What was supposed to be a nice, quiet dinner turns into an ugly screaming match
Credit: Bravo

This season of The Real Housewives of Orange County has only been on for three weeks, but it feels like we’ve been waiting forever to get to the climactic dinner blowout of this week’s episode. Before we can get to the Kelly-Shannon showdown, though, there’s a breaking development coming out of the O.C. that we have to address first: Meghan finally did something interesting! This season, her screen time has been so repetitive — here she is in the bedroom with the baby! Here she is in the kitchen with the baby! — that I started to wonder if Meghan was just changing outfits and filming all her scenes in one day in order to spread them across the season. (In the second episode, her daughter wears the same baby clothes that she wore in first episode, and Meghan seems like the kind of mom who would have no shortage of outfits for her infant.)

I’m still not entirely convinced that’s not happening, but Meghan’s getting a pass this week because it turns out she believes in ghosts. And not only does she believe in ghosts, but — as she tells her husband — she believes her daughter can actually see them because (a) she hasn’t grown up being told it’s not cool to admit you see ghosts, and (b) she just “came from the spirit world.” I can’t decide if this is funnier if you think Meghan is joking, or if it’s funnier if you think she isn’t — either way, it’s nice to have Meghan actually contributing something valuable to the season now.

The episode kicks off with Vicki inspecting the new office building she’s moving into with her new business partner, Ali, but she’s not really a big part of this episode. We learn that she recently had to let an employee go because he was allegedly embezzling from her — I’ll let this fascinating TMZ video explain the rest — and that, because of those trust issues, she wants to be able to supervise her employees in ways that sound pretty close to outright spying if you ask me.

Meanwhile, at Nobleman, everyone’s favorite magazine for rich people with too much time on their hands, Lydia is butting heads with her husband because she doesn’t think he’s going to be able to the meet his deadlines. At this point, I wondered if Lydia had just studied up on The Devil Wears Prada and was just acting like what she thought a magazine editor-publisher would act like, because nothing about this magazine seemed like a real job to me. But then Lydia casually mentions that her grandfather and father are semi-famous businessmen in Canada, and it turns out that, actually, running media companies is kind of her family business!

I can’t vouch for her relatives’ Canadian popularity, but I did find the Wikipedia page for Lydia’s grandfather, Geoff Stirling, who ran several media properties during his lifetime and whose Wiki page includes this marvelous factoid: “In some circles, Stirling is regarded as an eccentric for the way in which he has used his media outlets to promote a variety of personal interests such as eastern mysticism and intestinal health. For example, he devoted many hours of, often unscheduled, broadcast time to conversations with gurus … and to a variety of subjects ranging from pyramids to unidentified flying objects, a practice which continues today as the station is run by his son G. Scott Stirling [Lydia’s father].” Now I actually kind of want to read Nobleman to see what agenda the McLaughlins are secretly pushing?

While she’s working (“working”) on the magazine, she gets a call from Tamra, who is trying to play peacemaker between Lydia and Shannon after their friendship got off to a disastrous start during last week’s episode. Lydia may call herself “the friendship whisperer,” but so far she’s only seemed to make the divide between Team Vicki and and Team Tamra worse, whereas Tamra actually gets both Lydia and Shannon to agree to try to get to know each other again with a make-up dinner. Tamra tells Lydia that Shannon is just an “expressive” person, not an aggressive one, and that Lydia’s comments about Vicki hit a particularly vulnerable nerve; Tamra also tells Shannon that Lydia didn’t understand the full history and didn’t mean to cause the offense she did. So dinner is back on the calendar, but not without some red flags — Lydia keeps calling Shannon crazy, which is, uh, definitely a sign of being open-minded.

Before that dinner can happen, though, Shannon has to go to a training session with her personal trainer/chiropractor(!), who is… kind of an asshole? First of all, he says “wow” a lot, and not in nice way: Shannon stepping onto the scale? Wow. Shannon checking her body fat? Wow. I’m no expert, but I think a good way to start helping someone with their weight-loss journey is not making them feel terrible about their body. Of all the personal trainers in Orange County, surely Shannon can afford someone who isn’t trying to shame her into losing weight? (He literally says at one point, “You should be disappointed.”) Second, this guy — and pretty much everybody Shannon talks to — seems to think that just because Shannon put on a few pounds, he’s entitled to play therapist: Where is the stress coming from? How are she and David doing physically? (Shannon responds by talking about how David is more in shape than she is, but I don’t think that’s what this guy meant.) He ends their session by warning Shannon that she’s “got to make better choices,” but in anticipation of this episode’s big dinner, that feels less like nutritional advice and more like foreshadowing. (Recap continues on page 2)

In addition to this dinner being an opportunity for Shannon and Lydia to get a do-over on their friendship, it’s also a chance for Lydia to introduce Peggy to the rest of the housewives. At first, Peggy seems like the kind of gal who would rise above the drama. Early on in this episode, we learn about her family history of breast cancer and her decision to undergo a double-mastectomy; we get to better know her children and her husband, Diko, who manages to make sentences like “With or without breasts, she’s my soulmate” sound genuinely charming. Surely Peggy has bigger fish to fry than to get involved with the lingering chaos of last season.

Unfortunately for Peggy, her introduction isn’t as smooth as she hoped. There’s some friction when Peggy seems to judge Shannon for building her dream home instead of just finding one to buy. (Uh, Peggy, with your extensive sports car collection, not sure you should tsk-tsk how other people spend their money.) But then things get worse when Shannon brings up her weight gain and Peggy starts to ask questions about the turmoil she went through. On paper, that’s a great idea — trust and vulnerability! Empathy and common ground! These are the foundations of a great new friendship. But here, Peggy shrugs off Vicki’s allegations that Shannon’s husband abused her and then makes a joke about spousal abuse that, to say the least, gets lost in translation. It’s a tense interaction, but it’s nothing compared to when Kelly arrives.

A word on Kelly: As we learn in flashbacks, Lydia has only just met Kelly, but they quickly bonded over not getting along with Shannon. And apparently that’s enough to make them instant BFFs, because Lydia invites Kelly to come to this dinner, seemingly unaware of all the havoc Kelly wreaked on the cast last season. Kelly declines because she’s too busy partying on a boat, but then she shows up at the restaurant anyway and seems quite defensive about why she’s there, reminding everybody that she lives practically across the street from the place and comes here all the time. (Shout-out to the Quiet Woman: I don’t know how much you probably paid Bravo to get your name mentioned in this episode so many times, but if there’s anything I remember about this episode, it’s the name of your restaurant.) It all seemed like a lot of effort to convince everyone that she just happened to show up at a time that coincided with a dinner she was invited to but declined to attend.

Kelly first runs into Shannon in the bathroom, where Lydia tries to be the Friendship Whisperer again with little luck. Shannon says she’s surprised to see Kelly — they didn’t exactly leave last season’s reunion as best friends — and then makes a self-deprecating comment about her weight, presumably to crack the joke before Kelly can as an act of self-defense. (Bad idea, as you’ll see.) Kelly, in turn, thinks Shannon is being standoffish and accuses her of being mean, which is another sensitive spot for Shannon — it’s not the first time that diss has been tossed her way. And it’s probably not a casual remark, either: Kelly says in her one-on-one interview that she enjoys pushing Shannon’s buttons, and whoo boy is she successful in this episode. Kelly leaves the bathroom to join the rest of the Housewives, while Lydia leads a tearful, shaken Shannon in a really awkward but well-intentioned prayer.

When everyone’s back at the table, Lydia — bless her heart — tries to smooth things over once again. But Kelly just won’t stop needling Shannon, talking about how Shannon always has hurt feelings about something and is a glass-half-empty kind of person. Eventually, she pushes Shannon’s buttons so much that Shannon demands Kelly leave, at which point Kelly goes for the lowest blows she can think of: “Maybe you need some hormones for your body!” Shannon screams at her, and then Kelly screams back and tells her to “keep eating,” and then Shannon screams even harder, and then a restaurant employee comes over to Shannon to manage the situation. Nobody comes out looking good, except for maybe Peggy, who asks who’s taking the leftovers home when it’s clear the dinner is over.

The whole altercation unfolds quite quickly considering how much buildup there’s been to this fight, but the final images of the night are lasting ones: Tamra comforting Shannon by telling her that she wishes ill upon Kelly (though she words it more colorfully than I will here); a shell-shocked Lydia asking if Peggy’s okay; and Kelly pressing her face against the window behind Lydia and Peggy as the two of them wait for rides home — bravo, Bravo.