The Real Housewives of Orange County
What the hell is Elizabeth talking about? The previews for this episode and even the “coming up” previews during this episode made it seem like our newest Housewife was finally going to expose a big secret and give us some real talk, and instead we got some gobbledygook that sounded like three dozen seagulls shitting on a Ford Taurus’s hood simultaneously. This was the bait-and-switchiest reveal since Oprah let everyone in the audience know they were being attacked by killer bees.
It happens when the women go to Sky Park, a completely empty amusement park that isn’t really an amusement park because all the rides make you do things. Ride a bike up a hill? No, thanks. Throw an ax at a target? I’ll pass. Shoot a bow and arrow like it’s the archery unit in gym class with Mr. DeSantis, your mustachioed gym-teacher crush whose shorts were too short and bulge too protruding for a little gay kid to focus on the little stack of hay 30 feet away? This is not safe for anyone. What happened to sitting on a roller coaster and doing nothing but having the piss scared out of you?
Anyway, Gina and Kelly go riding a variety of bikes, and it is moderately amusing in that Gina is about as good at riding a bike as she is at not buying every single thing at HomeGoods. Braunwyn and Elizabeth go to throw axes and shit. (The woman at the amusement park says, “You picked a good time to come in the middle of the week because there’s no one here,” which is the mantra of every free Housewives trip they’ve ever gone on.) Braunwyn and Elizabeth are talking about their recently scuttled differences over Braunwyn looking up all this information about Elizabeth renting her house and defaulting on loans at Shannon’s prompting. Braunwyn cops to being bored in lockdown and being a shitty person and that is what motivated her. I love a Housewife who will cop to being awful, so this is great.
Elizabeth is talking to Braunwyn about her lies, a conversation built on what she told us earlier about her parents being Pentecostal ministers. Once, her grandmother told her to fake speaking in tongues, and when she did, the whole parish believed it and one woman even passed out because she “felt the spirit.” Elizabeth tells us, “That was the day I knew that adults were full of shit and I could lie to get whatever I want.” This seems to have been the most formative experience in Elizabeth’s life, one that has led her to fib about all sorts of things, big and small. We see a flashback of her telling Braunwyn the reason she has no clothes in her house is that she rents a condo nearby just for her clothes, which is obviously a fabrication to make her sound richer than one of Jeff Bezos’s ex-wives. Of course, she doesn’t do that; the women picked up on it then, and we know it now. That is everyone’s problem with Elizabeth; her stories never stack up.
As she’s trying to explain this to Braunwyn, she says it comes from her experience when she was young, and she’s not ready to talk about it but she is going to tell her. She goes on this long, rambling yarn about how she was abused and in this extremely religious environment, and it doesn’t seem to make any sense. We see only about 30 seconds of it, but you know we got the best bits, and it probably went on for another ten incomprehensible minutes. Braunwyn is very understanding and empathetic toward Elizabeth’s pain even though she confesses that she has no clue what’s going on. Then Elizabeth says, “I can’t say I was a member of a cult, and they told me they’d throw me off a bridge if I opened my mouth,” and even Braunwyn pauses for a moment and says, “What now?”
I don’t think Elizabeth is lying about this. From what we’ve already heard, her childhood was not a good one. She was poor in the Ozarks, her family had issues with substance abuse and physical abuse, and several of her siblings are dealing with addiction issues. There are clearly a lot of things wrong with Elizabeth, and now that she no longer has the insulation of wealth and marriage to a successful man, she’s dealing with these raw emotions for the first time. I agree with her; she’s not ready to talk about these things because she hasn’t really processed them yet. She can’t put them into a framework, never mind a cohesive narrative. And yes, she needs help to deal with this stuff, but she thinks she needs someone with specialized training because she’s so fucked up. No, girl. Just get yourself to a therapist, any therapist, as soon and as often as you can possibly afford. That’s a much better use of your money than renting a condo just for all your feather boas. (For some reason, I suspect all of Elizabeth’s clothes are actually Mae West cosplay looks.)
While coaching Elizabeth through the panic attack she has after revealing all of this, Braunwyn has plenty of issues of her own. Most of it we see through the foreshadowing of her relationship with this woman Shari, whom Braunwyn is calling her “wife” because they’re so close. Braunwyn is on the phone with her every day talking about how she wishes all women were just like her. She’s even laughing at Shari’s lame jokes while they do some sort of crafting in Braunwyn’s kitchen wearing those clear plastic face shields that are doing absolutely nothing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Seriously, it is an airborne virus. Those particles are going to slip right down out of one mask and slip right up under another mask, and you’re going to get it. You may as well just French kiss at this point. It’s about as safe.
Speaking of French kisses with Shari, we know how Braunwyn’s story ends: in bubble baths ringed by candles, discussions about feelings, tickets to the Tegan and Sara concert, and a Sapphic embrace. Braunwyn totally wants to scissor Shari because she’s not yet a skilled enough lesbian to know that scissoring is not really a thing actual lesbians do. The foreshadowing here isn’t even subtle. It’s like foretotalblackout.
Meanwhile, back at home, Shannon and Emily are still dealing with the fallout of the coronavirus. After Shannon Beador hogged all the tests in Southern California, she finally got what she wanted: a positive test. All right, I’m going to take a very negative view of Shannon’s psychology for a minute, so please excuse me. Yes, I think Shannon actually wanted to test positive. How else could she get the most attention out of this pandemic? How else could she most make people feel sorry for her and her lung condition? It’s not by dodging the bullet day after day at home. It’s by standing in front of the firing squad and making everyone who cares for her tell her how sorry they are as they watch the blood seep out of the wounds and into the soil.
When she finally gets her positive result, Shannon freaks out, which is natural since we were all worried about the virus and how it would affect us, sure. There is nothing scarier than the unknown. But at that point, screeching about it is not going to help it or make it go away. She just has to wait and see. She could have some optimism and hope for the best. No, instead her mind takes her to the dark place where she will inevitably die and it’s her children’s fault.
As much as it is scary to have the virus, there is something about Shannon, I think, that wants to be able to hold this over her daughters’ heads for the rest of their lives. Her phone call with the three of them, who snuck out to a party without masks and all contracted the virus, is harrowing. Here are girls who are scared themselves. They have the thing too (as irresponsible as they were to get it), and instead of trying to help and comfort them, Shannon is laying her well-being squarely at their feet. Even worse, she’s finding them lacking and wishing they would be more emotional about what she has already decided will be her eventual death.
The show does an amazing thing and juxtaposes Shannon’s journey with Emily’s. Her husband, Shane, is currently in the hospital and will be there for five days while he undergoes the most sophisticated treatment available at the time, which was injecting the body full of disinfectant and zapping it with sunlight, a treatment known as the Full Trump. Emily is at home trying to care for three children under the age of 10. She says, “You find the energy and you pull it from somewhere deep and you fight through the exhaustion and you fight through the emotion to do everything to protect your children.” Yes, that’s exactly right. Emily is putting herself and her own well-being second to be strong and caring for her children. This is what survival looks like. This is what grace under pressure looks like. This is what protection looks like, and it seems these are skills that Shannon Beador will never be able to master.