It’s been one week since Monique Samuels broke out her Binder of Receipts and left Gizelle Bryant and her fake relationship dead in a ditch. Mouths agape, crickets chirping, Andy Cohen unsure of whether or not he should just escort Gizelle to the exit door. It was an absurdly shocking moment, and if you’re Ms. Bryant, I have no idea how you recover.
Moving forward, it’s not a matter of whether or not Monique will turn her attention elsewhere, it’s simply a question of when. And if you’re Candiace…you know a storm’s a-comin’.
Before we get there, however, we’re still living in the aftermath of Monique’s accusations against Jamal. In reality, they’re not even accusations, are they? Monique finally said what everybody has known to be true this entire time. The man who lives in Gizelle’s phone has also taken up residence in iPhones and Androids across the greater Atlanta area. Gizelle says that, if the cheating rumors are true (they are!), she’ll “cross that bridge when they come to it.” Girl, burn the damn bridge. The bridge is broken. The bridge is rusty. The bridge doesn’t work anymore. Be done!
At the lunch break, the women split off into their separate factions to reckon with Monique’s carnage. Robyn and Gizelle make fun of Monique for taking the time to put together a binder. Ladies, you iced her out of the group. She had plenty of time on her hands. Never underestimate a bird owner scorned.
Post-lunch, it’s time for Ashley, once again, to answer questions about why she’s married to a monster. Ashley is like a very beautiful onion, in that she’s constantly revealing new layers that make you want to cry. She attempts to justify her husband’s infidelity by saying that she had sex with people while they were taking a break, which is…not the same thing at all? Michael went to a casino and “fell asleep” in the bed of a stranger while you were out of town with your newborn child. Ashley (probably) had a MDMA-fueled romp with a fellow Calvin Harris fan after a concert at Omnia in Vegas while she and Michael were mutually separated.
Karen is asked about Ashley’s decision to stay with Michael, and then Andy compares it to Gizelle’s situation. It’s a worthy question, but Karen nails it on the head. It’s very easy to critique Ashley’s decision-making (as I often do!), but at least she’s honest. She knows her relationship isn’t perfect and has no qualms with airing that dirty laundry for the world to see. Gizelle, on the other hand, wants to live in a glass house and starts being shady when anybody dares pick up a stone.
Ashley remains on the hot seat, as Andy asks about a clip that has surfaced of Michael pinching a producer’s ass. This man loves asses and he loves to pinch them! It has to be exhausting to constantly defend your husband for sexually harassing young men. This is where Ashley loses me. There’s a conversation to be had about Michael’s sexuaity and whether he might also be interested in men, but this isn’t about that. It’s purely inappropriate behavior and it’s stunning to me that, after years of it, there haven’t really been any repercussions, either from Ashley or the show itself. Ashley is adamant that, if Michael cheats on her again, she’s out the door. I struggle to believe her, sadly, and I also struggle to believe that her feet won’t be held to the fire on that sometime soon, because that ass grabber will never learn. Because he’s never been forced to.
The attention shifts to Karen, who has had one hell of a season. Through marital strife, money issues and a group of women intent on bringing her down, she managed to constantly rise from the ashes. For instance, when Robyn tries to ask Karen why she was dismissive of her after a bender at Monique’s lake house, Karen says “I wasn’t being dismissive, I was hungover.” Queen shit! The way that Karen is able to flip criticism into humor so effortlessly is just…inspiring.
Karen, of course, is asked about her marriage to Ray, which went through it on camera this season. It’s interesting to observe the different ways in which these women discuss and handle their relationships. Karen’s husband told a national television audience that he wasn’t sure if he still loved his wife this year, but the vulnerability and transparency of that moment ultimately led to things becoming stronger. In some ways, I think the show is responsible for some of these relationships being as sturdy as they are, because there’s no other option to address your mess when it’s out for public consumption.
As the group continues to struggle with Karen being more interesting than all of them combined, the topic of Karen’s parents is addressed and it leads to a pretty fascinating revelation. After the death of her parents, Karen says that she felt more freedom to be herself on the show because she knew they wouldn’t be watching. It’s something I’ve never really thought about before, in relation to any of the Housewives, but it makes a lot of sense. Sometimes personal growth comes from loss, and in this case, we got to see a 57-year-old woman naked in a bathtub trying to seduce her sexless husband. And I think that’s beautiful.
T’Challa, the eighth Housewife, gets his time to shine. Candiace and Robyn are skeptical of the story that T’Challa flew away and came home. They can’t even let this woman have a sad story to tell about a bird. Let her live. As they move forward with Monique, Andy attempts to get to the bottom of the Charisse/trainer/Gigi of it all. It’s…confusing. I have put off watching “Tenet” for just this reason. Essentially, it’s this: Monique’s former friend Gigi tried getting on the show by telling former cast member Charisse that Monique was sleeping with her trainer and that one of her kids was not her husband’s biologically, which was then tossed around as a plot device by Gizelle and some of the other women after Andy Cohen’s baby shower in Los Angeles.
The Christopher Nolan of it all.
Monique makes a claim that Gizelle brought up the paternity allegation in a testimonial, but it was never aired. Huh? I can’t imagine (a) how she knows this and (b) why they wouldn’t use it? Unless there was some legal ramification that production was scared about. But still, who’s giving Monique the gossip about what the other ladies say in their testimonials? Gizelle did mention the cheating rumors in a testimonial that aired, but the fact that the Gigi/trainer/baby daddy stuff was never an actual plot line makes me wonder why Monique is even bringing everything up in the first place. It’s all a mess, frankly.
Regardless, *ding ding ding*…it’s time for the main event.
Monique and Candiace. The Shakespearean drama of our time. The lies, the backstabbing, the deceit, the wig pulling. A tale as old as time. As they start to dissect things, Charisse’s name keeps being floated about. It’s shocking how such a forgettable person has become such a looming figure all season. Robyn, whose biggest storylines after five seasons remain “being poor” and “being late,” chimes in with maybe the smartest thing she’s ever said on the show, asking Monique “you’re giving Charisse way too much credit and energy, why do you need to mentally prepare for Charisse?” At this point (and I can’t believe I’m saying this), bring Charisse out here! At least we can attempt to get some answers.
As they begin to discuss THE FIGHT™, it becomes all about logistics and physics. Was there a hand in Monique’s face? When was the wine glass thrown? Is being in the bathroom for the altercation the biggest regret in Ashley Darby’s life? The magic of this play-by-play, though, comes in the form of editing. Monique keeps making claims about what happened, some of the ladies refute what she says, then the editors back up everything Monique said with visual evidence. It’s like watching the Zapruder film but nobody has to die.
Now, as they continue to discuss what happened, a very relevant piece of information is revealed. After Monique and Candiace had been separated, Candiace called her a “ghetto ass, hood ass bitch.” This entire time, it never really made sense why Monique was so enraged and followed Candiace around to the other side of the barn. Why on Earth wasn’t this footage included initially? It adds a layer of context that, up until this point, has been sorely lacking. It also makes Candiace look very foolish.
As Candiace gets emotional, she starts to talk about how the mental trauma of the fight has impacted her life. And listen, I sympathize with anybody who is forced to deal with assault, in any fashion. Candiace was assaulted, yes. It was a nasty, vicious, difficult thing to watch. But, at the same time, she’s managed to construct this narrative that Monique’s actions came out of nowhere. She’s managed to forget about how antagonizing her behavior was, and continues to be.
Andy marvels at Monique’s stoicism about the whole thing, but I think it reveals a larger piece of this puzzle. Monique was forced to look inward to reconcile what happened, because the group largely exiled her. Candiace, on the other hand, surrounds herself with enablers who shielded her from really confronting what happened inside the barn. So, when Candiace sees the bluntness and brevity being employed by Monique, it’s a shock to the system. Candiace only knows how to scream and shout. The idea that she’s seated across from a grown woman who has maturely processed the altercation doesn’t make any sense. She has no choice but to flee.
Ultimately, the fated showdown between Candiace and Monique underwhelms because it’s two women operating on different levels of consciousness. Candiace is still stuck in that barn, while Monique put it in the past months ago. There’s only so much arguing you can do with somebody who has let quicksand get the best of them.