One of my greatest fears in life is that I’ll be wearing a ridiculous outfit or some enormous brooch that is like a jeweled clown head and I’ll get in an accident, or someone will call me about my mother’s death, and then I’ll always remember that moment when something awful happened and I was ironically wearing a blue ruffled tuxedo shirt with buffoonish, large white polka dots. That is all I could think about when Gina was in the kitchen at Emily’s daughter Annabelle’s birthday party with a full tiger painted on her face and talking about her DUI hearing.
That is some serious cognitive dissonance right there. Sure, Gina can’t see it, but can’t she just feel that face paint burning into her skin while she’s trying to talk to her friend about very grown-up matters? Then she almost gets into a fight with Emily about how she’s getting closer to Shannon, and the only thing worse than being dressed like an ’80s mall rat with crimped hair while screaming in someone’s face is getting in a fight with a bad Daniel Tiger drawing on your mug.
The two of them are talking about the “wellness retreat” in Arizona that Shannon is taking everyone to. Shannon says it’s a place where they’ll work out and meditate but also do fun things like have a honey tasting inside a giant beehive. I don’t know. I know what honey tastes like. Do I really want to do it somewhere that I could be stung by hundreds of bees at any moment?
The big argument here is not about whether they’re going to go but whether Victoria Denise Gunvalson Jr. is going to be invited. Shannon wants her there because she thinks that Vicki and Kelly need to heal their relationship. The producers also want her there because without Vicki talking about Kelly’s train, the only thing that would be happening this season is us staring at Dr. Deb’s evolving collection of non–Countess Crackerjack–brand statement necklaces.
Kelly doesn’t want to see Vicki ever again, so she says she won’t go on the trip if Vicki’s there. Shannon thinks they need to be together to heal, but let me tell you something, there is going to be no healing going on between these two. Tamra — who, smartly, is on Kelly’s side — points out that Vicki has been spreading rumors about people and saying “That’s just what I heard” for the better part of a decade. She does it when Tamra and Shannon stop by her house and she says, “I heard they call Braunwyn ‘Boring Wyn,’” which is the dumbest putdown I’ve ever heard.
Vicki tells Tamra and Shannon that she wants peace with Kelly, but she’s going to stand up for herself. The problem is that to achieve the peace that Shannon wants, one of these two women is going to have to back down. This really falls at Vicki’s feet. I don’t blame Kelly for being upset that Vicki spread a rumor that she had a train pulled on her by eight guys. But we all know that when Kelly gets mad, she doesn’t just throw bombs — she does an incantation to bring about an asteroid like the one that killed all the dinosaurs to assail the Earth. That leaves Vicki to be the bigger person, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that Vicki would fit right in during the scene when Dorothy first finds the Yellow Brick Road. That is to say, this fight will continue on forever and anyone wishing otherwise is a fool.
This episode is just littered with family fights that will never end. Kelly is also in a conflict with her mother and younger brother Eric, who moved back to Arizona after living with Kelly for a year and a half. Kelly felt they were taking advantage of her, and now she hasn’t talked to that branch of her family in almost two years. Yikes! The only good part of this is that we learned that Jolie has her mom saved in her phone as “Mommie Dearest.” I am so heartened that a 12-year-old girl from Orange County knows enough about the oeuvres of both Faye Dunaway and Joan Crawford that she would even make that joke.
Over in Tamra’s gated community, she’s asking if her liberal son, Spencer, will get along with his half-brother, Ryan, a gun-toting, MAGA-hat-wearing, gay-wedding-cake-hating Trump supporter. They are in the exact same place as Vicki and Kelly. Ryan is mad at Spencer for calling him a racist (or a Nazi, in Spencer’s telling), and he is waiting for an apology. Spencer says that he’s waiting for Ryan to do something, because he’s not being open-minded. All I know is that whenever politics rears its ugly head on the Housewives, I want to retreat back into my body like a circumcised penis after a Polar Bear Plunge. This is our escape! Stop fouling it up with your very real and legitimate and timely family issues.
Things between Braunwyn and Dr. Deb are a little bit deeper and chillier. They go on a hike, and Dr. Deb is wearing a gold necklace so large even Biggie Smalls would think it was garish and that appropriately says “EGO.” Braunwyn asks her mother about a recent incident involving her aunt, Dr. Deb’s sister. Apparently Braunwyn doesn’t want her children around this aunt, and Dr. Deb didn’t respect her wishes. When Braunwyn confronts her mom about this, Dr. Deb just says, “Oh, look! A bee.” Braunwyn has to make a concerted effort to let her mother know how she feels and let her know that her boundaries are crossed.
Her mother eventually gets it, and the two stand about a meter apart, both staring off at nothing in particular, seething that this very familiar script has played out once again. The bees keep buzzing, the flowers keep swaying, and the two of them, lodged in their fragile interiority, just imagine a world where the other was not as they are. They imagine a beautiful place where everything was fixed and everyone behaved just as they did, and then that feeble fantasy is destroyed by a man in a red tech fleece vest with his face blurred out speeding by because his Apple Watch has told him he needs 4,000 more steps to complete one of his fitness circles.
Once again, we have to end with the cold war between Emily and her husband, Shane, a malignant golem made of lint. I have said before and I will say again that I think the problems in Emily and Shane’s marriage are brought about by both of them. Like when Emily, who is headed to Vegas, says, “So you’re going to take care of the kids?” I can see how that is annoying. Of course Shane is going to take care of the kids. Emily is not looking for an answer but rather a way to connect with Shane about the kids and the shared joy they both take in them.
However, Shane does himself no favors. When she asks that question, he says, “No, I’m going to neglect them.” Instead of Emily getting the connection she is looking for, she gets smacked in the face with his stupid, sarcastic answers. Shane has the sense of humor of an 8-year-old who is made to sit in the back of the class so that no one will notice he spends all day picking his nose. It’s just all passive-aggressive jokes and stupid plays on semantics. For instance, he gets mad that Emily says he’s always sarcastic. “Sometimes it’s satire, which is jokes at the expense of others. So it’s not always sarcasm.”
He may not mean any of these cutting jokes, but I can see how Emily, who is not getting everything she wants out of her husband, would be exasperated. Yes, she might be annoying him, but Shane has to realize that his juvenile assaults on his wife, who otherwise seems very patient and understanding, are making him look like Lex Luthor with a bad case of dandruff. If I were Emily and he called me the Wicked Witch of the West, I would try to drop a house on that Mormon Munchkin faster than Vicki can repeat a rumor.