I’ve come to believe that watching Reunion episodes of The Real Housewives of Fucking Wherever is very similar to sleeping with a guy you promised yourself you’d never writhe beneath again before a cocktail of literal cocktails combined with the false notion that sex doesn’t have to mean anything settled first into your head and then gravitated quickly towards your waxed nether regions. What I mean here is that you think that you will get some satisfaction from the whole experience, but what you are really left with is a few hours lost from your life, a teensy bit of regret, and a wet spot that you could swear looks exactly like Vicki Gunvalson’s first face.
Just like sex with an ex, nothing that happens during a Reunion is brand new. Sure, maybe someone has a new outfit to show off or a tighter ass to wiggle or a point to make that’s said in a different manner than it’s ever been stated before (examples here might include “Here’s the newest reason I think Brooks is a liar” and “No, I’m staying on top”), but it all really comes down to the fact that, in both scenarios, nothing changes and nothing is truly gained and you probably could have achieved far greater happiness by eating a Snickers in a dark room where you could pretend to ignore the suggestion written on the wrapper of the King Size bar that a chocolate bar so humongous is really designed for sharing.
Fuck Snickers and whomever designed its packaging. Fuck the sharing of candy of any kind. And really fuck the OC Housewives who have done next to nothing all season long. Beverly Hills had a wineglass-heaving sociopath and an alcoholic who relapsed right there on camera. New Jersey boasts an incarcerated castmate who never completed the evolution cycle and a son-in-law who was rumored to have banged his wife’s mother. Atlanta has NeNe, the largest being ever measured by the naked eye that allegedly doesn’t contain some Sasquatch blood. And what does Orange County have? A whole lot of nothing.
Before the Reunion started, I sat down to reflect on the events that transpired this season under the golden yellow sun of Orange County, but here’s all I can remember going down. And I thought about it for over ten seconds:
1. Brooks might or might not have cancer – and we’ll never really know the truth. What we do know is that he’s all but put himself on a press tour recently where he gives interview after interview about just how much Vicki sucks, why Vicki’s daughter shouldn’t have judged him for that time he suggested her husband cold-clock her across the face, and the fact that he’s genuinely sick – but not so sick that he can’t cross the country to sit for interviews with esteemed media outlets like Radar Online.
2. Vicki might or might not know that Brooks is lying about having cancer, but one thing that is definite is that she was knowingly recorded by a camera while choosing a creepy guy over her own daughter.
3. Oklahoma gets tornadoes.
4. Tamra hearts Jesus, bondage parties, and her terrifying firstborn son who will certainly snap one day and either cause a bloody massacre or find religion just like his mother did.
5. Heather is building a house the size of Narnia.
6. Meghan has an emotionally withholding husband, a headband collection that someone who secretly hates her once convinced her was flattering, and a future starring in a private investigator show that will undoubtedly premiere next autumn on Bravo. Her costar will be Theresa or Joe Giudice – whichever one is not currently in prison – because Bravo either truly loves those morons or those morons have pictures of Andy Cohen cavorting with a pregnant farm animal and Bravo is just trying to keep them quiet.
7. The Beador marriage that came across last season as almost unchartered in its level of misery was actually even worse than any of us knew. Shannon has fought like hell to keep her family together by participating in fake eulogies, rolling around on an exercise ball for twenty hours per week, and welcoming house calls from therapists. As a result, she now only cries sixteen times a day.
8. Vicki has secretly been Jesus this entire time, which I guess means that now Easter will be cancelled. And since Vicki will be the reason Cadbury Cream Eggs get discontinued, I think we can all agree that the woman-warrior-prophet needs to be lynched.
It is with the understanding in mind that absolutely nothing else happened all season long that I settled in for Part One of the Reunion with a heavy heart. What else could possibly come out? After all, have we not all seen breathless media reports that, at this point, not even Vicki’s other personalities are speaking to her? Have we not all heard that Shannon brings “proof” to the Reunion that Brooks lied about having cancer and also lied that time he told her not to be ridiculous, that of course she doesn’t drink too much vodka? Have we not all seen previews that promise that Brooks – a suspected liar – will finally reveal the truth? Are we expected to believe anything the guy says? Are we also expected to believe that Vicki won’t still be on this show next season, a show that has recorded her mother’s death, her divorce, being lied to by “her man,” and being told by every single fellow Housewife that she is full of shit? Is she coming back because that’s what a prophet would do or because a pathetic woman like herself might keel over and die without the attention – positive or negative – that comes to her because she appears on Bravo? Can all of this psychosis maybe be traced back to that time she wasn’t chosen as Head Cheerleader in the eleventh grade on the very same week Bobby decided he wanted a prom date who was pretty?
At any rate, the Reunion kicks off the way it always does. There are two couches that bracket Andy Cohen, a man who is either going to one day rule a small nation or end up sweating his toned ass off in the fires of hell. The room they’re in is smaller than the one where the New York Reunion was held and it’s far less glitzy than the one where shit went down on Beverly Hills – you know, the room in which Kim Richards made perfect sense as she proclaimed that she has never had an issue with sobriety. And as I choke back the bile that weirdly forms in the back of my throat as Andy greets each woman individually with a tone that is equal parts condescension and pathos, it’s a good opportunity to check out what our favorite ladies have worn for the big day.
Heather is in basic black and her shoulders and biceps peek out in a way that is understated – which is a word that will never be used to describe her new house. As always, she looks classy and well put together and like she maybe got lost somewhere along the way and accidentally stumbled into a casting for The Real Housewives when she meant to go to a commercial for a high-end douching product.
I’m not a hundred percent sure what Tamra is wearing because my eyes filled with tears of joy the second I realized it wasn’t hot pink. I believe that she looks pretty in blue, but I will have to stop weeping before I can know for sure.
Shannon is resplendent in purple. Her dress is age-appropriate and the color reads nicely on camera and she is wearing a necklace I don’t much care for, but I’m hoping her husband bought it for her as a way of making up for being such a dick so I’m gonna give her a break for rocking an accessory the dress doesn’t need.
Meghan is a brunette! And she’s in a bold red that’s the exact color of Brooks’ blood and she knows this for sure because she snuck into a hospital room and impersonated a nurse so she could get a sample of the liar’s plasma. She also mildly looks like Caitlin Jenner. I think it’s the shoulders.
Vicki is decked out in white, probably to indicate her purity. The neckline is the typical one she gravitates to – plunging – and she is wearing every single necklace she owns. I imagine that she thought she could maybe tie them all together in a jam and use them to rappel her way out of the place or maybe as a noose if things really get tough.
Fashion and greetings now covered, it’s time to dive into the sludge-filled abyss. Andy starts the interrogation gently with some Twitter questions and we find out that baby Ava is doing well and has two teeth, all the better to gnaw her way to freedom once she realizes how petrifying her father is. Vicki had no idea that she accidentally Instagrammed her tits to the world. Hayley graduated from high school and is adjusting to the loss of her mother. Aaaand that’s enough of the nice stuff. Time to jump into segment one, which I will call VICKI TRIED TO INTIMIDATE THE NEW GIRL BUT DIDN’T REALIZE MEGHAN THINKS THE O.G. OF THE OC IS A FUCKING JOKE.
The montage once again illustrates the way Vicki second-guessed every choice Meghan made as a stepmother and human being and reiterates how no woman whose uterus is barren can love a child the way one can after pushing a child out. Vicki stands by all of her opinions and her chin is already shaking and I think I might need to make some popcorn as I watch this woman destroy herself in high-definition.
Then it’s time for Heather to defend how she didn’t break “Girl Code” by befriending Meghan while still maintaining a friendship with Jim Edmonds’ Wife #2. Heather clearly explains that the marriage did not end because of Meghan and that she and Meghan don’t discuss the ex-wife – and that maybe Meghan should never talk shit about the woman directly to the camera – and all of that makes such perfect sense to me that I might start a letter writing campaign to persuade Bravo executives to say, “Screw the Giudice people! Let’s make Heather Dubrow the sidekick on the private investigator show!” But before I can start celebrating my tour de force casting idea, I find myself thudding back to Earth because Vicki pipes up about how Meghan should make Hayley accountable for things or she will turn out to be a monster, and I agree with Vicki. Oy. Can someone please quickly bring up Brooks or how Vicki once hung off a cross so I can cease nodding when this monster says something astute?
Other golden gems that come out include the fact that Vicki values money, Heather works her ass off as a full-time mom and is Cartier-watch-deep in toddler feces, and Meghan smirks cruelly at every single thing that Vicki says.
We’re about twenty minutes in now, so it’s about time to rewatch the agony of Vicki finding out about the loss of her mother on camera. As someone who has lost a parent and tries damn hard to never tap into the memory of the moment when I found out he was gone forever, I cannot help but feel a real empathy for Vicki here. Loss is traumatic and it feels unbearable and to have cameras directed at you as you collapse onto the floor seems insane. It would be for that last reason that I would never appear on this show again, but as Andy announced during the introductions, this is Vicki’s tenth Reunion and I’d bet my non-colonic-stuffed ass that she will show up again next year. And since she’s on that couch, she must revisit the tragedy. It’s awful to watch – and it’s awful that we have so many good reasons to hate a woman who went through so much pain.
“I feel like I don’t have anybody watching out for me,” whispers Vicki – and that’s a terrible way to feel. But perhaps she would still have some people on her side if she didn’t behave like a walking and talking night terror most of the time. Still, what she says about grief is genuine, though it doesn’t make knowing that an executive producer told Vicki to call Brianna to hear the news while cameras rolled any more palpable. Then we get an adorable story about how Vicki’s mom once keyed a guy’s motorcycle after he flipped her off and then she hid from the police in a bathroom stall and I would never speak ill of the dead, but maybe we just got a clue as to where Vicki’s evasive nature stems from.
If segment number two was VICKI’S MOTHER DIED WHILE HER DAUGHTER PLAYED BUNKO, it seems that segment three is one anybody who was sober while watching this season could have predicted. That’s right, it’s time for the THESE WOMEN ARE FUNCTIONING ALCOHOLICS section of the show! It all starts off pretty humorously as we watch the women order dry salad (listen: I’ll watch Shannon order anything if she does it wearing those glasses. I never like her more than when she morphs into kooky-glasses Shannon and the joy she brings me in those moments cannot possibly be explained or quantified, so I’m not even going to try) and hamburgers without buns. There’s also kind of a perfect moment where Vicki leans down to a woman who is lying naked atop a table whilst covered in sushi to tell her that maybe it’s time she gets herself some education and I’m giving Vicki that moment because what she said and her delivery really made me laugh. But then the drink orders start and we get to watch Shannon order her Grey Goose only a few times and I cannot help but wonder when these Real Housewives editors developed some restraint, but it’s still early yet. There’s still ample time for Shannon to be called out for being a drunk. In the meantime, Tamra – who already made a bush comment to Meghan – asks Shannon if she’s avoiding yeast in her diet because she gets a lot of yeast infections (vaginas were apparently the latest topic in Sunday School) and Heather, a woman who allowed leeches to suck on her stomach so her skin might glow, asks if maybe Shannon is doing too many colonics and I celebrated that I am not any of these women by reminding myself that I should make some Rice Krispie treats.
And now that yeast has been discussed, it’s time to get into the MEGHAN IS ONLY THIRTY portion of the show. She doesn’t know who Heather Locklear is and she possibly thinks that Stevie Nicks is a man and she is not afraid to share her opinions about the fact that Shannon has “judgey-eyes.” Andy wants to know if Meghan has always been this confident, and as Vicki does her best not to lunge across the room and strangle her, Meghan responds that yes, she has always been this self-assured. Then Tamra rhapsodizes about how close she and Meghan are and Vicki’s eyes go blank as she murmurs safe words to herself so her head doesn’t blow the fuck off.
As for the contentious relationship between Meghan and Shannon, most of that is repaired for now. Andy wants to know what the turning point was when Shannon stopped believing Meghan is undiluted evil and Meghan stopped placing bets on the fact that Shannon is clearly insane, and I expected the response to be something along the lines of, “Well, sometimes it takes a friend’s boyfriend faking cancer to bring two women together!” but I was incorrect. In fact, it was when Shannon helped Meghan to secure an appointment with a doctor for Hayley’s mother that altered the trajectory of their relationship, and such a move reminds me that, judgment-filled eyes or not, I think Shannon is actually a genuinely good person.
During the interlude, we learn that Vicki expects respect because she has been on this show since the beginning and that she calls it “my show.” Good lord, I seriously hope that Bravo’s healthcare plan includes therapy that concentrates specifically on rampant delusions of grandeur conjured by a woman who looks more frightening in close-up than the clown from It…while he is holding a chainsaw…and his eyeballs are being gouged from his head with a teaspoon. We also get a commercial for the new Bradley Cooper movie that is interspersed with scenes from The Real Housewives, as though someone in advertising saw such poignant similarities between the movie and the show that immediate synchronicity was formed by way of perhaps the most idiotic form of marketing I have ever seen. Therefore, I also hope that the studio that’s releasing Burnt provides a good plan that will secure the foolish soul who conceptualized that commercial a pain-free lobotomy.
TAMRA GETS HER GROOVE BACK is the next montage we see and there are all kinds of scenes that involve her becoming a grandmother and getting herself baptized and all the ways her mess has become her message. Watching the footage, Tamra dabs at her eyes and then tells Andy that her granddaughter has inherited her attitude – which seriously sucks for the kid’s eventual classmates. But then Tamra gets into all of the things that transpired in her life over the last year and she needs a tissue before she even starts telling a story she has never told before. A big part of me began to pray right here – the woman has clearly rubbed off on me – and I couldn’t stop from thinking, Keep something to yourself! Just one thing! Alas, my reservoir of religion is not nearly as deep as Tamra’s, so she went ahead and launched into a story about how her daughter told her that she doesn’t want to live with her ever again. The moment sounds dreadful and I feel terribly for Tamra here and a part of me understands that she is telling her story so her perspective is out there, but another piece of me can’t help but think that her revelations will do nothing to heal that rift. I hope for her that at some point she and her daughter will reconnect, but I also hope that, should it happen, it will occur far away from the lens of a camera.
And now we have reached the end of the hour and Brooks’ name has not been mentioned even once, though there was sufficient time to debate whether or not Vicki’s comment to the sushi chick was out of line. Luckily, we are finishing strong by hearing whispers from a ghost from the past. That’s right! Jesus Jugs emailed Andy just the night before and the woman’s got a mission and Tamra is her target. See, J.J. refuses “to sit back and have a mockery made of her savior,” which I guess she thinks is what occurred when a woman she believed to be demonic got baptized on the television screen her husband, her king, allows her to watch for forty minutes each day. She sees Tamra’s religious awakening as trying to snag a hall pass for her past disgraceful behavior, but Tamra – so forgiving now – allows the comment to roll off of her back while blinking furiously in an effort to send her son the bat signal to knock the woman off as soon as he gets his hands on a weapon that can’t be traced.
Next week it all goes down. Jim Edmonds – he of the joyful expressions – shows up and watches his wife tell Vicki how horrible it is that she predicted they’d get divorced while he pretends he’s not already calculating alimony payments in his head. Also, Brooks hit on Vicki’s daughter while she was pregnant and her mother was in the room, so indeed, there are things in life to look forward to.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I have an ex waiting upstairs holding a Snickers bar that I have already told him I will not share.
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.