Bravo's multiple Real Housewives series — including those of New York City, Orange County, Beverly Hills, Miami and New Jersey — all have their outsized personalities and long-running feuds-for-the-cameras, but there is something particularly special about the Real Housewives of Atlanta, which aired the first episode of its fourth season Sunday night, and her name is Nene Leakes. In a TV universe that runs on collagen, botox and various shapes of implants, Leakes offers time and again that magically watchable mix of emotion, humor and spontaneity — which, if it's calculated, is done so impeccably well — that above every other "reality star" she seems touchingly real.

At the onset of this new season, filmed some months ago, Leakes is fresh off her stint on Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice, which saw her in various arguments heated by her merciless scrutiny of fairness and rapid-fire tongue, most memorably with Star Jones and LaToya Jackson. Though she walked off the show around episode 10, Leakes' crossover to the network reality world worked out well for her bottom line: she's got more fame, more money and — consequently — more to lose, which means defense strategies have got to be ratched up a notch.

Who's attacking her, this time? None other than fellow Housewife Sheree Whitfield, who has always been a mysteriously bland presence in Atlanta. Whitfield believes Leakes nudged her out of an appearance in Philadelphia (such appearances are Whitfield's bread and butter), and Leakes, interpreting it as an attack on her character, is outraged. Naturally, they sit down in a restaurant, cameras ready, to clear the air.

Needless to say, the air only gets more polluted, with personal insults (Whitfield to Leakes: "You need to get your motherf***in teeth fixed!") and displays of bravura (Leakes to Whitfield: "While you’re running your mouth with him, I was running to the bank to deposit a Trump check. Donald Trump!”) flying back and forth like daggers.


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Before things get physical, Leakes walks out, but in the diary interviews the war of saucy soundbites wages on. Whitfield: “I’m too classy to whoop some butt in a restaurant. She can meet me in the back in the alley all day long!” And Leakes, fighting back tears but triumphant: "“Once you hit below the belt, deuces! You need to go. I’m not going to stab you in the back. I’m going to stab you in the chest!”

What would this show be without her?

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