In the midst of these very unprecedented times, in the face of completely extraordinary news and events, it’s hard for something to really break through. For something to shake me to my core. After everything we’ve been through as a country, after all the chaos and destruction, it’s hard to be roused. So I, along with so many other people, have been searching, yearning for anything that can make us feel excited. Even if it’s just for a moment. Was it baking sourdough? No, it was not. Was it a puzzle? No, it most certainly was not. Was it Patti LaBelle vs. Gladys Knight? Y’know what? I did feel a stirring when Dionne Warwick materialized from the ether like a Baba Yaga to bless us with a song. But that feeling faded.
Did seeing Monique grab onto Candiace’s wig and shake her so hard that a cheese tray on a marble slab fell to the ground, all while Ashley was in the bathroom, make me feel alive? You’re goddamn right it did. Holy shit. Let’s get into it.
Can we first applaud this episode for giving us the most in-depth “Previously On” in the history of the Real Housewives franchise? I think some of those clips were from Candiace’s third-grade dance recital.
We’re still at the winery. Monique is still flipping Candiace’s hair and asking her “Do you want me to? Do you want me to?” when suddenly, there’s a flurry of hands. My notes suddenly go into all caps: “WINE IS IN THE FACE PRODUCERS ARRIVE MONIQUE HAS GRABBED HER WHOLE HEAD THE TABLE HAS FALLEN OVER.” It was a whirlwind and it was EXHILARATING. Wow. I feel positively electric. We’ve certainly seen plenty of Real Housewives fights but did we ever think that the first hands to really be thrown on Potomac would be Candiace and Monique? And by “Candiace and Monique,” I mean “Monique’s eyes turning black and her entering a violent fugue state where she is capable of a destruction previously unknown.”
The producers rush in to pull Monique off Candiace and usher her into a hallway. Candiace immediately starts running her mouth again. Ma’am. If your mouth got you into this mess, SHUT IT. She screams that Monique is a “Hoodrat ass bitch.” Okay, Candiace. First of all, shut the full hell up. Second of all, after walking around for numerous seasons with your mom paying your bills, calling other people “ghetto” and “hoodrat” is not a good look. There are plenty of reasons to find Monique a baffling and dangerous presence so let’s just avoid the classism, shall we?
Meanwhile, Monique is in the hallway with the producer, pacing back and forth coming down off what I can only imagine is an unbelievable high of smacking Candiace around just a little bit. But Monique has to make the whole thing feel incredibly gross when she keeps saying, “She asked for it. She asked for it.” Monique also claims that she completely lost control and doesn’t remember what happened. Oh, bullshit, Monique. You’ve been lying in wait too long to snatch that bitch’s wig and are retelling the story of how you feel afterward with too much sick glee to have blacked out and woken up being dragged down by five different producers.
Then Ashley comes back from the bathroom. WOW. OKAY. What a fucking delight. The image of Ashley trying to figure out what happened in the two to four minutes she was in the bathroom will comfort me as I fall asleep like a weighted blanket. Plus she was in that quirky li’l cape.
Candiace is about to be scuttled away in a car when Monique slips away from production and leaves the winery through some back basement door, shouting that she’s going to kill Candiace. This is where I knew that this woman was completely unhinged. She’s jogging through a rustic, autumnal winery lot trying to murder a former Miss United States. This is a Lifetime TV movie that I would watch every year on Halloween and dress as the main character.
What about the emotional states of the other women? Well, Robyn and Gizelle are standing around alternating between laughing and complete horror. Both of them firmly place the escalation of the fight squarely on the shoulders of Monique, but put in a pin in that. Wendy just screams at full shrieking volume and then bemoans the state of Black womanhood, as Karen flops around in her Fendi poncho wailing that Monique and Candiace are good people and it didn’t have to come to this. I mean … Monique seemed intent on beating Candiace’s ass, so we were gonna end up here. We might have been on a hayride or on a Venetian gondola, but we were gonna end up with a fistful of hair in Monique’s fist.
And let’s just touch on what Twitter is all abuzz about: It seems like either Robyn or Gizelle’s hand was the hand that tried to gently shove Monique away from Candiace, which was the spark in the powder keg of this situation. Do I particularly care? I don’t think so. Monique was so looking for an excuse to really lay a hand on Candiace that she wasn’t even paying attention where the hand that shoved her was coming from. A hand came from her side that she believed came from Candiace who was standing directly in front of her. Monique was ready.
It’s the morning after the fight and … there isn’t enough story to support the rest of this episode. But seeing the fight almost unedited makes up for it. Wendy is just concerned that this kind of behavior justifies people denying marginalized people seats at the table when she goes on the news and speaks up for those people. So in her mind, Donald Trump is going to watch Real Housewives of Potomac and say, “Ah! I’ve got to keep discriminating against Black American women! This is what you get! If only you had interpreted Wendy’s high-pitched screeches as instructions to stop, I wouldn’t be forced to continue centuries-long systems of oppression! I’m Donald Trump and everything is terrible! You’re fired, Black ladies of America!”
Okay, Gizelle’s ex-husband is definitely doing something fraudulent by putting his new restaurant venture partially in his kids’ names. He claims he’s trying to “build generational wealth” and “teach them the value of hard work,” but I think he’s got “bad credit” and trying to avoid “responsibility if this restaurant doesn’t work out.” Also, can 13- and 14-year-olds in Atlanta work in a restaurant? Is it child labor if it’s your own child? Gizelle is using the trip to Atlanta to show off how great her relationship with Jamal is to her father, who isn’t a big fan of Jamal. Her dad says he just wants Gizelle to be happy and she has to trust her gut. But after they’re done eating a sampling of new desserts, her dad heads to the bathroom and says, “I’m done,” and wants his mic taken off. He also says that Jamal has six or seven baby mamas and this is a bad idea. I have to agree.
Literally no part of this equation is a good idea. Getting back together with your cheating ex-husband with multiple children scattered around the country? Less than ideal. Opening a restaurant in this economy? Terrible idea. Put those two things together and then add in your ex-husband putting part ownership of the restaurant in your children’s name but maybe not yours? Baby, you’re headed for an embarrassing episode of either Bar Rescue or Judge Judy. I honestly think Jon Taffer would be gentler on you.
Monique and Candiace check in with their respective Chrises and everyone is upset with Monique except Monique. She is surprised that her husband would be disappointed with her when Candiace was totally asking for it. Throughout Monique’s conversation with Chris, she’s trying to wash her daughter’s hair in the sink and she keeps messing up the temperature and her daughter’s sweet little voice keeps squeaking “Too cold!” or “Ow! Too hot!” while Monique is justifying trying to scalp another woman. It is both terrifying and ironic.
Also, Monique seems to be in an early Mad Men story line where she’s realizing the futility and limitations of her marriage and the roles laid out for her by society and starts enacting violence against the world in order to gain some control. Monique can’t go after Chris, so her anger needs an outlet. Monique is Betty, and instead of shooting the neighbor’s pigeons or slapping Helen in the grocery store, she’s justifying beating up Candiace while gently burning her daughter’s scalp.
Before we get to whatever Karen is up to, and it’s A LOT, let’s just quickly check in with Ashley. She’s trying to nail down Michael and follow up with that whole “falling asleep next to a woman you met at the club but not having sex with her” thing. Weirdly, no one is asking Ashley any more questions about Michael, so she’s got to handle this on her own. Ashley wants to figure out exactly when and where Michael decided to head to the club to find some strange. Girl, who cares? What answer could he give? The answer he does give is that things got a little too stable, a little too comfortable, and they weren’t having fun anymore. Read: Ashley had a baby, her body was healing, and there wasn’t exactly time for a threesome in the baby routine. Is there just one script when it comes to men cheating? So if Ashley found ways to make sure Michael was having fun, he wouldn’t have taken the first opportunity to run out to the strip club and the casino? Ashley says that he needs to be more disciplined and he agrees that he will in the future. What, my guy? No, you were SUPPOSED TO, past tense, and you fucked that up so now you have to agree to a post-nup. After all the issues ’nups have caused in this relationship, I’m very interested in how this will turn out.
Finally, let’s see what’s up with Karen post-fight. She’s attending to Ray for his birthday and she’s hired a private chef to cook near her so she can pass off the chef’s cooking as her own. For Ray, it keeps coming back to the fact that Karen has devoted herself to her alleged business, but this time, he’s also saying he wishes she cooked him dinner more. What year are all these men living in? It’s 2020 where I am and GrubHub exists if you’re hungry, Ray. Ray also won’t agree to go to couples therapy, so Karen gently suggests a life coach. You can imagine my shock when the “life coach” isn’t a life coach at all but a radio host that’s maybe a friend of Karen’s. This woman is not a trained mental-health professional. She’s not trained to deal with the emotional problems of strangers or the relationship fallout when she starts getting them to open up. She’s trained in asking questions from an O Magazine relationship questionnaire and throwing it to Screamin’ Gene for weather and traffic. This is A BAD IDEA. Dear God, someone on this show find a real therapist.
Well, this woman pretending to be a therapist starts diving in and asking them questions about their relationship. Karen is annoyed with Ray because he snores and Ray is annoyed with Karen because she neglects him and her duties in the home for her business. They are on VERY different pages. The radio host asks if they still are in love with each other and Karen says she very much is, and Ray says “I think I am” and then chuckles. You cannot chuckle when you’re revealing to your partner that you may not have feelings for them anymore. Especially if the reason is you’re not getting enough attention. He says he doesn’t expect their feelings to stay the same over 20 years but maybe it’s just not bad. Then the radio host is just like, “Well, sometimes the truth hurts! Bye!” and just leaves. What…? Do something, lady! You did this! You uncovered this with your Table Topics cards! Ray says he believes he’s in love with Karen and doesn’t exactly know what the big deal is, and Karen says she appreciates his honesty but she’s allowed to be upset by it. She takes off her shoes and gets her mic taken off.
Things are DARK.