This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but with two whimpering poodles dressed in pink tutus in the back of a van while their mother coos to them, “We’re moving to Chicago, babies!” Most fans of the show who follow the Daily Mail on Instagram (admit it, that’s most of you!) knew that Tinsley would be leaving halfway through the season to get engaged to her boyfriend Skott the Koupon King. I was not expecting it to play out like this.
Tinsley gets the full end-of-the-season treatment: a group scene, a teary good-bye, and a few lines of text on the screen sending her off into the great abyss where no cameras exist. Usually the red lights on those cameras are just off temporarily, but Tinz has decided to venture off to the snowy tundra of Chicago, a city so boring that both Potomac and Salt Lake City have gotten Real Housewives franchises before it has. I mean, what’s in Chicago? Oprah? Hot dogs? Sturdy blond corn-fed frat boys who will breathe down your collar while offering to get you a lite beer at the bar? Wait. This suddenly doesn’t sound like such a bad place.
The veneration of Tinsley and the swift wrapping up of her storyline in a tidy pink bow was a little bit surprising for those of us at the Real Housewives Institute because there is very little precedent. The first Housewife to leave midseason was the otherwise forgettable Peggy Tanous, who left Orange County in 2011, a few episodes into her second season and the show’s seventh. She just got a confessional talking about leaving due to her anxiety issues and made a few “friend of” appearances throughout the season.
The next one is nearly a decade later when Lisa Vanderpump took her toys and went home in the previous season of RHOBH. We know how that ended, with her being conspicuously absent from everything, including the reunion, other than to film a few reactions to her fight with Kyle and short infomercial for her “cocktail garden” opening in Las Vegas. She seems to have really opened up the door, because this year both Tinsley and Denise Richards tapped out of RHOBH before the final inning. (Am I mixing sports metaphors? Who cares?)
I don’t think that Denise is going to get the same treatment as Tinlsey. There was clearly a discussion between her and the producers about her deciding to leave New York to move to Chicago and she did so on good terms. I must admit that I question exactly how her last two scenes were filmed.
The narrative of Tinsley leaving starts when the women all go to Blood Manor, a haunted house that is supposedly a “New York institution” though in my 15 years in Gotham I never even heard of it. It seems like a good time and I am happy for the visit, if only for a zombie scaring the hell out of Sonja Tremont Morgan of the Century 21 Flagship Store Morgans on the sidewalk and her proclaiming to the women, “I should have worn a diaper!” Some of the women arrive in costume, some don’t. The Countess says she’s dressed as a cougar, but her skintight catsuit is actually covered in leopard spots. We can’t really complain about inconsistencies in her costume. At least this one doesn’t use blackface.
At dinner after the haunted house, all of the women are upset with Tinsley that she posted about being in Chicago with Skott on Instagram without telling them about the trip. Then Leah announces that Tinsley is going to make it work with Skott and that, while he hasn’t proposed, it’s basically going that way. Tinsley tells them all that she’s going to move to Chicago for the relationship.
The reaction isn’t them wishing her the best. The reaction is not them asking more questions about how she came to this decision. The reaction is not even raising a half-hearted glass of tequila to her decision. The reaction is Dorinda spitting down the table a snide, “So that means you can move out of your hotel now!” As Tinsley tries to get attention for her announcement, Dorinda continues to be mean, saying, “I have a turkey baster if you want to try to get pregnant,” which seems below the belt both figuratively and lit-rally.
In a confessional Dorinda says Tinsley is “making an ass out of all of us, running game.” But why does Dorinda care so much? Why? Why? Tell me, WhYyyYYYyYYYYYYyyYYyYyy. In all of my years of study here at the Real Housewives Institute, I have been slowly approaching a Unifying Theory of Housewifery. I have deduced that on Late Stage Reality Shows such as this one, all fights are actually about the show. The only reason I can figure out that Dorinda cares is that she thinks Tinsley doesn’t really live in New York and isn’t sharing her real life on camera like the rest of them are. She’s resentful because she feels like she is giving everything and Tinsley is not. That’s what she means when she says Tinz is “pulling the wool over our eyes,” that she’s pretending to be from New York.
We also see this when Ramona drags Sonja and Dorinda out to Bethpage, on Long Island, to talk about her party in a demented warehouse full of chocolate-covered graham crackers. As Ramona talks about her shindig and won’t listen to the other women’s ideas, the social media intern for the event planner asks them all to take a picture together. Dorinda is mad because she’s being used as a prop so that Ramona can get a good deal on her party. The exposure on the show was clearly the barter and Dorinda was, unbeknownst to her, used as a bargaining chip. She’s mad that Ramona isn’t cutting her in on the deal (need we revisit The Hustle?!). This is a fight not about time or inconvenience, this is a fight about the show.
Back to the dinner. Luann does say that Dorinda’s treatment of Tinsley is overkill and she is completely right. It was just cruel. But just as cruel is that no one but Leah and Elyse, a free breadbasket when everyone at the table is Paleo, will defend her. Sonja, Ramona, and Countess Crackerjacks just all fall in line with Dorinda, essentially blocking the other three out from the table and the conversation. It was not fun to watch.
The next scenes we see are of Ramona and Luann at a bar with Tinsley and, while Ramona says she felt bad about the dinner and wanted to apologize, something about the timing seems weird, particularly when Tinsley says, “I’m moving to Chicago tomorrow.” If she was really moving just a few days after the haunted house, I’m surprised she didn’t say that at dinner, not that any of the women would listen.
While Ramona and Luann tell Tinsley all they want is her happiness and hope for the best, it’s really a sweet scene and a nice send-off from the OGs to a new but respected player. However, Ramona couldn’t be bothered to clear the calendar for this good-bye. Her date, Ron or Rob or Mark or Jim or some other name for a middle-aged man in finance who has a house in the Hamptons, shows up early. Tinsley says she met him before, with Harry Dubin at the Regency. Luann also knows him. Seriously, are there like six eligible men on the UES and they all know each other? New York is a city of 92 bajillion. These ladies are all really sharing five guys with not enough hair and too many zip-up mock turtleneck sweaters with company logos on the breast?
The real reason I question the timeline of this all is when we see Tinz and her mom at her hotel room. Leah stops by and says, “I haven’t seen you in so long.” If Tinsley announced at the dinner that she was moving, and then told them at drinks a few days later that she was moving the next day, why hasn’t Leah seen her in so long? Would she say that because she hadn’t seen her in a week? Or did Tinz go off to Chicago, come back to film some pickup scenes to round off her departure so it would be nice and smooth, and then go back to Chicago for good? I mean, I don’t know, but I have my ideas. (And honestly, I don’t really care. But like Dorinda, I just want them to be honest with us.) Also, the absence of Dorinda is conspicuous, but if she treated me like she treated Tinz all season, I’d want to quit to go live with a modest tech millionaire too.
I honestly got a little misty when Leah and Sonja were having a little confab with Tinsley and Dale. “I thought she was crazy for wanting to be the fairy tale and not the legend,” Leah says. “But now I wish I had a fraction of her optimism.” The only thing that could have made that toast better is if Martin, the boxing coach, had shown up for a pep talk. Tinsley says she’s more of herself since she’s “been back in New York,” by which she means back on the show. She’s in fashion shows, she’s working on her brand, she’s being known again. Well, sorry kiddo, but none of that is going to happen in Chicago. None of that will happen without the show.
But maybe this is something great? Maybe this is something romantic? When she and her mother are packing up her hotel room, Tinsley says that if she doesn’t take this shot with Skott (Shot with Skott sounds like a New York Rangers podcast someone produces in his garage in Merrick) that she’ll regret it for the rest of her life. She says she’s doing it for herself and no one else. Dale gets teary because “everything is changing.” What is she crying about? What are they both talking about? Is it about love? Is it about fame? Is it about going out on a limb and making a risky decision because you honestly feel like it’s the right thing? Is it about the vast chasm of middle age and the ebbing tide of opportunities before us? Maybe all of it. Maybe none of it. Maybe it’s just about frilly outfits for tiny dogs. Maybe sometime in the future, Tinsley, like the aliens in Contact, will be able to send us a message from the opposite side of the black hole of obscurity and tell us.
Meanwhile, in an apartment on the Upper East in the present day, a redhead with roots down to her ears goes to the front door and opens it. She sees a woman walking down the hallway toward her unit in knee-high black boots and a shirt that is cut perilously low. She has a large purse swung over her shoulder and the swagger of someone who is on the job. “Quick, quick. Come in. Before the neighbors see you,” the redhead motions toward the woman, whose pace quickens to a gallop to get inside the door.
“Thanks so much for coming,” the redhead says. “This is something I’ve really wanted to do for a long time and, well, I know it will be expensive and kind of risky, but totally worth it.”
“Absolutely,” the woman replies enthusiastically. She takes off the face mask she was wearing in the hallway and her words become slightly louder. “So. Where do you want me?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never done this before. Maybe the bedroom? Right? Where do you usually do this?”
“The bedroom could work, but it might get a little messy. We don’t want to leave stains.”
“The bathroom? But then we’d be really close together. The kitchen. I’ve never done it in the kitchen.”
“That works,” the guest says.
They walk toward the kitchen, and the redhead points to a pile of bills. “Your money’s on the counter. I already included a tip.”
“Thanks so much,” the guest says, getting closer to her. She pulls some things out of her bag and lays them on the counter before cooing, “Shall we begin?”
She quickly unfurls a cape and the redhead sits down in a chair. She leans her head back and waits for the unfamiliar touch of these female hands, the first to graze her scalp in what seems like ages. The guest wraps the cape around her and asks her what she wants to do to her hair today.
“Well, first we should do my color, and then a trim and a blow out,” Jill Zarin says, almost erotically, willing to break the rules to be beautiful, willing to court danger so she can feel a little bit more like herself.