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Real Housewives

RHOD Ssn 1/Ep 8 - Hollman Holiday

Glenn Rowley

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It's time for a birthday on The Real Housewives of Dallas, and while Stephanie plans an epic Gatsby-themed party for her husband's special day, Brandi comes face-to-face with LeeAnne to put their issues to rest while a new feud is brewing between the queen bee and Cary. Read on for my full breakdown of all the Roaring Twenties-style drama...

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Birthdays are major moments in the Housewives universe, and this week all of Dallas is celebrating the birth of Stephanie Hollman's husband. According to Steph, Travis takes his birthday more than a little seriously and every year she manages his sky-high expectations by throwing some sort of over-the-top event. However, Travis's penchant to micromanage every last detail of his birthday has Stephanie feeling more than a little pressure to top all her previous efforts with this year's (on-camera) fete. Even as she explains that she'll be checking out some venues for his party, Travis encourages her to bring his personal assistant along so he can keep an eye on the proceedings. 

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Deep in surgery, Cary Deuber has an entirely different birthday on her mind: her daughter Zuri is turning three. And she has her own husband Mark to manage through the milestone. If there's one thing the surgeon loves, it's buying gifts for the girls in his life, and it's Cary's job to make sure her overeager husband doesn't break the bank for their toddler. She's the one in charge of throwing a small party for Zuri and her precise planning is the only thing keeping the piles of gifts dancing around Mark's head at bay. I've said it in practically every recap so far - I love seeing the dynamic between Mark and Cary, and I especially get a kick out of the fact that the Househusband is so excited for Zuri to wear the Missoni dress he bought her in Italy. 

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Stephanie scopes out the venue for Travis's party with her BFF Brandi Redmond and his assistant Courtney in tow. After tossing a few ideas around with the other women, Stephanie settles on a Gatsby theme for the party. Every Housewife in every city in the franchise loves a good theme, and it's the perfect excuse for the ladies of Dallas to get dressed up in their best 1920s costumes for a swanky Roaring Twenties soiree. Brandi asks who's on the guest list for the party, and Stephanie says it'll just be close friends. And of course all the other women, but she hasn't made a decision about whether or not to invite LeeAnne Locken. Even though Stephanie's technically made up with the Dallas queen bee, she's still wary after all the drama that's gone on between LeeAnne and Brandi for the past seven episodes.

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Speaking of LeeAnne, she's been asked to serve as the keynote speaker for the Grace Conference - an organization dedicated to providing a safe space for women living with HIV. The stigma surrounding the disease is at an all-time high in Dallas, with two women having been murdered in the last few months after coming out as HIV positive. For her keynote speech, LeeAnne is focusing her message on shame and has invited her BFF Tiffany Hendra and Stephanie to come hear her speak. Taking the stage, LeeAnne opens up about the struggles she's battled in her life - from being molested by a friend's father as a preteen to finding herself in an abusive relationship with the only man she's ever been engaged to as a young woman. LeeAnne speaks powerfully and eloquently about her journey to overcome the labels that were placed upon her throughout her life, and invites all the women in attendance to let go of the labels people have given them surrounding their HIV diagnoses. By the end of the speech, she is joined by dozens of women on the stage in a positive, joyful moment as Tiffany and Stephanie tearfully look on. Seeing LeeAnne share her story to make a difference in the lives of so many other women and instill them with hope for the future is so heartwarming and makes me think the queen bee has a bright future ahead of her on the motivational speaking circuit. 

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Later that night, Stephanie fills Brandi in on the events of the Grace Conference. Admitting that she saw a completely different side to LeeAnne during her speech, Steph tells her BFF that she's decided to invite LeeAnne to Travis's birthday party. After hanging up with Brandi, Stephanie addresses Travis's micromanaging head on by having a conversation with him over a couple glasses of wine. In a moment that made me want to stand up and scream "Girl Power!," Stephanie points out to her husband that she's a big girl who's capable of making decisions without him constantly looming over her. Specifically, she wants to make some things about Travis's birthday a surprise and his constant need to be in control is putting a wrench in her efforts. Surprisingly, Travis seems to understand where his wife is actually coming from - is this a first in the Bravoverse or what? - and promises to back off a little. Oh, and bonus points to Steph for shutting down the "hitting like a girl" comments at the dinner table with her boys, too.

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Meanwhile, Cary and Mark throw Zuri's birthday party by dressing the toddler up in Missoni and inviting her friend over for cake and presents. Mark is quick to give Cary a hard time for ordering a vanilla cake when the toddler really wanted chocolate, but there's no way either of them was going to let a three-year-old get chocolate all over a designer dress. Zuri looks adorable in her Italian frock, and it quickly becomes clear that the little girl is equally as opinionated as her no-nonsense mom. In fact, Zuri isn't even enthused about all the presents Mark got her, intent instead on just the first gift she opens. 

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In a surprising turn of events, Brandi invites LeeAnne to meet for lunch in an effort to put their drama behind them. After hearing about the Grace Conference from Stephanie, Brandi decided to trust her bestie's judgement and try to make peace with her nemesis. The meal starts out a bit awkwardly, but Brandi came to apologize and musters up the courage to say she's sorry for the multiple confrontations she's started with LeeAnne. The queen bee graciously accepts the apology and points out that Brandi somehow managed to push her buttons in a way no one else has been able to in quite a long time. She also cops to not reacting well to any of Brandi's provocations, which the broken glass at the cocktail party would probably agree with if it was still in one piece. (Of course, Brandi is quick to point out that she didn't get an apology in return from LeeAnne, but I suppose that's neither here nor there.) Ultimately, the two 'Wives who have spent the whole season sparring manage to reach a fragile peace treaty, determined to move forward and focus on what's really important in life. Hmm...any bets how long this will last?

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Now that things are (mostly) resolved between the majority of the 'Wives, it's time for Travis's birthday party! The ladies don their fanciest Twenties-inspired costumes, with LeeAnne going full Marilyn Monroe and Cary dusting off the gorgeous dress she wore at her wedding reception. Tiffany notes that an icy chill seems to follow Cary into the room - she's the only one still at odds with LeeAnne after last week's disastrously awkward gothic party - but Tiff and LeeAnne happily bond with Brandi over drinks and...poop stories. Seriously, can we PLEASE go just one episode without any poop talk on this show? Dear Bravo, I, along with every other viewer in the world, am begging you. The lasting legacy of RHOD can not be its constant obsession with poop jokes. Ugh. However, Brandi's feeling extra friendly thanks to the liquid courage, and proceeds to invite both Tiffany and LeeAnne on a girls trip to her and Stephanie's lake house in Austin, Texas. It turns out that LeeAnne, Cary and Friend of the Housewives Marie Reyes all have birthdays coming up, and what better way to celebrate than by taking the season's official cast trip?

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On the other side of the party, Stephanie fills Cary in on the plan for the trip to the lake house. Cary is overjoyed at Stephanie's suggestion that they'll be hiring private chefs for the trip, but is less than enthused to discover that LeeAnne's coming too. She'd love to go to Austin with Stephanie and Brandi, but a vacation with her nemesis LeeAnne feels less like a birthday gift than some twisted form of cruel and unusual punishment. As she says in her confessional, it's an issue of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer...Besides this set-up for the requisite cast trip, Travis's birthday party goes off without an ounce of drama, which is bad for moving the storyline along but good for the 'Wives mental health. Right? For anyone who's as confused as I was, Stephanie clarified to me on Twitter that yes, the Hollmans and Redmonds share a lake house together. That wasn't a typo.

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Travis is already happy, but Stephanie ends the night with one last surprise. Upon returning to their big, ol' mansion after the party, Stephanie fulfills her husband's longstanding, not-so-secret birthday wish by jumping out of a cardboard cake in lingerie and singing an a capella rendition of "Happy Birthday." I personally can't imagine doing something like that in some sexy lingerie on national television, but Travis is visibly thrilled at his wife's surprise. See what happens when you let her plan everything without any micromanaged lists from you, Travis? Seems like he probably, happily, learned his lesson this time.

What did you think of this week's RHOD? Do you think the cease fire between Brandi and LeeAnne will stick? Are you excited to see the 'Wives head to Austin together? Leave your thoughts and opinions below in the comments!