The Real Housewives of Orange County
Here at the Real Housewives Institute, we have seen plenty of disasters: Teresa Giudice flipping a table, Ramona Singer walking in a fashion show, Taylor Armstrong attempting to eat cotton candy, Danielle Staub. But never have we witnessed an actual physical disaster. Sure, there have been divorces, deaths, and suicides, but those all occurred when the red cyclops eye of the camera was blinkered closed, letting the women live their normal lives for a while. This happens on camera and, honestly, it is a bit underwhelming.
Of course, I’m talking about the accident at Glamis Dunes, the sort of place your trashy friend from Sunday school would take you when you were 13. Tamra invited everyone out to sit around in trailers, drink Coronas in the sun, and then drive a dune buggy off the top of the dune so that their chariot tips over and two of them are medevaced to the hospital in Palm Springs three hours away. You know, just another birthday celebration.
Tamra didn’t do this on purpose, but I don’t know, it kind of seemed inevitable, right? I have never ridden a dune buggy or an ATV in my life, so I don’t exactly know how these things work, but they seem really dangerous, don’t they? It seems, given how the Housewives are a little bit allergic to responsibility and acting accordingly, that putting them in charge of driving such a vehicle would inevitably lead to disaster. It’s like you shouldn’t operate heavy machinery under the influence of certain medications or the blinding narcissism that it takes to pursue a career in the reality arts.
The footage itself is pretty darn scary, with the cameras inside the car showing the sand flying everywhere, Kelly Dodd losing her helmet, and Vicki Gunvalson flying through the air in a way that we usually only see after she spends the better part of the afternoon at Andale’s, her favorite bar in Puerto Vallarta. Their injuries are obviously real, but didn’t it seem a little bit like they were playing it all up? The dune buggy doesn’t look “destroyed,” like Tamra’s mother described it. It looks perfectly intact. Obviously, Tamra should have been pretty dinged up, but she looks fine in the next episode. Vicki on the other hand … well, you know Vicki.
I’m sure it was awfully frightening and if such a thing were to happen to me, I would never get in a dune buggy ever again. (I would say that I would never get in a dune buggy ever, but I did ride a camel even after witnessing what happened to Countess Crackerjacks in Morocco, so who knows?) But doesn’t it seem like they couldn’t have been that hurt? Vicki is, as Meghan describes, very dramatic. She’s the type of person who would wake up with a belly ache and call out of school because she thinks that she’s dying of dysentery. She’s the kind of person who “rolls her ankle” on a hike and then limps around for three weeks so you’ll ask what is wrong. She’s the type of person who is never just nauseous; she is always “projectile vomiting.”
After the accident, Vicki seems like she’s suffering more from a chronic case of having the shit scared out of her than actual whiplash. I would go so far as to say that Vicki might even secretly hope that she is horrendously injured so that she can be a martyr for the better part of a year while she goes through physical therapy. It’s like Munchausen syndrome, but when you’re actually hurt and fluffing it up for the camera so it looks bigger, badder, and worse.
Leading up to the accident, the trip is already a bit of a disaster because of the Incredibly Puking Kelly Dodd. What the hell is that about? If you’re going on an RV with a bunch of women, wouldn’t you warn them about your carsickness? And if you were feeling ill, wouldn’t you get a garbage bag or some other container so that, in case you had to spew, you could spew in that cup, to quote Wayne and Garth? Instead, Kelly Dodd, a pair of crotchless panties dangling from an electrical wire, just sits there. When she has to yack, she acts like she’s going to do it on the other women before running off for the bathroom.
But for me, the highlight of the entire episode is Heather Dubrow’s son, Nicky. Specifically when Vicki is running out into the dunes in the middle of the night for no obvious reason and Nicky says, “Is she drunk?” Maybe Heather told young Nicky to expect this sort of behavior after the women had been imbibing and he didn’t quite understand how alcohol could affect a woman with her own business and an AARP card. When Heather replies that she is indeed not drunk, Nicky says, “She’s not?” as if he couldn’t possibly believe that this is not what a drunk person looks like. His next question, the most valid of all, is, “Is she always like that?” It seems like Nicky can’t believe that his mother would voluntarily spend so much time with a person who would act like this while sober. Also, if this is just normal behavior and not the drunken shenanigans that he was warned of, how much worse must it get when she’s navel-deep in margaritas?
I guess we should talk briefly about Shannon and Meghan, who bow out of the Glamis Dunes trip because the sand might bother Shannon’s lungs and the dune buggy might knock the bun right out of Meghan’s over-prepped oven. Shannon is planning to move her entire house in three weeks, but considering she sold Beador Manor for $9 million (including all the furnishings), what exactly does she need to pack? It’s just clothes. Then again, we have seen Shannon pack for a weekend away and it entails more activity than a herd of ants carrying a crushed fig back to their mound to devour it piece by piece.
Which brings us to the greatness of Shannon talking to her realtor about what she will need in her temporary housing. “Oh, I don’t require that much. I just need a four-bedroom house, hardwood floors, a pool, three washing machines, at least two dishwashers, a master bathroom with a neti pot stand, my name engraved on at least three visible surfaces, an acupuncture haven, two Pilates rigs, and a garage big enough to house my three children, because all of my clothes will take up the bedrooms. Let me know when you find that, okay? Thanks.”
I feel saddest for Meghan, however, whose little unborn baby will never know the love of two parents. Meghan’s husband, Jim, could not be more disinterested in her pregnancy or the birth of the baby, and I don’t know if this is because he doesn’t want the kid and doesn’t love his wife or if he is just generally affectless. Does Jim get excited for anything? Winning baseball games? Chewing tobacco? Shooting a hole-in-one? Getting an extra pickle with his Reuben? Anything? We have never even once seen him crack a smile. He’s like a gargoyle that you know owns at least one really tacky sports car.
The worst is when Meghan says that she needs her husband there both physically and emotionally, and that she doesn’t want to raise the baby alone. If that is the case, then she should give this miracle frozen-sperm baby to her best gays who can’t conceive naturally, because it is absolutely clear that Jimmy does not want any part of this baby. He’ll support it financially and buy it presents, but this is Meghan’s baby and he is giving it to her like a gift or a begrudged apology.
The real kicker, though, is when Kelly and Heather call Meghan and tell her that Vicki is alone in the hospital about 45 minutes away. Meghan is all like, “That sucks. Well, gotta go!” She knows that Heather wants her to go visit Vicki in the hospital, but she doesn’t take the bait. That’s pretty damn cold. I know Vicki isn’t her friend, but being in the hospital is the worst, no matter if your injuries are legit or exaggerated. Vicki needs someone to fetch her ice chips, interpret what the doctors say while she’s on pain medication, and remind her that she is the prettiest most special person in the whole world. Vicki needs people around her at all times for that last one, so it should be no different when she’s in the hospital.
But maybe that is what both of them need. Meghan just needs to show up to the hospital with an Us Weekly and some grocery-store flowers and see Vicki lying there in her neck brace, groggy on morphine and listless in her solitude. Vicki would see Meghan, standing there, slightly awkward with her flowers and magazine, not quite sure how to help but doing it anyway, tucking the blankets into the bed and hectoring the nurses about her insurance coverage. That’s what each of them need: to see the other vulnerable and to be willing to work through it.
That’s how you build a friendship, by being there for each other, by helping each other in times of need, by telling someone to finish their Jell-O and then waiting until they’re asleep and sneaking the last few spoonfuls yourself. That is how bonds are forged, not in sunshine and carafes of rosé, but the blips of ventilators all around you as the desert sun streaks through the blinds, casting furrowed shadows across a hospital gown, as two people sleep fitfully, side by side, counting the moments until they can both go home and be utterly alone.