The Real Housewives of Orange County recap: You can only box someone up for so long

Mary Sollosi
·5 min read


It’s been a big news day in the Housewives-verse, my friends. Huge! The biggest and happiest story of the day, though, has to be Orange County’s own Braunwyn Windham-Burke coming out as a lesbian.

“I like women. I’m gay,” she shared in an interview with GLAAD. “It has taken me 42 years to say that but I am so proud of where I am right now.” As we know from watching this season of RHOC, this year has been a time of enormous growth and change for Braunwyn as she navigates sobriety; based on tonight’s midseason teaser, it seems like the remainder of season 15 will provide some glimpses of this other side of her incredible personal journey this year as well. “I’m just now starting to feel like I’m becoming the woman I’m supposed to be,” she said in the GLAAD interview.

Tonight’s episode took on a new resonance coming so soon after this announcement; in a confessional alongside a scene of her taking her son Jacob makeup shopping, she says, “Jacob’s journey inspires me because I have never been authentically myself. And seeing him just glow from the inside out makes me realize that, at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that we’re true to ourselves.”

That shopping day happened nine months ago. In another confessional — which I suspect might have been quite recently filmed, based on her having posted a picture of herself in this exact, previously unseen (I think) confessional look two days ago and geotagged at a Christmas-decorated Evolution Media — she says, “You can only box someone up for so long before eventually they just have to break that damn box and turn it into confetti.”

It might be better if she can somehow recycle the box into toilet paper since that’s what everyone’s really looking for at the moment in 2020 history during which tonight’s episode takes place. The end of the ladies’ desert weekend — destined to be their last group vacay in some time — is demarcated by a now-vintage (a.k.a. from March) MSNBC clip announcing that the coronavirus has been declared a global pandemic.

Much of the episode follows the cast as they try to prepare for quarantine. I have been wondering how this moment would unfold on RHOC, and it gave me vivid flashbacks to those early days in, of course, the frantic shopping as well as in the attitudes, all evolving rapidly as the news rolled in. Gina goes from cheerfully buying spaghetti and mascarpone at the Italian market to realizing she should have been hoarding toilet paper the whole time. (“You can’t get toilet paper! It’s like getting a Birkin bag!” Kelly cries.)

The phone call between Kelly and Shannon should be taught in history classes as a document of this unique moment, expertly illustrating how widely attitudes differed in the early days of the pandemic. Kelly silently laughs at a panicked Shannon saying, “I get my meat every day!” and then reassuring her, after Shannon expresses her fears due to being immunocompromised, that the disease should only be a problem for “old people and babies. And then there’s you.” On second thought, maybe nobody should present Kelly and Shannon as a teaching tool in any classes, history or otherwise.

The hour brought me back to when we all called and texted everyone we’ve ever known (Kelly telling a friend in San Francisco “it’s not that bad here in Corona Del Mar”) and to the moment we resigned ourselves to a lot of indoor time, when — in yet another example of our friends the Bravo editors playing the long game to a rewarding payoff — Gina observes, “I just feel like the 1,700 square feet just got a hell of a lot smaller.” How much you want to bet Shannon never again denies calling that small house “sad”?

The prospect of quarantine adds new stress for Braunwyn, who we also see earlier in the episode visit her therapist to talk about her anxiety. She and Sean dump all the tequila they have in the house down the drain, and she shares in her confessional, "I feel like I need to escape, but I don't know where to go. Because what I'm trying to escape is myself."

The arrival of coronavirus dwarfs a secondary growing conflict, as Elizabeth learns from Kelly and Braunwyn that the other ladies think her story — about her divorce, her money, her relationship, and her feelings about all of them — doesn’t quite add up. (Based on what we’ve seen on the show, it definitely doesn’t, but personally I’m willing to cut the new girl some slack.) What upsets her, though, is the implication that she’s annoyed them with how much she talks about money, alternating with her insistence she really doesn’t care about money at all. We’ll see how that develops as they’re all left to sit with their feelings, and their mountains of toilet paper, in the coming weeks.

At one point in the episode’s second half, as we check in with all the women trying to prepare for what promises to be a lot more time inside than they could ever expect, it comes up that Tom Hanks had the virus. Hanks announced that he and his wife Rita Wilson tested positive on March 11; a title card at the end of the episode shares that production on the season shut down on March 14. The whole world can change in 72 hours.

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