Much to my constant dismay, I am the forgiving sort. I’m not quite sure where this little trait of mine comes from, but since I have a few fond memories of my father staunchly holding some grudges, I’m just gonna go ahead and claim that my forgiving nature was bequeathed to me by my mother, along with an almost identical face. I don’t much enjoy this aspect of my personality; there’s just something fiercely narcissistic about staying furious with someone and I wouldn’t really mind a bit more fierce narcissism running through my body. Alas, I was apparently not built to cut someone from my life completely. Just in case you need an example, how about the time I forgave a family member for refusing to congratulate me for writing a book that was in no way about her? Her reason for withholding the congratulations? I hadn’t told her I was writing a book and she refused to be proud of me because she wasn't included in the process from its genesis. Save your time and don’t even try to make sense out of it. It makes no sense, but I forgave her anyway because having to be in the same room with both her and my inner inferno of bubbling fury left me feeling short of breath and feverish and I was far too worried about my health to stay angry.
But even a forgiver like me would never just shrug and think, Well, it’s all in the past, had someone decided to sneer, “I’d never be friends with you because you’re ugly,” directly to my face in the middle of my own party the way Kelly did to Shannon on last week’s episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County. That's a comment simply meant to be as hurtful as possible, one said by a person who doesn’t have anything more damning in her arsenal and thus decided to take her anger out on your face. My face rejects that sort of bullshit. Will Shannon and her face end up forgiving Kelly? I have no idea why she would, but we’re still early enough into the season that I suppose it’s possible. Plus, we all need something to focus on besides praying for Jim Edmonds to be kinder to his fetus than he is to the wife who is carrying it.
As though the editors of this show want to hint that sunniness is ahead, this week’s episode begins on a bright day. All the shots of the crisp blue skies in the opening montage are probably meant to communicate that the tequila-drenched sunset of last night is just a thing of the past and now it’s time for all the Housewives to rehearse the line, “I can forgive, but I cannot forget” in the privacy of their own homes. Heather will probably practice the line in front of her maid or her cook or her driver or her butler because she finds that she sounds more sincere after rehearsing for a crowd. Vicki will practice in some brown room of her home and wonder if Brooks would like what she’s wearing while she says her lines or if he'd prefer to watch her lie while she shows off even more cleavage. Meghan will wander into the next room to ask Jimmy if her words sound genuine while he is packing to leave once again. He will, of course, just ignore her.
Speaking of Meghan, she is actually far too busy to worry about forgiveness. She and her mother are at the doctor’s office because today her eggs will be retrieved in an effort to finally get her pregnant with the liquid spawn of a man who appears to be the meanest Housewife husband of them all – and that includes Peter from Atlanta, a particularly loathsome specimen who can both bankrupt and cheat on his wife in ten seconds flat. Once Meghan’s ready for the procedure – once protective shower caps get handed out all around – the process begins and it looks like it’s really painful, at least until the medicine hits her. Then the pain goes away and a craving for more drugs prompts her to request a tab of LSD and maybe some liquid Molly to wash it down. As the painkiller races through her bloodstream and dulls whatever controls the private thoughts in the brain, Meghan becomes chatty. “Mom, did you do drugs?” she asks with a smile spread across her face. “No,” laughs her mother, very aware there’s a camera on her at the moment. “I’ve done weed!” Meghan seems relieved to announce. “But let’s go for the hard shit.” Forgive her, you guys. She’s loaded up on some sort of happy anesthesia that I’d pay a fucking fortune to get in bulk and she’s married to a total monster. Give the girl a break and someone go get her some ketamine.
When she wakes up, Meghan lets everyone know that she didn’t see God during the time she was knocked out, but she did have a dream about romping with Jimmy through a quarry where he also refused to speak to her. Then she turns to the doctor to tell him that she saw his wife the night before. “My ex-wife,” the doctor corrects – and you cannot blame him for correcting her because it turns out his ex-wife is that woman Nina, the one who might have been plucked off the street and hired to work the party once Shannon found out she had some of the adultery-spiked goods on Kelly. Nina’s the one who’s the feminist; you can tell because she proudly informed everyone that she doesn’t have to suck anyone off to pay her bills and yes, I have already been in touch with a company who has sworn they can get that line written on a tissue-thin tee by week’s end because I need something brand spanking new to wear for August.
In a very different kind of office across town, Tamra arrives to see Vicki. Tamra’s decked out in a drapey sleeveless jumpsuit and aviators that make her look dangerous, but unfortunately she’s not there to beat the shit out of the boss. Instead she’s there to listen to Vicki discuss what an amazing grandmother she is and how badly she needs a wife to run her errands. But that’s enough talk about Vicki’s needs, because what Tamra needs is for someone to help process the terrible waking nightmare of the party they all experienced the night before. “I think cuckoo met cuckoo,” Tamra says about Kelly and Shannon before Vicki turns it back to herself by bringing up how David went after her for no reason whatsoever because she refuses to remember anything that happened in the recent past if remembering it is inconvenient for her or reminds her that Brooks left and she sprawled across the asphalt wailing for him to return.
“Can you imagine what he does to Shannon if he yelled at me like that?” Vicki makes sure to ask aloud because, Jesus help her, but she will create a new storyline that’s not about her lying about cancer if it’s the very last thing she ever does.
As for Vicki’s newest nemesis, David Beador is recovering from wearing a permed wig and from watching guests taunt his wife. He and Shannon work out in their home and Shannon tells him that she hasn’t spoken to anybody about the horror of their party while he tells her that he’s annoyed he got so angry with someone who is about as worthy as a puss-filled herpes sore. And now that Vicki's been referenced, we can move on to Kelly. Kelly is positive that the entire evening was a staged ambush that was just cloaked in seventies paraphernalia to shroud the real reason for the party. That reason? Shannon wanted to take Kelly down and rather than contemplate why Shannon would make that choice, all she can do is list the many manipulations Shannon carried out just to hurt her. It's possible she's making some good points here, but I'm far too distracted because I’m staring at the single most unfortunate shirt of the entire episode – and that’s really saying something. Kelly is wearing a denim number with cut-out shoulders and a gigantic collar and this, my friends, is what happens when you have a bar in your closet. Let this shirt forever serve as a valuable lesson to us all.
While Shannon is not about to acknowledge that she sent out invitations and then stuffed gift bags for an ambush, she does reveal that she feels some regret. She wishes the magic line, “That’s why your husband cheated on you,” had just rolled off her back like it was nothing instead of causing the very reaction Kelly so drunkenly hoped for. “I saw red and I stooped to Kelly’s level,” Shannon says. “That’s not what I do. I made a big ass mistake.” Might Kelly and her husband harbor similar regrets for their starring roles in all the antagonism? They do not. Their energy is not to be spent on forgiveness, not when they have far greater things to deal with at the moment, like how to spin information in a way that they think sounds believable. “There is no big secret about our past,” Kelly’s bald husband maintains in a way that really makes me wonder if he's keeping some people chained in a dungeon somewhere. Yes, he comes off as just that creepy.
And now it’s time to shift our focus to something positive. Meghan and Heather are flying off to Washington, D.C. so Meghan can go to Capitol Hill and advocate for funds that will enable colon cancer screenings. It’s a noble cause and it makes perfect sense why, out of all the Housewives, Meghan would choose Heather to accompany her. Heather won’t embarrass her. She knows not to suck down too much alcohol at a political gathering and she rarely – if ever – throws her food. Not only that, but unlike Meghan’s husband, Heather wants to hear about the in vitro process Meghan is trudging through alone and she looks genuinely thrilled to hear that ten of Meghan’s eggs were fertilized. Meanwhile, things are status quo back in Orange County, and that’s to say that Shannon is back at Dr. Moon’s office so he can realign her good energy through some painful cupping and then maybe hire a hitman for her that will knock Kelly out of the picture for good. While it’s nice to see the flamingly swollen cupping marks finally appear on someone besides Gwyneth Paltrow, it still looks like some method of medieval torture. Seriously: those cups lined across Shannon’s back might be the very worst thing I’ve seen in a long time.
Over in D.C., Heather and Meghan pose in front of patriotic locations and then go out for dinner because even though they are in town to do some lobbying, they are also Housewives and that means they must first discuss that they both look like high-end escorts and then dive into the craziness that is Meghan’s marriage. It honestly didn’t even occur to me that Jimmy was not in Washington to watch his wife speak on behalf of his daughter’s mother. At this point, I just never expect to see him by her side, especially during the important moments. Meghan herself is pretty annoyed that he’s not there, just as she’s pissed that he missed her egg retrieval to play golf and then told her that picking up her call when she was in recovery screwed up his game. He’ll also be missing the entire transfer process. Heather appears horrified, but she tries to soothe Meghan’s concerns by telling her that she knows what it feels like to have a husband who is not around. Still, Meghan feels anxious that she’s essentially about to become a single mother and, by all appearances, that’s exactly what she will be.
Over in the house of vodka bars and perpetual doom, Kelly is decked out in some leopard and is cooking dinner with her husband, a man she says never listens to her. Luckily, her mother and brother live in the house too so they can listen as she rambles on about how very rude Shannon was to her at the party where Kelly arrived hammered and then told the hostess that she looked like Mrs. Roper, only uglier. “I got set up completely,” Kelly announces, “but karma’s a bitch.” (Thank goodness the new girl comes equipped with all these hip new sayings, huh?) Kelly’s mother, on the other hand, recommends that her daughter not wait with bated breath for Shannon’s karma to implode in her face and instead to forgive Shannon and show her some kindness. Anyone else think Kelly’s mom is about to end up in that dungeon?
At CUT Fitness, Tamra meets up with her trainer/spiritual advisor so she can be implored to eat an egg white, learn how to pose during the upcoming competition, and think of psalms while she walks in Lucite heels. Mia recommends that Tamra wear a bikini that makes her look like a Disney Princess and then teaches her how to eye-fuck the judges while remaining close to God. Teachers truly do change lives.
Back in Washington, D.C., Meghan and Heather show up at the Fight CRC event for which Meghan very clearly should have written a speech in advance. She stumbles – badly – through the beginning, but she seems to recover decently towards the end and at least she got up there and did her part. I think Meghan’s probably a good person. Unfortunately, she’s married to the fucking antichrist.
Speaking of hellish things, let’s talk about Vicki! She arrives at the house she purchased for her daughter and once again marvels at how thrilled she is to have Briana back in her life after she chose her boyfriend over her kid for the last several years. (Guess Briana is the forgiving sort, too.) Vicki introduces herself to the interior designers and manages to refrain from recommending that the entire palate of the home be burnt sienna. Tamra stops by next to give Briana a tank top on which is written a proverb and then watches Vicki freak the hell out because her grandson locked himself in her car and won’t give her back the keys. Perhaps the kid’s just trying to drive back to Oklahoma so he can finally be rid of the crazy woman.
And still there has been no resolution for all the shit that went down the other night, but Kelly is finally ready to make a move. She dials Shannon, listens to the dull “Hi” when Shannon finds out who is on the other end of the line (No Caller-ID? I call bullshit on that), and then forges ahead and asks if she’d like to meet for coffee so they can talk. After a slight hesitation, Shannon agrees to sit across from her and we’ll get back to their sure-to-be calamitous coffee date in a second, but first we must pop back to D.C. so Heather and Tamra can take a call from Tamra, during which Tamra can tell them about the upcoming Kelly/Shannon summit and Meghan can give them some vague intell about how Shannon probably did set up an ambush that would hopefully destroy Kelly’s life. As Tamra and Meghan mull those damning possibilities, Heather makes a worried face but keeps her mouth shut and manages at the same time to not say anything incriminating while still allowing us to know exactly what she’s thinking.
Now it’s time for the standoff to begin and Kelly arrives first. She’s ready to hear Shannon’s side of the story and she begins their meeting by asking how long Shannon has known Jaci, one of the women Kelly thinks was planted at that party for nefarious reasons. Shannon’s cautious here. She tells Kelly she’s known Jaci for three years before asking why she’s being cross-examined when what she was really expecting was an apology for all the Audra Lindley jokes. But Kelly? She’s already mad because she knows deep inside that Shannon introduced her to Jaci already knowing they were connected somehow and she phrases her discontent like this: “I knew that you knew that I knew her.” Well said, Kelly, but Shannon denies having any of this knowledge and she insists that she would never have a party just to stir shit up. She also reminds Kelly that Kelly shouted that she was ugly and that was a cruel thing to say, especially when Kelly also looked hideous, kind of like an Indian. I’m not sure where Shannon was going with this, but Kelly seizes upon it and you just know her brain was trying to figure out exactly how badly she could ruin Shannon’s life by running with the Shannon-Hates-Native-Americans thing. But while Kelly thinks about how she can frame Shannon for a hate crime, Shannon is moving forward and bringing up that Kelly told David he looked like a pedophile and maybe Kelly needs an etiquette book (Quick: someone call the Countess in New York!) and Kelly shoots back that it’s Shannon who needs the etiquette book and their voices are growing loud enough that the fellow diners who were kind enough to sign the release form at the entrance to the restaurant turn to gape at all the noise. But Shannon is just getting started, see, because now it’s time for her to rail against Kelly for announcing that it’s obvious why David had an affair and for calling her friend ugly. Kelly’s response is to just shout louder before telling us in an interview that she has a slight anger problem. No shit, lady.
“You’re supposed to forgive,” Kelly tells Shannon. “You’re supposed to accept apologies. I just want to move on from this.”
“I don’t trust you,” Shannon responds blithely.
“I just want to move on,” Kelly mumbles again. And then the woman who lives with a man who won’t listen to her or allow her to divorce him – a woman who willingly joined The Real Housewives of Orange County – adds, “I can’t have negativity.”
Oh, sweetheart. Nobody believes you.
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.