When it comes to Bravo reality TV shows, the end-of-season reunion episode has quickly revealed itself to be the jewel in Andy Cohen’s cubic zirconia crown. Reunions—be they family, college, or high school—are traditionally an opportunity to act fake-nice to people you never liked and talk rampant shit behind their backs. The reality TV reunion takes these general principals and elevates them into an endlessly entertaining art form, doing away with subtlety and politeness altogether and giving D-List celebrities an opportunity to confront one another face-to-face.
While watching two women in formal evening gowns read one another to filth will never not be interesting, Sunday night’s Real Housewives of Atlanta reunion—which Cohen, in his infinite greed and wisdom, split up into four parts—was truly transcendent. Not since real housewife Aviva Drescher converted her own artificial limb into a projectile has this franchise produced a television moment so off-putting and iconic. That’s because this Sunday, cast member Phaedra Parks emerged from her catty cocoon and revealed herself to be a totally conniving (and now, unemployed) butterfly—destined to be immortalized in listicles and Drag Race snatch games for years to come.
Every so often, a housewife proves herself to be so much more than an aspiring C-Lister: a secret Mother Teresa with a thousand-dollar Birkin, or a Machiavelli in an age-inappropriate going-out top. On this season of Real Housewives of Atlanta, Phaedra Parks—self-described “Southern belle, mommy, mortician, mediator, attorney,” and “housewife,” seemed to know where all the bodies were buried (probably because she buried them herself). At nine years old, RHOA—the third installment in the Real Housewives franchise—is at just the right age to start questioning its sexuality. Parks played her self-assigned role in this inevitable experimentation by ostensibly outing one of her cast mates earlier this season.
Suffice to say, when headlines start declaring that RHOA is dealing in “lesbian drama,” GLAAD-approved plot lines are decidedly not in store. Instead, what we got was a very strange scene in which Parks told fellow housewives Sheree Whitfield and Porsha Williams that Kandi Burruss and her husband Todd—two people that Phaedra Parks does not like—have had threesomes with satellite friend Shamea Morton. In Phaedra’s own words—offered here for the official record— “They fuckin.’” In a subsequent episode of Watch What Happens Live, Kandi denied having sexual relations with that woman (Shamea), and basically chalked the back-and-forth accusations up to manufactured drama.
In fact, manufactured drama may very well be Phaedra Parks’ God-given name (after all Phaedra—a tragic Greek heroine—is a bit too on the nose). To sum up the extended story, part three of the reunion culminated in the revelation that Phaedra had been spreading even more rumors about Kandi and Todd—including one especially vile allegation that the couple wanted to drug Porsha and take advantage of her. Apparently, Phaedra told Porsha about the manufactured rape plot, and claimed that she had heard about it firsthand from Kandi. Not true, says Kandi, a woman who has now been compared to Bill Cosby on social media and has no more fucks to give.
“To say I would drug somebody, there's multiple levels to that,” said Kandi while confronting Phaedra during the reunion. “She, as a person who knows me, knows I don't do drugs or deal with anything with drugs, but then on top of that, as an attorney, why would you repeat to say somebody would drug somebody?” Great question! Kandi added, “You should understand that drugging somebody while they're drinking and taking them home is rape. Y’all accused me of being a fucking rapist! That is crazy!”
Reader, it was crazy. To recap the first half of this recap: Phaedra told Porsha that she had firsthand knowledge of Kandi’s rape plot. Porsha, justifiably confused and pissed off, proceeded to confront her friend herself, asking Phaedra why she lied to her. “You said 'first person,’” Porsha insisted. “You said, ‘Kandi told me this.’” Phaedra attempts to defend herself by explaining that she “repeated it because [she] heard it.” You know, that textbook situation where you can’t quite remember who told you about your ex-friend’s elaborate rape plot. Phaedra goes on to lamely offer, “I shouldn't have repeated it,” and even has the audacity to suggest that Porsha may have misheard her. At this point, even Andy Cohen is “shocked.”
Porsha feels that Phaedra used her to get back at Kandi, which is clearly true. “You have to understand how fucked up this is and how fucked up I've been looking standing by your side and holding you down because that's the type of friend that I am!” Porsha tells Parks. “You've got to give me some answers because what I feel is that you used me as a pawn against Kandi.” Phaedra attempts a half-hearted apology, telling Porsha she’s sorry and that she “screwed up.” Instead of admitting that she was plotting against Kandi, Parks maintains that her propensity to make up and spread rumors specifically about her was just “bad judgment,” or something. Porsha apologizes to Kandi for her role in spreading the rumor, and the waterproof mascara of multiple cast members is put to the ultimate test.
The episode wraps up with Cohen cornering Parks about the “megawatt lie” (try lies, multiple) that she’s just been caught in. Cohen, who is a brave soul, is “trying to figure out what’s going on” in Phaedra’s mind. Turns out, not a whole lot. “What more can I do?” wonders Phaedra, a woman who has already done so very much. “I apologized already and the person I’m most concerned about is Porsha,” she explains, adding, “I'm sorry that it hurt Kandi as well.” Clearly inspired by the drama of the Versailles-style set that Andy Cohen has dreamed up, Porsha responds that she may never be able to “move past this,” explaining that, “We have a connection here and the connection is pain.”
Unfortunately for Phaedra Parks, Atlanta’s favorite lawyer/mortician, the pain has just begun. According to TMZ, Bravo—Bravo!—was so disgusted by Phaedra’s rumor-mongering that they fired her. TMZ reports, “We're told Bravo felt like Phaedra's allegations were so out of line, they simply couldn't continue working with her and informed her in early April.” And Phaedra’s Instagram account seems to suggest that she is in fact moving on. On Monday, she shared an inspirational quote, captioned, “New day, new week! Have a magnificent #Monday! #letsgo.” Choice comments on the picture include, “You’re evil,” “Karma is a bitch,” and “God!!!!! Girl why???”