Real Housewives of Auckland: Episode 1 recap - 'Sweetie, get over it!'
Say what? Who are you calling "plus-sized", and why does it matter? It's episode one of The Real Housewives of Auckland and we are off to a bummer birthday party, darlings.
But first, let's meet the ladies and set the scene for what will surely be one of the major story arcs of the series — the fractious relationship between two real-life goddesses: "life stylist" Angela Stone and former fashion model Michelle Blanchard.
Auckland — looking spectacular in the opening shots — is a city where old-money meets new-money and every-money has an attitude, we learn in the opening voiceover.
"I made my money the old-fashioned way. I inherited it," purrs former broadcaster Louise Wallace, welcoming us inside her 70s-groovy Paritai Drive home, where she holds up dresses to show her husband Scott (once a competitive rugby player "with the thighs to match") ahead of a "glitzy, ticketed" fashion show at Soul Bar and Bistro.
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Louise has secured the best table for herself and her "girlfriends", an assortment of women she clearly does not know well.
Julia Sloane, newly married to Michael, spends her days moving from one tedious appointment to another: waxing, Botox, manicures, pedicures.
"It's a full-time job," she says with a tight smile, almost convincing us that this is a fun way to pass your limited days on this planet.
Julia's commitment to her appearance may have something to do with her 80s heyday competing in Miss Universe New Zealand and shooting TV ads, accompanied by a gloriously fluffy side-ponytail.
"I can walk into a room and people are going to look at me," she says. "I like that."
Gilda Kirkpatrick, a leading Auckland socialite since forever, is enjoying a quieter life with two young sons. She stakes out her ground as the most serious-minded of the group, having experienced Iran's revolution and the Iran-Iraq War.
"[Life is] not about ponies and rainbows and butterflies," she says, which is a bit of a buzz kill, but a dark and brooding Housewife would be a novel addition to the franchise.
Before Angela Stone, who splits her time between Christchurch and Auckland, has even arrived at the fashion show, Louise warns us that she is "like a ship in full sail".
"And she wears cream a lot, so she does look like a sail! She's not overweight, but she's a big unit."
Auckland's not so stylish
Angela comes bearing gifts: copies of her book The Style Guide, which none of the ladies want. Ang is on a mission: helping women express themselves through their clothing, as she does, by dressing like part of a ship.
Also, she is spiritual, as evidenced by footage of her sitting cross-legged on the grass, throwing Autumn leaves above her head.
"Now that I'm in my 40s I feel it is my duty to encourage women to love themselves for who they are," she says.
Unfortunately, her running commentary on necklines and colours irritates the others, as does her assessment of Auckland style, which she describes as "relaxed — lots of tunics, lots of chiffon, sparkly jandals, long kaftans".
Gilda, a Gucci devotee, asks Angela where she has been hanging out with these kaftan-wearers. Newmarket, apparently.
Then there is a weird out-of-nowhere Oprah Winfrey comment, which amounts to nothing except to provide another piece of evidence of the growing "friction" between Angela and Gilda.
Meanwhile, in Huapai...
Freed from the fashion show, we jump in Julia's Porsche and head to Huapai, where Anne Batley Burton makes olive oil.
"I'm a party girl," says Anne, opening the door with Champagne in hand. We learn that Anne regularly dances around her Parnell townhouse with her husband Cuddly Bear and loves a good pussy joke.
"The biggest challenge I'm facing at the moment is getting my husband to accept a few more stray pussies, heh heh heh," he says, referencing her Pussy Palace for unwanted cats.
Turns out Julia has schlepped out to Huapai for more than Champagne; she is organising a birthday party for herself, but also wants to drill down on the Angela-Gilda situation.
Conversation turns to Gilda's now-defunct marriage to octogenarian property magnate James Kirkpatrick. "I can't believe Anne called Gilda a gold digger!" Julia tells the camera, although Anne didn't actually say that. "Maybe she thinks I'm one too."
Cut to footage of Julia and the much older Michael walking through their Matakana vineyard, talking about shopping, or something.
"Darling, you need to understand," says Michael. "I pay for the pants, and I get into the pants. That's my role."
Limousines? They're tacky
Julia's birthday celebration starts well enough, with a limo ride. Anne brings Champagne, Ang brings flowers and Lou brings wisecracks.
Gilda and the last Housewife, Michelle Blanchard, prefer to travel in Gilda's Rolls Royce. "I don't like limousines, I think they're just tacky," says Michelle, offering a preview of the scene-stealing she has in store.
Once everyone is assembled in Ostro's private dining room, it's time to get the party started, much the way Agatha Christie liked to gather toffs in a dusty English manor and kill them off.
Learning that Angela models, a flabbergasted Michelle says, "You still model? Plus size, or…"
Angela blinks rapidly, smiles and says, "No, not at all."
"I'm just saying," replies Michelle, holding her hands out as if bearing a heavy platter on which a plus-sized model's plus-sized lunch awaits.
"Plus-sized" is code for "fat", right?
Angela explains to the camera that plus-size models are size 16 and up, and she is not that large, before exclaiming, "Who actually cares, anyway?"
Anne is mortified. "For god's sake, why would you say that?"
Gilda looks amused, and Julia is annoyed that she is no longer the centre of attention at her birthday part: "No-one is focused on me. Hello, it's my birthday."
"I used to model," says Julia, attempting to crow-bar her way back into the spotlight.
"Oh, my god, did you?" says Michelle, astonished by the number of sub-par models she is dealing with.
It's Julia's party, Angela will cry if she wants to
Angela starts to cry and heads outside onto the deck, pursued by Julia and Lou. "She probably looked at you and thought holy crap," Lou tells Angela. "You're beautiful."
Inside, the other ladies guess at what's wrong, even though it's perfectly obvious.
"Maybe it's that time of the month," says Gilda.
Michelle, on a roll, suggests that Anne probably doesn't get her periods anymore (subtext: because she's too old).
Lou buoys up Ang with some comforting words about the "spirit of Christchurch" and they return to the table.
Get over it!
But Michelle, perhaps sensing impending Naz-level stardom, won't leave the plus-size issue alone. "Sweetie, with tits like that you're not a normal-sized model. Get over it."
And then this: "Seriously, don't say I offended you in any way, shape or form because I have been quite calm. I've already heard about you from Gilda, so I kind of knew what to expect, but the tears thing? Honestly, is that a performance? What was that?"
Lou tries to apply a sticking plaster to the whole ugly situation by suggesting that Michelle didn't mean to offend, but no-one is buying that cut-price merchandise.
The flower-topped surprise birthday cake that Angela arranged for Julia arrives at the table amidst a silly argument about Gilda's manners (or lack thereof, if you believe Angela) but it is Anne who gets the last word.
"Who would ever want a birthday like that?" she asks, looking uncharacteristically deflated. "It's got to be the birthday from hell."