The Real Housewives of Potomac
There are pretty much three cardinal rules to being a Real Housewife Potomac: you have to be able to dish it, you have to be able to take it, and you have to fill your entire home with so many sequin and faux fur throw pillows, not a couch cushion or comforter can be seen.
And while her pillow count is a little lower than some others, no one gives and takes like Ashley Darby — perhaps across the entire Housewives franchise. The woman is made of Teflon, or that QVC-level plastic they make the expensive Tupperware out of. And I know that because Michael Darby is a sentient pile of week-old leftovers, consistently attempting to rot his wife from the inside out… yet, he is somehow unable to do it. Because Ashely knows she married a molded lump of old crab cake, but for some reason, he’s her lump of old crab cake. And so, each time she’s clowned on in the press, or in a reunion, or directly by producers in her testimonials, she just lets it roll off her back and keeps on moving… then she pops out a baby, crosses state lines for an hour of filming, stirs the pot into a frothy fury, and still keeps on moving.
Dr. Wendy, as it turns out, can dish it — “Live in your motherf—ing truth, because God is paying your ass back” may be the first 10-second entry into the Criterion Collection — but she really, really cannot take it. Wendy will hear almost nothing bad about herself, and if she hears anything bad about her husband, she will make you rue the day you brought the blogs to the barbecue…
That’s where Gizelle comes in. Because Gizelle actually can take it pretty well (you kind of have to when your ex-husband/current boyfriend’s phone number is in the public domain), and she certainly tries to give it, but her attempts are all over the board. On this particular group trip, Gizelle’s stabs at Wendy are unfounded at best, and at worst, they have opened up a Hellmouth worthy of a young adult series on the WB right here in Colonial Williamsburg…
Which leads me to my latest working theory that Williamsburg is to RHOP what the Berkshire is to RHONY. My proof: this trip has been pure chaos, it feels like the women have been here for weeks even though it’s technically been less than 48 hours, and this house is definitely about to be haunted by Rick the Whiskey Man, who departed as a shell of his former self after bearing witness to the mayhem his brown liquor hath wrought.
We open up on Day 2 of this trip where every meal has already been a disaster, and there’s no end in sight. The night before, Gizelle attempted to check in on Wendy by telling her that she no longer seems to have any substance because Gizelle has “seen more of [her] body parts in the last month” than in the entire time she’s known her. And listen, it’s obvious to anyone with eyes that Wendy is dressing differently than she did last season, but instead of worrying about why, I think these other women should be thanking her for upgrading the color palette of RHOP from “Claire’s birthstone rings” to “every warm, rich caramel hue on the Pantone color guide.”
Anyway, Wendy took Gizelle’s comments with a little bit of annoyance at the time she made them, but by the next morning, she’s emotionally telling Karen that Gizelle knocking her “substance” was hurtful. Karen tells Wendy to dry her eyes, and that she better not dress more conservatively to their little water aerobics lesson simply to appease Gizelle.
Wendy takes that advice to heart and arrives in a swimsuit with hips cut to her ribs, looking incredible. Meanwhile, at the big house, Gizelle pulls Robyn aside for a private conversation about what Robyn disclosed at dinner the night before. She said that she’s been feeling unmotivated and like she can barely get out of bed, but the main thing Gizelle wants to focus on is that Juan said it was unattractive. And no, she doesn’t tell Robyn that’s a completely unempathetic response when it’s obvious from Robyn’s description that she’s experiencing actual depression. She asks Robyn how her fine husband calling her behavior unattractive doesn’t motivate her to do better…
Because of straight-up brain chemicals, Gizelle! Also, a whole-ass global pandemic. That’s the thing about Gizelle’s little round-robin game of critiquing her friends at the dinner table the night before — Gizelle’s advice (if you can call it that) is almost never helpful because she’s a notably unempathetic person. Gizelle has a lot of other skills: she’s fun, she’s funny, she exclusively keeps the DMV’s fuchsia paint factory up and running… but even her daughter will tell you that she’s not cut out for the emotional stuff. So, for her to pretend like she’s coming to Wendy about her “personality change” out of a true concern for her emotional wellbeing is laughable, and Wendy can smell the lie from a mile away…
And the truth of Gizelle’s motivations is about to rise all the way to this Olympic-size-pool’s surface because Ashley Darby just arrived, she’s on a tight schedule, and she’s about to define the trajectory of season 6 in between pump-and-dump sessions.
After she arrives, Ashley gets the download on last night’s dinner from both Karen and Gizelle, who tell very different stories. Karen says Gizelle went around the table and attacked Candiace’s marriage, then Wendy’s personality, and even her best friend Robyn. Gizelle offers Ashley the same story she’s been schilling about Wendy: that she “can’t put [her] finger” on what exactly has changed, but “last year, you were this girl of super substance, and now, you’re like sexy hot mama.” So, it’s pretty clear what’s changed: Wendy’s clothes. But what Gizelle actually wants to talk about is why. She tells Ashley her working theory that perhaps Wendy’s sexier look is an attempt to squash the rumors that have been circulating in the blogs that Eddie has been cheating on Wendy.
But even if Gizelle had actually said her real motivations when she first broached the subject with Wendy, what would have been the point? What is she supposed to say, “Yes, I’m wearing this latex Ivy Park corset to a casual lunch because Reality Blurb reported my husband had a girlfriend on the side?” What would getting that confirmation even mean to Gizelle?
No, it’s obvious that Gizelle just wants Wendy to have to talk about the rumors, and this is the means she’s come up with to do it. And somehow this woman takes it a step further, and gets Ashely to bring up the rumors for her! After another disastrous lunch where Wendy tells Gizelle that she hurt her feelings, Gizelle tells Wendy that she’s “not Don Lemon,” and Ashley insists that she knows Wendy misunderstood Gizelle’s point even though she wasn’t present for the conversation, Gizelle and Ashley then decide that this evening will be a perfect time for Ashley to talk one-on-one with Wendy about the cheating rumors. A perfect time… in the middle of a whiskey tasting.
Again, I simply don’t understand what Ashley is trying to achieve by asking if these Eddie rumors are the source of Wendy’s change in behavior/look. When Candiace talked to Ashley about the Michael-cheating rumors it was because they started with her. Someone sent Candiace a text message with intel about Michael cheating, and Candiace had to decide whether she should share that intel with Ashley to let her know that her snapping turtle of a husband might be cheating on her. But Gizelle and Ashley don’t have any intel! They have a couple of headlines that Wendy already knows about, and purposefully isn’t bringing up on the show so they won’t become a storyline.
And that’s really the root of it: Wendy doesn’t want these pre-season rumors to make it onto the show, and Gizelle and Ashley are specifically bringing them in front of the cameras. There are many Housewives sins, but the greatest of these is bringing the internet in front of the cameras, and it is only ever done with intention. So watching Ashely fake a stunned face at Wendy having a negative reaction to being pulled aside and told that Gizelle thinks she got a boob job because there are rumors that her husband is cheating on her — and has now spread that theory to Ashley and probably more — is completely hilarious. I made fun of it initially, but Ashley’s season 6 tagline proves truer each Sunday: the only thing messier than her, is her two boys.
Ashely tells Wendy that they don’t think the rumors are true, of course, they just wonder if the “fabricated articles” are the reason Wendy has been acting more sexually recently, “because you’re showing people there’s obviously no truth to it?” Wendy blinks hard, thanks Ashley for taking “this opportunity to try and attack my marriage,” and then marches back inside where a man named Rick is closing out his whiskey tasting with a classic toast about how “the best ships are friendships,” and demands to know exactly which of her friends have been talking s— about her husband.
This prompts the first of many nasty straw-sucking sounds from the editors as everyone silently looks around the room at one another. Wendy goes one by one around the room with everyone denying it until she lands on Gizelle, who she already knows is the source. “Instead of coming to me as a woman, you decided to talk to Ashley, and so I’m putting your ass on notice,” Wendy seethes at Gizelle. “Because what you’re not going to do is play with my husband’s name — don’t f— with my family.“
Now let’s be clear: if Gizelle had come to Wendy directly about this, she almost definitely would have had the exact same reaction. But as opposed to Gizelle MacGyver-ing a way to bring up these rumors, I’m actually happy for Wendy that she has a good excuse to finally get the big moment that she failed so hard at getting with Mia at the beginning of the season. Because here, Wendy has truly found her foothold, and it is utter eradication of the Green-Eyed bandits.
Gizelle keeps telling Wendy that her whole point was that she didn’t believe the blog rumors about Eddie, but Wendy says that’s not the point: “Gizelle, f— these motherf—ing cameras, I’m telling you very clear — when you talk about my husband, you talk about me.” Then, Robyn makes the mistake of trying to ask what these rumors about Eddie even are; it is a mistake both because Robyn is super drunk after hammering four whiskeys in a row, and because Wendy is breathing fire at anyone who makes eye contact with her, let alone co-hosts a podcast with Gizelle. Wendy tells Robyn to go eat a cracker, then they yell “go f— yourself” at each other for a while, which leads Robyn to mockingly stimulate the act of fingering herself, a corner of the Housewives Bingo Card I actually can’t believe we hadn’t reached until now.
Ashley tries to tell Wendy that they thought it would be better for her to start the conversation because she’s dealt with so many rumors about her own marriage, but Mia jumps in to say that if Gizelle brought the rumor up to Ashley, she also should have brought it to Wendy herself. (Even though earlier Mia was defending Gizelle because Mia has absolutely no allegiances except an anarchical devotion to justice.) Wendy says that Gizelle doesn’t understand the “parameters regarding people’s husbands” because she personally doesn’t “have a relationship that holds water.”
Gizelle remains mostly silent during all of this because nothing she could say would stop Wendy now. She is a juggernaut of righteous Housewives fury that can almost only be brought about by “the blogs.” Finally, Wendy tells Gizelle that she now sees her for exactly what everyone has always said that she is. “And what’s so funny is, the life you’re living now is exactly God paying you back for all the bulls— you’ve done,” she spits at Gizelle. “So live in your motherf—ing truth, because God is paying your ass back.“
Wendy storms out of the room to reapply her lipstick, and Ashley takes this moment to finally shoulder the pocketbook she’s been holding in her lap for the last 20 minutes, and become the living definition of that Spongebob “Imma head out” gif. But before she can make it out the door, Candiace — the host of this trip who never wanted Ashley to come in the first place — corners Ashely in the kitchen and asks what her motivation could have possibly been in bringing this up. Ashley insists she never meant it maliciously, exclaiming that the rumors were all online. “Leave it online, then!” Candiace exclaims back, finally yelling at Ashely to “take your milk and get the f— out!”
It is electrifying. It is pure chaos. It is… Colonial Williamsburg. See you back here next week to see how we’ll ever recover from this.
The Real Housewives of Potomac