Who gets on your nerves more, Michaele or Tareq Salahi? For the “Real Housewives of D.C.,” that’s a tricky question — and one extensively discussed in last night’s third episode of the show.

Is Tareq’s overbearing personality more offensive than Michaele’s giggly gossip? Do the two feed off each other in some sickening cycle of self-awareness? For Lynda, Mary and Cat, the latter is a definite yes, and Tareq — with his unsolicited advice about wines and where to splurge in Paris — isn’t making himself look too good. In fact, Lynda and the rest think he might be bullying Michaele into staying quiet until he allows her to speak, and making her lose weight. “I think Michaele looks tired and stressed,” Lynda, who previously sparred with Michaele over her weight, notes. “You need to change your life. Get rid of your husband.”

Will that happen any time soon? A girl can dream. In case you missed last week, Stacie thinks Cat may be racist, while guests at celebrity stylist Paul Wharton’s birthday party were surprised by Michaele and Tareq’s tardiness — especially because Michaele was supposed to be hosting the event. But some time has passed since the party, and it’s no longer at the front of everyone’s minds.

Instead, Cat is focusing on working on her book, which will recap her experience of falling out of love with her first husband and beginning an affair with a married man (who isn’t her husband on the show, Charles). She’s hesitant about how the publishers want to spin the book. For the cover, they’re planning a “‘Sex and the City’ look, which is so not me,” she complains.

While Cat works around the clock to finish her book, Stacie and her husband Jason visit Sugarleaf Vineyards in Monticello, Va., which is run by their friends Jerry and Lauren Bias and is the only black-owned vineyard on the East Coast. They’re joined there by Michaele and Tareq — who show up in another white stretch limo — who immediately take over the tour. Tareq talks about how the arch of the wine in a glass shows whether it will have a long life or not, but things fall flat when Stacie brings up politics. “You know, we’re all different,” Michaele says. “[Obama] has a grace about him that when people do, do that, it’s OK. Let’s talk about it. And he tries to pull everybody together, red and blue, and make it red, white and blue.”

Say what? As Jason points out, Michaele’s greatest attribute is how she “kind of just smiles, talks and tries to look cute,” but she certainly doesn’t know anything about politics. Nevertheless, Stacie and Jason playfully invite the couple to Paris, because the two of them are going to see Jason’s brother Adam, who has the city’s No. 1 single, perform there. The Salahis accept: “Be careful what you wish for,” Tareq giggles. “We are known to do spontaneous things.”

As the two couples prepare to travel to Paris — with Michaele packing five suitcases for a weekend trip — Mary and Lynda hang out at a breast cancer-awareness event at Saks Fifth Avenue and talk about Paul’s party. Lynda insists she is “genuinely concerned” about Michaele’s weight and focuses her wrath on Tareq, who she considers “starving for attention.” Though Mary tries to defend Oasis Winery’s wines, specifically their “beautiful red wine,” Lynda argues “it is Tareq’s influence that has changed Michaele,” who used to be “centered,” “10 pounds heavier” and with a “beautiful soul.” In what alternate universe was that?

Back in this universe, it turns out that Tareq and Michaele, who had agreed to host Paul’s birthday party, didn’t pay for any of it, either — and Paul is pissed. After learning from his publicist that the Salahis’ lawyer called the night of the party and threatened that the couple wouldn’t show up unless any payment from the Salahis was waived, Paul is shocked by their tackiness and convinced it’s Tareq’s fault. “I don’t see [Michaele] getting with [their] lawyer and concocting some B.S. like this,” Paul complains.

And when Mary calls him up to talk about the party, he bitches to her, too, and they decide the Salahis’ move was “absolutely appalling.” “I received an invitation that Paul Wharton’s birthday party was going to be hosted by Michaele Salahi,” Mary says. “That means you are paying for the party.”

But duh, the Salahis can’t pay for Paul’s party because they’re too busy living it up in Paris! After meeting up with Stacie, Jason and one of their friends, the Salahis crack open what Jason calls a “$1,000 bottle of Don Perignon.” Then there’s Adam’s concert at Elysee Montmartre, where Michaele and Tareq awkwardly dance and make things way uncomfortable when Michaele tries to “dance up on Stacie,” as Jason observes. “You can tell that Michaele is a party girl,” Stacie notes. “She was right at home at the concert.”

Back in the U.S.A., the rest of the women cat it up at an event Mary throws for hair stylist Ted Gibson, whom she considers one of her “besties” along with Jason Backe, an employee of Gibson’s. While the women are getting their makeup done, Stacie is shocked as everyone trashes the Salahis. “I was just like, I don’t understand. I didn’t even realize there was friction between those two people,” she says of Lynda and Michaele — especially because she told Michaele during the Paris trip that she’s adopted and is searching for her birth parents. Though she’s found her birth mother, the two have fallen out of touch, mainly because Stacie’s birth mother refuses to divulge information on her father, because he never knew about Stacie.

With all those emotions in the air, Mary’s dinner party gets ugly quick. One of Stacie’s friends gets offended when Lynda calls Cat, who Stacie suspects is racist, the group’s “new soul sister” and suggests Stacie could be the group’s Diana Ross — you know, because she’s black. And on the other side of the table, Lynda is shocked by Tareq, who is boasting about how Michaele has gained weight since the two got together six years ago — “She gained at least 20 pounds, in beautiful places, after we met” — in an obvious dig at Lynda, who had previously expressed concern about Michaele’s frame. Add in Paul and Mary throwing daggers at Tareq, who Jason Backe said was bragging at Paul’s birthday party about spending “a lot of money” at the event, and something’s got to break the tension.

Leave it to Paul and Cat to suck it up and laugh off Stacie’s assumptions. “Don’t kiss me, you’re gay and you’re colored!” Cat giggles when Paul assures her he knows she’s not racist, sexist or bigoted in any way. Next week, though, the Salahi outrage continues: Cat and Tareq spar over his rudeness, everyone gossips about how the Salahis snuck into the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Awards dinner and Mary confronts Michaele about talking shit behind her back. Remember how Bravo said this season wouldn’t just be about the Salahis? All lies.

» “We’re fresh out of tequila,” Lynda informs a pouty Mary when she shows up to the Saks Fifth Avenue breast cancer-awareness event.

» “Are these two white folks really going to get on the plane and go to the hip-hop concert? … I really thought they were going to be full of shit,” says Jason when he learns the Salahis are coming with them to Paris.

» “I figure that’s something that could be used against me someday,” Lynda says to Cat about why she never wrote a book. That’s a woman with foresight.

» “It was like hunting with Dick Cheney. It was a little scary,” Mary’s husband Rich says of Tareq slicing open the champagne bottle at Paul’s birthday party. Isn’t that demeaning to the guy who actually got shot in the face?

» “I’m interesting in hosting a really nice evening for Ted Gibson. I’m sure there’s not going to be any drama at this party,” Mary says of the event she’s planning for the hair stylist. How delusional is she? This is the “Real Housewives.” Drama’s in your contract.

» “You put me in public school, not me,” says Mary’s daughter Meghan when explaining sexting to her mom

» “I hate shopping bags,” says Cat’s husband, Charles, while shooting her book cover, to which she readily agrees, “Me too!” Never in all of “Real Housewives” history was there ever such a materialism-disparaging conversation.

» “She’ll eat a whole filet mignon, a whole chicken breast. That’s more than I eat,” Tareq says of Michaele’s eating habits at Mary’s event. So, why is she so skeletal and Tareq so paunchy?

Written by Express contributor Roxana Hadadi
Photo by Stephen Boitano/Bravo

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