When Place to Be Nation sought out a correspondent to watch and write about the new WWE/E! reality show Total Divas each week, they initially wanted a “female voice.” Unfortunately for them, lifelong wrestling fan Ben Morse also happens to count Melrose Place among his all-time favorite shows and already has every other E! show on in the background via his lovely wife Megan, so he whined until they let him do it.
Jen Engle doesn’t watch wrestling or E!, but the Powers that PTB roped her into this anyway.
Find out what happens when one overly enthusiastic dude and a lady who has no idea what’s going on talk about a weekly “reality” show focusing on the female side of WWE.
Ben: Greetings, Divas, and I’m sad to report the all-too-brief first and a half (?) season of our beloved program wrapped this past week, leaving us without our regular helping of Diva drama until March. Sure you can still see the Bellas, Nattie, the Funkadactyls and Eva Marie on RAW every Monday—and JoJo in the background on Superstars once in awhile—but what about Vinny? Thankfully, the show went out for now with one of the best episodes to date, and even more fortunately I’m able to welcome back my regular co-writer of this column, Jen!
Jen: Glad to be back, but it’s bittersweet as we’re covering the season finale and we won’t be seeing these Divas other than in the ring…
Ben: One reason I love this episode? It wastes NO time getting started, as within SECONDS the Bellas hit catering to talk about their periods not being synched up—I pause the show and ask my wife if twin sisters’ have synched up periods because I am a MAN—and Nikki deciding she needs to take a pregnancy test. On the preview last week they made it seem like this would cause drama the whole episode—and in a way it does foreshadow drama—but it’s resolved before the theme and Nikki’s not pregnant. The result really doesn’t matter, though, as its Brie asking if you’re supposed to pee on the stick or dip the stick in the toilet after you’ve peed and Nikki rolling her eyes times a thousand. With Brie being the levelheaded Bella, she didn’t lose any points here by not knowing how a pregnancy test worked, she just came off more endearing, but when you get this kind of gold in the first 30 seconds of the show, you have to know you’re in for a treat.
The lack of credits roll—adios, JoJo—and we switch over to Nattie’s hotel room, where she’s got a text from Stephanie McMahon that she left her a bunch of voicemails while wasted the night before and they need to talk. Nattie calls Brie to confirm that this took place, but she could have also just asked the cameramen in her room, who cut us to abundant footage of her parading around the French Quarter in New Orleans with a crazy mask and calling Ariane a stripper. While TJ makes fun of his wife and asks what color Mardi Gras beads Stephanie would want, I seriously wonder how much of the stuff Nattie said about Ariane—and Brie, who she calls out for working at Hooters—rang true, given her wrestling heritage and how she likely really feels about Divas who came from those types of backgrounds; it’s something that they touched on a little way back in the pilot and I sometimes wish they’d get into more. Anyway, Nattie gets to RAW, where the Talent Relations Herald of Doom warns her Steph wants to see her; Nattie resolves to avoid the Billion Dollar Princess for as long as possible.
Jen: I am sure we’ve all done something that we aren’t proud of after having a few adult beverages…but calling your boss and leaving all of those messages? I guess I’ve never been a drunk texter or a caller, so I really don’t know what it’s like to have the sudden drunken urge to call my boss at 4:00 in the morning. Terrible idea and if I were Nattie I would avoid Stephanie McMahon for as long as possible.
Ben: We see Nattie, Eva Marie and JoJo in action as a team in a match I remember not only for Eva’s…rough…attempts at wrestling, but also her strange-looking white outfit. If the past five dialogue-less episodes didn’t seal poor JoJo’s fate, I’d say the fact that Eva gets multiple cut-in commentaries about her in-ring debut while her former bestie gets done would be the final nail in the coffin. Some indeterminate time after the show, Eva hooks back up with long-forgotten fiancé Jonathan, master of the extreme deep v-neck, as they prepare to go and visit her family so they can meet him for the first time and hopefully approve of their already set engagement. Well that sounds like it should be smooth sailing for sure…
Jen: Based on her history, I was actually shocked to see that Eva Marie had already made it into the ring. From what I could tell, she didn’t do all that great in the ring. It seems like that hasn’t stopped them from putting her back in the ring on RAW though. As a side note, do guys actually wear those really low V neck t-shirts?
Ben: I do not.
Jen: This whole plan of them going home seems like something that the producers might have pushed. Eva Marie knows it’s a bad idea too.
And it was good to know you, JoJo. I hope your not-so-subtle fade-out was your idea.
Ben: Nikki opens the door of the Cena Estate and welcomes a harem of women in, and before it can go in a direction that would be not such great news for John, we learn they’re her best friends from her days at Hooters—apparently the Bella Twins have been a sister act for quite some time—that he flew in to visit her. They take over the pool where several not-so-subtly note they don’t see any slides that would be safe for kids, and Nikki sheepishly says John doesn’t want any and she’s accepted that. Nikki’s pals needle her about how much she’s always wanted to be a mother and you can already see the uncomfortable discussions coming.
Jen: How awesome is John Cena that he flew all of Nikki’s friends out to see her? About as un-awesome as where these conversations are headed. The second they started going on about the slides, I felt so bad for Nikki. I think we’ve all been there, and it’s not a fun place to be even without cameras filming every second of it.
Ben: Eva and Jonathan arrive at her family’s home in California, and things start off pretty rocky as her mom gives her a big hug and then greets her new boyfriend as if he’s a home invader. Also, note the full-size Eva Marie stand-up lurking out from behind one of the corners. Things go from bad to worse, as the brothers enter the picture, both who look to be jacked with biker goatees, and neither of whom has any readily apparent love for the stranger in their house. Finally, Eva’s dad fires off a string of excited exclamations to see his daughter…and a string of confused and angry proclamations about some weirdo touching her. Dinner goes equally poorly as Papa Marie makes fun of Jonathan’s nose ring while her brothers question him having her name tattoos on his forearm as well as his seeming lack of a shirt under his barely-there sweatshirt—thank you! Jonathan sputters to offer any explanation, Eva makes the face you make when you know somebody else will be getting in trouble and nobody sticks around for dessert.
Jen: I have to give Jonathan credit for making it through dinner. This meeting seemed doomed from the start and Eva Marie had to know that her father and brothers would have this reaction. It almost seemed as though Eva Marie never even mentioned the fact that she had a boyfriend to her family…probably not the best way to introduce her fiancé to her family. Eva Marie and Jonathan haven’t been together all that long, have they? How long were they dating before he got this tattoo? I’m not a commitment-phobe, but if someone got a tattoo of my name on their arm after only dating a couple of months I’d probably be scared shitless.
Ben: Meanwhile, Brie and Bryan have taken a vacation to Big Sur in California, complete with rustic cabin where they can see each other using the toilet from bed, leading to the type of delightful interplay I’ve come to expect from television’s greatest couple. This would also, incidentally, be the moment my wife and I realized our hoped-for best friendship with Brie and Bryan will probably never come to be as our idea of roughing it means the La Quinta.
Jen: I’m right there with you Ben, this hotel (?) doesn’t look like my kind of place either. I would rather rough it like Brie and Bryan than camp though. I am not what you would call a “camping sort of girl.”
Ben: Not only has Prince Cena had Nikki’s buds flown to Florida, he rented a big ol’ limo to take them all out for dinner, and after the girls make a few jokes about taking a dump in the car, they’ve won him over as well. Unfortunately, the honeymoon does not last, as the ladies go on the offensive once they reach the restaurant about John holding back their friend from getting married and having children. John does what he usually does: Give a well-thought-out and rational response—in this case about not wanting to miss the formative years of his child’s life and having had bad luck in marriage—that’s hard to argue with but also comes off a bit too politically correct and rehearsed in the wrong light. He also notes that he made all of this clear to Nikki before they started dating, which we’ll come back to, but I felt awful for both of them here, him for being kinda ambushed by a dozen girls and her because she couldn’t side with anybody or make her feelings felt without angering somebody.
Jen: John Cena is really pulling out all the stops for Nikki and her friends here; Nikki’s friends should be a little more thankful for what he’s done for them rather than spend dinner attacking him. I felt terrible for both of them, it’s an awkward situation and it’s not a conversation to be had with 12 of Nikki’s closest friends present. Whether or not these two get married and have kids really isn’t any of their business. I understand they are looking out for her, but it’s not their place to force this issue on them.
Ben: We go from one uncomfortable situation to another as back in California Eva Marie and Jonathan join her family for breakfast where, without much pretense, they break the news that they want to get married and the dad and brothers explode. We learn for the first time that Eva had a previous fiancée and that ended badly, so they don’t want to see that happen again, but mostly it’s just the guys screaming at Jonathan about his lack of respect and how much their daughter/sister means to them. I understand they’re trying to be protective, but for those of us watching the whole thing unfold, it’s tough not to feel for Jonathan, who comes off as the more sympathetic of the duo maybe simply by virtue of us not knowing him as well. Eva’s mom notes that if she gets divorced she’s “never allowed to step foot in this house again,” prompting the couple to pack their stuff and take off as one of the brothers yells from the deck about how immature they’re being. The mom tries to dissuade them, but Eva gives her a hug and they drive off; second segment in a row that brought the uncomfortable intensity! Eva and Jonathan vow to elope.
Jen: I think we all knew that this fight was going to happen from the beginning of the episode. Once we met the family, I could tell this impending conversation would end badly. Eva Marie and Jonathan haven’t been a couple for a very long time so I can see why her family is concerned, but for once I am sticking up for Eva Marie because I think their reactions went too far. I’m glad that her mom tried to convince her to stay, but if I were Eva Marie I would have left too. I know my parents would be very upset, but they would never tell me I wasn’t allowed to come back if I got a divorce.
Ben: Brie and Bryan climb to the top of Big Sur where he gets down on one knee and proposes in probably the most tender moment in Total Divas history—scratch that, definitely the most tender moment in Total Divas history. My wife said she hopes they did the proposal once off camera and then recreated it for the show, which I agree with. My sister-in-law, who has had a crush on John Cena all season, texted me during the episode and said now she gets what Brie sees in Bryan. These two seem perfect for each other and I think we’re all rooting for them.
Jen: This was such a sweet proposal, I actually had tears in my eyes while I watched. So happy for Brie and Bryan, I kind of hope we get to see the wedding preparations next season. Who here thinks Bryan is going to be a bit of a Groom-zilla? I definitely don’t see him sitting back and allowing Brie to take care of everything.
Ben: After break, Bryan leads Brie back to their cabin where he’s had both their families waiting for a surprise engagement party that we learn via flashback Nikki helped him plan. Though they’ve met each other’s families respectively, the two groups have never been together, making the whole thing extra special. Unfortunately, our focus turns from the happy occasion to Nikki—communing with nature in her own way by wearing a fur coat—sulking about how she’ll probably never have a moment like this due to the whole her boyfriend not wanting to get married ever thing. Fortunately Mama Bella, THE MOST RATIONAL PERSON ON THE SHOW, has a talk with her daughter that’s not just “if he won’t marry you, leave him,” but about how it can be hard to find the right person so you shouldn’t just give them up, but you also need to make your voice heard in a relationship; give this woman a friggin’ advice show, E!
Jen: I think Bryan wins the award for cutest proposal. How sweet was it to have both families come out to meet them? Of course Nikki found a way to bring some focus back on her, and Mama Bella is back with her rational advice. Nikki needs to talk to John and if things aren’t going to change, then she needs to decide what is right for her. I agree, Mama Bella needs her own advice show. I expect a lot of drama would be stopped that way.
Ben: Once again, we’re at RAW, where Nattie tries to piece together her wild evening from Ariane’s eye witness testimony, Brie shows off her ring and Nikki finally gets cleared by the WWE medical staff to return to in-ring action. Also, needing advice from somebody who would undoubtedly know a lot about getting drunk and doing something inappropriate, Nattie seeks out Fandango, who hilariously chuckles and stares at his own glistening abs before telling her she’s screwed.
Jen: Glad to see that Nikki is heading back into the ring…and that Nattie is still freaking out about the very drunk messages she left for Stephanie. I don’t know much about Fandango other than the fact that he is incredibly creepy, but I feel like seeking out advice from him was the right choice. Good luck Nattie…
Ben: We get the long-awaited Nattie and Stephanie showdown, as Steph plays through a series of increasingly aggressive voice mails about demanding respect and possibly the Divas title and being “ready to ride” with a bemused expression on her face. The most awkward/humorous one had to be when Nattie demanded to know why the co-owner of the multi-billion dollar company she works for had failed to get back to her in the middle of the night after multiple messages. Ultimately, Nattie had nothing to worry about, as Steph says they share a bond having grown up in the business and she can talk to her anytime then teases her a bit before they part ways. Amusing enough, but if any segment this week came off scripted, it would be this one.
Jen: This resolved itself way too easily. Surely Steph had more to say, right? I loved how she saved every single voice mail message from Nattie and then played them each for her. Oh, how painfully embarrassing for Nattie that had to have been. Imagine finding out that you drunk dialed your boss nine times and then have her play each and every single one of those messages for you. Nattie handled it way better than I would have.
Ben: Eva Marie and Jonathan wrap their portion of the episode with her reneging on their plan to go get hitched in Vegas either because of her crazy work schedule or so she can take another shot at getting her family onboard—which seems unlikely—I’m not entirely sure. Either way, he’s cool with it, but not wearing shirts that conceal his entire pectoral region.
Jen: I would be pretty surprised if any member of Eva Marie’s family changed their mind about Jonathan before this series returns in March. That doesn’t make for a good start to this relationship. Then again…does tattooing someone’s name on your arm bode well either?
Ben: And now we come to big finish, as Nikki sits John down for a talk about their future, her needs and other big topics. She puts it out there that when they first got together, she felt ok with putting marriage and kids on the permanent back-burner, but particularly after now seeing her sister get engaged, she’s reconsidered. He sticks to his guns about having been upfront with her since their first date about what he can provide. She says she makes all the sacrifices in their relationship and he says that if he can’t give her what she wants, he understands if she wants to look elsewhere. I can see this from a few angles; first, John has legitimate reasons for why he’s hesitant to have kids and he’s actually being pretty responsible about it (the marriage thing I don’t get quite as readily, but we don’t know all the circumstances on his first try). However, from Nikki’s perspective, I’d be kind of annoyed if every time I brought up a possible deviation from “the plan” to my partner they jumped straight to “if it doesn’t work for you, I’ve been forthcoming with you, I’m cool with you leaving,” because that makes it seem like this relationship means very little to him and he’ll only have it on his terms. On the one hand, I get that he put out very clearly what he’s willing to go through with early on, but on the other, relationships evolve. I’m not sure if it’s by virtue of Nikki being more our POV figure here, but to me, John definitely came off as the bad guy, to a degree he never has on this show, and I’m saying that from the male perspective.
Jen: I’m glad that Nikki is having this conversation with John, I feel like we’ve been building up to it for a while. Her mother is right, she deserves a voice in this relationship too. I can see it from both of their perspectives—probably not what you would expect from a girl, I know. He was honest with her from the beginning, but as Ben said every relationship evolves and at the beginning you aren’t too worried about these kinds of things. We have no idea what happened in his marriage to make him so against it, but Nikki isn’t his ex-wife and I’m sure she would expect an iron-clad pre-nup at this point. Whenever things don’t go John’s way, he seems to shut down and turn sort of robotic, so it’s no wonder Nikki’s put off having this conversation for so long.
Ben: Ultimately, it seems like John and Nikki may be on shaky ground…but we end on a cliffhanger that will be resolved in March. I’ll be interested to see if they do a time jump or what, since if the show comes back in March and they pick up directly from here they’ll be about half a year removed from reality and those of us who follow WWE would already know if John and Nikki broke up, but I guess that’s kind of the nature of these shows.
Jen: I’m interested to see whether he changes his tune and she stays or if he doesn’t change his tune and she actually leaves. At this point, I can’t really see her leaving but I guess we’ll find out in a few months.
Ben: Wow! What an episode to end on! It’s going to be hard to wait nearly four months for another installment of Total Divas, but I guess I’ll just keep re-reading our old articles to tide me over. Hey Jen, at least write or call or invite me to do a column about the 90’s with you and Justin, huh? Don’t be a Total Stranger.
Jen: They really packed a lot into this week’s episode! I was sad that JoJo never actually made a comeback, but hey, there’s always next season. And Ben, don’t you worry, you can’t get rid of me that easily!
Ben: Thanks everybody who read our recaps throughout this first season (and a half) and we’ll see you in March!
Jen: Thank you everyone, it’s been a pleasure. See you again soon!