The Real Housewives of Atlanta Review: The Horror
We should have seen it coming. Every episode of Real Housewives of Atlanta has subtly warned us of the inevitability of this event, but we chose to ignore it. It was easier to just look away, keep laughing, and pretend we’d never sink too far, no matter how fast the hamster wheel turned. Well, now, here we are; though I will never fully process it, I have to admit that we’ve finally arrived, and there’s no turning back. Here it is, ladies and gents- the lowest form of public entertainment at its absolute apex of shameless, oblivious depraved desperation. You might want to finish your snacks sometime before the conclusion of this recap.
The show begins innocently enough with Phaedra bringing Kim a large gift basket to apologize for wrecking her glamorous baby shower with a notorious thug of a husband who was really just defending his wretched wife from the somewhat-justified attacks of an immature tyrant. I guess no one came out looking good in this situation. Kim is glad to receive an apology, but Phaedra is still stuck in the drama, imitating Peter’s New York accent with grunts and scowls and then asking rhetorically if Peter and Cynthia even brought a gift before making a face at how tacky and rude a couple they are. Then she unpacks her gift basket for Kim to drive her point home. Then they start dishing about C-sections, with Phaedra revealing that she had lots of morphine and epidural during hers, like God intended it.
Now for the blood-boiling fight between Peter and Cynthia’s sister Malorie at the site of his new club. Cynthia dumps her sis into the ring with Peter before jetting off and washing her hands of it, but first, she throws hubby under the bus by tattling that he’s been ignoring Malorie’s calls and pretending he didn’t see them. When Cynthia leaves and the other two are left staring at each other, Peter turns on his authoritarian disapproval face and says he doesn’t even know what to say to her. Malorie explains she was only looking after her sister, who was crying and suicidal in the weeks leading up to the wedding. Instead of showing concern and addressing why that might be the case, Peter wrings his hands in anger and paints a colorful mental picture of the most misogynistic murder plot he can dream up. Inexplicably, he then proceeds to yell that Cynthia isn’t any business of Malorie, so how dare she butt in and jack up their day? Malorie tries to suggest defensively that maybe her dear sister, whom she’s ostensibly known since childhood, just might be of some concern to her, but The Great Dictator won’t hear it. As Cynthia tells us in a talking head, Peter is very “passionate,” so she has to step in to make sure things don’t get further out of hand. He walks out, and Mal just sits crying on Cynthia’s shoulder, looking battered and drained after what could have been a composed, open discussion among two adults. It’s unclear whether Cynthia is able to recognize her sister’s trauma, since she seems blind to her own.
So, apparently, it’s going to be Kandi’s 35th birthday, so of course there’s an excessive party being planned. Kandi, Phaedra, and Sheree scope out the rooftop venue, which they love. Kandi complains that she’s all old without a husband or additional kids. She seems genuinely disappointed. I feel bad, but if I were her, I’d dry my tears with some of that No Scrubs money, buy a new boyfriend, and hope for the best. Also, she should be more concerned with the fact that her grown-ass friends are talking about how their interpersonal drama is so intense that they have to ignore each other’s presence at a mutual friend’s birthday celebration. Upon hearing that NeNe is invited, Sheree says, “Keep that bitch on the other side,” and Phaedra vows to leave Apollo at home in order to avoid Peter. She also vows to surprise Kandi with a special gift. Can’t wait!
Kandi joins NeNe in a show store to gossip about Kim while picking out tall heels. NeNe thinks Kandi was dissed by Kim, saying “Kandi wanted a friendship, and Kim wanted a hit song.” Then Kandi says Kim has a good life now and is with a “young and tender,” which grosses me out. NeNe refuses to share in Kim’s joys, opting instead to point out the fact that she’s having “the third baby by the third man.” Other Gay Hairstylist Derek is sitting there laughing at the whole exchange; he tells NeNe she might rekindle some old friendships at Kandi’s party. She laughs loudly at the absurd concept of letting bygones be bygones.
Next, we get Kim and Kroy meeting with a baby consultant or something like that. Kim is nervous about having a boy, because she doesn’t “know what to do with a penis.” I doubt that very much. This scene goes on interminably with lots more talk about penises and wiping and diapering, in addition to a discussion on the time-honored sacred ritual of hacking off little baby’s delicate foreskin, now just mostly out of habit. Kim doesn’t want all that stupid, useless extra skin, which she calls a “turtleneck,” on her child’s nether regions. Poor kid is already deemed physically defective by default, and he’s not even born yet! Then again, he does have a smokin’ hot, A-list mom to keep up with, and we wouldn’t want him compromising her stylin’ image.
At Peter’s palace, Cynthia greets NeNe and leads her out back while Peter takes a call in his bedroom about a $40,000 bounced check from an investor. No surprise there. The helpless girls try futilely to open a bottle of champagne, but the man of the house has to come outside to take care of the task. Wow, shouldn’t they know how to at least do this, if nothing else? They sit down, and Peter asks NeNe about Gregg. NeNe reveals that her ex greeted her upon her return from Miami, unpacking her luggage and carrying it upstairs like a gentleman before cashing in on some goodbye sex. NeNe tells the camera, “It sure was good!” while slapping her lap, continuing to proclaim Gregg’s sexual prowess to the world. I’m sure he appreciates the free advertising, you idiot. I thought she still wanted him for herself, but I guess not. Also, I hope her kids are watching this abominable, crass display. NeNe’s indiscretion here will seem a bit hypocritical just a few moments from now.
Over at the construction site of Chateau Sheree, Phaedra joins her aspirational friend to confront the contractor. “Nothing’s changed,” moans Sheree when she notices that no work has been done for weeks. The contractor claims they got held up by paperwork. Phaedra, with a playful but serious tone, threatens with a lawsuit if he doesn’t handle things in a speedy manner. I kind of like her defending someone like that; she seems to genuinely want Sheree to have a trouble-free experience with this project. “I know you won’t give her any problems,” says Phaedra like a mob boss to the contractor. He sweats under his collar a bit. Then, apparently scared and shamed by her own (too-masculine) intrepid bravado, Phaedra promptly puts herself back in her place by literally turning around and shaking her ass for the guy, asking him if he likes her donkey and giggling and shaking some more. I can’t even.
Malorie and her husband Chris visit Cynthia at the Bailey Agency, where Cynthia reveals that she wants to hire Malorie as a receptionist. Mal has some trouble with the title at first, and I don’t blame her. How can it not get weird working as an assistant to a sibling? I don’t know how some of these C-listers do it. Cynthia tries to convince Mal that she’ll have lots of power and be able to run the show sometimes, and I know she’ll reluctantly accept and then regret it years later before attempting to strike out in pursuit of her own dreams. Better late than never. Cynthia and her sister then get into a tiff about Peter. Cynthia is begging for Malorie’s approval, but it won’t come until Cynthia can prove somehow that she’s actually happy and not just barely surviving under a miserable regime. She even brings up the money situation, mentioning Cynthia’s investment in Peter’s old nightclub and wondering if something similar will happen again. Cynthia protests too much, exclaiming that she’s super happy and no one’s perfect and everyone with financial issues has an awful marriage. She sounds way too defensive. Chris looks extremely uncomfortable. I know this is beyond all reason, but I hope one day Cynthia can look back and realize that her sister cares about her and can detect when things are off.
Finally, we arrive on the glitzed-out rooftop of Kandi’s party, where she opens the festivities by whining in her makeup quarters about how her time is running out and she wants a new husband to knock her up and rub her back and dream of a future with her. She threatens to visit a sperm donor by the age of 37 if no man is in sight. Her hair dresser says, “Good things come to those who wait, though you’ve been waiting for awhile.” Harsh!
Kandi’s fuschia dress is unbelievably snug as she greets her guests, including an outrageously decked-out Lawrence with a blond mohawk wig. He and Derek both wear heels, and Peter tries to redeem himself and choke down his homophobia by complimenting them both. “Your shit came together well,” he says with a smile. I admire the effort to mend fences, at least. As always, the food looks great, and I’d have liked to be there, just to sample the eats and watch the temper tantrums from a safe corner. NeNe walks into the place like a star, telling us she hasn’t partied since Celebrity Apprentice. “The party don’t start ‘til I walk in,” she tries to convince herself with a pasted-on grin. Sheree sees her and visibly shakes in her boots. The women are divided into two camps, with Kandi shuttling between them and complaining that she has to do so. Kandi asks Sheree to talk to NeNe, but Sheree says no and claims they’ll never talk again. NeNe, for her part, says she doesn’t want to experience the negative energy that would well up within her while being forced to interact with Sheree.
And now for the end. It’s the end of the episode, the end of human dignity, the end of my will to keep surviving on this doomed planet. It’s time for Phaedra to break out her present, a much-anticipated precious gift for a good friend on her milestone birthday, in front of millions. By now, we all know what happened, and it can’t be unseen by any of us who made it through the ordeal and have been trying to forget about it ever since. I must assume that my own eyes were closed at least partially throughout this scene, but it’s not as if I was spared intimate knowledge of the ordeal. Neither was Kandi’s poor old mother, who sacrificially birthed the lovely girl from her own loins only to be aggressively confronted with an unsolicited set of the male variety on the thirty-fifth anniversary of the blessed event. Phaedra didn’t enlist just any old stripper to shake up the party with his grotesquely over-sized favors; it’s the “Infamous Ridiculous,” apparently known to sexually frustrated women like Phaedra the world over. I wasn’t aware of his existence, but I could no longer claim ignorance as the guy danced and swung around while I cursed the censors for going way too easy on the “blur” effect.
Yes, it’s ridiculous. It’s horrible and definitely tackier than not bringing a gift to a baby shower. It’s gratuitous and low and doesn’t fit the tone of the party. It’s unspeakably disrespectful to Kandi’s mother, to the unsuspecting folks who just showed up for cake, and to the viewers who admittedly should have anticipated having to witness this in living color. I haven’t even mentioned the autofellatio trick yet, but I don’t think I want to talk about it any more than the party attendees wanted to see and hear it. It’s the worst thing to ever happen on this show and probably the globe, so people mostly look horrified and confused, mouths gaping. Cynthia leaves, and so does NeNe, who clutches her pearls and says it’s too “disgusting,” so she had to remove her eyeballs and drive home blind.
Kandi’s mom is also off like a rocket, chastising and cursing and yelling at Kandi, resenting that she had to be in that space when that awful display happened, pointing out that it was “degrading.” Kandi is shocked and embarrassed, turning into a little girl again when she reminds her mother that it wasn’t her idea to begin with. “This is not the place for that,” says Dear Mother while she continues to leave in a huff. Kandi follows her out on the brink of tears, amazed to see her mom shaken up and emotional like that, noting that she doesn’t usually curse. It’s pretty upsetting, and I feel for the women. Thankfully, Phaedra looks for a moment like she almost has the faintest sense of remorse for what she’s done, but that doesn’t mean she’ll wake up tomorrow and realize everything that’s dysfunctional and wrong with how she views herself, sex, love, and the rest of this wretched, fallen world under her God’s sovereign gaze. As an act of pure compassion, we’ll give her a bit more time.
NEXT WEEK: Cynthia starts to write a $40,000 check for Peter, which makes Malorie cry, and Sheree dumps water on her shiftless ex and baby’s father.
Season 4, Episode 5: “Jewels Be Dangled” (original airdate 11/27/2011)
The Real Housewives of Atlanta airs Sundays at 9/8c on Bravo.
Images courtesy of John Amis and Bravo.