Antonio Sabato and his wife/fiancé Cheryl might very well be the first celebrity couple to cite Celebrity Wife Swap as the experience that shattered their lives. In last night’s episode, which should have been an older, down-to-earth pair reminding two very hot but OCD neat freaks to relax and enjoy their lives, we got a stunning reminder of how fast things can fall apart. The falcon cannot hear the falconer, guys. One minute you’re simply pulling out your notes on how dirty the other wife’s house was, the next you’re running through the trees and telling your sex symbol husband that you’ll be taking your newborn baby to the hotel and never speaking to him again.
Cheryl is super high-strung. Maybe it’s the non-stop sexiness of her husband that propels her to do things like make crafty seating place cards for a family of three. Maybe it’s, in her own words, that “I do need to be perfect under His eyes… the Gentleman Upstairs.” It’s great if faith compels you to reach for a higher standard, but I don’t know if that applies to housework as much as, say, to morality. Regardless of the reason for her high-strunged-ness, it’s the cornerstone of her personality.
The preceding meat of the show before the breakdown was pretty consistent with past episodes: plenty of talking heads, awkward family dinners, and trying to find pans in the kitchen. But Cheryl’s breakdown at the end of the episode gave it a unique twist. With what seemed like no provocation, she left the post-game double-date discussion, charging off into the woods with a water bottle and four-inch heels like that was an option. Someone managed to wrangle her into a car, and she sat alongside Antonio in seething silence, demanding that the limo driver drop her off at a hotel rather than their house after a week of separation.
Poor Cheryl. She definitely got the shot end of the stick, being sent out to a house that was way below her cleaning standards and having to help Mick Foley get his unkempt foot in his sock.
Meanwhile Colette, Foley’s stunning wife, practically licked her chops at the sight of Antonio, and while she had plenty of chores to do, caring for a newborn and a five-year-old has to be a vacation from the herd of T-shirt wearing buffalo that banged and clanged their way through the Foley house.
The narrative here was that the Sabatos are miserable perfectionists, while the Foleys have skipped a few chores, haircuts, and dental appointments and reaped family happiness as a result. The more subtle layer was the utter lack of solidarity between Antonio and Cheryl. When Colette came into the house, Antonio almost immediately brought up how often he and Cheryl fight. Colette introduced a “no chores” day, demanding that Antonio take the time to hang out with his daughter Mina (Cheryl’s stepdaughter). Apparently after a relationship of two years, Cheryl had ten-year-old Mina on the ropes, making her cook and stay on top of a checklist of housework. Mina was visibly giddy, hanging all over her dad and simply being thrilled to be around while the adults talked. There was definitely a Cinderella-at-the-ball vibe about her, and Antonio remarked how he had forgotten what it was like to see Mina smile. Red flag!
Meanwhile, Cheryl lead the first family dinner the Foleys had ever had. Apparently Colette cooks all the kids individual dishes instead of one big family style meal, which is an insane waste of time. Cheryl was very game and well-groomed and convinced Mick to get a makeover. On the limo ride to the big summit, she seemed anxious about how Mick would portray her stay at his house, and he obligingly told her the only advice he would give her was to relax.
Clearly, being a perfectionist makes Cheryl not just a pretty lady with a tidy house and a cowed stepdaughter; it made her agonize over how she comes across on camera. When Antonio essentially joined forces with Colette to talk Cheryl out of her personality, it was a pretty huge betrayal. Who would want to reunite with his or her partner after a week apart and find out some stranger has convinced said partner that all their premises are wrong? That in just a few days, some interloper could paint your entire shared lifestyle as somehow incorrect?
Colette looked deeply and totally in love with Antonio, like she was sure she had made some breakthrough and was ready to be the loving stepmom she was convinced both his kids needed. While the wagons rounded to get Cheryl to “relax,” everyone was ignoring the bigger issue, that Antonio was showing no solidarity with his wife. A few days of skipping the dishes, and Antonio was ready to chastise her on camera for not being “open” to the criticism, without even letting her get through her little compulsive list of stuff that had ticked her off at the Foley house. (Putting on Mick’s sock alone would have been a 15-minute rant from me. Not that I would have done it, I would have gone to the hotel and then pulled the rant out afterwards. Handling a stranger’s unkempt foot is ABUSE.)
You cannot turn on a high-strung perfectionist and expect her not to freak out, and Antonio should have understood that better than anyone. Antonio apparently doesn’t understand how to communicate with Cheryl, and doesn’t know her well enough to anticipate how deeply she would be hurt by his disloyalty. Colette, for her part, felt pretty great about the whole thing. You could read, “Your lady is hot but crazy and you kind of wish you were with me, right?” written all over her face.
The breakdown/up, while not permanent, was certainly an unprecedented display of honesty. The insert dinner, complete with crafty place cards in a surgery-sterile dining room, showed that the status quo had been restored. So maybe this was part of Cheryl’s plan all along, maybe this is how she runs her tight ship—she blows up at the least resistance as a means of delivering a sort of ultimatum. And since Cheryl complimented Mina’s potatoes, we know Cinderella is back in the kitchen.
… Was Cheryl overreacting like a crazy person, or was Antonio ganging up on her with two strangers?
… Is cooking your kids whatever they want to eat every night bad parenting? Should every meal begin with, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset”?
… Do you consider Antonio Sabato Jr. a “Sex Icon” and if so, where is Joey Lawrence on your scale ?
… Should Mina start stockpiling pumpkins and befriending mice?