Whose house is THAT?: D.C. "Housewives" recap and fact-check (#2, Aug. 12)
Welcome back to "The Real Housewives of D.C." -- the episode where people get mildly offended at awkward dinner parties -- and our annotated recap and fact-checking of what you saw on TV.
It begins with a brief rehash of where we left off last week: Stacie Turner shooting withering looks as Cat Ommanney mouths off about Tyra Banks and President Obama. Mary Amons tells the camera that "There are some social etiquette rules in Washington: You try not to let politics get personal." (Really? In my experience, I've found people in D.C., more so than most places, are quite excited to get into a political debate at dinner -- and they take it all VERY personally. I think Mary and Lynda, though, have been nudged by producers to turn everything into a Statement About Washington.) Stacie tells the camera that Cat is "very brash and I find that borderline rude. I am not a fan." (Drama! In fact, those who saw them at the press tour events report that everyone seems pretty chummy in real life now. Going through the reality TV wringer together is probably a bonding experience.)
Next, we're with Tareq and Michaele Salahi at a many-gabled mini-mansion in the country somewhere. (What is this place? It is clearly not their modest Front Royal home, where they feuded with the homeowner's association. An on-again off-again friend of the couple tells us it's a home in Hume, Va., near the Salahis' Oasis Winery that the Salahis borrowed for the television shoot.) It's Michaele's birthday. "People think I'm in my thirties," she says. "I'm 44!" (True.) A small silent gentleman has unpacked the contents of a small boutique in the living room; Tareq tells her she can pick whatever she wants. (How are they paying for this? Read our investigation into the Salahis' finances; seems they're not paying for much.) Also (no joke), she gets a pony for her birthday. She names it "Sparkle." (Don't know what to tell you. In our exhaustive investigations into the Salahis, we never came across Sparkle -- not in the bankruptcy filings or debtor complaints or federal subpoenas. Should we start calling the glue factories?)
Back with Lynda Erkiletian in Georgetown, and her assistant K.C., also her son's girlfriend. They're examining real estate listings for suburban mini-mansions. "The apartment just isn't big enough for my family and all their friends," she explains. (Lynda sold her Ritz-Carlton condo last fall for $5.3 million and moved to a $2 million place in McLean, Va..)
Mary Amons, out in McLean. We meet her maid, Rosa, to whom Mary speaks Spanglish. It falls upon Rosa to vacuum the dog hair from 23-year-old daughter Lolly's Burmese mountain dog. "It's been a little stressful," Mary says. Lots of quirky music around the dog's antics, but there's not much happening in this scene. A brief scene with Cat and her darling little girls being snarky about the Salahis in their darling little accents. And then cut to Leopold's, in Georgetown's Cady's Alley, where Cat and Mary are meeting on a sunny day. (How did we recognize it was Leopold's? Because the rule in reality TV seems to be that your stars can never shoot a scene in a restaurant that doesn't first begin with a lingering shot of the restaurant's name at the front door. Just TV's way of saying "thanks!") Cat has agreed to go horseback riding with Michaele, and Mary agrees to join. "I grew up riding," Mary says. It seems that Leopold's is where Lolly is working these days, and Mary confides to Cat about how ever since Lolly moved back home, it's been kind of a pain cleaning up after her dog. So as soon as Lolly comes back to the table, Cat busts her chops a bit. Mary pays the bill, and Cat raises an eyebrow at the tip she's left her daughter. "Leave her a tip like that, she'll walk over you for the rest of her life." (Oooh, drama!)
Michaele reappears at Paul Wharton's apartment. (An exposed-brick converted schoolhouse on Capitol Hill, where he really lives.) His hair is wavy today. Time to start planning Paul's birthday party, Michaele says, "Who should we invite?" Paul lights up: "You know what's more fun? Who do we NOT invite!" (Let's take a moment to talk about Paul, who was crafted in a laboratory for the purpose of one day being the perfect Bravo reality star. Last week, I cited his epic MetroWeekly interview, in which he explained how annoyed he gets when people call him a "stylist." In that same story, he takes credit for advising Bravo on whom to cast, and also for keeping the gears of the plot in motion. "I really understand TV... You need to get something on camera. With the women having no experience in television, they were all hair and makeup, but then it's like, 'Oh, yeah, so I took little Johnny to soccer practice... Oh, and my husband Bill came home and I told him, "Only one martini tonight, Bill."' Ugh. Boring, boring, [expletive] boring! I'm like, 'Bill's been looking really good nowadays, what's going on with him? Oh, he's been staying at work late?' You know. My intention wasn't to stir things up between people. It was to help create some storylines." Again and again, you can see Paul trying to do this on "Housewives.")
Back at Stacie's house, she tells her husband Jason that she's going to have people over to dinner AGAIN. But this time, she's going to have them to her Aunt Frances's house. "Lord have mercy," says Jason. "They are going to see a downhome black family Sunday-style dinner," she says. Who to invite? Why of course her new best friends, all-the-Housewives-except-Michaele. (Let's hope Aunt Frances gets something out of Bravo for this.)
Mary drives Cat through Tyson's Corner and stars talking about her grandfather. (Remember? Did she tell you? Her grandfather was Arthur Godfrey.) "My grandfather had an option to buy all of this land," she says, "and he passed it up because he didn't want to be so close to the city." (And he didn't even know about the Silver Line then!) They arrive at the Salahis' alleged country home to find the couple sitting on directors' chairs atop a crimson rug by the riding ring, a magisterial pose like Phil Keoghan welcoming the "Amazing Race" contestants to their pit stop. Cat and Mary are all, like, Uh oh, Michaele's wearing jodhpurs, and we're in jeans. Michaele tells the cameras that she needs to "look the part" of a rider's wife (Is this yet another of those rules-of-Washington they're always divulging on this show?). Tareq explains that she even wore jodhpurs "when we played against Prince Charles, [though she was] just cheering us on from the sidelines." (He really did once play polo against Prince Charles, a photo-op that impressed friends and business acquaintances for years to come. More recently, he alienated some supporters and customers who say he promised to deliver Charles to the 2007 America's Polo Cup event.) Cat and Mary get an awkward polo tutorial. Quirky-jerky music as everyone bumbles around less than hilariously. To cap off the day, Tareq makes a big show of bringing out glasses of "barrel-fermented chardonnay" -- Oasis wine, he says. Except that after one sip -- hey, that's beer! Michaele tells the camera: "The barn doesn't hold a lot of wine: We'd have had to drive up to the house." (Unmentioned: That Oasis Winery is shuttered these days amid bruising intra-family litigation and is running out of wine.)
Michaele visits sleek D.C. nightspot The Park at Fourteenth to plan Paul's birthday party. (The Park was opened by D.C. nighlight impresario Marc Barnes, of the better-known Love nightclub, but their company has recently filed for bankruptcy protection). Also along for planning are Paul's publicist (!) Charlotte and his pal Mary. Kudos to the show's editors for pulling off a brisk sequence of catty faux-drama: Cutaway to Lynda explaining how she threw an intimate dinner party for Paul's 30th birthday, Charlotte telling the group how Lynda's party was "incredibly classy," and Michaele undermining the two by saying that Paul "felt he was cut off" because he wasn't allowed to invite more guests. How many for this one? "How many can you hold?" (Paul, did you engineer this?)
Everyone (except Michaele) gets ready for a southern soul-food dinner with Aunt Frances, Stacie's godmother, who she says stepped in to help after her own mother died. Lynda brings Ebong, her strapping, younger African-American boyfriend (more about Ebong Eka). Says Stacie: "They were like, Lynda, you go, girl!" Mary wears a Burberry wrap and brings her husband Rich. Paul wears his hair in a loose frizzy ponytail. (I think this is my favorite style for him.) Cat shows up solo and (seemingly) immediately asks for a drink (when seemingly none has been offered, but maybe that's the editing). Then she complains that the wine has gone bad. (Mwa-MWAH! Do we really need Lynda's voice over explanation that this is impolite?)
Rich and Ebong retreat to the basement for some guy talk with Jason. Awkward, producer-prompted chit-chat, which leads to Jason seemingly blurting out the revelation we've waited an entire episode and a half for. "I'm very excited about something I've been working on for several years... It's called the penile volumetric measuring device." (Yeah! We told you about Jason Turner's surprising patent, didn't we? Told you it would have to come up in the plot.) It's catalyst for the episode's only sparkling dialogue (prepared as it may be). Says Rich: "Is this where the white guy leaves the conversation?" Says Jason: "I think I've got something that could be really huge!" Heheheheheheh. Ebong tells the camera, "I'm not going to buy one... I'm not going to measure it. You can ask Lynda what she thinks." Heheheheheheh. Man, that was juvenile.
At dinner, Lynda shows her southern-girl credentials by bragging about how she recycles her Crisco. Cat seems uncomfortable and everyone notices. She leaves early. Everyone talks about how rude this was. Stacie thinks "it's a race thing." Paul says, "Cat just can't connect." At a suite in the Four Seasons, Paul is getting his hair flat-ironed for the party. (I like how reality TV pulls back the curtain now and then.) He casts frustrated looks at a cellphone and explains he's been unable to reach Michaele, who had asked him to meet her there. "When Lynda threw me the party, she was there the entire time." (Paul, you devil, bless you for keeping this thing on track.)
Brief scene with Lynda at work with another assistant, Robin, casting a critical eye on some modeling portfolios. "The agency is going though a very difficult time in terms of the economy," she says, explaining that the "industry is down by 38 percent.... But it always comes back."
The birthday party at The Park. It all looks very nice on TV, and pleasantly uncrowded. (We wrote about this at the time: Widely circulated Facebook invitations drew hundreds of distant acquaintances and strangers from afar to the Oct. 22, 2009 event, which was well understood to be a "Housewives" affair. Guests reported unhappy throngs - a very "bridge and tunnel crowd" sniffed one - trying desperately to angle for the cash bar or the cameras or any sight of the not-yet-famous Housewives, who were isolated in a camera-filled dining room upstairs. It was a made-for-TV party.)
Guess who's not there yet? Michaele and Tareq. More D.C. travelogue voiceover from Lynda: "Washington D.C., has a special etiquette: As a host or hostess, you are responsible for taking care of your guests." (Hear that, Heartland? Or is it you heathens in NYC-LA whose quaint custom it is to invite people over and then ignore them? Anyway, that's NOT how we do it in the 202!) Well, then, who should pull up in a white stretch limo -- and what appears to be a police escort, a 3rd District squad car with flashing lights -- but the Salahis. (UPDATED 8/16: What a mess! Of course, we had to ask MPD about this, which triggered an internal investigation -- one of the rules of Washington and, well, everywhere, is that ordinary civilians are not given police escorts to parties. After all that, Half Yard Productions corrected matters Sunday by reviewing their raw footage and determining that the MPD car was wrongly edited into the show -- that it was actually a U.S. Park Police car. A Park Police rep declined to comment immediately until he could review footage himself. ) She's in a sparkly dress and white fur. Says Lynda in voiceover: "I think of that as being ostentatious, especially when they haven't been paying their bills!" (Unclear if Lynda was on to them already last fall, or if these voiceovers were taped after our stories on how the Salahis hadn't been paying their bills.)
The dinner table includes Charles Ommanney, the Newsweek photographer and then-new husband of Cat, whom we haven't seen much of. Cat mulls whether she had offended Stacie at Aunt Frances's dinner. Lynda quizzes Charles about his work at the White House. He speaks up for George Bush, saying that while " ninety five percent of people" he meets tell him they think W. was an idiot, "he was absolutely in charge behind the scenes... His public persona was a disaster." Presumably because of Charles's British accent, the producers charmingly help us out here by giving him subtitles. Then Tareq and Michaele get up to give a showy toast, and Lynda mulls that "Washington is not a place that responds well to showy people." (True. We just put them on TV, is all.) And then Tareq warns, "we are going to saberage a bottle of champagne" - which means, to uncork a bottle with a sabre, or sword. (Believe it or not, this is incredibly easy to do - even a child could do it, though no, for goodness sake, DON'T LET THEM! I will heartily agree with Tareq, though, that this an awesome and effective party trick, or at least it was until he did it on TV, which has probably ruined it for all of us.) Pop! Lynda complains that the cork hit her in the ass. (Her words!)
Dinner over, Lynda and Michaele get into it, seemingly out of nowhere. Are there really good Virginia wines, Lynda asks the Salahis. The editors insert one of those hollow "boom" noises. "Tell me the truth, we can't compete with California. That's why I'm drinking scotch." Then they start fussing with each other over Lynda telling Paul that Michaele is too thin (a controversy I can't believe has not only sustained us over two full episodes but also spilled over into alleged real life.) Michaele fixes Lynda with the triumphantly brittle ironic smile we saw during the Salahis' tension-filled interview with Carol Joynt in June. Paul, in voice over warns that "if Lynda Erkiletian has it out for you," then watch out.
Previews: The Turners fly off to Paris where "Jason's brother has the number-one single," and we see him in concert. (We told you about this last fall; didn't know the Salahis would go along as well.) Charles Ommanney says something to Cat about "where does the swanning-around come into my life?" (And, oh dear, are we actually going to see a marriage fall apart on TV? Was under the impression they broke up after the taping.)
So, who won this round? Paul, easily, with Rich and Jason tied for second. Sorry, ladies. But now you want to learn how to saberage, right? Here's a useful but pretentious tutorial. However, I prefer this guy. The candor with which he welcomes us into his home -- and shows that you don't need a sabre, a simple kitchen knife will do -- makes me think we've got the next Real Househusband of Lincoln, Nebraska, right here.
Check out our guide to all things D.C. "Housewives": Read episode recaps, see photos of the cast, watch video clips and much more. Visit washingtonpost.com/realhousewivesdc.
The Reliable Source
August 13, 2010; 10:30 AM ET
Categories: Housewives recaps , Real Housewives of D.C.
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