Well hello, ladies, gays, empty air, distracted husbands and whoever else watches Real Housewives of Orange County these days! Carla’s on vacation this week, so I’m filling in with my personal take on tonight’s episode. Don’t worry, I’ve been recapping The Bachelor and America’s Next Top Model for literally years, so I’ve got lots of experience documenting the misadventures of vain, oblivious, Barbie-shaped narcissism-machines in their undying quests for immortality, the finer things and hollow validation.

The thing is: I’ve never SEEN the Real Housewives of Orange County. I know. I know.

I’ve read scattered RHOC news and seen those commercials where the old one opens her mouth real wide and is like “Whaaaaat?” (every commercial), but that’s really it. Beverly Hills and New Jersey are more my jam; so sue me! (Or threaten to do so via email, Russell Armstrong style.) So this is going to be an experiment of sorts. At seven seasons (that’s 49 seasons in reality show years), RHOC is the eldest Housewives collection in Andy Cohen’s underwater garden of souls. What does the show look like to an absolute newcomer? Is the drama even remotely relatable or accessible if you don’t know these women and their long, cyclical lists of betrayals, beefs, treaties and takesies-backsies? Will I even be able to tell all the blonde ones apart? Let’s FIND OUT!

First, the highlight of this season’s RHOC intro is obviously “My tank is full, and I’m driving into my future,” right? Haha. So the old one, Vicki, must be sorta stupid if she went ahead and recorded that terrible line to describe herself, right? That’s why she’s the only old one left on the show, right? The only other observation I have is that they all look the same except Heather, who is miraculously brunette. This is going to be a challenge.

OK, so right off the bat, I see that one of the blonde ones has a lifelong dream of being a Vegas stripper, and she’s realizing that dream TONIGHT! And she’s not even kidding a little bit about that being her dream. Oh boy. Already, my expectations for this show have been exceeded. AND it’s her birthday? Good thing she’s already going to be the center of attention! I was worried she might not be getting enough of that. And it’s such a perfect scenario to celebrate. Whatever-many years ago, Gretchen popped out of her mother’s p-word, and now look at her, thrusting hers at a national audience in sexy fishnets with the PUSSYCAT DOLLS. It’s the circle of life, and it moves us all.

So apparently this blonde woman on stage is named Gretchen, and she seems nice enough, even if her dream is silly and her boyfriend is named SLADE. First, Gretchen introduces herself in a sparkly bustier, and hesitates the perfect amount when she says “pussy … cat,” so everything’s going great. But then it’s time for her to actually sing, and Gretchen’s vocal is … not so great. It’s not terrible, but it sounds like if you were singing in a shower, and then your stereo cut out, and you kept singing anyway because who cares, no one can hear you! Except everyone can hear Gretchen. And she’s not naked, she’s wearing a jacket, so not even her boobs can distract from that mediocre performance. The other ladies are looking up at her with a mix of amusement and pity. Their expressions mirror my own. Afterward, Tamra is like, “She tried!” and Vicki is like, “I wasn’t impressed.” Vicki seems like a big ol’ B.

Backstage, Gretchen brag-complains to Slade (ugh, that name makes me want to pour hand sanitizer on my brain) that her voice is going to be gone for a week. “Maybe that’s for the best!” no one says but everyone probably thinks.

After the show, some brunette girl apologizes to Vicki for the fight they had while bowling. I don’t know. All I know is they’ve both got the crazy eyes.

Everyone lies to Gretchen and says that her birthday stripper routine was perfect and inspirational, and then some awkward tension breaks out when it’s time for presents. Vicki apologizes to Gretchen “for being a crazy girl.” I don’t know what that means, but it strikes me as sad that Vicki considers herself a “girl.” But then Gretchen doesn’t apologize back, which pisses Vicki off because that’s the only reason she apologized in the first place, which in turn pisses Gretchen off. They glaze over it and hug, and Gretchen is like, “Why are you being so nice to me?” and Vicki accidentally says out loud, “It’s just easier.”

Some of the ‘wives and their ‘sbands head to the craps table, and there’s more talk of Vicki and Gretchen’s feud, but everything is discussed in such vague and circular language that I have no idea what the feud is about. More tellingly, I do not care.

Bright and early the next morning, Gretchen still has her stripper makeup on. Slade gives a touching speech about how it is her life’s purpose to be a performer, because if you love doing something enough, you don’t need to be talented at it!  

It’s back to the grindstone with Vicki’s frustrated jowls. She needs to sell her house, which is apparently a sore subject because it reminds her of her divorce. She starts crying in an empty closet with her new boyfriend. He seems like a tolerant errand boy, if slightly creepy in the way he just stares and nods at her for prolonged periods of time.

Alexis likes to pray — almost as much as she likes wearing all the makeup and almost no clothing. She’s with a talent coach, and I’m guessing she has a long way to go, since she just said that she’s “no Katie Cure-ick.” The talent coach says that Alexis’s looks are an asset when it comes to presenting on TV, but right now she’s dressing too much like a Real Housewife to be taken seriously as a journalist who got her job because she’s a Real Housewife. “Journalism’s hard to do,” she laments. “It’s not something I’ve practiced up on every day.” The talent coach has Alexis do an exercise where she pretends to be a news correspondent on the scene of a horrible house fire. “Hi. We have a very horrible fire existing right now,” Alexis starts off. It gets more awkward from there. She keeps saying “hi,” which the talent coach HATES. Almost as much as she hates people who ride buses instead of drive them. Alexis leaves feeling more confident (and less…”dry”) than ever!

Heather, Gretchen and their men meet for dinner. Gretchen thinks she should release an album, obviously. Or maybe even be on Broadway! Both of those things sound like bad ideas, but one of those things is impossible.

So now I actually DO want to know what Vicki and Gretchen are fighting about. Everyone keeps talking about how they both owe each other an apology, but no one will say why. Then we learn that Heather’s husband Terry likes to act crazy and “say things” in front of “new friends,” and then he goes right ahead and says one of those things, calling Alexis “phony.” Everyone gasps, but he and they and we know he’s just telling it like it is. I don’t know him, but I love him! 

Back at her house, phony Alexis is trying to meet with a “hang tag” guy, but her sick little daughter keeps interrupting and complaining that her grape juice tastes like rotten milk. Ay ay ay! Alexis doesn’t have time for both family and career, but she DOES have time to perfectly curl her extensions every morning.

Tamra, who I think I like because she gives off cool Bridget Marquardt vibes, has come to visit her grown son in his first big-boy apartment. She does NOT look old enough to have a grown up son. The apartment is completely empty, and he’s been using a beach towel as his bath towel for the past three weeks. She brought him housewarming gifts, and now he’s doing that annoying dude thing where he’s like, “I don’t need anything! I have a fork and a TV, that’s all I need!” Tamra takes him to buy some furniture, and I’m happy to see that she’s not just buying him a bunch of stuff. She expects him to buy it himself. He’s resistant to even having any furniture besides a bed. I can’t tell if it’s because he’s poor, hates shopping, or is just a total brat. The red tank top doesn’t make me want to give him the benefit of the doubt. Tamra offers to lend him money for real furniture, but her boyfriend (who is also her son’s boss?) talks her out of it … kinda. Tamra buys him some side tables, her son buys a couch, and they both leave feeling like grown-ups. Too bad Tamra didn’t buy him some sleeves, too.

Now Vicki’s sitting down to dinner with her daughter, who used to be sick, and her boyfriend, who’s in the Marines. They spend a long time ordering drinks because Vicki turns everything into an opportunity to feel sorry for herself. “I’m drinking a love martini by myseeeelf?” Then she forces them to cheers to “being in love-like,” and says “love-like” three times, because apparently she wants everyone to be as miserable as she is. (Am I getting this right? Just reporting what I’m seeing!)

That’s when her daughter drops the bomb: She and her nerdy but adorable Marine boyfriend got MARRIED at a Vegas drive-thru. Vicki’s eyes look like they want to explode out of her face. Her daughter desperately tries to keep it light and explain that they were just seizing the day and celebrating their love, while also being like, “We wanted to do it and it’s our choice, so back off.” Vicki claims she’s mad because her daughter deserves better than a drive-thru wedding (a valid point), but I think she’s just mad because she can’t control everything, especially her daughter. Vicki sort of just sits there stunned, but then tells the camera that she wants them to get the marriage annulled. No! Don’t do it! I don’t know the whole situation, but Vicki seems awful and as a general rule, I’d do the opposite of what she thinks is best.

Next Week: Vicki tries to come to terms with her daughter’s marriage, Gretchen tries to decide if she even wants to get married to Slade, and Vicki’s daughter freaks out when she introduces her creepy boyfriend at a fancy party. Looks like making traumatic announcements runs in the family! But I’ll never know, because Carla will be back next week and I’ll probably never watch this again. But it’s been fun. Bye!

(Image courtesy of Bravo)

Meghan Carlson

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

Meghan hails from Walla Walla, WA, the proud home of the world’s best sweet onions and Adam West, the original Batman. An avid grammarian and over-analyzer, you can usually find her thinking too hard about plot devices in favorites like The OfficeIt’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and How I Met Your Mother. In her spare time, Meghan enjoys drawing, shopping, trying to be funny (and often failing), and not understanding the whole Twilight thing. She’s got a BA in English and Studio Art from Whitman College, which makes her a professional arguer, daydreamer, and doodler.