Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 8, Episode 18 of Bravo's "Real Housewives of Orange County," titled "Cold Shoulders."
"In my beginning is my end. In succession
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,
Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth"
-- T.S. Eliot, "Four Quartets" Part II: East Coker.
How's it going, you guys? Can you believe we're here, at the "Real Housewives of Orange County" season finale? I thought I'd trot out a bit of pleasantly morbid postmodern poetry to help us delve a little deeper into what we've been through this season -- what we've learned, how we've grown, and what it says about us -- a nation of viewers watching those desperate to be viewed.
Let's move on from my senior year thesis and get down to business.
Vicki's lazily themed Winter Wonderland party is in full, seasonally perplexing swing: stuffed penguins on artificial ice floes, cobalt blue Christmas trees, manufactured snow, and other weird trimmings that could only be conjured by a party planner on too much Adderall and Bud Light Platinum.
The women are lounging in a chilled grotto, gossiping intensely about Gretchen and Slade, who finally arrive, unfashionably late. Slade immediately tells Lydia that her dress looks straight outta "Dancing with the Stars." She correctly identifies this as a backhanded compliment and deems him a "Douche-lord" in her interview. Point, Lydia!
Vicki's soon-to-be-deployed U.S. Marine son-in-law Ryan explains that he has "dirt" on her sketchy beau Brooks, and declares that he's not allowed on the property: "At the end of the day, Brooks is not who he says he is." Yes. We know.
Hold on -- did Gretchen just casually interview that Vicki "banged twelve guys" while she was married to Donn?
OK, recovering from this creepily fascinating but unilaterally gross non-sequitur. Lydia's awesome stoner mom Judy arrives at the party, and Vicki marvels at how great she looks at 64 (true!) and immediately gets her a cocktail. While in a past post, I attempted to conjure my own Vicki-related beverage, apparently one exists already, the "Screaming Vicki": vodka and orange juice. Not the most technically advanced cocktail, but whatever.
The term "sugar nipples" is used several times, due, I suppose, to the manufactured wintery chill of the party and inadequate bra choices by all.
Despite this cast-wide sartorial glitch, Gretchen and Heather have a sit-down, as Gretchen confronts her brunette adversary about belittling her tentative role on "Malibu Country." Gretchen accuses Heather of throwing her under the bus in front of "industry people."
They argue. Heather says she's always been a supporter of all the women, and Gretchen sadly, but accurately, admits "None of us are in-demand actresses." In a typically transcendent malapropism, Gretchen then states that Heather should stop "Tooting her high horn" about her acting chops.
Heather counters that Gretchen was rudely late to her pilot taping, she texted the whole time, and genuinely seemed distracted and not supportive. Meanwhile, their significant others look around blindly and mention a joint trip to the men's room. Hm.
Gretchen finally serves up the classic non-apology: "I'm sorry that you feel bad."
They both give up, and hug.
In another province of Winter Wonderland, Vicki tells Tamra she's sorry for everything and she wants to formally ask her to be her "best friend." She gives Tamra a very glittery friendship bracelet.
Tamra then interviews, "I don't want another friendship bracelet. I could use a pair of shoes." Heh.
Near a decomposing ice sculpture, Alexis bleats out that everyone needs to look out for Vicki. Then, the mysteriously silent Jim Bellino pipes up, swiftly shushing his wife, announcing that he has "fifteen adult years on her," and that he shall "allow her to learn things the hard way." Much like disciplining one's off-leash golden retriever, I guess.
Tamra then apologizes to the suddenly recalcitrant Bellinos, telling Jim that he's a "tough nut to crack" and, woah, the Bellinos both start to cry. At which point Jim says that Tamra hast made him ruin his "thousand-dollar scarf."
"Did he really just price out a scarf?" Tamra interviews. Amen.
Meanwhile Lydia's mom Judy is in the kitchen throwing her "fairy dust" around.
Now, readers, things get really weird: We hear audio of Vicki's marine son-in-law Ryan threatening Lydia's mom, as the rest of the party continues. We can't see what's happening but the Bravo mics pick up Ryan admonishing the lovably loopy Judy for taking her shoes off and putting her feet up on the couch.
"I don't care who you are," Ryan says. "At the end of the day, don't disrespect someone's couch."
Couch disrespect! That is serious.
"I'm going to kick her ass out," Ryan fumes. He seems to have a surfeit of hostility here. Is this misplaced territorial Brooks-aggression, aimed towards a harmlessly stoned 64 year old woman in a faux white mink stole, or is it perhaps a byproduct of military training, and, oh, I don't know, stress due to his pending deployment to Afghanistan? At any rate it's disconcerting.
"My mom is the sweetest woman in the world," Lydia says, confused. "Did she 'fairy dust' the wrong person?" Apparently.
Briana calmly tries to talk Ryan down. He pleads his case: "At the end of the day," (God, not again) "You shouldn't disrespect people. It was a nice party until an entitled bitch gets in my face."
Vicki has had it. Ryan takes a time-out, and she and Briana discuss their living situation. Vicki explains that she misses Brooks, and, "at the end of the day" (GAHHH), she misses him, and wants to date him again.
Briana says she doesn't want to be around Brooks, full-stop. Vicki wells up, her heavily lined eyes inching towards smudgy panda tears.
Whew. Suddenly we're with Tamra and Gretchen. Tamra says she gets over small disputes quickly and easily and just wants to move on. They discuss the "Malibu Country" discrepancy and how Gretchen used "turning down" a non-existent role to go wedding dress shopping as a form of manipulation to gain Tamra's loyalty. Tamra feels manipulated. All Tamra wants is honesty and she feels as though she has been lied to, and that their trust is broken. But, they hug it out anyway.
Heather assesses that Gretchen will never take responsibilities for her actions and, dear readers, that seems pretty right-on.
Vicki's drunk brother flirts with some rando blonde and Vicki finally wants to confront Slade. Oh Lord ...
"You've been making fun of me, and my looks ... I'm proud of who I am, I'm not Miss Piggy or Miss Tupperware. When you make fun of a woman's looks, it's disrespectful," Vicki says, increasingly shrill, but absolutely in the right.
"At the end of the day," Slade says (nooo!)
But Vicki thankfully cuts him off. "I'm happy about myself, and I'm going to give you the first bottle of Vicki's Bacon Vodka, in honor of you."
"Maybe we could have a 'Deadbeat Dad' vodka," Gretchen mutters, sarcasm dropping like a cubic zirconia necklace in a Newport nightclub bathroom.
"Be careful of your tongue, when you're talking about someone's looks," Vicki says.
Lydia then jumps in, with a hearty, "B.S., screw you, you were whispering to Gretchen that I needed a cheeseburger!"
Now everyone is piling on Slade.
"He's a piece of s--t," Vicki says. "Don't you get it? Three years ago he wasn't paying child support," she screams.
"You're talking out of your ass," Lydia concurs. "Your words affect women."
"I can't stand him - I think he's disgusting as a man!" (quote attributed to nobody as I have lost track.)
Suddenly, all the girls comfort Vicki. Who finally admits it's not about Slade and that she still loves Brooks.
This finale was drama-fueled yet ultimately left more questions than answers. Bravo's producers did their perfunctory post-show on-screen "where are they now?" quips, my apologies for my truncated transcription:
"Soon after the party, Brooks and Vicki broke up -- then got back together -- now, 'It's complicated.' Ryan is serving in Afghanistan. Briana and the baby are doing just fine."
"Heather and Terry are happy together -- she did not resume her role on 'Malibu Country,' as it was cancelled, but she has a new role: head decorator of their new home."
"Alexis is still pursuing her acting career."
"CUT Fitness is open for business and making money, but Tamra promises she won't spend it all on their wedding."
"Lydia and her mother Judy are as close as ever -- and she's allowed to put her feet up wherever."
"Slade's radio station was bought by a Christian broadcasting network, and his show was cancelled."
As an outro, our most articulate housewife, Heather, sums it all up: "It's been mercurial, it's been exciting at times ... but it's all part of the journey."
Well my friends, lest you think this was the end, keep in mind we have REUINION SHOWS to come, which I will heartily and happily chronicle for your amusement. Thank you for reading. It has been a privilege and an odd sort of honor to delve into the shallow ends of these shallow pools. Stay tuned!