The Real Housewives of Atlanta Review: Atlanta Courtroom Blues

This special mid-week episode of Real Housewives of Atlanta features bucketfulls of Sheree’s tears, which she may or may not have learned to summon on demand at one of her community theater rehearsals. The jury’s still out, but Phaedra is all in with her support for her potentially manipulative dear friend, who makes it very, very difficult indeed. Also, Phaedra is my new favorite person, and Kim is one little infant’s new favorite mommy.

In Phaedra’s office, Sheree takes a load off and hands over the petition she received from Bob. Phaedra helpfully interprets it, telling us what we already know: Bob would like his payments reduced based on his loss of income. Of course, this makes the case a whole lot more complex than they anticipated, so Phaedra will have to start charging Sheree a small fee. She explains in a talking head, “This case is very emotional for Sheree, because, of course, it’s dealing with something that’s near and dear to her heart: her money.” Fa’real, Phaedra? Did you just admit to not believing your client is in this fight for the sake of her kids? That’s kinda low, but maybe she’s picking up on something here.

Those social-climbing, unwelcome leeches Charles and Marlo join Kandi in a studio to stream her web series Kandi Koated Nights, which I’m sure is very informative and not at all grating. Today’s theme, explains Kandi, is how to snag a baller and “get him to stay faithful,” as if it’s the female partner’s responsibility to make sure her guy maintains the self-discipline and basic decency required to keep him from screwing random fans and gold-digging hangers-on at every turn. Having been addressed first for advice on the matter, Charles weighs in with his opinion that Atlanta women don’t keep themselves up as much as they could and that they need to have their own money to be attractive, and then he spouts some shit about how you should treat women in accordance with how they “carry themselves,” meaning you treat ladies like ladies and whores like whores. Not only is this a refreshing new take on the subject, but it’s also easier and much more moral than just generally treating all women with respect.

Next, one of Kandi’s cohosts asks Charles about his transition from NeNe to Marlo. He defensively makes it clear that NeNe “was never [his] woman,” and they move swiftly on to the issue of how exactly Marlo earns her money. When Kandi asks, Marlo responds that her blessings have all come “from God.” Kandi’s talking head mentions rumors of Marlo’s history with an old, white sugar daddy. Technically, that description is probably consistent with Marlo’s version of God, so let’s withhold judgment for now. Muck-stirrer Kandi is suspicious, since she believes her own miraculous God-given talents for songwriting (“a scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me!”) are what made her rich, but she was still required to work for her rewards. Kandi asks again what it is that Marlo does, but no answer is to be had, because the truth would be too tragic to utter aloud. From all the God talk, the ladies segue smoothly into a frank discussion of sex positions, and Kandi admits to the camera that she sometimes feels she reveals too much on the air.

At a cheap vintage ship across town, Cynthia and NeNe shop around, with Cynthia appreciating the selections and NeNe dismissing the whole concept (as she doesn’t wear clothes that “other people had on their bodies.”). As a model, Cynthia likes to be all decked out on the runway but prefers to be original and funky and boho chic on the streets. Wow, I’ve never heard any model say any such thing before! She must be really, really artistic and interesting on her off days, judging by her open-mindedness when it comes to non-couture pieces. Anyway, this scene is just an excuse for Cynthia to bring up the latest episode of Kandi’s sex show, causing NeNe to hold her breath and look alarmed before being assured that Charles dutifully denied the rumors about them. “Good, that was the right answer,” she says, heaving a sigh of relief, happy to know he’s able to stay on message like she is. They’re more consistent than Herman Cain was, but they’re no more credible. “Charles ain’t never gonna get none of this Hello Kitty,” quips NeNe, who then yells defensively without any apparent prompting that she never slept with him and everyone just needs to leave her alone about it. Even Cynthia doesn’t seem convinced. Trying to get NeNe to agree to give the new couple a chance, she adds, “I like Marlo. I think her fashion style is amazing.” (Is that what the insiders call it?) I think they must be priming Marlo to be a new housewife or something. Somebody at Bravo must owe these people a favor, because I don’t get it yet.

At Phaedra’s abode, Sheree arrives to prepare for the courtroom. Right away, Phaedra is quite put-off by Sheree’s brand new Porsche, asking her to please not drive it on the morning of the court date and reminding us that the car is worth more than most judges’ salaries are. Once inside, Sheree pulls out her clothing options, showing off Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana, and Hermes, among others. Phaedra looks even more uncomfortable, giving Sheree the side-eye and instructing her not to wear an expensive label. Sheree looks like the most spoiled brat imaginable in this scene; I never knew she was quite this clueless. Though her level of personal wealth shouldn’t necessarily matter in this case, there’s a limit to how stupid and reckless you should be. Phaedra reminds her dear friend that “it’s all about perception.” Sheree does a fashion show in her expensive outfits, anyway, with Phaedra telling her not to show off her “big ole booty” but to hide it under a bushel so as not to distract from the case. (It’s a shame that men don’t have to consider these things.) After this scene, Phaedra is my new favorite person on the show, and she should have been all along. The woman is sheer, concentrated entertainment, and it’s easier to just enjoy it.

At Casa de Kim, baby KJ is finally settling in with his family, and Sweetie is having to pick up the slack while Kim continues to relax after the exhausting pregnancy and delivery. Brielle sits around sneezing on the baby and doing her damndest not to lift a finger while Sweetie contributes by washing Kim’s wigs in the kitchen sink (!) and complaining that Brielle won’t help. Kim tells her oldest daughter to be a bit more adult, to stop fighting with her little sister when Mommy’s back is turned. Brielle doesn’t seem remotely ready to start growing up; she’s more concerned with her tanning and her jeans, as Kim explains. At the end of this scene, the three ladies argue over whether the saying is “A for Effort” or “E for Effort.” Brielle thinks that, since it’s the former, the word ‘effort’ begins with an ‘A.’” The girl is thirteen years old. Suddenly, we have much bigger concerns than her unwillingness to help with chores around the house.

Phaedra enters her law office and is met with a cup of coffee from Steven in the front lobby. Making sure to point out in front of the camera that this behavior is highly uncommon, Phaedra reacts with exaggerated surprise and gratitude, exclaiming, “Steven, you are on it today!” He looks sheepish. Phaedra’s main assistant Latoya enters her inner sanctum to discuss the small matter of funds. It turns out that Latoya had to find Sheree at a hair salon to ask for the $5,000 retainer fee that Phaedra’s requiring (apparently a rock-bottom price on which they’re not making a profit at all). Sheree didn’t have the check. Phaedra’s understandably upset that her assistant is having to act like a courier service and that Sheree’s not paying up even though the fee is reduced. Right on cue, a dude named Brandon walks in huffing and puffing to announce that he just waited like a ninja in different buildings around town for hours at a time to strike at Sheree and demand the money. She finally handed over the check, but it doesn’t make sense for it to have taken so long. Phaedra reveals to viewers that Sheree has a reputation in Atlanta for not paying her lawyer fees, but she hopes things will be different from now on. We’ll see how that pans out.

Back at Kim’s, her strange parents come over to meet the baby, and they can’t stop playing with him and cooing over him and poking and prodding while Brielle mopes and preens and the little doggie poos on the carpet to demonstrate his jealousy. Kim’s dad, always vying for his rightful spot in the stale, casino-carpeted arena of reality television stardom, brashly asks his daughter if KJ squeezes on her boobs while he feeds. Kroy doesn’t look amused, but Kim is used to such queries and laughs him off. All the adults then turn to Brielle to warn her that she’s gotta start shaping up soon and doing more to help out around the house. I say someone get this girl a book before we go shoving a broom in her hands.

In the courtroom at the start of Sheree’s proceedings, we see that Bob has shown up to represent himself. Phaedra points out how smart this is, considering his poverty claim. He’s here pretending he can’t afford a lawyer, and it’s also good that he arrived looking “like a hot mess,” she tells us. Smart guy. He’s smart enough that he knows how to represent himself and do the online research necessary to carry him, says Sheree, so he should be smart enough to find a job. It’s a good point, and I hope the judge sees through his game. Sheree’s still worried, since previous courtrooms have been packed full of Bob supporters and fans, including the judges and bailiffs. “He thinks he’s above the law,” says Sheree. I always like to see that type of person taken down.

Immediately, Bob hands the judge a petition for contempt, claiming that Sheree stole pieces of furniture that he was granted in the divorce. Having fallen for Bob’s attempt to buy more time and stall the case, the honorable judge reschedules the hearing for a future date. I’m sad the women got all dressed up, and Sheree’s supportive mom showed up, just to go home again. Phaedra walks over to Bob to get his phone number, and he walks out of the room, kissing and hugging Sheree’s mother on the way. I can’t believe she’d be so congenial with him under the circumstances. Sheree is clearly taken aback and disappointed, following Phaedra outside. In the hallway, Charles skips along and makes a face, sticking his tongue out like a child and celebrating his first strategic chess move. What a bizarre gesture. I hope he’s humiliated in court, but I’m worried he’s too smart for his own good.

At lunch with Kandi later on, Phaedra lies by answering that it went well when asked about the first day in court. As soon as Sheree arrives to join them, she sets matters straight by complaining about what a mess it was and demanding to know why they didn’t preempt Bob in filing for contempt. Phaedra is hurt and offended that Sheree would openly critique her performance in court, but she’s sort of talking herself around a bush and not really sounding very confident or specific about their next few moves. “At the end of the day, [Phaedra] was outsmarted by an ex-football player who represented himself,” Sheree tells us, looking defeated.

Kandi listens to the situation and sympathizes with Sheree, crying about her own horrible experiences with daughter Riley’s father. “The court system is rigged against women,” she says, insisting she’ll never go back to try to deal with it again. Sheree cries a bit and seems even less encouraged than before. Kandi points out how great it feels to just finally tell your man to bugger off, since you don’t need his money anymore, anyhow. I see her point and think it’s kind of a liberating approach if you’re independently wealthy, even if it lets the deadbeat off the hook. At a certain point, it really must wear on you to have to keep demanding what you’re entitled to, and it might be better to drop the drama if you can afford it. More importantly, though, I’d like to see a Lifetime movie based on this plot-line, please. At the end of it, Bob could get up from his internet research to grab a chainsaw and follow Sheree into the woods where she regularly takes her midnight run and frequently trips and falls while listening to Adele on her headphones. He could use some awful football pun while burying the evidence, and Phaedra could use the opportunity to promote her new boutique funeral services, ending the movie with a real advertisement and short PSA about child support. It’s as good as written. (All I have to do here is type “Copyright,” yes?)

NEXT WEEK: Kim and Kroy move to their big house, Sheree and Phaedra disagree some more, and Peter makes Cynthia cry for the umpteenth time.

Season 4, Episode 7: “Law By Sheree” (original airdate December 13, 2011.)

The Real Housewives of Atlanta airs Sundays at 9/8c.

Images courtesy of John Amis and Bravo.




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