Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 8, Episode 7 of Bravo's "Real Housewives of Orange County," titled "Whines by Wives."
Bonjour! This recapper is a bit jet-lagged, as I have just returned from a trip overseas, where I viewed a fascinating half hour of French television -- a dramatized, soap-opera version of a U.S. reality show. "Hollywood Girls" was a thinly veiled remake of "The Hills," replete with beefy male leads, doe-eyed peroxide blondes, and second-rate convertibles. I began to wonder what "Le Housewives Des County L'Orange" would look like. The thought was genuinely unnerving, although one could hope that the Chanel bags would be legit and the Wine Spectator ratings considerably higher.
Speaking of, this episode hinges upon a wine-tasting trip to Malibu, the wine capital of the world. It is of those laughably manufactured "get all the cast members in one place, sequester them from their daily routines, and force-feed them booze until a confrontation happens" good-time getaways.
We open on some uneasy banter between Terry and Heather. Terry loudly clips his toenails as Heather stonewalls his attempts to apologize for his recent gaffes. Heather says it's "exhausting" being on the "Terry Dubrow Show," which is quite rich coming from someone actually on a reality show. She then goes on to list the ways in which she is an overworked mom, and the various roles she plays ("chauffer, coach, teacher, mentor, party planner" etc). When she repeats herself, Terry jokingly points it out.
Heather does not take this well.
"She's like a finely tuned instrument, like a violin," Terry says. "If you play it too hard, the strings are going to snap and break in your face." That metaphor will quite possibly haunt me for months, even years to come.
Next, at long last, the secret of the dark and mysterious "Wines by Wives" organization is revealed -- it is a wine of the month club! Every month, lucky members get a sampling of wine from either Tamra or Vicki, which is like a monthly game of "Would You Rather" in wine form.
En route to Malibu for a Wines by Wives scouting trip, Eddie and Tamra sit in a limo as Tamra bemoans the fact that Eddie is more excited to ride his bike than swill Cabernet with her and the happiest crew in town. Eddie explains that he needs time to ride his bike to "recharge," and Tamra grimly notes that he used to "ride her" to do the same. Sigh.
A floppy hat-bedecked Lydia and her rarely-seen husband Doug pop by the Dubrows' to rideshare up to the 'Bu. For some reason, they also stop by LAX to pick up Vicki, who has been away on "insurance meetings." Of course, instead of enjoying the experience, Vicki immediately dreads being the fifth wheel on a couples' trip.
She needn't worry for long. The group converges at Cielo Vineyards to sample chardonnay and something called "The Purple Haze". All the women agree they aren't sommeliers but are experts at drinking wine.
Then, the deeply tan, gray-haired, majestically mellow vineyard owner introduces himself and his daughter, and Vicki blurts out that she thought his daughter was his girlfriend, just assuming he was a cradle robber. Then, Vicki makes things exponentially worse by asking the daughter's age (24) and pronouncing that she looks "much older."
"Maybe Vicki should just not talk," Tamra says. Indeed.
Meanwhile Alexis and her husband Jim go to the opening of their trampoline park in San Diego. Take a moment to let that sink in. Alexis says she wouldn't have wanted to go to the wine tasting, despite not being invited, and dubs her husband a "business genius." We are treated to interior shots of their cavernous, brightly-hued fun emporium. Alexis mingles with the classy Chambers of Commerce and muses that all the drama with the rest of the Housewives is "pretty miniscule" compared to cutting the ribbon on a trampoline park franchise.
Back in Malibu, Vicki freaks out again about being a "party of one" amidst all these happy spouses. She cries over the cruel hand fate has dealt her as she checks in to her luxury hotel and heads out to a multi-course meal.
At dinner, the mood is decidedly muted, the peaceful lull attributable to the lack of Alexis. Tamra commends Lydia on her diplomatic response to the Alexis Incident at the C.U.T Fitness debacle. Lydia maintains her neutrality by making absolutely no sense, explaining that while she doesn't like people talking ill of Alexis, "I don't think she's this innocent white dove."
This bookish banter turns to Heather's acting career and her past on-screen love scenes. Tamra, the queen of tact, immediately asks if she "used tongue." Terry makes a creepy joke about just closing his eyes and picturing all the money he was making.
Tamra then asks what's going on with "Vicki's Vodka." What indeed! This is the first mention we've heard of what is no doubt an exciting new product of unrivaled quality. Tamra spots a conflict of interest with Wines by Wives.
We cut to the next morning, where the gang gathers for brunch at The Stone House. Lydia's mom would be pleased. Everyone hoists delicious looking Bloody Marys as Tamra explains that Slade and Eddie are off riding bikes, and adds that Eddie won't have sex before riding because it "depletes his testosterone." Vicki waves her white napkin and says "red flag!"
Then there's some bland talk about marriage being a compromise, which segues to the Dubrows' difficulties. Heather says she'll accept Terry's apology but unless his behavior changes she'll stay mad. Heather says she feels as though Terry "took a dump" all over her new acting opportunity. Terry looks balefully around the table and admits that he crossed the line and said "the worst thing you can say" to his wife.
What? What word? So many possibilities! However, our suspense is short-lived as he announces to the table, and to audiences across the country, "I used the 'D' word. DIVORCE." Vicki steps in and soothingly relates that she and Don got a divorce because they kept talking about divorce. All in all, each "D word" was just a brick in the wall.
Eddie and Slade roll up on their bikes and never has anyone been so glad to see two grown men in fanny packs.
Next we're at a wine ranch called "The Sip" and Tamra flirts with Corey, a wine pour guy, and tries to get him to come down on his prices. She gets annoyed when Vicki tries on a gift shop coat instead of putting her refined palette to good use for the sake of the club.
Then, the final insult -- Vicki says she's leaving post-haste, as she has a dinner engagement with "David and John-John and Heidi" in LA.
Tamra crosses her arms and says they put in a lot of time and money into this venture, and posits that if this were Vicki's Vodka-related, Vicki wouldn't be blowing it off for a night on the town with David and John-John, et al.
Both women accuse each other of "not performing" (while I actually think both are performing quite well in the roles of intolerable shrews) then Tamra calls Vicki a "bitch" and Vicki shuffles off down the road.
Meanwhile Terry and Heather grab a shady spot, sip their wine, and talk about their increasingly volatile relations. Terry apologizes, again. But Heather explains that the problem isn't what he says, but why he says it -- punitively, to hurt her. Which I think he grasps. I don't know. Get thee to a marriage counselor, Dubrows!
Then, in a rather abrupt transition, Eddie and Tamra sit in a sushi café and down a giant shot glass of something we can assume is very strong sake. Tamra's eyes water as she chokes out a few questions about flooring at the fitness studio. Eddie goes mumblecore and says that the floors are only halfway there and they will not be opening the studio on time. They then discuss the Malibu debacle, and Tamra posits that, maybe, just maybe, she could have handled things better. She grows uncharacteristically reflective, admitting that she has a hard time articulating her feelings and talking about emotions, and the only way she can express herself is if she screams and yells. And she hates hurting people's feelings, it makes her simply die inside, but she can't seem to stop herself.
But, she concludes, Vicki was still a bitch.
Eddie ultimatums that if she can't figure herself out and start communicating like an adult, things won't be good for them in the future. The two finish their harshly-lit sushi meal as the episode draws to a close, and somewhere, I imagine an audition room of hopeful French actors running their lines: "Le D word," and "You beetch!"
Next week - the return of former Housewife Lauri! Heather's "Hot in Cleveland" debut! Alexis reveals her General Hospital aspirations! Mon Dieu! See you next Monday, fine folks!
"The Real Housewives of Orange County" airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.