Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 8, Episode 2 of Bravo's "Real Housewives of Orange County," titled "Evil Eyes and Evil Faces."
Spring is here at last, and just as the heady scent of lilac and peony floats through the fading April twilight, so does the whiff of competing spray tans blanket the Dubrow lawn. It's fancy clambake night in the OC, so pull up your Victorian-era chair to the double-wide dining room table and let's get this "party" started.
Vicki ambles across the green grass, her face an expressionless smudge, as Tamra chants "awkward" like an ancient Celtic rune. According to Vicki's interview, the prospect of seeing Tamra strikes her as "crap." Apparently Tamra will not take ownership of a considerable amount of smack-talking about Vicki and her sweetheart Brooks, as well as other unnamed acts of Coto de Caza malfeasance.
At long last, the two frenemies meet face to (puffy) face. Vicki orders champagne, Tamra purses her glossy lips, and Gretchen offers muted congratulations on the birth of Vicki's grandchild.
"Vicki does not look normal," Tamra says.
While I feel quite strongly that nobody on this show is in the position to throw cubic zirconia stones at others' surgical enhancements, here I must side with Tamra.
Vicki remains willfully oblivious to the crowd's reaction to her facial "tweaking" as Heather's husband Terry treats us to some rich-dude folksy wisdom: "Asking a woman if she's had plastic surgery is like asking your wife if she's gained weight -- you just don't do it." Amen, T-dog.
Gretchen and Tamra whisper-screech about Brooks, and wonder yet again if he's still in the picture. Why so much rampant speculation about Brooks? Is Brooks Orange County's Jay Gatsby? Does he look like he killed a man? Is he a bootlegger? Does he believe in that green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us?
We don't get much further down this thin allegorical path, as Heather's friend Jim Edmonds enters [lone straight male viewer alert: Edmonds is a former pro baseball player]. While hot, he's quickly benched as Tamra steals focus to send her fiancé Eddie off to deal with a permit issue for their new gym venture. Fitness never sleeps.
The assembled guests sit, uneasily. Vicki opens her claymation maw and ingests some white wine. It's eerily quiet and polite. Heather makes a pleasant toast about good friends. Discussion meanders to the fact that there is no date set for Tamra and Eddie's wedding, after eight whole months. Silence.
Lobster is served! Gretchen calls Heather "Miss Etiquette" for knowing how to consume a lobster leg. There's a "make it come in your mouth" comment, which Heather dismisses as "not an East Coast clambake type of joke" as civilization as we know it goes into cardiac arrest.
The subject turns again to Brooks. Vicki vaguely reveals that they're taking a break -- well, a "step back" -- because it was "too much." Vicki asks Gretchen about Slade. God, it's quiet. Did Bravo's PAs not administer the Housewife tequila ration tonight?
Tamra then grows reflective and says that all of this current strife started last year: Vicki was not herself, she was going through a divorce. Then, looking deep within, Tamra admits that maybe she wasn't there for Vicki. It seems a détente is reached -- but Tamra abruptly pushes back her chair and flees the saddest clambake ever in tears.
"I don't want to do this," Tamra says to Heather in a plush formal seating area.
"Nobody has to be empirically right or wrong," Heather says. Tamra blinks, uncomprehending.
"You can have a do-over," Heather rephrases.
Tamra seems to understand. Crisis averted, Heather refers to herself as the "Jewish Mary Poppins" and the two return to the glum dinner table. Because it's chilly, and also because it's an interminable fake party, Heather invites her guests downstairs to the rec room for dessert.
Jump cut to Alexis. I never thought I'd be grateful for a cut to Alexis, but raise a joyful noise to the Lord, it's date night with Jesus Jugs and The Reverend Ed Hardy!
The two arrive at an empty dance studio. You see, Jim has a secret. A sexy, scandalous secret. Once, back in the day, Jim danced ... the Lambada. The forbidden dance!
Two affable dance instructors welcome the pious party couple. Alexis muses in her interview, "Little did people know that, last year, our marriage had issues." Uh, everybody knew. There was a Threat Level Midnight meltdown last year at the Bellino home but Alexis' plate was too full with her Couture dress line and calamitous guest segments on Fox 5 News to "fix it."
Under the auspices of the two encouraging instructors, Alexis and Jim execute some elementary salsa moves with kicky suburban relish. "Honey, you're getting lucky tonight," Alexis says, unfurling a fan a la Kenya Moore.
Down in the Dubrows' bunker, the clambake crew enjoys dessert, wine, and ennui. Terry makes an offhand joke about the chef secretly buying Costco cookies and Heather slugs Terry in the arm. Possibly to distract from this uncomfortable display of domestic unrest, we cut to Tamra getting a text message.
"I am now the owner of a fitness studio. Holy s**t!" triumphant Tamra crows as she dismantles a Costco cookie. Vicki mutters something about everything moving too fast. Fittingly, the two depart to a wine cellar to hash things out. Tamra thinks her relationship with Vicki resembles a familial one. "You don't always agree what your family does, but you love them," she says. Vicki blearily spies a bottle of Grgich Hill cabernet and starts to cry, remembering the good old days of her and Tamra and Don and Simon and the tannin-heavy limo trips they took to Napa, a golden time when they were younger and blonder and had loving loutish husbands with equally reflective wrap-around shades.
No man should get in between them, they both decide.
Outside the cellar, Gretchen suspects Vicki of faking her breakup with Brooks to make the rest of the girls feel guilty for their inherent distrust of him. Gretchen calls Slade, who offers his thoughts: "Brooks turned out all right in the end;" he says, "it is what preyed on Brooks, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men."
Or, in Tamra's words, "He's a charmer -- and a charmer is a bulls**tter."
Now we're at San Diego's Skyzone, Alexis and Jim's new adult trampoline-land business. Alexis recounts their entrepreneurial track record: "We've been involved in a lot of businesses: hotels, pool tables, baby car-seat covers."
Skyzone has apparently boosted Jim's morale and his profile, as Telemundo, Fox 5, Univision, and CBS are all angling for exclusives on the 'zone. We're treated to some terrifying footage of Jim doing trampoline-squats as Alexis says the other girls can be snarky all they want, but she'll be laughing/bouncing all the way to the bank.
Next we're LIVE on Radio Slade 92.7 as Radio Slade himself gesticulates in an electric green button-down and a dated Sexyback vest as he banters with a pink-mohawked co-host whom he addresses as his "boo." On air, he immediately begins slagging Vicki, whom he compares to A) an unspecified muppet and B) Mickey Rourke.
Enter Gretchen, who shrieks her way around the station, hugging people who seem important. Then she shares the good news that since Slade's "money house" is finally in order, marriage is on the horizon. True love triumphs, everyone.
Finally we are back at Casa Gunvalson as Vicki galumphs through the cavernous hallways. Now that Don is gone, she's going to "Vicki-size" (or "De-Don") the place. An artist wearing an actual beret paints a graphic bird pattern on the wall as Vicki rhapsodizes about her new Mediterranean-Californian-Santa-Barbara décor.
Vicki's daughter/new mom Brianna is a little irked that there's a full-scale gut renovation going on whilst attempting to nurse her newborn as Vicki swoops down upon said baby. Brianna says she's tired of the baby being covered in glitter, the source of which could be Vicki's face powder, lip gloss, or other points of contact I'd rather not contemplate at this time.
We close on Tamra and Eddie doing cute hand-print art for each of Tamra's kids, and a paw print for Eddie's bull terrier Bronx. They discuss the wine cellar summit and Grgich Hill peace accords.
Eddie thinks that Vicki is lying about being broken up with Brooks. I just don't understand the cast-wide obsession with Vicki's perimenopause paramour. Further, Eddie thinks Vicki is a manipulator. "She's about lying, cheating and deceiving," he intones, and "highly recommends" that Tamra does not resume her friendship with her.
"Let time heal and see how I feel," says Tamra. Yes. Truth and time tell all.
Next week -- FINALLY we meet new cast member Lydia, teased in last week's preview. Vicki's face appears mercifully deflated. Tamra and Eddie's dream gym opens. Gretchen runs around in heels with a fake baby in a sling. And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. 'Till Monday, friends!
"The Real Housewives of Orange County" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on Bravo.
The reality of being a woman — by the numbers. Learn more