little PJ to consider, protect, and fight for, and that’s what she’s doing. And somehow she’s still making us laugh about messing up her mugshot (she hadn’t decided what face she was going to make) while doing it.
The other motherhood journey that made me legitimately well up with pride was Kandi celebrating Riley’s high-school graduation. Kandi and Mama Joyce (in a really lovely lavender dress) attend Riley’s graduation, where only two people per family can go because of “COVERT-19,” as Mama Joyce says. Kandi reminisces about her own high-school graduation, which she had to fly to because she was on tour at the time with Xscape, because if there’s one thing we know about Kandi it’s that she’s always been a hustler. Graduations are mostly for the parents (obviously), and seeing Kandi get emotional thinking about how Riley is going to college and doing something Kandi never did, in turn, got me emotional thinking about how I almost missed my brother’s high-school graduation because I was drunk the night before (don’t worry, I ultimately made it) and how my mother/entire family almost murdered me, and I didn’t fully get why at the time, but now I do. Sorry, mom. Anyway, I’m happy for Kandi, proud of Riley, and feel that she absolutely earned that fat stack of cash Todd handed over to her that Mama Joyce fully almost stole.
While Porsha and Kandi are fighting for mother of the year, Ken(ya) brings her new bff/my new spiritual leader LaToya to Lake Bailey to meet some of the other girls. Last episode, we saw Ken(ya) in full force, quietly shuffling from divorce proceedings to her mud swamp, clearly down in the dumps. However, this episode, the old Kenya was back, and you want to know why? Because she had to come face-to-face with Marlo Hampton. Kenya’s distaste for Marlo is ultimately greater than her sadness about her relationship with Marc, and we love that. Sitting next to Marlo at Lake Bailey made Kenya come alive again. “Marlo has really fallen off, not that she was ever on … She’s fallen off into the ocean into a dragnet,” Kenya says in confessional, referencing a particularly net-y outfit that Ms. Hampton wore recently. Watching Kenya drag Marlo in confessional, and also Cynthia for putting out fake grapes on her charcuterie plate, it almost felt like home to me. I truly believe the only way to get back to Kenya is through Marlo. Marlo puts the Ya in Ken.
Meanwhile, “Kandi’s Friend That Kenya Stole,” a.k.a. LaToya, is having a gorgeous time making herself at home, testing out Cynthia’s couches and shading Cynthia by telling her that she “loves cold meatballs.” She then shares with the group that she was once a stripper (cool) and that a sugar daddy bought her her first car, as one does (smart). In a completely out-of-character move, Marlo claims that she’s never had a sugar daddy, prompting Kenya’s head to do one full revolution. LaToya, a former stripper and also a scholar, looks up the exact definition of the term sugar daddy, and confirms that a sugar daddy is a man who gives you presents and gifts in exchange for affection and/or sexual favors. I have learned more from LaToya in one (1) episode than I learned in four years of liberal arts college. Kenya and LaToya get into some light BDSM hair-pulling play on Cynthia’s couch, prompting a reaction from Mike Hill that suggests he and Cynthia “vroom vroom in the bedroom” Bailey are not getting into all of that. C.H.I.L.L. keep it relatively chill, sexually speaking.
But we don’t have a ton of time to get into that, because Drew has arrived with Ralph to meet Kenya, Marlo, and LaToya for the first time. Kenya, living her best life, asks where does Cynthia get “all of these strays from” in her confessional, before revealing that she’d absolutely bone Ralph, which she probably could do if she just got a divorce from that man she hates. It feels a little strange that Drew brings her husband to what clearly is supposed to be a girls’ night, but Ralph goes off to explore the grounds of Lake Bailey with Mike, leaving Drew time to get to know the ladies and explain how she tore her Achilles (which she again says weirdly). But sadly for Drew, LaToya doesn’t want to hear her boring story about how she tore her Achilles tendon and would rather drink more wine. While the ladies talk about Drew’s stint on The Game, Ralph reveals a fun little game he’s been playing with Drew where they get into a fight and then he literally disappears for three days at a time. Like, leaves his wife and children without telling them where he’s going for 72 hours and then returns. Mike Hill does a commendable job of pretending like this isn’t absolutely insane behavior, and encourages Ralph to talk to his wife, which is definitely good advice but hard to do when you’re dodging her phone calls for multiple days on end. The cracks between Ralph and Drew are beginning to show.
On the porch, we continue our Girls’ Trip redux with some Black-owned wine tasting courtesy of Bailey Wine Cellar. By this point, the girls are all getting along, but Marlo has warned LaToya not to trust Kenya, who couldn’t keep a man “if Jesus paid her.” While that burn sounds amazing, when interrogated it doesn’t exactly make sense. Isn’t Jesus’ whole thing that he doesn’t pay people to do things, and people just do things for him cuz he’s hot and good and whatnot? In any case, the women begin chatting about relationships, with LaToya and Drew going toe-to-toe on what it technically means to be “separated.” Merriam-Webster’s LaToya Ali, who is separated from her husband, defines a separation as a period of time where a husband and wife are not together and can sexually explore with other people, while Drew says a separation is a time away to “think about if you still want to be married” and not for dating other people. No surprise, I’m going to side with the woman who’s consciously separated from her husband and not the woman whose husband keeps threatening to divorce her and leaving their house without telling her where he’s going. Inside, Kenya tells Cynthia she’s ready to file for divorce, but by file for divorce she means get her post-nup in order, à la Ashley Darby, and file for custody. Just seeing Kenya dance around in that white dress pretending to surprise-serve Marc his divorce papers was more proof that she’s got to GTFO. Dance your way right out of his life, Ken!
We end the episode with our newest housewife Drew and her husband, Ralph, showering her with gifts, probably because it’s their anniversary and also because he sometimes runs away from her for days at a time. It’s clear that while there is love here, there’s also a lot of distrust, in large part because not only does Ralph disappear for days on end, he also is a “tech entrepreneur” who has cameras all over his house that he uses to spy on his wife and children while he’s gone? If that’s not bad enough, Ralph reveals that when he left to go to “the beach” he crossed state lines and went… to Tampa. Tampa. That’s dark to me. Ralph says that when he leaves he does so because he’s under a lot of pressure as a Black man who came from nothing, and staying would be worse, which while that may be true, doesn’t sound … great. While we’ve only spent one episode with them, it’s clear that there is some dysfunction in Ralph and Drew’s relationship and that we’re going to get into it on the show. Do we have a “horner” on our hands with Ralph? Is Drew in a “tabanca?” It may be too soon to say. But it loos like Drew needs to take some advice from T-Boz and not go
jason waterfalls chasing waterfalls or her husband the next time he leaves. She may end up in Tampa.