Dare I say that last night’s episode of Real Housewives of Orange County was actually…pretty decent? Of course, it had all the hallmarks of an entertaining episode: cosmetic surgery, on-site spray tanning, an over-the-top kiddie birthday party and actual familial strife being laid bare for the cameras to round out the hour. It seems as though the OC ladies might be learning something from their neighbors to the north in Beverly Hills.

As Real Housewives has started to decline a bit over the past year or two, it’s always seemed to me that the show would be more interesting with fewer episodes that contained more actual plot. If I had to re-edit this season, last night’s episode would be one that I’d keep almost entirely intact, which is about as good of an endorsement as I can give at this point. Now, on to the recap.

We started at Alexis’ house, where she was planning a Puppy Princess (or Princess Puppy, as she calls it, because she’s a creative person and can’t be hemmed in by others’ expectations) party for her twin girls’ fourth birthday. The essential element of the party preparations that we saw was the in-home spray-tanning which, thankfully, wasn’t applied to her pre-schoolers. I watch Toddlers & Tiaras, so when the tan tent was being erected in the kitchen, I started to get a little nervous. For once, perhaps the only time, this show didn’t sink quite as low as I thought it might. Alexis still smeared all kinds of makeup on the twins’ faces in advance of the party, of course, but I’ll take my victories where I can get them.

Elsewhere, Slade had invited Heather to a jewelry store to help him pick out a ring. And, I mean, there are so many questions: Why Heather, who barely knows Gretchen? Why did Heather know specific things about what Gretchen would want in an engagement ring? Why are this show’s seams showing so much lately? Am I the only one who hates the canary diamond/yellow gold combination? Anyway, as we all know, Slade is broke, so after looking at a few rings that cost zillions of dollars, he asked how much it would be to have a fake diamond made in the image of one of those rings. If the jeweler had had his way, the Earth would have opened up and swallowed Slade right there, and I don’t think any of us would have been particularly sad. Not even Gretchen.

In the umpteenth plastic surgery scene of the season thus far, we then joined Tamra in Dr. Heather’s Husband’s office, where she intended to have her wedding tattoo physically cut off her body if she could stop fear-pooping long enough to let it happen. She said that she was doing it because it bothered Eddie so much and he would get her a ring if she had it removed once and for all, and all I could think while Tamra was talking was that I would have thought she had already learned her lesson about altering her body in permanent ways at the behest of a romantic partner. Wasn’t that how she got the tattoo in the first place, not to mention the gigunda breast implants that she had yanked out earlier this season? I can understand wanting to get the remnants of the tattoo removed, but Tamra, please don’t do it because you think it gives you some sort of guaranteed outcome with a dude. You’ve been making so much progress!

Tamra is sticking to her guns about not moving in with Eddie and the kids, all together, until she has a ring, though, so that’s something. She’s also realistic about the kind of impact that moving in with her kids might have on her relationship, which is more forethought and realism than I would have previously assumed Tamra was capable of. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is New, Improved Tamra, but I’m still cautiously optimistic. Now that I’ve said that, she’ll probably participate in the removal of a dead body from Vicki’s house next week, just to prove me wrong.

Speaking of Vicki’s and her house, she and her brother Billy were there, still dithering about Brianna’s marriage. Mostly they were complaining about how the whole ceremony and party that Brianna had promised to have for her friends and family wouldn’t mean anything, but what meaning, exactly, had Brianna deprived them of? They were still saying vows in from of their friends and their chosen religious figure, so what’s the real difference? Not to mention that marriage has never seemed to be so utterly sacrosanct to twice-divorced Vicki in the first place. I simply don’t see the harm in letting the kid do the legal ceremony by herself if that’s what she feels like she needs to do, particularly if she’s still promising to participate in the Vickifest that the wedding will almost surely turn out to be.

Meanwhile, at Heather’s house, she and Gretchen were discussing the architectural decisions that they had made when they had the house built, including the ultimate, most important luxury – his-and-hers bathrooms off the master suite. In my mind, if you’re building a custom home and you don’t include two bathrooms off the master, you are not very smart. Heather, despite her attempts to play up some unpleasant parts of her personality for the show’s sake, is quite intelligent. Her bathroom choices tell me so.

After the bathroom talk, the two of them got down to business – Gretchen and Slade’s relationship. Gretchen still doesn’t want to get married, which seemed like the first time that Heather had heard that. Remember, Heather is an actress by trade, so of course it seemed like that. Bravo expects us to believe Heather and Gretchen have discussed the particulars of engagement rings in great detail but not Gretchen’s actual thoughts about getting married in the near future, but I’m not actually willing to suspend that much disbelief. Gretchen actually got a little emotional about the fact that she may never be able to marry Slade, which is the most I think we’ve ever seen her care about the whole issue. She does know that she wants to be knocked up by 36, though. That’s for sure.

At Alexis’ house, the party for which everyone had gotten all tanned and makeup’d had commenced. Alexis made a big speech about how she had nearly died trying to deliver her twins, which was perhaps a little intense for a bunch of four-year-olds, and she followed that up by telling all the children that the puppies they were all playing with needed good homes. Great! Because explaining the realities of birth and death while trying to pry a scared puppy out of the hands of a crying child who has already named it is exactly what a parent wants to do at a birthday party on a sunny afternoon.

Back with Heather, she had just found out that she hadn’t gotten the role that she had auditioned for a few weeks prior, and refreshingly, her attitude about the whole thing was positive. Unfortunately, it did get her talking about the dumb restaurant idea again, which is something that I really had hoped not to hear about for the rest of the season. Heather is more interesting and relatable when she’s trying to carefully unravel Alexis’ brainless lies, and I’m worried that the restaurant may cut into her interrogation time.

We then visited Tamra and Eddie, who were out to dinner in perhaps the worst location ever (right next to an active train track!) to have a very serious conversation about the future of their relationship. As we mentioned before, Tamra’s afraid that moving in with her and her kids would overwhelm Eddie and ultimately drive him away, which is probably a reasonable fear to have. Eddie’s younger, never-before-married and without any kids, and he’s taking on an older woman who has tons of baggage, which is a situation that would be difficult for any couple. He seems pretty game for the whole thing, though, and so far, I don’t have any huge problems with him.

Eddie’s never tried to parade any of his personal business ventures in front of the camera or insert himself into any of the show’s plots that don’t concern him (hello, Slade), and although he’s had a couple not-so-great arguments with Tamra, he doesn’t seem malevolent in the same way that Simon always did. Importantly, the Internet hasn’t dug up any truly awful things about him in the two years that he and Tamra have been dating, so I’m guessing that he actually is a fairly normal person. So, you know, maybe those two crazy kids will make it. (Tamra also “revealed” her tattoo removal in a way that wasn’t at all believable, so let’s just pretend it never happened, shall we?)

And then, of course, was the main event. I actually didn’t take any notes during Vicki’s conversation with Brianna – it was THAT compelling. Normally I can watch this show with my head in my computer the entire time, but listening to Brianna clearly (more or less) and succinctly verbalize all the concerns that both she and everyone else have about Brooks required my full attention. Vicki and Brianna appear to have been in some therapy together at some point, because as soon as Vicki tried to change the subject by trying to pick apart Brianna’s husband (who seems to have no skeletons other than being previously divorced), Brianna called her out on it and shut her down.

Amazingly, Brianna was able to not only mention all of things the Internet had already found out (Brooks is a deadbeat dad, he has four kids by three women, he’s had at least one DUI, he’s a hanger-on that drives Vicki’s car around Orange County while she works, etc.), but also something that it theoretically hadn’t: Vicki and Brooks have been “friends” for a long time. She plainly said that she had seen evidence that Vicki had been emotionally unfaithful to Donn before they decided to get divorced, and although Vicki weakly denied it, she seemed like she was mostly aghast at being caught and confronted.

No matter whether Vicki tried to belittle Brianna by calling her a child even though she is grown or tried to change the subject to talk about Ryan’s sins (none of which she could name specifically), Brianna stayed the course and didn’t yell even when Vicki raised her voice. She did do the thing she did to Brooks where she cocked her head to the side and stared off into space while Vicki shrieked, which seems like it’s probably a coping mechanism that she developed to deal with Vicki’s loud-mouthed insanity at an early age. Ultimately, though, Vicki seemed frantic and indignant that someone was actually saying what everyone was obviously thinking, and I’m genuinely interested to see how the situation continues to unfold. I can’t remember the last time I was genuinely interested in anything the Real Housewives did, but I think it was circa Beverly Hills.

  • Seejay

    I LOVED Brianna & she is DEFINITELY a favorite. She remained composed while still scoring on her mother. A trait I desperately need! She so put Vicki in her place (what’s up with V’s inflated face?) I thought Alexis was a little embarrassing with the makeup on her kids. Tamra didn’t need to do that procedure. Heather’s home is fantastic! I feel bad for Gretchen……bad that she looks so old & she’s only 34…..

    • Suz

       Gretchen looks old in a very peculiar way….sort of drag queen meets Barbie meets Toddlers and Tiaras.  It’s all ghastly….

    • John

      She has aged badly throughout the show. I remember when she first started I thought she looked natural and pretty but now it’s almost scary. Hopefully she looks back and decides to stop with the plastic surgery or make up or whatever it is like Tamra has done.

  • NCGal

    Ok…Amanda…what’s
    with the Gretchen-teeth??? I was so distracted by her dentage (?!) I couldn’t concentrate
    on Heather’s bathroom/salon/lounge area!!! Also, what’s with the Gretchen
    saying…CONSTANTLY “are you kidding me right now?” She’s 34
    fahgawdsakes, my 5th grade Godson says that and he’s barely under the wire.
    Vicki is a bully, a rager, and I suspect (with all my being) an alcoholic. God
    how she disgusted me and her disrespect for her grown daughter. Vicki, like all the bullies I know, hate to be called on their shit and react with over-the-top shouting. There were
    elevendy-billion things wrong with that party Alexis threw for herself…er, I
    mean, her daughters: Pound puppies with a bunch of 4 -year-olds and then
    announce they are up for adoption and to pressure the parents? Seriously? The
    near-death birthing speech? (I think Alexis likes her Percodan, by the way; she
    talks about pain meds waaaayyyy too much), Earth-Jesus in a tux and then in
    those douchy cargo shorts? Making the mini-me son be the announcing-Earl? There
    isn’t a treatment center built that is equipped to handle the damage done to
    these RHousewive’s kids. Even Jersey’s Caroline Manzo, who I used to think was
    such a model of parental integrity, has turned ugly on her daughter this season
    regarding her weight. Good, God, already!

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Amanda Mull

      I didn’t really notice Gretchen’s teeth (I watch online and sometimes my screen is not so clear), but my guess is that whatever it is can be explained by an over-enthusiastic set of veneers or caps. When someone famous all of a sudden has distracting teeth, that’s usually what it is.

    • Reality Junkie

      NC Gal, you are HILARIOUS!!! “Elevendy-billion”?! I laughed out loud!

      • Suz

         …..and I hope you don’t mind, NCGal,  if I incorporate “elevendy-billion” into my day to day vocabulary….Thanks

    • Suz

       Oh thank you, NCGal.  You saved me a lot of typing.  You covered it all!

    • Matthew

      I think Alexis watched “Bridesmaids” and actually thought giving away puppies at parties was a good idea. Hint: it’s not.

      • Lisa from Oregon

        If i was a guest at that party, i would have been PISSED! Of course my kid will want to take a puppy home! What kind of crap is that?

  • FallonLatrece

    I have to say Brianna handled herself very well considering what she was dealing with.  It couldn’t have been easy to tell her mom all those things, and then Vicki exploded on her, as Vicki usually does.  Brianna is right though, I think Brooks is using Vicki, and Vicki is just desperate to have someone fill her love tank. 

  • Reality Junkie

    I agree Amanda, that this was by far the most interesting episode of RH we have seen since Beverly HIlls (although I am still going to try and encourage you to watch New Jersey…I think it’s going to be a good season)!
    Anyway, I am so proud of Brianna. It seems to me that she has decided to stand her ground, while still being respectful to her mother. During that conversation I wanted to reach through the screen and simultaneously “high five” Brianna and strangle Vicki. If Vicki says one more time that Brianna’s impromptu wedding “robbed her”, I think I will scream! She doesn’t care in the least about Brianna’s happiness…she is pissed because she was robbed of the CAMERA TIME she could have bilked Bravo for by planning the wedding. plain and simple, that is what she is so angry about. And that is exactly why Brianna did what she did, in my opinion….

  • Reality Junkie

    Two more things: First, I am so very tired of the Gretchen/Slade Slimey marriage debate. He is a LOSER, always has been, always will be. When I think back to the first season and his relationship with Jo, when he bragged incessantly about his money and how important it was for his girlfriend to be invloved in his son’s lives…now his youngest boy has terminal brain cancer and the only mention of him from either Slade OR Gretchen is child support and how to avoid paying that debt. They are both absolutely disgusting people.

    Second, Amanda, your recaps are the BEST I have found on the internet. I look forward to your thoughts and insight on Mad Men and Real Housewives so much that I even think, during the shows, “what is Amanda going to say about THAT?!”  Now that we know you watch Toddlers and Tiaras, would you consider recapping that show? There’s so much there to discuss! I am sure you are busy, but please consider….it’s a very popular show that no one recaps well, and I bet your readers would really enjoy it.

    Thanks for your reviews. It really adds to the enjoyment of our television time!

  • Sara

    Good for Briana. Vicki was way out of line comparing Ryan and Brooks.

  • Suz

    Well, Amanda, you did it again.  You always succeed in making your recaps so much better than the show.  I guess that’s the difference between intelligent humor and vapid narcissism.  It’s all been covered…but I do want to comment on the restaurant by the train tracks.  My suspicion would be, they just wanted a) some action and b) to let us know that it wasn’t in the same generic restaurant/coffee shop those ladies always seem to go to.  Also….Brooks gave new meaning to “slime”.  He is so full of blustering bull shit, he almost…well, almost made Slade seem classy.  And, how Brianna copes with Vicki is a marvel.  Hats off to that girl!

  • Matthew

    Brianna has always been my favorite person on any of the Real Housewives franchises, and I’m pretty sure I gave her a standing ovation on Tuesday night.

    Bravo, Brianna! Oops, I said Bravo.

  • Relli

    I finally got a chance to watch this episode and WOW! Vicki is really a piece of work and while don’t necessarily hold Radar in high esteem they do run a good number of RHW “exclusive news.” they recently had an article on Brooks that basically stated he was filling Vicki’s love tank for his own fame and he secretly hates her. Also according the Internet Brianna is pregnant, gawd I hope uncle Andy filmed that.

    * I totally get Gretchen not wanting to marry Slade but wanting to be with him, relationships are hard especially when they are grown up relationships and they involve real stuff like money and support. Given the chance to marry again I would do it for money.

    * Amanda you put so perfectly into words the horror on the Jeweler’s face, as well as Heather’s, when asked about fake stones. I think she is the only 1 who agreed to go because she is the only 1 who doesn’t totally hate him.

    *