Maybe the tie that binds all Real Housewives the tightest, beyond a shared love of white wine and yelling, so their near-uniform preference for awful dudes. When you start sorting it out, bad taste in romantic partners accounts, either directly or indirectly, for an awfully large proportion of the tension, conflicts and eventual blowout fights that form any given Housewives season’s narrative arcs. Watching last night’s episode of Real House of Orange County, the second in the staggering eleventh season of the show, I couldn’t help but wonder if they’d all actually get along pretty well if all the men in their lives were jettisoned into space and they were left to their own devices, just the group of ladies and their wine, being tended to by caterers in someone’s artificially manicured back yard.

Probably not, but it’s an interesting thought experiment.

The episode opened on more of the fallout from the Bad Housewives Partner To End All Bad Housewives Partner, Brooks the fake cancer-haver. Heather had been gracious enough to invite Vicki to her yacht party, which was definitely thrown because of love and a bad echocardiogram or something, not at all because producers needed a very early season gathering to force everyone together and make sure that Vicki hadn’t fallen off the face of the Earth or joined a cult or faked her own death and assumed a new identity. (All of those things, though jokes, do have a sheen of plausibility when you’re talking about someone who helped a career grifter fake a cancer diagnosis.) A party on a yacht? Even better! No one can leave.

Vicki’s only real interaction that evening was with the host, Heather, to whom she made some apologetic-sounding noises without actually admitting any sort of fault or wrongdoing, or even being specific about what her non-apology covered. Heather, being of sounder temper but slower forgiveness than most cast members in these situations, was sensitive to the moment without letting Vicki BS her way back into her good graces. Vicki was unhappy with the measured, careful response to her low-quality peace offering, but apologies where no one is really sorry and no one really forgives are the fuel that keeps this show chugging down the track. Thankfully for Vicki, this season holds a new cast mate who looks like she’ll be badly in need of an ally.

That brings us to Kelly, who is the most annoying new Housewife since at least that witch lady from Beverly Hills. She is undoubtedly getting the villain edit at this point, and her rookie status likely makes her easier for both producers and cast mates alike to manipulate for dramatic purposes, but: she is extremely grating so far, and she’s trying very hard to maximize that portion of her personality. Hopefully she’s chill out soon for everyone’s sake, including her own and that of the viewers, but this week, in her grand debut, she boarded the yacht and immediately starting engaging in social interactions with strangers that could best be described as metaphorical wet farts.

Most of the Housewives tried their best to keep an open mind about Kelly (she’s Meghan’s friend, after all, and Kelly’s debut was the majority of Meghan’s role in this week’s episode), but Vicki immediately sensed an opportunity. It seemed like Kelly doesn’t have a ton of background on Fake Cancergate so far, and where the other Housewives were being justifiably chilly to Vicki at the party as a result (and, let’s be real, as a result of Vicki being Vicki to them for the better part of a decade), Kelly only saw some poor older lady being mean girl’d within an inch of her life. After the party, Kelly extended the most meaningful gesture available in Real Houswifedom: she invited Vicki to lunch.

The lunch was notably light on talk of Brooks or why the rest of the Housewives don’t like Vicki, which is, among other things, completely unsustainable; does Vicki think she can keep that whole catastrophe and her likely role in it under wraps until Kelly relies on her friendship too much to care? Not only is that unlikely, but it seems like it would give the rest of the cast a tactical trump card in trying to break up their alliance later, if it takes root at all. Nonetheless, Kelly seemed charmed.

In another move that suggests she’s incapable of taking the temperature in a room, Kelly then went to a kitchen demolition party (I mean, okay, sure) at Meghan’s house and promptly told everyone that she thought they were being mean and Vicki is great. She also mentioned that she knows what it’s like to have a group of women gang up on her, and honestly, if you ever have that thought about yourself, please know it almost always just means you’re kind of an unpleasant person who could use some therapy and people probably dislike you en masse for genuine reasons. The Real Housewivesiverse is populated largely by people incapable of that kind of self-awareness, though, which is why these shows work.

Eventually the talk moved from Vicki and Brooks to Kelly and her own Bad Man problems. Although she did her best to phrase things in a way that wouldn’t make her new TV friends too uncomfortable, her husband is a medically diagnosed narcissist who used his financial advantage over her to prevent her from getting the divorce she once filed and force her to come back to him. She spoke about their marriage in the blandest, most uneffusive language possible while still trying to assure everyone it was fine, but the content of her monologue about it didn’t match that description.

That prompted Tamra to share her own ex-husband difficulties; apparently whatshisface has prevented her daughter from seeing her for two years and used the kid as a pawn in their continued bitterness. Tamra is often ill-behaved but I’ve often had a very soft spot for her, and the thought of a mother being separated from her teen daughter, who is being manipulated out of her relationship with her mom, made my heart hurt.

The episode’s other storyline was Heather’s trip to Turks & Caicos with her husband and family, which was borne from Heather’s desire to show Terry how nice it is to work less and spend more time with the kids. Terry made a lot of vaguely conciliatory noises about how nice it was and how he would try harder, but as Heather had been telling us all episode, he’d been making those noises for literally years. Eventually he just admitted (to us, not to Heather) that he doesn’t actually want to spend more time with his kids, and he does feel a little guilty for not wanting to, but doesn’t feel guilty for not doing it.

Great guys all around, right? Lots of people to root for this season. For all the flack the female stars get on this show for having personality disorders and drinking problems and all kinds of other general messiness, it seems like their plus-ones deserve some of the credit, too.

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