After catching up in the premiere, we finally get all the ladies together in one place this week, as they start trying to move forward in their relationships and friendships with each other. But first, we have plenty of building up to do before we get there. We start the episode with Heather at All About the Cake in Dana Point. After three seasons, we've learned that Fancy Pants loves all the planning and details that go into a party, and the cake is always the most important part. (#BowGate anyone?) This time, she's putting together a launch party in Napa Valley for Collette, her new line of sparkling wine (named after her youngest because it sounded the most French, not because Coco is the favorite child). She wants the cake to look exactly like the Collette bottle, and has a seat reserved specially for it on the private plane they've chartered for the event.
Meanwhile, Shannon and David are at the last day of their couples retreat. The instructor brusquely informs them that there will be no coddling of feelings or emotional hand-holding on this final day, since they've gotten all their issues out in the open. Shannon announces in her confessional that while there is a 50% divorce rate in the U.S., the average is actually 60% in the state of California and a whopping 70% in Orange County alone. I'm not sure where she's getting these statistics from but maybe this sheds some light on the number of divorces we've seen through the years on RHOC? The Beadors, however, refuse to be part of that trend and are committed to fixing their marriage. The final exercise is one that's commonly used in many rehabilitation programs. Essentially, Shannon and David are tasked with envisioning their respective funerals, and must each write the eulogy they want the other to give at the service. A little morbid if you ask me, but definitely thought-provoking. Such serious subject matter is actually treated rather lightly at first, via bouncy music in the background and Shannon's flustered confessional pronouncements that "this is not normal!" That is, until the exercise starts. As David kneels at his wife's faux headstone, he starts getting choked up and emotional as he reads Shannon's eulogy and asserts that "Shannon gave [him] the gift of forgiveness." Shannon informs the viewers that David does not cry, and sees this as a pivotal moment in their relationship. When the couple switches roles, David's eulogy is kind of odd, and talks about how they "argued, yelled and screamed" at each other and "struggled to be a team." Shannon finishes by kissing her husband's imaginary dead corpse and says she can't imagine life without him.
Next, Tamra and Heather meet up at a juice bar for some girl talk. Tamra explains in her confessional that the two friends have moved past their issues from last year, and that Heather is the only one out of all the ladies that she truly trusts. As the pair start discussing the impending trip to Napa, Heather mentions that Lizzie will be coming. Tamra is obviously wary of this after sending the former Miss Kentucky home in tears following last year's reunion. But, as Heather points out, if she and Shannon can move on from their feud last year, surely Tamra and Lizzie can too. Tamra starts getting emotional while talking about everything going on in her life and her fractured relationships with the other ladies. I had a hard time understanding last year why Heather was so quick to take Tamra's side in certain issues, but I like that she consistently demonstrates that she's a loyal and supportive friend who sticks by the people she cares about. As Tamra claims that she "lost" herself last year, Heather counters that, well, they simply need to find her again. A fair weather friend, Fancy Pants is not.
Back at the couples retreat, Shannon and David are debriefing with a relationship coach. David has to list two ways he knows he's caused Shannon pain. First is obviously the affair, and second, he says that he essentially abandoned his kids by moving out temporarily. Apparently, their daughters found out about the affair after seeing text messages on his phone between David and his mistress. That's any kid's worst nightmare when trying to make sense of why dad isn't coming home every night. When Shannon has to list the two ways she's caused David pain, she only gets out one (not respecting him) before struggling to think of a second and getting cut off by the therapist. David admits he's worried that Shannon won't ever get over the betrayal, but she assures him that doesn't want to spend years punishing him and simply wants to move their relationship forward. In her interview, Shannon says she forgives David "100%" for the affair and has hope for the couple's future.
Meghan and Jimmy are furniture shopping, looking to redecorate and start over in their new house. Meghan explains in her confessional that she attaches a lot of memories to possessions, but that since all of the couple's current things came from Jim's second marriage, she doesn't necessarily feel that it's her home yet. Both come from failed marriages - two for Jimmy, one for Meghan - so they're rightfully fearful of things not working out this time, either. For only being married four months, you'd think they'd be a little more positive. Is the honeymoon phase already over? But Jim is spending half of his time back in St. Louis for work, which is putting some unfortunate stress on their marriage. It's always interesting to me when new Housewives come to the show with their marriages already looking like trouble. So far Meghan seems great, but in these first two episodes, Jim has come across as slightly dismissive of her. Not a great starting point.
Shannon and David come home from their retreat and immediately proceed to sit down with their three daughters to tell them about mom and dad's fun weekend. This is weird, right? And it gets weirder, as David decides that now is the appropriate time to ask each of his daughters for their forgiveness about his affair. This all feels kind of wrong with cameras there. You'd think this is the type of thing he'd want to do with his daughters one on one, in private. In the last week I've come around to the idea that Shannon and David documenting this part of their lives could potentially help other couples, but the healing with kids simply shouldn't be happening on camera.
Tamra and Eddie are cooking dinner at home, discussing Heather's upcoming trip to Napa, when Vicki unexpectedly calls from Puerto Vallarta. After all the trips they've taken there together, it's impossible for her to go to Mexico without thinking of Tamra. Vicki misses her friend, she says in her confessional, and wants to figure out a way for the two of them to be friends again. Apparently, this reconciliation starts with an invitation to Vicki's fiesta-themed dinner party with all the ladies once she gets back to the OC. Tamra asks about Brooks, who's supposed to start his third round of chemotherapy after the trip. In a flashback to the Season 7 finale, Tamra explains that Vicki's relationship with Brooks put a huge wedge between them, but that she can't keep going back to the same fight. After threats of full throttle throat punching if either is mean to the other, the two former friends agree to meet at the party.
Vicki's setting up for the fiesta, as she explains that Brooks is indeed living with her and she doesn't care what people think about that fact. Meanwhile, Meghan and Jim arrive at the Dubrows, where Heather points out that the party will be a test run for all the ladies before the trip to Napa. Meghan's slightly anxious about being thrown into this new group of women because, as she puts it in her interview, "I would be nervous of me if I wasn't me." I must say, I'm loving the girl's confidence.
As the party begins, there's a mariachi band playing and a tequila bar ready for revelers to imbibe. Lizzie and Christian are the first to arrive, and I am so happy to see them on my television screen. It's no small secret that I love Lizzie Rovsek and, while I'm disappointed that she was demoted to a Friend of the Housewives this year, I'll take as much screentime of the brunette beauty as I can get. Make that double for yummy, sexy Christian, whom I could stare at all day long. Lizzie admits that she's nervous to see Tamra after last year's ugly drama between the two, but that her plan is to smile, smile, smile and keep things fun. When Tamra arrives with Eddie in tow, she and Vicki share a tentative hug. This is the longest the two former BFFs have ever gone without seeing each other, so it's a little awkward as they test the waters.
Along with the Edmonds, Heather brings her future neighbor Katie Hamilton to the party. Katie's married to MLB player Josh Hamilton, and is a bit of a mystery to me. Originally she was supposed to be on the show in some capacity, as either a Housewife or Friend of, but dropped out of filming halfway through the season when her husband's drug addiction came to light and the baseball star filed for divorce. So, it'll be interesting to see how the show deals with her, exactly how many episodes she'll appear in and whether the producers will address her sudden disappearance. As a result of the contract falling through, she's credited as "Heather's neighbor" and Josh doesn't appear onscreen, even though he was at the party.
Former OC Housewife Jeana Keough also arrives to the fiesta, and Shannon is avoiding Tamra like the plague. Shannon explains in her confessional that Tamra's "lies and betrayal" last season were no small thing to her and that, while she's forgiven Tamra, she still needs more time to heal. Shannon also admits that she told Vicki a few details of the affair but none of the other ladies. According to her, the Beadors don't need the gossip or anyone trying to take them down - an obvious allusion to last year's drama.
Meanwhile, Meghan introduces herself to Vicki, but it turns out they met last year doing tequila shots at Heather's hoedown with David. Meghan is quick to apologize to Shannon if she was perceived as flirting with her husband, and Shannon shoots the biggest, coldest smile she can muster to the newbie. Awkward all around. Once Brooks says a prayer at the head of the table, dinner starts and super-appropriate dinner table jokes fly between Tamra and Lizzie about anal sex as Meghan looks on in amused horror. Are these two friends again? Across the table, Shannon is still avoiding conversation with many of the other ladies, choosing to make small talk with Katie about church dress codes and date nights.
Before long, Vicki appears in a giant sombrero to announce that it's piñata time! The blindfolded ladies take turns beating the piñata with a stick: first Heather, then Tamra in 7-inch Louboutin heels, before Meghan busts the thing wide open. Looks like the tall blonde may have picked up some of her husband's batting prowess. Shannon claims in her interview that Meghan seems just great, but her face from the sidelines as Meghan breaks the piñata might suggest otherwise. During the breaking of the piñata, Vicki and Tamra somehow end up holding hands, an observation Shannon is quick to point out under her breath to Lizzie. Here goes the Vicki/Tamra friendship cycle yet again. Shannon may have forgiven Tamra for last year's drama, but does that mean she needs to hold hands with her? No. The piñata happens to be filled with handcuffs, tequila and plenty of other toys. I wouldn't expect anything less from a Vicki Gunvalson party. As everyone's preparing to leave, the ladies do a ceremonial tequila shot together (Heather's goes right over her shoulder) in the spirit of wiping the slate clean and starting over.
Once all the other guests leave, Tamra stays behind for a one-on-one chat with her former best friend. As they sit down in Vicki's grotto, both are quick to admit they've been stuck on a hamster wheel of fighting for the past several years, and it's a cycle they'd both like to stop. Over wine, each confesses that she misses the other, and that things haven't been the same since their blow-up argument about Brooks at Heather's name change party four years earlier. Tamra claims that Vicki refuses to let the issue go, and that she's always looking for reasons to be mad. Vicki counters that Tamra needs to learn to shut her mouth when it comes to talking about Brooks with the other women. Both express a desire to move on from the nonsense, and want to trust each other with the details of their lives. As Vicki wisely points out in her interview, the two have been friends for eight years and have grown old together. The OG of the OC isn't ready to throw in the towel and never talk to Tamra again. With a clink of their glasses, the two former friends commit to starting fresh and moving forward in their renewed friendship. I'm happy to see Vicki and Tamra work things out, but do you think it will last? Here's to hoping that the dynamic duo can stay BFFs this time around...