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Real Housewives

Filtering by Tag: gizelle vs. karen

RHOP Season 1 Wrap-Up

Glenn Rowley

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

Word on the street...is that Potomac is officially on the map! As the first new addition to the franchise in over five years, the stakes were high The Real Housewives of Potomac and the show delivered. In fact, before the two-part reunion had even finished airing, Bravo announced that RHOP had officially been picked up for a second season. For this week's feature I'm breaking down what made the Potomac 'Wives such a hit with viewers, as well as what could (and should) change for Season 2 next year.

WHY IT WORKED

  • Potomac's unique POV: Each city in the franchise has its own unique vibe. In order to be a successful addition to the Bravoverse, any new Housewives show must bring a strong sense of unique identity to the table - and the RHOP ladies pulled it off. As Andy Cohen promised when the show was announced, the women in the cast had a strong sense of (and loud opinions about) what it meant to be part of Potomac society. Some viewers expressed annoyance at the ladies' constant preaching about the importance of etiquette, but it gave the show its own identity to build upon and helped fans see how Potomac stood out from the likes of Orange County, Atlanta and Beverly Hills. 
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  • Feuds and fights galore: The debut season started strong out the gate with the crab boil clash with Gizelle Bryant on one side and Karen Huger and Charrisse Jackson Jordan on the other. However, the drama didn't stop there with Gizelle and Karen both facing off against Ashley Darby throughout the season over THOT-ish behavior and the great Bethany Beach blowup. Even Robyn Dixon and Katie Rost, the two 'Wives who came across as quieter personalities jumped into the action, with the latter becoming the dark horse of the season when it came to throwing shade and feuding with her cast mates over the season's hottest topic of racial identity. Basically, everyone showed up ready to play and didn't disappoint when it came to engaging in classic Housewives warfare.
  • The issue of race: Speaking of racial identity, the feud between Katie, Robyn and Gizelle over what it means to be a black woman in America was the storyline that dominated the end of the season and bled into the reunion. No, as Gizelle stated at the reunion, a Housewives show doesn't need to become the poster child for race relations in America in 2016, but it's a real issue that is constantly addressed around the country and I for one loved that the Potomac Housewives added to that conversation using a national platform like Bravo.
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  • A memorable reunion: I personally found the reunion wildly entertaining. As a two-part special, it didn't run the risk of feeling overly long and Andy covered a plethora of hotly contested subjects with the ladies on the couches. There were standout moments - from Robyn calling for security and Katie revealing she'd broken off her engagement less than 24 hours before to Charrisse's 11th hour bombshell regarding the state of her broken marriage - and the reunion left me craving a little more time with these 'Wives. Plus, considering that my question being read from Andy's lips to throw shade at grande dame Karen automatically puts the reunion filed under "unforgettable" to me.

WHAT COULD CHANGE

  • More, more, more for Season 2: Dear Bravo, now that we know the Potomac recipe works, it's time to turn up the oven. Next season, let's have a full 22-episode order, a more glamorous vacation destination than Bethany Beach and a Secrets Revealed episode. The time for prototyping and truncating a first season is now behind us and RHOP should run with the big dogs of the franchise.
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  • The last stand of Charrisse Jackson Jordan: Described by the network as "Potomac's self-appointed social director," Charrisse started the season strong by hosting the crab boil at her home in the series premiere and immediately locking horns with Gizelle Bryant. From there, Charrisse opened up about her failing long-distance marriage to (now former) head basketball coach of Rutgers University Eddie Jordan and showed her vulnerable side. However, her storyline basically fizzled out by season's end and she was left to play peacemaker at the "come to Jesus" lunch in the finale because she simply didn't have anything to discuss with the women. As such, she found herself on the far end of the couch come reunion time. While she made a valiant effort by revealing in the closing moments on the couches that Eddie hadn't spoken to her since the show started airing in January, she needs to be willing to open up even more and engage with the other women should she be invited back for Season 2.
  • Cast shake-ups: The one constant from season to season on every Housewives show is the rotating door of ladies who make up the cast. And since we know the show is a lock for Season 2, the question on everyone's mind is inevitably who will be asked back next year. As I alluded to above, the most obvious choice to get the boot would be Charrisse, since she was the least integral member of the group, but I actually think all six original Housewives should return for Season 2. In my opinion as a resident expert on the franchise, the smartest move for Bravo would be to follow the pattern set by the second season of RHOBH: have all the OGs come back, add in an official Friend of the Housewives or two (sorry Brynee) and keep the show growing...

OVERALL GRADE

Since I don't have any other seasons of RHOP to rank this rookie year against, I'm going to give it an overall grade of a solid B+. While it never quite reached the iconic level of, say, RHOBH or RHONJ's first seasons, Season 1 in Potomac was a solid entry into the Housewives canon and better than many other debut seasons in the franchise (looking at you D.C. and Miami...). All in all, I already miss my time with the ladies of Potomac every Sunday night and can't wait for the show to come back even better next year. Till then, dust off your etiquette books and never forget: wherever Gizelle is sitting is the baddest place in the building! May people never be able to find you when they're coming for you...

RHOP Ssn 1/Ep 11 - Reunion Part 1

Glenn Rowley

rhop-season-1-reunion

After a debut season that feels as if it went by in the blink of an eye, it's reunion time for The Real Housewives of Potomac! In the first hour of the two-part reunion, Andy Cohen pressed the ladies of Potomac on everything from humping and THOT-ish behavior to Googling gossip and being biracial. Oh, and I unexpectedly became part of the reunion myself! Read on to find out what I mean...

On the Couches

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Seating arrangements for any first-time reunion are always interesting to me, because it's our first glimpse at what Bravo and Andy Cohen himself think of the ladies' pecking order. I'm happy with this arrangement - Gizelle Bryant, Robyn Dixon and Ashley Darby occupy the right couch, while Karen Huger, Katie Rost and Charrisse Jackson Jordan are on the left. In fact, when I tweeted my prediction for where the ladies would be sitting before the reunion was filmed last month, I was almost spot-on and only swapped Katie and Charrisse. Naturally, Karen the grande dame occupies the hot seat next to Andy. However, it's logical that Charrisse would be relegated to the end of the couch - she started the season memorably but had faded into the background by the finale, while Katie made a strong showing for herself in the season's final episodes. 

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On the opposite side, Gizelle - who was arguably Potomac's breakout star - graces the seat of honor, with her bestie Robyn next to her and Little Miss Ashley down at the end. Sticking Ashley on the same couch as the dynamic duo who accused her husband of grabbing another man's butt may seem like an odd choice. However, when you consider her season-long feud with Karen it was really the only viable option. Karen and Gizelle were locks for the center seats on the couches and there's no way Ashley would've been placed on the same side as the self-proclaimed grande dame of Potomac. 

Ranking the Housewives' Looks

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The dress code for this reunion was clearly "Shiny Sequin Realness" and some of the 'Wives shine brighter than others. My vote for best dressed, surprisingly, goes to Charrisse. I say surprisingly because I didn't get a good first impression of her this season, but I'm loving the liquid metal of her pewter gown and she is slaying the new dark hair. Katie comes in a close second though. While I'm not in love with the vertical sequins on her vintage Bob Mackie gown, her hair and makeup is simply flawless. Rock that high pony, girl! As for the others, I love Gizelle in gold, but the gaudy turquoise earrings ruin the look for me. The silhouette of Robyn's gown is lovely (and bonus points for the long hair), but as my friend said, the fabric looks like it came from a 90's prom dress. Out of the whole bunch, Ashley's look is the most basic and forgettable, while Karen's is a total fail. The golden zebra stripes make her boobs look like a giant, misshapen blob. Not cute. 

Taking Down the Grande Dame

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After a few thoughts about how the show has turned them into overnight TV stars, the importance of etiquette in Potomac, and the revelation that Katie called off her engagement on the way to film the reunion, the first package is all about Karen. This was the highlight of the reunion for me because. You guys. ANDY COHEN USED MY QUESTION AT THE REUNION! I repeat: ANDY USED MY QUESTION AT THE REUNION. I've officially made it. The question was, and I quote, "Glenn from Utah said 'Karen, who pronounced you the grande dame of Potomac? Shouldn't you remember that before you were sitting up on that pedestal you came from a farm in Virginia?'" Andy Cohen has said my name and now I can die a happy man. 

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While I'm reeling from this greatest accomplishment of my life, discussion turns to the shade Katie threw at Karen's O Gala "Podunk cocktail party."  Expecting a full-blown gala, Katie claims she could've thrown Karen's party together in about four days, while Gizelle reminds her that she didn't actually throw anything together this season. Weirdly, Karen claims that the real O Gala won't happen for two more years, which seems an absurdly long amount of time to put together a charity event. Maybe we'll see it in Season 3? The women each take turns throwing darts at Karen, taking her to task for her haughty arrogance as the self-proclaimed queen bee of Potomac, and Katie eventually calls out Karen and Gizelle's sense of entitlement over "absolutely nothing." According to Katie, there was no ticker tape parade when Gizelle triumphantly returned to Potomac and Karen certainly isn't the grande dame. All I have to say to that is amen, Katie, amen. 

The Humping THOT of Potomac

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Next in the hot seat is Little Miss Ashley, as we are treated to a package featuring the antics of our favorite humping poodle of Potomac. Ashely is quick to defend everything from her use of the infamous pull-out method to her relationship with her mom, but I was happy to see that other viewers were as uncomfortable as I have been with her bringing her mom's financial issues up on national TV all season long. Even at the reunion, the 27-year-old manages to mention that she paid off her mom's car and gives her money every month, which continues to rub me the wrong way.

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Ashley also stands by humping Robyn upon meeting her at the Sip with Socialites event, saying that no one should be allowed to dictate how she should behave. Robyn, however, maintains that it was a highly inappropriate introduction and suggests that Ashley learn proper social decorum. Naturally, the younger 'Wife dismisses Robyn's argument as a moot point (note to Charrisse, it's "moot" not "mute"), and conversation moves on to Gizelle calling Ashley a THOT during the event. Gizelle differentiates between THOT and THOT-ish, and points out that she specifically called Ashley's behavior the latter. However, Ashley doesn't take kindly to either option, and claims that using that terminology in any context is the "most divisive" thing you can do as a woman. Katie chimes in that the other woman are probably just threatened by Ashley being young and pretty. After all, Robyn did say in her interview that Gizelle gets jealous when there's a younger, prettier woman in the mix...

Three Crabby Divas and "the Help"

rhop-reunion-charrisse-jackson-jordan

Putting a pin in that argument, Andy moves on to the drama at Charrisse's crab boil in the show's very first episode. Charrisse insists that she never actually said Kal could do her hair, she was just deflecting and it got misinterpreted. However, she insists that Gizelle and her hairdresser barging up to her bedroom is a whole other matter. Gizelle is still confused where Charrisse's aggression came from, since everything was happy and copacetic when she left to get ready. However, to Gizelle, the real offense came when Karen referred to her hairstylist as "the help." I mean, is this the segregated South in the 1950s?

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Karen tries feebly to defend her use of the term, but the argument that she could've called him much worse than "the help" doesn't fly with me or any of the other ladies. Robyn jumps in to point out that the term would be offensive to anyone, regardless of their station in life. Karen maintains that she knows what "the help" means, but refuses to give Robyn a straight answer, saying she doesn't need a lesson from her fellow 'Wife. Besides, her first job was as a cashier at Taco Bell and Burger King, OK? Like Katie, I would pay money to see Karen Huger in a fast food chain uniform. (Quick aside: kudos to Andy for calling out Karen's classic Housewives "non-apology apology" to Charrisse for causing a scene at her party.)

Robyn & Juan 4Ever?

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Next up for discussion is the complicated relationship between Robyn and her ex-husband Juan. Andy presses for details about Robyn's feelings, and she surprisingly admits that she loves Juan but isn't in love with him...yet. However, there's still a chance that they could get remarried. I'll be the first to admit that I'm a little bit obsessed with these two and would be over the moon if they officially got back together. The pair got divorced because of lots of infidelity on Juan's part and Robyn chalks it up, in part, to his being a professional athlete. However, she also admits that they're having sex weekly, so there's still hope for the former lovebirds.

Google, Gossip & That Russell Simmons Blog

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Robyn also addresses the Dixons' financial scandal, explaining that their former best friend stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from them before committing suicide by jumping off a bridge. This was a man who was in the couple's wedding and whom their kids called "uncle." It's just heartbreaking. However, Robyn has a bone to pick with Ashley for Googling and spreading gossip about her financial situation, saying the younger 'Wife had some sort of sick satisfaction in relaying the scandal to Katie. Ashley shoots back that, up to that point, Robyn had been rude and standoffish to her and deflects by pointing out her past financial hardships including being evicted and relying on the food back for groceries. Katie and Gizelle jump in and the conversation devolves into an argument over gossip and finding things online (i.e. Katie's Russell Simmons blog), but none of this excuses Ashley digging for dirt in the first place. 

The Great Racial Divide

rhop-reunion-katie-rost-biracial

Finally, Andy brings up the feud between Gizelle, Robyn and Katie over racial identity that dominated the tail end of the season. Gizelle admits that she may have generalized the stereotypes of black people, but refuses to apologize for it. Katie says she's continually surprised by how obsessed Robyn and Gizelle are about skin color and accuse them of constantly trying to make her feel like she's "not black enough" as a biracial woman. Gizelle explains that she cares about race because, with her father working in the civil rights movement, she had the KKK burning signs in her yard on a weekly basis growing up. She also throws out that Katie made demeaning references to her black heritage at her twins' Jewish naming ceremony, and accuses the model of not being proud of her ancestry. Katie shoots back that Gizelle doesn't know anything about her family heritage and slams her and Robyn for questioning what box her kids will check when they're older. Now officially worked up, Katie calls Gizelle and Robyn "dumb and dumber, " which sets the latter off, eventually calling for Bravo to get security if she gets any angrier.

And with that, the reunion ends until next week! What did you think of Part 1? Are you on Team Katie or Team Gizelle/Robyn in the great race debate? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

RHOP Ssn 1/Ep 3 - What a Little Whiskey Can Do

Glenn Rowley

ashley-darby-whiskey-tasting

As the John Mayer song goes, "Whisky, whiskey, whiskey/cut me off and pour me in the street." This week Potomac was all about that brown liquor. As it turns out, Little Miss Ashley is a fan of the hard stuff when it comes to her alcohol and being three sheets to the wind is the best way to coax an apology out of these etiquette-obsessed 'Wives.

katie-rost-washington-life-magazine-interview

This week's episode starts out with Katie fulfilling her duties as a DC-area socialite by sitting down for an interview with Washington Life Magazine. The former model was the publication's cover girl 10 years prior and they're now interested in doing a catch-up piece on her. Over the course of the interview, Katie reminisces about her career, but keeps her message focused on her work as director of the Ronald F. Rost Foundation - the charitable organization she founded with her mother to honor her late father. As she explains her family's connections to the old money world of D.C. (her mother's family founded black colleges and universities around the U.S.), it's clear that Katie takes her passion for philanthropy seriously and the girl certainly knows how to work an interview. 

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Surprisingly, Karen has asked Gizelle to meet her for a sit-down at Tout de Sweet, a quaint little bakery in downtown Bethesda. Gizelle is understandably wary of the meet-up, considering how her attempt at an olive branch so utterly crashed and burned in the last episode. In fact, both women have shown up in their best combat-themed camouflage. Could this be another rumble? Actually, Karen has called the meeting to apologize to Gizelle for the entire etiquette fiasco - owning up to the fact that her "lighthearted gift" maybe wasn't taken that way. Gizelle graciously accepts the apology, citing Karen's grown woman-ness as one of the reasons she always respected her, and agrees to move forward from the whole mess. As the two women hug it out and laugh about their matching camo, I can't help but breathe a huge sigh of relief that #EtiquetteGate didn't manage to dominate the entire season.

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Later that night, Ashley and Michael meet up with Katie and Andrew for an interracial couples' double date night. Katie was the only 'Wife who really took to Ashley's bubbly enthusiasm when they met at Sip with Socialites and points out in her interview the striking similarities they share. After all, both are proudly biracial women who happen to be involved with successful, older, white men. Over drinks, Katie asks Ashley what she thought of Gizelle and Robyn at the charity event, and the younger 'Wife doesn't exactly hold back as she fills Katie in on Gizelle's "THOT" comment. (Katie acts shocked upon hearing this but wasn't she sitting right next to Gizzy at the time?) Katie deftly changes the subject by asking if Ashley has met grande dame Karen yet, whom Andrew lovingly describes as "haggard," "stuck up," "a trainwreck" and "Gizelle on performance-enhancing bad drugs." With that glowing character reference, Ashley's curiosity is officially piqued and she can't wait to meet the grande dame of Potomac. Cheers to new friends!

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Over at the Dixon home, we get a little more insight into the complicated and unique dynamic between Robyn and her ex-husband Juan. Yes, they are divorced because of some infidelity on his part, but not only do they still live under the same roof, they wake up every morning in the same bed. To make matters even more complicated, Juan is in the midst of being recruited for a basketball coaching job out of state. (After playing for seven seasons in the NBA, he's currently an assistant coach at the University of Maryland.) The prospect of Juan relocating has Robyn wondering what it will mean for their family. The reason they chose to live together was for the good of their two kids, so does that mean Robyn and the boys will move with Juan if he gets the job? In her confessional, Robyn says this is the hardest situation she's been faced with since getting divorced, and I don't envy her. Just thinking about the complications of this dynamic makes my head spin. 

I'm skipping over the scene of Karen taking pictures with her daughter's prom date because sorry, but that's kind of weird. Interracial dating, however, is something I'm all for. 

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To put another twist to the Robyn/Juan fairy tale, Robyn officially decides to sell her wedding dress. With her mom Gladys tagging along, Robyn waltzes into a dress shop called Fabulous Frocks to get a maximum of 60% from the $6700 gown she wore for one day 10 years ago. Weddings are insane, you guys. While the store manager puts together the paperwork, Robyn cheerfully reminisces about her wedding day, which she still calls one of the best days of her life. However, she's ready for the dress to provide an unforgettable memory for another lucky bride, and parts with her dress after taking a requisite "peace out" selfie.

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We finally see Charrisse when she joins Karen to do some shopping for Karen's 17-year-old daughter Rayvin. Karen fills Charrisse in on her meeting with Gizelle, but Charrisse insists she only ever offered Gizelle nothing but hospitality and friendship and isn't looking to fix things any time soon. Right on time, Katie arrives with Ashley in tow to model the bikinis Karen picks out for her darling princess. [Insert "how many 'Wives does it take to dress a teenager" joke here. Also, why exactly can't Rayvin pick out her own swimsuits?] Katie makes the introductions between the other ladies and Ashley, who takes immediately to what she refers to as Karen's "fun, lighthearted, free-spirited vibe." I'm sorry, but are we talking about the same Karen Huger? However, it quickly becomes clear that Ashley really wants to get into this circle of women, immediately inviting Karen to her upcoming whiskey tasting. Sensing an opportunity to dole out her queen bee wisdom, Karen jumps right into lecturing the newbie about how the women have earned their positions in the community and respect gets you into the circle, and sorry but I'm falling asleep at all this pretentiousness. Eventually, Katie and Ashley compete in a walk-off and model a number of bikinis for the older women, and no this isn't weird whatsoever.

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The night of the Ashley Darby Whiskey Tasting rolls around and all of the women (sans Katie) gather in the basement of D.C.'s The Barrel, much to the chagrin of a decked-out Karen and Gizelle - who says she's "Gucci down to [her] socks." Ashley is more than a little excited to show these women her idea of a good time, but even more so, she seems very eager to break into Potomac's exclusive social circle. Once Ashley gives an opening toast and the women start throwing back shots of 120 proof, it becomes clear that this is more of a champagne crowd. However, with a little liquid courage, Gizelle proceeds to address the elephant in the room with Charrisse, whom she hasn't spoken to since the whole "the presence of your face repulses me" debacle. Charrisse insists that there's nothing left to talk about and that she's over it. Robyn and Karen step in to try to mediate the conversation, but it goes nowhere fast - leaving Ashley chuckling over the ladies sniping at each other from across the table.

Meanwhile, Katie is missing out on the whiskey tasting due to a prior commitment - she's attending a party thrown by Washingtonian Magazine to network for the Rost Foundation. Seeing Katie in action proves just how at home she is in the ball and gala scene as she rubs elbows with jazz musicians, magazine publishers and other philanthropists. With Andrew on her arm, she inevitably fields questions from her fellow partygoers about how long they've been together and whether or not they're engaged. In her confessional, Katie explains that the pressure to get married isn't just something she wants, it's almost an expectation in the elite DC social circles she works in. Mid-thirties is simply too old to just be "shacking up" if she wants to take her work with the Rost Foundation to the next level. 

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Back at The Barrel, conversation turns to the tension between Gizelle and Ashley. When Gizelle turns to the younger 'Wife and claims she's glad they could get together, Little Miss Ashley calls her out on the things she said behind her back at Sip with Socialites - particularly the "THOT" comment. Gizelle stands by her opinion, saying that Ashley displayed all kinds of hoe-ish behavior that night. Ashley, on the other hand, disagrees, arguing that hoes have sex with people - did she have sex with Robyn's leg when she was humping her? This 26-year-old definitely knows how to stand up for herself. Gizelle eventually offers an apology for her comment, which somehow prompts Charrisse to stand up, go around the table and offer Gizelle a hug. All beef is officially squashed! As Ashley points out, see what a little whiskey can do?

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Home from the Washingtonian Magazine gala, Katie slips into a silky green negligee and convinces Andrew to attempt braiding her hair in a Fifty Shades of Grey-esque moment. (Andrew botches the braid.) Laying on the bed with a glass of wine, Katie once again brings up the question of marriage, wondering if Andrew is serious about getting her knocked up and putting a ring on it. His response is not exactly what she wants to hear - Andrew claims he wants to be engaged for a long time before marriage, and claims that if Katie hadn't brought it up so much in the last six months, they would already be engaged. Ouch. In her confessional, Katie explains that - being a mom of three kids - if Andrew isn't serious about their future together, it's a problem. It's time to take things seriously, but the episode ends with a forlorn Katie staring blankly at her not-quite-fiancee, wondering what the future holds...

RHOP Ssn 1/Ep 2 - Divas, Queens and Bubalas

Glenn Rowley

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Well, well, well. We're only in week three and it would appear that the ladies of Potomac are already raring full speed ahead with their drama. First thing's first: Ashley Darby made it into the credits this week. I'm not sure what's going on with her fake laugh in the intro, but her tagline ("Throw this spring chicken into the cougars' den and let the games begin") gets points for referencing one of her lines from the season's supertease. On the other hand, by using the animal analogies Ashley seems to be setting herself up as the victim to her cougar castmates, which is not something I'm in love with. Basically her tagline breaks even for me.

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Right away, we jump back into Charrisse's crab boil, where Gizelle is in the red corner and Karen and Charrisse are tag-teaming in the blue corner. Both Karen and Charrisse are angry at Gizelle over her apparent lack of the all-important etiquette - first by taking the center seat at the former's birthday party and then for bringing her hairstylist to the latter's house to help prep for the party. These women are taking themselves way too seriously. #Chairgate was idiotic the first time around in the OC, right? An hour after Karen walks away from their conversation in a huff, Gizelle pulls Charrisse aside to try to clear the air. I have to say, one thing I do not understand is these women referring to each other as their "dear friend." You're clearly not very dear if your entire friendship is crumbling over walking up a flight of stairs. In all their years as friends, Gizelle and Charrisse have never had a problem, but the chat quickly turns sour as Charrisse claims Gizelle's "very cute" hair is anything but. The hostess is still offended by the way Gizelle entered her home, but Gizzy insists that the entire exchange was in jest. Of course, Charrisse doesn't see it that way even though she started with "I'm only letting you in if you're cute." Once Charrisse also walks out on her, Gizelle sees that she's clearly not welcome and makes her exit with Kal in tow. As they make their way out the door, Karen dramatically calls for security, accusing Kal of threatening her, but c'mon honey - he was referring to you being the muscle when he flexed. With that, the first blow-up of the season has come and gone, leaving an unaware Katie and Robyn baffled at the drama.

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The next day, Katie's making some iced tea for a visitor when we learn a very interesting fact about her: not only is Katie biracial, she's also Jewish! The visitor she's waiting for happens to be Rabbi Mark, who's coming over to help plan her twins' informal Hebrew naming ceremony. However, right at the start it's clear that Rabbi Mark isn't there to play, as Katie's joke about being a good or bad Jew falls flat. The rabbi questions what exactly Katie's connections to the Jewish community are, and she explains that her mother converted to Orthodox Judaism when she was just 10 years old - which is when Katie converted too. However, when it comes to other Jewish rituals Katie only really goes to synagogue on the high holidays, much to Rabbi Mark's obvious displeasure. The full-time philanthropist clearly seems to be failing this test on Judaism. Oops.

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Next, we're treated to a really fun lesson on the Huger family dynasty courtesy of Grande Dame Karen. Via confessional, Karen explains that the Huger name is very influential and "elitist" in the community, and when she upgraded from her life on the farm to marry the black Bill Gates, there were certain expectations she had to learn to live up to. These lessons came courtesy of Ray's Aunt Dot, who apparently wrote the Huger family book of etiquette. Rule number 13? Lipton tea must be served piping hot, not this warm drivel that Ray tries to serve her. Once her tea is sufficiently hot, Karen tries to press Aunt Dot into bestowing some pearls of wisdom on 17-year-old Rayvin about the legacy of being a Huger lady, but Aunt Dot will not be put on the spot. I'm sorry, but Karen's pretentious attitude is quickly grating my nerves. 

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Meanwhile, Katie, Gizelle and Robyn arrive at The Graham Georgetown for a Sip with Socialites charity function benefitting the Touching Heart organization. This type of event is socialite Katie's bread and butter, which becomes evident as she starts working the room and is quickly introduced to 26-year-old Ashley Darby, who is hosting the event. The other women, particularly Gizelle, seem threatened by Ashley's giant afro and bubbly personality immediately, even more so when she explains that her husband is 55. This is the Potomac version of Erika Jayne and Tom Girardi, with Gizelle playing the role of LVP by asking about Ashley's sex life. Ashley's response that no, her husband isn't on Viagra and he has a remarkably big...member has Gizelle declaring her to be "THOT-ish." You know, "that hoe over there," which isn't a particularly kind judgement to make after meeting the younger woman for all of two minutes. Once the cocktails have kicked in, Ashley tries to get the party started with some booty-popping music, twerking and humping Robyn's leg. Katie likes Ashley's energy, but Gizelle declares that one thing is clear: this new girl is not from Potomac, Maryland.

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In an attempt to move on from the Gizelle drama and show that she's not just a cold-hearted etiquette snob, Charrisse takes her daughter and her friends to gymnastics class. However, the effort isn't entirely successful as she informs her daughter that she'll be forced to get a summer job and threatens to make the girls walk home if they can't stick their landings. She also manages to bring up Gizelle in her confessional, showing that she's very clearly not over the crab boil yet. I don't know how I feel about Ms. Jackson Jordan yet, but so far the impression she's giving isn't great. 

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On the opposite side of the feud, Gizelle enlists the help of her daughters, Grace and twins Angel and Adore to write letters to Karen and Charrisse. Was I the only one who laughed out loud at Adore's advice about how to handle the situation? ("Not write a letter to them, they're probably mean.") Gizelle's plan to move on from the drama involves inviting her two dear friends to lunch to clear the air and get their relationships back on good standing. Gizelle thinks that she's done her part by writing the letters, but 10-year-old Grace says her mom's part would be to watch her mouth in the future. These girls are full of truth when it comes to conflict resolution. Charrisse's letter gets a pearl of Girl Scouts wisdom from one of the twins: "a circle is round, it has no end, that's how long I want to be your friend." Gizelle uses the letters as a parenting opportunity to ask the girls what lesson they've learned. Their responses? "Always be nice to enemies" and "sometimes your friends can be your worst nightmare," which could never ring more true than in the land of Housewives.

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Ashley finally gets a proper introduction, starting with her condo in Arlington, Virginia, which is about 30 minutes from Potomac. Ashley explains that she's most well-known for being a beauty pageant queen, being crowned Miss D.C. 2011 and competing in the Miss America pageant. Her husband Michael happens to be a prominent real estate developer in the D.C. area. Since Michael is a native Australian, the couple is currently in the process of opening up an Australian-American fusion restaurant. Growing up in a lower-income family, marrying Michael introduced Ashley to a more affluent lifestyle and she's not apologizing for it. Over drinks, she gives Michael a run-down of the Sip with Socialites event, including Gizelle's THOT barb, and explains in her confessional that she's going to work overtime to get these Potomac women to like her. Hmm, ask Danielle Staub how well that went for her. 

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The day of Katie's twins' Hebrew naming ceremony arrives, with Rabbi Mike in charge and Robyn and Gizelle there to support their friend. Katie finally gets points from the rabbi for her Elijah joke and I must say, the entire ceremony was very interesting to me. After the girls receive their Hebrew names, the women move the party outside and conversation turns to the issues of race and religion. Gizelle questions what it must have been life for Katie to be the only black Jew in her congregation, but according to Katie, she was always the only black kid everywhere she went. Robyn asks what box the girls will check in the future, and Katie admits she doesn't know the answer. Yes they're black and yes they're Jewish, so they'll probably go with "other." Katie's all for the idea of creating a new box and rallying to make a change in the system as she explains in her interview that the other women sometimes fail to understand that she identifies as biracial, not just one or the other. Besides, with their blonde hair, light skin and green eyes, Gizelle and Robyn are the ones who constantly have to defend their racial identity, and not in a Rachel Dolezal way. 

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Finally, Gizelle arrives at Capella for her sit-down with Karen and Charrisse, while the pair are driving together to the restaurant and wondering what's about to go down. Both women openly mock Gizelle's letters and it looks as though they'll be showing up to the lunch atop their high horses. Upon their arrival, Karen and Charrisse refuse to appropriately greet Gizelle or even make eye contact with her. High horses was right. Charrisse cuts to the chase immediately, demanding to know why Gizelle has called them to lunch. Gizelle starts with Karen and her birthday dinner, citing that her delivery of the gift at the crab boil came across as passive-aggressive and immature. Karen insists it was a joke (it wasn't), while Gizelle finds Karen's slightly askew wig to be the bigger joke at the table. Charrisse is appalled to discover that Gizelle doesn't think she did anything wrong and Gizelle reiterates that she still doesn't quite understand what Charrisse is upset about. However, the argument goes nowhere fast as it devolves into a round of she said, she said. Gizelle defends Kal as not only her friend but a nationally renowned hairstylist, but when Karen tries to correct her pronunciation of "renowned," all I can think of is how she mispronounced "Popeye" ten seconds earlier. In exasperated rage, (seriously, her "I'm a grown woman" moment was possibly the most immature thing I've seen on Housewives in years), Charrisse excuses herself from the lunch with a diss that the "presence of [Gizelle's] face repulses" her, leaving Karen and Gizelle to hash things out after she storms off. I think Charrisse was trying to go for the first iconic line of the franchise, but it came out a little forced and awkward. 

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Once Charrisse is gone, Karen announces that this is the last time she's extending an olive branch to Gizelle. However, once she finds out that Gizelle's kids helped with the letters, Karen goes on the attack by throwing jabs at Gizelle's parenting and calling her a "hip-hop cliché." Gizelle calls Karen out on not accepting her apology, but the grande dame finds the apology as half-assed and not something of which Aunt Dot would approve. At this point, Karen just starts throwing out insults, calling Gizelle "fake and phony as a $10 bill," "a shell of a woman" and "a lost cause" before walking away from an argument for the second time in two episodes. According to Karen, if Gizelle can't follow her rules of etiquette, there's no place for her in the women's social circle. It looks like these dear friendships are far from being repaired any time soon. However, from my perspective, Gizelle clearly comes out as the winner of this feud. Whose side are you on?

 

RHOP Season 1 Premiere - Mind Your Manners

Glenn Rowley

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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. 

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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...

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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!