Real Housewives of Orange County Premiere Recap: Ropes and Dopes

The Real Housewives of Orange County

The Next Chapter
Season 13 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Bravo

How great is it to be back in the corrosive, never-ending sunshine of Orange County, reunited with the whole gang? Last season was a deadly slog, with Tamra and Shannon at Vicki and Kelly’s throats, Meghan King Edmonds, PI checked out on child-care duty, and that other lady with the bad English and worse hair doing something or other in the background. This year seems like it’s going to be better. All of the women seem to have smaller houses and bigger faces. Well, except Tamra, who has a bigger house and maybe a smaller head, but she never wants to be the same as everyone else.

This first episode was a bit of a catchup with what everyone has going on. Tamra and Eddie are moving into a new house that is the quintessence of the HGTV idea of bland luxury, right down to the granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and pasta faucet over the sink. However the house isn’t done and they’re moving in anyway. Tamra says that this is because Eddie needs to have surgery so she doesn’t want to stress him out with a move after surgery. That makes sense, but the house is at least a month from completion. Won’t he be pretty well healed after 30 days? Instead the answer is to move a convalescent into a house with no kitchen? Who is going to warm up chicken soup brought from the store or keep cold all of Vicki’s sympathy juices and casseroles?

Victoria Denise Gunvalson (her middle name may not be Denise, but I feel like it should be) is doing the same old Vicki G thing in her big McMansion in Coto de Caza and shacking up with Steve Lodge. He’s spending almost all of his time at her house, but she’s mad that he hasn’t changed his address to hers. What she’s really mad about is that he is living with her in sin and has yet to become the third Mr. Gunvalson. “When are you going to tell people you’re living with Vicki Gunvalson?” she asks Steve in a totally inappropriate third person. “Because Vicki Gunvalson does not like to live alone.” Oh, stay pathological until the end, Victoria.

Both Kelly and Shannon have gotten divorced since the end of last season. Kelly, who I think has been divorced in her mind for the better part of a decade, seems to be moving on well without the storm cloud that is her ex-husband Michael hovering around her head all the time. She’s dating up a storm but pretending like she’s not doing anything at all. She says she’s not having sex though, “except for the milkman.” Now, if it were anyone else I would believe that they were joking about that, but not Kelly Dodd. Kelly Dodd is bonkers enough to not only have a milkman but also to have slept with him on a Tuesday afternoon because The Young and the Restless was preempted for some stupid Senate confirmation hearing.

Kelly sold her beach house for $5 million and is living in a little townhouse that is only two bedrooms, and she says she loves her little bachelorette pad. I don’t doubt that to be true. If you install a karaoke machine and have the milkman bring over bottles of vodka every week Kelly would never leave that damn house, let me tell you.

Shannon also has a sad new house, but she’s not taking it nearly as well. Shannon sees everything that has happened to her as a diminishment because she put so much of her identity into being David’s wife and her daughter’s mother. She says she hasn’t taken her wedding ring off because it is a reminder that she had those three girls. Um, aren’t the corporeal form of those three daughters living in her house and cracking their iPhone screens on the daily enough of a reminder that she has kids?

Taking off her wedding ring was really a perfect analogy for the end of Shannon’s marriage in general. She wasn’t ready to do it until someone else forced her. Then she got really excited about it and put her back into it. Then it started to hurt and she couldn’t bear the pain anymore and wanted to stop. Then, finally, she got herself to do it, pulling and scraping herself. Finally there was some nervous relief, but really just an intense longing that would never abate. Is it awful that I laughed at the entire scene? It is, isn’t it? I laughed really freaking hard.

Oh, there is a new lady too. Her name is Emily and she is a former friend of Tamra’s who Tamra stopped speaking to because she was hanging out with Tamra’s gay ex-friend Ricky. Do we know what happened with Ricky? Is it just that he went around telling everyone that Eddie made out with a guy, or was there some kind of break between them, so he took revenge by saying that Eddie is fruitier than a bag of Skittles left to melt in the back seat of a minivan? How come we’ve never really gotten the Ricky story? I want the Ricky story.

Well, now Emily is back. While we can’t judge her for another four episodes due to the binding constraints of the Eileen Davidson Accord, there was something that struck me as odd. She says, “I’ve been going to therapy and I reached out to Tamra because I was trying to put my relationships back together.” Oh, that’s why she reached out to Tamra? It has nothing to do with this here reality show that we’re currently watching her lose her children on? It honestly has nothing to do with that? Ok, sure.

The only major event of the episode was that Vicki, Kelly, Tamra, and Shannon all went on a ropes course together. Of course this was Kelly Dodd’s idea because who else would think of something totally awful and cheesy and somehow end up making it a little bit fun? Vicki, naturally, provided most of the laughs. She fell over trying to put on her harness for the rope climbing and the editors delivered us a delicious montage of Vicki falling over on vacations across the world and even in her backyard. Would Vicki be even a little bit likeable if she weren’t as physically stable as a Jenga tower made out of pieces of lasagna? I think not.

All of the women struggled to climb to the summit of the ropes course and at one time Shannon, never one to miss an obvious metaphor, was literally causing Vicki pain and completely unaware of it. As Vicki cried out in pain, I must admit, reader, I laughed. I laughed harder than I have laughed at almost anything except for Spy and both Ali Wong Netflix specials. I laughed at her ridiculousness and low threshold for pain. I laughed because I knew the next day, even if there wasn’t any bruising, Vicki would go to the doctor and get a splint so that everyone would have to ask her what was wrong with her pinkie. I laughed because there is nothing I love seeing more on television than Vicki D. Gunvalson being tortured for being her careless self. So the ropes course was a victory for everyone, but especially for my very worst self.

Real Housewives of Orange County Recap: Ropes and Dopes