Well, this is a first, at least for me. Rarely do I watch "The Real Housewives of Orange County" and think, gee, poor Gretchen. But that thought occurred to me fleetingly during the second part of the show's season reunion, when it seemed that everyone else had gotten together and declared it Pile on Gretchen Day. Gretchen, of course, seems perfectly capable of screaming and yelling with the best of them, but when she dissolved into tears at the end of the episode, I had to think it had all been a little much. When those false eyelashes get saturated, they can stretch delicate, possibly Botoxed skin, people! Think! 

Of course, we expect these displays of emotion during reunion shows, and I can't say Gretchen's sobbing spree made much sense. It seemed that she was sad that she didn't invite her fellow Housewives to her engagement party, but was probably pretty glad none of them were there, and I think the tears were likely a strategic move to get all the other women to stop carping at her. That, or she's pregnant and hormonal. Hey, it's possible, people. 

As annoying as Gretchen's "look at this e-mail/text/morse code message of definitive proof" routine became, I couldn't deny she had a point. Tamra, in trying to keep the peace, lies her ass off. To her credit (and as she reminded all of us, over and over again), she owns it. The disconnect between herself and Gretchen seems to be that Gretchen wants Tamra to live in a Cone of Truth, and that's not really a reasonable expectation when she's trying to maintain any kind of relationship with the other women on the show. Tamra's mistake, if you can call it that, is that she likes to vent to about how much some of these women bug her. Venting to Gretchen (or really, anyone else on the fast train to Crazyville) is simply never a good idea. 

Thus we found ourselves in the midst of another flip-flop of alliances we wouldn't have expected even a season (or episode) ago, with Alexis defending Tamra, Vicki apologizing to Gretchen, Tamra trying to comfort a sobbing Gretchen and Lydia looking for an exit. While both Heather and Lydia seem to be on the reasonable end of the spectrum (at least by "Real Housewives" standards, which places the far end somewhere in the realm of needing hospitalization and electroshock), even they couldn't prevent themselves from being pulled into the drama -- which, again, mostly seemed to revolve around Gretchen.

This is not to say, by the way, that Gretchen wasn't overly sensitive and, yes, kinda thick when some of the battles heated up. Heather tried to explain to her how Hollywood works, and Gretchen insisted on taking everything Heather said as a slight. "You don't know if the executive producer didn't call my agent!" she squealed in a righteous whine. Newsflash, Gretchen; Heather's right. The EP does not call agents. Poor Heather keeps trying to share insight and knowledge with the other women, and really, she might as well just talk to her dog all day. That would likely be more satisfying.

The topic of Gretchen's engagement to Slade was, of course, the tipping point. Though the women had the most excellent point that it seemed like trumped-up drama for Bravo (which, come on, it had to be), Gretchen decided to hear what they were saying as, "Blah blah blah blah, THAT WAS FAKE, blah blah blah." It ended in tears, which seemed to perplex everyone and yet did exactly what Gretchen needed her sobbing jag to do -- deflect and defuse. Well-played, Gretchen. Well-played.

Do you think Gretchen was really upset? Do you think the other women were unfair to her? Do you think, as next week's promo suggests, that Vicki is leaving the show?