If you had asked me to guess, I would have guessed that an episode of Real Housewives of Orange County centered entirely around Shannon would be terrible, or, at the very least, it would be an episode I would not personally enjoy. That’s what the series gave us last night, and to my moderate surprise, it was actually pretty decent. Who could have predicted?
Shannon’s life is not without conflict, which made for a couple interesting story lines. First, she needs to move. Shannon, her husband and their three children have been trying to unload their monstrously too-big McMansion for quite some time, and once they finally found a buyer whose ability to buy the house was more than a giant game of pretend, they suddenly had only two weeks to clean everything out of the house’s many closets. Yes, including the closet of extra lampshades into which we briefly caught a glimpse! The only reason we don’t call rich people hoarders is because they have more doors in their houses, behind which they conceal all the crap they don’t need and will never use but still cannot part with. Sound familiar?
Shannon spent the first week of her two-week moving timeframe fretting about packing instead of actually packing, which I’d make fun of if it weren’t exactly what I would also do in that situation. Her solution was to invite the cast (sans Vicki) over to help clean out the place, which mostly resulted in the ladies’ making fun of Shannon’s fancy closet full of capri pants and cheap shoes. I will say one thing about living in a New York apartment: storage space here doesn’t really give you the luxury of hoarding unflatteringly cut khakis or cheap, sparkly platforms. (“They’re vegan!” is just a politically correct way to say, “They were cheap!” unless you’re an actual vegan, Shannon.)
Some fences were also at least temporarily mended while at Shannon’s, including her long-running feud with Kelly. Shannon fidgeted like a teen on a first date until Kelly offered a spontaneous, explicit apology along with the bottle of Veuve she brought, but honestly, I’d have been satisfied with just the champagne. Later, when Meghan arrived, she also demanded an explicit apology from Tamra for being told to go to hell, which seemed like not the type of thing that’s really bad enough to warrant one. Having a couple mild swears lobbed your way is the cost of doing business on reality TV, especially when you found yourself on the receiving end of them for trying to blame someone for a serious accident. Tamra, continuing on her new walk with Jesus, apologized. (For the swears. Not for hanging up the phone. Tamra is still Tamra, and I respect that.)
With those beefs squashed for now, the whole gang (again, sans Vicki, who was elsewhere asking her grown children about Tinder) went to see Shannon’s daughters’ band play a gig at a bar. There’s a lot going on in that sentence, so let’s break it down: Shannon’s daughters have a band. It appears as though Shannon and her husband put them up to it, and pressuring your daughters into fancy rock-and-roll lessons instead of violin or piano is just about the most Southern California nouveau riche thing I can imagine. Their rehearsal at the top of the episode included pro studio time and a man inexplicably wearing a velvet suit with a lizard brooch, which, if I remember correctly, is exactly how The Ramones got their start.
The girls are doing their best with the parents the universe gave them, of course, and, as we found out in the episode’s final third, so are Shannon and her husband. Nightmare mothers-in-law are a somewhat tired cultural trope, but that doesn’t mean they don’t actually exist, and it seems as though Shannon has one. David’s mom showed up to the gig mostly uninvited and did not waste a second before locating the other cast members to complain about exactly the kind of hell Shannon has put her through for the previous 16 years.
We all know Shannon’s not my favorite, but she simply does not have the personality type to do any (let alone all) of the vindictive things David’s mom accused her of. On top of that, going around to a bunch of strangers to try and manipulate them into taking up your cause against their friend and your own daughter-in-law is a pretty telling thing to do on camera. Even if Kelly and Tamra hadn’t told Shannon immediately, she would have seen the footage later, at which point it would still have very real-life consequences for all involved. They’re family, after all, and not just reality TV cast mates.
As we all knew from the previews, the real fireworks were over David’s mother-in-law whispering to people that Shannon’s shortcomings were the reason he had an affair. Not only is that not true–it’s dumb at best to find other people to blame for a grown man, possessed of all his faculties, who chooses to cheat–but saying it to a woman’s friends is a blatant attempt to provoke her into nasty, public conflict in front of her whole family, her friends and reality TV cameras. That all we got was a little bit of yelling and some sobbing sounds coming from the other side of a bathroom door was evidence of the restraint Shannon’s likely had to use around this woman for the better part of two decades.
On the limo ride home, David tried to explain to the kids what had happened without being negative about his mother, and while I understand the impulse, I also understand why Shannon felt slighted by it. When you’re still in the process of healing from someone’s infidelity, I’d imagine that all you want in the world is to see them take your side emphatically when the opportunity presents itself. Even though it might be tough to do that when the offending party is your own mother, she was clearly in the wrong last night and David should have stepped up a bit more.
What’s unclear for me, at least, is how all of this will fit into the narrative of the rest of the season. Maybe this episode was designed to resolve some of Shannon’s individual story lines so she can be better integrated back into the cast narrative? Now we just need the inevitable showdown between her and Vicki.
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