The Real Housewives of Orange County reunion recap: Braunwyn heads to battle
A shorter season means fewer reunion episodes, but boy did The Real Housewives of Orange County pack in the drama this week. After flashes of Shannon Storms Beador breaking a directors chair, Emily and Shane Simpson bickering, and Elizabeth Lyn Vargas realizing she left a bunch of stuff in her truck, the show heads to Braunwyn Windham-Burke's dressing room where she foretells the rest of the episode, asking, "Are we ready to go to battle? Because it's going to be a bad f—ing gang-up on Braunwyn today."
Before they get started, the show provides a preview of what's to come, and I truly just don't have words after seeing Kelly Dodd yell "I'm Black!!" sans context (Reader: she is not).
Anyway, as they do introductions, it sticks out that host Andy Cohen stops at Storms when referring to Shannon, but uses the surname Leventhal for Kelly. While it's unclear if Shannon has dropped the Beador, Kelly confirms that she took her new husband Rick's last name.
While the shade toward Gina Kirschenheiter's hair is funny, the best quip about the women's looks goes to Braunwyn describing her outfit as Lara Croft Tomb Raider lesbian chic. Perfect for maneuvering her way out of the hot seat for the night's first topic: Gina's "sad" house.
During the season, it seemed like COVID hitting California washed away the petty drama of whether or not Shannon referred to Gina's house as "sad" and/or "depressing," but now it seems like the rest of the women appreciated the chance to knock Braunwyn down a peg.
Even Gina, who seemed to have the deepest connection with the newly sober Braunwyn, didn't seem to accept her apology, and when Braunwyn expressed loyalty and gratitude toward Gina, the feelings weren't mutual.
The next segment revolved around Shannon's relationship with John, her boyfriend of 18 months. When asked about her eldest daughter being concerned about John's ability to meet Shannon's financial and emotional needs, the mom of three revealed that part of the couple's problem is that her kids take issue with John, and John's kids take issue with Shannon, like some quarantine pod civil war. News of her ex-husband David Beador refusing to co-parent and expecting a new child lead to the women agreeing he's a "painful cliché."
The segment finds a second wind when the subject of Shannon and John's drinking comes up. First, Gina and Emily link up to suggest Shannon has a drunk-dialing problem, which makes it difficult to determine how to provide the emotional support she's looking for. Next, Braunwyn reveals that whatever golf tournament rumor about John was shared with Emily, it came from something Shannon told her about. Andy makes a point that John declined to come to the reunion and speak for himself, and the Shannon and John segment ends with Braunwyn confirming she believes Shannon has a drinking problem.
Moving on, while they're on break, Shannon vents to John over the phone and indicates she has a bomb to drop on Braunwyn should she feel pushed to do so. Meanwhile, Sean, who doesn't even have a romantic relationship with his wife anymore, is seen in Braunwyn's dressing room complimenting her butt.
The women wear masks while walking back to the stage for a new segment meant to address the elephant in the room going into the season: Kelly Dodd's COVID denial. To give a sense of how irritating the women find Kelly's recklessness, the camera focuses on the death stares Shannon and Gina give Kelly as she coughs without really covering her mouth multiple times.
When the time comes for Kelly to be held accountable for such actions as suggesting COVID was "thinning the herd," she predictably does not handle it well. Andy emphasizes that he regularly receives messages calling for her removal from the Real Housewives franchise for her "uneducated" opinions, and she turns it right back on him by saying she receives messages from people calling him "un-American." Andy ends by asking her "Are you worried you're going to be on the wrong side of history?" She doesn't really have a response.
Running through some quick revelations, we learn that Emily's husband had sent his oldest daughter a goodbye message while he was suffering from COVID in the hospital and that Elizabeth was told to watch out for Gina and Shannon before joining the show (though both pleasantly surprised her in the end).
During a segment about the enigmatic new housewife (jokingly referred to as "the richest bitch in Newport Beach"), things go haywire when Braunwyn tells Elizabeth that she has a mutual friend with her ex-husband and his fiancée. Elizabeth didn't even know he was engaged.
Back from commercial break, Elizabeth rips into Braunwyn with all these projections about her saying her rich ex-husband was a good man, and that her statement that he's engaged, and a friend of a friend, is somehow defending his honor. Braunwyn's defense for the previous dirt that was dug up on Elizabeth is that it was a different friend who did all the work for her with one title search.
The spotlight turns to Braunwyn and her sobriety at the end of the episode, and her prophetic words come true. The women call into question how Braunwyn could be an alcoholic if she was able to go extended periods without drinking, like after she'd given birth to her younger children. Before Braunwyn can fully explain the difference between not drinking and being an alcoholic, Kelly goes into overkill and says that Braunwyn becoming sober is just for a storyline on the show. Apparently, just because Braunwyn didn't seem drunk at the early morning Orange Theory class they'd regularly attend together in the before times, she's lying about having a drinking problem.
Kelly's response is so disgusting the other women begrudgingly begin defending Braunwyn, with Gina and Emily remarking about how genuine she was in the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings they'd attended with her.
The admission that Braunwyn is an addict finally brings to the surface the core issue the rest of the cast has with her. While she notes that she has not been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, Shannon posits that her new addiction is fame. They feel that as Braunwyn goes through major life decisions like quitting alcohol, and coming out, the press coverage she and Sean have elicited is all too much.
Going in for the kill, the last moment of the first half of the season 15 reunion is Shannon sharing with the group that when her daughter Stella was 14, Braunwyn told her to text her if she ever wants "the good stuff," which we are to assume means drugs. Braunwyn is left aghast, and it seems like the aforementioned battle has just begun.
Bravo turns its cameras on California's ladies who lunch (and shop, and tan, and get plastic surgery, and bicker…)