real housewives of orange county
Credit: Bravo

As promised by the teaser last week, The Real Housewives of Orange County coronavirus edition is here, and it's not looking too pretty. Tonight's episode covers the two-to-four-month period between when production shutdown and Orange County started opening back up, and you can already tell how the dynamics have dramatically shifted.

The episode starts explaining how most of the footage in March is self-tape. We get quick scenes of Shannon Beador crying about how the disease could affect her already damaged lungs, Elizabeth Lyn Vargas putting a puzzle together as she explains her plan to save the animals, and Braunwyn Windham-Burke — who was already going through an astronomical life change — unraveling further while stuck in the house with Sean and their seven children.

While we have long been clued in on Kelly Dodd's stringent COVID denial, Elizabeth tops her by posting conspiracy theories about it on Instagram and comparing it to AIDS. It's still weird to see Emily Simpson, Braunwyn, and Kelly meet up in the thick of it without wearing masks.

Shannon reveals that she and John had their first major battle when his son Joe broke her COVID protocol, and he chose to go stay with his son over her. For her to position it as "me or him" is a big ultimatum to give to someone she has maybe dated for two years max. Otherwise, it is nice to see someone in Orange County take pandemic protocol seriously. Shannon's hypochondria is refreshing in this instance.

Meanwhile, Kelly is exhibiting total clown behavior flying to New York City right as it was becoming the virus epicenter, showing off how Times Square has cleared, but it's still "safe" for her to grab a dirty water dog. The montage of her and her boyfriend Rick's Manhattan quarantine life only becomes more traumatizing when we get a shot of him servicing her feet. It made me a scene of Shane and Emily talking about still going strong almost feel delightful in comparison.

On a video chat with Shannon, Gina reveals her haircut, and has one of the funniest lines of the night about how salons should be considered an essential service when it comes to her. When Shannon mentions shopping with John, Gina stops her right there, and then informs the audience of how after John left the house, it was Gina that Shannon leaned on while drunk and upset, so it's now jarring to hear she's taken him right back and thrown the precautions she was taking out the window.

Love to see the women are now wearing masks in the insert where they hold the oranges, but really hate to see in the following montage how Elizabeth alludes to COVID being like AIDS again. Gina sneaking to Emily's front porch to score a pack of toilet paper she secured through a Smart & Final connect is the unique brand of suburban humor I come to Orange County for.

As Braunwyn sheds the person she once was, she shares difficult information, saying there have been instances where she's hit her husband Sean. Knowing what we know now about her, it seems for the best that they're taking the time apart it looks like they need. 

Kelly and Elizabeth once again contribute to my misery with a quick scene of them partying and a throwaway line about them getting tested. At least when Kelly meets up with Shannon, Braunwyn, and Emily the next day, they all go into it wearing masks.

Shannon really misrepresents how Elizabeth has been talking about her.

Shannon really misrepresents how Elizabeth has been talking about her. While it is true that Elizabeth says her boyfriend Jimmy left after she exploded on him, Elizabeth was also pretty open on the show about him having to work the next day. Both can be true, and it never came off like Elizabeth blamed his absence the next morning solely on Shannon. Emily and Kelly rightfully call her out in the confessionals for acting a little too much like the Regina George of Orange County.

Gina was noticeably absent from the get together and it turns out the ghost of Tamra Judge once again strikes, with Shannon suspecting that her soured relationship with the former housewife caused Gina to cancel on her.

While at first I thought it was low-key brutal that Kelly compared Elizabeth to blowfish, the next scene showed Braunwyn really bringing out the knives for the newest housewife. She tells Emily over Zoom that not only did she DM Elizabeth on Instagram to tell her she is lying about being lonely when she's seen her friends all post they're at Elizabeth's house, but also she went into public records and saw Elizabeth has had a house go into default, and may be having real estate and money trouble. While Emily would hate for Braunwyn to do that to her, she giddily soaks in the tea Braunwyn just spilled.

The next scenes we are treated to are juxtaposed conversations between Braunwyn and Shannon in person, and Elizabeth and Gina on video chat. First, funny now to see Braunwyn and Shannon have clearly buried the hatchet over the stupid "sad house" fight, and found common ground in thinking Elizabeth is full of crap. The thing is, Elizabeth knows this and says as much to Gina. She is actually planning on taking the women to Lake Arrowhead to come clean about her divorce and dating life now that she's supposedly settled things with her billionaire ex-husband.

Now in June, the show shows another clip package about how the women have responded to the killing of George Floyd, and how they are now contributing to the Black Lives Matter movement. We get a Real Housewives franchise crossover in the form of Gina and Gizelle from Potomac on Instagram Live together, and a heartening moment where Braunwyn takes her children to a protest in the hope of making Orange County a more equitable and inclusive environment for people who aren't rich and white.

After one last package showing California is now opening up a little more, the episode ends with Shannon frantically calling Kelly to let her know one of her daughters tested positive for coronavirus. It's a tough blow to see the family of the most at-risk housewife not take her concerns seriously, but also why did she call Kelly of all people? That couldn't have been the first person she sought out to share in her terror.

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The Real Housewives of Orange County

Bravo turns its cameras on California's ladies who lunch (and shop, and tan, and get plastic surgery, and bicker…)

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