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: I want to apologize personally to all the little Total Div-ettes out there on the lateness of this recap, but I actually watched the debut episode of season two proper out in Sin City, as I was visiting my wife’s family in Vegas (where they live) and my brother-in-law and his fiancé are both huge TD fans, so it was a treat to have a little viewing party. I flew back to Jersey early the next morning and have been fighting off jet lag ever since, so it took me ‘til the weekend to compose my thoughts on this momentous occasion.
…however, none of that explains why during this lengthy hiatus I have received nary a call, text, e-mail or telegram from my erstwhile recapping partner! What gives, Jen, do you only love me for my Total Divas insight?
Jen: You didn’t get my telegram??!!! I thought for sure that would be the best way to reach you. You can’t count on Western Union anymore, I guess.
Ben: Well, regardless, reunited and it feels so good, so on to the first chapter in a new era of Total Divas history!
Jen: There was enough drama in this episode for an entire season!
Ben: Speaking of new eras, the episode kicks off with the entire cast gathered by the creepier sub-head of Talent Relations, who’s got a new assistant, leading me to believe he’s seized the empire from Jane since season one, or she just held up the show during contract negotiations. Nonetheless, the big takeaway is that JoJo is gone, as we forecasted, with no explanation given, and in her place we get new addition Summer Rae.
A little background on Summer for our non-wrestling-viewing readers (and Jen): She came up through WWE developmental a couple years back making her official debut a little under a year ago as the valet/dance partner of Fandango, well-known to Total Divas fans as the sleaziest man in wrestling. Interestingly, they play it off here like she’s a total rookie and will be shadowing Eva Marie, but Summer actually debuted on television well before Eva in the “real” WWE world and in fact got the job Eva botched last season when she claimed she could dance. Anyhow, what were your early impressions of Summer, Jen?
Jen: It was good knowing you, JoJo! Jane was pretty tough, and this guy just seems like a creeper along for the ride. I had never heard of Summer Rae in my life before this episode, but I can tell she’s got the E! reality show persona down pat.
Ben: Early on here they try to play up Summer as being another Eva as far as being a rookie with more attitude than bonafide cred, setting up a feud between her and ever-cranky Nattie. Later in the episode, there’s a scene where Summer kinda wanders by Nattie, Trinity and their respective husbands/fiancés TJ and Jon in a hotel and only gives a half hello, leading Nattie to flip out after she leaves and Jon to basically say she’s insane. I think I prefer the other storyline Nattie has where she gets super tanked at a club and starts grinding on Vincent, much to Ariane’s chagrin and almost gets arrested for making a spectacle of herself out in the streets; it may not be the best thing for her physical or mental health, but I prefer oblivious party girl Nattie to bitter veteran Nattie.
Jen: Summer is totally playing up the bitchy reality TV star act that I can’t stand. Nattie was catty and sarcastic to her, but I think Summer made up all the tension in her head. Or the producers told her that there was tension, or told her to make the tension happen. Whatever it is, this is the kind of behavior that drives me crazy. I don’t do drama in my real life and I can’t stand to watch it be made up on TV. Ariane’s impression of her was spot on, and Jon is my new hero for saying that he wouldn’t talk to a girl like that.
Maybe Nattie is having a little too much fun right now, but let’s be honest, we were all excited to not hear her say “TJ” over and over and over again. I am not sure what made her grind up against Vincent, but for once he seemed like the calm one in the bunch. I thought it was hilarious when the cop stopped them (he was a bit much, no?) and Nattie ran away. I would have done the same thing….
Ben: With that out of the way, it’s time to catch up on what’s going on with the various girls’ relationships, and there’s no better place to do that than gathered around the learning tree of Sandra the seamstress! Eva interrupts Brie’s chat with Sandra to reveal that despite her family hating fiancé Jonathan last season, they went ahead and secretly eloped, opening her up to a verbal smackdown from the world’s most dangerous costume maker about being honest with the people that you love. Nikki busts in to the middle of this exchange and learns the news, then pouts about how last season’s cliffhanger of her and John Cena having a heart-to-heart over their marriage/kids situation ended with the two deciding to take a break. Cena appears creepily off in the distance which the camera hones in on and I have to say, this whole episode made him seem more cyborg/sociopath-like than ever, which we’ll continue to see.
Jen: Sandra is a great voice of reason with these girls. I picture her being the “work mom” to all of those girls. I bet she’s got some good stories to tell from her youth, as all great work moms should. Eva and Brie’s conversation was so staged and fake. If Eva Marie and Jonathan have been married for a few months, all of these girls already know. I totally agree with Sandra here, not telling her family is a terrible, horrible plan and it’s just going to make it worse when they actually do tell them. My parents would be devastated if they weren’t invited to my wedding day, even if they weren’t keen on my fiancé.
Ben: After the Bellas tell the entire cast and most of the WWE locker room than Eva has gotten secretly married, we flash to their 30th birthday party, which leads to a tangent of my wife and future sister-in-law talking about how ever girl on this show looks older than they are, but that’s neither here nor there; Brie, not Nikki, receives a happy birthday text to both of them from John that reads like a form letter written by an artificial intelligence and then everybody goes out to get wasted where the aforementioned Nattie hijinks ensue.
Jen: They do all look older than they are! I hate to admit it, but I’m older than the Bella Twins, but I feel like they both look and act older. Nattie does too. Very strange text from John, I don’t think it would have been too weird for him to text Nikki Happy Birthday but I guess he’s trying to abide by her wishes and stay on that break.
Ben: From here, the episode basically splits into two main storylines, so I figure let’s cover them one at a time, starting with Eva Marie and Jonathan…
Jen: You mean Evil Marie?
Ben: The newly-married duo are cruising in their SUV, Jonathan sporting his trademark deep deep deep V shirt, and we learn they’ve been hitched long enough to have made another visit to Eva’s family’s pad over Thanksgiving where they did not reveal the big news but took a bunch of pics that shocked me as nobody looks like they want to kill Jonathan. Eva gets a call from her mom that she wants to come visit, and in order to keep the ruse alive, she tells Jonathan he needs to move out of their shared apartment—where is JoJo living?!—so everybody stays happy. Jonathan protests that the solution to this problem is certainly not getting deeper into the lie, but Eva is deep in thought/transfixed by a shiny object.
Jen: I’m glad at least Jonathan is level headed enough to realize that lying is never the right option. This is probably the worst idea Eva Marie has ever had.
Ben: Jonathan gets overruled and has to get all of his stuff out of their house, plus Eva is keeping the car. My brother-in-law questioned why this guy rolled over so quick, but I noted that unlike even Vincent, they’ve never once brought up what he does for a living, which leads me to believe that “living with Eva Marie/keeping Eva Marie happy” is his primary source of income, and thus I don’t think he gets his way a whole lot. Of note: They do not remove the copious amount of couples pictures of them, which I had a feeling would come back to bite them.
Jen: I’m pretty sure that was a very accurate description of Jonathan’s current employment. She did tell her family that he was working but never elaborated.
Ben: Eva’s parents and her two brothers—who look like the guys that would get shot early on Sons of Anarchy—show up and act like a happy family for about 15 seconds before noticing those pics of Jonathan—ha!—and questioning the status of the relationship. One of the bros refers to him as a “boyfriend/manager,” to which Eva Marie replies, “yeah, he’s like a husband/manager” and then congratulates herself in a cutaway for “dropping hints.” Jonathan—who Eva says still splits his time between Florida and California—stops by in the midst of the awkwardness and makes things more awkward. Kudos to Jonathan for wearing a full shirt…opposite of kudos for having “forgotten” to remove his wedding ring! I gotta say, though, I think this was his way of going against his sugar mama and then being able to call it an “accident” down the line.
Jen: If this is the way that Eva Marie drops hints, I feel bad for Jonathan for every Christmas and birthday for the rest of their married life. He’s never going to know what the heck she wants and then he’s going to get in so much trouble for it.
I can picture the future fight about the wedding ring mistake now “We’re married! I don’t ever take it off!” is the right argument Jonathan. I’m just looking out for you.
Ben: One of Eva’s brothers just comes out with it and asks if they got married, which Eva credits to her subtle hints, not Jonathan’s wedding band, and then retreats like a turtle slipping into its shell leaving her man to handle the shakedown while noting in her cutaways that her father has had several heart attacks, making every shot of him for the remainder of the scene a perverse joy. After Jonathan and Eva both cop to being hitched, the family leaves in disgust. I found myself more annoyed than usual at Eva in this scene as not only did she go through this elaborate process of lying to her family, but the minute they figured it out, she completely threw it on Jonathan’s plate to try and clean up the mess he wanted to have dealt with way earlier.
Jen: Jonathan looks like the bad guy here to Eva Marie’s family, and he isn’t the one that planned all of this deception. Put away those tears, Eva you brought this all on yourself.
Ben: The next night—or later that week or the same night or I don’t know—Eva and Jonathan head over to her family’s hotel for the final confrontation. Eva’s dad and one of her brothers are wearing matching jacket things with some sort of biker-esque insignia, further leading me to believe they’re all in a motorcycle gang and Jonathan is screwed. Immediately, Jonathan steps up and apologizes for the deception, but says after how things went down when he respectfully asked for Eva’s hand in marriage and the family didn’t even give him a chance, he said he realized he was never getting their approval, but still wanted to marry the woman he loved, so basically, screw them; Jonathan has gone up like 110% in my eyes over the course of this episode. Eva redeems herself slightly by pitching in and noting that both her brothers live with their girlfriends despite not being married, which is “not very Catholic.” The dad does not have another heart attack, but does storm off, his brood in tow; Eva and Jonathan leave, not thrilled, but at least semi-satisfied with having things out in the open and having made a stand. It will be interesting to see if we get follow up on this any time soon or if it’s resolved off camera between episodes per usual.
Jen: Every timeline in this show seems so jumbled, I have no clue when this confrontation happened. I’m glad Jonathan finally stood up for himself and defended his love for Eva Marie. Eva has a point when she calls out her brothers for living with their girlfriends before marriage, but I think not telling your family you got married and the deception is worse than that.
Ben: On the flip side, as Eva and Jonathan bond over their shared trouble, who knows what’s going on with Nikki and John. She’s finding seeing him at work extremely awkward and it gets worse when they’re at a comic book convention—sponsored by Wizard, the company I used to work for—and little girls are asking her where he is. John eventually cuts the line to get a pic with both Bellas, giving Brie a big hug and Nikki an uncomfortable half embrace. I love Brie, but she seemed to be a bit too satisfied with this scenario sometimes; I’m going to chock that one up to editing, because I don’t buy she’d be that nasty in reality.
In an extremely misguided—but presumably well-intentioned!—attempt to cheer her sister up, Brie invited Nikki to go wedding registry shopping with her and Bryan…at some sort of organic earth-friendly place in Seattle. While Brie and Bryan marvel over recycled underwear, Nikki looks repulsed. I have met some hippies in my day, but Brie and Bryan are on another level. Bryan seems to be doing his best to talk to Nikki and give her a male perspective, but I would imagine that’s tough given how worlds apart he and John seem in terms of demeanor and, well, everything.
Jen: I can’t imagine a situation that would make you feel more like a 3rd wheel than this. I get that Brie wanted to include Nikki, but this is not a situation to include her in! I love Brie and Bryan, but this store is off the hippie charts! I guess we should have seen the signs when we heard about Bryan composting his own waste (shudder). I would have been repulsed too, Nikki! What is wrong with Crate and Barrel?
Ben: Nikki pretty quickly apologizes to Brie for being a bitch during the shopping excursion, then spends most of the remainder of the episode moping around her mom’s house, and I can’t blame her as she’s found somebody who makes her genuinely happy but with about the biggest set of caveats you can have.
Jen: I feel awful for Nikki and she’s handling it on camera better than I ever would.
Ben: Nikki gets a text from John that makes his earlier formal text to Brie seem relaxed and casual—including starting with her name and then repeating it with a greeting tacked on in the next line—asking her to meet him on some San Diego pier because he’s made a huge mistake. She calls Brie who thinks he’s going to propose, which struck me as extremely unlikely and a terrible way to get her hopes up. Bryan owns the scene and possibly the episode by jumping on the phone and making fun of Nikki for “acting like a girl” then musing about how if Cena does propose he’ll have used a private jet and other bells and whistles that will make his own proposal look low rent and ends it by trailing off with “…stupid John…” I loved that.
Jen: Everything that John Cena does is so planned and calculated, that I bet it takes him forever to draft a text or an email. I yelled at Brie when she asked Nikki if she thought he was going to propose! That was the complete worst thing to say. You know that’s the first thing that Nikki thought when she read the email and having Brie ask that just made her crazy suspicion seem possible.
Ben: The episode ends on—shocker—a cliffhanger with Nikki all dressed up and slowly walking down a pier past confused onlookers as John waits in a two-sizes-too-small suit, holding roses as well as wine/champagne and two glasses; my wife swears he was holding just the alcohol in one shot and then just the roses in another, but I thought he had them all. Tie breaker?
Jen: Um, I can’t help you there. I thought that he had them all in his hand the whole time? I can’t help but think that John is going to tell Nikki he’s open to “thinking about” getting married and having kids (but deep down still doesn’t ever want either of those things) just to get her back. I know I can be cynical, and I hope for their sake that I’m wrong.
Ben: A little irked we ended on yet another Nikki/John cliffhanger, but way too psyched to have the show back to care too much. Summer Rae seems like a great addition, and Eva Marie is more “love to hate” than ever! I foresee great things ahead.
Jen: The cliffhanger was so unnecessary. Let’s wrap up this story up already! What does he say? Who is holding John’s cue cards (because you know he wrote it all out before he got there)?
I’m already not a fan of Summer Rae, but I can tell she’s going to provide a heck of a lot more drama than poor JoJo. Hopefully Eva Marie quits lying this season. Hahaha who am I kidding. I’m sure there are more lies ahead.
Ben: See you next week—or hopefully in a couple days—Divas!
Jen: Until then, Divas!