We are in the throes of Real Housewives reunion season, as two of the most popular franchises — Beverly Hills and New York City — wind down their runs for the year by bringing the women back together. Reunions are their own beasts on Bravo programming: ostensibly about revisiting the drama of the season with some remove, the multi-part episodes are more like arena battle royales, with the women hashing out their issues at high volume while dressed in impeccable evening wear.
But reunions are stressful, and not everyone can hang. Throughout the years, we've seen plenty of surrenders at the reunions, whether it be in the heat of the moment or before the reunion has even begun. These range from the silly and pointless to the genuinely frustrating; a reunion is like a trial, and it seems unfair that some witnesses can choose to simply not show up to explain their actions.
In honor of this year's reunion walkouts — from Ramona Singer on New York City and Camille Grammer Meyer on Beverly Hills — let's break down the three ways the Housewives can make both a scene and an exit.
This is the simplest and most common maneuver: a Housewife threatens to jump ship, and even makes it fairly far off the stage, but ultimately doesn't leave. This is perhaps the most baldly melodramatic of the three strategies, since Bravo can play the footage like it's a real exit in previews, only to reveal the fakeout in the episode.
You can find examples of fakeouts across basically every franchise. Lisa Rinna did it in Season 6 of Beverly Hills, when she was accusing her fellow Lisa — Vanderpump, that is — of setting her up to look bad to the ailing Yolanda Hadid. (In a very pre-Sharp Objects and The Act moment, Rinna had insinuated that Hadid had Munchausen's syndrome, not chronic Lyme disease — but said Vanderpump had led her to make the statement.) Just a year later, over in Atlanta for their ninth season, Porsha Williams staged a fakeout after learning her friend Phaedra Parks had lied to her about the source of a rumor about their frenemy, Kandi Burruss. But Burruss would quickly upstage her.
Some Housewives fully commit to the bit. A complete walkout is an actual departure from the set of the reunion, one that usually requires a commercial break at minimum, if not a whole cliffhanger. Some of the more dramatic examples of this include LeeAnne Locken fully exiting the building in Dallas' second season, Hadid storming off in the middle of the Battle of Munchausen's in Season 6 of Beverly Hills, and Ramona Singer countless times across her 11 seasons on New York. Perhaps the most justified walkout belonged to Burruss in that Atlanta season 9 reunion. Upon finding out Parks was the source of a rumor that she tried to drug and rape Williams. The singer/songwriter was so furious, she had to leave set, prompting one of the longest breaks in Real Housewives reunion history.
Before that, the biggest reunion walkout was probably Danielle Staub fleeing the set after provoking the wrath of her then-enemy Teresa Giudice by alluding to a nephew that Teresa hadn't gone to visit yet. She was referring to the family rift between Teresa and her brother Joe/sister-in-law Melissa (Melissa would be cast as a Housewife for the next season, bringing the Gorga family drama in front of the cameras). Teresa flipped out the hardest she'd ever flipped out before — table-flip included — and nearly tore a hole through Andy Cohen trying to get her hands on a fleeing Danielle.
The traditional walkout appears to be what Camille Grammer Meyer is going to pull in this week's episode of the Beverly Hills reunion, what with her fully storming back to her dressing room in the preview clip. Whether or not she rejoins the Housewives for the remainder of the reunion remains to be seen.
It's very rare, but occasionally a Housewife doesn't even show up to the reunion. This is usually a breach of contract, and as happened to Adrienne Maloof in Beverly Hills' third season, results in the Housewife's termination. If there's an extenuating circumstance, as there was with Luann de Lesseps returning to rehab for the 10th New York City reunion, the housewife is not typically punished for failing to appear.
Which brings us back to this season's Beverly Hills reunion. After ceasing filming with the other Housewives earlier this season, Lisa Vanderpump decided not to attend the reunion, announcing she planned to quit in an interview the day before. The show played reunion host Andy Cohen's on-air firing of Maloof from years before at the start of the reunion, and even showed clips of Vanderpump arguing for why Maloof should've shown up — clips that now worked as an argument against Vanderpump's own decision.
After a difficult season in which Vanderpump grieved the loss of her brother and fought with the other women about a damaging story leaked to the press, one can understand why the self-proclaimed queen of Beverly Hills didn't attend. But then again, if you can't even show up for the battle, haven't you already lost?
Kevin O'Keeffe is a writer, host, and RuPaul's Drag Race herstorian living in Los Angeles. Follow his musings and rantings on Twitter @kevinpokeeffe.