In honor of this inaugural season of Ultimate Girls Trip, Vulture has assembled a cast of our all-star Housewives writers to rotate recap duties. Up this time is RHOSLC recapper Olivia Crandall.
PREVIOUSLY ON LOVE ISLAND, things were heating up at the villa as the ladies got buzzing … Oh, wait. Wrong show. But also, right show? From the jump, it’s clear that RHUGT is built different. The neon fonts that were surely born in the state of Florida? The VCR time stamps? The split-screen confessionals? B-roll footage that was stolen from Outer Banks then put through the Valencia Instagram filter on a 2013 Blackberry? A theme song???
Everything is a damn mess. But it doesn’t matter — these women are all-stars for a reason. I’ve spent the last two years transcribing conversations from the same four Italian restaurants praying for the day I’d get to transcribe a different conversation from a six-hour bus ride, so watching a bunch of gals pal around without having to research Utah’s tax code as it pertains to religious institutions or the particulars of wire fraud is an absolute balm! Let’s get grafting.
It’s 8:20 a.m. on day two, and Luann’s up early to make sure at least three people get a good look at her pubic hair so that she can properly start her day. Ramona struts down to the breakfast table in fingerless gloves and a Victoria’s Secret bra she stole from my middle-school bully. Nothing says “wipe the slate clean” like declaring your singular role in inventing crop tops and then running off to snatch 98.3 percent of the allotted tennis situation for yourself, since playing doubles ain’t gonna cut it for the 40 consecutive minutes of physical activity you must get to avoid withering into dust like that fountain-of-youth-necklace lady from Game of Thrones!
In more wholesome news, Cynthia and Teresa go on a walk and chat about how this trip is like going away to college. Teresa tells Cynthia how surprised she was that Kenya stood up for her after Ramona called her a scarecrow, since she’s never really had anyone do that before. To me, it’s moments like these that make this show so damn compelling. You cut past the table-flipping and drink-throwing and federal crimes and long-standing feuds, and we’re back to basics. At its core, Real Housewives is a show about friendship, and watching Cynthia figure out in real time that for all her Godfather chitchat, Teresa’s somehow missing the kind of loyalty that only comes from deep connection instead of fear? Priceless. Or, I guess, the $4.99 y’all ponied up for a month of Peacock Premium.
After getting all their areolas in place, the gals head to the marina for Luann’s catamaran day. Kenya waxes poetic about how she’s completely fallen in love with Melissa, which is just a thinly veiled Chekov’s gun for Cynthia’s general well-being. Ramona continues her tour of self-important bullshit, gasping in Teresa’s face about how she now understands from Teresa’s career history that she can’t possibly have an empty straw brain, because being a buyer for Macy’s requires you to be a regular Stephen Hawking. Ramona also says she only knows Kenya from Google because “she likes to research.” I also like to research.
Luann maintains that to know Ramona is to love her, but she’s not into Googling people because one time in Miami four years ago, a guy Googled her, found her arrest footage, and then ghosted her before they could even have a first date, which is why it’s so hard to find a man when you’re on a reality-TV show. She then gives more details about how her marriage to Tom was doomed from the start because she married her drinking buddy with the hopes of changing him. Whew. As a fellow bitch-in-the-program, I am regretfully a Lu/Leah/Braunwyn/DJ James Kennedy sympathizer, so I’m gonna go call my sponsor real quick before I end up simping for the damn countess.
Okay, back! And so is Ramona, who had to leave in the middle of Luann’s vulnerable moment because God forbid a single second is not about her. Why bond with new pals when you can just use them to shill for your friend’s lip-gloss line? Everyone immediately calls her out for it, and it is thrilling to see wives who have not already been weathered away by decades of Ramona’s behavior come in fresh. It will be considerably less thrilling to watch them slowly realize it’s a fruitless venture. Ramona eventually half-apologizes and blames it on her ADD. Teresa says she has ADD too, but she still tries to do the right thing. Really exceptional stuff.
Cynthia asks Kyle for some marriage advice, which is basically just “find a way to Eternal Sunshine your man’s brain so he has no idea how to open his DMs” and also “surround yourself with other happily married couples.” Sure, this shit is produced to the high heavens, but conversations like these are too earnest and paradoxically pure to fully roast.
A few hours later at the villa, everyone’s getting ready for the third annual Bailey-Que — concierge Michael is whipping up busted Google doc collateral, Kenya is patiently explaining the concept of reading to Ms. Paw-at-Black-Women’s-Hair-Without-Asking de Lesseps, and Ramona is doing some incantations. A reminder to myself to try repeating “you have good eyes, create the drama with your eyes” in front of the mirror later to see what kind of Loris Diran runway-show ghosts and/or aliens I can summon up.
Cynthia explains the rules of the game to all the gals except Kenya, who’s still in glam. Faced with even the tiniest nubbin of potential decision-making, Kyle has a meltdown, going on and on about her inner turmoil and how “it’s weird” to pick who’s the prettiest. Kyle, you are a long-standing veteran of a TV franchise where one of your castmates is maybe-probably involved with a large-scale embezzlement scheme! We passed “weird” a solid 11 years ago — this is where you draw the line?
Kenya comes down with some mac ’n’ cheese she swiped from the kitchen and immediately sides with Kyle, saying Cynthia’s game marginalizes everyone, suggesting they play Taboo instead. This is prime evidence for why Ramona’s assertion of carrying the Real Housewives Cinematic Universe on her back is so absurd. Kenya does not agree with Kyle in thinking the game is weird — she just believes these ladies aren’t gonna be able to handle it. It’s the equivalent of realizing a 3-year-old isn’t ready to watch the 1964 adaptation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer because they’re gonna freak out about that abominable snowman for weeks and no one’s gonna be sleeping right. If you cannot hang with the adults, I’m sorry, but you’re not the queen bee. I don’t make the rules.
They ultimately decide to play. Ramona pays homage to Teresa’s bouncing shimmering butt. Teresa chooses Lu/Cynthia/Ramona for fuck/marry/kill. Then we commence a circlejerk of everyone’s biggest insecurities. Kyle references her previous eating disorder, Teresa admits she’s afraid of getting older, and Kenya gets vulnerable about finding unconditional love. If my SSRI allowed for tear flow, this would have gotten me.
Melissa uses this opportunity to go deep on her relationship and daddy issues (her words, not mine!), and Cynthia educates everyone on how sometimes insecurity manifests itself as overcompensation. I give the “most unparalleled levels of self-awareness and EQ” award to everyone except Ramona. Before we can get to the rest of the awards, Kyle and Cynthia (whoever did that 50 Cynt art needs to repent for their sins) hash it out and agree to continue with all of the superlatives except “The Prettiest” because we couldn’t possibly perpetuate unreasonable beauty standards on this sentient silicone implant of a television program. It’s rapid-fire diplomacy! It’s a six-episode feuding arc packed into no more than 12 seconds of conversation! The highest of art.
In my new favorite clipsicles creation, “Housewives After Dark,” everyone does that awkward stand-around-dance thing like they’re waiting for the Bacardi Razz they just slurped in the bathroom at freshman-year homecoming to take effect. Cynthia somehow manages to look flawless in a 2 a.m. broom-closet confessional and admits disappointment at Kenya being late and people taking her kindness for weakness. Kenya gets the last laugh by shading Cynthia’s potato salad, but I’m not buying it — that shit looked good! I’m gonna give it a whirl myself and report back. See y’all Sunday to dive back into the post-Shahrrest fallout! ❄️