Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 8, Episode 1 of Bravo's "Real Housewives of Orange County," titled "Bullies and Babies."
Welcome, friends. Pour yourself a hearty goblet of nondescript white wine and recline on the nearest oversize chaise lounge as we dutifully recount the premiere of "The Real Housewives of Orange County."
Eight years ago, the original "RH" series debuted with the promise to go behind the gates of Coto de Caza, a ritzy, aggressively landscaped Southern California community. What were you doing eight years ago? Likely it was something more ambitious than watching this show.
Yet nearly a decade later we, the audience and they, the housewives are still here. It's a franchise, a sprawling survey of post-millennial American excess. James Parker just wrote a think piece about it in the Atlantic Monthly, for Tamra's sake!
But I'm not here to deconstruct the Orange County ladies' pernicious materialism, class anxiety, or devotion to stucco-chateaux architecture. I'm here, in the inimitable cadence of Bravo's patron saint of silicon Andy Cohen, to watch what happens.
Open on Vicki. She's living solo in her palatial OC manse, which begs the question: Does the ghost of ex-husband Don still inhabit the halls, shuffling around in socks and sandals, sipping a Corona Light and humming haunting versions of Jimmy Buffet classics? Possibly. Vicki's new assistant, Brittany, a pretty, flat-ironed mallrat version of Taylor Swift, helps her move a hideous couch. Change is a-coming to the Gunvalsons. Vicki's (very pregnant) daughter Brianna and her army-guy husband Ryan are moving in once the baby is born. Questionable move, Brianna. Please, consider renting a condo. A houseboat. A Quonset hut! Do not move in with your shriek-y, manic, comically controlling mom.
My silent protestation unheeded, Vicki and Brittany continue to move the Classy Ornamental couch from one part of the house to another, taking several breaks to refuel like champions from stemless glasses of red wine. Vicki reveals that she finally succumbed to the siren song of cosmetic surgery, emerging from the SoCal ether with a chin implant, a reconstructed nose, and robust facial fillers. Vicki also shares that her relationship with last season's boozy, daily-affirmation-giving beau Brooks is "unsettled."
"It's my choice," she announces vaguely, while patting down a giant gold pillow.
Now we alight to the rarefied home of Heather Dubrow, the raven-haired sphinx in a sea of fading flaxen-tressed goddesses. Life in the Dubrow estate is pleasantly hectic as her four children recoil at a box of live lobsters. Heather is planning a clambake for all the ladies, and as such, she needed a surf-n-surf dry run. We learn that Alexis Bellino, the buxom, God-loving muse of the house of Alexis Couture is blacklisted from the clambake. "She is someone I don't want in my life," Heather intones.
Affable husband Terry scans an iPad that's suspended in traction on the kitchen island. He insists that Heather add onion rings to the menu. She shuts him down. He asks again. I sometimes wonder if Terry has a dry, paternal wit or of if he's just ... slow. There is some speculation as to whether Vicki will bring erstwhile Brooks to the clambake. "I don't want uninvited guests -- I want good energy," Heather says. Terry brings up onion rings again.
And now, on to Tamra. She's moved into fiancé Eddie's place, with her kids in tow. Everything is going "great." As a testament to this, Tamra is wearing a Swarovski-studded tank top that announces her engagement status in a loopy fancy-town font. Eddie kicks back in their home office, surrounded by far too many wide-screen displays for one not currently employed as an air traffic controller. Tamra is in the process of opening her fitness studio, "CUT Fitness." Eddie shows her some logo treatments. Eddie has many talents; graphic design is not one of them. He also has a lot of rules. He prefers masculine furniture, and he balks when Tamra's kids leave the lights on. Tamra muses, "The walls are dark, the rooms are dark...you're dark." Eddie groan-sighs.
Before we cut to commercial, Bravo's editors fit in another "Eddie groan-sigh" effect. I hope this will be a re-occurring component of this season's sound design.
Montage of shopping malls and lazy clouds!
Now we're back to Vicki, in the delivery room with Brianna, who is looking very serene, glowy, and somewhat glam. We see Brianna's cute husband, who seems stoked. Until Vicki warns that "your life will never be the same." Thanks, Vicki.
Vicki confides to camera that it feels like "a dream" to be a grandmother, but bravely admits that she is ready. "My kid's having a kid," she muses.
Cut to Gretchen meeting Tamra inside a Chico's-esque boutique, just as Heather rings. On speakerphone, Heather informs the newly allied platinum twosome that Vicki's daughter is in labor. Tamra declares that a year ago she would get "the first call" and deems Vicki a bitch. The Essie claws are out.
Gretchen zeroes in on tray of dressing-room champagne like an unmanned drone. They both sip, turn over tiny shiny purses, and discuss the fact that Alexis tried to sue Tamra for calling her "Jesus Jugs" last season.
Gretchen empathizes, saying that she thought she was doing Alexis a favor by telling her the truth about her terrible personality and regrets that she was labeled as a "bully." Gretchen then makes a puzzling pronouncement about the bullying epidemic and mumbles something about kids killing themselves. Um.
Back in the delivery room, Vicki is "ready for this baby." Now ten hours into labor, Brianna seems remarkably chill. Eight additional hours later, it's time for an emergency C-section. Brianna's eyelashes look amazing. I genuinely hope she and the baby will be ok! Thankfully all fears are put to rest as baby Troy is born, healthy and happy. It is a beautiful moment, one that Vicki does not hesitate to make all about herself: "Seeing my life, through another child, through my daughter," she swoons.
Then we're back at Gretchen's pad, as she fails to operate a Keurig coffee maker. She calls Slade for backup, who answers the phone like a radio host because SLADE IS A RADIO HOST NOW. It's sort of perfect, right? Drive time douchery with Slade! He instructs Gretchen on how to push automatic coffeemaker buttons, then says he needs to get off the phone in order to make "perfect coffee on the air," an elegant metaphor for his no doubt sublime oratorical acumen.
At long last we get to Jesus Jugs herself, Alexis. She sports a jaunty new haircut -- "the chop" -- which is surprisingly flattering. Her husband Jim, everyone's favorite day old Applebee's Jack-Daniels-glazed pork chop, glowers by her side, ready to mix metaphors. "They tore you down in a group like a pack of wolves," he says, referring to the girls' conduct last season. "It's like ambush 101."
But, the Bellinos have risen like tanned phoenixes from the ashes of megachurch bankruptcy and emerged in a five bedroom, six bathroom home. They retire to the "piano room" where a discussion ensues about Jim's taste in art and predilection for partially nude sculpture. Alexis does not approve, but Jim's impeccable taste prevails.
Alexis relates that she feels some bitterness about what went down in Costa Rica last season, when all the girls ganged up on her. She delivers a Wikipedia definition of "Bullying", an early theme this season. Jim mouth-breathes the trenchant insight "It is what it is," and follows up with "Why do people fight? Why can't they just love?" Indeed.
It's clambake time! Heather's swarthy indie caterer, event planners, and assistant are there to take her vague direction. Seating is gravely discussed. Heather acknowledges that it's a big risk putting Tamra and Vicki across from each other but figures it's ok because "the table is really wide."
Vicki is nervous to see the gang because her face is still swollen, but, she reasons, "I'm going to own what I did to myself. It's my face, it's my choice, it's my money." Alright. You go, Vicki.
Meanwhile, Gretchen and Tamra are pre-gaming, dressed identically in tight white skinnies, gold chain-link belts, and red satin-y tops. They cackle for awhile as they examine a photo of Vicki's new chin.
Back at Clambake USA, Heather and Terry look freshly married-showered and fabulous. There's a discussion with the caterer re: Maine lobsters versus Australian. Terry wanted Australia but Maine won out. Terry brings up the onion rings ... again.
En route in a limo, Vicki relates that she feels uncomfortable rolling solo without either Don or Brooks breathing their gentle tequila breath on her shoulder. Gretchen and Tamra arrive first, escorted by a mute Eddie. Terry greets them at door, resplendent in turquoise, with an unfortunate "whazzup." Tamra immediately panics about the seating, fearing the wrath of Vicki's new chin. There is speculation that maybe Vicki is secretly still with Brooks and is hiding her relationship, which cannot be good. Not with this crowd.
At last Vicki enters looking like an En Vogue aspirant on a very windy day. Air kisses abound. Tamra charitably hopes that "The bitch is nice." The scene fades out on Heather's gilt lawn, in the shadow of a gargantuan white leather dining chair, as the scent of no onion rings settles into another golden Southern California afternoon.
Next week -- we meet crazy-eyes new cast member Lydia! The hotly anticipated return of Brooks! There's screaming aplenty! Join me, my friends. Unless, of course, you have something more ambitious to do on Monday night at 8 p.m. See you soon.
"The Real Housewives of Orange County" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on Bravo.
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