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The dramatic ‘Real Housewives Of Potomac’ cast shake-up was surprising — yet entirely necessary

If you had any doubts that we’re fully in the era of the Real Housewives cast shake-ups, then the onslaught of Bravo news that dropped on Monday surely erased them. 

During a day that will go down in history as one of the more overwhelming 24 hours for Bravo fans, we learned about a pregnancy (outgoing RHOP star Candiace Dillard-Bassett), an engagement (RHOC newbie Jennifer Pedranti), and a divorce (RHOM OG Alexia Nepola) — in addition to three cast exits. Original cast member Robyn Dixon confirmed that she had been fired from Potomac ahead of Season 9, The Jasmine Brand reported that Nneka Ihim is also out on Potomac after one season (though Bravo has yet to confirm), and Crystal Kung Minkoff announced that she’s exiting Real Housewives of Beverly Hills after three seasons. In the famous words of Scheana Shay, it’s all happening — and it’s difficult to tell who’s safe.

While there was much hand wringing over the exit announcements, it’s hard to argue with the fact that this is what The Real Housewives of Potomac needed following its worst season to date. Though Season 8 certainly had its moments and started to pick up steam during its back half, ultimately the cast was too disjointed, too tense, and too at odds to all come back for another go ‘round together. There was no path forward with this group. In other words, several women needed to leave for the sake of the show, so news of their departure wasn’t entirely unwelcome.

Let’s look at Robyn’s necessary exit first. As an original cast member of Potomac who stuck it out for an incredible eight-season run, she should absolutely be getting her flowers. Robyn was a fairly unassuming Housewife who picked her moments carefully, but that didn’t make her any less essential to the success of the show. Not everyone can be a scene-stealer on an ensemble cast, and Robyn is evidence that you can still make an impact if you’re a beta to someone’s alpha (which in her cast is Gizelle). But after years of a repetitive storyline that asked whether she and Juan would ever actually get remarried, Robyn and Juan did in fact wed once again — albeit after Season 7 wrapped and without her co-stars present. While she was entitled to have whatever kind of wedding she desired, bringing viewers along for her up-and-down journey with Juan for seven seasons only to feature their wedding as an addendum to the show left a bad taste in some people’s mouths. 

That would’ve blown over if it hadn’t been for her subsequent decision to detail Juan’s secret entanglement with another woman on an episode of her podcast available only to paying subscribers — a situation that the RHOP cast and audience were kept in the dark from. The reveal came after a season in which she, Gizelle and others put Candiace’s marriage under a microscope for Chris’ unsubstantiated sketchy behavior with other women. The math wasn’t mathing, viewers were incensed and Robyn suddenly had a lot more to answer for.

But a scandal is a scandal, and Robyn had an opportunity going into Season 8 to use this to her advantage. If she could address the scandal head-on, be vulnerable and honest and forthcoming about what happened and why she hid it from everyone, then she could not only redeem herself but also be at the center of the season’s primary storyline. But that’s not what happened. There were a few stilted conversations about the controversy, she still didn’t seem to understand why it was such a big deal for the cast, and Juan barely engaged. He was over it, he clearly hated filming and he wasn’t willing to play ball to help his wife maintain her job. And, for those reasons, she’s out.

When it comes to Nneka, the issue is that her first season wasn’t about her. Viewers had barely been introduced to her before all of her airtime became about her feud with Wendy Osefo, and their feud was convoluted and confusing as hell. Not only that, but Wendy stonewalled her, which meant that Nneka was left without much to work with. Nneka got so distracted by the Wendy situation that she wound up digging herself into a hole that was too deep and too steep to climb out of by the end of the season, try as she might — and she did try, I’ll give her that! But, ultimately, it appears as though that wasn’t enough. And, you know what? That’s okay.

As for Candiace, who announced her own exit a few weeks ago, her absence will be the most felt when the show returns next season. She made a huge impact during her six seasons on RHOP, but it wasn’t difficult to see that she was a bit checked out this season, which makes sense given that she was put through the ringer last year. Her relationship with the show felt like it needed a breather, and kudos to her for recognizing that. The announcement that she’s pregnant with her first child only adds to the feeling that this was the right time for her to step away, take the time that she needs to grow her family and then hopefully return to the show with a new perspective in a couple seasons. 

Robyn and Nneka joining Candiace on the bench for the upcoming ninth season of The Real Housewives of Potomac opens up no less than three spots on the cast to inject this show — once the crown jewel of Bravo — with fresh new energy and give it the rejuvenation that it so desperately needs. I can’t wait to see who’s holding a champagne flute for Season 9.

Gibson Johns is an award-nominated entertainment journalist, host, podcaster, and reality TV commentator known for his Bravo hot takes, celebrity interviews and prolific tweeting. His work has appeared in Esquire, Men’s Health, Betches, Yahoo! and more. He’s conducted hundreds of interviews with top celebrities like Khloe Kardashian, Matt Damon, Chrissy Teigen, Kate Hudson and Gabrielle Union, as well as interviews with over 80 “Real Housewives.” He’s appeared as a moderator at multiple BravoCons, hosted premiere panels for Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Potomac and Dancing Queens, and been a guest on SiriusXM’s Radio Andy.

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