Just seven episodes in, Season 12 of “Real Housewives of Orange County” is off to a tumultuous start. With one new housewife in the mix — Peggy Sulahian — and another, Lydia McLaughlin returning after four years off the show, the cast has had no issue picking up where they left off last year. The only problem is, they’re picking up from a fairly contentious place.
RHOC vets Shannon Beador and Tamra Judge were once close with the “OG of the OC,” Chicago native Vicki Gunvalson, but the last three years have taken a turn for the worse after the backlash from her relationship with Brooks. At the forefront: Gunvalson and her former boyfriend, Brooks Ayers, who has since fallen into warranted obscurity.
Enter last year’s newcomer Kelly Dodd, who came to Gunvalson’s aid and formed a friendship with the accomplished businesswoman and grandmother of two. While longtime viewers are privy to Gunvalson’s reluctance to befriend the new girl, Dodd was different. As for the other women, Gunvalson and Dodd hint at the fate of their friendships during a sit down with Splash — and if you think these two are leaving the show anytime soon, think again.
SPLASH: Hi ladies! Vicki, I actually interviewed you a couple years ago for Splash. We both went to Fremd High School!
VICKI GUNVALSON: That’s right, I do remember! I graduated way earlier than you did.
S: What are you two up to in Chicago this week? I saw you were out with former Bravo star, Patti Stanger, last night.
VG: We just had a lot of press today — it was our big press day. Don’t ask me where we were, because I don’t have my itinerary in front of me. Last night we went out and had fun. We whooped it up. We went to dinner — we went to the Viagra Triangle, Tavern on Rush, Maple and Ash. We went to Gibsons for lunch today and tonight we’re going to go see Coldplay! Busy, busy! And we’re flying to Cabo tomorrow morning. We’re exhausted!
KELLY DODD: We just came to do one ice cream social thing and it turned into chaos. Everyone found out we’re in town, so everybody wants a piece of us.
S: Kelly, have you been to Chicago before?
KD: I have, but not in 20 years.
S: Vicki, what were you excited to show Kelly around the city?
VG: Portillo’s – the cheesy beefs and the hot dogs. She fell in love.
KD: That’s what I said when I first got here. I want a cheesy beef.
VG: A dipped cheesy beef. … [and] you dip it in the au jus. And then you have the sweet peppers and the [Giardiniera] peppers. Everything was perfect — we split it in half and I was in heaven.
KD: And a hot dog — a Chicago hot dog.
S: I want to get into the season a little bit. It’s off to a crazy start. There’s a lot of heat between the ladies. Are these relationships salvageable?
VG: I’m always open to salvageable relationships, but it has to be both sides. They are fixated on the past and they won’t move forward. I am over it, literally. You’ll see coming up that Tamra says I tried to attack her family and attack her marriage. That is not the case. What is the truth is [that] Tamra approached Kelly when we were in Ireland and asked Kelly …
KD: “Did Vicki say my husband cheats on me and my husband is gay?” And then I said, “No, she didn’t say, ‘cheats’ on you. And then that’s when Heather Dubrow goes, “You can’t get your story straight.”
VG: Tamra had it in her brain — she never thought it was going to be aired and now she’s fixated saying that I tried to ruin her family. I didn’t try to ruin her family. I don’t care about ruining her family, I’m not that kind of girl. So I don’t understand why she is stuck on this. She is causing it to have so much life when it didn’t have to. She could’ve moved on and not talked about it this year, but she’s playing a victim. I didn’t go after her marriage; I didn’t go after Shannon’s marriage. They keep saying it over and over and I don’t understand it. If they don’t want to draw attention to it, then why do they keep talking about it? You’re going to see a lot of that this year.
KD: I think that I don’t have a problem with anybody until the end. I get along with everybody. But we also laugh and we have a good time. We go to Iceland and some major drama happens there.
VG: As usual. Every cast trip — it’s crazy. I think it’s a great season.
S: It seems like Lydia McLaughlin and Peggy Sulahian came in trying to mediate the two sides. Are they helping or hurting the situation?
VG: I think Lydia came with a pure heart. Lydia came with good intentions, and same with Peggy. I do think it maybe helped a little bit. You know, no one wants to see women fighting over and over about the same subject. I didn’t hurt them, but they love to talk about me, which is fine.
KD: They’re still talking about Brooks!
VG: It’s so crazy, two and a half years after him. I’m not talking about Simon. I don’t care about Simon. It’s an old relationship and it’s just ridiculous that they continue to talk about it. I don’t talk about Sidney. Why doesn’t [Tamra] have a relationship with Sidney?
KD: You’re not bringing that up.
VG: I’m not bringing up all the stuff that just came up in the press that I already knew about.
S: During moments like the drama between Tamra and her daughter, is that a time where the ladies can rally together and support one another? How does that play out amongst the group when things like that happen off camera?
VG: I texted her and told her that I wish her the very best and I’m sorry she’s going through a tough time. The problem is that it’s never reciprocated with her towards me. When I was going through all that I went through two years ago, not once did she ever reach out to me and say “I’m your friend for 10 years, what can I do?” Never once. It’s a lopsided friendship a little bit.
S: Kelly, you got a lot of heat last season and I imagine it was hard for you. Why did you decide to return?
KD: Because Heather Dubrow left. And why not? There’s a lot of upsides and opportunities. Like what we’re going to do right now: We get to go to Coldplay, I get to meet certain people. It opens doors, so why not?
S: You both seem to be happy this season, and I do think viewers at home would rather see women getting along rather than women fighting. Vicki, is this your best season yet?
VG: Well, yes. I think [the first 7 or 8 years] when I was on [the show] with [ex-husband] Donn and my family, those were all great years. I went through a bumpy year with the past relationship, but my relationship [now] is great. We’re solid, we’re happy and the kids love him. Every single day life can take a turn. I just value good people in my life. What was the saying we heard today? “If you don’t like me and don’t want to spend time with me…”
KD: Then walk away.
VG: I’m not going to force anybody to be my friend. We work together, we have to have some sort of camaraderie or it doesn’t make sense. Like I said to Shannon last year, “If you don’t like me, then get off my show.” It’s very clear. We have to work together. We have to have a sense of friendship or it doesn’t make sense.
KD: You can’t film a show when people are at odds. There’s always going to be arguments like that, but if you’re refusing to… Like in Iceland, they refused to go to dinner that the guy cooked for us. It was completely rude, completely uncalled for, the girls are getting paid big bucks to film and they’re like, “I’m not going.” It’s annoying. You can’t film a show if they’re not willing to at least have some sort of friendship.
S: It is confusing for viewers — especially in the beginning of the season — to watch the women refusing to see each other. You’re filming a show together, so I think you’re going to run into each other.
VG: They’re causing their own demise. If they don’t want to film, then they can go back home.
KD: They’re burying themselves.
S: Do you keep in touch with Heather Dubrow at all?
VG: We don’t talk to her.
KD: No! I run into her more than anyone. I run into her at Orange Theory all the time.
S: Is Tamra still friends with her?
KD: They were never … that was a fake friendship.
S: At the end of every season, what is the inventory you take in your life before deciding to sign up again? Vicki, you’ve made that decision 12 times now and Kelly you’ve made it once.
VG: No, that’s not a decision. As long as Bravo wants me, I’m on. I don’t say every year, “Am I going to come back?” I’m coming back. I will be on as long as the viewers and Bravo love me and respect me. My life is never going to be ending until I’m dead. Every year there’s going to be a new experience, a new journey. It’s not a decision. I’m on until I’m not.
S: And Kelly, how about you?
VG & KD: Same thing.
S: What is a quality that Chicagoans have that the women in Orange County need?
VG: Loyalty! You don’t hurt the people you’re supposed to be friends with. You bring casseroles when people are sad and sick. I say that with jest. It’s loyalty. My friends are loyal through and through.
KD: Just nice-hearted. And humble. And good, good roots.
VG: And the work ethic is extremely strong here in the Midwest. We work hard, we’re workers. We were born and raised to work. And we’re workhorses almost to our demise. You know that — you went to Fremd! You work, you don’t look for an out. You make your own money and you work for it. You don’t lie, cheat and steal on the way. I don’t know what the women think I did, I didn’t. But if you want to call me a liar … Tamra is fixated on this, she has no proof I lied. I’m going to call her a liar now. She said I lied. We can play that game and I can call her a liar. It’s hurtful. I have clients, I have a business. I’m a financial adviser for insurance and all of that. You don’t go around putting it on international TV that I’m a liar. It’s very disrespectful and very rude. And very hurtful, so that’s the downside.
KD: Prove it.
VG: My mom used to say that the cream always rises to the top, the truth always prevails and karma will always take care of itself. Being from Chicago, we don’t take relationships lightly. I’m invested in my friends.
Tune into the Real Housewives of Orange County Mondays at 8 p.m. on Bravo.