If you’ve been keeping up with my recaps all season, you probably know I’ve been, to put it plainly, unfailingly optimistic about The Real Housewives of Orange County. I was thrilled when Heather Dubrow announced she was returning. I thought it was just what the show needed to get back on track after the nightmare that was Season 15. Personally, I’ve enjoyed pretty much every episode so far this season. And even when other fans on Twitter were up in arms about this or complaining about that, I was always looking for something to like each week.
But finally, after 14 weeks, it has to be said. This was absolutely a filler episode. Now, that’s not to say it wasn’t fun to watch. Or that I couldn’t find things to enjoy about it. But this week definitely felt transitional. Filled with what felt like one too many personal scenes in an effort to set the stage for the cast trip to Aspen. Which, judging by the teaser, looks like the high point of the season. As cast trips so often are. But there was a lot of plodding — and a minor exorcism — on the road to getting there.
Let’s start with the conclusion of the face-off between Gina Kirschenheiter and Shannon Beador. Last week’s ending wanted to give us some big, dramatic cliffhanger. But ultimately, the two frenemies are arguing about how they’re both…happy and…more successful than they’ve ever been? Am I getting that right? Though I for one would argue we’ve never actually seen a truly happy Shannon in her eight years and counting on this show. But she mostly wants the world to know that she’s not jealous of Gina. I do think Gina had a point here, though, that Shannon only likes the power dynamic in their fragile friendship when she feels superior to the younger ‘Wife. And that was much easier to do when she was taking her shopping on Rodeo Drive and getting her an attorney to keep her out of jail.
The confrontation simultaneously escalates and ends when Gina drops the mic by telling Shannon she feels sad for her. And then walks away. Not to be outdone, the veteran does her classic “Shannon” reaction of screaming obscenities and storms past the already departing Gina. Of course, the fight can only do one thing: bleed out into the rest of the group. The two ‘Wives huff off to their respective corners — Shannon spilling her side of the story to a very angry John Janssen and Gina venting to Heather. When Heather approaches Shannon to try to advocate for Gina, it obviously doesn’t go well. In fact, the two end up revisiting details of their iconic Season 9 feud. And we even get a classic “scary angry!” reference from a belligerent Shannon before she leaves the party still upset.
The next day, Gina‘s finally ready to rid herself of the negativity that’s been plaguing her since Cabo. She’s convinced something happened during the sweat lodge ceremony that was left unfinished by Noella Bergener quite literally blacking out. And now she’s invited Emily Simpson and a psychic medium to her casita for some supernatural healing. (Side note: is it possible that the spirit allegedly inside Gina is the one with the giant ego? Maybe that’s what Shannon‘s sensing?) The “extraction” isn’t exactly methodical. It mostly involves Gina exhaling lots of times and the psychic throwing the unseen sweat lodge demon out a clearly closed window. And possibly into Emily’s car across the street. But at least the psychic played up the heebie-jeebies for the cameras…
Meanwhile, Noella‘s getting a private therapy session at home. Well, not therapy exactly. But I don’t know what to call the work of a Teacher of Conscious Relationships™. The newbie opens up even more about her dad, whom she brought up on camera for the first time last week. And how the childhood trauma of her daddy issues contributed to the men she chooses. And also to her obvious abandonment issues in the wake of James Bergener walking out on their marriage. However, there was one overriding thought I couldn’t shake during this scene. I’ve become increasingly convinced that not a single one of Noella’s cast mates want to film with her outside of group events. Not even Shannon, whom she’s a willing and able “yes man” for in said group scenes.
It’s time to plan another cast trip. We all know it’s coming. And this time, Emily‘s the one finding a vacation home in Aspen for the ladies. Because they’ve already experienced the heat of Mexico this season. So why not go the exact opposite route and head somewhere cold? And look, the house even has a giant table perfect for arguing as a group! Emily really does know how to check all the boxes.
At the same time, Heather‘s visiting Dr. Jen Armstrong‘s office to talk about the vacation. After the shouting match at the brain scan party, she’s worried about going on another trip with Shannon in the midst of her issues with Gina. Despite the fact that they’ve historically had fun together on these getaways. But Heather refuses to be a “yes man” to Shannon like Noella. And has no problem hitting her oldest frenemy in the group with a reality check when she’s being unreasonable.
The end of the episode centers on the launch party for Gina‘s skincare brand, Cara Gala. But first, Noella receives the tragic and devastating news that her father has died. Apparently, he passed away by himself at his home in Hawaii. And his body wasn’t discovered for days — a fact Noella morbidly spells out while talking to her mother. Obviously, she’s at her most fragile state. And it is heartbreaking watching her explain through tears in her confessional that she’ll always regret not introducing her father to her kids. But instead of taking the time that she needs to grieve, she’s determined to still make an appearance at Gina’s event.
And maybe this is where the episode fell flat for me. Because, let’s face it: a Gina Kirschenheiter party could never live up to a Heather Dubrow party. Or even a Dr. Jen Armstrong party, which we saw at the other bookend of this hour. But it is the first event Gina’s ever thrown in her four-year history on the show. So let’s give her points for trying. Even if the step and repeat is inexplicably in a dining room. All the other ‘Wives are in attendance to support Gina. Especially Shannon, who makes it a point to go above and beyond to prove just how good of a friend she is. No, the two haven’t hashed their issues out yet. But that’s only because Gina was too busy planning the party to go out for coffee.
The ladies also rally around Noella in her time of need. And other than the hugs and tears involved there, there’s honestly minimal drama at the party. Gina‘s parents came all the way from Long Island to tell her how proud they are. Heather and Shannon both brought gifts. Noella informs Dr. Jen she tried to tag her in an Instagram Story (a touchy subject for these two) of the flowers she sent. But Dr. Jen still has her blocked. And Gina gives a weepy speech celebrating her success while Shannon forces an ear-to-ear grin for everyone to see. Because, again, she’s just that good of a friend.
However, the good vibes can only last so long. And judging by the teaser we were gifted at the end of the episode, things are about to get explosive when the women trade the OC for Aspen. Till next week!
TELL US – WHO HAS A BIGGER EGO: GINA OR SHANNON? DID YOU LOVE SEEING SHANNON AND HEATHER REHASH THEIR PAST DRAMA? DO YOU THINK NONE OF THE OTHER ‘WIVES WANT TO FILM WITH NOELLA? WHAT WILL GO DOWN IN ASPEN?
[Photo Credit: Bravo]