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: Television has a convention known as a “bottle episode.” It’s something that has pervaded sitcoms, dramas, pretty much everything, though I’m not sure how much a staple of reality TV it has been. Basically, it’s when an entire installment of any show takes place completely—or nearly completely—from one location.
This week, we had a bottle episode of Total Divas.
On the whole, I’m not a fan of bottle episodes; they pretty much force character interaction and the progression of relationships dynamics when done right, but at the expense oftentimes of pacing and excitement. Can Total Divas overcome my disdain for the format? Let’s find out together, friends…
Jen: I have to agree, these types of episodes generally focus on non-significant storylines too. Let’s see how the Divas do!
Ben: Before we get bottled, the show opens where the last episode left off: Trinity getting her eye socket mangled by an errant Aksana knee drop to the face; after amazingly finishing the match—with a split-legged moonsault, no less—Trin stumbles to the back for medical attention. I’ve seen some criticism of the other Total Divas girls for seeming emotionless and wooden in reaction their supposed friend’s injury, but I’d counter that by saying they were probably genuinely concerned and wanted to react like real people, but had TV cameras on them and likely crew people reminding them they needed to explain to the viewer what had happened, which I wager made for an awkward presentation; I choose to give the girls the benefit of the doubt.
Jen: I’m sure the girls all felt for Trinity, it could happen to any of them at any given moment! Reality TV ruins the ability to act in a normal manner for everyone.
Ben: Case in point as to what I just said, you’ve got an in-set of Ariane obviously after the fact wondering what Trinity’s injury will mean for her own career, but when we cut back to “real time,” she’s leading the charge to take care of her partner and make sure she’s got everything she needs.
Jen: Glad they showed Ariane taking charge at this point, otherwise she would have seen like a real jerk! Obviously she’s concerned but the interview makes her look like all she cares about is herself. Good thing we know that isn’t true.
Ben: Post-credits, at a live event or Raw or something, the Bellas congratulate Nattie on getting her own t-shirt—which we never see but I’d buy out of Total Divas solidarity—briefly fill in the viewers on Trinity’s injury status, then get psyched about going to Cabo for Brie’s bachelorette party. Nattie gets really excited about building sandcastles on the beach, like total childlike glee, and the Bellas act like she just shot a puppy.
Jen: It sounds like Nattie and the Bellas have two completely different types of vacation in mind here. Poor Nattie does not have drinking and partying the whole time in mind at all. Sandcastles? Read your audience, Nattie! You know these girls better than that.
Ben: Summer Rae gets her sole appearance of the episode, busting up a session between Eva and a staffer to ask what’s up with the bachelorette party. Eva is in total T-1000 mode (dated pop culture reference!), emotionlessly letting Summer know she’s not invited and that she hates her before walking off. I would have popped huge if said random staffer had meekly let Summer know that she has to go to pack for Cabo.
Jen: We all know that I’m not a fan of Summer, so this segment made me happy. Someone had to put her up to asking about the trip. Surely, she wasn’t ever invited! Go Eva for pretty much telling her off with the least amount of emotion possible.
Ben: And with that transition, we’re whisked away to Mexico, as the bottling of this episode begins. Nikki can’t wait to let loose, noting Cabo’s the place to do it—unlike pretty much every other locale that Total Divas has shown the ladies going wild in—while Nattie lets everybody know she brought board games. On the one hand, I feel bad that the show makes Nattie look like such a dork, but on the other hand it just makes her even more likable and relatable in my eyes—I totally would have wanted to play board games—plus it’s pretty funny to boot.
Jen: I would have been the one to bring board games. Maybe Cards Against Humanity and not Sorry!, but I would have brought board games. Nattie likes to have a different kind of fun, and maybe she’s thinking she doesn’t want to be hung over all day every day and actually enjoy the beach. Or maybe that’s just how I feel when I go on vacation.
Ben: Now we get the big drama of the episode, as a cutaway interview with Eva Marie reminds us that she’s a recovering alcoholic and only the conveniently—well, as convenient as a gruesome eye injury can be—absent from the tip Trinity knows it. Eva has elected not to tell the other girls, so as not to detract from the fun, but you can see it coming from here that her trying to find excuses not to participate in the revelry will cause more drama than if she just fessed up, and this is coming from a fellow non-drinker in myself.
Jen: It had to be incredibly difficult for Eva Marie to be participating in the whole trip without letting everyone know why she was not drinking. She did the right thing in not wanting to turn the drama onto herself, these girls would have definitely been catty and called her out about it. Part of me wondered why she didn’t say it before the trip, there has to have been times that these girls went out that they were all drinking and she turned it down? It can’t be an easy conversation to have, especially with people who don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to drink.
Ben: The alcohol starts flowing freely as the Bellas’ non-wrestling buddies show up—I’m guessing they’re mostly models because…well, watch the show—Eva gets more uncomfortable and Nattie, bless her, will not let the board games stuff go.
Ben: Quick aside back to the States where Jon Uso is tending to an eye patch-wearing Trinity at their apartment. No formal diagnosis on the injury yet, but Trin’s bummed because she feels she had the Divas title show with AJ at WrestleMania locked up and a fairly assured win, which, if you believe rumors, has validity.
Jen: Poor Trinity! As everyone knows, I don’t follow wrestling, but I know that this is a really big deal to Trinity. It’s really what she’s working towards, she is even putting off having kids to achieve this title.
Ben: Back in Cabo, you can see the girls—save Eva—have been imbibing more than a bit, as Nikki gives a sweet but slurring speech about how much she disliked/felt threatened by the redhead back when the show started, but over time, has come to really enjoy her company and considers her a good friend now, passing on a saying from sage Mama Bella that people you hate when you first meet them often become your closest friends. As the heartfelt moment sinks in, Nattie and Nikki take turns testing the firmness of each other’s butts with the types of knife edge chops Ric Flair reserves for after hours.
Ben: The drinking continues out by the infinity pool, and Nattie shifts from one of Nikki’s assets to a couple more, complimenting her implants. This turns to talk of whether or not John Cena has changed as a guy in a relationship, with Nattie saying she’s never seen him this happy and suggesting maybe his stance on marriage has changed, which Nikki protests with the ferocity of a woman who has had her hopes raised and dashed far too many times. As Nattie continues to press the point, almost seemingly just to change the subject, Nikki reveals that she has been married before! And we go to commercial…
Jen: They do say that alcohol is a truth serum! How has this not come up before!?
Ben: …and we’re back, as Nikki tells Nattie that she married her high school sweetheart in Vegas at age 20 and the two remained wed for three years despite not living together or even really being in a relationship before having it annulled. Brie enters the scene and hears that Nikki has spilled these particular beans, and we get a cutaway revealing while she knew her sister’s secret, nobody else did to this point, including their immediately family and, obviously, John, so sharing it with Nattie—not to mention an international TV audience—could cause major drama.
Jen: And this is why one should never be on reality TV! But, it is something Nikki should have shared with her family. High School Sweetheart or not, I’m sure the breakup and dissolution of the marriage was a tough time to go through without the help of her family. And although John claims he never wants to get married again, he should know this about Nikki!
Ben: The girls get dressed up and go out for dinner and many many drinks, all of which Eva manages to sidestep partaking in despite never revealing why and never quite saying no when the others order for her. Finally a shot gets dropped down in front of her and she picks it up for a moment contemplatively—and we get a commercial break to contemplate ourselves—before putting it down and abruptly leaving the bar. Here’s where I need to compliment Total Divas’ brilliant editing, as in the preview for this week’s show, we saw this scene paired with Ariane yelling “Eva, no!” making it seems like Ariane knew the score of the alcoholism, but in fact, Ariane just yells “Eva!” and then goes to pursue her; the “No!” must have been pulled from elsewhere—sneaky sneaky, Total Divas!
Ben: Ariane follows Eva out of the bar, asking her what’s wrong, and the newbie insists she’s just not feeling well and calls a cab. Ariane seems convinced enough to head back in where everybody notes that seemed dramatic—exactly what Eva keeps saying she wanted to avoid—and leave not long after (or so the editing would have us believe).
Jen: Proud to see Eva put that drink down and leave at this point. I think leaving was the right thing to do, although the girls commented on the drama of it all, they seemed drunk enough to not get too offended by it.
Ben: The next morning, everybody is hung over and Nattie apparently devoured some chocolate because she was famished. This gets a solid minute of semi-ridicule devoted to it; poor Nattie.
Jen: Oh my god, Nattie had…CHOCOLATE!? Seriously? All the calories in those margaritas and they give her flack about it? Poor Nattie. Have some chocolate if you want it Nattie. You’ll probably burn more calories at the gym the next time you go than I do in a week of spin.
Ben: Finally, it’s payoff time for this Eva drama, as the non-Divas get gently shoved off to part unknown leaving our core cast to have a frank discussion. Eva reveals all as far as her past problems, a relapse she had when trying to drink like “a normal person” and that hard time she has being around alcohol but not wanting to bring everybody else down; it’s pretty raw stuff, and kudos to her for sharing. Not surprisingly, the other girls show total support, in particular Nattie, whose family has a fairly well-known history with substance abuse, from her uncles right on down to her own father. The other girls also share their own stories and let Eva know that she’s got nothing to fear as far as them considering her not to be the life of the party. It’s a very sweet bonding moment on a show that can short on them and I will just leave it at that.
Jen: Wonder where the non-Divas went? I’m sure the producers ushered them to some far off room so that they could get this shot. I’m glad they had this conversation with Eva, and while sober. I think if Eva had this conversation before they left it would have gone just as well.
Ben: Checking back in on Trinity once again, the doctor explains the nature of the break in her orbital bone, basically that her eye is loose and she needs to rest and ice a lot to get it back in gear, but she will not need surgery. Here’s where you see the wrestler mentality differing from us normal folks, as this news doesn’t necessarily excite Trin, but the idea that she can get back to work in under a month in time for WrestleMania puts a big smile on their face. I totally get that wrestlers work hard and sacrifice more than most for their craft, so news like this that you won’t have to give up your end goal means a lot, but it always makes me wince at how readily they’ll sacrifice their bodies for that short term gain.
Jen: I think it’s the same with a lot of sports, look at how many football players are back on the field after multiple concussions. I hope her eye heals correctly and doesn’t cause her any future issues, but less than a month off doesn’t seem like enough time for a broken bone to me!
Ben: Back in Cabo, Brie asks Nikki why she told Nattie about the secret marriage, and she doesn’t have much of an explanation other than being drunk. Brie shows concern that Nattie can be a big mouth—have we seen this in action?—and Nikki realizes she needs to break the news to John and her family on her own.
Jen: I can’t recall Nattie ever being the one on this show as having the big mouth, but I can recall a few others! I guess there’s no time like the present to tell your family about your secret marriage and annulment.
Ben: For their last group activity in Mexico, the girls go to swim with dolphins, something Nattie wanted to do from the start, and a decision made in part out of respect to Eva, since it doesn’t involve getting hammered, though Eva still stays on the sidelines. Hearkening back to the lesson she learned a couple episodes back, Nikki makes the guy running the deal assure them that the dolphins receive humane treatment; nice touch.
Jen: I didn’t really understand why Eva and Nikki wouldn’t get in the water with the dolphins, but it was a nice touch to do something that Eva could do and that Nattie has been pining to do for probably her whole life.
Ben: The trip to Cabo wraps with the girls sitting around a fire sharing their favorite things about Brie since, oh yeah, they’re there for her bachelorette party. Everybody says really nice stuff—while, the Total Divas do, presumably the non-wrestling friends’ speeches will be DVD extras—and Brie gives a sweet interview about valuing her friends and family and looking forward to becoming a wife and mother.
Ben: Back in the United States, Nikki gathers her family—parents, her brother, and her brother’s girlfriend/fiancée/wife/something—for some real talk. After she spends a few minutes ramping up to it, Brie interrupts with Josie, earning a glare and nasty comment from Nikki. Once she regains her composure, Nikki confesses about her secret marriage, drawing a range of reactions. The father, who if I recall correctly has not been un-estranged for that long, says “things happen.” Mama Bella has some shock that she didn’t know, given how close she is to her daughters, but feels it’s best to move on. Brother Bella, however, storms out of the room in anger and also sets up the season finale by guessing John will be super pissed.
Jen: I was pretty shocked at how “whatever” their father was about the whole situation. If I had a secret marriage, my father would not say “things happen”, that’s for sure! Brother Bella is right, as pissed as he is, John is going to be even more pissed. Especially with all of the drama between them, and how Nikki is always saying that she’ll never have a wedding. It wasn’t the wedding of her dreams, but she still already had one. Good luck with that conversation, Nikki!
Ben: So…bottle episode. In the same way a scripted show advances character development, we got a lot of it this week, obviously with Eva Marie in particular; however, part of what I love about Total Divas comes from the shifting locales and following their girls on the road, since their professions sets them apart from any other show like this. So I missed the glimpse behind the scenes of pro wrestling aspect, not to mention all the awesome ancillary players like Bryan, John, TJ, etc; probably my least favorite episode of Total Divas, to be honest, but of course still better than 85% of television.
Ben: Next week: Season finale part one! Brie and Bryan’s wedding! Summer and Eva’s final showdown! WrestleMania and the slim chance I made it on camera! Lot to look forward to.
Jen: Can’t wait to see more of Bryan in next week’s episode, this week was seriously lacking in him and John Cena. Until next week, Divas!!