Even though Vicki Gunvalson is engaged to Steve Lodge as promised, there are still warning signs that she may have been demoted.
Is the OG of the OC now a mere "Friend" of the Housewives? That worry is keeping some fans up at night.
But Vicki seemingly insists that it's not the case. Take a look:
As rumors of Vicki's departure continue to worry fans, some are looking to Vicki herself for reassurance.
"Please say you're full time this season?" begged one fan in an Instagram comment. "So many reports saying you're a 'friend of.'"
Vicki saw the comment and responded.
"Stay tuned," she urged the follower in her reply.
Vicki added a promise: "I'll never be just a 'friend.'"
Vicki's comment is somewhat ambiguous, and that may be because she's under contract and cannot confirm or deny anything.
"Stay tuned" could simply mean that she's encouraging everyone to watch the show for better ratings.
It could also mean that she is once again part of ongoing negotiations with Bravo. That would be unfortunately.
Her promise that she will never be just a mere Friend of the Housewives is less ambiguous.
She's saying that if she gets demoted from a Full Housewife, she'll walk.
"Happy birthday @bravoandy," Vicki wrote in a recent birthday tribute to proud father Andy Cohen.
"It’s been 15 years ago that we met with the start of the Housewives franchise," she acknowledged.
"Thank you for believing in me," she praised. "And being part of changing my life forever."
Vicki's tribute concluded: "You deserve all the love there is."
Was she thanking him for believing in her in the first place? Yes.
Some believe that she was tipping her hat towards Bravo keeping her on as a Full Housewife but ... it's a stretch to get that from a birthday message.
Back in January, Vicki Gunvalson was caught up in negotiations with the network even while her castmates were already filming.
That is when news of her alleged demotion spread.
Even some of her castmates repeated the story, noting that they had filmed without her for two weeks.
Vicki admonished fans to not believe everything that they read unless she was telling them herself.
In the end, she managed to strike a deal -- reportedly offering something big to the network.
See, the problem was that Vicki didn't have a major storyline.
The solution? What if she became engaged to boyfriend Steve Lodge?
That was allegedly the deal that she made with Bravo. And this spring, it looked like she had made good on it.
But then reports claimed that the show's cameras weren't there to film the proposal -- shockings fans.
Then Vicki didn't appear in initial promos for the show, causing longtime viewers to fear that she'd been booted from the show after all.
All of the secrets, the ambiguous statements, and the mixed messages are part of a marketing strategy.
They want more people to tune in to the premiere, at the very least to see if Vicki is still part of the show.
Sure, some people would rage-quit if she isn't in the main cast.
Others have been dying to see her lose her Orange and will be royally pissed if she stays on.
But keeping fans in the dark -- no easy feat for reality stars in this day and age -- is a surefire way to make sure that people tune in.
And if Vicki does get demoted, she's right to leave.
That's what NeNe Leakes did, and now she's making bank every season.