Surprise, it’s not just for parties or for the faces of women with too much plastic surgery. It’s something for life. It’s something that happens every day in the darkest corners of our psyche as they are attacked the unfettered unknowables of the world. Real Housewives hate surprises. They live in a world of gated communities, producer-created lunches, manufactured social interactions, and vaguely scripted happenstances. They don’t like the unexpected. If something goes off the rails, it means they’re at risk of being fired, humiliated, and possibly humiliatingly set afire, which has yet to happen to a Real Housewife on camera, but it’s only a matter of time before this thing becomes the damn Hunger Games and Alexis Bellino is stumble-running through a forest from giant fireballs flying at her head like she’s some big-titted Katniss Everdeen. That’s how Housewives feel when they’re surprised.
Drinking game alert! Every time you hear this word [furiously pointing upward at the word “SURPRISE”] take a Pinot of your Grigio.
Speaking of which, no one was surprised when Gretchen Rossi couldn’t sing “Fever,” the most hackneyed sexy song this side of “Happy Birthday, Mr. President.” You know if Madonna tried to use it being sexy, then you just can’t do it anymore. Goodbye hitchhiking naked with a cigarette dangling out of your mouth. Goodbye having an orgy with Vanilla Ice. Goodbye rubbing your genitals all over Warren Beatty. Those are all things Madge ruined forever, along with “Fever.” So, Gretchen gets up on her birthday to sing Fever while the Pussycat Dolls crouch-grind behind her and spray the audience with their considerable pheromones. Gretchen is singing her song dressed like some sort of Chinese communist general at a fetish party. Seriously, what the Chairman Mao does this song have to do with military attire?
Gretchen’s performance is an unmitigated disaster. There, I said it. It is just awful. But it’s not like so bad it’s good or funny. It’s like William Hung, shaking his self-delusion like a bon-bon on national television. It’s not like The Culps on SNL. It’s just horribly rendered competence. It is sincere striving smothered in failure. It’s sort of like a really shaky version of Tippy the Tortoise that isn’t going to get anyone into a huckster drawing school. It’s like the last place contestant at the Miss Chrysanthemum Festival in West Anglefield, New Jersey (a town full of idiots that I just created in my brain). It’s just awful.
For some reason, the women all tell her she did a good job. Most of them kind of know that it was awful but Heather, my favorite, my girl Heather, fails to realize that Gretchen sounds like a stomped recorder. She is really enthusiastic about this. I am surprised that Heather, usually such a straight shooter, has such a lapse in judgement. Speaking of which, Alexis thinks that Jim is not at all enjoying the Pussycat Dolls show. She thinks he is so good and Christian that he isn’t putting the erection back in resurrection the minute those titties hit the stage. They’re both sitting at this little cocktail table and the girls come out and Jim leans forward a bit and makes this scrunched up little face and there’s a loud thud on the table. “Oh God,” Jim shouts. Alexis thinks that he is in prayer, but the table his gone up two inches right where Jim is sitting and their vodka sodas are falling off the other end. Then the table begins to shake up and down furiously, and just as suddenly it stops. “Sorry,” Jim says. “There must have been an earthquake.” Alexis thinks that makes perfect sense.
After the show everyone goes upstairs to Gretchen’s birthday party. She arrives wearing another Pussycat Dolls outfit, some tarted up corset number with gloves. Okay, Fetch Gretch, this is fine for the stage and all, but this is not cool to wear around your friends. This is like showing up for a Tuesday night dinner at Olive Garden in full drag. And you know Jim Bellino is going to be at your birthday party. He’s just standing in the corner and every time he sees Gretchen he doubles over in spasms shouting, “Oh God. Oh God. It’s so amazing.” Alexis thinks that he is taken with the spirit. She can see the savior’s face in the stain on his pants.
At the party, Tamra presents a Gretchen the Wenchen with a present. It is a framed photo of them covered in mud. Yes, just two women smiling that they are covered in filth, clutching each other so that they don’t fall down sobbing. If there was ever an objective correlative for this show it is a framed photo of two smiling women complicit in covering each other in mud. Vicki also presents Gretchen with a present. It’s some sort of top or wrap or something. The real present was that Vicki apologized for freaking out on Gretchen about Slade at the Bunga Party or whatever awful thing she did this time. Vicki does two things that I absolutely hate about Real Housewife apologies. First she says, “I want to say I’m sorry. This isn’t the right place to talk about it, but I”m sorry. We’ll talk about it later.” Okay, if you don’t want to talk about it then don’t bring it up! Obviously you want to talk about it or it wouldn’t be, you know, the subject of conversation. The other thing I hate is that Vicki then demands an apology of her own. “I apologized, now you need to apologize.” No, that is not how apologies work. Housewives, who apologize with the frequency that most of us take good hearty dumps, are awful at apologizing. They think that they should be like kisses, an act that goes both ways. No. Apologies go one way. If someone hits your car, then they would apologize. Do they expect you to apologize and say like, “Oh, I’m sorry that I had to leave the house to run my errands and was on this road when you made a grave mistake and crashed into me?” No, that is not how this apology thing works. And that is why the Housewives are just this continuous five-car pile-up, everyone smashing into each other waiting for and issuing apologies as they continue to drive into each other like it’s some sort of moral demolition derby.
Speaking of apologizes, Gretchen’s drunk friend Sarah was also at the party. Sarah is a striver, someone who is in the orbit of the Housewives who wants to be on the cast so bad. The whole time Sarah is just begging for camera time, standing next to Gretchen and apologizing to Vicki for freaking out on her at the Bowling Party. She’s just doing everything short of taking her top off and throwing Jim Bellino into a coma of pleasure where he loses control of all his bodily functions and simultaneously farts, burbs, and pisses himself before passing out and shuddering on the floor like an epileptic. If I were Vicki and she came out and apologized to me on the balcony, I would have just flung her off into the Bellagio fountain below. A shriek and a splash and we’d never hear from Sarah Striver (Maria’s cousin) again.