The Real Housewives of Potomac
Allow me to (re)introduce myself. My name is Chris Murphy, and I will be taking over the recapping of The Real Housewives of Potomac from the inimitable Ali Barthwell for the remainder of this one, true perfect season of reality television. Over the summer, I pinch-hit for the godfather of Housewives recaps, Brian Moylan, stepping in with recaps for RHOBH and RHONY, but now I can finally say that I’ve landed the big account. They said it couldn’t be done, but I, a snarky gay Black millennial whose life was forever changed the millisecond he saw Shereé Whitfield say “Who gon’ check me, boo?,” am now recapping a Housewives franchise for Vulture dot com, a website with a paywall. Mama, we made it.
And what a season of television to recap! This season of The Real Housewives of Potomac is, simply put, a work of art. It’s Housewives canon. One of the best we’ve ever had, in my (expert) opinion. The fact that more people aren’t watching is ludicrous to me, because last time I checked we were still amid a pandemic? Watching hours upon hours of reality television in the safety of your home is no longer just self-care — it’s a service to the nation. Also, RHOP is absolutely firing on all cylinders. *Big Stefon voice* Bravo’s hottest franchise is The Real Housewives of Potomac. It has everything: tax fraud, an African gray parrot named T’Challa, and a philandering man who simply refuses to stop cheating on his wife. The wild thing is that last part could easily refer to either Michael Darby or Jamal Bryant — that’s how much is going down this season on Potomac.
With all that to look forward to, I must admit I was a little disappointed when I realized this was going to be a Wendy-centric episode. On any other franchise, I think Dr. Wendy would be a top-notch Housewife — a breakout star à la Leah from RHONY — but Potomac is just so stacked with heavy hitters that Wendy somewhat fades into the background for me. I feel she would benefit from taking a few more classes at the Real Housewives Academy of Arts and Sciences in order to really hold her own against these women, which is ironic considering Dr. Wendy has approximately 37 degrees that she never stops talking about.
We kick off the episode in Wendy’s lovely home as she discusses throwing a “Sip and See” for her newborn daughter, Kamrynn, a party that will introduce their adorable bundle of joy to their community for the first time. Even Dr. Wendy, whose life seems more outwardly perfect and put together than any Housewife in recent history, has compelling drama to unpack, as her Nigerian in-laws absolutely hate each other and her husband’s parents have more or less severed ties with their family. Like “skipped their wedding eight years ago and still haven’t met their grandkids Karter, Kruz, and Kamrynn” level of severed ties. It’s deeply upsetting, but also confusing, because Wendy’s husband, Eddie, seems like a genuinely nice dude and a really great dad (don’t quote me on this if he ends up Michael Darby–ing in future seasons). We’re left to wonder whether Eddie’s family will show up to said Sip and See, and also why on earth Wendy and Eddie gave all their kids first names that begin with the letter K if they are not Kardashians. Kris Jenner would like a word.
We then touch down with America’s sweethearts, Ashley and Michael Darby, who serve us the classic Housewives trope of the therapy scene. Points to Ashley for finding someone who seems like they might actually be a licensed therapist and not a “life coach” or chiropractor with kind eyes who loves to gab, which is what most Housewives consider therapy. The marriage-counseling session reveals that just when you thought Michael Darby — a shrimp that’s been left on the barbie too long — couldn’t get any lower than cheating on his postpartum wife, he actually can, blaming his “indiscretions” on the attention Ashley is lavishing on their 4-month-old son. The man is absolute garbage, and if you don’t believe me, feel free to check out this clip of him pinching yet another cameraman’s butt without consent in the background of a scene from season one of RHOP. Cameras don’t lie, people! The therapy session ends with Michael realizing that he’s got to do some work on himself (duh) and Ashley threatening to leave his sorry ass if he ever cheats on her again. While I do believe the viewers deserve a Housewife who’s into threesomes and in a semi-open marriage, this marriage is simply not it, and I pray that Ashley gets that postnup together right quick so she can quietly exit this marriage stage left. (Spoiler alert: Ashley and Michael recently announced they’re expecting another kid together, so I guess not??)
Until this point, the episode has been pretty heavy, so the producers decide to give us a “fun” montage of the women in their various elements, having a blast and a half. Gizelle FaceTimes Jamal, whose chyron reads “ex-husband/boyfriend,” which really does say it all. I truly believe Gizelle Bryant is one the prettiest women in the world and yet has the worst aesthetic sense of anyone I have ever seen in my entire life. That purple wall, the sparkly vases on the mantel, the cheetah-print shirt — it’s all so wrong. Meanwhile, sleepy Robyn is absolutely going off on the sidelines of Juan Dixon’s basketball game, mimicking the cheerleaders and shaking what the good Lord gave her. She probably needs to stop shaking her booty and start shimmy-shaking her way down to a tax attorney’s office, but, hey, at least she’s not letting life get her down.
Someone who is letting life get her down, though, is La Grande Dame of Potomac, Karen Huger. I’ve gotta say, Karen making her husband, Ray, set up those mummy corpses in preparation for Halloween was truly meta-theatrical. A corpse carrying a corpse. There was more chemistry and tenderness between mummy Edwina and her mummified husband than we’ve seen between Karen and Ray all season long. That being said, I do think Karen is being slightly unfair to Ray. We have to remember Ray is 75 years old. I know politics of late has sort of normalized being 75 as a general concept, but that’s actually really old. I’m not sure if Ray no longer loves Karen or if he’s just cranky and wants to take a nap. Their conversation about the status of their relationship during their walk showed that Karen is deeply obsessed with who she’s becoming, and it’s honestly kind of sweet and inspiring to see a woman in her 50s be genuinely excited about her future. Ray, perhaps, has a different vision for their future, one that doesn’t involve lights, camera, action, and I think he’s still adjusting to Karen 2.0, homecoming queen of Surry, Virginia. I’m obviously #TeamKaren and genuinely want her to be happy, but I’m also #TeamLetRayRestHisWearyBones.
Somehow, it takes us about halfway through the episode to get to the reason for the season: Candiace versus Monique. Monique is on a time-out from the show, for now, for not playing nice with others, so we do not hear or see from her this episode but rather watch as Candiace decides to press charges against Monique for second-degree assault and then gets dinner with her friend Clifton, who’s wearing a very large hat. Potentially unpopular opinion: While Monique obviously crossed a line, I am not necessarily on Candiace’s side of their skirmish, as I do think she loves to push people’s buttons. I also think the respectability politics of it all, with certain Housewives trying to shame Monique for setting a bad example for Black women writ large, is a bunch of b.s. Monique is not a representative for all Black women nor is she expected to be. No one should have to carry that impossible weight on their shoulders, and I think that’s an unfair element that’s being brought into this fight. Also, Candiace should put her phone down while driving for safety reasons.
After a drive by Robyn’s house to check out her hat line (which I suspect won’t be the golden ticket that gets her out of $90,000 of IRS debt that she thinks it is) and a stop by Uncle Lump’s house (complete with a guest appearance from Ashley’s mother wearing an eye patch), we arrive at Kamrynn’s Sip and See two hours early, because Robyn decided to be on time for the first time in her entire life. She’s also wearing the same exact pink blazer-dress that Garcelle Beauvais and Lisa Rinna wore when they had dinner with Erika Jayne’s
grandpa husband on RHOBH. “I’m Nigerian. Why would you be on time?” says Wendy, who officially won me over with that line, I think. Soon enough, Gizelle enters, wearing a pink off-the-shoulder smock that she borrowed from a middle-school art teacher, and then Karen, serving Barbie-girl realness. The only one who did not understand the assignment, of course, is Ashley, who shows up in a purple disco dress that would have been perfect for a night out at Studio 54 but ultimately does not fit the dress code, which was simply “wear pink.” It’s the story of Ashley’s life: so close yet so far.
The Sip and See should go down in history as one of the best Housewives event of all time. I mean, baby Kamrynn wearing a Nigerian head tie while held up in the middle of a dance floor by her father after being sprayed with cash is truly all I’ve ever needed to see in this world. Sadly, Eddie’s family never shows up, which is honestly heartbreaking, and the only thing that could cheer me up in that moment was copious footage of Kamrynn in her head tie, and also Wendy’s mother in her Gucci hat, both of which the producers provided. Seriously, cancel all gender reveals and replace them with Sip and Sees.
Candiace arrives easy and breezy, belying a more sinister underbelly as the news has recently broken that she has filed charges against Monique. As the women lightly press Candiace on why she decided to press charges, Candiace makes it perfectly clear that she wants Monique prosecuted to the full extent of the law, even if that means jail time. Candiace. Girl. Do you really want to be out in these streets advocating for the prison industrial complex and separating a Black mother from her three children on national television? ’Cause that’s what it looks like. Even Gizelle and Robyn, who are expressly #TeamCandiace, think sending Monique to jail for five years is, perhaps, a bit of an overreaction. Ashley, who has nothing more to lose at this point, comes out guns blazing and accuses Candiace of starting the entire altercation. Candiace then drops the niceties and reverts back to her natural state of delivering vicious digs, prompting her husband, White Chris, to tell her to “shut up” in front of all the ladies. While his delivery was harsh, the sentiment was definitely for the best, because the last time Candiace started running her mouth at a function like this, it did not end well.
Even so, it’s clear that Candiace expects complete loyalty, fidelity, and allegiance from the girls in her quest to incarcerate Monique. Only Karen has attempted to say neutral, refusing to throw Monique under the bus, which sets us up for a serious showdown between Candiace and Karen next week. La Grande Dame of Potomac? More like La Grande Dame of Switzerland, darling.