Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. As a card-carrying member of the Academy of Reality Television Arts & Sciences, I know my way around a craftily edited dinner scene — and as I said last week, RHODubai clearly crafted a situation for the cast to trigger Ayan while also acting affronted that she reacted defensively in the last episode. I know there were people in the comments who were skeptical of my read of events last week, which is perfectly fine because I am more than happy to take my “I told you so” after the fact — but while there are many things in the Housewives’ Hunger Games that are fair play, there are few things that make the hairs on the back of my neck raise more than when a white woman starts crying for no reason other than losing control of a mild confrontation.
Let’s roll the tape back a bit. Caroline Stanbury of the colonizing, slave-owning, Vestey Foods–owning Brits — and upper-crust socialite turned shameless social-media influencer and divorcée — was at dinner with the rest of the cast during their “50K weekend” (she previously said it was $50,000 a night, but I digress). Sara Al Madani pointed out to Brooks that relying on cash infusions from the men in her life was still a level of dependence that she should be cautious about; Stanbury defended Brooks, called it “investment,” and made it a testament to her character. Ayan stepped in and said she didn’t understand the big deal — her husband provided for the household, and she didn’t mind — at which point in the conversation (if you are to believe the edits are not chopped to reorder the narrative flow) Caroline condescendingly asked if she had ever run her own business and what it is that she does. Ayan properly clocked the disrespect and responded accordingly with her frustration — Caroline knows full well that Ayan does castings and bookings for other models in Dubai, has her own budding makeup line with her makeup artist, who is on-site at the cast trip, and manages her own brand, which is a business in and of itself, among other things. To ask her to explain herself when Nina sells freakin’ fruitcakes with purchased IG followers is just too much for me to bear, I am sorry. Instead, Caroline inexplicably falls apart when hit with a rejoinder, prompting Nina to revert into a sentient Cathy comic strip while Brooks consoles her.
Here’s the thing. Caroline keeps pretending that she doesn’t understand why she and Ayan don’t mesh when the answer is quite clear. Because Ayan has cultural gaps, she doesn’t have time for the pretense and social niceties that Stanbury needs to reinforce her level of superiority. That doesn’t mean that Ayan doesn’t have manners: She repeatedly thanked Caroline for the invitation, despite Stanbury’s convenient bout of amnesia. But it means that she gets straight to the point of the matter as opposed to talking in subtext as is required by Housewives code. Ayan has had real-life struggles: She has worked from the age of 7, endured child abuse, escaped an arranged marriage at the hands of her abusive father, survived female genital mutilation at the age of 5, and withstood all of that to become a successful model with a thriving family life. Is it any surprise that she engages in her day-to-day life with childlike whimsy? Stanbury could never fathom overcoming those kinds of obstacles, although I am sure that her life in boarding school was plenty traumatizing (and I mean that sincerely). I have intentionally held my tongue on the matter over the weeks, but as someone who knows many East Africans and is one myself, we are naturally very extra people, and considering what Ayan has survived, she has frankly earned the right to be the ostentatious diva with a lust for life.
I am not one to mince words, so I will just make it plain: Caroline has been engaging in racist microaggressions all season, and she’s at her worst in this episode. Her behavior with Lesa at the party over Sergio was already a big knock against her, and her insistence that Ayan was being aggressive by calling her by her last name was a second strike, as if there was no better way to separate two Carolines in the group. Now she triples down by insisting that Ayan uses her migrant status as an excuse to not be held accountable for misunderstanding things in English — mind you, after cornering her into giving an apology by willfully misrepresenting the context in which she spoke to Ayan at dinner and insisting that she was uplifting her, which is about as true as the Post-it I have on my mirror saying that I am going to the gym today. The rub of it all is that Caroline has spent the entire season flaunting her complete ignorance of Spanish despite being married to a Spaniard — the same man who came to her rescue the night after that ill-fated dinner — yet insists that there is no way that there could be any disconnect.
The true disappointment in the episode lies in Brooks, however. Instead of taking the opportunity to validate Ayan in private with Stanbury the same way she did when the trio of Black women was talking among themselves, she demurred, seeing an opportunity to cut in on the influence that Lesa had. It’s a shameless, self-promoting play and not one that is vested in the best interest of Stanbury or Ayan. A close second is Nina, who is finally starting to get exposed for a flimsy attempt at ghost-producing — a tried-and-true play in Housewives scheming. I respect the hustle of facilitating mess when you don’t want your own personal life to be held to the fire, but what I don’t respect is getting big doe eyes when you’re held to the fire over your own machinations. One second you left the dinner because you lost your appetite from the chaos, the next it’s because you won’t leave your friend Caroline to go home alone. Is it “Oochie Wally” or “One Mic,” my good sistren?
Next week is the season finale, which means I will be doling out my final power rankings for the season. I will also be giving out my overall feedback on the debut and what I think should be retooled, should the show make it back for season two. See you all then.
• I was happy to see the shisha pipes get featured on this episode. Americans have started to perceive hookah as a “club thing,” while the really potent and flavored tobacco has a long legacy in the Arab world. (This is not me endorsing tobacco consumption; inhale at your own risk.)
• Seeing that Ayan has her husband saved as “Daddy Cool” made me literally burst out laughing. Am I the only person that doesn’t use pet names for family and lovers in my phone?
• There has never been a reality-TV segment featuring a sound bath that has enticed me to go try out a sound bath. Has anyone done those in real life and enjoyed them? Inquiring minds would like to know.
• Bravo could not have foreseen the dismantling of Roe v. Wade, but seriously, watching Sergio be woefully ignorant about the process of conception is just pitifully unbecoming and making me increasingly unsympathetic to his desire to become a father.
• I know that the girls take fashion seriously, but donning a puffer jacket in 108-degree weather is obscene. I live in New York City. If I see a big puffer jacket, I expect to see snow on the ground.
The Real Housewives of Dubai Recap: Wicked Witch of the West