With lucky Season 13 imminently upon us, let’s see how past season openers have served up the drama (or, in the case of the early seasons, the lack thereof).
12. Meet the Wives (Season 1, Episode 1)
The very first episode of the franchise is one of its snooziest. Jeana’s raising a passel of goblin children! Vicki has taken Lauri in as her indentured servant! Kimberly Bryant exists! Really the key takeaway here is our introduction to one Jo De La Rosa, who will decide over the course of this hour that, yeah, she’s bored sitting around the house all day, thus kicking off two glorious years of frequenting Beverly Hills nightclubs and belittling Slade’s manhood.
11. Behind the Orange Curtain (Season 3, Episode 1)
Vicki buys Briana a car!!!!!…, that she has to make all the payments on herself. The lone other highlight of this typically sleepy S3 episode is, awkwardly, the news of Lou Knickerbocker’s passing, which reveals (a) that Tammy thinks her daughter, who witnessed his death(!), was exaggerating the experience, and (b) that Lou’s mail-order bride has immediately fled with all his wealth, making her the true hero of the Real Housewives franchise.
10. Are They for Real? (Season 4, Episode 1)
Meet Gretchen and Jeff, whose May-December-of-the-following-year relationship is not and will never be at all suspect to anyone. If you’d like to distract yourself from weighty issues like Jeff’s terminal cancer or the mechanics of their sexual relationship, we’ve also got Vicki Gunvalson trying to hector her family into purchasing a yacht, a campaign that if I’m not mistaken continues to this day.
9. The Great Divide (Season 12, Episode 1)
This one’s all about babies and Bible study and all the other stuff we’ll grow so bored of over the course of S12. The titular divide, featuring Tamra/Shannon and Vicki at such vitriolic loggerheads that they can’t even film together, is at least interesting in theory here, though it will rapidly grow tiresome in practice.
8. Under Construction (Season 10, Episode 1)
Say hello to Meghan and Jim Edmonds, who I guarantee you would lose an episode of The Newlywed Game to any two randomly selected humans on Earth. The other subplots, in ascending order of interest: Heather’s building her new house (a subplot of every episode of the next two seasons); Tamra’s about to become the hottest grandma in Orange County; Brooks has moved in with Vicki (*horror movie sting*); and Shannon and David are undergoing couple’s counseling, with a little help from fake gravestones.
7. The Housewives Are Back! (Season 2, Episode 1)
Let’s not beat around the bush: the sole reason this premiere ranks so highly is because of Jo’s trip to the Playboy Mansion with her chaos demon pal JJ, who uses the occasion (and Slade’s flop-sweaty, fragile discomfort with it) to pry apart their relationship like a sous chef jamming open an oyster shell. Oh and Kimberly leaves the OC before she dies of skin cancer RIP in peace boo.
6. Hawaii 5 Uh-Oh (Season 9, Episode 1)
Vicki and Tamra tag along with Heather to Hawaii, where the latter is filming Hawaii 5-0, for what would seem to be a fun trip but turns into an agonizing series of lectures about the proper temperature of red wine and such. In vastly more important news, Shannon Beador is here to tell you about the negative health effects of wireless internet and the positive ones of embedding crystals in your foundation, walls, and teeth.
5. Bullies and Babies (Season 8, Episode 1)
Briana pops out Vicki’s new grandson, in one of the very last endearing Gunvalson family moments. On the minus side for our OG, everyone fucking hates her (and Alexis, natch) now, leading to tension at a Dubrow clambake (do not even whisper the phrase “onion rings” to me) when Tamra and Vicki come face-to-face. I’m sure this will be the last time they experience tension in their relationship though.
4. When the Ship Hits the Fan (Season 11, Episode 1)
While the rest of the cast polishes their brand new storylines—MKE’s IVF, Tamra’s bodybuilding—Vicki plots her return to civilized society post-Brooks. The first stop? Heather’s yacht party, where Vicki starts offering her what turns out to be in episode 2 a deflecting non-apology apology. Hey, it’s enough to fool Kelly Dodd, clearly cast to serve as Vicki’s idiot goblin enforcer/only friend.
3. Amped Blondes and Evil Eyes (Season 6, Episode 1)
And so we arrive at a top three dominated by the Tamra/Gretchen dichotomy. In this installment, Tamra has a wine-and-fashion party in her home, inviting Gretchen as a gesture of good will. Gretchen reacts by getting hammered and shoving an evil-eye hat in Tamra’s face to keep her away because she’s an EVIL BITCH!!! [squawk] HA HA HA HA [/squawk]. She then falls out with Alexis when the latter calls her a princess, a passing comment that embeds itself so deeply in Gretchen’s psyche that it will make its way into a future tagline. Get a grip, princess.
2. Stranger Things Have Happened (Season 7, Episode 1)
Plotwise, the real story here is Tamra and Gretchen’s shocking and frankly slightly insulting swerve into friendship. It’s clear that they still don’t trust each other, and probably still don’t even like each other, but let it never be said that these ladies aren’t willing to go the distance to create content. But the real reason we’re here, of course, is to celebrate National Booty Week Month, the most marvelous week-month of the year.
1. When Times Get Tough, The Tough Go Shopping! (Season 5, Episode 1)
Fresh off the previous season’s reunion, in which she eviscerated Gretchen’s very being, Tamra doubles down on her accusations of Ms. Rossi being a gold-digging, grave-robbing whore from Hell in the very first group meetup of the season. If you’re a fan of Tamra at her most vicious and rabid, and if you’re reading this site I assume you are, it’s a great showcase. If all that’s too much for you, though, enjoy the palate cleanser of Lynne Curtin’s 💖 Cuff Love 💖 debut.