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Real Housewives

Filtering by Category: Retrospective

RHOC Season 8 Uncensored

Glenn Rowley

real-housewives-of-orange-county-season-8-uncensored

In 2013, Season 8 of The Real Housewives of Orange County premiered on Bravo and ended up becoming one of the most unforgettable seasons in Housewives history. Thanks to the perfect combination of Housewives, surprising alliances, and major moments in the lives of the ladies, the season earned its own look back with the RHOC Season 8 Uncensored special. Featuring never-before-seen footage and brand new interviews with Housewives and producers alike, we got to learn more than we ever knew about what really went down in the OC. Read on for my full recap of all the revelations and new details from the special...

A Whole New Vicki?

vicki-gunvalson-plastic-surgery

The start of Season 8 revealed a shocking new face in the OC – except the new face was a Housewife we'd known since the beginning. Vicki Gunvalson. Between seasons, the OG of the OC had decided to get some fairly major plastic surgery on her face following the “Miss Piggy” comparisons levied at her by Slade Smiley in Season 7. Vicki specifically chose to undergo surgery while the cameras weren't rolling so that she could come into Season 8 healed and looking better than ever. However, this plan was foiled when her daughter Briana went into labor with Vicki's first grandchild and Bravo wanted to catch the moment on camera. So, production was pushed up to just a couple of weeks into the OG's post-surgery recovery. Camera crews arrived at the hospital on the night of baby Troy's birth and when Vicki came down to meet them in the parking lot, they were shocked to see her swollen face mostly frozen in place since the secret surgery. Much of the season essentially documented the healing process of Vicki's face - almost episode by episode fans could see differences in her appearance as the dust settled.

Shady Friendships & Shifting Alliances

vicki-gunvalson-alexis-bellino

To say that the season began with the dynamic between all the 'Wives in a very strange place is an understatement. For multiple seasons the shows main alliances consisted of Vicki and her BFF Tamra Judge in one corner and their arch-rivals Gretchen Rossi and Alexis Bellino in the other. However, over the course of the previous season, Vicki and Tamra's rock-solid sisterhood had been blown to smithereens by the OG's relationship with Brooks Ayers while Gretchen and Alexis feuded over a job as a local lifestyle correspondent for FOX5. In the most baffling turn of events possible, mortal enemies Tamra and Gretchen started Season 8 as BFFs, leaving Vicki and Alexis to develop a new friendship with each other. As such, the show entered unchartered territory with the women in alliances that just one year prior would have been unthinkable. 

Alexis Returns & Lydia Joins the Show

lydia-mclaughlin-rhoc-season-8-uncensored

Additionally, Alexis's return to the show, complete with a freshly-shorn haircut, was another surprise. Her story is that she quit the show after spending most of Season 7 as the primary target of the other women's criticism (pretentious intervention in Costa Rica, anyone?) while most of her co-stars claim she was fired by Bravo. Either way, Alexis still had more story left to tell, and this time she was coming back with a friend in tow...For Season 8 producers chose to add a sixth Housewife to the cast, which is a rare move for the OC franchise. Lydia McLaughlin joined the show as a friend of Alexis and brought a whole new flavor to Orange County. A thirty-two-year-old born again Christian who originally hailed from Canada, Lydia was the editor for Beverly Hills Lifestyle Magazine with her husband Doug - whom viewers lovingly dubbed "Jesus Abs." However, while she was already friends with Alexis, Lydia's first time meeting the rest of the women was more explosive than she could have ever predicted...

CUT Fitness Chaos

tamra-judge-season-8

In the first major event of the season, Tamra threw a dinner party to celebrate the groundbreaking of her new fitness studio, CUT Fitness. According to executive producer Kevin Lee, the party started off on the wrong foot because the rest of the 'Wives resented that Alexis was returning to the show. Battle lines were drawn as soon as Vicki walked in with Alexis and Lydia - with those three on one side and Tamra, Gretchen and Heather Dubrow firmly on the other. Co-executive producer Bill Fritz revealed that part of the tension stemmed from the fact that in between Seasons 7 and 8, Gretchen had accused former bestie Alexis and her "camp" of trying to steal a number of her personal appearances. Don't mess with a Housewife's fame, y'all. Of course, drama erupted the second Tamra confronted Alexis over why she would want to come to the dinner in the first place when she'd been threatening legal action against the hostess for slander, which resulted in the epic "YOU GET THE F--- OUT!" moment where Tamra kicked Alexis out the party. In the ensuing chaos, producers claimed that Heather made a beeline to them and promised she had other friends who could join the show to replace Alexis while Gretchen breaking into applause at her former friend getting booted signified the permanent end to their once-close friendship. What a welcome for Lydia, am I right?

Housewives Rules 101

Next, in an amusing segment the show's producers revealed the list of unspoken rules that the Housewives have developed over the years for being on camera. These rules of extreme convenience include the following:

gretchen-rossi-season-8
  • New 'Wives are never to stand in front of veterans on camera, particularly Tamra.
  • Housewives are to never eat on camera because it's impossible to look glamorous and beautiful while doing so.
  • Housewives form cliques and promise to have each other's back, but the alliances are subject to change from season to season.
  • All friendships of convenience between other 'Wives are to be exposed and undermined.
  • Develop real friendships with your fellow cast mates or you will be called out.

A Bachelorette Party Turned Battlefield

heather-dubrow-season-8

Next up for discussion is the unforgettable trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for Tamra's bachelorette party. Due to the flip-flopped friend dynamic of the season, Gretchen fell into the role of putting the bachelorette party together for Tamra rather than Vicki. Meanwhile, Alexis had been invited to Mexico but one of the hard and fast rules in the Bellinos' traditional marriage is "no bachelor or bachelorette parties," so she stayed behind in the OC. And while Heather ran behind the cameras and jokingly (but kind of seriously) threatened a sexual assault lawsuit if the Mexican strippers so much as touched her during the wild in the hotel, the bachelorette party turned into a turf war between Vicki and Gretchen over who was a better friend to the bride-to-be.

rhoc-andales

Vicki essentially went into the trip with a secret plan to snatch Tamra from Gretchen's clutches and when Gretch and Heather went to the bathroom following a snoozy first dinner, the OG saw her chance. With newbie Lydia in tow, Vicki kidnapped Tamra and ditched the other women to go to Andale's, her favorite dive bar in Puerto Vallarta. Despite not having filming permits for the bar and not really knowing where it even was, the Bravo crew spent the majority of the evening following Vicki and the other 'Wives through the streets of Puerto Vallarta as they bought light-up bows, danced on taxis and whooped it up once they found Andale's. Naturally, getting ditched left Gretchen infuriated and the conflict that came out of the night became pivotal to the season's story. Gretchen and Vicki were officially at war with Tamra as the victor's prize, and ultimately the OG would come out on top.

The Dubrows and the "D" Word

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One of Heather's major storylines for Season 8 was the conflict in her marriage with husband Terry Dubrow. After being considered for Season 5 (the year Alexis Bellino joined the show) it's a well-known fact that Terry actually forged Heather's signature on her contract when she finally joined the cast two years later. Terry was the one who pushed Heather to do the show, and producers even described her as a "reluctant participant in her husband's misadventures." Nowadays it's hard to imagine RHOC without Fancy Pants (she remains my all-time favorite OC 'Wife), but in her first couple seasons, Heather admits she had trouble really opening up in front of the cameras. Behind the scenes, the Dubrows' worst fights were about her being on the show because she didn't actually to do reality TV. So when Terry failed to support Heather's renewed acting career, which was being documented throughout the season, Fancy Pants threatened to quit the show and Terry threw the word "divorce" out during a blow-out fight between the two. By the time the season wrapped, Heather and Terry's marriage was stronger than ever but getting to that point was certainly a rocky road.

The Revenge of Lauri Waring Peterson

rhoc-lauri-waring-peterson

Season 8 also brought the return of a familiar face from the show's early days: OG Housewife Lauri Waring Peterson. After leaving the show midway through Season 4 to focus on her new blended family with her Prince Charming, George, Lauri blasted back onto the scene with an agenda to take down her old friend Vicki. Lauri had originally been Vicki's secretary and protege-of-sorts when the show premiered way back in 2006, but the moment she came back to film with Gretchen, Lauri threw the OG of the OC under the bus with a scandalous rumor that she'd caught her in a threesome back in the day. From Vicki's perspective, the attack was insulting but logical: in order for Lauri's return to be as relevant as possible, she had to go after the dog at the very top of the food chain. Mind you, Lauri insists in her interview that she didn't have any vendetta against Vicki, but that's a hard claim to swallow as fans watched the salacious drama unfold.

Go Yell It on the Mountain

vicki-gunvalson-season-8

A tricky game of telephone was born out of the gossip Lauri spread, and when the rumor reached Vicki during the cast trip to Canada, she exploded. Decked out in full snow bunny gear on the slopes of Whistler, the OG hunted down the show's executive producer, shoved him up against a brick wall and threatened him that it would hurt a lot worse if this storyline made it to air. To make matters worse, the other woman in the rumor actually turned out to be Vicki's sister, whom the OG insisted be cut out of the conversation. (Only after talking to her sister later and getting her blessing did Vicki use the fact to defend herself in blogs and on WWHL.) Producers note that Lauri was very careful not to ever use the term "threesome," but Vicki's ensuing freakout is still one of the most iconic moments in Housewives history.

Gretchen Rossi: A Cautionary Tale

gretchen-rossi

Next, the special addresses the downfall of Gretchen over the course of the eighth season. Executive producer Douglas Ross explains that when Gretch joined the show in Season 4, she let viewers completely into her life - from her relationship with now-deceased, older fiancé Jeff Beitzel to getting "naked wasted" by a scheming Tamra and Vicki, nothing seemed to be off-limits. However, as her time on the series progressed, Gretchen started presenting a much more whitewashed, inauthentic picture of herself. Once she started dating Slade Smiley, the much-reviled, self-proclaimed "Housewife Hunter," the execs at Bravo noticed that the couple always seemed to be working some sort of angle for the show. (We all remember the time Slade "bought" her with a Rolls Royce, right?) And everyone knows that once self-production is an automatic death sentence in the Housewives universe.

rhoc-gretchen-rossi-slade-smiley

This forced inauthenticity was never more clear than in Gretchen's decision to stage an elaborate rooftop proposal to Slade at the end of Season 8. For three seasons, Slade had been floating out the idea of getting engaged to Gretchen but never quite seemed to be able to pull the trigger. Flipping the script in the name of quasi female empowerment, Gretchen put together an extravagant proposal for her boyfriend that involved a song on the radio, a helicopter ride and all of their family and friends - but none of the other Housewives. Heather opines in her confessional that Slade was probably in on the surprise and even Andy Cohen notes that the entire event rang hollow and felt purely put on for the cameras. (Obviously Gretchen denies this.) Not inviting any of her cast mates also proved to be one of the final nails in the coffin for Gretch, though during the special she points the finger at producers for why none of the other ladies were included. Also, it's important to note that it's now been three years and Gretchen and Slade still aren't married. Maybe they'll walk down the aisle if someone offers to turn their wedding into a TV special a la Tamra's OC's Wedding

Winter Wonderland Finale & the Reunion of Rainbow Dresses

rhoc-season-8-reunion

By the time Vicki's Winter Wonderland-themed finale party came around, every other Housewife had her own personal issues with Gretchen. So, throughout the party poor Gretchen was forced to go on a giant apology tour, moving from one sit-down to the next so all the women could air their grievances against her. To this day, Gretch maintains that the other Housewives banded together to get her off the show, but we all know that's not exactly how cast changes work. At the Season 8 reunion, which in my opinion stands as possibly the best Housewives reunion ever, resentment toward Gretchen was at an all-time high and she had simply burned too many bridges to have any shot of staying on the show for Season 9. 

The Legacy of Season 8 in the OC

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To this day, Season 8 of The Real Housewives of Orange County remains a high water mark for both the show and the franchise as a whole. Alexis was let go at the end of the season when it became clear that viewers had now seen the beginning, middle and end to her story arc, while newbie Lydia chose to walk away after just a single season to focus on her family and have a third baby. As Andy succinctly states in the special's closing moments, Season 8 remains iconic for being a changing of the guard in Orange County and will never be forgotten in the annals of Housewives history and the larger pop culture.

What did you think of the RHOC Season 8 Uncensored special? Do you love the season as much as I do? Should Gretchen, Alexis and/or Lydia ever return to the show? Leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

RHOC Turns 10: Celebrating a Decade of Housewives History

Glenn Rowley

rhoc-ten-year-anniversary

On March 21, 2006, a little show about a group of five women in Orange County, California premiered on Bravo. Billed as a look behind the gates of the exclusive community of Coto de Caza, The Real Housewives of Orange County was reality TV's attempt to capitalize on the massive successes of Desperate Housewives and The O.C. No one could have guessed at the time that the show would not only outlast both of its fictional counterparts by years, it would spawn a global media franchise that would blaze a trail for the entire genre of reality TV. 

At the time, I was a junior in high school who spent countless days glued to the drama surrounding Stephen, LC and Kristen on Laguna Beach, so when I heard about another reality show in the OC, I perked up. Cozied up in my parents' room, I clicked the remote to Bravo and immediately became immersed in the lives of these glamorous OC women and their families. Little did I know how much I would come to love the Housewives or just how much the franchise would come to mean to me over the next decade. 

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

The show began with five original Housewives: high energy insurance maven Vicki Gunvalson, former Playmate-turned-MLB-wife Jeana Keough, single mom Lauri Waring, trophy fiancé Jo De La Rosa and pro-plastic surgery soccer mom Kimberly Bryant. Over the course of the first season, we saw the 'Wives with their families (including Jo's fiancé, future OC staple Slade Smiley) and interact socially. Back then, the show wasn't so much about drama and conflict between the women, it simply captured their day-to-day reality.

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

We watched Vicki send her daughter Briana off to senior prom and attend her own 25-year high school reunion and Jeana raise her three competitive kids. Lauri dealt with her teenage son Josh's legal problems while working for Vicki as an insurance agent. Jo and Slade navigated the murky waters of being engaged despite their considerable age difference (Jo was only 24 when she filmed Season 1!) and Kimberly felt the pressures of the OC lifestyle - upgrading her car, shopping for a house and proclaiming in her opening tagline that "85 percent of the women around here have breast implants." In fact, the most dramatic plot point of the entire season was Kimberly's skin cancer scare towards the end of filming, which resulted in the Bryant family relocating to the Midwest after the show wrapped. All in all, Season 1 comes across as a bare-bones prototype of what Housewives has become today. I mean, the first season reunion consisted of Vicki, Jo, Lauri and Jeana sitting poolside in the Gunvalson's iconic backyard to chat about the season with no Andy Cohen in sight!

As I said, there was no way to predict that Housewives would become a pop culture phenomenon over the next 10 years, but how grateful we are that it did. Without the first season of RHOC, we wouldn't have any of the iconic, watercooler moments the franchise has given us with over the years: Teresa's Table Flip. Aviva's Leg Throw. The Dinner Party from Hell. Scary Island. Slutty Island. LimoGate."Bye, Wig!" The existence of Big Poppa. The Pretentious Intervention in Costa Rica. Brooks Ayers' fake cancer. The Bethenny/Jill feud. The redemption of Queen Camille Grammer. The Gorga/Guidice christening brawl. Every single tagline and reunion walk-off. Need I continue?

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Furthermore, we wouldn't have been gifted with so many memorable moments over the last 10 years of the OG of the OC: Vicki screaming about threesomes on a mountaintop in Whistler. Vicki on the bar at Andale's. Vicki having a full-blown emotional breakdown in Costa Rica. Vicki screaming about the family van. Vicki not knowing what a "circle jerk" is while riding a children's train. The constantly changing state of Vicki's love tank. Every single "woo-hoo!" and "whoop it up!" The list truly could go on and on...

So thank you Bravo and thank you to the five original women who let us into your lives and started this fabulously entertaining world known as the Real Housewives. We are forever in your debt. 

Kristen Taekman: Pretty Girl in the Big Apple

Glenn Rowley

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

After two seasons as one of the Real Housewives of New York City, resident Pretty Girl Kristen Taekman announced back in October 2015 that she's leaving the show ahead of Season 8. In her exclusive statement to Us Weekly, Kristen stated that she was choosing to focus on her family and her growing number of business ventures including her nail polish line, Pop of Color and her fashion blog, Last Night's Look. In the wake of the Season 8 trailer being released this week, I decided it was the perfect time to look back at Kristen's two seasons as a Housewife and break down why the Pretty Girl was good for the NYC franchise.

Season 6

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Kristen was introduced as the newest Housewife in Season 6, taking a demoted Countess Luann de Lesseps' spot in the cast. From her first moment on screen, the statuesque blonde generated a buzzy first impression on 'Wives and viewers alike - first with her controversial opening tagline ("I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I'm pretty"), then with her surprise appearance at Heather Thomson's birthday party in the season premiere. The former model, mother of two and self-professed Elvis super fan was brought into the cast by the Yummy founder, who worked with Kristen's husband Josh for years under P. Diddy's employ at Bad Boy. Feeling gun shy about letting a new woman into the group after the massive self-implosion of Aviva Drescher during the season prior and intimidated by the new girl's stunning looks, veterans Ramona Singer and Sonja Morgan took it upon themselves to corner Kristen at the party to make sure she could be trusted - leaving the newcomer feeling like she was being interrogated by a pair of "crazy, drunk aunts." Things were clearly off to a good start.

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

As the season began, battle lines were already drawn between Aviva and many of the other women, with Kristen left in the middle to navigate the proverbial minefield as she got to know her new cast mates. Right away, she hit it off with Heather's other BFF, Carole Radziwill, joining some of the other women to celebrate when Carole was named Queen of the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. Yet, when #BookGate erupted between Carole and Aviva, Kristen tried to stay neutral in an effort to give the latter a fair chance. However, when she tried to express her desire to stay out of the feud during a playdate between her and Aviva's kids, the one-legged villain bluntly told Kristen to "shut the f*** up" about it, leaving the newbie visibly stunned and rightfully prompting her to side with Carole over the baseless ghostwriter accusations Aviva had leveled against her. 

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

Just as #BookGate was reaching its dramatic climax, Kristen found herself in her own battle with veteran Ramona. The tension between the two started when Ramona and Sonja decided to boycott Heather and Jonathan's 10th anniversary party after Aviva wasn't included on the guest list. Being a friend of Heather's, this didn't sit well with Kristen and she decided to confront Ramona about her childish behavior over the Fourth of July weekend in the Hamptons. Naturally, the Ramonacoaster didn't take kindly to being confronted and defensively lashed out at Kristen, saying she was nothing more than a pretty face until she decided to stand up for Heather. Going head to head with the OG of the NYC takes some major guts, and Kristin pointedly showed Ramona that she didn't have any problem sticking up for herself or her friends.

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Once a 'Wife lands on Ramona's bad side, things were only bound to get worse, and get worse they did. During a day of spa treatments, Sonja accused Ramona of sabotaging her relationship with her boyfriend of the moment, and when Kristen jokingly chimed in that maybe Ramona was jealous, the OG impetuously tossed her glassful of champagne at the newbie. Taken aback, Kristen reacted by splashing Ramona back, dousing her with water from the hot tub and ruining her blow-out - and we all know how seriously the Ramonacoaster takes her blow-outs. An annoyed Ramona proceeded to storm off to put her hair in curlers, calling Kristen a "real b***h" while failing to recognize that she was the one who threw champagne at the model in the first place.

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

However, the water war was far from over. The very next episode, Heather invited all the women (minus Aviva) on a girls' weekend to her vacation home in the Berkshires. Ramona was none too thrilled about this trip, insinuating that the only poor people vacationed in the Berkshires but went along anyway. It was on this trip that the drama escalated to a whole new level. On a day of fishing and swimming at the local watering hole, Kristen snuck up to Ramona's canoe, eavesdropped on the OG badmouthing her and Josh to Sonja and decided to surprise Ramona by splashing her (again!). Furious, Ramona retaliated by chucking her glass of wine at Kristen - this time with the glass included. Just as Ramona reached for an oar to throw along with it, the glass connected with Kristen's face, splitting her lip and, for the first and only time in Housewives history, drawing blood. As Kristen swam to shore to ensure she wouldn't need stitches, Ramona refused to take any accountability for physically injuring her cast mate, attempting to blame the situation on Kristen for splashing her in the first place. Only hours later did Ramona give a half-hearted "sort of, I guess" apology, which - rather than resolving the issue - led to a screaming match between the two. While Kristen had every right to be angry about getting a face full of wine glass, in hindsight it was the perfect mix of hilarious and ludicrous to see Ramona shrieking "Who are you to get me wet?! Did I ask you to get me wet?!" at the top of her lungs. (Upon their return to NYC, Ramona eventually apologized for real - complete with a bouquet of flowers - though Kristen still managed to call her a "monster" while accepting the long overdue mea culpa.)

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Later in the season, Kristen took the reins of the yearly cast trip, persuading the women to spend a week at an upscale dude ranch outside of Missoula, Montana. A week in the middle of nowhere wasn't exactly the kind of vacation some of the ladies were used to (ahem, Ramonja), and Montana certainly pushed the 'Wives out of their comfort zones as they drove cattle, shot rifles, repelled down a mountain, threw hatchets and went to a real-life rodeo. The outdoor adventure wasn't without its fair share of drama however. In the most unexpected showdown of the season, Kristen squared off against her old friend Heather during an afternoon of geocaching, accusing her of being "bossy" and needing to be in control of every area of her life - including her husband and her friends. By trip's end, the pair were able to bury the proverbial hatchet and move on, but not before a tense shouting match on a night of "glamping" with Kristen draped in a giant fur coat.

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

As viewers got to know Kristen better throughout the season, her family life became the backbone for much of her personal storyline - particularly her relationship with Josh. Prior to letting cameras into their lives, the Taekmans had relocated from California back to New York City so that Josh could focus on his entrepreneurial venture EBOOST, a line of natural energy drinks and pre-workout supplements. Launching a new business and moving across the country had put a bit of strain on the couple's relationship and they often bickered on camera over Josh's ineffective balancing of his work and home life. Josh often seemed to talk down to Kristen, even going so far as to scream at her for interrupting a conference call when she called to ask when he would be home for dinner. In one particularly memorable moment, Josh convinced Kristen to run the 2013 Spartan Race as a couple, along with Heather and Jonathan. Despite his promises to stay by her side throughout the race, Josh essentially left Kristen in the dust, leaving her to navigate through mud pits, 25-foot climbing ropes, barbed wire and other obstacles on her own. 

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

Things eventually unraveled to the point that Kristen managed to persuade Josh to meet with a professional to work on the issues in their relationship. In their initial meeting with a therapist...er, "mediator" according to Josh...the Taekmans agreed that lack of healthy communication was the number one problem plaguing their marriage. Heartbreakingly, Kristen tearfully admitted that she constantly felt secondary to Josh's company, and that no matter how much she did to support him, she sometimes felt he didn't love her. However, they left the session on a positive note, promising to each work on communicating and being open with the other.

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

Kristen's rookie season ended both successfully and dramatically for her. On the successful hand, she leveraged her relationship with the boss to book a modeling campaign for EBOOST, which was the first step in reigniting a new chapter in her modeling career. On the dramatic hand, Kristen found herself united with the rest of the 'Wives against Aviva, who had bowed out of the Montana trip at the last second under the guise of having "moderate to severe asthma." Having been absent for a large chunk of the season, Aviva confronted Kristen and the other women at the season finale party at Le Cirque, slamming her prosthetic leg on the table and throwing it across the room in an over-the-top display that Kristen and her fellow 'Wives called out for being premeditated and inauthentic. Yet, in the moment, it was Kristen's aghast reaction that spoke for every viewer watching at home.

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

In the three-part Season 6 reunion, Kristen got the coveted hot seat right next to Andy Cohen. Anchoring #TeamLeftCouch with Heather, Carole and Luann, she battled it out with Ramona over the wine glass toss in the Berkshires, called Sonja "delusional" and called BS on Aviva's villainous season-long antics. However, possibly the best thing about Kristen's first reunion was her stunning outfit, which featured a custom silver bustier top by designer Christiaan Choy paired with a gorgeous high-waisted, navy Lanvin skirt, Jimmy Choo heels and Deborah Pagani jewelry. In the sit-down's final moments, Kristen explained that her biggest takeaway from her first season as a Housewife was what she referred to as the importance of the "art of communication" in both her marriage and her friendships with the women. She also even managed to clink glasses with Ramona while accepting the OG's final apology for how she treated her over the course of the season.

Season 7

bethenny-frankel-kristen-taekman-battle-of-brunches

As Season 7 began, Kristen was firmly aligned with the rest of #TeamLeftCouch while Aviva was out and Bethenny Frankel was back after a three-season absence. With the outspoken Skinnygirl mogul back in the mix, the dynamic of the group shifted dramatically within the first few episodes, and when OGs Bethenny and Ramona threw competing brunches in the Hamptons, Kristen, Carole, Heather and Luann were caught in the middle as they diplomatically went to both midmorning meals. Yet despite the invitation to brunch, Kristen was left out in the cold when Bethenny's birthday came around and she found herself as the only 'Wife who didn't get an invite to the party.

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Kristen also managed to butt heads with newbie Dorinda Medley early in the season. Following an incident at Dorinda's cocktail party at World Bar when her boyfriend John Mahdessian got a bit too touchy-feely with both Kristen and Sonja, the Pretty Girl found herself on the receiving end of Dorinda's rage. At a weekend getaway in the Berkshires to celebrate Dorinda's birthday, Kristen mentioned to Ramona that John's flirty behavior made her uncomfortable and the conversation set Dorinda off. Defending her controversial boyfriend, the newcomer accused Kristen of "playing coquettish" and not being entirely innocent in the whole situation. However, the argument eventually turned into a genuine moment between the ladies as Dorinda opened up about how much John had helped her following the passing of her husband Richard and Kristen agreed to chalk the incident at World Bar up to a simple misunderstanding.

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Kristen also used her second season on the show as a platform to launch new business ventures, including her fabulous fashion blog, Last Night's Look, and her nail polish line called Pop of Color. However, even Kristen's businesses weren't without a heaping dose of drama when she found out from Carole that Bethenny was criticizing her behind her back for allegedly failing to trademark Pop of Color. Up to this point, Kristen had continuously felt boxed out by the Skinnygirl, and when she tried to confront Bethenny over her trademark comments, the OG literally got up and walked away from the conversation - making it abundantly clear she wasn't interested in engaging with the Pretty Girl.

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Kristen's feud with Bethenny continued as the women began planning their cast trip to the Turks and Caicos. At the launch party for Luann's fashion line, the Countess Collection, Ramona decided to jump into the fray by sticking up for Bethenny and calling Kristen "dumb" for not seeing that the Skinnygirl was going through a difficult time in her life. Over the course of her two seasons as a Housewife, the d-word was continually a hot button for Kristen and this moment was no exception. Firing back that she can't know what's going on in Bethenny's life when Bethenny won't talk to her, Kristen stormed away from the conversation, but not before pointedly letting Ramona know that she could defend herself without throwing her wine glass.

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

Following the epic trip to the Turks and Caicos, Kristen hosted a Denim and Diamonds decorating party for the women to create custom jeans to be auctioned off at her Smile Train charity event. However, what was supposed to be a fun day of crafty decorating turned out to be a series of confrontations between the 'Wives, with Bethenny taking Kristen to task for talking about her in the press and then the Pretty Girl trying to mediate blow-ups between Heather, Luann and Dorinda. Even so, Kristen's actual Smile Train event turned out to be a massive success, raising money for cleft palate surgeries for kids in developing countries - as well as generating drama between Ramona and Heather over whose products received higher billing as an event sponsor.

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As the season drew to a close, Kristen once again experienced equal doses of personal success and interpersonal drama. In an exciting turn of events, Kristen collaborated with famed designer Elie Tahari during New York Fashion Week to officially debut Pop of Color during the presentation of his collection. Later, at Ramona's New Beginnings party, Sonja had a bone to pick with Kristen, confronting her over comments she made during Lady Morgan's fashion show to the New York Post about the toaster oven that never was. Without even reading the article, Sonja had decided she didn't want to be friends with Kristen anymore, but was forced to eat crow when the Pretty Girl actually pulled the article up on her phone and proved her comments were anything but malicious.

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

At the Season 7 reunion, Kristen stunned in a bold Maestro by Sylvio gown, long blonde hair extensions and, naturally, Pop of Color nails. However, she also found herself at the end of the couch, far from her prime seating at the prior reunion. Over the course of the three-part sit-down in the Edison Ballroom, Kristen struggled a bit to get a word in edgewise, but rehashed her conflicts with Bethenny, Dorinda and Sonja, coined the phrase "underbelly of anger" in reference to Dorinda's dirty martini-fueled dark side and called out Ramona for letting a complete stranger sleep naked and unattended in the room attached to Carole and Heather's in the Turks and Caicos. The one issue that didn't get covered that I was dying to hear one last argument about was Bethenny and Kristen's clash about Pop of Color and talking to the press. Overall, though, the reunion ended on a positive note for all the women, and they even went out to dinner together after the day's filming wrapped.

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Following Season 7, scandal struck the Taekman household when Josh's name was linked to the Ashley Madison hack and it came to light that he had an account on the infidelity network. While he first denied having any knowledge of the website, Josh eventually caved to "foolishly" signing up for an account with some friends, but insisted he had never actually been unfaithful to Kristen. The scandal was made all the more poignant when the Season 7 Secrets Revealed episode aired, showing Kristen and Josh celebrating their 10th anniversary with an elegant black tie party at Tavern on the Green. Donning her gorgeous lace wedding dress, Kristen gave an emotional, loving toast at the event, and expressed in her confessional how important it felt to stop and recognize such a major milestone in her relationship with Josh. 

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All in all, I'm an unabashed Kristen Taekman fan. Over the course of her two seasons on the show, she added both a chic and modern fashion sense and a genuine kindness to the group dynamic, and her presence will be sorely missed. While I'm very much looking forward to Season 8, I'm really sad to see Kristen go and even though the adage "once a Housewife, always a Housewife" holds true, I think it's safe to say that The Real Housewives of New York City has sadly gotten a little less pretty.

 

Faye Resnick: Morally Corrupt or Misunderstood?

Glenn Rowley

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For the past six seasons of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Faye Resnick has been a lightning rod of criticism and controversy nearly every time she's appeared onscreen. After a couple of seasons away from the cameras, the sometimes-Friend of the Housewives has returned in the current sixth season and ignited a firestorm amongst 'Wives and viewers alike. However, after all her time on the show, the question needs to be asked: does Faye deserve the bad rap she's received or is she simply being misrepresented? For this week's feature, I'm looking back on Faye's intermittent appearances on RHOBH to figure out the answer.

Season 1

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Faye's first appearance on RHOBH was during Season 1's now-iconic Dinner Party From Hell. Three quarters of the way through the season, Camille Grammer hosted the meal at her palatial Malibu estate that would set the precedent for all subsequent dinner parties in every city of the Housewives franchise. Besides the 'Wives, Camille invited her best friend Dedra Whitt as well as psychic medium Allison DuBois to the dinner party and Kyle Richards brought along Faye for support. All season long, Kyle and Camille had been butting heads over an off-hand comment Kyle had supposedly made off-camera questioning why anyone would be interested in Camille without her (soon-to-be ex-)husband Kelsey. Kyle denied making the comment, calling Camille "insecure" and "such a f***ing liar," which escalated the feud between the two. Needless to say, by the time the infamous dinner party rolled around, the two weren't exactly on the friendliest terms.

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All in all, the Dinner Party from Hell started civilly until Camille requested an explanation of who exactly Faye was. At the far end of the table, Kyle began explaining that Faye was a longtime friend of her family's, but Camille cut her off to declare that she knew where she'd seen Faye before: posing in Playboy after the O.J. Simpson trial. (A little background: in the 90s, Faye was Nicole Brown Simpson's best friend and was even living with her up until a few days before her gruesome murder. She became a key player in the subsequent media frenzy and trial, turning her into something of a household name at the time.) In her confessional, Camille dubbed her "the morally corrupt Faye Resnick" and the nickname stuck like glue. I mean sure, Camille had posed for Playboy at one point too, but it was for the Book of Lingerie and she wasn't coming off the murder trial of the century, OK? From there the dinner party descended into chaos, filled with contagious fighting and cruel, alcohol-fueled "readings" from an e-cigarette puffing medium we'll never forget. Know that.

Season 3

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After a few appearances in Season 2 (she was there when we met Brandi Glanville at the "wedge but no bra party"), Faye's presence on RHOBH increased in the third season. The primary source of drama that year surrounded the feud between Brandi Glanville and Adrienne Maloof involving secrets Brandi had made public about Adrienne's family. (In fact, the information was so private that Bravo was legally barred from sharing it on camera, though we later learned through the media that the secret involved the surrogacy of Adrienne and Paul Nassif's children.) As a friend of Kyle's, Faye was present at numerous group events at the time and when Kyle threw a small dinner to break in her newly-renovated dining room, Faye was on the guest list. Adrienne, however, was not at the party. Following her massive blow-up with Brandi in the episode prior, the tension was at an all-time high and she chose not to attend. Naturally, the explosive drama was the night's topic of conversation and Faye took it upon herself to go head-to-head with Brandi and defend the absent Adrienne. 

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What Faye said made perfect sense as she called Brandi out for her history of hitting below the belt and turning on her cast mates for seemingly no reason. However, going on the attack made Brandi look like the victim in the situation and as the blonde bad girl excused herself from the table and left the party in a flurry of tears and "poor me" platitudes, Faye was left looking like the bad guy. Sensing they had a potential pot-stirrer on their hands, Bravo promptly promoted Faye to official Friend of the Housewives status - adding her to an already gigantic cast. However, and this I will never understand, viewers responded overwhelmingly negatively to Faye on the show, inexplicably siding with Brandi even though Adrienne and her family were the real victims. In fact, when Faye wrote her first (and only) blog for Bravotv.com to tell her side of the story and again defend Adrienne, it was so unanimously reviled by fans and inundated with negative comments that the blog post was taken down, never to be read again - and with it, Faye's role as an unintentional villain was cemented in the Housewives lexicon.

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Due to her upgraded role on the show, Faye continued to appear at major events throughout the remainder of the season. She took an absent Kim's place at the tea party thrown by Lisa Vanderpump which devolved into a screaming match between Adrienne and Brandi over who was suing who, and had a front-row seat to their next confrontation at Kyle's annual White Party. While Faye wasn't invited on the cast trip to Paris, she helped Kyle celebrate the opening of her store, Kyle by Alene Too (which Faye designed) and reveled in filling the ladies in at the launch party for Adrienne's new vodka line on some of Brandi's naughty behavior at the White Party. (Apparently, the bad girl of Beverly Hills had a little less-than-fully-clothed sexy time with a stranger in Kyle's daughter's room in the middle of the party...) She even got her own confessional look by season's end! If a Friend of the Housewives' job was to show up to events and stir the pot, Faye was certainly doing a good job of it. 

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At Lisa Vanderpump and Ken Todd's 30th anniversary vow renewal, which served as the Season 3 finale, Faye did a quick job of inserting herself squarely in the middle of the drama. In the wake of Adrienne and Paul's announcement that they were separating, she faced off once again with Brandi over the self-proclaimed truth cannon's role in the demise of the marriage. Further, she warned Yolanda Foster that she was being manipulated by the former model, and when Brandi demanded she "be a lady" and leave the conversation, Faye delivered her most quotable moment of the season: "No matter how many Chanels you borrow, you will never, ever be a lady." She followed that barb up by asking Brandi how she felt about breaking up a family, thereby placing blame squarely on Brandi's shoulders for adding undue stress to Adrienne and Paul's relationship. Later, Faye took aim at Lisa Vanderpump, accusing the queen bee of getting Brandi's mouth to do most of the dirty work for her in her season-long vendetta against Adrienne. Obviously, Lisa was insulted by this suggestion and turned around to accuse Faye of being Kyle's mouthpiece when she happened to use a chess analogy to describe Lisa's behind-the-scenes machinations. Inevitably, the entire cast joined the conversation, arguing over who fights whose battles and whether Brandi was playing tiddlywinks in Portia's room at 1 a.m. the night of the White Party. Tiddlywinks? Talk about a random reference for the season to go out on...

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Faye wasn't invited to attend the Season 3 reunion, likely because of the negative response from viewers about her, but that doesn't mean she wasn't a hot topic of conversation at the sit-down. In a segment from the Secrets Revealed episode, Brandi, Lisa and Kyle went at it over whether Faye really was her friend's mouthpiece during the season. Lisa insisted that Faye must have been on Kyle's payroll, but Kyle fired back that Faye was her own person with her own opinions. And further, Kyle swore up and down that she had never needed a mouthpiece in her life - clearly evidenced by the past three seasons - so why would she start now? Without Faye there to defend herself, however, I suppose we'll never know the full story. Then, following the overwhelming backlash she received from fans, Faye all but disappeared for the next two seasons of the show. 

Season 6

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Cut to Season 6, where things start to get reeeeeally interesting. After a couple years away, Faye returned to the show this season - not in any official capacity, but as Kyle's friend - redesigning Kyle's new closet and coming to events. Somewhat serendipitously, a new wave of public interest has brought the O.J. Simpson trial back into the forefront of pop culture, likely fueled by the murder trial's 20th anniversary at the end of 2015. Just as Faye starts popping back up on the show, new Housewife Kathryn Edwards joins the cast. It turns out that at the time of Nicole Simpson Brown's murder, Kathryn was married to Marcus Allen, who was one of O.J.'s best friends. During the year-long trial, Faye capitalized on her first 15 minutes of fame by partnering with Mike Walker, a gossip columnist for The National Enquirer, to write Nicole Brown Simpson: The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted. In the scandalous book, Faye alleged that Nicole had an affair with Marcus Allen and that Kathryn turned a blind eye to the dalliance. Both Marcus and Kathryn denied the accusation, but it became a part of the media's narrative as the nation followed along on the edge of its seat. Tell me that all of these moving pieces coming together is just a coincidence...

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When Kathryn was introduced on the show part-way through this season and her connection with O.J. Simpson was discovered, one of Kyle's first questions was, obviously, whether she knew Faye. Kathryn vehemently denied ever meeting her and explained that 20 years of bad blood remain between the women over what Faye wrote about Kathryn in her book. According to the new 'Wife, neither her name nor her ex-husband was ever mentioned in any connection to the tragedy until Faye's book dragged them into the frenzy. Needless to say, she didn't view Faye in the most positive of lights. Yet, with Kathryn starting to hang around Kyle and the other women, it was only a matter of time before she came face-to-face with the nemesis she had never met. Little did she know that opportunity would come sooner rather than later. 

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In just the next episode, Kyle invited all the ladies - including both Kathryn and Faye - to a small BBQ at her house. Upon learning that Kathryn was on the guest list, Faye insisted to Kyle that she held no ill will toward the other woman, but had no desire to bring up the past and force such a sensitive conversation. Kathryn, on the other hand, was ready for a fight. After building a war up in her head between herself and Faye, she confronted her enemy at the BBQ over what she saw as the giant, 20-year-old elephant in the room. However, as I broke down in my episode recap, Faye was having none of it and politely refused to engage in the confrontation, saying there wasn't much left to talk about at this point and issuing a blanket apology at the table to anyone she had offended or hurt. This effectively took the air out of Kathryn's fired up sails, though it didn't stop her from contending with Kyle the next week over whether Faye was a good person.

Who is Faye Resnick? 

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So, is Faye Resnick the "morally corrupt" villain she's been made out to be or is she a casualty of editing and viewer misperception? This may not be a popular opinion, but I'd say that based on what we've actually seen on the show, I'm leaning towards the latter. Hear me out, though. The biggest thing that makes me stop and consider is the number of Housewives who have spoken up in Faye's defense. It's well-known that Kyle is my all-time favorite Housewife, so I may be a little biased but I'm confident in saying that she is a good judge of character. As she stated at the end of the BBQ, Faye is the friend Kyle knows she can count on at 3 in the morning and has been through thick and thin with her. On top of that, numerous other 'Wives including Kim Richards, Eileen Davidson and Camille Grammer have all defended Faye in the media. Camille even publicly apologized for the "morally corrupt" moniker, saying in a recent interview with Bravo's Daily Dish that she wishes people would stop using the insult to describe Faye, whom she's gotten to know and developed a friendship with in the intervening years. The list of 'Wives who don't like Faye include the following: Brandi Glanville and Lisa Vanderpump. Does that tell you anything?

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The fact also remains that - when you actually break it down - Faye has never actually done anything on the show to warrant such a negative backlash. The Dinner Party from Hell was the very first impression that viewers got of her, and let's face it, no one came out of that night unscathed. When it comes to Faye's involvement in Season 3, I have to say that I largely agree with her. No, she didn't always handle things as properly as she could have (i.e. the Chanel bags low blow), but I side with her for sticking up for Adrienne in the feud with Brandi. I was on Team Adrienne from the beginning and I think it's safe to say that with hindsight, a lot of fans would now agree with me that Brandi was in the wrong. Whether we'll see more of Faye this season is something we'll have to wait to find out, but until then we can be sure to watch Connie Britton's riveting portrayal of her on FX's The People vs. O.J. Simpson...or just binge from The Dinner Party from Hell all the way through to the Moulin Rouge party. Who's up for a marathon? 

What do you think of Faye's time on RHOBH? Let me know in the comments!

Amber Marchese: RHONJ's One-Season Survivor

Glenn Rowley

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After only one season on RHONJ, pot-stirring troublemaker Amber Marchese announced that she is leaving the franchise behind. In her exclusive statement to PEOPLE, she attempts to place blame completely on the network for how she was portrayed on the show. "I was picked on a casting call while pursuing acting, and the person who was presented was created for the show," her statement said. "I had little control over content, situations, or what they decide to show the viewers." In what she possibly views as going out in a blaze of glory, Amber also tries to throw her fellow 'Wives under the bus, saying, "Even my relationship with the twins was created. I recruited them for my storyline after I was chosen. I only met with Teresa Giudice and Dina Manzo for filming purposes. I never built a friendship with them as we were nothing more than co-workers. I wish them all well and the best of luck, although, my husband does not share my sentiments." Misused commas aside, the statement sounds to me like a bitter play for taking others out with her as she exits the Bravoverse stage left. For this week's second feature in a row, I'm taking a look back at the dramatic highs and lows of Amber's singular season as one of the Real Housewives of New Jersey.

Season 6

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Amber was introduced in the show's revamped sixth season as an old friend of Melissa Gorga's. In addition, she brought identical twins Teresa Aprea and Nicole Napolitano (whose boyfriend Bobby was best friends with Amber's husband Jim) along as new Housewives to round out the new cast. Almost immediately though, it seemed that Amber had a bone to pick with her old buddy Melissa. The two spent the majority of their twenties partying and clubbing, and Amber was even in Melissa's wedding but their friendship faded once they each got married. Then, tragedy struck when Amber was diagnosed with breast cancer at 31. With a six-month-old, a six-year-old, and two stepchildren at home, Amber underwent chemotherapy and eventually beat her cancer. However, what became known as "the cancer" was an immediate point of contention at Amber's Harvest Party, (the very first event of the season), when she confronted Melissa about never reaching out to her during her battle. Stunned, Melissa claimed she never knew Amber had the disease and that if she had known, she certainly would have reached out. There was confusion over a Facebook message Melissa had supposedly sent indicating that she DID know about the cancer, but when asked to produce the message, Amber claimed it had mysteriously disappeared. Within five minutes of joining the show, it seemed that Amber was out for Melissa - making the veteran question why she had come back into her life. 

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However, within just a couple of episodes, Amber had seemingly changed targets. Though they had been introduced to the show as friends, things weren't as seemingly peachy between Amber and the "fun-bag twins" as we were led to believe. On a drive with Melissa, Amber let it slip that she'd heard that Nicole was a supposed "homewrecker" who had broken up a marriage as the other woman. Doing her due diligence, Melissa quickly told the twins about the gossip circulating around the New Jersey grapevine during a shopping trip. The twins' first attempt to confront Amber was a false start after they saw the Marchese kids up and awake at home and Nicole decided to wait to hash the rumor out with her supposed friend. The big blowout occurred during Nicole and Bobby's first responders-themed costume party. While dressed as a sexy fireman, Nicole confronted Amber (dressed as a sexy cop, naturally) about the homewrecker rumor in front of a party full of guests. As Nicole tried to get a public apology out of her friend, Amber snapped her fingers and demanded the twins and Melissa take the argument outside. With neither side refusing to back down, the fight escalated into a nasty, hair-pulling brawl that left a chunk of an enraged Amber's raven locks on the floor. In the screaming matches that followed, Jim managed to jump in the fray by insulting Dina, Teresa G. and Melissa's intelligence and calling Joe Gorga a "dumb f***." As the fallout from the brawl exploded, it appeared that the Marcheses were primed to be the season's main villains. 

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After the explosive party, Amber got into it again with Melissa - blaming her old friend for starting the entire ordeal and calling her a liar and a "tainted woman" over lunch. (Never mind that she was the one who started the issue in the first place by telling Melissa the rumor.) Feeling excluded by half of the 'Wives, Amber attempted to buddy up with OGs Teresa and Dina by surprising them with nightingale dropping facials on a spa day. Meanwhile, Jim added tension to the fragile dynamic by revealing that, as a mortgage lender/attorney, he was working with the same D.A. who was prosecuting the Giudices in their fraud case. Talk about awkward. As a result, Jim made a conscious choice to avoid associating with the other husbands and placing a stone wall between him and the rest of the cast. After a couple episodes, Amber finally called a rocky truce with Nicole over the homewrecker drama, copping to repeating the rumor and finally taking responsibility. In the space of just a few episodes, Amber had managed to spark feuds with half the Housewives and make it clear that she could cause trouble. 

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The one Housewife Amber seemed determined to befriend, though, was Teresa Giudice. She got weirdly emotional at the tasting party for Teresa's Fabulicious dessert line, crying about how strong Teresa was in the face of her daunting legal battle. Following her sit down with Nicole, Amber attended one of Teresa's cookbook signings and was introduced to Teresa's friend Victoria Gotti. The infamous mob daughter invited Teresa and Amber to her home following the signing and revealed over glasses of Fabellini a shocking rumor about Teresa A.'s husband Rino. According to the story, Teresa and Rino had divorced earlier in their relationship (they'd since remarried) due to a salacious scandal: apparently Rino had cheated on Teresa with her mother Santa. This new rumor left Amber and Teresa G. visibly stunned, with Amber immediately stating in her interview that she didn't know "if it was true or not." Once again, a destructive rumor had landed right in Amber's lap about one of the twins, but this time she didn't want anything to do with it.

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At the same time, Dina recruited all of the 'Wives to help her organize a charity event for her children's cancer charity Project Ladybug. Determined not to cause another problem, Amber made a pact with Teresa to never repeat the rumor about Rino and Teresa A.'s mother. Besides, Amber had bigger issues to worry about. After the Giudices pleaded guilty in their fraud case, Amber made a bizarrely emotional call to Teresa, leaving church in the middle of Ash Wednesday services to give her new cast mate the third degree about what would happen next in the case. (Naturally, this didn't go over well with Tre, who was intensely private about the entire matter - especially with this new Housewife she barely knew.) On top of that, Amber received "inconclusive" results at her five-year cancer screening, prompting her to worry that the breast cancer had returned. (Thankfully, further tests revealed later that it hadn't.)

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The season's cast trip to Boca Raton, Florida was put together by Dina and Melissa in an effort to get Tre's mind off her legal situation. However, the OG decided at the last second to stay home with her family, leaving the veterans and the twins to go on the vacation without her. Initially, Amber and Jim opted out of going as well, citing her cancer scare, but when the results came back cancer-free, they decided to join the group and celebrate. Prior to the trip, Teresa had filled Dina in on the Rino rumor, saying that in case Amber brought it up, someone needed to be there to back up the twins. However, when the Marchese's finally arrived, the trip promptly went to hell when Jim first instigated a fight with his former BFF Bobby and then provocatively revealed the rumor about Rino, sending the house into complete chaos in a barrage of drunken screaming and broken glass. Naturally, Amber was angry at her husband for revealing the secret, hysterically begging him to shut up. The next morning, an infuriated Dina asked the Marchese's to leave, sending them packing right back to Jersey after the chaos they had caused.

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At this point, the Marcheses had alienated themselves from basically everyone in the cast. That fact became clear when Amber and Teresa G. were excluded from the guest list of the menu tasting for the Aprea's new restaurant. Meanwhile, after seeing a pattern of how Jim treated people, Melissa questioned Amber about how her husband treated her at home. By the season finale's Project Ladybug event, Amber attempted to make peace with her cast mates, even making up with Melissa, but for the others the damage had been done. In the wake of the Guidices' sentencing, the Gorgas and Dina refused to film their reactions - leaving the responsibility to the newer 'Wives and former 'Wives Jacqueline Laurita and Kathy Wakile and their families. With his background in law, Jim gave Amber a running play-by-play of the sentencing process and she seemed shocked at the news of Teresa's 15-month sentence, saying that she'd rather go through cancer than what the Guidices were dealing with. (Granted, nearly a year later Amber didn't seem quite so concerned about the well-being of her "friend.")

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The Season 6 reunion was shot just two days after Teresa and Joe's sentencing and the entire cast was still in shock. Seated at the far end of the couch, Amber was accused by the twins of playing "the cancer" card in an attempt to garner sympathy throughout the season, but claimed she merely wanted to use the show as a platform to educate others about the disease and fired back with accusations about Nicole's relationship with Bobby. When the husbands joined the reunion, Jim added fuel to the fire by attempting to paint his former best friend as desperate for fame and verbally attacked both Dina and Teresa G. However, Amber was ultimately the least outspoken 'Wife at the reunion, with the majority of the attention on Teresa's fate, Dina's feud with her family and Melissa and Joe's relationship with the Giudices. With that, the pot-stirrer of Season 6 went out with more of a whimper than a bang. She did wear a gorgeous, beaded Tony Bowls evening gown, though.

I guess time will tell if Amber's presence will be missed on the Real Housewives of New Jersey. In her one season, she proved to make for dramatic, entertaining television and I have a feeling Season 6 only scratched the surface of the no-nonsense cancer survivor. However, I will say that the way she's chosen to leave the show has left a bad taste in my mouth as a fan. Here's to hoping that Season 7 will be far less bitter...

Heather Thomson: Ain't No Holla!-back Girl

Glenn Rowley

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

After three seasons of "Hey mama, what's cookin'?" and more than a few "Holla!"-s, Heather Thomson announced after the Season 7 reunion finished airing that she won't be returning for the next season of RHONY. Citing a desire to focus on her family and her business, she announced her departure in an exclusive interview with Entertainment Tonight. In her statement, Heather said in part, "[m]y third year I kind of figured out where I was with the women. There was a beginning, middle and end for everything, and for me, that was the end. The opportunity, the experience - it was all amazing while it lasted. But again...the third time was the charm for me." For this week's feature, I'm looking back at the fashion designer's biggest and best moments in her three years as one of the Real Housewives of New York City.

Season 5

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Heather was introduced to viewers during Season 5, which was essentially a hard reset of the show. After a particularly dark and messy reunion following Season 4, Bravo fired Jill Zarin, Alex McCord, Kelly Bensimon and Cindy Barshop, replacing them with Heather and fellow newbies Carole Radziwill and Aviva Drescher. On paper, Heather sounded sort of like the second coming of Jill Zarin - a (converted) Jewish wife who also happened to have a successful shapewear line. However, with her trademark cheshire grin and a career based on empowering women, the Yummie Tummie designer couldn't have been further from the next Jill. From the get-go, Heather burst onto the scene with a no-nonsense attitude and a lot to say, which almost immediately managed to rub some of the OGs the wrong way. In her very first episode, Ramona accused her of interrupting conversations and not letting anyone else speak, while Luann bashed her in a confessional for talking about her father's passing a few days before filming started. At the same time, Heather found herself naturally bonding with fellow newbies Aviva and Carole, perhaps because they'd all been thrown in the deep end without knowing how to swim all at the same time. After being subjected to a verbal drive-by shooting at lunch wherein Luann regaled the newbies with a bizarre story about Ramona threatening to blackmail her over her children's behavior, Heather even made a pact with Carole and Aviva that they wouldn't become "mean girls" like their new co-stars.

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Just a few episodes into the revamped show, Heather hosted the first trip of the season by inviting the ladies to accompany her on a business trip to London for her Yummie Tummie shapewear brand. However, her issues with Ramona turned into an even wider rift when she chose to leave the OG off the invite list for the UK getaway. Finding herself on the outs, Ramona went on a warpath, first trying to get on Heather's good side to score an invitation and then lashing out at everything from the newbie's "fake" smile to her personality once she realized she definitely wouldn't be going to London. Many a green Housewife would've balked at her first taste of the Singer Stinger, but Heather stood her ground. In a hilarious confrontation following the trip, Heather essentially chased Ramona around the room at Aviva's anniversary party inside the Empire State Building trying to make peace, but the Ramonacoaster wasn't having it. Heather had officially gotten onto her bad side. The verbal combat between the two continued for much of the remainder of filming, with Ramona accusing Heather of talking behind her back and calling her a liar nearly every chance she got. In her recently released memoir and in subsequent interviews, Ramona has explained that her resentment stemmed from her assessment that Heather was disingenuous on camera. However, Heather came out of the feud looking like the far more rational and classy one after being subjected to Ramona's attacks. 

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For the bulk of the season, Heather also volunteered herself for perhaps the most unenviable job in the history of RHONY: helping Sonja put together a marketing campaign for her infamously nonexistent line of toaster ovens. Offering her marketing expertise, a full production crew and multiple concepts for the packaging visuals, Heather was sucked into Lady Morgan's tornado of delusion and it didn't end well. Heather put tons of energy and time into helping Sonja with branding advice, organizing a photoshoot and catering to her many demands, and in the end it was a road that led to nowhere. Viewers watched an entire season of putting a campaign together for a toaster oven that never got made. From the toaster oven experience, Heather learned one of the first rules of Housewives 101: never mix business with Housewife friends. 

On the season's cast trip to St. Barth's, Heather got tangled up in Luann's scandalous pirate debacle when the Countess knocked on her door at 3 a.m. with the Johnny Depp lookalike in tow. The next morning, Luann ran to Heather's room before the cameras went up, begging her to go along with the story that she had actually spent the night with some "old Italian friends" rather than the pirate. Heather promised she wouldn't say anything but refused to perpetuate Luann's lie, which snowballed into a bigger and bigger problem until she finally got busted. Heather's refusal to play into the charade was an example of her personal integrity and moral character on display for the world to see.

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At her first reunion, Heather found herself on the end of the newbie couch, explaining her use of the word "Holla!", sparring with Sonja over the toaster oven campaign from hell and sticking up for herself when Luann accused her of not defending her enough. She pointedly put the Countess' pirate drama on the table: they were on St. Barth's, cameras were everywhere, how could Luann not expect to get caught? Heather also dug in her heels about Sonja, saying that Lady Morgan "wouldn't know hard work if it bit [her] in the a**." By the end of the reunion, Heather was on generally good terms with most of her fellow cast mates, but true resolution was nowhere in sight.

Season 6

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The sixth season brought the addition of Heather's friend Kristen Taekman to the cast, and started with a bang as Carole and Aviva feuded over #BookGate. As Aviva spread rumors around New York City that Carole used a ghostwriter, attacking the validity of her decades-long career as a journalist and author, Heather jumped into the fray to defend her BFF. This led to many confrontations between her and the blonde villain, including the time she memorably threw out "don't tell me anything motherf****r" during a particularly heated exchange at Luann's BBQ in the Hamptons. Heather gansta side unleashed and the women discovered once and for all just how much street cred the former Bad Boy employee had behind her smile. You don't want to mess with her. BookGate also proved to be yet another example of perhaps her most defining quality: Heather Thomson will always stand up for what she believes is right.

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The season also documented more of Heather's family life, including the celebration of her 1oth anniversary with husband Jonathan - the party for which was boycotted by a few of her cast mates - and her heartache over her son Jax's medical issues. As a result of complications from birth, Jax had already received a liver transplant, suffered from severe food allergies and a chronic lung disease and was dealing with increased hearing loss that had the possibility he would need an invasive surgery to reverse. With so much out of her hands, it was heart-wrenching to watch Heather tear up in her interviews over her son's continued health challenges. On the Fourth of July, she broke down on the beach to Carole over wanting just one thing to work out for Jax and his health. 

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

In an attempt to escape the drama, Heather hosted the first cast trip of the season - inviting all the women (minus Aviva) to her second home in the Berkshires. However, the getaway proved to be anything but peaceful. Ramona was less than thrilled at the prospect of spending a weekend in the Berkshires; according to her, the only people who vacationed in the Berkshires were the ones who couldn't afford the Hamptons. Nothing was good enough for the OG - first she mistook Heather's house for the "garage," then she had air conditioning units delivered for the weekend and culminated her trip by throwing a glass at Kristen's face while out on the lake. While Heather tried to get the women to commune with nature, Ramona faked a meltdown during a hike through the woods and ended up bailing on the trip via private plane. Once back in NYC, Heather helped lead the charge to call out Ramotional for her insulting behavior.

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

Later in the season, the second cast trip to Montana gave Heather a chance to show off her athletic skills as she repelled down a mountain, herded cattle and hit the bullseye in tomahawk throwing. However, the Montana wilderness also ended up being a battleground for between Heather and Kristen when the model called the Holla! queen the dreaded B-word (bossy!) during a group geocaching outing, accusing her of needing to control everything from what the group did on vacation to her husband at home. This obviously didn't go over well with Heather, and led to fallout between the two friends for the remainder of the vacation. (Eventually, they talked it out and squashed the beef before heading back to the East Coast. What happens in Montana stays in Montana!) This fight on the frontier was perhaps the one time Heather didn't look great in an argument, getting tipsy and picking on Kristen for wanting to geocache. Chalk it up to cabin fever?

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Following the Montana trip, Heather had big moments in the next couple of episodes: taking the stage to sing "Bill Bailey" at an open mic night at Birdland and throwing her bestie Carole a Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil-themed party for her 50th birthday. However, the season finale was all about Aviva, who'd played the role of largely-absent villain throughout filming. She'd missed the trip to Montana due to what she proclaimed to be "moderate to severe asthma", a diagnosis Heather and the other women called B.S. on. Aviva planned to confront Heather and the ladies during the finale party for "Team Sonja" - throwing x-rays and medical records at them around the table as some sort of demented proof. When Heather stood up and called her "laughable", Aviva lost her temper and slammed her prosthetic leg down on the table and throwing it across the room at Heather. During the recent 100th episode special, Aviva admitted the leg throw was pre-meditated and Heather explained that, looking back, she considers it to be the series' most cringe-worthy moment for being so contrived on Aviva's part.

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

At the Season 6 reunion, Heather was sandwiched between her besties Carole and Kristen on #TeamLeftCouch, rocking a '40s inspired Valentina Kova dress. Heather has a history of being one of the more logical 'Wives on the couches come reunion time, and this reunion was no exception as she once again squared off with Ramona over her beloved Berkshires, called Sonja's business acumen into question and took Aviva to task over her season-long litany of offenses. In the end, Heather said her biggest takeaway from the season was that "even through trials and tribulations, there's always growth and...a whole lot of laughter."

Season 7

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The just-completed seventh season was a new chapter for the New York 'Wives, as Bethenny Frankel returned to the show after leaving at the end of Season 3. Much of Heather's storyline during the season revolved around the clash of personalities between her and the Skinnygirl. Heather's love of deep chats and connecting didn't exactly vibe with Bethenny's walls and try as she might, it seemed that Heather could do nothing right where B was concerned. The two brand moguls sparred again and again throughout the season over everything from invites to Bethenny's birthday party (Heather was sticking up for an uninvited Kristen) and what to eat at new cast member Dorinda Medley's birthday dinner in the Berkshires to who was a bigger know-it-all on the cast trip to the Turks and Caicos. Eventually, Bethenny realized her walls needed to come down a bit and the pair were able to carve out a casual friendship by season's end.

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Heather's friendship with Luann wasn't quite so lucky. The first cracks in the friendship formed after Heather took Carole's side when her BFF started dating Luann's chef Adam. However, the cracks became fault lines during the cast trip to Turks and Caicos. On the trip Luann accused Heather of breaking the "girl code" and being "uncool" by bursting into the Countess' room when she found a naked man in the bedroom attached to hers and Carole's. Luann managed to hold the grudge against Heather for the entire season, milking the storyline for everything it could possibly be worth - iTunes single included. By season's end, the pair's once-strong friendship was in tatters, having been sacrificed by Luann for the sake of a storyline.

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Prior to filming of Season 7, Heather had struck up a friendship with new Housewife Dorinda Medley while they were both vacationing at their homes in the Berkshires. However, during the season, the newbie also had plenty of beef with the Yummie mogul, taking issue with what she saw as Heather's tendency to go from "teaching to preaching." Many times throughout the season, the newbie lost her temper with Heather for reasons never quite understood - including their memorable argument about using the f-word during the last dinner in the Turks and Caicos.

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One of Heather's greatest legacies from her three years on the show is without a doubt her friendship with Carole. The two met as newbie Housewives and over time became lifelong best friends. They supported, defended and backed each other up through thick and thin, often to criticism from other 'Wives. While on paper the two seem hugely different, Heather's outspoken nature turned out to be the perfect yin to Carole's more reserved, observant yang. The BFFs are a true testament to real friendship, which is often hard to find in the volatile, dramatic landscape of reality television, where others will gleefully sell your friendship down the river for more camera time. The thing I'll miss most about Heather leaving the show is not seeing her and Radzi together on my TV anymore. 

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Rumors of Heather's departure from the show began circulating before the season had even finished airing, as far back as the middle of July. At the time I didn't want to believe it, but looking back, the hints were there. Her Bravotv.com blogs got shorter and more succinct as the season wore on and she wasn't given a final interview soundbite during the season finale. Her "Where Are They Now" card was mysteriously vague and she even retired her trademark catchphrase in the opening moments of the Season 7 reunion. Casting shakeups are inevitable at the end of each season, but I'm really disappointed to see Heather leave the show, especially on such a quiet note. However, the three years we got with the Yummie Tummie founder were great ones, full of laughter, empowerment and authenticity. You'll be sorely missed on the show Heather, but I'm sure glad we got to watch and learn from you for as long as we did. Holla!