First Contact: The Real Housewives of Orange County, Season 5

In which we experience every single flavor of terrible husband/boyfriend.

Alexis

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Main Storyline: It’s very clear that nearly everyone in production at Bravo is an atheist, because this is a pretty comprehensive drag of Christianity.

Pros: Oh man, the Bellinos are a trash masterpiece. They’re like…is “over-the-top abrasive recurring King of the Hill characters” too specific a reference? Jim fucking smokes cigars at lunch. Alexis invokes the parting of the Red Sea in forced group prayer. These people write themselves.

Cons: Alexis being taken seriously as the speaker of truth to Vicki’s power is a bit annoying, but I, uh, am given to understand that this position of authority doesn’t last.

Gretchen

gretchen

Main Storyline: Were you missing Slade, by any chance? Okay, me neither, but now imagine that instead of being constantly being cucked by a twentysomething party girl, Slade is now doing a bad dinner theater adaptation of Newlyweds with a squawking famewhore moron. Yes, that bad.

Pros: I do relish Tamra pursuing her vendetta against Gretchen for being fake as fuck (she really really is! get her!!!!) before losing interest and moving on to architecting her own divorce as a storyline instead.

Cons: The squawking MY GOD THE SQUAWKING. Beyond that, yeah, I never needed to see Slade again, he’s even worse now, and his and Gretchen’s scenes together are paaaainfully staged even by Housewives standards. Even by Sun Belt Housewives standards!!! Like Brandi and Stephanie are over here saying “girl maybe take it down a notch with the scripted shit.”

Jeana

jeana

Main Storyline: Watching her real estate empire crumble in the opening throes of the Great Recession. Excuse me while I bruise my diaphragm laughing.

Pros: No more Colton. No more Shane. NO MORE KARA 🙌🏼!!! God bless us, every one.

Cons: I think others are more sympathetic to Jeana about her decision to punk out, and while I do in a vacuum appreciate people who are willing to say “fuck this shit” and duck out of something, …yeah no. I thought Jeana’s exit landed in real weak bitch territory. It was clearly motivated partly by the others’ wising up to her backbiting smugness and slavish loyalty to enabling awful men, and just…own your griminess woman. And the other part was motivated by her embarrassment at losing her (uh, theoretically) glamorous lifestyle, which is just dumb, because she still way had more money than Lynne OR Gretchen, and probably Tamra too to be honest. Whatever, all these irritations as we know get doused in a stream of cheap red in about twenty episodes, I can be patient.

Lynne

lynne

Main Storyline: It’s like…imagine the first act of every Lifetime movie got together and had an orgy. Evictions, pills, plastic surgery, poisonous sibling rivalries, daughters calling mothers bitches, drunk teens ordering martinis at adult events, hapless youthologists, and so forth.

Pros: Lynne finally clicked for me this season. Part of it was, yes, the gorgeously tragicomic Fall of the House of Curtin. I’d be lying, though, if I didn’t credit it mainly to her transitioning from apathy to apathetically disemboweling Gretchen for being a meddling famewhore. Let it be known that Lynne Curtin of all people is, canonically, the first person on this show to note that Slade is a deadbeat dad.

Cons: As someone who, to overshare, is dealing with crippling, insurmountable student debt, I didn’t looo-o-o-ove watching Frank abjectly grovel for forgiveness over his financial idiocy (or Lynne pretending to be shocked by it…okay wait that actually owned). Be well, Curtins! Prove Gretchen wrong! (More wrong.)

Tamra

tamra

Main Storyline: “Architecting her own divorce” is pretty succinct, actually, I think I’ll stick with that.

Pros: Few Housewives can pull off this kind of storyline without chickening out and staying in their toxic emotional stasis (:heavy glare toward Robyn Dixon:). Tamra is not most Housewives, though, and while the length of her divorce arc taxed me at times, she guaranteed that the pay-off—a near real-time marriage implosion in the back of a damn a limo—was as pyrotechnic as I could have hoped. The material in between could approach greatness too, though. I deeply enjoyed both (a) Simon’s obliviousness to Tamra’s upset; she’d be serving him dewy telenovela eyes and murmuring about the Challenges of Marriage and he’d just blithely reply “yeah good thing our marriage isn’t like that!!!” and (b) the fact that it all played out as a battle between Vicki and Simon for Tamra’s soul that Vicki wins.

Cons: And so we bid a big fat NOT fond farewell to Simon Barney, who every inch earned his sixth-worst househusband ever status. Beyond his suffocatingly awful personality, his clear jealousy that Tamra was blossoming into a charming(ly batshit) TV star, his emotionally abusive tactics, his jealousy of PERFECT BEING OF LIGHT Ryan Vieth…Simon, televisually, is just aesthetically not pleasing. He drones management-consultant-speak in a low mutter, staring at his interlocutor like a dead-eyed waxen serial-killer. By the climactic Divorce Limo scene I found myself turning up the volume just to understand what the fuck toxic shit he was even saying, only to be instantly deafened by Tamra’s dulcet screech. DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YA BB!!

Vicki

vicki

Main Storyline: The reunion portrays this is a low-key Vicki season, which is hilarious to me, because she spends almost the whole time guilt-tripping Tamra and Godzilla-stomping all over Alexis, pausing only to freak out about Briana’s lymph node tumors. (SparkNotes informs me that “martyr complex” and “cancer false positives” are motifs to look out for going forward.)

Pros: The other Witches introduced me to Vicki as “Ramona’s id,” and man if they weren’t right. She blindly plows through every social interaction, portraying each in the light most favorable to herself, and unlike Ms. Singer never even pretends to feel bad about it. Reminder that the climax of the finale is Tamra unburdening herself to Vicki about her crumbling marriage, Vicki’s reaction to which is essentially “yes I accept your apology.” Needless to say I adored every moment.

Cons: I think it’s so cruel that the other ladies ganged up on her all season long. It didn’t used to be this way. They used to have fun. They used to giggle and laugh.

Next time: What the fuck is a Peggy Tanous?

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