The Real Housewives of Orange County
Glory, glory, hallelujah! This is the fifth episode of the season, which means the injunction imposed by the Eileen Davidson Accord of 2014 has been lifted, and we can now freely and honestly discuss the newest Real Housewife, Kelly Dodd. And get ready, I am trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored because Kelly Dodd, well, she’s kind of the worst. The worst thing about her is that her awfulness is derivative. There is nothing uniquely horrible about her like Vicki Gunvalson, Ramona Singer, or Kenya Moore. Just as she accuses everyone of being the same, so is she.
Kelly is one of those people who was not popular in high school and admits to being teased and bullied. Now, as revenge, she uses those same tactics on other women in her orbit to assert her dominance and authority. However, that aggression just barely covers the seething insecurity at her core. It’s sort of like trying to cover a hole you punched in the wall with a little bit of spackle. Kelly’s devotion to partying and drinking is part of this whole parcel. If she can be a “whoop-it-up girl,” as Vicki would call her, then no one can assault her coolness. No one can exclude her again. No one can make her the pariah who cried to herself under the bleachers at the football game. No, Kelly wants everyone to know that she came to party and she drinks to hide the pain.
Kelly is what I call a Red Flag Girl. Everyone seems to like her and think that she’s fun and, on the very surface of it, she is. But just one layer beneath, which you reach after about five drinks or so, all the red flags of craziness start to pop up, and you wonder how anyone could be fooled by someone with such obvious problems and self-delusions.
The problem with a drinking Kelly, as we see at Shannon’s party, is that the real Kelly comes out to the surface, and she is not fun. Kelly is the type of person who will insult you to your face and then laugh about it. If you get offended, she just says it’s a joke, and then insults you for not having a sense of humor. That’s exactly what she does to David Beador when she repeatedly calls him a pedophile. Maybe she thinks it’s a joke, but there is nothing funny or original about what she’s saying, much like when she insults Shannon by calling USC the University of Spoiled Children. Kelly’s inappropriateness is not funny because there is no insight or specificity to it. She just repeats back trite phrases she’s heard, like how she wants to get “MC Hammered.” That’s like someone onstage at the Laugh Factory reading off a Shoebox greeting card.
Kelly is petty and cruel in the same way that her feelings were hurt when other girls would team up against her. That is why, when she feels attacked by Shannon, she lashes out by calling her “ugly” and “stupid” rather than trying to fight with her about something of substance. What really makes Kelly the worst, however, is that her life is entirely unexamined, and she fancies herself a good person even though her behavior doesn’t really seem to bear that out. Shannon may be crazy, but at least she has a heart. The same can be said of Tamra and Meghan. But Kelly Dodd, she is a mercenary and she doesn’t care who gets hurt.
This episode is actually perfect for a discussion of Kelly because she really pulls back the curtain on the cockroach eating a dying ladybug of her personality at Shannon’s ’70s party. Oh, what a sad party it is. It seems like a lame theme night at a church youth group that a few people got really into, but the space was far too big and well-decorated for the limited interest. All of the women really do dress up nicely, with special props to Meghan and Tamra for their flower-children-inspired realness, which, honestly, is a bit more ’60s than ’70s. And, as so often happens in these matters, all of the husbands are given glittery shirts by their wives, which they gamely wear without any grumbles so they won’t have to fight in the car.
Still, the theme of the party isn’t necessarily that ’70s. It’s more like “Let’s Get Wasted Like We Did in Our Youth.” Are Jell-O shots ’70s? Is playing Quarters ’70s? Are doing beer bongs ’70s? If they are, that must mean I went to college in the ’70s, and I wasn’t even born until 1978, so I’m not quite sure how I achieved that bit of time travel. Am I a Looper? Maybe.
Shannon invites two of her friends to the party, Nina and Jaci (who needs at least one more consonant and would like to buy a vowel, Pat). Their purpose at the party seems to be to talk about how Kelly Dodd cheats on her husband. Now, I do not understand Kelly’s relationship with her husband, Michael. She makes it clear to everyone that she tried to divorce him; met and got engaged to another guy; but eventually got back together with Michael because it was easier for her and her daughter than marrying this other dude. That seems kind of crazy to me, but whatever. If that’s how she wants to live her life, who am I to tell her not to?
Kelly seems to think that Jaci and Nina (who behaves like her IUD is screwed in a little too tight or something) are there to set her up. You know what? I don’t think she’s entirely wrong. I think Shannon doesn’t like Kelly and knows that Kelly took Vicki’s side, so she wants to make sure some dirty shit comes up on-camera, but she doesn’t want to be the one to do it. I don’t like a Housewives conspiracy theory, but I can see how this would have gone down.
If Kelly wasn’t consuming alcohol like one of those animated scrubbing bubbles gobble up soap scum, she might have been able to rationally ask them what the heck was going on. Instead, she marches up to them and says, “I heard you were talking about me,” which is an invitation to fight, like if you walked up to anyone at a homosexual establishment and said, “Robyn sucks.” Then Kelly just starts calling Shannon “Mrs. Roper” repeatedly, then her jerk of a husband comes over and starts asking if Shannon’s outfit is even ’70s. Yes, Michael, that is the problem that we should address right now: whether or not the hostess dressed to the theme of her event. Then Kelly starts calling people ugly and stupid because she apparently never grew old enough to have the puberty talk in school like Shannon’s twins did.
While this happens, David Beador, a man whose adolescence was apparently marred by a deluge of wet dreams that he does not want to talk about with his children, decides that it’s the appropriate time to go after Vicki for her part in Brooks faking cancer. It is not. He calls Vicki the lowest of the low and says that she is a liar, which she disputes because, at least publicly, she still thinks that Brooks really had cancer.
What is Vicki’s answer to her confrontation with David? She goes out into the car and calls Brooks. What the heck is Brooks supposed to do? We all know he lied about cancer. Is he supposed to go around clearing Vicki’s name and telling everyone in America, one by one, that she didn’t know he was lying the whole time? What the hell is Brooks going to do? He owes Vicki nothing. That she thinks she can call him and he can fix this problem shows Vicki’s ultimate weakness: She refuses to take any culpability whatsoever for her own actions.
God, what a mess of a party! As Vicki rolled toward home, her heavy makeup still sticking to her iPhone screen as Brooks refused to call her back, Brianna was at home lying in bed getting the bed rest she needed. There was a tiny knock on the door and then it creaked open and her son Troy came in holding a small plastic plate with a donut on it. “Hey kiddo,” she said, swooping her hair out of her face and coming out from under the tide of sleep. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah,” he said, putting his tray on the bedspread and using his whole body to scale the bed. “I wanted to eat with mommy.” She smiled and sat up, the sweat from her sleep making her clothes stick uncomfortably. Troy took a bit of his donut, and then shoved it in his mother’s smiling face to share. Brianna didn’t really like it, but she couldn’t help but laugh; she couldn’t help feeling that warmth that he was transmitting without even knowing it, the kind that makes your heart do cartwheels and the back of your throat dry up like a sponge left on the back of the sink.
“Thanks Troy,” she said, chewing her bite and looking at him, looking past him out the window buttressed by the night. She chewed and swallowed, the sugary dough almost hurting her mouth a bit with its cloying taste. She wondered when her mother would come home, she wondered if she had eaten anything as sweet or felt this good in days. She doubted it, as Troy decided to cuddle by throwing his head down on her gut really hard, and she bit her lip so that he wouldn’t think that he could ever do anything to hurt her.