Welcome to the Tour Group Travelogue, where I'll be breaking down the weekly adventures on Bravo's brand new show Tour Group! I'm really excited about this show because it's something completely unlike anything else on Bravo. Plus, I'm fascinated and really looking forward to seeing these different parts of the world that the Tour Group will be traveling to and experiencing - from Morocco and Thailand to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. I'm calling this the Tour Group Travelogue because I'll be focusing equal parts on the drama AND the exotic destinations.
Before the adventure truly begins, we're introduced to the three tour guides who will be leading the Travelers around the globe. First up is lead tour guide Brandon Presser, a legitimate travel expert who has visited more than 100 countries and written more than 50 books as a professional nomad. Then there's British beauty queen-turned-adventurer Rachel Grant, a humanitarian with exotic good looks who also happens to be a former Bond Girl. (She was in 2002's Die Another Day with Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry, look it up.) And then we have Sandhurst Miggins, a travel concierge who specializes in all things sensual and seductive. Interesting fact: this is actually Sandhurst's second time in front of the Bravo cameras - the Trinidad & Tobago native was also the runner-up on Season 2 of the network's short-lived modeling competition Make Me a Supermodel back in 2009. This diverse trio is responsible for planning the entire trip, including the travel route and the itinerary in each country the group visits. Based on first impressions, Brandon would definitely be the person I'd want to be my guide on a trip around the world - not only does he seem genuine and kind, but he's clearly an experienced guru when it comes to traveling.
Then we meet our travelers, 11 strangers on route to the trip's first destination. Each member of the group has come on this once-in-a-lifetime trip for different reasons. Cocky financier Jared Levy finds the flashy life he's built as a stock trader unfulfilling, while endearingly attractive and somewhat fratty half-brothers Michael Cook and Steven Roberts have simply never traveled far from their home state of Georgia before. Mixed race couple Jeff and Jetta Bates Vasilatos are coming up on sixteen years of marriage and are finally ready to start living, while recently divorced former model Michelle Harvey is looking to purge her past and start over. Best friends Amy Grice and Heather Marianna (who's coming for Danielle Staub with her 13th engagement) are a pair of divas from Las Vegas who clearly think they're on a permanent Real Housewives vacation, and gay booking agent Jay Ward has left his husband behind in the U.S. to find out who is he solo.
With a mix of such diverse personalities, there's definitely some jockeying for the limelight. Heather and Amy seem like attention-loving party girls, while Michelle appears to have a powder keg of drama inside her. However, it quickly becomes apparent that the stars of the show are likely to be semi-estranged fraternal twins Misty and Jenna Kingma. Due to their polar opposite personalities as well as Misty working as an entertainment reporter in L.A. and Jenna living in NYC, the sisters once-close relationship has faded to the point where they only see each other about once a year.
Coming from all over the U.S., the group of travelers converge on the first destination of their journey: Marrakech, Morocco, where the tour guides are waiting for them. Fun fact - built in the 14th century, the African city is nicknamed the "Red City" because of how much of it was built out of sandstone. And it's not any old Moroccan vacation, either. They'll be staying at the Sahara Palace, a luxurious estate nestled right at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. However, as introductions are made in the grand entry of the palace, the group notices that two people are missing - due to flight delays, Amy and Heather are stuck sipping cocktails in the Las Vegas airport, with their arrival time unknown.
After settling in, the group meets for their very first "family dinner" - complete with foreign, unfamiliar foods and table-side bellydancers. The dinner seems to be going along without a hitch as the travelers further introduce themselves and share their reasons for coming on the trip. However, the first spark of tension occurs when Michelle announces that she's full and ready to go to bed and Jeff jokingly tells her to eat a hamburger. In the past, body shaming a woman in the Bravoverse by telling her to go eat a hamburger hasn't been a smart move...ask Slade Smiley how it worked out for him on Season 8 of RHOC. Following the meal, Jenna announces in her confessional that the one person she thinks she won't like is Jared, whom she describes as a "loudmouth," and the tour guides remain hopefully optimistic that everyone in the group can get along over the course of the trip. Slow down, guys, this is only night one. There's still plenty of time for some interpersonal fireworks.
The next morning, the adventure kicks off as the group gets their first truly culture experience by going to the hammam. What's a hammam, you ask? It's essentially the Moroccan version of a steam bath. If you've ever had the fantasy of being bathed by a complete stranger, a hammam would be the place to do it. Interestingly, the hammam's function isn't just hygiene - it also serves as the social center of Middle Eastern society, a place where you strip down with your friends and spill the tea with each other. The men and women are separated and given two options of going either completely naked or wearing flimsy paper-like thong, which has mixed results among the group: Misty, Jenna, Michelle and Rachel decide to go topless while Jetta opts to cover up in a bathing suit and robe. (Meanwhile, the guys all stick with their thongs and try to avoid getting aroused by the process.)
For a quick second, the nudity situation turns into The Jetta Show, with Jetta hiding her insecurity over the dress code behind a mix of humor and showing off for attention. Michelle is still angry about Jetta's husband's "hamburger" comment from the night before, and chooses to confront Jetta over the apparent double standard of celebrating Jetta's body image while denigrating hers. Michelle brings up the comment, but Jetta quickly dismisses it, insisting that Jeff didn't say anything like that. Once Misty backs Michelle up by maintaining that she heard the hamburger comment as well, Jetta backs down and basically tells Michelle to address it with Jeff himself. After all, Jetta is just trying to have the "Jetta experience" and arguing about something her husband while relaxing in a Moroccan hammam said isn't a part of that plan.
After getting dressed and learning that BFFs Heather and Amy have finally arrived, the group ventures out to explore the medina, which is the oldest part of Marrakech. During the ride to the medina, Michelle seizes the opportunity to confront Jeff over his "hamburger" comment, leaving an anxious-looking Brandon to mediate the first conflict of the trip. With Jetta whispering in his ear, Jeff claims that sometimes things he says come out wrong, but insists that he doesn't remember whether he used the word "hamburger" or not. Either way, Michelle believes she's owed an apology, to which Jetta replies "and that's unfortunate." Yikes. Michelle definitely doesn't get the apology she's looking for and it looks like this could possibly be the start of a brewing feud. Ever the host, Brandon takes the moment to encourage the Travelers to nip any issues in the bud as quickly as possible on the trip, but I'm not predicting that this group gets through six different countries without a bit of drama.
The group arrives at the thousand-year-old medina and Sandhurst starts explaining the basic rules of negotiating with the merchants (always divide the price by four), but honestly all I can think about is whether or not this is the same souk where Sonja Morgan and Cindy Barshop argued over "pecking orders" in Season 4 of RHONY. The souk (the Arabic word for market) is a bustle of activity, its narrow corridors filled with motorcyles, merchants and even donkeys, and the group splits up to haggle over spices, jewelry and other gorgeous Moroccan goods. Brandon brings Michael, Steven and Jared to a bakery in the marketplace where they each pay a single dirham (the equivalent of a U.S. dime) to try the freshly baked bread that will be delivered to all the local restaurants. Meanwhile, Misty gets overwhelmed with culture shock by all the chaos around her and breaks down in tears upon losing track of Jenna. The anxiety makes her so upset that she actually starts crying, and when Jenna remarks that she never cries, Misty fires back that her twin never sees her so she wouldn't know. Yikes, twin tension.
As the sun sets on the medina, the Travelers regroup in Jemaa el-Fnaa, the main square in the heart of Marrakech, to dine on some authentic Moroccan delicacies among the snake charmers, musicians and crowds of people. Rachel encourages Amy, Heather and Michelle to chown down on some sheep's head, eyeballs and tits of the cow, while Brandon takes the rest of the Travelers to try some snails (which apparently taste like mushrooms). In a particularly cute moment, Misty helps Jenna - who's stuck in the routine of eating the same oatmeal, salmon and veggies every day - to eat the snails together in a twin bonding moment.
After finishing that deliciously exotic dinner, the Travelers head back to the Sahara Palace for the night. While Rachel watches some mating toads and Michelle Facetimes her 11-year-old son back home, Jenna and Misty rehash the days events. Out of nowhere, Jared sits down and gives Misty a gift, telling her he noticed when she got upset and overwhelmed at the souk. Misty's face lights up as she unwraps the gorgeous Moroccan candle holders Jared haggled over for her and Jared explains in his interview that he felt a genuine moment of connection with her. As he walks away, Jenna tells her twin that she takes back what she said about the playboy being her least favorite member of the group. Hmm...
The next morning, Jared strolls over to the pool to interrupt Jenna's a.m. swim. It turns out that Jenna found a note in her suitcase the night before from her boyfriend of four years basically breaking up with her. After she tearfully confides in Jared about what the note means, he turns the conversation by asking just how close she and her sister are. Jenna explains that it's a complicated dynamic after living for so long on opposite ends of the country. In one way, she feels Misty knows her very well, but in another way she doesn't know the person Jenna has become in their time apart from each other. Jenna claims that she's the more emotional twin, to which Jared gleefully replies that he wears his heart on his sleeve as well. In his confessional, Jared admits that initially (meaning the literal night before) he felt a vibe with Misty, but with news of Jenna's newly-single status, his sights may be shifting to the other sister. Just like that, the twin love triangle has been born and with the hint of romantic tension lingering in the air, the premiere is over! Next week, the Travelers head to Kenya!
What did you think of the first episode of Tour Group? Have you added Morocco to your travel bucket list yet?