I didn’t expect I’d ever say this, but last night’s episode of Real Housewives of Orange County was completely terrifying. And not in a “quiet terror of upper-middle class suburban disaffection” way, but in a real, life-or-death, “visceral remind of our own eventual mortality” way. If you’re from an area where outdoor sports are popular, then you probably know, or at least know of, someone who was killed or seriously injured in exactly the kind of accident the cast got into last night.
Making the normal jokey-jokes about everything that lead up to the accident last night feels like it would be in poor taste, but we know that both Tamra and Vicki survived and have fully recovered from their injuries, so let’s tread lightly in that direction, or, at the very least, poke a little fun at Meghan, who would turn out to be the episode’s unlikely villain.
I say “unlikely” because even though I don’t think Meghan’s anyone’s favorite, she didn’t seem like the ice-in-her-veins type, and even if she were, mostly all she talks about is becoming America’s First-Ever Pregnant Woman, so there hasn’t been much opportunity yet for to be a monster. That came at the very end of the episode, but first, we had to ensure she’s pregnant. She is! Meghan’s pregnant and any average RHOC audience member was probably more excited about it than the man that consented to have his frozen sperm used to knock her up.
Beyond that, most of the episode was spent in preparation to go to Glamis. Much ado was made about Heather’s fancy camper that she needed because she’s a princess who just can’t spend a night in a regular RV like Tamra and her plebe family, as well as the foil packets her private chef prepared for her so she could just toss them on the grill without having to operate a salt shaker or cut a vegetable.
The results of Heather’s expenses and efforts were an RV that did not look especially more spacious or comfortable than the others on the inside, but was far shinier on the outside, as well as a meal that tasted probably about the same as everybody else’s because Heather doesn’t know how to use a grill. Heather also seemed to recognize that her special, expensive RV wasn’t stunting quite as hard on the others as she wold have preferred, though, but she didn’t explain why she didn’t have her assistant find her an even better RV instead of just taking Tamra’s recommendation. Good help is so hard to find! Even in costars.
The episode felt a little difficult to watch at times, and not only because there was a lot more barf than the average hour of Real Housewives. We all knew where the whole thing was going, which put me on edge, especially when Heather’s middle school-age son was sent out on an ATV all by himself. He came back fine, of course, and he didn’t seem to go far, but some sort of maternal instinct welled up inside me that was very unpleasant and anxious. That doesn’t happen all that often when watching a Bravo reality show.
That’s sort of the paradox of reality TV in general, though. Shows like Real Housewives have one foot in the real and one in the not-real; the characters we see are play-acting staged scenarios that helpfully illustrate real interpersonal conflicts, which have in turn been stoked by the not-real forces of production crews and network programmers and Andy Cohen. The hokey theme parties and obviously contrived sit-down meetings between enemies make it easy to take sides and root for cast members like people root for pro wrestlers, but what happens on the show directly affects the personal lives of reality performers more than it would most other kinds of entertainers. A lot of Real Housewives end up divorced after a couple seasons.
Far fewer end up with serious physical injuries like the ones Tamra and Vicki suffered last night, and among other things, it was a stark reminder that the women on the show are all a lot of things other than the characters we see once a week. Seeing anyone strapped to a board and helicoptered to a hospital is jarring, and even more so when you realize that might be the first time in a while that you stopped to consider someone as a human instead of a character.
The accident also made me wonder about the particular circumstances surrounding how this part of the reality TV sausage gets made. If they had been filming a movie or traditional TV show, they’d have received training and guidance from professionals and stunt drivers before zipping around on the dunes. (And, it’s worth noting, they’d all be getting paid much more handsomely for taking on the risk–Bravo is notoriously stingy with its Housewives.) Reality contracts are different, so did Bravo just send ’em out to do something obviously dangerous for our collective amusement? Does that maybe describe a lot reality TV?
I can’t answer any of those questions right now, but they’re the ones I’m still thinking about after watching the show. I’m also, of course, still thinking about Meghan’s reaction to hearing Vicki had been life-flighted to a hospital near her golf weekend in LaQuinta, three hours away from Glamis and hours away from all of Vicki’s concerned family: she simply refused to go and check on her. And not for any particular reason; she just doesn’t like Vicki very much, it would have been a tad inconvenient to her leisurely weekend and she didn’t feel like it.
Meghan’s still a relatively new Housewife, so she might not have realized at the time how heartless that refusal would seem to viewers who had just seen Vicki survive a rollover crash, vomit all over Kelly, whimper helplessly and get put in a helicopter because the local hospital couldn’t deal with injuries as potentially severe as hers. Even if Meghan had just swapped her golf cleats for tennis shoes and dropped by to see Vicki for 20 minutes, she’d have looked sensitive and magnanimous in putting her personal distaste aside to comfort someone in obvious need.
Instead, she shrugged her shoulders and decided she preferred the perpetual company of her own disinterested husband, alongside Shannon and David, the show’s least fun couple. (Shannon, it should be noted, begged out of the Glamis trip over concern the sand would bother her lungs, but only after she found out who was on the guest list.) Not only is that objectively cold-hearted, but it’s a glaring tactical error in Meghan’s efforts to expand her storyline beyond a pregnancy she seems unable even to convince the baby’s father to care about. Pettiness is a quality I often appreciate in others, in an odd way, but you have to be self-aware enough to realize when everyone involved would benefit more from you seeking higher moral ground. Next week, I’m sure Kelly will be glad to have some time off from being the villain.
P.S. Please consider supporting our small, bag-loving team by clicking our links before shopping or checking out at your favorite online retailers like Amazon, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, or any of the listed partners on our shop page. We truly appreciate your support!