…Old English Sheepdogs, frozen Twix bars, fluffy chenille blankets, coconut-scented lotion, Tom Ford’s face, the stillness after a snowfall… Oh, sorry – I was daydreaming again. See, since the abject horror of last week’s election (my recap, my opinion!), I have been attempting to soothe my ravaged psyche by reminding myself constantly of everything in this world that makes me feel instantaneously happy. Other things that have popped up on my Bliss List over the last few days include snuggling in the crook of the right person’s arm, the smell of a smoldering fireplace in the winter, that first cup of strong coffee on a Sunday morning, my puppy actually fucking sitting when I ask her to sit, and stumbling across a marathon of Veep. What has not appeared on the list of things that keep me from hopping off the nearest tall building is anything even slightly related to Donald Trump or reality TV in general because I’ve begun to believe that these “stars” so many of us have giggled at or discounted for so long could very well have a rather large hand in ushering in the total denigration of civilization as we know it.
I have been guilty, too. After all, I write about – and therefore somehow glorify – reality television. For about two years now, I have recapped some of Bravo’s silliest franchises while marveling at how poorly behaved grown adults are willing to be all in the name of infamy. I have watched participants of these shows amass great wealth and so fully embrace the recognition they get when they walk into a boutique that they have convinced themselves that it’s a reasonable tradeoff to expose their lives to the world even though they have no say whatsoever in how any of that footage will eventually be edited and then exhibited. I have been able to convince myself – almost – that there is no real power inherent in being a part of reality TV, but I’m just not so sure I can make that case anymore. I think part of what swayed me is that I recently saw an interview with someone none of us ever should have even heard from again after her brief rage-filled stint on The Apprentice all those years ago. Remember Omarosa? She was the lunatic who all but bit her competitors when she appeared on Trump’s show back when all of us watched it. She was so nuts that producers didn’t even think of cutting her for a very long time because the carts of crazy she hauled around were the kind of thing networks tend to see as ratings gold – and we have all been complicit in completely validating that belief at some point over the last decade. I hadn’t heard about Omarosa for a while and I just figured that meant she had finally been locked inside of some asylum, but I was very wrong. Turns out, she was appointed Donald Trump’s Director of African American Outreach during the election, a job that must have involved smiling at herself in the mirror and maybe eventually shaking the hand of the guy who was pointed out to the crowd by the eventual President-Elect himself. “Look at my African American over here!” Donald Trump actually crowed during a speech in Redding, California. But Omarosa did way more than get one guy to a rally. She also did a few interviews on behalf of the man whose show once made her appear completely unstable to the masses and I can’t really say that any latent sanity trapped within her became evident when she made these comments about her new boss: “Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.”
Allow me to be clear here: I would rather kneel before General fucking Zod than Donald Trump. I’d sooner kneel in front of that guy I had one date with a few years ago who announced over appetizers that he didn’t shower before the date because he enjoyed having “a natural scent.” (Our relationship didn’t make it beyond one drink; I enjoy things that don’t reek of testicle.) I’d be more inclined to get on my knees in front of that hot CPA who recommends creepy Irish horror movies to me – though I think I’m getting off on a tangent here because I will totally end up on my knees with that guy and that’s really not the argument I’m attempting to make. What I am trying to say is that announcing that anyone who publicly disavowed this man will now have to bow before him is the kind of statement that is so truly frightening in its embrace of blind power and, at this point, I’m not sure we should pretend that giving people like Omarosa or Vicki Gunvalson airtime is no longer any sort of big deal. What I do believe in my heart of hearts is that Vicki Gunvalson is an awful human being and the world is a more repulsive place because she has been on our airwaves for eleven straight years. But even after all the times I rolled my eyes at the way she pantomimed the crucifixion or announced the deepest darkest secrets ever told to her by a friend drowning in vulnerability, I still don’t think I realized how potentially far-reaching her hideousness can go. I now think someone like Vicki is inherently dangerous to the fabric of decency that’s already fraying in our society. This is a woman who has only shards of a soul left and she would happily sell any remnants to secure herself yet another season on this series where she would like to stay until she dies. (Then she wants to go to heaven so she can finally be reunited with a man who lied about having cancer.) In the meantime, she might not become a member of Trump’s administration – though maybe we should just give it time – but I am rather terrified she will appear on some ballot in the very near future. And though I’ve never been one to threaten to move to Canada should an election cycle not go my way, I do hear the atmosphere on Mars is lovely and almost livable this time of year and I’m considering checking it out.
I think all of us, me included, have acted as though the people who have accumulated recognition in the ickiest of ways are not really threats. Maybe some of them are not, but some clearly are and the only thing that seems reasonable at this point is to make a plea directly to Andy Cohen to wipe the Housewives who are clearly no longer lucid from our airwaves. Only the literal loss of attention can potentially save these people from themselves and if he’s uncertain about who falls into the “Completely Deranged” category, all he needs to do is rewatch last week’s Reunion episode where Vicki announced that this series belongs to her and her alone and Kelly Dodd, Vicki’s demonic soul-sister, proclaimed that she is not sorry for anything she has said on camera all season long, so there. There’s not a chance in hell that any of these people will go quietly, but unless we want to live in a world where Kelly fucking Dodd is one day appointed Secretary of the Interior, we need to make some big moves before things get even more out of hand.
But for now I have a job to finish, so let’s collectively wade into the muck of tonight’s episode where women attempt to destroy the lives of their former friends while earning a salary for it.
ROUND ONE: ORANGE COUNTY HOUSEWIVES VS. WHAT THEIR CHILDRENS’ THERAPISTS WILL CHARGE THEM ONE DAY
Starting on a light note, we get a cute little montage of all the things these women did while drunk that did not involve spewing the word “cunt” or announcing domestic abuse in one of their marriages. So we learn the fun fact that Shannon can still sort of lactate and that Vicki’s nipples are uneven and that one day they all played with something that looked very much like a yeast infection. And you guys? This is the happy portion of the show.
Winner: Those therapists. They’re gonna be rich as fuck and those children are going to need to be heavily medicated.
ROUND TWO: SHANNON’S HAPPY RENAISSANCE VS. THE EVIL MONSTER OF A MOTHER-IN-LAW WHO CLEARLY SEEKS TO DESTROY HER
Here we revisit the vow renewal David planned for his wife and how joyful everything felt until the mother-in-law from the depths of the underworld crawled out to piss all over Shannon’s happiness. This woman’s insistence to publicly trash her grandchildren’s mother was disgusting and so completely warped that I wouldn’t be surprised if Shannon stopped lactating on the spot. There’s kind of no way to look at this from any other side than from Shannon’s. After all, we don’t know David’s mother and her sole appearance on this show was to hotly whisper in the ear of anyone wearing a microphone that Shannon was entirely the cause of her own misery. This cruel lady needs to be punished by having to sit in a room for a whole hour with Vicki and Kelly. She will undoubtedly see the asshole error of her ways in ten minutes flat. And speaking of a fellow asshole, Vicki would like Shannon to know that vow renewals are really just last-ditch efforts to salvage a broken marriage so Shannon should prepare herself to end up alone like Vicki did for about a month before she used her cockeyed nipples to hypnotize a new man into standing by her side. Shannon, however, doesn’t particularly want her marriage to be analogized in any way to Vicki’s because Vicki chose to cheat on her husband and Shannon chose not to cheat. Besides, Shannon hates Vicki and she always will and perhaps my favorite way Shannon tortures her is by announcing that Tamra is one of her best friends in the whole wide world because just the sound of another woman claiming Tamra in the name of friendship almost causes Vicki’s head to spin and if it finally shoots clear off and flies across the room, maybe Andy Cohen won’t actually have to take the time to fire her.
ROUND THREE: HOUSEWIVES VS. LINGUISTICS
Turns out that if you watch this show far more closely than I ever do – and I write 12-page recaps of this shit – you start to recognize that certain Housewives use certain expressions over and over again. Shannon likes to say, “Are you kidding me?” Heather, meanwhile, pops a few “By the ways” into her sentences. Kelly enjoys spouting out the words “Of course,” but part of that is she only knows twelve words and seven of those words are profane. Tamra falls back on “Jesus” or “God” as often as fourteen year olds use the word “like,” but at least she doesn’t pretend to nail herself to an imaginary cross whenever she says it. If you haven’t yet heard, Vicki pulls “Whoop it up” into as many sentences as she can. The expression seems to indicate that being with Vicki is a rollicking good time and I’m gonna go ahead and call total bullshit on that one because just staring at her on my TV screen is trying enough. As for Meghan, she’s spent a whole lot of time this season talking about sperm, but we all need to forgive her for that one because it’s the one decent thing her husband has given her besides a scented candle since she’s been on this series.
Winner: Nobody. Let’s all invest in a thesaurus and call it a fucking day.
ROUND FOUR: HEATHER VS. TERRY
It’s been Heather’s opinion all season that her husband has been missing out on valuable family time. Even their kids seem to notice his absence and they appear to be legitimately upset by it. Their comments worked to make Terry feel sufficiently guilty enough to vow that he would be more present. These people seem to have a relatively normal family, so I hope Terry makes good on those promises. That said, ginormous mansions do not pay for themselves and I’m guessing it’s the guy’s unceasing hustle that helped fund a house so large that it should get its own vote in the Electoral College during the next election. And that election cannot come soon enough.
Winner: Heather. The woman gets what she wants and I applaud her for it every single time.
ROUND FIVE: VICKI VS. TOTAL FUCKING DESPERATION
I can’t stand the woman, but I’m not saying that Vicki always has it easy. She’s watched her child go through medical emergencies while caring for her grandchildren and all of that must have been painful. Unfortunately, the footage of a harried person that almost caused me to feel the inklings of empathy is followed up by clips of Vicki deciding to become a spokesperson for a cancer charity after already having been a part of a rather public cancer scam. Then we see footage of her announcing to her stunned-silent children that she is never the cause of problems in any of her relationships. Serious question: how can one actually be this lacking in self-awareness when eleven years of your greatest mistakes have been aired on television? There’s not a shot in hell Vicki will ever learn or become even partially normal and if she says her love-tank is overfilled one more time, I might never find the strength to ever leave the house again.
Winner: Total fucking desperation – though I give her credit for helping her kids buy their houses. Down payments make lovely presents, even if they’re gifted by a monster.
ROUND SIX: KELLY VS. BASIC HUMAN DECENCY
Yes, Kelly truly is a moron. She makes up her own words and forms sentences with greater effort than a preverbal toddler just waking up from a fever dream, but she does manage to get her profanity out relatively easily. She’s called other Housewives “dumb fucks” and “cunts,” but it is Vicki she decides is wise enough to be called “a Buddha.” In this clip package, we watch Kelly rail against just about everyone and say the most cruel things she was able to get her tiny brain to muster up in her most frenzied and defensive moments. This is a woman who gets so angry that she verbally explodes and the cycle has gotten her exactly where she is right now: sitting on a couch with women who can’t stand her with her only real ally being someone who is just as universally loathed. But Kelly will never change just like Vicki will never change. They are two very sick women who validate each other’s awfulness and they are too busy grandly rolling their eyes to listen to the truth Heather tries to get them to hear. Kelly can only rage, apologize, and lie – and then she does every single bit of it again and again because she sucks as a human lady. Want some proof? After the montage of her behaving like a manic creature ends, Andy asks if that footage was hard for her to watch. “No,” replies the creature with a quick shake of her tail. “Why should it be?” Enough fucking said. This woman should be studied by whichever scientist pulls the shortest stick in all the land.
Winner: Nobody. Kelly exists in this world so we all kind of lose big here.
ROUND SEVEN: TAMRA VS. KARMA
Being that one of the things that got Tamra most upset was Kelly bringing up her parenting and her custody issues, it’s somewhat ironic that there’s all this footage of Tamra over the years criticizing the parenting of some of her least favorite Housewives (and Slade, who somehow still manages to make an appearance on this fucking show). It’s not Tamra’s finest moment on that couch as she is confronted with all of the evidence, but she does own up to having anger issues that she has been working on combatting with the help of her savior. I’d personally rather watch Tamra glare at Vicki for a full hour straight – Tamra is an excellent glarer – than be taken to task for her stupidity over the years, but what was once said on camera exists forever and Tamra has to eat just a little bit of shit here. Luckily, shit has no carbs.
Winner: Karma – and it’ll win every single time.
This Reunion will finally end next week and it’s sure to end nasty. The coming attractions alone show us Tamra calling Vicki “Old Woman,” Kelly announcing that she believes everyone in the world adores her completely, and Vicki insinuating that she’s got all sorts of proof that Shannon’s husband once beat her. So tell me again that these people are not threats to decency as we know it. Tell me again that it is acceptable behavior for a grown woman to drag out an alleged and horrific family secret that belongs to another family entirely just so she can briefly clear her name. And when you’re finished telling me all of that with as straight a face as you can possibly muster, please appeal to President Cohen to finally cut these monsters from our airwaves forever. There’s just too much pain in the world to entertain such bullshit anymore.
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. Also be sure to check out her website at nellkalter.com Her Twitter is @nell_kalter