Every now and then, a Real Housewife will face a genuine, life-upending problem.
What started as Noella Bergener’s husband’s secret debt has spiraled into a divorce and worse.
On this week’s The Real Housewives of Orange County, Noella learned that "Sweet James" had fled to Puerto Rico.
There, he surprised her with a divorce filing and canceled the family’s credit cards, totally cutting off her access to money.
Early on Season 16, Episode 3, Noella opened up to Shannon Beador about where things stood.
She revealed that she had, to her horror, learned that James’ tax debts were more than he had let on.
Just about one year into their marriage, she learned that his $4 million debt was actually closer to $6 million.
Noella learned this through two tax liens filed against the couples properties.
While many families go into debt, there’s no real explanation for how someone as apparently successful as James failed to pay $5.8 million.
Additionally, Noella felt betrayed because she had not been told about this before they married.
Noella also did not understand why James seemed intent upon remaining in debt.
She had planned to sell one of the couples houses, a recently acquired house in Puerto Rico.
According to her, they had received a generous offer that could have wiped away the debt — the sort of thing that most debtors might dream of.
Instead, James had put a stop on the sale, preventing Noella from selling it.
This was an odd situation … one that would only get worse.
On the bright side, Noella shared that she had learned a lot since her young son’s recent autism diagnosis, and was proud to be his mother.
Unfortunately, Noella received crushing news, which she shared over video chat with Shannon.
“Somebody came to serve papers, divorce papers," she revealed.
"He’s been in Puerto Rico. And it’s all in Spanish,” a shocked and hurt Noella told Shannon.
“His wardrobe’s here, his stuff is here… his car’s here. His life is here," Noella said in disbelief.
"He shut off the credit cards," she added, explaining that he has controlled their finances and she now has no access to money.
“I’m lost. I’m completely lost, I don’t know what to do," Noella admitted.
"I don’t know what to think. It’s a bad dream. Just a really, really bad dream," Noella said.
"I’m trying to get, you know, to speak to an attorney," she shared, "and just so what happens next.”
Noella affirmed: “He made an error and he needs to repair it."
“But I never thought that this would be the end of a marriage," Noella lamented.
"You know, I never thought that that would mean that I’m a single mom with our son," she expressed.
“I just want my husband to come and tell me what the hell is going on?" Noella said.
Noella’s plight, which left her totally blindsided and struggling for answers, gave the episode its title: "Gone Guy."
At the end of the episode, she sat down with castmates, including Shannon Beador and Gina Kirschenheiter, still in a state of shock.
All were in agreement that cutting her off from all money was a particularly despicable move, especially when she has to also feed their son.
What is frankly unclear is why anyone would behave this way.
We’re talking about abruptly filing for divorce when they were in the wrong but their spouse was willing to move forward.
It doesn’t seem to make sense.
Some have guessed that the answer lies with the Puerto Rico home that James (an ex-Mormon from Utah with no known ties to the U.S. commonwealth) refused to sell.
Fans are speculating that there might have been someone else in the picture.
Perhaps we will learn more as the season continues. Poor, poor Noella.