The Real Housewives of Orange County reunion recap: Having your mocktail and drinking it too
Braunwyn comes under fire and Sean joins the debate as the season 15 reunion ends.
There's no easing back into a reunion like this one, so we pick back up right where we left off — with Shannon telling everyone about the time Braunwyn encouraged a 14-year-old Stella to text her for "the good stuff." Braunwyn is distraught to hear that she did such a thing, which she doesn't remember but does believe. She apologizes to Shannon and assures her she would never do that sober — which Shannon solemnly receives, saying she understands. "You understand? If someone did that to my daughter, I'd go nuts," says Kelly, taking any opportunity she can to continue to rake Braunwyn over the coals. But we'll get to that later.
Next comes one of the few moments of levity when Andy asks Gina to rank her various hairstyles, which she does correctly. But then we're back to the heavy stuff, as he asks her the status of her relationship with Matt — and of her statement regarding his alleged abuse. Gina's proud of their co-parenting, but "I need to be able to speak the truth about how this has impacted me, to him, in order for me to, I believe, fully heal," she says. Emily is proud of her and so am I. I know I said this two weeks ago, but over the course of this season, Gina won me over completely. And that continues throughout the reunion, which moves on from Gina's evolution to Kelly's. Sigh.
Kelly married Rick with 28 people in attendance, which I must say is civilized for a Real Housewives quarantine wedding. She loses me, though, when she implies that it is hypocritical to be pro-protest but anti-wedding during a pandemic, considering protests are a tool to effect necessary widespread change amid a historic movement and weddings are entirely personal events with no global implications that can be as flexible as the two people essential to them, but whatever.
We are now forced to discuss Kelly's horrible "Drunk Wives Matter" hat. Her tirade about how she meant no harm and about how her four Black best friends weren't offended and about how she is some kind of victim of cancel culture just makes me feel exhausted. She finally admits that she understands how the hat could offend, which almost feels like progress, but then she keeps yelling about how she's not racist and in fact she's Black, which Andy swiftly clarifies: "But you don't identify as an African American. You have not walked through life as an African American."
Kelly can't argue with that, though she reminds him that she has experienced racism as a Mexican. I completely believe she has. But that doesn't mean she is thus rendered incapable of demonstrating racist behavior, as Braunwyn correctly points out — making the fatal mistake of bringing attention back to herself, the villain of the night.
The terrible hat is a natural segue into discussions of the Black Lives Matter protests, in which Braunwyn took part — all the while plastering evidence of her wokeness across social media, and then suggesting that none of the other ladies have supported marginalized groups like she has. Kelly, Elizabeth, and Emily all take issue with this, "because we do support these communities," Elizabeth says. "We just do it behind the scenes."
Now we get to the real point. Kelly says Braunwyn has said things about her castmates that are "dangerous and liabous," where I'm guessing she was trying for "libelous," by which she would have meant "slanderous," but I'm just glad we're finally directly addressing the severe hatred for Braunwyn. All of the ladies came in with zero patience for her from minute one, and the accusations of fake alcoholism didn't really get to the heart of this issue.
I had empathy for Braunwyn's considerable difficulties this season, though she does have a fairly insufferable superior streak and I feel deeply for poor Sean. But even so, the degree to which all the 'wives came into this reunion filled with rage at her baffled me slightly, as I naively looked only to the season itself, which ended with at least a few of them not outright hating her, as evidence. The Real Housewives really is a multimedia universe, however, and Braunwyn's post-shooting press tour became a platform for slander, as it were. "There isn't anyone on this cast I can turn to when it comes to how I feel vocally, how I feel about BLM, how I feel about LGBTQIA rights," she said in an interview on ET. "There is no one on this cast I can turn to."
This is a pretty vile move on Braunwyn's part, essentially equating the ladies' lack of friendship toward her with a lack of respect for the social causes she champions, and implying in the process that she is some kind of icon of those causes. The ladies erupt at the reminder of it, leading to one of the most breathtaking rapid-fire reunion exchanges I've ever seen on Bravo. "All my friends are gay!" Kelly roars, and Braunwyn shoots back: "You said that having sex with women is the same as eating raw tuna!"
"It is! For guys too!" Kelly replies. "If your vagina smells like tuna, you need to go to the doctor," Braunwyn advises. But Kelly isn't finished: "There's guys that don't want to eat freakin' raw p----!" she screams, prompting Shannon to cover her ears, muttering, "Ohhhkayyyy…"
Braunwyn turns her attention to Gina: "You said I was sexually confused!" But Gina's not intimidated: "I would argue that being married to a man when you are a lesbian is confusing!"
Like me, Andy appears to be thoroughly enjoying himself. "I'm not sexually confused," Braunwyn insists to him, and then Elizabeth — absolutely out of nowhere! — chimes in, "I'm bi, but whatever. I don't make a big deal of it. I don't make it a spectacle."
I am still recovering from this reality TV perfection. The moment is over, but now we must turn our attention to Elizabeth's admission. Braunwyn — unwisely, considering her current standing in the group — makes it about herself. "I thought she was gay!" she cries, laughing. "When I first met her, I tried kissing Elizabeth!" Not your moment, B. Elizabeth clearly really doesn't want to make a big deal of it, but now the spotlight's on her, and it's not going anywhere until this whole cult thing is cleared up.
We don't learn much more about her hideous experience in the cult — of which I'm actually kind of glad. She says she's been seeing a therapist, for some reason also sharing her therapy schedule with us, and that's the only reason she's able to talk about it at all. It's one of those things that really is so dark and so deep, I truly believe it belongs in private therapy sessions more than the reunion stage, which is supposed to be for things like repeating gossip and accidentally matching shoes and rolling unseen footage and shrieking about slander, or libel, or tuna, or whatever else. Let's leave the real trauma to the professionals.
Speaking of real trauma, time to give a warm welcome to Sean! The discussion of his and Braunwyn's marriage is a whole mess, prompting the ladies to all whisper, almost in unison "one-sided!" at the mention of one particularly hypocritical Braunwyn moment, and for Kelly and Shannon to declare Sean a saint. In the end, Gina sums it up best (doesn't she always?): "It sounds like the boundaries move where Braunwyn allows them to move," she observes. "She does what she wants and he takes care of it."
Sean exits the stage, and the PAs bring out some fruity mocktails, which Kelly can't help but remark could use a little rum. And so we've made it through another year in the OC! Here's hoping next season delivers a little more international travel and a little less lockdown. There's only so long we can stand to stay inside these 'wives houses — big or small.