Last night’s episode of Real Housewives of Orange County was a bit of a snooze, but the pre-trip episodes almost always are. Letting out any of the really good drama before everyone decamps to a second location would lessen the impact of the fancy vacations episodes, and I’d imagine that if Bravo deigns to foot the bill for something like a trip to Costa Rica, they intend to milk it for every last drop of drama it’s worth. Not that I can blame them, of course. Vacations are spendy.
As a result, last night featured a bunch of short-term plot points (Heather’s name-change, for example) to fill in the time around the real story lines that will dominate the season’s last few episodes: Vicki’s conflicts with her daughter, Gretchen’s conflicts with Slade and Alexis’ seemingly manufactured conflict with Tamra. It seems as thought Alexis and Tamra are going to explode next week, but first, we have to have a recap.
We started with Vicki and Brooks, who had “dropped by” Vicki’s office to discuss the fight that Brianna and Vicki had had the night before. After some obviously fake patter about how Brooks was there unannounced (he was clearly not) and that no one had ever brought Vicki coffee at work (she has interns, right?), Vicki said that she thinks she’s a perfect mom (She said that with a straight face! Twice!) and that she wants her old Brianna back. As far as I can tell, hasn’t Brianna always done a pretty decent job standing up to her mom? What old Brianna are we talking about here? The one who lives exclusively in Vicki’s empty head?
Vicki also told Brooks that Brianna thinks he’s an opportunist and then burst into tears over how mean her kids are being and how hard it must be for him to date her. Right, because the upshot of all of this is how unpleasant it must be for newly minted reality TV diva Brooks! Remember, Vicki didn’t burst into tears when she talked about how her handling of Brianna’s elopement could cause her to lose her relationship with her daughter forever, or when Brianna told her that everyone was scared that Brooks was going to fleece her for all she’s worth, but you know what does inspire tears in Vicki? The mere thought of being broken up with by a dude she’s been in a relationship with for a couple of months because her kids are just, like, huge meanies. A real perfect mother, that one.
Also, if anyone in the world is a cautionary tale for those seeking to have things injected into their faces, it’s Vicki. I generally try not to comment on anyone’s appearance too much, but seriously, if I can one person out there from doing whatever it is that Vicki has done to make her head so lumpy, it’s worth it. This is what happens when that stuff settles, you guys. It’s not a good look, and when you burst into tears, your face should move. Step away from the injectables, ladies. The only long-term solution to getting older is death, and I don’t advise that, either.
Elsewhere, Heather sat down with some Actress Friend whose name I missed to discuss the possibility of Heather changing her last name to DuBrow. Through the first 12 years of their marriage, Heather had kept her maiden name, Heather Page Kent, because it was how she was known professionally and she was planning to return to her career at some point. Heather seemed to be rethinking whether or not she still wanted to keep that possibility open, and her friend told her to go ahead and throw in the towel and change her name because her husband will probably appreciate it and she has kids anyway, so hey, whatever. My take? If she’s waited this long to change it, she probably doesn’t really want to, and Heather should stay Heather Page Kent. Because Bravo bothered to introduce the idea, though, I knew that wasn’t going to happen, and probably so did all of you.
At Gretchen’s house, she and Slade were sitting out on the porch, tip-toeing around the issues that Gretchen had discussed with Heather last week. Gretchen tearfully floated the idea of the two of them going to couples’ therapy to discuss the debt issues that are hampering their possible path toward marriage and parenthood, and the emotion in the scene took me a bit by surprise. If you’ve seen the commercials that Gretchen and Tamra do for Around the World in 80 Plates, then you know that Gretchen’s not much of an actress (and neither is Tamra, to be fair), and I’m not sure that she could have faked that much emotion. Maybe the storyline is only, say, 90% producer-concocted? Or maybe there was someone just off screen, chopping up a big onion? I’d say that the odds on those two possibilities are approximately even.
We then witnessed Alexis driving her own car (instead of being driven by her “assistant”) for once, and while she headed to an Alexis Couture photo shoot, she explained that the line has absolutely BLOWN UP, requiring more of her time than she had originally budgeted for it. In fact, she now has two lines, but I glazed over while she was explaining the differences between the two. If I’ve ever seen a bigger pile of bullshit on television, I certainly can’t remember it. Considering that I still accidentally ended up on the webpage of the MILF porn performer of the same name while trying to Alexis Couture’s official website, I’d imagine that the business is still approximately as small as we expected it to be.
The photo shoot was for the cover of Beauty & Entertainment magazine, which I had never previously heard of. From what I can tell, it’s a salon industry publication with a very basic website, so not exactly the cover of Vogue or anything. Because I doubt that Alexis and Earth Jesus have the financial wherewithal to purchase a cover spread for themselves, even in a small mag, it’s anyone guess how Alexis ended up being featured, but I guess a Real Housewife if better than a fourth-tier model, and I bet they didn’t have to pay Alexis.
In a slightly less self-serious scene, we then followed Heather to the DMV, where she was legally changed her name, got a new driver’s license and made exactly no one laugh, despite her best efforts. The DMV is indeed a tough room, and I should know, because I am exactly the type of person who tries to get DMV employees on her side by cracking bad jokes that they probably hear all day. No one there will laugh at your jokes, even just to be nice, no matter how hard you try or how much you attempt to engage them in eye contact. Still, Heather managed to make it through, get her new name and even take a picture for her new license that wasn’t terrible, and she did it all without any of the, “Ugh, plebeians!” complaining that generally characterizes a rich lady’s trip to a government office. I wish Heather and Terry hadn’t been trying so hard to fit the Real Housewife stereotype earlier in the season, because generally, I quite like both of them.
When Heather surprised her husband with the paperwork for her new name, he seemed genuinely touched, even after 12 years of marriage and a whole mess o’ kids. (Does she have three or four? I can never remember.) It’s nice that he had never pressured her about it before, because something that big should be every woman’s individual decision. I doubt I’ll ever change my name, but if that’s what makes Heather happy (as it seemed to once she actually did it), then good for her. Choose your choice, Heather! Choose your choice.
Speaking of reinvention, Tamra is apparently quite serious about the whole fitness studio thing. She and Eddie met with the owner of a similar business to sit down and talk specifics about how entering the fitness industry works, and unlike Heather’s meeting with a restaurant owner earlier in the season, Tamra actually asked good questions and seemed to have a very reasonable idea of what it would take to start a small business. She had thought about start-up budgets and even insurance, which are things we’ve never heard any other Housewife publicly consider when starting a new venture. Can you imagine Alexis asking the same questions, or even realizing that insurance would be a thing that she’d have to have? That’s what I thought.
Our next stop was Vicki, who was calling around to plan a girls’ trip to Costa Rica, because no season of Real Housewives is complete without everyone going on a trip for absolutely no reason. The only person who actually deigned to take Vicki’s call was Alexis, who then enlightened us all to the fact that Costa Rica is in Mexico, which means it is south of California. Remember that question I asked you about Alexis in the last paragraph? Anyone who gave her the benefit of the doubt might want to amend their answer now.
We then joined Gretchen and Slade for couples’ therapy (and perhaps more importantly, the fight over nothing that they got into in the car on the way there), and before we delve into what was said, let’s address the scene itself: Therapists shouldn’t allow reality television cameras to view their sessions with their clients. Period! Now that that’s said, the upshot of the scene was that Slade seemed to be blaming Gretchen and all the stuff he does for her for distracting him from doing the things he needs to do to deal with his child support and debt problems. Exactly what it is that Slade needs to do in order to get his life in order was never mentioned – more freelance work of some sort? Concentrating really hard on making a pile of money appear in Gretchen’s kitchen floor? Continuing his lifelong search for a genie in a bottle who shall grant him three wishes? I’m not sure.
Whatever it is, though, he’s going to do it from 10-2 every day, and Gretchen is not allowed to talk to him during those hours. She didn’t seem to believe that having that quiet time was going to encourage him to resolve the issue that he’s been putting off resolving for years already, and considering that she admitted helping him make child support payments in the past, I believe her. She might make questionable outfit choices, but Gretchen has never struck me as dumb. The reality of the situation doesn’t seem to escape her in the same way that it does Slade, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they eventually broke up because of it.
To finish up the show, Alexis and Tamra sat down to “iron out their issues before the Costa Rica trip,” and in Real Housewives English, that means that they sat down to fight and set the stage for larger arguments in later episodes while everyone is cooped up together at a hotel. And, of course, that’s exactly what happened – Tamra’s sick of Alexis’ bullshit and pretention, just like almost all of us are, and she’s never been one to pretend that she likes someone who she actually doesn’t. As far as I can remember, though, Tamra hasn’t done anything particularly rude to Alexis this season, so I’m not sure exactly why the confrontation was necessary. (Well, yes, I do know why the confrontation was necessary – it reeked of producer set-up.)
Nothing particularly absolute was said, mostly because Alexis and Tamra haven’t really had much interaction this season during which they could develop specific complaints with each other. In fact, until the review of the season so far at the top of the episode showed us Alexis planning an eventual “talk” with Tamra, I didn’t even remember that the two were involved in an active feud in any way. Which, come to think of it, probably means that it was all in Alexis’ head in the first place. As far as I could tell, Alexis was mostly mad at Tamra for being present at Heather’s table while Terry made fun of Alexis’ impending nose job.
The one actual bomb that was lobbed during the “lunch” (I put that in quotes because food never materialized) concerned Alexis’ perceived phoniness, which is a subject that we’ve discussed many times in this space before. Most of you guys seem to be on the same page with me: a lot of what Alexis says just doesn’t read as truthful, for whatever reason. That impression seems not to be lost on the other cast members, based on both Tamra’s half of the conversation and the previews for next week’s episode. I’m not sure if that’s because Alexis is actually lying or because she’s so dumb that anything that comes out of her mouth is automatically of questionable veracity simply by virtue of Alexis saying it; either way, it looks like it’s going to lead to what might actually be an interesting confrontation with the rest of the cast next week.