I attended a Game Night once. There were about twenty of us gathered in a rustic living room, one of those great places with wooden beams across the ceiling and a roaring fireplace in the corner, and all of us were splayed out comfortably across the rug. I don’t remember seeing any theme decorations on the tables, but I know there was alcohol on the counter in the kitchen. We played a bunch of different games, but my favorite was the one where we were all presented with some initials and we had to come up with what those initials stood for and one person had the actual answer and the point was to guess who had the correct response. The one I remember the best was P.A.S.S. Turns out those initials stand for a group who call themselves “Parents Against Subliminal Seduction,” which I guess holds sit-ins outside of Disney movies in an effort to finally put a forever stop to animators doing shit like making Aladdin get an erection or from having the castle in The Little Mermaid sculpted from perfectly formed penises, a monument to both royal majesty and circumcision.
Years later, I would actually teach my Film students about P.A.S.S. – and I’d pass around the box cover of The Little Mermaid to both prove my point and to guarantee excellent class attendance from that point forward because if dicks are being discussed, it turns out kids come to class – but on that Game Night, the far more hilarious answers were the fake ones. I can’t remember all of them, but the one that sticks out – much like Aladdin’s hard-on – was the one a friend of mine came up with: “Paraplegics Association: Still Sitting.” It was a response so politically incorrect and so wrong and so unexpected that there were people literally rolling around the room in laughter and so the first time I heard about a Game Night happening in the rarified universe of The Real Housewives, I was excited to experience some of that silliness, however vicariously.
How naïve I used to be…
Game Nights for Housewives are a full contact sport where resentments that have never really been gulped down bubble to the surface. Crutches are hidden from women who are all but incapacitated and meth is maybe smoked in the bathroom and people get phone calls about death. What I’m saying is that it turns out that I’d way rather be experiencing a Game Night with paraplegic parents who sit around discussing seduction that’s subliminal than be in any room with a woman like Shannon Beador.
But before Shannon can walk through the front door of Meghan’s home – the very site where police who will unquestionably investigate Shannon for a murder one day might want to begin their investigation – Meghan first has to prepare for the big event. And Meghan, a new and still-optimistic Housewife, is going all out, but luckily she’s got some help. Hayley is there to unwrap decorations and organize gigantic lollipops in a vase like they are flowers, which I guess means that the kid not only has to put her dirty dishes in the dishwasher for that hundred dollar allowance; she has also been tasked with setting up centerpieces to impress Orange County women who might very well fling those lollipops stick-first across the room later as makeshift daggers due to misplaced anger, sheer drunkenness, or because one is Shannon. And Meghan, dear Meghan, is explaining that Game Night is so needed right now, that they all need to just relax and have a good hearty chuckle, and I cannot help wondering if the girl has never tuned in to watch any other Housewives Game Night because maybe nothing can be more fraught with terror than women sitting around a table with cards or dominos – and I say that as someone who tends to gravitate to the grisliest of horror films. Let me tell you, bloody stumps and stringy entrails and madmen wielding rusty machetes have nothing on Game Night in the off-kilter universe of a Real Housewife.
Starting the bonding theme early, Meghan lets Hayley know that there are some new guidelines that she must follow in their home. Guideline one is that she has to go to the supermarket every other week. Guideline two is that she must be home by midnight on the weekends. Aaaand…that’s it. Still, I do respect Meghan for trying to give the kid more structure and I hope that Hayley respects her for it instead of whispering to her friends that her step-monster has lost her mind the way I used to say the very same thing to my own friends, though I had a real right to say such a thing as my step-monster was a hybrid creature – half lunatic and half asshole – and Meghan strikes me as fully human so I hope she catches a break.
As Meghan and the girl who I’m guessing will continue to roll in somewhere around 3:00AM any damn night she pleases scatter candy around the living room, Heather and Terry are in a car across town. Guess what? Heather’s favorite sound is champagne popping! Who’s surprised? Anyway, they are celebrating that they’re finally alone (with a camera crew because nothing says “intimate quality time” more than a lens pointed at your face), and they’re having a day date. And what do Heather and Terry do on a date? They shop! Heather, you see, is getting tired of only browsing for diamond doorknobs and granite sold at the one-percenter’s store and she needs clothing to go on the upcoming Housewives vacation and I can only hope that the filmy tees she’s looking at are made from a fabric that’s bullet-proof because maybe the only thing more sinister in its foreshadowing than a Game Night is a vacation all these women have to take together. Heather’s phone rings while she’s in a jewelry store – you guys, how could she not need a new long skinny necklace to go over her bathing suit? – and it’s Meghan and Heather answers it on speaker because that’s what you do when you’re a Real Housewife. Part of your contract is that every conversation must be recorded and part of being a minion who has to interact with a Real Housewife in exchange for having the name of your store appear on Bravo is having to listen to that conversation, the bulk of which is that Meghan and Heather are going to be partners for Game Night because neither of their husbands can be there.
Back at party central (which will one day be known as the scene of a hideous crime), Meghan speaks with the men she hired to be hosts for Game Night while caterers prepare food that probably nobody will eat and the bartender who will soon serve Shannon vodka in a tall glass sets up. The place is decked out in the colors of a Candyland rainbow. Every hue is represented except that dark, miserable, withholding dark blue that is the color embodiment of Meghan’s husband and every single person who crosses the threshold seems intent on commenting on his absence. I’m legitimately not sure what is wrong with these people. Not only is it rude to point out that your hostess’ husband clearly hates her, but the guy sucks so who really wants him there? I mean, I for one am so thrilled by his absence that I spontaneously made up a song about being tickled carnation pink that the guy isn’t around. I’d ask Tamra to sing it with me, but it doesn’t include the word “whore” so I’m not sure she’ll be into it.
Then Shannon enters, and just in case anyone thinks I’ve been unfair to the drunkest and most bitter woman on this show, she bellows, “Oh, you have a bar!” the instant she walks in the door. And in case anybody thinks I’m also wrong for saying outright that Shannon is a miserable asshole at least once per recap, then you need to hold tight because I’m going to say it more than once during this recap and I’ll start right now in response to how she sarcastically claps her hands and mocks how happy she is to finally get an invitation to Meghan’s party. Shannon and her borderline-catatonic husband and her diamond-encrusted teeth and her holistic solutions to problems that actually require something besides an ointment blessed by a shaman can seriouslysuck it.
Then Shannon makes me hate her even more – a feat I thought impossible unless she decided to steal my dog and teach her to speak and made her say “Shannon, you’re the most normal person I know!” in front of a crowd that included me bound and gagged in a corner. What’s on Shannon’s mind? Well, it’s what is always on Shannon’s mind. No, she’s not thinking of the affair; she’s already thought of that sixty-eight times today and the personalities crowding her tragic head have pleaded for a little break, so it’s time for her to start projecting her misery unto others which is something she misinterpreted while reading scripture once.
“I just think it’s weird her husband isn’t here,” Shannon stage whispers to Lizzie near the bar. Now listen: it is weird that Meghan’s husband never seems to want to be with his wife, but that Shannon is the one to point that out seems odd, especially since I’ve long believed that the reason her own husband is always seen in long pants on even the hottest of days is so nobody sees the scars from where he tried to once gnaw himself free from his batshit crazy wife. In fact, I’m pretty sure that David showed up to Game Night in the first place in the hopes that one of the prizes would be that he could go live for a while with someone else. Hell, even bunking over at Vicki’s house while Brooks gets a coffee enema in the kitchen sounds better than what he’s got going on right now – and at least he knows there will be some caffeine in the place.
Vicki shows up then with Brooks and she’s already planning her exit before her official entrance and just when I thought I could still drum up some empathy because of her recent loss, she launches into that adorable fake snoring thing she does when someone in her midst has started to bore her. The woman has been in Meghan’s home for twelve seconds. It’s beyond impolite to snore unless you’ve been stuck someplace for at least forty-five minutes, and I know such a thing is true with absolute certainty because I heard Countess Luann say it once before she gave a married guy a lap-dance. Meghan is not all that impressed with Vicki’s tired behavior – which means that I love Meghan – but she’s got other things on her mind, like how well she and Heather will do at The Newlywed Game. I’m guessing it will be far better than she would end up doing with her own husband, unless every question posed to him was, “What are all the things you can’t stand about your third wife?”
The game kicks off and I’m already looking at all of the white walls in that house and trying to figure out if bleach will get the bloodstains out after one of the people living in Shannon’s head whispers that there’s a chance that “David’s affair” knows one of the guys asking the questions, but things actually start off pretty well. Even Tamra and Eddie have decided they don’t hate each other anymore, and that’s a good thing because when Tamra is unhappy, the rule is that everybody in her airspace must be unhappy as well in solidarity to a monster. But Eddie and Tamra are proving that they are clearly soul-mates because who else can you talk about wanting to bone? (Oh, that random guy in a bar? Stop trying to ruin Tamra’s happiness with logic.) As for Shannon and herterrified soul-mate, David has already fucked up question number two by saying Shannon wants to talk when he wants to sleep instead of giving the correct answer, which according to Shannon is “to make whoopee.” And when David says the wrong thing, a steady stream of fire creeps into Shannon’s eyes and seriously, I really hope Meghan has some bleach.
When the question is posed about whether or not the husbands are more or less romantic now than in the past, Shannon writes the word “MORE” on her paper and flips it over with a look that’s as close as she gets to gleeful about something that’s not vodka, but David has screwed up again. It might be time for him to scrawl some more names of restaurants and to prepare another fake eulogy in the hopes of saving this sham of a marriage between two people who truly look like they can’t stand one another and they continue to bicker as it’s revealed that Eddie’s devotion to his betrothed hasn’t changed in the least, which is the second saddest thing I’ve heard so far tonight and I’m not even counting the mention of Jim and Alexis that happened earlier.
After the first round of games, Vicki is all ready to go home and Shannon has stuck her snout down to smell the pizza instead of eating it. Heather tries to convince Vicki to stay because Meghan – the only one eating any of the food – has gone all out and to just leave is even ruder than to fake-snore upon arrival. Vicki is out though, and in her absence, Meghan brings up that she’s about to get Botox for the first time because a wrinkle has popped up and Shannon can’t believe she would do such a thing. I’ll never criticize Shannon for wanting to age gracefully, so instead I’ll criticize her for having what Meghan correctly pegs as “judgy eyes” and not being willing to own it. It reminds me of the time a friend complained about how I reacted to something she said and I laughed and told her that I sometimes can’t control that my eyebrows like to speak for me, rising in humor when the rest of me is trying to play it safe and serious. My friend was absolutely right to call me out – and so is Meghan. Now, I’m not sure I would say such a thing to someone I’d already brawled with as she reclined on my sofa during Game Night, but then again, I don’t have a contract to try to snare to appear on the next season for this show like Meghan does and I for one hope she doesbecome a recurring Housewife, if only so I can watch her move three more times and hopefully one day watch as she tells her husband that he blows.
The next night, Shannon and David arrive at therapy and are promptly told by the counselor that they are not at all in the right headspace to ever discuss the affair by themselves. I’m sure there is some clinical logic behind such a statement, but unless Tina the Marriage Counselor moves in with them, that seems a remarkably ridiculous rule to impose on a couple since I think it’s pretty clear that boiling resentment doesn’t serve these two all that well. All Shannon wants is for the hurt to stop and all David wants is to be somewhere else and all I want is to shake these people and tell them to figure this shit out off camera while I help myself to seven of the desserts that are leftover from Game Night.
Then it’s time to get ready for the big trip and watching Heather pack her luggage is a study in excellence. I know full well that people across this great land laughed at Heather and rolled their eyes as she packed her shoes separately and lined her clothing in white tissue paper and everyone has a right to react any way he or she sees fit, but as for me, I want to get a PhD in Being Heather and I will write my dissertation on the various ways to keep from wrinkling silk and chiffon and how to talk yourself down from a ledge when traveling with Whoo-hoo Vicki, Bone-Loving Tamra, and Shannon, who I could say a great many awful things about but I find it’s best to pace myself.
Okay, I can’t help myself. I did try, but watching Shannon assemble her thousands of vitamins – none of which help to make her in any way tolerable or normal – has made it impossible, though there might be some revulsion to go around, a thought that occurred to me when Vicki mentioned her G-string bathing suits.
At the airport, the women all meet up and get on the plane where Vicki works on her laptop, Heather watches Downton Abbey, and Lizzie is excited to appear on camera more than she has so far this season. I get that Lizzie is relatively calm and appears to have a happy home-life and that Bravo is not so interested in populating their shows with sane people, but I kind of like her and I’m glad she’s on this trip and I just hope that she starts applying just a wee bit less mascara to her eyelids because I fear one might fall off and get lost forever in the crystal waters of Tahiti.
Speaking of Tahiti, its beauty is almost immediately marred by Shannon coughing up something she describes as “nasty black shit.” Is Vicki concerned with the fact that her friend’s phlegm looks like tar? Don’t be ridiculous! Vicki is only concerned that Shannon has to be healthy so she can whoop it up on night one because Vicki is a really good friend and also that kind of hellish American who wonders why the woman working behind the desk at the hotel doesn’t know what “whoop it up” means. And Shannon, poor, sick Shannon. She’s really not feeling well, and even as someone who knows fuck all about medicine and biology, I’m gonna take a stab in the dark here and say that perhaps what Ms. Beador’s got going on is a tremendously painful case of a psychosomatic illness in that she is allergic to looking at other people acting joyful when her husband is many hours away from her and she has absolutely no trust in him. Such a thing might cause any of us to feel queasy. I don’t know if it would cause us all to hock up black stuff, but then again, Shannon is special.
After Shannon goes to her room to lie down and chant mantras to herself about positivity that do absolutely no good at all, the women find the hotel bar. Lizzie orders a water and it turns out that Vicki is still that woman at fifty who she was at nineteen, the annoying chick who asked people why they weren’t drinking shitty beer from the keg in the basement. Turns out that Lizzie has a good reason not to be drinking since she thinks she might be pregnant and Vicki would like her to immediately pee on a stick to find out for sure so she can return to berating her for not doing shots. Since there’s no drugstore around, Vicki decides to turn her attention instead to Meghan and the fact that her husband seems to be avoiding her and how weird it is that Meghan is in California to take care of Hayley and the whole thing kind of annoys me because Meghan herself is admitting that these extended absences with her husband don’t make her want to dance a jig of joy. It’s not like she’s sitting there blankly and spouting out that everything is perfect so I think they should leave the woman alone and that’s when Lizzie randomly asks Meghan why she has such a problem with Shannon. Lizzie says that she just can’t understand it, to which Meghan perfectly replies, “You don’t have to,” though I kind of wish she just looked every woman at that table directly in the eye and asked them if anyone actually believes that Shannon is truly stable.
Betting spectacularly on a horse that I don’t think will even finish the race, Vicki shows up in the morning in Shannon’s room and makes sure to tell Shannon that Meghan still doesn’t like her – a fact that seems to stun Shannon in a way that makes absolutely no sense. The women then pile into vans and Tamra immediately gets diarrhea while the rest of them decide to go shopping for pearls. Heather tries on a necklace that costs $49,000 and the rest of them discuss how much something has to cost for a discussion with a husband to be a necessity and Vicki, the working woman of the crew, shockingly has some opinions that someone without a paycheck shouldn’t be permitted to spend too much. Look: the woman maybe has a point, but she’s whoo-hooed far too many times this episode for me to have any sort of patience for her anymore and I’m wondering if Heather packed a muzzle in some white tissue paper and if she maybe is carrying it on her person so she can throw it on Vicki because I’m not even on that trip with her and I’ve already had more than enough.
Right before they get on a ferry, Shannon reveals the shit she’s coughing up is now green, Vicki tells her that she better start drinking because Vicki is annoying as hell, and Heather poses the question of what everybody’s most embarrassing moment is and Shannon rolls her eyes that Meghan’s involved getting her period in public while she was at work. At the mention of “work,” Vicki decides to immediately latch onto the fact that Meghan once had a job and no longer does.
“So why did you quit?” asks Vicki in a way that reads to anybody with ears as false curiosity.
“Because of Jimmy. I met my husband and we fell in love,” responds Meghan, and I really wish she’d just get back to how badly her jeans were stained by her period blood because this is not going to be a conversation that’s going to end well for anybody, including the viewer. And just so it’s clear that Vicki could give less than one of Tamra’s shits about Meghan, she happily tells the camera that Meghan should not have quit that job because what is she going to do when her husband moves on to wife number four and then she sits at the same table as Meghan and discusses her grave concerns for a woman she has already decided she hates loudly enough for the woman in question to hear her.
And that, my friends, is how a vacation with the Housewives begins. There is explosive diarrhea and a possible pregnancy and projectile mucus that changes color and Vicki.
I think I’d rather be back at Game Night.