Is it possible to be personally invested in the lives of reality TV folks one has never, nor will ever meet? Because, for good or for bad, that’s me when it comes to Jeff Lewis and the gang of Flipping Out. And this season, things feel more personal than ever. Season nine left off with Jeff and Gage Edward expecting their first child via surrogate, Zoila Chavez, Jeff’s housekeeper of eighteen years, moving out on her own, and renovations of Jeff’s current home, Valley Vista, only halfway completed. Since then, Jeff has (finally) agreed to agree to Zoila’s long overdue retirement this past year, which means he’ll have to find someone else to get his three brown salsas and alphabetize his refrigerator items, going forward. (Oh, the humanity!)
For season ten, we pick up just four weeks before the birth of baby girl Monroe, whose arrival will change everything. And Jenni Pulos doesn’t know it yet (at time of filming), but she’ll be expecting baby number two – her second daughter – who was born this past June after a long and arduous IVF journey. Whew. There’s a lot of life changes on the horizon for this crew. So, let’s jump right in and see how it all shakes out!
We open on a shot of Jeff and Gage in the delivery room, about to witness their daughter’s birth. Then we flashback thirty days, presumably to witness the sh*tstorm leading up to this moment. True to form, Jeff has decided that buying baby gear is more essential than learning anything about actual babies. He’d rather leave that pesky stuff to Gage, who is carefully reading up on developmental milestones and the care-and-feeding-of-infant-humans. Plus, Jenni is going to be Jeff’s full time baby whisperer, so he’s all set.
Because Jeff and Gage process stress very differently, the daily scenario at home looks like this: 1) Gage sits by a computer and rubs his temples, neurotically worrying that they’ll miss their child’s birth due to flight schedules, and 2) Jeff demos the house while simultaneously torturing Gage.
The progress on Valley Vista has been huge, with a working kitchen, nearly-complete nursery, and freshly wallpapered room for Zoila (complete with Zoila’s awesomely bad oil portrait that will forever live in infamy) all set. The nursery, of course, centers on a Jeff Lewis gray crib, with pops of color and animal art balancing out mature furnishings and deep gold fixtures. Jeff considers the rest of the house in phase two standing, with roughly four thousand more phases to go.
The Jeff Lewis design team includes Jenni, Gage, Vanina, Megan Weaver, and a newcomer, Taylor, who seems to be holding up well so far. But that’s bound to change! Zoila is still working at the house three days a week and sleeping there during her part time schedule. So she likes to keep a spare bra on premises just in case. Jeff likes to find this bra and wave it around when the mood strikes.
From the car, Jeff, Jenni, and Vanina call Gage to wind him up – this time, about Jeff stealing his shoes. Barely able to muster the strength to be irate, Gage just tells Jeff he’d better not stretch his designer shoes out on a dirty job site. Jeff giggles, reminding us that Gage is simply not a good sharer.
Their first stop is to Heather Madden’s Newport Beach waterfront property, which is completely demo’d and in need of Jeff’s TLC. Heather is a fundraising socialite who moonlights as the teller of the world’s most depressing and inappropriate personal anecdotes in history. She’s also a slow mover when making design decisions, so Jeff’s frustration with her is already brewing. He does love the fact that her budget is somewhere in the range of “I like this – buy it!” and “oh, who cares what it costs!” Budgets are for poor people, apparently. And Heather is not on a budget.
At lunch, Jeff and Heather run through design choices, which Heather is far, far away from pulling the trigger on. But she still wants the house to be complete by June 2017. HA! thinks Jeff, who leaves it to Vanina to tell Heather in no uncertain terms that she’ll be living elsewhere until Christmas 2019. After Jeff escapes to the bathroom, Vanina serves the news up straight, and Heather is not happy to hear it.
Maybe it’s the bad news getting to her, but something makes Heather decide to tell Jenni about her unsuccessful five years of IVF treatments after Jenni confesses she’s currently going through them herself. Heather basically tells Jenni to set a date to give up now because “you could just keep doing this forever and ever.” Heather set her date for forty. Um, please let this be the end of her “advice.” In tears, Jenni confesses she’s had moments where she’s felt like giving up, but she and her husband, Jonathan, are not ready to quit yet. Heather does seem like she wants to be supportive, though, and jokes that she doesn’t really talk about her struggles much around Jeff – even though she thinks deep down, he’s a softie. He’s like, please stop crying near my salad.
Back at the office, the construction crew is hammering and spitting all over the place. To his credit, Gage just yells at them rather than taking a hammer to someone himself. When Jeff returns, he muses about putting a shelf above his unborn daughter’s changing table – and is subsequently yelled at by all adults present. He hasn’t researched much about babies, or the toddlers they grow into, but he has purchased three of every item on Kim Kardashian’s baby registry and stored it all in the guest house. “I am preparing for things I can control,” says Jeff. And he controls the credit card.
Jeff can’t control when Alexandra, the surrogate, goes into labor, though. He and Gage have to fly north to Chico, CA, when the blessed event arrives – but managing to book a flight in time might be an issue, depending on how quickly her labor progresses. Gage’s way of managing this unmanageable situation is to obsessively look at flight schedules and not sleep at night. Jeff’s management tactics include wandering over to the unfinished half of the house and taunting Gage through the wall about ALL OF THE WORK they still need to do. Gage is ready to snap, yo! (And who wouldn’t be?)
Now with 21 days until the due date, Jeff is in the car again with Jenni and Gage making client calls. He’s also making a call to his grandma, who’s not happy to hear about the name Jeff and Gage have chosen for her great granddaughter to be: Monroe. She’s all, “Monroe? MONROE?!?!? They’re gonna call her ‘MO!'” Jeff loves that grandma hates it, and Gage doesn’t care one way or the other – because a psychic told them their baby loooooves her name! And that’s all that matters.
Hey! Look who Jeff’s new client is: Lea Black, formerly known as the HBIC of The Real Housewives Of Miami, and all around fabulous diva who needs to be recruited to another Housewives franchise. Is she in Orange County? PAH-LEEEZ, Bravo, add her to the RHOC cast, STAT!!! That franchise is in desperate need of life support lately. But I digress. Lea is redoing several properties with Jeff (yay!), so we’ll definitely be seeing more of her.
At lunch, Jeff, Vanina, and Jenni meet up with Jeff’s dad to discuss a condo he wants to design-consult with them about. He’s excited that Jeff and Gage are including Jeff’s stepmom and him in delivery day – something he hasn’t experienced with any of his five grandchildren. Awww. Jenni also plans to be in the room. Jeff’s dad also has some fatherly advice for his son: Do nothing. Let your children come to you for help, but don’t control them. That’s music to Jeff’s ears.
Ah…another lunch meeting with Heather, another chance to horrify people with her stories of mishaps and misfortune. After Heather jokes that Vanina has turned from nice to nasty – because she was forced to deliver the bad news about timelines at their prior meeting – Heather and Jeff joke about Vanina’s overall b*tchiness. Jeff sees it as progress, personally. But Vanina looks mildly shattered at this commentary. Then, after sharing his fears about missing the birth of his baby, Jeff is forced to listen to Heather’s inspiring tale. It’s all about how her sister in law went into labor for a week, then delivered her baby in under thirty minutes. “So, my brother basically missed it! HAHAHAHAHA!” maniacally grins Heather. Good story, psycho lady!
At Valley Vista, Gage is stressing about animals losing their minds, shower door estimators knocking at the door, and literal doors falling off hinges. It’s a sh*tshow up in here, and Gage’s sanity hangs by a thread. Instead of comforting him, Jeff just blithely wonders, What’s his problem? Then he tells him the lights are also broken. Because, why not?! Gage looks like he wants Calgon to take him away, but instead he sits in front of his computer and stares straight ahead, willing himself to go to his happy place.
In the car with Jenni later, Jeff yells at Megan on the phone about Vanina not giving her the proper information about plants for the nursery!!! Since she is standing next to Megan while Jeff rails on and on about her, Vanina hears everything. Cue the Vanina meltdown in 3…2…1…
Before that can happen, Vanina gives Jeff a fairly understated cold shoulder back at the office. But since Jeff knows she’s upset, he decides to get passive aggressive about it, sweetly snarking that Vanina should probably go home soon so she doesn’t go stir crazy. “Too late!” he jokes. Also, he backhandedly praises her for “showing up for work today.”
For her part, Vanina is going through a much deeper crisis than Jeff realizes. She hasn’t felt appreciated at work for quite a while, and thinks Jeff highlights every mistake she makes 1,000% while rarely noting her accomplishments. Essentially, she’s been unhappy for a year and wants to quit.
In the car with Jeff and Jenni later, Vanina basically cops to these feelings (after Jeff eggs her on). In tears, she admits that this job is just too emotionally taxing, largely because of Jeff’s treatment of her. Jenni tries to comfort Vanina as best she can, but Jeff just does the full court press thing he always turns to, demanding that Vanina not take everything so personally!
“I can’t do it anymore, emotionally,” cries Vanina. “Are you saying you want to leave?” asks Jeff. Vanina silently nods yes. And this is not a good thing, considering how admittedly dependent Jeff has become on Vanina in the office, and how much more he’ll need her after his daughter is born. Which is now only fourteen days away.
TELL US: IS JEFF TOO HARD ON VANINA, OR IS SHE TOO SENSITIVE TO WORK FOR JEFF? WILL GAGE & JEFF’S DYNAMIC HAVE TO CHANGE ONCE THE BABY IS BORN? WHAT ARE YOU HOPING TO SEE THIS SEASON?
Photo Credit: Bravo