Vicki Gunvalson, Tamra Barney Judge, Teana Keough.
Hello and welcome to the grand opening of the Real Housewives Institute’s Orange County Wing and Shane Keough Memorial Masturbatorium. My name is Dame Brian Moylan, the president and founder of the Institute, and I am here to walk you safely through this funny land where a con man can impersonate a cancer patient on national television and some people think that is entirely acceptable behavior. Yes, this moral wasteland is not a Mexican drug cartel’s baby-seal-clubbing warehouse or a meeting of the Jeffrey Dahmer Appreciation Society in the parking lot of a Hobby Lobby, it is just Orange County, California, where the jewelry is shiny and so are the faces.
The way this season begins seems to be emblematic of where the cast has been since we last saw them. We are greeted with a number of split screens, while each Housewife goes about her own business. Tamra is exercising, Heather is buying more luggage to fill up the luggage storage room in her new house, Meghan is rubbing her hands together in righteous triumph after defeating the grundle-sucker Brooks Ayers with her magic researching skills, Shannon is in a closet crying into a stinky pair of Louboutin wedges, and Vicki Gunvalson is sitting naked on her toilet letting out a silent existential scream that never quite stops.
In other words, the women are entirely separated. There is no group of Real Housewives that is more like co-workers than the women of the OC. Sure, they hang out and go on trips with each other. Sure, they have their allegiances and favorites. Sure, they often throw theme parties for their real job, but these women are not really friends. Just like members of the Kansas Bay Buccaneer Rays (Is that a baseball team? It sounds like a baseball team) they don’t really hang out in the off-season. They only come together when the cameras are on and it’s time to knock them out of the park.
Let’s check in on each of the ladies, shall we? Shannon is still pretending like her marriage is strong. Since some random therapist at a group-therapy session in a Holiday Inn Express told her it would take her two years to forgive her husband’s infidelity, she thinks that she is over it because it has been two years. Sorry, but Shannon will never be over her husband’s infidelity, just like we will never let Germany forget about what happened in the ’40s, and just like the shrimp around Fukushima will glow green and have magical time-travel powers for eternity. David cheating on Shannon is an extinction-level event for her, but she thinks that if she continues to ignore her pain, it will go away. The best thing about our visit to the Beador residence, though, is saucy daughter Stella, who seems to be permanently auditioning for a role in a Broadway production of Cara Delevigne: The Musical, which will be mounted in 2023.
Not much is going on with Heather Dubrow, aside from wearing striped form-fitting dresses and renovating her house, which are the two things that will keep her occupied until the day her husband, Terry, dies. After that happens, she will be occupied with wearing black form-fitting dresses and retelling Terry’s bad jokes. He had a bad EKG (which Heather keeps calling an “electrocardiogram,” so that people know she is a doctor’s wife) and that leads them to want to throw a party on a yacht. Every time I get my annual STD test during my physical and have to wait three days for the results, I like to throw a party called Eating the Pain Away and Then Throwing Up Because of Panic Attacks While Googling Symptoms of Syphilis and Wondering Why I Didn’t Go on PReP: A Celebration. I totally get why you would do this.
I’m going to save most of the talk about the party for next week, but I love how Heather Dubrow greets each of her guests with the official welcome of Orange County. “You look gorgeous,” she says to each and everyone woman who walks into the room, including one in a magenta dress who looked to be Lot’s wife’s older sister and whom Heather had to tell to “not trip” because one misstep and she will just turn into a pile of dust and blow away in the stiff marina winds. Yes, “You look gorgeous” is such a customary greeting that it is the first thing you see on the sign when you pull into Orange County. “Welcome to Orange County, California. You look gorgeous.”
Tamra Barney Judge is getting buff for a fitness competition, so she can’t eat French fries and has to do lots of pull-ups. Trying to be a fitness model at 48 is noble, and I must say that Tamra looks absolutely diesel. She looks like the Rock if he decided to transition, got an endorsement deal from Sweaty Betty, and bought a really expensive wig. That is not to say that she looks like a man. That is just to say that her arms look like they could have their own action movie.
This is a much better story line than when she faked finding Jesus last year. Tamra Barney Judge is an excellent Housewife: She knows she needs an arc each year, so she picks something and invests in it. Last year it was Jesus, this year it’s her lats and abs. Good for Tamra. She also knows that, no matter what, she needs some friends on the cast. Now that she’s on the outs with Vicki, she better cozy up to someone … and that someone is Shannon. The two get their faces zapped down to the bone with some sort of Harry Potter wizardry that only women past their child-bearing years can do because it turns ovaries into dragon’s eggs. It is a small price to pay because, Tamra Barney Judge, you look gorgeous.
Meghan and her husband, Jimmy, have decided that they’re going to have a baby. Well, it seems like Meghan decided she wants a baby and Jimmy is going along with it because if he doesn’t, she’s going to leave him and he already bought her a new house in Orange County, a house in La Quinta (which is also where Kyle Richards has a house), and a house in Idaho so that Meghan can live her dream of ordering around a bunch of organic potato farmers from her porch while perpetually holding a coffee mug full of matcha tea and wearing jewel-tone yoga pants. Jimmy is in it for the real estate. This is a man who had a vasectomy because he didn’t want to have another kid. That is commitment! He don’t want to be birthing no more babies.
The weirdest part about Meghan’s IVF “journey” (I’m using that word before she can) is that she hates needles. They don’t just make her a little squeamish; she hates them. She hates needles like Tom Cruise hates questions about his sexuality. Then, Meghan accomplishes a Real Housewives first: She appears on-camera while having a speculum inserted into her hoo-ha. Now, I will never know what it is like to be a woman and there are many difficult things about having complicated lady parts, but there is nothing I can imagine that is worse than what goes on with a speculum and she decided to do that on camera. I don’t know if that is strength or folly, but whatever it is, I took my penis into the other room, then petted it a little bit and said, “Thank Jesus I have you, little man.”
Oh, there’s a new girl. Her name is Kelly. Because of the Eileen Davidson Accord of 2014, all members of the Real Housewives Institute must refrain from passing judgment for the first five episodes because new girls always come on the show and we hate them at first and then we get to know them and we change our minds. Thanks to the Davidson Accord, we now follow a waiting period so that we don’t make any rash judgments.
I would like to point out three things about Kelly that won’t break the Accord.
- The conversation where her daughter and mother discussed tossing a salad at some length is the best salad-tossing scene on Real Housewives since Kim Richards made chicken salad for her daughter’s prom date and mixed it with her hands.
- Kelly has a four-story house with bars installed on each floor, including one with a bedazzled beer tap that is a crime against humanity and alcohol.
- Kelly says that she once met Tamra with “Lynne.” Did she mean Lynne Curtin, former Real Housewife, mother to the worst children to ever appear on reality television, and cartoon squirrel brought to life by an evil witch who lives in a rose thicket? I sure hope so. How I miss Lynne!
Now we have to talk about Vicki Gunvalson, the sizzling embers of a campfire when you piss on it in the morning. How sad it must be to return to national television after your boyfriend faked having cancer. And she says, “I wasn’t in on a lie, but to do it again I would defend my man.” That is exactly the problem and why everyone hates her right now. Many of the Housewives think that she was in on the scam. I don’t think that she actively plotted with Brooks, but I do think that, as Heather said, she started defending him and got too deep into it and couldn’t change her story. Now she refuses to apologize and wants the women to forgive her. She wants to just put it in the past and forget about it, which is what so many Housewives want to do with their problems, but that is not the way life works. That is not the way friendship works. One must claim ownership of one’s transgressions and make atonement for them, no matter what that atonement is. Vicki seems psychologically incapable of doing that, which means it’s going to be a long season for all of us.
Instead, we get Vicki kicking around her giant mansion in Coto de Caza, with its granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, and open floor plan — everything people are always looking for on House Hunters — but still unfulfilled. In her mind, she’s thinking about writing a cookbook called Dinner for One, but she’s really padding about in her house shoes, remembering everything that happened there. It’s like she strapped on some virtual-reality goggles to relive things. They’re not ghosts, particularly, but projects. The residue of images that she calls forth in her mind: her and Donn watching movies on the couch, Michael telling her to leave him alone while he tries to go out with his friends, Brianna cuddling up to her after her cancer operation when Vicki nursed her back to health. These are the things she walks among, these are the things that keep her company late at night when the darkness outside seems like a straight jacket and moths bang themselves against the screen doors with thumps that sound like her final heartbeat.