As a matter of national epistemology, yes, Montana is a state. But it isn't, really. No one lives there, almost, and there are too many opportunities to look at horse shit. My cousin lived there for more than a year, managing a movie theater. After he moved back to the South, he never spoke of Montana again.

So NOW: The Housewives will be going there for the season's group vacay.

Are you an Aviva truther? I think she probably has asthma, but that's only because believing that she does requires fewer contortions of logic on my part. It's easier for my brain. Also: There is a lot of convincing evidence that Aviva has recently been diagnosed with asthma—a doctor's note, an inhaler—and not that much convincing evidence that Aviva is making it all up, except the fact that it's Aviva. Nothing she says can pierce her many impossibly legitimate phobias and conditions. Mustn't that be terrible? So says Sonja, between sips of whatever kind of WD-40 that makes her neck roll like that.

Here, absent any context, is how Aviva's vacation-altering asthma was described throughout the episode:

  • "This whole asthma thing"
  • "Asthma or something"
  • "The asthma"

At the beginning of the episode, Aviva decides to tell Ramona, first among the women, that she's been diagnosed with moderate-to-severe asthma and probably can't go on the group vacation to Montana. "You're a mess," Ramona says.

Later, before anyone even starts packing for Montana, when Kristen goes after Aviva for making up this whole illness to avoid attending the first Kirsten-organized group vacay, Aviva retreats into Seinfeldian scolding. "It's very rude, what you're saying. It's very rude." Then—either before or after; Aviva bends time to whatever point she's trying to make—Aviva tosses out a bunch of her medication and takes out an inhaler and huffs it. Portentially.

Kristen is unswayed, which is the first and only reason I have ever admired her. She's honest, and it is so hard to be honest when you're fighting with a dear friend about her potentially fake/potentially severe illness. "The crazy thing is, I don't believe you and I don't know why!" she says.

Ramona, who started the whole thing by mentioning—maybe—hadn't Kristen heard?—Aviva had some kind of "asthma," sat there and goggled.

In preparation, or perhaps just fortuitously, Carole and Kristen go and get waxed, together. Everyone laughs and laughs. LuAnn shows up! Just not right now. Later. Sonja finishes, or starts, packing. She inventories her lingerie for intern Pickles, detailing her many moods and those moods' many corresponding pairs of underwear. Poor Pickles. I cannot say that enough. Neither can you.

When they all arrive in Montana, all anyone can talk about is how no one is there. They are not, strictly speaking, wrong: According to Wikipedia, Montana's population density is less than seven people per square mile. And then when everyone pulls up to the ranch, they all keep repeating, "This is it?"—verbatim, with no variation, like a kind of wicked incantation that could whisk them away to the coast.

Otherwise I thought Kristen's choosing a Montanan dude ranch as their vacation was inutterably terrible until the very moment when I decided that it was, in fact, grand. When did you also decide this? The twin "Beaver" and "Antler" cabins were gorgeous; at least one of the two ranchers seemed very cute when you squinted. (The other's name was Steve which, given the circumstances, no one did nearly enough with. Steve and his mustache.)

Everyone's fashion choices are...well, interesting implies a reaction beyond base fascination and repulsion. Because she only has time to care about so many other things, Carole wears this:

That may read a tad too dismissively. As utility, it is a fascinating garment. It is is also the color of water-colored burlap. Kristen, our champion, wears heels. Aviva, in absentia, has gone ahead and requested a wheelchair meet her right outside the plane.

Ramona, of course, hates every second of the vacation, except the alcohol. She talks a lot about poop. When did we all decide this kind of behavior was charming? I'm not questioning it. Ramona is a vision. But she is not a normal human being. I wouldn't call her quite a "being," at all. She vibrates. She drinks.

Kristen gets everyone together to herd cattle and then have dinner. "We're going to herd cattle. Like, this is amazing," she says. (Kristen is in her own show and she is having so much fun. Her husband is not attractive and she loves him anyway!) So they herd cattle. Sonja even herds cattle, if you get me. "I'm half-man and I'm half-horse and I am back in the saddle," she says, just in case you did not just get me, or her, or anyone ever.

Carole continually mentions how the entire vacation could go horribly awry, how she's chosen to bunk with Ramona and Sonya in one cabin, just the three of them, but this first hour avoids any but the customary mania that has seeped into the franchise. LuAnn, because she just cannot, brings up this facialist that Kristen and Sonja know, the one who's been gossiping about Carole's boyfriend Russ. Kristen loves all of it! Carole loves none of it. LuAnn loves it up until it becomes gossip about her sexual predilections. Sonja only notices, vaguely, because the moon is waning and her real priority has to be about losing those seven pounds.

And MOST importantly: All of this was filmed over Labor Day weekend last year. What kind of world was that? I do not even remember. It was before Bergdahl. Before Frozen. And the weekend is only getting started.

[Images via Bravo]

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