By Brigette Flood and Sandy M. Tyler

Okay, we understand the draw of “Downton Abby.” Even our editor Collin has deserted Atlanta’s Housewives until Season 2 of “Downton Abby” ends. But our ladies can definitely compete. Theme music emphasizes emotion in important scenes, Phaedra’s one liners and propriety make her a modern day version of the Dowager Countess, and there’s even a battle brewing on foreign soil. In fact, this week the Battle of the Low Blows continues between Marlo and Shereé in South Africa. In typical Bravo-reality-TV modus operandi, the two housewives enjoy a throw-down girl-fight and then make plans to meet up later that same evening.

Shereé’s right. There are a lot of attractive people in South Africa, and they all seem to be at her friend Kevin’s amazing dinner party. Imagine Marlo’s freak-out if she had known what she was actually going to miss! Kandi is seated next to a very cute guy named Vince from Botswana. He’s an Xscape fan and a fledgling music producer and seems like the perfect candidate for a vacation hook-up.

Unfortunately, this is a not-so-rare animal spotted the world over. A HOTTIE with an interesting byline who quickly becomes a NOTTIE as soon as he opens his mouth, talks incessantly about himself and makes up a resumé for a career he doesn’t even have. Why do these guys always think they’re so damn funny? For all of the times we wished to replay this kind of ridiculous behavior for the perpetrator, Bravo shows you the tape. Cheesy gentlemen of the world, please take note on what NOT to do.

The Talls – NeNe, Cynthia and Princess Marlo of Atlanta – go to a sushi dinner at Nobu. We’re with Cynthia, when in South Africa, do as the South Africans do. An evening of sushi in 8-inch heels could easily happen in Atlanta, without the jet-lag. Even though Cynthia and NeNe agree Marlo took things too far in her fight with Shereé, they all agree to blow off some steam at a nightclub nearby and are soon joined by the Smalls and Shereé’s friend Kevin.

Marlo is the reason why Americans want to avoid other Americans when they travel. (And now particularly those from Atlanta.) She’s beyond obnoxious, giving Shereé her M.I.A. finger when she walks into the club, “making it rain” South African rand and working hard to be the loudest person there. When NeNe is the quiet one, you know you’re taking things too far. NeNe’s need for a 3am snack run after the club was hilarious. Sashimi only soaks up so much alcohol.

The Housewives get a new, sweet, short-bus ride to the Shamwari Game Reserve. Shamwari means “my friend” but not in the language of Real Housewives of Atlanta. The accommodations are extremely nice. Some of the rooms are modern nice and some are historic, antebellum nice. Nice is nice, but apparently there’s enough of a difference to make a big deal out of it. So the ladies insist on drawing numbers to make room assignments equitable. Fortuitously and hilariously, NeNe and Marlo end up with the less chic rooms and everyone else, including us, is de-lighted.

The ladies also ask the Shamwari staff questions about amenities. Spa? Yep. Gym? Check. Hair and make-up? Ummmmm, ok. At this point, head Shamwarian, Gunther and the rest of the hotel crew show their professional poise – when Princess Marlo of Atlanta made that request, no one laughed out loud except us. We’re also not sure that a woman who throws out derogatory slurs about gay men deserves to get hair and make-up services ever again, but maybe Marlo will experience some payback now that these episodes have aired.

But as over the top as NeNe and Marlo seemed when they arrived at Shamwari, it pales in comparison to the next day. Cynthia’s raring to go, at the breakfast table early … actually, she’s on time for the safari. Everyone else is late. The Smalls arrive first, followed by the rest of the Talls after a morning of hair, make up and designer duds. Who doesn’t dress in Jimmy Choo shoes, a Louis Vuitton fur cape and sequined harem pants for a day in the bush? Well, most people. But the Talls don’t care. Just like Honey Badger. Ew.

Speeaking of ew, NeNe receives flowers at breakfast, “just because from Olives.” Olives is likely her #1 suitor, John Kolage from Famous Famiglia Pizza. Ew. Nothing more we can say, but EW times two.

Fortunately for the Smalls and the Talls, they are divided into separate Land Rovers for their safari tour. The Smalls make fun of Marlo, voguing their best disco moves and calling her a Solid Gold dancer. We’re thinking Marlo might be giving the Kardashians a run for their money, superficially speaking, even asking to be carried to her ride.

Both safari tours offer breathtaking views of giraffes, elephants, impalas and zebras. Only one car had to deal with Marlo’s incessant talking and ruminations on her zebra rug, while trying to take photos of real, ALIVE zebras saying, “this is going to be amazing. I’ll put this photo in the room with my rug.” The Smalls learn a homeopathic cure for headaches: burning elephant dung and inhaling it. Of course a little peace and quiet without Marlo also does wonders. We realize that if the Housewives weren’t a little high maintenance, they wouldn’t be as funny, but they all seem to think they’re on the safari ride at the zoo, rather than actually in Africa. Of course we’d probably wear a flat shoe even on the zoo tour, which is why we’ll never have our own reality show.

The next day, the ladies leave the prima-donna resort for a bit of the real world, planning to visit a nearby orphanage. Not wanting to show up empty-handed, they stop by a local store to shop for necessities, and meet up with an enthusiastic group of local school children. The housewives’ shopping spree is, for once, an appropriate gesture for their visit – other than Marlo’s purchase or perm kits for the local girls. The orphanage they visit is for kids with HIV and AIDS or for those from abusive backgrounds. All of the women are understandably touched and, for once, at a loss for words to describe the experience as they drive away.

We’ve certainly been waiting a long time on the collective, peaceful exhale that follows the orphanage visit. Sometimes travel gives you experiences that create a bond, and we’re glad the ladies finally take a moment to realize how amazing and privileged their lives are even when they have to fix their own hair.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.