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Real Housewives

Filtering by Tag: retrospective

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?

vicki-gunvalson-threesome-season-8

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

kristen-taekman-rhony-season-6-premiere

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.

kristen-taekman-ramona-singer-water-fight

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.)

kristen-taekman-montana-bossy

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.

kristen-taekman-dorinda-medley-berkshires-argument

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.

kristen-taekman-pop-of-color

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.

dont-call-kristen-taekman-dumb

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.

kristen-taekman-rhony-season-7-finale

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.

kristen-taekman-josh-taekman-wedding-anniversary

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. 

kristen-taekman-rhony-100th-episode-special

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.

 

Amber Marchese: RHONJ's One-Season Survivor

Glenn Rowley

amber-marchese-season-6.jpg

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

amber-marchese-harvest-party

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. 

amber-hair-pull

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. 

amber-marchese-home-wrecker-sit-down

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. 

amber-marchese-teresa-giudice-rumor

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.

amber-marchese-ash-wednesday-call

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.)

amber-marchese-florida-fight

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.

amber-marchese-sentencing-reaction

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.")

amber-marchese-season-6-reunion

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!

WWHL - RHONY 100th Episode Special

Glenn Rowley

Image Credit: Bravo

Image Credit: Bravo

After nearly eight years and seven seasons, the NY Housewives finally got their 100th episode special! This was something I actively stressed about when Bravo aired the special for RHOA reaching the same milestone but billed one of the Turks and Caicos episodes as RHONY's 100th. The RHONY special was formatted the same way as the Atlanta ladies' but was actually a half hour longer, which I was more than happy about. It turned out to be a fantastic and surprisingly emotional look back on the first 100 episodes in the Big Apple. 

In the Beginning

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The Real Housewives of New York City debuted on Bravo almost eight years ago on March 4, 2008. When it was in development, the show was originally titled Manhattan Moms, and Ramona actually found out about it through her doctor, Sharon Giese, whom we've seen multiple times on the show. Many of the other 'Wives were cast through OG Jill Zarin including Bethenny Frankel, Luann de Lesseps and Sonja Morgan. (Interestingly, Sonja was offered a spot on the show during Season 1, but turned it down, eventually joining two years later.) One of the most fascinating parts of these specials is getting to see clips from the women's original casting tapes and NYC didn't disappoint. The Season 1 casting took place in 2007 and was filled with memorable soundbite - from Alex and Simon calling themselves "label junkies" to Luann referring to herself as "five different women." (Sonja's narcissism was evident from the beginning as she told the camera that glamour was a well-used word in her vocabulary and her lifestyle was incomparable to many plebeians in the U.S.)

Unfortunately, two original Housewives are missing from the special. Bravo reached out to Jill, who apparently declined the invitation to be interviewed, while Alex and Simon moved to Australia last year which provided obvious logistical challenges. Jill did offer a short written statement in which she said she was "proud to be a founding member of such an exclusive group of talented women" - which certainly did nothing to carry on the rumors of bad blood between her and Bravo ever since her last one-on-one with Andy (where she secretly recorded the interview to 'protect' herself from bad editing). 

First Impressions

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The ladies first impressions of each other were as different as their personalities. Ramona thought Bethenny was a "tough a**" while B understandably thought all the women were cuckoo. The most polarizing cast members for viewers and Housewives alike that first season were obviously Alex and Simon. Ramona admits she wasn't welcoming to them because she resented their codependent relationship and found them "very awkward and strange." Bethenny didn't understand them - cut to her iconic line about Simon being in the midst of a deep homosexual panic, while Sonja says that Alex took her a while to understand, but that she loved her "bohemian ways and Brooklyn style." The Countess is by far the most diplomatic, saying that certain parts of Alex were very sophisticated, the couple's relationship was a special kind that seemed to work for them and she hopes they're happy in Australia. Love them or hate them, and I'm an unapologetic Alex fan, I've always thought Alex and Simon made for great TV. 

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The other Housewife who got quite a bit of backlash in the show's early days was Luann, whose haughty Countess persona didn't go over too well with some of the women. Luann refuses to make excuses for it, because she was simply used to a different life. However, Bethenny is quick to point out that Luann was very non-Countess-y in her off-camera life, but came on the show to let all the women know how aristocratic she was. One of the most ingratiating moments during Season 1 was when Luann corrected Bethenny for introducing her to a driver using her first name. It's, like, Mrs. de Lesseps, darling. Luann claims she wasn't used to being addressed by her first name; that's not the way they roll in Europe, but Bethenny thought she was just being a "pretentious bi***." Ugh, I'm with you B.

New 'Wives

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The first new cast member to join the show was Kelly Killoren Bensimon in Season 2. Jelly Bean Kelly tells Andy that she actually didn't watch the show before joining because she wanted the world to see the real her. She also surprisingly says that the first cast member she clicked with was Ramona, who was the only one to ask her about herself or her kids. The Ramonacoaster, however, sees it much differently - if the only thing you can talk about are kids, makeup and clothes, it's not going to be a deep connection. 

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Then there's Kelly's Season 2 clash with Bethenny. The model claims she didn't even notice the Skinnygirl until Bethenny made the infamous "Madonna" dig at the meeting for the charity event the Housewives were throwing together. The tiff ultimately led to the "I'm up here, you're down here" sit-down at the Brass Monkey, which Bethenny describes as watching this person in front of her saying something she had no idea would be hurtful to every put-down nerd who wasn't cool in Kelly's high school cafeteria. However, Kelly claims she was merely trying to say she was an adult who wouldn't put up with any of Bethenny's "childish" behavior. I don't think that's how it came across, Kells.

Much like Vicki in the OC, Ramona admits that she has a hard time when new cast members join the show. Surprisingly, out of all the women over the years, she had the hardest time connecting with Season 4 addition Cindy Barshop, whom she was friendly with off-camera but became her arch-enemy once she joined the show. And that, ladies and gents, is the first and last time Cindy will be mentioned during this special. As for the Season 5 shakeup, Ramona found Heather to be less than genuine while describing Carole as "quiet and surreal" and Aviva as a "fun, sophisticated Uptown chick."

The Season 5 Reboot & Beyond

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Interestingly, Andy was the one who personally cast Carole on the show after discovering she was a real-life princess at a dinner party thrown by Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos. I love that in her 2012 casting tape, Carole describes NYC as being her lover because the Big Apple has everything she could want in a lover: glamour and elegance mixed with a naughty, seedy side. Kristen may have the style aspect on lock, but Radzi is the living, breathing embodiment of a real-life Carrie Bradshaw. Heather actually got a cold call from producers at her desk at work. In her casting tape from 2011, she looks very serious and intense while talking about how tough you have to be to get to the top.

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I for one was surprised to learn that Aviva had originally auditioned for the show back in 2010, which would've been for either Season 3 or 4, but didn't get cast the first time around. (Also, her insensitive Sonja/Anna Nicole Smith comparison originally came from that casting tape as well.) It was actually Bethenny who got Aviva on the show by convincing Andy that a woman with one leg and an ex-husband who'd slept with two other Housewives would be a good fit. Beverly Hills lightning rod Brandi Glanville was responsible for getting her friend Kristen cast for Season 6, while Ramona tirelessly recruited Dorinda for Season 7. 

Jill vs. Bethenny

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Next, Andy asks which argument was most shocking in the history of the show and the collective answer is Jill and Bethenny's friendship-destroying feud during Season 3. Bethenny explains that the fight went deeper and wider than anyone could've expected, and points out that even Andy and the network were worried about its implications. However, the show went with what really happened. If it was scripted, fans would've gotten the happily ever after where the two became BFFs again. Bethenny explains that the turning point in their friendship occurred when she was asked to guest host the Today show, which at the time was the biggest deal in the world for a reality star. When she arrived at the studio, she was told by producers that Jill had called and angrily demanded to know why she hadn't been offered the gig, saying she would've been much better than Bethenny. Then, the show started filming Season 3 and Jill immediately went for the jugular, attacking Bethenny for not visiting her husband Bobby when he was in the hospital. 

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At this point, a lightbulb went on in Bethenny's head: this was "one cunning bi***." Jill had waited until cameras had started rolling to deliberately go after her and try to take her down. Bethenny posits that it was Jill's plan to get America to hate her, and it completely backfired in her face - Jill became the villain everyone hated and Bethenny came out on top in the feud. The Skinnygirl points out that it must be hard for Jill to know that she was the one responsible for getting Bethenny cast on the show and now B's become unequivocally the most successful Housewife in the history of the franchise. Jill could've been along for the ride, but as Bethenny says, pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered and that's just the way it goes. Andy asks if there was a chance for reconciliation between the two at the emotional Season 3 reunion, but Bethenny says she knew all of Jill's tears were just theatrics. Today, Bethenny doesn't hold any animosity (could the same be said for Jill?) but Jill still isn't someone she would want in her life. That chapter is officially closed. 

Aviva's Leg Throw

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The next topic of discussion is Aviva's infamous leg throw in the Season 6 finale. Carole says she wasn't surprised and sees the dramatic moment as Aviva's attempt to get the spotlight back on her after being absent for so much of the season. Radzi thinks she had been wanting to throw that leg for two whole seasons. Andy once again asks Aviva if she walked into the party planning to throw her prosthesis and she finally cops to the moment being contrived. Apparently, she even told a producer beforehand that she was thinking of doing it, depending on how she was received by the other women after their trip to Montana. Her cast mates don't see the leg throw in quite the same light as Aviva. Heather calls it the most cringeworthy moment of the series for being so obviously set up, while Luann remembers thinking at the time that it would be Aviva's swan song as a Housewife. If you take it that far, you're on your way out the door. After leaving the party, Aviva remembers wondering if she overdid it. Andy asks her as such, to which Aviva responds, "I think I made great TV. You're welcome."

Pirate Booty in St. Barth's

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The conversation then turns to cast vacations, and while the women are split on which was their favorite trip (Morocco! Montana! Turks and Caicos!), what really needs to be discussed is the Season 5 trip to St. Barth's, a.k.a. Slutty Island. Specifically Luann and the pirate. This horse has already been beaten to death but the story goes that Luann knocked on Heather's door at 3:30 in the morning with a Pirate of the Caribbean in tow. The next morning, the Countess raced back to Heather's room before the cameras got there, asking her to perpetuate this story about Luann being with her "Italian friends." Heather promised she wouldn't say anything, but if Luann wanted to lie, that was on her. Lie she did, and like any untruth, the story snowballed and ended up being carried on for way too long.

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One of the other 'Wives found out how Luann really got home that night from the driver and then invited the pirate to dinner the next night in an effort to throw her under the bus. It was then that she truly dug her own grave - getting busted on camera asking another friend in French to lie for her. In hindsight, Luann admits that she panicked, forgot she had a mic on and says the call was what really made her look guilty. Heather sees this as a "DUH!" moment. After all, Luann had been on the show for half a decade at this point. How do you forget you have a mic on? Heather also points out that French isn't that hard of a language to translate; maybe Swahili would've been better! Once she found out she'd been busted, Luann had to call her then-boyfriend Jacques off-camera to explain the story - a call she says was the pinnacle of embarrassment. When asked, Luann denies that the pirate incident was what led to the end of her relationship with Jacques the following season, but it certainly didn't help matters.

Scary Island

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Next under the microscope is Scary Island, the Season 3 trip to St. John's that to this day goes down as possibly the most infamous trip in Housewives history. Originally, the trip was supposed to serve as a kind of bachelorette party for Ramona before she renewed her vows, but got hijacked by Kelly having a jellybean-fueled, Al Sharpton-misquoting, complete emotional breakdown. Even now, Kelly maintains that she was a victim of "systematic bullying" on the trip and Luann agrees, saying that the other girls bullied the model until she snapped. The incident was so serious that Ramona even called Jill, asking her to come meet Kelly at the airport because something was seriously wrong. Ever paranoid, Jill thought it was some type of set up for the show, which prompted Bethenny - who wasn't even speaking to Jill at the time - to grab the phone and get the gravity of the situation through Jill's head. The next day, Kelly boarded a plane with a producer and the girls were all sure she would be checking into a psych ward somewhere. 

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

Naturally, Kelly sees the whole situation differently. While the other 'Wives say she had a breakdown, Kelly says she was just crying. She also purports that the entire situation basically ruined her reputation. It's hard to come back from crazy - it doesn't exactly brand well. Once the episode aired, Kelly found that she was suddenly toxic. No one wanted to be associated with the crazy girl from the Real Housewives of New York. Bethenny thinks that Kelly is an extremely fragile, sensitive person who wasn't cut out for the rigors of reality television. From her perspective, Kelly couldn't take the heat in the kitchen and tried to excuse her behavior by claiming that the other women ruined her reputation. I think it's safe to say that we'll never fully understand what happened on that island.

Reunions

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After Ramona and Luann spend a segment mourning their respective divorces (don't ask me why Luann turned her chair around to cry...), it's time to talk about our favorite thing: reunions. Carole accurately describes the reunions as a "sh**show," with Andy asking a question and everyone trying to answer at once. Sonja hits the nail on the head by saying that reunions are the time when each Housewife wants to show all the other women up and get justification that the way everything happened during the season was the way SHE thought. For Carole, the toughest reunion moment was Season 6's BookGate, with Aviva's relentless, nasty attacks on her writing career. Heather claims the Season 5 reunion was her most memorable, while Dorinda says her first reunion experience during the just-completed Season 7 went better than she expected it to. Bethenny proclaims Ramona as the queen of the reunion - she was the first to walk off a reunion in Season 1 and the first to fall asleep in the middle of one six seasons later. Bethenny points out that the issue that caused Ramona to walk off in Season 1  - discussion of Alex's nude photos surfacing on the internet - seems like small change now that Housewives have broken into the White House, gone to jail and f***ed their friends' husbands. Ah, the rosy days when the biggest issue to deal with was a naked picture on the internet...

All About the Benjamins

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Bethenny credits RHONY with starting the "I am woman, hear me roar" movement of the Housewives franchise. More than any other city, the New York ladies have always been the most ambitious, driven and business-minded. Andy points out that the NY Housewives promotion is often times out of control. Never before had the franchise seen fights over branding and logo placement on a step-and-repeat. More than anyone, the show has documented Bethenny's meteoric rise in the business world. A few years ago, she was driving around Montauk in a shrink-wrapped Skinnygirl car and trying to give out muffin samples in the supermarket. What a difference seven years makes. Talking about the gift Bravo has given her, the Skinnygirl breaks down in tears, grateful she's been able to inspire so many viewers around the country to believe they can accomplish anything. That's what fans talk about when she meets them: not the fight she got in with Ramona last week, but how she inspires them and is a good role model for their daughters. There's no question that Bethenny has used the Housewives platform wisely. She went for her dreams and got them, and now she's rich, bi***.

Regrets

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

Many of the 'Wives say they don't have a single moment they regret on camera. However, Carole's biggest regret is the comment she made in her Season 5 interview about Sonja and the pirate. She won't repeat it, but Andy reminds us that she said they went up the butt in St. Barth's. Thank you Andy. Sonja is glad to hear it from Carole, and says that she even got a three-page handwritten apology note from Writer Girl after it aired. Aviva claims her biggest regret was calling Ramona and Sonja "white trash" on Slutty Island, but mostly because it gave her her first taste of the fans' wrath on social media. Poor Aviva, people were soooo mean to her. On a side note, that trip to St. Barth's was just full of regrets, wasn't it? Ramona's biggest regret was her conversation with Bethenny on the Brooklyn Bridge during Season 3. She now recognizes that Bethenny was reaching out to her for help, but she reacted in a way that didn't embrace or help her cast mate. Crazy eyes now knows that when someone is asking you for help, it's not the time to kick them when they're down. It's a good lesson to learn, Ramona.

RHONY's Impact

To wrap the special up, Andy asks each of the women how they feel about the show reaching 100 episodes. Bethenny's proud to be part of something that is part of popular culture, while Ramona claims she knew the show would be a success, she just didn't realize it would go on for such a long time. Heather points out her gratitude at being part of the modern-day soap opera and Luann explains that the show works so well because it shows a "good group of very different women with different philosophies about life. Kristen thinks the show will be remembered for the genuine friendships and for having so many OGs seven seasons in, while Sonja posits that what they'll really go down for in the history books are their fighting words, depth and ability to get ahead. At the show's heart, the women really are a sisterhood, and several of them point that fact out. The show will be timeless because of those bonds and that camaraderie and because they really are all friends at the end of the day. As Ramona points out in the show's closing moments, even though they may go at each other's throats sometimes, the common thread is that the women all genuinely care about each other. To RHONY girl power!

Vicki Gunvalson & Brooks Ayers: A Relationship Retrospective

Glenn Rowley

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

It's over between Vicki Gunvalson and Brooks Ayers! In case you haven't heard, news broke this week that the most talked-about couple in the OC had once again split after nearly four years together. Issued jointly by the couple, the statement released to the media reads in part:

"After much prayer, thought, counseling and consideration, we have decided to end our four year relationship...We have come to realize that one can indeed love someone in their heart, but that the time may come for their lives to take separate paths. Though the remaining episodes of Season 10 of The Real Housewives of Orange County will show us as a couple, the filming took place in January 2015 through May 2015. There will be no further statements or interviews regarding our relationship as we choose to move on with our lives..."

While no explicit reason was given for the split, many skeptics questioned the timing of the announcement given that the storyline surrounding Brooks' cancer on the show kicked off in this week's episode. So, for this week's feature, I'm looking back at the couple's most controversial moments on the last four seasons of RHOC.

Season 7

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Brooks was introduced to the show at the start of Season 7 as Vicki's boyfriend following her divorce from Donn. At first, everything seemed great about the smooth-talking Southern gentleman as the couple double-dated with Tamra and Eddie in Catalina and Vicki brought him around the other women. However, when damning information was found by Gretchen and Slade about Brooks failing to pay his child support, suspicions started being raised about the new man in Vicki's life. The whispered rumors came to an explosive head at the 80s bunco party, where Gretchen confronted Vicki with the child support allegations and threw in a couple of "hypocrite" jabs. The "h-word" sent the OG into a white-hot rage, resulting in a screaming match between her and Gretchen.

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As the season wore on, questions continually arose about Brooks' background, behavior and intentions. Any time Vicki brought him around the other 'Wives, he laid the charm on thick - to the point where Vicki's BFF Tamra started seeing through the endless string of affirmations and cheesy lines. Also concerned were Vicki's kids, particularly her daughter Briana, who felt her mother had changed since she'd started dating Brooks and was being used by him. When Briana expressed her concern about her mom's relationship, Vicki exploded and a bitter divide formed between mother and daughter over the relationship. Briana was worried that things were moving too quickly with Brooks and lobbied accusations at her mom that the relationship had started much earlier than the timeline Vicki was feeding her friends (and fans). It was unsettling as a viewer as well to watch Vicki pay for Brooks' cosmetic dental work and let him drive around the OC in one of her cars. Was the Housewife we'd watched for seven years being taken advantage of before our eyes?

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With seemingly everyone in her life concerned about the relationship, the drama reached a boiling point at the season finale party when Brooks accused Tamra of giving Vicki the infamous "evil eye" and all hell broke loose. With the baffled Dubrows stuck between them, Tamra got in Brooks' face and accused her bestie of letting him tell her what to think. From Tamra's perspective, Brooks was subtly trying to turn Vicki against all her friends and the OG was blindly letting it happen. The ensuing fight through the halls of Heather's home gave us the classic "you're supposed to be my friend, my soul mate, my sister" line from Vicki and irreparably damaged the friendship between her and Tamra. By the Season 7 reunion, no resolution had been reached between Vicki and either Briana or Tamra, with the former refusing to appear on the couches at the same time as Brooks. Further, Briana claimed Brooks had been a part of Vicki's life for many years - including during her marriage to Donn - and she'd seen the evidence to prove the accusations of "emotional cheating" on her mom's part. It was clear by the end of the reunion that Brooks had officially driven a gigantic wedge between Vicki and nearly everyone important in her life.

Season 8

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By the start of Season 8, Brooks was nowhere to be seen and the OG claimed they had broken up. However, the two were still seeing each other casually. Even while trying to repair her friendship with Tamra, Vicki was determined not to bring him around the other women and with Briana, her husband and new baby living in Vicki's house, Brooks wasn't welcome there either. Early in the season, Briana's husband Ryan spelled out exactly why he didn't want Brooks in the house: the more he found out about Brooks' character, the worse his opinion of the man got. With all the tension, Vicki felt constantly torn between her boyfriend and her family, and was determined to bridge the gap between the two. However, things were about to get worse.

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Partway through the season, former Housewife Lauri Waring Peterson returned to the show bringing shocking allegations of Vicki's past. However, she also came bearing gossip about Brooks: while on a break with Vicki, he'd been playing sugar daddy to a much-younger porn star, treating her to breakfasts and dinners and throwing out $100 bills at a racy poker party. Naturally, Lauri chose to drop this bomb during the group outing to shop for Tamra's wedding dress, leaving Vicki stunned and in tears. 

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However, the bombshell (which Brooks denied) didn't stop Vicki from continuing to spend time with him. Towards the end of the season, Brooks even accompanied her on a business trip for her now-defunct vodka line. Brooks continued to push back against Briana's ultimatum, trying to sway Vicki into putting her foot down about him not being allowed in her house. At the season finale Winter Wonderland party in her backyard, Vicki announced to the other women that she had officially rekindled her relationship with Brooks. But yet again, things were about to take a dark turn for the worse. At the Season 8 reunion, Brooks and Briana finally met face-to-face. Squaring off over Vicki's well-being, Briana claimed Brooks had proven himself to be someone the young mom didn't trust around her family. Vicki copped to Brooks being disrespectful to her but was determined to avoid a "Brooks-bashing moment." Briana, however, was ready for a fight, and eventually went for the jugular by revealing the existence of a tape recording of Brooks calling Vicki a slew of derogatory names and telling Briana's husband to start hitting her to "get her to fall in line." Never before in the history of the Real Housewives had such a shocking and terrible accusation been made at a reunion, and it turned out to be true. Brooks claimed to have been drunk and angry at the time, and tried apologizing for his remarks, but Briana was rightfully having none of it. (The recording eventually made its way online and trust me, it was absolutely vile.) In an attempt to deescalate the situation, Brooks left Vicki right then and there on the couch, causing her to have a full-on emotional breakdown once he exited stage right.

Season 9

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The ninth season started with Vicki and Brooks in a confusing place. Vicki insisted on a trip to Hawaii with Tamra and Heather that they weren't together but revealed privately to a therapist that she had taken him back. Briana was obviously reluctant to forgive Brooks for what she saw as verbal abuse, which led to yet another blowout between mother and daughter early in the season. Briana insisted the Brooks issue would never be resolved and the two had to agree to Vicki essentially living two separate lives - one with her family and one with her boyfriend - in order to keep the peace.

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Eventually, Vicki decided she didn't care what anyone else thought of her relationship and started bringing Brooks back around the other women. She also found a new ally in newbie Housewife Shannon Beador, going on a couples' vacation to Puerto Vallarta with Brooks and Shannon's husband David. Brooks also accompanied Vicki to other new Housewife Lizzie's beach house dinner party, revealing in a TMI moment that his favorite body part of Vicki was her vagina...Yikes. Things finally seemed to be looking up for the couple, with even Tamra being nice to Brooks. However, Tamra was also honest when asked her opinion about Brooks from the newer ladies, admitting that she thought someone better was out there for her friend. On the season's cast trip to Bali, though, Tamra's opinions made their way back to Vicki, who once again felt betrayed by Tamra speaking badly about her man.

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Tension from the trip, which Tamra bolted from and flew home early, was still running high at Vicki's season finale dinner party. Yet in a surprising turn of events, Tamra pulled Brooks aside and admitted to speaking poorly of him. During the conversation, Tamra also pointed out that the first time she and Vicki ever fought in their years-long friendship was about Brooks, and that their relationship had never been the same since Vicki had started dating him. However, the two enemies managed to agree that they both had Vicki's best interests at heart and Tamra made Brooks promise he would keep her friend happy. The pair hugged it out and promised to move forward. The trash-talking of Brooks was brought up again at the Season 9 reunion, but for the first time in year, drama surrounding Brooks didn't take center stage. In fact, he didn't even appear in reunion footage until the season's lost footage episode, where Vicki revealed he would be moving into her home with her.

Season 10

Between Seasons 9 and 10, Brooks confirmed that he'd been diagnosed with stage 3 non-Hodgkins lymphoma. With Vicki by his side for support, he moved into her home and started a never-ending rotation of doctors' visits and chemotherapy. He acted as the man of the house at Vicki's season-opening fiesta party with the women, but the couple bailed on the cast trip to Napa Valley to celebrate the launch of Heather's wine. Instead, Vicki flew to Florida for an insurance conference and Brooks stayed in the OC for treatment. When Vicki's mother unexpectedly passed away in the fifth episode of the season, Brooks rushed to Shannon's house to take her home. However, he wasn't allowed to attend the funeral in Chicago with her, as Vicki's family still doesn't approve of their relationship. 

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Questions surrounding the veracity of Brooks' cancer will be a main focus of the rest of the season moving forward. Just this week, the storyline effectively kicked off with Tamra's psychic claiming he had a "wishy-washy perspective" on the cancer, leading all the women to wonder who could possibly fake a cancer diagnosis. Little red flags have popped up throughout the season already - from Brooks being well enough to fly to Puerto Vallarta on vacation to a slip of the tongue where he referred to his cancer in the past tense. His treatment is also a cause of confusion among the ladies (and viewers), as he announced in this week's episode that he was pausing chemotherapy to try a controversial new alternative method involving blasting the body with antioxidants. The scrutiny will only continue to get more intense as the season rolls on, prompting Vicki's cast mates and fans to ask an unbelievable question: does Brooks really have cancer?

As for the couple's breakup, only time will tell if the split will be permanent. For legions of Vicki fans who don't trust Brooks, the news was cause for celebration, but either way the OG of the OC is sure to be hurting. Vicki and Brooks have had a wild and controversial ride on the show with ups that have filled Vicki's love tank and downs that have shocked us all. Regardless of what happens with their relationship in the future, the most important thing is to wish them both continued health and happiness...and we always have the reunion to look forward to getting the truth about what really caused the end of the OC's most controversial couple.