Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 8, Episode 19 of Bravo's "Real Housewives of Orange County," titled "Reunion Part 1."
"Just when I thought I was out ... they pull me back in." -- Michael Corleone, "The Godfather Part III"
Oh, so you thought we were done, dear readers? You thought you'd seen enough "bullying" accusations and one-off record deals and Mexican strippers and mangled metaphors? So did I. But I woke up this morning with a buzzy, anticipatory sensation mixed with a feeling of deep dread -- no doubt the flavor profile of Vicki's Vodka. Because today is part one of the "Epic Three-Part Real Housewives of Orange County Reunion."
Let's see how Andy and Co. manage to drag out the drama, until we're all weary and exhausted; confused and spent, much like the end of "The Godfather Part III."
We open on a typically lavish set. I don't know if anyone caught this, but last Thursday, Bravo re-ran the pilot season of "The Real Housewives of Orange County" and I was astounded at how good-natured and naturalistic that first season was. Sweet, even! And at the first season reunion, we saw no screaming or walk-offs, or dubious product endorsements -- it was just five women in normal mom-outfits, discussing their experiences on the show.
How times have changed...
Tonight the girls are all seated on a creamy white couch, clad in a palette of bold citrus and ocean blue jewel tones. Andy says hi to everyone, amicably. Vicki announces that she and Donn are still not divorced, and Tamra interjects that "they're going to get back together."
Vicki reveals that once she signs the papers she'll have to give spousal support, so that's why they're still technically married. Ah, love.
We are then treated to a needless flashback of the Tamra and Vicki alliance/Vicki pees-on-the-bed incident in Mexico. Andy asks Tamra if she trusts Gretchen, and Tamra replies with a flat-out, "No."
Gretchen waffles a response, saying that she's "sad" about her cruel treatment by the cast. Then, she brings up a valid point about Vicki constantly trying to create animosity ("am-in-osity," in her verbiage) between her and Tamra.
"You're saying one thing, and doing another on camera," Gretchen says to Vicki, in a stunning bit of behind-the-scenes intel.
Finally we inch towards the accusation of Vicki allegedly "Banging twelve guys." Apparently, only the conspicuously absent Lauri has the key to this house of horrors, and the matter is unsatisfyingly dropped.
The conversation is gently guided back to the paramount issues of Trust and Friendship, of which there seems to be nil in this crowd. Tamra digs up old graves and alleges that Gretchen was "Sitting on a guy's lap at the St. Regis with your engagement ring in your pocket" while her fiancée Jeff was in the hospital dying of cancer, which Gretchen halfheartedly deflects.
You guys, I need some prosecco and parmesan-flavored Goldfish crackers.
Gretchen calls the St. Regis rendezvous "ludicrous," then goes on to explain, "I didn't say I didn't kiss him, I just didn't kiss him at that party." And, in her defense, she only kissed this mystery guy on New Year's Eve, an occasion where she also kissed "twelve guys." Like the twelve guys Vicki supposedly "banged"? Hm.
Then, Alexis pipes up, saying that she saw Gretchen sitting on this same dude's lap "on a boat."
Tamra brings out photos (obscured to us viewers) and alludes to Gretchen's "tongue down his throat with her engagement ring on."
Andy wonders why, with all this clear animosity, Tamra broached a friendship with Gretchen in the first place.
Before we get to that, it is revealed that Vicki texted Tamra, calling Gretchen a c---. Vicki denies it, saying that is not a "Vicki word". She's a friend and a businesswoman and doesn't roll like that. She then refers to Gretchen as a fellow businesswoman, with air quotes.
Vicki says that Gretchen "doesn't own the truth." She and Tamra both start screaming and it all comes back to the fact that Gretchen cheated on Jeff (RIP) and never owned up to it.
Gretchen won't budge on this allegation and screams that she and the lap-sitting, tongue-kissing recipient of her affections are just "Friends-ah!"
Commercial break, thank God.
Note: Goldfish crackers and prosecco are a really good combo.
And we're back.
There's a montage of Slade being a "Douche-lord" and saying disparaging things to Lydia. Lydia says she just likes to "think out loud and talk." She says she's not trying to stir the pot, but just aspires to be "authentic." I tend to believe this.
Alexis interjects again, saying that she feels hurt, and that she believes she and Lydia had a real friendship, one that Lydia downplayed to the rest of the cast.
We segue away from this with a viewer question from "Colton," who wonders why Heather was not given the cover of Lydia's magazine, "Beverly Hills Lifestyle."
Lydia says they had a different cover in mind: "Heather Dubrow or Marilyn Monroe?" she poses.
"But why would you put Lisa Vanderpump on the magazine cover but not Heather?" Andy asks, faux-innocently.
Lydia then retorts, "Look on IMDB, she's higher rated."
"Why did you have no problem dancing on the bar but had a problem with strippers?" Andy presses.
Lydia explains the vague moral differences between the two behaviors and pivots towards the fact that Heather was vicious and mean-spirited on her blog.
"I'm said I'm sorry, do you want me to pop a vein?" Heather blurts out, and everyone laughs. Point Heather.
At long last, the nefarious/glamorous semi-cast-member Lauri enters the set. Andy mentions that Lauri seemed very soft-spoken during the first few years of filming, but that this season, she's come back "with a roar."
We see some Season 1 flashbacks of Lauri working for Vicki, then flash-forward to Lauri as town-crier re: Vicki's loverboy Brooks' penchant for porn stars, and that Vicki was in bed with a man and another woman in New Orleans.
We get another flashback of Vicki screaming "YOU ARE A PIECE OF TRASH ... I'M SO MAD!" echoing off the Whistler mountain range one last time, and it is glorious.
Apparently the root of this conflict was a letter Vicki received from Lauri's husband George's ex-mother-in-law (I know, try to keep up) that revealed some unseemly family secrets, which Vicki spread around town.
Vicki apologizes. Lauri says, "To have his name trashed like that is just wrong."
Now is the part where everyone talks at once, as Andy says, "Everyone is talking at once."
Vicki breaks through the clutter, admitting, "I betrayed her, but she went out on public TV to defame me."
I must admit I love the use of the phrase "Public TV" -- it just sounds like Public Access where you watch terrible bands and/or sad motivational speakers at 3 a.m.
Vicki then confronts Lauri: "We're all famous, and you can't stand not being in the fame." True.
Alexis, God bless her, interjects: "Vicki may be a wack-a-doodle, but I can't see her having multiple sex." I kind of (hopefully) agree!
Flashback to Tamra saying Vicki woke up naked in Cabo.
"She won't admit it, I did!" Vicki screams, pointing at Gretchen.
And we finally close with Vicki accusing Lauri of cheating on her husband, George.
This basically all comes down to a few factors: hypocrisy and fame-whoring. And everyone to some extent on this (or any) cast is guilty of these very America-circa-2013 crimes. But some transgressions (Gretchen flirting about while her husband languished with inoperable cancer) are deemed more damning than others (Vicki's maybe/maybe not three-way or twelve-way or whatever). The point is, nobody is innocent, and everyone makes mistakes, and as much as we'd like our lives to be cleanly edited with no screw-ups or poor choices, these women's lives are edited to heighten their every misstep and make everything as "dramatic" as possible. So we as a viewership can "Watch What Happens" and feel superior. But doesn't it make you also feel a bit sad? Like watching underfed rhinos at the zoo, grazing away, their existence solely for our amusement.
That said -- those rhinos don't get endorsement deals and per-episode paydays, so go for it, girls!
Next time -- Gretchen and Tamra have a showdown. Heather and Alexis go at it. Everyone thinks Gretchen and Slade's "proposal" was a total sham! Let's get into it, and hope we emerge out of it as better, more enlightened people. Pass the prosecco, please.
Part two of "The Real Housewives of Orange County" reunion airs next Monday at 8 p.m. ET on Bravo.