Usually, as many watchers of Trading Spouses have observed, the two families Fox picks to couple for a switch has a pair of mothers who make a yin-yang style paring, where one has control issues and the other is more hands-off, whether it comes to house keeping, child rearing, or religion. Tonight’s swap trades two mothers who, on the surface are very different, but in fact have a lot more in common than the typical set. It’s nice for them to change it up a bit, and, lest the similarities breed boredom, we are going to be treated to frequent shots of scantily clad women on the beach and a mostly shirtless male model to keep our interest piqued.

Apparently Dr. Phil was booked up.

The first family introduced tonight is the Hawkins family from Buffalo, New York. Mom Marla is a hard worker, who gets up early and works 9 ½ hours a day in a hospital, and comes home to cook and clean and look after her family. She’s been with her husband, Maurice, for twenty-two years, as they met when she was in the seventh grade. She says she’s been with him because he’s a guy who shares her same goals in life. When we meet Maurice, he says he likes Marla because she has big hips and a pretty face. They had their first child, Cierra, when Marla was in the tenth grade. Cierra is now 19; she has fraternal twin brothers, Jordan and Justin, who are 14. The Hawkins are African American, and Marla points out that one of her sons has a darker complexion than the other (this becomes material later on). Marla says that, in the family dynamic, Maurice is the one who starts the fights and he acts like a big kid himself, not doing any chores or picking up after himself. In an interview, Jordan says he hopes the new mother is someone who can come in and put his dad in his place, and make him feel like a little person. If the family is this unhappy amongst themselves, I pity the mom who walks into this minefield.

That mom is Henrietta DeConcillis, from South Beach in Miami, Florida. She says from the outside, her family looks perfect and she has the perfect life. She spends her time shopping, getting massages, and working in her home decorating business. Her husband, Marco, is Italian and a male model. They met ten years ago, fell madly in love, and she was pregnant within four months of their meeting. They have two sons, Leonardo and Orion. She says she makes a comfortable amount of money, but Marco rakes in the big bucks doing the modeling he’s been doing for twenty years. Henrietta says that while it looks perfect, her life is far from it, since Marco spends at least six months of the year in New York or elsewhere on modeling jobs and she never knows when they are going to see him. She then confesses that Marco’s absence has pretty much ruined their marriage.

Word to your mother.

It’s time for the trade. Of course there’s the usual goodbyes to the kids and early rises and taxi cabs. Maurice says he’s going to miss Marla taking care of the house, while Marco can barely be bothered to kiss Henrietta goodbye. Planes fly and land, and it’s airport time. Maurice speaks affectionately to the fish in the tank and goes off to the airport to pick up Henrietta. He hopes she’s a beautiful blonde with big hips who can cook. What’s with the hip talk again, anyway? Maurice is pleased as punch when he meets Henrietta, saying she’s pretty and petite and the complete opposite of his wife, so he’s really happy. On the car ride to the house, Henrietta embarrasses herself to the point that my teeth hurt watching it: she first asks if Maurice’s three children are all with the same mother, to which Maurice looks rightly offended and says that he does not have any baby momma drama. To which Henrietta responds, “Word!” Maurice, with a cocked eyebrow, says “Word?” Then, driving into Maurice’s neighborhood, looking at the less than pristine neighborhood, says “This is an interesting neighborhood.” At the house when she meets Cierra, she asks Henrietta a question (which Fox unnecessarily subtitles for us), Henrietta acts like she can’t understand a word Cierra said, and responds generically. Topping off Henrietta’s embarrassment marathon, when she meets Jordan and Justin, she exclaims a bit too loudly, “Wow, they really are fraternal twins!” Finally, ending this nightmare of inappropriate behavior, she goes for the liquor, asking if there’s any beer on hand. Of course, she does later have to criticize the Hawkins’ decorating style—or lack thereof—pointing out in a private interview that the bedroom she is staying in is very Liberace meets Saturday Night Fever.

Marla is having an entirely different experience in South Beach. When she first meets Marco, she says he looks like a movie star and is impressed by him. She finds out that Marco is a male model, and that makes her pretty giddy. When she gets to the house, which looks pretty damn huge from the outside and is close to the ocean, the boys give her a tour. The inside is very white—white walls, staircase, etc.—and is very Nagel meets Miami Vice.

Walking in others’ shoes is never easy; the toes will pinch.

Marla is tasked with doing what Henrietta usually does, and what Henrietta usually does is get a massage with her pal. So, off Marla goes to a spa where she meets one of Henrietta’s friends, who informs Marla that she’s going to have to get completely naked for the massage. Marla is a bit taken aback by this development, and I can’t say I wouldn’t be either. If the first thing some strange woman told me was to drop all my clothes and it wasn’t in a licensed medical facility, I’d be a bit suspicious too. After Marla survives her massage and spa treatment, she heads to the beach with Marco and the boys. She says she’s not really a beach person, and that black people just don’t go to the beach. She was shocked at all the “ta-tas” on the beach and summed up the experience as living in a fairy tale.

Things aren’t nearly as pleasant in Buffalo. On the first morning, Henrietta wishes to take everyone out for a breakfast. She gets ready and wakes Maurice to tell him her plan. He’s not pleased to be woken up, but he gets all the kids up and getting ready by constant shouting. Cierra takes longer, and isn’t in the car on time, so he threatens to leave her behind. When she finally comes out, he makes fun of her wrinkled clothes and general frumpy appearance. Ostensibly they go off to breakfast, but the next time we see them, they’re pulling into Niagara Falls and going for lunch. Never had five people looked less excited to be at Niagara Falls and/or having lunch. One son is using a pick on his hair, and Maurice loudly and extensively tells him to quit it. (I have to agree; I don’t like it when people fool with their hair around food.) Cierra takes her brother to fix his hair and both sons go with her, leaving Maurice and Henrietta at the table together. Henrietta is dismayed at the way Maurice talks to and about his kids. He refers to Cierra as a hemorrhoid, as she’s a constant pain in his ass. He calls all the kids lazy and finds them taxing. Henrietta tells us that she thinks that Maurice’s lack of love for his family is very sad.

At home with the kids, out with the girls: it’s all fairly awkward.

Maurice is off one evening playing poker with the guys. Henrietta decides to cook dinner and hang out with the kids to get a better idea of what is going on with Maurice. The boys say he regularly points out everything the do wrong, but never praise them for things they do right. Cierra says that her dad is not good at communication and needs therapy.

Marla, on the other hand, goes out to a club with Henrietta’s friends. She really doesn’t want to go and is nervous about it, so she just wants to hurry up and get it over with. Marla says she’s perplexed as to why Marco isn’t going out as well. The club is a loud dance club, filled with botoxed South Beach folks, and Marla doesn’t think she fits in all that much. She tries to have a conversation with Henrietta’s friends, but it’s mostly a lot of shouting because the music is so loud. The friends are there mostly to dance and check out guys, which Marla finds inappropriate for a married woman. Ultimately, from all the shouty conversations, Marla take home the information that Marco is frequently, and to the detriment of the marriage, out of town on modeling jobs.

Armchair psychoanalysis and Blue Steel.

Maurice is going to watch Jordan and Justin practice football, and Henrietta goes along with him. She asks him on the way there if he ever tells his kids that he’s proud of them. He says no, because he doesn’t have to—they know he’s proud of them. She asks him how they know it, and he says through his actions. She then delves further, asking if he ever hugs his kids, to which he says he does not, because he’s worried it will make them “soft.” Henrietta also learns that Maurice’s father was never around and his mother was also cold and a no-hugger. Maurice clearly never likes to show any emotion (well, other than the pent up rage that leaks out every chance). Henrietta worries about what kind of example he’s setting for his kids, as Maurice watches the football practice and criticizes his kids.

Marla has a very different experience on her trip out of the house to get to know Marco better. He asks her to accompany him to his modeling shoot, where he’s getting some pictures done for his portfolio. He’s doing shirtless shots, and Marla is enjoying the view, but then they bring in the female model. The woman is someone Marco knows and they start doing romantic, kissing and grab-ass pictures. Marla is mortified that Marco would do this, and mortified that the woman model refers to herself as Marco’s second wife. Marla thinks this is crossing boundaries and she suspects Marco and the woman have something going, and it certainly looks that way.

Moths in the family.

On the fourth day, Henrietta has had enough of Maurice and decides to call a family meeting. She has been obsessing about the wall he has build between himself and his kids. She gathers them all in the living room and tells Maurice that his love is not coming through to his kids, which is eating at the fiber of his family. She mandates that for every two negative things he says to his kids, he has to say one positive. She also mandates that he hug his kids once a day, and if he doesn’t do the hugs right, she’s going to make him re-hug until he gets it right. Unfortunately, we are not treated to a humorous montage of him trying to hug his kids in all sorts of goofy ways, while Henrietta stands by in a track suit with a clip board and a whistle, coaching him on hugging, so we have to imagine it for ourselves. Ciera, in a voice over, agrees with all that Henrietta is saying and thinks her dad needed to be told this stuff ages ago. Maurice, confident in his position of family bully, asks Henrietta if these are her opinions or hers and the kids’ opinions. She says both, but the boys, when questioned by Maurice and prodded by Henrietta, do not say anything. Maurice becomes aggravated with the situation and walks off…only to have to wait until next week to come back to the confrontation circle.

Tune in next week when Marla angrily pops balloons, Henrietta perhaps gets a “Dear John” letter with Marla as a courier, and other assorted insanity.