I just have to say something:  I have no idea why someone would choose to become a Real Housewife at this point.  It was different in the beginning, back when the franchise was just a colorful daydream in the mind of Andy Cohen as he sat in his living room and pretended that he was a talk show host by chatting with his dog and his plants.  Nobody could know back then what exactly they were getting themselves into as they allowed cameras into their bathrooms and into their bedrooms and into the parties they threw for absolutely no reason whatsoever except for the fact that a producer dying to get a raise said something like, “Why don’t you invite everyone over for a Game Night?!”  Nobody back then could be entirely sure how the massive amount of footage would eventually be edited.  Certainly nobody could possibly fathom how the behavior that once seemed – at best – mildly bipolar in some of the participants would eventually morph into a cottage industry that has allowed rudeness to become acceptable and rampant cruelty to become simply part of a never-ending storyline.  And definitely not one woman involved so much as considered the afternoon when it would hit the press that her husband’s name appeared on the hacked list of Ashley Madison clients.

But this show – in all of its many cities and incarnations – has been on for a very long time now and nobody can pretend to pretend that they have no idea that the cracks in a marriage will come off looking like seismic shifts and that hints of hidden bitterness between two grown women will be analyzed and hashed and then rehashed some more and then exploited by all involved.  Sure, there are benefits that come with getting bloody while standing open-legged on the reality battlefield terrain.  I’m sure these women get tables in restaurants quickly and they get to stick their names on bottles of wine and there’s a paycheck involved and all of a sudden the minutia of their lives seems like it might actually be important, but what about all that’s lost in the process?  What about the feelings that have to live somewhere – even if they are buried under other shit like pride and hubris and ego – when you engage in a life where everything becomes public and you willingly partake in more conflicted conversations than you even did back in those middle school days when everyone was miserable and gawky and food always got stuck in your braces?

I can’t stand her for sure, but I guess I understand why someone like Vicki is reluctant to leave this show.  Even though she’s publicly experienced loss and divorce and betrayal, at this point I’m going to take a not-so-wild mental leap and imagine that her identity is now very much tied up in being a Bravolebrity (just typing that word means that my uncle, a Professor of Linguistics, might come kill me) and she will not willingly walk away from this kind of exposure because it makes her feel important.  And I suppose that I get that, but I can’t understand why someone like Meghan has chosen to appear on this show.  See, Meghan seems like a somewhat decent person and yet she knew full well that she’d be joining a cast of characters who rarely play nice and she had to know that the bulk of her days would start involving fighting with people she actually doesn’t have to even know in the first place.  I really wish for her sake that she’d take her bat and her ball (and leave her dickhead of a husband behind on the field) and just walk away, but since she’s made the choice to be here, I’m gonna have to react to the fact that she says during episode, “That’s just one of the perks of being married to Jim Edmonds!”  But we’ll get there a bit later.

First we are treated to watching Tamra, her son Ryan, Ryan’s fiancé Sarah, and their baby tour Vicki’s palatial grounds as they take in the space where they might get married.  No matter that there have been recent reports that Ryan might have physically assaulted Sarah and no matter than there is something about the way the guy looks that causes me to check that all of my windows are tightly secured and so is the bolt on my front door; there’s a wedding to plan, dammit, and I can only imagine that it’ll be televised and so will the eventual divorce.  I’d take a moment to consider whether or not I’ve grown more cynical lately, but I’m really just working under a set of stats that hint heavily that marriages both on this show – and near Vicki’s house – don’t last.  Anyone wanna wager with me?  I could use the extra cash.  It’s almost boot season.

Anyhoo, as Ryan and Sarah wander the grounds and Ryan considers where one might best bury a body, Vicki and Tamra sit down to talk about what a terrible person Meghan is because she said out loud that maybe Brooks doesn’t have cancer even though it was actually the psychic Tamra hired who said it first and Tamra was the one who asked the psychic about Brooks in the first place.  But who cares about any of that when Meghan – who is thirty – had the audacity to vocalize what had already been vocalized?  To her credit, Tamra does tell Vicki that Meghan did not proclaim to the universe at large that Brooks is a liar, but Vicki doesn’t really want to hear any of the truth because she has decided that she hates Meghan and since Meghan has decided to be on this show, now she has to deal with assholes.  I did, however, really appreciate the way Vicki – in a glass-is-even-fuller-than-one-of-Shannon's-tumblers-of-vodka kind of way – decided to believe that the psychic not seeing cancer in Brooks must mean that his cancer has been cured just like they've prayed for.  I can't help it; I love when a Real Housewife claims to be motivated by God.

“Meghan has no idea what she’s in for,” muses Tamra – also an incredibly devout lady – about how Vicki will try to destroy the spirit and the reputation of the new girl and then, if she has any extra energy, Vicki will cut off Meghan’s flowing blonde hair and then burn every single one of Meghan’s headbands while announcing to the entire population that Meghan is barren.  And listen, that’s the kind of shit that Vicki does and being on this show allows her to get away with such behavior, but referring to Brooks as “my man” has to be the kind of behavior for which she should be pummeled for, right? 

While Vicki decides if she should use a shovel or a brick to bash Meghan’s head in for something Tamra is just as guilty of doing, Meghan, Jim, Heather, and Terry show up at a NASCAR event.  Now, I don’t watch NASCAR and I don’t get the appeal of NASCAR, but I have long since realized that I am in the minority here because it’s a sport that has a huge audience.  Not that any of the Housewives are part of that typical audience either, but they get to exist in NASCAR’s rarefied airspace for the day as they are greeted by a press rep and then introduced to a bunch of the drivers.  Yes, having those kinds of experiences are the perks Meghan referred to that come with marrying a man who comes off as sullen and withholding and downright disinterested in his wife at all times and this kind of commentary from a stranger about her marriage is exactly what Meghan signed on for by becoming a Housewife and the whole thing could have been so easily avoided.

Heather and Terry are – as ever – really good and fun sports.  They shake hands with the NASCAR superstars and go for a ride in one of the cars and happily retire to the suite to have some champagne while Jim makes sure to introduce himself to everyone he passes by using both his first and his last name, lest anyone not be aware that they are currently meeting a baseball legend.  In the suite, Meghan and Heather chat before the others arrive and it comes out that Vicki sent Meghan some pretty harsh texts following her dinner with Shannon.  “Shame on you for insinuating that Brooks does not have cancer,” texted Vicki, and I obviously understand why the whoo-hoo lady is not whoo-hooing about any of this, just as I understand why Heather is nervous that the next event that’s coming up will be at her house and everyone will be there including Vicki and I guess it’s a good thing that the paint in Heather’s new home hasn’t been completed yet so she won’t have to worry about how to permanently remove the remnants of Meghan’s spleen from her kitchen walls once Vicki gets her claws into the thirty year old.

Before Vicki can have at her, Meghan still has to get through a day at the races with Tamra, Shannon, and their always-happy husbands, and she has to do it without Heather who must leave early.  I suppose that it’s a good thing that Meghan’s only expectation for Shannon’s behavior is that the behavior will be inconsistent since it’s always a smart move when one manages one’s expectations.  The guys congregate near the window to watch the cars zoom by and Shannon brings up to Tamra and Meghan that the Brooks/cancer/psychic story would not leave her mind and so she kinda sorta said something about it to Vicki and Tamra jumps in to say she said something to Vicki too.  These bitches cannot keep a secret and Meghan would like to know why she’s the one getting the brunt of the blame for playing a perverse game of telephone with a bald shaman who drinks bourbon and claims that he can see the future.

Since Tamra’s future does not immediately involve getting her teeth kicked in by both Vicki and a guy who I’m guessing probably does have cancer, she has decided to devote her time to real estate.  She hasn’t been an active agent in five years, but CUT Fitness is two years old and no longer needs her new or her old nipples to nurture it, so she is back in the selling-houses game and she has to sell three homes in six months to snag the job she wants.  In less stressful news, Ryan and Sarah are definitely moving back to Orange County and I’m sure Tamra will not become involved in their lives in a way that causes even a single second of conflict because Tamra is nothing if not a healer.  Well, she might also be kind of a liar – so she’s a lying healer – because she’s not telling her husband that they are bankrolling her son’s move, but she’s only keeping the truth from him so she doesn’t have to hear him question her and if that’s not a good reason to lie, I don’t know what is.

Over at Shannon’s house, she and her kids are painting in what I think is The Craft Room, and Shannon is excited that the stilted banter she shares with her husband as her kids doodle flowers illustrates just how far her marriage has come.  Then she says, “Our children have been through so much emotionally…” and that’s when I sucked in a great gulp of air and a part of me really believed that maybe she would finish that sentence by declaring, “…and that means I’m immediately ceasing my involvement in this ridiculous show so that my kids also won’t have to deal with me lying in a fake casket, falling into swimming pools drunk, and being ready to rip their father’s corneas out of his face with one lone hangnail for fucking up one of the answers at Game Night!”  Alas, the sentence did not end my way.  But on the bight side, David kisses her hard on her cheek and neither one of them cries while it happens.  This is progress.

And then it’s sunset and it’s time for Vicki and Brooks to hop on a boat for a dinner cruise, an excursion he planned.  Vicki looks good and only almost falls overboard twice and then tells the waiter that this is her first birthday without her mother, and that is a horrible realization the first time you have it – and the second and the ninth – but my empathy for Vicki faded a little when Brooks started to say grace over the meal.  It very much might be me here and I am willing to own that, but for some reason, watching this guy pray feels icky.  Like, if Heather’s husband said grace, I might think it odd as it’s not something I see too often, but I wouldn’t feel shaky.  I feel literal tremors watching Brooks bow his head and I think I might feel badly about having such a reaction and I will deal with my maybe-waves of guilt after I consider whether or not Vicki just dropped a hint that she thinks Meghan is having an affair.  Oh, the intrigue!

Speaking of the maybe-but-I-doubt-it harlot, she is in Tamra’s car talking about real estate and then calmly deals with a quick change of subject when Tamra asks her if she is afraid to see Vicki at Heather’s house.  “No, I’m not at all,” responds Meghan, and that right there is why I like her.  What is there to be nervous about?  Will Vicki scream?  Yes.  Will Shannon arrive with a painted vase filled with flowers that spell out “I’M CHARITABLE”?  Very possible.  But what is there to actually be nervous about when Meghan hasn’t really done anything wrong besides not knowing that Tommy Lee is a drummer?

And then it’s Shannon’s birthday and the entire family goes out to dinner.  She has high hopes that this year her birthday will be filled with joy since last year her husband was off having that affair she’s mentioned once or twice.  Her expectations for this birthday aren’t high, she explains, but maybe it would be better if she got high because she sits down and it looks like her eyes are going to jump out of her skull and she immediately wonders aloud whether this burger pub is an appropriate place to dine with the children while questioning why does she not yet have her paws on a fucking drink yet.  Then David’s toast includes the words, “It’s my fault,” and the kid who hates her says, “I feel some tension between you guys,” and so Shannon insists that she’s just fine even as her eyes fill with tears and cameras that don’t have to be there continue to roll.  Just to make it all even better, her short ribs arrive and they’re riddled with fat and then she tells us that last year on her birthday she and David had sex and he later told her that after they were intimate, he left their house and went and slept with the other woman and maybe anecdotes like that help explain the reason Shannon looks like she might fall down face first and cry into the yummy-looking cake that she won’t even nibble from.

In happier relationship news, Terry once had crabs.  I’d forgive him for that way more easily than forgiving him for always wearing that black leather jacket.

Then the big event of the episode arrives, the one where they all have to be stuffed into one location together.  Heather is excited to have a luncheon at the construction site of her new compound and Vicki arrives and announces her intention is to ignore what Meghan said about Brooks and to kill her with kindness, which I think we all know means “kill her with a salad fork.”  Still, I appreciate the stab at misdirection here, if only for the narrative flow. 

Heather leads the group around and shows them the site of her future luggage room and all eighteen bathrooms and the butler’s kitchen and the tour ends at a table where they sit down for lunch.  All of the women nibble at some quinoa and tell Tamra that she has to let Eddie know that she just paid for her son’s deposit, but the real action is going down at the other side of the table where Meghan is thanking Shannon for making a call to her doctor so Hayley’s mother can see him.  While Shannon is making it clear that she didn’t do all that much to help Meghan so Vicki won’t maul her in the butler’s pantry, Vicki is on the other side of the table doing her very best to read lips because she is pretty sure she saw the syllables for “cancer” being formed by Meghan’s lips, and if the cape Vicki is wearing gives her any superpower, it’s being able to sense when thirty year olds are discussing diseases.  But she doesn’t have to keep reading lips when Meghan addresses her directly about what the psychic said and Vicki responds by throwing up her hands to thank Jesus for Brooks being cured before drifting down from her Godly plane to tell Meghan that if she ever questions Brooks again, she will take her down.  As the rest of the women’s eyes bulge, Meghan asks if she can explain herself and says that she was asking Brooks about his treatment, to which Vicki busts in to say that Meghan doesn’t care about Brooks and that they should both thank God that neither of them has cancer and if Meghan was a Christian, she would be praying at this very second.  After a beat so the crazy gets to settle in nicely, Meghan explains that Christianity has nothing to do with this and that’s when Pastor Vicki shrieks, “Of course it does!  God has the answers!” and this settles it:  I’m now an atheist. 

But before I officially make a change to my religion (are there forms I have to fill out?), first I need to think about what will go down when it comes out that it hasn’t just been Meghan talking about Brooks and his treatments.  Instead it appears that maybe the others were questioning how much Vicki really knows about the logistics of Brooks’ situation – but Vicki will deal with that later.  Because now it’s time for her to wag her finger in Meghan’s face and scream, “You don’t get involved!” to which Meghan responds that Vicki gets involved in her life and spouts opinions about how Meghan and Jim are raising Hayley.  Devastatingly, it turns out that a caped version of Vicki also lacks the ability to deal with a dispute effectively because this is what she says to Meghan next:  “You know what?  You need to go away.  You’re a little girl.  You need to go away and get a big-girl job.  Shut up,” because Vicki is a big girl with a big-girl vocabulary, but then Meghan brings it on home by saying back, “You’re just an old woman who is pissed off and bitter at the world so you shut up.” Shannon – who didn’t blink once while Vicki insulted Meghan – murmurs “wow” at Meghan’s words and Heather looks saddened that this is all going down and Tamra leans back in her chair and looks terrified and tries to remember if Heather mentioned where the emergency exits were in that fucking mansion because shit’s about to get as real as Brooks’ cancer might or might not be.