Real Housewives of Atlanta: The Leader of the Pack

By Brigette Flood and Sandy M. Tyler

The trip to Africa is winding down, and last night’s episode starts out with the ladies in a feel good mood. Moved by their visit to the orphanage, the women are reminiscing about the children they met, remembering how fortunate they are and toasting each other. For a quick minute, it seems as if the women are truly able to think beyond themselves, haute labels and see the big picture for a change. But it was just a short, sweet momentary lapse in the ongoing wars constantly being waged between the Smalls and the Talls.

The first outing this week is a trip to a museum showcasing Xhosa culture. Certainly there are many cool things about the Xhosa, but they must be on the cutting room floor. What viewers hear is men get to order their wives by asking a father or brother to go fetch one. Most modern ladies don’t like to hear they can be fetched into a new married life at someone else’s behest. They also don’t like to hear cheeky herbalists who pose like medicine men make rude, faux predictions. Which is the second thing the ladies encounter at the Xhosa museum.

Outside, sitting on a blanket draped in what looks like a dashiki beach towel with a beaded necklace on his head is Sangoma, an “herbalist.” He proposes to “throw bones” for the ladies. The bones are as real as his talent and charm, so … totally fake. He tosses shells and dice and foretells the ladies romantic futures, amazingly poorly. According to Sangoma, Kandi is going to marry the guy she lives with. Um, she doesn’t live with a man. Sheree’s not going to get married again because she’s too old. Ouch. That seems overtly ageist with a side of sexism. NeNe is not happy and her husband is a good man. Not happy, check. Greg a good man? No comment. Cynthia is going to get married and is happy. She is married, just maybe unhappily. A+ work, Sangoma.

After a tense day of sexism at the Xhosa museum, the ladies gather for slumber party antics in Marlo’s room, which looks like a boutique of carefully merchandised “new money” treasures. The ladies may have briefly entertained us with some frank sex talk, providing a bonding moment for Kandi and Marlo and some comments by Shereé that we think we need a diagram to understand, but the topic of conversation soon goes back Marlo’s obsession with designer duds. Marlo claims that her love of fashion goes back to her teenage years. Maybe that’s why she bounced so many checks in her past? Is it her many stints in prison issue clothes that makes her so obsessed with labels, even traveling to South Africa with her own Chanel blanket? One thing we learned this week, we don’t have fancy enough clothes to go on a safari.

The next morning after all of the diarrhea of the mouth, Marlo is stuck in bed with diarrhea of a different sort, so Nurse NeNe stays behind with her while Cynthia and The Smalls head out on another safari. Unfortunately for the ladies and their guide, they’re too busy talking about NeNe, Marlo and even Kim to take in their surroundings and the animals in the bush. Their trip culminates with a buffet picnic lunch and a sighting of the not so elusive “alpha-female” when NeNe joins them in high-heels and carrying a Birkin bag. Honestly, we haven’t seen label whoring like this since Pasty and Edina in “Absolutely Fabulous”, and they’re meant to be exaggerated and fictional. Maybe NeNe and Marlo are on an extended audition for the BBC.

Marlo manages to ruin the lunch without even being there, when Kandi mixes things up by asking NeNe what she really thinks of Marlo and her showy ways. Marlo is clearly NeNe’s new BFF, especially since her relationship with Kim went south last season, so NeNe is sure to take a cheap shot at the Smalls concerning their relationship with Kim to deflect the attention. In the wild, any of the Atlanta Housewives would be the pack leader, so in an argument of who follows whom, nobody is going to win.

Later the Smalls give Kim a call, so the Bravo audience doesn’t have to live without her for a second week in a row. It seems like an innocent catch-up, but Shereé weirdly does throw Kandi under the bus by telling Kim that Kandi couldn’t imagine her being able to hang with the other ladies in Africa, let alone at an orphanage. It was strange that Shereé put the wrong and potentially offensive words in Kandi’s mouth, since the implication seems to be that Kim wouldn’t want to hold any black babies. Even we had to play back the tape, which clearly shows that neither Cynthia nor Kandi says this. Plan for real and very uncomfortable fireworks to fly on this misunderstanding next week. Yikes!

The Smalls versus Talls rivalry takes a strange turn those last couple of days in Africa. Since everyone seems to have come to terms with the division, now they’ve moved on to arguing about who’s in charge of each side. The Smalls think NeNe is the leader of the Talls, and NeNe makes the surprising accusation that Kim is the leader of the Smalls. Kandi clearly does not like being thought of as not being the queen of her own castle. And it’s no surprise, out of all the ladies, Kandi is the biggest, most powerful badass boss woman in most rooms, and she definitely is in any room with the other housewives.

What is surprising is how Kandi seems to have lost her candy coating. Toward the end of the dinner and the trip, she’s getting a little too real. Sure, there are some inconsistencies that could use some clearing up, but sometimes it’s better to keep the peace than to be right. Cynthia’s sums it up with her one-liner, “As quickly as things change, they stay the same.” Even in Africa.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley is the editor of Atlanta Intown.