Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 8, Episode 16 of Bravo's "Real Housewives of Orange County," titled "Crossroads."
Here we are, dear readers, at our 16th episode, cryptically titled "Crossroads." Does this refer to our cast members being at a collective crossroads in life, love, fame, and family? Are the show's producers at a crossroads when pondering how to script some believability into this "reality" show? Or, are are we, as a viewership, at a crossroads as we consider whether to continue to tune in to this increasingly mind-numbing series?
I, for one, am not giving up. I shall follow these women down the lazily landscaped pathways and floodlit front yards of their tackily lavish lifestyles. Care to join me? C'mon, it will be fun! Or sad. Or both!
We begin with Gretchen frolicking with her two small dogs of an indeterminate pedigree as she unpacks her Whistler ski-wear and conspicuously unfurls a Burberry wrap while complaining to Slade about Tamra's backstabbing and Heather's condescending text message about Gretchen's phantom role on "Malibu Country." Slade gives some boilerplate advice about "avoiding negativity."
Next we're with the Dubrows, "on top of the world," A.K.A. a sprawling lot in Newport. Terry announces they could build their dream home here, and have 35-foot ceilings as opposed to the paltry 27 feet they are currently suffering under. Terry admits that he's already bought the lot, and the two gaze out at Newport Harbor and discuss the sixteen million dollar offer they recently received on their current manse. They decide they're going to "go for it" and share a sunset hug, as I hear the faint thumping chorus of Dre and Tupac's "California Love" in the far distance.
Meanwhile Eddie and Tamra have a fireside chat, similar to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's -- but instead of comforting a depression-stricken, war-torn nation, they're ordering shrimp ceviche and Ahi tuna chips and discussing their non-existent wedding date. C.U.T. Fitness is two weeks away from opening and Eddie is focused their new business. Then Tamra puts it on the table. "I just want you to be honest with me," she says. "Actions speak louder than words. And I feel like you show no interest in planning a wedding. What are you thinking?"
"The last thing on my mind is planning a wedding," Eddie says, to the surprise of no one. "A wedding is not going to pay our bills. I don't need the pressure."
Tamra says she's confident enough that she doesn't need to force anyone to do anything against their will. She then bottom-lines him. "Do you want to get married?"
"Getting married is not the issue." Eddie side-eyes her. "You plan it, you get a wedding planner, you do it."
Then Tamra throws out a date. "June 22," she says, authoritatively.
"Yeah," Eddie concurs, limply.
"We're getting married," Tamra says, flatly. "And it's the happiest I've ever been in my life."
Over at Casa del Gunvalson, Vicki teases her hair and mentions that her eyes are swollen due to "an allergic reaction to my eyelashes." Right.
Vicki then announces that she's headed north to Napa to behold the distillation process of Vicki's Vodka -- with Brooks. Her daughter Brianna is nervous about Brooks' involvement in Vicki's business because she fears that Brooks is "swooping in," trying to make money off of Vicki's name.
Vicki is still livid about Lauri's allegations regarding Brooks' dalliance with a twenty-something alleged porn star, and decides she's going to get to the bottom of it. "At the end of the day, I'm worried about him not being in my life. I don't need a man to support me, but I want a man in my life."
"So keep looking!" Brianna says, speaking for us all.
Meanwhile, at another forced lunch rendezvous, Alexis stirs a lowball mojito and awaits a sit-down with Gretchen. She says she wanted to meet for lunch and talk things through. Gretchen interviews that when Slade's son was in the hospital, Alexis should have been there for her.
"I tweeted about it several times," Alexis says. Ah.
Gretchen assesses that Alexis only put her well-wishes on Twitter to make herself look good.
Alexis fires back that last year Gretchen was mean to her, and, expertly wiping away tears without smearing a smidge of her geological layers of eye makeup, relates again how she was stabbed in the back in Costa Rica.
Gretchen says she doesn't want to fight anymore. They are at a familiar stalemate.
"Moving forward with Gretchen, I feel like our friendship will never be the same again," Alexis says. I don't think anyone is heartbroken by this unresolved rift.
Back in Lydia Land, she and her husband welcome members of their faith-based "Life Group" to their home. She interviews that she wants to be around people who don't talk of "three-ways and drinking." Instead, this upstanding crew wears tastefully bedazzled headbands, drinks tea, and reads Biblical verses that are "tangible for today."
Lydia relates that she feels her Instagram feed is often spiritually inferior to those of her Life Group members. "We're at Disneyland, and they're with Ethiopian orphans," she says. But, she cheerily opines that her role in life is to be "silly and light-filled."
"You don't have to be Mother Teresa to fulfill your purpose. It can happen in Newport." Of course it can, Lydia!
Meanwhile, Brooks, Vicki, and their business partner Robert Williamson head towards Napa on a Vicki's Vodka distillery visit. In the car, Vicki wistfully says, "I love country music. That was something Brooks and I had."
"Had, have?" Brooks asks, acknowledging that she's talking about him in the third person from the passenger seat.
"What are we?" Vicki demands. This Vicki's Vodka trip is getting off to a rocky start.
They all convene with a white cowboy-hatted distiller, and it's revealed that they're going to create orange and bacon flavored Vicki's Vodka. Hopefully not simultaneously.
Vicki announces they're launching in Vegas first and, "all the casinos are on board." Somewhere, Bugsy Siegel twitches in his grave.
Back down in the O.C., Alexis is en route to read for a new pilot. She feels her marriage went through an "ebb," but now they're "flowing," and she now feels free to pursue her acting career. "The 'I' in 'He and I' is so much more ... one," she says.
She meets with producer Jeff Margolis, who gives her a lingering up-and-down glance and a creepy, unnecessary hug. He says he's developing a scripted drama about the FBI, and there's a main character, a child psychologist, that Alexis would be perfect for.
At the table read, Alexis dutifully throws herself into the role of a child psychologist, drawing a series of stick figures on a piece of paper to gain the trust of her theoretical traumatized child co-star.
"I really see a future for us," Producer Jeff says, with a leery smirk.
"I'd like to be the day in the life of Jennifer Aniston," Alexis says. She believes that she can do it, balancing family, faith, and work. Team Alexis?
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, we cut to Gretchen declaring that she's going to propose to Slade, deadbeat dad past be damned. She wants to do it in a special way. In an empowering way. In a "Housewives" way. By that, of course, she means heading to a recording studio, hiring a songwriting team, and producing an auto-tuned novelty single.
Her lyrics include: "Everlasting love/Baby I've been searching/Like everybody else/I'm ready to spend my life with you/The time is now."
The production team appears a bit daunted by Gretchen's nascent vocal and songwriting abilities, but they dutifully record the song, and the finished product gives Gretchen "chills."
Meanwhile, in Napa, Vicki and Brooks indulge in a candle-lit one-on-one date. Vicki says that regardless of where they end up, "Being with Brooks is like being with my best friend."
Then, she gets right into Lauri's allegations of his porn star-wooing. "Lauri told me you've been dating someone else ... a 'cocktail waitress,'" she says, tactfully.
"I'm not dating anyone. I'm not kissing anybody," Brooks says, adhering to the three commandments of shady men everywhere: deny, deflect, deny.
"He had no reason to lie," Vicki interviews, willfully oblivious. "So, Lauri has lied again."
Vicki then relates that her Brooks-averse daughter Brianna has moved out of her home to join her husband on his military base, and that she wants Brooks to come over. Yet, she's still confused.
Brooks balks. "You're not confused about me and you," he quickly table-turns. "I'm not going to wait around to get someone's grown daughter to grant me the ability to see you."
"You're not making a stand," Vicki says, haplessly.
"The stuff in your life with Brianna is tearing us apart, and it's not my fault," Brooks says, again expertly deflecting.
"So are we dating or not dating?" Vicki counters.
"At the end of the day," Brooks clichés, "There needs to be clarification. We're still dating. We have great chemistry. We're going to make a lot of money**. We're going to have a lot of fun. But there are going to be things that need to change."
"I'm at the same place," Vicki says, the hopeful look of the hopeless glimmering in her (thankfully) de-puffed eyes.
Next week -- Gretchen is ready to propose to Slade -- on a helicopter! The Dubrows are moving on up to Newport Harbor! DJ Slade calls Vicki "Tupperware Face" on his radio show! Please do tune in. We're in the home stretch and I think things might actually get ... real.
(**Major, major red flags. Just saying.)
"Real Housewives of Orange County" airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.