The Real Housewives of Orange County
Since this is the fifth episode of this season, that means, by the bylaws laid out in the Eileen Davidson Accord, we must proceed with judging the new Housewife, Elizabeth Vargas. I have been thinking long and hard about her place on the show and her as a person and I have come to a very definite conclusion: Elizabeth Vargas is soup.
Okay, hear me out. Soup can be delicious (chicken noodle) or it can be disgusting (cream of broccoli), but either way, it’s not enough for a meal. While it can be alright as part of a multi-course dinner, even good, in fact, you never walk away from a meal saying, “Yeah, but the soup!” And anyone who tries to substitute soup as a meal — I am not talking a hearty stew here, I am talking a well and proper soup — is as foolish as someone trying to substitute a pair of Spanx for a pair of pants. You can’t survive on soup alone. Elizabeth Vargas is the soup. She’s fine as part of the ensemble, but I don’t think I’m ever going to be showing up here for Elizabeth Vargas.
My biggest problem with Elizabeth, other than her general brothiness, is that she is the typical RHOC woman, one with a lot of money and no taste. Even worse, she has kind of an anti-taste, deliberately eschewing the traditional markers of wealth and letting you know about it so that you will think she’s “not that kind of rich lady.” Elizabeth is the type that will spend $300 on a ballcap with one of those punny fake Chanel logos that lets you know that she thinks designer labels are dumb. She wants to be the salt of the earth, but it is also single-sourced Himalayan pink sea salt that sells for $2,000 a gram.
Elizabeth’s story is a good one, someone who came from a very humble background who married a rich guy and now lives a life that she never imagined for herself. Yes, likes to use her money to help her family, whether that’s paying for trips to rehab or helicopter rides to Catalina Island. It was very sad when she talked about her little sister and her decades of drug use and how that’s affected the family, of course, but I have a sense that I don’t need to see more of Elizabeth because I have it all figured out already. She’s the kind of lady who flirts with the hot dudes selling her a Ferrari and pretends to be just like them when, really, they certainly can’t afford to get high on their own supply.
What was unexpected, however, was Shannon Storms Beador getting in the tiny Corvette the car dealers pulled around for her when she accompanied Elizabeth for a test drive. It was like a souped-up Power Wheels. With her folded behind the tiny steering wheel she looked like Princess Peach(’s mother) in a game of Mario Kart and I couldn’t believe that was our Shannon. Usually she would never do something as fun and goofy as this, holding on to her classy demeanor, but this is the most fun we’ve had with her in a long time, and I applaud her for it.
Going back to Elizabeth and her history with family members’ addiction (her father also died of alcoholism), it does dovetail nicely with the central story of this season, which, so far, has been about Braunwyn and her quest for sobriety. This is a really weird season, though. It seems like there is some kind of power vacuum, especially since Tamra and Vicki were shuffled off this mortal coil by the pantsuits at Bravo. There is no nexus. There are no sides. We don’t know what the allegiances are because they’re all so new. It’s hard to place Elizabeth in a context because, so far, there is no context.
We’re barely even seeing the women hanging out together. So far they’ve only really gotten together at Shannon’s housewarming party, and even then Braunwyn was floating around the periphery like a moth in search of a cedar closet. I don’t know if this is a new tactic the producers are using or if this is an unintended result of the coronavirus, which is starting to pop up its ugly head up like the world’s deadliest game of Whack-A-Mole. Are they trying to stretch this season, and there weren’t enough all-cast events so they’re padding the episodes out with personal stories and these little meetings where the women get together in twos and threes?
Of those small group scenes, the best this week was when Braunwyn and Emily went to AA together. Last week I said that while it’s nice to support a friend at AA, it seems kind of strange to ask. However, I totally forgot that Gina was on court-appointed AA meetings to meet the probation requirements from a DUI she received just before last season kicked off. That gives this thing a whole new dimension.
After the meeting, they sit down to talk about it and Braunwyn tells Gina that she was trying to hurt her by saying her house was small and depressing and she won’t do it again. It was a very nice scene and gave us two heaping portions of some things that are usually in short supply in the Housewives Extended Cinematic Universe: honesty and sincerity.
Gina tells Braunwyn that the labyrinth walk they took last season at Miraval Ranch was a very transformative experience for her and that Braunwyn was very supportive in the aftermath. “And you were sober,” Gina says, by way of encouragement.
“I was not,” Braunwyn says flatly, but with the air of someone finally spilling it to their confessor. She tells us that she wasn’t drunk, but she was drinking in secret in her room all afternoon. At first, when Braunwyn divulged that she was an alcoholic I thought, “Oh, I don’t really see it,” but the more we learn the worse and worse it gets. Her telling us that she was drinking alone just to cope and her admitting that she and Sean split up because her drinking got so bad gives it a whole new dimension.
The one confession that outweighs all the others is when she tells Gina the reason she has so many kids is because every time her drinking got too bad she got pregnant again to force herself to get sober, at least for nine months. Okay, we have seen some dark things on these here shows, but there is nothing I have ever heard that is darker than bringing seven children in this world just so she wouldn’t have to deal with her addiction issues. That is enough to make me want to get into bed, pull the covers over my head, and then set the mattress on fire.
Other than that, most of the women are going about their individual storylines. Emily has a meeting with Lizzie Rovsek, the former cast member voted Least Likely to Succeed during her one semester at Real Housewives University. They meet to talk about a swimsuit line and Emily Simpson, the queen of the one-piece, launching a resort collection is the best Housewives business idea I ever heard. I sort of want to buy a few so that when I am reincarnated as a woman I will have them on hand.
Shannon’s story is mostly about her oldest daughter Sophie, who is working on a book about her experiences with divorce before going to Baylor University in the fall which, hahahahahha. Sophie, we have seen your future and it does not entail leaving the house to go to an overly Christian educational institution. In her one confessional, Sophie says that her mother needs a man who can support her both emotionally and financially and she doesn’t think that Shannon’s new BF John can do both of those. Does she mean he can’t support her in both those ways or just one of them? Does she think he’s too poor? Is he too withholding? Which one is it, Sophie? Tell us!
Braunwyn has a fun afternoon with her son Jacob (the eldest son who has the Sideshow Bob hair) and a stylist named Isabelle who comes by the house to put Jacob in drag. The occasion isn’t entirely clear (other than, you know, content for the reality show) but it seems like Jacob’s having a blast. First, he walks out in this royal blue dress with a criss-cross neckline that looks like one of Milania Giudice’s rejected prom dresses. The next outfit is a short black dress with these things dangling off of it that can only be described as foot-long, black, metallic sprinkles. It’s very Lady Gaga and I was very into it. The final outfit is a short bubble skirt with a satin bodice and pointy bra cones with a black shawl over the whole thing. Braunwyn says it’s her favorite, but she still hasn’t said anything about Sean’s immunity necklaces, so we know what kind of taste she has.
It was so sweet to see Jacob, who asked for high heels for the most recent Christmas, say that he knew how to walk in them and then totter around on the bedroom carpet, like a love-sick baby deer. Braunwyn tells the camera that she asked him if he liked to dress up in drag for the pageantry and the theatricality or if it was something that had to do with his identity, and he told her he didn’t know. Nor should he have to know, but it brought a tear to my eye that he has a family that will support him and give him this venue to play and experiment while he figures it out. (But based on the James Charles MUA full-face of makeup he was sporting in his confessional, he’s getting closer to finding the real him.)
Gina’s story is played subtly but is still heartbreaking. She goes to her attorney to talk about Matt’s domestic violence charges and he tells her that in the state of California, victims are allowed to make a “victim impact statement” about what the abuse did to them. She initially says that she doesn’t want to, because they’re getting along together so well, but after thinking about him showing up for his daughter’s birthday party, she decides she needs to. She will live with the memory of her abuse forever and she wants Matt to know the impact it had on her. She says someone was always swooping in to save Matt from himself and she wouldn’t be that person anymore.
When Matt shows up to the birthday party he’s… not as hot as I thought he would be, probably because we’ve learned so much about his personality. (But let’s be honest, I would still take him home from a bar, just as long as I knew nothing about him.) Gina puts on a brave face for Sienna’s birthday and Matt comes over for spaghetti and presents. Later he and his girlfriend Britt walked back to their car in the dim California darkness, the smell of the ocean just a hint in their noses, and Gina watched them, through her own light reflection in the kitchen window above her sink. And for a moment, just a moment, she couldn’t see herself in Matt anymore.