A ringer has entered the Real Housewives of Orange County’s ongoing battle to determine who is the ultimate worst: Lydia McLaughlin, the pint-sized, outspoken Christian who’s dead set on getting everything out in the open, has surpassed all expectations that she’d only last one season, returning to the series after a four year hiatus.
At first impression, Lydia seems sweet (possibly even level-headed despite naming one of her sons “Maverick”), but—like a piñata filled with eels—first impressions can be deceiving.
Like most people who are dead set on getting everyone’s issues out in the open, Lydia is in fact less of a peacemaker and more of a messy bitch who loves drama just as much as the rest of us. Her role this season is very clear: She’s here to bridge the gap between Vicki Gunvalson (who, after last season, has become persona non grata to the other ‘wives) and Shannon Beador and Tamra Barney. Not so they can make up, of course, but so the producers have actual conflict to film.
Lydia, despite her Bible study and insistence on reuniting Vicki with the rest of the group for the sake of her friendship with Tamra, should be well aware that her role is to stir the drink, so to speak, which in the reality TV world is totally fine, but—to quote every Housewives reunion ever—just OWN IT.
When Lydia approached Tamra and Shannon on behalf of Vicki, she did so antagonistically (at child’s birthday party no less) and Shannon—always highly emotional—responded with her typical defensiveness. Rather than back off or—if she really wanted to go for it—insult Shannon directly, she was passive-aggressive, calling Shannon “a lost soul” who she wouldn’t go out to dinner with. (Perish the thought!)
There’s a thing I used to do that drove my parents crazy: When they were scolding me as a kid, I’d respond by telling them to “stop yelling at me” even if their voices weren’t raised. I relay this only to confirm how well I understand that the easiest way to make someone go from annoyed to furious is to—as Lydia did with Shannon and I did with my mom and dad—tell them that they’re shouting at you when they’re not.
“I felt like you just kind of took something and screamed and yelled at me and [I] was like, ‘Whoa, nice to meet you,’” she said after saying that Shannon reminded her of Vicki. “...You screamed at me.”
It’s an incendiary statement, one that—again—she knew would get Shannon’s hackles raised, especially considering her, uh, fragile emotional state as of late. Then, straight out of the reality TV play book, she took the position as the victim, punished for trying to help, even though she had intentionally started the whole thing. It’s an artful move when done correctly (think of how long Gretchen got away with it), but Lydia’s tactics are too poorly disguised to be impressive.
Everyone on these shows fits into an archetype, but what’s fascinating about Lydia is that she thinks she’s the No Nonsense Straight Talker, when in fact she’s the Ultimate Shit Stirrer. And with Shannon so close to losing her freaking mind, no job has ever been easier.