Nikki and Brie Bella are famous athletes, entrepreneurial businesswomen and, in the case of the former, one-half of a marquee celebrity couple. It’s a blessed life they lead, but on this week’s Total Bellas, they’re forced to once again reckon with the question of who exactly they’re living it for.
As parents, Brie and Daniel Bryan have already made that choice, but they’re quickly reminded that hiring a nanny for some alone time doesn’t absolve them of outside influence on their lives. A gaggle of well-meaning if insistent fans follows them on their picnic; the animals at a “goat yoga” session clamber all over them and, of course, there’s E!’s Total Bellas cameras themselves, whose presence ensures they really will never get a minute to themselves. In a true Season-9-of-“The Office”-moment, Bryan and Brie ask the cameramen to take a hike so they can enjoy the botanical gardens; the producers, tellingly, get the shot they’re looking for from afar anyway.
That said, at least Brie and Bryan have found a way to give themselves some semblance of happiness in their lives, despite having long ago given up complete control of them. Nikki hasn’t. After she split with John Cena, The Fearless One had a reawakening that was so profound that she was able to re-set the terms of her relationship. Now that they’re back together, however, she finds she’s forced to surrender to outside influences once again when it comes to planning the wedding — particularly when it comes to deciding who will walk her down the aisle. The Bellas’ father, Kathy, JJ, and Brie, who Cena touts as the obvious choice, are all floated as options, and Nikki bristles at the notion that she will have to do what someone else wants on a day that should be all about her. A crisis seems to approach when she inadvertently gives John Laurinaitis the greenlight to walk her down the aisle, not in the least because she has to field more advice from well-meaning family members who urge her to rescind the offer as soon as possible.
It’s the story of Nikki Bella’s life in Season 3, compiled into one single decision. She wants to live a life that fulfills her, but she keeps having to make room for someone else. It’s doubly jarring because her personal growth always occurs in a vacuum — she reiterates this week that Cena is often away working, which makes their processes very different from Bryan and Brie’s — and she finds that the person she’s becoming doesn’t always match her situation. So, she lashes out. Her attempts to reclaim the narrative range from the slightly indelicate (she vocally sets a timeline for her pregnancy at a family dinner) to the snippy (she shuts down Nana Bella during the aisle debate at one point) to the exhausted (she openly admits she wishes she wasn’t getting married sometimes).
However, her response lands somewhere in the realm of defiance. Whereas Brie and Bryan, and even JJ and Lauren (who discover they’re expecting another daughter, despite his desire for a boy), can balance expectations and reality with ease and good humor, Nikki finds the idea of further compromise almost unbearable. So, she follows the same blueprint she has of late and takes matters into her own hands, opting to walk herself down the aisle. Brie’s spider-sense starts tingling, but no objections are raised, at least not in the moment. If nothing else, Nikki Bella has made it clear that she has no problem bending the situation to fit her. What she might not yet realize is that finding balance often means doing it the other way around.
New episodes of Total Bellas return Sunday, July 8, at 9/8 C on E!.