By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
|Photo: Jamie Christian|
At last, the cheerleading scene! Michaele Salahi shakes her pom-poms at Tareq in the "Thomas Jefferson Suite" at the Willard Hotel. (Should we assume this was comped in exchange for camera time, like the Four Seasons' Oprah suite?) "We still got it! It's alumni, but we're still rolling." She then goes on to tell the camera, "I'm a former Washington Redskins cheerleader for the NFL." (No. This is simply not true. In December, after the White House incident, the Redskins Cheerleader Alumni Association did the research and found that, despite her longstanding claims, she was never on the squad. She just showed up to alumni events -- and heck, even paid alumni dues! This story seemed to take the Salahi saga to a whole new level; it was one of the most-read stories on washingtonpost.com for several days.) We then see her alighting at rehearsal for an alumni performance -- big hugs for everyone -- and the quirky music and awkward steps are producers' cue to us that maybe she doesn't know what she's doing. (Indeed: The other cheerleaders told our colleague Paul Farhi they were freaked out by the whole thing, since no one remembered her and she didn't know the basic steps. Not all but a lot of faces are fuzzed out -- presumably they didn't sign Bravo's waivers. Oh, and there's some pretty serious time travel here, too: This rehearsal was Sept. 18 of last year, though much of the other action we see on this episode is November or December.)
Stacie Turner hosts an ice-cream party at her 16th Street Heights home -- kids invited. Usual gang, which is to say, everyone but Michaele, to whom the conversation quickly turns. Says Mary Amons: "Why do you think Michaele would claim to be a Redskins cheerleader?" Stacie tells the camera that "people are talking about Michaele, and the rumors are swirling." Phrases are thrown around like "pathological," and "what is the deal with these lawsuits?" (And just as Mary calls [bleep] on Michaele, I am calling [bleep] on Bravo. This scene was clearly taped after the White House incident and the revelation of various Salahi scandals and peculiarities -- notably, ahem, in our pages. It's very choppy and abruptly edited, probably because producers are having to edit around specific talk of the state dinner incident, which they don't plan to bring up until a later episode.)
But, a change of subject: Mary talks about her kids moving back home, including Lolly who has quit her miserable job. Stacie jokes, "You would not quit your job if it were miserable if you had rent to pay." (She says it lightly, but producers dub in a oh-no-she-diuhn't whoosh.) But then when Cat joins the teasing, Stacie's friend Erika suddenly turns on her: "That's the mean girl coming out! You're always negative every time I see you!"
(Did I mention that Erika Martin Hughes was in the room? Don't know much about her other than that she's very photogenic, and she has a "boutique lifestyle management and personal concierge service" ready to help you run your life. She's been on the sidelines of earlier episodes -- scowling at Cat during that Tyra Banks business and other racial-tension moments - but here she STEPS IT UP in such a way that you wonder why she's not a full-fledged Housewife. Seriously, why? Is she too cool to agree to wear pink sequined "Sex and the City" castoff cocktail dresses in the camera interviews? All I can say is: The season-two cast overhaul probably starts here. If there is a season two. Lisa de Moraes tells us Bravo won't decide for several weeks. But Erika is so ready. On Twitter she promised to speak the truth to the world tonight. I admire that she follows fewer people than even I do on Twitter, and that one of them is Idris Elba.)
Suddenly, ladies are yelling at each other, and most come to the defense of Cat. "Are you not placing judgment at this time?" Lynda Erkiletian asks Erika. Erika says she's tired of everything being all about Cat. Cat stalks off in tears and gathers her kids. Everyone follows, trying to console her, even Erika eventually, but she kind of makes it worse, apologizing but then telling Cat, "don't give me bad body language." Cat's all, "don't tell me what to do. Cameras pan to the baleful looks on little Jade and Ruby's faces. (This is child abuse -- the fact that they're getting exposed to all this drama, for starters, but especially the fact that they're getting filmed through the whole thing.)
At Mary's house in McLean, she and Rich and Lolly talk about Lolly's decision to quit her job as an executive assistant. Rich, skeptical, tells the camera, "Birds do have to leave the nest. Sometimes you have to kick them out to help them fly." (Is this why the Amonses are selling their six-bedroom McLean mansion? So their five cusp-of-adulthood kids won't be able to move back home?) Lolly says she wants to stay home for a while to work on her art. "Art's a hobby!" Rich says. "Art's never going to be a stable job!" Lolly says "that's not true!" (No, actually, it is true.)
The usual gang (everybody but Michaele) files into the office of D.C. Councilmember-at-large David Catania (You remember him from Edwina's odd party in episode five) to discuss the District's pending gay-marriage bill. (We're told this scene was filmed about a week before the gay-marriage vote, so mid-December... and therefore after the unmentioned White House incident. Cat's bangs are even beginning to grow out) You know who else is here? Well, Erika... and Paul Wharton. (Yes! We've missed Paul, the guy who single-handedly keeps the plot in motion; he's been all but AWOL the past three episodes, and I'm beginning to suspect this was a deliberate power move by Bravo, trying to limit his exposure as he films a new Paul-centric reality pilot -- you know, so he doesn't become too big. Because Paul Wharton was raised in a secret government camp designed to create and train the perfect Bravo reality stars.) Paul immediately notes in his camera interview that Cat greeted everyone except for Erika (see what I mean?) and complains that she's bringing down the whole love-and-unity vibe (but he's smiling... because he's glad to have deftly imposed thematic coherence on the scene). Anyway: Paul, Lynda, Cat and Erika are all in favor of gay marriage. Mary says she hasn't thought much about it "because it doesn't affect me" -- and Paul executes an exaggerated double-take (drama!) before telling the camera "a lot of Mary's friends are gay!" Everyone gangs up on Stacie and Jason Turner as they cite religious concerns that marriage should be a man-woman thing. Stacie's all for civil unions; Paul tells the camera if she doesn't support in gay marriage, he doesn't want to be friends. (Snap!)
Mary, Erika and Stacie meet at the Occidental Grille, a historic restaurant in the Willard Hotel, on Pennsylvania Avenue a block or so from the White House. (It's not identified, but we recognize it, and I'm thinking that this was their mid-December visit. If so, they've hidden the kids from the camera.) More debate about gay-marriage, then they switch to the Cat-Erika problem. This is intercut with footage of Paul and Lynda on the same topic over drinks (at Palette, the bar-restaurant at the Madison Hotel -- strangely not ID'd here either; they've either abandoned the old policy of lingering over every restaurant's name, or maybe the Madison already hit its shout-out quota in past episodes). Stacie criticizes Cat's rudely "Cat-like behavior," but Erika seems willing to move on. Paul and Lynda go deeper, though, talking about Cat's frustrations with Charles. "We're the only friends she has here," says Paul. Lynda wonders "what's keeping her there [with Charles] if it's really that bad." (And I have to wonder whether this conversation -- more heavily freighted with Ommanney marital woes than we've otherwise seen -- was maybe-who-knows-perhaps taped long after everything else. Who knows.)
Brief scene at the Willard Hotel: Michaele shaking her pom-poms at her mysterious "assistant" Jen, talking about the generational differences in cheerleading. "The girls every decade get better. See how I'm little [up top]? You wouldn't call me a brick house. [But] when you see the millennium girls!" (We think she means "millennial.") Jen is all, "boob jobs!" And Michaele tells the camera that she'd like some plastic surgery herself, no, haha, just kidding. Scene over.
Then the Salahis have a meeting with Virginia state Del. Dave Albo (R-Fairfax). The topic seems to be county regulations that restrict events at wineries (a real issue: there had been complaints about parking, noise, etc., when the wineries host weddings and other parties, which led to a wave of strict local ordinances limiting their practices. UPDATED 12:20 Friday: Albo sponsored a successful bill to limit counties' regulatory powers over farm wineries. The legislator told us he met the Salahis through this issue about four years ago and told us in an email that he likes them: "Granted, they are eccentric. But having wacky friends is fun!" While the meeting we see here was a little awkward because of the cameras, he said it was a real discussion of state business.). Tareq and Michaele basically claim that these restrictions caused all their family strife "because Fauquier wasn't letting us run our business" and now they want to fight for other wineries. (Yeah, this seems like a stretch. You can read for yourself about the Salahi family feud. And then read some more.)
Brief mother-daughter scene at the Amons house. Mary tells the camera that Lolly's "more like a girlfriend to me," only 20 years apart. Lolly chides her over the gay-marriage issue: "Gay people aren't just our hairdressers, they're our senators!" (Give us names, Lolly!) Mary agrees that gay marriage is probably a constitutional right, but then can't quite quote the Constitution, and Lolly prompts her: "Certain unalienable rights? Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness?" Quirky music, and Mary's all, oh yeah, that's what I mean. (Poor Mary, always the butt of the joke. And btw, that's actually from the Declaration of Independence.)
Cat meets Jason Backe for drinks on the patio of the Four Seasons (again, not identified, for some reason -- hey, while they were there, they should have asked for the Oprah Suite). Her bangs are quite short here again (which suggests it's maybe November) as she complains about life in "Chevy bloody Chase, and all the filthy desperate housewives who do nothing other than walk their dogs." More chatter about the Salahis crashing the Congressional Black Caucus gala, Jason along for the ride. "D.C.'s a small town," Cat says. "I'm surprised they haven't been exposed so far." (Or HAVE they been exposed already? Doesn't this sound like a backdated hindsight conversation?)
Finally, a completely trippy scene, in which the Salahis visit one Matt Carson, a laconic Piedmont-preppy type whom they tell us is a former Oasis employee who is supposed to help them write their "tell-all book" about all "the family dysfunction." (Turns out Carson was an unsuccessful candidate for a Virginia House of Delegates seat last year, running as Independent who opposed the Patriot Act. He also self-published a 2007 novel about good ol' boys launching a revolution against the government. Small world: Apparently he got a former Post colleague of ours to blurb it!... Awkward question, but -- why did Bravo blur out all the artwork on his walls? Matt says he has no idea: They were just innocuous prints, nothing dirty or racy. Must be a copyright thing.) The cameras catch Carson swallowing hard and smiling awkwardly as the Salahis lay out their literary vision, entitled "Wine, War and Roses" and haggle over who gets the credit or, you know, the money. "It's standard with these things, they give advances," Tareq says confidently. (Yeah, well... that's if you find someone else to publish it. This book project -- which Carson tells us he walked away from and never got written -- is not to be confused with their new book, "Cirque du Salahi," a collaboration with author Diane Dimond. Which, after making a lot of noise about shopping around to New York editors, they ended up self-publishing. It's available only via Amazon.) Tareq says he wants the book to be about Oasis's "huge successes," being "top 10 in the world." (Top 10 what? Though an acknowledged pioneer in the fledgling Northern Virginia industry, Oasis wine never had a reputation outside the region.) Irony alert!: Michaele tells the camera she's had such adventures since marrying Tareq; "sometimes I wake up and think, oh my god, we're going where? We're going to meet President Obama?" More irony alert: "I would love for it to have a happy ending."
Coming up next week: The state dinner incident! Michaele in Erwin Gomez's salon that fateful day, seemingly wondering how to handle the lack-of-a-paper-invitation thing. (Or we can only guess this is next week; Bravo says there are two more episodes left this season.)
Who wins this round? Erika. If everyone loves to hate you, then you know you're a star.