Long before the season premiere of The Real Housewives of Orange County, Vicki Gunvalson and Tamra Judge predicted that ratings would falter in their absence here in late 2020.
The OGs of the OC - longtime staples of Bravo who are not returning this year - said RHOC needed them to stay afloat.
It's looking more and more like these Dos Amigas were right.
The flagship show's ratings have been tanking without them.
Meanwhile, Vicki has been off living her best life with her fiance, Steve Lodge. Recently, though, fans have noticed - with alarm - that Vicki and Steve aren't exactly packing on the PDA online.
Concerns rose when rumors began to float around that the OG and her man had broken up. But of course, social media isn't always real life and many people on the Internet traffic in rumors.
Now, Vicki is speaking out to celebrity gossip mainstay Us Weekly to explain why she and Steve appear to have begun to consciously uncouple on Instagram - and whether to believe the hype.
Is it over?
Some eagle-eyed Bravo fans noticed that the former Real Housewives of Orange County star Vicki Gunvalson and Steve Lodge, her fiance of a year and a half, do not follow each other on Instagram.
In fact ...
Of course, that could all be a coincidence or mean nothing at all. Yet these same fans noticed that neither Vicki nor Steve have uploaded a new photo of themselves together in about a month. Some bloggers picked up on the fan murmurs, and it evolved into full-fledged split rumors.
Trouble in paradise?
Fans have watched and been heartbroken over the years on Bravo. Vicki has been unlucky in love in the past. Obviously, they wanted assurances that she's still happy - and perhaps for that reason, they assumed the worst and looked for an explanation as to why she and Steve seem to have become disentangled on social media.
Here's what Vicki has to say about it
Well, they got their frickin' wish! “I have no fricking idea where this came from,” Gunvalson admits in a statement to Us Weekly.
So it's not true, then?
Sure doesn't seem like it. Nor is it what you might call a misunderstanding, or someone making a lot out of a little. In her words, it's simply “Someone bored trying to stir up crap."
What's her relationship status with Steve?
Just because you don't see her out there flaunting her romance every second doesn't mean she's put the kibosh on it. “[We] live together and live a very private romantic life,” Vicki assures her concerned fans.
What about the Instagram stuff?
“We don’t follow each other on social media and haven’t for a long time," Vicki points out ... seemingly without a clue how anyone 1. notices, 2. cares, or 3. uses that fact to deduce that the couple is somehow broken up.
And the apparent couples selfie shortage?
Similarly, when asked about the lack of photos of her with Steve, especially lately, Vicki explains that "we don’t post photos of each other – what’s the point?” It's a good question. Who would they be posting said photos for? Themselves? You? Us?
The rumors are nonsense
In any case, she's not happy about this, but she's setting the record straight. “This is a complete joke and not worth even commenting," Vicki states, before cheekily acknowledging: "But I did.” Well played!
The wedding is still on!!
Gunvalson, who's had her highs and lows in the romance department, says wedding bells will indeed be ringing in the future. “We’re still going to get married ... [but I’m not] rushing to get down the aisle right now,” Vicki clarifies.
She's not in a hurry
Who would, in the midst of a deadly pandemic? You want to be safe, you want your loved ones to be safe, and you don't want your nuptials to make any of the *wrong* headlines. Speaking of ...
Not like SOME people
Kelly Dodd got married on October 10, as pandemic numbers -- including the death toll that she openly mocked -- continued to climb. We're not sure what we expected from the woman who called COVID-19 "God's way of thinning the herd" and has only doubled down on her Covidiocy since then, but it was still a disappointment.
Which reminds us ...
Vicki and Tamra were on RHOC for so long. Tamra had 12 years on the show. Vicki has helped to steer the course of the show -- and the whole franchise -- since its inception. Now, the very first season without Vicki has begun to air.
Vicki is doing just fine
She and Tamra have moved on and have their own projects, even if they have left such indelible marks on the show that it's hard for us to separate them from RHOC in our minds.
They're fine ... but the show is not
As we explained in great detail earlier this month, RHOC's premiere ratings showed a significant drop by any measure. Compare them to the season finale, the season premiere, or the pre-reunion finale -- we're talking about the kind of drop in viewership that make producers wince and advertisers start packing their bags.
Are fans even interested in RHOC without Vicki?
Some shows can lose an OG and keep going - Beverly Hills has trudged on without Lisa Vanderpump, in part thanks to the Denise drama. But losing Vicki and Tamra at the same time may have been too much for the series.
Vicki is hard to forget
Whether she is accurately predicting the duration of a castmate's marriage or becoming part of yet another meme, she is a memorable gal.
She's a seasoned reality star
And her long career on television speaks for itself in that regard, no matter what her haters want to say.
There is one other likely factor in the ratings drop
While Americans were dying in hospital corridors and being moved to freezer trucks earlier this year, Kelly Dodd was spreading deliberate misinformation about COVID-19, making false comparisons to the flu, lying about the local death toll, and more. In fact, she even got into trouble on social media after sharing blatant lies about the efficacy of masks. That kind of brainrotten nonsense is dangerous even when non-celebrities share it.
What does that have to do with ratings?
Well, fans and multiple blogs have organized a boycott of the show. People are simply not tuning in to RHOC and multiple social media blogs are not covering RHOC, even though they have done so since the show's inception. The reason is that they want Bravo to fire Kelly Dodd, because she is an irresponsible menace.
Okay ... what does that have to do with Vicki?
It's simply -- for Kelly's entire duration on the show (much shorter than Vicki's or Tamra's), she has had Vicki as this foil. Their rivalry (though yes, they were once friends) has meant that people see Kelly as Vicki's opposite and view her through that lens.
Now, without Vicki ...
Fans are opening their eyes to who Vicki really is as a person. They point to her unstable, unhinged attacks, her lack of physical boundaries or a sense of restraint, the fact that she managed to alienate people like Braunwyn Windham-Burke who were once soundly in her corner.
Vicki was the key
Even without the outspoken covidiocy, Kelly looks worse without Vicki's presence because she's no longer being nasty "at Vicki" ... she's just being nasty.
Vicki is living her best life
She's still a successful businesswoman, is continuing on other reality projects (pandemic permitting), and has purchased a lovely home in Mexico with Steve.
Vicki doesn't need the show
She'll always be Vicki, and her life goes on without Real Housewives.
Is the same true for the show?
Maybe, just maybe, RHOC can squeeze by for another season and see higher ratings if they show Kelly the door. But a lot of fans are wondering if the show can march on without Vicki long enough to even test out how a season without Kelly will do.