Braunwyn's difficult sobriety journey continues, while tensions grow between her and Gina.
real housewives of Orange County
Credit: bravo

The second episode in the 15th season of The Real Housewives of Orange County weaves together various developing storylines touching on familiar topics — the complex dynamics between mothers and daughters, the ladies’ relationship to alcohol, and Tamra’s incredible ability to stir s--- whether or not she’s clutching an orange in the opening credits.

We open with Emily visiting Kelly, who’s packing to move into Shannon’s neighborhood. “What’s that going to be like? Like, the neighbor next door that you don’t know that’s going to come kill you in the middle of the night?” Kelly wonders in her confessional. I would guess not, considering that they do, in fact, know each other, as proven by the exquisitely soundtracked montage that the RHOC editors serve us next, tracing some of the ups and downs of their volatile relationship over the years. Kelly concludes that she hopes to be cordial but ultimately can’t trust Shannon, though she and Emily are both curious as to how the dissolution of the Tres Amigas will change her.

Cut to Elizabeth, whose family is in town to give us a little more insight into our newest cast member (if a brief scene of them razzing her about her spending counts as insight, which I would argue it doesn’t, since a talent for throwing money around is pretty much a prerequisite for joining this franchise in the first place), then disappear so she can walk her dog with her boyfriend Jimmy. Elizabeth’s scenes still feel like pure exposition, so here’s hoping she integrates into the drama soon.

We join another couple, Braunwyn and her husband Sean, having their Valentine’s Day dinner — as she observes, a much more “subdued” evening than last year’s celebration. She’s two weeks into sobriety at this point, and it’s an intense conversation: She’s anxious about losing friends who loved her for being fun and wild, and he feels guilty for having enabled her drinking. She also shares in her confessional that she feels disconnected from Sean, but he assures her, “We have so much love in our life. That will get us through anything.”

Next, we’re treated to a brief scene of Shannon in business mode, which mostly serves as a chance for the editors to share another vintage clip of David being a jerk in contrast to how supportive her new boyfriend John is. The scene also makes clear that Shannon is following in Lisa Rinna’s chaotic footsteps by regularly referring to the man in her life by his alliterative full name: Harry Hamlin, meet John Janssen.

Now that we’ve checked in with everyone, it’s time to get to the centerpiece of the episode, an all-you-can-eat-taco-thon between Gina and Emily that appears to last six to eight hours and at least twice that many tequila shots. The “Dos Idiotas,” as Emily unfortunately brands them, arrive at Casa Ranchero fresh-faced and cheerful, wrapped in neutral loose-knit sweaters, the California sun as bright as their shared outlook. Over the course of this meal, however, the sky darkens almost as fast as the mood.

“I’ve been, like, nonstop not working out, eating like a beast. It’s the happy diet,” Gina says with a grimace, clinking her first skinny margarita to Emily’s. “I’m happy.”

After some chatter about Annabelle’s upcoming birthday party, Emily tells Gina that Braunwyn has been trash-talking Gina’s new house, which sends the entire conversation down a spiral about Braunwyn being elitist, or something, and her husband being a hooker (?), all while the skinny margaritas make way for shot after shot (“I have a new hip! My hip wants to do shots!” Emily cries, which, sure). A river of tequila deep, Emily notices that Braunwyn has been texting her the whole time, and Gina urges Emily to call her.

The phone call goes immediately off the rails, with Braunwyn not even bothering to deny that she’s talked s--- about Gina because Gina’s done the same about Sean. What!? Braunwyn hangs up and Gina drunkenly explains that the night of Vicki’s birthday party, Sean helped her get an Uber then texted her after she got home to check in on her, letting her know that he got Braunwyn home safely and saying it was great to spend time together, all punctuated with some smiley faces.

Gina showed these “f---ing creepy” texts to Tamra (who else?) who later told Braunwyn about it. Are these creepy texts though? They strike me as even less damning than Denise and Brandi’s bland exchanges of “hey pretty mama.” In my experience, people sometimes send such texts to their drunk friends, in reference to their other drunk friends, after a drunk night. Some people are just freer with their smiley faces than others. Right? Am I missing something?

It gets worse. “This is ridiculous. It’s a Blair Witch hunt,” Gina grumbles as Emily calls Braunwyn back. Braunwyn, whose “Choose Love” tank top is breaking my heart, says she will discuss this at another time but not over the phone. “I know you have a lot going on in your life,” Gina replies, nodding sarcastically. “Your soliloquy is amazing.” There is truly no way to respond to that, so Braunwyn ends the call. Gina tosses her hair around, mocking Braunwyn, while an uncomfortable Emily laments how much she drank. The sun has set on Casa Ranchero.

After a brief interlude with Kelly, who fears she is turning into her mother and worries about Jolie making a joke about White Claw, poor Braunwyn’s bad week continues. When she and Elizabeth go shopping for cat clothes to wear to Annabelle’s birthday party, the newest Housewife tells Braunwyn about the death of her alcoholic father — casually name-dropping that her ex refused to stop partying with Steven Tyler to support her at the time — and Braunwyn replies that her father died from drinking. “God, what is up with these alcoholics?” Elizabeth says with a laugh, to my horror.

That night, going to dinner with Shannon, Braunwyn feels obligated to share her sobriety, because her mother Dr. Deb told Tamra (once again, who else?!) about her struggles, and Braunwyn doesn’t want Shannon hearing it from anyone but her. Though it’s not the news Shannon expected to hear — she had brought a pregnancy test with her, thinking for sure that was the reason Braunwyn hadn’t been drinking — she’s supportive of her friend, and says she’s proud.

Finally, it’s time for Annabelle’s cat-themed seventh birthday party. Disappointingly, Shane did not dress according to theme. Gina and Braunwyn agreed not to have drama at a party for children, so the event mostly provides a platform for Elizabeth, who has a few slightly cringey moments of getting to know the other ladies and evidently trying to be funny for the camera. A rookie move, Elizabeth! Never try to perform here. Nobody wants a soliloquy.

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