Total Bellas Total Recaps: Mama Mia

Previously on Total Bellas: Nikki attempted to make repairs in her new home and her relationship with her father. Both of these things seemed vaguely traumatizing for Artem!

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

Just a few shots of Daniel Bryan wrestling while Brie explained that he couldn’t come to Mexico because he was on the road, so not really. But the preview for next week features both Bryan and John Laurinaitis so that one should be much more relevant to this website!

Down In Mexicali

“Bellas Without Borders” seemed like a promising episode on paper with its promise of family drama and vacation shenanigans. (Vacation episodes almost always bring the best and/or most deranged out of reality TV, and also I would like to live vicariously through people with beautiful hair experiencing new places because I am trapped inside, my haircut deteriorating, my only new experience the occasional spider.) However, this was the weakest episode of season five so far. Some potential was there, but the editing barely allowed it to breathe. Reality TV editing usually enhances drama, but here the scenes were so short that it barely registered before the show raced on to something else. It was a weird viewing experience.

The premise of this week’s episode was the Bellas going to visit their estranged dad, Jon, and his new family in Mexicali, and the fallout of that trip. After visiting their grandma, they cross the border to meet Jon, his two kids, and his wife Ana, who is only one year older than the Bellas. That’s 36 or 37, depending on when this was filmed, so it’s not an inherently creepy age gap, but Papa Bella makes it creepy by calling his wife and daughter “triplets.” This is twenty times weirder in the context of how aware this dude always seems to be about being on TV.

Jon is pretty sleazy throughout the episode, but his kids seem nice and the Bellas find the trip fulfilling while Artem tags along and plays a tenser Tyson Kidd. The twins never really go over the childhood chapter of their book with their dad, which was supposed to be the main reason for their trip, but the Mexicali excursion does lead to more tension with their mom. The resurgence of this conflict introduced last week becomes the one thing from this week that gets explored a little in the episode’s final scenes.

Their settings aren’t all that naturalistic, but the segments where the Bellas and Kathy (and sometimes JJ) talk about their past still feel rooted in the real history of their family. The twins were vague about their childhoods last week, opening up its negative aspects less than their parents, but here Nikki admits that yeah, there is a part of her that blames Kathy for not taking them out of a bad environment sooner. Both mommy and daddy issues have now been placed on the table this season.

As fake as Total Bellas usually looks and feels, it’s clear that our heroes (?) have experienced a lot of a kind of pain that doesn’t easily fit in the box of an E! show. It’s completely understandable both for Nikki and Brie to want to have a relationship with their dad and for Kathy not to even want to hear about them reaching out to the other half of what seems like a traumatic marriage. That kind of stuff can’t just be cleanly introduced and wrapped up in an episode or three. Like the other episodes in season five, “Bellas Without Borders” leaves you hoping everybody’s talking about the part of the legit-feeling part of the conflict off-screen too.

Bella Lines Of The Week

The biggest indicator that this was a weak episode of Total Bellas is that I barely have any options for this section! Nikki telling Artem that “Brie says that I gave everyone in the school head lice, but I was just the first to admit it” was pretty good though. (She definitely gave everyone head lice.) The most baffling line of the week besides the “triplets” thing actually comes from outside the Bella clan when their former babysitter tells Nikki in a derogatory way that she looks heavier on TV. What is this person talking about? Nikki Bella has been professionally in good shape on TV for over ten years? She looks very hot in this very scene?? Was this negging???

John Laurinaitis Compliment Of The Week

Nothing from this week could be interpreted as a dig at John Cena, but another wrestling John got a mention. Johnny Laurinaitis – former Dynamic Dude and Raw general manager, current stepdad to the Bella Twins – was put over by his wife, Kathy, when she said that in contrast to her first relationship, she now has “a wonderful man, and we respect each other.” Way to crush it, Ace.