This is it. The end of Season 15 of The Real Housewives of Orange County. We made it, guys. Now, I for one wouldn’t actually say it’s been the worst season in modern Housewives history. (That distinction still goes, in my opinion, to Season 13…) But it certainly was an odd duck in the show’s fifteen-year canon. And sure, there are plenty of reasons. Blame it on the pandemic. Or in the glaring absence of Tamra Judge and Vicki Gunvalson. Blame it on the new girl. Or on the fact that these women don’t really have authentic friendships anymore.
But really, when you look back at the history of RHOC, the show veered off course after Season 11. And it’s been in a never-ending nose dive ever since. (Though I for one rather enjoyed most of Season 14…) Personally, I have my theories about why that is. (Read: the unforgivable loss of Heather Dubrow, which many fans are just now starting to recognize four seasons after her exit.) But either way, this is where we’ve arrived. So for one last time, let’s dive back into the complicated mire that is Season 15 in the OC.
It’s reunion time! And the Real Housewives of Orange County are gathered for a safe, socially distanced sit-down at L.A.’s historic Wilshire Ebell Theatre. The ladies dressed in their best red, white and black, and they’re ready to do battle. Can you guys believe this is the fifteenth time we’ve done this in Orange County? We’ve certainly come a long way from watching clips from the season on a rolling TV in Vicki Gunvalson‘s grotto sans Andy Cohen. And also Kimberly Bryant. Remember her?
Let’s talk about the Real Housewives of Orange County reunion fashion, yes? The color palette doesn’t seem to have a definitive theme and the looks are…varied. To say the least. My personal vote for best of the bunch goes to Emily Simpson for her va-va-voom burgundy gown. It’s a fab update on the red velvet wrap dress she wore at the Season 14 reunion, which also happened to be my favorite look that year. (Em sure tends to turn it out come reunion time, doesn’t she?) It seems she knows red’s her color, and she looks better than ever.
This is it! We made it to the season finale of The Real Housewives of Orange County! It came suddenly. Yet it took forever to get here. What a strange, strange season this has been. It’s worth noting before diving into the drama that, clocking in at just 14 episodes (and assuming there’s no Secrets Revealed episode after the two-part reunion), this is the shortest season in RHOC history since Season 4. That was back in 2008. During the earliest days of Tamra Judge pointing her finger across the table at Javier’s and accusing Gretchen Rossi of going to Bass Lake.
It’s also only one episode longer than the freshman season of RHOSLC that’s also airing right now. Blame it on the pandemic. Or on the First Ladies of Bravo showing their age after 15 years. Or some combination of both. But it’s truly unprecedented for a flagship show that has regularly delivered 20+ episodes per season for the last decade. And is it just me, or did it sort of feels like production just…decided to wrap things up? Was it the worst season in Housewives history? That’s to be decided. But was it one of the weakest? Almost certainly.
Hmm. For the penultimate episode of the season, this week’s Real Housewives of Orange County sure felt strange. And honestly, I have to admit it feels quite odd to be recapping tonight given the chaos that’s happened in Washington D.C. today. Over the last 15 years, the Housewives franchise has often provided a much-needed dose of escapism from the horrors and headlines of real life. Tonight in the O.C., however, provided no such relief from the reality of a mob storming the Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the democratic process. But alas, here we are. And the recapping must go on…
I think my biggest issue with this episode of Real Housewives of Orange County is that it really just boiled down to a series of one-on-one conversations. Because of coronavirus restrictions, the women haven’t been able to congregate together since the trip to Lake Arrowhead. And really, they haven’t all been together since before the pandemic shut down production. Right? Since the cast trip to Palm Springs? So basically they’re left to talk in pairs, or film with their kids, siblings and significant others. None of which is particularly interesting on its own without a main storyline driving the narrative.
Tonight on The Real Housewives of Orange County, we finally met the real Elizabeth Lyn Vargas. No more half-truths. No more gag orders. And no more hiding behind claims of being the “richest bitch in Newport.” No, this week, the newbie laid bare her past and a lifetime of hidden trauma for the Bravo cameras. And if I do say so myself, the whole thing was pretty dang riveting. (But maybe that’s just because I have a deep, deep fascination with cults?)
That’s right, Elizabeth grew up in a cult. Which she revealed to Braunwyn Windham-Burke last week on a walking path in Lake Arrowhead. All before promptly breaking down into a full-blown panic attack on said walking path. Which, can you blame her? Surely, sharing such a deep and painful secret was not exactly what she had in mind when joining a show about, well, being one of the richest bitches in Newport.
The Real Housewives of Orange County sure are squeezing as much out of this Lake Arrowhead trip as they can, huh? In no year other than 2020 would a non-international cast trip featuring only four of the ‘Wives get stretched out for three episodes. Just imagine the quick Season 6 jaunt to San Antonio lasting that long. Because Lake Arrowhead is basically the equivalent of that, just with fewer Gretchen Christine Beaute handbags.
This trip has thrown Braunwyn Windham-Burke for a loop. She calls her BFF Shari from her hotel room to vent about the “anti-Braunwyn campaign” the other ‘Wives seem to be on. And sure, you can argue that Braunwyn is being paranoid. Except that at that very moment, plenty of anti-Braunwyn gossip is being thrown around the house by her cast mates. Kelly Dodd calls her a “Debbie downer.” Gina Kirschenheiter says she came in “nervous and aggressive.” So is she really that wrong that an anti-Braunwyn campaign is happening?
What’s the best way of escaping the horrors of a global pandemic ravaging the entire planet? Why, going on a vacation, of course! So this week, the Real Housewives of Orange County pack up and head off to Lake Arrowhead for a much-needed girls’ trip full of bonding, face masks and arguing over whether Black lives matter! (Which, they absolutely do, for the record.) Well, not all the ‘Wives. Because for some, the coronavirus had already caught up before they could make their getaway to the lake.
Last week’s Real Housewives of Orange County ended with the news that one of Shannon Beador‘s twins had tested positive for coronavirus. Which obviously sent the veteran ‘Wife into a full-blown panic lockdown. And now, Emily Simpson can’t go on the cast trip either because she too has tested positive. Her symptoms are mild — she doesn’t even have a fever — and she can’t pinpoint where she caught it, but she’ll be quarantined with her family until further notice.
Welcome back to The Real Housewives of Orange County. Where, in case you missed it, the apocalypse has happened. After weeks of encroaching panic, the coronavirus has descended upon the OC. Production has been shut down indefinitely. The ‘Wives are all in isolation and have resorted to documenting their lives in quarantine via iPhone. It’s scary. It’s more than a little triggering to watch play back nine months after we all just lived through it. But it’s also a fascinating experiment in keeping the cameras rolling during a truly unprecedented time in history.
Unsurprisingly, all of the women are handling the pandemic differently. Braunwyn Windham-Burke has gone digital with her sobriety journey by attending AA meetings online. Elizabeth Lyn Vargas is focused on helping animals while spreading ridiculous conspiracy theories on her social media. Shannon Beador has forced her family into full lockdown mode. And Kelly Dodd is busy giving a giant middle finger to lockdown protocols altogether, jetting off to New York City to visit her boyfriend.