Is she a Real Housewife or not? This is the burning question srrounding Orange County OG Vicki Gunvalson as we build up to the show's 14th season.
Since rumors of her demotion sprang up in February, Vicki's been scrambling to show fans and producers alike that she's relevant enough to remain a full cast member.
Vicki's engagement to Steve Lodge in April was her most recent attempt to offer up something, anything, for the series to use as a storyline.
It seemed like the engagement was supposed to save Vicki's role as a Full Housewife for season 14.
We can even imagine the eventual wedding being perfect fodder for season 15, with a scintillating divorce playing out across later seasons.
Well played, Vicki.
But if Vicki's role is truly safe, why is she absent from the show's promotional material?
An inside source told Us Weekly that Vicki was excluded from the rest of the housewives' group cast photos.
"Last week, the RHOC cast shot their official photos for the next season," the insider revealed.
"Vicki was not included in the group cast photos and they shot multiple options," the source continued.
These annual group cast photos are the ones you'll likely see over and over again throughout the season, wherever the series is advertised.
So it's a pretty big deal for the show's longest-running cast member to be missing from the shot.
If the photographers shot mutliple options for the group and didnt include Vicki in any of them, it seems clear that her ouster was intentional.
Although she didn't pose for the group photo, Vicki was present on the set during the photoshoot, Us Weekly reports.
If she got called to the set, she's almost sure to appear on the show in some capacity. But it's looking more likely that she'll have a reduced role, as fans have speculated
Rumors began to surface in February that Vicki had been demoted to "Friend" of the Housewives, a more ancillary role with presumably less screen time.
It made sense.
Vicki's been on the show a long time after all, and the show needs to make room for new housewives, like this season's Braunwyn Windham-Burke.
Vicki also recently squashed her beef with castmates Tamra Judge and Shannon Beador, which is great for their personal lives, but not great for our entertainment.
Shannon has her ongoing divorce drama with David Beador, and Tamra is the kind of walking nightmare that always gets great ratings, so they're both easy picks to keep.
Okay fine, but for her to still be in negotiations after the season had already started filming is a pretty good sign that her status was up in the air.
Evidence of Vicki being put on the backburner has only piled up since then. Inside sources report she took a 50% pay cut for any potential episodes.
And reports say she's been a holy terror to her costars on set, in an attempt to amp up the drama (and her screen presence).
We also know that Bravo's cameras were present and rolling for Steve's proposal to Vicki.
So, even if she has been friend-zoned, we're sure to get some juicy moments with Vicki Gunvalson this season.
Reduced pay notwithstanding, would it really be so bad to be just a friend of the housewives?
Well, with friends like these.... yeah, probably. But Vicki's official status is still up in the air.
We're sure all will be revealed when The Real Housewives of Orange County returns this summer