At long last, the Carrallos and Stanburys have come together for a meeting of the families, and despite all of the proverbial buildup, the ultimate encounter was rather anticlimactic. Yes, there was some light white-on-white crime — what else do you call assuming an educated family from the Iberian Peninsula would be unable to speak English? — and an almost comical misapplication of the term working class in reference to Sergio’s family, who had the means to not only travel regularly but offer to accommodate his lifestyle if he chose to come to his senses and not chain himself to a pill with more side effects than perks.
Sergio’s dad, by the way, is a bit of a silver fox — loyal to his family, multilingual, charming, and much less of a himbo than his happy-go-lucky progeny. If I were Stanbury, that would be much more my speed — they even have a closer age range — but I guess “tiki tiki” time is a bigger factor for her.
Dare I say, seven episodes in, the show seems to have hit its proverbial stride? I don’t want to count the proverbial chickens before they hatch, but this is the first episode that seems to have the entire cast firing on all cylinders: The conflicts seem to have real stakes instead of feeling overwrought and contrived, and everyone seems willing to put aside alliances to engage in disputes and scenes in good faith. Even Lady Stanbury, who has been parading around with the temperament of clotted cream, seemed onboard with the run of events for the day — all that it took, apparently, was for everyone to finally cede center stage to her and her horrific attempt at a punk-rock engagement dress with matching boots. I regret to be the one to inform her that neither she nor Kourtney Kardashian pulled off their intended aesthetic, no matter how expensive that dress was, but as ex-Countess Luann de Lesseps drunkenly warbled in a Baccarat Hotel bar once, “Money can’t buy you class”; the frock not being the Shein castoff Ayan facetiously claimed it was doesn’t elevate the taste level in the least bit.
We might as well get this out of the way up front: There is no universe, in this lifetime or the next, in which Ayan was sporting a wedding dress at Caroline and Sergio’s celebration. A cape or veil does not make something either a gown by default or a wedding gown on top of that. Stanbury knows just as well that it would make no sense to make such an allegation in a Muslim country, where veils are sported everywhere. Many garments, such as abayas, kaftans, and anarkalis, would be paired with festive, long capes with trains — and yes, even in white for celebratory holidays. But before you even account for that, the plain fact is that Ayan isn’t even wearing a dress. By the time Caroline and Sergio proceed to do their confessionals, it is impossible for them not to have realized that, if there were any offenses committed here, it was (1) the cardinal sin of not plucking a part in her blonde lace front (although if she was going for the Khaleesi effect, then a helmet for a wig is true to form) and (2) showing up cosplaying as Beyoncé in the “Video Phone” music video. How she turned that into believing Ayan is obsessed with her is beyond comprehension, but if there’s one thing we know about a housewife, it is that they will lead with delusion first.
There is no such thing as a party without good gossip to keep it afloat. This one is no exception, with Sara and Caroline Brooks having lingering drama as the group enters Nara Desert Escape for the festivities, which is essentially an equivalent of the immensely popular East and Southern African safari getaways but in the middle of the Dubai desert — it is situated in the middle of a conservation reserve. For someone who, as Lesa hilariously pointed out, acts like a “walking Instagram post,” I was surprised by the aggressive tone Sara took in the group chat after hearing that Caroline was upset with her; even if she firmly disagreed with Brooks, which is her right, what part of her takeaway from that scene would have indicated to her that they had parted on good terms? Frankly, in the context of the incident, I felt they were both wrong. While I can understand why what Sara witnessed would convince her she should encourage her castmate — their relationship is not yet intimate enough for them to consider each other friends — to express more attention, you would think that her honorary doctorate in “women’s empowerment and leadership” would help her read social cues and back off when someone is reacting defensively instead of engaging their friends and agitating the situation, but maybe that didn’t come with the pamphlet at the end of the one-day seminar. Brooks, on the other hand, does a poor job of expressing herself when she feels attacked or exposed, which is, funnily enough, an accusation she lobbed at Ayan in the first episode over their dinner confrontation. It is a universal feeling for parents that there are things they love about their own upbringing and things they didn’t, and it makes sense that, when raising their own children, they do their best to keep the cultural touch points they felt had value while disposing of the rest — perhaps Sara presumptively injecting herself into that is making her feel insufficient. Lesa and Ayan even make a point of trying to explain this sensitivity to Sara despite them not all being on the best of terms at the moment. Instead, she grossly overreacts and easily casts herself as the villain in her own household.
It’s fitting that Ayan refers to Brooks as a hyena — pretty on the outside with a mouth that can get a bit dirty — because in the latter third of the episode, as Brooks kept devolving into chaos at the function, I kept thinking about the oft-used meme from Disney’s The Lion King of Simba pointing at the elephant graveyard off in the desert with Mufasa: “But what about that shadowy place?” “You must never go there, Simba.” Brooks was certainly taking refuge in that shadowy place for the bulk of the evening, escalating her tone with both Sara and Nina upon hearing that it was her who relayed Caroline’s dismay back to Dubai’s favorite life coach; and while I agree that Nina likes to keep herself in the mix in a quasi shadow-producer role and tries to hide her hands a bit, perhaps choosing a time other than when she is barely holding it together over her father’s delicate health status from COVID-19 would make her look like less of the Wicked Witch of the West when trying to get her point across. Instead, she continues to lose her cool, the alcohol clouding her ability to properly interpret Sara’s endless Canva-derived sayings, quickly leading the duo down a path of no return.
Next week, we finally arrive at the (second) wedding, and more parental secrets are revealed. See you all then!