All White, So Wrong
Part 1 of the reunion proves the season finale's lovefest was too good to be true.
Before they all take their (hot) seats in front of the cameras, Andy's bopping around backstage, checking in with all the ladies. He makes cheeky, squeaky little quips about Cynthia's pageant hair and Phaedra's extended lashes and just generally gives the false impression that they're all gearing up for an informal, lighthearted little kiki. But everybody knows what it is they've really signed up for.
Really, with the all-white dress code and the dorm decor version of Zen Buddhism?! There's no purity in this room. There's no calm. Just a lot of canned hatred ready to get popped open by Andy, who thrives on it like Popeye does spinach. He goes around the room superficially oozing out greetings. He mentions Kenya's love life, Cynthia's "Diana Ross in Mahogany" hair, and Kandi's "love tank." NeNe rolls her eyes through all of it. Maybe it's because she's TV's most brazen hater, or maybe it's because the fakeness is all too much for her to bear so early on in the proceedings.
For a minute, it seems like this faux infomercial about the season's hair highs and lows is what the entire reunion's going to be like. The corny "Wig Collection" montage of bad hair choices would be entirely unsalvageable, if not for a few spot-on reads like highlighting the "Ronald McDonald" (Kandi), the "Annie 2014" (Cynthia), and the "Bride of Frankenstein" (NeNe).
Let Me Tell You Somethin'!
The real meat and potatoes of the evening kicks off with a NeNe-specific recap. A quick clip charts her star's rise from being the villain of the group at the beginning of the season to playing a villain on Broadway (and also still being one IRL). "Say anything you wanna say. I'm on Broadway and you're at home."
Any goodwill you may have felt toward NeNe last week -- as she seemed so humbled and gracious after her stage debut -- will surely have dissipated after watching her behavior tonight. Fast-forward past her clash with Claudia (because who knows or even cares about the origin of their beef and the reason it persists?). Let's get right to her shouting match with Kandi. "I wanna know why you hate me so much!" NeNe yells out of nowhere. Kandi corrects her; she doesn't hate NeNe, just her "superior complex [sic]" and her tendency to talk down to everyone. Reminding everyone exactly why she's indeed hateable, NeNe proceeds to talk over all of Kandi's legitimate points about how quickly NeNe turns on her friends. She snidely barks a passive-aggressive "She's right and I'm wrong!" and pastes on an acidic fake smile whenever Kandi expresses a contrary opinion. It's good to see Kandi not back down, in spite of all NeNe's scene-stealing histrionics. There could/should have been more of it because Kandi sticking up for herself is a rare but worthwhile treat.
Phaedra's dirty laundry gets hung out once again as we re-watch the dissolution of her happy home life. Andy, ever tactless, doesn't miss a beat before asking Phaedra if she's taken her kids to see their dad in prison. She gives him a response that involves bottles and diapers and snow on the ground…all amounting to a "no." Through it all, she remains poised and with as neutral a tone as possible, given the circumstances. "It's easy for people not in the situation to make judgments," she says, mere moments before Kandi subtly states that she's personally visited folks in that same prison and didn't realize that there were such insurmountable hardships involved. Pour one out for their friendship, guys.
After more of Andy's prying, Phaedra reveals she's still married and has not, in fact, filed for divorce. She makes high-minded comments about her kids someday seeing the show's footage and expresses her desire to have them to be proud of her when they do. (It's not clear how this sentiment meshes with all the invective she'll spew throughout the reunion.) The rest of this segment is just one uncomfortable moment after another. Andy asking if Phaedra ever feared physical abuse. (A: No comment.) A tweet asking why Phaedra chose to "demonize" the kids' dad in front of them with that bizarre exorcism stunt she pulled. (A: "I wasn't demonizing him, I was blessing my home. Where I pay the mortgage, I can do as I please.") In general, the other ladies keep their thoughts, comments, and judgmental facial expressions to themselves during this thread. Like I said, uncomfortable.
Relevance On The Wane
After watching Claudia's cobbled-together intro and seeing Andy rush to provoke her bickering matches with NeNe and Porsha, it's hard to avoid hearing "the thirst is real" in your mind. Every time she opens her mouth at the reunion, you're reminded that Claudia's only as relevant as the fights she picks with the more established ladies. She tried to be the Oprah of the group in the Philippines, but has since ditched the "catch more flies with honey" mentality. "You should get some positivity in your life," she spits at Porsha, before clocking her for allegedly sleeping with a married man. Claudia summons her journalistic cred (???) as proof that she's reporting the truth about Porsha. Looking pretty desperate for attention there, Claudia. I gotta squarely get behind Porsha's advice to you: "Focus on [your career] and not making me your project." Andy wraps it up with a randomly tacked on mention about Claudia's stand-up comedy aspirations, which further serves to make Claudia seem like just that: randomly tacked on.
The Dream, Deferred
We see Kenya's storyline track her post-drag-out drama from last season, all the way to the birth of her pilot project. In case you were wondering (and also highly gullible), she reports that she's actually in negotiations for her show. "You self-financed a half-hour comedy?!" Andy asks in a brief moment of real reality. "That seems like a bad business move!" Oh, now you tell her?
But Kenya remains resilient. She's twirled her way through Porsha assaulting her and Phaedra tarnishing her name. Andy wants to know if Porsha's reciprocated Kenya's apology for her role in their skirmish. "I still haven't apologized. And I won't." This pissy little declaration sparks some mighty soapbox-mounting from Kenya, who invokes the legacy of Selma -- as well as the legacy of Porsha's own civil-rights activist grandpa -- in her sanctimonious sermonizing. She chokes up while exclaiming that it breaks her heart to think that someone of Porsha's parentage wouldn't apologize for physically attacking another person. Bold move. Kenya played that one like a politician. Porsha, for her part, replies with a response not nearly as calculated: "She doesn't have a mother." Day-um! She said some other stuff immediately thereafter, but I was too busy screwing up my face in disgust and yelling, "Day-um!" at my screen to hear it. Besides, you can't really take a retort like that anywhere but further below the belt.
Not wanting to miss out on a good Kenya-bashing session, Phaedra backs Porsha and piles on with, "I don't see you using your platform responsibly." (Can't really argue with that.) The rest of the reunion devolves into volleying the most overused word of the season -- "whore." At one point, Kenya's screws start to completely come loose and she starts screaming about whore museums and stars on the whore walk of fame, or some lunacy. That ponytail (tacked onto her reported 24" of real hair) may have been pulled a tad too tight.
At no point did Andy address the harmony that was shoved down our throats during the season's last few episodes. Instead, he just jumped right into the ratings-grabbing catfights. Several issues were brought up, but left dangling: Kandi's broken BFF bond with Phaedra, a previously undisclosed beef between Cynthia and Porsha, and NeNe's beef with pretty much everybody. But, of course, this was meant to just be a taste to entice you into watching the other reunion installments. That is, if you can still bear to tune in after watching Andy actually situate his mouth to ask Kenya: "Do you think you are a better example for black women than Porsha?" The problems with this question -- not to mention the fact that she was quick to answer in the affirmative -- are myriad. I wish I had a scepter to swing.