Previously on Total Divas, Paige and Lana had mega-drama on a big group trip to Lake Tahoe, while Naomi had a great time in Atlanta but can’t get her husband to consider leaving Pensacola.
But enough living in the past, let’s look at the complex social dynamics on display in Season 8 Episode 9 of Total Divas:
The Cast of Total Divas Versus Their Fears
In a not at all forced vacation-defining dinner conversation, Paige brings up the question of what each of the girls fears most. Nikki in particular latches on to that idea (it makes a pretty good unifying theme for an hour long reality show episode, after all) and decides that the girls should spend the rest of their Lake Tahoe trip facing and conquering their fears. Everyone admits something they’re afraid of, and then at least most of them have a moment by the episode’s end in which they overcome that fear or at least wrestle with it, so to speak. Naomi, who had a separate plot-line last week, arrives in Tahoe the next day by showing up in a separate boat when everyone else is already out in the middle of the lake, which is honestly pretty baller.
Natalya’s fear is heights, which is convenient because they’re already planning a parasailing trip for the next day. Nattie proclaims that she will absolutely not be parasailing, but of course once she sees some of her friends fly through the air over the lake, she’s convinced to give it a shot. She and Naomi go up together, which I’m sure helps. I’m also not great about heights, and I’ll freely admit parasailing looks pretty scary to me, but it also looks fun enough that I could probably be convinced if I was among friends. As cheesy as this whole storyline seems, Natalya reminds us that overcoming a deeply held fear can really be an empowering and joyful thing.
Paige’s fear is being in deep water, which is both exacerbated by, and the explanation for, the fact that she never learned to swim. Lake Tahoe is a pretty good place to face that fear as well, as long as you have a life jacket to overcome the lack of swimming ability, which Paige fortunately does. She’s nervous about going tubing in the lake, but gets through it, and by the end of the episode she’s able to jump in the lake on short notice when everyone else does, although she takes a detour to the trunk full of life jackets first.
Nia Jax says that her fear is not fitting in with her fancy friends because she grew up in poverty. I absolutely believe that Nia is telling the truth about her upbringing, but I have to say it’s a little bit jarring to hear this kind of thing from somebody who is constantly being promoted as a relative of Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson. The Rock obviously comes from a huge extended family (just ask every Samoan wrestler who’s not Samoa Joe), and it’s not like he has some responsibility to be sending money to every cousin who’s having a rough time. It’s just kind of incongruous that these are basically the only two thing we know about Nia’s family: 1) No money, and 2) related to one of the biggest movie stars on Earth. Anyway, Nia’s fear is probably the least directly addressed over the rest of the episode, but she’s clearly already confronting it by being on a Lake Tahoe vacation with the Bella Twins.
Naomi, building on last week’s episode, is afraid she and Jimmy Uso are going to get divorced. She says that this is the first time they’ve both felt like things aren’t going great, and it’s scary. Unfortunately, that’s not a fear you can overcome on a girls’ trip to the lake, but they do have some intense conversations about it, which seem to help. This is the one plotline that scares me a little as well. As I said before, the conflict of where to live seems all too real, and it’s troubling that this is happening with what’s usually the most stable couple on Total Divas. I do think, though, that Jimmy Uso might be acting a little less obstinate about letting Naomi spend time in Atlanta if he wasn’t on a reality show. We’ll see where this goes in the future, but I’m certainly rooting for them both.
Nikki Bella initially says that her biggest fear is commitment (which I always thought was more John Cena’s fear than hers), but then Brie says that Nikki’s actual secret fear is sharing her poetry, which she’s apparently been writing since childhood and never lets anyone see. I admit that at times over the years, Nikki’s way with words has made me wonder if she’s a poet, and now we know for sure. At her friends’ insistence she decides to write a poem dealing with themes of commitment and read it to everyone by the end of the trip. We see her in several scenes struggling with it, and eventually she does read it aloud. I must confess, the poem wasn’t nearly as embarrassing as I was afraid it might be. It’s not going to be in the Paris Review anytime soon, but for someone who writes just for themselves it felt very honest and unpretentious. Plus it had clever references to everyone else’s wrestling gimmicks, so that’s fun.
Lana’s big fear is of being an outsider, born of growing up as an American kid in Russia. The thing that’s clearly exacerbating that fear on this trip is knowing that Paige has never liked her, as she learned last week. This leads to a very honest and believable scene where the Bellas facilitate a discussion about the different ways Paige and Lana were raised. Lana grew up in a religious American household (albeit in Russia), where conflict was discouraged and the word “hate” wasn’t allowed. Paige grew up in a family of English carnies where anyone who didn’t get along went out back and had a literal fistfight, after which the loser bought the winner a pint. So for Paige getting the conflict out in the open is the healthy way to deal with it, whereas for Lana everyone should always be nice on the surface, even if they’re being as passive aggressive as possible at the same time. They’re clearly never going to see eye to eye, but they gain a better understanding of each other, which is also worthwhile.
Brie Bella spends the entire episode claiming that her biggest fear is Tahoe Tessie, the dubious Loch Ness Monster variant who supposedly lives in the area. She claims to have seen it on a family trip years ago, and even takes some of the other girls to a cryptid museum to learn more about it. Naturally this turns out to be a big prank, that culminates anti-climactically with Brie in an absurdly low-rent sea monster costume running into the kitchen to try and scare everyone else (but really only startling Natalya). It might have worked better if she’d had a better costume. Considering there’s like five sea monsters in Chikara Pro Wrestling on any given day, you’d think somebody on a WWE reality star budget could get their hands on a legit-looking outfit. Still, focusing on Tahoe Tessie means that Brie never actually had to name or confront an actual fear, and I’m not sure if that makes her this week’s winner or loser. In any case I’m not picking a winner this week, because this episode focused so much more on support than conflict.
That’s all for now, Total Divas fans, but join me after Thanksgiving for the season finale, when Natalya deals with the death of her father.