Week two of the newest rash of Orange County wildfires introduced us to a new horrid character, taught us a little about how assistant-friends work, and, actually, carried us to Seattle for the drunken business trip of our mom-related nightmares.

This week was all about creeping misery and dread, the feeling that nothing is right that lurks at our edges probably always, that sometimes spills over and floods our conscious lives, leaving us sitting in a soaking heap, weeping on our couches and seeking the comfort of Brazilian lesbians. That's specifically about poor Tamra Barney, the loneliest former housewife in the 949. For the record, Tamra is happy to be free of the terrible Simon, and she should be, as he was a nasty man with ugly, angry gunk in his insides. But, y'know, being free of Simon also means negotiating divorce and child custody and diminished finances, which is hard. So Tamra is happy, but Tamra is not happy. She had the Brazilian lesbian over, mostly so she could talk about how great she's doing and then burst into tears minutes later about how great she is not doing. The Brazilian brought over a bottle of wine and Tamra impressed her with a new, fancy, whirring, dildo-like wine opener, and then, very classy-like, poured the wine into glasses that had fun shapes and symbols and the words "Life Is Good, Wine Is Better" (or something) painted on them. Those were some very adult, grown-up wineglasses, weren't they!! And they also told such a sad little story that I had to wrap a blanket around myself and take a big gulp of the wine that I was drinking from, like an adult grownup, a little tumbler, because who can bother with stemware on a Sunday night? Ugh. Those wineglasses were the saddest things we've seen so far this season.

Anyway, Tamra was all prattling on about how she's doing great, dating this mysterious new guy and whatnot, sipping from her miserable, lying wineglass (life is not good), and then all of a sudden she was crying. She was saying things about how she doesn't know where her life went, the drowned language of early middle-age. The Brazilian did her best to comfort her, but you could tell this was not her scene at all. She's used to up-tempo music and hip-shaking and wine-tossing and maybe sexy sneaked kisses, not sitting on some dumpy couch in the middle of the afternoon while some forty-year-old blubbers about zigging when she should have zagged. This is not cool at all, man. Luckily for everyone, Tamra soon collected herself and it was back to the easy and the breezy, back to dulling the whine with wine. Later on she went looking at new houses, and they were... Well, Tamra thought they were small, but really they were just normal houses, bigger than New York apartments, that's for sure, but also not the sprawling nü-mansions these housewives have grown accustomed to. And I don't know, I didn't really mind Tamra in the house hunting segment. These Housewives are generally at their best when they're on their own, a bit more real and stripped-down. Tamra said something about how a part of one of the houses she looked at had a good place for her kids to do their homework, which was a nice little sentiment, Tamra caring about her kids doing homework on some quiet Tuesday, and then she said that while she of course would love to be living in some big nice house, she'd rather have her dignity than ask Simon for money. Dignity! I didn't know this was a concept we were familiar with on these shows, I thought that word had been buried under some mountain, hidden deep in the earth, far away from these women's talons. But I guess not. There it was. We found it, or at least glimpsed it briefly, last night. It glimmered by in a flash and was then gone just as quickly, it ran off and disappeared while everyone poured some more wine into their Life Is Good glassware.

Later Tamra did the worst thing a human being can possibly do when they are feeling any sort of displeasure with the world and the way it works. She went to hang out with Alexis. No!! That is like saying "Gee, I sure do feel like the world is an awful place, so let me put on season two of 19 Kids and Counting and read this issue of the National Review!" Not a good idea, is what I'm saying. But Tamra Barney has rarely met a bad idea she didn't like, so it was AlexisTime for her. They went to Tamra's Pilates class, where they huffed and puffed and Tamra bemoaned Alexis's perky figure, Alexis's perky figure of course telling a sad story about her marriage and what she thinks her part of the contract stipulates — namely that she stay in great shape and look good always while Jim becomes the living embodiment of tuna noodle casserole and the triceratops poop from Jurassic Park. Seems fair! After they did their stretches and grunts, they headed over to some restaurant, one of those places with colored lights and sleek countertops that's really just another shitty mediocre restaurant only it charges more on account of its "club-like" atmosphere and sticky-sweet "infused" martini drinks. You know, the kind of place these gorgons love. So yeah, they're there and they get to yammering about love and relationships and whatnot, and eventually they arrive at Simon and the fact that Jim and Simon are still pals to some degree and Tamra wants to know if Jim hates her, and Alexis is all "No, no, no, not at all..." which of course means "Yes, with the power of a thousand burning Jesus hearts." Tamra then started to talk about how Simon and Jim were pretty similar, in that they are both controlling monsters who hate women but sure do love fucking them, and this was NOT to Alexis's liking. Oh no siree Bob, Alexis did not like hearing that. Because Simon got bored and angry with Tamra and if Simon is like Jim, then Jim too might get bored and angry with Alexis! And that cannot stand! Alexis can't believe that her beautiful deity, the lumpy mound of sausage and chunky gravy that she calls Earth Jesus and prays to daily, might someday abandon her, leaving her damned and alone and doomed. It cannot be.

So, no! Jim is nothing like Simon. All Jim does is he sometimes puts her back in line when she is out of line. You know, like husbands are supposed to do. In the Bible it says that men are supposed to go out in the world and do things while women stay home and tend to the home, that's just what it says in the Bible. And Jim and Alexis live by the Bible. That is why they don't eat anything with cloven hooves and why Jim offered his daughters up to be raped when an angry horde came a calling. It's also why they don't wear anything of mixed fibers and hope their children die when they're 32. It's all in there! Just look it up, LeVar Burton. But yeah, Alexis had some nonsense bullshit come tumbling out of her mouth as a means to justifying why her husband, a pile of dead mackerel mixed with pork lard that's been out in the summer sun for a few hours, is as controlling and terrible as he is. Tamra nodded her head while, in the filmed interior monologue that we're treated to on these shows, she was all "Uh uh. He's controlling. I don't see them lasting." To which I say, of course they won't last! Alexis has been eying that apple and she aims to eat it, so they'll get evicted, just like in the story book.

Speaking of Alexis, she was our conduit to the newest Housewife, Peggy. Ugh, when we're at the point that Alexis is introducing new cast members, we have really reached some sort of nadir, haven't we. But oh well. Peggy's here so we have to deal with her. And actually her scene with Alexis was kind of brilliant. The two terrible moms decided to have a terrible mom day in which they hauled their children off to a park so they could pretend like they know how to raise children. Peggy has two daughters, named London and Capri, because those are fancy places she's heard of on TV, and Alexis of course has her three children, named Melania, Akbar, and @E%adlkj;df. These people are very good at naming their children. So anyway, they load everyone up into strollers and probably forget a few kids at the house, leaving them strapped in their highchairs while the grease fire they started while making juice rages in the kitchen, and headed off to the park. And what ensued was a hilarious, Penelope from SNL-esque game of one-upsmanship that made everyone look terrible. Nobody won, basically. "Capri was potty trained after only a month." "Oh, well, Melania was house broken after two weeks!" "London is doing some modeling work." "Oh, well, we took @E%adlkj;df to a modeling agency of course, but it was just too much driving." (In interview Peggy said that Alexis was probably lying and that the modeling agency probably didn't want to work with Alexis's ugly children. Good friend!) "My kid can count to three hundred." "Well my kid can count to six in Spanish." "Well my kid knows Swedish." "Well my kid can talk to bees." "Well my kid is a member of the Delta Crown Club." "Well my kid is an airplane." And so on. So basically they are not friends at all, they are enemies who need to hang out so they have someone to brag to about nonsense. What I don't understand is why Alexis didn't just shut down the conversation with "Well, my husband is the earthly embodiment of our lord and savior and also he is a ziggurat of ground baloney soaked in vinegar, so there." That would have shut Peggy right down. "Well my husband is... Oh, never mind. You win. All praise Earth Jesus."

Peggy's husband, for what it's worth, is a creepo who likes to wear barely buttoned collared shirts and shoot guns. Yeah, there was a whole scene last night where the husband packed up his M16 (or whatever that was) and his handgun and took the wifey to the shooting range, a place she apparently loves to go. So they shot off pistols and automatic rifles and all manner of MAC-10s and Kalashnikovs and bazookas and surface to air missiles and whatever other sad weaponry gets their dumb undies wet. Look, I've fired a gun before, and I will admit that for a second it felt as if I wielded the power of god (that is to say Space Jesus) in my very hands and that felt magnificent and empowering, but then I quickly realized that holy shit I was wielding the power of god in my hands, at least the life and death part, and that's kind of a terrible feeling actually. So I guess I just don't get going to shoot guns on a regular basis as a fun activity. I mean sure, go to the shooting range once just to see what it feels like, but it's not like guns exist in a vacuum. If they did, I'd be fine with it. "I enjoy shooting these metal things at the wall because it's fun and I enjoy the mechanics of it, and thankfully these machines have never been used to harm or kill anyone." But, only, they have been used to harm and kill many many many people and I just don't really understand making sport of that. I guess you could make the same argument about most anything — cars, airplanes, frying pans — but guns just seem emblematic of modern violence in a way that nothing else is. And I don't like it! Yes, you read me. I am taking a bold stand against violence here. ANYWAY. Peggy loves shooting the guns and loves that her husband shoots guns and just loves her husband, saying that she's so happy he's into guy stuff like "guns and swords." Oh, yup, mmhm. Just typical guy stuff. Watching the big football match while holding an enormous broadsword. "Honey, have you seen my katana? I'm going bowling with the guys and don't want to forget it." Swords. I hope we get that episode next.

Can we just say that Gretchen did stuff and move on? She's so boring. Basically she and Slade did gross things together because they are gross, and then Gretchen tried to act all Betty Business about her stupid makeup and handbag job, which is not a real job or a real thing that exists here in Earth Jesus's realm. But sure, if Gretchywetchy wants to pretend, let's let her. Part of Gretchen's pretending is that she pretends she needs an assistant, because she's so busy with all of her pretend work. Her assistant is a girl named Shawanda who I guess Gretchen was friends with before she became her pretend boss. On last week's episode, Shawanda tried to intervene in a spat between Alexis and Gretchen and apparently she didn't intervene in the right way. So Gretchen had to have an awkward chat with her last night, about how because she is now Gretchen's employee she always has to make it seem like she has Gretchen's back or not say anything at all. Which, like... OK. I guess if you're at a trade show or another work function (where Gretchen hawks invisible wares and everyone just pretends and says "Ohh how pretty! Now tell me little girl, how old are you now?" And Gretchen holds up three sausagey fingers and says "This many. Times twelve.") I'd understand that Shawanda shouldn't intervene in whatever Gretchen's doing, but, um, they were at a drunken backyard wine party. As friends, I'm pretty sure. So just because Shawanda is on Gretchen's fake payroll, she can never, ever, speak her mind about anything Gretchen-related, lest it undermine the valuable Gretchen Christine Bootay made-up makeup line? Terrific. Good life you've carved out for yourself, Shawanda. Maybe it's time to go home, put on some Annie Lennox, and really think about these life choices you've made. I'm sure if you call and ask nicely, UC Santa Cruz will let you start again in the fall. Just think about it.

And then, finally, of course, we come to Vicki. Old Wacky Woo-hoo herself. In this week's episode, Vicki stumbled up to Seattle for a conference or something that vaguely had to do with her insurance business. So she brought her team of California twentysomethings (proven time and time again to be America's hardest workers) up to that miserable raintown so they could really buckle down and focus on the task of doing shots with and being embarrassed by a sixty-year-old woman who's been "having an episode" for about twenty years now. At the conference, some guy giving Vickles an award kept calling her "psychotic," which was fun and true, and then it was time for drinking. Vicki had a little party in her suite where she kept loudly insisting that insurance is fun and isn't everyone having fun while her daughter, who had just flown up after a long nursing shift, tried to sleep. Oh Vicki's poor daughter. She genuinely seems like what you'd call a good egg — hardworking at a necessary job, amazingly easygoing about her mom's insanity and neverending quest to mortify her, possessing of a general sense of perspective. So it's always too bad to see Vicki trying to drag the poor girl down to her weird, crazy, boorish level, insisting that the girl whoop it up and act a fool and flirt with creepy men at bowling alleys. Who was that creepy guy! Oh man, he was so gross, all touching Vicki and sneaking coy smiles. Brianna (the daughter — that's her name, right?) was justifiably horrified and, perhaps emboldened by booze, dared to speak up. Well, mostly Brianna's friend, who is also one of Vicki's employees, spoke up on Brianna's half, leaning over to tell Vicki to cool it with that guy only to be met with the mushy horror of Vicki pressing her cobweb hand up against her face to silence her. If Vicki Gunvalson ever touched me on the face, I don't think there'd be enough acid scouring in the world to make me feel like a whole person again.

So Vicki kept on with that whole shtick, making everyone do whoo-hoos and dancing her frantic tarantella and demanding that young people watch, and Brianna just sighed and thought of better places. Then everyone went on a booze cruise and joined up with something called Sea Picnic or something dumb, which is basically that everyone gets in boats and floats out into Seattle's famous Cold Clam Bay and has a boat party. It's basically like Vicki's beloved Lake Havasu only tamer and grayer. That did not stop Vicki, of course, from yelling things like "Ahoy! Margarita please!" and attempting to take strange drinks from strange boats, while all of Vicki's employees put their heads in their hands and wondered if they too shouldn't call UCSC in the morning to apologize. After the boat cruise there was a little party at some house on the bay and Brianna went down to sit in an Adirondack chair with her friend and ponder the nature of home and getting out. She said "Let's move up here. I need to get away from her." And of course she loves her mother, but it's time. They have hospitals in Seattle. Everyone needs nurses. She stared off at the pewter-gray water and dreamed of a new life. Just as Tamra had done earlier in the episode.

Here's life, and then there's more life. Here's noise and light, and then there's the flicker and hushed din on the horizon. If we could clap our hands or blink our eyes and be suddenly in a whole new existence, fully fleshed and in the middle, we would. But we can't. There are struggling minutes and months and years, and then maybe, if you're lucky, the strange peace that comes with knowing that, in fact, all of life is an inbetween, that there are only a very few fixed points. A marriage, a death, a birth, a party. But other than that, it's just bobbing along, scanning the seam of sky and water for little islands to dock for a while. Brianna stared out at the bay and thought of this, while Tamra poured another glass and looked at the words, framed in bright yellow. "Life is good." Is. The present tense. Here and now. And, in some ways, always.