This week’s episode of “Total Bellas” is a downer in basically every possible way. When it’s not about the Danielsons, Brie and “Daniel” Bryan, being sad that their schedules keep them apart, it’s about Bryan being basically just completely devastated about the end of his career, and when it’s not about the death of Bryan’s career it’s moving on to Brie’s concern about his clinical depression and anxiety.
At this point in the “Total Bellas” timeline, Bryan and sister-in-law Nikki Bella are sitting out the Road to WrestleMania while Brie and John Cena are out on the road, Brie in particular working hard as she prepares for her retirement. Nikki attempts to bond with Bryan by helping him plan for his life after the ring, which is great because we get to hear Bryan talk a lot about the “demoralizing and frustrating” experience of being in WWE limbo after his forced retirement.
“My only plan was to be a wrestler,” he says in a talking head. “I didn’t have any backup plans.” He mentions the story he’s told before about getting the lowest documented ambition score in history on WWE’s professional aptitude test.
Nikki drags Bryan out to the NXT Performance Center to try to show him what a great coach he would make, a move Brie protests in a phone call from the road.
“First off, he’s my husband,” she says, “so I’ll open up his eyes.”
At NXT, Nikki, Bryan and Bella brother JJ run into Sami Zayn, who immediately bonds with Nikki over neck surgery.
“Did you get a C6-C7?” he asks. “I have the same gimmick!”
Bryan and Sami get to talking, and before you know it, Bryan is showing off a wrestling style he’d started planning for his return (back when there was going to be a return), an animalistic set of movements designed to protect his neck and targeted specifically at wrestling Brock Lesnar. So yeah. It’s sad.
It is, as Bryan sums up later, a “boner crusher.” It’s OK, though, because Nikki has other ideas for Bryan, like hosting one of those hipster home and garden shows about tiny houses or backyard farming. (Not gonna lie, I would watch a Daniel Bryan show about tiny houses.) And she also takes Bryan out to high tea so they can bond over their shared love of food, which at least lets this episode work in the earth-shattering line of dialogue, “Oh, wow, that’s good tea.”
Don’t worry, though, it gets worse! When Brie gets back from the road, she reveals to Nikki that Bryan suffers from anxiety and depression.
“I’ve always left it for him to decide who he wants to tell, how he wants to tell people, but now that we’ve been living here at the house with John and Nicole, we can’t hide it anymore,” she explains in a talking head. Because if you can’t hide your husband’s mental illness from your twin sister, the thing that obviously makes the most sense to do is to tell hundreds of thousands of people about it on television.
Apparently Bryan has never sought any sort of mental health treatment (Note: This is very bad role modeling, and frankly I’m surprised and disappointed in Daniel Bryan. Is mental health covered in the Wellness Policy?), and Brie thinks he should, but in the meantime, she takes him to swim with some manatees, managing to get in a comment about how she and Bryan don’t go to zoos or aquariums because they don’t like the idea of animals living in a “padded cell.”
(This is after Bryan gave John Cena some grief about the room-sized saltwater fish tank in his house, to which John responded, “Is this where Bryan tells us how to live again?” Not that I’m Team Bryan on this, but I will say that I think John Cena’s decorator also does work for the Kardashians and maybe some Bratz dolls. Also, they may not share the same values when it comes to animal rights, but they do both show up to morning coffee in the same T-shirt one day, prompting Mama Bella to make a “Twins” joke, which she then has to backpedal because yeah, she just compared Daniel Bryan to Danny DeVito.)
Also in this episode: JJ is getting tired of being bossed around by Mama Bella, who runs an executive search agency called JBN, where JJ is also employed. The trip to NXT gets him inspired to make a career change and leads him to have the most awkward conversation ever with John Cena (and considering some of the conversations with John Cena we’ve seen on “Total Divas,” that’s really saying something).
Over glasses of wine in one of the many Casa de Cena sitting rooms, JJ awkwardly shares his interest in wrestling with John, working up to the big ask.
“It’s sort of awkward asking, but I don’t know if you could put a good word in? ’Cause you’re sort of the face of the company.”
“What do you mean by that?” Cena asks.
JJ explains he’s looking for a foot in the door at the Performance Center.
“You were there,” Cena points out.
JJ says he just wants someone to make an introduction.
“You’ve already did that,” Cena says.
Then he gives JJ some patented John Cena Tough Love™, telling a story about how when he decided he wanted to wrestle he quit his job and had to walk uphill both ways through the snow to get in the ring or whatever, and how the favor he’s doing JJ is telling him that’s what he should do.
Yeah. John Cena is your grandpa, basically. Or like that guy you worked with at summer camp who gives motivational speeches for a living now.
JJ then goes out back to hit golf balls with Brie and Johnny Laurinaitis (Brie says it “hurts (her) heart” that they’re hitting them into a lake, and Johnny suggests she get a snorkel and fish them out) and complains about getting shut down by Cena. He asks Johnny for the same favor.
“You can’t just be athletic and have a little bit of charisma,” Johnny says. “If you’re asking me right now if I think you should go and train for three years to hopefully make it someday — I’d discourage it.”
To which JJ literally just responds, “Whatever.”
At brunch with the family, Brie throws JJ under the bus, Mama Bella gets mad, Cena excuses himself to the men’s room, and Johnny proclaims “family brunch is fun.” But later at family dinner (which is presumably also fun; see below), Mama recognizes that she’s been giving JJ a hard time and decides to recognize his importance to the business by giving him 20 percent of the company, and apparently that’s enough to satisfy whatever wrestling urge he was feeling.
“To be part of JBN is truly what I wanted,” he explains. Makes total sense. I know when I want a promotion, I definitely start by trying to pursue a career as a professional athlete and it works every time.
Dinner also yields an epic set of John Cena and Daniel Bryan reaction faces when they troll Nikki over her limited command of the mechanics of the English language. It all starts when Johnny uses the word “pronoun,” which launches the following five-star exchange:
Nikki: “Brie’s like, ‘what’s pronoun?'”
Bryan: “Do you know what a pronoun is, Nicole?”
Nikki: “I don’t know, like — ‘better’? Isn’t it, like, a capitalized noun, like it’s bigger than…”
Cena: “No, it’s a noun that actually makes a living off of being a noun. A professional noun.”
Nikki: “Well, that makes sense.”
Bless her heart.