And just like that, winter is over. After 17 days and six episodes, we’ve reached the conclusion of the first (and hopefully not only) season of Winter House. And what a ride down the mountain it has been. It truly feels like we were just getting started. For the few weeks before Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip premiered on Peacock, we were given what I would rate as the greatest crossover in Bravo history. We were introduced to four brand new faces with virtually no connections to the existing cast. We got to watch Paige DeSorbo shine on her own without being dragged down by Hannah Berner‘s dramatics. Luke Gulbranson was in his element tapping trees and building igloos. I honestly could’ve used four more episodes to keep the storylines going rather than cutting everything short. But I suppose every vacation rental has an expiration date, even on Bravo.
Now, before I jump into everything that went down during the finale, I have some serious investigating to do. And it has to do with the timeline in the Winter House. As I mentioned above, the housemates were on vacation for 17 whole days. Right? Here’s where things get confusing. At the start of last week’s episode, the time stamp claimed two things. One, that it was a Friday night. And two, that there were nine days left of filming. This was the night of the high school party. Everyone with me so far? Ok, great.
Ostensibly, the rest of the episode took place over the course of a single weekend. On Saturday, the group met up with Kyle Cooke‘s parents for a ski day. The night ended with Austen Kroll and Ciara Miller in bed, covering up the camera in Austen’s room. The next day, Sunday, was the Nordic Games, with everyone dressed up as Vikings. That night, Austen spiraled after finding out Madison LeCroy was in the hospital back in Charleston. And then snapped at Julia McGuire when she questioned Paige and Andrea Denver about the future of their fling over dinner. Neither Saturday nor Sunday were accompanied by a running tally, but if you do the basic math, there should be seven days left in the house.
Now cut to the beginning of this week’s finale. Ciara has just asked Austen if he’s still in contact with his terrible, no good, very bad ex. (He is.) It’s still Sunday night. Suddenly, text flashes across the screen: “2 DAYS LEFT OF VACATION.” Wait…huh? How did we suddenly skip ahead five days? What just happened? Was this vacation really 17 days? Did we miss out on almost an entire week of footage? Did filming end early? Could my wish have come true and this season actually have been longer? Have we been robbed of more Winter House? I have so many questions and absolutely no answers. But I need an explanation ASAP. Because this magical fast-forward makes absolutely no sense.
Timeline discrepancies aside, the finale tried its best to wrap up all the various storylines in a nice bow, with Austen and Ciara‘s ill-fated romance naturally taking center stage. When he has the chance to come clean about just how much Madison has ruined him, Austen chooses to follow Craig Conover‘s kind of terrible advice and downplay the fact that his toxic ex still has her claws around his heart. Instead, he makes excuses for his bad mood. And why he’s been avoiding Ciara all night. And then proceeds to hook up with her in a closet for 25 minutes where Bravo’s cameras can’t catch them.
The next morning, it’s Monday. And now there’s only one day of vacation left. I’m still confused. Sweet Craigy is also confused, but for entirely different reasons. He wakes up to a text from his girlfriend back in Charleston saying she asked Madison out to dinner the night before. And she wanted him to hear it directly from her before the Southern Charm gossip mill made its way to Vermont. (Also, I guess that means Madison is out of the hospital?) Not only is this bad news Craig now has to break to Austen, it’s also a huge red flag in his eyes. This vacation away from his girlfriend has made him realize that maybe she’s not really The One™. Perhaps there’s someone even better for him right under his nose!
Speaking of, Paige also woke up with a massive epiphany about Andrea. Yes, she may have swooned over his Italian accent and Italian charm and Italian abs. But her guard’s up now that he’s told other people he wants to be single. And maybe she’s just not as into him as she was when he first walked into the house. Truly, Paige can get any straight, single male in the whole of New York City if she wants. And as we come to see, most vacation romances aren’t meant to last forever.
Possibly placated by their late-night closet hook-up, Ciara‘s still deep in her feelings over Austen. She’s scared to get serious because #daddyissues. Plus there’s the whole issue of long distance. His status as a Bravolebrity is tied directly to Charleston and she lives in Atlanta when she’s not filming Summer House in the Hamptons. Is there even a way to realistically make this work? According to Austen, the answer is no. He confides in Kyle that he’s realizing he’s not even ready to really date yet, much less do it long distance. Plus he’s still dealing with Madison actively doing everything she can to manipulate his emotions, so he just has no idea what to even think.
In order to go out with a bang on their last full day, the housemates decide to hit the slopes in their finest, most ridiculous neon outfits. But the mountainside also serves as an excuse for Lindsay Hubbard to accomplish two things: plant the idea in Amanda Batula‘s head that Austen‘s not over Madison yet, and have a not-quite-DTR with Jason Cameron. Out of all the couples that have been created in the house, these two seem to be (gasp) happy and (another gasp) also on the same page. They don’t want to put a label on anything. After all, it’s only been, like, three (or is it eight?) days. But they’re both anxious to see where this could go once they get back to New York City. And Jason’s more than happy to carry HubbHouse on his back down the hill. Considering Jason is by far the biggest catch in the whole house, I’d say Hurricane Hubbard did pretty well for herself here.
Back at the house, Craig‘s slowly coming to the realization that he’s not all that excited to go back to Charleston. And while Luke takes Julia out to collect syrup from the trees he’s tapped, Amanda fills Kyle in on everything Lindsay told her about Austen. Now, the Charmer may be the couple’s pal, but their loyalty is first and foremost to Ciara. So Amanda is left between a rock and a hard place. Does she pass the warning along to her bestie or stay out of it? Which way does the most to protect Ciara from getting hurt? And is it even her place to step in and do Austen’s job for him?
The final party of the season is a “booby bash” to celebrate the three-year anniversary of Lindsay‘s implants. Because of course it is. In getting ready, we learn that Austen has pierced ears, which I can’t say I’ve ever noticed before. He spends the entire party packing on the PDA with Ciara, all while wearing giant hoop earrings and balloons in his shirt. And eventually, Amanda can’t handle watching all the affection anymore. She decides to pull Austen aside for a private conversation, just to clarify the things Lindsay told her. But Austen takes her questions as meddling, and rather bluntly tells her his relationship with Ciara is “none of [her] f–king business.” Of course, this reaction only leads to one possible outcome: a blow-out fight between the two, though I find it all hard to take seriously with one lone hoop hanging from Austen’s ear as Amanda screams at him to “go to f–king hell.”
The argument spills out into the hallway, Kyle steps in to defend Amanda, and suddenly the whole house has a front row seat to the drama. Including Ciara. Oops. So now Austen is forced to come clean and tell her on their last night that he isn’t emotionally available enough to date in real life. Ouch. Ciara’s fairly blindsided by this, mostly because the boy she likes very, very much was singing a very different tune the night before. And now she’s heartbroken. (Meanwhile, Paige cooling off has seemed to work wonders on Andrea, because suddenly he wants her and only her once they get back to the city.)
As the next morning arrives, the cold, hard truth hits the housemates as they prepare to pack. The Winter House is not a place for fairytale endings. Gabrielle Kniery is the first to leave, but not without a new life mantra of growth over hook-ups! Paige‘s sweet Italian parents come to pick her up, and inadvertently get the chance to meet Andrea. The model throws out a list of multiple dates he’s apparently planned for the following week, including finally making Paige that authentic Italian pizza he owes her. But do we think they ever went out again? Because as the roommates say their goodbyes and close the door on Winter House, we’re treated to a five-second sneak peek of what’s to come on Season 6 of Summer House. And it’s Paige and Craig! Making out! In an elevator! Because they’re in love! Sorry, Andrea. No matter how good your pizza is, it never stood a chance against some good, old-fashioned Southern Charm…
TELL US – WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE FINALE? SHOULD WINTER HOUSE COME BACK FOR ANOTHER SEASON? WHICH, IF ANY, OF THE NEWBIES DO YOU HOPE TO SEE ON SUMMER HOUSE? HOW LONG DO YOU THINK ANDREA AND PAIGE’S ROMANCE LASTED AFTER FILMING WRAPPED? DO YOU SHIP LINDSAY AND JASON? WAS AUSTEN DISHONEST WITH CIARA ABOUT HIS FEELINGS? AND WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH THE TIMELINE?
[Photo Credit: Bravo]