Here we are, back in a big, empty, backlit house, staring at the frigid expanse of the Pacific over the lazy edge of an infinity pool as a pair of heels clack along on the custom-designed floor. “Hello, I’m back,” Heather Dubrow shouts both to the viewers and to, ostensibly, her four children and her plastic surgeon husband, Terry (who is on a reality television program of his own). That is sort of the promise not just of this premiere but of this whole season: Heather is back to save the show. But much like her house, it is a promise that is glitzy but almost entirely empty. Will she save it? Unclear, but it certainly didn’t feel like any season of RHOC that we’ve been used to.
The start of the episode feels a little bit like It: Chapter Two. Here are all of these people who were once connected in an experiment where they have to punish an evil clown (in this metaphor, that can be either Andy Cohen or Kandi Burruss in costume), but now they’re all scattered about. Now they all have to get back together to slay the clown once again. (This time, maybe the clown is fame, maybe it’s making a reality television program, maybe it’s the memory of Kelly Dodd.) What I’m saying is, while they’re trying to sell us really hard on the fact that they are friends, we never started a season with a bunch of women who seemed more disparate than they do here.
We do a little catch-up with Heather and her kids, one of whom is an almost 18-year-old gentleman who is very handsome, but how did Shane Keough at 18 look like a 27-year-old Abercrombie model and this kid looks like, well, someone applying to community college? Did kids get younger, or am I just … old? Heather sits down with her family to have a dinner cooked by their chef Hunky Nick and I’m waiting for lamb shanks in some kind of demi-glaze and he just puts some pizzas on the table. Pizza? You’re paying a chef for pizza? Oh no, sister. You are not. Pizza is what you serve on the day when your chef is not around and you don’t do the cooking. Do not waste your chef money on pizza.
Next, we see Emily and Gina out to Pilates and they are best friends again and, next to Robyn and Gizelle, this is my favorite pair of Housewives besties. Gina has lost a bunch of the Covid weight, and Emily, always relatable, is just trying not to shred her vagina on some sort of contraption that looks like a NordicTrack humping an unassembled Ikea bookshelf. The best part of this meeting is that we find out that Shane Simpson finally passed the bar. But, and it’s a big but, it’s only because during Covid they lowered the passing grade to 1390, which is what he got the last time he took the test, so he passed only when they made it easier. Like Gina giggling into her white manicure over the fact that he could only clear the bar when they lowered it, this will bring me everlasting joy.
Finally, we catch up with Shannon Beador, who is still with her boyfriend John and trying to get her teenage daughters to cover their midriffs and that is a battle she will always lose. I’m with you sister, burn Brandy Melville to the ground and replace it with a Moby Dick’s Vibrator Hut, but it’s not going to happen. Shannon’s daughter Stella, however, continues to be a star. Not only does she look like Cara Delevingne, but she also tells her mother that she’s always going to be alone. Pretty and mean. Get this kid on Vanderstupid Drools immediately. Maybe she can save the franchise.
Next up is meeting all of the new girls, and by girls, I mean women with families and jobs who are mature and self-sufficient and should never be called girls, particularly by a middle-aged man who had a donut for lunch. First is Nicole, a friend of Heather’s whose daughters shared the same dance class. Nicole supposedly dated Kid Rock after Pamela Anderson, and that is the harshest self-own I have ever seen on television.
Nicole introduces Heather to Noella, a friend of Braunwyn’s, who has become a tabloid staple for her marriage unraveling and her husband owing millions in taxes. That is even before the season started airing, so strap in ladies and gentlegays. This ride will be bumpier than the dress she wore to meet Heather at Nobu, which looked like a bow that was on top of the car someone got for Christmas. She does, however, have a sex dungeon. We see said dungeon, and it’s really just a black bed with play sheets in a small red room with a bookshelf of whips, toys, and restraints. As far as a dungeon goes, it’s pretty tame, but even looking at it, I’m exhausted. I’m as sexually liberated as the next gal, but when it comes to fornicating with my husband, I’d rather just get it done in about 12 minutes so that we can go back to enjoying a marathon of Australian Survivor on Paramount Plus. All of those accoutrements just seem like so much effort.
Gina and Emily go to see Dr. Jen, who they say they met at Braunwyn’s vow renewal ceremony last year, which, much like all vow renewals and volcanic eruptions, ended in unspeakable destruction, death, and flight delays. Braunwyn is doing the heaviest lifting for this season already and she’s at home polishing her combat boots and listening to Tegan and Sara dance remixes.
Of the new women, Dr. Jen, who is a plastic surgeon, is my favorite so far. No, this has nothing to do with her because the Eileen Davidson Accords mean that we can’t judge her until after episode five. I love Dr. Jen because she is married to a man named Ryan, who is not only very attractive with a body that you could bounce an arcade’s worth of quarters off of but also seems to have a scorching shirt allergy. No one give this man an EpiPen because there is nothing I enjoy more than watching a hot Househusband prance around showing off his perfectly honed pectoral muscles. Then Jen tells us that until recently he was a full-time father. I think I just ovulated. I don’t even have the necessary parts, but I want Ryan to impregnate me and raise my babies in the image of Christ while I go out to the recap mines every day and bring back these gems for you.
As a returning Housewife, we can judge Heather Dubrow, and I will say that I always liked her and I will continue to like her. The episode revolves around a party she is throwing to get all of the It children together under one roof and Nobu caters it. Heather also has lunch there, and the manager is present, and the name of the restaurant is mentioned a contractually-obligated number of times. That makes me ask, have things really gotten so bad that Nobu has lowered its standards to be on the Real Taint Ticklers of Noella’s Sex Dungeon. This is a long way from Barton G and CUT Fitness. (The name stands for Currently Undergoing Transition.)
Heather has returned a certain sense of aspirationality to the proceedings (that is a word I just made up). Last season we had Gina’s sad condo, Elizabeth’s camo overalls, and Shannon’s rental property. Now we have a house with so many rooms you can’t count them and a run of show for a Nobu party that requires Heather to have about 14 talking-head videos to describe it. While this is fun, it does seem a bit different for OC. Gina is not hoity-toity, and while Emily makes good money, she’s not glamorous. Shannon is still mourning her house with a basketball court and twists her face up so hard on Heather’s never-ending house tour that she ends up looking like a mural that a Spanish woman failed to restore correctly.
It is all a little too much, though. I mean, a button you push for “champs?” A whole room for “champs?” Heated towel drawers and “champs” warmers? Is any of this worth it? Do we really need any of it? I used to say that about living in a doorman building until I did, and I have never been physically capable of signing for another package again, so maybe I’m just dead wrong. But it’s a loot (which is “a lot” with too many O’s).
The drama isn’t just about Heather, though, even though it. Shannon knows Nicole. Their children went to preschool together. At drinks after their official lunch, Shannon told Emily and Gina that Nicole once sued or is suing Dr. Terry Dubrow, Heather’s husband. Wait, but wouldn’t Heather know that? Why would she then introduce her as her friend? Shannon tries to get Emily to do some digging on this and then bring it up at the party so she doesn’t look bad, but no one wants to play Shannon’s games anymore. Emily asks the important question: what is Shannon’s endgame here? Why try to blow this all up when the season just started, when she hasn’t even met half of the people on the cast yet. I have no idea, but from the looks of the next episode’s preview, it looks like when you get the cast of It Chapter Two all together, the horror really starts.