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: Who’s with me this week? Jen? Brad? Anybody? Am I even here?
Brad: I’m here Ben! Our jet-setting Jen Engle is trying to hit a continent a month in 2014.
Ben: Yeah, this season has been a bit chaotic here at TDWTD Central, but we like it that way and appreciate your patience with us.
Speaking of patience, apologies we’re still an episode behind, but let’s dive right into said episode…
…which opens with Nikki in her new digs opening a package from Nattie and giving Brie play-by-play on the phone while doing so; I thought she had her mom on the line at first, but my wife assures me ‘twas the sisters Bella. I agree, both on the basis that she’s usually right and because sage Mama Bella likely would have had a different response to what follows.
Nattie’s gift turns out to be a painting she did herself of Nikki and John locked in a passionate embrace. While Nikki judges the piece pretty harsh—“My arm looks like a penis” “I look like I’m wearing a diaper” “I’m bigger than John”—as the son of an artist who has tried my hand at it now and again, I thought it seemed pretty competent for somebody who spends their days wrestling, not painting; but what do I know, I’m no Chad Campbell (he’d probably give the painting one and a half stars because he prefers acrylics).
Anyways, it’s a gift, so it’s the thought that counts right? Uh, do you remember what show I’m recapping?
Brad: I feel like the idea of art being abstract at times was completely lost on Nikki. This could have been a lot worse. Now, would I hang something like that in my house? I mean, maybe a guest room? Good dig on Chad by the way.
Ben: Vinny is playing chauffeur for Ariane, who breaks into song, specifically her new single, dropping around the time this was taped. She tries to get him to do the harmony, but Vinny’s talents do not extend to the musically realm; helluva beard though. Despite her seeming addiction to auto tune, Ariane’s generally a lot of fun and Vinny has grown on me with every appearance after his very rough introduction, so I’m always happy to see this dynamic duo get a storyline to themselves.
Brad: This Vinny is soooo much better than drunk, ruining WWE social events Vinny.
Ben: WWE’s coming to San Diego, meaning Nattie’s coming to visit Nikki, meaning Nikki has to hang that painting up STAT. She half-heartedly props it up on a desk mostly because Brie makes her, then answers the door for Nattie and compliments her shoes. Nattie loves the placement of her work because she’s amazingly positive and sweet; meanwhile, Nikki, every bit as brutally honest generally as Brie is polite, looks she’s about to have an aneurysm trying not to roll her eyes.
Brad: I know this is kind of breaking down the fourth wall but I always instantly think in these situations how pissed off the person (in this case Nattie) is going to be when they watch the episode. How can she take anything Nikki says at face value after watching her blatantly lie to her face? Will Nattie ever bring up drama in a future episode based on her watching a previous episode? (more on this later)
Ben: Ariane’s stressing about her album release party coming up and wanting to make sure there’s sufficient publicity surrounding the event, so she tows Vinny along to an L.A. street infamous for its paparazzi to drum up interest. They almost leave their puppy in the car, but thankfully remember to grab the little guy/gal and stick him/her in Ariane’s handbag, because otherwise this might be ridiculous. After a depressing initial stroll with no bites, the same dudes who were ignoring Ariane a moment before start suddenly shooting her like crazy. Hmm…
Brad: I would have totally marked out if Vinny said something along the lines of “Maybe they saw the cameras following us for this show we’re taping?” There’s the fourth wall coming down again though.
Ben: Trinity beats Tamina in a quick match; this will become significant later.
Ben: Eva and Summer head into the office of CTRD (Creepy Talent Relations Dude) as he has plans for them/wants to murder them. It’s the former! Because they have great chemistry/are on this show together, “Red & Gold” are officially becoming a tag team, to Summer’s excitement and Eva’s equivalent of excitement. After the meeting, Summer tells Eva they need to go train while Brie tells Eva to beware of Summer wanting to steal the spotlight.
Summer and Eva meet up at a gym in L.A. that looks to have a boxing ring, as Eva drops in with a pre-taped interview expressing nervousness because while she’s been on the roster for almost a year now, she bypassed NXT and hasn’t really trained as a wrestler. I’m glad they’re addressing this issue, both because most wrestling fans have demanded it since Total Divas started, and because I think for TD watchers not as much into the wrestling aspect, it’s an interesting side of the business to explore.
Brad: This is definitely a big talking point because what is Eva’s end game goal with being in the WWE? Is it to be Divas champ?
Ben: The other shoe drops while Ariane and Vinny are out to lunch as she can’t find pics of herself using Google, but learns that Kim Kardashian was right around the block, hence why the photogs were there; unfortunately, they ran her photos and not our friendly Funkadactyl’s. Vinny more or less says “you win some, you lose some” after Ariane regurgitates her own food into his mouth baby bird style, but clearly her wheels are still turning.
Brad: Apparently the internet can only handle photos of one celebrity a day. I didn’t get Ariane’s logic at all but good for Vinny for not pressing the issue.
Ben: Down in Florida, Nattie is set up full-on Rembrandt-style, lounging by her beautiful pool set-up with an easel and the works, just missing a beret as she whips up another portrait, this time for Brie and Bryan (and their dog). TJ offers his usual support, alternating between teasing his wife as though they were in grade school and making faces that seem to indicate hunger and/or nausea. Poor Nattie; she’s not the next [insert name of famous artist here because I already used Rembrandt], but she puts the time in and she’s being framed (ha!) by the show to look foolish.
Brad: Is it bad that I kind of liked the Nikki/Cena picture more?
Ben: Now in a feud with Kim Kardashian that Kim is likely/definitely/certainly not aware of, Ariane retaliates by recruiting none other than KK’s one-time love interest and sex tape co-star Ray J of something fame! They hit the gym, paparazzi in tow, and “work out” as Ariane makes sure to mug for the cameras and Ray J seems oblivious.
Then…out of nowhere…in perhaps the greatest unexpected moment in the history of Total Divas, they go to do MMA training where their instructor is friggin’ Jeremy Jackson, aka Hobie Buchanan from “Baywatch”! A quick trip to Wikipedia confirms for me that, holy crap, Hobie did indeed go into MMA and get jacked! Amazing!
So Ariane’s plan seems to have worked, but, guys, Hobie does MMA now! Somebody give him a show!
Brad: You know, Ariane and KK (not Kevin Kelly) DO share a network. I can’t believe Ray J was free to do this (insert sarcasm smilie).
Ben: Back at the gym, as Eva fails to properly execute a Camel Clutch, Summer has had enough and passive-aggressively gets in her face about it. Eva goes into a “it’s hard to train because we’re always on the road and doing appearances” spiel, but Summer—rightly—calls her out, saying she has the same schedule and she still finds time to hone her craft. Eva gets pissed and storms out of the gym, not far off from what she did to Ariane earlier this season, but whereas I was on her side there, I’m not at all here. I sympathize with Eva to a degree as WWE hired her knowing she was not a wrestler and more or less threw her in the deep end, but when she busted out the “I’m so busy” excuse to another Diva and Summer called BS that went away. Nobody’s expecting Eva Marie to be the second coming of Trish Stratus, but it’s clear she’s not putting in the time to even become the second coming of Amy Weber (Google it).
Brad: Good call back with Amy Weber, I dug her actually. Yeah, this excuse by Eva Marie was weak and when she couldn’t even remember things Summer had just showed her, she had no legs to stand on.
Ben: Nattie has packed the Brie/Bryan painting in a comically oversized box as the show continues its attempts to make her the Carrot Top of Total Divas with prop comedy galore; also, TJ is not helping her carry anything and tells her she should have shipped it.
Brad: What could possibly go wrong here? :foreshadowing:
Ben: Eva goes to Sandra to talk ring gear and the tell-it-like-it-is seamstress…tells it like it is: Eva’s shorts are way too short and you can almost see her lady business. That’s pretty much the scene.
Brad: Sandra really needs her own spin-off on the WWE YouTube page or something. She can just be sassy and put Divas in their place each week. I’d watch it.
Ben: With her husband pointing and laughing, poor Nattie makes like MacGyver and ties the painting to the roof of their rental car using a combination of athletic tape and pantyhose. As they set off down the highway toward Raw, it was readily apparent what was going to happen even before they showed it in a half dozen teasers, but yes, the painting flies off onto the side of the road. Not sure if TJ tugging at the jury-rigged “ropes” contributed to the mishap, but I’m sure it didn’t help. The Hart Dynasty (minus Harry) manages to retrieve their package, and, also, as Nattie notes, no other cars or civilians were harmed.
Brad: …and there’s the foreshadowing pay-off.
Ben: Finally, after what feels like forever, we get the return of the main thing Total Divas has been lacking lately: snarky Daniel Bryan! In this instance, it’s DB reprimanding Brie for wearing heels because it makes him look even shorter and he’s already shorter than everybody else on the roster. The adorable couple is interrupted by ominous music and gift-wielding Nattie—along with disinterested TJ—who presents her masterpiece to the soon-to-be-newlyweds. Brie and Bryan are nice enough about it, with Bryan waiting until Nattie is out of earshot—but not until he’s not on national television—to note they can’t hang this in their house because his nose looks like a pair of testicles.
As a postscript, I need to add that this storyline led to Nikki and Nattie having a match on Raw the next night because Nattie was pissed that her painting got dissed, and that Total Divas angles bleeding directly into the main WWE programming is pretty the greatest thing ever.
Brad: Couldn’t agree more. They had a worked match based on real hurt feelings from a previously taped and scripted reality show. Mind blown.
Ben: Backstage at Raw, Summer is telling anybody who will listen, from Fandango to CTRD, that Eva is a disaster as a wrestler and she doesn’t want to look bad, leading to their planned debut as a tag team being switched to a six woman where Tamina joins them against Nattie and the Bellas. During the match, Summer refuses to tag Eva and prevents Tamina from tagging her as well, no doubt relieving the crossover Superstars/Total Divas audience (Dan McGinn?) who now know why that happened a few months ago, similar to the random Naomi/Jimmy Uso feud from last season.
Brad: I’ll give Summer this, she could have left Eva out there to die so she took the route of just not bringing her in. I don’t know how that ultimately helps Summer as the duo was doomed to fail anyway.
Ben: Follow the match, Brie confronts Summer, who doesn’t mince words, saying that Eva sucks and that’s why she didn’t tag her. Elsewhere, Tamina gets in Eva’s face and says she should have forcibly taken the tag and not let Summer screw with her; I kinda dig having Tamina on the show, as she has a very different vibe that doesn’t feel like she’s playing to any cameras and also that she may snap and kill Eva Marie at any second.
Brie tells Eva what Summer told her, and the entire cast rallies around the mean girl of season one against the mean girl of season two, which is honestly how most TV shows work (any villain who sticks around more than a season will inevitably become an edgy good guy). Eva confronts Summer, telling her she was her last ally, then storms off. Again, while Summer probably could have handled this better—going behind everybody’s back was not a smooth move, particularly when they all talk to each other—I can’t disagree with her looking out for herself and being annoyed at Eva for not putting in the work expected of her. We’ll see where this goes.
Brad: Not to defend Summer too much but I would like to see Brie work a match with Eva and see how pissed off she gets. Summer bitching to anyone that would listen isn’t endearing at all, so everyone loses here.
Ben: Ariane’s release party seems to go off pretty well, except Vinny is very understandably pissed that the method for getting the publicity she craved was to fool the paparazzi into thinking she was involved with a dude notorious for having filmed a sex tape (and maybe is also a musician). Eva shows up to support her fellow Diva, in a nice bit of character progression as they reference their issues from earlier in the season, and convinces Ariane she needs to make it up to Vinny.
With Ariane, Vinny, Eva and Jonathan all chilling toward the end of the party, the Diva of the moment apologizes to her dude, who seems pretty fine with it (and several beers in).
I should note that I did mark out when I saw Vinny and Jonathan at WrestleMania; yeah, I’m that guy.
Brad: Vinny was really forgiving and quite the chill dude here considering she used freakin’ Ray J to get attention.
Ben: The show wraps with a moment we all knew was coming as Trinity is wrestling Aksana and gets her orbital bone broken by an errant knee to the face. They show the replay from all angles and it is super nasty, making it pretty darn impressive that Trinity manages not just to finish the match, but do so with a beautiful split-legged moonsault.
Cliffhanger ending with Trin getting taken off by the medical team while the rest of the cast looks on.
Brad: Pretty gruesome injury and I also give her a ton of props for finishing out that match. Imagine if this happened to the original Sin Cara? (note for non-wrestling fans, he once just bailed on a match because he hurt his finger).
Ben: Fun episode this/last week, with a nice balance of goofy (Nattie/Bellas) and serious (Eva/Summer) plus whatever Ariane was doing.
Next/this week: Brie’s bachelorette in Cabo!