It was just the other day when I found myself in the middle of a totally peculiar conversation with a kid who recently transferred from another district. Having to change schools at any point can be an anxiety-ridden exercise in pure misery, but I think it’s probably the most difficult when you’re about to begin your very last year of high school. I want this student to feel welcome here – comfortable – so part of my morning routine now involves chatting with him during those flurried few minutes before the bell rings. I often attempt to bring other kids into our conversation and then I gently walk away once I’m certain this newbie is happily interacting with some guy or girl he didn’t know before last week.
As the first month of the academic year flew by, I was able to witness things falling into place socially for this student. He was starting to feel at home in a brand new place. He was beginning to make friends. I’d see him walking down the hallway as part of a small group. He wasn’t always alone anymore – that made me really happy – but other things I started to notice after interacting with him every single day began to cause some concerns:
1. Every single time we read from any form of any text, he always begins and ends up on the wrong page. And it’s not the next page he accidentally ends up on – it’s always some random distant chapter of the book.
2. He has to be prodded repeatedly to take notes because he often falls into a brief bouts of what I’m really hoping are simple narcoleptic episodes because otherwise I seriously fear for the kid’s health since he appears to lapse into a fully comatose state every few minutes.
3. He left a notebook and a textbook from another class in my room for over a week. When I asked him if they were his, he shook his head. No, he insisted. He’d never even seen those books before. Then I opened both books and pointed to the place where he’d printed his own name on the inner covers and he just shrugged and shoved them into his bag, still having not the slightest memory of ever owning those books in the first place.
4. Right before the entire class was scheduled to meet with Guidance to discuss post-high school plans, I found myself in the hallway with him (this is the discussion I was talking about) and I asked what he hoped to do after graduation. “I’m going to play basketball for Duke,” he told me with a smile. “That’s amazing!” I responded. “Have you been in contact with the coach?” He had not. “Has the coach come to see you play? Has he watched footage you sent him of yourself?” Actually, he’d never spoken to the coach in any form. “Are you on the basketball team here?” I asked then – and when he told me no and then also shook his head when I asked him if he’d taken the SATs, I could feel my eyebrows shoot all the way up my forehead as tends to be the case whenever I find myself thrown into a scenario in which I am contractually unable to utter a sentence like, “Do you understand that what you’re saying makes zero fucking sense?”
After that bizarre conversation that had no beginning and no end and nothing that could be even be constituted as half of a middle, I had an inkling something wasn’t right when it came to this young man and the way he processes information. I did some research and found out his IQ falls somewhere between DOLTISH and TROGLODIYTIC on the official scale that measures empirical intelligence. He’s a very sweet person; it’s an absolute shame that he’s so mentally vacant, but at least the school district is now aware of his limitations and we can get him the services he needs to hopefully graduate on time and eventually carve out a future plan that both makes sense and somewhat inspires him. My rather cynical guess is that his future will probably not involve being a star athlete at a competitive university, but then again, stranger things have happened.
And speaking of very strange things and the limitations involving human behavior, Kelly Dodd is having the kind of inaugural season that makes me wish I could check out her IQ numbers because perhaps there’s some form of mental deficiency that causes her to behave like a fucking lunatic while cameras record every slurring sentiment she spits out in a huff of tequila-scented fire. In case anyone is looking for some stats (forgive me – I’ve got Duke basketball on the brain), so far Kelly has managed to call Shannon “ugly,” “a cunt,” and “Mrs. Roper.” She chose to elect Vicki Gunvalson to be her Life Coach, an election Vicki won by a fucking landslide since her opponents – Adolf Hitler and Ann Coulter – were both too busy helping Donald Trump to campaign against The Whoo Hoo Goddess. Then Kelly sat back and listened intently as her brand new guru encouraged her to stay with her verbally-abusive husband until the very end of time so she would never have to feel even a pang of loneliness because everyone knows loneliness is way worse than having your soul and your heart roasted from the inside out. As for her illustrious husband, Kelly has fought with him on camera and announced frequently to the masses that he’s a narcissist who takes sadistic pleasure in threatening to strip her of her custody. She has been drunk almost constantly since we’ve met her. (During one of the few times she was sober, however, she made sure to inform her husband that his own brazen intoxication humiliated her.) Then, after jetting off to Ireland with a bunch of women she’s already belittled and insulted, she quickly downed some shots and instantly morphed from Happy Drunk to Asshole Drunk in two shakes of a fluffy lamb’s tail whereupon she made sure to bellow that Tamra is a complete fucking liar and that’s probably the very reason Tamra’s daughter refuses to have even a single thing to do with her own mother.
The most disgraceful part of the entire scenario, of course, is not even that Kelly said such a thing about Tamra and her daughter. Sure, that was a cruel comment formed by the lips of a walking piece of dribbling horseshit, but c’mon – nobody actually cares about Kelly Dodd’s opinion on parenting. The real issue is not what Kelly said, but how desperate she is to prove that saying those words should have absolutely no consequence because she was the one who was made to feel sad first. And why did she feel sad? Because Tamra told her the poke-you-in-the-nose game was getting annoying so Kelly retaliated by lobbing The Custody Grenade. Yes, Tamra dirtied the waters a bit when she shot out that she has been such a good friend to Kelly that she hasn’t even divulged all those secrets Kelly told her, like the juicy one about Heather being poor. That was an asshole move by Tamra for sure, but it did not deserve the vitriolic retribution it received. And even now, even in the aftermath of the battle when things should start to become a bit less fuzzy and begin to make a bit more sense, there still appears to be no awareness whatsoever on Kelly’s part that saying the most devastating thing you can articulate will absolutely lead to the ratcheting up of stakes in a manner that will not easily be resolved, especially not when you subsequently deny any complicity in the manner and your sociopath of a husband encourages you to do anything and everything besides apologize.
I do not care if Kelly ever achieves personal contentment or inner peace. At this point, I’m pretty sold on the idea that she’s a horrible person who causes problems everywhere she wanders. I do not care in the slightest about whether or not she stays married to a man who appears to be just as damaged as she is. And I certainly don’t care that Vicki hasn’t come to Kelly’s defense with the same idiotic force with which Kelly sought to defend Vicki’s tarnished honor earlier in the season. To even allow herself to believe that Vicki was invested in her life for any other reason than the fact that she’d been blackballed by every single woman in Orange County and she needed someone to drink with on a Tuesday was moronic. Vicki will not be coming to Kelly’s aid in Ireland – or at least she won’t until everyone remembers just how much Vicki sucks and turns against her again and Vicki immediately requires a new best friend who is too foolish to go running for the ruins in the distance. But for now? For now the only person Vicki really cares about is herself.
I’d love to spend the rest of this Bravo-sponsored tour through the hills of Ireland with only Shannon or Heather. It would fucking thrill me to pieces to scream “Fare-Thee-Well!” at Meghan as she goes tromping off to discover her heritage and I suppose I wouldn’t mind watching a few more seconds of Tamra hyperventilating into a paper bag, but I’d be quite happy to pretend Kelly and Vicki do not exist. I would like instead to enjoy the zaniness of Shannon dressing up in emerald green sequined outfits while Heather drains yet another glass of champagne and does it without walking into even one wall or calling another woman a cunt as someone who looks a great deal like Jamie Dornan sings Danny Boy in the foggy distance.
Unfortunately, Bravo editors are clearly conspiring against me. They did not heed my very specific requests for exactly what it is I want to see, so this week begins with Heather calling Vicki to get the rundown on how Vicki and Shannon bonded drunkenly the evening before. Their rickety friendship is starting to be pieced back together – at least while they’re in Ireland and everyone is currently hammered and filled with hatred for Kelly – and they shall celebrate the resurgence of this already-broken bond by spending a day on a farm! Not invited to frolic with animals in the vast countryside is Kelly. She is asshole-non-grata at this point and maybe part of the reason for such a distinction can be traced back to the fact that she still cannot understand what it was that she did to make people so angry. The lady is a moron and she will be punished for being this much of an idiot by having to walk the streets alongside a pregnant woman and stop each passerby along the way to find out if anybody might be one of Meghan’s distant cousins who can provide both food and shelter should Meghan eventually come to her senses and leave her douchebag of a husband.
Now that the rest of the women are free from Kelly and her haze of horribleness, it’s time for them to meet in the lobby of the hotel so they can listen to Vicki discuss how she vomited all morning and how she might actually be pregnant. (Wait. Didn’t we all secretly get together and take a vote that Vicki’s uterus was to forevermore be used for nothing except the storage of tight shirts with cutouts near the cleavage area? Could that have simply been a dream?) In any event, nobody seems all that upset that Kelly is nowhere around, not even Vicki who cannot accomplish a task so simple as opening a trunk without making it into some stupid show, one I can’t believe hasn’t been canceled yet by either Andy Cohen or God.
As they trudge around the city, Meghan and Kelly look nothing short of fucking asinine as they accost every person they see to find out if any of the people trying to avoid them have the last name O’Toole. Yes, they’re basically cold-calling people on a street and Kelly apparently decided to dress like Bonnie Parker for the event and they’re achieving just about nothing in this producer-driven endeavor. Meanwhile, the others arrive at a lovely farm and are promptly informed that they will be helping to milk some cows. Obviously – because she’s the fucking worst – Vicki immediately begins shrieking at the sight of cow shit and then the entire group dons Ghostbuster-looking suits to ready themselves for the milking. When it’s Vicki’s turn to milk the cow (who I’m just gonna go ahead and call Brooks), the cow tries to kick her. I’m going to need to take a second now so I can quickly browse online for a gift to send Brooks the Cow because I really appreciate his effort. Do cows like those Harry & David pears you’re supposed to eat with a spoon?
Also: Meghan maybe-sort-of-could-have found someone she’s slightly related to after a day of harassing strangers on the street.
Also: Tamra knows the only thing that will get her through being near Kelly at this point is Jesus and I really hope he’s not too busy combatting famine and genocide to help out an Orange County Real Housewife because things could get ugly on the farm.
Also: Vicki’s wants her nipples to be “where they should be” and she declares her vagina to be beautiful.
Also: I am positive I can see a swarm of locusts riding a fleet of frogs somewhere near the horizon.
Arriving at the farm, Kelly feels uncomfortable. Meghan informed her earlier in the day that she should immediately apologize for saying such a terrible thing to Tamra, but as Kelly herself is a terrible thing, she is thereby not fully able to follow normal advice. She sits quietly for a while, fully believing the rest of the women are part of a hateful clique that’s targeting her for no reason at all, but then – like a ray of sunshine beaming through the clouds – a teensy bit of humility overtakes her and she announces to the table at large how sorry she is for saying such awful things about Tamra. “It was just something that came out of my mouth,” Kelly attempts to explain while Heather mumbles safe words to herself to keep her head from flying off. See, Heather has heard this pathetic excuse from Kelly before. We have all heard her apologize for hissing nasty words out of anger and, frankly, I don’t see how it’s possible for anyone to believe things will be any different going forward. This is a very sick human being gracing our TV screens and unless her husband locks her in a dungeon, I have no doubt she will be back to cause even more trouble next season. As for how Tamra took Kelly’s apology, well, she sort of didn’t. Her eyes flooded with tears, Tamra simply nodded as Kelly rhapsodized about what an excellent mother Tamra is, but when Kelly walked over later to thank Tamra for being so forgiving, Tamra coldly and evenly replied that she is not talking about this matter right now. A bullshit apology by a monster in a beret is sometimes just not enough.
Once they arrive back at the hotel, Meghan stops by Tamra’s room so she can try to convince her to forgive Kelly, but Tamra is way too angry to even entertain such a notion. Kelly Dodd, after all, is the one person walking this fucking planet who causes Tamra to question the Lord’s teachings and all Tamra can do to get through it is try to stay as far away from Kelly and her sharp teeth as is humanly possible. The rest of them are not so lucky. Heather knows she can deal with Kelly’s presence by treating her like she’s nothing but generic air and that’s her mindset as she, Shannon, Vicki, and Kelly hop on some bikes to tour the bucolic countryside. The gorgeousness of the vista is immediately compromised by Vicki’s incessant posing and shrieking, but I suppose she could be doing it all while topless, so look at that – I found me an upside to this bullshit.
The group eventually bikes to some glorious castle and they spread out on a blanket for a picnic. Kelly waves away the alcohol she’s offered because wringing out her liver in the hotel sink that morning wasn’t as effective as she had hoped. Still, everyone is somewhat optimistic that their last dinner in Ireland will be calm and enjoyable and that of course means that the meal will be a Technicolor nightmare. There’s no way Tamra is going to get through a meal with Kelly without lunging at her and even Heather might grip a steak knife really tightly in her hands for a second because she’s already grossed out by what Kelly said about Tamra’s custody issues – and that shit is nothing compared to the shirt she saw Kelly wearing while she played croquet. White, filmy, and far too complicated in its detailing, Kelly’s shirt looks like the kind of item Luann’s pirate would have tossed on right before he asked the Countess to pay him his regular fee for his services. I mean, that shirt is not the ugliest thing about Kelly. It’s clearly her personality that is her single most awful quality, but that shirt did her no favors.
Arriving at the dinner Tamra has already coined “Kelly’s Funeral,” Shannon suggests the group order some alcohol, but Kelly announces she will not be drinking. No, she’s too hurt that Vicki didn’t stand up for her when everyone else attacked her just for bringing up the fact that Tamra’s daughter wants nothing to do with the woman who birthed her. But Shannon clearly doesn’t care all that much about Kelly’s wants or needs and she goes ahead and orders some tequila for her. Maybe Shannon thought the alcohol racing through her bloodstream might cause Kelly to loosen up. Maybe she secretly hatched a plan to poison Kelly’s tequila with cyanide. I really have no idea about Shannon’s motivation on this one, but Vicki thinks she knows what’s going on and I seriously hate to say this: I think Vicki might be right. See, Vicki believes that Shannon is trying to get some booze into a lunatic’s body so the monster will be unleashed and she’s pretty sure Tamra is behind this evil plan, but Kelly is the kind of all-knowing seer who understands everything that’s happening around her. She believes these women are setting up an ambush, but rather than get up and go back to her room and order room service and some light porn, Kelly stays put and readies herself for the next war.
Now listen, I figured there would eventually be a few causalities, but I did not expect to see text pop onscreen that indicated something massive happened five hours earlier without a camera crew recording the crazy. We almost never – and I mean never – hear a producer’s probing questions on this franchise, but the last segment begins with a producer asking Meghan about what happened after dinner. Seems Vicki and Kelly knocked on Tamra’s door during the night. They were trying to get Tamra to go out drinking with them, an invitation Tamra declined by not answering the door. And that’s when things get a bit confusing. Shannon apparently came down the hall and demanded to know what Kelly was doing and Kelly somehow made the choice to go back to her room and go to sleep. With her gone, Heather, Tamra, and Shannon headed out to get a drink and they sent texts to Vicki that she should come join them so long as she left the unbalanced one back in the hotel room. As she has no loyalty to anything or anyone, Vicki ditched her new best friend and hustled her way downstairs. Firmly reunited with Tamra, Vicki then whispered into her soul-sister’s ear all of the dastardly things Kelly has said about Tamra, to which Tamra responded by snapping a picture of herself wrapped around Kelly’s Life Coach that she then sent Kelly’s way, along with a lengthy text that informed Kelly that Vicki had told Tamra everything.
It’s hard to believe things escalated after that text was sent and the women were stuffed with alcohol, right? But escalate they did and Heather captured the entire thing on her phone. Kelly cried in a hallway and denied and then denied again saying anything terrible about Tamra and eventually all of the women and their resentments and their imminent hangovers boarded the shuttle to return to the airport. But if you believed Kelly would just sit quietly in that van and fantasize about being a different person, you would be very incorrect. Instead, Kelly mumbles that she has never done anything to anybody and then she turns around and stares at Shannon and calls her “a drunk.” (Um, pot filled with cheap grain punch and desperation and tears? You’re black.) Then she continues by demanding that Shannon shut her mouth – and just because she’s not shown herself to be despicable enough, she follows up with a comment about Shannon having hairs sprouting from her chin. The whole thing is captured with the scuzzy tint of night vision and it ends when Heather sort of scoffs and announces that Kelly is nothing but trash.
Do I think these women were trying to bait Kelly? Probably. But to loosely paraphrase our next President, perhaps someone so easily baited should not live such a public life. The woman needs to get off of reality television for the sake of her sanity and she needs to do it immediately. And if she finds that she’s bored after quitting this show, perhaps she can go play basketball at Duke.
Nell Kalter teaches Film and Media at a school in New York. She is the author of the books THAT YEAR and STUDENT, both available on amazon.com in paperback and for your Kindle. Also be sure to check out her website at nellkalter.com Her Twitter is @nell_kalter