Last night the "original Housewives" returned for a one millionth season, though only one of the original monsters is left. The rest are the squealing wraiths we've collected along the way, blonde harridans who like nothing more than to fight with each other and blame it on the alcohol. So, nothing's changed.
Well, some things have changed! Tamra, as you may remember, ended her marriage last season, finally cutting ties to the frowning, orange menace that was Simon. It was a much-needed split, and now Tamra is a self-described "free bitch," living in an apartment/condo type thing and dating a new mysterious man. She's also getting back on the Housewives horse, and at the top of last night's episode she was putting together a party. Everything must start with a party! So she called up the usuals, leaving voicemails for Vicki and Alexis. And then she made the scariest call. She and Gretchen do not, historically speaking, get along, but Tamra was ready to put the hatchet under the bridge, really bury the water. So she dialed Gretchen's number, it rang, and then we heard the telltale "Hyuhlowww?" Ack! No safety of voicemail this time! No, today she had to actually talk to Gretchen, who was very surprised to hear from Tamra. I mean, as surprised as you can be that a fellow cast member would call you on the first day of a new Housewives school year. Tamra awkwardly extended the invitation, Gretchen awkwardly accepted it, and outside the sun dimmed and all the birds died.
For her part, Gretchen has been a busy girl during the hiatus. Last season she unveiled her makeup line Gretchen Christine Bootay, a line of Mexican "makeup product" that only reacts negatively to your skin ("silicone scorching") if your skin's pH level is that of a human. Otherwise, it's totally fine! So yeah, Bootay has been selling like hotcakes (nobody eats hotcakes anymore) so Gretchen has decided to expand her mighty empire. What does a gal do after fake designing a poison makeup brand? One fake designs a line of shoddy handbags, of course! Yes, the Gretchen Christine FunSack collection has been rolled out and now Gretch is learning how to hawk the things on the TV. This involves taking lessons from a world-renowned hosting coach — a profession, person, and idea that only exists in Southern California, and even then only in select parts. Frankly I wouldn't be surprised if Gretchen had created this hosting coach herself, cobbled her together out of sticks and wishes, dragged the doll over to Lynn, who blessed it with a special mumbled bug spell, then buried it out in the Indian burial ground behind Jeana's house. And then the next morning there was an ominous knock on Gretchen's door and there was the hosting coach, fully fleshed and ready to go. Gretchen is of course a hopeless case at the hosting game, unable to improvise or read the teleprompter. She's been spending far too much time away from reading English letters, choosing instead to hang out with Slade and write in their private rune language, written down with crayons and lipstick and Slade's Go-Man Originals Fashion Stick™, a product he designed that is rubbed on various parts of the male body for that extra shot of confidence.
While Gretchen was learning how to not host, her nemesis Tamra was continuing the process of getting Simon out of her life once and for all. Obviously the actual physical divorce has gone through, but physically, Tamra still has Simon tattoos. Yuh-huh. Remember last season when she got that sad tattoo on her sad finger and everyone stood watching in the pouring rain, clapping? Well tattoos unfortunately don't disappear when you sign the divorce papers, so there she is like a chump with Simon's name ring-'round her finger. But don't worry! Luckily the market for tattoo removal in Southern California is big enough that it merits its own special medical clinic, called Dr. Tattoff. Get it? Tattoo off! Apparently there are four of these places, because SoCal is a strange and depressing tract of land if ever there was one. Tamra schlumped over there with her waxen-faced mom and Dr. Tattoff — not the actual Tattoff, a young doctor who worked there (the real Dr. Tattoff was mysteriously lost at sea during the New Zealand Tattoo Wars of the 1870s) — began frying off her finger with a laser. This is really how it was done. Apparently this wasn't Tamra's first procedure, pink ink is the hardest to get off it seems so it takes several visits, but she still moaned and grunted in pain, the bright crackle and flash of the laser searing her rubbery flesh. It was maybe the best anti-tattoo advertisement I've ever seen? Kids, about to impulsively get a tattoo? Go watch Tamra Barney being set on fire with lasers to get a tattoo removed. Truly horrifying. Despite the pain, Tamra decided that she'd flip on over and put Tattoff and his be-breasted assistant to further use removing a tattoo on her back, a very creative yin yang surrounded by flames that she got to match Simon's very creative shoulder tattoo of a yin yang surrounded by flames. That tattoo must have meant something really special and specific to Simon. I mean, what does it mean?? A yin yang... surrounded by a flaming sun or just regular flames... So mysterious! God, what a man of depth and introspection. Anyway, apparently the smell of the laser fire burning skin filled the room with a stench and I almost passed out, trying to imagine what burnt Tamra Barney must smell like. Maybe like Alexis?
Ugh. Alexis. Funbags Willoughby. Juggs Jigglesworth. She is just the worst! Thankfully last night we weren't forced to stare at the deviled ham-covered face of her horrible glutton-beast husband Jim, but we did have to watch Alexis try to be a mother to her three children. Look, I don't have any kids (that I haven't sold to the Latvians), so i don't really know what it's like to watch three little'uns at the same time. I'm sure it's very difficult. But I do find it hard to believe that a parent managing to spend a few nanny-free hours with their children is some great miraculous feat as Alexis tried to make it seem last night. In fact, I'm sure that many single parents do that all the time, and they don't get wine parties as a reward afterward! I'm pretty sure that's how the world works. Oh, and speaking of miraculous things, Juggs is still droning on about her Jesusy stuff, even more than before. Every single interview segment was peppered with references to "the G-O-D above" and whether things were biblically OK and stuff. (Note: divorce is not biblically OK unless it's Alexis who is having the divorce.) She also issued a statement on how family works, informing us that the man is in charge and that the woman stays home and tends to the house. Unless you're Alexis, and then the man is in charge and a different woman takes care of the house, while the wife goes to the gas station and refills her boobs with air (and gas) and walks around town judging people. It's a good arrangement.
Vicki is still married to Don, and they are still bickering. She keeps talking about how good things are, but we know the sad truth. By season's end they will be dibborced. So all of the sunny, jokey "Vicki and Don squabble while moving furniture" bits seemed sort of mean in a way. Vicki Gunvalson is no peach, but she's been with the network since Alexis and Jim's grandparents Adam and Eve were riding around on dinosaurs, so doesn't she deserve a little respect? Treat Vicki good, Bravo. C'mon. (Though, definite props to the cameramen and editors who are always so good at getting dog footage that correctly echoes what the humans are doing, as Vicki's new pug did last night. I love how cutaways to dogs and cats have become such a powerful and prevalent storytelling device in reality TV. Someone should write a book! Or a college paper, at least.)
Vicki is also, of course, hard at work at her busy insurance concern, which she has apparently staffed exclusively with her son and his dopey friends. But she works them hard! She was like "You're not to leave until 9:30 tonight and then I'll see you here at 8:45 sharp tomorrow morning." Considering typical Orange County working hours are 12:15pm - 1:30pm, she might as well be chaining them up in the belly of a boat and telling them to row. All the hard work didn't seem to faze the dopesters, though, who just grinned and stood in their rumpled collared shirts, the darkly genial emissaries of their overfed generation.
Finally, the party. It was time for the party. Because she's stuck living in a crappy little apartment with big sun-filled windows and sprawling granite counter tops, Tamra decided to have the party at her mysterious boyfriend's house. And this wasn't just any party! Oh no. In the grand spirit of doing things on this show that no one in real life actually does, Tamra had one of these buying parties, where someone from a shitty clothing company comes over to the house and the girls can all giggle and drink and buy things. It's a really weird idea! I wish they would stop trying to make it a thing, but they persist. So yeah, the company last night was a clothing company called Forever Plush or Royal Plush or something Plush. As you can imagine from the name(s), it was a very classful line of loose, billowing bejeweled fabrics, the kinds of garments the ladies of these particular canyons like to drape over themselves and tighten in incorrect places. Plus there were bedazzled Evil Eye baseball caps, because sure. To further fancify the party, Tamra hired a shirtless man to bartend. No, it wasn't some shirtless man she saw on the street and asked to bartend. He came to the house in a shirt, but then he took it off. The funny thing was that he wasn't really attractive? He had a sort of runtish face and he wasn't in that good shape? I mean, he made me look like Dom DeLuise (I am Dom DeLuise), but he wasn't that "cut" or "jacked" or "ripped" or whatever words we're using to describe fit men these days. (I propose "scramp." Like "Oh, he is so scramp." It's a good way to make attractive people sound unattractive, which everyone benefits from. Scramp: get into it.) But whatever, Tamra was thrilled with him. She was even more thrilled with her new friend Sapphique, a Brazilian gym trainer lady who is very pretty and seems way more sophisticated than everyone else and is a lesbian. Yup. Tamra is convinced that Sapphique has a big ol' crush on her, and who knows, she might be right. But for now it's just a good excuse for Tamra to flirt and eat fruit seductively. (Though, Tamra? A pineapple? What... I don't really get what that's supposed to look like or whatever. I say stick to cherries.)
So that was the sexy scene at Tamra's house. She waited anxiously for the rest of the non-lesbian guests to arrive. A big blonde clump of them were traveling in the limo together. Gretchen and Juggs and Gretchen's assistant Shawanda and, I don't know, some other blonde fool. The point is that Gretchen got drunk in the limo and started a bad precedent of being "funny," which in Drunk Gretchen Land is just insulting people and then laughing. Making fun of the way Juggs says "Ayy-Mex" and "BeCAWZ" is fine. But making fun of Tamra "in my own boyfriend's house," as she said? Not OK. In her own boyfriend's house! How dare you make fun of me in my own uncle's root cellar? Such insults, in my own cousin's sidecar motorcycle?? I mean, there are certain places where one does not make fun of someone else. Their own boyfriend's house is one. Their own dentist's mud room is another.
But yeah, Gretchen showed up and things were immediately tense with Tamra. The Plush Life lady was showing them the darling Evil Eye caps and Gretchen put one on and was like "Ohh I should wear it near you, Tamra!!" (in her own boyfriend's house!) and it was not good. It basically ruined the evening. I mean, Tamra sucked it up and didn't say anything, there was no drag-out fight just then, but Tamra's evening was pretty destroyed. Vicki showed up and Tamra bitched at her for a little bit while Vicki pretended to be interested. Gretchen made hooty-toots with the bartender, which was kind of sad and forced because, again, he was no Harry Hamlin. With no Tamra nearby to antagonize, Gretchen decided to set in on Juggs. Juggs had made some joke about Gretchen being a princess because she wakes up at 8am versus 5am (like Juggs does — I mean, someone has to go down to the basement and kick the nanny awake) and Gretchen took insult to the whole princess thing. She isn't a princess or a gold digger! She's a host! A reality TV star! A handbag and turpentine makeup designer! She does not like being called a princess, not one nasty little bit. So she sloshed at Juggs about that for a while as Sapphique did a strange dance in the background, trying to get the girls to stop fighting. Eventually she gave up and walked away and Gretchen burp-farted and said "Oops, I pooted" and Juggs began praying quietly to herself in tongues and the moment was still. Until, of course, Tamra had to come out and confront Gretchen about her Evil Eye hat comment. At this point both of these decrepit fifth graders were both wearing the stupid caps and it was just so sad and so dumb, these supposed adults gurgling at each other about how one girl made a mean hat joke and that's not nice to do at the other girl's own grampa's toolshed. It's just not very nice at all.
Gretchen eventually stumbled off and said some things to Vicki about how she has to like Slade (Vicki explained to us that Slade is slimy and that everything he touches is slimy) and then she declared it time to leave. Everyone piled into the limousine except Gretchen's assistant Shawanda, who was having an amicable kind of talk with Tamra. Uh oh, traitor! This is the same Shawanda that earlier joked about protecting her boss Gretchen and punching out Tamra. Now here she was laughing and chatting with her, playing the Housewives field. Very crafty, Shawanda. Very crafty indeed. Gretchen sat in the limo, angry that her employee was talking to someone she wasn't supposed to. Eventually Shawanda got in the car and tried to act all "Oh, whatever, Tamra, gross," but you know she was just so happy to talk to another Housewife, to feel an extra surge of fame or notoriety or whatever feeling it is that people on this show get as a result from being on this show. It's a sad business, I know that much.
They rolled off in the limo and Gretchen picked another fight with Juggs (who, I must say, in terms of the fighting at the party stuff, was being sorrrta reasonable about everything? I mean, with the "please don't fight right now" language anyway?) and Shawanda quietly beamed inside and that was it for now. A relatively uneventful premiere. The show needs a bit of a ballast, because otherwise it will just devolve into constant Tamra and Gretchen bickering. Supposedly we're getting a new blonde Housewife next week, so maybe that will help. Or maybe they'll add Sapphique to the roster and it will be our first lesbian. Or maybe Shirtless Joe will become a character. Poor sad shirtless Joe. Going home at night and looking at that Carnegie Mellon acting degree on the wall, there in his shitty apartment in Fullerton, the itch and tingle of his shirt foreign to his body. How dare his life be like this. How dare it treat him so badly. How could it. The nerve. Here in his own apartment.