Two wrongs don't make a right, but for the women of The Real Housewives of Potomac, wrongs can be weighted. Such is the case when it comes to the shocking physical altercation between castmates Monique Samuels and Candiace Dillard Bassett. The fight played out nearly a year ago at a Maryland winery, with the headline-making moment becoming the subject of much speculation in the months since -- even within the group at the center of the show. The cast saw the moment play out for the first time since they experienced it by watching last Sunday’s episode.
"When I watched it, my stomach just turned," Robyn Dixon tells ET via video chat. "I was so mortified."
Getting to see the episode was almost -- to put it bluntly -- like seeing "game tape" footage for the cast, a chance to see frame by frame what really transpired over the course of about a fleeting 45 seconds: Candiace asking Monique to "drag her" led to a hair flip by Monique, then (according to Robyn) Candiace lightly touched under the lapel of Monique's vest. Seeing that physical contact sprung the women into action, with Wendy Osefo attempting to pull Candiace away from Monique, and Gizelle Bryant nudging Monique to stop. Then, Monique grabbed a handful of Candiace's hair and yanked. Wine flew through the air, out of Candiace's glass and into Monique's face. It’s unclear if Candiace tossed her drink intentionally or if the force of the tussle caused her to lose control of her glass. Either way, Monique didn't respond well to getting splashed, yanking harder on Candiace, pulling her in closer as she started whopping the top of her head. That's when producers intervened, physically separating the ladies, locking Monique in a hallway.
For Robyn, the footage actually seemed less intense than what she remembered. "Watching it, to be honest, it was … not as bad as it was in the moment," she admits.
It's hard to see what Robyn was doing during the back and forth, as she's behind the action and blocked by the rest of the women. She says she jumped into action amid the action to hold up the hefty table that separated Candiace from Monique, fearing if it fell, someone could get seriously hurt.
In the moment, Robyn and Gizelle placed the blame for the attack on Monique, while Karen Huger and Ashley Darby seemingly took Monique's side (it's worth noting Ashley wasn't actually in the room when the fight broke out, though). While Robyn stands by her original assessment, she does admit that watching back what played out, she can see why viewers might blame Candiace. After producers removed Monique from the barn where things went down, the former Miss United States started taunting her co-star by shouting, "Where she at? 'Cause you a ghetto a**, hood a** b***h! You don’t know how to f**kin' act!"
"When you see stuff like that, it makes it harder for people to feel sorry for Candiace in that moment, because it's almost like she was waiting for Monique to lose her cool," Robyn laments. "Monique lost her cool and Candiace took the opportunity to really, like, just make it worse."
"She probably was baiting her," Robyn says. "She probably was trying to get her to come out of her person and to lose control and, in that moment, Candiace 'won' by making Monique lose control. I don't -- it's, it's unfortunate on both sides, it really is. It's so unfortunate."
Robyn hung back when things started escalating again, Monique charging around the building and away from producers in an attempt to, seemingly, go after Candiace again after Candiace egged her on with her new comments. Robyn says she knew if she were to try and intervene, there was a chance she could become Monique’s new target.
The moment was weeks, or maybe even months or years, in the making, frenemies Candiace and Monique having danced around their issues with one another. Robyn says she's still trying to "understand how it got to that point," because at the time, the cast had no idea how deep the problems were between Candiace and Monique. They're learning by watching, though it still doesn't all add up for Robyn.
"There's been moments when we've all been taken to a level where you don't think you’ll ever be," she says. "I always have in the back of my mind, I'm on camera here. ... As a 40-year-old woman with children ... it's just not worth it to me. And, yes, Candiace is annoying, but nothing she said in that moment … warranted someone to get very upset. And, looking back at it, if this initial contact wasn't made with the hair, the physical fight never would’ve happened. Never."
Robyn is still trying to unpack how the women got to this place, confused by why Monique and Candiace didn't attempt to hash out their issues more civilly and separately from their co-stars.
"Really, if there were things that bothered her so much, I don’t understand why they didn’t have an honest, heart-to-heart conversation," Robyn notes. "If there's a lesson to be learned for anyone, communication always helps prevent stuff like this from happening."
This Sunday's episode picks up with communication, the group gathering at Karen's house to discuss the incident, per Monique's request. Candiace, however, sits out the sit-down, telling Karen, "I appreciate you giving me the opportunity, but I've spoken to all of the women. I think everybody saw what happened. She is dangerous."
"It definitely was better that that happened without Candiace there," Robyn admits. "I mean, that would've been a disaster, because the emotions were still running really high for both of them."
Both Gizelle and Karen called in security to be on hand for the discussion, a move Robyn finds a bit laughable, as she doesn't think anyone needs to be scared of Monique.
"It was a very open and honest and raw conversation," she says. "Nobody held anything back, and we were just you know, very hell bent on holding her accountable and figuring out what’s next and where do we go from here? Well, first of all, how did we get here, you know, and why did this happen? And then, how do we make sure this doesn't happen again?"
"There's a lot of calling her out on some of the stories that have been twisted," she adds, "and saying, look, I wanna believe you, but when I'm hearing that you were saying Candiace threw a glass of wine in your face, it's hard to believe that you’re actually remorseful."
Robyn says the biggest issue she and some of the other women have with Monique is that her story about the incident keeps changing. Recently, Monique posted a Q&A to her Instagram Stories and claimed that when Gizelle or Robyn attempted to hold her back from Candiace (for the record, it was Gizelle), she must've thought that was Candiace touching her and making things physical, and that's why she attacked. Previously, Monique claimed that it was the wine toss that made her ramp the attack up, even though that came after the hair pull.
"This is so disappointing to me, because if I'm wrong, I'm wrong," Robyn says of watching how Monique is handling the situation. "It's OK to say, 'I lost control' instead of trying to place blame on other people. I’ll be honest, Gizelle and I have been harassed on social media, blaming us for this fight and it's very mind-boggling to me, and it's very disappointing -- there's nothing wrong with saying you don't agree with what someone did, or saying, 'I was wrong, I made a mistake. I'm gonna learn from it and I'm gonna move on.' I don’t understand all of this shifting blame and trying to blame other people for your actions."
Robyn and Gizelle were the two who initially brought up the topic of Candiace and Monique's friendship at the event, a conversation which ultimately escalated into violence, but Robyn says "it's pretty sad" that anyone would try to pin what occurred on the two of them.
"I easily could've -- if she would just say, 'I'm so wrong. I will never do this again. Please, give me another chance,' or, 'Can we just start over?' I would be so open to that," Robyn says. "But hearing the blame be shifted, that's -- for me -- worse than the actual fight."
Robyn says the sit-down with Monique is the last time she filmed with Monique during the season, seemingly confirming speculation that Monique and the group part ways for the rest of season 5. Monique did continue to film for the remainder of the season, though, so some one-on-one moments with her and other cast members may make it to TV.
Somewhat surprisingly, Robyn reveals that the group did not have a separate sit-down with Candiace. It's largely because the group, as a whole, didn't blame Candiace for what happened -- and Candiace didn't take any responsibility for it, either. Opinions may have shifted now that everyone's seen the footage, though.
"Maybe if she were to do any type of media interview now, she might say, 'Yes, I escalated it. I was doing a little too much.' But during the season, we didn't, in the moment, we didn't see it that way," Robyn admits. "We never really, during the season, really thought that we needed to hold Candiace accountable, because we've seen -- you know why? We've seen Candiace say far worse things … so we didn't think it was anything to be so upset about."
"She also was the subject of a lot of bullying on social media right after the fight, so I just wanted to be there for her, you know, whether or not I thought she was responsible," Robyn shares, but notes that she did talk to Candiace about needing to take ownership over her words.
"I hope she has maybe learned her lesson and has realized, like, certain things, she shouldn't go too far," Robyn says. "And I talked to her recently, and she does take responsibility for her mouth."
Robyn also points out that how the viewers view the women and how the women view each other is always going to differ. One, the ladies know more about the nuances of each of their friendships and two, they don't live their lives in "seasons." These relationships continue when cameras aren't around.
"The audience holds onto the past," she says. "So they're like, 'Well, remember season 4, [Candiace] threw a knife at Ashley? And remember season 2, Robyn, you went to Ashley’s restaurant?' I don't -- in our world, we have to move on so quickly. This is season 5. I'm not thinking about what Candiace did in season 4. I'm thinking about the moment. I'm thinking about what's happening in that present day. I'm not holding onto grudges, because there's no way we can move forward like that."
As far as where the group goes from here, Robyn isn't sure. They're all in a bit of a holding pattern until the reunion, which will be the first time Monique and Candiace could come face to face since the altercation. It's still unclear if RHOP's reunion will be in-person or virtual, and if it's in-person, if the two women would want to be in the same room together.
"There's no way we can move forward as a group, with Monique and Candiace in the group, without the two of them at some point coming to some sort of, I don’t know, place of forgiveness or reconciliation," Robyn says. "I pray. I really pray that we can all be open and honest and really take responsibility for everything and listen to each other."
"I'm not confident," she adds. "I am hopeful."
While the fight changed the trajectory of season 5 dramatically, it isn't the total focus of the rest of the season. Yes, it will be a continued topic of conversation, but there is a lot of season left to unfold. The cast will go on their group trip (sans Monique) and Robyn and her ex-husband/longtime partner Juan Dixon finally get engaged to remarry, a surprise to the 41-year-old.
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Robyn had hoped the engagement would remain a secret until it aired on TV, but in the age of social media, it's hard to keep something like that under wraps for nearly a year.
"The engagement itself was just, it was just exciting," she teases. "Just to have our family in the room, you know, we're celebrating the holiday season and special time of the year, but there's also some drama that pops off, involving some other cast members at that engagement party, which I was very disappointed that it happened. You know, it's a special moment. We're all supposed to be celebrating and happy, but there was some serious drama that popped off, that I think will be, like, pretty shocking, yeah."
"It was kind of out of left field, you know what I mean?" she continues. "It wasn't something that was brewing. Now, I can say there was a little tension amongst the ladies, that was, like, the most drama that I thought we were gonna have. But something else takes place."
"Although we've been building up to the moment we saw last week with the physical attack -- I don't even like to call it a fight, ‘cause it was very one-sided -- but we've been building up to that, but there's so much more to see the rest of the season that is just as entertaining and controversial," Robyn adds. "We'll have some stuff to talk about at the reunion other than the fight."
And for those viewers who like to label Robyn "sleepy" or "boring," she has a message for you: you're entitled to that opinion, but please take a closer look.
"Just because I'm not speaking in riddles or dropping one-liners all the time -- you know what?" she starts to say, before redirecting. "I honestly believe I’m like, low key, the funniest one. … I'm not afraid to just do something silly, and we'll see more of that this season. There's one scene that I cannot wait to see, because it was really funny -- it's actually two scenes I can't wait to see -- but if you think about all the funny moments that happen on the show, usually I'm there!”