As The Real Housewives of Orange County season 9 gets ready to kick off, the main question is– will the new cast members be able to fill the overly-priced shoes of the now departed Gretchen Rossi, Alexi Bellino and Lydia McLaughlin? 

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While the network did a pretty thorough job cleaning house, they forgot to vacuum under the furniture where the screeching, combative Vicki Gunvalson resides. For the third season in a row, viewers will have to deal with her on-again, off-again relationship with love tank attendant, Brooks. As usual, depending on which personality is on, her assessment of their relationship changes. Gunvalson, who has admitted she fears winding up alone, faces an uncertain future as her daughter and son-in-law prepare to relocate.

While Gunvalson’s volatile personal life and contradictory personality must make her a must-have member of the cast, Alexis Bellino, whose only assets were on her chest, was let go, putting the name “Jesus Jugs” to rest for good, at least on camera. She could have saved herself the trouble of elevating herself from pariah status last season had the man upstairs dropped a hint of what was to come.

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Taking one of the three vacant slots left by departing cast is Shannon Beador, who makes her inaugural appearance in the premiere. Fans will have to wait at least another week to be introduced to former beauty queen and second newbie housewife Lizzie Rovsek. From the look of the season sneak peek at the end of the premiere, this “opinionated” beauty will be worth the wait.

Beador seems to have the goods to back up her lifestyle unlike many of the wives across all of the franchises. Beador enters the picture similar to how Gretchen did, via real estate. Heather’s building a new palace, and her architect takes her to Beador’s home to help visualize some of the possible aesthetics of her new pad. If fans though she was fancy pants before, wait until they get a load of what’s coming.

Beador personifies the stereotypical, over-privileged stay-at-home mom with nothing better to do but try to make herself appear more interesting than she actually is. She’s all about spending her hubby’s money on the latest organic, holistic or green trend/fad.

While Alexis doesn’t even earn a shout out in the premiere, Gretchen is discuss, albeit briefly by Heather and Tamra. She hasn’t been in touch with either woman nor has she had the common courtesy to bestow a wedding gift to the newlywed Tamra.

Maybe she’s just too busy filming and or promoting her and fiancee Slade Smiley’s upcoming appearance on WE TV’s Marriage Boot Camp. They’ll be airing their dirty laundry alongside ex-Bachelorette Trista Sutter and Jersey Shore’s JWowww. Quite a step down from the glamorous life of a pseudo housewife.

At least Gretchen will get some mileage out of that over-the-top and out of the blue disingenuous proposal from last season. It’s unlikely this couple makes a move without checking with a publicist first, and both were probably hoping for a matrimonial-themed spin-off. However, unlike Bethenny Frankel, Kandi Burruss, Tamra Barney and Kim Zolciak, Bravo just wasn’t chomping at the bit to document this duo’s trip down the aisle.

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Now that Vicki’s biggest adversary (Rossi) is gone, she’s ready to turn her attentions to someone new. There are signs of a growing fissure in her relationship with Heather when the two, accompanied by Tamra take a trip together to Hawaii. In fact, it looks like heather could be the odd woman out this season, relegated to sit in the corner and drink her “champs” all by her lonesome.

While Gretchen might have had to be escorted from the party kicking and screaming, the diminutive Lydia McLaughlin couldn’t get out the door fast enough. Bravo wanted her back, but some ladies just don’t have what it takes to not only survive but thrive in the cutthroat world of California housewives. Given that everything under that Cali sun offended or shocked her, she’s bound to be better off looking for more wholesome projects.

Bravo didn’t add a permanent third replacement, but there is a housewife-in-waiting of sorts named Danielle Gregario. Bravo describes her as a “new friend of the housewives” who “finds herself caught up in the drama going down behind the gates of SoCal’s wealthiest community.”

In the midst of all this upheaval, Tamra is married and settled, but the usually confident MILF is acting a bit insecure for a newlywed. Being with a younger man has only served to call attention to her own age, considered past her prime anywhere, especially in LaLa land. It would be a nice change to watch Tamra come to terms with the downside of aging as opposed to languishing in denial and nipping and tucking herself into believing she can do much more than prolong the inevitable.

The season 9 premiere catches viewers up on what the grand dames of Bravo have been up to while on hiatus and throws a supposedly spontaneous trip in the mix. This impromptu getaway highlights the fact that, when it comes to Vicki and Tamra, anybody, even the pristine Mrs. Dubrow, three’s a crowd. Beador promises to only get quirkier as the season progresses, and she’ll leave women in the square states scratching their heads with her oddball antics and theories.

Until the group comes together in its entirety for the first time, it’s hard to gauge if the series, which is getting a bit long in the tooth, still has what it takes to keep up with the addictive volatility of the New Jersey, Atlanta and even New York casts (What is up with Aviva?).

All the vets are facing new challenges including the evolution of their friendships. Throw a couple more cats into the mix, and even with fan fave Gretchen out of the picture, and Gunvalson up to her tired tricks, fans of the RHOC are far too invested not to stay tuned. After all, the show survived the likes of lackluster additions Quinn, Peggy and Tammy–remember them?

The Real Housewives of Orange County premieres Monday, April 14 at 9pm.

(Image courtesy of Bravo) 

Jennifer Lind-Westbrook

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Jennifer has worked as a freelance writer in the entertainment field since 2012. In addition to currently writing feature articles for Screen Rant, Jennifer has contributed content ranging from recaps to listicles to reviews for BuddyTV, PopMatters, TVRage, TVOvermind, and Tell-Tale TV. Links to some of Jennifer’s reviews can be found on Rotten Tomatoes.