Hello Real Housewives of Orange County fans! We’re two weeks into the seismic change that is this year in the OC and I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be recapping the lives of the First Ladies of Bravo for the remainder of Season 15! I’m an OG RHOC fan — I’ve been watching since Season 1, Episode 1. That was all the way back in 2005 when I’d sneak Bravo on the TV in my parents’ room, daydreaming about life behind the tony gates of Coto de Caza. Well, that and crushing hard on Shane Keough while stressing about whether Lauri Waring Peterson would ever live the OC lifestyle again. Of course, none of the women currently on the show were even a twinkle in Andy Cohen‘s eye at that point. And to be frank, I had my fair share of reservations going into the season because of that.
Could RHOC survive without Vicki Gunvalson? What about Tamra Judge? As a resident Housewives expert, I’ve always been an ardent believer that each city in the franchise needs an OG to act as anchor to the show’s history. So no matter how many ‘Wives came and went through Bravo’s revolving door, there would always be someone who’d been there from the very beginning. And whether I loved or hated them in any given season, I truly expected to watch Vicki and Tamra whooping it up in a retirement community thirty years from now for Season 45.
Now, the most senior cast member is Shannon Beador, who joined the show in Season 9. Meaning Vicki and Tamra‘s exits essentially erased the first eight years of excellence in the OC in one fell swoop. I went into the premiere begrudgingly, feeling left with just the worst parts of a once-great show in a post-Heather Dubrow world. (One caveat: I quite enjoyed Season 14. The vast majority of it, anyway. But I couldn’t ever decide if that was simply because the show became just so unwatchable after Heather left.)
However, I’m happy to report that I’m liking this season so far much more than I expected. (Psst…don’t tell Tamra.) Are there still glaring problems? Yes. Does someone as deeply problematic as Kelly Dodd deserve the platform Bravo continues to give her? No. (News flash, she’s always been the absolute worst, darlings. And I was on the right side of history on that from the very beginning. Team Heather forever.) And yet, I see promising signs of life. I’m talking real, raw reality television happening on our screens. Vulnerability. Can’t-look-away drama. And all of that centers on the efforts of a single Housewife: Braunwyn Windham-Burke.
RELATED: Emily Simpson Calls Real Housewives Of Orange County Newbie Elizabeth Lyn Vargas “Bizarre And Eccentric”; Shannon Beador Says Elizabeth “Is A Lot”
Braunwyn‘s stunning admission in the closing moments of last week’s premiere that she’s an alcoholic was an impressively guarded secret. It packed the kind of emotional gut punch we haven’t experienced on this show since the days of David Beador‘s affair. And knowing that Braunwyn is A. currently not on speaking terms with a single one of her cast mates and B. living apart from her husband promises that the kind of capital-D drama we all crave could be right around the corner. And all of that’s before the coronavirus pandemic grinds production to a screeching halt. But don’t worry we have plenty to go before we get to that catastrophe.
This week’s episode kicks off with Kelly discussing the fragile truce between her and Shannon with Emily Simpson. Kelly wonders how long it could possibly last. After all, she’s spent five seasons now going back and forth with her frenemy. One minute they’re bonding over being divorced, the next they’re at each other’s throats.
RELATED: Braunwyn Windham-Burke Says She Went To First AA Meeting With Crew Member From Real Housewives Of Orange County
Emily muses that Shannon will be easier to get along with now that her fellow Tres Amigas have said adios. She blames all of last year’s drama on Shannon’s hysterical nature being fed by Tamra and Vicki being in her ear. Either way, it’s going to be very interesting to see how the most senior Housewife copes this season without her two crutches. And considering it took all of two seconds for her friendship with Vicki and Tamra to go south once they were let go, she’ll really and truly be adrift.
Meanwhile, Braunwyn and Sean Burke are celebrating Valentine’s Day. (Which means we’re about four weeks worth of filming out from the pandemic’s start, for those keeping track at home…) Their low-key dinner is a far cry from the love shack romp we were subjected to last year. And 14 days sober, Braunwyn admits her relationship with her husband has already changed since she gave up drinking. They may have moved into an 8,000-square-foot new home, but they haven’t had sex. They haven’t even held hands. Braunwyn’s biggest concern with her sobriety is the potential it has to change the relationships in her life, and it looks like that’s already happening with her husband and his giant statement necklaces.
RELATED: Real Housewives Of Orange County Star Kelly Dodd Says Vicki Gunvalson Is A “Pig” With “A Gross, Funky Body”; Vicki Calls Kelly A “Gold Digging Harlot” And “Pig” Who Mocks The Black Lives Matter Movement
After a bumpy season, the friendship between Emily and Gina Kirschenheiter seems to be back on track. The pair meet for mid-day tequila shots, which quickly devolves into gossiping about their cast mates. There’s clearly been no love lost between Braunwyn and Gina since last season. The latter jokingly throws out that Sean is a male hooker, and that’s how the couple affords their smoke-and-mirrors lifestyle. Inexplicably, the pair drunkenly decide to call Braunwyn, which leads to a confusing argument with Gina. Braunwyn admits she’s angry with Gina for some reason having to do with Sean. However, she doesn’t want to drop the bombshell over the phone. (It deserves a proper sit-down for the cameras, OK?)
Via dueling confessionals, the truth comes out. Apparently after last season’s tea party for Queen Victoria‘s birthday, Sean took it upon himself to get a very drunk Gina home safe. After ordering an Uber, he decided to send a rather questionable text — winky face included — that could be interpreted as him coming onto Gina. One thing’s for sure, it definitely reads weird. What’s weirder, though, is that this entire storyline was hinted at in footage that ended up on the cutting room floor. We even see Gina spilling all the tea in a flashback lunch to Tamra, who was the one who told Braunwyn about the text in the first place. Leave it to Tamra to be doing the Lord’ work even from the sidelines.
RELATED: Real Housewives Of Orange County Star Gina Kirschenheiter Still Has Modified Restraining Order Against Ex-Husband A Year Later
The first cast filming event of the season will apparently be a birthday party for Emily‘s daughter, Annabelle. So naturally, Braunwyn meets up with newbie Elizabeth Lyn Vargas to shop for a gift. As they browse for cat-themed apparel, Braunwyn fills the rookie in on her feud brewing with Gina. And then somehow, the conversation turns to the alcoholism in Elizabeth’s family. And you can practically see Braunwyn turn into a deer in headlights as she explains her dad died from drinking too. Somehow, the new ‘Wife also manages to humblebrag about her billionaire ex-husband’s yacht and namedrop Steven Tyler while telling the story. Jury’s still out on the newbie, but so far she irritates me.
Later that day, Braunwyn goes out to dinner with Shannon, and she’s been spiraling ever since her conversation with Elizabeth. So wisely, she decides to drop the charade and tell Shannon the truth about why she’s not drinking. (No, she’s not pregnant, Shannon.) She also spills some truly shocking tea in the process. Her mom, Dr. Deb, didn’t just break her trust by telling Tamra about her alcoholism. No, her mom started blackmailing her with the secret once last season started airing.
RELATED: Tamra Judge Would Return To Real Housewives Of Orange County If They Fire “Racist” Kelly Dodd And Bring Back Heather Dubrow And Vicki Gunvalson
Apparently, Dr. Deb wasn’t too happy with how Braunwyn portrayed her parenting during her rookie season on Real Housewives of Orange County. So she threatened that unless Braunwyn walked back everything she said, she’d tell the world. In truth, the pair’s contentious relationship didn’t really make sense to me last season. It was hard to see what the big deal was between them. But now it’s becoming crystal clear why Braunwyn has so many deeply-rooted issues with her mother.
The day of Annabelle’s party finally arrives, and Emily is stressing over having Gina and Braunwyn in the same room. Particularly with, you know, all the children around. Braunwyn arrives first and promises to be on her best behavior. But when Emily brings up Gina’s tiny house, Braunwyn insists she wasn’t the only one making fun of it. Apparently, Shannon called it “sad and/or depressing,” and she promptly throws her pal under the bus. This is going to end well. Gina shows up sans kids, and the two awkwardly circle each other.
RELATED: Braunwyn Windham-Burke Reached Out To Lala Kent For Sobriety Advice; Braunwyn Says Real Housewives Of Orange County Production “Protected Her” By Cutting Scenes Of Her Passed Out, Drinking Straight From The Bottle, And Almost Getting Kicked Off A Plane
Braunwyn wants an apology for the rumors Gina’s spreading about her husband — who’s missing his statement necklace! — but Gina’s more concerned with getting her face painted with rainbows. Of course, Emily is more than happy to run to her BFF and report what Shannon’s supposedly been saying about her non-casita. However, before any more pot-stirring can happen, Braunwyn and Sean make a beeline for the nearest exit, and we’ll have to wait until next week to see the drama spill over.
TELL US – ARE YOU TEAM BRAUNWYN OR TEAM GINA? WERE YOU SHOCKED TO LEARN THAT DR. DEB BLACKMAILED HER OWN DAUGHTER? DO YOU LOVE THAT TAMRA’S STILL PULLING THE STRINGS FROM OFF-CAMERA?
[Photo Credit: Bravo]