It’s hard sometimes to figure out who you can make yourself root for, isn’t it? I mean, on the one hand, you’ve got someone who seems to have a rather tenuous relationship with the truth. There are scores of examples throughout the years that illustrate (at best) some colorful evasiveness and (at worst) some boldly bellowed lies. How can you feel comfortable putting your trust into a person so many people emphatically don’t trust? On the other side, though, stands a raving lunatic. The word “bombastic” comes to mind whenever this face graces the television screen. Every single time this person speaks, rage bursts out along with some spittle. Worse than having to wipe your cheek from all that airborne saliva is attempting to decipher what it is that’s even being said since apparently about 90% of this individual’s statements and proclamations are chronically misinterpreted. Don’t be silly! you’ll be told. Nobody was being insulted! Of course that thing that was said, the one that caused entire populations to cower in both fear and disgust, was purely said in jest! Do you not comprehend sarcasm? And really, how could anyone possibly think this person is inciting violence with words? This person is an excellent parent! Does that little factoid not cancel out all the other flaming despicableness?
I know you all think I’m talking about Clinton and Trump since it’s debate night and our nation is currently careening toward an epic conflagration of political and social misery, but my statements are in fact about our Orange County Housewives – and I fully expect one of them to be on the ballot by 2024 because I’ve come to believe anything is possible in what I’m certain has got to be a Bizarro World we’ve all stumbled into by refusing to turn away from gluten. Sure, Kelly Dodd and Donald Trump have a few things in common. They both have terrible hair they rock with commitment and they’ve both allegedly been millionaires for years and years and years. They’re also both fond of blasting words out of their mouths while fueled by some fizzy concoction of hubris, fury, and temporary self-righteousness and they both grin while they utter some of the most awful things a human being has ever uttered while fully aware cameras are pointed straight at their faces. They both apologize after the fact – or they sometimes do – and they often maintain that of course they didn’t mean what they said. No, not all people from Mexico trying to come into America are rapists! And Tamra Judge is totally not a dumb fuck! God, it’s so annoying when people who are listening to you expect you to commit to the words barreling out of your mouth, huh?
As for the liar I was describing, well, that’s Ms. Vicki Gunvalson, a hellacious specimen who will never have any idea just how hellacious she actually is because she was born with an allergy to self-awareness the way I was born with an allergy to the entire feline species. This woman lies constantly, including to herself. Want some proof? Go back and watch the dinner scene from last week when Vicki announced to her children just how low-maintenance of a person she is and how she rarely causes any strife in the lives of those she’s closest to. Then feel free to go ahead and punch your TV. (You can watch anything you want on your phone now anyway.) Like Hillary Clinton, Vicki is someone many people just see as patently dishonest. While I’m quite sure Clinton never spun elaborate tales about administering late night IVs just to snag herself a tuna casserole, there’s no denying she’s got her share of detractors and there must be some good reasons for that sweeping mistrust. Still, I’m with her (Hillary, not Vicki) and it all comes down to the fact that I prefer having a sane President in the White House. And if you’re someone who’s annoyed that I’m bringing political commentary into a recap I must write on the same night as the first televised debate, allow me to suggest that you read the recap on Entertainment Weekly’s site instead. It’s funny – and the writer rarely compares reality show stars to Presidential candidates, one of whom was indeed once a reality show star. You can come back and read my stuff when it’s not an election year. No hard feelings.
At any rate, I guess what it comes down to is that I can’t stand Vicki and I legitimately question Kelly’s sanity, but there’s still an excellent chance that neither is as stupendously terrible as Shannon’s mother-in-law who made her sparkling debut last week. Okay, full disclosure: I had a cold last Monday and I took some medicine that made my already weighted head feel even headier and part of me was therefore convinced that I must have hallucinated this Donna person because there’s no way in the broiling bowels of the underworld that such a hideous creature exists, right? Wrong! Donna’s real! She’s a real lady who really walked into an event for her real grandchildren and really sought out Kelly and Tamra and really then told them that Shannon is basically an asshole. Why is Donna not fucking running as an Independent this year?
As a fairly normal person who feels queasy watching a woman who is trying desperately to rebuild a marriage hear that her monster of a mother-in-law believes that she was the singular cause of her husband’s past infidelity, I can only hope Donna’s presence is temporary. I can only hope her horribleness flashed across the airwaves like a shooting star that then splintered away to absolute nothingness in the vast black sky, the one that so beautifully matches her blackened soul. Here’s hoping Donna’s never seen or heard from again – and here’s also hoping she grabs Vicki by her low-maintenance throat and drags her far far away to a place where whoo-hooing is just a terrible memory that intensive therapy can maybe allow us to eventually forget. Unfortunately, I am very aware some fantasies never come true, some prayers never get answered, and that basically means Vicki is back this week to continue her Apology Tour, the one that includes absolutely no apologies whatsoever and is sponsored by a cancer charity and some hefty projected blame inflicted upon those who are foolish enough to take it.
Tonight’s episode begins in the simmering afterglow of the meanest mother-in-law in all of the land attempting to ruin Shannon’s life on the very week she needs to pack up an entire mansion. I’m quite certain Donna would criticize Shannon’s bubble-wrapping technique, but at least there’s an upside we can focus on amidst all this negativity. At this point, most of the once-fractured relationships amongst our Housewives have been sutured together. So what if that suturing was done with scotch tape and some spit? Meghan and Tamra have embraced and declared their affection for one another while Kelly and Shannon finally got through an entire evening without Kelly declaring Shannon a cunt. We must focus on the positives, people! Sure, Shannon still thinks Vicki is a fucking liar, but so does everyone else with a pulse and a working set of corneas.
We’ll get to Vicki – who you know is thanking her Lord daily for crashing in the desert because it got her some sympathy from the very women she deceived about a minor thing like cancer – in a moment, but first it’s time to check out Shannon’s rental home. Holy fuck, the place is huge, the views glorious, but Shannon is concerned the skylights are not optimal for her feng shui needs. There is a bright side, though. She and her family will not be homeless and she’s in close enough of a proximity to Kelly’s seven bars that she can get herself hammered at any time of the day or night. And should David’s mother continue to weave voodoo dolls that look like Shannon out of cornhusks and her own tears to punish the woman who stole her son over a decade ago, Shannon might very well need that shot of tequila.
Having finally recovered from not being reckless as she drove her friends over sand dunes at three hundred miles per hour, Tamra is enjoying some sushi with her husband. Eddie wants his wife to release all the stress she’s carting around and suggests sex and sake as a way to unwind, but Tamra knows her upcoming spa day with Kelly, Vicki, and Heather will be just the thing to settle her nerves and calm her mind. I’m imagining this optimistic proclamation is serving as foreshadowing because if that day doesn’t end with someone drowning Vicki in a vat of mud, I’m gonna go ahead and consider the entire outing a gigantic failure.
Over at Kelly’s house, she brings a beer to her husband who is working in the garage. His work is not up to her standards and she’s tired of how he half-asses his tasks, but she’s far more tired of the guy in general. She filed for divorce once before because of Michael’s suffocating bouts of control over her and that separation lasted for about two and a half years before they decided to stay together for reasons that are frankly difficult to understand. I’m imagining much of the reason Kelly came back to this man she so clearly resents is so her daughter can have a united family. As a child of divorce myself, I can say with conviction there is something way worse than living without one of your parents on a daily basis, and that’s living with two parents who can’t fucking stand one another. The way Kelly and Michael speak and relate as a couple is uncomfortable to watch. I cannot for the life of me figure out why either of them believed bringing cameras into the equation would aid their decibel-blasting discord in the least, but then again, I’ve never used the words “Kelly” and “sanity” in the same sentence unless I’m saying something unbelievably cruel (and unbelievably correct) about her, so it’s probably wise that I not try to make sense out of this senseless situation.
Speaking of idiots, we travel next to Vicki’s insurance firm where she and her son are meeting with some people to start a charity/insurance initiative that is actually called “Kill All Cancer.” Now listen, I think there’s nothing on this planet that needs to be destroyed more that cancer. It’s an insidious disease that impacts us all in some terrible and life-shifting way, but can anyone seriously look at Vicki fucking Gunvalson and think, “Yes! She’s the one who should be involved in our cancer charity!” According to this confirmed liar, she was mistakenly blamed for being a part of Brooks’ fake cancer scam, but she swears she did nothing wrong and she will start this charity, dammit, and who cares if her involvement causes others to go running for the hills and straight to a different cancer charity, one that’s maybe run by a woman who does not mimic the crucifixion every three months or so? By no means am I maintaining that people with cancer should not be entitled to excellent insurance, but these partners she’s meeting with (who want Vicki to star in the commercials for this plan) seriously need to have their noggins examined – and fast. At least the director of the commercial wants to get to the bottom of Vicki’s involvement with Brook’s cancer fraud before they start working together, but Vicki sticks to her story of innocence and all but absolves both herself and Brooks from any kind of blame. She continues to insist that she’s positive Brooks was once ravaged by a terrible disease, even as her own son announces that the only person on the planet who still believes the guy is his mother. Vicki will not be dissuaded, though. “Let’s do this,” she announces in her nasally voice. “Let’s make a difference.”
Meghan, the woman who was paramount in bringing Brooks’ lies to light, has other things on her mind these days besides outing faux illnesses. She’s newly pregnant and her husband has recently discovered a newfound passion. No, that passion is not for his wife – he still can’t stand her – but he has developed a love of candles and now he and Meghan are opening a candle store so both of them can spend even more time away from home! Looks like Kelly and Meghan have some things in common when it comes to their spouses. While Meghan smells Jimmy’s latest wax creation, Kelly is at her house where she’s talking to her mother about the problems in her marriage. Her mother apparently stayed with her own husband for the sake of the children, but it’s not necessarily a choice she wants for her daughter. Seems Kelly’s nightmare of a husband was fond of threatening her during their separation, especially about stripping her of full custody. Even now, Kelly is terrified her daughter will choose to live with Michael should they actually divorce and she looks at Tamra’s loss of custody as a horrific cautionary tale. I don’t like Kelly and I do not believe her personal issues should color all of her human interactions the way they seem to, but I also can’t deny that I feel for her. Her husband appears vicious; I can understand just how vivid her fears are.
What I can’t really understand is Shannon’s fears about movers touching her stuff. Yeah, nobody loves the idea of strangers riffling through your things, but this woman’s got a humongous home to pack up and there’s a very good chance she’s going to lose her mind before she even gets to the craft room. Besides, leaving a home without electromagnetic waves is really hard for her. There were some wonderful times in that house, but there were also some devastating times, and it’s time now for the united family to move on and move away and start fresh in a home with an address Shannon should never ever share with her mother-in-law, who will absolutely stop by late one evening with a flaming bag filled with dogshit that she will drop on the doorstep, ring the bell, and run like the fucking wind while giggling uncontrollably.
And now it’s time to get to the spa day that seems more like a horrible punishment than an afternoon of relaxation. It’s funny how such a lovely event can be so completely compromised because of the participants involved, don’t you think? Tamra arrives first and Vicki meets her soon after. Once she finds out Tamra will be drinking that afternoon, Vicki high-fives her because history has proven that Tamra likes Vicki way more when she’s wasted and can’t see straight. Vicki really wants everybody to get a quick lobotomy before their seaweed wraps so nobody brings up the disgraceful sins of her past, but there’s no time for that because they all need to wade into a mud bath first. While they rub sediment all over themselves, Tamra makes sure to announce what went down when they met Shannon’s mother-in-law and Vicki nods her head sagely and explains that Donna doesn’t like Shannon and really wishes her son had stayed with his mistress. “He was happier,” Vicki explains, and then she goes on to almost gloat, “It was a long time. It was almost a year.” Honestly? The joy in Vicki’s voice as she explains Shannon’s worst living nightmare is truly repulsive to watch. It’s maybe the worst thing I’ve seen on television in a really long time – but remember; I haven’t seen the debate yet. God bless my DVR.
Also: nothing besides reciting psalms while doing squats in Lucite heels makes Tamra happier than gossiping about her so-called friends and their deepest, darkest secrets and fears. I think if you do something terrible in life, you should be punished by having Tamra Judge become your new best friend.
Over at the fertility clinic, Meghan and Jim (he’s there!) listen to the heartbeat of their baby, but then they find out Meghan is not carrying twins. She feels a great sense of loss of the other embryo and Jim comforts her sweetly. It’s perhaps the greatest sentiment the guy’s ever shown and I’m actually relieved to report that it can probably be confirmed that the man’s got a soul.
At her new house, Shannon is surrounded by piles of boxes and heaps of stress. Still, she goes outside to her new gorgeous bluff of a backyard and takes a selfie she then sends to Tamra – you know, the woman who is spouting shit about her and her marriage at this very second. Back at the spa, the ladies are ready to get some massages and they are instructed to head into the massage huts in pairs. Vicki and Kelly head into one hut together – which means I’d rather be literally anywhere in the galaxy than inside that hut – and Vicki asks Kelly about her marriage and congratulates her for her recent ten year anniversary to the man Kelly has explicitly told her over and over she resents far more than she loves. So how is it going? Well, in ten years, Michael has never once given Kelly an anniversary gift. Making matters worse (which seems almost impossible), Kelly bought herself a purse and Michael decided another man must have purchased it for her. As a masseuse rubs her shoulders, Kelly begins to weep quietly as the woman she anointed her life coach explains that she needs to try to make this broken marriage work because a woman should always stay in a decaying relationship with a man who loathes her rather than ever have to face the indignity of ordering in take-out for one. That’s about the time Kelly informs Vicki that just last night, while her daughter had a friend over, Michael screamed that Kelly needed to shut up. Kelly knows this cycle she’s in is a horrible one and she knows her daughter may very well see this behavior as the kind she should accept one day from a man. That possibility is torturous for Kelly, but she’s still not sure she should leave – and her life coach implores her to fight to stay a wife to a horrible human specimen of a man. Watching this exchange is like watching the blind leading the blind, the idiot leading the moron, the psychotic leading the sociopathic. I could go on, but frankly, it’s too easy to make these jokes and it’s also too sad. On top of the rest of this shit mountain that is her existence, Kelly really needs to make some friends who aren’t fucking imbeciles.
In the hut across the way, Tamra and Heather can hear Kelly crying as she regales Vicki with her latest tale of marital strife. “I don’t think Kelly’s very happy in her marriage,” states Tamra. See, now that they’re all finished discussing the misery that is Shannon’s life, Tamra needs someone else to talk about and Kelly’s making it nice and easy for her by choking back sobs in the next hut over. Tamra tells Heather that Kelly’s husband was diagnosed with a narcissist disorder and he threatened to take away their daughter. Meanwhile, back in the hut that is Crazy Land, Vicki again all but pleads with Kelly to stay with her verbally abusive husband because, take it from her: sleeping alone is just no fun. Okay, can someone at Bravo finally call an audible and drag Vicki Gunvalson off this show and plop her in a fucking asylum? The woman is clinically batshit and her advice is downright dangerous. Who do I call? Human Resources? Legal? Anyone have Andy Cohen’s direct extension?
Once the massages and part one of Kelly’s emotional breakdown is complete, the ladies convene over lunch and drinks and Kelly once again bursts into tears about the hideousness that is her marriage. Tamra attempts to relate. She too used to be married to a verbally-violent douchebag so she can understand some of Kelly’s pain (not enough not to talk about her behind her back, of course, but empathy is empathy) and, as Kelly reveals even more of her pain and that even her mother recommends divorce, Vicki – that fucking moron Kelly elected as her life coach – continues to shake her head in protest because she will go to her grave believing that it’s better to be emotionally mauled than be alone.
It’s time to impeach Vicki as life coach now, right? Don’t worry, she still has a wonderful future in front of her and I can see it now: Vicki Gunvalson for President, you guys! She’s clearly the person most qualified to rule the underworld. And don’t worry – Brooks will be there to spoon her until the wee hours so she will never have to sleep alone ever again.
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