As much as I enjoy entertainment that involves both frigid chills and terrifying thrills, one thing I have never been drawn to is gratuitous carnage. And it is with that aversion in mind that I have decided to start a petition to remove Shannon from The Real Housewives of Orange County before her head goes spinning off of her neck and gains real height and then bursts into a pink pulpy mess midair like a psychologically-damaged watermelon. Now, I know what you’re going to say: Shannon makes for good television with her array of crazy – and I wouldn’t argue with that – but I also genuinely believe that we are watching a woman implode from within and the whole thing has started to make me feel just a little bit grimy.
Shannon is an adult. She is not thirty. Yet somehow during all of her stages of development, she managed to leap over the stage where she should have learned the skill to at least appear differently on the outside from how she actually feels on the inside. As a result, she lacks the total ability to ever really come off as cool or calm – and fuck collected; she never comes off that way. And tonight she brings the crazy quickly.
On this latest episode of a show where it seems that someone is always moving to or from a large house decked out in various hues of brown, Meghan is preparing for her upcoming moving day with the support of her adoring husband. Yes, Jim is as affectionate as ever with his beautiful wife, as long as we all collectively agree that the new definition of “affectionate” is “being a douchebag who only mutters sentences that have misogynistic undertones while wearing terrible jeans with far too much stitching on the back pockets.” Somebody please inform Webster’s about the change. I’d do it myself, but they’re already annoyed with me for requesting that they toss out “bootylicious” and instead create at least twenty-two brand new words for “lunatic” because I’m starting to run dry here.
Since my petition to oust Shannon for her own good still has to go through an intense editing process – I strongly believe that there must be a section of visual aids that illustrate all of the different ways Shannon’s eyes can fill with the smoldering fire of betrayal, but my editor thinks the twelve pictures I’ve collected more than suffice and that’s just crazy – Ms. Beador is still on this show, she’s still nuts, and in one of my favorite examples of completely non-organic reality filmmaking, Shannon calls Meghan and there are camera crews at both of their homes ready to record it all.
“I hear you had a good party the other night,” says Shannon, her voice filled with a syrupy sweetness even though she fucking hates Meghan – and all thirty year olds – and she didn’t even want to go to that party and she starts charities and where in the hell is David and can she please get some vodka in a tall glass?
(Quick aside here: a few years ago, I had a party to celebrate the release of my novel. I invited people I care about and didn’t invite people who are mere acquaintances because I just didn’t see the point. And one of those people – a co-worker of mine – made sure to come up to me the day before the event and ask if my party was that weekend and what my plans were for it and then she nodded sort of smugly and I left the room feeling completely perplexed because it was very apparent that this person, who had never before once inquired about any of my other weekend plans, was trying to make me feel uncomfortable about not inviting her to a party I cannot imagine she even wanted to attend in the first place and I literally laughed at her pretend show of brave dignity. And now I think that woman and Shannon are long-lost twins who I hope will one day find one another at a retreat for people who have suffered terribly at the hands of others and have absolutely no responsibility for any of their personal pain. I strongly recommend that alcohol be served there.)
Anyway, back to the phone call. Shannon is calling to extend a rickety olive branch to Meghan by inviting her over to play some dice game. Meghan – who has met Shannon three times and has encountered three very different personalities during each one of those meetings – is a bit reluctant to play any kind of game with whichever version of Shannon might show up, but one thing she learns fairly quickly is that not one of Shannon’s personalities takes frank criticism very well. The reactions Shannon has to Meghan’s concerns are hilarious. She widens her eyes in utter bafflement. She looks to her left at what I’m imagining is an off-camera production assistant (or an imaginary friend) who I hope – for his own safety – nodded sagely at Shannon so she’d think he was agreeing with whatever thought was at that moment careening through her head. And on the other end of the line, Meghan hasn’t even broken a sweat. She says that she looks forward to Shannon proving the kindness she always insists is at her core while she’s screaming at other women and the reaction of pure fury that then appears on Shannon’s face was maybe the scariest thing I’ve seen since I first laid eyes on that clown from the movie It.
Later on – after she screamed into a pillow for a while and moved her couch so that both it and her life would achieve better sense of feng shui – Shannon calls Meghan back to say that she doesn’t much care for the idea that she has anything to prove to Meghan and she again brings up an olive branch and Meghan just kind of shrugs and will probably hang up that phone and go about her day while Shannon will commence her newest art project, making voodoo dolls in the likeness of the women she encounters who attempt to disrupt what is so clearly a blissful and enviable life.
Over at a spa and far away from olive branches of any kind, Vicki and Tamra are there to get a treatment that involves covering their bodies with something that looks like marshmallow fluff – and that reminds me that I fucking love marshmallow fluff. But to deal with the task at hand, allow me to just say that the interaction between these two women is lovely and calm and supportive and they really have a great time together when they are not shrieking in one another’s face.
Also: I still love marshmallow fluff.
I also kind of love Heather. Listen: I get it. I know that she comes off as pretentious since I have been blessed with the gift of vision and all, but the thing I enjoy about her is that she seems very in on the joke. She knows her issues are not the same issues that you or I deal with on a consistent basis, but she strikes me as self-aware and funny and smart – and in this reality television universe, intelligence is not something to be scoffed at like a metaphorical olive branch. Still, Heather is having a rough time corralling her kids all on her own since Terry is working constantly these days, both on his own practice and on that E! show called Botched that I refuse to watch because I have yet to develop a tolerance for watching someone get her vagina tightened on camera.
I guess I’m just shy like that.
The good thing about Heather is that she seems pretty aware that it’s because her husband never stops working that she gets to have the life she has, though there’s something real to be said about the fact that their kids miss their father. But should Heather ever lose sight of why Terry works so much, perhaps she can listen to the astute advice given by fictional agent Ari Gold on Entourage when his wife gets annoyed with him for giving his attention to a business call that comes in the middle of their therapy session: “You can have it if you want to live in Agora fucking Hills, and go to group therapy, but if you want a Beverly Hills mansion, a country club membership, and nine weeks a year in a Tuscan villa, then I’m gonna need to take a call when it comes in at noon on a motherfucking Wednesday.”
The guy’s got a point – that’s all I’m saying.
Over at Vicki’s house, the health coach arrives. She is ready to get Brooks off of any solid foods that involve chewing and to encourage him to lie in the middle of a forest and to have coffee shot right up his ass – and the truth is that if any of this could help when a man’s body is riddled with something terrible like cancer, why not try everything? That said, my support for Brooks’ health plan might have managed to put me off coffee forever. And someone needs to be punished for that.
I’d suggest that Shannon be the one who is punished for the fact that I wake up at dawn and now I can’t even have coffee because it is irrevocably linked in my mind with Brooks’ rectum, but Shannon is kind of being punished and punishing herself enough these days and I’m a girl who knows how to show restraint. I can’t heap anything else on top of this woman who is already floundering, and – in case it wasn’t clear that she is a jumble of nerves threatening to blow – her reaction when her husband tells her that he ran into that woman on the beach is to go momentarily catatonic in her own kitchen. Now, she thought David was speaking of the woman he had the affair with (my guess is that she’s thirty), but he was just shakily telling an anecdote to his wife about someone else. Both David and Shannon look terrified of the other. They’re afraid to hurt one another and they are desperate in the moment to show that they themselves are not hurting at all. It’s not really a fun dynamic in that house and I cannot imagine that the ever-present cameras do anything but dull reactions in that very second, but I can still say that my heart hurt a little bit for Shannon when she says, “David has promised that if he ever runs into the woman he had the affair with, he will keep walking and won’t speak to her.” Shannon’s voice is timorous at best when she says that she believes his words, but it is my sad belief that it will likely not be another woman that causes this marriage to detonate into shards of misery and lawyers; it will be Shannon, a woman who wants to move forward but doesn’t really seem capable of doing so.
Looking at best haunted, it’s time for Shannon to throw the party to play the dice game, and her home and the appetizers look great and there are festive dice all over the place so the night has a literal theme other than My World Is Collapsing Down Around Me – though that would be a pretty unique theme and it all but mandates that vodka be served in a tall glass.
First to arrive is Meghan. She compliments the house and brings Shannon a hostess gift that Shannon believes has sinister hidden motives because Shannon is crazy. Then Shannon makes sure to have put aside some bottles of wine for the charity event that Meghan has already thrown…the one that Shannon was not invited to…the one she pretends she’s over, but we all know at this point that Shannon Beador never truly gets over anything.
Tamra, Vicki, Jeana (it still freaks me out to look up and see her and her hair on my screen like it’s the mid-2000s again, but I think that maybe I’m just afraid that it’s a sign that trucker hats could return), and Heather all show up next. Heather is sporting a little hand sling since, earlier that day, she showed up at Terry’s office to simultaneously have a weird growth sliced off of her hand while appearing on his plastic surgery show. The whole thing went pretty well. Terry made a joke about whacking off, which was almost as horrible as those times he shows up at night wearing his black leather jacket, and Heather stayed aware of how her cheekbones would look in high-definition and got her hand sliced open for a day’s pay. And then, since she multitasks like a filthy rich dream, she still managed to show up to game night and made sure her sling matched her outfit.
Before the dice start rolling, there’s some mild chitchat to be had. Vicki thinks it’s a huge red flag that Meghan’s husband only spends fifty percent of his time in Orange County, though I think the red flags are not that the guy is cheating but that he keeps coming off like a huge dick. There’s also a flashback that’s far more upsetting than imagining Meghan as a scorned woman, and that’s to some other game night in this show’s history, one I must have blocked from my mind entirely before the faded flashback made it real again. Like someone with PTSD, all I can tell you is that I saw the images in fragments but Gretchen was there and her hair was crimped and I think I saw that human slug named Slade and the theme of that night was The 80s, and there were ripped sweatshirts and terrible headbands strapped across peoples’ foreheads and Vicki was shrieking about something in that way where at first you think that she has to be joking because nobody shrieks like that – it’s inhuman – and then you realize that neither she or the shrieking are jokes, that all of this is real, and look! Here comes the apocalypse.
When the game eventually starts and Shannon explains the rules to Meghan, the thirty year old looks like she’d rather be off rolling a blunt out of bubble wrap but she gets into the game quickly and the women are all having a fun time and that’s precisely when the most devastating thing that can ever happen to a human being occurs and it all ends up being filmed.
Getting a phone call from her daughter, Vicki excuses herself to call Briana back and finds out that her mother has suddenly died. Immediately almost collapsing to the floor, Vicki is wailing deep, guttural sobs and it is devastating to watch any person in this primal sort of pain that brings up all of our own deepest fears. And I know that this is a reality show and all, but that she was filmed instead of helped to her knees infuriates me. That this moment was recorded for posterity sickens me. There are certain lines that maybe needn’t be crossed and authentic pain at the loss of a parent should be one of them.
Vicki’s friends do in the moment the only things that friends can do: they hug her tightly and they try to soothe her tears and her screams and Heather quickly calls Brooks so that he can come over. They tell Vicki that they will be there for her. They hold her hand and simply nod when she cries out that she’s too young to have no parents. Their eyes fill with tears and terror as they realize that one day this situation will happen to each of them. They allow Vicki to say things to her brother over the phone about their mother that do not make much sense like, “Make her wake up!”
They gather around the friend before them who is broken in the way only a permanent loss can really break you and they all try to figure out how they can help put Vicki back together again.