There are just some people whose absence in your life feels nothing short of palpable. It’s not even the lack of their physical presence that creates the smoldering void, but all of those damn associations you stumble upon – daily, hourly. If you’re anything like me, you find yourself tripping dangerously over song lyrics. You bang headfirst into television commercials that advertise products you once would have purchased just to see that person smile. You fall with a painful thud down a whirring rabbit hole that’s been lined with a tarnishing silvered memory and land, totally disoriented, into a pit of what you are certain must be simmering regret. When you wake up in the morning, another name pops into your fatigued brain, even before you wipe the cloudiness of sleep from your eyes, even before you remember your own name.
You finally understand why just the syllables that make up the word “longing” sound so incredibly hopeless.
I have not experienced any of the above emotions during the many months that have gloriously stretched by since The Real Housewives of Orange County has graced my television screen. I have not missed a single one of those ladies or the bedazzled tank tops they wear without even a hint of irony. And while I suffer from the terrible affliction of always wanting to give a person a second (or a nineteenth) chance to prove he or she is not a total asshole, my opinions are already rather solidified when it comes to some of these women who have suffered continuously due to the exposure and stress being a part of this show brings into their lives – and yet they still always come back for more, more, more.
That's not to say that I harbor hatred for all of them. There's a few I sort of like. Let’s start with Meghan. During her inaugural season, Meghan made quite the seismic impact – and I’m not just talking about the ways in which she singlehandedly destroyed the headband industry by constantly wearing unnecessary accessories on the crown of her head that had golden shit dangling down her forehead. Married to a callous dick (and nobody likes a dick that’s calloused), Meghan fought with Shannon, eventually made tepid amends with Shannon, and almost singlehandedly brought Brooks’ duplicity about his cancer claims to light. She even made the bold move to call a cancer treatment center to find out if the place even offered some of the tests Brooks alleged he had gotten there and found out that they do not. I’ll go ahead and applaud Meghan’s gigantic balls and I’m so impressed, I’ll even use some vernacular that Meghan will understand to express my appreciation: #ImpressiveSleuthingNancyDrew #NowDivorceYourHusbandBecauseHeSucks
A Housewife who did not have a great first season ended up having a rather fantastic second season. When she first appeared on this show, Shannon might as well have worn a banner that declared her the PERSON LEAST LIKELY TO BE ABLE TO HOLD HER SHIT TOGETHER WHILE CAMERAS WERE AROUND. Her marriage was a ragged mess and she seemed to constantly be hanging by one very gnarled nerve. She tried to combat her crises with herbal supplements and acupuncture and became fast friends with Vicki Gunvalson, a pairing that only caused me to judge her harshly. But Shannon grew on me last season and I found myself really rooting for her much of the time. She and David sought to rebuild their marriage and even though watching them attempt to feel just a bit of real happiness stripped little pieces of hope off my soul, she rounded out the season as one of my favorites. She began to call bullshit on what was, in fact, total and complete smelly bullshit and she distanced herself from Vicki, a choice that is just good solid sense. My hopes are high for Shannon this year. I want her to stay strong, keep wearing her cute glasses, and call Vicki four times a week somewhere around midnight just to tell her that Jesus would have hated her before giggling and hanging up the phone.
As for Heather, I confess that I’ve always had a soft spot for her. Yes, her garish mansion is nothing short of ridiculous, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to vacation there. I know some people – like her fellow castmates – find Heather to be uptight and snooty, but I think what they’re reacting to is her class, intelligence and mental stability, qualities some of them have never been in such close proximity to before. I do question sometimes why she’s even on this show, but then I remember that her husband snagged himself a show on E! and that despite the fact that she was an actress before she became a Real Housewife, I had never heard of her before she held out an orange in the opening credits of this series.
Then there’s Tamara, who last year found God but has yet to manage to locate a new place to buy clothing. I felt sad for Tamara last season, what with her estranged daughter and piece of shit ex-husband and having a grown son who will surely be studied in a Criminology class at some point in the very near future. There’s a chance some of Tamara’s struggles finally managed to soften this once ultra-coarse woman and you could actually see her newfound desire to be kinder and more tolerant covering her skin like a foundation loaded with shimmer. She sat on couches beside Brooks and didn’t haul off and vomit onto his crotch. She showed restraint and I commend her for that. Unfortunately, she still seems to have this odd desire to be close to Vicki – and I will never support such a thing because the only thing that sucks more than Vicki is, well, nothing. I’ll say it again: nothing sucks more than Vicki sucks, and I say that during an election year where a totally unqualified man who looks exactly like a cheese doodle with a pompadour could possibly win.
And now I suppose I have to talk about Vicki, a woman who could spontaneously cause a fleet of people to choose atheism. Just in case you harbor the faulty belief that I’m being too hard on this dipshit, allow me to offer you a brief reminder of her televised actions:
1. She compared herself to Jesus and even mimicked the action of being nailed to the cross. Why did she do such an insane thing? Oh – it’s because she’s fucking insane.
2. She lied and claimed that Heather’s husband sent a doctor to her home in the dead of night to treat poor Brooks since his body was being ravaged by cancer. This event never actually happened.
3. She continually chose her deceptive boyfriend over her own daughter and actually had the nerve to feign shock that Briana would dare to discuss any of Brooks’ glaring faults while on camera, even though Vicki knows full well that she would shrivel up and die and even her fake tits would wither away to nothingness should a camera ever stop following her to brunch.
4. She believes “whoop it up” is the kind of expression that does not cause waves of nausea in others.
5. She has proven herself to be the single weakest woman I’ve ever seen on television and she belongs in intensive therapy, not on camera. She will sadly never make that choice, though; she is far too addicted to D-level fame and the staggeringly incorrect belief that she is both smart and strong.
6. She treats others like garbage that’s been soaked in the piss of a possum, unless she decides she needs an ally.
I have about seventy other reasons why I hate Vicki Gunvalson locked and ready to go, but we’ve got all season looming in front of us and I need to shore up my strength. Besides, just thinking about that idiot’s tops with the cutouts that show off her cleavage has made my blood pressure skyrocket and the only thing that might calm me down right now is being given my very own three-story closet at Chateau Dubrow. I will bring my own hangers, but I will insist on being served a formal tea daily in the porte-cochere.
Oh, and as for the new cast member? As long as she refrains from reenacting the crucifixion, I’ll go easy on her for now.
We begin with some snappy split screens that allow us to see just what some of our Housewives have been up to these days. Shannon appears to wile away her time on the basketball court in the lower level of her home with her husband and her children. Heather teaches one of her young daughters the importance of a hostess gift by allowing her to use crayons to color the wrapping paper. Meghan stands on a stool to reach the top portion of her closet. Tamara works out like a superhero whose superpower is warding off menopause. And Vicki? She is not in this stylish opening montage and any thoughts you harbor that maybe she’s gone for good are just a terrible tease and we all know it. She has not been dragged out into the sea so she can go live on some island whose natives will go fleeing towards modern civilization after a mere fifteen minutes spent with that shrieking harpy. Sadly, she will show up soon enough.
The first full segment is all about Tamara. She’s getting set for a fitness competition and she is literally working her ass off in a gym. I’m impressed (look at those pull-ups!) and confused (why would she not put her hair up if she’s gonna end up sweating like that?), but the biggest revelation here is not her bulging bicep; it’s the snarl she has in her voice when she speaks of he son’s “insta-fiance.” Look, I have no idea where the relationship between the man I fear more than the boogie man and the woman who actually gave birth to his spawn is right now, but I’ve read a few “articles” in US Weekly, and my friends? It doesn’t look good. It’s been a while so it’s hard to recall just what went down, but I remember words like “abusive” and “violent” coloring those articles like rotting rainbow sprinkles, and it appears that Tamra is no longer so sweet on the woman who sells guns and was going to be her daughter-in-law. What Tamara is sweet on is getting the best body a fifty-year-old woman has ever had, and I commend her for her commitment and for her sculpted shoulders. Her trainer is there to make sure her form is correct and to teach her the appropriate way to waltz out to greet the competition’s judges (and while I don’t remember a lot, I do remember that I saw pictures of her winning that eventual competition and that she did it in Lucite stripper heels) and we see Eddie watching from the sidelines. Her husband’s got himself a beard these days and Tamra makes sure to tell us that things between them could not be better. She credits her baptism for their amazing sex life and so that rumble you just heard was not, in fact, the start of the apocalypse; it was just Tamra screaming, “Oh God!” once more today.
Next up is Meghan, who is discussing construction plans with her horrible husband, a man who shows no joy when speaking to or about his wife. You know how uncomfortable it feels when you and your boyfriend are out with another couple and that couple starts bickering at the table and there is absolutely no humor mixed into their words so you know neither is faking the verbal tussle and you end up dipping into some bread or reading the back of a Splenda packet just so you have somewhere to look besides across the table? One glance at Jim Edmonds is exactly like that. But the evil monster doesn’t just insult his wife these days. The guy has branched out! He’s a commentator for the Cardinals and he’s become part of a business that makes candles, so whoever had “candle maker” in your bracket, congratulations! Your prize is that you never have to dine with Meghan or Jim!
While “Jimmy” gets a briefly contented look from sniffing his candles and marveling over the soap he’s made – which seriously caused me to laugh – Meghan attempts to discuss the intricacies of IVF because some evil troll who lives in the bad part of her brain told her that it would make excellent sense to have a baby with a man who hates her. It’s sad, really. We cut back and forth from their interactions where he ignores her for sport to Meghan’s interview where she almost crows about how great it is that she’ll be pregnant soon and that Jimmy is agreeing to another child because he adores her so much that he refuses to lose her. Then we cut back to him ignoring her some more. Oh, Meghan.
Over in Heather’s rarified world, children are abounding, her husband is busier carving into rich women than ever, and she is planning a party on a boat that will serve as the first time anyone has seen Vicki since she lied to their faces for well over a year. Just the sound of Vicki’s name makes Terry look fatigued, and I understand that reaction because I too sighed with furious resignation that, even after all this, Bravo is still willing to employ this asshole and now that production’s up and running, the others have to see her and so do we. But Heather is in a positive frame of mind these days. There was a heath scare with her husband that thankfully turned out well and she is in a forgiving kind of mood and so she will launch into a toast on that boat about how life is too short for everybody not to play nice, even with a she-creature like Vicki Gunvalson.
And speaking of the awful beast, she’s back and she walks inside her kitchen in a quiet sequence that I suppose is meant to make us feel badly that Vicki is all alone. Maybe it worked on some viewers, but I no longer have a shred of empathy for this woman and most of it has nothing to do with her lies and everything to do with her proud lack of self-awareness and for whimpering that she couldn’t break up with Brooks even though he made dick jokes to her daughter because how was she expected to be alone for even a fraction of a second? At any rate, my hardened reaction is clearly not what Bravo wants. They want us instead to open our hearts and be proud of Vicki for all of the changes she’s made to her life, like that new haircut and finally having a kitchen that isn’t brown. Oh, and Brooks has moved out. Unfortunately, she’s still harping on being alone, she’s still wearing ugly tops, and she sprawled herself in the middle of the street on the night Brooks left, crying and begging the lying asshole not to go. She also continues to maintain that she would stand up for her man all over again if history were to repeat itself. Ergo, I’m not quite on board with celebrating Vicki’s renaissance here because I don’t think there is one to celebrate. Still, Vicki would like to move forward. She wants to whoop it up again! And me? I’d like the last four minutes of my life back so I can pretend this moron isn’t actually real.
When it comes to Brooks faking cancer, Tamra doesn’t believe for a moment that Vicki wasn’t in on his premeditated duplicity. That medical binder she created for him? Turns out she never even saw it. Shannon trusts Vicki even less these days and finds it remarkable that her stories about being by his side during all of his appointments keep changing, even now that the man is gone, even after she wept into the hot asphalt as he drove away from her. Heather would just like some accountability from Vicki for being a liar, though I fear that should Heather request some, Vicki will immediately respond by miming the crucifixion again. And Meghan? She feels vindicated because she knew those two were lying the whole fucking time.
Oh, and as for Vicki’s tagline that if you want to judge her, you’d better be perfect? My answer to that is a simple, “Yeah…no.” See, one need not be perfect to have a strong opinion about someone fabricating the claim that she desperately called a doctor in the wee hours to give Brooks an IV simply because she “needed some compassion.” But excellent try, Vicki. At least you’ve mastered the art of lame projection!
(Also – and somewhat off-topic – I want whomever it was who first told Vicki that saying “whoop it up” was nothing short of adorable to be located, coated with generic honey, and then left in a pile of smelly dirt so ants can ravage him for hours and hours – and then a few more hours. And I want this experience to occur on the single hottest day of summer and preferably in a location where cesspools are being pried open after nearby residents have all suffered from a stomach virus.)
Back in Shannon World, things are looking much better since the dark days when she and her husband performed fake eulogies for one another. She insists that she is completely over David’s past affair and, just as she is ready to move on emotionally, the entire family is ready to move on physically to a home where they can actually find one another without having to break out organic breadcrumbs. Meanwhile, Meghan and her mother arrive for an IVF appointment and, shockingly, Jim is not with her as she goes through this painful process. I’ve since read that Meghan actually winds up getting pregnant. Anyone want to take wagers on whether Jim will show up in the delivery room?
Now it’s time for Heather and Tamra to hang out with each other and buy some citrus trees that Heather can sink into the soil of her still-in-the-construction-phase new home. Checking out lemons is fun, but we all know that the whole purpose of this scene is so these two can discuss Vicki on camera. Tamra hasn’t seen Vicki in months and just receives texts from her every now and then in which the idiot continues to declare how wronged she has been by her friends. That claim alone should make the rest of them avoid Vicki forever. Seriously: what else has to happen for this woman to be cut out for good?
Look! It’s time to meet the new girl! Kelly is Meghan’s friend and she looks exactly like Cheryl Burke would look if she were not always wearing sequins. She and Meghan are have only known one another for about a year and Meghan enjoys her because she’s fun and because Kelly doesn’t hate her like her husband hates her. So what do we learn about Kelly? She was Homecoming Queen in high school, she too went through IVF, and she has diarrhea of the mouth, a quality we should all just acknowledge is the very thing that snagged her a spot on this show.
Over at Vicki’s house of desperation and solitude, she talks on the phone to her grandson and her daughter. Seems Briana is moving back to Orange County and Vicki bought her daughter a house because having family within yelling distance will make her feel way less alone. After her child calms her down and explains that yes, they will be just fine driving back from Oklahoma without a man in the car (good fucking lord, lady!), Vicki hangs up but the phone rings again right away. It’s Heather calling this time and it’s kind of interesting to watch this, as long as we’re all aware that “interesting” really means “fucking repulsive.” Let me walk you through it. So, Vicki makes a face that Heather is calling her and makes sure to toss into the brief conversation that she has no man to bring to the party on a boat that Heather invites her to attend – but then she also says that she’s glad she was included by the woman she just disparaged. It’s all confusing and sort of gross and I can’t believe how much I actually despise this person.
In a far happier place are Tamra and Shannon. They are such good friends now that they pair up for fun activities like getting non-invasive facelifts! But as for Vicki? Shannon will not forgive her because they didn’t have a mere disagreement that soured their friendship. No, Vicki was involved in a cancer scam and Shannon wants nothing to do with her anymore, but Tamra is not nearly as committed to icing the woman out and her weird need to keep Vicki in her life is one of the reasons I can never fully get on board with Tamra, but I’m keeping that quiet because it’s clear that she can absolutely kick my ass.
Before we can get to the boat party, first we are forced to watch Vicki toast with Jeana – a woman Vicki has cut out of her life more than once before deciding she needed her again because nobody else would deign to be seen with her anymore. I don’t like Jeana. I think she’s a nasty troublemaker and pretending that there’s any other way for people to look at this Vicki-Brooks-Cancer situation is nothing short of moronic. The rest of the women eventually arrive on the boat and even Kelly shows up like it makes sense that she’s there, because that’s what happens when a new Housewife arrives on the scene. Kelly’s bold humor rubs Shannon the wrong way almost immediately, but Shannon’s got bigger assholes to sauté and fry because here comes Vicki and there is nothing Vicki can say that will ever make Shannon want to be friends with her again. Good thing Kelly has decided that Vicki is so awesome, much to Meghan’s total horror. I’m sure Meghan will do her damnedest to put the kibosh on that little friendship, but I’m not really invested in this Kelly chick yet so I don’t actually care who she ends up becoming chummy with. What I simply can’t abide by are the rest of these women deciding to open their arms to this vicious liar ever again and I think I’m going to wind up being very annoyed as this season progresses and Vicki is embraced once again by all the people she has betrayed –and then blamed for that betrayal.
At some point, Vicki asks Heather to come outside with her so she can apologize for her actions last year and to ask for forgiveness – and to toss in a line that she has nobody in what I’m guessing is her final effort to be seen as a sympathetic figure instead of the bullshit mythical monster of doom she really is.
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.