The Craziest Real Housewives Relationship Is With Tissues

Jordan's not a crackpot. He just believes Westworld has a slight advantage over Real Housewives: Kleenex.

In its more than a decade of TV life, The Real Housewives franchise has seen more than its fair share of strange, turbulent relationships. Since then, the shift from its semi-humble beginnings as a peek behind the gates into a first-person shooter experience has been so fully realized, you might forget there was ever peace in the Bravosphere. Currently a breeding ground for power shifts, screaming matches, and physical altercations, the franchise's most interesting and fraught relationship is the one it has with, of all things, tissues. Specifically: the use of them at reunions. Or, depending on the situation, the absence of tissues.

...I am not a crackpot.

It's a situation not unlike how people forget Anthony Hopkins is only onscreen for 16 minutes in The Silence Of The Lambs. The teary-eyed promo footage for an upcoming reunion or a flashback to a prior reunion during the current one might lead you to assume the presence of a tissue in a balled-up fist, pressed against a running cheek. More often than not, though, that's not the case. For example: If you remember Kim crying about a nonsensical health scare during Atlanta's first reunion -- the franchise's first nonsensical health scare -- you're correct. Unless there's a tissue in that memory, in which case you, and it, are wrong. Tissues didn't make an appearance until a few months later, during the Season 4 reunion of The Real Housewives Of Orange County, the franchise's flagship series.

Like Kim's, there were plenty of tears before that particular reunion, in which new addition Lynne surprises everyone by breaking down after she's written off as an idiot. But up until that point there weren't any tissues, and the casts -- New York had also premiered -- were left to their own devices, salvaging makeup and pride alike in real time while the crew in the room and the people at home looked on with detached interest. An iconic first appearance, the tissue's debut and Lynne's outburst are undermined by some rather savvy editing, which glosses over her initial reaction and the fact that no one involved expected things to get so, for lack of a better word, real, and realize a tissue would have to be supplied. Which brings me back to Anthony Hopkins -- and possibly crackpot territory, but bear with me.

As a frequent visitor to the Bravosphere, I find it funny that people are so interested in Westworld when we've had Real Housewives reunions for more than a decade. Each "world" and experience within that world is intended to be so seamlessly executed and involving, the people interacting with it forget about the swaths of people pulling the strings behind the scenes. What does that have to do with tissues? In its own way, Lynne's "breakdown" and its cover-up -- seriously, a tissue just randomly appears in her hand, as is often the case -- are comparable to when a host malfunctions in Westworld‬. Simply put: Tissues are to Real Housewives reunions what Hosts being removed from their loops and brought in for maintenance is to Westworld. So, what's the point? Patience.

On to the Season 2 New York reunion: the tissue got its next bit part when a PA's forced to rush the stage because it seems like Kelly is about to lose it mid-sentence while responding to a question about an alleged assault. She doesn't use the tissue, so it's questionable whether or not the powers that be regret giving it up. It's also worth noting that this is the franchise's first two-part reunion, so it's reasonable that a longer runtime let them experiment with protocol, while also piggy-backing on New York's unparalleled ability to stick within its loops and improvise variations of drama. It's also arguable that because of the way things unfolded, the bit may have been impossible to edit around and had to stay in since the franchise was gaining notoriety, and another random tissue appearance could have put everything it worked toward at risk. Which is dramatic, but fair.

Consider this: The franchise is establishing a pattern and conscious enough to have the tissue equivalent of a ball boy during a single's match on hand. But here's where things get murky: The Real Housewives Of New Jersey's first reunion, in which a box of tissues sits prominently in what's inarguably the worst reunion space post Season 2 of Orange County, and coincidentally, just happens to be oddly Westworld-like with its cement and mirrored-metallic aesthetic. What's murky about this is that it isn't an accurate representation of the tissue trajectory. Many would argue that the tissues are there because of New Jersey's explosive first season and the emotional edge of its family dynamic.

I disagree entirely. Those tissues are there because Jacqueline's nine months pregnant and hormonal. Though logical, this is also a red herring because the very inspiration of this post stems from Part 1 of the current season of Orange County -- its eleventh. There, an eight-months-pregnant Meghan is given permission to leave the set if need be to use the restroom. However, when the subject turns to her pregnancy and the male embryo that didn't take after IVF, she sits there, awkwardly sobbing while everyone else looks on. Nobody offers her a tissue and none are visible onscreen within reach. They aren't even in Sleep Mode. Shocking, I know.

But that's the point: Over the course of dozens of reunions, there's been no rhyme or reason when it comes to the presence or use of tissues during reunions. It's obvious from the early seasons that a pattern emerged and the people calling the shots were aware of it, but they rarely did anything to improve conditions. One particularly glaring tissue omission is the Season 2 reunion of Beverly Hills, which largely focused on Russell's suicide and Taylor's abuse -- not a tissue in sight. Which makes me think that, like Westworld, the whole thing is an elaborate ruse to tease something out in people, whether they be a creator, Host, or guest; the reunions are another Skinner Box, set up to see how people react and more importantly, if they learn.


And that's perhaps the strangest element: nobody comes prepared. Some do, like the women of New Jersey, who have been known to BTOT (Bring Their Own Tissues). Which means they couldn't be banned, could they? We've seen women take phones and makeup out of the couch cushions during breaks, but never tissues. Why not squirrel them away as a precaution? Whatever the case, too many women wrongly assumed they could make it through the day without crying, or worse, would be supplied and within reach.

I don't have a problem acknowledging these reunion sets are Westworld-esque Skinner Boxes. In fact, I love it. But it's worth mentioning that, even though its oft-repeated that the Hosts of Westworld can't feel, they still have the required props to use as a means to an end. I know it's not the most glamorous thing, wasting a few seconds on someone passing a box of tissues down a loveseat, but it's logical, and "real"! The use of tissues has improved, but there are still too many cracks in the system, whatever it may be.

I'm not a crackpot, but you're a monster if you're withholding tissues from your stars and their packaging from your viewers.


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