Meet Tammy Nakamura. She is a brassy bossy busybody of a blonde who lives in a mansion in Colleyville, Texas with her husband, Yuki. The couple has been married for 17 years and have two children together – 15-year old Natalia and younger brother, Niko. Tammy started out a truckdriver but was working in a diner when she met Yuki. After a couple of dates (and upon finding out he was a rich, successful plastic surgeon), Tammy asked Yuki to marry her. Nana, Yuki’s mother, is the resident slave. She lives in the mansion with her son’s family and appears to do all the cooking, cleaning and kowtowing to Tammy. Tammy’s likes include big houses, expensive cars, tons of bling-bling, sleeping in, breakfast in bed and bossing Nana around. Tammy’s dislikes include carbohydrates.
Meet Mela Biggins. She is a dominant woman who lives in a modest home in a low-income area of Dallas with her husband, Anthony. Together they have 3 children – teenage daughter, Chrishara, 11- year old brother, Zikea, and 10-year old Omar. Both parents work as techs in the medical field, and despite their lack of material wealth, appear to be rich in love and life. Oh the clichés... Mela’s likes include soul food, shoes and any bottle of household cleaner with a spray nozzle. Mela’s dislikes include sharing her snack cakes.
Here’s how it goes: Each of the moms is trading places. Tammy is going to live in Mela’s home with Anthony and their 3 kids while Mela is heading over to the palace to take Tammy’s place for a week. The incentive for doing the show is that each family, at the end of the week, is awarded a check for $50,000. Tammy wants to spend her $50 grand on a new boat for the lakehouse while Mela wants to pay off $30,000 in debt, buy a Corvette and a Louis Vuitton purse to ride shotgun.
A typical day in the Nakamura household includes Tammy sitting in the kitchen, reading the morning paper, while Nana cooks, cleans and keeps Tammy’s coffee cup full. The dog, Mario, is taking a morning dip in the pool while Niko hangs out upstairs playing video games. Yuki tells us that he thinks Tammy can fit easily into any family. Tammy agrees while pointing at Nana, who is sweeping the kitchen, saying, “Nana really knows her place.” My guess is that Tammy can fit easily into any family as long as that family does not depend on her for anything and provides a “Nana” to do the work. Tammy packs for the week and heads out to a waiting taxi. She gets in the car, kisses everyone goodbye and tells them she loves them as the cab pulls away. To the camera Tammy says that she will be fine wherever she goes because whether she is talking to the President of the United States or to the garbage man out back, it’s all the same to her. Plus, she adds excitement to any situation and brings in an aura of "positivism."
At the Biggins’ residence, Mela is digging around looking for her swimsuit. Anthony says, “You don’t need a swimsuit! They don’t have a pool!” Wrong. Boy do they ever have a pool! Mela does a quick clean up, spraying every conceivable inch of the house with some sort of cleaner. Her house is gleaming. She kisses her family goodbye and heads to the waiting cab. Mela’s cab pulls up in a parking area where Yuki is waiting to pick her up in a decked out family van. He and Mela greet each other with a hug and head towards her new home for the week. On the trip over, Mela compliments Yuki’s van, his name, and his vast knowledge of Asian cultures as he explains to her that Koreans speak Korean, Japanese speak Japanese and Vietnamese speak Vietnamese. She is duly impressed.
In a cab across town, Tammy pulls into a parking lot where Anthony is waiting next to his Camaro. She sees him waiting and immediately believes him to be one of the camera crew since according to her, “He looks just like them.” In the world in which Tammy lives, apparently all black men are members of some type of camera crew. When she finally realizes that Anthony is her ride to her new home, she proclaims that she is SO excited that she is going to be staying with a family of another race since she has many friends of other races. I don't believe her, but apparently this makes her an expert. While Tammy talks incessantly about her interracial expertise, her ability to speak effectively (though the word “minority” seems to get her tongue tied), and her “positivism,” I am unable to get the following phrase out of my head: “It's better to shut your mouth and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
When Mela and Yuki drive up to the house, Mela’s eyes open wide and her mouth drops open in disbelief. She explains that she has never seen so many big houses all in one place like this neighborhood, and that she definitely doesn’t live in a house like this. I believe Yuki laughed as he thought about his prima donna wife in a house worth less than her shoe collection. I remember Tammy saying earlier that day, “I figure everyone lives the same way I do.” Oh, I cannot wait to see what she thinks of her new digs! Regardless, I am excited for Mela that she will get to live for a bit in a big fancy house – and that she will indeed be able to use her swimsuit. Nana and Niko open the door to greet Mela. Nana welcomes her with a hug while Niko and Mela greet each other with a handshake. Natalia is away from home for the day at cheerleading camp, but will be home tomorrow to meet her interim mom. Yuki takes Mela on a tour of the house, pointing out the huge master bedroom and Tammy’s enormous closet full of shoes. Mela has died and gone to heaven.
When Tammy and Anthony drive up to the house, Mela’s three kids are putting the finishing touches on the house by apparently following mom’s example of spraying everything in sight with cleaner. Tammy tells Anthony that she is dying to see the kids’ reactions when they realize dad brought home a white woman. I honestly don’t think the kids care that she is white, but after a few hours, I bet they wish they had gotten a better white woman. Tammy waltzes in like she owns the place and immediately becomes a close talker by getting in each of the kids’ faces and greeting them with her mouth only inches from them. She follows the close talking with a giant hug. I believe Mela’s cordial handshake with Niko would have been a better example to follow.
There is not much time for getting to know each other as soon after each of the moms arrive at their new homes, it is time for bed. Mela rises early and finds Nana already hard at work in the kitchen. Nana says in her thick Japanese accent, “You are up early!” obviously surprised that all younger women do not sleep till the middle of the afternoon as her ditzy daughter-in-law does. Mela says she is used to getting up early and asks if there is anything she can do to help Nana. Again, Nana’s face shows surprise. My guess is that Tammy only removed Nana’s shackles and chains to look good on TV. Breakfast is made, Yuki eats and says he is running late. Mela tells him to go… that she will clean up his plate. He thanks her and heads out to his car with Nana following him. As he gets into the car, he tells Nana, “Make lunch for Mela.” Hmm. So far I have found Yuki likeable, but that is a pretty brash way to talk to your mother. Then again… Yuki is married to Tammy, so my guess is that I am overestimating him.
Back in the house, Mela and Nana go upstairs and workout together. They lift weights, do cardio and Mela holds Nana’s feet as she does sit ups with a medicine ball in her arms. Upon finding out that Nana is 72 and does 600 crunches a day, Mela tries to tell herself that she will skip her midmorning snack cake she has stowed away in her bag. Regardless, Mela and Nana have obviously hit it off and seem to becoming fast friends.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, morning comes at the Biggins house and Anthony leaves for work at the break of dawn. A few hours later, when the kids have still not been fed and Tammy has still not gotten up, Omar walks into her bedroom and says it is time to get up. Tammy says, “Are you sure?” Omar nods and says yes. Without her mask of makeup and her morning coffee, Tammy stumbles from bed and plops down at the table. She tells Omar to get her some coffee. He shows her where the instant coffee is and she shakes her head while saying, “No, I need real coffee. Find me some coffee and the coffee pot.” She sits back down at the table and puts her head in her hands. She looks hungover. Seriously, that is some caffeine addiction.
Though telling Omar, Zikea and Chris she would make them breakfast, when no food hits the table and Tammy shows no signs of moving, Omar and Zikea head to the kitchen to make sausage and eggs. Tammy tells the camera, “Though it’s hard work, I really enjoyed making breakfast. I think that what I will bring to this family is my upbeat attitude and my positivism and my positive aura and all that stuff.” WHAT??? In a confessional, Omar says, “She said she was going to make breakfast. That’s what she said. But I ended up making my own breakfast! That makes me mad.” And well it should, kiddo. You’re 10 and are stuck with a selfish mom for a week.
Around lunchtime, Anthony is back at the house. Tammy says, “I’m hungry. Go get me something to eat.” I can tell by the look on Anthony’s face that he wants to call her a spoiled bitch so bad that he can hardly contain himself. He says, “We don’t go out for meals during the week. We’re on a budget.” Tammy says, “What? You and the kids just get going. It will take you about an hour. Go and get me some lunch. When I want something, I want it!” When Anthony just sits there, Tammy puts on her most pitiful face and says, “I am sick to my stomach. I NEED FOOD. Get me some food!!!” Anthony heads to the fridge and says, “There’s baked chicken.” Tammy waves that off and says, “I’m sick of chicken. I need something else.” When Anthony says, “There’s food, you’re just going to have to fix it,” Tammy gets even madder and says, “I do NOT feel like cooking!” I kept waiting for Anthony to say, “Yeah? Well… do you feel like my boot up your ass?!” It ends up with the family eating BLTs for lunch (which Anthony had to make) while Tammy sits at the table reading off the carb count on the label for the bread.
At the Nakamura house, daughter Natalia comes home from camp and greets Mela warmly. She is a pretty girl and talks easily with her surrogate mom. In confessional, Nat says that she is going to do whatever Mela asks her to do. That she will respect her and do anything she can to help her out.” Later, Mela heads to the game room and sits with Niko to put a puzzle together. After a few minutes, Niko says, “My mom would never do this with me.” Mela says, “Really? Well, she’s probably got a lot to do.” Niko says, as if trying to convince himself, “Yeah, she’s got a lot of other things to do.”
For dinner at the Nakamura house, Mela and Nana get the night off when Yuki takes the family to a Japanese restaurant. They sit at a hibachi table and are served sashimi and sushi rolls. Tammy has a puzzled look on her face and shows a bit of disgust at the thought of putting raw tuna in her mouth. However, so as not to offend anyone, she eats the tuna in one big bite but cannot stop herself from cringing and looking sick. Yuki says, “Are you alright?” Mela nods though you can see tears in the corners of her eyes. When the check comes, she says, “Can I just look at the bill? I don’t want to take care of it… that's all you, baby. I just want to see it.” Yuki shows her the total cost and Mela’s eyes grow wide with shock at the high price of their dinner. A moment later a sad and kind of disapproving look shows on her face as you can see her thinking of all the things for which she could have used that money.
The next day, the Nakamuras and Mela head towards Yuki’s lakehouse with jet skis in tow. The pull up to a beautiful house with a glass front which overlooks the lake. Their weekend getaway house is enormous – probably 4 or 5 times the size of Mela’s home. She loves it and gives kudos to the architect. While Yuki and the kids are off playing in the lake, Mela and Nana sit inside. Nana says, while looking at the window at her grandkids, “These children have never known what it is to be poor.” Mela quickly agrees and says, “Yeah, I wouldn’t guess so. I think if you grow up poor and become rich, you can handle it, but when you start with money, you wouldn’t know what to do if you became poor.” Yuki agreed. Mela continued that she worries about her kids and growing up without all of the luxuries that many have, but she says she just tries to teach them what’s right, get them to steer clear of trouble and to love them. Rich in love, rich in life. In confessional, Nana says how much she likes Mela – that she has made a new friend and is very happy about that. Mela tells the camera that Nana is the best – that she has never met a better person and that after Nana was made, they broke the mold. I bet as Tammy watched this part of the show that she rolled her eyes thinking how stupid Mela was for not using Nana and treating her like the help.
Morning rolls around at the Biggins house and, once again, Omar has to wake up Tammy. She says that she will get up but this morning she is getting her coffee – and it won’t be any of that instant crap, either. The night before, Anthony had apparently gone to the store and bought her “real” coffee and had dug out the percolator for her. However, when morning rolled around, he could not find the folgers anywhere. Before Tammy could give him the speech again about how when she wants something, she wants it, he offered to drive to the store and pick up some more. My guess is that the kids threw that coffee out or hid it in order to make Tammy suffer for being such a lousy houseguest. After getting her coffee, Tammy showers and heads in to fix her hair. Apparently, her hairdryer is so high wattage that it throws the breaker. Over and over again. So what does she do? She forces poor Omar to stand in the closet next to the breaker box and flip the switch each time it goes dark… about 40 times. Omar is mad. Not only does this poor kid have to wake her every morning, make his own breakfast and get up to nuke her coffee in the microwave, but now he has to stand guard over the breaker box so Ms. Vain can fix her hair properly before heading to the water park. Yes, you heard me. She is going somewhere that her hair does not need to be fixed, yet she cannot leave the house unless she is fully decked out with full makeup and hair. Stupid stupid. In confessional, Anthony says that he hopes she learns from living in the Biggins home that it is possible to do without and still be happy. He believes that their core values are the same - they all just want what is best for their children. I believe he is wrong. I think Tammy's only core value is that she wants what is best for her when she wants it!
The Biggins hit the waterpark and immediately Tammy begins to boss everyone around about where they are eating, when they are eating and the high carb counts of what they are eating. As poor Chris tries to eat her sandwich, Doritos and snack cakes, Tammy sits behind her calling off the calories and carbs of each thing she puts in her mouth. So yeah, Chrishara is overweight, but having a stranger constantly nagging her about each thing she puts in her mouth is not going to solve the problem. This is a trip to the waterpark for the kids enjoyment, woman! Let them ENJOY! After a few hours of Tammy telling Anthony to do a better job of watching his kids, and a few more label readings for carb content, Anthony tells the cameraman, “I think polite time is over.”
Tune in next week for the conclusion of the “positivism” of Tammy and to find out how each of the mothers decide the other should spend her $50,000.
For questions, comments or to bag on Tammy with me, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org