I was gravely concerned that after the outpouring of genuine sentiment and human devastation that occurred on last week’s show that it would be impossible for me to dive right in and judge these women in the way that they are apparently fine with being judged as long as they continue to hold onto a semblance of fame and the hope that they’ll one day snag an endorsement deal for a line of alcohol that nobody off one of these shows ever drinks. I mean, things started to feel different. An actual death transpired. There is now a body count in the OC.
Luckily for me – and really anybody who has a television and tunes in to this Botox-and-silicone-freak-show – Tamra still exists and the episode begins with some of her typical ridiculousness that allows me know immediately that everything will be just fine. Like a warm embrace from a tit-enhanced angel, the first scene floated down and bathed me in the security and knowledge that life happens in cycles, that seasons pass seamlessly into the next, and that Tamra Barney will always be the kind of woman who will appear onscreen in close-up wearing a “Muscles & Mascara” long sleeved tee – where do they actually sell that shit? – while she packs up pink baby clothing covered in rhinestones and tulle and prepares for the joyous occasion of when she will officially be anointed The Hottest Grandmother in all of Orange County proper. But just in case she’s off shopping for bedazzled granny/baby matching tank tops when the ceremony commences, she has decided to just go ahead and crown herself.
Standing beside her as she packs is Tamra’s own mother and she tells her mom that only one person is permitted to be in the delivery room during the C-section and Tamra would like to be the one in there since everything, including someone else’s placenta, is all about Tamra. And because a Housewives-style narrative requires either real or pretend continuity and framed storylines, we are quickly shuttled to the next scene that involves another parental dynamic: Meghan and her stepdaughter on the beach. They are there to do paddleboard yoga, a thing I never knew was actually a thing and now I absolutely need to try it and I realize and accept that I will either discover that I am a downward dogging paddleboarding queen or that I will drown in fifteen minutes flat.
Meghan and Hayley? They have a nice relationship. Meghan attributes their bond to the fact that, as a young stepmom, she’s able to be so insanely cool that she’s gifted with the ability to discuss obscure things that nobody over thirty has ever heard of – stuff like Twitter and Instagram – with her stepdaughter, and I’d ignore a moronic statement like that and instead applaud how well Meghan almost does the crow whilst balancing on a paddleboard, but then she goes ahead and actually says “hashtag stepmomhood” and I think there needs to be an immediate intervention – right there in the ocean – where someone besides me treads water next to her paddleboard and begs her to stop fucking talking in hashtags before swimming proudly to the shore. Maybe the intervention could also cover the fact that Shannon is drinking far too much these days, though that intervention should definitely take place on land, and if everyone is too afraid to broach such a subject with a crazy woman, maybe we could all just start buying her shorter glasses so she consumes less vodka at a time.
It just seems easier to blame Crate and Barrel.
While Meghan and Hayley are attempting to tone up and stay afloat, Heather meets Lizzie at a restaurant across town and they order food that we never see them so much as smell and Heather tells Lizzie all about what happened at Game Night and how Vicki’s loss impacted everyone. Heather literally chokes up while talking about her friend’s pain and then we cut back to Meghan and Hayley and Meghan is choking up too because she shares that she was watching the entire thing transpire and couldn’t stop thinking about Hayley and about how she’s going to lose her own mother soon. It’s an honest, lovely conversation that’s not an easy one to have and I commend Meghan for building a true relationship with her stepdaughter.
In an odd and almost perverse twist of fate that couldn’t have possibly made the producers of this franchise any more thrilled, Tamra’s granddaughter is being born on the same day as Vicki’s mother’s funeral. Tamra is feeling a wave of guilt for experiencing such joy about the upcoming baby and for when her Hottest Grandmother sash and matching thong arrive in the mail while Vicki is feeling such sorrow and she begs her own mother to never die, which is, of course, our greatest collective human fear. Proving that she is also attempting to be a good friend, Tamra arrives at Vicki’s house later that night with her husband to console an inconsolable Vicki who is packing blindly for her mother’s funeral. Brooks is trying to help, though he is not invited to the funeral because Vicki’s family does not accept Brooks. Now, that’s a shitty situation any way you carve into it. If Vicki needs this guy during what will certainly rank in the top three of the very worst moments of her entire life, she should be able to bring him. But then there’s that flaming scarlet flag that screams that if nobody approves of this guy, there must be some pretty strong and well thought-out reasons for feeling that way. We have all seen some of Brooks’ vile past behavior because the same camera crew that Vicki is openly weeping in front of also spent copious time over the last two seasons capturing Brooks as he behaved similarly to whatever species a slug belongs to and maybe there is also some Brooks stuff we haven’t been privy to, and all I know is that I cannot be the only one wondering what it is that we haven’t yet seen. In any case, watching a sick man who is banned from an entire family unit during a burial lead a prayer on a couch with Vicki, Tamra and Eddie feels uncomfortable for me for all kinds of reasons, but since I wasn’t on that couch, I guess I hope it brought them some comfort and I’m just thankful that nobody has mentioned an enema so far tonight.
On another day in yet another sprawling home, Heather is working with her son on his school assignment to build a model of a house that I hope will eventually have less expensive cabinets than the behemoth of the home the kid will actually get to live in sometime in the next quarter century. We also get treated to Heather interacting affectionately with her youngest daughter as her husband continuously bellows “Coco!” at the child, begging her for a kiss, but the kid has already how to learned how to play hard to get by withholding her affections, a skill I’d bet some of the Housewives ask their nannies to teach their children after they go over how to write their names so that one day they can sign credit card receipts or contracts to appear on their very own reality show.
And then, just as things seem almost sunny, David and Shannon appear onscreen and any sort of breeziness in tone is wiped clean the moment they walk into their home, both of them dressed entirely in black. They were just at some kind of conference where David in particular was taught a couple of important things:
1. Parents should listen to their children.
2. Before saying one negative thing to someone, you should preface the conversation by first saying several glowing things to cushion the upcoming criticism. Sure, such a practice will make every single conversation you ever have last longer, but on the positive side, all you really have to say to anyone is, “You’re not nearly as insane as Shannon,” and then launch into the matter at hand. The compliment that celebrates you for being less crazy than the current craziest Housewife can work in almost every kind of scenario – unless you’re speaking directly to Shannon and then I just recommend that you try not to look afraid or ask her for her private phone number or inquire if she’s ever done a single thing for charity.
Parenting lessons aside, Shannon is angry with David and that means it’s a Monday. Why is she angry? David thinks it’s because he said that he would call her and he didn’t and he believes she’s annoyed because not calling her wasn’t respectful. The guy is wrong here. That phone call wasn’t about a phone call; it was about knowing where he was because she doesn’t trust him after he cheated on her. She’s also upset because she asked him to compile a list of restaurants that he went to with “his affair” so that she won’t be surprised anymore (you know how loudly restaurants can scream “surprise!” at a scorned woman who sometimes hallucinates) and I guess he left a restaurant or two off the list, which has devastated her.
Watching these two people makes me feel like I’m dying inside just a little bit.
Up north, Tamra is at Ryan and Sarah’s house and everyone is excited and anxious about the birth of the new baby. Arriving at the hospital in the teeming rain, a home video captures footage of the waiting and Tamra uses the time to ponder how her child will change once he becomes a father. We eventually get to see the baby covered in the goop of afterbirth and then get swaddled in a blanket and she looks like a very nice baby who can one day show her therapist the moment where it all started.
And since this is apparently the Family Episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County, we journey next to the beach where Meghan and LeAnn, Hayley’s mother, arrive at a hotel suite they booked so that Hayley and her friends can get ready for their winter formal in style because how could one possibly be expected to apply mascara in a place with no room service? The way Meghan and Jim’s ex-wife get along is seriously impressive – and I’m speaking as a person who had a mother and a stepmother who battled like they were characters in a nighttime soap opera, except neither one of them removed an earring before talking on the phone – as is the way Meghan astutely analyzes Hayley’s harsh actions and reactions towards her mother. Meghan thinks that Hayley is emotionally distancing herself from her mother so that the pain of eventually losing her might prove less severe and the whole thing is very sad, but Meghan might have pegged the issue perfectly.
Also, Hayley looks thirty which means that Shannon will start hating her soon too.
In the silly and quick interlude that pops up about halfway through the show, Heather arrives home after a workout and gives Terry a complex about having man boobs. He takes the charge seriously enough that he feels himself up at the kitchen table and then takes a selfie of his chest before relaxing with the knowledge that he in fact does not have man boobs, though he’s a plastic surgeon and he can lob those things off himself during a coffee break if necessary.
Back in the hotel on the beach and away from Terry’s heaving bosom, Hayley is having almost no reaction to being able to pamper herself and get ready in that amazing room and she barely mumbles a word upon hearing that Meghan and her mother have brought in a professional photographer to take pictures. Seriously, Hayley’s only reaction is a monosyllabic noise that’s somnambulant in quality, and I don’t know who it was that told a large segment of our society that speaking with no change in tone whatsoever is sexy or mysterious, but I’d reconsider the merits of capital punishment if that person was captured and then brought to justice. The reason Meghan has booked the photographer in the first place is because she realizes this may be the last formal that LeAnn will be there for and so she’s trying to make it special for Hayley and create a way she’ll have lasting memories and it’s this kind of thoughtful and compassionate gesture that makes me overlook the hashtag thing, though I do think if Meghan tries to use “hashtag” in a sentence ever again, someone should tie her down, force-feed her a waffle, or make her spend an entire day with Shannon, a fate that could cause Meghan to become mute for life. The day at the beach is not all bad, though. We actually see, for the first time all season, Jim wrap his arms around his wife. Sure, he tells her that both she and Mother Nature fucked up the sunset while he’s sort of hugging her, but his arms were making actual contact with her skin so at least there’s that.
We leave the misery near the ocean and head to Vicki’s house as she arrives back home after a funeral I’d like to commend her for not allowing Bravo to film, though I did shudder when a still photograph of the casket appeared onscreen. Vicki is in the throes of unflinching grief when Shannon calls to reach out and tell her that she’s there if Vicki needs her and it’s very clear that Shannon is not a bad person – unless she’s drunk or she saw a pencil that reminded her that her husband had an affair or someone who is only thirty enters her eyeline.
Soon after the phone call, Shannon goes over to see Vicki and brings with her a bag filled to the brim with homeopathic remedies for depression. Obviously all of these drops and ointments and vitamins have brought nothing but total calm into Shannon’s life, and I feel the need here to toss out a blanket warning that I’m pretty sure nobody should ever take whatever it is Shannon is taking, unless you’re trying to achieve a severe form of weight loss or increase your ability to become hysterical seemingly out of nowhere.
Hoping to find just a small piece of peace, Vicki tells Shannon that she’s considering a visit to “a median,” but she’s not sure if God will frown upon her talking to a spirit through another channel. Lack of my own religious upbringing aside, I’m willing to believe that if God has already forgiven her for being on The Real Housewives since the day the franchise was born, he will overlook her visiting a psychic, though I expect she’ll eventually be stuck in purgatory for about a week as a punishment for all the whoo-hooing she has thrust upon an unsuspecting world.
Speaking of God, Tamra would like to thank him for allowing her granddaughter to be born without a beard and for the fact that Ryan wants to move back to Orange County. And that reminds me: doesn’t Tamra pledge her total loyalty to Jesus sometime soon? Didn’t we see a baptism in the coming attractions for this season in the way we used to see blonde women clawing one another’s eyes out over tapas and champagne? Could it be that the Housewives have finally grown up? Should we all clasp hands and thank a deity for making this happen? Maybe next week during the séance with the median we can simultaneously show our appreciation.
And as a last little note to an episode that centered squarely on family dynamics, I found it almost impossible to gaze at the screen and not consider which household I’d choose to spend some time in if I had to pick one. My answer came to me quickly. I’d totally stay at Heather’s house as long as her children were locked in the basement while I’m there. And if I had to choose a second house to visit, I’d probably just create a makeshift bed out of a pile of leaves in a gutter that’s near Shannon’s house, but I wouldn’t step foot in that place for a million dollars or a squeeze of bee pollen because I used to be thirty and I simply want to avoid Shannon’s justifiable wrath.