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'Vanilla' Rhymes With 'Anguilla?'
My weekly RHONY recap
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I try to stay away from television because it’s hard for me not to go overboard and incorporate whatever I’m watching into my personality. One show that takes up significant real estate in my spirit is Drag Race. In that series, there’s a common trope, one fans regard with affection, humor, and maybe a little exasperation: the scene where a queen is putting on their makeup before the runway and decides to lay out their tragic backstory to the world.
It’s not that people are minimizing the queen’s pain, more that we are all aware, at this point, that it’s a play by production to get some heartwarming, Emmy-winning anecdotes out of their cast. Kelly Mantle, one of Oklahoma’s finest exports, has a funny aside about this.
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That’s kind of like what this episode of RHONY was for me. There was a lot of emotional baggage. Multiple emotional suitcases were unzipped and held upside down, their contents strewn about the floor of the villa in Anguilla. I hope this doesn’t come across as callous, but I’m a little over it. I’d like to have a bit more fun. I assume that’s why rich people go to tropical islands.
Before we get into the meat of this episode, though, I’d like to address some interesting metatextual content. For one, Jenna Lyons just did a huge feature with The Cut (longtime friend and syndicator of ¡Hola Papi!). In it, she recounts some advice she gave to Erin Lichy in the group chat as the latter was facing backlash for her Trump support:
“Her advice to Lichy, in the group chat the women keep and to which Lyons doesn’t often contribute, was to wait it out. ‘You are not big enough to hold the news for that long,’ Lyons told her.”
New intrusive thought just dropped: “You are not big enough to hold the news for that long.” I screamed. That’s the Jenna I need more of on the show!
For two, I may or may not have been casually referred to as a “Twitter bully” by one Brynn Whitfield, whom I love, by the way, but whose ire I might have attracted by quote-tweeting a post from “Queens of Bravo” that contained her CV. It listed a career highlight of “working on the BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Spill,” which, to me, is worded in such a way that it makes it sound like a then 23-year-old Brynn was working on the side of the oil spill.
After the ensuing (albeit minor) dustup on social media, Ms. Whitfield then clapped back at her Twitter opps on Instagram.
Have I made it as a RHONY recapper? Am I being clapped back upon? Am I a hater being put in my place? Is John Paul Brammer a bully? One can only hope, though I doubt any of these women are aware of my existence.
Either way, I do think it’s weird that RHONY has given us some professional context for every Housewife except Brynn, and we are only left to guess at what it is “she does.” So I get her frustration, though I would say that if people thought I was some sort of glamorous high-end escort, I wouldn’t correct them in quite this way.
But maybe that’s just me being a man. It must suck being a woman with a career and not getting recognized for your work. Still… the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill?
Love you either way, Brynn.
Alright, with all that out of the way, we can finally join the women in the Werk Room for this episode titled “Nothing Vanilla About Anguilla,” a title I hate with my life, and hear some more about their childhoods. Fun!
Right out the gate, Ubah supplies me with an incredible moment that had me doubled over for some reason. Something smells like weed in the car on their way to dinner, to which Ubah says, “I think it’s a raccoon.” She is corrected by the women. “You mean skunk.” But she continues, trailing off and speaking to herself, “The poor raccoon…” I don’t know why this tickled me so much, but it did. “The poor raccoon…” I’m going to start saying that.
We get to dinner, which, as always, is an opportunity for Sai to remind us that her schtick is being hungry and eating food. Really interesting. Great recurring trait. Billions can relate, I’m sure. It’s here that we revisit the touchy subject of Brynn flirting with Abe at Erin’s boring anniversary party, sponsored by the Sith. Jessel, admiring the fashions present at the table, says they should do a dress swap, but not a wife swap, before looking at Brynn.
This prompts Ubah to ask the other women if they would be mad if Brynn had flirted with their husbands. Sai places herself above it all (she hasn’t eaten anything yet, so maybe she’s out of gas) while Jessel says it would depend on who was doing the flirting, but Ubah calls BS. I loved Ubah stirring this pot. I love when Ubah does stuff.
It all ends with a truce between Erin and Brynn, restoring balance to the Force, but then we get to rehash “business class-gate” with Jenna, who is called out for being too guarded and not sharing enough of herself with her fellow Housewives.
I don’t know if this is a hot take or if it’s my Jenna bias showing, but I guess I feel like I do know a lot about Jenna from the show? I know what specific illness her mom had and I know about her genetic disorder and I know the name on her birth certificate. I’m not sure what else they want. I guess they’ll just have to check out the Jenna Lyons memoir that is surely being ghostwritten as we speak (if it’s not, Jenna, please contact me via SquareSpace).
Regardless, it seems that, for this group of women, sharing intimate details about your life is the way to bond, which is why they turn to Jessel next and ask her to share her story, prompting her to dispassionately list off her Wikipedia page. I stanned this. The only thing that would have been better is if she had just been like, “Yeah, no, pretty normal over here. Regular childhood. Nothing to report.”
It was odd to me that she was mocked for sharing her family’s story of migration and, later, accused of embellishing it to make it sound more tragic. You guys asked! You can’t demand someone’s backstory then dismiss it once you get it. I think it’s rude. And, sure, Jessel probably added flair to it. But, speaking as a Mexican-American who grew up with brown grandparents, I believe that’s an immigrant’s right. You get to lie a little!
The episode veers toward a close with Brynn sharing about her dating life and getting her eggs frozen. She said that the professionals told her she should get an embryo frozen instead, and asked her if she had anyone in mind. Brynn said she went through her phone looking for options, which I took as a fun little joke, but Erin, for some reason, states that she doesn’t believe her.
When Brynn is understandably upset at this, Erin says, and I shit you not, that Brynn is being sensitive. Now, Erin… Didn’t we just do an entire anime arc with you where you swore revenge on Brynn for joking around with your husband? I don’t think “stop being sensitive” is a card you get to play!
Oh, side note, we also find out in this episode that Erin is 35, which floored me. Really? She’s 35? Don’t get me wrong, she looks great, but energy-wise, she is deeply 43. Points to her for listening to ABBA though.
The episode ends with a touching moment between Erin and Brynn in Erin’s bathroom. The two kiss and make up, but it’s clear that this trip to Anguilla is just getting started in the “drama” department. I’m still waiting for Erin to show up in the parrot outfit that was promised to me in the preview last episode, but, fine.
And now, for the power rankings. To bring it back to Drag Race, you know how sometimes a queen will lip sync for their life, then break down in tears and share some deeply sad story, and RuPaul will roll her eyes and be like, “Fine, fine, no one is going home tonight?”
That’s me this week. I’m RuPaul announcing that everyone is safe because, well, I feel bad. I’m arranging this week’s ranking by alphabetical order. But just this once. No more trauma dumping on me. I better see Erin in a parrot costume saying unforgivable things to her friends next week.
Oh, one last thing. Ubah said something really beautiful in this episode on the subject of Sai becoming a “smotherer” with her kids after growing up with a mom who didn’t show any affection. “I think sometimes we are something we didn’t have,” she says. Wow!
“Whitfield’s career highlights include: working on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.” - Brynn Whitfield, via her CV
“White Ass Pussy?” - Erin Lichy, 35
“Latinx.” - Jenna Lyons
“I hope the ashes are in an Hermes bag or a Chanel bag. You wouldn’t want that to be Target or Wal-Mart.” - Jessel Taank, on the vessel of Sai’s mother’s remains.
Sai de Silva
“My mother’s ashes are in a shopping bag in my closet.” - Sai de Silva
“We need Jessel to do PR for Africa.” - Ubah Hassan
See you next week!