After a relatively boring season of Real Housewives of Atlanta, the highlight of which was when Cynthia turned everybody on in her sexual 50 Cent costume, The Real Housewives of Potomac’s third season is already outpacing Altanta’s in terms of drama and ridiculousness. While every Housewives franchise is preternaturally obsessed with false appearances, it’s Karen Huger, the queen bee of Potomac slash Great Falls—which is where she actually lives now and gets ridiculed for—whose penchant for denial borders on beautiful delusion, and who makes this recent season of The Real Housewives of Potomac and the one before it worth more people’s attention.
First, think of Potomac as Bravo’s unattractive middle child who started to blossom and look better, then got a tattoo on her upper butt and a painful tongue piercing because all she wanted was to be loved. It worked. The child has our attention. Now think of Karen as the cast member who fills the teapot-sized hole of deception that Phaedra left behind when she was kicked off RHOA for being a maniac and crafting a big gay lie (that included a rape plot) about Kandi and Porsha. For a minute, I kinda missed having Phaedra in my life, but then Karen walked back into it, wig unusually disheveled, eyes shadily squinting in the wind.
Before I go on to praise her, it helps to know that the first season of Potomac primarily involved the cast chirping about light-skinned woes and arguing who was blacker. Things have since settled down (or ramped up?) and serious life issues have surfaced, like divorce and money troubles. One particular storyline last season revolved around whether Karen, who’d moved out of Potomac to Great Falls, was living broke and not-large and therefore lying about her finances. As we learned in the Season 3 premiere, her husband Raymond is indeed in deep Uncle Sam shit, owing millions in back taxes and—egads—it was all over the blogs.
Over the course of two episodes that have aired so far, Karen initially claimed to anyone who was curious that she had no idea about the tax situation, even though she’s been with her husband for 20 years, and even though he told her (on camera, in Episode 1) that he actually did “mention it” to her several years ago.
It’s also revealed in the premiere that Karen, at some point before this season aired, called her cast mate Robyn to open up about her money situation. “I admire her because she took that time to be there for me and guide me against the storm that was bigger than me,” Karen explains in Episode 1. Robyn doesn’t exactly feel the love back. When she and Karen sit for dinner at Hunter’s Bar and Grill, the conversation quickly escalates into disbelief and rage, as Robyn accuses Karen of withholding the truth about her finances.
Karen defends herself, in third person of course, stating, “Karen is debt-free and loaded!” She insists again that she didn’t know about the tax problem. “First of all, what is a blog?” she wonders. “You guys read blogs?” She does this while gracefully cutting into her food with a knife, the universal symbol of backstabbing. I personally don’t read blogs, so I can relate.
With Robyn, Karen also uses the age-old logic: “You have to make millions to owe millions,” and she refers to her so-called friends, including Robyn, as “back stabbing betches.” At the dinner table, Robyn offers nothing but a nonchalant expression and says, “First of all, you said you were gonna eat and you didn’t.”
Here are the things that make Karen so Karen. For one, her wigs are too wig-y (see the video above). But perhaps I can’t fault her for that, because that seems to be a contagion that strikes reality TV stars everywhere. She’s the type of friend who seems to know that you know she’s lying, but doesn’t care because she’s already in the middle of the conversation and can’t stop the train, so why go back because of a small thing like the truth? She’s such an expert bullshitter that I really can’t tell if she’s lying or actually telling the truth and just always has the guise of a liar, because of how much she changes her story. Either way, she’s willing to do the utmost to change people’s perception of her, even if that thing only makes her seem a little crazier in the process. For example, holding a press conference.
In Sunday night’s episode, Karen hosts a press conference—and she calls it a press conference—as a means of wading through all the rumors about her once and for all. The subject of the press conference? Karen!
The big Karen questions are: Did Karen move from Potomac to Great Falls because of the taxes? Is her husband Ray being indicted or what? Is Karen being indicted? Are they going bankrupt? Is she lying about everything?
“I don’t trust these women and I want a witness to their hyena behavior,” Karen explains to us, setting her agenda for the meeting. She then has her friend? assistant? white man? Matt sit in on the gathering. To prepare, he’s come with printed-out receipts of tweets from the other cast members highlighted in pink. Karen has also provided No. 2 pencils for some reason. She wants to hear what these betches have to say! And Matt is there to document.
“I have absolutely no idea who this person is sitting next to me,” Gizelle says, referring to Matt. Nobody knows this guy, who Karen says she’s been friends with for 12 years.
Robyn wants to know if Karen’s move to Great Falls was a result of the tax situation. Karen says no, but she gets why they would think that. Karen says she has never had a joint account with her husband and stresses that she can’t comment on his legal situation because it’s an ongoing legal matter (very slick, Karen). It’s RAY who’s having financial issues—yeah, that’s it. Not Karen. Gizelle, ever the sharp one, points out the obvious in her confessional.
“Karen don’t work!” Karen does not work. That is a point worth considering. Though, it should also be noted that in Episode 2, Karen pulls up to Monique’s house in a brand new whip, as visual proof that she’s debt-free and loaded.
Because of logic, Karen has to admit to the women, during the meeting, that Ray did say he told her about the tax issue years ago but that he never brought it up again. But when Ashley asks if Karen’s getting indicted, Karen becomes offended and the Karen we all love comes out. She shoots back with: “Did Michael [Ashley’s elder Australian husband] get indicted for swinging his ding-a-ling across Instagram?”
The reason this comeback works is that it’s unlikely that Michael would get indicted for that, if it happened. What I also love about this moment is that Karen laughs manically in response, that she shifts into a sermon-like tone while recapping the moment in her confessional, and that Ashley, in her own confessional, ends up making a really bad and old joke about Ray not dropping the soap if and when he goes to prison. Then the women go on to explain the logistics of filing taxes, and Robyn notes: “You do get more of a benefit, a write-off when you file jointly.” If not for Karen and her seemingly shifty relationship with the truth, the women would have nothing to argue about and this season would be all about Robyn and Juan staring at each other.
Karen, thank you.