There comes a point during each and every year when the leaves turn from a bold green into a way less vibrant shade of dark yellow, when Oreos, M&Ms, ice cream, and lattes become available in pumpkin spice, and everyone in the vicinity begins to smell vaguely of nutmeg. The sun sets a bit earlier each evening and I fall asleep pondering the age-old question of exactly when I’m supposed to break out my boots or if I should continue to wear sandals while hoping my fake tan is continuing to fool anyone who isn’t blind.
It’s the time when the networks release their newest shows after hyping them nonstop for months and it’s also the time when I’m afraid to watch any of them because I’m reluctant to get hooked on another show, lest the day come when I choose to never again leave my house because I’ve become too emotionally attached to my twelve remotes. It’s the time of year when all of my favorite candy begins to appear in what some marketing moron coined a “fun size,” as though a smaller Milky Way could possibly be more fun than one that’s the size of a beer truck. And it’s also the precise moment when horror movies enter the theatres and I consider making some new friends who aren’t such wusses.
Yes, I have reached the point in my life where nobody I spend a great deal of time with wants to watch scary movies anymore. I understand that not everyone wants to pay to experience an abject burst of stinging fear, but I wish there was at least one person I could drag with me to see Goodnight Mommy, an Austrian film that is rumored to be the most terrifying hour and forty minutes that has ever graced a movie screen. I need to see it, but I also know that I’m too much of a chicken to watch it alone so I am currently compiling blackmail information on all of those nearest and dearest to me in the hopes of swaying someone to accompany me to the theatre by promising never to reveal that he has peed in his bed while in his thirties.
With horror movies taking hold of my mind and the darkest secrets of my loved ones filed away in a fireproof safe that has a combination of 666, I have begun to imagine the horror subgenres our beloved Housewives would be most likely to star in and I’ve come to some conclusions:
Tamra would definitely star in a possession film. If film history has taught us anything – besides the fact that there is apparently no cap on how many Fast and the Furious movies can be made – it’s that evil spirits enjoy inhabiting delicate women who are on the cusp of becoming spiritual and our Tamra now fits the bill. Luckily, the woman’s got a pastor who makes house calls so she’ll probably be freed from the demon who has scurried inside of her by the time the ninth part of the Reunion airs.
Heather would appear in a slasher film, but there’s not a shot in Tamra’s version of hell that she’d survive. For the most part, you need to have a unisex name to make it out alive in one of those movies and there’s also the issue that Heather is quite likely to want to investigate that strange noise she hears on the fifth floor of her labyrinth of a home because a part of her thinks that any sound she hears in the distance is of a bottle of champagne being popped instead of a chainsaw being revved up.
Shannon would be the absolute star of a found footage horror film. I’m willing to wager that she has hired at least one private investigator during the last year or so and that there is surveillance video of David cavorting around Orange County before he made the choice to return to his family. It is also my staunch belief that the Batphone Meghan called earlier in the season contains the footage Shannon doesn’t want anybody to see. Shannon’s been growing on me like a fungus lately, so I hope she’d survive the film – though chances are she’d end up making it because she’s been the masked killer all along.
Meghan would appear in a Gothic horror movie. She’d play the plucky young upstart who would venture bravely down narrow hallways with only a flickering candle to guide her in order to probe all of the secrets that might exist around her. One of the tropes of Gothic horror is the thrill of diving headband-first into the unknown as well as battling dreadful creatures who are out to silence you, and since Meghan has already come face to face with Brooks, zombies and vampires wouldn’t even cause this bitch to break a sweat.
And speaking of Brooks, his special lady would end up in a home invasion film similar to The Strangers. In one of these movies, someone enters a setting you’ve been made to feel is safe and secure and rattles your world before leaving you with nothing, including often a pulse. Vicki would play that idiot character who naively and solemnly lets the bad guy in and it won’t take her long to fall in love with him because, even if he’s holding a hatchet and walking towards her slowly without blinking, that means she won’t ever have to be alone in her kitchen. There’s a large part of me that believes Vicki really doesn’t know that Brooks might be lying to her about anything (or everything), that she is certain that the reason he moved in with her is because he craves her gorgeous face and her sparkling personality instead of considering that he’s had his eye on her big screen TV and her life insurance policy for some time now, and he will destroy her with nary an ounce of guilt to get exactly what he wants. On the plus side, should Brooks destroy her, she won’t appear in the sequel.
I wouldn’t pay to see any of those movies, but just imagining them has brought me a great deal of pleasure and I will celebrate by rubbing myself with some nutmeg and diving into this week’s episode.
We begin with Shannon and David arriving at a lovely sunset dinner for date night and once again we are privy to watching Shannon order her Grey Goose “in a tall glass.” Seeing that her beverage preference does little to nothing in furthering the action at hand, at this point I have to believe that the editors are simply out to make fun of the woman by illustrating that she has ordered vodka more often on this show than Vicki has broken up and gotten back together with an alleged cancer patient and even more times than Tamra has tried to make hot pink tank tops bedazzled with crucifixes happen. David wants to maybe order some empanadas as an appetizer but Shannon is appalled by such an idea. She exercised for over two hours earlier in the day! She was on a floor doing sit-ups and then she perspired atop an exercise ball! She sweated a quarter of her ass off and she’s trying like hell to get the next quarter off by nightfall! She will work out and stay drunk all of the time if that means that she will not contribute to the soaring divorce rate in Orange County!
The thing is, Shannon actually looks pretty fantastic. I’d been under the impression that she was spending her days writhing around atop an inflatable exercise ball so she could feel like a woman again, but she’s actually lost some weight. She should allow herself to dive tongue-first into some of the salami and cheese that’s on the menu for the night, but the woman is committed to her health and to her tighter ass and she orders the meatballs instead. Once the waiter (who mistakenly believes that appearing on The Real Housewives will lead to him getting his SAG card) leaves, Shannon tells David that she spoke to Tamra and Heather earlier in the day and she’s amazed and rather happy that friendships that once seemed terribly tenuous – as is wont to happen when relationships are built atop the crumbling mounds of quicksand in Reality Land – are now strong while her friendship with Vicki is disintegrating in a manner in which Shannon didn’t expect.
“That is kind of interesting,” says David. He’s a man I believe is probably trying with all of his might to save his marriage for the sake of the family at large in spite of the fact that he doesn’t really like his wife. I’m betting that he really didn’t appreciate coming off as such a dickhead last season for all the world to see when he spent fifteen straight episodes glaring menacingly at his spouse. Luckily for him, he is surrounded now by a scumbag like Brooks (even if the guy hasn’t been faking his cancer, he’s still revolting and sleazy); Eddie, a guy who makes me want to spell out the word “misogyny” in dumbbells; and a withholding horror story brought to life in the body of Jim Edmonds. Long story short, David’s looking pretty good right now.
Shannon reveals that Vicki sent her a text after their lunch during which Shannon inquired about all of the inconsistencies in Brooks’ story. The text comes from a woman who has less self-awareness than the fly that has taken up residence in my home and refuses to leave and is apparently making arrangements to move his family and just a small sectional in for his comfort. As such, the text is all about how angry and saddened Vicki is by Shannon’s questions and she’s not at all willing to admit that Shannon has been a good friend to her along the bumpy path. Look, I’ve been tough on Shannon in the past – and I stand by it. I have no idea why someone who has young children and fears that they were greatly impacted by the strife within their parents’ marriage would put any of this shit on television and when someone screams, “Don’t imply that I’m not charitable!” across a party when it’s apropos of almost nothing, as a viewer of the show, I’m allowed to form an opinion. And, admittedly, I don’t like Vicki because she’s the scariest manifestation of a human lady that I’ve ever seen in all of my days. Still, there’s very little evidence that Shannon has been anything but a completely devoted and loyal friend to that woman and I’d feel badly for her that she has lost an ally but that ally is Vicki so instead I shall throw a party for Shannon where she can celebrate her freedom. It will (of course) be a Capricorn Party since that’s my astrological sign and I will serve broiled ram and plenty of vodka and there will be limes and tall glasses as far as the near-sighted eye can see.
Over at Tamra’s house, she is sitting down with Pastor Mike who immediately assures her that she need not be perfect to be baptized but that she needs to come with a sincere heart. “Is it something you do private?” asks Tamra – while both she and her religious guide are wearing microphones and her living room is filled with klieg lights to make them both appear dewy on camera. Pastor Mike tells her that it might be nice for her to invite her friends and she really likes that idea because doing it in front of people (I’m guessing people who are all under contract to Bravo and are required to show up) sends a message. What’s that message? Oh, it’s the same one God likes to send people: I’m religious now and this is my coming out party and so the rest of you can all suck it since now I love Jesus! As Pastor Mike tells her that the Holy Spirit will now live inside of her forever and operate as her personal GPS system, Tamra smiles beatifically and it makes me feel a little bit guilty for hoping that the holy water sizzles when it touches her skin. Tamra is committed to religion now, but she is having a bit of a hard time reading the bible itself, what with all of its outdated vernacular. She’d really appreciate a blog version of the bible! Now, I wholeheartedly recommend that she steer clear of my blog – girlfriend hasn’t come off too well on my site – but the rest of you should feel free to check it out at nellkalter.com! Sadly no psalms appear, unless you consider an older piece, Reality PurgaTORI, a prayer for Tori Spelling. I myself consider it a hatchet job, but just like with religion, I suppose we all interpret things differently.
And now it’s time to go into a medical building with Vicki and Brooks and cameras and Lenka, the same woman who told Vicki and Brooks to lie atop the soil last week to aid in the healing process because nothing cures disease more than a grass stain. They’re all there to speak to Dr. Zermeno, a man who specializes in healing the immune system through detoxification. According to the records Brooks had sent over, he has a large mass in the upper region of his abdomen. Brooks says he can feel the masses enflaming inside of him and the doctor tells him he must be vigilant about his nutrition and avoiding stress, at which time he immediately turns to the love of his life who is sitting beside him. “It’s not me,” says the gorgeous genius. “It’s all the people I hang around with.” Let’s stop right here, shall we? Who has forced Vicki to sign that Bravo contract for the last decade? Who has sat on her chest and banged her dyed blonde head against the brown floor of her home and demanded that she confide the darkest moments of her life and her boyfriend’s life to the masses? Who here besides me thinks this woman is nothing but a total asshole?
The doctor, after being told that some people are accusing Brooks of faking cancer, looks puzzled and he tells them that according to the documents before him – the ones Brooks sent over – that it’s really clear the guy’s got cancer. Oh, but our guides over at The Andy Cohen Network don’t want us to let go of our suspicions so quickly! And how do we know that? Well, the only lines the doctor with the heavy accent speaks that they give us subtitles for are these: “Unless someone faked this, but this doesn’t lie.” Hmmm.
By the way, how does Brooks feel about being called a liar by all of Vicki’s friends? As he does the kind of interview that’s usually only allotted to a bonafide Real Housewife, he sits before a roaring fire in much the same way that I imagine Satan reclines during his off-time and tells us that the doubters piss him the fuck off – but hey, at least he bleeds maroon.
Away from potentially doctored medical charts and homeopaths treating cancer, Heather and Terry arrive in Minnesota where they will be hawking their new skincare line on Evine and Terry is all kinds of nervous. The thought of millions of people staring at him while he is on live television is daunting and I suppose that his adoring wife could calm his nerves, but she’s also nervous that the guy might freeze up once the camera is aimed squarely at his face. I’d suggest that we all place bets on just how big of a calamity Terry Dubrow could end up being, but I already have several pools going about how long it will take Brooks and Vicki to reunite after the Reunion when she will no longer be held accountable for anything and I’m reluctant to bet too much money at one time. (By the way, my bet is that it’ll take seven seconds for them to reunite because not a single part of me believes they actually broke up in the first place.)
During the rehearsal, Heather and Terry stand on a stark white stage and Heather nails the initial rehearsal while Terry stumbles over every single word including his own name. Heather’s a bit nervous for the nightmare that could occur during a live broadcast and Terry would like a cocktail or seven to unwind.
It might have been tense on that minimalistic soundstage where soon moisturizer will be sold, but it’s nothing compared to the thud I feel in the deepest pit of my stomach when I see that the next place we’re all going is to Tamra’s son’s new house. I have said it before and I will say it again and then I might even turn it into a song that I’ll perform for people I hate: Ryan scares the shit out of me. He is barely-contained misery personified with a temper that I’m certain I can see leaking out of his eyeballs. He looks like he is about to blow at any time and I have a genuine concern that there are young and impressionable children all around him, to say nothing of his newborn to whom he coos, “What’s your grandmother complaining about now?” I might not be Tamra’s biggest fan, but this is a woman who all but got her son this house and he should close his bearded mouth and focus his energy on not being the guy I’d cast to play a serial killer in the next Lifetime movie. I can also legitimately say that I have never been more terrified watching this show in my life as I was when Ryan mentioned that one of the job interviews he’s got lined up is with a gun manufacturer. Not only that – though such a revelation will surely keep me up for days – but Ryan’s fiancé lost her business, Ryan is unemployed, they have several children, a house they can’t pay for, and now they fight all the time. I kind of don’t blame Tamra for embracing religion anymore.
In a house that feels far less sinister, Meghan is cooking chicken teriyaki for Hayley and treading lightly and carefully into the waters of being what appears to be the primary caregiver for this child while at the same time having the least amount of a say in how to raise her. The whole thing strikes me as an uncomfortable dance, one I’m pretty sure will end with Meghan twirling alone somewhere while her horrible husband snidely asks her why she’s even bothering. As for Hayley, no she hasn’t thought much about college, but she thinks it might be very nice to move out. There does seem to be a possibility that Hayley will be going to beauty school and maybe she will eventually be the one to convince Meghan to pull that ridiculous headband off of her head and burn it in an effigy that I’m sure Ryan will help her light by using the kerosene he likes to keep in capsule form in his back pocket.
Back in the land of home shopping, Terry is still concerned with his poor rehearsal and Heather is consolatory and supportive. She says things like, “A poor rehearsal makes for a great performance!” and she mixes him a drink and marvels over the charcuterie in the hotel room. For those of us not raised in a wing of a Dubrow-owned family tower, a “charcuterie” is a fancy way of saying “a meat and cheese tray,” but I’d honestly listen to Heather say that word on a loop for nineteen days straight than hear Vicki bellow that it’s time to “whoop it up” ever again.
Speaking of the woman I can’t stand – well, one of them – we’re back at Vicki’s house where Tamra arrives and hugs Brooks as she walks through the door. Luckily cancer is not contagious so Tamra is okay, but the real reason she’s there isn’t to show affection. No, it seems that Brooks and Vicki invited her over in the hopes that she would look at some documentation from his doctors and finally tell the others to shut the fuck up and believe in a diagnosis they all bought into initially. Again, can we just take a second and mull over how revolting this entire scenario is? We’ve got Brooks confiding in Tamra – and they hate each other. We have Brooks saying that Tamra is Vicki’s closest friend even though they have often gone months without speaking. We have a man who might actually be sick almost pleading to be believed and yet we also have the possibility that the guy has been lying the entire time. All of it is sicker than even Twin Peaks used to be – and that show involved a little person spinning around in a padded red room and some fatherly incest.
Brooks tells Tamra that he just got another PET scan a few weeks ago and he wants to show her the results of the tests and Tamra sticks on Vicki’s glasses so she can get a good look. It seems that there are words jumbled together on the page without the use of spacing we see in typical language, but Brooks says that’s just because the form she’s reading is a dictation. She sits there and tries to understand the sheet of paper that’s been shoved before her and all the while Vicki stares at her with the kind of serious expression I’d guess one would have if your boyfriend were being accused of being the most horrible person on this or any other planet. (Since it’s just been revealed that there’s salt water on Mars, I suggest we send Brooks and Vicki to live there. Ryan can go too – but he will still need someone to foot his rent.)
According to Brooks, his masses have grown larger, the chemo hasn’t worked, and he wishes that the entire thing was a big planned hoax but it’s not. He’s putting this “proof” out there so Vicki can stop being put into a position where her friends bring concerns to light about the douchebag she’s in love with and it’s really all up to Tamra now, or so they claim. Now that Tamra’s seen that odd piece of dictation with no spacing, Vicki wants to know if she can go forth and tell everyone via a press conference or a quick game of telephone that the guy’s results prove that he’s definitely not lying, but Tamra’s not quite ready to take on that responsibility. No, she would like them to show the results to everybody so she doesn’t have to be a mouthpiece for two people she clearly still has reservations about, but Vicki is not willing to do such a thing and murmurs that she can’t even believe Brooks showed the document to Tamra, conveniently forgetting that the document was also shown on camera so to maintain that it should be in any way shrouded kind of feels like a very poorly made argument. The problem here is that Tamra would love to shut all the talk down by loudly proclaiming that Brooks is indeed sick and that he hasn’t even lied about his cholesterol level, but she can’t really do that because the paper she read was rife with medical jargon and she doesn’t really understand what she read and I think that many of us would be as perplexed as she is after perusing her closest friend/enemy’s disgusting boyfriend’s potentially doctored medical records.
“When I am weak, I want you to be my warrior. And when you’re weak, I will be your warrior. As God is my witness, they’re gonna have to come through me to get to you,” breathes Vicki to her best friend Tamra – and I think the sickest thing about any of this is that both of them sort of believe that the bullshit Vicki is spewing here is true.
After that nutty scene, who really cares about the fact that Terry might freeze on camera as he’s selling some skincare most of us will never buy? I will happily say that Heather looks amazing in her red sheath and it’s an outfit that should be seen, so it’s nice that Meghan is having a viewing party over at her house where they can all gather to watch their friends either bomb harder than anyone ever has or succeed wildly. I’m not sure that watching a loop of any kind of home shopping qualifies as a scintillating viewing experience, but I’d totally show up at Meghan’s house for the event because she has lettuce wraps over there and I go where the good snacks are.
(During the commercial interlude, we get to watch as Brooks takes forty pills that I’m sure Lenka The Grass Lady prescribed for him while Vicki gags adorably in the background and I pondered if the time will ever come when mandatory sterilization could be put into effect for people convicted of murder, rape, or willingly appeared on a reality show for more than a decade.)
Back in the television studio, Heather and Terry are getting started on live TV while Tamra, Shannon, Lizzie and Meghan are on Meghan’s couch watching the festivities. Terry calms down the moment he starts talking and he does a great job in spite of the fact that he’s as orange as an Oompa Loompa living in a pumpkin patch, but at least he doesn’t faint on that white set. And just as everything is going swimmingly and everybody at Meghan’s is having a grand old time, Terry mentions over the airwaves that one of the ingredients in the skincare line is the very same thing that Brooks is blasting into his allegedly ravaged immune system. At the mention of the word, Shannon points at the screen and Meghan and Tamra look stunned as Terry says its an agent to help delay aging. Lizzie – she who was relegated to a SOMETIMES YOU GET TO HANG WITH THE ACTUAL HOUSEWIVES! status – wants to know why what Terry said is getting such a huge reaction and Meghan tells her that it’s what Brooks is taking to cure his cancer and in the best line of the night (and maybe the season), Lizzie smiles at the camera and says, “Soooo, Heather and Terry’s product cures cancer!”
They’ll bring it all back to Brooks later, but for now the women on Meghan’s sofa are feeling a little silly so they call in to the home shopping network and immediately are put through to Heather and Terry. I’m sure not a moment of that was planned. After all, don’t we all have the number for home shopping networks plugged into our phones? Despite speaking with what I think was supposed to be a southern accent and calling herself “Cinnamon,” the Dubrows instantly know it’s Tamra calling. The entire interaction is kind of sweet but Heather wants to hang up on her friend so she can actually sell some of this shit so she and her family don’t wind up homeless.
Event television over, Lizzie’s time to hang with the actual Real Housewives ends like someone set an egg timer. In her absence, Tamra, Shannon, and Meghan discuss the latest text they received from Vicki, one that states Brooks still has cancer and she would like her friends to send some hope their way. That’s when Tamra tells the others that she went over to see Brooks and Vicki and that she was shown a PET scan that proves he’s got masses in his abdomen. Masses? Vicki never mentioned the masses before and Meghan thinks it’s bizarre that Vicki left that part out but here I have to say that Meghan sounds a little crazy. Vicki is not her friend so perhaps she wouldn’t reveal everything to her and maybe she didn’t even know he had a mass – or maybe there is no mass – but to act stunned because a woman who hates you left out some information you deem worthy seems weird.
Know what else is weird? That Meghan researched Newport Imaging, the place where Brooks said he got his scans done – and the place doesn’t do PET scans and hasn’t done them since 2008. The research Meghan’s done is blowing Shannon’s mind and Tamra might actually fully explode right there on Meghan’s couch and Shannon is also hurt that she wasn’t the one Vicki asked to fight her battles for her, though I think that was just some mild insecurity talking and she should thank them for keeping her out of it at this stage by sending them a basket of Edible Arrangements, but not with any of the fruit that’s been dipped in chocolate because that’s the good stuff and Vicki and Brooks kind of blow.
When it’s really considered why Vicki and Brooks didn’t show the report to Shannon, Tamra says something kind of interesting. “Maybe they showed me because I don’t know how to read medical reports,” she says – and it might be the most astute thing the woman has uttered in a decade. I might not like her, but I think that Tamra is trying really hard to give those two the benefit of the doubt and I think that Brooks (and maybe Vicki) are taking advantage of her and doing so while heralding true friendship and loyalty and it’s awful and sad and so sick that I’m shocked there wasn’t once a Bret Easton Ellis book that told this sordid little tale.
“Do you think he’s lying?” asks Tamra. “Do you think he made this report up?”
“Yes,” replies Meghan without even a single second of hesitation.
Tamra’s not sure what to believe. Brooks seemed so sincere, she tells the others, and Meghan insists that all she wants is truth and justice and I’d think that she was trying out for the newest incarnation of Super Friends with that line, but that’s making light of something that’s just not all that amusing anymore and really hasn’t been for a very long time.
“What do we do now?” asks Tamra.
I don’t have an answer for her and neither does anybody else but I’d definitely recommend that they all lock their doors tightly, light some candles to ward off evil spirits, keep a butcher knife on the bedside table, and pray for daylight and a world in which these women’s lives aren’t actually a horror movie come true.
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.