The British are coming! Season 2 of Ladies of London premieres tonight after RHOC, so it's the perfect time for a crash course on what happened last summer on the other side of the Atlantic...
At its core, Ladies of London is essentially a Housewives show minus the Housewives brand. The show introduced us to a mix of British socialites and American ex-pats making a name for themselves across the pond: London it girl Caroline Stanbury, who was the queen bee of the bunch; rock-and-roll aristocrat Annabelle Neilson, who served as iconic fashion designer Alexander McQueen's muse; lingerie designer Carpice Bourret, a former model who once was one of the most photographed women in Great Britain; Marissa Hermer, the refined American wife of a British restauranteur and club-owner; eager and brash American fashion PR exec Juliet Angus; and social climber Noelle Reno, who was engaged during filming to embattled British business tycoon Scot Young.
The first season of any reality show always feels like somewhat of a prototype. The cast has to get used to cameras invading their lives and being forced to interact with one another. Throughout filming, they test the waters for what storylines will take the main stage and jostle for the roles of villain, voice of reason, the funny one, etc. Ladies of London was no exception. The first season was only eight episodes total, a blink of an eye compared to the super-sized seasons of the Housewives franchise. It's hard to remember back to the days when the ladies of the OC, NYC, ATL and NJ started with the same small episode orders. Crazy to think, right? The first few episodes in London were relatively drama-free as the ladies introduced themselves, and gave viewers a peek inside British high society as they attended Polo in the Park and the glamorous Serpentine Summer Party and navigated the British tabloids.
Almost immediately, a clash of cultures developed between the louder, more animated American women and their reserved British counterparts. (Having lived in England for over 15 years, American-born Caprice was counted among the latter category). Juliet and Noelle, in particular, appeared wide-eyed and over-eager when it came to all things British, wearing fascinators and cheering loudly during polo to the snarky amusement of their castmates. In British society, there are precise, unspoken rules about what type of behavior is acceptable, and the American girls were clearly fish out of water. In fact, the first major conflict of the season occurred during the Americans' 4th of July party, when Juliet managed to offend Annabelle's British sensibilities by launching into an enthusiastically loud rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and waving red, white and blue underwear around the party. The ensuing argument over etiquette spilled out into the street as Juliet chased Annabelle out of the restaurant and accused her of being rude. Eventually, Caprice inserted herself into the fight as well by coming to Annabelle's defense and calling out Juliet's abrasive personality. With that, the first feud of the season was born.
In the aftermath of Knickergate, the Ladies took a cast trip to Mapperton, the Earl of Sandwich's estate in the English countryside. The weekend in the country, hosted by recurring cast member Julie Montagu, was something straight out of Downton Abbey - complete with skeet shooting, touring the estate's gardens and a formal dinner party where the women threw shade left and right over their cast mates' sartorial choices and (lack of) table manners. During the weekend, Juliet pulled Annabelle aside and finally put their squabble to rest, with each admitting the entire ordeal had been blown out of proportion and apologizing for her part in the drama. As Juliet put one argument behind her, another popped up with Marissa, who grew tired of her friend's cutting remarks and subtle digs over the weekend.
Tragedy struck unexpectedly after the trip. While training to compete in a charity race in her friend Alexander McQueen's memory, Annabelle was thrown from her horse at 45 miles per hour. The fall broke her pelvis, leaving the quintessential cool girl bedridden in critical condition for the remainder of the season. The accident effectively put Annabelle out of commission for months as she healed, and she was only able to film when Caroline, Caprice and Julie each came to visit her bedside. Even in the face of such a life-altering accident, Annabelle remained the voice of reason for the rest of the season, playing mediator between the fighting women and giving them a dose of reality from her bed.
The main storyline and primary source of conflict during the first season, however, was the power struggle between Caroline and Caprice. The pair began the season as long-time friends, but their friendship went south over, of all things, a baby shower. At the time of filming, Caprice was seven months pregnant (and also expecting a second child via surrogate). For what was likely meant to be the season finale party, Caprice asked Caroline to throw her a baby shower - but only under Caprice's very specific specifications. The mom- to-be objected to having the shower at Caroline's house in Surrey, saying it was too far to travel and requested the party be held at a restaurant in London instead. Naturally, this offended Caroline, who thought Caprice should be grateful she was being thrown a baby shower in the first place. Eventually, the model took back her request for Caroline to throw the shower at all - leading to an implosion of awkward tension and hurt feelings between the former friends.
The trip to Mapperton was also a turning point for the group as Caroline took the Americans under her wing and enlisted them as her unofficial minions. This power move placed Caroline at the top of the pecking order and officially drew a line in the sand in the struggle between her and Caprice for queen bee status among the women. Recognizing she was on the outs, Caprice then asked Noelle and Marissa to throw her a second baby shower, leaving Caroline feeling slighted and even angrier than she already was. The drama, all stirred up by Caprice, struck a major divide within the group with Juliet taking Caroline's side, Annabelle advising each of her friends to take the high road and Noelle finding herself in the crosshairs after attempting to play both sides. After avoiding each other at Noelle's charity event, Caroline decided to throw a dinner party at her house, and invited Caprice in an attempt at offering an olive branch.
The dinner party only made things worse between the battling queen bees. Not only did Caprice show up unfashionably late, but she didn't even acknowledge Caroline when she finally arrived. Noelle also arrived to the party drunk and feeling guilty - prior to the dinner, she had run to Caprice to fan the flames between the two dueling queen bees. Upon hearing about Caroline's dismay that the Americans were now throwing the baby shower, Caprice declared her a bully, and came to the dinner party with a score to settle. All of the gossip and talking behind each others' backs that had been building for episodes finally came to a head following the dinner, as everything was laid out on the table between Caroline and Caprice. Amidst the accusations of hurt feelings and who wronged whom, Noelle's loyalty was called into question as Caroline found out about the "bully" conversation. Caprice came to Noelle's defense and owned the accusation, reiterating it to Caroline's face at the end of the party. Being called a bully in her own home was the last straw for Caroline, who curtly asked Caprice to leave her house, effectively ending their friendship for good.
The funniest part of the whole ordeal is that the baby shower never even happened. When her surrogate unexpectedly went into labor, Caprice flew early to Los Angeles and left the women without a season finale party. By season's end, both she and her surrogate had given birth and she became a mom to sons Jax and Jett. As for the other ladies, Annabelle continued to heal from her accident and started regaining her mobility, Marissa became a British citizen and welcomed a second son and Scot Young proposed to Noelle with a six-carat diamond ring. (Tragically, Scot died in a mysterious accident in December 2014 when he fell from the balcony of his luxury flat and impaled himself on the railing below.) However, if one person came away the unqualified winner of the season, it was Caroline Stanbury, who remained friends with the Americans - particularly Juliet - and came out on top in her feud with Caprice. Out of all the ladies, she was the only one who successfully leveraged her relationships on the show to both create a storyline and position herself as the show's strongest power player. And she did it all while maintaining a witty sense of humor and remaining self-aware.
As we head into Season 2, I hope this year will expand on the potential of the first season and Ladies of London will officially become Bravo's next big hit. Let's hope we get a reunion this year too! Judging by the significant marketing push the network has been giving the show, complete with pop art-themed promos and lip sync videos to Fergie's "London Bridge," I'd say Bravo is confident in where the season is headed as well. I can't wait for the new season to jump back into British high society headfirst. Recaps of Ladies of London will be posted every Tuesday morning on the blog. Cheers!