By Mary Sollosi
November 04, 2020 at 11:20 PM EST
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Credit: Bravo
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It only feels appropriate — as appropriate as it can possibly feel to be watching Bravo in the tense aftermath of a spectacularly fraught presidential election, anyway — that Wednesday night’s Real Housewives of Orange County episode was a largely joyless hour. It also feely grimly fitting that it brought the season’s first mention of the coronavirus, coming from Kelly, who calls it the “Corona Del Mar virus” and just can’t fathom why people are getting all worked up about it: “Things like this happen from time to time.” Kelly, please shut up.

But back to the beginning. We pick up where last week left off, after Braunwyn threw her grapefruit and soda in Shannon’s pool and stormed off because Gina was antagonizing her to the point where she felt compelled to admit that she’s 30 days sober. In front of the house, she pitifully asks John’s son “lemonade boy” Joe to go get her husband. L.B. Joe finds Sean still by the pool, trying to stick up for his wife, while Gina mockingly tells him to go check on Braunwyn. As he leaves, a smirking Emily says that “people need to lay off Shane, because he’s never done anything like that,” which could not possibly be less relevant nor less deserved on the part of Shane, whom the ladies have my permission to yell at whenever they damn well please.

Somehow Sean convinces Braunwyn to return to the party to talk to Gina one on one. Each of them apologizes for their behavior, but the conversation quickly falls to pieces once it becomes about Sean’s perfectly harmless texts to Gina on the night of Vicki’s birthday. “All she wants to hear out of my mouth is, ‘I was wrong,’” Gina tells Emily after their “pointless” conversation. That’s all I want to hear out of Gina’s mouth too, to be perfectly honest.

Next, Braunwyn speaks about her sobriety with Kelly, who responds with typical irreverence — which Braunwyn actually seems to appreciate. Kelly is unconvinced that Sean wasn’t aware of the extent of his wife’s dependence on alcohol, and swiftly concludes he’s an enabler; Braunwyn doesn’t dispute it. Then, in one of the episode’s best moments, Kelly leaves the couch and greets Sean and Shane with “what’s up, little dorks?” to which Shane does not react.

Meanwhile, Emily and Shannon make peace, so hopefully this is the end of the whole boring narrative of Shannon inexplicably refusing to acknowledge Emily, who has now been on this show for over two years. Shannon takes all the ladies (minus Braunwyn) on a tour of her home, ending with the pièce de résistance, the enormous, ridiculous painting of herself hanging in her home gym that previously featured in the season premiere.

One highlight of the episode was Elizabeth, not only as she good-naturedly teased Shannon for the portrait, but also as she offered insight into her own history and showed empathy throughout the hour for both Braunwyn and Gina’s respective troubles; she reassured Sean that the revelation of his wife’s sobriety meant the women could support her and told Kelly she’d be happy to accompany Braunwyn to AA meetings (Kelly did not echo this sentiment). Additionally, her nonchalant “you’re gonna have to drain this” about the glass in the pool at the top of the episode was exactly the energy that moment called for. She is quickly growing on me!

Not showing as much kindness are Gina and Emily, gossiping about Braunwyn as they go shopping. Braunwyn isn’t a perfect person, and just because someone is struggling with something doesn’t mean they get a pass for all bad behavior, but Gina and Emily aren’t even talking about any certain crime of hers in this moment — they just don’t seem to like her. “I’m trying not to be judgmental,” Emily says even as she repeats Braunwyn’s confidences and they openly judge her. Gina reveals that her father was an alcoholic, so she’s had experience with it, but “it doesn’t sound like there’s any one thing that’s, like, driving the problem with her, it’s just a problem.” So since there’s not one thing driving Braunwyn to drink, it reflects more poorly on her? I hope that’s not what she meant to suggest.

Gina tells Emily that Braunwyn texted her to have a talk, and the episode ends with Braunwyn reaching out to the other ladies to discuss her upcoming vow renewal in Palm Springs — most notably Shannon, who makes a big show on the phone of being very injured while Braunwyn’s daughter Hazel adorably rolls around on the couch.

It strikes me as pretty obvious that Shannon probably did in fact say Gina’s house is “sad.” What is not obvious to me is why insisting she would never say such a heinous thing is the hill that Shannon has chosen to die on. Gina doesn’t care anymore and Braunwyn isn’t going to concede. It was ungenerous to say and inelegant to repeat, but who cares?

Maybe it’s the backdrop of Braunwyn’s very real struggles, or the knowledge that the pandemic looms on the horizon following the trip to Palm Springs, or even just the anxious state of the world in which this episode has landed, but the “sad” house and the winky-face text and the “lemonade boy” address really feel like extremely trivial dramas, and I say this as someone who sat through all of RHOBH’s Pantygate. Next week promises glimpses of Gina’s tense relationship with her ex-husband, a potential reconciliation between her and Braunwyn, and multiple fashion-show moments. No hint that we’ll have to suffer through any more commentary on Kelly’s sex life with her Fox New fiancé, so things are, hopefully, looking up.

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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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