This episode is basically A Tale of Two Birthdays, except they are really kind of the same. “It was the worst of times, and it was also the worst of times.” Where the hell did they find this restaurant for Eddie’s birthday party? It’s called Barton G and it is in L.A. and it seems like the kind of restaurant that an 8-year-old would imagine for a school essay contest. When I was in third grade, I wrote an essay about building a city on the bottom of the ocean that turned water into oxygen for the people that live there. This is just as viable an idea, except someone actually took the time and money to make this ridiculous place.
This is a restaurant where the lobster Pop Tarts come in a vintage toaster, the steak comes with a fork that is too big for even the Rock to use, and the swordfish — you guessed it — comes with a katana blade sticking out of it, like it’s the wall of a Walking Dead superfan’s man cave. The thing is, these puns are all surface-level. Like, obviously the swordfish has a sword. That’s not even clever or original. What if it was swordfish in a bed of stone-crab meat and it was called Sword and the Stone? That would be amusing (but probably gross).
Barton G, which is also the name of the boy on your dorm-room floor who only listened to Squirrel Nut Zippers, is not trying that hard. It’s a place where idiots feel like they’re experimental. I mean, how is there any room at the table when every drink comes frothing with liquid nitrogen or with a Buddha shrine that is too big for most of the apartments in Chinatown? Everything is too big to even take cute Instagram #food content. I don’t get this place, it’s like Chuck E. Cheese for grown-ups, but you don’t even get the benefit of cashing your tickets in for a prize or anything.
Vicki’s birthday party is sad in a whole different way. First of all, it is a Ghosts of Housewives Past party with Jeana Keough, Gretchen Rossi, Slade Smiley, and that one who looks like Janice from The Muppets who never really did anything. That’s because none of the Housewives Present want to hang out with Vicki. Sure, Kelly, Lydia, and Peggy show up, but they don’t even do anything at the party. Gretchen Rossi, a Cockapoo with a handbag line, has more impact on this party than Lydia and Peggy. (At this point, Peggy isn’t even on the show. During any given episode, she talks more to Diko about how she is an English major who can’t speak English than she ever speaks to any of the women.)
I don’t want to get all political, but Vicki reminds me so much of Donald Trump. When she is at her party, all she cares about is how many people are there. She can only experience any event through the prism of herself. That’s why I almost choked on my Tate’s cookies when she said, “This is the only day where I can make it all about me.” Seriously? Every day is only about Vicki! Every second is. I love how the editors played it so she walked down the stairs expecting the crowd to erupt in applause when she entered the backyard, but they all just stood there drinking their Vickitinis from Vicki’s Fabulous Bar and eating Vicki’s Lamb Lollipops and Chicken Vicki Satay Vicki Strips.
Vicki throwing a roast for herself is actually the best idea because she gets to make everyone get up there and talk about her. Of course, Vicki doesn’t even know what a roast is and thinks people are just supposed to praise her kindness and insurance-sales acumen and then she gets to take a bow and everyone claps for her. It would be all about her, just as she likes it. She’s like one of those ghosts in Super Mario World that wants to attack you the moment you turn your attention away from her.
We also need to talk about the gift that Ryan and Steve got for Vicki and Briana. They got matching guns. I think they were pink? Or green? Or, like, opalized metal or some girl shit like that. Groan. I know this is Orange County and it’s as conservative as Mary’s undergarments, but do these people really need guns? These are the safest people in the country, guarded not only by their privilege and wealth, but the literal gates around their community. At least Ryan is in the military and Steve is an ex-cop. They’re trained. The last thing we need is Vicki showing up at a Bunco party with a ridiculous outfit and a concealed-carry permit.
The big revelation at the birthday party is that Ricky, a friend of Vicki and Tamra’s, tells everyone that he has seen Eddie, Tamra’s husband, making out with a man. I would quickly dismiss this as some fake rumor by a hanger-on, but he was in Tamra’s wedding party when she and Eddie got hitched, so this is actually a well-placed insider.
What are we supposed to do with this information? Ricky, who has every A&F Quarterly on a shelf in his powder room, says he didn’t say anything at the time because he thought Tamra knew and was cool with it. That may be the case. Also, we need a bit more context of how Ricky witnessed Eddie making out with a dude. Were they all at Burning Man high on molly? Was he wasted and someone made him do it during a game of Truth or Dare? Did he just want one walk on the wild side and decided it wasn’t for him? I mean, I’ve made out with girls (sometimes in public) and I’m gayer that Tom Daley’s Instagram DMs. Just because Ricky saw him making out doesn’t mean he’s gay. For one, I never believed the gay rumors about Eddie. Why would he be married to Tamra for all of these years and secretly be in the closet? He’s a public figure. His Grindr photos would have been on the Daily Mail long ago if he were really cruising for dick all over the place.
Oh, there is one more sad birthday party that I forgot all about: Shannon’s. Remember that year when David took her and the girls out to a sports bar for her birthday? This is worse than that. Know why? Because her daughters make her a cake. Who would make Shannon “My Story Line Is My Weight Struggle” Beador a cake for her birthday? They should have made some cauliflower puree, put it in a heart-shaped mold, stuck a candle in it, and called it a cupcake. That would have made her feel a whole lot better about her life.
Instead, she sits on the couch with David, who looks like an eel that suffocated in a plastic shopping bag, and wonders how they slid so far since their vow renewal the year before. Shannon questions why he did that when he hasn’t wanted anything to do with her afterward. That’s because David was just applying Band-Aid on top of Band-Aid to get the relationship to work. The reason they’re back where they were after David’s affair is that they’ve only treated the symptoms of their dysfunction, not the cause.
Still, she blames the stress of Vicki for her weight gain. Oh, Shannon. Poor, poor deluded Shannon. It’s not the stress of the allegations about your marriage that made you turn to food for comfort, it’s the marriage itself. Shannon can’t find any solace or support for her husband, so she’s getting it from Little Debbie. I don’t blame her. Little Debbie is one hell of a drug. If my boyfriend broke up with me, I would just paste 2,034 Cosmic Brownies around my midsection because they would be there soon enough.
The people I really feel bad for in all of this, however, are Shannon’s daughters. They’ve had to live through the ebbs and flows of their parents’ relationship for so many years now. Is it good to keep them so abreast of everything that’s going on? I feel like the back-and-forth is so dramatic and consistent that they’re like rocks on the beach, smoothed over to indifference. There they are at the dinner table, their hands making a circle as their father prays to God, literally, to heal their relationship, to make their mother thin, to make him able to tolerate her, to make them a stable family once again. Energy flows through those hands, little charges that go from neuron to neuron that no one can feel, cell rubbing onto foreign cell, light traveling through the crevices of their body and their sweat being absorbed into each other. They’re all one, like the same anemone living off a coral reef and there’s nothing they can do as sharks pick them off one by one.