The Real Housewives of Potomac Recap: Darby’s Barbie Dreamland

The Real Housewives of Potomac Recap: Darby’s Barbie Dreamland

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Fool’s Gold

Season 8

Episode 15

Editor’s Rating

4 stars

Gentlemen, ladies, and theydies, it may have taken 15 episodes, but I am humbled to announce that we got our first solid episode of Potomac this season. Now, is the rubric currently on a curve? Absolutely. The bar is somewhere on the floor of Ashley and Gizelle’s LulaRoe knockoff warehouse. That said, the girls spoke to each other, acknowledged lingering conflicts, brought simmering subtext in front of the camera, and, for the most part, looked good while doing it. That would normally be the bare minimum for a Real Housewives franchise. Still, given the general malaise this season, I will claim the wins where I can get them. This episode successfully offers insight into the current power rankings of the women while offering some laughs. Let’s go through the cast one by one.

It is only right that we start with our lady in beige, Gizelle Bryant. After mostly playing in the background this season in a neverending power play, she’s forced to play her cards on camera — when it comes to Wendy and Candiace, you are either with her or against her. After clearly overhearing the comically loud grumbling over Wendy and Candiace’s behavior at dinner while Gizelle was speaking about Grace, the duo confronts the group about their complaints, and Gizelle goes from being riled up to apparently having her voice box stolen. She goes silent as the rest of the crew stutter and stammer through an explanation of why they are so enraged. Robyn ultimately steps to the plate and explains how they felt about Wendy and Candiace’s body language, which the duo quickly rebut: neither of them has any ill will towards Grace; they are simply uncomfortable when Gizelle commands the conversation since they are not on speaking terms. Wendy goes so far as to remind the group that Gizelle has accused her of speaking ill will on her daughter previously and that she is aiming to steer clear of another hiccup. In which case, she would have been well served to avoid making a hamfisted critique about Gizelle sending her daughter to school in Florida, but what’s done is done.

Gizelle is holding steadfast in her commitment to not giving Wendy and Candiace any camera time, so instead of going back and forth with the women over claims that she levied, she takes her grievances to Karen, chiding the Grande Dame for backing the duo up when they are talking about her oldest child. Karen appropriately calls out Gizelle’s silent protest against Wendy and Candiace, and Gizelle’s expectation that anyone she considers an ally needs to vocally defend her opinions. Karen refuses, and Gizelle accuses her of being of two different opinions depending on what group she is associating with, a claim that editing tries to back up by showing Karen talking sideways about Gizelle to the outcast group. For Mrs. Huger’s many faults, however, hiding her tensions with Gizelle is far from one of them — her on-and-off spats with Gizelle are part of the lifeblood that gently pumps through Potomac’s weakened corpse. Gizelle is simply making her line in the sand, and Karen refuses to bite. She’ll humor the former first lady while she delusionally insists that the colorism allegations are threatening her family’s safety, but Karen will not ever forgo her maverick position to play a lackey to Gizelle the way that Ashley does. (This is partly why Karen retained her first chair at the reunion this season while Gizelle’s longstanding seat was given to Mia.)

Speaking of Mia, my fellow Amazon has truly stepped up to the plate this season, fighting to make lemonade from a batch of moldy lemons. Not only does Mia spend the episode interacting with both camps — even going so far as to create a truly humorous moment out of going to tennis lessons with Wendy and Candiace in heels — she is unafraid to throw a budding friendship to the wolves to move the plot forward, which is exactly the kind of low-stakes ruthlessness needed to be a Housewives power player. In one episode, not only does she breezily reveal that she made a coin by catering to the robust community of foot enthusiasts in her former line of work, but she puts Ashley through her paces and demands that she disclose the state of her personal life and divorce after gossiping about it at the tennis courts. Mia lays plain what everyone else has been simply murmuring: that despite Ashley’s complicated feelings over losing a “father-like” figure in her husband, it certainly seems that she was all ready to move on with her life until she realized that the postnup left her in a financial bind, forcing her to slow things down until she gets her ducks in a row. It’s a bitter pill to place in front of Ashley, who is supposed to be in the midst of a belated birthday celebration, but it forces her to answer some hard questions on camera.

It is tough to know where to start with Darby’s former Barbie — perhaps with the discovery that her estranged husband is saved in her phone as “Mickey Darby” — but it is pretty clear that Ashley feels she is somewhere between a rock and a hard place. As has been long surmised, Michael no longer wants anything to do with a franchise that he allegedly terrorized with his wandering hands and unscrupulous drunkenness and has, in fact, threatened to sue if even a frame of him lands on camera. Despite a healthy paycheck as a reality star, Ashley is still relying on her ex-partner to make ends meet, and after prodding from Mia and production, reluctantly admits that they still operate a joint account for “childcare, groceries, and Uber eats,” she has a credit card for “emergencies,” and he helps with the car payment. It is not stated explicitly, but the implication is that once the final paperwork is executed, this safety net would be revoked save for childcare assistance, leaving her in a bind until she finishes recalibrating her finances. Now, I am unsure if her Fabletics venture will help take her there, but all jokes aside, it is a bit depressing to see Ashley celebrating her Havana-themed birthday with such a state of unease about her life. She’s too weary to even acknowledge an ongoing flirtation with retired NFL tight end Vernon Davis. The spoiled Barbie fantasy is over, and she is struggling to accept this change. When production flips through her catalog of on-camera birthday celebrations, not only does this one have a bit more somber edge to it, but it also feels like the close of her arc onscreen; if she is so beholden to the whims of her ex for a cash infusion, it seems nigh impossible that she will be able to give compelling television short of her being brave enough to cut the strings and rebuild on her own.

Despite being introduced into the season relatively late, Keiarna is quickly making headway in navigating her relationships in the group. When Robyn and Gizelle question her about Wendy while their group is skeet-shooting, Keiarna parries the interrogation. Keiarna is sharp, quick, and unafraid to think and speak for herself, as well as leverage her outsider status to bring up tensions within the group. Her poking around forces Gizelle and Wendy to acknowledge the root of the hostility and admit that a resolution is coming nowhere soon — the best anyone can hope for is cordial behavior. Unfortunately, cordial behavior makes for utterly boring television.

I am not going to advocate for the women to forgive each other prematurely, but they certainly will need to learn how to laugh and banter amongst one another without reservation. If a lifestyle show cannot successfully have its cast interact with each other, then there is truly only one solution: a casting shakeup. I don’t make that recommendation lightly, and I am not quite ready to judge who is next on the chopping block, but something has to give, and soon.

Next week, we have Charrisse hosting a proper Maryland crab boil and the return of Jacqueline. See you all then!

• I know I’ve criticized Potomac’s somewhat limited budget this season, but seriously it’s hard to watch what the show passes for a Havana Nights-themed celebration when the Miami housewives just executed the same theme and delivered with flying colors.

• The show is trying to make an ongoing bit out of Karen being a drunk and horny auntie who wants to sleep with her trainers, and the delivery is just not clicking for me. I think we know well enough to understand that the Grand Dame likely has a wandering eye, wet dreams notwithstanding. That said, unless tangible evidence is produced to gossip about and Ray moves out of their rental, I am patently uninterested in ongoing speculation that goes nowhere. I wish Karen the best on her outer thighs and her calcium percentages.

• Candiace doesn’t know which way is up when it comes to articulating her outstanding issue with Robyn, and it is truly unbecoming of her. What’s done is done at this point, but she is not winning any points by continuing to struggle with whether she loves or hates Robyn on any given week.

• What is it with people liking to push folks into pools? Not everyone can swim, and it’s just dangerous! Stop the shoving, please!

Real Housewives of Potomac Recap: Darby’s Barbie Dreamland

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