At the end of last week’s episode, the “Real Housewives of Atlanta” clan set aside their usual idiocies, jealousies and arguments after meeting with the poorest of the poor in South Africa. The afterglow continues during the first moments of tonight’s episode.
“We are very blessed,” said a relaxed and unusually chipper NeNe Leakes.
“Some of our squabbles are miniscule in comparison,” voice-of-reason Phaedra Parks said. “We forget how fortunate we are as individuals.”
(Except for painfully self-absorbed Marlo Hampton, who complains about raw shrimp while Phaedra is uttering those lines.)
But we all know that if everything remained Kumbaya, we’d have no TV show. The tinder for this show is conflict, however ridiculous it may be.
The women first hit a museum, where they learn that women in the South African Khosa tribe in the old days were “picked” by the men, whether they wanted them or not. (That would make for a very twisted “Real Housewives of 19th Century South Africa.”)
They then they meet a blunt medicine man who offers to provide readings based on “ancestor bones.” Phaedra is especially grossed out by the prospect of seeing such bones, bemusing considering her fascination with dead folks. But psych! He’ is actually using shells and dice symbolizing said “ancestor bones.” Not so gross.
With Jeanne Dixon-like certitude, he predicts that Sheree Whitfield will never marry partly because she’s “too old.” (Sheree appears understandably offended.). He then said NeNe is unhappy in general despite the fact her husband Gregg is a good man. She tries to get him to say she’s merely an “unhappy married woman” but is generally happy. He refuses to yield. He also thinks Cynthia Bailey is in a happy marriage. (Snicker.)
The ladies follow with a slumber party at Marlo and NeNe’s pad, where they drink wine and admire Marlos’ 29 pairs of shoes, three for each day of the 10-day trip. Since many are Louboutins and the like, the value of said shoes is probably in the $15,000 to $20,000 range. For a time, the ladies giggle and play act adventurous sexual positions, especially Kandi (she can do a split!), Cynthia and Marlo. Whenever the topic of sex comes up, Sheree seems oddly shut off and NeNe is visibly uncomfortable.
“We’re almost bonding,” said Cynthia, ever the optimist.
Then Kandi notes that she likes Marlo but finds her constant name-dropping of labels materialistic and superficial.
NeNe defends her friend Marlo. “I never got superficial from her,” she said, though she conveniently left out “materialistic.”
Marlo’s voice goes two octaves lower and 50 decibels higher. “Hell no! Be quiet! I love fashion.” Then she blabbered semi-coherently about why fashion means so much to her.
Cynthia cuts in. “You’re screaming!” Later, she tells the Bravo cameras: “If I don’t break this up, they’ll be a lot of designer clothes and weaves flying all over the place.’
The next day, Marlo is too weak and sick to go on safari. Phaedra theorizes that Medicine Man made her sick for being dismissive of his powers. NeNe watches over her (in blue rubber gloves since she’s a germaphobe.)
The Smalls are joined by Cynthia on the safari and everything seems less tense. Kandi notes how over the top Marlo is. Cynthia agrees. “People feel like this is what validates them,” she said.
Amusingly, the guide tries to get a word in edgewise to point out animals they are missing, but the women are in Full Gossip Mode.
They talk about whether Kim Zolciak (remember her?) would have enjoyed the trip. Cynthia said she can’t picture Kim at an orphanage holding black babies with snot running down their nose. Kandi agrees, then says she doesn’t think Kim would have gone on the trip at all given how much she dislikes so many of them. “She would have come up with some excuse,” Kandi said.
At lunch hour, the Shamwari Game Reserve had set up an outdoor meal and NeNe pulls up in a separate vehicle, minus ill Marlo. NeNe wants to make sure Cynthia isn’t being co-opted by the Smalls.
“I’m eating out where the flies and bugs are. I can hardly take it no more,” NeNe whines. (Guess she won’t be signing up for “Celebrity Survivor” any time soon or more accurately, “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Outta Here!”)
When NeNe finds out they’d been gossiping about Marlo, she gets annoyed. “I don’t have time for this bull****… You sound like a hater. I think the Smalls hate on Marlo because she’s fashionable.” (No. They hate on her because she talks too much, acts all superior and brags about herself and her so-called “etiquette” way too much.)
Cynthia agrees with NeNe to NeNe’s face, much to Kandi’s chagrin. “Cynthia is a little two faced. One minute it’s, ‘I”m sick of hearing about Marlo.’ Then in front of NeNe, it’s ‘Go Marlo!’ She really has a different opinion when NeNe is around.”
NeNe then makes the absurd presumption that Kim is the “Queen Bee” of the Smalls. Kand is offended.
Later, Sheree decides to call Kim. The conversation is uneventful until Sheree decides to tell Kim what Cynthia and Kandi had said about Kim being uncomfortable holding little black babies at an orphanage – except she placed the onus on Kandi.
Kandi denies she said that, saying she merely didn’t think Kim would go on the trip given her animus toward others in the group – especially NeNe. She also said Cynthia said the “black babies” line.
We see a flashback and yes, Cynthia said it. Problem: Kandi agreed with Cynthia so Sheree was half right. She didn’t say it but agreed with the statement.
That evening, they attend a dinner and get dressed in South African garb and makeup. But Kandi is still perturbed and decides to bring her issues out on the table.
“I felt like my buddy [Sheree] threw me under the bus tonight,” Kandi said to Sheree.
She then got Cynthia to agree Cynthia said the “black babies” line.
“I just don’t like it when someone puts words in my mouth,” Kandi said.
NeNe snidely said, “You all have to report to your boss,” as in Kim.
“We are all bosses!” Kandi said. “I’m the boss of everything I do! I don’t follow any other women.”
NeNe said Kandi and others have joked how Cynthia is NeNe’s puppet but she believes, too, that every woman at that table is their own boss.
Then Kandi gets into Marlo’s face about her materialism – again. Marlo tries to get her to quote every instance. Kandi demurs. “Your words,” she said, “are not that memorable.”
Nobody chimed in to help Kandi out on this one. “I felt like I was all by myself,” she said. “Everybody had so many thoughts [about Marlo] before.”
She said she likes how Marlo dresses but finds her braggadocio “a little obnoxious.”
Marlo shows no signs of humbling herself, saying she will talk about her Coco Chanels and other designer duds as much as she wants. “They turn me on!” she said. “I will continue to talk about it.”
Cynthia sighs. “Somehow, even here, we get back to the B.S.”
Kim is still fuming over the “I can’t see Kim holding black babies at an orphanage” line Cynthia said but the heat continues to fall on Kandi. And Peter plans a one-year wedding anniversary but how big a deal will he make it?
“Smells like pee.” - NeNe observes after sniffing some “medicine” by the medicine man. (Women can’t touch though!)
“You got a country where people are starving. Unless you’re giving some of that s*** away, what is the purpose.” - Sheree, marveling over Marlo’s decision to pack 29 pairs of very expensive shoes on the trip.
“Squeeze your Hello Kitty.” – Marlo, using a euphemism for a woman’s privates as she demonstrates a favorite sexual position.
“The Shaman don’t like to be mocked, baby.” – Phaedra, after hearing Marlo got ill the day after mocking the Medicine Man.
“I am a good judge of character. I really am.” – NeNe, defending Marlo.
“As quickly as things change, they stay the same.” - Cynthia, lamenting the Kandi-NeNe-Marlo tiff so soon after the orphanage trip.
Last week’s “Real Housewives” crashed to a season low 2.35 million after hitting almost 4 million a week earlier, but I presume it got a lot of DVR viewing because it was up against a mosnter “Grammy” telecast (39 million viewers!) featuring a Whitney Houston tribute and Adele’s triumphant return. That was the worst first-run numbers for “Housewives” since the third episode of season three. We’ll see how it rebounds tonight.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk