Ali and Liston. Kennedy and Nixon. Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston at the 2020 Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Over time, there have been face-to-face meetings that have changed the course of history. Now, months after the barnyard hair pull felt ‘round the world, Monique and Candiace are finally in the same room. In many ways, it feels like my life has been leading to this moment. Maybe it’s because I can’t remember my life before Monique yanked that ponytail. Maybe it’s because that’s when my life truly started.
Finally, let’s get into it.
Things start with a montage of the ladies getting ready in the early hours, which is somehow always so exhilarating. It takes two seconds for Candiace to tell a stranger about her anxiety in a sweatshirt that reads “OVER IT.” She’s nothing if not consistent.
Meanwhile, in Monique’s hotel room, she and her husband Chris are praying. Chris ends his prayer with “And read them out, Amen.” If that’s the sort of religion I had been exposed to growing up, I wouldn’t have fled the church! I’d be a priest by now!
Looking like a bunch of Chiquita bananas, the women are surrounded by a set made to resemble their vacation destination of Portugal. Hey, Monique finally got to go! Before things from this season get addressed, we take a trip down memory’s very unfortunate lane with a show retrospective. The bad wigs, the questionable fashion decisions, the bad relationships! Not much has changed for Gizelle!
On that note, Gizelle’s wardrobe is the first topic of conversation. Karen, whose boob tape is FULLY visible, gave her justified shit all season and will not be budging from that pedestal! Lest we forget this is a woman who wore a bedazzled headband with camo pants. Karen’s obsession with Gizelle’s clothes is hilarious, because it’s obviously mean, but she comes at it from a place of caring, which somehow makes it even more condescending. We spend about ten minutes discussing fashion, which is frustrating when THERE ARE WOMEN WHO FILED ASSAULT CHARGES AGAINST ONE ANOTHER IN THE ROOM.
Karen is forced to defend herself against Gizelle and Robyn, who both blame her for people being mean to them online. I have no idea how these two things are related. Robyn has….yellow cheetah print (?)…in her hair??? It looks like she got run over by a Jeep. She says it’s Karen’s fault that a stranger told her to jump off a roof. Whatever you say, Hat Queen.
Next up, it’s Wendy’s turn in the hot seat. Oh, Wendy. I liked you so much at the beginning of the season. But Lord, if that montage didn’t remind me how irritating and coddling you became. A real shame. Wendy and Gizelle squeal over being sorority sisters, which is something I was unaware of, and also helps make their entire relationship make sense. Andy transitions into talking about Wendy’s career as a professor and asks her where she teaches. Did…Andy not watch the show? The only words spilling out of Wendy’s mouth more than “four degrees” this season were “Johns Hopkins University.”
It only takes a matter of seconds for Wendy to get on her higher education high horse. It’s sort of astonishing that, even after watching the season, Wendy doesn’t get it. Nobody is ever trying to disregard her accomplishments. When you get called out for being messy, you don’t get to flaunt your diploma as a means of explanation or defense. Ashley and Karen attempt to articulate this fact, but it goes nowhere.
As they continue to pile on La Dame, Gizelle comes to the table with an accusation that Karen tried to get Wendy kicked off the show. Gizelle seems to immediately contradict herself and says what Karen really said was that she didn’t like Wendy. Which is understandable! Gizelle’s little green-eyed bandit sidekick Robyn is right there to double down on the fact that Karen doesn’t like Wendy. This is reality television, ladies. If you all liked each other, you wouldn’t be employed.
Karen is, once again, thrown out to sea by herself. It’s a little odd that Monique isn’t speaking up in Karen’s defense, but I think she’s biding her time. As she often does masterfully, Karen uses humor and grace to bring the disagreement to a place of stability and laughter. They all laugh about the “Wendy slither” and, ultimately, end things on good terms. Karen is constantly teaching a masterclass, even when it looks like she might sink in the deep end. She doesn’t need any stinkin’ life jacket.
Things turn to Candiace and, in a twist that nobody could have foreseen, she starts talking shit immediately. It’s so odd that Candiace and Wendy are both so quick to get angry and offended when confronted with their own behavior, yet claim to be so above the fray. Rightfully so, Candiace gets called out for her social media antagonism. This is what she does, though. She’s a keyboard assassin, but cries wolf for an entire year when somebody decides to take some action. I’m not condoning violence, but you simply cannot be so taken aback when somebody gets lost in a moment of anger when your entire goal was goading them over that edge.
As the discussion about whether or not calling somebody a “roach” on social media is acceptable continues, the concept of colorism is questioned, essentially theorizing whether or not the lighter-skinned women on the show are granted more of a pass for their behavior. This is firmly not something that I, a white man, have any right discussing. So, I’ll leave it to the ladies. Of course, I think it’s an extremely valid idea that assuredly plays a role in the way that some viewers view the cast members, which is sad.
Moving on, Andy asks Candiace if she has any remorse for using provoking language with the group, to which she answers “I have a tendency to use my words very well.” The double standard is strong with this one! To her credit, Candiace is currently enrolled in grad school and is still exploring the idea of having a family with her husband Chris. I can only hope that, with growth and maturity, her nastiness can go away. You don’t have to be mean to be a good Housewife. Just like you don’t need four degrees to be intelligent.
As production takes a break, we’re treated to a side conversation between Monique and Ashley about everything that’s transpired so far. Monique has been noticeably silent, like a lion stalking her prey. Monique says she’s prepared to expose facts that the other women don’t want uncovered, and then we get our first glimpse of it: THE BOOK OF RECEIPTS. Not since Regina George has a three-ring binder inspired such intrigue, dread and sheer anticipation.
Before we open the book, however, we’re treated to a depressing montage of Gizelle and Jamal’s fake relationship. At this point, the only person who believes that their marriage is something worth salvaging is Gizelle herself, and even that’s iffy. With Gizelle the center of attention, Karen uses the time to get in a few digs about Gizelle’s house which is, yes, absolutely vile. The house, not the insults. The insults are great.
And she’s not done! Karen continues to drag Gizelle, who has used any opportunity to deride Karen’s businesses, all of which are still thriving, while Gizelle’s make-up line Every Hue is now defunct. In fact, after doing some detective work of my own, Every Hue’s last Instagram post is from April and the post features the world “facial” spelled wrong. Times are tough!
Gizelle continues to defend her relationship with Jamal, despite the fact that everybody else can see that it’s, well…bad. It’s one thing if you want to trifle around and be stupid with a man that has (a) cheated on you before and (b) clearly doesn’t have any interest in making you a priority this time around, but when your daughters are involved, it’s something completely different. To not take accountability for that is, in many ways, unforgivable and I cannot help but feel like Gizelle is going to look back at this time in her life with severe regret. But that’s none of my business!!!!!!!
What is my business, however, is how Karen continues to read Gizelle down. To push things even further into the mud, Karen accuses Gizelle and Jamal of not only being in a phony relationship for the cameras, but of continued infidelity on his part. Just as Gizelle attempts to pass everything off, the lioness has awoken! Monique claims to have text and photographic evidence that Jamal has been cheating on Gizelle during their period of reconciliation.
The Book of Receipts owns its first victim of the reunion, as Monique reads out various text messages from Jamal’s alleged mistress. It’s a wildly damning, uncomfortable moment for everybody involved, especially Gizelle. She’s clearly rocked by the news and the shock on her face speaks volumes. It’s not “how dare Jamal?” shock, it’s “how dare she reveal this?” shock. This isn’t fresh information to Gizelle. She knew, whether it was some kind of arrangement or not. She knew.
There was a reference to Ali vs. Liston made at the beginning of this recap and, not only do I think I’m a worldly genius who can incorporate sports references into Housewives recaps, I think the boxing metaphor is apropos here again. In many ways, the first part of this reunion felt like the first few rounds of a heavyweight fight. Everybody knew it was going to be a drawn-out battle and nobody wanted to waste too much energy up top. But as the middle of the fight approached, Monique got to swinging.
I can only imagine what the later rounds have in store.