Welcome to Potomac, Bravo's best-kept secret and the newest addition to the Real Housewives family in nearly half a decade. In this seventh iteration of the franchise, we're introduced to the exclusive, etiquette-conscious world of Potomac, Maryland. Just a half hour outside of Washington, D.C., the tiny suburb boasts its status as one of the wealthiest, most sought-after zip codes in the country.
Before jumping into the premiere, here are my thoughts on the intro and taglines. It's always exciting to see a new Housewives intro, but I'm not sure how I feel about this one yet. It might be due to the green screen or something, but the ladies appear weirdly slanted away from the camera in the far shots and main title. Am I wrong? Something's off. My vote for best tagline goes to Katie Rost for "I'm a ball and gala girl. It's my legacy and my calling," solely because it's the only one that feels unique to Potomac's POV. Quick thoughts on the others: Gizelle's is catchy and seems to imply that she'll be the center of gossip this season, but all I'm hearing is Aviva Drescher saying "word on the street" from RHONY Season 6. Karen's clearly trying to position herself as the alpha of this pack of 'Wives, though I would shorten it to "In Potomac, it's who you are and I'm everything" for the sake of succinctness. Robyn's seems a bit generic, but I am absolutely in love with her gown. Charisse's reeks of pretentiousness that is giving me a giant red flag, and we don't see Ashley's this week but apparently she's young? (More on that next week...) Overall, a solid group for a first season, though none are as iconic as, say, Kyle Richards' or Lisa Vanderpump's from Season 1 of Beverly Hills. Also, I'm not sure why they're holding champagne glasses when we all now know that was the original choice for the BH 'Wives before the giant diamonds. Isn't there something a bit more uniquely "Potomac" that production could've chosen?
First up, we're introduced to the fiercely beautiful and independent Gizelle Bryant. A divorced mother of three, the stunner immediately comes across as likable, funny and did I mention fierce? Gizelle is a born and raised Potomac 'Wife and proudly displays her family's legacy and pedigree - her father was the first black man elected to the Texas legislature and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. As we see her baking with her daughters Grace, 10 and twins Angel and Adore, 9, Gizelle explains that she was previously married to well-known Baltimore pastor Jamal Bryant until his cheating, cheating, pumpkin-eating ways led to the end of their marriage. Gizelle's interview also introduces the first major theme we see in Potomac society: the importance of etiquette. According to Gizelle, there are plenty of etiquette-obsessed women in her social circles, but she doesn't have time to live by any rules other than her own. I like this girl already.
Next, we meet self-proclaimed "ball-and-gala girl" Katie. The first thing we learn about the full-time socialite and philanthropist is that she has a thing for white boys and Jewish boys, as evidenced by her white, Jewish boyfriend Andrew. Katie's family is famous in the community for their philanthropic work - a calling which she proudly carries on today. In her confessional, Katie explains that, despite what some people may think, being a real socialite isn't vapid or vain: it takes actual work. Aside from her charity work, Katie's primary focus is getting married again. Being divorced is not a good look according to her conservative, well-to-do family, and she's putting pressure on Andrew to finally put a ring on it and rid her of her shame. However, the golf-obsessed Jew seems hesitant at the prospect, preaching a "slow and steady wins the race" mentality as Katie's blank stare cuts through him. From her perspective, she can't imagine why he WOULDN'T want to marry such a perfect catch as soon as possible.
The next 'Wife we meet is PR maven Robyn Dixon, who comes courtesy of bestie Gizelle. Robyn lives the furthest thing from a conventional life. Divorced from her high school sweetheart, NBA star Juan Dixon, the pair amicably live under the same roof for the sake of their three kids. They even sleep in the same bed. Wait, what?? You heard that right. That part can't be for the benefit of the children, amirite? However, this free spirit explains in her confessional that she's never felt the need to live up to the standards set by Potomac society. Despite living with Juan, Robyn has decided to sell her wedding dress, and Gizelle just so happens to knock on the door as she's taking the giant box out of storage. Before we know it, Robyn's got her wedding dress on and is treating her stairwell like an imaginary runway. Still dressed in bridal white, Robyn plops down on the couch for some good old-fashioned girl talk with Gizelle, as she discusses the status of her relationship with her ex-husband/roommate. No, neither of them are seeing other people but Gizelle is insistent that if Juan ever wants to date other people, he needs to move out. And right on cue, Juany-Juan enters the room, amused and confused as to why his ex-wife is lounging around the living room in her wedding dress.
Following that case of perfectly awkward timing, we're introduced to Karen Huger, the grande dame of Potomac society who's probably pissed she wasn't the first 'Wife on our screens. I already think Karen's the worst but I must say her husband Ray - who's apparently the "black Bill Gates" - is giving me major Gregg Leakes vibes, which is never a bad thing. It becomes immediately clear that Karen is trying to fill the Lisa Vanderpump/Lea Black type of role among the Potomac cast, but isn't coming across nearly as charming as some of her predecessors. She says she's proud to be a farmer's daughter, but, based off the condescension that's rolling off of her in waves, you wouldn't believe it. Maybe she's just trying to be sassy, but to me it's reading as looking down her nose at literally everything, which isn't the best first impression you want to make on viewers.
Karen jets off to Gizelle's house for tea where she wastes no time in complaining out loud about the number of steps leading up to the front door. It's not the smartest move anyway because everyone knows rule #1 of being a queen bee: make them come to you. Gizelle describes Karen as a "diva, seven days a week," and it becomes quickly apparent over cookies and tea that there's a bit of a competitive spirit between the two. Via confessional, Karen describes the "leadership role" she's taken in Potomac society for the last 20 years and credits herself with "acclimating Gizelle into the Potomac lifestyle," but wait a second - wasn't Gizelle the one actually from Potomac originally? As conversation turns to parenting (Karen's done it better), college applications (top 10 schools only for Huger children, please) and Karen's upcoming birthday dinner, Gizelle explains in her interview that she feels judged by the older woman, but that's just par for the course when dealing with with Potomac's grande dame.
The ladies gather for Karen's birthday dinner the following night and we finally get all the 'Wives (minus the missing Ashley) in a room together. While they're waiting for the others to arrive, we learn from Gizelle that Katie once dated Russell Simmons and Katie makes an unfortunate comment about gay boys wearing wedding dresses that's just ignorant and not OK. The only 'Wife we haven't met yet is Charrisse Jackson Jordan - the de facto host of the dinner who arrives with Robyn. According to Robyn, everyone in Potomac knows who Charrisse is - after all, her husband Eddie was the head coach of the Washington Wizards when Juan played for the team and is now coaching at Rutgers University in New Jersey. This means that Charrisse lives in Potomac with their two teenagers while Eddie calls the Garden State home. Eventually, Karen the birthday girl arrives, but not before some of the hungry women have ordered food - a move Charrisse calls "improper." Once Karen shows up to her party, Gizelle neglects to cede the center seat at the table to her - pay attention because this is apparently a very big deal in Potomac. Etiquette above all else seems to be the golden rule here. Charrisse also takes a minute during the dinner to invite the ladies to a crab boil at her house, which is apparently a thing to do on the East Coast and will be the next major event of the episode. Otherwise, the dinner passes relatively uneventfully, with the 'Wives discussing Charrisse's long-distance relationship with her invisible husband and celebrating Karen's utter fabulousness.
Turns out that Charrisse's crab boil is much sooner than we thought because next thing we know, she's prepping for the party while Gizelle comes over to help cook the crabs. Gizelle brings along her hairdresser and friend Kal, which is apparently a giant social faux pas according to Charrisse, though she magnanimously lets it slide since Gizelle is, you know, HELPING COOK THE DAMN CRABS. While Gizelle does the actual cooking, Charrisse leaves her downstairs like the hired help to go get her hair and makeup done. Left to their own devices, Gizelle and Kal take the opportunity to rummage through as many drawers and cabinets as they can and get information out of Charrisse's housekeeper Laura. Once the pair barge upstairs uninvited, Charrisse loses her cool and tells Gizelle she's about five seconds away from being asked to leave. For her part, Gizelle goes back downstairs, but can't believe she's getting so much attitude from her friend after offering to help cook for the party. That's some thanks she gets...
As guests start arriving for the party, Charrisse is still upstairs getting her hair done, which leaves Gizelle to greet the guests for her. Karen is the first to arrive among the other 'Wives and is once again appalled at the amount of walking she has to do from the valet stand to the front door. Immediately, Gizelle pulls Karen and a woman named Brynee under a cabana to tell them about the earlier dust-up with Charrisse, which Brynee immediately runs and blabs to Charrisse. With Brynee gone, Karen takes the opportunity to turn the conversation to Gizelle's perceived slight over the seating arrangement at her birthday party. Karen simply cannot believe that Gizelle had the audacity to sit at the center of the table, but Gizelle doesn't see what the diva extraordinaire's problem is. Is this gang up on Gizelle day or something?
To add insult to injury, Karen brought Gizelle a gift: five rules of etiquette when attending a birthday party. However, Gizelle is hilariously much more interested in using the mirrored frame to adjust her bangs than give into Karen's condescending lesson on good manners. Gizelle reminds Karen that no matter where she sits, it's the baddest place in the building and that if they had waited for Karen to arrive before ordering, they never would've eaten. If Karen had a problem, she should have addressed it at the party rather than wait and throw a passive-aggressive fit after the fact. The tension between the frenemies heats up as Gizelle reminds Karen in her confessional that she isn't the one who needs a lesson on manners. After all, Gizelle has a legacy and a pedigree; Karen grew up in the proverbial cabbage patch. After throwing the word "ignorant" around a few times, the grande dame of Potomac announces that she's "done" with this conversation and walks away, leaving Gizelle laughing at her retreating figure. And with that, the premiere ends with a "To Be Continued..." and the battle of the queen bees is officially on in Potomac.
What did you think of RHOP? Which 'Wives do you think you'll love or love to hate? Is it a good fit for the Housewives franchise? Let me know in the comments!