What’s even left to say anymore?
That Brooks really has cancer or that he never had cancer?
That Shannon's marriage has legitimately been repaired or that it's currently being held together by a very loose Band-Aid with emotional puss threatening to leak out from all sides?
That Tamra is a reformed sinner or one just taking a break from sinning due to sheer exhaustion and the recommendation of a PR rep she met while standing on line at her local CVS where she was buying generic antifungal cream?
That Heather might or might not petition the United States Postal Service to get her very own zip code for her behemoth of a home?
That Meghan believes that her terrifyingly chilly husband truly loves her or that she just got temporarily dazzled by a proximity to fame and ended up in over her head in a marriage that reads like a Grimm's cautionary fairytale about a once-blonde woman who was swept off her feet by a psychotic baseball player?
That Vicki is a pathetic asshole?
As we head into part fucking three of a Reunion that could have been covered in half the time if they’d just left out the colonic montage, what we do know for sure is that nothing will be resolved. The questions we have will never get answered despite my guess that every single one of these women will be back next season, even Vicki. It probably won't matter that there’s an epidemic of rumors floating around that the rest of the OC Housewives are threatening to refuse to film with her in the form of a reality TV fatwa or that she has been exposed to be foolish, hysterical, cunning and naïve (hard to pull off both at the same time, but then again, Vicki is special), friendless, and the kind of mother who chooses a man over her own kid. She'll still be back. She cannot stay away from any kind of attention. But it’s not her fault – God made her that way.
It is with the relative certainty that nothing of real consequence will come out that I feel rather fatigued just seeing the women sitting on the couch. Everything about tonight that's even remotely compelling has already been leaked to the press. We know Shannon has paperwork from the facility where Brooks allegedly got his cancer scans done and that the paperwork "proves" his deceit. We know Vicki whispers that she's now afraid of the guy she keeps texting. We know that Tamra probably has both a rosary and a flask in her hot pink bedazzled clutch. In fact, I'd venture to say that the only thing we don't know is why so many of us keep watching this nonsense – but that, my friends, is a post for another day.
Today's task is to wrap up an endless season where very little happened, where the root of most of the conflict involved someone who is not even a Housewife, a man widely believed to be a total and complete liar. And so his interview, though staggering in its levels of audacity, is rather moot, as are the women's reactions to anything he says, as are my reactions to all of it. Still, I've got a job to do here, and I take all jobs (full-time jobs, freelance jobs, voluntary jobs, blowjobs) very seriously.
The beginning of the end kicks off with what I’ll call THE EXCAVATION OF BROOKS’ LIES, wherein we watch footage of all the Housewives coming to the conclusion in their own time that Brooks isn’t actually sick and instead has been running a long-con on all of them. Once again, I started this season astonished by how frail the guy looked and I figured his significant weight loss was due to a disease – and that the disease was cancer, not anorexia. But watching this season play out – and watching the highlight reel here that, to be fair, only includes the more curious aspects of his claims – I’m fully on board with the mindset that the guy has been lying this entire time. Still, it’s mildly revolting that some of the women are smiling widely as they watch the montage, especially Meghan. There’s a smugness there that’s hard to swallow despite the fact that she’s probably been correct in her assumptions this entire time. Kudos, Meghan. Now stop being a wench.
When the sequence ends, Andy hops right into the questions and what comes out is that Brooks just seems to have what Heather succinctly calls “a credibility problem.” At this point, nobody believes a single syllable he says – except maybe Vicki. She still maintains that the story about how Brooks once dated a stripper (I appreciated that we got to see a flashback of that conversation as we were treated to some shots of Vicki’s former face) was false and the woman in question was actually “a Poker Player Waitress,” which is maybe another way to describe both someone who graduated Magna Cum Laude from Hooker University and my Halloween costume for next year. Asked if Vicki believes that Brooks has cancer, she says she does because she hasn’t seen nearly enough evidence to prove that he’s been lying. And speaking of her charismatic truth-teller, let’s head back to Andy’s interview with the guy!
Brooks maintains he’s still battling cancer, though his levels are normalizing and his lesions are no longer present. It’s a holistic miracle! As for why two of his former girlfriends have accused him of faking cancer in the past, well, these are just pissed off women (including someone he actually refers to as “my baby momma”) who found themselves a platform on a blog and decided to skewer a guy because he didn’t want them. I think the moral of his story is something akin to “bitches be crazy,” but it was hard to concentrate on the profound lessons gleaned from this interview since I was far too busy focusing on all of the physical tells that illustrate that Brooks is either being deceptive or that he has more intense ADD than a toddler who has just snorted Fun Dip. The guy swiveled in his chair and he tapped his foot. He quickly picked up his water glass and took a sip when it was obvious that he needed another second to figure out what to say. He nodded his head like someone having a seizure. His resting expression is an exaggerated smirk. Forget that the guy might very well have faked an illness on television. What I cannot accept is that any person on the planet has willingly slept with someone so repulsive.
Heather wants to know if Brooks has ever actually seen a real doctor instead of all of the “noncologists” he’s always mentioned and Vicki maintains that yes, he did. In fact, she even names the doctor, a bad call on her part. See, Heather happens to know that doctor and I’m guessing this story has already been gossiped about because Heather’s already confirmed with the doctor that Brooks never once came to see him. But what’s even weirder here is that Vicki keeps saying that it’s not her fault, that certain doctors wouldn’t allow filming during examinations. I’d like to take a second to congratulate those doctors for having some respectability, but after I’m done applauding a medical professional for being more camera-shy than Lenka, the grass-loving charlatan, I have to wonder why Vicki didn’t accompany Brooks to doctors off camera? This guy has been sick (or so she says) for years. Would she only accompany him to appointments if the office came rigged with klieg lights and a boom mic? And still, even after all of this, Vicki continues to say that she believes Brooks because she doesn’t yet have enough proof either way? Methinks that something stinks in Orange County – and it’s not the results of a coffee enema.
Vicki might not have proof, but Shannon says she’s got some. She went to Newport Imaging to get herself a scan and her form looks markedly different than the one Brooks probably made down in Vicki’s basement while she was at work making money so the guy could live in brown-upholstered luxury. Shannon gives a litany of disparities between her form from the place and Brooks’ – and she makes a seriously well-formulated argument – and Vicki’s response is…silence.
And now back to Brooks! Why, Andy wonders, were there so many inconsistencies between the stories Brooks told versus the ones Vicki told about his treatment? Obviously, the guy’s answer is that the whole thing is Vicki’s fault. She likes to tell people what they want to hear and she loves getting sympathy and she misspoke all the time. As for what he has to say to Meghan, the woman who herself posed on the phone as a cancer patient to get information meant to expose him as a fraud after reaching out to strangers who used to date him, his response is that she can fuck off. The only thing that surprises me about his comment is that Meghan, Heather, and Brianna appear shocked – shocked! – by it. What did they think his response would be? A thank you? A request to join them for Thanksgiving as long as he brings a cranberry loaf made with Splenda? A compliment about how Meghan looks as a brunette? Ladies, please.
Andy does ask Brooks why he doesn’t just show Terry Dubrow, an actual doctor, his reports so he can put the rumors to rest once and for all and Brooks’ response is that he wishes he had and that he will do so before the Reunion. Then he smirked and cocked his head to the side and I swear that I saw a glimpse of his hand and his fingers were crossed like he’s a fucking child lying about not feeding his broccoli to the family schnauzer. Oh, and he never contacted Terry. Who’s surprised? As for the story of Terry being called in the dead of night to administer an IV of fluids to a “sick, sick, sick” Brooks – who I’m now guessing was throwing up after ingesting too much tequila served by a genius Poker Player Waitress – Vicki tries to clarify the story she told Shannon but all that comes out is that she “fabricated” most of it because she wanted some compassion. That’s right – because Brooks was “getting so quiet mouthed” about everything, she started to feel like she needed people who would support an illness she’s now seeming to claim that she was beginning to doubt herself, but as far as this goes as an excuse, Shannon’s not having it. She jumps right in and confronts this verbal bullshit accordingly by telling Vicki that she called people who were also doubting his cancer “vile” and that she begged them “pray for me” and that all of that is nothing but gross.
Did Vicki ever see Brooks get chemotherapy? She was in the waiting room but she didn’t see it with her own eyes. But she “still believed Brooks has cancer!” and that right there is an almost impossible statement to decipher. “Believed” is past tense. Does she currently then doubt his illness? Or does she still buy this horseshit because “has” is present tense? I think I’m gonna chalk it up to the fact that Vicki often speaks poorly and instead I’ll just focus on what Heather is saying because it might actually be somewhat important. What Heather basically says is that Vicki is a smart woman and none of Brooks’ tales make logical sense and she has to see that and he must “have something” on Vicki and that’s why she’s lying for him. And now, right here in this very moment, I’m going to need to take a short break so I can pray:
I know that I have not always shown compassion to others and I definitely drank before I turned twenty-one and I’ve wondered aloud several times if some of my students were raised by wolves with an incurable case of rabies. It is with my own flawed behavior in mind that I approach you carefully because I don’t want to push my luck but I think I need to make a real plea here. Please don’t let whatever Brooks has on Vicki be a sex tape. And should he have recorded the two of them boning, please don’t allow him to release that footage into a world that is already suffering from poverty, terrorism, global warming, Donald Trump running for President, and Hershey’s releasing a new candy bar made out of something called “candy corn crème.” Have we not as a society already endured enough? Is seeing Vicki Gunvalson taking it from behind going to be the sign of The End of Days?
Listen Lord, I know that it’s very bad form to try to bargain with you, but if you can keep these images from being released in high-definition into the world, I promise that I’ll be nice to my mother all the time, even while she launches into long and detailed stories about people I don’t know and will never meet. I will show more patience, Lord – I swear on Brooks’ pancreas that I will! Just please somehow destroy their potential sex tape before it singlehandedly destroys us all.
PS: Sorry I didn't fast on Yom Kippor.
Now that my prayer is complete, I suppose it’s time to get back to the only topic at hand for the night. “Are you scared of him?” inquires Andy softly. Vicki nods her head silently that yes, she is scared of Brooks. “Has he ever been physical with you?” Vicki insists that he never was, but that’s when Brianna and Tamra jump in to maintain that Vicki is lying and so she says, “He was more verbally abusive than physical.” Brianna insists that both she and her husband saw physical altercations between Brooks and Vicki, like the time he shook her violently by the shoulders in public so hard that her head was bobbing wildly front to back and this entire thing is so horrible that I cannot believe these people are willingly living these lives on television. Also, Brianna’s got herself quite a point when she says how fucked up (those are my words…I’m running out of synonyms for this level of insanity) it is that she was taken to task for years for not liking this piece of human garbage.
And let’s not forget that after all of this – after alleging that she is afraid of him and that maybe he is lying about having a little thing like cancer – Brooks is the one who broke up with Vicki! Can we please get this woman off TV and into therapy quickly – and I’m not talking about fucking Couples Therapy on VH1. She needs intensive sessions, time where a legitimate medical professional can delve into the kind of psychological muck that might potentially explain how Vicki was able to qualify her boyfriend recommending that her daughter get beaten as a “hiccup” in an otherwise blissful union.
Now it’s time for yet another sequence where all the women confront Vicki about how Brooks’ story is no longer gelling (I’m not sure how many more of these I can take), but this one ends with Vicki’s brother’s girlfriend throwing the affair into Shannon’s face at the baptism followed by the sound byte from Vicki where she states that Shannon got exactly what she deserved. I have to say this: I’m having a tough time here. I think Vicki is a total asshole. I think she is selfish and needlessly loud and the kind of person who is always keeping track of what you’ve got compared to what she’s got. I think she is the kind of sad adult who can never be truly happy for a friend because she is plagued by a mental commentary of “why not me” that runs on a loop in her head. I actually stopped watching this show for about three years because I couldn’t stand Vicki the most in what was then a sea of incredibly unlikable women who I felt gave everyone with an X-chromosome a very bad rap. However, watching her go through all of these confrontations now does not bring me any joy. All I feel is that she is rather pitiful – as a friend, as a mother, and as a person. I’m still not positive that she really thinks that Brooks could have been lying to her this entire time despite all the evidence thrown her way and I think it now very probable that the guy has been threatening her for a good long time. And all of that is very sad, but I think I’m still judging her because of how doggedly she has judged everybody else and because she allowed all of this to appear on television in the first place.
Her choices make absolutely no sense to me, but that doesn’t really matter. In fact, the only thing that does matter is that Vicki is going to heaven! Halos aside, Shannon is still more concerned with being confronted by a relative stranger about the secrets of her marriage than Vicki’s proclamations (complete with a sweeping and pious hand gesture) about how she’s been saved and will one day live behind the pearly gates instead of the gates of Cota de Caza. Shannon is furious by that betrayal and Vicki tries to explain how her mindset created such a messed up scenario and she mentions again the grief of her mother passing and that her gut was off, but when she is asked what her gut is telling her now, she says that her instinct now is that Brooks does not have cancer. As for why she all but crucified (Vicki likes to be equated with religious imagery) the others for saying the exact same thing, her excuse is that she has just come to believe such a thing recently. Her turning point came about three months ago when she asked to see his reports and he wouldn’t show them to her but she kept quiet for reasons that now strike me as frightening.
“You seem disconnected,” Andy says to Vicki. He asks her if it’s the Xanax she took earlier that’s causing her not to behave like her typical shrewish self, but Brianna (who has her mother’s back more than her mother ever had hers) insists that it’s not medication that’s making Vicki act like a shell of a moron. Instead, it’s the dawning understanding setting in that a monster duped her. But Vicki’s doing better now. In fact, she hasn’t even called her daughter “a fucking bitch” in two whole weeks!
I’m not quite sure I buy that Vicki actually feels the way she’s maintaining she feels. I don’t believe that she is glad Brooks is gone and I don’t believe that she thinks that Brooks really said anything disgusting and lecherous to or around Brianna. I don’t believe that she feels the most hurt by the fact that she has hurt her friends. What I do believe is that Vicki is a very sick woman who is trying to save face here and it might be worth noting that not one person on that couch actually thinks that Brooks and Vicki are done for good. When Brianna’ is asked if she thinks her mother is strong enough to stay away from the guy, she takes a beat and then quietly says no. Vicki’s reaction is to smile in a way I’m betting Brooks once told her was endearing and insist, “Yes I am,” and it’s maybe the most depressing four seconds I have ever seen on television because I think everyone, including Vicki, knows that she is entirely full of shit.
As they go to commercial break, the cameras keep rolling so we get to see just how fabulous the back of Heather’s dress is and Vicki and Tamra as they have a quick conference on the couch. “Don’t let him do this to you. Now is the time to say he lied,” says Tamra. She tells Vicki that she knew he was a piece of shit from the very first second she met him and Vicki proclaims that she is a good catch and Brooks doesn’t deserve her and then she calls out her undying love to Brianna in the way she wasn’t able to do in her own kitchen while her fabulous boyfriend bragged to her child about his amazing girth.
As the Reunion finally winds down, Andy wants to get some final thoughts from the women. Meghan had a great time and she wants to come back when she’s thirty-one. Heather is happy with all of her friendships, except for the one with Vicki. Shannon is hopeful about her marriage and her friendships but she’s disappointed with Vicki too. Tamra is optimistic that she and Vicki can get closer and she’s praying for her. And as for the medicated woman of the hour, Vicki is not in a good place. She’s very sad and she’s speaking in that muted voice she uses that I have always believed is more about garnering sympathy than coming from anywhere genuine. But on the bright side, she feels like she’s been baptized.
I sincerely hope heaven’s got a padded room.
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. Starting tomorrow, she will be recapping this season of Vanderpump Rules.