There’s something about the American West that has always inspired creative genius, from the words of Willa Cather and the long-running Gunsmoke to the unfortunate sequels starring the likes of Marty McFly and Fivel. Alright, alright, not all of it is genius. In fact, when the Real Tumbleweeds of Tombstone Pizza Ranch head off to Montana, it was less High Noon and more A Million Ways to Kill Yourself With Boredom in the West. This was certainly the tamest Housewives vacation in recent memory, right? And there were cowboys involved!
But because this is a Housewives trip, there are a lot of steps we have to take before they can even get on the plane. Yes, these things have become so ritualized and formulaic that they should take place at Stonehenge on the vernal equinox. Before we can go on the trip, we have to talk about the trip. Carole and Kristen do this while getting their Montanas waxed (for the rest of this recap, whenever you read the word “Montana,” imagine that it is a euphemism for the lady genitals; it’s gonna make this whole thing a lot more fun). Ramona and Aviva, a screeching raccoon trapped in your chimney, talk about it at the Aire baths in Tribeca, which makes me very sad. No, not because I had to see two perimenopausal women in their swimming costumes, but because this is a gorgeous-looking bathhouse that I wanted to visit, and now, well, it’s tainted. Ramona’s Pinot-scented sweat has seeped into the jets of the Jacuzzi, and whatever rabid pheromones that Aviva secretes have wormed their way into the cucumber water. I guess it’s back to the cruise-y steamroom at the Crunch on 54th Street for me.
The consensus among the Ramona, Sonja, Aviva cohort is that they don’t want to go to Montana (ha!) because there is nothing to do. And Shelly, the Real Housewives Travel Coordinator and General Mastermind, sits behind the camera with her giant headset on and says, “Of course there is nothing to do there. There’s nothing to do [dot dot dot] but fight!” and she let out a noise that some would describe as a chortle but sounded more like a drowning frog. I have to agree with Shelly: This vacation is set up for them to have nothing to do but drink and spar. It’s like that little training camp in The Hunger Games where the women have to assemble under the capital and show Andy Cohen and the other officials just what sort of fighting skills they have. No, Ramona, you are not Jennifer Lawrence, so just stop thinking that right now.
Now that we have talked about vacation, it is time to pack for vacation. But, as a tribe, the Real Housewives have developed some very strange traditions. One of them is that they can not pack alone. It angers their fickle god or something, or maybe they just need someone to marvel at how many rhinestoned shoes they can manage to slam into two rolley bags. That’s why Sonja is packing with Pickles, the last intern standing. (Dear Bravo: I would watch the hell out of a competition show hosted by Sonja called Last Intern Standing.)
Sonja tells Pickles that the most important thing she’s going to pack is her lingerie (which she mispronounces adorably as “linger-ee”). According to Sonja, it takes a very specific type of panty to set the mood for her entire day. These are what you wear with jeans and a T-shirt in the summer in Manhattan. These are what you wear under a sundress in East Hampton. “This is what I would wear for going to an amusement park in Saint Tropez,” she says, holding up a pink, lacy pair. “They’re very practical. Oh, and these are for a first date with a man who is over 45 and has at least two houses. These, see, without the crotch, these are for a first date with someone who has never taken Viagra. Oh, this is the pair you definitely need for an English country tea party when it’s not raining and you’re pretty sure there will be scones. I would totally wear these for playing poker on a yacht in Las Vegas, but I seem to have lost the matching bra. Oh, and you can’t get your yacht to Vegas anymore, it’s very sad. Things are so dry there now. No, not in my panties! In Vegas. Gosh, Pickles. Have you been listening to anything I say?”
Now that we have talked about and packed for the vacation, there is only one more step before the TSA pat-down: shopping for the trip. Since they’re all going to Montana (hehe), they need cowboy boots. Kristen and Ramona go to a store on Mulberry Street in Soho, which is on the same block as my three favorite lunch spots in all of Manhattan. God, these women are just ruining whole swaths of the city for me this week, aren’t they? I’m going to have to burn sage before my next chicken-parm sandwich.
This means that we have to talk about Aviva’s asthma. Aviva, a dingo with baby breath, does not have asthma (probably). What she does have is crazy, and she has it in abundance. The women are right; Aviva never wants to go on the trips with them. Why? Oh, who the hell knows? It’s probably a little bit of everything: her neuroses, her attachment to her husband, her need for control, her desire for attention, her fear that another body part is going to be lobbed off, the crippling realization she might get up in the middle of the night and stumble upon Ramona peeing in the bathroom in the dark. Or it could be nothing. Who knows?
But she constantly needs excuses. Oh, she’s picking up her kids at camp. Oh, she has another event to attend. Oh, she is afraid of flying. Oh, she has asthma. Now, I am not a doctor, but this just seems way too convenient to be true. Also, Aviva claims that the altitude and her allergy to horses would make her asthma worse. It’s funny that she didn’t mention this earlier this season when she was visiting a farm. But because she knows that no one will believe her, she gets a note from her doctor saying that she can’t go. When she presents the note to Kristen to prove her disability, she’s shocked that Kristen thinks she’s lying.
Here’s the thing, Kristen doesn’t believe her because of the note. If someone has to go to the trouble of getting the note, they’re thinking that people aren’t going to believe them and they’re going to have to prove it, which means, deep down inside somewhere, the person with that note knows they’re lying. I loved it when Kristen said, “I see this note, but I still don’t believe you for some reason.” It’s like if one of your employees says he's in the hospital and emails you a picture of himself in the hospital. You believe him (there is evidence), but that he even sent that picture shows you that there is something about this that is somehow askew.
It doesn’t help Aviva’s case that Aviva, a boardwalk seagull that steals your pizza off the plate, then goes irrationally off the handle. She gets out her medication and throws it at Kristen. Then she says, “Well, if I didn’t have asthma, then I couldn’t take asthma medication, right?” She puffs her inhaler and wants us to all marvel at the fact that her face didn’t instantly melt off her skull like she was one of the Nazi soldiers Raiders of the Lost Arc. Now, I hate to break it to you, but I do not have ADHD, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t taken an Adderall or two in my day. Same goes for snorting – I mean, ingesting – a recreational Oxycontin when I didn’t have any pain at all. And I am no stranger to Cialis, but it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with my Montana (hey, wait!). So, yeah, that argument doesn’t make any sense at all.
Does Aviva, a French bulldog that can’t stop licking her Montana, realize that when she bellows and snarls like this, it only makes her seem crazier and more like a liar? No, she does not. If she doesn’t want to go on the trip, then she needs to just level about the reasons that she doesn’t want to go. It’s not the illness the women are bristling at, but Aviva’s continued lack of authenticity. She’s about as real as a three-dollar bill. (Wait, that’s not right …) Instead, she just hollers at Kristen about how “rude” it is that she doesn’t believe her. She then calls Kristen a bitch and continues shouting in the middle of a public place. Even her claims of misbehavior are hollow.
So, like we all knew she wouldn’t, Aviva, a pigeon preening in a filmy puddle, doesn’t go on the trip. To make it better, she has a little tête-à-tête with Reid, her enabler-in-chief, where he tells her it would be reckless to go on this trip. Is it just me, or is Reid looking a little bit like Emperor Palpatine these days? Maybe it’s the yellow wallpaper in Aviva’s house that makes it look like C-3PO got put through a juice press and electrified. Who knows.
Aviva, a bison skin that has been left out in the rain, doesn’t go to Montana (giggle), but the rest of the women do. And what? What else is there to say, really? They all acted incredibly predictably. Ramona drank too much and bitched about the accommodations. Sonja flirted with the cowboys and ended up in the Beaver Suite. Everyone rode horses and corralled some cows.
Kristen took everyone to this awful restaurant with a glass wall that faced a cattle-roping ring. It was like the rodeo equivalent of Medieval Times. Ramona said she couldn’t eat so close to manure, but then she remembered those foul stenches that waft up from the subway trenches in the summer, and she didn’t care as much. At dinner, Countess Crackerjacks got mad that Sonja’s facialist talked shit about her, but no one cares. No one cares at all, really. God, this trip was off to a boring start.
Crackerjacks headed back to her lodge after dinner. She took off her giant earrings, turquoise targets that had been pulling on her lobes for hours, and headed out on the balcony. In the darkness she could barely make out anything in the distance. It was all just muddled shapes and overlapping shadows. She couldn’t even see the iron landscape silhouettes that decorate the balustrade. It was a little chilly and she rubbed her arms, thinking about Aviva back home, who so adroitly, but painfully, avoided being out here with nothing to do but squabble and drink. But that’s what they wanted, right? That was their assignment, their obligation. Crackerjacks was here, and she couldn’t even think about it. All she could think about was the vastness stretching out in front of her. Yes, there might have been some trees and fences, rocks and brooks, but there was nothing pushing back against that darkness. There was no force to counteract the tininess of who she was. Sartre was wrong, she thought, as she turned to go inside. Hell isn’t being trapped with other people. Hell is being trapped with yourself.