In one sense, a bachelorette party is a last hurrah as the clock to marriage winds down: One final time to cut loose before midnight hits and wedded bliss pumps the breaks on your wilder impulses. The big question of E!’s new Total Bellas — the first of a two-parter — is why Nikki Bella isn’t interested in any of that.
The answer, obviously, is just out of everybody’s reach or isn’t quite ready to be spoken aloud just yet: Thanks to the increasing physical distance between them, Nikki isn’t sure she wants to marry John Cena anymore, and those feelings have intensified to the point where her bachelorette jaunt to Paris feels more like a regular girls’ trip than a bachelorette party. She’s determined to plow ahead and not succumb to those feelings, though, and she’s in pretty good company. Everybody in this episode has blinders on, refusing to acknowledge some kind of issue bubbling just below the surface, some of which carry deeper implications than others.
Kathy and JJ, for instance, are along for the bachelorette party and aren’t really sure how they got roped into it — neither of them seems to think it’s appropriate (to her credit, Nikki doesn’t either). So, they have a mother-son day in Paris, despite some nervousness from Kathy that’s very well-founded: The last time she was in Paris, the terror attack at the Bataclan nightclub happened, and she no longer feels safe there. Of course, sipping wine on a Ferris wheel is all well and good to calm the nerves, but JJ is perfectly aware his mother hasn’t properly dealt with her feelings from the last trip. But between a conversation with a local who promises Kathy that the city will always be safe and a visit to the Bataclan itself, they finally confront the issue and put some of the trauma behind them.
This is more than can be said for Nikki and Brie. Nikki is muscling through the weekend and getting glummer by the minute, and Brie Bella has no idea why. Her interpretation of her sister’s mood is just that she’s down in the dumps and getting boring before her time, so she spends the episode trying to goad Nikki into wacky bachelorette antics. None of them gain much traction, save for a handful of dares that just end up being more embarrassing to Nikki than anything. Nikki makes her feelings clear to the camera after a FaceTime with Cena that leaves her oddly deflated (it’s not a bad call, just another reminder that she doesn’t feel as close to him as she wants to), but she crucially hasn’t said anything to her sister, who’s hell-bent on getting Nikki to drop the “boo-boo face” without figuring out why it’s there.
Her solution, literally, is to cover it up. Knowing that Nikki is a big fan of classy ballroom-type parties, Brie and Lauren arrange for a masquerade ball at the chateau they’re renting, but something gets a little lost in translation, and they’re presented with a risqué variety of “Eyes Wide Shut”-style clothing options. Now they’ve got a ball to plan, hours to spare, and, though they don’t quite know it yet, a bride-to-be who’s having some serious second thoughts. The clock is ticking, in more ways than one.
Watch part two of Nikki’s Paris bachelorette party Sunday at 9/8 C on E!.
While reminiscing about her own bachelorette party, Brie talks about all the fun things she did compared to her twin’s. Meanwhile, Nikki thinks her party is just perfect for her own taste. Subscribe to The Bella Twins on YouTube – http://bit.ly/2xdJky5
The bachelorette party wants to know if Nikki will write her own wedding vows, or will she go traditional? Subscribe to The Bella Twins on YouTube – http://bit.ly/2xdJky5
As the bachelorette party in Paris continues, Nikki’s friend talks about a spooky experience she had in the bathroom of the haunted chateau!
Season 3 of Total Bellas has been largely a story of expectations vs. reality for Nikki Bella. She walked away from a relationship when she saw it wasn’t going where she wanted, then got back into it when she felt she’d undergone enough personal growth to get her life where she wanted it to be. But there’s nothing to take away your empowerment quite as ruthlessly as wedding planning, and this week’s episode keeps chipping away at her in the same way the last one did.
To Nikki, putting the ceremony together is like staring the rest of her life in the face, which is very daunting considering she wasn’t even sure she still wanted this life only a few weeks ago. She’s also doing this without John Cena (he’s away for work and unseen this week), which bums her out because she always thought she’d be planning her wedding with her husband. Brie Bella is still suspicious that Nikki’s harboring some hesitation about the wedding that she’s keeping to herself, but she’s a constant supportive presence in solving the episode’s central problem — Nikki has generously if overzealously invited all of her girlfriends to be bridesmaids — and trying to guide her sister through the existential thicket so she can get to the altar in one piece. (The wedding dress shopping is a big pick-me-up, and the prep’s only unmitigated success.) Brie inevitably takes a firmer hand, but she realizes her role here is a supporting one, and her interaction with Nikki is a nice reminder of how well the Bellas work together in times of need.
It’s also a reminder that Brie can’t help but yearn for the finer things in life the way Nikki often does. Much like Nikki is trying to navigate a life that didn’t quite turn out how she expected, Brie finds herself wistful for her days as a New York art patron and amateur painter. Feeling like she’s strayed too far from that path, Brie decides to splurge on some antiques and artwork, culminating in a sizable purchase from a local painter that leaves Daniel Bryan gob-smacked. He’d prefer she make something herself or at least spend a little more wisely, and Brie can’t argue too heavily with that.
Speaking of Bryan, the episode touches on his own expectation-vs.-reality struggles, as he’s very close to getting cleared to get back in the ring, though it’s only briefly mentioned. But his main action this week is a delightful side jaunt with mother-in-law Kathy. Mama Bella’s anxiety is starting to make car rides with son JJ and husband John Laurinaitis somewhat insufferable, which they respond to by installing a driver’s-ed style brake in the passenger side that they slam on constantly to try to convey the sensation of having her in the car. Bryan, who’s a bit more sympathetic, divulges his own struggles with anxiety to Kathy, and they take on a mutually shared fear of heights by going to an indoor skydiving class.
The whole take-the-leap metaphor might be a little on-the-nose given what’s going on with Nikki, but the car is an oddly apt one. She still feels like she’s along for the ride as the wedding approaches, and it takes a nudge from Brie to help her get control: After asking Nikki to tell her exactly what she wants from her wedding, Brie somewhat indelicately forces a conversation between Nikki and her friends where The Fearless One reveals she won’t be having bridesmaids. The ladies are all fine with it, but they’re wondering why she didn’t just come out and say that in the first place.
Of course, it isn’t quite that easy for Nikki. Having felt like a passenger for so long, she is clearly still coming to terms with the idea of being in control of her own destiny. For all her growth and confidence, she hasn’t quite realized the implications of her independence. She could turn the car wherever she so chooses. She could even stop it altogether.
Watch Total Bellas Sundays on E!
Nikki and Brie test their artistic ability at famed finger painter Iris Scott’s loft in Brooklyn.
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