Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip: Ex-Wives Club was the ultimate treat for Housewives fans who spend hours online begging Andy Cohen to rehire their favorite axed reality stars. Once again, viewers got to experience the comic rage of Dorinda Medley, Jill Zarin’s unquenchable thirst, and Phaedra Parks’ lethal shade. The season also featured Real Housewives of Orange County dynamic duo Vicki Gulvanson and Tamra Judge, whose appearances were seemingly just a bridge for them to return to their original franchise.
Now, RHUGT is back for a third season without the ex-wives caveat or anything particularly novel to showcase—save for two former Housewives: Real Housewives of New York’s Leah McSweeney and Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Porsha Williams. But the rest of the guests include women we’ve watched consecutively over the past year, like Gizelle Bryant and Candiace Dillard Bassett from Potomac, Alexia Nepola and Marysol Patton from Miami, and Salt Lake City’s Heather Gay and Whitney Rose.
On paper, this mixture of personalities sounds like a recipe for disaster—the type of glorious, funny catastrophe we expect from this spinoff. While these women contribute a lot to their individual franchises, we learn very quickly—at least in the RHUGT’s first three episodes—that they might not have much to bring to their expansive rental in Thailand aside from stale, rolled-over conflicts and Marysol’s bedazzled tumblers. The end result is a boozy, somehow less riveting version of Lord of The Flies with Heather as the group’s Simon.
The stagnancy of the first three episodes is not for a lack of trying on the cast’s part, including the hilarious concierge, named Pepsi. The premise of this show naturally puts these women in a double bind: They have to deliver the usual antics of a Real Housewives show in a high-pressure scenario in a short span of time, which can breed some glaringly manufactured drama. On the last RHUGT at least, the women’s confrontations seemed legitimate, spurring from a mix of brash personalities and a tight living situation. And in Season 1, tensions rose naturally as the women (besides Ramona Singer) sincerely attempted to bond.
In Season 3, this particular group of Housewives, based on their savvy, outspoken personalities, seem like they should all get along fairly well. However, they spend most of their time exaggerating small grievances and coming up with reasons why they shouldn’t trust each other. Nearly every dispute can be described as a reach. You could almost compare it to a typical episode of RHOSLC.
This is mostly the doing of friend duo and former hosts of the pandemic talk show Bravo’s Chat Room, Gizelle and Porsha. Throughout the first episodes, the two are positioned as the seasoned, popular girls amongst the cast’s newer faces, leading most of the shady discussions and sharing a confessional to be even shadier. While viewers will probably enjoy watching Gizelle interrogate Heather about her relationship with Jen Shah the second she steps foot in the villa, the rest of the Potomac star’s poking grows tired extremely fast. It’s equally frustrating watching the women scramble initially to get on her good side.
Porsha is a less obvious pot-stirrer, but manages to be somewhat exhausting, given how loquacious and generally “extra” she is. This platform would’ve been an interesting opportunity for the guileless Porsha viewers met in the Season 5 of RHOA. But the former reality star has since become an established radio host, activist, author, and saleswoman who’s a little too comfortable being on camera. She was also clearly cast as a result of the media spectacle surrounding her controversial engagement (now marriage) to Simon Guobadia. Unfortunately, this spin-off has aired so far from that news—and her Bravo miniseries detailing that relationship—that a layer of curiosity has been removed.
On the flipside, the recency of RHOLSC Season 3 makes Heather and Whitney’s continued beefing a bit tedious. It would certainly be more interesting to watch Heather interact with the group of women alone without Whitney rallying them against her in every sprinter van ride. She hardly has to convince them to be suspicious of her cousin anyway, given that she kicks off the trip by insulting Leah’s sobriety, admitting that she’s an enabling friend, and being generally thirsty. Heather ultimately brings her ostracization on herself, but manages to handle it with her classic, self-effacing humor.
Elsewhere, Candiace and Leah are crumbling and consequently bonding under the anxiety of feeling alone. Candiace already dislikes Gizelle prior to the Chris Bassett of it all. And Leah’s former co-star Tinsley Mortimer dropped out of the show prior to filming. (Talk about someone whose frantic energy is ideal for being stuck in an exotic location with strangers.)
Oppositely, Alexia and Marysol are so comfortable having each other by their side that they barely interact with anyone unless provoked by Gizelle, or until it’s their turn to host a dumb party game. (Although, we do get a lot of Marysol complaining about whatever the hell is going on—probably vodka poisoning—with her stomach lining on this trip.)
Speaking of games, the producers really need to find a way to structure this show outside of shady icebreakers solely designed to start arguments. Last season, the unique location of Dorinda’s Bluestone Manor kept her guests preoccupied and prompted a slew of Real World-esque conflicts. In Thailand, the women seem bored and unsure of what to do with themselves unless they’re calling each other names around a table. I think the show would benefit from a more cinéma vérité approach, where the main confrontations involve things like leaving cereal boxes open.
Overall, the season feels best represented in one wacky (yet somehow underwhelming) scene where the women visit an elephant sanctuary. One of the site’s employees takes the women to a pond where they can rub the elephants in mud. At one point, Porsha throws a handful of mud on Gizelle and a playful fight breaks out amongst the women. Only it seems like that mud may have been contaminated with elephant feces, as Candiace spots one of the mammals taking a massive dump.
I certainly wasn’t expecting the women’s failed mudslinging throughout the early episodes to take such a literal form. And yet, it provided me an extra sense of clarity about what’s required to make this spin-off work: a less calculated cast, more has-been Housewives desperate to get back on television, a more confined setting, and Vicki Gulvanson’s existential spiraling. Luckily, Season 4 will check a few of these boxes.
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