Total Bellas Total Recap: The Captain Of My Ship

Previously on Total Bellas: Nikki Bella dealt with accusations of the crime of Aunt Favoritism and Brie Bella dealt with the fallout from the much realer crime of someone stealing her car.

Was There Anything About Wrestling On This Week’s Episode Of Total Bellas?

Yes, almost everything in this episode was connected to wrestling! The drama mostly revolved around the Bellas heading back to the world of WWE for the premiere of Smackdown on Fox. Nikki dealt with the neck issues that drove her to retirement and considered non-wrestling options in WWE, Brie and Bryan’s marriage problems were again exacerbated by his touring schedule, and there was a moment of Hulk Hogan dialogue that nobody asked for. But let’s start with the storyline the least connected to wrestling.

Bellavision, Part 1

Remember how Artem got cut from the cast of Dancing with the Stars at the beginning of this season? Well, he and Nikki both do, and this week Nikki decides to get very involved in her boyfriend’s post-DWTS career choices through arts and crafts. Artem says he’s been dealing with things in his own way, but Nikki thinks he hasn’t been doing enough. Her ideas for him seem to come from a good place – maybe too good! – where she thinks he can do anything and that he’s the hottest man in the world, but her methods, as Brie puts it, show she “might be a nightmare girlfriend.”

The best scene of the episode by far is when both couples and Birdie are sitting around and Nikki brings out the borderline deranged vision board she made about Artem’s future. Artem is deeply uncomfortable and Bryan cackles at everything – a key highlight of this whole franchise that we lost for a while. The only downside is that we never get to see the part of the board where Nikki cut off Demi Moore’s head and glued it on the picture of a hot blonde cooking with Leo DiCaprio because she didn’t want Artem to picture his future with a blonde.

Bellavision, Part 2

You barely have to dust off your armchair psychology degree to deduce that Nikki is probably getting more controlling of Artem’s career because of the lack of stability in her own, especially the part connected to wrestling. This week, she explores the possibility of a “ringside” role in WWE, but is thwarted when her doctor tells her “the wear and tear is becoming faster than normal” with her neck, and if she took a bad bump she might not be able to walk again. This might be the only reason Nikki isn’t managing, like, Dana Brooke right now.

Nikki also has a less life-threatening career barrier that Total Bellas doesn’t explicitly address: she is not a good talker! There’s a shot of Paige as Smackdown GM while Nikki talks about non-wrestling roles in WWE that’s just long enough for any wrestling fans watching to imagine how awful a Bella GM situation would be.

We don’t see the outcome of her audition for WWE Backstage this week, but I think even people who don’t keep up with who’s on that show can tell Nikki tanked it. I salute her ability to pull off that Ariana Grande Nike campaign look, her delivery of “The Fiend scares me” is hilarious, and she does, in a very Nikki Bella way, sum up the issues people were starting to have with Seth Rollins as a babyface around this time, but you can instantly see why she isn’t on the show. The Bellas are good at Health magazine shoots and reality TV shenanigans; they are not great at fake sports analysis. That is completely fine, but Nikki probably won’t be fine with that, and that’ll be a story for another episode.

Overall, like with the drama in last week’s episode, the Artem and Nikki storylines stay in well-trod reality show territory (with some wrestling-related specifics), and it’s fun to watch in the way the best of Total Divas/Bellas has been fun to watch. It’s what the franchise knows how to work with! And then we have the more complicated issues between Brie and Bryan.

I’m A Business, Man

The Brie and Bryan storyline this week is interesting to think about and weird to watch because, like some of the other family drama this season, their conflict feels basically true to life, but some of its scenes seem so fake they strain the reality show kayfabe, making them more difficult to get into. Things start out pretty light, with Brie looking at her sister’s honeymoon phase relationship and wanting more PDA with Bryan. But it comes back around to the issue of Brie wanting to take care of Birdie as much as possible and have a career at the same time, and how that conflicts with Bryan being on the road 300 days a year and what he wants for their family.

It all builds to a car argument (a cargument) between Bryan and Brie in traffic in which Brie delivers some bizarre lines (“I love business!”), but the conflict can still be followed. Brie asks if Bryan would take Birdie back home to Phoenix while she deals with work stuff in L.A. for a few days, but Bryan points out that means she’ll be coming back home just as he’s leaving – and didn’t she bring up them getting more affectionate like the day before?

The ensuing fight includes the most interesting wrestling-related details of the episode when Bryan says that Brie wanted him to “sign the contract” (probably when he re-signed with WWE in September 2018) when he had been looking to work a schedule with fewer dates. It sounds like he might have been looking at options outside of WWE too when he says “I had other options” and Brie answers “It was not a guarantee.” So if those discussions were happening in the summer and fall of 2018, they could be talking about Bryan working anywhere in Japan, having an indie or ROH or Impact run, or signing with AEW, which was getting ready to be a thing at the time but was not yet a sure thing.

From just a human drama standpoint, without zooming in on the wrestling details, it’s easy to understand where both Brie and Bryan are coming from here. At least from the Total Bellas cut of the events, though, I think Brie comes out looking better even if she doesn’t always communicate that well. Their drama still continues to have a theme of Bryan expecting her to center life even more around his wrestling schedule while Brie wants the ability to experience parts of life besides her family. It’s a compelling and kind of stressful conflict because as unusual as both of their careers are, their dynamic and the core of this argument are both familiar. The episode when Brie finds out she’s pregnant again could be pretty tense.

Bella Line Of The Week

Aside from Nikki’s delivery of “The Fiend scares me,” I enjoyed her teasing Brie for not getting a Backstage audition with “Maybe they just think I’m hotter. Oh wait, maybe they just think I’m more accomplished in the ring.” This is also very much the discourse around most major pushes in Stardom and why Ishii hasn’t been made IWGP Heavyweight Champion.

Natalya Revelation Of The Week

In a Total Divas/Bellas crossover moment, we see Nattie appear on the Bella Twins’ podcast, and because I have never listened to it, Natalya saying “I want to be Mae Young” was news to me. Natalya legitimately might be having random singles matches on Raw until she’s seventy, so that’s something to look forward to, wrestling fans!