Real Housewives Of Orange County Recap: The First Noel(la)

I had a long-forgotten feeling this week as I tuned into Bravo on Wednesday night. It had been so long since I’d felt it that honestly, I had started questioning whether I ever would again. But it crept over me slowly as I watched the familiar drama of marriages and friendships falling apart over the course of an hour. It feels good to watch Real Housewives of Orange County again. And for everyone complaining about Heather Dubrow being front and center in her comeback the past two weeks, are you happy now? Because, much to this recapper’s displeasure, we only got a single scene of Fancy Pants in the entire hour.

Instead, the episode kicks off with Shannon Beador visiting an aesthetic medicine doctor named Dr. Jenn. No, not that one. She goes to a different Dr. Jenn. One with two n’s, apparently. She’s invited Noella Bergener along to hold her hand through the procedure. Which involves injecting dissolver into her face to undo the choices she made ahead of the Season 15 reunion. And girl, for those of you who didn’t watch, they were…choices. As her lone ally in the group at the moment, Shannon’s also leaning on the newbie as the only sympathetic ear she’s got following the lawsuit debacle at the premiere party.

The doctor’s office visit also serves as an opportunity for Noella to open up more about her personal life. And open up she does. In the span of a few pokes into Shannon’s face, she leads us through her IVF journey, multiple miscarriages, surrogacies, and her two-year-old son’s recent autism diagnosis. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also trouble brewing in her marriage. She’s been blindsided by her husband James Bergener‘s massive tax liens — totaling more than $6,000,000. Noella thinks she has a solution though, involving the potential sale of the couple’s house in Puerto Rico. So even though there’s been a communication breakdown between them, she’s sees a fairly simple fix ahead. At least compared to Shannon’s road to repairing her broken friendships, that is.

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And at the top of that list is Heather, who stops by Terry Dubrow‘s office with her amazing Fendi tote in tow for a midday visit. Nicole James has since apologized, but she’s not interested in the least in hearing what Shannon has to say. And she has the texts to prove it. While reading Terry her delightfully sanctimonious reply to Shannon’s olive branch, Heather lets slip the underlying reason she’s been so upset by this whole fiasco. And it’s something I think some viewers who’ve been so quick to side with Shannon might be missing.

Heather‘s been a Housewife before. She knows how all of this works. She’s already done this for five seasons and was holding an orange long before any of these other women. She’s had a front-row seat to abuse allegations, mountaintop threesome rumors, accusations that she was a bad friend, and a full-blown cancer scam. So she knows what this storyline could have had the power to do. Namely that spreading damaging, private information in a manipulated light on national television could have affected Terry‘s medical practice and reputation. And thereby, as she explained, his livelihood and their family. It’s also why, I think, the Dubrows were so quick to downplay it, forgive Nicole, and clarify to the world that the suit was dropped and nothing ever came of it. But in Heather’s mind, Shannon needs to take accountability for sending the proverbial snowball down the mountain.

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Gina Kirschenheiter‘s also still angry with Shannon. But instead of dealing with the conflict, she decides to take Noella to cryotherapy for the first time. Ah, the old trusty cryotherapy. One of a Housewife’s favorite pastimes. Before donning fluffy earmuffs and mittens to voluntarily submerge themselves in -182º F temperatures, Gina gets the lowdown on Noella’s marital and financial troubles. Which have gone from bad to worse. Because of her involvement in the show, the Berengers tax debts have been made public and gone the rounds across the blogosphere. Her husband has shut down any communication, and is even refusing to consider Noella’s plan to sell the Puerto Rico house. We may not get to hear his side of the story but it’s almost like he doesn’t even want to solve the problems he’s created?

While Emily Simpson preps for her daughter’s baptism into the Mormon Church, Shannon starts her apology tour. The first stop being a lunch at Costa Mesa hotspot The Country Club with Noella and Nicole. En route to the restaurant, she also gets a surprise call from Gina to schedule stop number two. So that’s convenient. Before Shannon arrives, Noella quickly fills Nicole in on the drama with James. Which is quickly spiraling out control. Though it’s important to note that she mentions in this scene that divorce isn’t even an option. When Shannon shows up, she’s ready to apologize over and over. And while Nicole is happy to remind her that her private medical information from 16 years ago wasn’t really Shannon’s to share with the group, she also recognizes that the veteran ‘Wife is genuinely sorry and forgives her. I, meanwhile, remain confused why Nicole isn’t even a Friend this season.

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Dr. Jen Armstrong‘s only contribution this week is introducing us to her British mom, daughter Cece and all the the dysfunction in her family. (Quick side note: Ryne Armstrong apparently doesn’t even wear a shirt to pick up his mother-in-law from LAX…) Via confessional, Dr. Jen spells out all the trauma in her family history, which started with her dad’s tragic death the day before she took the MCAT. It seems the newbie was a bit of a daddy’s girl, and following his passing, she began to resent her mother, who was lost in the depths of depression. The wedge has since solidified into something of a permanent chasm. And now everyone in the family has their own special handshake with Jen’s mom except her. Mostly, though, I spent this whole scene wondering why Dr. Jen only has one confessional look so far.

Back at the Beador house, Shannon gets a surprise FaceTime from Noella. And the news is not good. Her husband has blindsided her yet again. This time with divorce papers all the way from Puerto Rico. Gosh, the new ‘Wife’s life sure has unraveled quickly. We haven’t even seen her film at home yet…And part of me is left to wonder whether Noella’s involvement in the show had anything to do with her husband’s harsh and sudden pulling of the ripcord. The guy even shut off all the credit cards and has effectively absconded to Puerto Rico, leaving Noella without any access to their finances and completely alone.

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Later that night, Shannon and Gina finally meet to hash out their feud over dinner. But news of Noella‘s world being rocked — she FaceTimed Gina too — has cast their entire fight in a new, petty light. That doesn’t mean the two ‘Wives won’t go a couple rounds over it, though. Gina doesn’t feel she did anything wrong in telling Heather, but Shannon feels like her confidence was betrayed. Gina’s mostly irked, though, at Shannon’s incessant insistence at always being right as well as her entire approach to friendship. Both women are keen to move forward and not get bogged down in this, but Gina has learned her lesson. She’ll tread cautiously with Shannon in the future.

The ‘Wives ultimately put their grievances aside to rally around Noella. Before they started arguing, they invited the newcomer to join them at the restaurant, and she shows up confused, heartbroken and ready for a drink. Noella admits in her confessional that she doesn’t have a saving account. Not a single means of accessing finances in her name. The only thing keeping her going at the moment is her Bravo paycheck — which is fairly minuscule for a first-season Housewife. (Good thing production’s paying for that extra-dirty martini and plate of Brussels sprouts!) “Why is this happening?” she asks as the episode closes. “I have more questions than answers, and that is not a safe place for me to be in.” Thankfully, Shannon and Gina are the best ‘Wives of the bunch to help walk her through this fire.

TELL US – DO YOU FEEL FOR NOELLA AFTER WATCHING HER LIFE FALL APART? DID THIS EPISODE CHANGE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF HER IN ANY WAY? WERE YOU SURPRISED THAT NICOLE FORGAVE SHANNON SO QUICKLY? ARE YOU TEAM SHANNON OR TEAM GINA? 

[Photo Credit: Bravo]