“R&B Divas” recap (Ep. 3): “I’m a tough love bitch.”

We know from the previews for this week on R&B Divas that it’s Baby Time for Miss Keke. Ba-by! Ba-by! Ba-by! Before adorable baby time, though, it turns out there is some serious diva drama time first.

Faith has headed to LA to finish some recording projects she has going on there and to recruit a few more divas to add to the compilation album. While she’s gone, everyone else gathers for a dinner to celebrate where they’re at. Keke’s going to the hospital to induce labor in 24 hours, and the rest of the divas had just done some singing together in the studio with one of their producers. It’s divine to see them actually start to really get their sing on, and no one seems more pumped about the album than Monifah. She says of the practice session: “If this is indicative of where this album is going, it’s going straight to everybody’s heart.” Aw, girl. I have to say that I agree: all their voices together send little emotional tickles down my spine in the best of ways.

So dinner is supposed to be to celebrating positive things. Yay dinner! Faith sends them wine! But then Monifah brings up how, while she didn’t understand Keke and Michael having to be inseparable at first, now she gets it a little more. She’s trying to clear the air from giving Keke grief about it earlier, and also using it to explain how glad she is that they’re all getting to know each other better as they get involved in this project. It comes from a place of warmth and love, but it doesn’t come out exactly right. It also brings up a lot of discussion from Nicci and Syleena as well, who had just been talking about confronting Keke about this very issue earlier in the day.

In a remarkably vulnerable way, Keke reacts to all of this not with defensiveness this time, but with a shattering openness about her issues. She tries to explain that the ladies really don’t want to hang out with her without him, because when he’s not there, she retreats into a shell. She says, “I feel like I’m nothing if I don’t have him.”

This is such a heartbreaking statement that it causes every single person at the table to cry. At first I’m upset that Michael doesn’t immediately spring into action here, but the look on his face is almost one of shock, a look that expresses, your pain cuts me so deep because I love you so much and I don’t know why you can’t see how wonderful you are and I don’t even know what to say. I know those feels, Michael.

After this statement, though, something weird starts to happen with Nicci and Syleena. Syleena starts to say what she has to say to Keke, something about letting herself shine and believing in herself and so on, while Nicci thinks this whole intervention is inappropriate. Keke’s issues obviously run deep and need the help of a professional therapist. In her view, the ladies constantly berating her about needing to be away from Michael isn’t going to help her, and they need to give it up. They all start yelling at each other until Nicci up and leaves the table because she can’t handle it. And all the while as they’re fighting, Keke sits there silently, retreating into that shell she just so recently spoke of.

After Nicci leaves, Syleena tries to explain herself to Keke, why she can’t keep herself from expressing how she feels, saying, “I’m a tough love bitch. My love is different.”

First of all, I love the phrase “tough love bitch.” Second of all, I feel all sides of this story here, in a way. Nicci’s assessment that the only thing that will help Keke is serious therapy is probably 100% accurate. At the same time, when you see someone you love hurting themselves, it’s often your natural reaction to want to help in your own way. Even if it doesn’t actually help, you can’t stop yourself from wanting to reach out. Keke later says to Michael that all the advice was irritating because she hears the same things all the time from people, but she won’t believe it until she believes it. This is also 100% accurate. At the same time, all those comments from people who do already believe it, who love you, can help to plant the seed. What I’m saying is, it’s tough.

With Nicci gone and the atmosphere at the table calming down somewhat, Michael is finally able to get his say. Tearily, he tells a little tale of how Keke used to describe herself as a dented can of green beans. While the outside was damaged, the stuff inside the can was still just as good as any other. Keke listens to this and then asks, “But have you seen those green beans?” as she sobs into her napkin. Michael, disbelieving, says that he saw those green beans the first time he met her.

This may sound silly, and I admit that the amount of times the words “green beans” were just used in this two minutes of television is humorous. But let the record stand: a metaphor about a can of green beans most definitely just made me cry.

Monifah is feeling a lot of solidarity throughout all of this, coming from a past where she needed a lot of therapy herself to find peace. She gives perhaps my favorite line of the evening, as she looks Keke in the eye and says, “You are enough. Right now, as you sit here, you are enough.”

Bickering and dramatic exit aside, I find this whole scene both incredibly moving and incredibly important. Mental and emotional health are dealt with on TV in such demeaning and superficial ways so frequently, particularly when it comes to reality TV. Case in point: when we first met Keke and Michael on the first episode, we all probably had similar reactions: “This lady be crazy.”

Yet that notion of ”I’m nothing without him”–or without her–is such a deeply upsetting, and deeply real emotion that so many people of all stripes have experienced at some point in time in some capacity. How wonderful it is to see a woman who feels that being supported by other women in her life who don’t just want to call her crazy, but who want to help her. How wonderful it is to see therapy being exalted as a good, productive thing. And the more we get to know Keke and Michael, the less weird they seem, and the more they look like two people who are trying to work out their issues in a way that only mature people who love each other very deeply can.

So I apparently had a lot to say about this dinner. But let’s move on. To help relieve some of the tension from the evening, the next day Monifah invites Syleena to do some kick boxing. Here, they trample a little white dude. I feel better already.

Afterwards, Monifah continues to want to be the peacekeeper, calling Syleena and Nicci to a meeting at her apartment to work out their issues. It doesn’t really seem to work. But nice try, Monifah! You have a big heart.

And then, finally, we get to the baby part!

For a long time, it doesn’t seem to be going that well. They arrive at the hospital to induce labor, but the baby doesn’t want to drop. He remains high in Keke’s stomach as she lays miserably in pain for 16 hours, hoping that she doesn’t have to resort to a C-section. Her midwife Anne is there the whole time, who is an amazingly dykey little lady whose presence and interactions with Keke seem simultaneously odd and adorable at all times.

But finally, after some position adjusting and almost a whole day in bed, things start to happen and fast. And suddenly, we have a baby. A bluish, freakish looking baby. Okay, I know I sounded excited about babies at the start of this recap, but the truth is babies fresh out of the womb freak me the hell out. I mean. They’re weird. And icky. And stuff.

Keke only gets to hold little Wyatt for a moment, though, before it becomes apparent that he’s having trouble breathing. The nurses rush him to another table, where they call a code pink.

While they don’t fully explain what’s happening, it seems like they clear some gunk from Wyatt’s passageways and he’s soon breathing, cleaned up, and happy and healthy. Thank the heavens.

Finally, we come to the best moment of the whole episode. Minus Faith who’s still in LA, all the ladies come to meet baby Wyatt the next morning. Monifah’s ovaries, by the way, are apparently exploding, and she keeps hinting that she wants another baby real bad. Maybe “hinting” isn’t strong enough of a word. More like, “sighing into the camera with teary, I-want-a-baby eyes.” You watching, Terez?

As Monifah holds this new bundle of life with the divas around her, they sing “Jesus Loves Me” together to him, a moment that is so sweet and beautiful, whether you care about Jesus or not, that I don’t think I breathe during it.

What did the rest of you think about this Keke-centric episode? Are you also moved to tears by these ladies more than you thought you would be? I feel surprisingly more empowered and heartened with every episode. Next week, I’ll just get the box of tissues out at the start.

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