Real Housewives of D.C.: Give Me ShelterS

Last night we thought it was the finale, but we were wrong. It was just another episode full of the typical horrors. But vaguely interesting horrors. Good lord, are we starting to like this show?

OK, "like" is a strong word. There is little to no "liking" here. Mainly there is... some small, very small, bit of amusement. There were moments last night when I tipped my wine glass toward the TV and quietly murmured "Good show, old boy, good show indeed." Mostly because these harridans are just so goddamn off the rails insane that it's become something of a fun sport, betting on which one of them will fall down an old mine shaft and die first. My vote is on all of them! Yup, spreading my money out, really making I sure I don't get screwed on this one. Next week's visit to the abandoned copper mine looks promising! (Ohhh don't you wish they were going to visit an abandoned copper mine next week?)

Anyway. I didn't HATE this episode, but I do kinda hate having to write long recaps on sunny Fridays, so let's do this thang real quick-style, with a listicle. Starting... NOW.

Cat
There is really nothing funny to say about Cat's situation last night. She got a terrible phone call informing her that a friend of hers back in the UK had committed suicide and, obviously, she was broken up about it all episode. From an insensitive, TV-watcher perspective, I'll say that it was nice to see that she isn't quite the inhuman monster we had suspected her of being. But, yeah, that's a really insensitive TV-watcher thing to say. There was nothing nice about this. It was sad. That's all.

Lynda
Oh gosh, Lynda. What a mutant. Remember how Lynda is so boring? Do you remember that? You might not actually, because her boring is a kind of boring that is so boring that you forget about how boring she is, until you watch her on a TV show again and you're like "Why am I watching this?? She's so boring!" It's a full, deceptive boring, Lynda Urkelitian's. As an Urkelitian — an offshoot of Tgifism, a cult formed around worship of ABC's 1990s Friday lineup — Lynda believes in spirits and spooks and various house monsters. And remember how she's moving into a new pile of bricks? (No, of course you don't remember! Because it was so boring!) It's actually quite literally a pile of bricks. It's a huge boxy brick house that no one, not even Lynda, likes. But live there she must, so she must do some Urkelitian chants and incense burning to cleanse the house of bad (or good) juju. So she had Mary and another lady over to the house and she handed them little bundles of sage and she said: "We're gonna burn these mothers down," and she got out her freebasing lighter (THIS IS A JOKE, LYNDA DOES NOT FREEBASE COCAINE OR ANYTHING ELSE) and lit those fuckers on fire and she said "OK? Ready? Let's get cleansing!" And then she sang "Naaaaaaants ingonyamaaaaaa bagithi babaaaaaa" and began running around her house with her flaming sage-torch. She yelled "Out spirits! Get thee gone, ghouls! Get your feet off the furniture, pudgy sons! Get out of Mary's closet, apparently everyone!" She ran all over the house yelling such things, while Mary stood with her smoldering herb spliff and was just like "Um... whatever...ghosts... just... don't... anymore..." Lynda then brought everyone outside and explained to us her conversion to Judaism. Then, like so many good Jews, she busted out the holy water. Jews just love holy water. They love holy water almost as much as they love going to church on Sundays, those rascally Jews. Obviously Lynda's faith is Judaism infused with Yorùbán myth cycles and astrology she reads in the supermarket checkout line. It's a mix, it's an American melting pot of bullshit. But, whatever. She poured out the holy water onto the lawn, sacrificed an adolescent boy (SHE DID NOT DO THIS, NO MURDER WHATSOEVER, LYNDA DOES NOT COMMIT CRIMES OF ANY KIND), and then stood, her eyes closed, her house fully blessed. Well, not quite. After a moment Lynda smelled smoke and she opened her eyes and there were flames licking out of the windows of her brand new house. "What the Mithra?" she sputtered. Mary made a farting puppy dog face. "I think I left my hot-hot stick on the counter." Oh well. Later in the episode Lynda met with the trainer of Obama's dog and said that she wanted a dog because she was worried about safety, now that she was living in the mean streets of McLean, VA. MLVA, mothafucka. Murdertown. You will get straight SHOT in that town, just for walking the wrong way down the avenue on a Tuesday. McLean is famous for its gangland street violence, what with congressmen's wives packing MAC-10s and kids home from boarding school having shiv fights in alleyways. That shit is ferocious. I agree, Lynda. You need a dog and probably also some sort of enormous gun to keep intruders away. The gun will come later, I'm sure, but for now a German Shepherd will do, one of those charming dogs that is horrible and nasty to everyone but its owner. Yay, who doesn't love those fucking dogs. Lynda then made a joke about never wanting to get married again and too bad you can't train men and everyone was like "Oh, gosh, this joke-a-day tearaway calendar is all wrong. It's not 2010, it's 1989. And I'm not at home, I'm at a comedy club with a brick wall. Gee." Anyway. Lynda. Wait, what did Lynda do this episode? I already forgot. Oh well.

Stacie
Poor Stacie. Stacie went to work for the Salahis this episode. Ha, no, she wasn't hired to dispose of a rotting old lady corpse (Tareq would never get rid of Mother-dear!). She was hired to help find them a house. Because she is a real estate agent, like every other person on these shows. So Stacie had to meet with them and they were all "Oh hi, why don't you come see us, we're in the Grand Master Emperor Suite at the Four Seasons." And Stacie was all "OK..." So she went and it was really funny because Bravo was clearly forced to show like ten different shots of the suite, because obviously that's the only way it was comped, which is obviously the only way Tareq and Michaele could afford to stay there. Haha, they are poor. Stacie knows this! She's been to that haunted vineyard of horrors, she knows what's going on there. That thing obviously hasn't been operational, let alone done business, in 80 years. When she was there, Stacie had seen an old black & white photograph of Tareq hanging on the wall, the only decoration, frame all dusty. In it he's younger, skinnier, standing by a Model T with a glass of wine and written beneath the picture in slanting cursive is "Tareq, getting fat, w/ Virginia Bordeaux, July 1919." Mother-dear had taken that photo 81 years ago. And yet there Tareq was now... Just like a regular person...

Anyway! Stacie tried not to concern herself with such scary things. She wanted to focus on the present. So she asked the twins: Guys, what kind of house do you want? "Not historical. Modern," Michaele said, she'd had quite enough of creepy old houses, thank you. "We want a city house. For entertaining. It must be able to fit 250 people at all times," Tareq said, reasonably. Stacie gulped, fondling the small Derringer in her purse. "OK... And, uh, what's your budget?" Michaele's eyes glassed over and somewhere a long, single cello note began to play. "See, it could be a hundred thousand dollar house. Or a twelve million dollar house. It's really just going to be what suits us." Right, OK. That's how proper adults do real estate wheelings and dealings. To really drive this point home, Tareq nodded his head and said "Our limit is... eight." This was supposed to make us think of eight million, because that's what Tareq wanted us to think, because this whole thing was staged to make them appear rich, which is creepy and sad. But what it actually meant was eight dollars. At the moment, Tareq and Michaele had eight dollars to spend on a house. Do you think that's realistic, Stacie? Will you be able to help us out? Stacie never should have taken this job.

Mary
Oh heavens, does anyone really care about Mary? There is definitively not something about Mary. There is nothing about Mary. Not a thing. Ha, you know what her big plot was this episode? Well, I'll tell you. As we know, all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way, and Mary's way is that people keep going into her closet. To, what? Have sex with their skeezy boyfriends? Masturbate with wild abandon? Freebase cocaine? (Stay outta there, Lynda! Just kidding!) No, to borrow clothes. Just, y'know, "Oh mom's sweater is nice, Ima take it." I guess this probably doesn't happen all that often with most girls and their mothers because most moms dress like moms and not hip and cool. Mary does not dress hip or cool, but I guess maybe her daughter thinks she does, because Mary is terribly traumatized by how often the girl goes into her closet. She can't stop talking about it! This is really her big issue. Clothes. Fucking clothes. That's it! Oh poor you! Poor Mary! Poor baby Mary. Do you think people talk about her in hushed tones at parties? "Hey, have you heard from Thora lately?" "Oh gosh, you know I haven't. It's been months. Last I heard, well I heard this from Melinda who I saw at racquetball the other day, Thora's son, Bryce, he's back on the drugs." "No! He was doing so well!" "Yup. Sad thing. Really sad thing." "Oh that reminds me! Have you heard about Mary? Her daughter... won't stop borrowing her clothes." "HOLY FUCK, ARE YOU SERIOUS?? Sorry. Sorry. That just... That's shocking. And terrible. Oh god. How awful for her." I mean, is that how Mary thinks it goes down? She's gone so far as to put a fingerprint lock on her closet door. "Biometric" she calls it. Just so everyone won't get at her clothes. "Stop touching my stuff!" Mary whines. "Stooooppp it!" Good job being a grownup, Mary. Excellent job on that one.

Tareq & Michaele
Speaking of grownups. So Stacie was going to show them houses that they had no intention of actually buying and they were just so excited about it. But there was one little problem. Stacie had said that she'd need to confirm assets, which is typical when looking at such expensive real estate. Tareq's face darkened for a second, but then he put on his Tareq smile again and nodded briskly and said "Yup. Yup. We can do that." Stacie was suspicious, naturally. We were all suspicious. OK, star wipe, and we're at another scene. This time it's a limo and Stacie and the two Aristobats are there all giddy and excited to see houses they will never buy. "As long as the viewers at home think we can afford these mansions, it's almost like we really can," Michaele thinks to herself. Stacie informed us that they never got back to her about the assets thing, which ha ha. So she's in the limo and prods them again. "So the income is coming from... the vineyard?" Tareq nods stiffly. "OK... um... well, is it true that your mother sued you?" Tareq nods again. "Yes, most of the rumors about us are true. Mother did sue us for a time." Most of the rumors about you are true??? Horrifying thing to have to say. Just horrifying. So Stacie was scared and mad and whatever else you can be in their presence and the limo drove on. They were in a neighborhood called Thistlebird Alley or some bullshit, and these houses were big. Huge stone compounds with elaborate gate work and foreign flags flying from cupolas and whatnot. At one point Tareq and Michaele saw one, the biggest one, a mini Schoenbrun made of travertine and marble, and they oohed and ahhhed and Michaele said "What about that one???", like a six-year-old. "Can't we live in a castle? Why can't we live in a castle??" Stacie took a deep breath and said "No...uh, that's like a twenty-five million dollar house." And Michaele's face fell. She almost turned to Tareq and said "Honey can we afford that?" but the game wasn't even fun anymore. Boo. Why couldn't she live in a castle? When she was a girl her father had taken her once to Newport, to a classical music concert at one of the mansions, at the Breakers. And the music had been lovely, something with cello, and all the doors were open and a summer breeze was drifting through the whole house and Michaele knew then. That's what she'd want forever. And now sixty years later she's in a ratty white limo with the man who promised he'd take her there and she's looking at the mansion of her dreams and she knows that she can't afford it, knows that she will never afford it. And she wonders how many times a heart can break before you can't fix it anymore.

So that happened. To console themselves, Tareq and Michaele shuffled off to the vineyard, so relax in the country, to breathe the clean air, to roll out sleeping bags and make camp somewhere under the eaves, because they didn't have anywhere to stay for the night. Things like that. So they got there and they relaxed and they drank a little wine and it was actually nice. Things were really OK. Things were going gr— Wait, what's that? Do you hear that? Oh, good, look. It's a fleet of police cars. Yes, on last night's episode we got to witness Tareq's mother call the whole police squad of Prairie Dicks, VA or wherever the hell they are over to her vineyard to arrest her son. Well, ha, of course we didn't actually see Mother make the phone call. Because corpses can't dial telephones. Tareq just crept out when Michaele wasn't paying attention — lost in an oceany haze of Newport memories — and put on his horrifying old lady voice and said "Yes, constable? My boy Tareq is here at the grape farm and he's rattling around in the shed with that hairless cat of his he calls a wife, and I don't like his grubby little sausage fingers touching all my father's tools. There's a set of pliers in there that he used to pull out a Chinaman's fillings during the Crimean War! I can't have that toady little boy in there messing about with my things. So, bring the paddywagon around and take him to jail, please. There's a jar of milk-sours in it for you if you do it quickly." Of course the "constable" knew this was just crazy old Tareq doing his lady-voice, but he and Deputy Jenkins were bored and they heard there was teevee cameras up there on that creepy old place on the hill, so they'd go have a looksee.

And it was just so sad and dumpy. The whole thing. Tareq shambling out to talk to the police. "Heh heh, no problem, no problem. Mother again! That darn Mother!" And then Michaele finally losing her veneer of upbeatness and letting us see her cry. Only we realized slowly that she wasn't crying because she felt bad for Tareq. No, she was crying about something a lot older, a lot deeper. She was crying about decisions, lost opportunities to get out. She'd loved this dried-up, rotten vineyard once. Back in the old days, when it was verdant and clean and almost, almost happy. Tareq and his mother didn't pay it much attention, they would have let it stay all brown and dead, the way it was before Michaele came along and spruced it up. She and Tareq were newlyweds and they were living in his mother's house just until they get their feet under them, until they settled into their new life. And she'd spent many happy hours out in the vine rows, tilling soil, pruning, gazing beatifically at grapes. It was lovely. Only then she'd always have to go back up to that house, climb that hill she always imagined was a mound of animal bones, squirrel skulls and the tiny ribcages of mice. The mood inside the house was decidedly different from that of the vineyard. Everything smelled both sharp and old, like mildewed metal, Michaele always thought. And Tareq was becoming increasingly withdrawn, muttering to himself, pacing up in the tiny room on the third floor that was empty save for one simple wooden chair. (Try as Michaele had, she'd never gotten Tareq to explain what that room, and that chair, had been used for. Whenever she asked, Tareq's expression would get grave and dark for a brief flash of a moment until he'd turn his smile on brighter than usual and say "Who's hungry?") And of course Tareq's mother, that hateful woman, was impossible to live with. Once, after a long but satisfying day at the vineyard, Michaele had come home and put on some music, her favorite string quartet piece that featured a sad, beautiful, moaning cello, and she'd been blissfully enjoying herself in the dusty sitting parlor, swaying to the music, thinking that things really could be a lot worse. And then she'd heard that horrible creak, that shuffle of ratty feet on the warped floorboards. Tareq's mother was behind her. "Little girl, I told you there is no music in this house! Filthy music! We don't do that sort of thing in this house." Michaele grew teary with frustration. "But... but then why do you have the record player?" Tareq's mother did not like to be questioned, and this moment was no exception. She took her cane, the heavy one with the ivory handle made out of the tusk of some long-dead elephant, and bashed it hard down on the old record player, over and over and over again, the music still playing in a sickly way, skipping, then finally stopping, the player in pieces. "Now you don't have to worry about that, do you?" Tareq's mother said with a low, nasty chuckle. And Michaele had burst into tears and Tareq saw her as he came downstairs for his nightly bologna and sauerkraut sandwich, and he walked into the parlor and said "Michaele, honey, what's wrong?" She fell into his arms, she still loved him in some true way back then, and she said "Oh Tareq. I can't do this. I can't do this anymore. How long do we have to keep doing this? When are we going to leave?" And he stroked her hair, kissed the top of her head. "Sshh. Sshh. Soon, soon. I promise. We're going to leave soon."

And as Michaele watched her husband talking to the police, years older now, flabby and completely overcome by his imaginary inner life, she realized he'd been lying then, the day of the record player. That he knew they'd never leave. That they'd be here forever, caught, like the cello music just before it stopped forever, skipping and skipping and skipping, one glottal note, playing again and again for the rest of their lives.

OK! That's it for today. I will be in South America (hunting Nazis) for the next episode (and the one after if there is one?), so I will not be here, unfortunately, to cover what looks to be Stacie's husband's defense of traditional marriage. Rudiger! How I loved you once. And now, nothing. But don't worry, you'll be in good recap hands. Adios!