You’ve heard of schadenfreude, right? The German word made famous in the raunchy puppet musical Avenue Q loosely translates to “enjoyment obtained from the misfortunes of others.” This is the reason many people love reality TV. You get to watch strangers make fools of themselves in a very public forum, and somehow the knowledge that these people aren’t you brings you satisfaction.
The episode opens with Elly and Pegah visiting Plants n’ Petals to pick out décor for Elly’s upcoming 36th birthday celebration. She plans on having a party that’s bigger than her wedding. Oh, and it’s a theme party, and the theme is “Elly’s Sparkle Birthday.” Once again, we are talking about a woman who is turning 36, not an eight-year-old who wants a princess party, but I can see where you might have gotten confused.
Rachel and Ashandra join the sisters at Plants n’ Petals for some champagne (seriously, these women drink champagne everywhere they go), and the conversation quickly turns to what transpired at Cindi Rose’s Derby party. Elly tells Rachel that she’s been labeled a racist again and informs Ashandra that she’s been deemed too poor to buy a ticket to Cindi’s parties.
Ashandra replies, “When it comes to spending money on a Cindi Rose event, I’m broke! My shit is overdrawn, boo.” And this is why I love her.
Elly is planning on inviting Cindi to her sparkle birthday, but she wonders which Cindi she’ll get: “One moment she’s fun and kooky, the other she’s offensive.” In spite of this knowledge, she utters the Bravo curse … “Here’s hoping for a drama-free birthday party.” Bahahahahahahaha, OK, girl.
And then we get a medical montage wherein Erika is doing her favorite thing, stapling someone up, and Ashandra is recruiting people to help with her upcoming fundraiser. Shout out to former Mayor Annise Parker for her charming cameo.
Later, Ricky meets Ashandra at the office and notices they’re the only people there. He starts dramatically clearing items off the desk because he “has a prescription that needs to be filled.” Ashandra isn’t having it, so I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE.
And now, because each week we need to be reminded that, in the midst of the drama, these women are real doctors doing real doctor-y things and changing lives, we get to see Erika and Derek meet some women from Erika’s practice at Sambuca for a performance by last week’s featured plastic surgery patient. The patient, Tianna, is clearly very grateful that Erika has helped her regain some confidence in her body, which makes them both tear up. Aww, yay for plastic surgery!
Meanwhile, Monica is also consulting with a patient, whose life she saved after he suffered a heart attack in his 30s. She says she feels safe at the hospital because it’s the only constant relationship she has, and it doesn’t cause her pain. Girlfriend, relationships aren’t supposed to cause you pain. You’re doing it wrong.
Back in the land of healthy relationships, Ashandra and Ricky meet up with Ricky’s childhood friend, Dallas, and his wife, Angie, at Brooklyn Athletic Club to talk fundraising. Dallas is a lobbyist, so Ashandra wants him to use his connections to bring the big spenders to her event. I find myself not really caring how this fundraiser happens (just show us the inevitable drama already!), but I will say that Ricky and Ashandra definitely have the most fun friends of anyone on this show.
Okay, here’s where the vicarious embarrassment really kicks in. Derika meet Monica and Imad for dinner at Cuchara, presumably so the latter two can see what constructive discourse looks like. Imad immediately admits he’s a hypocrite because he won’t eat pork (because he’s Muslim), but he does drink alcohol. Can we talk about what other things make him a hypocrite?
As is always the case with Monica and Imad, the subject of religion comes up. In an aside, Monica accuses Erika of giving up her own beliefs to make her husband happy, while noting, rather self-righteously, that she’s not willing to compromise on that. Don’t you dare try to dissect the relationship of this lovely, happy couple, Monica! You’re projecting! Cut it out!
In her own aside to the camera, Erika reiterates that Monica and Imad have clearly never had this (arguably important) conversation about their differing religious views and how they would raise their children in private. Monica finally admits that, gee, maybe they do need to talk about it. Hasn’t she come to this same conclusion, like, every episode? What have the two of them been doing when they hang out if not talking about important shit? Applying extra grease to Imad’s hair?
Finally, it’s time for Elly’s party, and Elly and Pegah are getting their makeup done by a team of people. Elly is concerned that not everyone will be wearing sparkly clothes, and she thinks by this age, every woman should own at least one sparkly dress. Pegah thinks that by this age, maybe you shouldn’t be having a theme party. Ten points to Pegah!
As the party begins, Elly reveals that it cost $125,000 at face value, which I guess means she didn’t have to pay for everything herself, but still, what the ever-loving hell?! One hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars. For a 36th birthday party. At this point I’m too shocked to be embarrassed, but don’t worry, the empathetic cringing will return shortly.
Like when Cindi Rose enters the party wearing what appears to be an ice skating uniform, and Monica is wearing almost exactly the same dress. AWKWARD. Or when Elly doesn’t fit very well in her sparkly dress, so she shoves her boobs in up to her chin to zip it up. Or when Maribel, the drunken, self-proclaimed “sparkle police,” confronts Erika about wearing (GASP!) a solid black dress to the party, saying, “She’s not a-looking beautiful because she’s not a-sparkly!” At this point, Rachel implores her mother to drink some water, Derika glance nervously at each other and Ashandra implores Monica to burn the Cindi-lookalike dress because it’s now tainted.
When all this is going on, Elly is waiting in some side room to make a grand entrance. What kind of grand entrance, you ask? Will she strut down a staircase, waving at her adoring fans? Will she appear through a trapdoor in the floor, illuminated by a single spotlight? Will she parachute out of a helicopter? No, it’s worse. Much worse.
A group of shirtless, heavily oiled muscle men come in with a giant ottoman on their shoulders, and some man in a white suit instructs Elly to drape herself across the ottoman “like Cleopatra,” so she can be carried into the party. I’m sorry, what? We’re carrying a 36-year-old woman dressed like a silvery sardine into a party atop the shoulders of greased up beefcakes?
The secondhand embarrassment is so strong I can actually feel myself being raised above the heads of my adoring but very confused and slightly horrified fans. I start to second-guess myself, but I’m already here, spread atop my glistening ottoman. What should I do to ameliorate the situation? Should I laugh it off as if my entrance were all some elaborate joke? No. No, I must commit ever more fully. I notice there’s a silver chalice in my hand. And what’s that in it? Could it be…? Yes! ’Tis glitter! I shall throw this glitter upon the heads of my followers, and then they, too, shall feel the warm glow of my sparkly presence. I’m no longer embarrassed, but emboldened by my actions. This is how you throw a party, bitches.
Except I’m not at the party. I’m on my sofa, and here come the waves of embarrassment again. Elly alights from her litter to find Cindi twerking on the dance floor with a fairly wide radius surrounding her, as if people are concerned the moves are contagious. I’m reminded of something Rachel said earlier in the episode about her mother: “We aren’t running behind the door trying to hide our crazy. We just put it out there.” Ain’t that the truth! And if Cindi has the confidence to dance like that with the cameras rolling, more power to her.
Elly gives a speech to thank people for coming and to acknowledge that Pegah’s father-in-law recently passed away, so we should all love each other, but she seems to either be drunk or unable to breathe (or both?), because it’s just about the least eloquent speech I’ve ever heard. The sentiment was nice, though.
By the middle of the party, everyone is drunk enough for an awkward confrontation, so Rachel approaches Cindi to ask about what she was saying at the Derby party, regarding the familiar claims of racism, etc. Cindi says she really likes Rachel, so she’d never want to say anything in the world to hurt her. Wait, Cindi does realize she was filmed talking shit about Rachel, right? Did she forget that? Cindi apologizes (again) without admitting she’s done anything wrong (again), and Rachel is feeling particularly charitable, so she forgives her.
And then, for the cherry on top of my fremdscham sundae, they hug, and Rachel suggests they twerk together. Look away, friends. Look away.
Next week, Derek tells Erika he wants to move back to Abilene (wtf, Derek?) and Monica and Imad appear to finally have the talk. Does this mean we can say goodbye to Imad forever? Stay tuned.