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.

  • Kitty

    Great recap as usual. Stray observations: Tamara looked really good. Gretchen looked like she had too much makeup and a wig. Her hair is distracting.  Also, she needs to just dump him for crying out loud. This is a man who mopes about carrying her purse or driving her places instead of trying hard to get a job and pay his child support. Any dude who neglects his kids this way and talks about them as a “problem” he needs to correct, but never does. Run Gretchen run, run….. Oy, how stupid is Alexis, pretty airhead. Wow.
    Amanda, please tell me you will recap New York.  RHNY are my fave. Pretty please.

  • Chicky

    Alexis phony?  You’re just jelly because she was driving a Rolls Royce!  

    I think Vicki has some sort of rash on top of the lumpiness of her skin. It doesn’t look like acne.  Maybe eczema or something.  Very unappealing.

    Slade is clueless and always will be. Gretchen needs to dump his ass.

    • Kjohn

      Vicky’s complexion is due to severe (probably cystic) acne scarring

    • Kjohn

      Shoot, I posted before I was done. The rash part might be from a chemical peel or something, which she’s probably been using to reduce said scarring. 

  • Nancy from SB

    Thanks for your explanation of Vicky’s unsightly face bumps – whether you are right or not, I do hope you have discouraged a few women from injecting poison into their faces. I feel as you do, it’s not nice to criticize anyone’s looks, but I think your comments performed a much needed public service, so in this case it was worth it.
    Speaking of public services, Tamra’s new fake boob-less look is fantastic – she looks so tiny and slim now, and every bit as hot in my opinion (as a straight woman). Hotter, in fact – I have heard confidence is sexy and with her new life as a happy, single woman, she just seems so much more radiant.

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

      I think part of Vicki’s texture problem is probably from acne scarring, as Kjohn pointed out, but she’s also got the telltale “pillowface” look going on, which isn’t just a texture problem, but something that results from injecting too many things into your face. Madonna has it too, as do most women who have spent most of their middle age years trying to plump themselves while avoiding the stigma of having “plastic surgery.” Vicki’s a little older than most Real Housewives, so any of them who have overused things like restylane or collagen injections are likely headed toward the same sort of doughiness. 

      And I agree that Tamra looks really great this season, particularly since she’s had her implants removed. It’s amazing what actually living a healthy lifestyle instead of relying on surgery to fix everything you don’t like can do for a person, eh?

      • Nancy from SB

         Amen, sister!

        Interesting you brought up Madonna, who is about my age and was my idol since her beginnings. I was mortified that she got a face lift a few years ago -she sold out if you ask me.  All that bravado, power, money, fame, “and “i’m gonna rule the world attitude” – out the window. She caved to societal pressure. I always thought she had an extraordinary face and was looking forward to seeing her as a hot 70 year old – I mean look at Raquel Welch, Sophia Loren – similar strong, out of the ordinary looks and they are both hotter than ever! (Oh, please don’t tell me they had plastic surgery, too! sigh)

  • Sherry berry

    I know I’m a minority, but I think Alexis is incredibly dumb. But I have a soft spot for her because I have never heard her say anything malicious unlike Tamra. Tamra needs someone to hate. Alexis is a great target because she thinks Costa Rica is in Mx. But I’ll take dumb over mean any day. Tamra could have everything she ever wanted but she will continue to talk shit about others to her grave

  • Zooey

    I was all team Tamara up until she repeated what Terry had said about Alexis being “phony” when he was eating with GRETCHEN… Tamara wasn’t even there and she’s using what he said to cause drama! Wtf, I thought Tamara was better than that these days. And she completely exaggerated what Gretchen had told her too. Ugh, I feel like I’m in 9th grade again…

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

      I agree that it was kind of a weird thing for Tamra to bring up since she wasn’t there for it in the first place, but with Alexis and Tamra having had so little interaction this season, I’m not sure what else they were supposed to fight about. (That’s one reason that the entire fight felt like a producer setup to me – they were obviously sent there to argue and set up next week’s big argument, but what exactly were they meant to argue about?)

      On the one hand, it wasn’t Tamra’s place to bring it up. On the other hand, Terry said it on camera, during a scene that was obviously set up to be filmed for the show, so I’m not sure how mad he or Heather can really get that it was repeated to Alexis. She was going to see him say it with her own eyes eventually, it wasn’t said in privacy or confidence. Which I guess is one of the central paradoxes of this show – all of this back-biting and gossiping is filmed, so why does anyone ever get mad for things said behind anyone’s back or things repeated that weren’t supposed to be repeated? None of it’s actually private in any sense of the word.

      I think that’s why I’m starting to get a little sick of Real Housewives as a whole, actually. Seams like those are getting to be bothersome to me.

  • Matthew

    I actually liked this week’s episode. I thought the interaction between Heather and Terry was really sweet when she told him she changed her name. I also think Tamra looks amazing, Gretchen wears way too much makeup but she’s at least handling her situation with Slade intelligently, Vickie is delusional, and Alexis is beyond dumb.

    It’s been a while since I laughed as loud as I did when they showed Alexis mentioning that Costa Rica is in Mexico. There is no excuse for that. THANK YOU for using that as the title of your post.

    I think Tamra bringing up Terry’s opinion of Alexis is going to come back to haunt her. And Gretchen. While what he said is true and on Bravo TV, it just makes them look like gossipers, and I can’t imagine the Dubrows will be happy about it.

    Nevertheless, it’s all true. Everything they all say about Alexis is true. Can’t wait until next week!

    • Reality Junkie

      Matthew- Heather was on Watch What Happens Live and Andy did indeed ask her how Tamra’s bringing up Terry’s statements to Alexis would affect their relationship. Heather was very gracious and carefully worded her response (and I must give her credit, she did that throughout the entire show). Basically she said that Terry’s words were exaggerated but since Tamra heard it second-hand, she didn’t really blame her for not having her facts straight. In other words, she acted like a grown up! Who’d expect THAT from a Real Housewife?!

  • NCGal

    Ugh! Is it just me or did anyone else find the Heather-name-change soooo over-the top, self-involved, delusional, and self- aggrandizing? Big friggin’ deal. Gretchen’s veneers are so thick she can’t get her lips around her front teeth to say words with “m” in them. I believe that Gretchen has been using Slade as a prop for years, now. I have never bought their relationship for one second. She is using him as much as he is her. She will dump Slade, and like most people who cannot look at their own shit, she will tearfully blame him, act all hurt and broken-hearted, and get lots of support because his financial stuff is so egregious and because he is, after all, a walking, breathing, creepy asshat…but so is she. Gretchen will swiftly move on (if she hasn’t already) to the next Mr. What Can I Get. I agree about the puffy faces injectable-overdosing. Here’s a pic of Heather that really shows how icky that looks:Google: “Heather Dubrow blowing kiss” and click on images… I think I have Heather’s Grinch-esq surgery (the 2% that she cops to): cheek implants, chin implant, BUTTload of Botox. Something weird with her eyes, too but can’t quite identify it.
    I think Tamara was unduly mean in the Alexis non-lunch scene. Witnessing Tamara verbally sparring with Alexis felt the same to me as when I hear adults using sarcasm with children, it isn’t a fair fight and it makes the adult look like a bully (which reveled what I believe:Tamara, for all of her exterior “changes,” is still mean and a bully.) Vicky is just pathetic, but unlike Alexis, stirs no sympathy from me because she keeps hurting the people around her. Costexico should be interesting :)

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

      I think it may just be a difference in point of view with people who side with Alexis versus people who side with Tamra. I personally have more contempt for willful stupidity than I do for a person with a mean streak. Some people will naturally be the other way around. The adult-child analogy only makes me more irritated with Alexis, because she’s not a child. Instead, she’s a grown woman who chooses to hide behind her own ignorance and lack of intellectual curiosity in order to garner sympathy and play the victim, and not only does that demonstrate a lack of character (at least to me), but as a woman, it’s embarrassing to see another woman represent herself that way on television.

      I’m sure the opposite argument could be made for Tamra, and since there are no specific incidents that have happened between the two of them this season for us to judge more objectively, it really is just a matter of whose persona you prefer, more or less.

      • Reality Junkie

        “I personally have more contempt for willfull stupidity than I do for a person with a mean streak”…I am really going to ponder that. You, Amanda, are obviously a very intelligent, educated and confident woman. I will bet that some of that you were born with, some was your environment and life experiences, and the rest is the result of your own determination and ambition. I do believe that some individuals simply lack intelligence from birth, and there’s only so much they can do to overcome that. Of course many women, beautiful ones in particular, just lack the intellectual curiosity to which you referred. I’m still not sure where Alexis falls…is she just plain dumb, or is it just easier for her to play dumb?

      • Jonquil

        I understand what you’re saying.  With her, it isn’t just lack of basic intellect; it’s cornering the conversation, the competition, the willful ignorance of financial matters so long as it behooves her, the intentional distortion of standards to suit her purposes.  Yes, the lack of intellect makes it harder to keep her game as opaque as would be necessary to fool the rest of us, but it wouldn’t be that hard to hear someone else’s perspective or points regarding her attacks on people when she has done the same thing she condemns.  I can think of three instances of that one right off the top of my head.

      • NCGal

        You know…that was very well put, I see your point, and I am in total agreement with you. There IS another level of “wrong” when it is not as a result of reduced cognitive capacity, instead, an arrogant rejection of truth.
        Thanks for that perspective!

    • Reality Junkie

      “Costexico”…HA! Good One!

  • Reality Junkie

    Another great and spot-on recap, Amanda! Thank you!
    Why is it that Vicki’s complexion issues seem to come and go? Is it lighting, makeup, lack of sleep, how much she’s been crying? I can’t figure it out because usually in her interviews, the bumps aren’t noticable.
    I said it before and I’ll say it again, Gretchen and Slade are disgusting humans and I wish they would get bumped from the show already.
    This I have NEVER said before: Tamra doesn’t nauseate me as much as she used to! It seems like she’s become much more self-aware and generally positive this season. No doubt that has (at least in part) to do with distancing herself from Simon and even Vicki.
    Vicki referring to herself as “a perfect mother”? Now, I am a mother, and we all know lots of mothers…can anyone EVER remember a single woman in your life making that statement? Once you leave the hospital with your bundle of joy, NO ONE EVER thinks that they have been a perfect mother. Let alone voice it on national television. She is more delusional and narcissistic than ever. And this obsession with that douchey Brooks? What is GOING ON in Orange County?

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

      I think it’s easier to control how someone’s skin looks in a staged interview like that because the lighting and makeup is going to be specially designed to flatter the person in a controlled environment. Lighting can make a huge difference, and most of those interviews  are set up to make the cast member look as good as possible, almost glow-y. When you trade that lighting and thick makeup application for the fluorescents at Vicki’s office and her normal makeup, the reality of the situation looks much different.

      I’ve heard that Oprah, for example, has not-great skin IRL. On her show, though, she always looked so airbrushed, and she always credited to a good lighting crew.

  • Winterpenny

    I agree with one of the prior posts…I like Tamara this season, but fight your own battles. Why drag Terry into it! Plus, there are better ways of handling stuff. Just because you don’t like someone doesn’t entitle you to be mean. As much as I don’t like Alexis, she wasn’t getting nasty. Is it so hard to just be cordial???? Isn’t that what all of us real people do? The other thing that turned me off was the previews for next week. It looks like they all gang up on Alexis & I think that is just mean!

    • Reality Junkie

      You nknow what, that preview reminded me of several seasons ago when Alexis was the newcomer to the show, and everyone was “away” on a trip somewhere, and they all went to lunch and ganged up on Vicki. Alexis was the instigator. Karma, ladies, is a bitch.

  • Ajmac3112

    When Tamara started talking about insurance and operating nut I was both floored and proud of her – like her or not she’s a smart cookie.

  • WP

    Hello Amanda,

    You know what? I think this season of RHoOC is actually the most boring I have ever seen in the franchise. I am from Canada, and when I saw snippets from Vancouver, I thought it would be dreary. To my much unanticipated surprise, it is actually A MESS! A real, incredible, out of control wreck that is on par with early New Jersey madness.

    Even though it is a Canadian program, you should reaaaally give it a go for yourself, and I am pretty sure you will long to recap it since every single week brings something completely different.

    I swear you should at least try. ;)

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

      I’ve heard people mention the Vancouver series, but unfortunately I don’t think it’s available to watch in the US!

  • xingxing520

     http://www.montblancpens-mall.com

  • Ladi

    You say everything I’m thinking. I love you