So while Rihanna, Coldplay and Taylor Swift were ruling the Grammys over on CBS, Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” were taking us on a trip to South Africa in the most schizophrenic episode yet.
The first half: the usual silliness and pettiness that makes the show such a junk-food joy. Part two: poor kids warm the hearts of these self-centered women and make them (briefly) forget their trivial arguments.
We continue the idiotic argument Marlo Hampton got into with Shere Whitfield in the episode two weeks ago. (Bravo skipped a new episode last week for the Super Bowl.)
The argument seems to drag on so long that it seems like it lasted two weeks and we were merely coming back in real time.
Alas, the peacemaker is… NeNe Leakes.
That’s no typo. NeNe is not creating drama. She intercepts Marlo and keeps it from getting violent. Later, even Marlo jokes about her arrest record. “You better Google and check my charges!” she says.
Once it’s over, the “talls” (Cynthia Bailey, Marlo, NeNe) split from the “smalls” (Kandi Burruss, Phaedra Parks, Sheree). Sheree had not invited Marlo to a party, which is how the entire episode devolved into argumentative nonsense.
The talls go to a restaurant, rather morosely. When Marlo leaves to hit the ladies room, Cynthia and NeNe jibber jabber about Marlo and not approvingly. While the smalls surmise that Cynthia is jealous that Marlo has taken away her BFF NeNe, I think Cynthia is honestly disgusted with Marlo’s immature, annoying, obnoxious, materialistic attitude . She is especially appalled by Marlo’s use of a serious anti-gay slur. NeNe realized that this is how stupid she must have looked when she went off the rails.
Meanwhile, the smalls meet at Sheree’s friends home Kevin, Kandi flirts with a hot dude but then finds out he is “fronting” just as much as the guys in Atlanta. They watch a fire dancer and have a grand time.
Then the six of them meet at a nightclub in Cape Town. There, Marlo tries to rile up Sheree and fails – even when she throws cash up in the air like she’s a hip-hop artist in a music video. “Make it rain” is what Marlo was doing, apparently. (Maybe she should have waited until the orphanage later to pull that act.) Kandi and Phaedra smartly grab the loose cash and run. “I can get some new shoes, Pampers and some souvenirs,” Phaedra said wryly.
The next day, they leave for the Shamwari Game Reserve, where the facilities are top notch, with a spa and gym (but much to Marlo’s chagrin, no salon). The women battle for the modern vs. antique rooms. Nobody wanted the antique rooms so they picked randomly and the two who complained the most, NeNe and Marlo get them. “Irony,” Phaedra purrs.
Cynthia arrives at the breakfast earlier than everybody else and waits for 20 minutes. Phaedra, Sheree and Kandi join her. Who’s taking even longer? Marlo had requested a hair and makeup person to come in so she’s taking a ridiculous amount of time while namedropping her expensive duds. Once at breakfast, she even has the temerity to question Cynthia’s ability to identify a Louis Vuitton cape NeNe is wearing. “The designer,” Marlo says acidly. “If you don’t know you don’t know.”
Marlo wears bright disco pants and expensive, high-heeled Manolo Blahniks, rather imperfect for a safari. Behind her back, Phaedra makes fun of her by doing her best John Travolta moves. (The editors are making Marlo look bad at every turn.)
They split into two jeeps, the smalls and talls separately, of course. Nene is squeamish about animals, any animals. When the ranger picks up a harmless turtle, NeNe looks genuinely frightened. “He’s a nightmare,” she says. Marlo talks endlessly, annoying Cynthia. “Why not put cement on the road?” she gripes. “It’s too rough!” Cynthia in the meantime tries her best to take it all in. “The way they’re behaving is childish,” Cynthia says. “I’m just embarrassed.”
The smalls have no drama, just enjoying the rhinos, antelopes and elephants. They see three giraffes and compare them to the talls.
Then the show begins to feel like a telethon where rich famous folks visit poor African kids. Phaedra had the women visit an orphanage. Before they enter a market to buy stuff for the orphaned kids, they meet some spirited students. They dance with them and one dude even has a really cool dance move involving his fingers in the back of his pants.
The six women buy more than $1,000 in supplies ranging from toiletries to bologna and bread. Then they start handing stuff out to the students, random folks on the street, then the orphanage.
At the orphanage, there is not a single snipe, not a single sarcastic word, not a single slight. Yes, even Marlo behaves herself in front of kids who sing a song for the nice ladies from the United States who have cameras all around them, whoever they are.
What is Bravo’s point in showing this? That all the ridiculous (or Ri-Dickulous, as the stripper’s name goes) plotlines we see on the “Housewives” mean nothing because there are poor people out there who need our help and who are lucky to have a roof over their heads and three square meals (as opposed to Manalo Blahniks shoes and Louis Vuitton handbags.)
If anything, it’s nice to see the women truly touched by something meaningful, even for just a day.
And Kim Zolciak? She was back in Atlanta, raising her son, 100% absent from the proceedings.
TRAILER FOR NEXT WEEK
Back to normal! The women get into more arguments. One even involves Kim Zolciak and black babies. Thanks, Kandi!
“You don’t want to see people go there.” - NeNe, after watching Marlo go there.
“I’m used to people faking it til they make it. I have to go to Africa and find someone doing the same thing.” – Kandi, initially interested in a dude, then not so much when she realized his “creds” as an actor were thinner than Sheree’s resume.
“Can I have a fork please?” - NeNe, giving up quickly when the much more worldly, open-minded Cynthia tried to teach her to use chopsticks.
“The bitches have arrived.” – Marlo, after the “smalls” arrive at a nightclub. She also gives Sheree the one-finger salute. Classy!
“We’re on a safari, not a fashion show.” - Phaedra, after Marlo complained about not having a hair/makeup person on site at the game reserve.
“We have wonderful lives. All of us. Even crazy Marlo. We live very well. To see these children go out of their way to make us feel welcome is very touching.” – Phaedra, about the South African orphans.
Episode 12 two weeks ago exploded with viewers, probably thanks to all the promos of Marlo blowing up on Sheree. Ratings hit 3.95 million, second best ever for the series and about 1.2 million more than a week earlier. Yowza! We know what we want when we watch crud like this!
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk