Even so, I very much welcomed the return of Fancy Pants to The Real Housewives of Orange County’s 16th season, which premiered back in December. Dubrow, alongside her frenemy Shannon Beador, is responsible for some of the most breathtakingly petty fights in Housewives history, including a spat over whose chair was whose at a restaurant after Heather took Shannon’s while she was in the bathroom — an incident still referenced years after the fact.
Dubrow and Beador are, in some ways, each other’s perfect foils: one brunette, one blonde; one always Southern California–skinny, one whose weight has yo-yoed through the years; one seemingly forever on the up, up, up (in previous seasons we’ve seen all the time and money Dubrow pours into building increasingly gigantic mansions) and one whose new boyfriend and QVC food line have failed to convince her “friends” that she’s finally, actually, really happy now. One of the main plotlines this season involves Dubrow and fellow Northeasterner Gina Kirschenheiter accusing Beador of jealousy; Beador, meanwhile, is a little too transparently desperate to be liked to convince them otherwise.
In this season’s first episode, Dubrow gives the ladies a tour of the garish 22,000-square-foot monstrosity of a family home she’d planned and built for years, the “Dubrow Chateau,” now finally complete. In her talking head interview, Dubrow happily admits to not knowing how many rooms there are in the house. Watching her brag about how the shipping container that brought her custom chandelier to the estate was the largest ever to enter the US, and the time she had dozens of custom cabinets trashed so they could be remade to her exacting specifications, I felt ready to embrace Dubrow as Villain, the Housewife you love to hate. The way she and her husband casually talk about building still more homes, in Cabo and Idaho, for some reason, while a pandemic has left a million dead and hundreds of thousands more suffering, can be difficult to watch. But it also sets Dubrow up for some delicious schadenfreude, at her expense, if her carefully crafted self-image ever comes crumbling down.
Yes, most Housewives across the franchise have a lot of money, but it’s smoke and mirrors much more often than you’d think. The Dubrows seem to have real cash, and they’re blowing it on tacky movie theaters and champagne walls. Some viewers on a r/BravoRealHousewives thread think Heather would be better suited to The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, where her wealth might not stick out quite as much. As it stands right now, her ego and pretension are newly grating on old fans. One redditor who used to love her now thinks “she just seems like an asshole.”
Beador, who used to live right around the corner in a massive estate in Newport Beach, isn’t thrilled with the couple’s new home, either. While Dubrow shows off her heated towel drawers and jaw-dropping views, the camera rudely zooms onto Beador’s crestfallen face. She says in voiceover that her old house, which she lost when she and her ex-husband divorced, was her “fourth child.” She now lives in a beautiful seven-bedroom bungalow with her daughters, still huge but (IMO) much more tasteful than the stuffy-old-lady mansion over which she used to reside. But you can tell, as much as she says she’s now in her “dream home,” that there’s a part of Beador who will always look back on what she’s lost in Newport Beach. And for now, proof of that loss is standing right in front of her in the image of Dubrow, who can afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a sushi party where nobody ends up eating the sushi.
As this relatively uneven season winds down, things are heating up, since Dubrow and Beador are still fighting over the true intentions of a FaceTime call Dubrow made to Beador a few episodes back. Beador was having a dinner party at home in Orange County and Dubrow was in New York shooting an episode of her podcast. Dubrow had decided to take Kirschenheiter, with whom she’d been getting friendly, to New York with her, which some cast members think has activated Beador’s jealousy. Beador’s FaceTime is perfectly benign — Beador says she’d just called to say hello, how are you — but Dubrow is upset after the fact that Beador hadn’t specifically asked her about how her podcast taping was going.
This is a perfect bit of Housewives conflict: absolutely zero stakes and spun out of control so as to be supposedly indicative of some greater issue of profound importance.