Last week’s episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County ended with Meghan telling Vicki that she is old, bitter, and pissed off at the world. Like an echo-filled scream heard reverberating through every corner of Heather’s cavernous mansion – even in the luggage closet that’s behind the butler’s pantry which you can reach if you make the wrong turn coming out of bathroom #8 – Meghan’s statement results in every other woman sitting there momentarily stunned. How dare Meghan tell the truth? These women have taken a blood oath over champagne flutes and plasma-soaked safety pins that they would never reveal to the masses certain things they all know to be accurate. Nobody is to say that, in spite of her good-natured and self-effacing comments about being rich, that Heather cares enormously about being wealthy. It is never supposed to come out verbally that Tamra’s son Ryan looks like a serial killer who keeps a dead family in his basement. It’s just polite to pretend when speaking that Vicki is physically lovely and totally emotionally balanced and that Brooks is positively dreamy. And one should never say that Shannon is a walking, talking, and vodka-guzzling shell of a person who is married to another human being who is also currently just a rattling collection of bones and regret because those are the kinds of things one simply doesn’t say unless it’s behind that person’s back.
Unfortunately, the new girl was not invited to any sort of orientation sessions that involved slicing into fingers and that means that Meghan did not make a blood oath with her Orange County sisters and so she will say whatever the fuck she wants at a table set up amid a construction site and she will do it while Vicki eats, points, and prays. She will be lynched for her actions later, but first let’s allow everyone else at that table to weigh in on the fact that Meghan said those hateful (and entirely accurate) words to Vicki after being told that she is a little girl who needs to shut up. Still clearly angling to get back on this show as a full-time Real Housewife (why?), Lizzie tells Meghan that now is not the time and that Vicki asked her repeatedly not to talk about Brooks. Shannon finds the energy to set down her goblet of alcohol and retell the story of how Meghan is really young. Heather, who has bordered on becoming a ridiculous caricature for many years but impressively has never allowed it to happen, takes Meghan’s side for the moment and tries to reiterate that Meghan is only speaking from the perspective of someone dealing with a loved one who has cancer, just like Brooks might have cancer. And Meghan herself finds the strength – even though she’s not currently wearing a bedazzled headband that helps her pretend that she’s a superhero whose greatest superpower is being thinner than anyone she has ever met – to insist that she is not talking badly about Brooks but that she cannot understand why he’d walk away from doing aggressive cancer treatments like chemotherapy. Does Meghan have a point? I think she does. Has anyone asked for her opinion on the matter? Not even once, not even while hammered. Will Vicki ever appreciate Meghan’s concern? Not even if Meghan quickly swaps superpowers with one of her caped buddies and morphs into Curing Disease Woman and flies over Vicki’s house where Brooks is living to drop good health down the chimney. For all involved – including the viewers – this is a losing battle fought about a scary diagnosis that’s allegedly been given to an even scarier (and certainly slimier) man and it’s all so unpleasant that if I were at that table, I wouldn’t even want dessert unless it was something made out of chocolate.
“I am done talking about Brooks’ illness with you,” Vicki says with finality to Meghan. “I don’t believe you have his best intentions at heart. I think you’re just being nosy.” And that kind of comment and belief right there illustrates almost perfectly the woman Vicki Gunvalson has become. She will rant and rave and point and then she will calmly sputter out a few sentences and a psalm here and there and she will expect everybody else to take what she said as closure to the matter. She will never fully root for the happiness of another woman so she refuses to believe that some women have purely kind motivations. She will also (at least during this season anyway) ignore that here is yet another mildly compelling example of how this guy Brooks (a man she has announced she loves because he’s got a beating heart and a collection of cells and she would positively keel over and die if she had to spend an evening alone) might be lying once again, but this time it could be about something serious.
That kind of honest self-reflection is hard. It’s way easier to rattle off some excuses and toss on a smirk and lead a toast to a great lunch that might have only gone well had Vicki stayed home and Shannon got stuck in bathroom #5 where she was secretly trying out the bidet.
As Meghan slowly chews her food, her eyes filling with tears and her head down with her hair shimmering around her like a curtain of gold that Vicki will tell her later looks tarnished, the other fair-haired ones decide they should go to the bathroom because no issue is really resolved on this show until Vicki announces that she must “go potty” and Tamra and Shannon can stand beside her at a sink or near a wall and tell her that she is never wrong and Meghan is the worst and Brooks loves her so much and he didn’t mean it that time he slept with a stripper.
“I never want to see her again,” fumes Vicki about Meghan, and maybe this is a good opportunity for Vicki to consider why she refuses to walk away from a television show where she is mandated to interact with women she claims to loathe, women she is convinced wish her genuine unhappiness. Wouldn’t it be better for her not to be crying with a lens crammed into her face? Oh, it wouldn’t? Has it finally happened that Vicki has turned into a literal example of that famous existential question of hearing a tree fall down in the forest? In other words, if Vicki is not shown crying on television, does she really have working tear ducts? Does she actually exist or could this horrifying woman be something all of us collectively imagined to take our minds off things like the Iran deal?
“Vicki’s a bitch,” Meghan says rather succinctly to Lizzie, but it’s Lizzie’s response that I find way more interesting.
“Vicki’s tough,” Lizzie nods, and all that comment allows me to think is screw Lizzie and all of her makeup and fuck Gretchen and her hideous handbags and Alexis and her pretend couture and Lynn and her bejeweled cuffs and Jeanna and her mountain of hair and all of the rest of the women over the years who have allowed Vicki to get away with behaving in a manner befitting a wilderness creature, and not one of those cute illustrated ones.
“I would be livid,” Shannon assures Vicki, a comment that doesn’t really carry all that much weight since Shannon is always livid about something and studies have proven that Shannon will always side with whatever is facing off against Meghan King Edmonds and if what’s facing off against the woman is a fork, well fuck, Shannon will root for that pronged utensil because Meghan is horrible and did you hear that she once tried to paint Shannon as uncharitable? There’s not too much time right now to focus on Shannon and her supportive form of crazy because Vicki maintains suddenly that she feels weak and her voice gets halting and fluttery and she begs the women to all say a prayer for her beloved who is fighting for his life and shame on everybody, especially the borderline smart ones who want to be there for Vicki but cannot stop themselves from seeing her overblown reaction to anything having to do with Brooks and his illness as – at best – odd.
Vicki finally leaves and Meghan maintains to the rest of the shell-shocked ladies who lunch that she was not coming from a place of malice and everybody just kind of stares at her and then Tamra jumps in to break the ice and promote herself all at the same time because she is a woman of skills. Turns out that CUT Fitness’ YouTube channel was launched with a sex tape! But she’s just kidding, you guys, and we should all have known that because Tamra would win the prize of being the classiest woman in all of Orange County as long as the prize was given a day after an ecological travesty and everybody else in Orange County fell into the ocean. The real (and really gross) story is that all of the workout videos have titles that could easily be the title of a sex tape because Tamra is nothing if not an expert in the art of language and she is excited to show off her talents at a sex party that’s not really a sex party but instead another way to advertise a gym I wouldn’t enter even during a torrential downpour that includes hail, whipping winds, and Ramona Singer’s Pinot streaming from the sky like piss. On the other hand, having this staunch stance against Tamra, her business, her family, her pink wardrobe, and her pretend sex tape means that I will not be invited to the party and that’s a shame but at least I can lend Heather some latex and leather to wear because the rich girl’s plum out.
Shannon is fine with going to Tamra’s fake sex party and she’s even amenable to sexing it up because Shannon is a joyful and vibrant woman who oozes casual sensuality, or at least she hopes that’s the kind of person she’ll turn into after she squeezes in a quick session with her Energy Medicine Specialist. Down from seeing him three times a week, the new healthy version of Shannon (she’s got to be talking about physical health, yes?) only sees the guy twice a month now but that’s still plenty of time for her to stick out her tongue while wearing a paper robe while he pokes at her and tells her he feels anger on her skin. Then he all but tries to lobotomize the resentment from her abdomen with a bunch of electrical surges and tells her to dispel the negative emotions by beaming them free from her body through her eyes and I really want to take credit for having made any of this up, but I’m not nearly that creative – or that psychotic.
Across town and later in the day, Vicki meets up with her son at a restaurant. I remember this kid from the early days of the show and what I recall most vividly is the pride I felt for him when he refrained from sticking an actual muzzle on his mother who would never (but not ever) just shut the fuck up. Michael seems like he’s doing well in his career and he moved far away enough from his mother that she won’t pop in to borrow some coffee for an enema and that is just good sense. In what I guess could be seen as an interesting twist if you actually cared, it turns out that Michael is not a member of the I Hate Brooks club and he seems fine with the fact that Vicki announces that Brooks wants to go steady with her, which I kind of thought they were already doing since he lives in her house and she battles women on his behalf daily. Despite the fact that Brooks might give her a class ring from a college he alleges to have graduated from, Vicki is still concerned that her daughter hates the man that she loves, that there seems to be no reconciliation between them on the horizon, and she really misses her mother. For that last one, I do feel for her.
The next day Tamra and Eddie tour a space for their not-really-a-sex-party and we watch Eddie get hard over the idea of nailing his wife on a sex swing while Tamra rhapsodies about all the surprises that will be in store for her guests. There will be sexy waiters clad in very little and hot pink dildos stuck on tables like a centerpiece that Heather would prepare if she were being held at gunpoint and a photo booth that comes with props like duct tape and I also heard that there will be gonorrhea in the bathroom! Tamra’s friends are basically extremely lucky people. And then there’s Eddie. He is in a place that I’m betting serves food and he is wearing a shirt that is completely unbuttoned and he sticks a hot pink dildo down his pants for a giggle and he wants to know why Brooks and Vicki might not show up for the classiest party of the century. Tamra tries to explain the Meghan/Vicki conflict to her bare-chested husband and he flings a dildo at her because that’s how primates show affection.
Back at Shannon’s house, she sits by a window in her bedroom – the curtains billow behind her like she might be the actual phantom of the opera – and she greets her husband with a wan look. “I’m just really wiped out,” she tells him, and I’m wondering if she was shooting death glares out of her irises all day and that’s why she’s so exhausted. Regardless, while I am certainly willing to place the blame on David having an affair squarely on David, Shannon’s palpable negativity and mood swings that push her from fucking miserable to out-of-her-head inconsolable are a tough thing to support. David tries. He kisses her three times on the cheek and repeats what she said about being tired because one of their therapists once said that mirroring speech patterns shows respect but Shannon is still pissed about what David didn’t do for her birthday. She wanted more than “a sports bar on a weeknight,” but David thinks he rose to the occasion and the birthday he planned for her was fine and he can’t do anything to change what has already happened and the way he treated her in the past, which is the stuff she’s really still devastated by. And Shannon? Well, she really doesn’t want to feel this way. She wants to move on! She wants to forgive! And she would also like a medal for not divorcing her husband even though they live in Orange County where divorces grow on shrubbery, but the thing is that she cannot continue to congratulate herself for keeping this family together while constantly marinating the family in a spicy medley of gloom.
After the commercial break, Tamra appears in a lace catsuit and she’s also wearing a collar and a leash because, you know, feminism, and then Lizzie appears in a platinum wig. It seems that fake hair is the way to go to tap into your inner whore because Meghan has also strapped a wig to her head. Hers is red and it’s short and it’s obviously getting absolutely no appreciation from her husband because no man has ever shown less excitement in a woman ever. If the guy is drastically different in real life than he appears on the show, he needs to either change how he acts when cameras are present or never appear on this show again. His standoffish behavior is making his wife look like a fool, which is a hard thing to do when the woman is also wearing red satin corset at a party being held to celebrate a new abs workout that anyone with Wi-Fi can find on YouTube.
Shannon shows up next in a tight black dress with a purple wig and Heather appears pulling Terry on a leash – so now there are two leashes – and then Vicki walks in. She’s in a virginal white dress made out of lace and she will not allow young Meghan to keep her from celebrating an event for a friend she has repeatedly cut out of her life throughout the years. No, Vicki is stronger than that! What is not stronger than that is my tummy because when I looked up and saw that Tamra and Eddie were making a speech at an artificial sex party on a microphone when there were about twenty people in that club, I began to feel queasy. I need to toughen the fuck up if I’m gonna continue to watch this show and that strength better happen now because we are about to actually get to see the “sex tape” those goofballs made. What’s it like? Well, Eddie is behind the camera and Tamra is reclining on a bed and there’s talk of quickies and there’s all kinds of moans and musings of how Tamra is so tight before the working out part is revealed and I have never been more willing to consider both obesity and celibacy in my entire life.
Sushi is eventually served on a naked woman, something that feels very 2005. Then Tamra drunkenly discusses how she might be getting baptized soon and all of a sudden it no longer feels like 2005; it feels like the apocalypse. Eddie – a collar around his neck that reads “Slave” – is supportive of his wife embracing religion as long as that means that he’s still allowed to play with pink dildos.
That’s around the time when Heather and Terry start bleeding. They have taped leeches to their body so that the blood-suckers will help to brighten and tighten their skin and it is probably the second craziest thing I have seen all night (the first was the entire episode of Bachelor in Paradise) and this incident is not helping me make a compelling argument supporting the fact that Heather is not a moron. At the reveal of what the leaches are actually doing to her body, Vicki and Tamra begin to gag and Vicki slaps Terry for doing this sort of crazy procedure to his wife and at that moment, Vicki makes a ton of sense.
She loses that sense of course – and quickly. It all begins to go down when Vicki tells Meghan that she’s allowed to hug her even though Vicki knows that Meghan is not a nice person and it really doesn’t matter that Vicki’s got the I’m-drunk glazed eyes. See, Vicki is willing to apologize but Meghan is not and that’s when Vicki says that Meghan’s heart is ugly and that the conversation is over, to which Meghan smiles and says the conversation has just begun. And just when Shannon and her wig are about to weigh in, Meghan calls to her husband “for backup,” which might work if the guy actually liked her.
“Jimmy, Vicki just said that I’m evil,” she says to him and the guy kind of shocks me by attempting to explain how it was that Meghan said anything about Brooks in the first place. I give it up for this guy never, but I’m pleasantly surprised that he doesn’t roll his eyes and walk away from a fight between women because he’s struck me so far as that exact type. As he runs down the story to Vicki, she keeps interrupting him and then begins saying “she’s classless” about Meghan in the perverse hopes that Jim Edmonds might end up grounding his wife. “She’s really nasty,” Vicki sneers to Jim because Meghan – who is also standing there – is far too young to have mastered language. Then Vicki leans against the bar in her stupid white dress that perfectly highlights her gunt and looks really proud of herself as she snickers, “Jim, talk to me in five years when you’re divorced.” Me? I would have wagered three years, but I probably wouldn’t have brought it up at all at a shitty cocktail party where strings of anal beads are there to stir the watered down drinks.
And just like that – just as I was about to ponder that maybe Jim Edmonds isn’t one of the very worst men to ever stalk this Earth – well, that’s when he told Meghan that he can do whatever he wants and that she better “zip it” and Meghan responds by first saying, “Honey…” and then by walking away from him. The two eventually leave the party together and left behind is Vicki. She quickly creates a mental abacus out of olives from all of her martinis and the brain cells she’s recently fractured and she tells Tamra that Jim and Meghan have been married for four months and that Jim told Brooks that two of those months “have been challenging.” The brief pleasure that bursts forth from the countenances of both of these women is obvious and it’s just all kind of gross and Vicki sums it all up with, “I’ll take her down,” and I think it’s really lovely when vengeance can be planned by a woman wearing white at the worst sex party of all time.
Nell Kalter is the author of the books Student and That Year, both available on amazon.com in paperback and for your Kindle.