With Season 10 premiering on Monday night, it's the perfect time for a reminder of where we left off on last season of the Real Housewives of Orange County. Though not explicitly stated, Season 9 was a bit of a hard reset in the OC. The years-long saga of frenemies and shifting alliances between Vicki, Tamra, Gretchen and Alexis that had driven the plot since seasons 4 & 5 was finally put to bed as the latter two were given the boot. Along with them, newbie Lydia McLaughlin was asked back but chose not to return. To replace the three exiting 'Wives, Bravo cast holistic housewife Shannon Beador and swimsuit designer and former beauty queen Lizzie Rovsek to join veteran Housewives Vicki, Tamra and Heather.
As the season opened, we found all three veterans in a time of transition. As Heather pointed out in Hawaii, Vicki's divorce to Donn was finalized, Tamra was starting a CUT Fitness as a newlywed and Heather had started a new gig as a co-host of the morning show Good Day L.A., and had moved her family into a rental home while building their new estate. However, the dynamic between the three friends quickly became apparent on the season-opening trip to Hawaii, as Heather was left playing third wheel to Vicki and Tamra's antics while the two blondes conversely thought Heather's Fancy Pants were on too tight. Additionally, Vicki and Tamra both spent the season grappling with the reality of their adult children moving away from the OC. Vicki's family drama didn't stop there, either. After the Season 8 reunion bombshell where her boyfriend Brooks' drunken, verbally abusive rant that was caught on recording, Vicki was forced to live two separate lives: one with her boyfriend and another with her daughter Briana.
From the very beginning, both Lizzie and Shannon also made their marks. I'm going to be honest: I adored one and thought the other was often cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. Let's see if you can tell which was which, shall we? Shannon was arguably the breakout star of the season. Obsessed with holistic medicine and being green, she came to the Housewives franchise with a special brand of crazy. Shannon was also astonishingly unfiltered on camera: her rocky marriage with husband David became apparent from the very first episode and drove much of her storyline for the season. Coined her signature "Shannon moments," the blonde mom of three was prone to over-the-top displays of emotion, ranging from bug-eyed freak outs ("You will all see the f*****g truth!") to weeping at the drop of a hat. Lizzie, on the other hand, was a down-to-earth former Miss Kentucky with a smoking hot husband and an incredibly intelligent brain beneath her glamorous looks. Much of her personal struggle during the year was trying to balance her home life and desire to have another baby with her growing swimwear line, Sun Kitten Swimwear. Real talk: with a husband as attractive as Christian Rovsek, I'm not sure the decision would be quite so complicated for me. But for Lizzie, the quest to have it all was worth the sacrifice.
Much of the season's interpersonal drama stemmed from this new group dynamic. Early in the season, Heather found herself on the outs, as Shannon bonded with Tamra and Vicki. And although they seemed to be likely friends when they met, Shannon and Heather simply didn't click. Whether they were squabbling over seating arrangements at Javier's or Shannon was arriving late to Heather's hoedown-themed groundbreaking ceremony, the two seemed to be constantly at odds over the tiniest things. On top of her problems with the new girl, Heather's longtime friendship with Tamra took a turn for the worse after she made an offhanded remark to Eddie about Tamra wanting to have a baby. Instead of communicating with Heather, Tamra chose to silently hold a grudge and began to find fault in everything her former bridesmaid did. By the time Heather pitched Tamra's fitness studio for a segment on Good Day LA, the tension between the two was palpable. Season 9's Good Day LA = Season 8's Malibu Country = Season 7's Fox 5, and I honestly couldn't get enough of it.
However, the real villain of the season turned out to be Tamra, thanks to her penchant for spreading gossip. Stuck between Heather and Shannon, she added fuel to the fire by confiding private information to Heather about Shannon's marriage, which then made the rounds throughout Newport Beach. This led, of course, to a late night confrontation between the two, culminating in Heather asking Shannon to leave her house. With the war between the holistic newbie and the brunette veteran in full swing, Tamra made matters worse by supposedly telling Shannon that the Dubrows wanted to "take the Beadors down" - a claim she emphatically and repeatedly denied. This all came to a head at Lizzie's beachside dinner party when the Dubrows were confronted with this piece of gossip and denied it, which sent Shannon into a wide-eyed rage as she stormed out of the party.
Tamra also managed to turn on Lizzie after ditching the beauty queen's birthday party at the last minute and making fun of her dress behind her back. The situation only got worse when Lizzie confronted Tamra at Heather's Valentine's party and an off-camera game of "Shag, Marry, Kill" escalated the bad blood between the two. By the time the cast trip rolled around, virtually every other 'Wife had underlying issues with Tamra's behavior and the web of gossip between all the cast members was tangled and complicated.
The cast trip to Bali was absolutely stunning and it's been at the top of my wanderlust wish list ever since the episodes aired. Between elephant riding and exploring ancient Hindu temples, everything about the country looked magical. The getaway also gave the ladies a chance to compare notes about Tamra's behavior and realize that all the issues in the group came back to Tamra as the source. While at the resort, Vicki also discovered that her longtime BFF was once again bashing Brooks behind her back, which was essentially the last nail in Tamra's coffin. At their final Balinese dinner, everything Tamra has said gets laid out on the table - from the Brooks-bashing and calling Shannon mentally unstable to rumors that she didn't really want Heather in her wedding and accusations that she plays both sides of the fence. Blindsided and on the defensive, Tamra lashes out at the other ladies and eventually bolts from the dinner, running barefoot through the resort to escape the attack.
By the reunion, Vicki, Shannon and Lizzie were squarely in one camp with Tamra in the other and Heather trying to see both sides. However, nothing really seemed to get resolved as Lizzie left the reunion in tears and the gloves came off between Vicki and Tamra. Her villainization complete, could Tamra the pot-stirrer gain forgiveness and get back in the other 'Wives good graces? Only time can tell as Season 10 kicks off Monday night.