rhoc recap season 16 episode 5 gina kirschenheiter del mar racetrack

Real Housewives Of Orange County Recap: In The Winner’s Circle

For the past five weeks, it’s felt really good to be excited about a new episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County. Hasn’t it? In fact, I really missed the show last week when it was on a break for the holidays. But thankfully it’s now 2022 and it’s back! And even though this week’s episode felt like quite a bit of filler compared to the four that preceded it, it still did enough to carry the various storylines forward and keep me enthusiastic. Here we go!

Back in 2021, Heather Dubrow and Shannon Beador were right in the midst of the battle of the high ponies. Or maybe the peace treaty of the high ponies? Who’s to say! Either way, it was the showdown we’ve been waiting to see since the premiere went left. But Heather pivots seamlessly from warning Shannon in one breath never to mess with her family again — OR ELSE — to promising she can forgive her despite not fully trusting her anymore. It’s a whiplash of emotions. But one that Shannon’s willing to endure to put this mess behind her, even if it means having to personally apologize to Terry Dubrow. And I for one am happy to see these two agree to move on and not draw this out for the entire season.

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One feud I am interested in watching continue, though, is the animosity between Noella Bergener and Dr. Jen Armstrong. These two clearly despise each other and honestly? I’m kind of living for it. Very rarely does a newbie vs. newbie feud play well — it’s hard to get invested when you barely know either of the women. But in this case, it’s working so far. Jen pulls Noella aside at the party to try to clear whatever bad vibes are brewing between them. But instead, the latter uses the opportunity to escalate the fight, and calls out Dr. Jen for tagging her in some “poorly lit” selfie thanking all of her plastic surgery clients. It’s hilarious. But in reality, the hostility started way before Noella reported Dr. Jen’s weird selfie to Instagram.

Both were friends of former ‘Wife Braunwyn Windham-Burke, so they do have a bit of history. And if a certain text message screenshot I’ve seen floating around Twitter of Dr. Jen‘s is real, they viewed each other as competition for the same orange before the cast was overhauled. (And yes, I know everyone hates her, but I imagine production casting not just one, but two of Braunwyn’s pals as new ‘Wives was just salt in the wound after the chaotic former ‘Wife was fired following Season 15.) Noella was turned off by the good doctor right from the get-go, and slams her for being “thirsty” at an off-screen pow-wow at Braunwyn’s house. However, Heather and Shannon take it upon themselves to diffuse the squabble, but not before Noella tells her nemesis to “go be relevant somewhere else.”

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Post party, which ends with all the ‘Wives belly dancing together, we’re treated to a whole bunch of filler. Shannon having lunch with her dad and all three girls (plus Sophie Beador‘s new boyfriend!), Heather‘s daughter Max Dubrow showing off the cover mock-up of her new book. (It’s all about being a teenager in the 21st century – very Clarissa Explains It All meets 2022.) Eventually, Noella meets up with Shannon at the office of their shared energy healer. As they debrief on their various dramas at the party, Noella decides to take a hard stance against Heather for the first time. Yes, she drunkenly called the returning vet a couple of names at lunch with Nicole James. But this time she labels Heather as “very manipulative” and “controlling,” and seems ready to keep fighting Shannon’s battle for her.

Meanwhile, Dr. Jen hosts Nicole, Emily Simpson and Gina Kirschenheiter at her house from some casual charcuterie, wine and gossip, The aesthetic doc laments in her confessional that the only friends she has are her employees, who are basically paid to be nice to her. Which maybe isn’t a great signal. Naturally, the topic of conversation is all things Noella. And Dr. Jen has an axe to grind.

The doctor claims she met her fellow newbie the day after her backyard wedding to James Bergener, but then immediately walks that back to speculate that maybe the Bergeners aren’t actually even married in real life. This confuses Emily and Gina, who both point out that Sweet James wouldn’t be able to file for divorce unless they were legally married. But Dr. Jen still has her doubts. And goes even farther by labeling Noella mentally unstable, not fully sane and in need of help. Just, you know, from a doctor’s perspective. And now Emily’s the one doubting, suspicious that maybe Dr. Jen is just trying to sully Noella’s name and reputation amongst their new group of cast mates friends.

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The following day, Heather and Terry treat Gina and her boyfriend Travis Mullen to a day at the races. And all I can think about is how this scene at Del Mar mirrors the Housewives’ trip there way back in Season 4. Twelve years ago, Vicki Gunvalson, Tamra Judge (then Barney), Jeana Keough, Lynne Curtin and newbie Gretchen Rossi filmed at the very same racetrack. They made a whole production out of the outing, complete with a private hat-shopping party at the St. Regis beforehand. (In the wake of their historic “Did you go to Bass Lake?” showdown at Javier’s, new frenemies Gretchen and Tamra fought over who got to wear a hot pink hat.)

Cliques formed at the racetrack, with Vicki and Tamra excluding the rest of the group, and poor Lynne feeling totally left out. And this was all before the iconic “Naked Wasted” dinner party! Cut to a dozen years later and this season’s trip to Del Mar is a much more drama-free affair. Besides the fact that Shannon or any of the other ‘Wives didn’t get an invitation. Gina‘s shocked to learn there’s an actual winner’s circle at the track. And not only that, they actually get to go down and stand in it during the race! Because that’s just the sort of thing that happens when you’re friends with Heather.

However, Gina does have some rather unsavory information to pass onto her new bestie. It turns out Noella‘s been doing more gossiping behind Heather‘s back. And this time, she’s trashing Fancy Pants behind her back to Gina. Though we don’t see it in flashback, she flat-out told Gina that Heather can’t be trusted. This…is not a smart move. And it leaves Heather wondering what she possibly did to earn the newbie’s ire. And also whether Noella deserves an invite to her party to celebrate Max‘s upcoming book launch.

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Finally, the episode ends with Emily paying a visit to Noella‘s house for the first time for a very hush-hush heart-to-heart. No, but seriously. Like, Noella’s inexplicably speaking in a whisper throughout the whole conversation. She blames it on losing her voice due to stress, but Emily wonders if there’s a more insidious reason. Could the house be bugged? Is Sweet James listening in all the way from Puerto Rico? It turns out, Noella’s been served with divorce papers yet again. This time with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers to ensure she came to the door. Wow, that’s just…cold and low behavior.

Emily‘s also more than happy to fill Noella in on the fake wedding rumors being spread by Dr. Jen. Noella’s not exactly surprised to hear this, but it still stings nonetheless. And she has a perfectly reasonable explanation for the details of her wedding. They got married in a private, backyard ceremony during COVID. And they’ve only been legally married for a year, despite the fact that they’ve been together for six and their son is almost two. Emily makes it clear she is firmly entrenched on Team Noella, and proves it by tossing the shady bouquet of flowers — and maybe the secret surveillance equipment — firmly in the trash. Bye James, bye!


[Photo Credit: Bravo]