Real Housewives of Atlanta Review: What About the Children?
This week, the Real Housewives of Atlanta begin their last phase of the Africa trip seated behind yet another smorgasbord of gourmet delicacies, this time in the province of Eastern Cape. We’ve yet to see the ladies enjoy anything less than a 5-star dining experience, much less a humble meal from a home kitchen in that “authentic” Africa that Cynthia kept going on about. In fact, while Phaedra lectures the group on maintaining perspective after their life-changing charitable visit to the orphanage, Marlo yells for a minion to come explain why her shrimp is undercooked. “We live a wonderful life,” Phaedra points out, reminding everyone to remember how “miniscule [their] squabbles are sometimes.” Marlo does everything short of physically plug her ears and hum.
Today is heritage museum day, during which the gang learns all about the Xhosa people of the area. Hearing from the male tour guide that Xhosa men are permitted to “fetch” any desirable female mates even against their will, Kandi is particularly creeped out. The others are also put-off, but they’re more able to weigh that unsavory tidbit against the consideration that they and their peers are just as easy prey on American soil when the price is right.
It’s Phaedra’s turn to be offended when an herbalist passes around medicinal herbs in a jar (which women are forbidden from touching) and then offers to prognosticate the future through a ritual reading. Since the guy began the whole session by looking at the women lustfully and commenting on their good looks, we know we’re in for a treat when he promises to speak insightfully into their lives. Despite the obvious shallowness of his attention-grabbing charade, which includes referring to seashells and dice as “human bones” and retching like Linda Blair, the herbalist manages to spook similarly superstitious Phaedra and leave her yearning for her “holy oil and prayer cloth.” Because she believes all-powerful supernatural forces beyond space and time are wont to pester humanoid creatures via vibes emitting from material trinkets, Phaedra must sit this one out. Marlo is also dubious, challenging the practitioner to tell her something the Bible hasn’t already revealed.
According to the herbalist, Kandi’s ex-fiance is still following her around from beyond the grave, and Sheree is too old to get married again, so she must remain happily single and stay put in her house. Cynthia is genuinely content in her marriage, while NeNe’s husband is a “good man” who can’t make her happy. NeNe gets points for insisting she doesn’t need to be married to be happy, but Sheree can’t even entertain the idea that she may never find another husband.
Later in Marlo’s room, the six women meet up in robes for an evening of festivities consisting of drinking champagne and counting Marlo’s shoes. Sheree can’t figure a reason for bringing 29 expensive pairs to a starving continent, but there’s no logic to be unearthed; Marlo has stupidly arranged her quarters like a boutique, with bags and heels lined up on tables. It’s really quite grotesque, which is why I’m less grossed out by the ensuing sex talk than I should be. As Kandi points out, the topic is their one great equalizer. In no time, Marlo’s on the floor demonstrating all her trusted moves while her guests dutifully take notes and share their own tips. Amid their laughter and gaiety, Cynthia interjects an attempt to ruin it all by awkwardly pointing out that they’re having fun instead of arguing.
Kandi takes this as a cue to begin an argument. She confronts Marlo about her obsession with designer labels, and Marlo counters by screaming about her lifelong love of fashion. You see, when Marlo wears her labels on her sleeve and begs for recognition, it’s only because she genuinely adores those designers for their work. It’s not tacky desperation; it’s sophisticated art appreciation. Cynthia looks frustrated and tries to break up the tension, forgetting that she started it to begin with.
The next morning marks the top of another safari day, but Marlo is conveniently too ill to participate and of course wants NeNe to stay in with her instead of going into the yucky outdoors to see scary wild animals. Marlo vehemently refuses to call upon an “African doctor,” apparently supposing they patch people up with pebbles and their own spittle. Phaedra just knows it was the medicine man who put “some bad juju” on Marlo. She promises to send up a few prayers.
The good news is that “The Smalls” (Kandi, Phaedra, and Sheree) are now alone with Cynthia, one of “The Talls” gone rogue. They love her company, mostly because she likes to gossip as much as they do. Cynthia starts by claiming she can’t relate to Marlo because she has “way more going on than shopping” in her life and then moves on to Kim. Cyn the Instigator just can’t picture blond, plastic-faced Kim frolicking around Africa with the rest of them, picking up little snot-nosed African children and playing with them at a run-down orphanage. Kandi agrees that such a scenario is hard to imagine. For awhile, the four women are having such a good time validating each other’s hateration that they miss their driver pointing out all the animals along the way.
When NeNe joins Cynthia and The Smalls for lunch in the middle of the safari trail, she’s dismayed to hear they still have such a problem with her superficial new best friend. “I’m a good judge of character,” says NeNe in her own defense, urging the others to reconsider their stance. Lame-ass Cynthia raises her hand to announce how cool she is with Marlo, how much they have in common, and how she never had any complaints. Sheree and Phaedra look at each other dumbfounded. Kandi considers this yet another illustration of NeNe’s “mind control” powers over Cynthia, who always knows how to change her tune on a dime.
Back at their luxury accommodations, Sheree, Kandi, and Phaedra sit down to give Kim a phone call. The call is Sheree’s idea, so it’s not surprising how quick she is to mention the safari gossip. Sheree repeats Kandi’s disparaging comments about Kim, which were only said in agreement with Cynthia’s original statement. Sheree paints the whole thing to sound much more controversial than it was, making it out to seem as if Kandi thought the mere idea of Kim playing with “Black children” was preposterous. Kim is rightly offended by the suggestion, and Kandi can say nothing to defend herself now that she feels she was successfully “thrown under the bus.” Sheree must have gotten really bored sitting on that bed in perfect harmony with two of her good friends; why else would she start drama out of nowhere?
Later at a barbecue dinner, the group is dolled up in traditional African clothing and intricate white face paint, with Phaedra first having to make sure there’s no spiritual symbolism behind the makeup designs. Kandi can’t stand the elephant in the room, so she addresses the phone call to Kim, asking Cynthia to help clear things up and defend her version of the story. Kandi wants everyone to admit she wasn’t the first to insult Kim in that vehicle, and Cynthia helpfully corroborates without admitting her own role in the conversation.
NeNe is pleased as a Georgia peach, taunting The Smalls for having to “report to the boss.” This sets Kandi off. “I’m a boss in everything I do! I don’t follow other women!” she insists loudly. As alleged Head Bitch In Charge of The Talls, NeNe can finally accuse the shorter half of the group of catering to Kim as their leader. Still smiling smugly at Kandi, NeNe defends her lemmings Cynthia and Marlo by calling them bosses and ordering them to agree that they make their own decisions. The two of them nod silently in acquiescence. What makes the scene a thousand times more hilarious is that NeNe’s African hat makes her look like an empress of some sort.
Kandi becomes more and more frustrated before getting into another tiff with Marlo about labels, asking her to stop boasting and give other women a chance to compliment her. Clearly, Marlo is too insecure for that, so she proudly resolves to continue in her obnoxiousness. Phaedra would like everything to calm down again, for everyone to finally just get along, especially after their transformative visit with sick and dying children. “But that would be too much like right with these wrong girls,” she says to the camera with a sigh.
NEXT WEEK: The ladies are welcomed home, where Bryson is in jail, Kandi and Sheree have a screaming match in front of Kim, and Peter is too broke to throw Cynthia an anniversary party.
Season 4, Episode : “No Bones About It” (originally aired February 12, 2012)
For more Real Housewives of Atlanta, check out our other reviews.
The Real Housewives of Atlanta airs Sundays at 9/8c on Bravo.
Images courtesy of Nadine Hutton and Bravo.