Photo: Karolina Wojtasik/Peacock
In honor of this first season of Ultimate Girls Trip, Vulture has assembled an all-star cast housewives writers to rotate summary tasks. This time on, freelance housewives correspondent Louis Peitzman.
There was a moment while filming RHUGT when Housewives was Twitter Certainly that a secret eighth all-star would be skydiving in the Turks and Caicos Islands mid-week to stir things up. Sources said – and don’t ask who these sources were, because no one will deal with them now – that Tamra Judge would come to save the day. Then it was whispered that it would be Jill Zarin, who would arrive late again on another scary island, hoping not to be turned away from the door this time. Some even speculated that the surprise guest would be Lisa Vanderpump, who returned to make up or talk to Kyle, which is the kind of Housewives fanfic it’s hard to imagine anyone seriously believe, but listen, it was a pandemic, and we didn’t. there’s not much going on.
In the end, no secret final all-star emerged, and I’m offering this preamble just to point out that while I may not be the most exciting surprise guest to join the ranks of Vulture’s RHUGT mid-season reruns, at least I exist, keeping the promise Brian made when he hinted at a “special guest all-star” in his first RHUGT to summarise. The bar may be low, but I’ll jump over it. (Did I just discover my Housewives tagline?)
Speaking of Scary Island, in the fifth episode of Peacock’s fever dream of a mash-up series, Ramona drinks her way into Kelly Bensimon-level mania. If there was any hope of redemption for Ms. Singer after the cursed 13th season of… RHONY and (more importantly) reports from two separate internal investigations into her alleged racist comments, cannot be found at RHUGT. This isn’t exactly Ramona at her worst (“Should I apologize for being white?” is definitely lower), but it’s a pretty perfect encapsulation of her myriad personality flaws. If she was chasing a Shittiest Person on Bravo award — and to be honest, the competition is fierce — this episode would be her entry. For consideration: Fire Ramona.
It starts off well enough for Ramona, who kicks off the episode and shares some quality time with Kyle in the oversized closet where they film confessionals. “Literally at 3 a.m. I laughed out loud in my bed thinking about you,” Kyle says, and for a woman who is much more likely to have nightmares, that’s a wonderful thing to hear. Yes, there is still some tension with Kenya, which Ramona certainly tries to provoke a confrontation, but she doesn’t let it get to her heart. And then things take a turn, as Ramona reveals the terrifying extent of her delusion: “I’ve been working on myself and I’ve come a long way,” she says in a confessional. “I’m a softer, nicer, warmer, more caring person.” (The producer laughs, which is honestly the kindest response you can give to someone out of touch with reality.)
It’s Kenya’s rich bitch yacht day, which may explain why she decides on the way to complain about the time her nanny embarrassed her by wearing flip flops on a private jet. Yes, that’s a horrible Roy family, but maybe she’s just leaning on the theme! However, what I have yet to explain is how we got all these housewives on a yacht without a single one Below Deck cast member on board. It’s another extremely popular franchise, with countless stews and sailors to choose from. Do I have to think about everything?
Kate Chastain is nowhere to be seen, but there are plenty of staff to handle the copious drink orders. Ramona is unusually nice to everyone, especially a woman who was recently called out for her use of the phrase ‘the help’. She asks for an extra shot in her margarita – foreshadowing! — with a gentle, “I don’t want to overwhelm you…” Kyle points out that there might be some overcompensation going on, and Ramona admits she was shocked to see herself being rude on TV. On a reality show, she says, “you definitely become more self-aware.” The look on Cynthia’s face says it all: if RHONY has been a learning experience for Ramona, how exactly did she get here?
Self-awareness (or lack thereof) is the theme of the episode. There’s a brief scuffle over the women interrupting each other, which seems to be largely centered on Kyle—somewhere, Dorit felt a chill and then kept talking—culminating in Melissa trying to ease the tension by saying, “I think it’s fair to say we’re all motherfuckin’ attention whores.” Cynthia doesn’t like that because she doesn’t see herself as the center of attention, but at some point you have to reconcile that with the choice to have your life filmed for the past ten years.
If Ramona had real self-awareness, she wouldn’t be so happy to play the game that Kenya drank up as the backseat producer she is. The women will draw cards featuring shady sayings from the other Housewives during their respective shows, and they’ll have to guess which all-star said it and to whom. Of course, the first card is a quote from Luann, in which he laments that Ramona reached out to Tom’s ex-girlfriends to dig up dirt on him when he and Luann were engaged. Lu begged to say it, explaining that although Ramona was ultimately right about Tom, what she did was still worthless. Ramona sincerely apologizes, the two women embrace and back in New York Tom D’Agostino is swallowed up in the earth, never to be heard from again.
Just kidding! Ramona goes on the defensive, calling herself a “girl girl,” which is one of her more unhinged proclamations. She then proves what a loyal friend she is by heartlessly revealing that Luann fucked Tom the first night they met. Despite Kyle’s efforts to make peace – confrontation scares her, okay? – the situation escalates. When Ramona says she only said what she did because she’s jealous of Luann’s sexuality, Kenya rightly calls that excuse an “asshole.” Ramona fires back a half-hearted ‘oh, fuck you’, which is probably intended to be playful, but certainly not interpreted that way.
The much anticipated hunting showdown between Kenya and Ramona is not as satisfying as it should be. Sure, it’s undeniable joy to hear Kenya say what we’ve all been thinking about Ramona for the past 13 years: ‘What’s wrong with you? You’re an asshole.” But Kenya, as she admits, loses her cool and finally grabs the potion from Ramona’s hand. This isn’t that Kenya is a shadow killer; this is Kenya that realizes she just can’t stand Ramona – that no one Ramona should ever endure. The fact that Luann says she’s happy everyone can now see what she’s been up to is a joke, because her frenemy has been an asshole in front of the camera for over a decade. There’s nothing news to all this, there is only patience with wearing thinner: for Luann, for the other women, and for the public, who could all memorize an apology from Ramona at this point.
It’s hard to tell where she’s going from here – not from the yacht, which she escapes (unworthiness of all humiliation) on a dinghy with the crew, but into the larger Bravo universe. It becomes clear that Ramona’s behavior in this episode is largely fueled by tequila, but that doesn’t change the fact that no one really wants to be around her anymore. This may very well be her Housewives swan song, and she doesn’t show nearly as much grace as the birds that guard Villa Rosa. It is Luann and not Kenya who gives Ramona the real kiss of death. “I feel sorry for her,” she says. “I feel sorry for her because she hasn’t grown as a person.” It may take firefighters from other cities like Teresa and Kenya to help Lu see what we’ve all known for years: this is not a woman who can change.
The rest of the episode doesn’t help Ramona’s case. The evening would be all about Teresa’s Italian meal, but instead the focus is on Ramona’s drunken tantrum over glamour. She refuses to pay until she has received a full bill, and the vacuuming keeps hair and makeup from getting to Cynthia, who then shows up late for pasta dinner and blames Ramona. It’s not really about the glamor (or the pasta, of course). As Kyle shrewdly points out, it’s also not about defending Luann, no matter how outraged Teresa seems on her behalf. The problem that all the other housewives have with Ramona is that she is Ramona. They are on vacation with this woman for five days, which is five days too long.
Not since Jill was banned from Scary Island has a New York housewife been so unwanted. Ramona finally realizes this much and apologizes from the table, her performance becoming increasingly pitiful as she tops up her tequila with red wine. She might console herself with the belief that everyone else is obsessed with her for being so boring—a suggestion she offers the other ladies, presumably to get back into their good graces—but her mirror monologue (“You don’t like me, but I like me”) is Travis Bickle via Neely O’Hara. It’s honestly a little hard to watch. Most of all, you wish Bethenny was there to yell at her to go to sleep.
Kenya gets some good digs once Ramona wanders off to lament her plight at the workforce (and production, and anyone who will listen). She calls Ramona a “freaking frail old lady entitled.” And while some of her insults feel a little childish — there’s no shame in Depends, just ask Lisa Rinna — her simple assessment that Ramona is “very delusional and arguably insane” cuts the deepest. The other all-stars are relieved that they will probably never have to spend time with Ramona again. With her future on RHONY very much an open question, those of us watching at home dare hope for the same reprieve.