'The Real Housewives of Orange County' 100th Episode Recap: A Look Back at All the Fights and Friendships
'The Real Housewives of Orange County' 100th Episode Recap: A Look Back at All the Fights and Friendships
Jennifer Lind-Westbrook
Jennifer Lind-Westbrook
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Tonight, the first ladies of Bravo, The Real Housewives of Orange County, celebrate their 100th episode with an exhaustive retrospective. They discuss everything you ever could ever want or need to know about the original Housewives franchise. Executive Vice President of Bravo and housewife wrangler Andy Cohen also chimes in on the cast members and the show's success and widespread appeal. And old cast members resurface to reminisce about their experiences both good and bad while on the show.

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Casting


What are the characteristics of a good Real Housewife? According to Andy, she's pretty, outspoken and has strong feelings regarding the way she lives her life and about the way others should live their lives. Ironically, the one thing she doesn't have to be is an actual housewife. This was something I personally had hoped they would address.

As the series progressed, new cast members were often recruited by existing ones. Jo and Slade thought Gretchen would make a good fit. I wonder if Jo felt the same way after Gretchen started dating Slade. She definitely makes it clear that Gretchen broke the "girl code." Tammy was brought on board by her good friend Jeana. In an interesting side note, Tammy reveals that the gate used in the opening credits was actually the gate to her old house.

Location, Location, Location

So, why was Orange County an ideal setting for the show? Cohen says that to him, "Orange County is the Knots Landing of the franchise. It was really rich people with blonde hair who seemingly didn't want to let anyone in behind their gates, but would open their lives up to cameras." He says it's an oxymoron that continues to fascinate him.

Gretchen offers up an astute observation when she says that watching the show for the audience provides them with an escape from their own, less lavish lifestyles. Andy says that before The Real Housewives of Orange County, viewers hadn't seen people living this lifestyle in reality -- in scripted television, yes -- and hadn't witnessed real people going out and spending such exorbitant amounts of money.

Vicki agrees that they do live privileged lives and that at the end of the day, people like looking at pretty things. Lynne Curtain attests that Orange County is portrayed exactly as it is. She says there's a lot of pretentiousness. Lauri Waring calls the OC "status symbols on steroids." She should know, being on the receiving end of gifts from her then fiance George that cost more than most Americans make in a year. Jo admits she always felt out of place, which probably explained her constant attempts to distance herself during her time on the show.

Fame and Not Always Fortune

When asked about the downside of the overnight fame that comes with being on the show, Vicki says how harshly she judges herself and having other people judging her who don't really know her. She states it's a struggle to hold on to any piece of privacy.

When the country went into recession, Cohen didn't believe that people would continue to watch a show that focused so much on luxury and opulence. The fact that several of the housewives were in dire financial situations themselves only served to make them more relatable. Tamra and her husband were underwater on their home and Jeana was forced to make severe cutbacks in her spending. Viewers know that Gretchen was left with nothing after Jeff's death and Slade's income was hit by the housing crisis. And no fan will forget that Lynne was evicted from her own home.

Keep Your Friends Close...

When Cohen is asked what makes the friendships on the show so volatile, he answers that when you see how your "friends" are talking about you when you're not around, it calls their loyalty into question. He says that theme plays out all of the time on Housewives. Lauri states, "The allegiances have to change position all the time because everybody's constantly stabbing each other in the back."

Jeana says that the girls used to get together every week to watch until about halfway through the first season. Then everybody started getting mad at each other over comments made during filming.

Given how cozy Tamra and Gretchen have become, it's easy to forget just how massive and nasty their feud was. Tamra believes it all began when she passed judgement on Gretchen for taking a mini-vacation while Jeff was so ill. She says Gretchen had a hard time reconciling things the other women were seeing with what she was portraying on TV. Even today, Tamra asserts that if it were her fiance that was dying, she wouldn't have remained on the show.

Cohen says one of the most shocking things he's ever seen was the "naked wasted" dinner party. He claims it seemed "sinister." Tamra claims that she had seen Gretchen drunk off camera and wanted to expose this hidden side of her personality. She says she had no idea that things would go as far as they did. She also says that she's moved on from her accusation of Gretchen cheating on her fiance because she knows Gretchen will never come clean.

Gretchen's change of heart came in the form of an epiphany while sitting in church. She says the sermon was about forgiveness, and by not forgiving an adversary, you're actually giving that person more power. Gretchen says she doesn't want to become this resentful, angry person. If that is the case, she might want to consider exiting stage left.

New Kids on the Block

Another hot topic is the trial and tribulations faced by new cast members. Lauri says she thinks it is very difficult for the women to accept anyone they don't really know into their exclusive clique. She claims jealousy is often a motivating factor in trying to push a woman away and make her life miserable. Perhaps best able to attest to this fact is Gretchen who thinks any new housewife should run and get out as fast as she can. Tamra says she felt like an outcast because the girls were like movie stars to her, and Lynne says she was definitely hazed. Vicki admits that she hates new girls. Her reasoning is that this is "her show," and they should be seen and not heard until acknowledged. Even current black sheep Alexis feels that Gretchen suffered more abuse than she did.

The exception to this rule was Heather. Gretchen says she was embraced very quickly. Vicki says Heather brought class back to the show. It really is hard to find fault with "Fancy Pants." She tends to favor bluntness over backbiting. Heather won't back down from conflict, but she also doesn't seek it out. I think her transition was so smooth because she just didn't have any qualities that put a target on her back. Tamra says she's everything Alexis wants to be: elegant, classy and smart.

Lydia, who initially started out on good terms with everyone, says the best part of being new is that you have a clean slate. She says since the OC women have been around the longest, they have the deepest bonds. The downside to that type of intimacy is the wounds are deep as well. Lydia says when you're watching at home, the blow-ups are entertainment, and you have the choice to turn off your TV and go about your night. But she says there are moments, especially when two women are screaming at each other, that she has found herself wondering, "How did I get here? Why am I here?"

Catfights

So, let's get to the good stuff. Why are these women constantly fighting? Heather states, "Everybody's got relationships, issues, dramas, problems; everyone's together, the energy is high and it explodes." Gretchen attributes it to human nature and the instinct to protect yourself, while others chalk it up to good old-fashioned retribution.

Fashion Forward

In the beginning, the women were encouraged to be more natural. However, they all agree that as the show gained momentum, their make-up, clothes and overall appearances got better. Tamra says that now, people expect it. If she's not out with her false eyelashes on, people tell her she looks like s**t. Vicki says that the desire to fit in doesn't change just because you're 50 years old.

Vacay

Cohen says the best things about the group vacations, aside from being aspirational and fun, are that the women are together (forced) for an extended period of time, and they can't run from each other. He says they're either going to have a great time or it's going to go terribly wrong. He's right when he says that; either way, it is pretty entertaining.

I Do and I Don't

I'm not certain, but it's possible that, compared to the other franchises, The Real Housewives of Orange County could rank number one in divorces and break-ups. Jeana says it's hard to determine if the cameras are the cause or if they just make the problems more visible. Slade says the cameras forced one-time fiance Jo to reveal her true personality, which probably saved him from getting married and divorcing five years later.

Vicki says her and her ex Don swore they wouldn't succumb to the reality show curse. However, Vicki's son Michael says that they didn't spend much time together and when they did they fought. He says that for them to see that played back and hear other perspectives was awkward. Whether he means for just Don and Vicki or the family as a whole in unclear.

Tamra says her divorce from Simon had nothing to do with stardom or fame. She claims that she was growing more independent as time went on, and she simply realized that her marriage was not what she wanted. But didn't being the star of a reality show allow her that independence? Tamra does claim that doing the show made her happy, and he basically resented her for it.

Reunions

Andy says the housewife reunions play an integral part in every season. The women all dread the event. Alexis says they give her chills. Gretchen says that the reunions to her mean drama and "full-on war." Lauri says everybody is all fired up because they've seen everything that has been said about them throughout the season. Vicki says that in everyday life, you don't have people calling you out on who you are or what you value, but on "this damn show" they do it every day. Heather equates participating in a reunion with a police interrogation. Cue up the montage of cantankerous clips.

The retrospective wraps up on a positive note with the women saying what they "treasure" most about being an OC housewife. I think Heather says it best: "I'm proud of what I've done on the show. I am proud to be a part of what is definitely an important part of pop culture." Then again, maybe it was Lauri, who says, "I'm pretty sure we're all going to hell -- housewife hell." Amen.

The Real Housewives of Orange County airs Mondays at 8pm on Bravo.

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(Image courtesy of Bravo)



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