Noella almost had me. I was almost on board with her when she says that she is being provoked by Heather Dubrow into getting into a fight, but then, like a bad babysitter at a Sam Goody’s in 1987, she lost me. I feel like this whole episode was like being on a yo-yo with Noella. I was in, I was out, I was in, I was out. Does this make her a good Housewife? No, because a great Housewife always has you. Even when I’m out with Shannon Beador, I’m still in. IYKYK, as the kids on TikTok say. (For all of you olds out there, it means “in your kindness, you kill.”)
Our journey with Noella, a hummingbird that ran into a mirror and became a demon, starts where we left off at dinner in Mexico. Things have progressed deep into a tequila bottle. Emily is wearing a napkin tiara, which is almost as fetching on her as a one-piece, and Shannon is talking about how her boyfriend John says he doesn’t want to have a three-way, which I believe he says, but I think in his fantasies it’s him and a pair of twins who pull over in a Ferrari and pick him up on the side of the road when he has a flat. This is also my ideal ménage, but I have a feeling the gender of the twins is reversed. Or not! I don’t know John’s truth.
Gina is trying to get Emily to meditate so she doesn’t “Hulk out,” and Noella is trying to talk to Shannon more about herself, so she’s annoyed when that’s interrupted by Frick and Frack’s ohm-ing sounds. She picks up her chair, says, “If you’re going to behave like children …” and moves away from the fray. This causes Emily and Gina to leave the dinner, only to be coaxed back by Shannon. Gina also has a little chat with Noella, saying, “This is what you do,” and she is so right. She says in confessional that Noella needs to make every conversation about herself. Think about how exhausting that must be. I love to talk about myself as much as the next reality TV star, but eventually, you need to stop talking about yourself so that you can talk about other people, preferably those who are not there. Also, you need to let other people talk about themselves so that you can ignore them and think about yourself. This is called “having a conversation.”
The next day, Heather takes Dr. Jen, Shannon, and some woman named Tawnie (which is a name that only swingers have) on an exhausting tour of a $13 million house and then some property that she and Terry want to buy so that they can do the world a favor and seclude Terry’s face away from the rest of the population. They eventually decide they will need an $8 million lot and another $7.5 million to build a house on it, and Terry is like, “Do you have $15.5 million I can borrow?” to his architect, who is so sick of working for rich people he wants to bilk them all in an NFT scam and disappear to Belize.
Noella goes to a Mexican sweat lodge with RHOC’s Bert and Ernie, and Emily Simpson wastes a perfectly good one-piece on a completely dark and stifling room where all of her past regrets and trauma come burbling out of her like a bad seafood boil. But, of course, it is Noella who passes out. Of course, she has to be removed from the boiling hut by producers. Of course, she is laid down on a cot and the only thing I can stare at is the leaf stuck on her thigh. Of course, she couldn’t handle the heat. Of course, of course, of course.
After eating pre-sliced mango and a well-deserved nap, the women convene on the beach where Noella is sitting alone with a bottle of white wine and talking to it about herself, which is the only reason the wine is there in the first place because she does not appear to be drinking it. Two important things happen here, and they are both thanks to Emily Simpson, who is rapidly rising in my ranks of favorite Housewives — Sonja Tremont Morgan better have quite the next season if she wants to stay on the top of the pile. First, we learn that Emily Simpson hooked up with a woman in college, which is my new favorite Emily Simpson fact, and she talks about it just enough to let us know it happened but not so much that we were all up in her lady parts.
Secondly, she tells Noella that Heather didn’t want her on the trip and that Gina had to convince her to come. She says she did this not to stir up shit with Heather but so that Noella would know that Gina was a good friend to her. What I love is that it managed to do both, and Emily still comes off smelling, if not like roses, then at least like a freshly eaten box. Emily, IYKYK.
Later, at a tequila tasting and dinner, Emily told everyone she is “not a moderation kind of girl,” using a made-up Spanish word, and it is absolutely perfect, but here is where Noella once again makes everything about herself. Emily and Gina ask if Noella is still angry about what happened the night before, and she says that she’s all good. She squashes it. She doesn’t want there to be any drama. She is, for a change, avoiding a fight. Heather, at the other end of the table, says, “Literally? This evening? Really?” passive-aggressively accusing Noella of trying to ruin the night with a fight when she is, in fact, trying to avoid one.
She responds, “Don’t tell me what to do,” which I think was a little curt but in line. Heather, again baiting her, says, “Okay, I won’t. I have no interest.” She is going to get mad at Noella for picking a fight but then goes out looking for one where there isn’t even going to be one. When Noella reveals that she found out she was a “pity invite” — which, despite Heather’s protest, she totally was — Heather goes for her ace in the hole: “I didn’t trust you because you gave my daughter a pornographic gift.”
I said this last week, but I don’t think this is pornography. Was it sexually explicit? Yes. Was it inappropriate for a 17-year-old? Yes. Is Heather elevating the threat level on this incident like she’s a Weather Channel meteorologist talking about a bomb cyclone? Does a Catholic bear have scat play in the woods? The situation is just as I thought. Noella looked up LGBTQIA+ gifts on Amazon and bought Heather’s daughter Max several things, including shoelaces, a T-shirt, and this game. It is, I guess from context clues, a Cards Against Humanity–type game with queer-themed cards; many of them are about sex. Noella had no idea that the game was as raunchy as the hot tub on an Atlantis Cruise.
Rather than explaining this to Heather, she goes off on a tangent about Heather’s “straight fragility,” which is not a thing, and tells her, “I am a biracial, bisexual liberal living in Orange County. Don’t tell me I’m inappropriate.” But that’s not what Heather is saying; she is saying the gift is inappropriate. Then Heather is like, “Okay, fuck it. I’m just going to read you some of the cards,” and spouts them off, prompting a torrent of beeps longer than the line to get into that raunchy hot tub on the Atlantis Cruise.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry,” Noella says when she hears the content. Yes, that apology is all anyone wanted. That is what they told you to do. “Oh my God, that is insanely inappropriate,” she says. Yes, sister. That is what we are telling you. But there are two problems here. The first is that Noella wouldn’t take accountability and admit that she made a mistake. The second is that Heather just assumed that Noella was feeding her daughter smut on purpose. Why couldn’t Heather assume what I did, that Noella had no clue that the game was as rude as it turned out to be?
Here’s what I mean about Noella. I was on her side for Heather baiting her and for Heather turning something off-color into porno, and then she blew it by refusing to hear Heather’s point of view and willfully misinterpreting her. Then I was on Heather’s side until she said, “This is what I was worried about having Noella on the trip. She’s so calculated that she has these things in the back pocket that if she gets in trouble she’s going to say. And you can’t win that way.” Okay, back up, fancy pants. What you’re saying is that Noella can play the “bisexual card” and the “biracial card” and Heather can’t win against that? What you’re saying is that you excluded Noella because she might bring up the fact that she’s queer and Black? What you’re saying is you excluded someone on the basis of sexual orientation and race? That doesn’t sound as wholesome and supportive as you want it to sound. That sounds, I hate to say it, like straight fragility, which turns out to actually be a thing.
Yes, Noella did exactly those things, but should that invalidate Noella’s experience as a queer, Black woman and the only person of color in the group? I feel like Heather saying that is possibly the worst thing that anyone has said all season, and that goes for her friend Nicole lying about suing Heather’s husband for six years and being a grifter with the face of a rabbit used in cosmetic experiments. Also, who is Heather, the phoniest of the phonies, to talk about someone being so calculated? She framed this gift as “pornography” and kept a list of the cards in her phone just for that moment. If Noella is a calculator watch, then Heather is the Texas Instruments graphing calculator that did not help me pass precalculus. I would say that Heather is the pot calling the kettle black, but she might accuse me of playing the race card. So, yes, in this episode, I’m in and I’m out with everyone. Except, of course, for Emily Simpson.