The Real Housewives Franchises Live & Die By Their Vacation Episodes

Photo: Paul Cheney/Bravo.
Any longtime Real Housewives Of New York fan will tell you if someone is acting up, there’s only one thing to tell them: "Go to sleep, go to sleep!" Of course, the quote comes from what may be the most iconic Housewives episode in history, season 3’s "Sun, Sand and Psychosis." Yet, no one actually remembers that title, since the installment is much more famously known as "Scary Island," and it lives up to the name. Last night, seven years after the deliciously accursed RHONY trip to the Virgin Islands, the ladies of New York headed to Mexico for season 9’s annual vacation arc. The first installment around the getaway, "Three Tequila… Floor," paled in comparison to the madness of "Scary Island," proving a Housewives season should be defined by its biggest vacation.
This doesn’t actually sound believable, but "Three Tequila" dedicates a full 15 minutes to bedroom selection drama. As we’ve seen over the years, Ramona Singer and Sonja Morgan have full paranoid meltdowns over which bedroom they will receive on any trip since they absolutely must share a dwelling on every vacation. We saw this kind of bizarre, inevitable immaturity earlier this season during the Vermont ski trip, when the pair attempted to steal Dorinda Medley’s bedroom because she had access to pretty sinks. This time around, the Sonja and Ramona-led version of Room Raiders is even more strange, as the pair dash around the group’s Mexican villa while the other women calmly take in the breathtaking sights. The room-obsessed ladies' designs are foiled by a Bethenny Frankel decreed lottery, where everyone must choose a number between one through seven out of a hat. The higher the number, the better the room. As fate would have it, Ramona and Sonja end up with the last places of six and seven, respectively.
The ensuing incident is more worthy of children choosing bunks at summer camp than AARP-approved adult women on a vacation worth a small fortune, and it highlights this season’s major issues. When Southern hospitality-raised newbie Tinsley Mortimer gets first pick, she cedes her placement to Bethenny because the Skinnygirl mogul planned the entire trip. Ramona responds by telling Sonja she should be insulted, since Tinsley is staying for free in Sonja’s townhouse, but gave the top bedroom to Bethenny of all people. When their gossipy rage doesn’t change anything, Ramona and Sonja attempt to force either Dorinda or Carole Radziwill out of their rooms. Even Sonja has to admit she would never want her daughter, Quincy Morgan, to exhibit such alarming behavior. Considering all of that takes up nearly half the episode, this is what goes for drama in "Tequila Floor."
Things don’t get any more explosive in the rest of the installment, as it focuses on people being late for dinner, a mean Page Six item about Tinsley that Sonja more than likely had a hand in, and Ramona’s nipple covers. The only interesting moments of "Tequila Floor" arrive when Tinsley is finally forced to stand up for herself — telling Ramona to "shut the fuck up" — and when a very margarita-drunk LuAnn (de Lesseps) D’Agostino shows up to dinner. LuAnn falling into a bush is iconic, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Despite the joy I received from watching The Countess happily flailing around in a bunch of roses, it’s all nothing compared to the insanity of the likes of "Scary Island," which former RHONY star Kelly Bensimon compared to "frickin’ Hades." The episode centers around Kelly, who was fixated on her feud with Bethenny (everyone is always fixated on their feud with Bethenny), and her increasingly disturbing behavior. One single installment about Scary Island gave viewers more signature lines than entire seasons of television. Remember Kelly randomly saying "satchels of gold" to Bethenny on a boat? What about her repeatedly mumbling, "zip it," to everyone? "Al Sharpton! Al Sharpton," anybody? Or maybe Kelly’s claims that Bethenny had repeatedly tried to murder her while former cast member Alex McCord might be a vampire? Thankfully, everyone realized Kelly was showing signs of true instability and attempted to diffuse the situation by showing her kindness by the end of the episode. But, until that final detente, the entire episode is a whirling RHONY memory factory made of pinot grigio, gummy bears, and blank-eyed Ramona stares.
The unforgettable nature of "Scary Island" makes sense, considering New York was firing on all cylinders that season. It was the height of Bethenny and Kelly’s genuinely interesting feud, which included Kelly’s obsession with denying her co-star was even a celebrity "chef." She did, however, hilariously praise Bethenny’s salad dressing, saying she could be the next Paul Newman. Jill Zarin and Bethenny were also feuding face-to-face that season. This season, RHONY cast-off Jill was relegated to criticizing Bethenny during an odd mid-episode meal with LuAnn. Season 3 was also the year Bethenny announced her pregnancy with daughter Bryn Hoppy, LuAnn released instant classic "Money Can’t Buy You Class," and Ramona did this on a catwalk. Seven years later, all of these moments are still some of the best in Housewives history.
Now, compare the bonkers storylines of the "Scary Island" season to RHONY 2017, and you’ll see the reality show isn’t exactly at that level anymore. Ramona and Bethenny have been feuding for weeks, but it’s clear the bad blood only continues to exist because New York’s filming schedule won’t let them quit each other. Famed fallen socialite Tinsley Mortimer was meant to shake things up in a lighthearted way, but she’s mostly spent season 9 proving her serious relationship trauma and being bullied by landlord Sonja. There couldn’t be any tension around LuAnn’s questionable marriage to so-called "reformed" cheater To D’Agostino, because there’s always a new People story about their supposedly happy marriage. And Carole, Dorinda, and Sonja simply want to spend time with their respective pets named "Baby," Berkshire homes, and French lovers. With plots like these, it’s no surprise “Tequila Floor,” doesn’t have the juice of a "Scary Island."
As I started considering last week, it might be time for a total reboot of Real Housewives Of New York for season 10. They should keep all the pinot, though.
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