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.