Screens: Bravo

Dueling Debuts

NeNe and Kenya share the fruits of their respective labors, with varying results.

No Love Like Broadway Love

A few days before her Cinderella debut, NeNe stops by the theater to get her bearings. She greets a few fans outside, then leads her family backstage. This scene is watchable because it captures a rare moment of speechlessness for NeNe. It doesn't even seem like false humility that she's displaying. Though they likely ran through several takes to successfully nail it, she actually appears dwarfed and awestricken. Not a smug, shady read does she utter. She doesn't even roll her eyes at Gregg when he bows to her, hamming it up like she's Broadway royalty. If all that tearing up is an act, maybe NeNe's got some chops after all.

The Finishing Twirly Touches

Kenya reports for a voice-over session so she can record the narration for her sitcom. It's supposedly the final piece of her pilot puzzle and she's planning to share the completed show with all the non-NeNe ladies. But before we get to the party-planning phase, we have to sit through her inexplicably saying the line, "There's a reason they call him Slim Shady," over and over. It wasn't funny the first time and only gets less and less so. Eminem should file a cease-and-desist.

Revolving Bar Doors

Cynthia oversees the change-over of yet another one of Peter's ventures. She reminisces about how "Bar One was a huge part of our marriage," as she watches him take down the overblown glamour shot that graced the entrance, then shutter the old tapas lounge. They're prepping for a reopening elsewhere and Cynthia's optimistic because, apparently, she has a serious short-term memory problem. When it comes to keeping up with Peter's ever-changing "business" undertakings, she might want to consider employing the Memento approach.

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A Housewarming Where Pigs Fly

Kandi's talked Todd into going to a belated housewarming party at the house she bought for her mom. He asks her if they should bring something, to which she replies, 'What I need to take?!? I took the house over there!" If only her breeches had actually been that big all along, then maybe she, Todd, and Joyce wouldn't be in this disrespect-filled stalemate in which they find themselves. Fake bravado aside, they shuffle over to Joyce's for some awkward buffet-sampling and small talk. Kandi's whole family is there and she decides that's the best time to spring the news about a possible L.A. move on everyone, including a seemingly unsuspecting Riley.

There are murmurs of half-hearted support and Kandi puts her mom on the spot. What's her reaction? Well, it's a much bigger surprise than the one Kandi just dropped. Joyce chooses that very moment to issue an apology to Todd for disrespecting him and his mother in the past. At least...it was an apology for her. Anyone else -- especially Todd -- heard it as insincere ass-covering and face-saving. But it's conceivable that it's really the best a person like Joyce could muster. Golf claps for that, I guess. But to hear Todd tell it, it wasn't genuine and they have a lot of work to do. "Doing work" seems to be the leitmotif of the season. So, work on, you two.

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Peter's Brew And Some Tea

Guess what, Cynthia? As soon as you thought partnering up with Peter was going to be a boon to your recently revived relationship, he goes and throws a secret side project your way. He's rented a cafe without telling her and she's rightfully irked -- though it should've been more like outraged -- because she thought they were focusing all their energy and funds on the new Bar One. Lest she get to thinking her husband's truly the worst, his phone rings and gives her a bit of perspective. It's Apollo calling from prison. "Hey. What's goin' on?" he nonchalantly starts off, sounding more like he's bored and stuck in traffic than sitting in the pen. He then goes on to complain about how Phaedra hasn't brought the kids to visit once in the six weeks he's been locked up.

Cynthia finally wises up and decides to keep her nose out of it, for fear anything she could say would start another fight with Phaedra. "Hang in there," she repeats until the conversation gets timed out. "I'm staying out of it," becomes her mantra. Now, if her shit-starting husband can do the same, they'll be golden. After all, he has enough of his own business to mind right about now.

From Sour To Sweet

Phaedra and her color-coordinated children are baking cookies in a picture-perfect scene that's choking us to death with her "I'm gon' be all right!" schtick. Her voice-over and talking head inform us that she has indeed looked into taking the boys to visit their dad, but the process has been messy and fraught with (possibly fictitious) red tape. As such, she's even less inclined to go through with it. "I'm moving on with my life," she repeats for the umpteenth time. She proceeds to bake a batch of cookies that are rich with metaphor -- they didn't turn out how she planned when she first put them in the oven, but she's determined to make the best of them and proudly reports that they still taste sweet.

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The House Lights Are Up

It's time for NeNe's big debut. None of the Atlanta ladies are coming and only Phaedra has extended any line of communication (albeit only a text). This surprises no one and it doesn't particularly seem to get NeNe down. With so much reality staring her in the face, she doesn't have time for "reality." She gets her makeup done, has a last-minute check-in with the director, does her deep-breathing exercises and gets ready to take the stage. We don't get to see much more than her walking onstage shouting "Cinderella," or receiving some kind words from the cast (minus KeKe) afterward. (You had to dish out the big Broadway bucks for that.)

But you can see NeNe is positively aglow having wrapped her first stage experience. "If there is a word bigger than 'proud,' I was there." She leaves the theater signing autographs and posing for snapshots with fans. Honestly, it's pretty good stuff. The other ladies should've been there to see that softer, more goal-oriented, human side of her; they'd have been impressed.

Kenya's Moment In The Spotlight

Conversely, Kenya's pilot preview draws all the ladies out, even the ones who can barely stand her. They all get overdressed, arrive at a mansion, and are greeted by Phaedra levels of outlandish excess. There are interpretive dancers waving those Get In Shape Girl ribbon batons. There's a harpist, an opera singer, and a wedding cake. "This is like The Twilight Zone!" Porsha declares. None of them is exactly clear what they're doing there until Kenya shows up wearing a wedding gown and announcing the purpose of the big event. "I love a grand entrance, but one that makes sense!" Phaedra side-eyes. Oh, really, Phaedra?!

They gamely sit through Kenya's tedious pilot, which she screens in a luxe private screening room. Each of the ladies has her own customized box of gourmet popcorn and a plush throw to snuggle under. That and the personalized cocktails warmed them enough to politely laugh during the "funny" parts and applaud for Kenya when it was all over with. Surprisingly, there weren't even any snide after-the-fact talking-head comments edited in. (Surely they exist, but their inclusion would do nothing to reinforce this whole "NeNe vs. The World" narrative.) "Whether they love it, or hate it, they showed up for me," Kenya beams. Afterward, they all get goofy together in a prop-filled photo booth and end the season on a relatively convivial note.

Verdict

Their epilogues all report that nobody's doing much of anything special. NeNe bought a gajillion-dollar house in Atlanta, Kenya picked up a new boo on Millionaire Matchmaker, and Kandi's getting fertility treatments. Nothing to see here. Still, this season finale gave us some growth for NeNe (professional, if not personal), a curve ball from Joyce, and some positive vibes shared between a group of women who nearly ripped each other's heads off several times this season. It's not even a spoiler to say that none of this goodwill will spill over into the reunion special. Andy wouldn't allow it; nobody would watch the damned thing if it was all high-fives and tickle fights.

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