How 'RHOC' Star Vicki Gunvalson Rebuilt Her Friendships With Tamra Judge and Shannon Beador (Exclusive)

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First, hell froze over in Orange County. Then, it was time to break the ice.

At the end of The Real Housewives of Orange County’s 12th season, something viewers didn’t expect to happen, happened: Vicki Gunvalson, Tamra Judge and Shannon Beador all made up after years of feuding! Prior to the make-up, Tamra and Shannon had gone as far as to say they would never, ever be friends with Vicki again. But, after a tearful apology from Vicki at the reunion, the three reconnected and recommitted to their friendship.

“You know, I prayed a lot about it,” Vicki tells ET of reconciling with her friends, admitting she thought she might be done with the reality show had Shannon and Tamra not accepted her apology.

“I just really felt, if that's what's coming up, that's what's coming up,” she says. “But, I didn't want it to end that way, because it wasn't kind, it wasn't nice … So, I just really did my very best to be as authentic as I could be, and just be very apologetic for where I messed up, and it worked.”

For Vicki, learning that her once-close pal Shannon was getting a divorce from her husband of 17 years, David, pushed her over the edge to say, “I’m sorry,” and really, truly mean it.

“With Vicki, I saw true emotion come from her when she heard that David and I had separated,” Shannon tells ET. “We shed tears and so, that was touching for me.”

“I think my compassion for the damage that I did to them, and I they did to me, it all kind of dissipated,” Vicki reflects. “When I heard that Shannon was getting a divorce, I was literally shocked. I had no idea, I didn't talk to her much before that reunion, and I just couldn't believe it. So, my tears were real. I just felt so bad for them, their family.”

“Because David and I weren't together anymore, that made the reconciliation a little bit easier,” Shannon says. “You know, things were said about him.”

“That was I think, for me, was the turning point,” Vicki continues. “I was like, I have got to be friends with these ladies. They're my friends and I miss them. It was just... it was just that moment, I felt that, all the ice just broke.”

“I know this is gonna sound insane, but starting a friendship with [Vicki] again, it was like, we're back,” Shannon reveals. “It wasn't -- there wasn't baby steps, all of sudden we're spending time together. Everything's the way it used to be.”

Well, not quite everything. Vicki says her guard is now up with Shannon and Tamra, but it’s not a bad thing.

“I think it's good to be guarded,” Vicki shares. “I think it's good to be aware and conscious of what we did to destroy our friendship, and what not to do again. So, I think it's good to be guarded a little bit. I think we were a little bit all too transparent. We didn't have our guards in place, and with any relationship, you have to have your boundaries, right?”

Vicki describes this season as starting from OK “and then building from OK.” That includes the reunited trio’s trip to Mexico, which comes to TV in the first few weeks of season 13.

“It was full throttle,” Vicki teases. “It was three days of full throttle. Broken feet, people in hot tubs, sombreros...we had to start the season, 'cause it was just so much fun!”

“We can't wait to see what happens in Mexico, because we don't really remember all the details, which is frightening,” Shannon says. “But you know what? You're entitled to go out and go crazy for a couple days, as long as you don't do it all the time. So, I had been cooped up for six months, so I acted like a 18, 21-year-old when I was in Mexico.”

For Vicki, it’s refreshing to have a “fun” season after years of dark drama. She even says there’s nothing she’s dreading watching back this year!

“I think we're just really at a good place,” she reflects. “It just came full circle, we were at such a good place, then it went bad, it went full circle and we all got each other's back. It's good. I think it's a great season, and I'm looking forward to seeing it myself.”

The Real Housewives of Orange County’s new season airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo. For more on the show, check out the video and links below.

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